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WILLIAM CLARK HAINES, GRAZIER & POLITICIAN, PREMIER of VICTORIA

The entire has a 1d brown and a 3d steel-blue ‘Half Length’ stamps of Victoria cancelled by the barred numeral ‘75' of Shelford prepaying the 4d inland letter rate to Melbourne and showing but not seen on the reverse, despatch and arrival datestamps of 10 April 1856. It is addressed to William C. Haines, Chief Secretary Office, Melbourne (Figure 1).

William Haines (1810-1866), was born at Hampstead, England, son of John Haines, physician, and his wife Jane, née Bliss. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Caius College, Cambridge (B.A., 1833). After practising surgery in England for some years, Haines migrated to Victoria and bought property near Geelong in 1842 but he gave up farming by 1850, dividing up and selling his 2849 acres (1153 ha) into forty-nine farms stretching from Pollocksford to Moriac. He became well known in the Geelong district as territorial magistrate, district trustee of the Port Phillip Savings Bank, and member of the Grant District Council in 1843. In 1851 he was a government nominee in the first Legislative Council, but he resigned and was elected member for Grant in the council in August 1853; he became an official nominee from December 1854 to March 1855. He served on many council committees, including one for licensing in September 1854 when he took a firm anti-temperance stand, and he helped to draft the new Victorian Constitution.

In December 1854 Haines became colonial secretary. His loyal and conscientious service was acknowledged by Governor Sir Charles Hotham. As the chief civil servant in Victoria Haines implemented the moves to resolve the financial crisis of 1854-55, to reform goldfields administration and to institute local government in suburbs, shires and country towns. He also shared with Hotham the many criticisms levelled at the administration. In the council Haines was a reluctant, almost inarticulate speaker except when forced to clarify a government plan or defend a constitutional issue. He could be roused to speak on a few subjects on which he felt strongly, such as pastoral reform and education. As chief official, Haines was accepted as the nominal leader of the government in the Legislative Council.

In the first parliament under the new Constitution in November 1856 Haines was member for South Grant in the Legislative Assembly and he led the first ministry, but was soon defeated, but on 29 April Haines was reinstated. The government lasted until February 1858 when it was defeated by a mixed group of democrats, anti-Catholics and squatters during debates on the redistribution of electorates. Haines resigned and later that year he left for North America and Europe. Haines's reputation was high when he returned to Victoria in October 1860. He now represented Portland, took his place in the Legislative Assembly in November and he was treasurer in John O'Shanassy's ministry till the government fell in June 1863.

In the 1864 election Haines lost at Portland but was elected for Eastern Province to the Legislative Council. In the controversy over protection late in 1865 he was deeply involved in debates on the constitutional aspects of the tariff appropriation bills. His friends blamed his distress over this issue for the carbuncle which caused his death at 55 in his home at South Yarra on 3 February 1866. He was buried in St Kilda cemetery. He was survived by his wife Mary Ann, née Dugard, whom he had married in London in 1835, and by five sons and two daughters.

Haines was a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne in 1853-65 and vice-chancellor in 1857-58. He sponsored horse-racing at Geelong as well as international and intercolonial cricket matches; in 1861 he was made a trustee of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He was a grand master of the Scottish Freemasons, a member of the Melbourne Club and a prominent Anglican. A contemporary journal described him as 'a man of no brilliant talents but of immense weight of character—honest, jovial, undisguised old English Tory'. His hard work, patient affability and undoubted integrity were acknowledged by all, but he lacked decisiveness and originality. 'Honest Farmer' Haines, as he was sometimes dubbed, was an admirable senior official but less successful as a minister of the Crown. A picture of William Clark Haines is seen in Figure 2.

I acknowledge that this paper is an abridged copy of the information contained in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 


 
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