Aristocrat by birth, autocrat by nature, and officer of the Royal Engineers by training, Sir William Denison became a Governor in Australia in the mid 19th century at a time of momentous change.
Arriving in Tasmania in 1847, he provided strong and controversial leadership while debate on convict transportation raged. His support for its continuance (he had the convicts doing valuable public work) caused a furore amongst the free community and unwillingly he had to yield. The Colonial Office in London was impressed and promoted him “Governor-General” of New South Wales in 1855.
There, his tenure co-incided with the start of Responsible Government (1856), a concept he despised, and which he did his best to subvert. His battles with the new parliamentarians were fierce if ultimately unavailing, but again his conduct found favour with the Imperial Government who promoted him to Governor of the Presidency of Madras (and, for an important period, Acting Viceroy of India).
Sir William Denison concluded his service to the Crown in 1866, and is remembered as one who “stood among the first class of Governors”.
A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.