Undertaking any biography presents its own set of challenges. Nevertheless, a biography well done can be as challenging, interesting, and ultimately as satisfying as any other historical thesis. Biography has been described by Donald Bond, when emeritus professor of English at the
, as: University of Chicago
a narrative which seeks consciously and artistically to record the actions and recreate the personality of an individual life. Unlike history it deals with the individual; unlike fiction it records a life that actually has been lived. At the same time the biographer shares with the historian a concern for truth and he shares with the novelist the ambition to create a work of art. Thus the great biographies of the world are those which have presented their subjects as they were but which have gone beyond the mere collection of facts to the creation of a living portrait.
Although Bond describes history and biography as being distinct disciplines, with the former focusing on events and issues and the latter concerned with the individual, the two are inseparable. And this is never more so than when undertaking biographies of influential men who lived in pioneering times and when the right man in the right place could shape society in ways simply not possible in later generations.
Harry Perry, a journalist and the compiler of the memoirs of Sir Robert Philp, a former
premier, understood this well, reminding us 70 years ago, that: Queensland
The story of
, its progress and development, is built up from the records of men in action. It is a history shorn of the glamour and the agony of war, but it is none the less glorious because of that. The genius of our pioneers has been constructive, not destructive. They have taken the raw material of nature, and from it they have built a nation. Queensland
Perry’s assertion, although couched in language that may be too “triumphalist” for refined twenty-first century tastes, accurately depicts the way most Queensland colonial politicians perceived their duty and lived their lives. Pioneers in an unexplored land that was theirs for the taking, they took it all, regardless of the costs to the environment and the indigenous inhabitants. Frequently the colony’s premiers led the charge to fashion a new society modeled on the ‘old country’ despite it being on the other side of the world in conditions as different from those in England as one could expect to find. Democracy in the form of representative government was taken very seriously in the Australian colonies, as were colonial premiers. They were responsible for nursing economic growth and development in these vast but sparsely populated lands, which was theirs to fashion unconstrained by an inhabited past or local tradition, and whose bright future stretched as far as the endless sunlit horizon.
It is all the more surprising therefore, that, to the best of my knowledge, only one biography, either published or unpublished as a PhD thesis, has been written on any of the 15 men of Queensland who held the post of premier (or colonial secretary) during the colonial era, although six of them have been the subject of honours theses at the University of Queensland. The reasons why these men have not gained much scholarly attention are many and varied and include the fact that most of them, while they may have loomed large in the
political arena, did not command much attention outside their own colony. However, others, who were noteworthy players in nineteenth-century Queensland Australasia, including Sir Thomas McIlwraith, have not been the subject of biographies either. The one exception is Sir Samuel Griffith, a significant figure in Australian federation history, whose published biography in 1984 was written by the late historian, Roger Joyce.
This paucity of published biographical material on or about
colonial premiers raises pertinent questions for anyone wishing to redress this situation. Is the lack of published biographies on this topic a sad indication of Queensland ’s relative unimportance in colonial Australian history, or is it that this particular aspect of colonial history has been woefully neglected by historians? Whatever the reasons, given that Queensland colonial premiers have been largely ignored for well over a century, a strong case can be made for resurrecting them as a fruitful source of biographical material. The 15 Queensland colonial premiers in office from 1859-1901 equates to less than three years for each incumbent. However, despite their average short tenure, Queensland politics was relatively stable during this period, demonstrating that longevity in office is no guarantee of outstanding ability or superior political contribution. Queensland
Few Australian historians today would recognise the name John Douglas, and even fewer would be aware of his achievements or even able to suggest what his contribution to colonial
was. The relentless tide of events has largely washed away his memory and achievements, with only a few fleeting references in mainstream Australian historiography giving a glimpse of the extraordinary life he led. However, this was not the case in Australia some hundred or so years ago, when he was widely known and admired as a man of integrity, one who, during his long and varied life, had contributed much to the development of the colony of Queensland. One of the aims of this thesis is to rescue the man and his achievements from the obscurity of an historical backwater and to demonstrate, through a detailed examination of his life, that he was one of the driving forces in the development of Australia during the nineteenth century. Queensland
A thorough examination of any
premier is useful for a number of reasons. It might be used to examine how and why the colony developed on different lines from that of the other colonies in Queensland Australasia. covered an enormous geographical area, one that was sparsely populated, resulting in a greater reliance on primary production. The location of its capital city in the far south eastern corner of the colony resulted in Queensland Queensland’s population being more evenly spread throughout than was the case with other Australian colonies, with several ports competing for trade and the attendant political and commercial influence. Perhaps this led to its political leaders requiring different skills and abilities to meet the different economic and geographical challenges facing their colony. Queensland
Certainly, the model of a politician representing mainly local interests remained strong for many years, diminishing only as the population grew and political parties began to form. This emphasis on politicians representing local interests meant that their individual abilities coupled with their styles of campaigning and representing their disparate electorates were important factors in
colonial politics. It is also worth remembering that the premier of any colony is worthy of examination, for this is an achievement of only a select few, whatever may have been their triumphs of failures when holding such high office. Moreover, Douglas’s contribution included the role he later played in the early years of colonial administration in British New Guinea and Queensland Torres Strait.
This biography attempts to analyse, demonstrate and illuminate the contribution he made to the development of colonial
. As Queensland Douglas was a complex individual with varied interests and opinions, and many achievements and disappointments, this thesis will also analyse his convictions and beliefs and examine the strengths and flaws inherent in his character. While it is not always easy to strike the right balance between detail and analysis when undertaking a biography, I have attempted to find that balance - recording Douglas’s life in some detail while analysing his life and demonstrating its significance against the background of his times.
