Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/281

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267
A GROUP OF STATESMEN.

overdone, and Melbourne would prove a richer field for young folk such as they. In the end he prevailed, and they permanently united their fortunes with the few hundred persons who had already settled in the straggling township which is now a great metropolis."

He had no sooner settled down in his new home, than his success in business and his innate capacity for public life made him a man of mark. In all the great movements of the early days, such as the agitations for the legislative independence of Victoria, and the abolition of the transportation of British criminals to the colonies, he bore a leading part; but it was not until Victoria was granted a parliament of its own, that an opportunity was afforded of bringing his great statesmanlike abilities into play. As one of the members for Melbourne in the first Legislative Council, he gave abundant evidence of his intellectual qualifications for popular leadership. He was one of the committee who drafted the constitution under which the Government of Victoria has ever since been administered, and to his wise suggestions many of its most admirable features are to be attributed. As soon as it came into operation, he was elected to the popular chamber by Melbourne and Kilmore simultaneously. He chose the latter seat, to the great delight of its warm-hearted Hibernian electors, who continued for years to return him whenever he presented himself for re-election. O'Shanassy was the first Victorian member of parliament to hold office as Premier by a vote of the majority of the people's representatives. The three governments, of which he was the head, have been credited by friends and foes alike with placing on the statute-book some of the most beneficial and enduring pieces of legislation, notably the Local Government Act and the Crown Lands Act of 1862. To O'Shanassy himself be-