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Lord Viscount Sydney, c.1790

Gilbert Stuart and John Young (engraver)

mezzotint (frame: 63.0 cm x 49.3 cm, image: 37.6 cm x 28.7 cm)

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Thomas Townshend, first Viscount Sydney PC (1733–1800), British politician, was instrumental in implementing his government’s 1786 decision to establish a penal colony on the east coast of Australia. Townshend was first elected to the House of Commons in 1754. He became secretary at war in 1782, and in this role instigated a plan to attack Spanish interests in South America. Though the scheme was never carried out, Townshend took note of the naval officer who had devised it: Captain Arthur Phillip. In 1783, Townshend became Baron Sydney and entered the House of Lords. As home secretary, he took charge when, in mid-1786, William Pitt’s government decided to send the First Fleet to Botany Bay. He appointed Phillip to the command of the fleet and named him governor-designate of New South Wales. The new settlement – relocated to Port Jackson when the initial site, Botany Bay, proved unsuitable – was named Sydney Cove by Phillip in January 1788. Historians debate Sydney’s skill as a politician, but it is generally agreed that he made a good choice in Phillip, who steered the colony steadily through the hardships of its first four years. Lord Sydney maintained an interest in the affairs of New South Wales until his removal from office in 1789, after which time he lived in affluence generated by his various landholdings and inheritances.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2012

Accession number: 2012.176

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Gilbert Stuart (age 35 in 1790)

John Young (age 35 in 1790)

Thomas Townshend, Lord Viscount Sydney (age 57 in 1790)

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