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Sir Horace Tozer (1844–1916)

by J. C. H. Gill

This article was published:

Sir Horace Tozer (1844-1916), solicitor and politician, was born on 23 April 1844 and baptized Horatio at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, son of Horatio Thomas Norris Tozer, chemist, and his wife Charlotte Winifred Amelia, née Croft. Educated at Newcastle and at Rev. W. H. Savigny's Collegiate School, Sydney, he was articled to James Malbon Thomson in Brisbane in 1862 and admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 7 December 1867. The practice he established next year at Gympie soon flourished. A joint owner of mining leases, Tozer became an authority on mining law and was a member of the Gympie Mining Court; he conducted two mining appeals before the Privy Council, in London.

After election to the Legislative Assembly as member for Wide Bay on 13 July 1871, he retired on 23 September, by prior arrangement, to make way for H. E. King who won the seat in the ensuing October by-election. With experience from 1880 as an alderman in the first Gympie Municipal Council, in 1888 Tozer again accepted nomination for Wide Bay and was returned as a Ministerialist on 17 May; he held the seat until 5 March 1898. In 1886 he had taken Anthony Conwell (d.1897) into legal partnership. Tozer was twice married with Anglican rites: on 12 February 1868 at Ipswich to Mary Hoyles Wilson (d.1878) and on 10 August 1880 at Gympie to a widow Louisa Lord, née Lister.

In C. A. Bernays's parliamentary pen-portraits Tozer appeared as a versatile, popular politician whose knowledge of mining laws was much respected and used. He had a fine physique, a 'hail-fellow-well-met disposition' and magnificent pomposity; his astonishingly large voice gave vent to garbled sentences that were 'an outrage upon the English language'; J. M. Macrossan coined the term 'Tozerisms' for 'something which might be true but probably was not'. Such judgements, however, did not concur with those of other contemporaries who saw that there was more to Tozer than his shell.

From 12 August 1890 until his retirement from parliament Tozer was never out of ministerial office. He was colonial secretary and secretary for public works until March 1893 in the Griffith-McIlwraith government, colonial secretary in the McIlwraith ministry from March to October 1893 and in the Nelson ministry from October 1893 to August 1896, and home secretary from then until 2 March 1898. From March to November 1897 he acted as premier in the absence of Sir Hugh Nelson. In that year Tozer was appointed K.C.M.G.

Tozer introduced important legislation which included a Public Service Act (1896), a Factories and Shops Act (1896)—the first Queensland Act regulating hours and conditions—an Election Act (1897) and the subsequently controversial Aboriginals Protection and the Sale of Opium Act (1897). Tozer was noted for his efforts to ameliorate the condition of Queensland Aborigines: he wanted them to regain 'freedom of life and action' and he viewed reservations as places of protection which Aborigines should enter by choice rather than coercion. W. E. Roth dedicated his Ethnological Studies Among the North-West Central Queensland Aborigines to Tozer. In his ministerial capacity Tozer was responsible for founding in 1895 the Free Public Library and the National Art Gallery of Queensland.

Queensland's agent-general in London from 1898 to 1909, Tozer retired because of indifferent health. Survived by two sons and two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 20 August 1916 at his South Brisbane home and was buried in Toowong cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty (1859-1919) Years (Brisb, 1919?)
  • Pugh's Almanac, 1889
  • Brisbane Courier, 21 Aug 1916
  • Gympie Times, 12 July 1871, 22 Aug 1916
  • Queensland Law Society Archives, Brisbane
  • roll of attorneys, solicitors and proctors, 1857-1953 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Mines Office, gold mining leases, 1871-76 (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill, 'Tozer, Sir Horace (1844–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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