Stuart Donaldson

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Stuart Donaldson
Stuart A. Donaldson.jpg
1st Premier of New South Wales
In office
6 June 1856 – 25 August 1856
Succeeded byCharles Cowper
ConstituencySydney Hamlets
5th Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales
In office
3 October 1856 – 7 September 1857
Preceded byRobert Campbell
Succeeded byRichard Jones
Personal details
Stuart Alexander Donaldson

(1812-12-16)16 December 1812
London, England, UK
Died11 January 1867(1867-01-11) (aged 54)
Carleton Hall, Cumberland, England, UK
SpouseAmelia Cowper (1854–1867)
ChildrenHay Frederick Donaldson
St Clair Donaldson
ProfessionBusiness agent for Richard Jones & Co, Company manager for Lloyd's of London; sheep and cattle grazier

Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson (16 December 1812 – 11 January 1867) was the first Premier of the Colony of New South Wales.

Early life[edit]

Donaldson was born in London, England. He entered his father's firm at the age of 15 and was sent first to Mexico (1831-1834), for business training. After returning to England in May 1834, Donaldson travelled to Sydney, New South Wales, aboard the Emma Eugenia where he arrived on 5 May 1835.[1] He returned to London between 1841 and 1844.


In 1848, Donaldson was elected a member of the original unicameral Legislative Council of New South Wales, representing the County of Durham from February 1848 to January 1853.[2] Comments made while running for re-election in 1851, led Sir Thomas Mitchell to demand a public apology. While Donaldson complied Mitchell was not satisfied and challenged Donaldson to a duel with pistols. Both men missed but they remained antagonised.[1] He supported the development of steam ship services to Australia and the work of Caroline Chisholm. In 1852 he achieved the carriage of a motion recommending that £10,000 should be applied to supporting Chisholm's work.[3] He travelled to England in 1853–1854.

From 1 February 1855 to 29 February 1856, Donaldson represented Sydney Hamlets in the council.[2] In March 1856, Donaldson was elected to the newly created Legislative Assembly of the first Parliament, representing Sydney Hamlets. The first Legislative Assembly had trouble forming a Government. Eventually Governor Denison invited Donaldson to be Premier and he took up the offices of Premier and Colonial Secretary on 6 June 1856. Two months and 20 days later, on 25 August 1856, his Government lost a vote and he resigned. He was criticised for standing down so readily but he said, "my colleagues and myself are all too independent of office to cling to it",[1] a somewhat prophetic remark.

Donaldson was succeeded as Premier by Charles Cowper and Donaldson served as Colonial Treasurer (1856-1857) and was a Commissioner for Railways in 1857.[2] He was elected unopposed to Cumberland (South Riding) in October 1856, representing it to 1859.[1] He was a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney from 1851 to 1861 and his brother John helped to select its academic staff.[1]

Late life[edit]

Donaldson returned to England for the last time in June 1859 and was knighted there in 1860.[2] Following his return, he unsuccessfully sought election to the British House of Commons for Dartmouth in 1860 and later for Barnstaple.[1] He had four sons and one daughter. The eldest son Stuart Alexander Donaldson, a distinguished scholar, became Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, Vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1912 and died in 1915; another son was St Clair Donaldson – archbishop of Brisbane. A third son, Sir Hay Frederick Donaldson, who became an eminent engineer, went with Lord Kitchener on a special mission to Russia in 1916 and died when their ship, HMS Hampshire, struck a German mine off the Orkney Islands.

Stuart Donaldson died at Carleton Hall, near Penrith in Cumberland, England on 11 January 1867.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Draper, Sandra. "Donaldson, Sir Stuart Alexander (1812–1867)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 11 September 2014 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  2. ^ a b c d "Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson (1812-1867)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  3. ^ Serle, Percival (1949). "Donaldson, Sir Stuart Alexander (1812–1867)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 11 September 2014.


Political offices
New office Premier of New South Wales
6 June – 25 August 1856
Succeeded by
Preceded by Colonial Secretary
6 June – 25 August 1856
Preceded by Colonial Treasurer
3 October 1856 – 7 September 1857
Succeeded by
New South Wales Legislative Council
Preceded by Member for County of Durham
Feb 1848 – Jan 1853
With: none / Charles Cowper
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member for Sydney Hamlets
Feb 1855 – Feb 1856
Council replaced with new parliament
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
New assembly Member for Sydney Hamlets
Mar – Oct 1856
With: Daniel Cooper
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member for Cumberland (South Riding)
Oct 1856 – 1859
District abolished