The stampless cover has a red handstamp with a Crown over a circular FREE/ MY 16/ 1849 and it is addressed to Miss Sowerby, The Parsonage, Goulburn and the signature of the sender is seen as W.M. Manning. The reverse had only red sealing wax (Figure 1).
William Montagu Manning was the second son of John Edye Manning, of Clifton, England, and he was born at Alphington, near Exeter, on 20 June 1811. He was educated at private schools and University College, London, and entered at Lincoln's Inn in November 1827. He was called to the bar in November 1832 and practised as a barrister on the Western Circuit for about five years. During this period, in collaboration with S. Neville, he prepared and published Reports of Cases Relating to the Duty and Offices of Magistrates (3 volumes, 1834-8), and was the author of Proceedings in Courts of Revision in the Isle of Wight, etc. (1836). In 1837 he went to Australia and soon after his arrival was made a chairman of quarter sessions. He took up his duties at Bathurst in October and in 1842 he was offered the position of resident judge at Port Phillip. In September 1844 he became solicitor-general of New South Wales. In January 1848 he was appointed acting-judge of the supreme court of New South Wales during the absence of Mr. Justice Therry. He resumed the solicitor-generalship at the end of 1849, and held this position until responsible government was established in 1856, when he retired with a pension of £800 a year. He had been a nominated member of the legislative council since February 1851, and assisted in the preparation of W.C. Wentworth’s Constitution Bill.
Manning was elected a member of the legislative assembly in the first parliament, and was attorney-general in the Donaldson ministry from 6 June to 25 August 1856. He was given the same position in the Parker ministry in October 1856, but resigned in the following May on account of ill-health, and went to England. On his return he was offered a judgeship of the supreme court but declined it. He re-entered parliament and on 21 February 1860 joined the Forster ministry in October 1856, but resigned in the following May on account of ill-health, and went to England. On his return he was offered a judgeship of the supreme court but declined it. He re-entered parliament and on 21 February 1860 joined the Forster ministry as attorney-general, but resigned about a fortnight later. He was again attorney-general in the Robertson and Cowper ministries from October 1868 to December 1870. In February 1875, though he was then a member of the upper house he was asked to form a ministry, but was unable to obtain sufficient support. He was appointed a supreme court judge in 1876, and was primary judge in equity until his resignation in 1887. He voluntarily gave up his pension when he became a judge. In 1887 he was again nominated to the legislative council, and gave useful service there until near the end of his life. He had been elected a fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney in 1861, and he became chancellor in 1878, holding this position until his death on 27 February 1895.
Before Manning came into office the university had been languishing for some time, there were fewer than a hundred students in 1877, but during his chancellorship there was much expansion in the scope of the university and several new chairs were founded. He fought for and succeeded in getting increased grants from the government, urged the necessity of more grammar schools being established, and the provision of university scholarships. He pleaded that women should have the same opportunities as men at the university and this was granted in 1881. He carried out his duties with sagacity and devotedness; one example of this was his saving the university £15,000 by his discovery that the British taxation commissioners were charging succession duty on the Challis estate on too high a scale. Few men in New South Wales had such a long career of usefulness.
His portrait by Sir John Watson Gordon, paid for by public subscription is in the great hall at Sydney university. He was knighted in 1858 and created K.C.M.G. in 1892. He was married twice, first to Emily Anne, daughter of E. Wise, and then to Eliza Anne, daughter of the Very Rev. William Sowerby, and he was survived by children of both marriages. A picture of Sir William Montagu Manning is seen in Figure 2.
The addressee on this cover, Miss Sowerby of The Parsonage, Goulburn was to be his future second wife.
This paper was derived from the Dictionary of Australian Biography by Percival Serle, the forerunner of the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography, which contains a much more extensive version.