For the sake of clarity and simplicity, the thesis analyses and documents
Douglas’s life in chronological sequence. This approach has on occasion presented its own difficulties. Many details of Douglas’s life have not survived, particularly those pertaining to his early years. All too often, other facts, while available, have survived devoid of their context. In other cases, there is a surfeit of information. The challenge with the former has been to contextualise the facts and meaningfully analyse them, while with the latter it has been to sift through the wealth of material and extract that which is significant. I have attempted, wherever possible, to ensure that any speculation or supposition is based on existing facts. For as Bond has observed, “if the biographer tampers with the facts, if he omits the unpleasant, if he colours or distorts in either direction, he completely fails.”
I have also attempted to write this biography of
Douglas in the spirit with which Boswell approached his classic study of Dr. Johnson in the late eighteenth century:
And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write, not his panegyric, which must be all praise, but his life … in every picture there should be shade as well as light.
John Douglas (1828-1904) came to
Australia from in 1851, settling on the Darling Downs in 1854. His involvement in public life encompassed the entire period from England Queensland’s separation from in 1859 to the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901. In this respect, his career allows us, through a study of his long, eventful, and varied life, to follow the fortunes of the colony from its beginnings as a humble, sparsely populated settlement, to a state that, thanks to its bountiful natural resources, had greater promise than any other did in the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia. Charting the course of Douglas’s life allows us to follow the development of colonial New South Wales Queensland throughout its four decades as a self-governing colony, because an examination of his life is inevitably an examination of colonial in microcosm. Queensland
Charles Bernays, a noted chronicler of
Queensland colonial politics, recognised Douglas as a man “who had done more than the average share in political foundation laying.” Moreover, Douglas’s varied public life, with its attendant impact on politics and society, occurred in an era when a dedicated man in the right place at the right time could have a profound influence and leave a lasting impression on the fabric of his society. Queensland
Despite being the premier of Queensland from 1877 to 1879, Douglas’s greatest achievements in public life lay elsewhere, for although a career politician, he lacked the necessary qualities to succeed in that arena at the highest level. He was not, as one of Sir Henry Parkes’s more recent biographers wrote of his subject: “a humbug, a hypocrite and, when... considered necessary, a blatant liar.”
Douglas never abused the power bestowed by official office or provided undue patronage to his supporters and constituents.
As this thesis will clearly demonstrate,
Douglas was an honest and incorruptible politician, accurately depicted by the Queenslander newspaper as having a “well-known character for political honesty.” It will depict a man who, by his actions, consistently put his colony ahead of himself, and who passionately believed that service and duty to Queen and country came before self-aggrandisement and recognition. Whatever benefit and pleasure Douglas obtained from his parliamentary service, financial aggrandisement was not among them, for most of his life in public service was undertaken at a time when politicians were not paid.
As Spencer Browne, who worked with Douglas on the Brisbane Courier newspaper in
in the early 1880s, sagely observed: Brisbane
He was not a born political leader because he always fought in the open, and his blows were never below the belt. He was not personally aggressive [and] did not possess the aggressiveness that pursues and belittles.
The Brisbane-based Catholic newspaper, the Australian, claimed that
Douglas had been re-elected to the seat of Maryborough in 1879 because of his “own personal merits, combining as he does, honesty and candour with a genial suavity of manner.”
Unlike many of his peers, he did not regard politics as an opportunity to press narrow self-interest. To
Douglas, a seat in parliament was not an opportunity to gain privileges or bask in the recognition that power and influence bestowed. Rather, Douglas brought to parliament a “strict integrity of purpose” to serve his fellow colonists to the best of his ability. As early Queensland historian Isobel Hannah observed, Douglas served his country and not himself:
John Douglas, whose name is ‘written large’ in the history of our state, served his country with a patriotic zeal which politicians to-day might well emulate.
Douglas was a visionary acutely aware of
Queensland’s place in Australasia, and the importance of developing the colony for the benefit of all its population, not just the local and sectional interests he represented. He once remarked that he saw Queenslanders as engaged in:
building up a state, established on principles which would be handed down to futurity, and would be the foundation of future greatness or future ignominy.
This vision could be difficult to implement, for, as
Douglas observed concerning the problems encountered in convincing the population of the necessity for railways to open up the wealth of the interior:
Colonists are the very last set of people to get fired by the brilliant prospects of the future apart from the exigencies of the present.
I, for my part, am going to vote “Yes” with all my might.... If I had a thousand votes for Referendum Day they should all be cast in the same way.
Douglas, involvement in politics was a duty, a means whereby he could serve his country and his fellow man and a responsibility not to be shirked. He brought to the political arena a sharp intellect, enormous energy, and an unwavering commitment to all aspects of the parliamentary process. He involved himself in most debates using speeches that were invariably well-researched, relevant, and concerned above all with the assumptions and principles underlying the issue at hand.
The fall of his government and his replacement as leader in January 1879 directly led to his retirement from politics, but by then “he had done the state good service.” As Browne also remarked in connection with
Douglas’s political career, “It always seems to me a great tribute to a political leader in a young country that his friends should be able to say: ‘he died a poor man!’”
Douglas tirelessly served
in a variety of public positions for most of his adult life. These included the highest elected position in the colony, that of premier. Other notable appointments were as special commissioner for British New Guinea in its formative years under British annexation and as government resident on Queensland Thursday Island for almost two decades, overseeing the development of the pearling fisheries.
Douglas is also worthy of study for his role in curbing Chinese migration to
. It was Queensland Douglas, more than any other single Queenslander, who was instrumental in restricting their presence in the colony, believing that:
the creation of a large, intelligent, docile, but servile class would … seriously affect and change the conditions upon which our political system is founded.
He harboured similar fears towards the Japanese in
Torres Strait, who he considered to be:
Tireless, industrious, inventive ... They have more adaptability than their white rivals, and at least as much ability.
Nevertheless, Douglas, despite energetically protesting to his superiors on the dangers posed by the Japanese, was only moderately successful in halting Japanese migration to northern
. Ultimately, he accepted their limited presence in the Queensland Torres Strait pearlshell fisheries.
