John Hampton's appointment as Governor was surrounded with controversy. His knowledge of Colonial administration was restricted to the convict system after his first appointment in Australia as the surgeon superintendent of the convict ship Constant that arrived in Van Diemen Land in 1843. He was appointed Comptroller of Convicts but was later censured for having derived profit from the labours of the prisoners.
After much legal wrangling, where the local legislature tried to have him appear before Parliament on a charge of contempt, Hampton was rescued by Governor Sir Henry Young who prorogued the Legislative Council and the warrant for his appearance lapsed.
Hampton went to Sydney and then on to England where the Court of Appeals upheld a decision of the Tasmanian Courts in his favour. The decision obviously pleased the Colonial Office because shortly after he was appointed Governor of WA in 1862.
Hampton came to WA and began opening up the settlement by means of convict labour, but he soon landed himself in trouble with his dictatorial style. It is reported that Hampton was "somewhat tyrannical and harsh, and partook more of the methods of the 'white overseer' of the slave plantation". Public indignation, though, compelled better treatment of the convicts than they were receiving under his harsh rule, and that of his son who had been appointed Comptroller-General. However, Hampton's public works policy did result in benefits to the settlement and he also gave special attention to the colonisation of the North West, with the extension of the pearl fisheries adding new wealth to the colony. Interestingly, as the colony's development progressed, it fostered the desire of settlers for more political rights and the agitation that, years later, ended in responsible government now took definite form.
During his term, he and his wife spent their holidays at Rottnest Island and for this purpose Governor Hampton ordered the building of a government residence using convict labour. Earlier, on the couple's arrival to WA, Hampton had also changed plans for the construction of Government House to include a bigger dining room and ballroom. Costs spiralled from the original estimates of seven thousand pounds to 15 thousand pounds. He also came under fire for extravagantly furnishing the house, including the purchase of several very large gilt mirrors, which are still in the house today. Another cause of criticism was the Governor's appointment of his son, George, to roles in the colony for which he was not qualified.
In 1868, Hampton resigned from the post and left Western Australia. The transportation of convicts was later totally suspended. He died in 1869.
Reviewed 2012 - 2013