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Edmund Barton


Edmund Barton was the first Prime Minister of Australia and also a respectable judge and politician. Edmund Barton was also one of the founder members of the High Court of Australia. Edmund Barton has achieved a iconic status in the public eye because of his contribution to the Australian politics and his management of the Federation movement during the 1890’s.

Edmund Barton was born in Glebe Sydney in the year 1849 as the ninth child of William and Marie Louise Barton. He was very intelligent from his childhood and had a great love for music, literature and art. Edmund Barton received his education in Fort Street Model School and Sydney Grammar School. He graduated with a first class honors Masters degree in Arts from the University of Sydney and in 1871 he became a barrister.

In 1876, Edmund Barton stood for the legislative assembly in the graduate polls of the University of Sydney, but was defeated by William Charles. He was again defeated in the following election and finally in 1879, he won the University of Sydney’s seat in the Legislative Assembly. In those times, the political scenario of New South Wales was divided between the Free Trade Party who wished for an open economy and conservative Protectionist Party who were supporters of tariff protection for State products. The economic competition between the different Australian states was the primary obstacle in the creation of a centralized nation. Edmund Barton entered the Legislative Assembly as a Protectionist who stood for free trade between various different states of Australia. In 1883, he became the Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. In 1884 he was elected as the President of the University of Sydney Union.

By the early 1890’s, Edmund Barton was engaged in different types of important official works. He made a significant contribution towards the first draft of the Australian Constitution in 1891. Edmund Barton became deeply involved in the drafting procedure and in the Federation movement from 1893-1897. It was he who was responsible for amending the Constitution and for finally getting it approved by the British Parliament in 1900. Although it was pre-determined that he would become the first Australian Prime Minister because of his immense contribution, the new Governor General Lord Hopetoun selected William Lyne as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet of Ministers completely opposed this decision and refused to work under Lyne. As a result, Edmund Barton was finally elected as the first Prime Minister of Australia and took the portfolio of Minister of External Affairs.

After being elected to the parliament, the main task for Edmund Barton and his ministry was to organize the first federal elections and he did this with élan. In September 1903, however, being worn down by the Prime minister’s duties and that of the long federation campaign, Edmund Barton resigned from his post. Immediately he was chosen as a judge for Australia’s first High Court. For the next 17 years, Edmund Barton carried on with his responsibility. On 20 January 1920, Edmund Barton died of heart attack at the age of 70 in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales.

On the personal front, Edmund Barton had married Jane Mason Ross in December 1877 and they had six children.

Edmund Barton was also made Knight Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George in 1902.

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