On Thursday 28 December 1809 His Majesty’s ship Hindostan and the store-ship Dromedary arrived in Port Jackson, with His Excellency Lachlan M‘Quarrie Esquire on board the latter ship. Delayed by contrary winds, they came to anchor in Sydney Cove on the Saturday, and His Excellency the Governor and his Lady landed at ten on the Sunday morning with due ceremony and proceeded to Government House.
The event signalled a new phase in the life of the colony, in which the King’s authority had to be re-asserted after the rebellion against Governor William Bligh. Macquarie was a strong figure, and the public were left in no doubt that it was in the interests of the civil and military establishment and all citizens to remain on good terms with him.
Three years later, in the Sydney Gazette of 9 January 1813, we find a notice announcing that, ‘A number of respectable Inhabitants of this Colony propose dining together on the 29th instant in order to commemorate His Excellency Governor Macquarie’s Landing in, and assuming the Command of this Territory.’ The next issue notified readers that the dinner would take place at No. 11, George-street, Sydney, and listed the names of the seventeen Stewards from whom one could obtain tickets. At the head of the list is ‘Wm. Cox, Esq.’
The dinner duly took place and in view of the warmth of the season was organised as a fête champêtre, with a tent erected in the front garden of Mr. Robert Jenkins, one of the Stewards and Treasurer. The tent was ‘fancifully decorated with various ensigns, together with a variety of shrubs and boughs, formed into wreaths, festoons, and other neat devices,’ and ‘on the outside of the tent the British Colours were displayed.’ There were nearly 150 persons present, ‘among whom were many Gentlemen of the first respectability.’
The company sat down to dinner at six and during dinner the band of the 73rd Regiment supplied musical accompaniment, playing ‘a number of appropriate airs.’ The President was William Gore, Esq., and the Vice-President William Cox. Each of these two gentlemen sat ‘supported by a Clergyman on the right; the Stewards were seated at equal distances from each other; and the rest of the Company placed themselves promiscuously without respect to rank or difference of condition.’
After dinner there were fifteen toasts, ‘all of which were followed by well adapted airs.’ The toasts indicate ideals and preoccupations of the time. The first three toasts were to the King, the Prince Regent, and the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. After a toast to the success of ‘the British Arms, by Sea and Land’ came the toast to the Governor: ‘Governor Macquarie! May the Anniversary of his assuming the Command of this Territory be commemorated and reverenced by our latest Posterity!’ The next two toasts were to ‘the Founder of the Colony’, Governor Phillip, and the Minister for the Colonies, Earl Bathurst. The eighth and central toast is interesting and perhaps surprising: ‘Mr. Wilberforce, the Friend of the Colony, and of Mankind in general.’ This was followed by a toast to religion and virtue: ‘May Religion and Virtue be the Foundation whereon the Superstructure of our Colony will be reared.’ The next four toasts developed further the theme of progress in the colony, by way of unanimity, commercial and agricultural prosperity, the establishment of an export trade, and an ‘intended Library. May every Inhabitant of our Colony unite in promoting the general diffusion of useful Knowledge!’ The second-last toast, ‘proposed by a Gentleman’, was to Lieutenant Colonel O’Connell and his 73rd Regiment. And the final toast was, ‘Good Night!’
The landing: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 7/1/1810, pp. 2-3. Notice of proposed Commemoration Dinner: 9/1/1813, p. 1. Stewards: 16/1/1813, p. 2. Report of the dinner: 30/1/1813, p. 2.