BLAND, William (1789-1868)


BLAND, William (1789-1868)
public man and politician
son of Robert Bland, a well-known physician, was born in London on 5 November 1789. He was well educated, studied medicine, and in 1809 was appointed a surgeon in the royal navy. In 1813 he had a quarrel with Robert Case, the purser on H.M.S. Hesper, as a result of which Case challenged Bland. Case was shot by Bland, who was tried with his second, Lieutenant Randall, for murder and found guilty with a recommendation to mercy. Bland was sentenced to transportation for seven years and Randall for eight years. The story of a second duel mentioned in most of the authorities appears to be without foundation. Bland arrived in Sydney in 1814, was shortly afterwards emancipated, and began to practise as a physician. He married in 1817, but a few months later brought an action for divorce and recovered £2000 from the co-respondent. In September 1818 he was charged and convicted of libelling Governor Macquarie (q.v.), and sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment and a fine of £50. The libels were contained in a manuscript book which Bland had dropped in the Parramatta-road.
After his release Bland took up his practice again and became a successful physician. He took much interest in the benevolent asylum, and in March 1828 Governor Darling (q.v.) spoke in the highest terms of the work he was doing there as medical attendant. He was also interested in the agitation for political freedom, trial by jury, and other problems of the period. He published in 1838 New South Wales. Examination of Mr James Macarthur's (q.v. under entry for John Macarthur) Work, "New South Wales, its Present State and Future Prospects" in which he vigorously combated Macarthur's views, and in 1840 he printed his Letter from the Australian Patriotic Association to C. Buller Esq., M.P., the first of a series reprinted in a volume in 1849, Letters to Charles Buller. He also published in 1842 Objections to the Project of His Excellency Sir George Gipps for raising a Loan. In July 1843 Bland was returned with Wentworth (q.v.) to represent the city of Sydney at the first election for the legislative council, and the two were henceforth closely associated in the struggle for responsible government. Bland and his associates, however, were anxious to continue the transportation system, while Buller held that representative government and transportation were incompatible. Wentworth valued Bland highly and at the 1848 election said "Whatever your verdict may be with regard to myself—I charge you never to forget your tried, devoted, indefatigable friend William Bland". Despite this Bland was defeated although Wentworth headed the poll. Bland was subsequently appointed a member of the legislative council under the new constitution, but resigned his seat some time before his death at Sydney on 21 July 1868.
Bland was energetic, kindly and unselfish, but his temperament was inclined to be fiery. In spite of his experience as a young man he was so incensed in 1849 when Lowe (q.v.) objected to ex-convicts being made members of the proposed senate of the university, that he actually challenged him. He was a very able physician and surgeon, much given to philanthropy, and much interested in education. He was one of the founders of Sydney College and its honorary treasurer for a long period. He had an inventive mind, and among other things devised "an atmotic ship" which appears to have been a precursor of the Zeppelin. He was one of the leading men of his time, and his work during the constitutional struggle was of great value.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 1868; The Empire, Sydney, 22 July 1868; N. J. Dunlop, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XI, pp. 321-51; Account of the Duel Between William Bland and Robert Case; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. XI, XIV, XXVI; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; A. Patchett Martin, Life and Letters of Viscount Sherbrooke, vol. I.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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