The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Grant, Hon. James Macpherson

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Grant, Hon. James Macpherson, a Victorian statesman, and one of the most prominent land law reformers in Australia, was born at Alvie, Inverness, Scotland, in 1822. He obtained some schooling at Kingdenie, and at the age of fourteen emigrated with his parents to Australia. They took up their residence in Sydney, and, with the view of becoming a solicitor, Mr. Grant was articled to Messrs. Chambers & Thurlow, who were in practice there. In 1842, while still an articled clerk, he was attracted to New Zealand by the outbreak of the Maori war, and served as a volunteer in several engagements against Heki. In 1847 he returned to Sydney, and becoming a solicitor, he practised his profession in partnership with Mr. Thurlow for some years. In 1850, however, he sailed for California, but returned from San Francisco on receiving news of the discovery of gold in Victoria. He and his brothers went to Bendigo, in that colony, and were successful diggers there. He determined to settle in Victoria, and commenced practice in Melbourne, where he soon came to the front as the defender of the Ballarat miners, who participated in the Eureka stockade affair in 1854. He served them without fee, as did the counsel engaged in the case, which resulted in their acquittal. The next year he entered the Victorian Parliament as the representative of the Sandhurst Boroughs (Bendigo), and identified himself in the Assembly, as he had already done outside, with the movement for throwing open the public lands to the people. He also advocated vote by ballot, and other Liberal measures. He first took office in the Heales Ministry, serving as Vice-President of the Board of Land and "Works and Commissioner of Public Works from Feb. 1861 until the following Nov., when the Government were thrown out. Whilst in this Ministry he concurred with Messrs. Brooke and Ireland in the issue of the occupation licences which threw open the lands of Victoria to agricultural till age. In 1863, when the last O'Shanassy was replaced by the first M‘Culloch Ministry, Mr. Richard Heales became Commissioner of Lands. On his death in the following year, Mr. Grant succeeded him, and was in office from Sept. 1864 till May 1868. His administration of his department was highly successful, and his name is still held in veneration by many thousands of well-to-do selectors who settled on the land under the celebrated forty-second clause of the Land Act of 1865, which he carried through Parliament. When the second M‘Culloch Government was constituted, in July 1868, Mr. Grant again undertook the administration of the Lands Department, and remained in office till Sept. 20th, 1869. He joined Sir Charles Gavan Duffy in June 1871, and continued at the Lands Department until June 1872. He was Minister of Justice in Mr. Berry's first administration, from August to Oct. 1875, and in his second Cabinet, from May 1877 to March 1880. Whilst in office on the latter occasion he participated in the wholesale dismissal of civil servants in Dec. 1878, the services of many of the legal functionaries and magistracy being dispensed with by his department. From July 1881 to March 1883 Mr. Grant was Chief Secretary in the O'Loghlen Government. Throughout his whole Parliamentary career he represented Avoca in the Legislative Assembly. He died on April 1st, 1885.