DOUGLAS, John (1828-1904)


DOUGLAS, John (1828-1904)
premier of Queensland
was born in London on 6 March 1828, the son of Henry Alexander Douglas and Elizabeth, his wife. His father was the third son of Sir William Douglas, fourth baronet, who was a brother of the fifth and sixth Marquises of Queensberry. Douglas was educated at Harrow and Durham university where he graduated B.A. in 1850. It is usually stated that he was educated at Rugby but his name does not appear in the school list of his period. He arrived in New South Wales in 1851 and was appointed a gold-fields commissioner, but gave this up to enter on a pastoral life. He was then elected member for the Darling Downs and afterwards for Camden in the New South Wales legislative council. Going to Queensland in 1863 he was elected as member for Port Curtis in the legislative assembly, and on 1 March 1866 became postmaster-general in the first Macalister (q.v.) ministry. He transferred to the legislative council, but was elected to the legislative assembly again as member for Eastern Downs. He took the portfolio of colonial treasurer in the second Macalister ministry in December 1866, but in May 1867 changed this position for that of secretary for public works. He was postmaster-general in the Charles Lilley (q.v.) ministry from December 1868 until November 1869, when he resigned to become agent-general for Queensland at London. In 1871 he returned to Queensland and was returned for Maryborough at the election held in 1875. He was secretary for public lands in the Thorn (q.v.) ministry from June 1876 until March 1877, when he became premier and was given the honour of C.M.G. His party was defeated at the election held in January 1879 and Douglas gave up politics. He was for some time on the literary staff of the Brisbane Courier, and subsequently was appointed government resident and magistrate at Thursday Island. After the death of Sir Peter Scratchley (q.v.) in December 1885 he acted as special commissioner for the protectorate of southern New Guinea for nearly three years, and showed tact and ability in his dealings with the native inhabitants. In 1889 he returned to his old position on Thursday Island. He visited England in 1902 and on his return continued his work until his death at Thursday Island on 23 July 1904. Douglas was married twice (1) to Mary, daughter of the Rev. J. Simpson, in 1860 and (2) in 1877 to Sarah, daughter of Michael Hickey. He was survived by four sons of the second marriage, of whom two have had distinguished careers. The youngest, Robert Johnston Douglas, born in 1883, was appointed a judge of the supreme court of Queensland in 1923 and the eldest, Edward Archibald Douglas, born in 1877, was appointed to a similar position in March 1929.
Douglas was a man of fine physique, handsome, dignified and courteous. Well educated, intellectual, fair-minded and honest, he played a prominent part in the early days of Queensland politics, and was also a thoroughly capable administrator both in New Guinea and at Thursday Island.
Brisbane Courier, 25 July 1904; The Times, 28 July 1904; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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