Sunday, November 23, 2008

Arthur Phillip

I've finished my research posts about places we're going to visit on our next trip to Australia. I'll probably do more posts like that after we return to Australia. I'll write about the places we did NOT visit, but might visit someday.

So, I've been trying to decide what to research next.

I'm thinking maybe I'll do some biographical research. There are often characters who catch my eye...capture my heart. So, maybe I'll look into those people. I'll start with Arthur Phillip and if that works out well (meaning it doesn't bore me to tears or completely overwhelm me) I'll do more.

So, let's see.

I guess I'll start with Lord Wiki.

No, maybe I won't.

I think this time I'll start with the Dictionary of Australian Biography. I'll talk to Lord Wiki later.

Phillip was born in London. October 11, 1738. Or in Aussie language 11 October 1738. You know I always thought the Australian way of writing the date was weird, but now that I think of it, that ways makes much more sense. It's going more in order. Day to month to year. Small time period to medium to large. Yeah, much better.

Okay. Here's something annoying. I was going to try and find Phillip's numerology number. I went to a couple of numerology calculator websites to plug in the number, and you know what they said. You're how old? Yeah. Right. Like no one else has ever wanted to know the numerology of an historical figure before.

Now I'm going to have to use a regular calculator.

Let's see. We'll start with the month. It's 10=1+0 and that equals 1. So we have 1 for his month.

The month 11 can stay 11 because 11 is one of the master numbers.

Now for 1738. 1+7+3+8=19 and then you reduce that to 1+9. That equals 10 and that's reduced to 1+0=1.

Then you add the the day to the month to the year. So, that would be 1+11+1=13.

Reduce 13 to 1+3


He's a 4.

Jack's a four too although he doesn't act like a four. He acts much more like a five.

My labor was induced with Jack. I think he was born on the wrong day. If he was born one day later, I think this would have matched him much better.

Fours are all about organization and good management. It's about being practical. Was Phillip like this? Maybe we shall see.....

In Astrology, the guy was a Libra. He might have been a combination of love and practicality.

What about Chinese Astrology? According to this website, Phillip would be a horse. They say this means he is Independent and a hard worker. Although friendly, may have a tendency to be selfish. Must guard against being egotistical.

Well, that sounds like a way. He was friendly to the Aborigines. But yeah. He was a bit selfish. He kidnapped Bennelong and pretty much forced him to be his friend.

All right. Enough occult stuff for now. But wasn't that fun?

Well, I had fun.

Wow. First paragraph and I already got some soap opera stuff. His mother was married to someone else before she married Phillip's daddy. This first husband was a captain and some believe it might have been the first husband's influence that allowed our Arthur to go to Greenwich school in London. Usually, only sons of seamen were allowed. Oooh. So, I detect some scandal here. Maybe Phillips mum was getting some action from the first husband.

When Phillip was fifteen he became an apprentice on a ship called Fortune. That's a good name for a ship.

He entered the navy when he was seventeen. He fought in some wars. I don't know what wars were happening then. 1756 and 1757. I'm very bad at military history.

Let me go look this up.

According to Lord Wiki, there was the Seven Years War around that time. I have no idea what that's about.

Holy crap! This is huge. It killed about a million people. I mean don't get me wrong. The name sounded familiar to me. I'm sure I heard of it. I probably even learned about it in school. Well, I should say I was probably present in a classroom in which a teacher talked about it. I probably daydreamed instead of listened. Oops.

It sounds like a world war type thing.

Later, there was another war. England against Spain. I think I'd side with England unless it involved food. I much prefer tapas and Paella to Yorkshire pudding.

I won't go into details because it's a bit boring to me. But I'll just say Arthur Phillip had a pretty impressive career in the navy. He had a great reputation.

I think all that navy stuff lasted until he was in his forties. In 1786 he was appointed captain of Sirius (the ship not the character in Harry Potter) and Governor Elect of New South Wales. He was forty-eight years old.

Phillips had two interesting ideas/plans about the whole New South Wales thing. One was that a ship with artisans should come before the convicts. This idea was not turned into reality. I wonder how different history would have been if it had been done. The other idea was to keep the worst criminals together on one ship so they wouldn't contaminate the other criminals. I don't think this was done, but I'm not sure. I'm sure Robert Hughes would have talked about it in The Fatal Shore. Maybe he did; but it might have been one of the times my eyes were reading the words while my mind thought of something else.

I'm not going to go into a lot of details about the beginning days of New South Wales, just because I did that in an earlier post.

I am going to read the information in the biographical dictionary though--to see if there's anything exciting and interesting that I didn't know yet.

Here's something: He adopted the right attitude to the aborigines, and walked unarmed among them though they were armed. He had determined that he would never fire on them except in the last resort.

I like that. He seems fairly okay--at least for the standards of those days.

You know, I changed my mind about writing this. The writing on that website hurts my eyes. Or maybe I'm just not in the mood. I'm skipping that paragraph and moving on.

In 1793 he resigned from being governor. Let's play calculator again. He was 55 years old. White New South Wales was five-years-old. And no I didn't need the calculator for that. Thank you very much. I used my fingers.

Phillips wife was named Margaret Charlott. It's funny they don't mention her until now. They did mention earlier that he got married, but not much was said about it. The wedding happened in 1763. I have a feeling the husband and wife didn't see each other too much--you know with him fighting in wars and running off to Australia. She died while he was in Australia. Kind of sad. I wonder if they loved each other. In those days, you couldn't have much of a long distance relationship. It's not like you could email or send text messages.

