Australia's Early High Court, the Fourth Commonwealth Attorney-General and the 'Strike of 1905'

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Abstract

It seems fitting to commence this curious and quintessentially Australian narrative concerning the country’s early High Court, between the months of July 1904 and August 1905, with a glimpse at the late Josiah Henry Symon. Described by an ‘international visitor’ to South Australia at the turn of the twentieth century as ‘the most considerable person in Adelaide from an intellectual standpoint’, it is perhaps of little surprise that he was regarded as an individual who ‘invited description’. ‘Over six feet in height’ and endowed with a rather formidable and willowy appearance, he possessed a stern and grim expression that could be foiled with looks of merriment and gentleness. An individual in his late fifties, he was ‘recognized as one of the most brilliant men in Federal Parliament’. Symon’s extensive collection of personal papers tell us he was of Scottish origin, a rural landowner, a successful winemaker and was considered one of Australia’s early scholarly authorities on the works of Shakespeare. Matching his political finesse with the skills of an exceptional lawyer, Josiah Symon was also an individual passionate about Australia becoming a federated nation. So much so that in 1886, he declined a safe conservative seat in the British House of Commons to dedicate himself to Australia’s federal cause, particularly with regards to the development of the judicial branch of the Constitution. His contribution to Australian legal history turned out to be both significant and unexpected
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJudges and Judging in the History of the Common and Civil Law from Antiquity to Modern Times
EditorsPaul Brand, Joshua Getzler
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages292-305
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781107018976
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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