Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joseph Hone (1784–1861)

by Peter Crisp

This article was published:

Joseph Hone (1784-1861), lawyer and civil servant, was a barrister of Gray's Inn who practised in the Courts of Chancery and Exchequer, on the Midland circuit and in London. He was appointed by royal warrant master of the Tasmanian Supreme Court, and arrived in Hobart Town in July 1824 with a wife and three daughters. He acted as attorney-general after the removal of Joseph Gellibrand in 1826, but the duties of two offices were heavy, his health suffered, and he was replaced in the latter position. Courts of Quarter Sessions and Requests were instituted at the same time, and Hone's advice was sought frequently on their administration. He was appointed commissioner of the Court of Requests and chairman of Quarter Sessions for the whole island, but later his jurisdiction in these offices was confined to the south. By 1840 he estimated he had disposed of between thirty and forty thousand cases in the Court of Requests. Still master of the Supreme Court, he acted for a time as chief police magistrate of Hobart and as coroner. When the office of master was abolished in 1836 he was appointed chairman of the Caveat Board for investigating titles to land. In 1840 the mastership was revived and he was reappointed; he also sought appointment as the second puisne judge, but it went to another. In 1840 also he married his second wife, Elizabeth Augusta, the daughter of W. H. Rowe of Gray's Inn, by whom he had a son. In 1834-37 Hone was treasurer of the Van Diemen's Land Auxiliary Temperance Society.

Hone relinquished private practice soon after arrival in the colony, as it was deemed incompatible with his duties as master, which included the taxing of costs in Supreme Court actions, the investigation of accounts, the preparation of legal instruments required by the courts, the management of the estates of minors and lunatics, and taking of depositions of witnesses. He wrote: 'had I resigned the Home Appointment, and exercised my Profession, I should have been in the receipt of some thousands per annum'.

Hone was hardworking and prudent, but without brilliance in his profession. George Boyes, the diarist, said that he knew 'as little about the law as any of us', and made fun of his idiosyncrasies in court. Gilbert Robertson, the editor, said that he was 'universally looked upon as only a few degrees removed from an idiot'. But for more than thirty years he discharged a variety of legal duties for the Crown to the apparent satisfaction of four lieutenant-governors. He died after a long illness on 22 September 1861. A portrait in oils by an unknown painter is in the possession of Mrs Baldwin, Hampden Road, Hobart.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Hone (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Peter Crisp, 'Hone, Joseph (1784–1861)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 29 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Joseph Hone (1784-1861), by Frederick Frith, 1850s

Joseph Hone (1784-1861), by Frederick Frith, 1850s

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125881599

Life Summary [details]




22 September, 1861 (aged ~ 77)
Tasmania, Australia

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