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Peter Faucett (1813–1894)

by W. B. Perrignon

This article was published:

Peter Faucett (1813-1894), judge, was born in Dublin, son of Peter Faucett, blacksmith, and his wife Catherine, née Cook. He was educated at a private church school and at Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., 1840). He then studied law and in 1845 was called to the Irish Bar. After some seven years' practice in Ireland, he migrated to Sydney, arriving in 1852. On 29 December he was called to the colonial Bar of New South Wales. He appeared regularly in criminal proceedings on the Maitland circuit, and his advocacy took him as far as Brisbane, then within the jurisdiction of New South Wales.

On 7 April 1856 Faucett was elected under the new Constitution Act to the first Legislative Assembly of New South Wales for the electorate of King and Georgiana, and again at the general election on 1 February 1858. He surrendered this seat on 11 April 1859 on the dissolution of the second parliament. On 20 January 1860 he won the seat of East Sydney in a by-election, but failed to hold it at the general elections in December. He was returned for Yass Plains in a by-election on 15 August 1861. On 16 October 1863 he accepted the office of solicitor-general in the first Martin ministry, and held it until 2 February 1865. On 2 November 1863 he successfully recontested Yass Plains in another by-election. He represented Yass Plains in the fifth parliament from his election on 20 December 1864 until his appointment on 4 October 1865 as a puisne judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

As solicitor-general Faucett behaved 'with the tranquil earnestness becoming the position of one whose sole concern is to have justice done'. His career as a back-bencher was unspectacular, but it was said of him that 'he had the reputation of being a plain-spoken, sober-sided, solid man'. He interested himself in state support for religious denominations, both for their schools and for their community: in connexion with this question he presented petitions from the United Church of England and Ireland, from the Catholic Church and from the Sydney Jewish Community. He also introduced petitions from Anglican and Catholic churches protesting against the matrimonial causes bill of 1862. Of his two public bills only that on titles to land (1858) became law; three of his four private bills were passed.

As a judge Faucett was sound and careful, and his judgments were rarely overruled. He was not brilliant but was universally lauded for his fairness and courtesy. Slow of judgment, he was greatly influenced by legal precedent. When he resigned on 8 February 1888 because of poor health the chief justice, Sir Frederick Darley, paid tribute to his industry and ability. On 9 April he was appointed to the Legislative Council for life. He was active in debate and in 1890 again joined in the protest against the matrimonial causes bill.

Faucett was a member of the faculty of law of the University of Sydney and in 1859-94 a fellow of the senate. He represented the university in June 1888 at the octocentenary celebrations of the University of Bologna and in July 1892 at the tercentenary of his alma mater. He also served on the Women's College Council in 1891-92. He played a leading role in the foundation in 1858 of St John's Roman Catholic College by placing the establishing bill before parliament and serving as a fellow on its first council. He resigned in 1863 but retained his interest in the college. He was also associated with the foundation of St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney. He was 'a most devoted and exemplary Catholic'. On 21 January 1862, aged 49, he was married to Frances Clements, an English immigrant aged 25, in St Mary's Cathedral by Archbishop John Bede Polding. His wife died four years later while giving birth to their first and only child, Frances, who survived him. His estate was valued at about £27,314. At his home, Erina, Five Dock, on 21 May 1894 he received the last rites and died next day.

Select Bibliography

  • 'Memoranda', New South Wales Law Reports, vol 9, 1888, pp iv-vi
  • Express (Sydney), 27 Dec 1884
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 28 Jan 1888, 23 May 1894
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 1894
  • Senate minutes 1891-94 (University of Sydney Archives)
  • St John's College, Council minutes, 17 Apr 1893, 7 May 1894 (University of Sydney Archives).

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Citation details

W. B. Perrignon, 'Faucett, Peter (1813–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


22 May, 1894 (aged ~ 81)
Five Dock, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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