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William Clark Haines (1810–1866)

by Betty Malone

This article was published:

William Clark Haines (1810-1866), by Batchelder & O'Neill

William Clark Haines (1810-1866), by Batchelder & O'Neill

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29447

William Clark Haines (1810-1866), politician, was born at Hampstead, England, son of John Haines, physician, and his wife Jane, née Bliss. He was educated at Charterhouse and in 1829-32 at Caius College, Cambridge (B.A., 1833), where by family tradition he was a friend of Thackeray.

After practising surgery in England for some years, Haines migrated to Victoria and bought property near Geelong with John Highett in 1842; the partnership was dissolved in 1846. Haines had given up farming by 1850 when he divided 2849 acres (1153 ha) into forty-nine farms stretching from Pollocksford on the Barwon River across the Geelong-Colac road at Moriac. By 1851 he had sold five farms to Charles Dennys and others were sold in the 1850s. Haines became well known in the Geelong district as territorial magistrate, district trustee of the Port Phillip Savings Bank and member of the Grant District Council in 1843. In 1851 he was a government nominee in the first Legislative Council; his resignation in August 1852 in protest against the intended issue of leases to the squatters won him the support of smallholders and radicals, although Haines was always a conservative. He was elected member for Grant in the council in August 1853 and became an official nominee from December 1854 to March 1855. He served on many council committees, including one for licensing in September 1854 when he took a firm anti-temperance stand. With John Foster, (Sir) William Stawell and others he helped to draft the new Victorian Constitution.

In December 1854, after Foster resigned, Haines became colonial secretary. His loyal and conscientious service was acknowledged by Governor Sir Charles Hotham, who wrote to the Colonial Office: 'Single handed I never could have coped with the difficulties with which I found this Colony surrounded, but I have had an able assistant and above all, a gentleman by my side, who has the invaluable habit of looking at his object and marching straight to it'. As the chief civil servant in Victoria Haines implemented the moves to resolve the financial crisis of 1854-55, reform goldfields administration and institute local government in suburbs, shires and country towns. He also shared with Hotham the many criticisms levelled at the administration.

In the council Haines was a reluctant, almost inarticulate speaker except when forced to clarify a government plan or defend a constitutional issue. He could be roused to speak on a few subjects on which he felt strongly, such as the unfair advantages of pastoral licensees over landowners. Another subject was education, which he claimed should be 'the work of the people themselves', financed by local rates and government grants, supervised by local authorities who understood local needs and property values, and preferably dominated by the churches.

In October 1855 news reached Victoria that the imperial parliament had passed the new Victorian Constitution Act. The Executive Council persuaded Hotham to forgo his powers at the earliest possible moment and to transfer sovereignty to it until elections could be held to choose the new parliament. Haines, Stawell, Andrew Clarke and Hugh Childers were released from their duties in November 'on political grounds' and immediately reinstated as members of the first ministerial cabinet. The action was condemned by the majority of the Legislative Council who also accused these officials of acting to ensure their right to retiring pensions. Haines later offered to share his £1000 pension with Foster, who declined.

As chief official Haines was accepted as the nominal leader of the government in the Legislative Council. In the debates on electoral procedures for the forthcoming elections, William Nicholson gained support in the council when he advocated the use of secret ballot. Haines argued that secret ballot would mask rather than prevent bribery and when Nicholson's proposal was approved by a slight majority Haines resigned. Nicholson was unable to form a government and when the council resumed early in January 1856 Haines was recalled by the acting-governor, Major-General Edward Macarthur. Reluctantly Haines accepted the principle that the ballot question was to be decided by the legislature rather than by the ministers and an amended electoral bill became law in March.

