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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hoskins, James (1823–1900)

by G. C. Morey

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

James Hoskins (1823-1900), by unknown photographer

James Hoskins (1823-1900), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, PX*D 624

James Hoskins (1823-1900), miner and politician, was born in London, son of James Hoskins, wine merchant. He was early sent to boarding school and from 1840 'discharged clerical duties' in the Anglican Church. He later worked as a policeman and a 'booking porter'. On 5 December 1847 in the Baptist Chapel at Stroud Hoskins married Caroline Day; they had one son Thomas. In 1849 Hoskins left England without his family. About 1853 he arrived in Sydney and went to the goldfields where he had some success and made many friends. He soon became the literary exponent of the miners' grievances. Elected in 1859 to the Legislative Assembly for Goldfields North he was the first to represent a particular class. Hoskins was supported by miners' voluntary contributions, intended to supply him with £600 and complete freedom of action. In February 1863 he resigned for pecuniary reasons and became overseer of northern roads; he had risen to superintendent before he resigned in June 1867. In July 1868 he regained his old electorate and represented Patrick's Plains in 1869-72 and Tumut in 1872-82. He became a land and commission agent and in 1876 was senior partner of the firm of Hoskins & Blomfield.

A moderate liberal who idolized J. S. Mill, Hoskins maintained an independence that was often censured as treachery. In turn he supported and opposed each ministry until 1877. In 1875 he refused office under John Robertson. As secretary for public works under Henry Parkes in 1877 Hoskins's behaviour became somewhat more stable. In 1878-81 he was secretary for lands in the Parkes-Robertson coalition. Hoskins had severely criticized the management of the Departments of Public Works and Lands. 'Fearless in reforming the abuses of his Lands department', in August 1880 he was instrumental in the suspension of the under-secretary for lands, William Stephen, and the accountant after an inquiry into the embezzlement of £800.

In 1880 Hoskins carried an amending Land Act, obviously influenced by Robertson. After Robertson resigned from the ministry in November 1881, Hoskins's land policy was challenged by the colonial treasurer, James Watson; cabinet solidarity was undermined and on 28 December Hoskins resigned his office. He had long suffered from rheumatic gout but Robertson's facile return to the ministry as acting premier and secretary for lands cast doubts on the ostensible reasons for Hoskins's resignation. In 1882 he visited England and America to recuperate and on 26 September resigned from parliament. In 1889 he was appointed to the Legislative Council. Aged 77 he died on 1 April 1900 at Strathfield and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery. Most of his estate of £17,235 was left to his son Thomas, who was located by his executor, Henry Clarke, before 1907.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Buchanan, Political Portraits of Some of the Members of the Parliament of New South Wales (Syd, 1863)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1870-82
  • Tamworth Examiner, 2, 20 July 1859
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July 1868, 22 Dec 1869, Mar 1877, Nov-Dec 1881, 2 Apr 1900, Town and Country Journal, 7 Apr 1877
  • Bulletin, 5 June, 31 July 1880
  • G. C. Morey, The Parkes-Robertson Coalition Government, 1878-1883 (B.A. Hons thesis, Australian National University, 1968)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. C. Morey, 'Hoskins, James (1823–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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