About Maximapedia

M'culloch, Sir James

M'CULLOCH, SIR JAMES (1810-1893), Australian statesman, was born in Glasgow. He entered the house of Dennistoun Brothers, became a partner, and went to Melbourne to open a branch. In 1854, shortly after his arrival in Victoria, he was appointed a nominee member of the Legislative Council, and in the first Legislative Assembly under the new constitution was returned for the electorate of the Wimmera. In 1857 he was appointed minister of trade and customs in the second ministry of Haines, which lasted till 1858, and subsequently he became treasurer in the Nicholson administration, which held office from October 1859 to November 1860. In June 1862 the third O'Shanassy ministry was defeated by a combination between a section of its supporters led by M'Culloch and the opposition proper under Heales, and M'Culloch became premier and chief secretary. Hitherto he had been regarded as a supporter of the landed, squatting and importing interests, but the coalition ministry introduced a number of measures which at the time were regarded by the propertied classes in the colony as revolutionary. In addition to passing a Land Bill, which extended the principle of free selection and deferred payments, the ministry announced their intention of reducing the duties on the export of gold and the import duties upon tea and sugar, and of supplying the deficiency by the imposition of duties ranging from 5 to 10% upon a number of articles which entered into competition with the local industries, thus introducing protection. The mercantile community took alarm at the proposal, and at the general election of 1864 the ministerial policy was warmly opposed. But a majority was returned in its favour, and a new tariff was carried through the popular branch of the legislature. There was no probability of its being assented to by the Council, whieh, under the constitution, had the power of rejecting, although it could not amend, any money Bill. The government therefore decided upon tacking the tariff to the Appropriation Bill, and compelling the Council either to agree to the new fiscal proposals or to refuse to pay the public creditors and the civil servants. The Council accepted the challenge, and rejected the Appropriation Bill. But M'Culloch and his colleagues would not give way. They continued to collect the new duties under the authority of the Assembly, and took advantage of a clause in the Audit Act which directed the governor to sign the necessary warrants for the payment of any sum awarded by verdicts in the supreme court in favour of persons who had sued the government. M'Culloch borrowed 40,000 from the London Chartered Bank, of which he was a director, to meet pressing payments, and the bank at his instigation sued the government for the amount of the advance. The attorney-general at once accepted judgment, and the governor, who had placed himself unreservedly in the hands of his ministers, signed the necessary warrant, and the Treasury repaid to the bank the amount of its advance, plus interest and costs. In the next session the tariff was again sent up to the Council, which promptly rejected it, whereupon the ministry dissolved the assembly and appealed to the country. The result of the general election was to increase M'Culloch's majority, and the tariff was again sent to the Council, only to be again rejected. M'Culloch resigned, but no member of the opposition was willing to form a ministry, and he resumed office. Eventually a conference between the two houses was held, and the Council passed the tariff, after a few modifications in it had been agreed to by the Assembly. Just at the moment that peace was restored, the governor, Sir Charles Darling, was recalled by the home government, on the ground that he had displayed partisanship by assisting M'Culloch's government and their majority in the Assembly to coerce the Council. In order to show their gratitude to the dismissed governor, the Assembly decided to grant a sum of 20,000 to Lady Darling. The home government intimated that Sir Charles Darling must retire from the Colonial service if this gift were accepted by his wife, but M'Culloch included the money in the annual Appropriation Bill, with the result that it was rejected by the Council. The new governor, Viscount Canterbury, was less complaisant than^iis predecessor, but after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain other advisers, he agreed to recommend the Council to pass the Appropriation Bill with the 20,000 grant included. The Upper House declined to adopt this course, and again rejected the Bill. A long and bitter struggle between the two Chambers ended in another general election in 1868, which still further increased the ministerial majority; but Lord Canterbury, in obedience to instructions from the colonial office, declined to do anything to facilitate the passage of the Darling grant. M'Culloch resigned, and after protracted negotiations Sir Charles Sladen formed from the minority in the Assembly a ministry which only lasted two months. The deadlock seemed likely to become more stringent than ever, when a communication was received from Sir Charles Darling, that neither he nor his wife could receive anything like a donation from the people of Victoria. The attempt to pass the grant was therefore abandoned, and in July 1868 M'Culloch resumed office with different colleagues, but resigned in the following year, when he was knighted. He formed a third ministry in 1870. During this third administration he passed a measure through both Houses which secured a life annuity of 1000 per annum to Lady Darling. Additional taxation being necessary, Sir James M'Culloch was urged by his protectionist supporters to increase the import duties, but he refused, and proposed to provide for the deficit by levying a tax upon town, suburban and country property. This proposal was defeated in the Assembly; Sir James resigned in June 1871, and was appointed agent-general for Victoria in London. He held that appointment till 1873, was created K.C.M.G. in 1874, returned to the colony the same year, and in 1875 formed his fourth and last ministry, which kept power till May 1877, when his party was defeated at the general election. During his eighteen months of office he had to encounter a persistent opposition from Berry and his followers, *who systematically obstructed the business of the Assembly, on the ground that the acting-governor, Sir William Stawell, had improperly refused a dissolution. Sir James M'Culloch, to counteract this obstruction, invented the closure, which was afterwards introduced with some modifications into the house of commons. After his defeat in 1877 Sir James retired from public life and returned to England, where he died on the 30th of January 1893 at Ewell, Surrey. He. was twice married first, in 1841, to Susan, daughter of the Rev. James Renwick, of Muirton, Scotland; secondly, in 1867, to Margaret, daughter of William Inglis, of Walflat, Dumbartonshire. He left, the house of Dennistoun Brothers in 1862, and founded a new firm at Melbourne in conjunction with Leishman, Inglis & Co. of London, under the title of M'Culloch, Sellars & Co. He held several important commercial positions, and was president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. (G. C. L.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR