The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Blyth, Hon. Sir Arthur

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Blyth, Hon. Sir Arthur, K.C.M.G., C.B., late Agent-General for South Australia, was the son of William Blyth, late of Adelaide, S.A., but previously of Birmingham, England, by Sarah, daughter of Rev. William Wilkins, of Bourton-on-the-Water, in Gloucestershire. He was born at Birmingham on March 19th, 1823, and educated at King Edward VI. Grammar School, in that town. Having emigrated to South Australia with his father and brothers in 1839, only three years after the formal constitution of the colony, he engaged in commercial pursuits, from which he retired in 1861. An instalment of representative government having been conceded, Sir Arthur, in 1855, entered the semi-elective Council as elected member for Yatala. Prior to this he had occupied various local posts, having been Chairman of the Mitcham District Council, Assessor of the City Corporation, Captain of the first Volunteer Force, formed during the Russian War scare; and a member of the Central Road Board, and of the Chamber of Commerce. The Council had been dissolved by Sir Richard MacDonnell, the then Governor, with a view to the adoption of a new constitution on more liberal lines than the one previously in force. This great work was promptly achieved, and Sir Arthur Blyth took a prominent part in the legislation which enlarged the suffrage, instituted the bicameral system, and settled the constitution upon what, with slight changes, is its present basis. In the Legislative Assembly constituted under the Bill, Sir Arthur took his seat as member for Gumeracha, and represented the constituency till 1868. The Finniss Ministry, which included the author of the Torrens Act, having resigned office, the Baker Ministry was formed, in which Sir Arthur Blyth held the post of Commissioner of Public Works throughout its short-lived existence, from August to Sept. 1857. From June 1858 to May 1860 Sir Arthur held a similar position in the Hanson Ministry. In October of the following year Sir Arthur accepted the post of Treasurer under Mr. Waterhouse's premiership, but resigned with his colleagues in July 1863. In August 1864 Sir Arthur formed his first Administration, holding, along with the premiership, the rather unusual post of Commissioner of Crown Lands and Emigration. In March 1865 he was thrown out of power, but came back as Treasurer under his old colleague, Sir Henry Ayers, in Sept. 1865. This Ministry was also only formed to die; but Sir Arthur was not long in opposition, becoming Chief Secretary under Mr. Boucaut in March 1866. The May of 1867 saw him again out of office, and he remained in opposition until May 1870, when he joined Mr. Hart as, for the second time, Commissioner of Crown Lands and Immigration. In Nov. 1871 the Government was reconstructed, and Sir Arthur became Treasurer and Premier. He did not secure a firm tenure, being thrown out in the January following. He, however, became Premier for the third time in July 1873, and was successful in holding his own till June 1875, when Mr. Boucaut's extensive scheme of public undertakings caused the electors to look askance at the more cautious policy of Sir Arthur Blyth's Cabinet. In March 1876 he accepted office as Treasurer in the reconstructed Boucaut Ministry, and in Feb. 1877 was appointed Agent-General in succession to the late Mr. F. S. Dutton. Prior to this Sir Arthur had revisited England, remaining from 1868 to 1870, in which latter year he was re-elected for Gumeracha, and sat until 1875, when he transferred his services to North Adelaide. In 1850 Sir Arthur married Jessie Anne, daughter of Edward Forrest, of Birmingham. In 1877, soon after his arrival in London, he was created a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George, and in 1886 received the Civil Companionship of the Order of the Bath, in recognition of services rendered in connection with the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, at which he represented his colony both as Royal and Executive Commissioner. He was also presented with the freedom of the Salters' Company, one of the most ancient and exclusive of the City Guilds. In 1887 Sir Arthur was associated with Sir John Downer as one of the representatives of South Australia, at the Colonial Conference held in London in that year. He died at Bournemouth on Dec. 7th, 1891. Lady Blyth died a fortnight later.