- WILSON, Edward (1813-1878)
- journalist and philanthropistwas born at Hampstead, London, on 13 November 1813. He was educated at a private school and then entered a business house at Manchester. He went to London and in 1842 emigrated to Australia. He at first had a small property on the northern outskirts of Melbourne but in 1844, in partnership with J. S. Johnston, took up a cattle station near Dandenong. About the year 1847 he bought the Argus from William Kerr, incorporated with it the Patriot, and five years later absorbed another journal, the Daily News. In the early days of the gold-rush the paper was produced under great difficulties, but the circulation kept increasing, and it became a valuable property. Wilson strenuously opposed the influx of convicts from Tasmania, fought for the separation of Port Phillip from New South Wales, and opposed Governor Hotham in his attitude to the miners; but when the rebellion broke out he took the stand that there were peaceable and legitimate methods of obtaining redress. When Charles Gavan Duffy (q.v.) came to Victoria and went into politics Wilson sent him a list of suggested reforms which included justice to the aborigines, the organizing of agriculture as a department of the state, the introduction of the ballot into municipal elections, and the leasing of crown lands for cultivation with the right of ultimate purchase. He was the first to raise the cry "unlock the lands". He was in fact a thorough democrat in sentiment, and an ardent reformer. In 1857 finding he was losing his eyesight he paid a long visit to England, but in 1858-9 travelled through Australia and New Zealand and wrote a series of sketches for the Argus, published in London in 1859 under the title, Rambles in the Antipodes, with two maps and 12 illustrations by S. T. Gill (q.v.). He took much interest in acclimatization, founded the Acclimatization Society in Melbourne in 1861, and was its first president. In the same year he visited Sydney and started the Acclimatization Society of New South Wales. He finally settled in 1864 at Hayes near Bromley in Kent, and lived the life of an English country gentleman. He occasionally contributed to the Times and the Fortnightly Review; an article from this journal, Principles of Representation, was published as a pamphlet in 1866. Another pamphlet, on Acclimatization, was printed in 1875. He died at Hayes on 10 January 1878 and was buried in the Melbourne cemetery on 7 July. He was unmarried.Wilson was a tall, sombre, silent figure, but his reserve was largely due to shyness, for his friends found him a lovable man. He had an active and benevolent mind, was thoroughly sincere, earnest and unselfish, with a hatred of hypocrisy, chicanery and self-seeking. This sometimes as a journalist led to a passionate warmth of language which involved him in more than one libel suit, but he was chiefly concerned with the good of the community. In his last years he founded what became the "Edward Wilson Trust", which has done so much for the charities of Victoria. About 1908 £146,000 was set aside for the rebuilding of the Melbourne hospital, £69,000 provided the Edward Wilson wing for the Alfred hospital, and £38,000 went to the Children's hospital. It was found in 1934 that a total of £1,000,000 had been made available for charities.The Argus, Melbourne, 14 January, 8 July 1878, 13 November 1937; W. Westgarth, Personal Recollections of Early Melbourne; J. H. Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates; D. Blair, Cyclopaedia of Australasia; C. G. Duffy, My Life in Two Hemispheres, vol. II, pp. 147-9; E. E. Morris, A Memoir of George Higinbotham, p. 45; First Annual Report of the Acclimatization Society of Victoria, 1862, Fourteenth Annual Report, 1878.
Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. Angus and Robertson. 1949.
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