Fremantle Stuff > people > John Hutt
Second Governor of the Swan River Colony, 3 January 1839 - 19 February 1846.
Involved in the establishment of the colony of South Australia before his appointment. Was sympathetic to the position of the First People, and helped fund Moore's book on their language. Founded the first Freemasons lodge. Died unmarried (see photo).
Upon the whole Hutt cannot be considered to have been a popular Governor. He was universally respected for his uprightness of character and for the strict and steady impartiality that marked his administration, but he received none of that enthusiastic admiration which was accorded to Sir James Stirling. Following upon that officer whose inclinations and opinions were almost invariably on the side of the settler and opposed to the Home authorities, and possessing as he did rigid principles and a deep sense of the importance of his position, he was bound to come into conflict with the people whom he was called upon to govern, more especially as he allowed neither personal friendships nor local influences to interfere with the performance of his duty. His unpopularity was mainly due to his strict enforcement of the land regulations and his refusal to admit that every regulation of the Colonial Office which did not meet with the approval of the settlers was wrong. He was undeservedly blamed for advising the British Government to raise the selling price of Crown lands and equally undeservedly accused of being the cause of the depression that existed. The apparent failure of his financial administration was more than anything due to the fact that he assumed the reins of government just at the time when a strong reaction was manifesting itself throughout Great Britain against the extreme emigration policy of the previous decade. All the colonies suffered from that reaction, but none so severely as Western Australia, which had in addition to fight against continued misrepresentation and falsehood. In these circumstances it was almost impossible to estimate with any degree of assurance either the revenue or the expenditure for any period in advance. By the exercise of extreme caution and circumspection Hutt probably saved Western Australia from some of the disasters that the other colonies suffered, though it is possible that that same caution retarded the colony's advance when matters generally throughout Australia began to right themselves.
His policy toward the aborigines also roused the opposition of the colonists when it was first made known. They regarded it as the outcome of mawkish sentimentality toward the natives on the part of people in England, who really knew nothing of the practical side of the question, and they considered that its only effect would be to increase the lawlessness and violence of the savages. By the end of Hutt's term, however, the settlers were convinced that the friendly intercourse between the whites and the natives and the absence of strife were due to the humane measures he had adopted.
Consideration of these various matters leaves little doubt that his administration was on sounder lines than that of his predecessor. In fact, many of the difficulties that he had to face were the result of a certain degree of partiality on the part of Sir James Stirling, and the opposition he met with, both from the Legislative Council and the colonists generally, would have fallen to the lot of any man who endeavoured to carry out strictly the duties imposed by his commission. As a kind friend his departure was regretted by all, though in the minds of many that regret was tempered by the knowledge that his departure put a stop to his administration. But judged apart from the influence of the immediate circumstances, that administration, though unpalatable, was wise and necessary in the interests of Western Australia, and that fact would probably have been recognised at the time had it not been that long before his arrival he had been prejudged as a man of strong personality with distinct leanings towards the policy of the Colonial Office.
Battye, J.S. 1924, Western Australia: A History from its Discovery to the Inauguration of the Commonwealth, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Hunter, Anne, 'John Hutt: The Inconspicuous Governor', Early Days, 13, 3: 309-322: 'peels back some of the mystery surrounding Governor John Hutt and the period of his administration of the fledgling colony of Western Australia.'
Garry Gillard | New: 20 January, 2015 | Now: 21 August, 2019