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George Higinbotham

George Higinbotham

Third Chief Justice of Victoria

By Dr J M Bennett AM


George Higinbotham’s extreme and uncompromising radical views and mesmerizing oratory have made him an iconic figure in Victoria’s colonial history – the darling of the liberals and the left. John Bennett has written a major re-assessment of this giant who was a dominating figure from the 1850s until his death in 1892.

Higinbotham was successively a gold digger who found no gold; a barrister who found few briefs; a crusading editor of Melbourne’s Argus; an independent member of Parliament who opposed political parties and ferociously attacked the “squatter” dominated Legislative Council and the Colonial Office; an overtly democratic Attorney-General who advocated government without supply; and Chief Justice of Victoria when his political dreams all foundered.

Yet he drew others to him as a Pied Piper. He was a mass of contradictions. Extraordinarily charitable to beggars, he treated his family miserably. A failure in achievement, he retained an enormous popularity which has endured for over a century.

The Victorian State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir William a'Beckett, Sir William Stawell and George Higinbotham is available for $120.00 - to order the Victorian State Set, click here.


Foreword by Professor Geoffrey Blainey AC
List of Illustrations
Dramatis Personae

“School Life in Those Days was a Rough One”
“Higinbotham is a Most Estimable Man, But …”
“His Short Experience in the House”
Attorney-General 1863-1868
“Absolute Political Equality to All”
“The Destiny of Our Colonies is Independence”
Puisne Judge 1880-1886
Chief Justice 1886-1892
Toy v. Musgrove (1888)
“Her Majesty’s Chief Magistrate in Victoria”
“Perplexed by Paradox, Stunned by Contradictions”

Abbreviations/ Notes/ Index


In the eyes of his admirers, living or dead, Higinbotham was a giant. … This impressive book is the first attempt to see behind the statue [of] this cult-figure. … it [is] laced with insights into Australia’s political history and thought. On Higinbotham’s hyperactive mind and unusual blend of views, the book is fascinating. … John Bennett’s book represents massive research: … The book is the first to study Higinbotham from the vantage point of an observer rather than that of a disciple. It is also the first to meet him on his home ground, the law, and also among the first to glance inside his family life

Professor Geoffrey Blainey, AC

This volume ... continues the high standards of scholarly research and judgment to which [Bennetts'] series has accustomed us.

Law Institute Journal of Victoria, July 2007


Published 20 February 2007
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862876286
Australian RRP $49.50
International Price $45.00
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Law - Legal History
Australian History / Studies
Secondary School Resources

Lives of Australian Chief Justices Series

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