Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sladen, Charles

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SLADEN, Sir CHARLES (1816–1884), Australian statesman, born at Ripple Park, Kent, in 1816, was second son of John Baker Sladen of Ripple Park, Kent, a deputy-lieutenant for the Cinque ports, by Ethelred, eldest daughter of Kingsman Baskett St. Barbe of London. He was educated at Shrewsbury school and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he entered as a scholar in 1834 and graduated B.A. in 1837. He served his articles with a proctor in Doctors' Commons, and proceeded LL.B. in 1840 and LL.D. in December 1867.

In 1841 Sladen emigrated to Victoria, landing on 14 Feb. 1842, and in May commenced practice as a solicitor at Geelong, where he became the head of the firm of Sladen, Martyn, & Taylor. His rapid success enabled him to retire from practice in 1854.

In December of that year he was requested to act for a time as treasurer of the colony, and was nominated to the old legislative council. After the reform of the constitution by the act of 1855, he entered the House of Assembly as member for Geelong in 1857, and in November became treasurer in the first ministry of responsible government. In the same year, however, universal suffrage was established, and at the first subsequent general election he was defeated, and remained out of parliament till 1861, when he came in as member for Geelong East. In July 1864 he was elected to the legislative council for the western province, and very soon became the acknowledged leader of the conservative party in that house. He was conspicuous in this capacity in the struggle with the ministry of Sir James McCulloch [q. v.] respecting the incorporation in the Appropriation bills of the tariff bill in 1865 and the Darling grant in 1867. While he was the author of the council's strong line of action, he also managed the compromise of 1867. When, in 1868, McCulloch resigned, Sladen formed, as a last resort, a ministry which was in a hopeless minority. He was premier and chief secretary from 6 May to 11 July. His action on this occasion was regarded as one of great public spirit. In August 1868 his seat became vacant by lapse of time, and he did not seek re-election.

In 1876, however, when a fresh struggle between the chambers was imminent, Sladen once more entered political life as member of the council for the western province, and took a strong line in opposition to Graham Berry's government on the questions of paying members (1878), the plebiscite (1879), levying a land tax, and reforming the legislative council. The general election of 1880 justified the line which he had taken, and the legislative council emerged from the struggle with credit. On 13 Dec. 1882 he finally retired, somewhat broken in health. He died at his residence, Chilwell, near Geelong, on 22 Feb. 1884, having married, in 1840, Harriet Amelia, daughter of William Orton.

Sladen staved off two serious attacks on the constitution, and finally asserted the authority of the council. He took the lead in reforming the council by division of the electoral provinces, increase of the number of members, and curtailment of the tenure of appointment. He was made K.C.M.G. in 1875. In 1854 he bought an estate at Birregarra, which he called Ripple Vale, and there he devoted his leisure to sheep-farming.

There is a portrait of him in the National Gallery of Victoria and another at Geelong town-hall.

[Melbourne Argus, 23 Feb. 1884; Mennell's Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Parliamentary Reports of Victoria, passim.]

C. A. H.