Sir Edmund Barton - Encyclopedia


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"SIR EDMUND BARTON (1849-1920), Australian statesman and judge, was born at Sydney, N.S.W., Jan. 18 18 4 9. He was educated at the Sydney grammar school and the university of Sydney, where he won many distinctions, and was called to the N.S.W bar in 1871, becoming Q.C. in 1889. At the age of 30 he entered the N.S.W. Legislature as representative for Sydney University, and remained a member of either the Assembly or the Legislative Council for many years. During 1883-7 he was Speaker of the Assembly and in 1889 and again in 1891 he was for a time Attorney General. In 1897, after the death of Sir Henry Parkes, he became senior representative for N.S.W. to the Federal Convention. He was a keen supporter of Federation and in 1900 led the delegation sent to London with the Australian Commonwealth bill. In 1901 he became the first Prime Minister of federated Australia, holding also the portfolio of External Affairs. His two years of office were much troubled by party strife. He had been a lifelong supporter of Preference, but his majority over Sir George Reid and the Free Traders was small and the Labour party held the balance. In 1903 he was glad to resign office and accept the appointment of Senior Puisne Judge of the High Court of Australia. In 1901 he was sworn of the Privy Council and in 1902 he was created G.C.M.G. He died suddenly at Medlow Bath, near Sydney, Jan. 6 1920. Known affectionately as the " Father of Australia," Edmund Barton inspired through his long career as a politician a deep personal devotion. His magnificent talents were used more for the advancement of his ideals and the help of his friends than in the service of his personal ambitions. Like a genial Dr. Johnson in conversation, he made easy captives of British statesmen on his visits to London. One of his sons was the first Rhodes scholar from N.S.W. to Oxford.

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