MORPHETT, Sir John (1809-1892)


MORPHETT, Sir John (1809-1892)
South Australian pioneer
was the son of a solicitor and was born at London on 4 May 1809. He received a good education at a private school, and became interested in the South Australian colonization schemes. He was present at the dinner given to Captain Hindmarsh (q.v.) in honour of his appointment as governor of South Australia about the end of 1835, and a few weeks later, on 20 March 1836, sailed for South Australia in the Cygnet which arrived after a voyage of nearly six months, on 11 September 1836. Morphett had no official position but he assisted Light in laying out Adelaide, and Morphett-street was named after him. He opened an agency business, took a leading place in the community, and in December 1838 was selected to sign the letter which accompanied the piece of plate presented to Robert Gouger (q.v.) by a number of the most prominent colonists. He appears to have had private means as in May 1839 he paid £4000 for 4000 acres of land, and he was concerned in other comparatively, large transactions. He was appointed treasurer to the town corporation on 5 December 1840, and on 15 June 1843 was nominated as a non-official member of the legislative council. In January 1845 he was in the chair at the meeting called to protest against the proposal of the British government to send Parkburst prison boys to South Australia. In September 1846, as a protest against the mining royalty bill being passed by the casting vote of Governor Robe (q.v.), Morphett and the three other non-official members of the council left the chamber and the council was left without a quorum. In August 1851 Morphett was chosen speaker of the enlarged council, and on 9 March 1857 he was elected a member of the legislative council at the first election under responsible government. He was chief secretary in the Reynolds (q.v.) ministry from February to October 1861, and on 31 March 1865 was elected president of the legislative council and held the position until February 1873 when he gave up politics. He lived in retirement until his death on 7 November 1892. He married in 1838 Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Hurtle Fisher (q.v.), who survived him with six daughters and four sons. He was knighted in 1870.
Morphett was fitted by both birth and education to be a leader of the pioneers in South Australia. He had faith in the colony from the beginning, and though he realized that for a period South Australia would have to be regarded as a pastoral colony depending chiefly on its export of wool, as early as 1838 he had sanguine hopes of raising wine, olive oil, figs, maize, flax, silk, rice, indigo and tobacco (J. Stephens, The Land of Promise, p. 49). He supported Fisher and Gouger in their quarrels with Hindmarsh, later on showed himself to be a force in the legislative council, and worked hard for responsible government. He took an active part in the formation of the Literary Association and Mechanics Institute, and was an early supporter of St Peter's College. He was one of the earliest men to take an interest in racing in South Australia and Morphetville racecourse was named after him.
The Advertiser, Adelaide, 8 November 1892; The South Australian Register, 8 November 1892; E. Hodder, The Founding of South Australia; J. Blacket, History of South Australia.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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