William Morgan (Australian politician)

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William Morgan
For other people named William Morgan, see William Morgan (disambiguation)

Sir William Morgan KCMG (12 September 1828 – 2 November 1883) was the Premier of South Australia between 1878 and 1881.[1]

Early life[edit]

William Morgan was born in Wilshamstead, Bedfordshire, England, the son of George Morgan, a farmer, and his wife Sarah, née Horne.[1] Educated at Bedford Modern School,[2] Morgan emigrated to South Australia, arriving in Port Adelaide on 13 February 1849 in the Glenelg. Initially he worked on land near the Murray River, his life was saved by an Indigenous Australian named Ranembe, whose name Morgan gave later to one of his sons. Then Morgan worked for Boord Brothers grocers; and at the beginning of 1852 he went to the Victorian gold rush. He had modest success, returned to Adelaide, and with a brother he purchased the Boord's business, establishing William Morgan & Co. and made it a successful enterprise. In 1865 he became a founder of the Bank of Adelaide.[1]

Political career[edit]

Morgan was elected to the South Australian Legislative Council in August 1867, and was chief secretary in the second James Boucaut government from June 1875 to March 1876. He was chief secretary again in the fourth Boucaut ministry from October 1877 to September 1878, and when Boucaut became a judge, Morgan reconstructed the ministry and on 27 September 1878 became premier and chief secretary. This ministry was in office for nearly three years but it did not have an easy passage. One important measure passed was that providing deep drainage for Adelaide, the first city in Australia to have a proper sewerage system. A public trustee act was passed, and there was some railway extension, but other bills were rejected by the council.[3]

Late life[edit]

Pressure of private business, including bad investments in New Caledonia, resulted in Morgan's resignation on 24 June 1881, and the John Bray ministry came in. On 8 July 1854 Morgan had married Harriett, daughter of Thomas Matthews of Hurd's Hill, Coromandel Valley; together they had nine children.[1] Harriet survived him with two sons and two daughters. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1883. In May that year Morgan left Australia on a visit to England and he died suddenly on 2 November at Brighton, Sussex,[4] aged 65.

Morgan was a self-made man who had liberal opinions. He was an avid free-trader who held that protective duties taxed the people least able to bear the burden. He was an excellent speaker, able administrator and might have had a more important place in South Australian politics if he had lived longer.


  1. ^ a b c d E. J. R. Morgan, 'Morgan, Sir William (1828 - 1883)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, MUP, 1974, pp 288-289. Retrieved 2009-10-17
  2. ^ School Of The Black And Red-A History Of Bedford Modern School, by Andrew Underwood (1981)
  3. ^ Serle, Percival (1949). "Morgan, William". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  4. ^  Harris, Charles Alexander (1894). "Morgan, William (1829-1883)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
Political offices
Preceded by
James Boucaut
Premier of South Australia
27 September 1878 –
24 June 1881
Succeeded by
John Cox Bray