The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Strangways, Hon. Henry Bull Templer

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1451232The Dictionary of Australasian Biography — Strangways, Hon. Henry Bull TemplerPhilip Mennell

Strangways, Hon. Henry Bull Templer, J. P., sometime Premier of South Australia, eldest son of the late Henry Bull Strangways, J.P., of Shapwick, Somerset, was born in 1832, and emigrated to South Australia. Revisiting England, he entered at the Middle Temple in Nov. 1851, and was called to the Bar in June 1856. He returned to Adelaide in May of the following year, and was member for Encounter Bay in the Assembly from 1858 to 1862, and for West Torrens from 1863 to 1870. Mr. Strangways declined to form a government when the Hanson Ministry were in difficulties in 1859; but in the following year he took office as Attorney-General in the Reynolds Government, which lasted from May 1860 to May 1861, when it was reconstructed, and held office till the following October, Mr. Strangways, in the meantime, exchanging the post of Attorney-General for that of Minister of Lands and Immigration. In this capacity he settled the vexed question as to the ownership of the Moonta Mines on a basis which legal decisions subsequently upheld. He was always an advocate of exploration, and as a Minister supervised the fitting out of the expeditions of John McDouall Stuart and Mackinlay. The Waterhouse Ministry, which took office on the final retirement of Mr. Reynolds from the premiership, only lasted a few days, and was then reconstructed on a broader basis, Mr. Strangways being taken in in his old post of Minister of Lands and Immigration. On this occasion he held office till July 1863. In 1862 a question arose as to the appointment of a gentlemen, not a responsible minister, as a member of the Executive Council. Mr. Strangways therefore suggested to the then Governor, Sir Dominic Daly, that the Executive Council should be placed on the same basis as the Privy Council in England, and that a few colonists of eminence and position should be appointed to it, but that they should not attend meetings unless summoned, as is now the case in Victoria. This view was not adopted by the Colonial Office, but instead an intimation was given in 1863 that ministers who had served more than three years would in proper cases be allowed to retain the title of "honourable" within the colony, and Mr. Strangways himself was one of the first to whom that permission was granted. In March 1865 he was again appointed Minister of Lands in the Dutton Ministry; but owing to some dissatisfaction with their action in appointing the premier to the post of Agent-General they were ejected, after being reconstructed under Mr. (now Sir) Henry Ayers, in the following October. Mr. Strangways took a prominent part in initiating the State railway system, which has since been so enormously developed in South Australia. In 1865 he moved for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the subject, and the report was mainly the embodiment of his views. The land question having come prominently on the tapis, successive proposals from several short-lived ministries were rejected, and in Nov. 1868 Mr. Strangways, who had been instrumental in defeating the last of these abortive projects, was called upon as Premier to develop a land policy of his own. The result was the passing of the measure, afterwards known as the Strangways Act, which provided for the creation of agricultural areas, and which, for the first time in the history of South Australia, permitted the sale of Crown lands on credit. Subsequent modifications of the measure have not been in all cases improvements. In another work of not only Australasian but of Imperial importance Mr. Strangways may claim to have played a leading part. Early in 1870 a project was mooted from England for the establishment of cable communication with Australia, and special application was made to Sir James Fergusson, then Governor of South Australia, to use his influence in effectuating the idea. Sir James requested Mr. Strangways, who was still in office as Premier and Attorney-General, to take the matter up, and after careful consideration he consented to do so. The agent of the English promoters, Captain Noel Osborne, R.N., in the meantime arrived, and requested permission from the South Australian Government to make a land line from Palmerston, in the northern territory of that colony, to Brisbane, in Queensland. Mr. Strangways promised his aid, but suggested as an alternative that South Australia should herself construct a land line across the centre of the continent from Palmerston to Adelaide. Captain Osborne doubted whether this was feasible, but promised to maintain silence until Mr. Strangways had sounded his colleagues, whom he had to convert one by one to what at the first blush everybody in the colony was inclined to regard as an equally daring and impracticable feat. When the cabinet had been won over, Mr. Strangways again approached Sir James Fergusson, who was impressed with the idea that the other colonies ought to assist in a work of such importance to them all. His Excellency was just about to start on a visit to the eastern colonies, and undertook to try to get their aid. Mr. Strangways stoutly maintained that if the work was to be done at all, South Australia would have to do it alone; and the result showed the correctness of this view, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania only giving their good wishes; whilst Queensland, nettled at being left out in the cold by the route selected, intimated her strong opposition. Sir James Fergusson having telegraphed to Mr. Strangways, giving his assent to the venture being made, the latter caused a despatch to be forwarded to the Governor of Ceylon, then the nearest available point connected with Europe by cable, requesting him to send an advance telegram to the Secretary for the Colonies, informing him that the Government of South Australia had decided to recommend to Parliament the construction of the transcontinental wire from Palmerston to Adelaide. Shortly afterwards, one of the ministers having been defeated at the general election, a reconstruction of the Government became necessary, Mr. Strangways still remaining Premier. When they met Parliament they recommended the construction of the Central Australian line. A vote of want of confidence was however at once carried on other grounds, and they resigned; but the idea of the projected telegraph line had in the meantime attracted so much support that Mr. Strangways was enabled to get the needful bill passed through Parliament, and handed on his plans, which were in the main adopted, to his successors. Mr. Strangways, who was admitted a practitioner of the Supreme Court of South Australia in 1860, and was a captain in the South Australian volunteer force, and for several years Mayor of Glenelg, left the colony in Feb. 1871, and has since permanently resided in England. He married in 1861, Maria Cordelia, younger daughter of the late Henry Rudolph Wigley, Stipendary Magistrate of South Australia, and now resides on property at Shapwick, Somersetshire (of which county he is J.P.), which was purchased of the Crown by an ancestor on the dissolution of Glastonbury Abbey, and has remained in the family ever since.