ID 1444

Parliament of Victoria, Legislative Assembly election

Election of 14 February 1871

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General election for the Legislative Assembly
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
14 February 1871

Government in office and parliamentary support before and after the election

Government in office at election

Premier in office at date of election. (check notes to see if change of Premier since previous election)
Premier's party affiliation
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
Legislative Assembly support for government at election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Government in office after election

Premier in office after election.
Premier's party affiliation
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
Legislative Assembly support for government after election
If coalition, coalition partner(s)

Enrolment and voting

Total number of voters on the roll
Number of Assembly seats
Number of uncontested seats
If uncontested seats, number of voters on the roll in uncontested seats
Number of voters on the roll in contested seats
Total ballots cast (may differ from number of votes in multiple voting systems)
Turnout (rate of voting in contested seats)
Total valid votes
Rate of informal (invalid) voting
Not applicable
Informal (invalid) ballots in multiple voting system
Electoral system
Male franchise, plural voting, single and multimember districts (multiple voting), first past the post (plurality) voting (see notes)

Victoria, Legislative Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 14 February 1871
Criteria for the inclusion of parties in this table are set out in the Glossary under 'listed party'

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Party Name First preference vote n First preference vote share % Change from previous election % Seats won n Uncontested seats held n Seat share %
Independents (no disciplined party groupings)  127,592  100.00  0.00  78  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 127,592  100.00    78  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held over the period from 14 February to 16 March 1871.

Premier in office at election: There had been four changes of Premier since the previous Legislative Assembly election in January and February 1868, which had been fought on the issue of the Legislative Council's refusal to pass the government's appropriation Bill and at which the McCulloch ministry had been returned with an overwhelming majority, winning '... 60 supporters in a House of 78.', Wright p.79 (see 'Sources', below). Notwithstanding this public support, the new Governor (Manners-Sutton) and the Colonial Office instructed the ministry to submit an appropriation Bill in a form that was acceptable to the Legislative Council. McCulloch tendered his resignation on 6 March 1868 in protest against the obstruction of the Council and the interference of the Colonial Office. For the next two months there was, in effect no government, since the majority in the Assembly still supported McCulloch and he refused to serve unless the Council yielded. In an attempt to solve the deadlock, Sladen, a member of the Legislative Council, was commissioned to form a government on 6 May 1868; for details and background, see Wright, pp 77-80 (in 'Sources', below), Waugh, pp 32-33 (in 'References', below), and the notes and references to Sladen's period in office.

Victoria faced a crisis. 'It was being governed by a ministry that was neither constitutional nor responsible. There was no Supply and no apparent prospect of getting Supply. The power of the Legislative Council appeared unlimited even at the cost of community cohesion. Most importantly, there seemed to be no mechanism by which these difficult issues could be resolved. Circumstances had grown, in the worried words of the secretary of state in London, "dangerous and increasingly dangerous to the existing Constitution of Victoria".', Wright, pp 79-80 (see 'Sources', below).

The situation was resolved by the Colonial Office in London reinstating Darling as Governor (for the circumstances of Darling's removal as Governor and the consequent deadlock over the appropriation Bill, see the notes for McCulloch’s first period in office). Sladen '... resigned the day after the news arrived (6 July) ...' Wright, p.80 (see 'Sources', below) and McCulloch was recomissioned as Premier on 11 July 1868.

By mid 1869, 'Parliamentary corruption, the end of the deadlocks, and discontent with the composition of the new Cabinet helped drain support from the [McCulloch] government.... McCulloch lost office in September 1869, after a revolt by the government backbench over his decision to replace [Charles] Jones [who had been expelled from the Assembly for taking bribes] in Cabinet with a party organiser who was not an MP.' Waugh, p.35 (see 'References', below). McCulloch was replaced as Premier by McPherson whose ministry was in turn defeated by a vote in the Assembly in April 1870 over Budget measures; for details and references, see McPherson's period in office. McCulloch was then restored as Premier for his third period in office and led his ministry to this general election for the Legislative Assembly in 1871.

Premier in office after election: The McCulloch government was returned to office but a '... new period of short-lived governments began. The unifying effect of the deadlocks had gone, and McCulloch was diverging from the radicals who had been his allies in the crisis.... ... McCulloch's links with his traditional supporters were weakening, without a solid base to replace them.' Waugh, pp 35 & 36, (see 'References', below).