A study of Douglas throws additional light on the complexities surrounding the development and application of the White Australia Policy in colonial Queensland from a liberal perspective for he, along with most Australians of his era, was a proponent of this article of faith: “I am really what is called a ‘White Australian’- and I have endeavoured to give effect as far as possible to maintaining our white institutions.” Douglas subscribed to this viewpoint because he wanted
“to remain what we are - a thoroughly British community.” Australia
Douglas saw his support for this policy as a way of ensuring that
would continue to reflect the British values, culture and respect for the rule of law that so influenced its formative development, and would never have thought that this attitude could possibly be construed as racist. Nor was his stance necessarily racism. He saw Queensland and Australia as British in character and wanted to keep them that way, knowing that non-European immigration would be regarded with “dread and would be strenuously resisted” by most Queenslanders. These views were held by a majority of the Australian population at the time, a manifestation of British and Australian “race patriotism” and a desire to preserve a “British-Australian nationality.” Queensland
Douglas’s role in the development of the British protectorate of
is also worthy of study. Appointed its second special commissioner at the end of 1885, the three years he spent in this position were formative ones for the new protectorate. However, his important role in guiding the infant protectorate through this turbulent period has never been adequately examined. This included the development of New Guinea , the encouragement of cordial relationships with the local inhabitants, the resolving of jurisdictional disputes by competing missionary organisations, and the prudent protection of its natural resources. Port Moresby
Moreover, a history of race relations in
Queensland would be incomplete without a detailed examination of Douglas’s role in Torres Strait. His 19 years as government resident there, that is, from 1885 until his death in 1904, were of seminal importance in the history of the region and the impact of western influences on its indigenous inhabitants. Douglas established a system of government in the region and protected Torres Strait Islanders from the worst excesses of the pearling and bêche-de-mer industries. Under his paternal, though benevolent rule, the islanders were accorded higher status within than Aborigines and spared many of the latter’s deprivations and sufferings. Again, the pivotal role played by Douglas in the Queensland Torres Strait during this period has evaded detailed analysis.
Douglas’s attitudes towards Pacific Islanders and the colony’s indigenous inhabitants is also worthy of study, providing a liberal perspective on this vexed question at odds with those who consider Europeans as invaders and destroyers of indigenous culture and society. Douglas’s social conscience, religious convictions, and liberal philosophy led him in the late 1870s to legislate to ameliorate the harsh conditions under which Pacific Islanders were indentured and employed in
. His attitudes to Pacific Islanders, Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigines in Queensland were enlightened for his time, and stemmed from his deep religious convictions, unshakeable liberalism, and profound sense of fair play. A Christian in more than just name, he was considered by Gilbert White, the Bishop of Carpentaria resident on Thursday Island from 1900, to be a “devout communicant,” and it was these religious beliefs that informed Queensland Douglas’s compassionate attitudes towards the colonies’ indigenous inhabitants.
A staunch Anglican, Douglas nevertheless readily assisted the Presbyterian Church in setting up the Mapoon Mission for Aborigines in 1891 on the west coast of
Cape York Peninsula, selecting the site and providing the missionaries with a police guard. The support he provided for this endeavour led to him being labelled “a man of rare humanity” by John Harrison when researching this topic in 1974.
Although sympathetic towards Aborigines,
Douglas still “inherited the colonising fervour and Christian paternalism of the British upper class.” As early as 1865, he believed that the only way to improve the lot of Aborigines in was by withdrawing the “native children, or half-castes, from the contaminating influences which surrounded them, and endeavour to Christianise them.” In holding these beliefs, Douglas supported the accepted enlightened social policy of his era, as expressed by Albert Calvert, a London-based gold-mining engineer with interests in Queensland : Western Australia
Christianity demands that we should do all in our power for the amelioration of these people, whose lands we have taken … responsibility is forced upon us by our own acts: let us not seek to evade it but … manfully do our duty by our dark-skinned fellow-subjects.
These attitudes and beliefs demonstrate that
Douglas shared with most good Englishmen of his time a belief in the pre-eminence of the European race over indigenous peoples, a belief buttressed by social Darwinism and a simple acceptance of the British at the apex of civilisation. However, we should be wary of uncritically condemning these beliefs by the standards of our own era; it is simplistic to analyse past events by comparing them to those of the present-day. Neither should we place today’s emphases on yesterday’s events. Rather, we should endeavour to explain the past to people living in the present. Moreover, Douglas, even judged by the standards of his era, was considered “always a friend of the Blacks,” and under his government, some of the earliest reserves in were proclaimed to protect Aboriginals from the worst excesses of colonisation. Queensland
A study of Douglas is inevitably a study of colonial
society and its class structure, status and connections, because he lived in an era where who you knew was paramount. He maintained an imposing list of friends and contacts. His aristocratic pedigree meant that he was known and welcome in refined circles the length and breadth of Queensland . As a Australia Douglas, he was related to many of the scions of the Scottish upper classes residing in the dominions. The small size of the Queensland population in the first decades after separation inevitably allowed him to work or interact with almost all the notable men in the colony, and their names were frequently associated with one another throughout the course of Douglas’s life.
Moreover, it was his tenure in the remote
Torres Strait that helped extend these contacts. His time in involved regular travel to various colonial capitals to secure funds for this new imperial responsibility. In Torres Strait, his position as government resident saw him constantly welcoming and entertaining those who travelled to the ‘Mother Country,’ because Thursday Island was a port of call for those colonists travelling to New Guinea Great Britain via the Suez Canal. These contacts, and in many cases friendships, included governors, premiers, explorers, judges, members of the British aristocracy, politicians and the first and second prime ministers of Australia, Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. As Douglas himself noted, he had enjoyed a “life of active sympathy and of intercourse with many of the leading men in , whether as explorers of new country or as explorers in the tangled paths of experimental politics.” Australia
A study of
Douglas is also a study of the practical application of religion to daily life, so necessary for a better understanding of colonial society. For many colonists, their Christian faith was central to how they lived their lives, and Douglas attempted to live his by the General Thanksgiving, “nothing more, nothing less.” Bishop Gilbert White observed that Douglas was a man “whose deep interest [is] in all that has tended to the glory of God.”
