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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bellasis, George Bridges (?–1825)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

George Bridges Bellasis (d.1825), was a lieutenant in the East India Co.'s artillery, when he was sentenced to transportation for fourteen years for killing his opponent in a duel fought 'to redress an insult' offered to his sister-in-law who 'lived under his protection'. He reached Sydney with his wife and family in the Fly in January 1802, bearing a memorial 'signed by the principal inhabitants of Bombay'. Governor King thought that as Bellasis had served for nine years 'with great credit and honor' in the company's artillery, and as New South Wales needed 'an officer properly qualified to train some people to the use of our few cannon', it was expedient to grant him a conditional pardon, and on 14 October to appoint him commandant of the governor's bodyguard of cavalry and to grant him a colonial commission as a lieutenant of artillery in charge of 'the Batteries and Cannon in this Settlement', at 7s. 6d. a day in place of Francis Barrallier. Although Bellasis was not made a member of the New South Wales Corps, for several reasons Lieutenant-Colonel William Paterson was somewhat concerned over the reaction of his officers to the appointment of a convict to such positions. However, there was no obvious demur, although difficulties arose in February 1803 on the use of the governor's 'bodyguard of cavalry', and later on Bellasis giving evidence at the courts martial of Hobby and Anthony Fenn Kemp. While he may have been used as a stalking horse against the governor, he appears to have maintained a neutral attitude towards the internal politics of the colony.

In November 1803 the Colonial Office overcame earlier doubts and recommended to the King that Bellasis be granted an absolute pardon. However, before this news arrived, the governor, acting on a memorial from all the civil and military officers, had extended the Royal pardon on his own authority on the King's Birthday in June, as a reward for 'his good conduct and public services', and as an 'act of commiseration towards a gallant but unfortunate officer and an afflicted dying wife'.

Bellasis sailed from Sydney in the Bridgewater on 10 August 1803, and in July 1806 was reinstated in the Bombay Artillery. He was promoted captain in December 1807, major in January 1814 and lieutenant-colonel in September 1818. He died in India on 29 September 1825. The chief importance of his short stay in New South Wales lies in his general acceptance, though an ex-convict, by the community and his being the first emancipist appointed to an important office in the colony.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 4, 5
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 3-6.

Citation details

'Bellasis, George Bridges (?–1825)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]


29 September 1825

Cultural Heritage
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