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Archibald Boyd (1801–1864)

by R. L. Knight

This article was published:

Archibald Boyd (1801-1864), grazier and novelist, was born on 25 May 1801 at Leith, Midlothian, Scotland, eldest son of John Boyd of Broadmeadows, Selkirkshire, and his wife Jean, née Robb. He was a cousin of Benjamin Boyd. After education at Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1823; M.A., 1834), he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in April 1831; three years later he transferred to the Middle Temple where in 1834 he was called to the Bar. In 1838 he emigrated to New South Wales where he took up land in the Clarence River district; among his holdings was Temple Court, an 800-acre (324 ha) cattle station near Murrurundi. In the 1840s he made frequent trips between Sydney and London to plead the squatters' cause with the British government. Early in 1844, in a long interview with Lord Stanley, he responded to the question whether leases would satisfy the squatters by quoting Pope: 'It sounds more clever to me and to my heirs for ever'. In March he helped Francis Scott prepare a speech for the House of Commons which set forth at length the squatters' request for pre-emptive rights: news of this speech caused the Legislative Council to appoint Scott parliamentary agent for New South Wales. On return to the colony in December 1844 Boyd was fêted for his efforts on the squatters' behalf. Next July through the mediation of Boyd and his associates, most squatters agreed with Governor Sir George Gipps to cease to oppose his government and to pay the new squatting fees demanded of them under the 1844 regulations in return for concessions in their security of tenure. When news arrived of British land bills which fell short of the squatters' expectations, Boyd publicly denounced the government for failing to keep its bargain with the squatters. His protest, 'A Letter from the Stockholders of New South Wales to the Rt Hon. Lord Stanley . . . on the Proposed Waste Lands in Australia Bill' was printed in the Atlas, 31 January 1846.

Armed with this document he left for England in February 1846 to try to ensure that the new Waste Lands Act met the squatters' needs. In the months before the Order in Council was issued on 9 March 1847, Boyd had twelve interviews with the Colonial Office. For the government's perusal he prepared several long reports recommending a steamer service to Sydney via India and Torres Strait, extolling the system of transporting 'exiles' to New South Wales and urging that squatters be given the franchise. On one occasion he spoke for four hours in the lobby of the House of Commons on the merits of Australia and emigration thereto. After the land orders were issued in March, Archibald wrote to Benjamin that he considered his task accomplished. Fresh from this triumph he returned to Sydney, but met private misfortune. Benjamin Boyd's financial empire had crumbled in the face of bad times, bad luck, and possibly bad management, and Archibald's affairs suffered correspondingly. To pay his debts he was forced to liquidate his holdings, beginning in September 1848, an inauspicious time since the colony as a whole was suffering from economic depression. Pressed by creditors, he received a special clearance on a Sunday and, leaving Vaucluse to join a ship anchored off Sydney Heads, sailed for England on 21 January 1849.

Twice he had stood unsuccessfully for a seat in the Legislative Council: once at a by-election in Port Phillip in August 1845 and again in the general elections of July 1848, for Gloucester, Macquarie and Stanley counties.

In London he turned to a new field of endeavour. In the next six years he published in London four long, flamboyant, historical romances geared to the popular taste: The Duchess: or Woman's Love and Woman's Hate (1850); The Delameres of Delamere Court. A Love Story (1852); The Cardinal (1854); The Crown Ward (1856). He died, reputedly in a garret, at Kensington, London, on 2 August 1864 after suffering from jaundice followed by haemorrhage of the liver.

On 26 April 1844 at St. Mary's, Bryanston Square, London, he had married Elizabeth, daughter of Rear Admiral Duddingstone of Fife, Scotland.

Boyd's efforts in London in 1844 and again in 1846 and 1847 did much to convince the Colonial Office of the justice of the squatters' demands. In that brief period he was perhaps the most effective lobbyist of the squatting interests.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 24
  • A. P. Martin, Life and Letters of the Right Honourable Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke, vol 1 (Lond, 1893)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Dec 1844, 27, 28 Jan, 12 Feb 1846, 29 May 1847, 2 June, 6 Sept 1848, 24 Jan 1849
  • CO 201/424
  • CO 323/133
  • Cuninghame papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

R. L. Knight, 'Boyd, Archibald (1801–1864)', 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]


25 May, 1801
Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


2 August, 1864 (aged 63)
London, Middlesex, England

Cause of Death

liver dysfunction

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