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Innes, Frederick Maitland (1816–1882)

Cameo portrait, unknown photographer

Cameo portrait, unknown photographer

Private collection

Once more we have to record the loss of another of our leading public men, whose careers have been closely associated with the earlier history of this colony, but whose ranks have been sadly thinned during the past few years. The Hon. Frederick Maitland Innes succumbed to an attack of apoploxy with which he was seized on the morning of the 7th instant, and died at the residence of his sister-in-law, Miss Grey, Brisbane-street, at 8.30 p.m. on 11th inst. No hope had been entertained of his recovery from the first, and he had been gradually sinking from day to day.

The deceased gentleman was the son of Captain Innes, of the 10th Foot, and was born at Edinburgh, Scotland, on the 11th August, 1810. Upon leaving school he entered the office of his uncle, a Writer to the Signet, at Edinburgh, and manager of the Duke of Roxburgh's estates, where he remained a few years, and his friends here will recall many a story he could relate of the Old Edinburgh notabilities. When only seventeen, however, Mr. Innes determined to emigrate and went to London, shipping thence for Hobart, where he arrived in 1833. He soon became associated with that Presbyterian champion, the late Dr. Lillie, and with Mr. Machonochie, who had been sent out to reform the prison discipline of this colony, and entered upon the avocation of a writer for the press, which lasted for many years. While resident at Hobart he married a daughter of the late Humphrey Grey, Esq., of Eastbourne, neat Avoca, and shortly afterwards re-visited London, where he became connected with the press, and was a contributor to the Penny Encyclopedia, of which Mr. Craig was then editor. He also became a member of the Society for the Protection of the Aborigines, and was closely acquainted with many of the leading Quakers. After a stay of some three or four years in London he returned to Hobart, and, in connection with Dr. Lillie and others, established the Observer newspaper ; but this venture did not prove a financial success, and about 1847 he came to Launceston, where he lived for some time in the house in Lyttleton-street now occupied by our Police Magistrate. For some years he had been a contributor to the Launceston Examiner, and after coming here was leader-writer for the Cornwall Chronicle in its best days. He purchased, and for a few years resided at Upper Verulam, near the present St. Leonards Railway Station, being always more or less connected with the press, but afterwards removed to a farm at Evandale belonging to his wife. It was during his residence there that representative government was introduced into this colony, and at the solicitation of the late Rev. R. Russell and others he consented to enter the political arena. He took considerable interest in the old St. Andrew's Society in its early days, and also in the St. Andrew's Immigration Society, to both of which he lent his aid; he also bore a part in the Anti-Transportation agitation, in which, however, he was opposed to the popular feeling, as he was against the sudden cessation of transportation, believing it wiser to do away with it gradually in a period of ten years or so, and in the meantime let the numerous public works, projected by Governor Sir William Denison as a bait to the colonists, be executed by prison labour.

