PEAKE, Archibald Henry (1859-1920)


PEAKE, Archibald Henry (1859-1920)
premier of South Australia
was born in London on 15 January 1859. He came to Australia with his parents in 1862 and lived at Geelong, Victoria. In 1864 his father moved to South Australia where he entered the education department. Peake was educated at state schools under his father, but in later life widened his education by much reading in English history and literature. He entered the service of the district council of Narracoorte, became district clerk in 1878, and took much interest in the affairs of the town. In 1893 he contested Albert in an election for the house of assembly and was beaten by 50 votes, but four years later won the seat by two votes. The election was contested and as some irregularity was found it was held again. Peake was successful and represented the constituency until 1902. He resigned his position as district clerk when he entered politics, and afterwards was in business at Mount Barker as a member of the firm of auctioneers, Monks and Peake. From 1902 to 1915 he was member for the Victoria and Albert electorate, and became a minister for the first time on 26 July 1905 when a coalition was made between the Liberal and Labour members, Price (q.v.) the Labour leader becoming premier with Peake as treasurer and attorney-general as his right-hand man, faithful and ever helpful. Price died on 31 May 1909, and on 5 June Peake formed a new cabinet in which he was premier and minister of education, and from 22 December 1909 when he handed over the treasurership to Butler (q.v.), commissioner of crown lands and immigration. His ministry was defeated at the next election and he resigned on 3 June 1910. On 17 February 1912 he formed another ministry, again holding the positions of treasurer and minister of education. He exchanged the education portfolio for that of industry in January 1915, and three months later his ministry was defeated. Losing his seat at a general election in 1915, his leadership was considered so essential to the Liberal party that one of his followers resigned his seat in his favour. He came into power again on 14 July 1917 as premier and chief secretary. Various rearrangements were made during the currency of this ministry, and Peake for part of the time was attorney-general and afterwards treasurer. He was working very hard, and though outwardly cheerful was feeling the strain. A coalition made between the Liberal and Nationalist parties had come to an end a few days before, when Peake died suddenly on 6 April 1920. He married Annie, daughter of the Rev. H. Thomas, who survived him with three sons and four daughters.
Peake was quiet and modest with none of the hail fellow well met familiarity of many politicians. Sincerely religious and a strict teetotaller, he was loyal to his party and his country, and had little thought for himself. He has been charged with indolence, but there appears to be no evidence for this, and his extreme conscientiousness would not have allowed him to neglect any duty. Though patient and forbearing he was a good debater, able to give and take hard knocks; though possibly more of a director than an originator, his generalship was excellent, and, though always willing to discuss and appreciate the opposing view, he was a good leader.
The Register and The Advertiser, Adelaide, 7 April 1920.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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