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Solomon, Albert Edgar (1876–1914)

by Scott Bennett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Albert Edgar Solomon (1876-1914), lawyer and premier, was born on 7 March 1876 at Longford, Tasmania, son of Edward Solomon, clerk, and his wife Mary Anne, née Trebilcock. Educated at Longford State School, Horton College, Ross, and Launceston Church Grammar School, Solomon displayed precocious intellect, securing a State exhibition and matriculating at the University of Melbourne by the age of 13; he gained four degrees from the University of Tasmania (B.A., 1895; LL.B., 1897; M.A., LL.M., 1903). Articled to the firm of Law & Weston in 1893, Solomon was called to the Tasmanian Bar in 1898 and practised with his brother at Launceston and Ulverstone. At Launceston on 13 August 1903 he married Una Alice Hannah Mary Scott.

An active Methodist, the politically ambitious Solomon aligned himself with moral reform and temperance interests at Launceston which helped him top the Bass Anti-Socialist ticket in the 1909 State election. Two months later he became attorney-general and minister for education and mines in Sir Elliott Lewis's second ministry. As minister for education, he supported the newly appointed W. T. McCoy as director of education when he swept through the department. Among the more important changes were the improvement of teachers' conditions and pay, the upgrading of teacher education, the establishment of Philip Smith College and the first state high schools. Wide-reaching syllabus changes were also effected, the inspectorial system became less threatening for teachers and greater provision was made for children from remote areas.

Solomon was respected for his tactical skill in parliament where the increasingly embattled Lewis could always rely on his support. In June 1912 the premier responded to party criticism by resigning his office and Solomon defeated N. K. Ewing for the position, becoming the youngest Tasmanian premier to that time.

His twenty-one months as premier were demanding. Saddled with the legacy of the Liberal Party unrest that had unseated Lewis, he depended upon the Independent member of the House of Assembly, D. N. Cameron, for a parliamentary majority. Labor tried continually to destabilize the situation with various no-confidence motions and a censure motion over the Mount Lyell disaster. Solomon attempted to secure his position by gaining an early dissolution; in the election of January 1913 Cameron was trounced and the Liberals returned with 52 per cent of the vote and a working majority. This favourable position was soon lost; a by-election defeat, combined with the increasingly erratic behaviour of J. T. H. Whitsitt, saw Solomon lose a no-confidence motion in April 1914. He advised another dissolution, but John Earle was invited to form a Labor government and Solomon became leader of the Opposition.

About two years after entering parliament, Solomon had suffered a cut hand. Never a robust man, he did not recover fully from the infection; he was, moreover, exhausted from overwork. Survived by his wife and two sons, he died at his Hobart home on 5 October 1914 of phthisis pulmonalis and was buried in Carr Villa cemetery, Launceston.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Turney (ed), Pioneers of Australian Education, vol 3 (Syd, 1983)
  • Daily Telegraph (Launceston), 6 Oct 1914
  • Mercury (Hobart), 6, 7 Oct 1914.

Citation details

Scott Bennett, 'Solomon, Albert Edgar (1876–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/solomon-albert-edgar-8576/text14971, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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