Herbert Macaulay was born on 14 November 1864 in Lagos, to the family of Thomas Babington Macaulay and Abigail Crowther. His father was one of the sons of Ojo Oriare while his mother was the daughter of Bishop Ajayi Crowther. Herbert Macaulay’s father founded the first secondary school in Nigeria, the CMS Grammar School, Lagos. After his secondary school, he worked as a clerical assistant and indexer at the Department of Public Works, Lagos. To further his education, he studied civil engineering in Plymouth, England, with the support of the colonial administration.
Herbert Macaulay worked with the colonial service as a surveyor of Crown Lands. He ran a network of informants, as a result of his ability to obtain classified information. He was a political activist; he founded the Nigerian Daily News, a platform he used to write opinion pieces. On 24 June 1923 he founded the first political party in Nigeria (NNDP) Nigerian National Democratic Party. The objectives of the party were to promote democracy in Nigeria, increase Nigerian participation in social, economic and educational development of Nigeria. He was the father of Nationalism and to keep his legacy, his face was featured on the one naira note. In addition, Lagos State Ministry of Education School Library was re-named after the renowned nationalist Herbert Macaulay.
In December 1898, Macaulay married Caroline Pratt. His wife Caroline died in August 1899 during childbirth, which led to the end of the marriage and he vowed never to marry again although he had mistresses who bore a number of children for him. He was the first Nigerian to own a motor car. Macaulay died in Lagos in 1946 after a brief illness. On May 1946, he was buried at Ikoyi Cemetery in Lagos.