The Three Editors of the Atlas, a Sydney Journal 1844-1849

By Crittenden, Victor | M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia, July-August 2008 | Go to article overview
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The Three Editors of the Atlas, a Sydney Journal 1844-1849

Crittenden, Victor, M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia

The Atlas was a weekly newspaper or periodical. It was established in November 1844 and was entitled The Atlas, Sydney Weekly, Journal of Politics, Commerce and Literature. It continued publication until early 1849. Richard Thompson was noted as the first editor. The funds to establish the newspaper were provided by a group of politicians, Benjamin Boyd, a banker and pastoralist, Richard Wyndeyer, barrister and landowner, W.C. Wentworth, barrister and landowner and Dr Charles Nicholson, landowner and physician. They were all members of the Legislative Council of the Colony of New South Wales. Benjamin Boyd was the president of the Pastoral Association formed to oppose Governor Gipps's plans for the new squatting regulations for the Crown lands of New South Wales.

Robert Lowe

The Atlas commenced publication in Sydney and the main inspiration for the newspaper was the barrister Robert Lowe. He was an albino with poor vision and delicate health who had taken a BA (MA) at Oxford and become a private tutor at Oxford University. In 1840 he went to Lincoln's Inn in London to study law but his eyesight became worse and he came to Australia in 1842 and was admitted to practice at the Bar in the New South Wales Supreme Court, Sydney.


Lowe was appointed to the Legislative Council by the Governor whom he supported in his opposition to Wentworth's proposals to solve the economic crisis of the time. A long and severe depression was being experienced in the 1840s. Lowe's law practice flourished and in his term in the Legislative Council he was one of the first members to propose a national system of education.

It was in 1844 that with the co-operation of the Pastoral Association that Lowe established The Atlas. The stated objectives in establishing the Journal was to demand and ensure that New South Wales was granted Responsible Government and thus reduce the power of the Governor. In fact The Atlas was also designed to support the grazier 'lobby' which wanted to secure a Colonial government that would control the disposal of colonial lands. Up until this time the public lands of the Colony were granted as a gift by the Governor under instructions from the British Government. This was designed to limit the expansion by the squatters and restrain the grazier interests. Lowe wrote much of the material in The Atlas in its early days and attacked and ridiculed the Governor and his policy. He continued his political career and eventually became one of the leaders of the opposition to the British Government's attempt to reintroduce the transportation of convicts to the Colony. Lowe left New South Wales in early 1850 and returned to Great Britain where he became a Leader writer for the Times and a member of the British Parliament. He eventually became Viscount Sherbrooke.

Lowe was described as a man of great intellect and with a great power of eloquence. He was certainly strong supporter of a more democratic base for the Colony being an antagonist to Governor Gipps and the British Government of the time.

Lowe was never officially the editor of The Atlas but he certainly influenced its policy in its early years and is believed to have written many of its editorials. The 'official' editor was a little known man, Richard Thompson, who took the blame for what was published. Lowe's political career and his other interests took up most of his time and he became less involved with the newspaper. It was Lowe and his opinions which dominated the early days of The Atlas. Eventually a new editor was appointed and he became much more involved in the detailed running of the paper and was responsible for the opinions expressed in the pages of the newspaper.

James Martin

The new editor, James Marlin, took up his position having been previously acting editor of The Australian. From May 1845 he was the manager and editor of The Atlas a position he held for two years.

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