HOBSON, William (1793-1842)


HOBSON, William (1793-1842)
first governor of New Zealand
son of Samuel Hobson, a barrister, was born at Waterford, Ireland, on 26 September 1793. He joined the navy on 25 August 1803 as a second-class volunteer. It was a rough life to enter on for a boy still under 10 years of age, but somehow Hobson obtained an education. He became a midshipman in 1806 and some seven years later was a first lieutenant. He was promoted commander in May 1824. In 1834 he was appointed captain of the Rattlesnake and early in 1835 sailed to India. In 1836 he was ordered to Australia and arrived at Hobart on 5 August, and at Sydney 18 days later. On 18 September the Rattlesnake left for Port Phillip conveying Captain Lonsdale (q.v.) and other officials to the new colony. During the next three months Hobson and his officers thoroughly surveyed Port Phillip, the northern portion of which, by direction of Governor Sir Richard Bourke (q.v.), was named after Hobson. He was offered the position of superintendent of the Bombay marine at a salary of £2000 a year, but he had taken a liking to Australia and was a candidate for the governorship of Port Phillip, although the salary was not expected to be more than £800 a year. On 20 February 1837 the Rattlesnake left Sydney for Port Phillip with Bourke and other officials on board and arrived On 4 March. Melbourne was surveyed and named a few days later. Shortly afterwards word was received from James Busby (q.v.) that war had broken out between tribes in New Zealand, and Hobson was sent on the Rattlesnake to afford any protection to the missionaries and others that might be necessary. He made various investigations and returned in July with the Rev. S. Marsden (q.v.) on board. The Rattlesnake then returned to the India station and to England.
In July 1839 Hobson was appointed lieutenant-governor of New Zealand. He went first to Sydney and in January 1840 sailed from there to the Bay of Islands, where Busby was British resident, and arrived on 29 January. Next day Hobson landed and read the proclamation announcing his appointment as lieutenant-governor. He had a difficult time in harmonizing the views of the missionaries, the traders, and the Maoris, and in February he suffered a stroke of paralysis. He was ill for some time and was glad of the help of Busby in drawing up the famous treaty of Waitangi in February 1840. In November New Zealand became a separate colony and Hobson was nominated as governor. But there were still many difficulties to cope with, such as the rights of the New Zealand Company, and the respective merits of Wellington and Auckland as sites for the seat of government. Hobson was not entirely fortunate in the officials who had been appointed to assist him, and the settlement of land claims added to his difficulties. Worn out with contentions of various kinds he had another stroke and died on 10 September 1842, much mourned by the Maoris, who fully recognized his justice and humanity. He married in 1827 Eliza, daughter of R. W. Elliott, who survived him with one son, who became a captain in the navy, and four daughters.
Guy H. Scholefield, Captain William Hobson; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols XIX and XX; R. D. Boys, First Years at Port Phillip; Erie Ramsden, Busby of Waitangi.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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