ID 1662

Parliament of South Australia, House of Assembly election

Election of 8 April 1881

Show only vote and seat summary details

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General election for the House of Assembly
South Australia
Date of election (or first day of voting at elections held over more than one day)
8 April 1881

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
House of 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
Conservative Ministerialists
House of 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 at 21 years, one single member and 21 multimember districts, first past the post (plurality) voting (see notes)

South Australia, House of Assembly votes and seats won

Display Chart

Election held on 8 April 1881
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)  31,217  100.00  0.00  46  10  100.00 
Votes for other than listed parties 0 0.00 0.00       
Totals 31,217  100.00    46  10  100.00 

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Election dates: Elections were held on 8, 11, 20, 25 and 27 April 1881.

Premier in office at election: There had been a change of Premier since the Boucaut government had continued in office after the previous general election for the Assembly in April 1878. After 11 months in office, Boucaut resigned as Premier on 27 September 1878 to take up the position of judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia, following the example of two of his predecessors '... both of whom had been transferred from active politics to seats on the Supreme Court bench.' Combe 2009, p.111 in 'Sources', below.

On the resignation of Boucaut as Premier, Morgan was commissioned to form a government on 27 September 1878. Morgan, a member of the Legislative Council, kept the position of Chief Secretary that he had held under the Boucaut administration, together with all but one of the ministers in the previous government. Morgan's government remained in office until the general election was called for April 1881 (this election).

Premier in office after election: The Morgan government continued in office after the April 1881 general election for the Assembly. But, on 21 June 1881 '... private [financial] circumstances compelled Premier Morgan to resign and his colleagues consequently retired.' Combe 2009, p.112 in 'Sources', below. After various consultations, Bray was able to form a government.

Although the reason for the termination of the Morgan ministry was the resignation of the Premier for personal financial reasons, the Bray government did not include any of the ministers who had served in the previous administration, five of whom were available as members of parliament in June 1881. This indicates a consolidation of factional support that can be seen as a precursor to the emergence of political parties; see 'Factions and political parties', below.

Electoral system and voting: For background to the franchise and the qualification of members for this election in 1881, see the note to the 1860 Assembly election. Other electoral rules for the 1881 election were set out in the Electoral Act of 1861 which kept the bulk of the electoral administration specified in the previous Electoral Act of 1857-8 (including provision for the secret ballot in section 49).

But the Electoral Districts Act of 1872 (see 'Sources', below) had increased the size of the Assembly from 36 to 46 members to be elected from 22 districts; one single member district (North Adelaide), 18 two-member districts, and 3 three-member districts; this had required extensive changes to electoral district boundaries for the Assembly elections. This redistribution applied to Assembly elections held in 1875, 1878 and 1881 (this election).

Voters in multimember districts could choose to 'plump' by voting for only one candidate. Jaensch (see 'Sources', below) provides details for the number of plumped ballots at South Australian Assembly elections where figures are available.

Election results and sources: The election figures in the tables above were calculated from the individual electoral district results for the 1881 Assembly election compiled by Jaensch from results published in newspapers (see Jaensch in ‘Sources’ below). In this Assembly election (1881), 79 candidates sought election to the Assembly's 46 seats. Five of the 22 electoral districts were uncontested; this resulted in 10 candidates being elected unopposed.

Factions and political parties: The pattern of shifting individual and factional alliances in the Assembly that had characterised South Australian politics and had prompted the frequent turnover in governments, began to change after the 1881 election. Members still contested elections as independents but saw themselves as linked to other candidates by their support for a particular premier or government. The label ministerialist can be used to describe this form of pre-party organization and the labels 'conservative' or 'radical' (liberal) began to be loosely attached to some members of these groupings. These loose associations could form the basis for governments that stayed in office for substantial periods. For discussion of these issues, see 'References', below.

References: The nature of politics in South Australia during the period up to 1890 is covered by P A Howell, 'Constitutional and Political Development, 1857-1890', in Dean Jaensch (editor), The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History, ch. 5, (Netley, SA: Wakefield Press, 1986, ISBN 0949268518). A study of South Australian society and politics from 1870 to 1890 can be found in the first 3 chapters of J B Hirst, Adelaide and the Country 1870-1917: Their Social and Political Relationship, (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1973, ISBN 0522840450). See also Dean Jaensch, 'South Australia', in P Loveday, A W Martin, & R S Parker, (editors), The Emergence of the Australian Party System, ch. 5, (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1977, ISBN 0908094035).

A survey of government in South Australia from 1836 to 1957 is provided in Combe 2009 (see, 'Sources', below).


Dean Jaensch, History of South Australian Elections 1857-2006, Volume 1: House of Assembly, (Rose Park, South Australia: State Electoral Office, 2007, ISBN 9780975048634). Note that some of the figures calculated by adding the results from individual electoral districts listed for each Assembly election (those used in the tables above) may differ from the summary figures provided in Jaensch's table, 'House of Assembly: Enrolment and Turnout', in Appendix 1, p.358.

Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, (Adelaide: Government Printer, 1957); reprinted [with changed pagination] as Gordon D Combe, Responsible Government in South Australia, Volume 1, From Foundations to Playford, (Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2009, ISBN 9781862548435); also available online through Google Books, here. Page references in the text above are to the 2009 edition.

SA Electoral Districts Act (No 27 of 1872), online here [accessed 13 December 2018].