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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Young, Adolphus William (1814–1885)

by A. F. Pike

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Adolphus William Young (1814-1885), merchant and sheriff, was born at Hare Hatch House, Berkshire, England, the son of John Adolphus Young. He had some legal training before 1837 when he married Anne Eliza Smith and migrated with her to Sydney. In December 1837 he became a provisional director of the Australian Gaslight Co., third police magistrate, and a justice of the peace. In March 1838 he resigned his magistracy because the salary of £300 was inadequate, and joined the legal firm of Carr & Rogers as an attorney. On 22 October 1839 the directors of the Gaslight Co. charged him with corrupt practice for buying land adjoining the works in order to sell it at a profit to the company. Young pleaded that he had not known the exact site of the land when he bought it; he was found guilty 'of indiscretion, but not of any act derogatory to his character as a gentleman'. However, he resigned from the board and in September 1840 sailed with his family in the Ellen for England.

In October 1842 Young was appointed sheriff of New South Wales, on the understanding that the duties of that office were to be modified. Soon after his return to Sydney he was sworn in on 2 July 1843. In 1844 he became a director of the Australasian Colonial and General Life Assurance Co., and was elected to represent the Port Phillip District in the Legislative Council at Sydney; a petition filed against his election was dismissed. During his campaign he had pledged himself to oppose the government's policy in the administration of crown lands and in January 1845 he signed a petition to the Queen for the separation of the Port Phillip District from New South Wales. However, he was notified that he could not hold both his seat and his government office, and in July he resigned from the council. Later he found that his office as sheriff was 'everywhere of an invidious and responsible character … attended with peculiar and unusual difficulties'. Some of his accounts were questioned by the British Treasury and he resigned in November 1849, receiving from the judges of the Supreme Court very warm commendations for his 'integrity, discretion and ability'.

Young's first wife had died in 1845 and in 1847 he married Jane, daughter of Charles Throsby junior. With her and his children he returned to England. He lived at Hare Hatch House, which he inherited from his father. He became a justice of the peace, acted as deputy-lieutenant for Berkshire, and in the House of Commons he represented Great Yarmouth in 1857-59, and Helston, Cornwall, in 1868-79. In parliament he showed a keen interest in Australian affairs. In 1873 he helped Sir Charles Cowper in London in his efforts to obtain favourable mail contracts for New South Wales and in 1882 gave much encouragement to Sir Henry Parkes. After his second wife died Young married Mary Clementine. He died at Hare Hatch on 4 November 1885, leaving an estate valued at some £27,000 to his widow and his eight surviving children.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 19, 22-24
  • newspaper indexes and manuscript catalogue under Adolphus William Young (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CO 201/425.

Citation details

A. F. Pike, 'Young, Adolphus William (1814–1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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