22 Facts About Richard Bourke


General Sir Richard Bourke, KCB, was an Irish soldier, who served in the British Army and was Governor of New South Wales from 1831 to 1837.


Richard Bourke approved a new settlement on the Yarra River, and named it Melbourne, in honour of the incumbent British prime minister, Lord Melbourne.


Richard Bourke's mother was from County Tipperary and his father from Dromsally in County Limerick.


Richard Bourke was educated in England at Westminster School before reading law at Christ Church, Oxford.


Richard Bourke was a distant relation of philosopher Edmund Burke, whose home he frequently visited.


Richard Bourke served in the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland in 1799 and was badly wounded in the jaw, which gave him a lifelong speech impediment and contributed to his decision not to seek a political career.


Richard Bourke was promoted lieutenant and captain in the same year and major in 1805.

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In 1807, Richard Bourke participated in the British invasions of the River Plate as quartermaster general, taking part in the Siege of Montevideo and the Battle of Buenos Aires.


Richard Bourke retired from the army after the Peninsular War to live on his Irish estate, but eventually sought government office to increase his income.


Richard Bourke was appointed to the Cape Colony and was promoted to Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern District of the Cape of Good Hope, acting as governor for both the eastern and western districts.


Major-General Richard Bourke was appointed to succeed Sir Ralph Darling, who was Irish-born, as Governor of New South Wales in 1831.


Richard Bourke had authority from the Colonial Office to extend trial by jury and substitute civil for military juries in criminal cases.


Richard Bourke managed this despite fierce opposition from the legislature, and his 1833 bill for the extension of juries was only passed with his casting vote and with conservative amendments.


Appalled by the excessive punishments doled out to convicts, Governor Richard Bourke initiated the Magistrates Act, which simplified existing regulations and limited the sentence a magistrate could pass to 50 lashes.


The bill was passed by the legislature because Richard Bourke presented evidence that magistrates were exceeding their powers and passing illegal sentences, in part because regulations were complex and confusing.


In 1835, Richard Bourke issued a proclamation through the Colonial Office, implementing the doctrine of terra nullius by proclaiming that Indigenous Australians could not sell or assign land, nor could an individual person acquire it, other than through distribution by the Crown.


Richard Bourke continued to create controversy within the colony by combating the inhumane treatment handed out to convicts, including limiting the number of convicts each employer was allowed to 70, as well as granting rights to emancipists, such as allowing the acquisition of property and service on juries.


Richard Bourke abolished the status of the Anglican Church as the state church of New South Wales, declaring each religious denomination on equal footing before the law.


Richard Bourke increased spending on education and attempted to set up a system of public nondenominational schools.


Richard Bourke was credited as the first governor to publish satisfactory accounts of public receipts and expenditures.


Richard Bourke returned to England in 1838, traversing the Andes to avoid a voyage around Cape Horn.


Richard Bourke died at his residence, Thornfield House, Ahane, in County Limerick, Ireland, on Sunday 12 August 1855 and is buried in Stradbally Cemetery in Castleconnell.