Arthur Phillip was born in London on 11 October 1738. He joined the Royal Navy when he was fifteen, and alternately earned a living as a navy officer and as a farmer. He climbed his way up through the ranks in the navy, being much sought after as a calm and reasonable officer, and later captain, and he had many naval battle successes, including when he was seconded to the Portuguese navy in its war with Spain. During that period he became commander of a Portuguese colony supported by convict labour, and his patron the Duke of Norfolk was able to recommend him for command of the Botany Bay expedition as having experience in administering a military-convict colony.
In October 1786, Phillip was appointed Governor-designate of the proposed British penal colony of New South Wales. He was a practical man who suggested that convicts with experience in farming, building and crafts be included in the First Fleet, but his proposal was rejected.
The First Fleet left Portsmouth, England, on 13 May 1787,and arrived in Botany Bay on 18 January 1788. Phillip immediately determined that there was insufficient fresh water, an absence of usable timber, poor quality soil and no safe harbour at Botany Bay. Thus the fleet was moved to Port Jackson, arriving on 26 January 1788.
Phillip faced many obstacles in his attempts to establish the new colony. British farming methods, seeds and implements were unsuitable for use in the different climate and soil: much of the seed had rotted or been eaten by rats on the journey over, and the implements and tools could not stand up to the tougher treatment and conditions of the Australian soil and climate. The colony faced near-starvation in its first two years, and was finally saved by the success of a barley crop.
Out of necessity, due to the growing need for more land in Sydney, Phillip undertook several expeditions of exploration in the immediate area. His explorations resulted in the first spread of settlement to the Parramatta and Rose Hill areas. He also traced the course of the Hawkesbury River as far upstream as he could, to Richmond Hill, and he then continued on to the junction with the Grose River.
Despite numerous setbacks, under Phillip's rationing and sensible direction, the colony finally succeeded in developing a solid foundation, agriculturally and economically, thanks to the perseverance of Captain Arthur Phillip. As a military man, he began to establish a legal code by publishing weekly orders for the governance of the colony. It was by his leadership alone that the colony became entirely self-sufficient. He also worked to improve understanding with the local Aborigines.
Also whilst Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip established the military colony to protect the East India Company trade as directed, and in doing so also preempted French intrusion into the area. He also established a station on Norfolk Island, under Philip Gidley King, to begin to supply masts and flax for the British fleet.
Poor health forced Phillip to return to England in 1792. He resigned his commission soon after arriving back in England, and died on 31 August 1814.
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