Thursday, July 9, 2015

John Douglas and his resignation from the Queensland Parliament in November 1880

Douglas abruptly resigned his Queensland parliamentary seat in November 1880, after having represented Maryborough for five and a half years.[1]  So abrupt was his resignation that he apparently did not even bother to inform the leader of his faction, Samuel Griffith.[2]  Never again would he sit in parliament, although he would attempt once more, in 1883, to gain a seat in the legislative assembly.  The Brisbane Courier was disappointed to see him go, noting that the opposition:

will be considerably weakened, as he was an able and polished speaker, and always commanded the attention and respect of the house.[3]

Other papers expressed similar sentiments.  The conservative-leaning Maryborough Chronicle, the voice of the local sugar planters, sincerely regretted his “abrupt departure for a quieter sphere;”[4] the Wide Bay & Burnett News noted the “honesty, independence and ability”[5] which he had brought to the position; while the Week believed him to be “one of the very few public men in our midst whose services the colony cannot afford to lose.”[6]

Regrettable though Douglas’s retirement was, to this paper it was perfectly understandable.  It is worth quoting its comments in full, for they offer some understanding not only of the viciousness with which politics was conducted in colonial Queensland during this period, but the personal price Douglas paid in participating in them:

Some people are rather surprised that Douglas has cut his connection with politics, but I cannot conscientiously say that I am.  A man of education and refinement who has been accustomed to associate with gentlemen among whom the ordinary courtesies of civilised life are rigidly observed, soon begins to feel lonely when he gets among men who scorn to be bound to the observance of any such rules towards those who presume to differ from them in opinion.  A man who retains any vestige of self-respect, and who values his character, will naturally enough, shrink from placing himself in any position in which a deliberate and persistent attempt is made to destroy both by low coarse insults and foul abuse, and when it is levelled at him through his family, as has been the case with Mr. Douglas, it is less endurable than ever.  To be sure “Hansard” has not reported the worst of these insults, but they have been indulged in night after night and week after week with wonderful persistence, nevertheless.  No, I am not a bit surprised that Douglas has come to the conclusion that he has had enough for the present.[7]

[1] Brisbane Courier, 25 November 1880, p. 2
[2] “Our Brisbane Letter.” Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 1883, p. 4
[3] “Summary for Europe.” Brisbane Courier, 27 November 1880, p. 6
[4] “Local and General.” Maryborough Chronicle, 25 November 1880, p. 2
[5] “The Representation of Maryborough.” Wide Bay & Burnett News, 27 November 180, p. 2
[6] “Resignation of Mr. Douglas.” The Week, 27 November 1880, p. 513
[7] Bohemian. “Odd Notes.” The Week, 27 November 1880, p. 517. Bohemian was almost certainly the nom-de-plume of Douglas’s friend William Coote.