Wilson, Edward (1814-1878) (DNB00)

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WILSON, EDWARD (1814–1878), Australian politician, was born at Hampstead in 1814. After completing his education he was employed in the London branch of a Manchester firm. Finding this occupation not to his taste, he proceeded to Australia in 1842. His first intention was to settle at Sydney, but on arriving at Melbourne he bought a small place upon Merri Creek, and remained there until 1844, when, in conjunction with J. E. Johnston, he took up a cattle station near Dandenong. While thus employed he wrote a series of letters, signed ‘Iota,’ severely criticising the administration of Charles Joseph Latrobe [q. v.] Their reception encouraged him to turn to journalism, and in 1847 he and his partner purchased the ‘Argus’ from William Kerr, who had founded it in the preceding year. In 1851 they also incorporated the Melbourne ‘Daily News’ with the ‘Argus.’ Notwithstanding the disorganisation of society produced in 1852 by the discovery of gold, Wilson succeeded in continuing the daily issue of his paper, and its circulation became in consequence extremely large. Prior to this Wilson took a leading part in opposing the influx of convicts from Tasmania, co-operating with the Anti-transportation League founded in 1851, and supporting the passage of the Convicts Prevention Act. He advocated the separation of Port Phillip from New South Wales, denounced the conduct of the governor, Sir Charles Hotham [q. v.], towards the miners, and strongly opposed the tendency of Earl Grey's order in council of 1847 to convert the temporary licenses of the crown's pastoral tenants into the equivalent of an assignable freehold. His vigorous attacks in the ‘Argus’ on all kinds of abuses involved him in several libel actions, the most notable being that brought against him in 1857 by George Milner Stephen, formerly colonial secretary, the result of which closed Stephen's political career in Victoria, and that occasioned by his exposure of the Garra Bend lunatic asylum. Finding his sight failing, Wilson returned to England, and in 1864 published ‘Rambles in the Antipodes.’ In 1868 he was one of the founders of the Colonial Institute, and in the same year he settled at Hayes in Kent, where he died on 10 Jan. 1878. He was buried in the Melbourne cemetery on 7 July. Wilson was the founder of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria in 1861; and while he is credited with having introduced the lark and thrush into Australia, and with attempting to naturalise the llama, he is also accused of having brought over the sparrow.

[Heaton's Australian Dictionary, 1879; Mennell's Dict. of Australian Biogr. 1892; Rusden's Hist. of Australia, 1883, ii. 527, 640; McCombie's Hist. of Victoria, 1858, p. 329; Westgarth's Colony of Victoria, 1864, pp. 297, 349, 371, 374, 382.]

E. I. C.