WESTERN AUSTRALIAN SENATOR ALEXANDER MATHESON (1861-1929)
These two covers were mailed from Perth W.A. eight days apart, almost certainly from the same sender, addressed simply to Senator Matheson. Both were underpaid with the grey ½d swan stamp, and they were postmarked with different Perth G.P.O duplexes. The first had a complete duplex with L.C. (Letter Carrier) ROOM/ 2/ AU 4/ 02/ PERTH and was addressed to St. Georges Terrace, Perth W.A. and it had a tax marking of a large broad 'T' in a circle and the 1d Blank Tablet postage due was postmarked with an incomplete AU 3/ 02/ PERTH W.A cancel (Figure 1).
The second cover was similarly underpaid and was addressed to Senator Matheson at the G.P.O, Adelaide, S.A. and was postmarked ( )/ 10/ AU 12/ 02/ PERTH W.A. The tax marking was an unframed broad '1' and the same 1d postage due was postmarked G.P.O ADELAIDE/ 2/ AU 18/ 02/ S.A. There are 2 additional surprising features, the delay of 6 days in the two postmarks, and the manuscript '6/- to pay' which surely can't apply to the tax payable (Figure 2).
Alexander Perceval Matheson was born in Scotland on 6 February 1861, was educated at Harrow School, England and migrated to Australia in 1894. He was a commercial agent and company manager in the W.A. goldfields, centred in Coolgardie with branches extending from Perth and Fremantle to Kalgoorlie. He became involved in W.A. colonial politics as the Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) for Eastern Province from 1897 until 1901.
He was elected as a Free Trade member as one of the 6 W.A. Senators soon after Australian Federation (1 January 1901), his term being from 30 March 1901 until 31 December 1906, at which time he resigned and returned to England to resume his business career. He died on 6 August 1929 at the age of 68. He had succeeded his half-brother on 25 January in 1920 as the 3rd Baronet of Lochalsh, Ross, Scotland. He was related through his mother (née Eleanor Perceval) to the only British prime minister who was assassinated, Spencer Perceval (1809-1812). He was described as having brown hair with a gingery tinge, violet-blue eyes, with a full moustache and a clipped beard. Sir Alexander Matheson's photo is shown in Figure 3.
He died aged 68 at Queens Gate, Kensington, London. He had been popular in the W.A. goldfields, had settled in style in Perth, and became a sought-after member of society with a regular social entry to Government House. However because of his often violent views on Aboriginals, particularly their rights to vote, his Senate days were stormy. After returning to England his life was not a happy one with the loss of his 3 sons killed in action, a financial disaster due to unwise speculation, divorce from his wife, and his intention to remarry did not eventuate, for the engagement was terminated..
The entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography remarkably downplays his views on Aboriginals and other coloured races simply mentioning he favoured a White Australia policy. His views, although they had support particularly in Queensland and Western Australia, were strongly challenged in the Senate. Two of his documented statements should suffice to document his racial bias: "We must take steps to prevent any Aboriginal from acquiring the right to vote" is the mildest statement. "Surely it was repugnant to the greater number of people of the Commonwealth that any Aboriginal man or woman should have the same rights, simply by virtue of being 21 years of age, that we have" because Aboriginals were "horrible, degraded, dirty creatures".