Douglas’s achievements, contacts, and service to his adopted colony, little information on him is readily available in the public domain. This is surprising considering that he was a seasoned politician, one who had a considered opinion on most public issues and gave lengthy expression to them at every opportunity. Although he is frequently mentioned in secondary historical sources, it is usually in a somewhat cursory manner. When his name is mentioned, he is depicted as an unsuccessful squatter, hopeless when it came to business and amassing wealth, but a good man and an ineffectual politician who was honest and scrupulous but not tough enough to profit from the inevitable political intrigues. In discussions of Douglas during his years in Torres Strait, he is generally lauded for bringing stability to the region and for successfully balancing the competing interests of its inhabitants.
There are simply no published works where
Douglas is the central figure. References to him and his achievements are mainly of a passing nature in which case he is mentioned in relation to specific events or periods in history. He rarely rates a mention for his own sake. While there is some information on Queensland Douglas in encyclopaedias and biographical compilations,  due to their brevity, these contain little not found elsewhere. There were also several newspaper articles and obituaries on Douglas that provide useful biographical information on him as well as information on specific events in his life.
The major work on
Douglas is an outstanding but unpublished honours thesis written by Kevin Mason in 1969. Nevertheless, over 30 years have passed since its completion, and a reassessment and reappraisal, based on information and sources Mason was not able to access, is long overdue. The 12-month-time limit and the word-constraints under which Mason operated meant that he was unable to do full justice to the details of Douglas’s life, and associated service. For instance, Mason did not discuss Douglas’s involvement in the 1883 Queensland elections, an involvement that triggered a chain of events which 18 months later led him to become the government resident on Thursday Island.
In his study of
Douglas, Mason postulated the premise of the ‘flawed man’ in history. To Mason, Douglas was someone who strived for the pinnacle but never quite reached it, a good but tragic figure who, at the end of his life must have ruefully reflected on what might have been. Mason, while recognising Douglas as an able politician and principled premier, believed that he had not fulfilled his potential, being compelled to accept a career in public life at the margins of society by being banished to New Guinea and the Torres Strait because his wife was unpresentable. Furthermore, because there was no high school on Thursday Island, Douglas was deprived of seeing his children grow up because they were sent to boarding schools in Scotland and . Worst of all, according to Mason, was that Sydney Douglas was forced to keep working until his death because of ever present financial problems, the need to pay for the best education for his sons that money could buy, and to financially support an estranged wife who had left him late in life.
To read Mason is to come away with an impression of
Douglas as a good but tragic figure, a noble man who gave his all for society yet was never fully recompensed, one who promised so much and yet left little to show for it. Mason himself posed the question: “Why therefore was he unable to attain a prominence higher than that which he did?” Mason summed up Douglas as one “dedicated to the society of his time, yet ironically from this society, he received disappointment in political life and loneliness in his closing years.”
This Thesis will attempt to show that Mason’s thesis of Douglas, as the flawed man in history, is inappropriate, and that if one could have interviewed
Douglas towards the end of his life he would by and large have been seen to be satisfied and content with his achievements. After all, he was a man who achieved the highest political office in the land. He occupied a central role in the development of Queensland as a colony and was the leading administrator in both New Guinea and Torres Strait at a time when he was able to guide and shape their destinies. By any yardstick, Douglas’s life and achievements should be adjudged to have been successful; he was not a failure.
Another substantial study of
Douglas is an unpublished paper given by his granddaughter (Eve Douglas) to the Queensland Women’s Historical Society at Newstead House, Brisbane on 9 November 1961. However, this paper, while well-researched and drawing on the granddaughter’s extensive collection of Douglas family correspondence, is little more than hagiography. Another grandson, Dr Robert Douglas, also wrote an unpublished paper on Douglas’s life, presenting it in a lecture delivered to the Australian Town Criers at Maryborough on 2 September 1993. Although based on Eve Douglas’s paper, it contained additional information and was written in a less adulating style. The late Professor Roger Joyce wrote the entry on Douglas in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, which was published in 1972. Joyce was Mason’s supervisor at the and much of the material he used appears to have been obtained from that thesis. University of Queensland
But what about the background? The published material on the history of colonial
in the 1860s and 1870s is surprisingly sparse. Most works accord this particular period less space than say, the creation of the colony in the late 1850s and the political and historical events of the 1880s and 1890s. They are more likely to deal well with specific aspects of Queensland history such as race relations. The exception is Charles Bernays’s publication, Queensland Politics during Sixty (1859-1919) Years, which covers this period in detail, and is an invaluable source of information on the political history of the colony. Therefore, much of the present information for Queensland during this period has necessarily come from newspapers, (especially the Brisbane Courier), archival and parliamentary sources. Queensland
Fortunately, there are several good regional histories to supplement the newspaper accounts in
Douglas’s time on the Darling Downs. Foremost amongst these are the publications by Maurice French  and Douglas Waterson, while a sound overview of the district is provided by Joseph McKey.
The only useful publication when researching the time spent by
Douglas in the Rockhampton district was that by J.T.S Bird published in 1904. Therefore, most of the information on Douglas for this period came from the pages of the Rockhampton Bulletin & Central Queensland Advertiser.
