DAVEY, Thomas (c.1760-1823)


DAVEY, Thomas (c.1760-1823)
second governor of Tasmania.
No details are known of his early life, but he was serving in the army or navy in 1777, and went to Australia as a lieutenant of marines in the first fleet 10 years later. He left Sydney at the end of 1792, at the time of the mutiny at the Nore was a captain of marines, and fought at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In September 1811 (he was then a major of marines), through the influence of Lord Harrowby, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Tasmania, but did not sail until June 1812. In the interim he had been made a colonel. He arrived in Sydney on 25 October 1812 and reported to Governor Macquarie (q.v.), whose orders he had been instructed to observe. He remained in Sydney for nearly four months, and did not land at Hobart until 20 February 1813.
Davey appears to have had no qualifications for his position. He was indolent and without sense of dignity, and indulged fully in the hard-drinking that was a characteristic of the period. Macquarie had received a private letter from the authorities warning him to keep a close watch on Davey, and on 30 April 1814 reported that his conduct was pretty correct, "except for making locations of land to persons not entitled" . . . he had every reason to believe that he "is honest and means well" but that his character made him a "very unfit man for so important a station". Nearly a year later Macquarie again reported very adversely, and in April 1816 Earl Bathurst in a dispatch to Macquarie recalled Davey, but suggested that he should be allowed to resign, and that a grant of land should be made to him. Davey handed over his position to Governor Sorell (q.v.) on 9 April 1817. Considerable grants of land were made to him, but he was not successful with them and he sailed to England from Sydney in August 1821. He died on 2 May 1823 and was survived by his wife and daughter, both much respected, who remained in Tasmania. Though quite unfitted for his position the accounts of Davey that give him no redeeming qualities go too far. He was of a weakly, amiable nature, but much progress was made during his administration, the most important act being that Hobart was made a free port. He encouraged the proper treatment of aborigines, and his bringing in of martial law in an attempt to check bushranging at least showed he could act firmly on an occasion. The wisdom of this action has been questioned, but it certainly had the approval of the colonists. It should be remembered also that Davey's powers were very limited, and that he was unfortunate in his subordinate officials; some of them had little ability and at least two were men of bad character.
Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. I, VII to X; ser. III, vol. II; R. W. Giblin, The Early History of Tasmania, vol. II; J. West, The History of Tasmania; J. W. Beattie, Glimpses of the Life and Times of the Early Tasmanian Governors.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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