The career of Sir James Dowling, second Chief Justice of NSW (1837-1844), supplies a model of the working of patronage in the appointment of judges to British colonial service. Dowlingâ€™s advancement as puisne judge in Sydney, as acting Chief Justice during the absence on leave of Chief Justice Forbes, and a Chief Justice in succession to Forbes, depended on patrons. The principal was Lord Brougham, supported in England by Dowlingâ€™s influential journalist brother Vincent.
While he was not an outstanding judicial lawyer, Dowling was painstaking and industrious. His meticulous manuscript recording of court proceedings was an astonishing undertaking. This book reviews his contribution as judge and as ex officio Legislative Councillor. It traces prolonged litigation, disposed of before Dowling, concerning the proprietor of the Sydney Monitor, Edward Smith Hall. And it examines the bruising relations between Dowling and fellow judges W W Burton and J W Willis.
In this title, Sir James Dowling, the material â€śDramatis Personaeâ€ť contains an error. The entry â€śHOWICKâ€ť should be omitted and the entry â€śGREYâ€ť should read: GREY, Sir George, Under Secretary (Political) for the Colonies, 1834-1835, 1835-1839.
Bennettâ€™s skilful and elegantly woven narrative shows how Dowlingâ€™s career owed as much to chance and patronage as it did to design. ... It was not only Dowlingâ€™s desire but his natural inclination to stand above the hurly burly of politics and personality in New South Wales. But, like Forbes before him, he found this impossible. Applying the rule of law to the detriment of one of the young colonyâ€™s powerful individuals automatically condemned Dowling to being that personâ€™s enemy. Bennett details some of the painful lessons Dowling learned in that regard ... The impression left is that Dowling lacked the energy for these encounters. ...
A stabiliser rather than innovator is perhaps the best assessment of Dowlingâ€™s career. .. In that climate [1830s Sydney], stability cannot have been a bad thing. They were tumultuous times amd Bennettâ€™s account of Dowlingâ€™s role in such events as the Myall Creek massacre trials will fascinate many readers. - NSW Bar News, Winter 2002
Modest performance notwithstanding, [Dowlingâ€™s] story as told by Bennett provides several fascinating glimpses into the lives of Australian colonial judges, their sometimes rocky relations with each other, the criticism to which they were subject by politicians and the press, and the general stresses of administering justice in fragile, fractious societies. ... The most engaging part of the Dowling biography is the description of the tensions between Sir James and two of his colleagues, William Burton and John Walpole Willis. ... - John McLaren, Australian Historical Studies, Vol 34 (122), October 2003
Table of Contents
Foreword by Emeritus Professor Bruce Mansfield
List of Illustrations
Part I - As Puisne Judge
1. â€śSuccess Under Every Possible Disadvantageâ€ť
2. â€śThe Intention of the Legislature
3. â€śThe Life of Man is Above All Priceâ€ť
4. Edward Smith Hall - â€śThe Cobbett of New South Walesâ€ť
Part II - As Chief Justice
5. â€śThis Simple and Natural Course of Proceedingâ€ť
6. â€śTo My Dear Brother Vincent I am Deeply Indebtedâ€ť
7. â€śNeither of My Colleagues Particularly Love Meâ€ť
8. â€śA Victim to Scrupulous Anxietyâ€ť
9. â€śNolens Volens a Politicianâ€ť