The Federation Press

The Seeds of Democracy

Early elections in colonial New South Wales

Overview

In January 1843 New South Wales was little more than a penal settlement ruled by Governor’s decree. The election held later that year – the first election in Australia – produced a Parliament with limited powers. Britain continued to control the purse strings and retained the power to veto the colony’s legislation.

Thirteen years later, in 1856, New South Wales was a colony with a Parliament, a Premier and a liberal constitution. Max Thompson tells the story of this seismic shift.

Powerful and fascinating men like William Charles Wentworth, Robert Lowe, Henry Parkes, and Dr John Dunmore Lang fight for their own visions of democracy while the population almost doubles, gold is discovered and the wool industry booms. It is the decade of the Chartist Movement in England and, in Europe, 1848 is the year of revolution.

But the new settlers focus on survival, security and prosperity as they forge new lives in a new world. They are largely indifferent to political hurly burly.

In this tumultuous, changing world, the conservative Wentworth proposes an aristocratic constitution. The colony’s Parliament rejects the establishment of a hereditary class system.

Two years later, in 1855, the Imperial Parliament rejects other provisions intended to obstruct the spread of democracy. It enacts a liberal constitution for New South Wales, which clears the way for the great election of 1856.

A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.

Reviews

For those interested in the early political colonial life of New South wales this publication brings out the theatre of these two early election campaigns and the divisions between the squatters and city dwellers and within each interest group. - Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol 54 No 1, 2008, pp144-170

Table of Contents

Part I : The First Election
The New South Wales Legislative Council Election of 1843

Part II : Towards 1856
and responsible Government in New South Wales
Index

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