SEE, Sir John (1844-1907)


SEE, Sir John (1844-1907)
premier of New South Wales
son of Joseph See, was born at Yelling, England, on 14 November 1844. He was brought to Australia in 1853 by his parents who settled on the Hunter River in New South Wales. After three years at school See worked on the family farm, but in 1863 took up land with a brother on the Clarence River. In 1865 he went to Sydney and began business as a produce dealer. This business became very flourishing under the name of John See and Company. He also became a partner in a small coastal shipping company, Nipper and See, which was afterwards floated into a company, as the North Coast Steam Navigation Company. See was a shrewd investor and became very well known in business circles in Sydney. He entered politics in 1880 as member for Clarence and remained its member until he retired in 1904. In October 1885 he joined the Dibbs (q.v.) government as postmaster-general, but Dibbs was defeated before the end of the year. See was not in office again until October 1891 when he became for nearly three years colonial treasurer in the third Dibbs ministry. He was in charge of the bill which brought in the first protectionist tariff in New South Wales. The whole of his period as treasurer was marked by much financial stress throughout Australia. From August 1894 until September 1899 Reid (q.v.) was in power, but when Lyne (q.v.) came in See was his colonial secretary. On Lyne transferring to federal politics in March 1901 See became premier and held office until June 1904. Failing health then compelled him to retire. He accepted a seat in the council but was unable afterwards to exercise much influence in politics. He died at Sydney on 31 January 1907. He married in 1876 Charlotte May Matthews who died in 1904. He was survived by four daughters and three sons. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1902.
See was a self-made man of strong character, an excellent business man and a sound politician. He was a good friend, much esteemed on both sides of the house, for Labour politicians remembered that during his administration the establishment of the State clothing factory had a great influence in abolishing sweating, and that women's suffrage was also brought in in his time. He was a director of several well-known companies, a trustee of the Savings Bank of New South Wales, and president of the Royal Agricultural Society.
Burke's Peerage, etc., 1907; The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 1907; The Daily Telegraph, 1 February 1907.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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