George Arthur

1784 Born on 21st June in Plymouth
1804 Entered army as ensign in 50th Foot
1805 Lieutenant
1806 On campaign in Italy
1807 Egypt. Wounded at Rosetta
1808 Under Kempt in Sicily
1809 Walcheren
1814 Appointed Lt-Governor of British Honduras
1824 Lt-Governor of Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania)
1825 Promoted to Governor when the colony was separated from New South Wales
1838 Lt-Governor of Upper Canada
1841 Created Hereditary Baronet
1842 Governor of Bombay (until 1846)
1853 Appointed Colonel of the 50th Foot
1854 Died on 19th September in London

The accounts of Sir George Arthur's career portray him to be a mixture of autocrat and diligent philanthropist. He worked towards many improvements in the colonies that he governed but it appears that he was also responsible for much of the suffering of aborigines in Tasmania.

During his time as Lt-Governor of British Honduras a slave revolt was brutally suppressed. Sir George's dispatches to London were seen by Sir William Wilberforce and used in his campaign to abolish slavery.

When he was Lt-Governor in Tasmania he established a very secure penal settlement at Port Arthur for convicts transported from England. Until then the convicts had been placed in prisons around the island but they were centralised in Port Arthur from 1830 until transportation ceased in 1853. There were still prisoners there for the next 24 years.

He helped develop the northwest area of Tasmania and campaigned against the bushrangers who robbed the settlers and attacked the aborigines. The Black War of 1830 came to a sad conclusion while he was governor. The aborigines had been at odds with the white settlers since 1804 and Arthur decided to deal with the situation by isolating the aborigines in the southeastern peninsula of the island but this was a failure and they were eventually settled on Flinders Island to the northeast where they all died out. His efforts at trying to improve education and religious life were not well reported in the press and he was accused of being autocratic and censorial.

Whilst he was in charge of Upper Canada he helped unite Upper and Lower (Quebec) Canada in 1841. As Governor of Bombay he was involved in the Deccan Survey of agricultural land, and initiated the railway that was built between Bombay and Cailian. He also organised reclamation of the foreshore on Bombay Island.

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by Stephen Luscombe