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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Alexander, Maurice (1820–1874)

by M. Z. Forbes

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Maurice Alexander (1820-1874), parliamentarian, merchant and philanthropist, was born in London, son of Isaac Alexander, merchant, and his wife Susan, née Levy. He arrived in Sydney in 1834 and became associated in business with Isaac Levey, a Sydney merchant, whose youngest daughter, Isabella, he married in 1857. His father-in-law was a partner in the Australian Store at Goulburn, which was for some time under Davies, Alexander & Co., the principal retail store of southern New South Wales, with branches in several towns. Alexander managed its Sydney business.

Alexander represented Goulburn in the Legislative Assembly in 1861-72. He was not noted for his part in debates but often served on select committees. His political views were said to harmonize with the liberal principles of the Constitution as modified by the Electoral Law Amendment Act of 1858. He was pledged to support free selection and worked hard for it; and he was also known for his strong attachment to the 1866 and 1880 Public Education Acts. At a time when policies and principles were defined only for electoral purposes, Alexander was described as a supporter, not of men, but of good government. He was not a tool of any party and he assisted in turning out the Robertson and Martin ministries. The questions disputed by candidates at many polls were often of local or even personal interest, and although some thought that the assembly could boast no member more consistent than Alexander, others claimed that he did not sufficiently press the claims of his electorate. He was defeated at the 1872 elections in spite of his assertions that he had been associated with Goulburn for thirty-seven years and had come to the colony as a boy without a shilling in his pocket; he had also bought and improved the well-known Norwood estate near Goulburn and entrusted its care to his nephew.

Alexander prospered in his business ventures, and commanded much respect and influence in the Sydney community. He was a director of such public firms as the City Bank, the Australian Gaslight Co. and the United Insurance Co., served as a trustee of the Savings Bank and was a magistrate of long standing. Within the Jewish community he was an active supporter of the York Street Synagogue and of Jewish education and philanthropy. He also worked hard for many Sydney charities, including the Benevolent Society, the Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, and the infirmary. In 1860 he became treasurer of the Benevolent Asylum, and held that office for thirteen years with persevering zeal, fidelity and ability. He died on 27 January 1874 in his fifty-fourth year, survived by his widow.

Alexander won a high place in the esteem of his fellow citizens as an influential colonist whose work was marked, according to one obituarist, by a 'comprehensive and judicious benevolence'. He was deservedly admired as an upright and prudent businessman, a conscientious parliamentarian, and a truly charitable citizen.

Select Bibliography

  • Memoir of the Late M. Alexander, J.P. (Goulburn, 1874)
  • Goulburn Herald, 1, 8, 11, 15 Dec 1859, 7, 10 Dec 1864, 17, 27 Nov 1869, 28 Feb, 2, 6 Mar 1872
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Jan 1874
  • Town and Country Journal, 7 Mar 1874.

Citation details

M. Z. Forbes, 'Alexander, Maurice (1820–1874)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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