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Nichols, George Robert (Bob) (1809–1857)

It is our melancholy duty to record the death of George Robert Nichols, solicitor in the Supreme Court of this colony, and for many years past representing the constituency of the Northumberland Boroughs in the Legislative Assembly.

Even in this epoch of severe sorrows and calamities the death of Mr. Nichols will not be looked on by his countrymen as a slight one. We believe it would be impossible for any name to go down from amongst us, causing so large and extensive a feeling of bereavement as that of George Robert Nichols.

Throughout the length and breadth of the land, many eyes will moisten — many hearts will ache — when they hear that one of the best and most gifted of their native race has gone to his long and last repose. There are few among his nearer friends who have not long past, even before his recent illness, which has lasted 9 months, foreboded the doom that has fallen on him, and few indeed who knew him in his later years could without a silent tear remark the contrast between his intellectual cheerfulness, and his physical depression.

So far as we have been able to ascertain, Mr. Nichols has died almost in the prime of manhood, his age being about 47. His father, an early colonist, filled the office of Postmaster for many years, and acquired very considerable property. In the year 1818, George Robert, with his elder brother, Mr. Isaac Nichols, was sent to England to be educated; but from domestic circumstances was re-called too early to the colony (we believe in 1821). He was then articled to Mr. William Henry Moore, Attorney-General of the colony; and perhaps it was in that office, after the period of reflection which his voyage to and sojourn in the mother-country must have occasioned, that he acquired much of that disciplined legal astuteness, which subsequently placed him far before any of his professional competitors in the branch of the profession he marked out as his own.

But — perhaps unfortunately, — Mr. Nichols was not a poor man. He had a patrimony, and though his own right hand ever did the work of life for him, still he rested in the consciousness of a competency, which, possibly, prevented the full development of his powers. Deeper learning, profounder judgment, sedater habits, might have made George Robert Nichols a better lawyer and a greater statesman. We hesitate not to say they would have placed him at the head of the glorious list of names, which we hope, almost as ardently as he hoped, will be handed down to Australian futurity.

In the year 1846 he entered the Legislative Council as member for the Northumberland Boroughs, the largest borough constituency in the colony. We should have mentioned that in his earlier years Mr. Nichols took a very active part in the political progress of the colony. He accepted, under the able guidanceship of his venerable and venerated friend, Dr. Bland, the joint sub-secretaryship of the Patriotic Association. When it was hard indeed to find that small still voice which speaks from ink and paper to proclaim and defend the liberties of the people, Mr. Nichols devoted his private property, — the remnant that was left, — to make that voice heard. He re-established, and for a considerable time maintained, the Australian newspaper.

Almost immediately upon his entrance into the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Nichols distinguished himself not only by oratorical efforts, the expectations of which were fully realized, but by a career of practical legislative usefulness which we may safely say has rarely been surpassed by any member of any legislative assembly in the world.

Earnest in the cause he believed to be right — deeply imbued with what in his time were called popular principles, but scorning to be ruled himself by popular prejudices; the earnest, eloquent, and graceful advocate of all that was good in the way of intellectual progression — the stern, determined, and resolute foe of anything approaching to bigotry or oppression in his political character — at least, in the silence of his death chamber, no voice, no shadow from the past can come to reproach him.

We shall have to build up a more substantial record to his merits than these transient words, written in deep grief, can afford. Very few, even of his best friends, knew how George Robert Nichols loved his country, or how much he would and could have done to serve her. He is gone.

“After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well."

There are few desolate and distressful memories which rest on the mind which will be more drear than that of the death of George Robert Nichols. Few, indeed, which will rest more desolate and more drear on the minds of his countrymen. Loved by all who knew him, — trusting all who knew him, giving wisdom and counsel from lips, which, to his friends, knew no guile, — caring very little of the bubble reputation of the world, but still anxious to do justice to all men, — thus at the age of forty-seven, died George Robert Nichols. Eheu! Eheu!

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'Nichols, George Robert (Bob) (1809–1857)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/nichols-george-robert-bob-4296/text23953, accessed 25 November 2017.

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