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George Bridges Bellasis (?–1825)

The Story of Lieut. Bellasis. (Compiled from "The Hist. Records of N. S. Wales" for The Argus.)

In the history of Australia's Penal Days there are few more interesting episodes than that of Lieutenant George Brydges Bellasis, a scion of good Westmoreland stock, who, in 1802, was sentenced by the Supreme Court at Bombay to transportation for 14 years, for felony and murder, his crime having been the killing of a man in fair duel.

Bellasis was in the service of the old East India Company. He had fought with distinction in the memorable campaign, which, in 1799, terminated in the capture of Seringapatam, and the death of Tippoo Sahib. He was a married man with several children, and, in his household resided his wife's sister. Conceiving that this lady had been basely jilted by Mr. Arthur Mitchell, he challenged that gentleman. The meeting took place. Lots were drawn for first fire. Bellasis won the choice — fired — and Mitchell fell dead.

Shortly after his trial, Bellasis was despatched in a sloop of war to ''Botany Bay," there to do his time. He was treated aboard as a saloon passenger: his wife was permitted to accompany him, and he brought with him, addressed to the Governor of "New Holland" (Captain King) a memorial, signed by the generals, field-officers and other officers of the Bombay Army, testifying to his honorable character and high military reputation.

Governor King gave the case his special consideration, and granted Bellasis particular privileges, at once extending to him conditional emancipation. Shortly afterwards, his Excellency appointed Bellasis to the command of a body-guard, which he had formed of a few suitable emancipists — an appointment which greatly irritated the majority of the officers of the old New South Wales Corps (the only soldiery on the station), whose own antecedents would, in very few instances, bear searching inspection.

One morning in February, 1803, certain convicts having broken away from the Stockade at Castle Hill, the Governor, by "general order," directed Bellasis to repair with the Body-Guard (which was mounted) to Parramatta, there to act under the direction of Captain Piper, the officer commanding the local detachment of the New South Wales Corps.

Bellasis carried out his instructions, but Piper point-blank declined the services of the Body-Guard. On learning these facts the Governor wrote to Major Johnston, the officer in command of the N.S.W. Corps, informing him of Piper's "marked contempt and disobedience," and request-ting the Major to let him (the Governor) know "how far any officer or soldier under your command has a right or is justifiable in disobeying my General Orders." Johnston replied, "that though no officer had a right to disobey General Orders," yet that he did justify Piper's conduct in the particular instance, because, in his (the Major's) opinion it would "very much have degraded Piper and his detachment by suffering any convicts to do the duty of soldiers conjunctively with the N.S.W. Corps." The Governor then pointed out to the Major that the Body Guard did not consist of "convicts," but of "emancipists" — men precisely in the same state as that of the great proportion of the soldiers of the Corps. In further correspondence between the Governor and the Major, though the former had the best of the argument, the latter was obstinate in maintaining that Piper was "justifiable"; and, as his Excellency had no means of enforcing his opinion, the incident closed without anything being done to satisfy outraged authority.

In the following May, Ensign Barrallier having vacated the position of "Engineer and Artillery Officer," King found it necessary to appoint a person who was equal to the occasion, and, as none appeared so eligible as Bellasis, "who had served the East India Company with so much honor and credit to himself as Lieutenant of Artillery," he appointed that "emancipist" to the post, thereby absolutely maddening the officers of the N.S.W. Corps, who retaliated in a variety of unseemly ways. One method of their mutinous attacks on the Governor took the form of ribald anonymous doggrel, in which it was sought to hold up King to infamy and contempt. In one "poem," which Lieutenant Hobby, of the N.S.W. Corps, industriously circulated and published, King is by name referred to as "a wicked, oppressive, notorious man," who,

if his powers were not stinted, would make the world shake
Give sergeants commissions and officers break. . .
To civilians give trust, confide in new faces,
Make magistrates of them and give them new places.

On June 4th, 1803 (King George III.'s Birthday) — the Royal Standard having been hoisted for the first time in the Territory — Governor King was pleased to extend the Royal Grace and Free Pardon to several persons, including "Colonial Lieutenant of Artillery and Engineers Bellasis." A few months later Bellasis was allowed to leave the Colony in H.M.S. Bridgewater, for England. Mrs. Bellasis who was "in almost a dying state," went with him. In July, 1806, the Court of Directors of the East India Company re-instated him in his rank in the Bombay Artillery, and ordered him to return to India, where, in September, 1825, he died, having attained (in 1818) to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Original Publication

This person appears as a part of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. [View Article]

Additional Resources

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Citation details

'Bellasis, George Bridges (?–1825)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/bellasis-george-bridges-1766/text41972, accessed 14 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Death

29 September, 1825
India

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Occupation
Convict Record

Crime: murder
Sentence: 14 years
Court: Mumbai (India)

Pre-transportation

Married: Yes

Post-transportation

Left the colony: Yes