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Archibald Hamilton Jacob (1829–1900)

by G. N. Hawker

This article was published:

Archibald Hamilton Jacob (1829-1900), politician, was born on 31 July 1829 at Jessore, India, the second surviving son of Captain Vickers Jacob (1789-1836), Indian army and later merchant and landholder in New South Wales, and his wife Anne (1796-1836), née Watson. He was educated at La Martinière College, Calcutta, and from 1840 at Lincoln College, England. Ill health forced him to abandon his studies at Chester for the Anglican Church and employment with the Liverpool and Manchester Bank. With his brother Robert he arrived at Sydney in 1851, acquired five acres (2 ha) at Raymond Terrace where he built a house and later bought a few hundred acres of his father's property. He became clerk of Petty Sessions for Raymond Terrace in 1852 and agent for the sale of crown lands in 1857 but resigned both posts in 1864 and turned to agriculture.

In 1872-80 Jacob represented the Lower Hunter in the Legislative Assembly. He spoke often on various subjects and served on many select and standing committees, but his independence was pronounced. In November 1877 he surprised many members by becoming secretary of mines in John Robertson's tottering ministry which he had opposed in a censure motion. At first an assiduous local representative, he increasingly ignored the needs of his electors and condemned Parkes's 1880 Education Act as costly and unnecessary. In that year he moved permanently to Sydney and held his seat by only three votes. In 1882, as a supporter of Alexander Stuart, he lost Morpeth to Robert Wisdom, partly because of rumours that Catholic priests were canvassing for him. In October 1883 he was appointed to the Legislative Council.

The council's relative calm and sobriety suited Jacob's temperament. He won repute as deputy-chairman of committees when the Land Act was passed in 1884 and was chairman in 1887-1900. A staunch Conservative, Jacob opposed payment of members, superannuation for civil servants and income tax proposals. He wanted a fixed membership for the council and defended its right to amend money bills. He was quick to detect infringements of privileges and skilfully used his knowledge of standing orders to delay assembly measures, especially during Reid's fiscal manoeuvres in 1894-95. He had the best attendance record of his contemporary councillors but for years feuded with the Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald, alleging that they misreported his speeches.

Jacob kept his political and private roles separate. A devout Anglican and a founder of St John's Church at Raymond Terrace, he opposed the opening of parliament with prayer, claiming that it was a private matter. He died at Ashfield on 28 May 1900 and was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by five sons of his wife Mary (1830-1897), née Snodgrass, whom he had married in 1853. His estate was valued at £17,500.

Select Bibliography

  • An Historical and Genealogical Narrative of the Families of Jacob (priv print, Syd, no date)
  • Bulletin, 29 May 1880
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 May 1900
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 29 May 1900
  • Town and Country Journal, 2 June 1900
  • Norton Smith & Co. papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. N. Hawker, 'Jacob, Archibald Hamilton (1829–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 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

Archibald Jacob, 1896

Archibald Jacob, 1896

State Library of New South Wales, 174324

Life Summary [details]


31 July, 1829
Jessore, Bangladesh


28 May, 1900 (aged 70)
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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