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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Hon. Sir Francis Forbes

c. 1860
Henry Samuel Sadd

mezzotint on paper (sheet: 33.0 cm x 23.4 cm, image: 19.8 cm x 15.3 cm)

Sir Francis Forbes (1784–1841) was the first chief justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court. London-trained, Forbes had worked in Bermuda and as the attorney general of Newfoundland before being recommended for the New South Wales role in 1823. He arrived in Sydney in March 1824 with his wife, Amelia, and their two sons. Forbes had good relationships with governors Thomas Brisbane and Richard Bourke; but clashed with Ralph Darling on matters such as the governor’s attempts to silence the press. He also attracted the enmity of powerful colonists such as John Macarthur and Samuel Marsden, both of whom sought to discredit him; Macarthur denounced his as a ‘dangerous, detestable, unprincipled, immoral, base and artful man’, although Bourke, for example, wrote 'It would be difficult in the whole range of colonial courts, to point out a person on the Bench who, from integrity and ability, legal knowledge and devotion to His Majesty's service, is better entitled to the honour of a knighthood, than Chief Justice Forbes'. Having thought of himself as a ‘marked man’ from 1825 onward, Forbes returned to England in ill health in 1836. There, he gave evidence to the Molesworth Committee on transportation, stating his belief that the practice of sending convicts to the colony should be discontinued. He retired in 1837, soon after receiving a knighthood.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2012

Artist and subject

Henry Samuel Sadd (age 49 in 1860)

Sir Francis Forbes KNt

Subject professions

Law and justice

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency