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Sir Arthur Rutledge (1843–1917)

by J. C. H. Gill

This article was published:

Sir Arthur Rutledge (1843-1917), preacher, barrister, politician and judge, was born on 29 August 1843 at Penrith, New South Wales, son of James Rutledge, schoolmaster, and his wife Lucy, née Field. His father's work took the family to Drayton, Darling Downs, Moreton Bay District, in 1851-55, then to Sydney. Arthur began work in legal and mercantile occupations in 1859, intending to enter the legal profession. In 1865, however, he was ordained a Wesleyan minister. He married Mary Thomas Rabone at Surry Hills on 24 March 1869. His ministry took him to rural areas of New South Wales and to Brisbane, where he settled after 1875. Rutledge left the ministry, encouraged and supported financially by George Cowlishaw, to study law. He was called to the Queensland Bar in 1878.

After unsuccessfully contesting the parliamentary seat of North Brisbane, Rutledge stood for Enoggera, which elected him and (Sir) James Dickson. He became a leading opponent of the first McIlwraith government. When prominent Liberal politicians were persuaded to secure rural seats to win office for (Sir) Samuel Griffith, Rutledge stood for Kennedy and, with his 'force and charm as a platform speaker', topped the poll in October 1883. Premier Griffith, who became his lifelong friend, appointed him attorney-general. Following an electoral redistribution, Rutledge's anti-separatist stance found favour at Charters Towers, which overwhelmingly returned him in May 1888. The government, however, lost office in June. When the Queensland parliament was invited to send delegates to the 1891 National Australasian Convention in Sydney, Rutledge was chosen as one of its seven representatives.

After his retirement from politics on 13 May 1893, Rutledge returned to the Bar. He accepted appointment as crown prosecutor for the Southern Supreme Court on 20 December 1895. But the attraction of politics proved too strong: he resigned his position and stood for Maranoa in March 1899. Promoted by the Wesleyan connexions of the Brisbane Courier, he defeated the popular Independent Labor incumbent Robert King. Rutledge became attorney-general in Dickson's ministry and, later that year, was appointed Q.C. A member of the royal commission to scrutinize the draft code of criminal law and the bill to establish the code in 1899, Rutledge introduced and carried legislation prepared by Griffith.

He was briefly out of office during the short tenure of the Dawson government in December 1899. In 1901 he was acting premier during (Sir) Robert Philp's absence and was knighted in June 1902 following the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York. When Philp was forced to resign as premier on 17 September 1903, Rutledge tried in vain to form a cabinet. He became leader of the Opposition when Philp declined, but failed to secure the suburban seat of Nundah in the 1904 election. During 1904-05 he twice held commissions as an acting judge of the Supreme Court.

On 22 March 1906 Rutledge was appointed judge of District Courts, and held this office for the rest of his life, despite criticisms. During this period he also acted in rotation with his fellow judges as chairman of the Land Appeal Court. He was a painstaking, conscientious judge and 'a gentleman of the good old school'. Rutledge married Rose Ann Davey in Melbourne on 21 June 1910. Survived by his wife, and three sons and four daughters of his first marriage, he died in Sydney on 8 February 1917 and was buried in Toowong cemetery, Brisbane.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty (1859-1919) Years (Brisb, 1919)
  • R. B. Joyce, Samuel Walker Griffith (Brisb, 1984)
  • D. J. Murphy and R. B. Joyce (eds), Queensland Political Portraits 1859-1952 (Brisb, 1978)
  • R. Johnston, History of the Queensland Bar (Brisb, 1979)
  • Pugh's Almanac, 1910
  • Quarterly Law Almanac, 1913
  • Town and Country Journal, 6 July 1904
  • Brisbane Courier, 9, 12 Feb 1917
  • Punch (Melbourne), 22 Feb 1917
  • Australian Christian World, 2 Mar 1917.

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill, 'Rutledge, Sir Arthur (1843–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 13 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Arthur Rutledge, 1883

Arthur Rutledge, 1883

State Library of Queensland, 93933

Life Summary [details]


29 August, 1843
Penrith, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


8 February, 1917 (aged 73)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.