STUART, Sir Alexander (1825-1886)


STUART, Sir Alexander (1825-1886)
premier of New South Wales
was born at Edinburgh in 1825, the son of Alexander Stuart. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy and on leaving school entered a merchant's office at Glasgow. His next appointment was at a linen mill in the north of Ireland and in 1845 he went to India. Finding that the climate did not suit him he went to New Zealand for a period, and in 1851 removed to Sydney. The Victorian gold discoveries tempted him to try his fortune on the diggings at Ballarat and Bendigo, but he was not successful. He returned to Sydney in 1852 and was given a position in the Bank of New South Wales. In less than two years he had become secretary and an inspector of branches. In 1855 he accepted a partnership in R. Towns (q.v.) and Company, merchants, and became well-known as a business man in Sydney. During a controversy on the education question he spoke in favour of denominational schools and in 1874 was elected a member of the legislative assembly for East Sydney. In February 1876 he succeeded William Forster (q.v.) as treasurer in the third Robertson (q.v.) ministry, and held the position until Robertson was defeated in March 1877. Stuart resigned his seat in March 1879 to become agent-general at London but gave up this appointment in April. He was returned for Illawarra at the general election in 1880 and became leader of the opposition. In 1882 the Parkes-Robertson ministry was defeated and Stuart became premier from 5 January 1883 to 6 October 1885. He succeeded in passing a land act in 1884 after much opposition, and other acts dealt with the civil service, fire brigades, the university, and licensing. In October 1884 he had a paralytic stroke and went to New Zealand to recuperate. It was during his illness that W. B. Dalley (q.v.) as acting-premier offered to send a contingent to the Sudan. Stuart resigned in October 1885 and was nominated to a seat in the legislative council. In 1886 he was appointed executive commissioner to the Colonial and Indian exhibition at London, but died there after a short illness on 16 June 1886. He married in 1853 Miss C. E. Wood who survived him. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1885. He was a man of probity, with a high reputation in financial circles.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June 1886; The Times, 17 June 1886; Official History of New South Wales.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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