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Blog post from Thursday, 13 August, 2015

On this day, 13th August 1790, William Charles Wentworth, was born on Norfolk Island. His mother was a convict and his father was D’Arcy Wentworth.

W C Wentworth was an Australian explorer, journalist and politician, and one of the leading figures of early colonial New South Wales.

In 1813, Wentworth, along with Gregory Blaxland and William Lawson, led the expedition which found a route across the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and opened up the grazing lands of inland New South Wales. Wentworth kept a journal of the journey of exploration which is held at the State Library of New South Wales.

See the Discover Collections feature on Wentworth’s journal

D'Arcy Wentworth died in 1827 and William inherited his property, becoming one of the wealthiest men in the colony. He bought land in eastern Sydney and built the mansion, Vaucluse House. However, because his parents had never married, and his mother had been a convict, and was the daughter of two convicts, he could not become a member of Sydney’s “respectable” class, known as “the exclusives.” Embittered by this rejection, he placed himself at the head of the “emancipist” party, which sought equal rights and status for ex-convicts and their descendants.

A gifted orator and a vitriolic journalist, Wentworth became the colony’s leading political figure of the 1820s and ‘30s, calling for representative government, the abolition of transportation, freedom of the press and trial by jury.

Wentworth founded a newspaper, The Australian, the colony’s first privately owned paper, to champion his causes. In 1853 Wentworth chaired the committee to draft a new constitution for New South Wales, which was to receive full responsible self-government from Britain.

He died in England in 1872, but his body was returned to Australia and a large state funeral was held in Sydney.