John Alexander MacPherson

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John Alexander MacPherson
7th Premier of Victoria
In office
20 September 1869 – 9 April 1870
Preceded byJames McCulloch
Succeeded byJames McCulloch
Personal details
Born15 October 1833
Springbank, Limestone Plains(Canberra), New South Wales (ACT)
Died17 February 1894(1894-02-17) (aged 60)
Chertsey, Surrey, England
Spouse(s)Helen, née Watson

John Alexander MacPherson (15 October 1833 – 17 February 1894),[1] Australian colonial politician, was the 7th Premier of Victoria.

MacPherson was born at his father's property of Springbank on the Limestone Plains, in New South Wales (the present site of Canberra): he was the first Premier of Victoria born in Australia. His father was a Scottish Presbyterian pastoralist. He came to the Port Phillip District as a child with his family and was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne and the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated in law. He was admitted to the Victorian bar in 1866 and practised law before becoming a pastoralist near Hamilton in the Western District.

MacPherson was elected as a conservative to the Legislative Assembly for Portland in November 1864,[2] and for Dundas in February 1866.[1] In September 1869, when the liberal Premier James McCulloch resigned, MacPherson was commissioned as Premier; at 35 years and 11 months, he became Victoria's youngest Premier.[3] His government was in a weak parliamentary position and had little prospect of survival. However it did succeed in passing an effective land selection act, allowing small farmers to select land on the squatters' pastoral runs, before being defeated in the Assembly and resigning in April 1870.

MacPherson served as Chief Secretary in the third McCulloch government in 1875 to 1877, before retiring from politics in July 1878,[1] still aged only 44. In 1880 he returned to Britain and settled in Surrey, where he died in 1894. He married Louisa Featherstonhaugh /ˈfænʃɔː/ in 1858: they had seven children.

Ossian MacPherson[edit]

In a blog post[4] on 30 October 2018, folk singer/songwriter and ballad collector Daniel Kelly asserted that John MacPherson is the identity behind many poems that were published in various Victorian newspapers from 1857 until 1874 under the pen name Ossian MacPherson. Ossian MacPherson is likely a pseudonym linked to the Ossian work by James MacPherson. In particular, A Modest Minister[5], directly refers to the 1874 election that MacPherson was running in and the poem targets his opposition. More directly, an article[6] in the Geelong Advertiser on 20 January 1871 directly refers to 'Ossian' Macpherson as running in the 1971 election for Dundas.


  1. ^ a b c "Macpherson, John Alexander". re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  2. ^ Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Macpherson, Hon. John Alexander". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  3. ^ "ON THIS DAY". Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  4. ^ Kelly, Daniel (2018). "Who was Ossian MacPherson?". Folk Lounge.
  5. ^ MacPherson, Ossian (March 1874). "A Modest Minister".
  6. ^ "Election News, Geelong Advertiser". 20 January 1871.
  • Geoff Browne, A Biographical Register of the Victorian Parliament, 1900–84, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1985
  • Don Garden, Victoria: A History, Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, 1984
  • Kathleen Thompson and Geoffrey Serle, A Biographical Register of the Victorian Parliament, 1856–1900, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1972
  • Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel. A History of the Parliament of Victoria, 1856–1990, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1992
  • Daniel Kelly, Who was Ossian Macpherson, Folk Lounge, 2018
Political offices
Preceded by
James McCulloch
Premier of Victoria
Succeeded by
James McCulloch