The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Johnston, Hon. James Stewart

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Johnston, Hon. James Stewart, was the only son of James Johnston, of the Paper Mills, Midcalder, near Edinburgh, and was born at that city in Feb. 1811. He studied for the medical profession at the university, but ultimately abandoned it, and went to the West Indies, where, after two years, his health broke down, and he returned to Scotland. In 1838 he went to Tasmania, where he received a Government appointment in the office of the Superintendent of Convicts. In 1840 Mr. Johnston left for Port Phillip (Victoria), and acting in a mercantile capacity, started an hotel in Melbourne, where he became a member of the City Council, and ultimately an alderman. He gave up hotel-keeping about 1846, and was elected one of the first representatives of the city of Melbourne in the Legislative Council, then the only chamber, Mr. (afterwards Sir John) O'Shanassy and the late Mr. Westgarth being his colleagues. About this time he went into partnership with the late Mr. Edward Wilson (q.v.) in a cattle station near Dandenong, but the venture did not pay, and the partnership was dissolved, Mr. Johnston persuading Mr. Wilson to take to literary pursuits. Subsequently the two purchased the Melbourne Argus in equal co-partnership. The new venture did not at first pay better than the cattle station, and in 1852 Mr. Johnston sold his share to Mr. Gill, who resold it to Mr. Lauchlan Mackinnon, whose interests Mr. Johnston subsequently represented in the management of the Argus when Mr. Mackinnon went to Europe. In 1853 Mr. Johnston resigned his seat in the Legislative Council, and went to England, returning to Victoria in July 1858. Twelve months later he was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly under the new Constitution for the district of St. Kilda, and was re-elected on taking office in Nov. 1860 in the Heales administration as Vice-President of the Board of Lands and Works and Commissioner of Public Works. Mr. Johnston and Mr. R. S. Anderson, then Commissioner of Customs, resigned simultaneously In Feb. 1861, and both joined the O'Shanassy Government in the same capacities in Nov. 1861, and held office till the latter Ministry retired in June 1863.