William Cox (1764–1837) was a soldier, a road builder, and a pioneering pastoralist in the colony of New South Wales. He is best known today as the man who supervised the construction of the road across the Blue Mountains in 1814, and it was a remarkable achievement. In a few days over six months, his team of 30 convicts made 163 kilometres of road through appalling terrain rising to 1200 metres, and they did so without serious accident or loss of life. This was in part a consequence of Cox’s sympathetic treatment of his convict workers.
In subsequent years he become a leading pastoralist in the colony, helping to carry through the developments which gave Australia its first significant exports, as well as championing the rights of ex-convicts, who he recognised had created the colony by their labour. He looked forward to a country peopled by free-born British citizens, with citizens’ rights. By the time of his death he had become a ‘national’ figure.
In the first book-length biography of William Cox, Richard Cox – a descendant – gives the details of Cox’s life, from early scandal through to success in several fields, and redeems the career of one of the pioneers of colonial Australia.