The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Fawkner, Hon. John Pascoe

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

Fawkner, Hon. John Pascoe, M.L.C., who has sometimes been styled "the father of the colony of Victoria," was the son of John Fawkner and Hannah his wife, and was born in London on Oct. 20th, 1792. On Feb. 10th, 1803, he, with his parents, sailed in the Calcutta with the expedition sent out under Collins to found a penal settlement at Port Phillip, where they arrived on Oct. 9th, 1803, and landed on the site of what is now Sorrento. Shortly afterwards the attempt to found a penal settlement was abandoned, and he went with the rest of the party in the Ocean to the Derwent, in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania), where he arrived on Feb. 10th, 1804. Living with his father about eight miles from Hobart Town, he first assisted the latter in farming, and then turned sawyer. In 1814 he mixed himself up in a plot for the escape of a party of convicts, two of whom betrayed his complicity. In consequence he was flogged, and had to leave for Sydney, whence he returned to Tasmania in March 1817. He then engaged in business at Hobart Town, removing in 1819 to Launceston, where he engaged in the timber trade, which he relinquished in 1826, and started a public-house at Launceston called the Cornwall Hotel. In 1829 he started the Launceston Advertiser, which he sold in 1831, acting in the meantime as a sort of amateur solicitor or "agent" for litigants in the local police courts. In 1835 Fawkner concocted a plan for the settlement of Port Phillip and brought five associates into his scheme, for the effectuation of which he bought the schooner Enterprise, of fifty-five tons burden. The expedition sailed from George Town, Tasmania, on July 27th, but was obliged to beat about for three days, during which Fawkner suffered so much from sea sickness that he had himself put ashore again, the Enterprise, with his coadjutors, proceeding to Western Port, in what is now Victoria, where they arrived on August 8th. Not liking the look of the adjacent country, the party made for what is now Hobson's Bay, and undeterred by warnings that "John Batman, King of Port Phillip, had bought all the lands and desired all trespassers to keep aloof," explored the Yarra Yarra river, with which and the surrounding district they were much delighted. They put the first plough into the earth on Sept. 8th, 1835, and sowed the first crop of five acres of wheat. Fawkner himself, cheered by the accounts which the advance party brought back, landed in Hobson's Bay in Oct. 1835, and may be justly regarded as the real founder of Melbourne, leaving Messrs. Batman (who reached Hobson's Bay in May 1835) and Henty to dispute the glory of being the founders of the colony. In Jan. 1838 Fawkner started the first newspaper, which was written on four pages of foolscap. In March some type arrived from Tasmania, and the journal was printed weekly. In 1839 he commenced the Port Phillip Patriot, which he afterwards made into a daily paper, and which is now, after many mutations, the daily Argus. In 1842 he was elected one of the Market Commissioners, and in 1843 a town councillor, an office which he held for many years. In 1851 he was elected a member of the first Legislative Council for Dalhousie, and on the introduction of a free Parliament in Victoria in 1856 was returned to the Legislative Council for the central province. Though Batman must have the credit of originally selecting the site of Melbourne, Fawkner not only followed closely on his heels, but in his uncouth way contributed materially to promoting the infant interests of what is now the magnificent Victorian metropolis. He was also to the fore in all the public affairs of the colony, generally on the Liberal side. He took a leading part in the movement for declining to elect members for Port Phillip to the New South Wales Legislative Council before its separation from the mother colony. A public meeting in Melbourne selected him as one of the delegates to negotiate a compromise between the Government and the malcontents during the riots regarding the diggers' licences in 1854. In Nov. of that year the Governor, Sir Charles Hotham, nominated him as one of the members of a special commission which he appointed to inquire into the grievances or the goldfields; and he was a party to the voluminous report which they sent in. He died on Sept. 4th, 1869.