Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol I (1901).djvu/289
Blyth soon commenced to take an interest in public life. He became a member of the district council of Mitcham, near which he resided, and later chairman of the council ; he was also elected a member of the central road board, and became a prominent member of the Adelaide chamber of commerce. He joined the first volunteer corps raised in South Australia daring the Crimean war, and became a captain. In 1856 Blyth entered a wider sphere, and became member for Yatala district in the old mixed legislative council, taking a prominent part in the movement which led up to the establishment of an elective council ; he was in 1857 chosen member for Gumeracha in the first elected council.
On 21 Aug. 1857 Blyth first took office as commissioner of works in Baker's ministry ; but this lasted only till 1 Sept. From 12 June 1858 till 9 May 1860 he held the same office under Reynolds. From 8 Oct. 1860 to 17 Oct. 1861 he was treasurer under Waterhouse, and again, on 19 Feb. 1862, after a short interval, he came back to the same office. This was the ministry which carried Sutherland's Act and adopted a policy which was much criticised as to the assignment of waste lands and immigration. In March and April 1863 Blyth represented South Australia in the conference on tariffs and other matters of interest to all the colonies. On 4 July the ministry fell. On 4 Aug. 1864 he again came into office, taking his old post as commissioner of lands and immigration. The chief political question at this time was that of squatting ; in November a great attack was made on the government's policy, and on 22 March 1865 it fell. On 20 Sept. 1865 Blyth again became treasurer under Sir Henry Ayers for a little over a month, being out of power again on 23 Oct. On 28 March 1866, however, he became chief secretary and premier in a ministry which held together much better, not falling until 3 May 1867. He now took a rest from politics, and paid a two years' visit to England. On his return to South Australia he was re-elected to the assembly as member for Gumeracha, and on 30 May 1870 became once more commissioner of lands and immigration under John Hart [q. v. Suppl.] In August 1871, in consequence of the loss of the land bill, various efforts were made to reconstruct this government, and finally on 10 Nov. Blyth became premier and treasurer, holding office till the dissolution of parliament, when he was thrown out on 22 Jan. 1872. On the retirement of Sir Henry Ayers he was again sent for, and became premier for the third time. He held office as chief secretary from 22 July 1873 to 3 June 1875, and this may be considered his principal ministry. He had to deal with the disappointment over the N orthern Territory ; he met with great opposition on the immigration question, and his free education bill was lost in the legislative council. His policy, however, was marked by caution and financial prudence ; and his fall in June 1875 was mainly due to Boucaut's promise of a bolder and more magnificent policy of public works which carried away the electors. At the general election of 1875 he changed his seat and became member for North Adelaide. On 25 March 1876, when the Boucaut ministry was reconstructed, he became treasurer, and retired on 6 June, being appointed agent-general for the colony in England, where he arrived in February 1877.
In England Blyth was for many years a familiar figure in colonial circles, and greatly respected as representative of his colony. In 1886 he was executive commissioner for South Australia at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition ; in 1887 he was associated with the Hon. Thomas Playford, the premier, in the representation of the colony at the first colonial conference held in London in April-May in that year. He died at Bournemouth on 7 Dec. 1891, and the South Australian parliament, on hearing the news, moved a vote of condolence with his widow and suspended their sitting. Blyth's career had been eminently that of the official. He was constantly called into office by ministers of different type ; his general bent was for liberal measures, but he did not connect himself with any great reform or achievement. He was a man of somewhat nervous temperament, with some sense of humour ; he was chiefly marked by those characteristics which fitted him for official life — method, conscientiousness, punctuality, and courtesy. He was a prominent member of the synod of the church of England in South Australia. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1877, and C.B. in 1886.
Blyth married in 1850 Jessie Anne, daughter of Edward Forrest of Birmingham, who survived him only a fortnight. They left one son and two daughters.
[Adelaide Observer, 12 Dec. 1891; Mennell's Diet, of Austral. Biogr. ; Hodder's History of South Australia ; official records.]