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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dashwood, George Frederick (1806–1881)

by J. Gilchrist

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

George Frederick Dashwood (1806-1881), by unknown photographer, c1850

George Frederick Dashwood (1806-1881), by unknown photographer, c1850

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B31064

George Frederick Dashwood (1806-1881), naval officer and public servant, was born on 20 September 1806 in London, the son of James Dashwood of Bracknell, Berkshire. In 1819 he entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and later served as a lieutenant. Ill health forced him on to half-pay in 1837. In 1841 he applied for the post of chief agent in the Van Diemen's Land Co. Unsuccessful, he went with his wife and two children to Adelaide in the Orissa. Although the Admiralty had allowed him only two years leave, he decided to settle on the land with his family and bought an estate near Echunga. Early in 1843 after South Australia came completely under Colonial Office control, he applied to Governor (Sir) George Grey for the remission money allowed in other colonies to ex-servicemen on the purchase of land, but his claim was rejected. In 1858 after South Australia was given control of its land policies, he tried again and won a remission of £400.

In 1843 Dashwood was appointed one of the four non-official nominees in South Australia's first Legislative Council. Next year he resigned because living in Adelaide was costly and kept him away from his estate. Finding farming equally expensive, he sought government employment. From 1847 to 1852 he was commissioner of police, with an interval as stipendiary magistrate at Port Adelaide. For the next four years he was collector of customs, which gave him a seat in the Legislative Council. In May 1855 he was granted leave and visited England. Soon after his return he was appointed emigration agent for South Australia in London; Dashwood hoped this position would be permanent but in December 1860 it was abolished. He returned to Adelaide and, until his retirement in 1879, served as stipendiary magistrate. In 1878 he was promoted commander by Admiralty indulgence. He died on 15 March 1881.

Dashwood was typical of many colonists whose concern for preserving authority and social status segregated them from their more independent fellows. Unlike many inexperienced settlers, he could not adapt himself readily to colonial ways; instead he found personal satisfaction in the financial security of public office. To the government, he was a loyal, able and conservative officer, conscientious in his duties, but with little originality. Readily accepting unpaid work, he served on the harbours' committee that in 1849 displeased Adelaide merchants by reporting favourably on alternative ports for the shipment of produce. In 1852 as a member of the select committee for proposing constitutional alterations he offended radical opinion by sharing in the minority report that recommended a nominated upper chamber and plural votes for plural property holders. As police commissioner he often asked for more men and more money to improve the protection of property, yet he advised working class villages to establish their own private constabularies. He insisted that prisoners should support themselves by working in gaol, but, although forced sometimes to act against Aboriginal offenders, he also supported their official protection and declared that it was but a bare act of justice to supply them with food and sustenance of which they had been deprived. His infirmities do not appear to have affected his many activities. He was a devoted family man and a constant diarist.

An Anglican, Dashwood married Sarah Rebecca Loine according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church in London on 27 December 1839. Three years later, to comply with legal changes and to secure Admiralty benefits for his family in the event of his death, he and his wife went through a second form of marriage in a civil ceremony at the registrar's office in Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1858, 2 (130)
  • Register (Adelaide), 17 Mar 1881
  • G. Dashwood diaries, 1 Jan 1840—28 Dec 1880 (State Records of South Australia)
  • research note 33 (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

J. Gilchrist, 'Dashwood, George Frederick (1806–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 27 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 1

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