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.
Foreword by Professor Geoffrey Blainey ACAcknowledgements
List of Illustrations
“School Life in Those Days was a Rough One”
“Higinbotham is a Most Estimable Man, But …”
“His Short Experience in the House”
“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