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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hawthorn, Arthur George Clarence (1859–1934)

by W. Ross Johnston

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Arthur George Clarence Hawthorn (1859-1934), by unknown photographer

Arthur George Clarence Hawthorn (1859-1934), by unknown photographer

Brisbane City Council Library, BCC-B120-32393

Arthur George Clarence Hawthorn (1859-1934), solicitor and politician, was born on 31 October 1859 in Hobart Town, son of George Hawthorn, shipmaster, and his wife Isabella Marie Louise, née Steele. Educated at the Hobart High School, he was later articled to three different legal firms. Admitted as a solicitor in 1884, he was immediately persuaded by Thomas Macdonald-Patterson, a Brisbane solicitor, to move to Queensland as a partner in Macdonald-Patterson, Fitzgerald & Hawthorn, later Hawthorn & Byram (1900), Hawthorn & Lightoller (1916) and A. G. C. Hawthorn & Co. (1931).

Elected to the Ithaca Shire Council in 1899, he was president in 1901 and in 1901-04 was on the executive of the Local Authorities' Association of Queensland. He was a delegate of the association in 1901-02 lobbying the government about new local government legislation. In 1902 Hawthorn won the Legislative Assembly seat of Enoggera as an Independent Ministerialist, defeating the sitting Labor member Matt Reid. Joining the Morgan Liberal group in 1903, he helped to bring down the conservative Philp government. A popular local member, Hawthorn was unopposed in 1904. He believed in progressive reform: the vote for women, and legislation against sweated labour and for wages boards; he was also interested in farming, irrigation and local government and took a sound critical interest in financial debates. Though often asserting his independence, Hawthorn was by 1907 in basic agreement with William Kidston and supported his increasingly independent stand against Labor organization. He became Kidston's home secretary from 3 July to 19 November 1907 and again from 18 February 1908. From 29 October 1908 to 7 February 1911 he was Kidston's treasurer.

Hawthorn easily withstood bitter campaigning by Philp's supporters who raised the socialist bogey. Presenting himself as a democrat and supported by capable electorate committees, he secured easy majorities: much of his support came from women and Labor voters. As home secretary he legislated in 1908 for old-age pensions, electoral reform and a referendum on religious instruction in state schools. As treasurer in 1909 he initiated a scheme to provide cheap houses for low-income workers. Five days after Kidston's resignation in February 1911 Hawthorn was appointed to the Legislative Council. He unsuccessfully sought re-election for Ithaca in 1912, then became increasingly conservative after the advent of the Labor government in 1915. In 1916-21 he stoutly resisted Labor's attacks on the council, extended his opposition to almost every aspect of its policy, and tried to form a combined anti-Labor Liberal party. When the council went out of existence in 1922 his political career ended.

On 12 December 1894 at Ashgrove, Brisbane, Hawthorn had married Mary, daughter of Alexander Stewart; they had two daughters. Quiet, reserved and a thoughtful, careful speaker, he was a popular member of numerous sporting bodies. He died with leukaemia in Brisbane on 6 May 1934 and was buried in Toowong cemetery after a Presbyterian ceremony.

Select Bibliography

  • Brisbane Courier, 29 Apr 1907, 7 Feb 1911
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 7 May 1934
  • Daily Standard (Brisbane), 8 May 1934
  • Local Authorities Assn minutes (Local Government Assn of Queensland, Brisbane)
  • private information.

Citation details

W. Ross Johnston, 'Hawthorn, Arthur George Clarence (1859–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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