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Stuart Donaldson

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Sir Stuart Donaldson
1st Premier of New South Wales
In office
6 June 1856 – 25 August 1856
GovernorSir William Denison
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byCharles Cowper
5th Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales
In office
3 October 1856 – 7 September 1857
Preceded byRobert Campbell
Succeeded byRichard Jones
Personal details
Stuart Alexander Donaldson

(1812-12-16)16 December 1812
London, England, UK
Died11 January 1867(1867-01-11) (aged 54)
Carleton Hall, Cumberland, England, UK
SpouseAmelia Cowper (1854–1867)
ChildrenHay Frederick Donaldson
St Clair Donaldson
ProfessionBusiness agent for Richard Jones & Co, Company manager for Lloyd's of London; sheep and cattle grazier

Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson (16 December 1812 – 11 January 1867) was the first Premier of the Colony of New South Wales.

Early life[edit]

Donaldson was born in London, England. He entered his father's firm at the age of 15 and was sent first to Mexico (1831–1834), for business training. After returning to England in May 1834, Donaldson travelled to Sydney, New South Wales, aboard the Emma Eugenia where he arrived on 5 May 1835.[1] He returned to London between 1841 and 1844.


In 1848, Donaldson was elected a member of the original unicameral Legislative Council of New South Wales, representing the County of Durham from February 1848 to January 1853.[2] Comments made while running for re-election in 1851, led Sir Thomas Mitchell to demand a public apology. While Donaldson complied Mitchell was not satisfied and challenged Donaldson to a duel with pistols. Both men missed but they remained antagonised.[1] He supported the development of steam ship services to Australia and the work of Caroline Chisholm. In 1852 he achieved the carriage of a motion recommending that £10,000 should be applied to supporting Chisholm's work.[3] He travelled to England in 1853–1854.

From 1 February 1855 to 29 February 1856, Donaldson represented Sydney Hamlets in the council.[2] In March 1856, Donaldson was elected to the newly created Legislative Assembly of the first Parliament, representing Sydney Hamlets. The first Legislative Assembly had trouble forming a Government. Eventually Governor Denison invited Donaldson to be Premier and he took up the offices of Premier and Colonial Secretary on 6 June 1856. Two months and 20 days later, on 25 August 1856, his Government lost a vote and he resigned. He was criticised for standing down so readily but he said, "my colleagues and myself are all too independent of office to cling to it",[1] a somewhat prophetic remark.

Donaldson was succeeded as Premier by Charles Cowper and Donaldson served as Colonial Treasurer (1856–1857) and was a Commissioner for Railways in 1857.[2] He was elected unopposed to Cumberland (South Riding) in October 1856, representing it to 1859.[1] He was a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney from 1851 to 1861 and his brother John helped to select its academic staff.[1]

Late life[edit]

Donaldson returned to England for the last time in June 1859 and was knighted there in 1860.[2] Following his return, he unsuccessfully sought election to the British House of Commons for Dartmouth in 1860 and later for Barnstaple.[1] He had four sons and one daughter. The eldest son Stuart Alexander Donaldson, a distinguished scholar, became Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, Vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1912 and died in 1915; another son was St Clair Donaldson – archbishop of Brisbane. A third son, Sir Hay Frederick Donaldson, who became an eminent engineer, went with Lord Kitchener on a special mission to Russia in 1916 and died when their ship, HMS Hampshire, struck a German mine off the Orkney Islands.

Stuart Donaldson died at Carleton Hall, near Penrith in Cumberland, England on 11 January 1867.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Draper, Sandra. "Donaldson, Sir Stuart Alexander (1812–1867)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-522-84459-7. ISSN 1833-7538. OCLC 70677943. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson (1812-1867)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  3. ^ Serle, Percival (1949). "Donaldson, Sir Stuart Alexander (1812–1867)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. Retrieved 11 September 2014.


Political offices
New office Premier of New South Wales
6 June – 25 August 1856
Succeeded by
Preceded by Colonial Secretary
6 June – 25 August 1856
Preceded by Colonial Treasurer
3 October 1856 – 7 September 1857
Succeeded by
New South Wales Legislative Council
Preceded by Member for County of Durham
Feb 1848 – Jan 1853
With: none / Charles Cowper
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member for Sydney Hamlets
Feb 1855 – Feb 1856
Council replaced with new parliament
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
New assembly Member for Sydney Hamlets
Mar – Oct 1856
With: Daniel Cooper
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member for Cumberland (South Riding)
Oct 1856 – 1859
District abolished