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Sir James Francis Garrick (1836–1907)

by W. Ross Johnston

This article was published:

Sir James Francis Garrick (1836-1907), politician and agent-general, was born on 10 January 1836 at Sydney, the second son of James Francis Garrick who migrated in the early 1830s to manage a flour-mill. Like his elder brother, James was articled to a Sydney solicitor. He was admitted to practise in December 1860 and his brother practised in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1861 Garrick moved to Brisbane, where only four attorneys were then in practice. He went into partnership with Charles Lilley, built up a flourishing practice and became solicitor to the City Council.

Garrick represented East Moreton in the Legislative Assembly in 1867-68. In 1869 the Lilley ministry appointed him to the Legislative Council but he soon left for London and after an absence of two sessions his seat was declared vacant. In London he resumed his legal studies and was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple in 1873. Next year he returned to Brisbane and was admitted to the Queensland Bar. He was crown prosecutor of the metropolitan district in 1874-75, the central district in 1875-76 and the southern district in 1877. In 1882 he was appointed Q.C. He re-entered politics in 1877 for East Moreton. In February 1878 he was appointed secretary for public lands and mines in the ministry of John Douglas; in December he became attorney-general and held office for two months before the government fell. From 1879 he was prominent in the Opposition led by (Sir) Samuel Griffith to the McIlwraith government until November 1883 when Griffith took over the administration and appointed Garrick temporarily as colonial treasurer. In 1883-84 he was postmaster-general, a post that customarily involved leadership of the government in the Legislative Council, to which he was duly appointed. He represented Queensland at the Intercolonial Conference of 1883.

In June 1884 Griffith appointed him agent-general for immigration in London while still holding a seat in the Executive Council as minister without portfolio. Apart from an interruption from June 1888 to December 1890, Garrick held his post in London until October 1895. In his first term he sent to Queensland an average of 10,000 migrants each year, most from Britain but a few from Europe. When hopes of increased German migration were crushed in 1885 by German newspaper stories 'warning against Queensland', Garrick tried to counter them but with little success. In 1886 he unsuccessfully canvassed the possibility of other schemes of state-aided migration from Britain. He took part in settling the New Guinea question after Queensland's abortive annexation in 1883. With other Australasian agents-general he was involved in numerous conferences and private interviews with the secretary of state for the colonies. The latter rejected both Garrick's suggestions for more immediate and effective action in New Guinea and the South Pacific and his protest against the deportation of French criminals to New Caledonia. He arranged with the Admiralty for the Paluma to survey more accurately the Queensland coast and secured other ships for his government. He attended the Postal Union Conference at Lisbon in 1885 and the International Congress at Brussels on customs tariffs in 1888. As an executive commissioner, he prepared Queensland's court for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in 1886, and was one of Queensland's representatives at the Colonial Conference in 1887. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1885 and K.C.M.G. in 1886.

In his second term as agent-general in 1890-95 Garrick completed the details of a scheme to send Italians to the sugar areas of Bundaberg and the Herbert River as replacements for Kanaka labour. In 1891-92 he publicized a scheme of village settlement but deteriorating financial conditions in Queensland put an end to such plans. When the focus of attention in the agent-general's office switched to commerce and trade, Garrick helped to find and promote new markets for Queensland products and new products for Queensland to develop. The marketing of frozen beef was his main concern. With the War Office he helped to complete arrangements for the defence of Torres Strait, including armaments for Thursday Island. He was active in the Imperial Institute and a Queensland representative on its council. In 1890 he was invited but declined to stand for the House of Commons as a Unionist. In 1895 he was appointed a judge of the Queensland Supreme Court but did not assume office. He was a director of several companies and remained in London until he died at his home on 12 January 1907. He was survived by his wife Catherine, daughter of Dr J. J. Cadell, whom he had married on 3 January 1865, and by three children. His daughter, Katherine, endowed the James Francis Garrick chair of law at the University of Queensland.

Described as a 'brilliant lawyer, a well set up handsome man, cultivated and of great personal charm', Garrick was also a fine speaker, very courtly and diplomatic. Although overshadowed in politics by his friend Griffith, as agent-general he was an active intermediary between his government and imperial officials and an ardent promoter of Queensland's advancement.

Select Bibliography

  • R. S. Browne, A Journalist's Memories (Brisb, 1927)
  • C. Lack, ‘Colonial Representation in the Nineteenth Century: Part 2, Some Queensland and Other Australian Agents-General’, Journal (Royal Historical Society of Queensland), vol 8, no 1, 1965-66, pp 81-109
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 May 1890
  • 'Obituary: Sir J. F. Garrick', Times (London), 14 Jan 1907, p 6
  • Colonial Secretary's letters to and from agent-general (Queensland State Archives)
  • Griffith papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

W. Ross Johnston, 'Garrick, Sir James Francis (1836–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 13 June 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

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