The Federation Press

Reluctant Democrat

Sir William Denison in Australia 1847 - 1861

Overview

Aristocrat by birth, autocrat by nature, and officer of the Royal Engineers by training, Sir William Denison became a Governor in Australia in the mid 19th century at a time of momentous change.

Arriving in Tasmania in 1847, he provided strong and controversial leadership while debate on convict transportation raged. His support for its continuance (he had the convicts doing valuable public work) caused a furore amongst the free community and unwillingly he had to yield. The Colonial Office in London was impressed and promoted him “Governor-General” of New South Wales in 1855.

There, his tenure co-incided with the start of Responsible Government (1856), a concept he despised, and which he did his best to subvert. His battles with the new parliamentarians were fierce if ultimately unavailing, but again his conduct found favour with the Imperial Government who promoted him to Governor of the Presidency of Madras (and, for an important period, Acting Viceroy of India).

Sir William Denison concluded his service to the Crown in 1866, and is remembered as one who “stood among the first class of Governors”.

A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Rodney Cavalier, AO
Chairman, Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government NSW Committee
Prologue
The Making of a Colonial Governor - “My Appointment Might be Considered as Settled”

Part I - Van Diemen’s Land 1847-1855
“A Position of No Common Difficulty”
“The Independence of the Bench Has Been Menaced”
“A State So Injurious to the General Interests”
“Opposition to the Convict System Here”
“Your Accustomed Zeal and Discretion”
“The System of Representative Legislation”
“Two Traitors In The Camp Of The Government”
“Uncomfortable as a Place of Residence”
“His Approach to Educational Problems”
“A Slight Insight Into Futurity”

Part II - New South Wales 1855-1861
“I Do Too Much While Some of the Others Do Too Little”
“Education and Related Matters”
“An Unwilling Instrument in Working out a Change”
“The Executive Council Should be the Governing Body”
“The Abstract Merits of Responsible Government”
“Governor General in and over All Our Colonies”
“Norfolk Island: The “Singular Little Autocracy”
“Moreton Bay District”
A Man Who in His Time Played Many Parts
Epilogue
New South Wales Ministries (1856-1861)
Secretaries of State for the Colonies (1847-1861)
Abbreviations
Notes
Index

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