Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Samuel Bate (1776–1849)

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Samuel Bate (1776?-1849), sinecurist, was appointed in January 1804 to replace Benjamin Barfould, who had refused to sail, as deputy judge advocate for the proposed settlement at Port Phillip. On 14 May 1806 he arrived at Hobart Town where the settlement had been established, but since no courts of law had been provided for him to preside over he could do no more than act as an ordinary magistrate. He performed this duty very badly, being, as Governor Lachlan Macquarie later justly described him, 'much addicted to low Company, totally Ignorant of Law, and a Very troublesome, ill-tempered Man'. On 8 September 1807 Lieutenant-Governor David Collins granted him leave, but when he reached Sydney, Governor William Bligh, who had learned of his reputation, at once sent him back to Hobart. He then applied to the Colonial Office for leave, and while awaiting its reply continued to demonstrate his incapacity in Hobart. In 1811 he was imprisoned by the commandant for insolent and disrespectful conduct; Macquarie released him, but told Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Davey not to employ him in any public situation, and asked the secretary of state to dismiss him. This Bathurst did in February 1814, for it was necessary to have 'a person qualified to administer civil justice in the colony'; but until this time Bate had been allowed to draw his salary of £182 10s because of his family's needs.

After his dismissal he sold the land he had been granted and so procured means to take himself to England to seek 'Remuneration for the Losses and Privations' he had suffered. As Macquarie and later John Thomas Bigge reported that these were nil, compensation was refused. For all that, Bate was supported by that persistent parliamentary critic, Henry Grey Bennet, and must have had some influence in the government for he was appointed to a post in the excise service in England and in April 1824 surveyor of distilleries in New South Wales, at a salary of £400 paid from the colonial revenues. There was then only one distillery in the colony, but this situation at least removed him from England. He arrived in Sydney in November 1825 in the Royal Charlotte, with his wife and four children, the eldest of whom in 1828 was appointed his clerk and did all Bate's work. On the voyage he quarrelled with the ship's captain and brought two unsuccessful actions against him in the colony; the consequent legal expenses were followed by a general extravagance which in 1832 reduced him to insolvency. This compelled his resignation, and a moving plea for government assistance and another post was unavailing.

Bate seems to have been one of the many dissolute incompetents inflicted on the colony who inspired Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling to beg for only respectable men to be sent as officials. His sons continued to work in the excise and later settled at Dapto, Merimbula and Tilba Tilba. A daughter married Edward Agnew of Tobago. Bate died at his son's residence at Dapto on 22 November 1849.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 6-11, 18, 23
  • Sydney Gazette, 16 June 1810, 5 May, 5 Dec 1825, 12 Jan, 1 Mar 1826, 12 June 1838
  • manuscript catalogue under Samuel Bate (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

'Bate, Samuel (1776–1849)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




22 November, 1849 (aged ~ 73)
Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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