Information on Douglas’s parliamentary career in
Queensland is readily available and was mostly obtained from the Brisbane Courier, Bernays, official Queensland publications, and, for the period of Douglas’s premiership, from the Queensland State Archives and Great Britain Colonial Office documents available in through the National Library of Australia Australian Joint Copying microfilm project. Australia
Other useful minor sources of information on Douglas and his times included a 1997 PhD thesis on Queensland parliamentary history by Justin Harding; an article on some nineteenth century Queensland parliamentarians by Isobel Hannah; a monograph on Sir Samuel Griffith by R. B. Joyce; Clem Lack’s article on Queensland representatives in London; another article on the same topic by Wayne O’Donohue; and two articles on nineteenth-century Queensland politics and politicians by Alan Morrison.
The history of
Torres Strait in the late nineteenth century is well documented, especially by Stephen Mullins, Regina Ganter, Jeremy Beckett, John Singe, and Alfred Cort Haddon. Also invaluable for the information and insights they contained are the annual reports produced by Douglas in his capacity as government resident of Thursday Island and included in the Votes and Proceedings. Newspapers consulted for additional information on this period included The Carpentarian, and the Torres Strait Pilot and Queensland Gazette. New Guinea
Fortunately, a substantial amount of the
Douglas’s family correspondence has survived. These letters help illuminate the man and his times. Over 200 Douglas family letters, a scrapbook and other documents are held in the John Oxley Library in , while over 100 additional letters in the possession of his descendants were generously made available to me. Brisbane
While much material about or by
Douglas does exist, it is fragmented and scattered, with little of it published. Bringing it all together in this thesis will allow the study of a significant identity in the development of a frontier colony. It is to be hoped that this thesis on Douglas will make an important contribution to both Australian and Queensland historiography. Queensland
To understand Douglas’s contribution to
, it is necessary first to understand his character and the formative influences on them. As alluded to previously, religion was central to this, for Queensland Douglas was a deeply religious man, one whose faith sustained him through even the worst adversity. While it is true that he never became a longstanding premier, a governor, received a knighthood, had a presentable wife or accumulated wealth, these things, while important, were not central to his life.
What was important to him was his intense and passionate desire to live his life in accordance with his religious beliefs, to help those less fortunate than himself in accordance with his liberal tenets, to provide the best education for his sons, and to participate fully and selflessly in the life of the community he lived in. By using these yardsticks rather than the more conventional ones of political and financial success, it is evident that
Douglas did indeed live a full and productive life. As his son Edward wrote to his fiancée after his father had died:
I have seen virtues exemplified in him that I never hope or expect to see equaled by any man. You may think that I exaggerate but you would not wonder if you had known as I have known that Christ like enduring patience and pity that filled his whole soul and that unflinching determination which fought and overcame difficulties which would have taxed the most valiant heart.
This thesis will attempt to demonstrate that Douglas was not a ‘tragic man’ of history, but rather one who, through his faith and liberal convictions, rose above adversity and meaningfully contributed to
An examination of
Douglas’s life affords us an insight into an energetic, accomplished, erudite, and compassionate man. While his intellectual curiosity, thirst for knowledge and wide-ranging interests marked him as a Renaissance man, he also had many failings, most noticeably that of extreme obstinacy. His life will be shown to be one of complexity and contradiction, leavened by a mixture of accomplishment and failure. Although a product of his time and class, he evidenced traits at variance with them. Douglas was a member of the British aristocracy, his uncle the Marquess of Queensberry, considered “one of the finest cultured gentlemen of his day,” yet the nephew comfortably interacted with all strata and classes of society. In the 1840s, he received a superior education, attending Edinburgh Academy, Rugby School, and . He understood the importance of education, especially in the advancement of those less fortunate than himself, and he attempted wherever possible to ensure that educational opportunities were available to them. Durham University
His life reflected the complexity of his personality and the role he carved out for himself in the Australian colonies. Although involved with the Anglican Church all his life, his children were brought up as Catholics. While a man of tireless energy and vigour who served his country far beyond the call of duty, he was forced to continue working long after most others in similar positions were able to retire. Despite being born into wealth, he went bankrupt and struggled financially for most of his adult life. Moreover, as a ‘squatter’ and large-scale landowner, he consistently opposed the rights and privileges afforded them.
Raised as a ‘Victorian gentleman’ and an aristocrat, his beliefs, centred as they were on liberalism, meant that his political home was on the liberal side of politics. As this thesis will demonstrate, this was due in large part to his religious upbringing and sense of duty and responsibility inculcated in him by his family and his schooling. He was an experienced politician who gained the highest office in the land yet lacked the ruthlessness needed to hold on to it, being considered of “too yielding a nature to be entrusted with the duties of public office.”
was a man in whose heart dwelt truth and justice, religion and charity. He was no mere name of a Christian, but a devout and regular communicant, one who lived by what he believed, and whose belief was his life.
Nevertheless, like all complex figures
Douglas had his flaws. He could be tendentious, and was widely known for his dogmatic nature, extreme stubbornness, and fierce independence. However, these were offset by his charisma, charm and personality.
 Bond, Donald. “Biography.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 14th ed.
, 1969, vol 3, p. 636 Chicago
 Harry C. Perry. Memoirs of the Hon. Sir Robert Philp K.C.M.G., 1851-1922. Brisbane, Watson, Ferguson and Co. Ltd., 1923, p. x
 The six were McIlwraith, Palmer, Douglas, Griffith, Byrnes and Macalister. Further information on these theses may be found in the bibliography.
Queensland colonial premiers who have not yet been the subject of a thesis include Herbert, Mackenzie, Lilley, Thorn, Morehead, Nelson, Philp, and Dickson. While there have been a smattering of other publications about Queensland premiers and their governments, including Robert Philp’s memoirs, Dawson’s pioneering but all-too-brief Labor administration and the “sketches and impressions” of Thomas Byrnes, none were full-length biographies. Dawson
 Roger Joyce. Samuel Walker Griffith.
