The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Boucaut, Hon. James Penn

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1323984The Dictionary of Australasian Biography — Boucaut, Hon. James PennPhilip Mennell

Boucaut, Hon. James Penn, Puisne Judge South Australia, son of the late Captain Ray Boucaut, H.E.I.C.S., by Winifred, daughter of the late James Penn, Superintendent of H.M.'s Dockyard, Mylor, Falmouth, was born near that place on Oct. 29th, 1831. He came to South Australia with his father (who died in 1872) in 1846, and was called to the bar in 1855. He was returned to the Legislative Assembly for the city of Adelaide on Dec. 9th, 1861, on the resignation of Sir R. D. Hanson; but was defeated at the general election in Nov. 1862. He was returned for West Adelaide at the general election in March 1865, and sat till the dissolution in March 1868, when he was returned for the Burra. He was, however, defeated at the general election in March 1870; but in August 1871 re-entered the Assembly as member for the West Torrens district, in succession to Mr. Strangways, who resigned. He was again returned for West Torrens at the general election in Dec. 1871, and sat till the dissolution in 1875, when he became member for Encounter Bay; and having been re-elected in April 1878, he finally retired on Sept. 25th in the same year, on being appointed a judge. Mr. Boucaut first took office in Mr. Hart's Ministry, on Oct. 23rd, 1865, being appointed Attorney-General, a position which he had refused when offered him by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Henry Ayers, immediately after his return for West Adelaide in March. On March 28th, 1866, the Ministry was reconstructed under the premiership of Mr. Boucaut, who continued to hold office as Attorney-General until May 3rd, 1867, when he retired with his colleagues, in connection with the Moonta question. At this time he refused a Q.C.-ship, and subsequently frequently declined office. In 1872, however, he joined Mr. Hughes', or, as it is generally called, Mr. Ayers' Ministry, "to establish the principle that the Governor was not entitled absolutely to say that the framer of the Government should necessarily be its head." Having established this principle, the ministry resigned, and Mr. Boucaut was out of office till June 3rd, 1875, when he again became Premier, and initiated the famous "Boucaut policy," which embraced a wide scheme of public works. In this, his second administration, Mr. Boucaut held the post of Commissioner of Crown Lands and Immigration, and subsequently the commissionership of Public Works. On March 25th, 1876, Mr. Boucaut reconstituted his ministry, Mr. Way having become Chief Justice, and Mr. (afterwards Sir) Wm. Morgan and Mr. Colton having retired. He was turned out of office on June 6th, 1876, partly, as his friends asserted, by backstairs cabals, and partly because he refused to borrow large sums of money without making provision to pay the interest, his taxation proposals having been rejected in two sessions by the Legislative Council. Mr. Boucaut again became Premier on Oct. 25th, 1877, and held that office till he was raised to the judicial bench in Oct. 1878. "As a politician," a friendly hand writes, "his horror of a plutocracy made him democratic; but his love of fair play often tinged that with conservatism, as he generally opposed extreme views, and did not sacrifice a far-seeing purpose for the sake of a present advantage, nor would he court popularity by the sacrifice of independence. He was amongst the most national of Australian politicians, and strongly dwelt upon the community of interest between South Australia and New South Wales. He advocated a gradual extension of railways from Adelaide to Wentworth, in order to join the Sydney lines to the Barrier Ranges, to Innamincka, and northwards across the Continent, although strongly opposing any immediate attempt to extend it to Port Darwin." Judge Boucaut was Acting Chief Justice during the absence in England on leave of Chief Justice Way, 1891-92. He has been several times Deputy Governor and twice administrator of the Government.