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W. C. Wentworth

W. C. WentworthAKA William Charles Wentworth

Born: 1790
Birthplace: Norfolk Island, New South Wales, Australia
Died: 20-Mar-1872
Location of death: Wimborne, Dorset, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Government

Nationality: Australia
Executive summary: Australian patriot

William Charles Wentworth, the "Australian patriot", who claimed descent from the great Strafford, but apparently without sufficient reason, was born in 1793 in Norfolk Island, the penal settlement of New South Wales, where his father D'Arcy Wentworth, an Irish gentleman of Roscommon family, who had emigrated in 1790 and later became a prominent official, was then government surgeon. The son was educated in England, but he spent the interval between his schooling at Greenwich and his matriculation (1816) at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in Australia, and early attracted the attention of Governor Macquarie by some adventurous exploration in the Blue Mountains. In 1819 he published in London a work on Australasia in two volumes, and in 1823 he only just missed the chancellor's medal at Cambridge (won by W. M. Praed) with a stirring poem on the same subject. Having been called to the bar, he returned to Sydney, and soon obtained a fine practice. With a fellow barrister, Wardell, he started a newspaper, the Australian, in 1824, to advocate the cause of self-government and to champion the "emancipists" -- the incoming class of ex-convicts, now freed and prospering -- against the "exclusivists" -- the officials and the more aristocratic settlers. With Wardell, Dr. William Bland and others, he formed the "Patriotic Association", and carried on a determined agitation both in Australia and in England, where they found able supporters. The earlier object of their attack was the governor, Sir Ralph Darling, who was recalled in 1831 in consequence, though he was acquitted by a select committee of the House of Commons of the charges brought against him by Wentworth in connection with his severe punishment of two soldiers, Sudds and Thompson, who had perpetrated a robbery in order to obtain their discharge (a favorite dodge at the time), and one of whom, Sudds, had died. Wentworth continued, under the succeeding governor, Sir Richard Bourke, who was guided by him, and Sir George Gipps, with whom he had constant differences, to exercise a powerful influence; and in 1842, when the Constitution Act was passed, it was generally recognized as mainly his work. He became a member of the first legislative council and led the "squatter party." He was the founder of the university of Sydney (1852), where his son afterwards founded bursaries in his honor; and he led the movement resulting in the new constitution for the colony (1854), subsequently (1861) becoming president of the new legislative council. But things had meanwhile moved fast in the colony, and Wentworth's old supremacy had waned, since Robert Lowe (afterwards Lord Sherbrooke) and others had come into prominence in the political arena. He had done his work for colonial autonomy, and was becoming an old man, somewhat out of touch with the new generation. For some years before 1861 he stayed chiefly in England, where in 1857 he founded the "General Association for the Australian Colonies", with the object of obtaining from the government a federal assembly for the whole of Australia; and in 1862 he definitely settled in England, dying on the 20th of March 1872. His body was taken to Sydney and accorded a public funeral by the unanimous vote of the New South Wales legislature.

Father: D'Arcy Wentworth (surgeon, highway robber, d. 1827)
Mother: Catherine Crowley (convict)

    University: Peterhouse College, Cambridge University



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