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Richard Dore (1749–1800)

by K. G. Allars

This article was published:

Richard Dore (1749-1800), deputy judge advocate, was baptized on 21 March 1749, the son of William Dore, of Chipping Ongar, Essex, England, attorney in the Court of Common Pleas. He signed an indenture to serve his father as a clerk on 5 April 1766, was admitted by the Court of Common Pleas on 12 February 1772, and on 12 April 1782 at St Marylebone married Maria Nassau. On 9 September 1797 he was commissioned deputy judge advocate in London, in succession to David Collins and sailed in the Barwell for Sydney, where he arrived in May 1798, accompanied by one son. He hoped his wife and other children would follow, but they did not do so. In poor health when he arrived, he recovered somewhat during the year, but encountered the difficulties which faced administrators in the early days of the settlement. He seemed to flounder in his office, and sought not only parchment and stationery, but also 'practical Law Books … for information in general matters of Business', which he very obviously had need of.

When Dore arrived, Governor John Hunter appointed a legally-trained convict, Michael Robinson, to assist him, and at the same time, at Dore's 'own solicitation', appointed him as his own secretary; but the two men quarrelled, and the governor removed Dore from his post on 23 January 1799. Dore had annoyed the governor by interpolating in an official dispatch a paragraph announcing his appointment as secretary on the Duke of Portland's recommendation, when no such recommendation had been received, but after the governor, according to Dore, had approved the paragraph in conversation. Though Hunter should have read the dispatch before sending it, Dore's addition to it seems like an attempt to pin down the 'private and loose' words of the governor. More important, Dore was charging, and keeping for himself, court fees for the issue of writs and licences. Some fees were necessary to prevent vexatious litigation, but Hunter thought Dore's charges excessive, and wanted them to go to an orphan asylum, not to Dore's pocket, though the latter thought them a poor enough recompense for his arduous duties. Next Hunter objected to Dore issuing arrests for debt against convicts, 'no doubt because a fee attended them'. This interrupted their work and, in any case, since they were not supposed to have property of their own, their incurring of debts was the result of their creditors' malpractices; it seemed to Hunter to show Dore's sympathy with 'petty traders', though it also showed, perhaps, his respect for property. In December 1798 he insisted on his right to issue writs in his own name independently of the other members of the court, a new practice in the colony and one whose legality was certainly doubtful; when queried about it by the magistrates in the court, he marched out in a huff and refused even to reply to their very proper questions. By this time he had also quarrelled with Thomas Hibbins, the deputy judge advocate on Norfolk Island, and in February 1799 Hunter again had occasion to question Dore's capacity, in the trial of Isaac Nichols, who was found guilty by the casting vote of Dore in the Criminal Court. Dore's correspondence suggests that he was genuinely convinced of Nichols's guilt, and Hunter was at fault in trying to influence the court, but Dore's conduct of the trial certainly seems open to criticism particularly in his admission of hearsay evidence. On 5 April he wrote complaining to Hunter that 'the style of Your Excellency's letters is not such as I conceived myself entitled to', and he stressed the importance of his 'independency'. In June he welcomed a testimonial to his administration of the law, signed by over fifty people, including the unfortunate Nichols, but Hunter in reply made it clear that this referred to a special case and not to his activities in general.

In September 1800 Dore presided over a committee which inquired into the suspected Irish conspiracy, and distinguished itself by ordering most severe punishment for those it found to have planned an insurrection. By this time his health had become even worse than before, and on 13 December 1800 he died, leaving an estate insufficient to pay his creditors, despite his salary of 10s a day, free victualling from the store and a grant of 100 acres (40 ha) at Mulgrave Place, on the Hawkesbury River, the previous year. His funeral was the first in the colony of which official notice was taken, and as a result of his indebtedness the governor made an order regarding the priority of the creditors of a deceased estate.

'He was determined to be governed by his own views and interests in the line of his profession', complained Hunter. This was by no means an improper aim, but it supplied a precedent to future legal officers who refused to subordinate the letter of the law to what the governors regarded as the needs of the administration. Dore's ill health may have increased his cantankerousness, but the self-importance which appeared in some of these petty squabbles weakened his position and authority.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 3-4
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 2-3, series 4, vol 1
  • K. G. Allars, ‘Richard Dore’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 50 (1964)
  • Supreme Court records (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

K. G. Allars, 'Dore, Richard (1749–1800)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 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]




13 December, 1800 (aged ~ 51)
New South Wales, Australia

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