In the first parliament under the new Constitution in November 1856 Haines was member for South Grant in the Legislative Assembly and led the first ministry. From the beginning his government was insecure despite the stability and confidence of the previous months. Uncertain of a majority in the assembly, he relied heavily on the advice of Stawell while his opponents were comparatively united under (Sir) John O'Shanassy. In March 1857 after several narrow victories Haines's ministry was defeated. O'Shanassy took office but was soon defeated and on 29 April Haines was reinstated, leading a cabinet mainly chosen by (Sir) James McCulloch. His government lasted until February 1858 when it was defeated by a mixed group of democrats, anti-Catholics and squatters during debates on the redistribution of electorates. Haines resigned and later that year left for North America and Europe.

While holding office in 1857-58 Haines swam with the current of Victorian affairs, yielding to pressure from strong colleagues and influential groups. Although he always opposed the hold of the squatters on crown lands, his land bill of 1857 had acknowledged the contention of the powerful squatting group that security of tenure for pastoralists was necessary for Victoria's prosperity. Again in 1857 when he needed (Sir) Archibald Michie's support, he gave government backing to Michie's private bill which would have cut down the church influence in education that Haines himself favoured. Despite his dislike of what he called 'a naked democracy' his government had to accept the principle of manhood suffrage for assembly elections, although the bill introduced included provisions for plural voting and complicated residential qualifications. The onset of an economic crisis and unemployment from 1857 also circumscribed reforms by Haines's administration. He encouraged assisted immigration but it was not popular and had to be reduced. Finance to implement plans to extend the railway system could not be arranged before Haines lost office. Business interests scotched suggestions for a national bank and little was done to extend and reform the civil service.

Haines's reputation was high when he returned to Victoria in October 1860. Representing Portland he took his place in the Legislative Assembly in November. He was treasurer in O'Shanassy's ministry till the government fell in June 1863 and represented Victoria at the intercolonial tariff conference that year. Under O'Shanassy he shared in improvements to electoral procedures, transport, local government and legislation on real estate. In the main issue of state aid to education Haines continued to work with O'Shanassy to reduce the power, prestige and financial status of the secular state schools, although in 1862 Richard Heales managed to carry a bill to establish a single board of education.

In the 1864 election Haines lost at Portland but was elected for Eastern Province to the Legislative Council. In the controversy over protection late in 1865 he was deeply involved in debates on the constitutional aspects of the tariff appropriation bills. His friends blamed his distress over this issue for the carbuncle which caused his death at 55 in his city home at South Yarra on 3 February 1866. He was buried in St Kilda cemetery. He was survived by his wife Mary Ann, née Dugard, whom he had married in London in 1835, and by five sons and two daughters.

Haines had been a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne in 1853-65 and vice-chancellor in 1857-58. He sponsored horse-racing at Geelong as well as international and intercolonial cricket matches; in 1861 he was made a trustee of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He was a grand master of the Scottish Freemasons, a member of the Melbourne Club and a prominent Anglican. A contemporary journal described him as 'a man of no brilliant talents but of immense weight of character—honest, jovial, undisguised old English Tory'. His hard work, patient affability and undoubted integrity were acknowledged by all but he lacked decisiveness and originality. 'Honest Farmer' Haines, as he was sometimes dubbed, was an admirable senior official but less successful as a minister of the Crown.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Kelly, Life in Victoria, vol 1 (Lond, 1859)
  • H. G. Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria, vol 2 (Lond, 1904)
  • W. R. Brownhill, The History of Geelong and Corio Bay (Melb, 1955)
  • G. Serle, The Golden Age (Melb, 1963)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1861-62, Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Council, Victoria), 1865
  • E. Scott, ‘The History of the Victorian Ballot’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 8, no 1, Nov 1920, pp 1-14 and vol 8, no 2, May 1921, pp 49-62
  • Age (Melbourne), 5 Feb 1866
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Feb 1866
  • Illustrated Australian News, 23 Feb 1866
  • W. Hammond, ‘Early History of the Barrabool Hills’, Geelong Advertiser, Dec 1898–Jan 1899.

Citation details

Betty Malone, 'Haines, William Clark (1810–1866)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Clark Haines (1810-1866), by Batchelder & O'Neill

William Clark Haines (1810-1866), by Batchelder & O'Neill

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29447

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


3 February, 1866 (aged ~ 56)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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