Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
James Stirling (Australian governor)
Admiral Sir James Stirling (January 28 1791 - April 23 1865) was a Scotsman. He was the first Governor of Western Australia (1828-38) and on his own initiative signed Britain's first limited treaty with Japan in 1854.
He was the fifth son of eight of the fifteen children of Andrew Stirling, of Drumpellier near Coatbridge, Lanarkshire in Scotland. His mother, Anne was his father's first cousin, being the daughter of Admiral Sir Walter Stirling and the sister of Sir Walter Stirling, first baronet of Faskine.
The Stirling family was well-known and celebrated in the naval annals of the 18th century. With such a family background, it was natural for James to enter the Royal Navy, and at the age of 12 (in 1803) he joined up as a first-class volunteer, embarking on the storeship Camel for the West Indies. Thus began a distinguished career.
Soon after arriving in the West Indies, young Stirling became midshipman of the Hercules, and in 1805 he went to serve in his uncle's flagship Glory.
In that year he saw action off Cape Finisterre during the Napoleonic Wars against the French and Spanish fleets, and later served under the flag of his uncle in the Sampson and the Diadem in the operations on the Rio de la Plata. After watching the fall of Montevideo and being incorrectly reported as killed in action, he served for a time on the Home Station and on `12 August 1809, at the age of 19 was promoted Lieutenant in the Warspite. In 1811 he was Flag Lieutenant to his uncle, now Vice Admiral in command at Jamaica.
On the 27 February 1812, he received his first command, the sloop "Moselle", and soon afterwards the larger sloop "Brazen" in which he was employed during the American War in harassing forts and shipping hear the Mississippi.
At Woodbridge, Surrey, he became acquainted with the Mangles family, whose wealthy head had extensive interests in the East Indies, had been High Sheriff for Surrey in 1808, was a director if the East India Co., and in 1832-37 represented Guildford in Parliament. His third daughter, Ellen, attracted Stirling's attention and the couple were married at Stoke Church, Guildford on 3 September 1823 on Ellen's 16th birthday. They had five sons and six daughters.
In 1826, the Governor of New South Wales sent Stirling on the Success to visit and report on the west coast of Australia. Stirling was impressed with the land in the vicinity of the Swan River describing it as ideal for establishing a permanent settlement.
On returning to London in 1828, Stirling lobbied officials to enlist support for a settlement to be established in Western Australia. He finally succeeded and on 9 February 1829 he departed Plymouth in the Parmelia, arriving at what became known as the Swan River Colony on 31 May.
In July 1851, Stirling was promoted Rear Admiral and in the following year served at the Admiralty. From January 1854 to February 1856 Stirling was commander in chief of the naval forces in China and the East Indies. He signed the first British treaty with Japan on October 14, 1854. "In 1856 he was recalled because he had failed in the primary naval duty of finding and destroying the Russian squadron - partly, perhaps, because of his preoccupation with the self-imposed task of negotiating with Japan." (Beasley, p. 144) Yet his agreements with Japan were ratified, and his conduct was officially commended.
Stirling was promoted Vice Admiral in August 1857. He became an Admiral in November 1862 and died in comfortable retirement at Guildford in Surrey on 22 April 1865 aged 74. His wife survived him by nine years and both were buried in the extension to the graveyard of Stoke Church where they had been married.
- Great Britain and the Opening of Japan, 1834-1858 by W.G. Beasley (Japan Library paperback, 1995, first published by Luzac & Co., 1951) ISBN 1873410433
- Celebrate W.A. site - very detailed and the source of much of the above
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