Francis, James Goodall (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20
Francis, James Goodall

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FRANCIS, JAMES GOODALL (1819–1884), Australian statesman, was born in London in 1819. In 1834 he arrived in Tasmania. He obtained employment in the firm of Boys & Pointer at Hobart. In 1847 the business was transferred to himself together with a partner named Macpherson. In 1853 the firm, Francis & Macpherson, opened a branch establishment in Victoria. Francis became managing partner there and took up his permanent residence in Melbourne. His position rapidly grew in influence. He became director of the bank of New South Wales in 1855, vice-president of the chamber of commerce in 1856, and president in 1857. In October 1859 he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly (the Lower House) for Richmond, and he sat in the house for the same constituency till his retirement fifteen years later. He entered the cabinet of William Nicholson on 25 Nov. 1859 as vice-president of the Board of Lands and Works and commissioner of public works. He held the office till 3 Sept. 1860. When James M'Culloch formed a ministry on 27 June 1863, Francis became commissioner of trade and customs, and retired with his chief 6 May 1868. M'Culloch held office for a third time, 9 April 1870–19 June 1871, when Francis joined him as treasurer. Francis supported the protectionist revision of the tariff, 1865–6, and was always a protectionist, although he deemed five and ten per cent. duties adequate to protect native industries. After the fall of Charles Gavan Duffy's administration in June 1872, Francis was entrusted by Viscount Canterbury, the governor, with the formation of a ministry. He retired on 3 July 1874, having passed a free education act and other important measures, including railway bills involving an expenditure of 2,250,000l. A dangerous attack of pleurisy was the chief cause of his resignation. On recovery he paid a long visit to England. In 1878 he reentered political life, and was returned to the Victoria Assembly as member for Warrnambool. On the retirement of Sir James m'Culloch he took office once again under James Service, but a painful illness compelled him to retire into private life in 1882. Francis frequently declined the honour of knighthood, and business reasons prevented his acceptance of the post of agent-general for the colony in London, when offered him by Sir Bryan O'Loghlan. Francis was not a polished speaker, but his integrity gave him enormous influence in the assembly. As premier he avoided constitutional strife or sensational appeals to the people. His practical good sense was widely appreciated. He died at Queenscliff, Victoria, on 25 Jan. 1884, and was buried privately, according to the wishes of his family, on 28 Jan.

[Private information; Heaton's Australian Dict. pp. 72–3, 160–2; Times, 29 Jan. 1884.]