When Phillip returned to England, he remarried.  This wife was Isabelle Whitehead. The couple stayed home and had a wild sex life. No, I'm joking. It seems Isabelle was also a bit of a sea-widow. He did a lot more ship stuff, but eventually (If I'm reading this right) slowed down and enjoyed some time relaxing in Bath. He had inherited money from his late wife because she had been a widow and received money when her first husband died. He also received pension money. So, Phillips enjoyed a life without much financial hardship.

He died in 1814 in Bath. Seventy-six years old. I'm guessing that's pretty good for those days. Or maybe not. This website talks about how we have the wrong idea about life expectancy in the past. We look at the low life expectancy averages and assume people didn't live to old age. But the truth is the high mortality of infancy and childhood brought the averages down. It's not really like a thirty-five year old was seen as an old man. At least I don't think so.

The biographical dictionary says it seems like there were no children from either marriage. I guess this means no one knows for sure. Mysterious.

There's a rumor that Phillip committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window, but the biographical dictionary says there's no evidence to support this.

Now I'm going over to Lord Wiki. He lists things that were named after Phillip. They include Phillip Island in Victoria and Phillip Island near Norfolk Island. My best friend loves Phillip Island. She likes the penguins there. She named her Facebook Haiku pet after Phillip Island.

I just thought I'd tell you guys that.

In 2007, an Australian lawyer (barrister) named Geoffrey Robertson announced that Phillip's remains are missing. Arthur Phillip is not buried where people believed he was buried. Robertson is also angry by the fact that Phillip was buried in a small churchyard rather than a grand cathedral. He wants Phillip to be found and returned to Australia.

I just found this website. It looks fun and easy to read. It says his father was a language teacher from Germany. I wonder what language he taught. German? English? Or maybe neither.

Phillip had a fifteen year break from Navy stuff at some point and did farming work. This farming experiment probably helped him with the Governor of New South Wales stuff. The Biographical dictionary actually mentioned this, but I didn't catch the part about the fifteen years of farming. Okay and also...this new website is just much easier to read.

Phillip fought in the American War of Independence. I'm guessing he wasn't on the American side.

Oh, here's something exciting. The website says that it was Phillip who came up with the idea of saying Gum Tree for Eucalyptus tree. So, every time we say gum tree, we're honoring Arthur Phillip. At least, I think so.

Here's a quote website with just one quote from Phillip. He said: There are few things more pleasing than the contemplation of order and useful arrangement.

Ah! That goes very well with his 4 numerology number, doesn't it? Kind of eerie.


Jayne said...

Poor old Arthur. He got speared by Aborigines at one point when he popped down to have a chat to them (unarmed)and wasn't a well lad when he hopped back to England.

Dina said...


Yeah. The spearing thing was a bit shocking. I have this image of it in my mind. I picture him having this shocked, sad, and wounded look on his face.

Retarius said...

You have just written more about this character than most Australians have ever heard in school or elsewhere. Exposure to the activities of colonial governors is usually regarded as deleterious to one's health. Several deaths have been recorded in which the deceased was dicovered clutching a copy of an Establishing Proclamation or minutes of Executive Council meetings. Fatal Colonial Boredom is the hypothesised pathogen. Therefore, I always avoid any texts with pictures of men in tricornered hats or curled wigs and knee-breeches (unless they are jolly pirates).

I think you should put this blog onto mybloglog; I think it would be a hit there and attract quite a bit of attention. You can join heaps of interesting blog communities and I think it's superior to BlogCatalog. By listing tags for your profile you can find other people writing on the same topic and it covers a multitude of services, not just blogging. Have a look at mine from my sidebar widget and you'll see how it works.

Guera said...

Hi Dina. I thought I'd pop over and say thanks for visiting my place!

Wow, you've done a lot of research. I'm sure you know a lot more about Phillip than most Aussies. You'll be well prepared for your trip down under. :)

Dina said...


Thanks! I'll look into that! It sounds really great.

The funny thing is I used to hate history--especially stuff about government. I've never had any interest in governors, prime ministers, or presidents. This is all very recent to me.

And I seem to have a thing for Arthur Phillip.

Dina said...


Hi! Thank you so much for visiting! I'm glad I found your blog : ) I'm not sure how I missed it before.

Michael said...

Arthur Phillip was a great man, one of the most underrated figures in history. He settled Australia and successfully governed convicts and rum-soaked marines!

Cook got the glory for stumbling into the place, Phillip did all the hard work.

Undistinguished as a naval officer, he proved his ability as an administrator.

Lesser men abandoned settlements in similar circumstances.

I often wonder what would have happened if Phillip had failed. The French or Dutch would have established a presence in Australia eventually and the country would be significantly different today.

I also wonder though what would have happened if America had remained loyal to the Crown (a near thing).

Dina said...


I didn't realize he was so underrated.

I'm reading two books about him--one is written by him I think. It has him as an author. It's the account of the settlement. But then it talks about him in third person. That's confusing.

I keep misplacing that book though, so last night I started also reading Thomas Keneally's book (Commonwealth of Thieves). I think it's about Phillip.

Michael said...

Dina, whatever you read, Australia would not exist in the form it is today if it wasn't for the success of Phillip's settlement.

Dina said...


I'm guessing you're probably right.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was very interested to read your blog because I have just had my first novel published. The topic:Captain Arthur Phillip. It is the first fictional account ever written about him and has received some pretty good reviews - the first one from Geoffrey Robertson QC, who you have mentioned. It is called 'A Grand Prospect'. I'm glad that you are interested in Phillip, as we say: He was a pretty good bloke. Did you know that he had convicts flogged for stealing Aboriginal goods, and athat the penalty for harming a 'native' was death?
Enjoy your research,