Brisbane: Press, 1984 University of Queensland
 D. J. Murphy and R. B. Joyce, eds.
Political Portraits. Brisbane, Queensland Press, 1978, p. 2 University of Queensland
Douglas is not alone in this, for “remarkably few of the politicians whose careers were transacted wholly within the colonial period have remained vivid.” (D. B. Waterson. “Thomas McIlwraith: A Colonial Entrepreneur.” In, D. J. Murphy and R. B. Joyce, eds. Political Portraits. Brisbane, Queensland Press, 1978, p. 119) University of Queensland
 Murphy and Joyce, (1978), pp. 1-2
 Ibid., p. 3
 Ibid., p. 4
 Bond, p. 640
 Ibid. Interestingly enough, Boswell's grandfather, Colonel John Erskine, deputy-governor of
, was John Douglas’s great-grandfather. Stirling Castle
 Charles Bernays.
Politics during Sixty (1859-1919) Years. Brisbane, Government Printer, 1920, p. 41 Queensland
 Robert Travers. The Grand Old Man of Australian Politics: The Life and Times of Sir Henry Parkes. Sydney, Kangaroo Press, 1992, p. 7
 “Electioneering on the
Downs.” Queenslander, 15 June 1867, p. 7. As Douglas himself once remarked, “Personal veracity counts for something in politics.” (Brisbane Courier, 11 November 1878, p. 2)
 Douglas remarked in 1892 when resident on
Thursday Island, that he considered a life of sacrifice to be a happy one. (Arthur Ward. The Miracle of Mapoon or from Native Camp to . London, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1908, p. 93) Christian Village
 Payment for politicians who were not ministers of the crown only came into effect in
in 1889. (Bernays, p. 295) Queensland
 Spencer Browne. “Death of the Hon. John Douglas.”
Courier, Brisbane 25 July 1904, p. 3
 The Australian,
15 March 1879, p. 478
 “The New Treasurer.” Queenslander,
29 December 1866, p. 5
 Isobel Hannah. “The Parliamentary Representatives of S. E. Queensland: Some Electioneering Incidents.” The Historical Society of Queensland Journal, vol 3 no 3, May 1944, p. 197
 “Mr. Douglas at the Town Hall.”
Courier, Brisbane 23 September 1868, p. 2
 John Douglas. “Transcontinental Railways in
.” Victorian Review, no 5, 1882, p. 498 Queensland
 John Douglas. Past and Present of Thursday Island and
. Torres Straits , Outridge Printing Co., 1900, p. 12 Brisbane
 Ibid., p. 15
“Mr. Douglas at Drayton.” Darling
Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 26 September 1883
 Oscar De Satge.
Squatter. Queensland London, and Blackett, 1901, p. 138: Mr. Foote. “ Hurst Forest Conservancy.” Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 19, 1875, p. 1240
 Douglas once walked out of parliament in September 1863 because, as he asserted, it: “tamely submitted to the indignity of endorsing a transaction which had not the sanction of law, and thus, in my opinion, parliament sacrificed a privilege which it ought to have held superior to the interests of either ministerialists or oppositionists - it, in fact, preferred an executive decree to its own deliberate resolve.” (John Douglas, “The Loan Bill.”
Courier, Brisbane 19 September 1863)
 Mr. Douglas. “Polynesian Labourers Bill.” Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 6, 1868, p. 913
 Spencer Browne. “Death of the Hon. John Douglas.”
Courier, Brisbane 25 July 1904, p. 3
 Spencer Browne. A Journalist’s Memories. Brisbane, Read Press, 1927, p. 73
 William Ross Johnston. A Documentary History of
. Queensland Brisbane: Press, 1988, pp. 291-92 University of Queensland
 “A comment on the Japanese in the Bulletin of
31 August 1895.” In Manning Clark, ed. Sources of Australian History. Melbourne, Press, 1957, pp. 398-99 Oxford University
Thursday Island. Interview with the British Resident.” The British Australasian, 12 June 1902, p. 1005
 Ibid. See also John Douglas. “Asia and
Australasia.” The Nineteenth Century and After, July 1902, p. 51
Thursday Island. Interview with the British Resident.” The British Australasian, 12 June 1902, p. 1006
 Ibid., p. 1005
Willard. History of the White Myra Policy to 1920. 2nd ed. Melbourne, Australia Press, 1967, p. 189. As the historian, James Morris, observed of British imperialists, “Their racialism was more ignorant than malicious.” (James Morris. Heaven’s Command: an Imperial Progress. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1979, p. 538) Melbourne University
New Guinea lies to the north of . The island was divided between the Dutch, who were responsible for an estimated 152,000 square miles in the western portion, the Germans, where a trading company had responsibility for about 70,000 square miles of the north-east, and the British who administered over 90,000 miles in the south-east of the island. (Fred J, Melville. British Australia and Papua. New Guinea , Melville Stamp Books, 1909, p. 11) London
 Douglas was once described in a
newspaper as possessing “very progressive sympathies.” (Queensland Evangelical Standard, 10 March 1877, p. 499) Queensland
 Gilbert White. Round about the Torres Straits: a Record of
Missions. Australian Church , Central Board of Missions, 1917, p. 42 London
 John Harris. One Blood: 200 Years of Aboriginal Encounter with Christianity: a Story of Hope.
