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Charles James St Julian (1819–1874)

by Mark Lyons and Marion Nothling

This article was published:

Charles James Herbert de Courcy St Julian (1819-1874), journalist and chief justice, was born on 10 May 1819 probably in France, son of Thomas St Julian, a French army officer, and his wife Marian, née Blackwell. Educated in London, he was skilled in carving ivory and wood, but by his own account joined an expedition up the Niger, volunteered as a junior officer in the Circassian contingent and then fought for the Queen of Spain in the Carlist wars. He arrived in Adelaide on 15 May 1838 as Charles Trout, turner, an assisted immigrant in the Trusty, and joined the staff of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register. He moved to Sydney in August 1839 and on 26 November at St Mary's Cathedral married Eleanor Heffernan. He wrote for W. A. Duncan's Australasian Chronicle and in 1841 became editor and principal reporter of the Commercial Journal, which later became the Sydney Free Press. When it failed in 1842 he was engaged by the Sydney Morning Herald as parliamentary reporter. In May 1847 he became editor and proprietor of the Sydney Chronicle with his friend E. J. Hawkesley. On 2 October 1848 he started the Daily News but by next January was bankrupt and rejoined the Herald as chief law reporter.

On 29 April 1848 St Julian had begun a regular correspondence with R. C. Wyllie, Hawaiian minister of foreign relations. In 1853 he became King Kamehameha III's commissioner to the independent states and tribes of Polynesia to encourage the development of governments on the constitutional pattern of Hawaii, with a view to forming a confederation under the auspices of the kingdom of Hawaii. As 'Cecrops' St Julian wrote regularly on Pacific matters for the Australian Era. Many of his articles were later published in Sydney as books or pamphlets, including Notes on the Latent Resources of Polynesia (1851), The Productions, Industry, and Resources of New South Wales (1853) with E. K. Silvester, and the Official Report on Central Polynesia with a gazetteer by Edward Reeve (1857). By then St Julian had become consul-general for Hawaii and advised Governors FitzRoy and Denison on Pacific affairs. Several of his recommendations for greater British diplomatic representation in the Pacific were forwarded to London. Disappointed in his hopes of becoming British consul at Tonga, he became disillusioned with the Hawaiian connexion and his correspondence with Wyllie lapsed in 1861.

Of middle height, stout and rather pompous, St Julian was again bankrupt in December 1862; he stated the cause as sickness in the family and the death of his wife on 28 August 1861 and a daughter in November. With debts over £500 he had few assets, but received £5 10s. a week from the Herald and £100 a year as correspondent for a Melbourne paper; he had no income as commissioner for affidavits. On 10 January 1863 he married Eliza Winifred Hawkesley, daughter of his former partner. His Catholicism had steered him towards working for Duncan and Hawkesley and like them he favoured the liberal cause in religion and politics. After initial scepticism he championed the National system of education and his support of (Sir) Henry Parkes's 1866 public schools bill provoked the displeasure of the Church.

Supporting local government, in 1859 St Julian was returning officer for the first Waverley municipal elections. Next year he was elected to the council; he was chairman in 1861 and presided over the building of the council chambers. He was returning officer for many local government elections; in 1868 he became an alderman on Marrickville Borough Council and was mayor in 1868-69 and 1871. Author of two guides to the ambiguous 1858 Municipalities Act, in 1866 he was elected chairman of the municipal councils' conference and helped to draft the 1867 Municipalities Act which lasted until 1906. He published a handbook on Municipal Elections in 1867 and next year the Municipalities Act of 1867 With Notes Thereon … which was 'regarded by every lawyer in the colony as a work of authority, being constantly cited'. In February 1870 he was gazetted a magistrate and sat regularly on the bench of the Central Police Court.

St Julian also wrote many articles for the Herald, notably on the supply of water to Sydney, the charitable institutions of New South Wales and sketches of Australian society 'rapidly thrown off during his visits to circuit courts'. In 1870 he published Pastoral Freeholds and in 1872 The International Status of Fiji. Despite unfavourable reception by the Colonial Office of his suggestion of a confederation between Fiji and Hawaii, in 1871 he visited Fiji as a special commissioner of the Hawaiian government to investigate an alliance. In March 1872 he became chief justice and chancellor of the kingdom of Fiji, apparently on the recommendation of Sir Alfred Stephen who on 17 April told the British consul at Levuka, 'I am sure that he will be found an upright, fearless, discriminating, just, and painstaking magistrate'. He was involved in the transfer of sovereignty to Great Britain in 1874 and was recommended by Governor Sir Hercules Robinson for a pension of £600, but he died on 26 November, survived by his second wife and ten children. His portrait hangs in the Waverley Council Chambers.

Select Bibliography

  • B. T. Dowd and W. Foster (eds), The History of the Waverley Municipal District (Syd, 1959)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7, 29 Apr 1868, 22 Dec 1874
  • Brisbane Courier, 3 May 1872
  • Fiji Argus, 4 Dec 1874
  • Illustrated Sydney News, Jan 1875
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • St Julian family papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Stephen uncat MS 211/3 (ML)
  • Colonial Secretary's letters, and insolvency files, 1862, 6001 (State Records New South Wales)
  • Foreign Office, Executive file, 1848-72 (Hawaiian Archives).

Citation details

Mark Lyons and Marion Nothling, 'St Julian, Charles James (1819–1874)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Cecrops
  • Trout, Charles

10 May, 1819


26 November, 1874 (aged 55)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.