Electoral system and voting: Electoral legislation was consolidated and amended in by the Electoral Act 1865 which maintained the number and composition of the existing electoral districts, but set out a new set of electoral boundaries. As in the previous election, 78 members were elected from 49 electoral districts, 24 of which were single member districts, 21 two member districts, and 4 three member districts; for those with property in more than one electoral district, plural voting was permitted. Voters in multimember districts had the option of casting as many votes as there were members to be elected from their district (see multiple voting), or they could plump for a single candidate. Voters cast their ballots by crossing off the names of candidates they did not wish to elect, and the most chosen candidate or candidates were elected (plurality voting).

With manhood suffrage for the Legislative Assembly (but not the Legislative Council), all males over 21 years of age who fulfilled residency requirements were eligible to vote for the Assembly. Ratepayers were automatically registered as voters; non-ratepaters were registered by enumeration or separate application, with lists of voters required to be published.

Election results and sources: The election figures in the tables above were calculated from individual electoral district results listed in Carr’s online Election Archive (see ‘Sources’ below), which are compiled from official records and results published in newspapers (for the range of sources and problems with the data, see Carr’s ‘Introduction to Early Victorian Election Statistics', online here [accessed 28 June 2015]). Jaensch and Hughes (see 'Sources', below) provide summary voting figures, some of which differ from Carr’s figures; where they differ from those in the tables above, they are listed in ‘Sources’, below. Jaensch and Hughes are the only source for the total number of voters on the roll at this election; Carr only provides figures for the enrolment in contested seats, and the number on the roll in uncontested seats is the difference between these two figures. Note that Carr lists 6 seats as uncontested (in 4 districts) while Jaensch and Hughes show 10 uncontested seats.

Enrolment and the number of votes cast show increases over the 1868 election, and turnout remained steady at around 61 percent. This figure includes an estimated turnout of 60 percent (2377 ballots cast) in the electoral district of Melbourne West for which Carr states that the number of ballots was not reported. No details are provided for the number of informal (invalid) ballots, but three of the single member electoral districts in Carr’s list show small differences between the number of ballots cast and a smaller number of valid votes, suggesting that some ballots were invalid. The average difference in these districts was 2.7 percent.

There were no disciplined political parties at this election, candidates being broadly identified as those supporting the government at the election (Ministerialists) or those opposing the government for various reasons; for comments on factionalism and influences on members during this period, see Wright, pp 34-38, and 63-72 (in 'Sources', below). Carr's online Election Archive provides details of the political orientation of candidates for each district at the time of the election as reported in contemporary newspapers (see ‘Sources’ below).

References: This election reflected the realignment of interests in the Assembly during the latter stages of McCulloch's premiership; see John Waugh, ' "The Inevitable McCulloch" and his Rivals,1863-1877', pp 32-35, in Paul Strangio and Brian Costar (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, ch. 3, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019), and Wright, pp 74-82, (in 'Sources', below) and note Stuart MacIntyre, A Colonial Liberalism: The Lost World of Three Victorian Visionaries, pp 41-54, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 0195547608), and Geoffrey Serle's Prologue, pp 1-13, to his book The Rush to be Rich: A History of the Colony of Victoria 1883-1889, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1971).

A survey of the operation of the Victorian Parliament from 1856 to 1890 is provided in Wright, Part 2, (see 'Sources', below), and note that a comparison of the characteristics of members elected from 1856 to 1881 can be found in Joy E Mills, 'The Composition of the Victorian Parliament, 1856-1881', Historical Studies, Australian and New Zealand, 2 (5) April 1942.


Adam Carr, '1871', in 'Legislative Assembly Elections', Victorian Elections Since 1843, Psephos: Adam Carr's Election Archive, online here [accessed 29 July 2015].

Dean Jaensch and Colin A Hughes, 'Politics', p. 399, in Wray Vamplew (editor), Australians: Historical Statistics, (Sydney: Fairfax, Syme and Weldon Associates, 1987, ISBN 0949288292); some of the listed results differ from those in the tables above; see the notes on 'Election results and sources', above;

Number of uncontested seats: 10
Voters on roll in uncontested seats: 7,475
Voters on roll in contested seats: 120,033
Total ballots cast: 73,151
Turnout: 60.94%
Total valid votes: 127,585

Victoria, Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, 'Victorian Historical Acts', online here [accessed 9 June 2015].

Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria 1856-1990, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0195533593)