Arthur Phillip11 October 1738 – 31 August 1814), in London and attended the Greenwich school for seamen's sons before serving an apprenticeship in the merchant navy. During the Seven Years War (1756-1763) he transferred to the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of lieutenant. Subsequently he retired on half pay, becoming a farmer in Hampshire. In 1774 the Admiralty allowed Phillip to serve as a captain in the Portuguese navy, and he later rejoined the Royal Navy during the American War of Independence. At 48 Capt. Phillip was offered a position as governor of a penal colony about to be established at Botany Bay, Australia.

The 11 ships of the 1st Fleet reached Botany Bay in January 1788 after a voyage of 8 months. As the site for a permanent settlement Phillip chose Sydney Cove inside a great natural harbor a few miles north of Botany Bay. Three-quarters of the 1, 030 persons who disembarked there were convicts, the remainder marines and officials.

For 5 years Phillip, with unflinching optimism, struggled to create a viable colony with unsuitable human material. Convicts, mostly lower-class criminals from Britain's burgeoning towns, were granted small farms on the expiry of their sentences, but this did not transform them into an industrious peasantry. The marines, who initially received no land, were dissatisfied because they could not advance their personal fortunes in such a remote outpost. Only 13 free settlers of the kind that Phillip wanted in order to create a thriving colony arrived during his term as governor.

Starvation was a constant threat. The 1st Fleet carried sufficient provisions for only 2 years; the 2d Fleet did not reach Sydney until June 1790, and the 3d Fleet in July 1791. Until supplies arrived, the inhabitants were allocated rations insufficient for a day's hard work, and stocks of clothing were exhausted. Parramatta, a township 15 miles upstream, became the center for colonial agriculture because of its fertile soil. Although convict labor was employed on government farms, the lack of draft animals and implements, and the problems associated with a new environment, impeded agricultural progress.

When Phillip returned to England in December 1792 owing to illness, the small settlement of 3, 000 people could not produce its food requirements. But the New South Wales Corps, which replaced the disgruntled marines in 1791, was fostering trade with merchants from India and the United States, and the arrival of more ships ensured the colony's physical survival. Because of its cost to the British taxpayer, however, the settlement's long-term future remained in doubt.

Although Phillip's vision of a colony with predominantly free settlers was not immediately realized, he did succeed in piloting the settlement through its early years of deprivation, and before he left, the outlines of a solution to the colony's economic problem were discernible. But the extensive powers vested in the governor encouraged autocratic rule and led to future conflicts.

After returning to England, Phillip resumed his naval career and became a rear admiral in 1798. In 1805 he retired to Bath, where he died on Aug. 31, 1814, shortly after becoming an admiral of the blue.


On January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip guides a fleet of 11 British ships carrying convicts to the colony of New South Wales, effectively founding Australia. After overcoming a period of hardship, the fledgling colony began to celebrate the anniversary of this date with great fanfare.

Australia, once known as New South Wales, was originally planned as a penal colony. In October 1786, the British government appointed Arthur Phillip captain of the HMS Sirius, and commissioned him to establish an agricultural work camp there for British convicts. With little idea of what he could expect from the mysterious and distant land, Phillip had great difficulty assembling the fleet that was to make the journey. His requests for more experienced farmers to assist the penal colony were repeatedly denied, and he was both poorly funded and outfitted. Nonetheless, accompanied by a small contingent of Marines and other officers, Phillip led his 1,000-strong party, of whom more than 700 were convicts, around Africa to the eastern side of Australia. In all, the voyage lasted eight months, claiming the deaths of some 30 men.


HMS Sirius

The first years of settlement were nearly disastrous. Cursed with poor soil, an unfamiliar climate and workers who were ignorant of farming, Phillip had great difficulty keeping the men alive. The colony was on the verge of outright starvation for several years, and the marines sent to keep order were not up to the task. Phillip, who proved to be a tough but fair-minded leader, persevered by appointing convicts to positions of responsibility and oversight. Floggings and hangings were commonplace, but so was egalitarianism. As Phillip said before leaving England: “In a new country there will be no slavery and hence no slaves.”

Though Phillip returned to England in 1792, the colony became prosperous by the turn of the 19th century. Feeling a new sense of patriotism, the men began to rally around January 26 as their founding day. Historian Manning Clarke noted that in 1808 the men observed the “anniversary of the foundation of the colony” with “drinking and merriment.”

Finally, in 1818, January 26 became an official holiday, marking the 30th anniversary of British settlement in Australia. And, as Australia became a sovereign nation, it became the national holiday known as Australia Day. Today, Australia Day serves both as a day of celebration for the founding of the white British settlement, and as a day of mourning for the Aborigines who were slowly dispossessed of their land as white colonization spread across the continent.




Phillip joined the Royal Navy at about fifteen, and saw action at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in the Mediterranean at the Battle of Minorca in 1756. In 1762 he was promoted to Lieutenant, but was placed on half pay when the Seven Years' War ended in 1763. During this period he married, and farmed in Lyndhurst, Hampshire.

In 1774 Phillip joined the Portuguese Navy as a captain, serving in the War against Spain. While with the Portuguese Navy, Phillip commanded a frigate, the Nossa Senhora do Pilar. On this ship he took a detachment of troops from Rio de Janeiro to Colonia do Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata (opposite Buenos Aires) to relieve the garrison there. This voyage also conveyed a consignment of convicts assigned to carry out work at Colonia. During a storm encountered in the course of the voyage, the convicts assisted in working the ship and, on arrival at Colonia, Phillip recommended that they be rewarded for saving the ship by remission of their sentences.[2] A garbled version of this eventually found its way into the English press when Phillip was appointed in 1786 to lead the expedition to Sydney.[3] Phillip played a leading part in the capture of the Spanish ship San Agustín (1768), on 19 April 1777, off Santa Catarina. The San Agustin was commissioned into the Portuguese Navy as the Santo Agostinho, and command of her was given to Phillip. The action was reported in the English press:

Madrid, Aug. 28. Letters from Lisbon bring the following Account from Rio Janeiro: That the St. Augustine, of 70 Guns, having being separated from the Squadron of M. Casa Tilly, was attacked by two Portugueze Ships, against which they defended themselves for a Day and a Night, but being next Day surrounded by the Portugueze Fleet, was obliged to surrender.[4]




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