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Rogers, Francis Edward (1841–1925)

by J. M. Bennett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Francis Edward Rogers (1841-1925), judge, was born on 24 February 1841 in Sydney, son of Edward Rogers, an English solicitor who became clerk of the peace, and his wife Eliza, née Taylor. His education was at private schools and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1861; M.A., 1863 with a gold medal in chemistry and experimental physics; LL.B., 1867). He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar on 1 March 1864 and to the Queensland Bar later that year. On 11 January 1868 at St Peter's Church, Cooks River, he married Rebecca, eldest daughter of the rector, Rev. George King; they had four children.

His practice concentrated on criminal law and he became a crown prosecutor in January 1869. A witty, tenacious advocate, he was well-received by juries. In 1882 he resigned as a prosecutor, diversified his practice and on 13 December 1887 took silk. Eschewing politics, Rogers had declined an offer of the attorney-generalship from (Sir) John Robertson, though he admitted strong protectionist sympathies. By 1893 the Illustrated Sydney News assessed him as 'prominent … in the first rank of the Bar' and as one of those who would 'come to the front in any community and in the midst of unlimited competition'.

Compelled by a serious throat condition to curtail advocacy, Rogers accepted a timely elevation as president of a new Land Court in January 1890, relying on a government promise that his status and emolument would soon equal those of Supreme Court judges. The promise was not fulfilled. Despite the distinction he had brought to the court and the infrequency of appeals from his decisions, he resigned after three years and resumed Bar practice. Advocacy again strained his throat.

Of various royal commissions over which he presided, that of 1895 relating to the alleged murderer George Dean was the most celebrated; although the two medical commissioners recommended Dean's release, Rogers dissented. He also chaired the important royal commission into railway administration (1905-06).

Four times between 1894 and 1898 governments could have appointed Rogers to the Supreme Court. Instead, on 1 July 1898, as a virtual consolation prize, he became a judge of the District Courts for the south-western district and chairman of Quarter Sessions. Of distinguished appearance, he was an admirable lawyer, repeatedly recognized by his secondment as an acting judge of the Supreme Court, but never permanently elevated. According to the Yass Evening Tribune, he 'does not give place to bush law. He can appreciate anything amusing. He is a judge of character, and that correctly'.

Elected unopposed to the Senate of the University of Sydney in 1889, he was a fellow until 1913. Other extramural pursuits were, in his youth, athletic sports, and, throughout his life, reading novels and historical works. Rogers retired in 1917. During his judicial career he lived successively at Burwood and Summer Hill. There, on 11 July 1925, he died, survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter. Colonel Chaplain H. J. Rose conducted a funeral service at his home and his burial in South Head cemetery with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • H. T. E. Holt, A Court Rises (Syd, 1976)
  • Sydney Mail, 25 Jan 1890
  • Tamworth News, 3 May 1892
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Apr 1892, 13 July 1925
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 24 June 1893
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 14 July 1925
  • H. T. E. Holt, research notes (State Library of New South Wales)
  • University of Sydney Archives
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

J. M. Bennett, 'Rogers, Francis Edward (1841–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rogers-francis-edward-8255/text14457, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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