The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Latrobe, Charles Joseph

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Latrobe, Charles Joseph, C.B., first Governor of Victoria, was descended from a Swiss family, which emigrated from the south of France at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and originally settled in Ireland. Mr. Latrobe himself was, however, a native of Yorkshire, where his father, the Rev. C. J. Latrobe, officiated as a Moravian minister. His mother was the daughter of a Yorkshire clergyman of the name of Sims. He was educated for the Moravian ministry, but ultimately abandoned the idea of an ecclesiastical career. He early evinced a taste for travel, and as the result of his experiences in Europe and America published two works entitled "The Alpenstock" and "The Rambler in Mexico." He became companion to a foreign count, and in that capacity accompanied Washington Irving in his well-known tour of the American prairies. He subsequently attracted the attention of Lord Glenelg, and in the year of the Queen's accession was despatched to the West Indies by the Melbourne Ministry to report on the application of the funds voted by Parliament for the education of the emancipated negroes. Having given satisfaction in this service, he was appointed in 1839 Superintendent of Port Phillip, as the present colony of Victoria was then denominated. Though then but a district of New South Wales, great inconvenience was, even in those primitive times, experienced in administering its affairs from the distant seat of government at Sydney. The office of Superintendent was, therefore, created, with a view to the local administration of local affairs, subject to the control and approval in all important matters of the Governor for the time being of the parent colony. Mr. Latrobe arrived in Melbourne on Sept. 30th, 1839, and two days later was presented with an address of congratulation from the colonists at a reception held in the Auction Company's rooms in Collins Street. The salary was at first only £800 per annum, but this was ultimately increased to £1500. In Oct. 1846 Mr. Latrobe was commissioned to proceed to Tasmania, to report on the state of that colony subsequent to the suspension of Governor Sir J. Eardley Wilmot; and in this capacity administered the government for a few months. On the question of the exclusion of convicts from Victoria, Mr. Latrobe took the popular side; but on that of the concession of representative institutions to the district he aroused virulent opposition by a despatch dated August 1848, in which, while he gave a modified support to the idea of separation from New South Wales, he argued that the new colony would for a long time to come be unfitted to control its own affairs through an elective Parliament Against these sentiments the Melbourne City Council—which had in the previous June petitioned the Queen for the Superintendent's recall, on the ground that he had opposed their being entrusted with the public works expenditure of the colony—bitterly protested. Neither petition nor protest, though the former was backed up by resolutions passed at a public meeting attended by three thousand colonists, had much effect in discrediting Mr. Latrobe with the Colonial Office, as was shown by his appointment as first Lieutenant-Governor on the separation of the colony from New South Wales in July 1851. This post he held through the trying times which followed on the discovery of gold till May 1854, when he retired, and returned to England. Mr. Latrobe married, in 1835, the third daughter of M. de Montmolen, of Neufchatel, in Switzerland, who died on Jan. 30th, 1854, in England, whither she had proceeded in advance of her husband, who did not leave Melbourne till May 5th. Mr. Latrobe, who may be regarded as the founder of the Melbourne University, and of many of the public institutions on which the inhabitants of Victoria now pride themselves, died in London on Dec. 2nd, 1875.