HART, John (1809-1873)


HART, John (1809-1873)
premier of South Australia
was born in 1809. He went to sea, voyaged to Australia, and in 1833 was in command of the schooner Elizabeth trading from Tasmania; late in that year he took Edward Henty (q.v.) to and from Portland Bay. In 1836 he was sent to London to purchase another vessel, and returning in the Isabella took the first live stock from Tasmania to South Australia in 1837. On the return voyage the Isabella was wrecked and Hart lost everything he had. He went to Adelaide and J. B. Hack sent him to Sydney to buy a vessel in which he brought stock to Portland Bay. Some of this stock he successfully brought overland to South Australia. He was harbour-master at Encounter Bay in 1839, and in 1843 sailed to England in command of the Augustus of which he was two-thirds owner. After one more voyage to England he gave up the sea in 1846, and settled near Adelaide, where he established large and successful flour mills. He became interested in copper mining, and some imputations having been made of underhand dealings in connexion with leases, challenged inquiry. A select committee completely exonerated Hart stating that his conduct in every particular had been that of a strictly honourable and upright man.
Hart took an interest in public affairs, in 1851 was elected to the legislative council, and in 1857 became a member for Port Adelaide in the first house of assembly. He was treasurer in the Baker ministry which lasted only a few days in August 1857, and held the same position in the Hanson (q.v.) cabinet from 30 September 1857 to 12 June 1858 when he resigned. He was chief secretary in the short-lived first Dutton (q.v.) ministry in July 1863, and was treasurer in the first and second Ayers (q.v.) ministries, and the first Blyth (q.v.) ministry from July 1863 to March 1865. He became premier and chief secretary from 23 October 1865 to 28 March 1866 and from 24 September 1868 to 13 October 1868. He was premier and treasurer from 30 May 1870 to 10 November 1871, his last term of office, and he died suddenly on 28 January 1873 leaving a widow and a large family. He was created C.M.G. in 1870.
Hart was a self-made man, shrewd and farseeing, who became wealthy. In politics he showed the same business qualities that had made him successful. He was not a fluent speaker though he could make a vigorous speech on matters about which he felt strongly. He was interested in the Northern Territory and was in office when the first act for its settlement was passed, and he planned Goyder's successful expedition of 1868-9 for the survey of the territory. He was a supporter of educational reforms and was a sound and cautious treasurer.
The South Australian Register and The South Australian Advertiser, 29 January 1873; R. D. Boys, First Years at Port Phillip; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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