This circular served double use from the Solicitor-General, Melbourne to John Laurens, Hotham Hill and back again to the Solicitor-General. There were a total of five of these documents available on Ebay, all sent from the same source, but to 5 different Justices of the Peace in the years 1874-1878. The entire is seen in Figure 1.
The O.H.M.S. circular was printed ‘Crown Law Offices, Melbourne, 16th December 1874′ and was postmarked MELBOURNE/ 1 Y/ DC 18/ 74 duplex VICTORIA which partially obscured a blue SOLICITOR-GENERAL/ VICTORIA/ FRANK STAMP (Figure 2).
It was returned from HOTHAM/ G/ DC 21/ 74/ VICTORIA with the barred numeral ‘289′ to the Honorable, The Solicitor-General, Melbourne and arrived the same day, also having the identical Solicitor-General Frank stamp (Figure 3).
In regards to the contents of the reverse of the sheet, the vendor stated that it related to judicial Court matters, not very helpful!
John Laurens (1821-94) was born in St. Heliers, Jersey the son of Jean Laurens and his wife Elizabeth, née Le Riche. He went to Canada at the age of 19 where he worked as a blacksmith for most of 13 years. In 1853 he sailed from Nova Scotia for Melbourne and he erected a store and dwelling in West Melbourne. Six weeks later he opened a grocery business which was so prosperous that by 1865 he was able to retire at the age of 44! He moved to the suburb of Hotham where he pursued a successful, if unspectacular, political career.
From 1870 until 1891 he was on the Hotham Borough Council and was mayor for 2 years. In 1877 he was elected to the seat of Hotham in the Victorian Legislative Assembly as a member of Berry’s National Reform and Protection League, and remained a ‘Berryite’ for the whole of his political career. He took his parliamentary duties seriously, spoke often in the Assembly on major state or national issues, and to those pertaining to his own electorate. He was particularly concerned with public finances, and he earned the reputation of ‘a man of facts and figures’.
In 1887 he served on a Royal Commission on banking laws and Melbourne’s westward extension. Most of his addresses were monumentally dull, but sometimes they had an effect, for his careful and detailed investigation of the Victorian Railways finances helped to bring about the suspension of the railway commissioners in 1891 and their subsequent dismissal. Hotham’s name was changed to North Melbourne in 1887 largely due to Lauren’s urgings. It was a populous inner suburb of Melbourne, mainly working class in composition. It was largely because he remained a consistent liberal, failing to respond to the new radical forces in his electorate, that he was defeated at the polls in 1892 by a Labor candidate.
He served his adopted land earnestly and consistently, his public and private life unblemished by scandal or corruption. He supported churches and philanthropic bodies in his electorate and was a most involved member of the Melbourne Hospital Committee. He died at his home in North Melbourne on 31 March 1894, predeceased by his wife Elizabeth Spinks, née de la Cour, survived by an adopted daughter.
Acknowledgment: This paper was taken from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.