||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (October 2011)|
|The Right Honourable
Sir Samuel Griffith
|9th Premier of Queensland|
13 November 1883 – 13 June 1888
|Preceded by||Thomas McIlwraith|
|Succeeded by||Thomas McIlwraith|
12 August 1890 – 27 March 1893
|Preceded by||Boyd Dunlop Morehead|
|Succeeded by||Thomas McIlwraith|
|1st Chief Justice of Australia|
5 October 1903 – 17 October 1919
|Nominated by||Alfred Deakin|
|Appointed by||Henry Northcote, 1st Baron Northcote|
|Preceded by||New office|
|Succeeded by||Sir Adrian Knox|
21 June 1845|
Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
|Died||9 August 1920
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
|Spouse(s)||Julia Janet Thomson|
|Alma mater||University of Sydney|
Sir Samuel Walker Griffith GCMG, QC, (21 June 1845 – 9 August 1920) was an Australian politician, Premier of Queensland, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and a principal author of the Constitution of Australia.
Griffith was born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, the younger son of the Rev. Edward Griffith, a Congregational minister and his wife, Mary, second daughter of Peter Walker. Although of Welsh extraction, his forebears for at least three generations had lived in England. The family migrated to Queensland when Samuel was eight. He was educated at schools in Ipswich, Sydney, Maitland and Brisbane (from 1860), towns where his father was a minister, then at the University of Sydney, where he graduated B.A. in 1863 with first-class honours in classics, mathematics and natural science. During his course he was awarded the Cooper and Barker scholarships and other prizes.
In 1865, he gained the T. S. Mort Travelling Fellowship. Travelling to Europe, he spent some of his time in Italy, and became much attached to the Italian people and their literature. Many years after, he was to become the first Australian translator of Dante (The Inferno of Dante Alighieri in 1908).
In 1870, Griffith returned to Sydney to complete an M.A.. In the same year, he married Julia Janet Thomson.
In 1872 Griffith was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. Throughout his career he saw himself as a lawyer first and a politician second, and continued to appear at the Bar even when he was in office. Griffith took silk in 1876 as a Queen's Counsel. In Parliament he gained a reputation as a liberal reformer. He was Attorney-General, Minister for Education and Minister for Works, and became leader of the liberal party in 1879. His great enemy was the conservative leader Sir Thomas McIlwraith, whom he accused (correctly) of corruption.
Griffith became Premier in November 1883 displacing McIlwraith. Griffith won the next election largely on his policy of preventing the importation of Kanaka labour from the islands. He passed an act for this purpose, but it was found that the danger of the destruction of the sugar industry was so great that the measure was never made operative. Recruiting was, however, placed under regulations and some of the worst abuses were swept away. Griffith took a special interest in British New Guinea, and was eventually responsible for the sending of Sir William MacGregor there in 1888.
Griffith held the Premier's office until 1888, and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1886, before receiving an advancement to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1895. Griffith was regarded as a close ally of the labour movement. He introduced a bill to legalise trade unions, and declared that "the great problem of this age is not how to accumulate wealth but how to secure its more equitable distribution". In 1888 his government was defeated. In opposition he wrote radical articles for The Boomerang, William Lane's socialist newspaper.
But in 1890 Griffith suddenly betrayed his radical friends and became Premier again at the head of an unlikely alliance with McIlwraith, the so-called "Griffilwraith". The following year his government used the military to break the great shearers' strike, and he earned the nickname "Oily Sam". Griffith had had a distinguished career in Queensland politics. Included in the legislation for which he was responsible were an offenders' probation act, and an act which codified the law relating to the duties and powers of justices of the peace. He also succeeded in passing an eight hours bill through the assembly which was, however, thrown out by the Queensland Legislative Council.
On 13 March 1893, the Governor accepted Griffith's resignation from Vice-President and Member of the Executive Council and Chief Secretary and Attorney General and appointed Griffith to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland where he served until 4 October 1903. He was therefore not a delegate to the 1897 conventions which produced the final draft of the Constitution, but he acted as a behind-the-scenes advisor to Sir Robert Garran, secretary of the Drafting Committee, which followed the structure he had laid out in 1891. In 1899 he campaigned publicly for a 'yes' vote in the federation referendum in Queensland.
During his term as Chief Justice Griffith drafted Queensland's Criminal Code, the first successful codification anywhere of the entire English criminal law, which was adopted in 1899, and later in Western Australia, Papua New Guinea, substantially in Tasmania, and other imperial territories including Nigeria. At May 2006 the Queensland Criminal Code remains largely unchanged.
When the federal Parliament passed the Judiciary Act in 1903, which created the High Court of Australia, Griffith was the natural choice as the first Chief Justice. During his sixteen years on the bench Griffith sat on some 950 reported cases. In 1913 he visited England and sat on the Privy Council. Like Sir Edmund Barton, Griffith was several times consulted by Governor-Generals of Australia on the exercise of the reserve powers.
Griffith was one of two justices of the High Court of Australia to have previously served in the Parliament of Queensland, along with Charles Powers. He was also one of three justices to have previously served on the Supreme Court of Queensland, along with William Webb and Harry Gibbs.
After 1910 his health declined, and in 1917 he suffered a stroke. He retired from the Court in 1919 and died at his home in Brisbane on 9 August 1920. Griffith is buried in Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, together with his wife, Julia, and their son, Llewellyn. Cemetery records indicate that their plot adjoins that of Griffith’s dear friend Charles Stuart Mein (1841–1890) (barrister, politician and judge), the pair having met during their undergraduate studies at the University of Sydney.
Griffith is commemorated by the naming of Griffith University, with campuses throughout South East Queensland, the suburb of Griffith in Canberra, the federal electoral division of Griffith, Sir Samuel Griffith Drive on Mount Coot-tha in Brisbane, and the Mathematics Building of Brisbane Grammar School. The Samuel Griffith Society is a conservative organisation dedicated to defending what it sees as the principles of the Constitution - particularly, the principle of states' rights. His portrait, by Richard Godfrey Rivers, hangs in the Brisbane Supreme Court. Griffith was appointed a vice-president of the Royal Colonial Institute in 1909 and an honorary fellow of the British Academy in 1916.
- Roberts, Beryl (1991). Stories of the Southside. Archerfield, Queensland: Aussie Books. p. 6. ISBN 0-947336-01-X.
- R. B. Joyce, 'Griffith, Sir Samuel Walker (1845 - 1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, MUP, 1983, pp 112-119. Retrieved on 28 December 2008
- Queensland Government Gazette Extraordinary Vol. LVIII No.63 Monday 13 March 1893 p777
- Bruce McPherson, Supreme Court of Queensland, Butterworths, 1984
- Donald Markwell, "Griffith, Barton and the early governor-generals: aspects of Australia's constitutional development", Public Law Review, 1999.
- "Drive renamed.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 5 January 1951. p. 3. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Griffith, Samuel Walker". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
- Joyce, Roger B: Samuel Walker Griffith, St Lucia (University of Queensland Press), 1984.
- Joyce R.B. & Murphy, D.J.(Ed.): Queensland Political Portraits, St Lucia (University of Queensland Press), 1978.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Samuel Griffith.|
- The Australian Constitution
- Griffith University, Brisbane
- Samuel Griffith Society
- Griffith, Samuel Walker — Brisbane City Council Grave Location Search
Sir Thomas McIlwraith
|Premier of Queensland
Boyd Dunlop Morehead
|Premier of Queensland
|New office||Chief Justice of Australia
Sir Adrian Knox
|Chief Justice of Queensland
Pope Alexander Cooper