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Frederick Garling (1775–1848)

by Joanna McIntyre

This article was published:

Frederick Garling (1775-1848), by unknown artist

Frederick Garling (1775-1848), by unknown artist

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 12061

Frederick Garling (1775-1848), solicitor, son of Nicholas Garling, a London architect, practised in London in New North Street, Red Lion Square, as an attorney in the Court of King's Bench and a solicitor in the Court of Chancery until 1814. In February of that year he and another London solicitor, William Moore, were selected to go to Sydney to conduct cases before the Court of Criminal Jurisdiction and the newly-established Supreme Court and Governor's Court. Both Garling and Moore had been recommended to the Colonial Office by Jeffery Bent, and while Garling, on Bent's suggestion, was designated the first of the two crown solicitors, each was given a salary of £300 as an inducement to undertake the risks of the voyage to New South Wales.

On 20 October 1814 Garling embarked with his wife Elizabeth and five children in the Francis and Eliza. This ship was captured and plundered by an American privateer off the island of Madeira and as a result the Garling family did not reach Sydney until 8 August 1815, seven months after Moore. Garling was thus the second free solicitor to arrive in the colony and the second solicitor admitted to practise by and before any court in New South Wales.

When Ellis Bent died on 10 November 1815 the office of deputy judge advocate fell vacant. On 11 December Lachlan Macquarie appointed Garling a magistrate of the colony and by a commission dated 12 December appointed him acting deputy judge advocate. The appointment of Garling, instead of J. H. Bent, to this office was a result of Bent's quarrel with Macquarie, but it meant that there was only one free solicitor practising in the colony; while holding the position of deputy judge advocate Garling allowed emancipist solicitors to practise in the Governor's Court and the Criminal Court. Three criminal courts were held during his term and the severity of the sentences passed by two of these courts was made a subject of inquiry by Commissioner John Thomas Bigge. Garling acted as deputy judge advocate 'with zeal, impartiality and integrity' according to Macquarie, until 5 October 1816 when John Wylde arrived and took up the duties of that office. Garling then reverted to the position of crown solicitor, in addition to which he enjoyed a large private practice.

The appointment of an attorney-general and a solicitor-general in 1824 meant that the government did not, for a time, need to engage either Garling or Moore, and in 1828 the office of crown solicitor was abolished. When it was revived in August 1829, Garling was not reappointed, although until 1832 he was improperly listed on the schedules of the civil establishment under the designation of crown solicitor. In March 1824 Sir Thomas Brisbane appointed Garling clerk of the peace for the County of Cumberland. As such he attended all the Quarter Sessions held at Sydney, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Windsor, and was specially empowered to file informations in the name of the attorney-general. In January 1830 he was appointed crown prosecutor for the Courts of Quarter Sessions, and he acted in the double capacity of clerk of the peace and crown prosecutor at Quarter Sessions until September 1837. In October he was succeeded by George Holden as crown prosecutor. He remained clerk of the peace until January 1839 when his retirement was sanctioned by Governor Sir George Gipps on account of his old age and infirmity.

On 9 June 1828 Garling's first wife Elizabeth, née Spratt, to whom he was married at Bloomsbury, London, on 14 April 1801, died at the age of 52. By this marriage there were five children, Frederick, Nicholas, Sophia, Elizabeth and Jane. On 15 September 1835 Garling married Sarah Olivia, third daughter of Thomas White Wilkinson of the Ordnance Department, and formerly of the King's Own Regiment. Sarah Garling died in September 1840. Garling himself died on 2 May 1848, aged 73, and was buried two days later in the Devonshire Street cemetery.

During his term as crown solicitor Garling was not considered to be professionally retained in the service of the colonial government. Although he never acted against the Crown, he enjoyed a large private practice, frequently appearing in court on behalf of his clients. In September 1824 when William Charles Wentworth and Robert Wardell raised the question of the right of local solicitors to appear before the Supreme Court, Garling spoke in defence of that right, which was upheld by Chief Justice (Sir) Francis Forbes. There were two particularly important trials in which Garling acted as a barrister. He appeared for John Campbell in October 1817 when Campbell was tried by the Criminal Court for a libel on Samuel Marsden, a trial which was criticized at length by J. T. Bigge in order to illustrate the incompatible duties exercised by John Wylde, the deputy judge advocate. Garling gave important evidence to Bigge, who recommended him conditionally for the post of attorney-general in Van Diemen's Land, although he also made adverse comments on his financial embarrassments and delinquencies. In 1822, in the case Burn v. Howe and Fletcher, which essentially concerned the powers of the magistrates in New South Wales, Garling appeared for the magistrate, William Howe.

Garling ceased practising as a solicitor after his appointment as crown prosecutor for the Courts of Quarter Sessions. He was unable to discharge the duties of both clerk of the peace and crown prosecutor efficiently, not because he was lazy or lacked ability, but because the two offices could not effectively be combined in the one person. He was generous and public-spirited, and served on several committees, including those of the Female and Male Orphan Institutions, the Native Institution, the Bible Society, the Sydney Dispensary and the Benevolent Society. He was interested in agriculture and horticulture, was granted 1200 acres (486 ha) by Macquarie in 1819, was a foundation member of the Australian Racing Club, and a shareholder in the Bank of New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 8-11, 13-15, 17-20, series 4, vol 1
  • P. S. Garling, Souvenir of the 112th Anniversary of the Arrival in Australia in 1815 of Frederick and Elizabeth Garling (Syd, 1927)
  • S. E. Napier and E. N. Daley, The Genesis and Growth of Solicitors' Associations in New South Wales (Syd, 1937)
  • A. Halloran, ‘Some Early Legal Celebrities’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 12, part 6, 1927, pp 317-52
  • newspaper index (State Library of New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue under Frederick Garling (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Joanna McIntyre, 'Garling, Frederick (1775–1848)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 July 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

Frederick Garling (1775-1848), by unknown artist

Frederick Garling (1775-1848), by unknown artist

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 12061

Life Summary [details]




2 May, 1848 (aged ~ 73)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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