Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzroy, Charles Augustus

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1150587Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19 — Fitzroy, Charles Augustus1889Edward Carter Kersey Gonner

FITZROY, Sir CHARLES AUGUSTUS (1796–1858), colonial governor, eldest son of Lord Charles Fitzroy [q. v.], the second son of Augustus Henry, third duke of Grafton [q. v.], was born 10 May 1796. He obtained a commission in the Horse Guards, and was present at the battle of Waterloo, where he was attached to the staff of Sir Hussey Vivian. After his retirement from active service he was elected in 1831 as member for Bury St. Edmunds, and voted for the Reform Bill. He did not sit in the reformed parliament. In 1837 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island, being knighted on his departure to the colony. In 1841 he was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands, where he won great favour by his conciliatory demeanour. Before his term of office was completed he was recalled (1845), in order that he might be sent to the colony of New South Wales, then in a state of considerable excitement and in peculiar need of a governor of proved moderation and courtesy. He succeeded Sir George Gipps [q. v.] in August 1846. The colonists had insisted on constitutional changes, and had been irritated by Gipps's unsympathetic behaviour. The immediate question was the claim of the council, then partly composed of nominee members, to specific appropriation of the public funds. The appointment of Fitzroy enabled the colonists to agree to what was really a postponement of the full acknowledgment of their claim. Their confidence was shown in the universal sympathy on the occasion of the fatal accident to Lady Mary Fitzroy, 7 Dec. 1847. Mr. Gladstone had suggested to the Legislative Council of New South Wales a revival of the system of transportation, a proposal to which a select committee had assented on the condition that an equal number of free emigrants should be sent out by the home government. Lord Grey, however, had determined to send convicts alone. The whole colony was roused to excitement by the arrival (11 June 1849) of the Hashemy with convicts on board. The convicts were landed and sent to the up-country districts. Fitzroy reported their objections, but declared that he would firmly resist coercion. Fortunately, Lord Grey yielded the point. In 1850 Fitzroy was appointed governor-general of Australia, and soon afterwards the Port Phillip district was separated into the independent colony of Victoria. Upon the discovery of gold Fitzroy steadily pressed on the home authorities the advisability of establishing a mint at Sydney. His influence was also used on behalf of a favourable consideration for the Constitutional Act which Wentworth had passed through the colonial legislature in 1853. He was made K.C.B. in June 1854. His departure, 17 Jan. 1855, was greatly regretted, and when news of his death reached the colony the legislature adjourned. Fitzroy was present at the opening of Sydney University, and under his auspices the first railway was commenced, the first stone of the Fitzroy Dock laid, and the Exchange begun.

He died in London on 16 Feb. 1858. He was twice married: first, on 11 March 1820, to Lady Mary Lennox, eldest daughter of the fourth Duke of Richmond, who died 7 Dec. 1847; secondly, on 11 Dec. 1855, to Margaret Gordon.

[Records of the British Army, Royal Horse Guards; Antigua and the Antiguans; Rusden's Hist. of Australia; Sydney Morning Herald; European Mail (for Australia), February 1858.]

E. C. K. G.