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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Goodwin, William Lushington (1798–1862)

by C. J. Craig

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

William Lushington Goodwin (1798?-1862), journalist, was descended from a seafaring family of Kent, England. He reached Sydney as master of the convict transport Kains in March 1831, after a voyage of eight months in which he had kept discipline despite storm, mutiny, near attack by pirates, and shortage of food and water. The Kains went on to Launceston to take troops to India, was becalmed in the Tamar and wrecked on a submerged rock.

In 1832 Goodwin acted as honorary secretary of the Tasmanian Society in Launceston, and unsuccessfully applied for the position of port officer there. In 1834 he edited the Independent newspaper but, keen to be connected with a journal on republican lines, he became editor and then proprietor of the newly-established Cornwall Chronicle in 1835. He at once began outspoken and irresponsible attacks on Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur, the civil service, the Church of England and the legal profession. His violent abuse of private citizens brought many defamatory actions. In 1838 he accused the port officer, Matthew Friend, of official neglect, peculation and homosexuality, allegations thought to be responsible for the death of Friend's wife in September 1838. Great public hostility was aroused, a protest was made by leading Launceston citizens, and Goodwin was forced to pay damages of £400. Unrepentant, he continued his malicious attacks on Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin, and his newspaper rivals, John Knight of the Launceston Advertiser and Henry Dowling, a Launceston printer, to whom he had to pay £100 for defamation. His treatment of Nathaniel Kentish was answered in Kentish's pamphlet Atrocious Case of Infamously False and Malicious Libel Upon a Respectable and Honourable Man, by that Scurrilous and Oft-Convicted Libeller, William Lushington Goodwin (Hobart, 1846).

From 1836 to 1838 he published a series of social, domestic and political caricatures and cartoons, many to illustrate his written attacks, printed at first from woodcuts and later from etched plates. When ill health in 1841 and bankruptcy the next year forced him to try to dispose of his newspaper, he estimated its annual profit at £5000 and claimed for it the greatest circulation in the colony. He continued as proprietor, however, until 1862, associated in editorship for periods from 1847 with his son-in-law, D'Arcy Wentworth Murray, and with F. M. Innes. In March 1853 he claimed to have installed the colony's first steam press.

In 1854 Goodwin became an alderman of the Launceston City Council. He was elected to the Legislative Council as member for Cornwall in 1855 but did not contest the seat next year. Soon afterwards he retired from active editorship, was appointed to the Commission of the Peace and in September 1857 became coroner for George Town, where he was associated in an attempt to establish steam communication on the Tamar. He died on 5 August 1862 at the Grove, George Town, survived by his children and widow Sophia, who continued to manage the Cornwall Chronicle until it was bought by the Launceston Examiner in 1869.

By the time of his death, Goodwin had achieved high rank as a Freemason and as an Oddfellow. His venomous pen had been put aside and the hurt it had caused so far forgotten that the writer of his obituary praised the honest daring which had helped the colony achieve freedom of expression.

Select Bibliography

  • E. M. Miller, Pressmen and Governors (Syd, 1952)
  • C. Bateson, The Convict Ships, 1787-1868 (Glasgow, 1959)
  • C. Craig, The Engravers of Van Diemen's Land (Hob, 1961)
  • Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 6, 27 Jan, 3, 16, 22 Mar, 14 Apr, 29 Sept, 5 Oct 1838, 7 Aug, 27 Nov 1841, 30 June 1843, 2 Jan 1850, 2 Mar 1853
  • CSO 1/598/13,662 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

C. J. Craig, 'Goodwin, William Lushington (1798–1862)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 8 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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