Hanson, Richard Davies (DNB00)

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HANSON, Sir RICHARD DAVIES (1805–1876), chief justice of South Australia, was born in Kondon on 6 Dec. 1805. He was articled in 1822 to John Wilis, solicitor, of 18 Finsbury Place, and after his admission in 1828 practised for a short time in London at 3 Fhilpot Lane, at the same time editing the 'Globe,' and writing for the 'Morning Chronicle' and other papers. He actively supported Edward Gibbon Wakefield's system of colonisation, and in 1830 became associated with the attempt to found the colony of South Australia, an attempt which, owing to the opposition of Lord Goderich, did not receive the sanction of parliament until 1834. In 1838 Hanson accompanied Lord Durham to Canada as assistant-commissioner of inquiry into crown lands and immigration, to conduct an investigation the results of which embodied in a report signed by Charles Lord Durham, whose private secretary he had been, Hanson removed to New Zealand, and resided in the settlement of Wellington, where he held the office of crown prosecutor, until 1846, when he went to South Australia. In 1851 he was appointed by Sir Henry Young, the governor, advocate-general, and became an ex-officio member of the legislature. He was the chief legal adviser of the government from 1851 to 1856, and among other important measures introduced the first Education Act, and the District Councils' Act of 1852. Hanson took a prominent part in the struggle to secure constitutional government for the colony, and drafted the act under which it was granted in 1856. On 24 Oct. of that year he was made attorney-general in Boyle T. Finniss's ministry, the earliest to hold office in the colony, which lasted ten months; and from 30 Sept. 1857 to 9 May 1860 he was attorney-general and the leader of the government. During Hanson's administration the Torrens' Act, which established a system of land registration, was passed. In November 1861 he was appointed chief justice of the supreme court of South Australia, with a salary of 1,500l. a year. On 9 July 1869 he was knighted by the queen at Windsor Castle. After his return to the colony he was for a time acting governor of the colony, and on the foundation of the Adelaide University, in 1874, he became the first chancellor of that institution. He died in Australia on 4 March 1876.

He was the author of the following works: 1. 'Law in Nature, and other Papers read before the Adelaide Philosophical Society,' 1865. 2. 'The Jesus of History,' 1869. 3.'Letters to and from Home,' 1869; purports to be a translation of letters written in A.B. 61-3. 4. 'The Apostle Paul and the Preaching of Christianity in the Primitive Church,' 1875.

[Information kindly supplied by Mr. Eustace B. Grundy of Adelaide, South Australia; Illustrated London News, 31 July 1869, p. 117, with portrait; Men of the Time, 1875, p. 506; South Australian Register, 25 March 1876; Greville Memoirs, second ser. i. 162-3; Melbourne Review, 1879, vol. i. article by Miss C. H. Spence.]

G. C. B.