, Albatross Books, 1990, p. 484 Sydney
 John Harrison. Missions, Fisheries and Government in Far
North Queensland, 1891-1919. BA Hons thesis. University of , 1974, p. 42 Queensland
 Ross Fitzgerald. A History of
: From the Dreaming to 1915. Brisbane, Queensland Press, 1982, p. 205 University of Queensland
 “Mr Douglas. Industrial and Reformatory Schools Bill.” Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 2, 1865, p. 256
 Albert F. Calvert. The Aborigines of
. London, W. Milligan and Co., 1892, p. 46 Western Australia
 Alan Arthur Morrison. “The Town Liberal and the Squatter.” Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal, vol 4 no 5, December 1952
 Bruce Raymond. “Justice and Politics.” The Bulletin,
20 May 2003, p. 8
. “On History and Politics.” In, Stuart Macintyre, ed. The Historian’s Conscience: Australian Historians on the Ethics of History. Melbourne, Marilyn Lake Press, 2004, p. 95 Melbourne University
 W. M. Lees. The Aboriginal Problem in
: How it is Being Dealt with. Queensland , City Printing Works, 1902, p.  Brisbane
 These reserves were located at Durundur,
, Deebing Creek, Bowen and Townsville. (Rosalind Kidd. The Way we Civilise: Aboriginal Affairs – the Untold Story. Brisbane, Bribie Island Press, 1997, p. 26; Rosalind Kidd. Regulating Bodies: Administrations and Aborigines in University of Queensland 1840-1988. PhD thesis. Brisbane, Queensland , 1994, p. 77; Constance Petrie. Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1983, p. 214; Archibald Meston. “Report on the Aboriginal Reserve at Durundur.” Queensland State Archives, COL/140, General Correspondence Papers Re Aborigines 1896–1902, no. 15,515.) The first Aboriginal reserve was established near Mackay in 1875, with Griffith University Douglas’s government gazetting the others two years later. For more information, see Mark Cryle. Duncan McNab’s to the Queensland Aborigines 1875-1880. BA Hons thesis. University of Mission , 1989, pp. 59-73 & 94-106. For a detailed account of the settlement at Queensland Bribie Island, and Douglas’s role in it, see Kathleen McArthur. Pumicestone Passage: A Living Waterway. , the Author, 1978, pp. 57-61 Caloundra, Queensland
 Kevin Mason. The Honourable John Douglas. BA Hons thesis. University of
, 1969, p. 203; John Douglas to Edmund Barton, Queensland 20 July 1897. In, Letters and Handbills Relating to Australian Federation, 1897-1898. National Library of , MS 50 Australia
John Douglas. “Imperial Federation from an Australian Point of View.” The Nineteenth Century, no 94, December 1884, p. 854. For instance, while in Melbourne on his return to Torres Strait from
in August 1902, the then prime minister, Alfred Deakin, invited him to lunch with him at parliament house. (Age, England 6 September 1902, p. 10; Alfred Deakin to John Douglas, 5 September 1902. Douglas Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of , OM89-3/B/5(3)) Queensland
 John Douglas to Edward Douglas
11 June 1899. Douglas Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OM 89-3/B/2/(c)/9
 Bishop Gilbert White, Carpentarian,
1 April 1902, p. 46. Douglas’s religious beliefs found expression in practical service to the church, with the Rev. J. R. Moffat in 1869 considering Douglas to be “the best churchman they had in the colony.” (“Lecture by the Hon. J. Douglas.” Courier, Brisbane 28 September 1869, p. 3.) In and Queensland Douglas was involved with the Anglican Church in various capacities including serving on the building committee formed in 1854 to build the first Anglican Church in Warwick, (Maurice French. Pubs, Ploughs & Peculiar People: Towns, Farms and Social Life. Toowoomba, USQ Press, 1992, p. 191), and later as a warden and trustee of All Saints’ Church, Brisbane. (D. L. Kissick. All Saint’s Church New South Wales 1862-1937. Brisbane, The Church, 1937, pp. 26-27.) He was the first president of the Thursday Island Anglican Quetta Memorial Cathedral building committee, (Carpentarian, 1 April 1902, p. 46) and in his memory a chapel attached to the cathedral was erected with a stained glass window in the chapel depicting him as Brisbane . On its wall is a brass plate stating, “To the glory of God and in memory of Hon. John Douglas, C.M.G. Premier of St. John 1877-1879, Government Resident Thursday Island 1885-1904, who entered into rest Queensland July 23rd 1904. Loved and honoured by all.” (Robert Douglas, p. 13; Carpentarian, 11 January 1905, p. 1)
 Percival Serle. “Douglas, John.” In, Percival Serle. Dictionary of Australian Biography, vol 1. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1949, pp. 249-50; “Douglas.” In, Arthur Jose and Herbert Carter, eds. The Australian Encyclopedia, vol 1. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1925, p. 378; “Douglas, Hon. John, C.M.G.” In, John Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates and Men of the Time. Sydney, Robertson, 1879, pp. 56-57; “Douglas, Hon. John.” In, Philip Mennell. The Dictionary of Australasian Biography: Comprising Notes of Eminent Colonists from the Inauguration of Responsible Government Down to the Present Time (1855-1892.)
London, , 1892, pp. 136-37; D. B. Waterson. A Biographical Register of the Hutchinson Parliament, 1860-1929. Queensland : ANU Press, 1972, p. 49 Canberra
 The Cooktown Pilot,
30 July 1904; “ Thursday Island. Interview with the British Resident.” The British Australasian, 12 June 1902, pp. 1005-6; “Death of the Hon. John Douglas.” The British Australasian, 4 August 1904, p. 1003; Coote, William. “Our Leading Public Men. No. 1. The Hon. John Douglas.” The Week, 19 May 1877, p. 616; “Obituary. The Hon John Douglas.” The Times, 28 July 1904, p. 8; “Death of the Hon. John Douglas.” Brisbane Courier, 25 July 1904, p. 3; Australasian, vol 77, 1904, p. 278; Argus, 26 July 1904, p. 5; “Death of the Hon. John Douglas.” North Queensland Register. Supplement. 25 July 1904, p. 29; “The late Hon. John Douglas, C.M.G.” The Carpentarian, vol 4 no 16, 1 October 1904, p. 128; T. Jones. “The Late Hon. John Douglas, C.M.G.” The Church Chronicle, 1 September 1904, p. 25; “Deaths.” Journal, vol 16 no 8, Durham University 23 November 1904, p. 97
 This includes material published since 1969 as well as resources unable to be accessed by Mason due to geographical, financial and time constraints. For example, he did not consult crucial primary material found in relevant local newspapers such as the Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Examiner and the Torres Strait Pilot and New Guinea Gazette.
