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Boucher, Charles (?–?)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

This is a shared entry with Frederick Boucher

Frederick Boucher (1801-1873) and Charles Boucher (flourished 1823-1840), confidence men, were the sons of Charles Boucher, merchant of Nine Elms, Vauxhall, London, and reputedly nephews of Lord Jeffreys. Charles migrated to Van Diemen's Land about 1824 and although he claimed a capital of £2000, became the note issue clerk to Lempriere & Co. After some years he went to Mauritius where he married and had a daughter.

Frederick went to New South Wales about 1823 and was granted 800 acres (324 ha) at Wollombi Brook which he later transferred to John Blaxland. By May 1825 Boucher was one of the first store-keepers at Newcastle. In partnership with Captain William Powditch, sometime master of the Royal George, he established agencies in the Hunter valley, had a small boat for carrying goods up and down the river, and bought produce with his own notes. Powditch left Newcastle in June 1826 and next year the partnership dissolved when Boucher was accused of forgery. In November 1828 he advertised that in conjunction with his store he was opening a bank. It flourished briefly, but his business methods again soon became suspect, and within a year he leased his premises and set up in Sydney as a general commission agent for loans. He soon returned to England and in 1834 was appointed provisional secretary in London of the new Bank of Australasia. When he later applied for permanent appointment, the directors found his sureties unsatisfactory but because of his past services gave him the post of accountant at a salary of £300. He was soon dismissed for dubious practices.

In 1838 Frederick floated the Australian Loan Co., with a capital of £300,000, to specialize in mortgages. The scheme developed and next year it was announced as the British and Australian Bank, with a capital of £1,000,000 and offices at Moorgate Street, London. Its main business was to accept the funds of departing emigrants in exchange for bills payable on arrival by its agents in each Australian colony.

Charles was appointed the bank's manager at Adelaide and sailed from Mauritius with his wife and daughter. In November 1838 Mrs Boucher died when the Parsee was wrecked at Troubridge Shoal in Gulf St Vincent, and Charles took her body back to Mauritius for burial. When he returned in July 1839 to Adelaide, he found that his partner, Robert Lyon Milne, who declared himself as sometime a Waterloo veteran clergyman and professor of Greek at the University of St Louis, Mauritius, had tried to float an Australian agricultural bank offering to pay 40 per cent on deposits, and bought 10,000 cattle with bills on his London bankers. Charles also found that some emigrants had arrived with Frederick's bills, which the South Australian Co.'s bank had refused to cash. Since the Adelaide newspapers were condemning Milne as a charlatan, Charles hurried off to Sydney where he found even greater hostility against Frederick's bills, but contrived to have £6000 of merchandise sent to Adelaide on Milne's account. He then bolted to Launceston. On 2 July 1840 at Halstead, Prosser Plains, he married Isabella, second daughter of Robert Laing, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and soon afterwards returned to Adelaide.

Meanwhile Frederick's dishonoured bills had reached London. After a Mansion House inquiry in November 1840, he was committed to prison, although he avowed that he had dismissed Charles for associating with Milne. News of the 'Moorgate Street Bank Swindle' reached Australia in April 1841. Charles was arrested as an accomplice, but proved that Frederick had never advanced him any funds to pay the emigrants' bills. Charles then disappeared, but in August Milne was gaoled for the debt on the merchandise from Sydney.

In December 1852 from London Frederick applied unsuccessfully to the South Australian government for the restitution of 675 acres (273 ha) of land and five town acres (2 ha) for which he had bought preliminary land orders in 1835. In 1857 he petitioned the Queen for permission to found British settlements on the Wakefield plan in Borneo and New Guinea, chiefly to suppress piracy which threatened 'perfectly free and unrestricted commerce' there. In support of this scheme he published The Indian Archipelago. In May 1858 he was appointed by the Van Diemen's Land Co. as an agent for the sale of their land at the Emu Bay township on a 5 per cent commission, and with permission from the directors he published Authentic Information Regarding the British Colony of Tasmania (London, 1859). After a vain attempt to organize a protest meeting of shareholders in 1861, his last record was a pathetic appeal to the company for an advance of £300 in 1866. He died of cerebral haemorrhage at Croydon on 26 October 1873, aged 72.

Select Bibliography

  • S. J. Butlin, Foundations of the Australian Monetary System, 1788-1851 (Melb, 1953)
  • Register (Adelaide), 1 Dec 1838, 31 Oct 1840, 10 Apr 1841
  • Southern Australian, 7 Aug 1839
  • 'Police', Times (London), 9 Nov 1840, p 6
  • newspaper indexes under Boucher (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

'Boucher, Charles (?–?)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/boucher-charles-2233/text2053, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

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