Frederick Robe

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Frederick Robe
Governor of South Australia
In office
25 October 1845 – August 1848
Preceded byGeorge Grey
Succeeded bySir Henry Fox Young
Personal details
Died4 April 1871
Cause of deathLondon, England
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/serviceBritish Army
Years of service1817–1871

Major-General Frederick Holt Robe CB (1801 – 4 April 1871) was the fourth Governor of South Australia, from 25 October 1845 to 2 August 1848.

Early career[edit]

Frederick Holt Robe entered the Royal Staff Corps as an ensign[1] in 1817, following his father, Sir William Robe who was a colonel in the Royal Artillery. He was promoted first lieutenant in 1825, transferred to the 84th Foot in 1827, transferred to the 87th Foot as Captain in 1833, brevetted major in 1841, and promoted major in 1846. He fought in the Syrian campaign of 1840–1, and was military secretary in Mauritius and Gibraltar.[citation needed]

Governor of South Australia[edit]

Robe was appointed as Governor of South Australia, being sworn in on 25 October 1845.[1] He was not popular as the governor, as he attempted to carry out his understanding of the British government's requirement to charge royalties on the mineral wealth of the province. This was rejected by the elected members of the South Australian Legislative Council as a breach of faith. There was also trouble over the question of State aid to religion, which Robe favoured, but which was strongly opposed. After requesting to be relieved of the post of governor, he was posted again to Mauritius as deputy quartermaster. He was honourable and confident in his convictions, but too conservative for the fledgling colony of South Australia. He returned to England in 1848.

Aboriginal Witnesses Act[edit]

Between 1846 and 1848, Robe was responsible for the enactment of a series ordinances and amendments first enacted by his predecessor lieutenant Governor George Grey, in 1844. Entitled the Aboriginal Witnesses Act. The act was established "To facilitate the admission of the unsworn testimony of Aboriginal inhabitants of South Australia and parts adjacent". While its stated aim was to make provisions for unsworn testimony by "uncivilised people" to be admissible in court, the act made it so that the court could not base the conviction of a White man on the testimony of an Aboriginal witness alone. The act also made Aboriginal testimony inadmissible in trials that carried the penalty of death.[2] [3]

Effectively, the act created a situation where settler solidarity and the law of evidence ensured that the murder and massacre of Aboriginal Australians by European colonisers could not be tried solely on the evidence of Aboriginal witnesses.[3]

Other roles[edit]

Robe was inaugural president of the Savings Bank of South Australia (founded 1848).[4]

Promotions and honours[edit]

Robe was brevetted lieutenant colonel in 1847, promoted lieutenant colonel in 1853, brevetted colonel in 1854, and promoted major general in 1862. He was appointed Colonel of the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment from 1869 until his death.[citation needed]

He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1848.[citation needed]

Death and legacy[edit]

He died unmarried in Kensington, London, on 4 April 1871.[citation needed]

The town of Robe, South Australia is named after him.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


Serle, Percival (1949). "Robe, Frederick Holt". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.

  1. ^ a b E. J. R. Morgan (1967). "Robe, Frederick Holt (1802 - 1871)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 2. MUP. pp. 383–384. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  2. ^ The acts:
  3. ^ a b Further detail:
    • Foster, Robert; Hosking, Rick; Nettelbeck, Amanda (2000). Fatal Collisions : the South Australian frontier and the violence of memory (first ed.). Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 9781862545335.
    • Foster, Robert; Nettelbeck, Amanda (2012). Out of the Silence - The history and memory of South Australia's frontier wars (first ed.). Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press. pp. 161–162. ISBN 9781743051726.
  4. ^ "Our Story". BankSA. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
Government offices
Preceded by Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by