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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Forbes, Frederick Augustus (1818–1878)

by A. A. Morrison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Frederick Augustus Forbes (1818-1878), store-keeper, grazier and politician, was born on 30 September 1818 at Liverpool, New South Wales, son of Francis Ewen Forbes and his wife Mary Anne Taboweur. His father, twenty-one-year-old son of a Scotch merchant family, was sentenced in Calcutta in November 1816 to fourteen years transportation for receiving stolen property; he arrived at Sydney in the Mary in March 1817 with his wife, one son and £7000. He became a partner of Edward Eagar in the Indian and South Sea trade. By 1821 he had been granted an absolute pardon but heavy losses with Eagar and in a later partnership with Robert Cooper and James Underwood as well as costly litigation reduced him to keeping a store at Liverpool.

Frederick was educated at William Cape's school and The King's School, spent some time at sea and after his father died on 25 May 1842 took over the store at Liverpool. In 1844 he married Margaret Milner. Late in 1848 he sold out and moved to Ipswich where he opened a new store. He was active in the Queensland Separation movement, secretary of a subscription library and a member of a committee to form a Moreton Bay Steam Navigation Co. He began investing in stations, held at least three runs by 1853 and by 1867 thirty-six runs covering nearly 1000 square miles (2590 km²) in the Darling Downs, Maranoa, Warrego and South Kennedy districts.

Although encouraged by Arthur Macalister Forbes failed to win a seat in the New South Wales Legislative Council in April 1856, but in May 1860 he won one of the Ipswich seats in the new Queensland Legislative Assembly. He was defeated at the general election of May 1863 but held the Warrego seat from March 1865 to July 1867 and West Moreton from September 1868 till his retirement in 1875, serving as chairman of committees in 1870-71 and Speaker in 1871-73. Despite his pastoral interests, Forbes never joined the squatting oligarchy but opposed its political domination. He supported the introduction of Kanakas and was described as 'a liberal, with a strong repugnance to radicalism'.

The monetary crisis of 1866-67 affected Forbes's multifarious interests and he became bankrupt on 24 January 1870. His main creditor was the Bank of New South Wales to which he owed £44,621. Unlike some others he recovered rapidly and was discharged by 9 May with sufficient assets to acquire shares in three more stations. After an accident he died at Ipswich on 9 July 1878 survived by eleven of his seventeen children.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly,Queensland), 1867, 811
  • North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 1858-59
  • Town and Country Journal, 12 July 1873
  • Colonial Secretary's land letters (State Records New South Wales)
  • bankruptcy files (Queensland State Archives)
  • manuscript catalogue and newspaper indexes under F. E. and F. A. Forbes (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

A. A. Morrison, 'Forbes, Frederick Augustus (1818–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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