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Jenner, Caleb Joshua (1830–1890)

It was with deep regret that we have to announce the sudden death of Mr. Caleb Joshua Jenner, who was for many years a leading member of the Legislative Council and a prominent citizen of Melbourne. He was in the city on Thursday attending to the business of the several public companies and institutions with which he was connected, and it therefore came as a shock to many of his friends to learn yesterday evening that he had suddenly died at Mornington during the afternoon from an attack of heart disease.

Though the deceased gentleman had not been in the best of health for some years past, it had not prevented him attending regularly to business, and no-one thought for a moment that the announcement of his death would have to be made so soon. After partaking of lunch at his residence at Mornington yesterday he rose from the table, remarking to his family that he did not feel very well. He left the room, went into the garden, and very soon afterwards he fell on the path and suddenly expired. Medical assistance was promptly called in, but it proved unavailing. On the fact of his death becoming known, quite a gloom was cast over Mornington, as the deceased gentlemen and his family were held in the highest respect by all the residents of the township, where they had resided during the last few years.

Mr Jenner was horn at Alfriston, Sussex, England, on December 9, 1830, in which district his ancestors had owned large farms. On approaching manhood he showed very little inclination to follow the farming industry, and when barely 20 years of age left England in the ship Clifton for this colony. He arrived here in 1850 and soon entered upon commercial pursuits, leading up to the establishment of the business of an iron merchant in Little Flinders Street east. Some years afterwards he retired, having made a competency, and was succeeded in the business by Messrs Drysdale and Roberts. Mr Jenner was a large shareholder in many of the public companies in Melbourne, and in consequence of his well-known business capabilities he was frequently requested to act on the directorate of a number of them. For some years he was chairman of the Savings Bank commissioners, and was, besides, a director of the Commercial Bank, as well as of the Indemnity, Fire and Marine Insurance Company, and chairman of Langlands Foundry Company. The deceased gentleman married a daughter of the late Rev. Isaac New, of the Albert Street Baptist Church, and leaves a family of six daughters and four son. One of the daughters is married to Dr. F. H. Cole, of Carlton.

Mr Jenner entered upon his public career many years ago, having been among the first to advocate protection to local industries. He was a man of moderate views, however, and acted in co-operation with those who believed in low duties, and thought that in a few years they might safely be abandoned. It was never anticipated that the system they introduced would be pushed to the limits reached within recent years. He was president of the first Reform League formed for the purpose of securing protection to local industries. The part he took in those matters was recognised by the Government, and he was appointed a commissioner of the first Industrial Exhibition held in Melbourne, and he took a leading part in its affairs.

When Mr G. Coppin retired from the representation of the South-Western Province in the Legislative Council in the beginning of 1863, Mr. Jenner was on the 17th March of that year elected in his place, having defeated his opponent, Mr. C. T. Griffiths, by 234 votes. A few months after taking his seat in the Upper House, he came into prominence by moving resolutions in favour of increasing the population of the colony by assisted immigration, and later on he was one of the few members in the Legislative Council who supported the policy of protection, which was being strongly advocated by the then Premier, Sir James McCulloch. In September, 1868, Mr. Jenner was re-elected as the representative of the province, and continued to act in that capacity until he retired from politics a few years ago. When the MacPherson Government was formed in September, 1869, Mr. Jenner joined that Administration as its representative in the Legislative Council, but he did not hold any office. The Ministry after remaining in office for six months was displaced.

In 1871, Mr. Jenner succeeded Mr. W. A. C. A’Beckett as the representative of the Duffy Government in the Upper House, and continued to occupy that office until the following year, when the Ministry was defeated. Whilst occupying those positions the deceased gentleman carried out his onerous duties in a manner that was creditable to himself, and gave satisfaction to his colleagues. The tact and judgment exhibited by him on those occasions, combined with the courteous bearing which always characterised him, led the House to unanimously select him to temporarily act as Chairman of Committees during the absence through illness of the Chairman, Dr. H. C, Hope. He first acted in that capacity on 8th July, 1874, and on the 1st September following he was, on the motion of the late Mr. R. S. Anderson, appointed Chairman of Committees in place of Dr Hope. Strange to say, Dr Dobson, the present Chairman of Committees, who succeeded Mr. Jenner on his retirement a few years ago, seconded the motion for his appointment, and Mr. Jenner afterwards seconded the motion for the appointment of Dr Dobson.

As an instance of the respect in which the deceased gentleman was held by the members of the House, and the success which attended him when leading the House as the representative of the MacPherson and Duffy Governments, it may not be out of place to quote his remarks when thanking the House for having elected him Chairman of Committees. He said that since he had been a member of the Council he had had charge of a large number of bills, and had only failed to pass one, namely, a bill for the abolition of state aid to religion, and he did not consider that even then the fault lay with himself, because several measures having the same object had been previously rejected by the House.

In 1874 Mr. Jenner again moved a resolution “that in the interests of the colony it was desirable that assisted immigration should be resumed”. The motion was carried, but, like the one passed at his instance several years previously, the Government of the day declined to give effect to it, as the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly were opposed to any such steps being taken. Mr. Jenner continued to fill the position of Chairman of Committees, and on being unanimously re-elected to that office on July 3rd, 1883, after thanking the House for the support he had invariably received whilst filling that officer he intimated that he would resign on that day four weeks, as it would not be convenient for him to retain the post much longer. At the same time, however, he said that he did not propose to resign his seat in the Council. He added that he had done some service in troublous times, such as that of the great deadlock, and he was not without the ability to be of further use in Parliament.

According to his intimation, he tendered his resignation of the position of Chairman of Committees on July 31st, 1883, assigning as the reason the fact that his health had not been good of late, and he found it inconvenient to be present during every sitting. The President, Sir Wm Mitchell, said that he was sure that every member would regret losing the services of Mr. Jenner, and the House would sustain a severe loss. The late Mr. R. S. Anderson, who was then representing the Government in that Chamber, in moving that the resignation be accepted, said that every hon. member concurred in the expressions to which the President had given utterance, and alluded to the long and meritorious tenure of office which Mr. Jenner had filled. On the death of the President, Sir William Mitchell, it was thought that Mr. Jenner would be a candidate for the position, to which he was looked upon as being in a measure entitled, in view of his long career as Chairman of Committees. He however, showed no disposition to take the office, and warmly supported the election of the present President Sir James MacBain.

In July, 1886, Mr. Jenner retired from political life, after a long and honourable career. The Minister of Justice, in addressing the house in reference to the resignation of Mr. Jenner, said that the deceased gentle man was the oldest member of the Chamber, and that the House could not well afford to lose men of his stamp. He alluded to Mr. Jenner’s large experience and knowledge of Parliamentary usage, and expressed great regret at his retirement. In the days of fierce political turmoil between the two Chambers in 1878-1880 Mr. Jenner’s was an ardent Constitutionalist, being in opposition to the radical leaders, some of whom had previously been his colleagues.

Original publication

Citation details

'Jenner, Caleb Joshua (1830–1890)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/jenner-caleb-joshua-530/text531, accessed 4 April 2020.

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