DONALDSON, Sir Stuart Alexander (1812-1867)


DONALDSON, Sir Stuart Alexander (1812-1867)
first premier of New South Wales
was born in England in 1812. He was a son of Stuart Donaldson, a prosperous London merchant, and in his twentieth year was sent to Mexico to obtain business experience. He came to Sydney in 1834 and established the firm of Donaldson and Company, merchants. He was elected to the legislative council in 1848 and was a very active member. Among his interests were the question of steam communication with Australia, and the work of Caroline Chisholm (q.v.); in 1852 he carried a motion recommending that £10,000 should be applied to the furtherance of the objects of her family colonization loan society (M. Swarm, Caroline Chisholm, p. 47). He was also one of the founders of Sydney university, and was made a member of the senate when it was constituted in 1850. In April 1856 he was elected a member of the first legislative assembly, and was called upon to form the first government, which he did on 6 June. He was, however, defeated about 11 weeks later and Charles Cowper (q.v.) came in. In October Donaldson was in office again as colonial treasurer in the H. W. Parker ministry, but resigned in September 1857. He was then appointed commissioner of railways, and in 1860 was knighted. In the same year he returned to England, but twice revisited Australia before his death on 11 January 1867.
Donaldson was able and hardworking, everywhere respected. He married in 1854 Amelia Cowper who survived him with four sons and a daughter. One of the sons St Clair George Donaldson is noticed separately, the eldest son Stuart Alexander Donaldson, a distinguished scholar, became master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, vice-chancellor of the university in 1912 and died in 1915. A third son, Sir Hay Frederick Donaldson, who became an eminent engineer, went with Lord Kitchener on a special mission to Russia in 1916 and was drowned in the Hampshire.
C. T. Dimont and F. de Witt Batty, St Clair Donaldson; The Times, 15 January 1867; P. Mennell, Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vol. XXI; Official History of New South Wales.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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