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GEORGE ROBERT NICHOLS, LAWYER & POLITICIAN (1809 - 1857)

Three stampless N.S.W. covers appeared at the same auction site dated 1833-1835 addressed to George Nichols. The first was sent from INVERMEIN/ NSW/ POST OFFICE (the rare double-circle undated handstruck postmark used from 1833-39, when P.O. was removed to Scone) with a reception [Crown]/ GENERAL POST OFFICE/ 23 AP 23/ 1833/ SYDNEY, rated ‘10d’ and it was addressed to G.R. Nichols Esq, George Street, Sydney (Figure 1).

The second was sent from LIVERPOOL/ N.S.W/ *, (a single circle undated handstamp) and it had a reception [Crown]/ GENERAL POST OFFICE/ 20 DE 20/ 1834/ SYDNEY, rated 1/-, and was addressed as before to G.R. Nichols (Figure 2).

The third was sent from CAMPBELL-TOWN/ N.S.W/ *, (a single circle undated handstamp) with the identical reception handstamp, but dated 15 AP 15/ 1835, rated’8' (but crossed out) and re-rated ‘1/4' , and was addressed to Mr Robert Nichols, Aturney (sic), Sydney (Figure 3).

George Robert Nichols, lawyer and politician, was born on 27 September 1809 in Sydney, second son of Isaac Nichols and his second wife Rosanna Abrahams. He was educated in England in 1819-23 and returned in May 1823, and was articled to W.H. Moore. He was married in March 1831 to Susannah Eliza Barnes, and on 1 July 1833 he was the first Australia-born admitted solicitor in N.S.W. In 1830 Nichols strongly attacked the tyranny and oppression of the colonial government and soon became active in radical politics and the ‘Australia Party’ centred on William Charles Wentworth. In the late 1830's, Nichols’ influence with the native-born group was increased by the purchase and editing of the Australian newspaper.

He consolidated his forceful oratory, advocated self-government, denounced convict transportation, and justified his self-description as a ‘radical reformer’. In July 1842, he became insolvent with debts over £10,000. A leading Freemason, he was a solicitor to the commissioners of Sydney in 1854-56, a member of the Parramatta District Council and a trustee of the Sydney Grammar School. On 1 July 1848 he was elected a member of the first Legislative Council for the Northumberland Burroughs (towns of East & West Maitland and Newcastle) and was re-elected in September 1851 until 1856 in the same Burroughs (now for East & West Maitland & Morpeth). He was then elected as an MLA for the Burroughs from 1856-57 (time of his death).

He was a very active member of parliament: introduced 23 successful bills; sat on numerous select committees; and, argued for relief of the poor, the blind, the lame, the old and infirm. He sought revision of the Constitution to obtain ‘true popular representative government’ and counselled vigilance to ensure that transportation should not be renewed. In his first ministry he was auditor-general and secretary for lands, and he was being considered for solicitor-general, but his health rendered this impossible.

On 12 September 1857 he died of dropsy at his residence in York Street, Sydney, survived by his third wife Eliza, née Smith whom he married on 14 July 1854, and 2 sons. His estate was valued at £400, and a testimonial fund was arranged for his widow. ‘Bob’ Nichols was a tall man, 6'3", had a striking physical appearance and great personal charm. The Sydney Morning Herald described him as ‘the earnest, eloquent and graceful advocate of all that was good.....and the stern, determined and resolute foe of anything approaching to bigotry or oppression” (Figure 4).

This paper is derived from the Australian Dictionary of Biography, the website of the N.S.W. parliament, and postmarks from John White’s Postal History of N.S.W. 1788-1901.


 
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