Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Musgrave, Sir Anthony (1828–1888)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Anthony Musgrave (1828-1888), by unknown photographer, c1875

Anthony Musgrave (1828-1888), by unknown photographer, c1875

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5979

Sir Anthony Musgrave (1828-1888), governor, was born on 17 November 1828 at Antigua, West Indies, son of Dr Anthony Musgrave, member of the island's House of Assembly and treasurer in 1824-52, and his wife Mary, née Sheriff. Educated in the West Indies, he became private secretary at 21 to the governor of the Leeward Islands. In 1851 he was admitted to the Inner Temple, London, but soon returned to Antigua where he served as treasury accountant in 1852-53 and colonial secretary in 1854-60. In 1853 he had married Christiana Elizabeth Byam; she died in 1858 leaving two sons.

Musgrave was administrator of Nevis from October 1860 to April 1861, then of St Vincent and in May 1862 became lieutenant-governor. In 1864-69 he governed Newfoundland. At San Francisco on the way to his new charge in British Columbia he married Jeannie Lucinda Field by whom he had three sons and a daughter. Instructed to bring British Columbia into the Canadian Union, he succeeded by insisting on construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was transferred to Natal in 1872.

On 6 March 1873 Musgrave became governor of South Australia. The next year his daughter, Joyce, aged three years, died tragically in an accident. In 1875 he was created K.C.M.G., published his Studies in Political Economy, occasional economic articles in London journals and two pamphlets, and became a shareholder in the Westminster Review. The colony was booming but cursed by political instability with four changes of government in his four year term. His valedictory address in 1877 pointed out the folly of this system and urged stability.

After six years as governor of Jamaica, he became governor of Queensland on 21 July 1883. With (Sir) Samuel Griffith, who became premier in November, he shared a deep enthusiasm for Australian Federation and a concern for the protection of primitive peoples. He ridiculed colonial fears of German influence in New Guinea and distrusted the motives of the sugar interests but accepted the establishment of a protectorate over southern New Guinea in 1884. He visited England in 1886 and planned to retire but in June 1888 Sir Thomas McIlwraith, whom he detested, became premier. The two soon clashed over the governor's right to unfettered exercise of the prerogative of mercy. Musgrave appealed to the Colonial Office, McIlwraith defied him and London supported the premier. A few weeks later Musgrave died, probably of angina pectoris, on 9 October 1888. The premier immediately pressed for a colonial voice in the selection of governors.

Musgrave was assessed by Sir William MacGregor as kind and honest, but 'falling a little behind the times in his conception of popular government'. He left an insurance policy for £3000 and a small Jamaican estate. He is often confused with his nephew Anthony who was his private secretary for years and became colonial secretary of British New Guinea.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1886, 1, 679, 1889, 1, 601
  • I. D. McNaughtan, ‘The case of Benjamin Kitt’, JRHSQ, 4(1951)
  • B. Scott, The Governorship of Sir Anthony Musgrave, 1883-1888 (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Queensland, 1954)
  • Griffith papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Musgrave papers (National Library of Australia)
  • CO 13/129-135, 234/43-49.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Musgrave, Sir Anthony (1828–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/musgrave-sir-anthony-4283/text6929, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 25 May 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2016

Anthony Musgrave (1828-1888), by unknown photographer, c1875

Anthony Musgrave (1828-1888), by unknown photographer, c1875

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5979