Joyce (1984), p. 45
 Mason, p. ii
 Ibid., p. 207
 Eve Douglas, The Hon. John Douglas C.M.G. 1828-1904.
, 1961 Brisbane
 Robert Douglas. The Hon. John Douglas, CMG. Unpublished, 1993
 Roger Bilbrough Joyce. “Douglas, John (1828-1904.)” Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 4. Melbourne,
Press, 1972, pp. 89-93 Melbourne University
 The major works falling into this category are Ross Fitzgerald. A History of
: From the Dreaming to 1915; W. Frederick Morrison. The Aldine History of Queensland , vol 1. Sydney, Aldine Publishing Co., 1888; Murphy and Joyce, (1978); Queensland Government. Our First Half-Century: A Review of Queensland Progress Based upon Official Information. Brisbane, Government Printer, 1909; Ross Johnston (1988); W Ross Johnston. The Call of the Land: A History of Queensland to the Present Day. Brisbane, Jacaranda Press, 1982; Raphael Cilento. Triumph in the Tropics: A Historical Sketch of Queensland . Brisbane, Smith & Paterson, 1959; Raymond Evans, Kay Saunders and Kathryn Cronin. Race Relations in Colonial Queensland : A History of Exclusion, Exploitation and extermination. Brisbane, Queensland Press, 1988 University of Queensland
New South Wales, Commonwealth and Government Archives. Queensland
New South Wales and Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Council Journals, Votes and Proceedings and Government Gazettes. Queensland
 Maurice French. A Pastoral Romance: The Tribulation and Triumph of Squatterdom. Toowoomba, UCSQ Press, 1990: French (1992)
 D. B. Waterson. Squatter, Selector, and Storekeeper: A History of the Darling
Downs 1859-93. Sydney, Press, 1968 Sydney University
 Joseph McKey. Dawn Over the Darling Downs. Warwick, The Warwick Newspaper Ltd., 1977
 J.T.S. Bird. The Early History of Rockhampton Dealing Chiefly with Events up till 1870. Rockhampton, Morning Bulletin, 1904
 Such as the
Queensland Blue Books, Queensland Government Gazettes, Queensland Legislative Council Journals, Queensland Parliamentary Debates and Votes and Proceedings. Queensland
 John William Justin Harding. Crises, Deadlocks and Dissolutions: A Constitutional and Parliamentary History of
, 1859-1922. PhD. thesis. Queensland , 1997 James Cook University
 Joyce (1984)
 Clem Lack. “Colonial Representation in the Nineteenth Century, part II. Some
and Other Australian Agents-General.” Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal, vol 8 no 1, 1965-66, pp. 81-82 Queensland
 Wayne O’Donohue. “First Agents-General: Development of the Office in
, 1860-1876.” Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, vol 11 no 3, 1981-82, p. 59; Lack, pp. 81-82 London
 Morrison (1952); Allan Morrison. “Some Lesser Members of Parliament in
.” Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal, vol 6 no 3, 1960-61, pp. 557-79 Queensland
 These were included in Queensland Votes and Proceedings. For more details, see the “Reports and Publications by John Douglas” in my Bibliography.
 Steve Mullins.
Torres Strait: A History of Colonial Occupation and Culture Contact 1864-1897. Rockhampton, Press, 1994 Central Queensland University
Ganter. The Pearl Shellers of the Regina Torres Strait: Resource Use, Development & Decline, 1860s -1960s. , Penguin, 1994 Melbourne
 Jeremy Beckett.
Torres Strait Islanders: Custom and Colonialism. Cambridge, Press, 1987 Cambridge University
 John, Singe. The
Torres Strait: People and History. Brisbane, Press, 1989 University of Queensland
 Alfred Cort Haddon, ed. Reports of the
Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Straits. 6 vols. Cambridge , Johnson Reprint, 1971 New York
 These were included in Queensland Votes and Proceedings. For more details, see the “Reports and Publications by John Douglas” in my Bibliography.
 These papers I have called the “Andrew and Lorraine Douglas Papers” and the McCourt Papers after their owners. The McCourt Papers were not available to Mason. Additional official and personal correspondence by Douglas held in archives and libraries throughout
Australia and , including a wealth of official material in the Queensland State Archives, was also examined. Deciphering this material was challenging. As Douglas himself once accurately observed, “I am afraid I write a shocking bad hand.” (John Douglas to Edward Douglas, Great Britain 1 September 1894. Andrew and Lorraine Douglas Papers)
 Edward Douglas to Annette Power,
25 July 1904. Andrew and Lorraine Douglas Papers
 Thomas Hall. The Early History of Warwick District and Pioneers of the Darling
Downs. Toowoomba, Robertson and Provan Press, 1920, p. 34
 He once referred to himself as ‘soundly Liberal.’ (Mr. Douglas. “Address in Reply to Opening Speech.” Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 20, 1876, p. 20)
 W. Frederick Morrison, p. 180
 The Carpentarian, vol 4, no. 16,
1 October 1904
Douglas was once described as one who “cut blocks with a razor.” ( Courier, 28 September 1868, p. 2) Brisbane
 As Douglas’s son informed his fiancée on his father’s death: “Every one who came in contact with him were drawn towards him by that frank and almost boyish playfulness and that delightful charm of manner, always serene and dignified carrying himself as a natural leader of men.” (Edward Douglas to Annette Power,
25 July 1904. Andrew and Lorraine Douglas Papers)
Douglas instructed his son Edward; “Build a life of spiritual contemplation which will serve both body and soul ... keep your mind open to all influences. Commence with yourself and wait patiently for the guidance and instruction which will come to you. Serve your maker and serve no masters.” (John Douglas to Edward Douglas, 11 June 1899. Douglas Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OM 89-3/B/2/(c)/9)
 John Douglas to Edward Douglas,
11 June 1899. Douglas Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OM 89-3/B/2/(c)/9