FOVEAUX, Joseph (1765-1846)


FOVEAUX, Joseph (1765-1846)
early administrator
was born in 1765. When the New' South Wales corps was founded in 1789 he was an ensign in the 60th regiment, but on joining the corps became a lieutenant. He reached the rank of major on 10 June 1796 and became acting commandant at Norfolk Island in April 1800 and acting lieutenant-governor in the following June. In December, receiving information that there was a plot to murder the officers, he hanged two of the ringleaders. Holt (q.v.) in his memoirs states that the men were executed two hours after arrest without any trial. Evatt in his Rum Rebellion accepts a statement in the Bligh (q.v.) papers in the Mitchell library that the men were "summarily hanged . . . without ever being told their crime, much less confronted with their accuser . . . merely upon the private information of a vagabond convict". This is not strictly accurate. Foveaux stated that other information had come to his knowledge when the matter was brought before the judge-advocate and five other officers all signed the warrant of condemnation. Foveaux succeeded in satisfying both Governor King (q.v.) and the English authorities that his action was justified. (See H.R. of N.S.W., vol. IV, pp. 266, 325 and 688.) Foveaux was succeeded by Captain Piper (q.v.) in 1804, sailed to England on 9 September, and did not return to New South Wales until the middle of 1808. He took over the administration of the colony from Major Johnston (q.v.) and issued a proclamation dated 31 July to the effect that he was not competent to judge between Bligh and the officers who had deposed him, and would not interfere with the status quo until he received instructions from the British authorities. His statement that there would be "the most impartial justice between persons of every description" was, however, apparently not intended to apply to Bligh as on 16 August he wrote for Colonel Paterson a completely biased statement relating to the acts and designs of Bligh, and on 4 September 1808 sent similar charges to Viscount Castlereagh. Foveaux apparently accepted without question everything that was said by his brother officers. Evatt in his Rum Rebellion bluntly speaks of his "lying", but that is probably going too far. In January 1809 Colonel Paterson took over the administration from Foveaux who returned to England in April 1810. He received an appointment on the Irish staff in 1811, and was promoted colonel in that year, major-general in 1814 and lieutenant-general in 1830. He died at London on 20 March 1846.
Macquarie (q.v.) described Foveaux as a "man of very superior talents . . . of strict honour and integrity" and recommended that he should be appointed lieutenant-governor at Hobart. This opinion, however, was formed on very short acquaintance. Foveaux's administration at Norfolk Island appears to have been cruel and callous, and his conduct in connexion with Bligh was more politic than just. His own justification of his career may be found in vol. VII of the Historical Records of New South Wales, pp. 295-9.
Historical Records of New South Wales, vols. II to VII; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. II to VII; H. V. Evatt, Rum Rebellion; The Gentleman's Magazine, May 1846, p. 551; The Times, 21 March 1846; T. C. Croker, Memoirs of Joseph Holt; Journal and Proceedings, Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. I. p. 215; Ida Lee, The Coming of the British to Australia.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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