The political career of Mr. Innes was a lengthy one, and while his views were always moderate he was connected with the passing of many measures of importance, the principal of which were extension of the franchise in local and municipal bodies, local control of the police, etc. In judging his career it must be remembered that he held office during a time of serious depression in every industry throughout the colony, and he had many serious difficulties to contend against. He entered Parliament as the first member for Morven in the Assembly under the now constitution, Parliament opening on the 2nd December, 1856, and after the short-lived Gregson Ministry was defeated, Mr. Innes took office on 25th April, 1857, in the Administration formed by Mr. Weston—the third under the now constituion. Mr. Weston was Premier without office, Mr. Innes Colonial Treasurer, Mr. T. J. Knight Solicitor-General, Mr. W. Henty Colonial Secretary, and Mr. R. Q. Kermode a member of the Cabinet without office. Mr. Weston, however, only acted as Premier for a few weeks, and then resigned in favour of Mr. (now Sir Francis) Smith, the Attorney-General, or but remained a member of the Ministry. Upon Mr. Smith accepting the position of Puisne Judge in a 1860, in succession to the late Mr. Justice Horne, Mr. Weston resumed office, but again resigned, when Mr. Chapman became Premier; and when the late Mr. William Henty resigned the office of Col. Secretary in November, 1862, prior to his departure for England, Mr. Chapman became Premier and Col. Treasurer, and Mr. Innes took the Col. Secretaryship. The reconstructed in Ministry, howevor, had but a brief reign, as the now Parliament returned a strong majority against them, and almost immediately after meeting the Assembly, they were defeated on the valoremn duties. They were succeeded by the Whyte to Meredith Ministry, and thus from 1857 to the beginning of 1863 Mr. Innes was for the first time out of office. In 1861 he had been re-elected for Morven at in the second Parliament, but had no need to seek re-election to the third Parliament, having a ahort time previously taken his seat in the Legislative Council as member for South Esk in of succession to the hon. P. H. Gell, who resigned. He continued in Opposition, and in 1864 was appointed Chairman of Committees, in succession to the hon. J. C. Gregson, when the latter became his Solicitor-General, which office had been made a non-political one, and has remained so ever since, and this necessitated Mr. Gregson resigning his seat. Mr. Innes did not become a member of the Ministry formed by Sir Richard Dry in the latter end of 1866, after the Whyte-Meredith Ministry, who had appealed to the country on their income tax proposal, had met with an adverse vote. He, however, supported the Dry Ministry, and when in 1868 the late Mr. Nairne had to resign on account of ill health, Mr. Innes was appointed President of the Legislative Council, and was succeeded as Chairman of Committees by the Hon. Jas. Whyte. He remained in the quiet dignity of the Presidentship until 1872, when the Wilson-Chapman Government (as reconstructed upon the death of Sir R. Dry) was defeated. He then resigned the chair, at the earnest solicitation of the Opposition, and formed a Ministry, of which he was Premier and Col. Treasurer, and this necessitating a seat in the  Lower House, he exchanged seats with the late Mr. J. R. Scott, who was Col. Secretary, Mr. Chas. Meredith (an old political opponent) being Minister of Lands and Works, and Mr. J. A. Jackson (the present solicitor to the Lands Titles Department) being Attorney-General, the latter being now the only survivor of that Administration. Parties in Parliament, however, were too evenly balanced, and the Innes MIinistry held office only from 4th November, 1872 till 4th August, 1873, when the Kennerley Ministry, with Mr. P. O. Fysh as Colonial Treasurer, assumed office. Mr. Innes continued to sit in Opposition as a private member till the prorogation, after which he resigned, with the intention, it was understood, of residing in Victoria. He, however, returned to his old love-the Tasmanian Parliament, and next year, when Mr. James Cox resigned his seat for North Launceston, Mr. Innes, at the earnest request of the electors, came forward, and was returned without opposition. Upon Mr. Fysh resigning the Treasurership in March, 1875, and becoming a Minister without office, the political world was startled by the announcement that Mr. Innes had accepted the vacant portfolio. This caused considerable comment, and upon Mr. Innes seeking re-election Mr. C. H. Bromby, then a comparative stranger, was brought forward to oppose him, and was defeated by only four or five votes. Strange to say, in the following year, when Mr. Chapman resigned the Colonial Secretaryship, a precisely similar event occurred of an Opposition member assuming it, and boing opposed by Mr. C. H. romnby, but on this latter occasion Mr. Bromby was returned by a substantial majority. The circumstance of a Ministry twice recruiting its ranks from the Opposition is singular. The Kennerley Ministry was defeated in 1876, when Mr. Reiboy's Government assumed office. Mr. Innes continued in Opposition, and at the general election of 1877 sought the suffrages again of North Launceston, but was defeated by Mr. H. E. Lette. He remained out of Parliament till the death of Mr. J. R. Scott, the member for South Esk, in the Upper House, in 1877, when he was returned for that constituency, defeating Mr. Russell Young; but he remained a private member till the death of Sir J. R. Wilson in 1880, when he once more became President of the Council, a position he filled at the time of his death.

Mr. Innes was one of the best speakers we have had in Parliament, a deep reader, and possessed of wide educational attainments, though he has been occasionally twitted with illustrating Talleyrand's famous saying that language was given to conceal thoughts. As President he was impartial, and his knowledge of constitutional law and Parliamentary rule, practice, and precedent rendered him eminently fitted for the position. His political views were generally sound, and he was foremost in educational matters, an old member of the Board of Education, and more than once President of the Council of Education. He was one of the Commissioners for Launceston during the construction of the L. and W. Railway, and was the only member of the Upper House, except Mr. T. D. Chapman, who was one of the original membrers of the first Parliament. In private life he was highly respected, and his social qualities and intellectual attainments made him always welcome in social circles. Mr. Innes leaves a widow, seven sons (Humphrey, Frederick, John, Mervyn, Evelyn, Robert Russell, and Warburton), and five daughters, of whom, the eldest is married to Mr. Dougherty of Melbourne; the others reside in Hobart.

The remains of the Hon. F. M. Innes were interred in the New Town Cemetery on the 14th instant. The body was brought from Launceston by  train, and amongst those who followed the hearse wore members of the, deceased's family, relatives, members of Parliament, of the Civil Service, and leading citizens. The members of the deceased's family present were: - Mr. F. M. Innes (bank inspector), Mr. John Innes (Customs department), Mr. Evylyn Innes (Bank of Australasia) and following relatives - Mr. John Thompson, Dr. L. G. Thompson, and Mr. Humphrey Falkiner. The Legislative Council was represented by the hon. W. Moore, the hon. T. D. Chapman; E. C. Nowell, clerk ; Mr. F. Langworthy, clerk's assistant; and Mr. G. F. Evans, Usher of the Black Rod. The House of Assembly was represented by the hon. W. R. Giblin; Mr. F. A. Packer, clerk; and Mr. John Forster, sergeant-at-arms. There were also present - the Rev. George Clarke, Mr. Lee (Union Bank), Mr. James Barnard (late Government printer), Mr. Charles Walch, Mr. George Chapman, Mr. C. Nairn. The funeral service was read by the Rev. Canon Mason, after which the coffin, which had been covered with a white cross and wreath of flowers by the decoased's daughters and other friends, was carried to the grave-yard, and the mortal remains of one who during a long and useful life has devoted much of his time in trying to benefit his fellow-men were consigned to their last resting place.

Original publication

Citation details

'Innes, Frederick Maitland (1816–1882)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/innes-frederick-maitland-3835/text30207, accessed 22 November 2017.

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