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HON. WILLIAM BENJAMIN ROUNSEVELL & THE CURRENCY QUESTION?

This Victoria 1d “Reading” stamp postcard was introduced in 1890 in red-brown but changed to orange-brown in keeping with the change in colour of the 1d stamp. This stamp is much more a pure yellow than previously seen and may be a colour changeling due to light exposure. The postcard is addressed to J.G. Patterson Esq, Flinders Lane, City and thepostmark is a duplex MELBOURNE / 20A/ OC 24/ 93 with a barred VICTORIA (Figure 1).

The printed reverse is of interest, as follows:

THE CURRENCY QUESTION
 

You are specially invited to attend an Address to be given on the above subject by the

 

Hon. W.B. Rounsevell, of Adelaide, in the Town Hall, Melbourne, on Friday, the 27th October inst., at 8 o’clock p.m. His Worship the Mayor in the Chair. JOHN L. MENZIES Hon. Sec. (Figure 2)


William Benjamin Rounsevell, pastoralist, businessman and politician, was born on 23 September 1843 in Adelaide, son of William Rounsevell (1816-1874) and his second wife Mary, née Palmer. William senior came to South Australia with his family in 1839, where he became a sergeant in the police force before going to the Victorian diggings. From 1854 his Adelaide livery stables grew into South Australia's chief mail-contracting and coaching service, and in 1867 Cobb & Co. bought the business and Rounsevell pursued other interests.

William Benjamin was educated at Whinham College and the Collegiate School of St Peter. After training in office work, he joined his father's business. On 14 March 1864 he married Louisa Ann Carvosso (d.1912); they had no children but hr reared her nieces. A110404b.htm 'Big Ben' Rounsevell had a brief interest in Cobb & Co., but concentrated on his many farms and northern pastoral interests; he was a vigneron, stock-breeder, who imported game, raced horses and greyhounds. A cattle judge, he became president (1911-12) of the Royal Agricultural Society of South Australia. He had interests in multople companies, and was mayor of Glenelg in 1880-82 and 1912-13.

Rounsevell held the House of Assembly seat of Burra in 1875-90 and 1899-1906, and Port Adelaide in 1890-93. Initially a free trader, he experienced practical difficulties of this position. Federation, intercolonial trade, tariffs, railway construction and water conservation interested him. Constitutionally conservative, he scrutinized all land, pastoral and financial measures of the government in the interests of prudent economy. Vice-president of the Bi-Metallic League of South Australia, which supported currency reform, he sought better terms and larger holdings for selectors and fairer taxes for the working class.

In 1881 Rounsevell was briefly treasurer in (Sir) William Morgan’s ministry. From June 1884 to June 1885 he was treasurer under (Sir) John Colton and introduced the 1884 Act for a tax on land and on the income from real and personal property, professions, trades and avocations, Australia's first income tax legislation. He was again treasurer for six months in 1892 (as well as commissioner of public works (1890-92).

A man of 'liberal ideas and honorable principles', Rounsevell was popular with all political parties; he 'loved this land far more than any party in it'. He mastered the Treasury's onerous duties, and ensured that legislation was clear, simple and explicit. Though he spoke bluntly in stentorian tones, occasionally quoting from literature, he accomplished much. A man of massive rotundity, profusely bearded, and with a 'genial phiz', he displayed 'heartiness, love of fair play, boundless good nature'. He wore a carnation button-hole and was a familiar and expansive Edwardian figure in his horse-drawn landau. Once a Wesleyan, he became a fervent theosophist, probably from the 1890s, and read widely in spiritualism.

Rounsevell died at Glenelg on 18 July 1923, he was cremated and his ashes were placed in his wife's grave at Saint Jude's Anglican cemetery, Brighton. He left bequests to the Adelaide Theosophical Society and for the establishment of the Liberal Catholic Church in South Australia. A photo of Rounsevell is seen in Figure 3.

This paper is a reduced version of the entry in the Australian Dictionary of Australia, which is also the source of Figure 3.

The Text and Figure 3 were derived from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 

 
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