ID 0398

State Government of South Australia beginning 30 September 1857 - period in office of Premier Hanson, Richard Davis ending on 9 May 1860

Period in office of premier (see Glossary entry for 'period in office' and related terms)

Hanson, Richard Davis
Date of beginning of period in office
30 September 1857
Date of end of period in office
9 May 1860 
Reason for end of preceding period in office
Defeat in parliament 
Reason for end of this government
Defeat in parliament
Number of days in office

Parliamentary support during period

Party affiliation of premier at start of period
Support from parliamentary factions and independents
If coalition government
Coalition partner 1
Coalition partner 2
Coalition partner 3
Coalition partner 4
Party support in parliament at beginning of period
If change in parliamentary support during period
If further change during period

Number of ministers at beginning of period (this may vary during the period)

Total number of ministers
Number from party of premier
Number from coalition party 1
Number from coalition party 2
Number from upper house
Number who are women

Assembly elections contested as premier or after which became premier (see Glossary entry for 'after election')

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Election Premier at election Premier's party Premier after election Premier's party
SA 13 March 1860Richard Davis HansonSupport from parliamentary factions and independentsRichard Davis HansonSupport from parliamentary factions and independents

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Defeat in parliament (Torrens): Beginning of Hanson's period in office; Torrens tendered his resignation on 30 September 1857 after the Assembly, on 23 September, had '... carried a motion proposed by Richard Hanson, Member for the City of Adelaide, condemning the Government's action in rescinding certain regulations under the Waste Lands Act, such action being considered unwarranted and illegal.' Coombe 2009, p.91 in 'Sources', below.

In forming his government on 30 September 1857, '... Hanson took the portfolio of Attorney-General and chose a strong Ministry, with each Minister apparently well fitted for his office.' Combe 2009, p.91 in 'Sources', below.

This did not prevent the government from being defeated in the Assembly on 27 May 1859 by 15 votes to 13 on a motion moved by Henry Strangways '... expressing dissatisfaction with the Government in regard to the recent Babbage Exploring Expedition.' Combe 2009, pp 91-92 in 'Sources', below. Hanson tendered his resignation to the Governor and recommended that Strangways be invited to form a ministry. Strangways declined the invitation and the Governor asked Hanson to form another ministry.

'Hanson reconstructed his Cabinet [in June 1859] simply by replacing the Hon F S Dutton, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and the Minister directly concerned with the Babbage Expedition. Hanson’s Government continued in office for the remainder of the first Parliament.' Combe 2009, p.92 in 'Sources', below.

A more extensive commentary on the problems facing the Hanson government can be found in Howell (pp 108-110 in 'References', below) who agues that Hanson's restructuring of his ministry in June 1859 should have been regarded as the second Hanson government, shortly to be followed by a third Hanson government a month later in July 1859 after a vote of censure and the resignation and replacement of a minister who had been commissioned in June.

Howell makes the more general point that the official Statistical Record of the Legislature (see Table S p.134 in 'Sources', below) treats the Hanson ministry as a single government rather than three as Howell contends, one of several restructured ministries that the official record should have regarded as separate governments. This results in understating the number of changes of government in South Australia between 1857 and 1893; see Howell, Table A, p.110 and generally pp 108-116, in 'References', below.

Some of the legislation passed by the Hanson government is discussed in Combe pp 92-93 (in 'Sources', below) chief among them being the South Australian Real Property Act. This was an innovative system of registering land titles introduced by former Premier Torrens, becoming law in 1858. The system is often associated with the name of Torrens even though assessments differ as to his contribution to its design; note Howell, pp 158-163, (in 'References', below) and the entry for Torrens in the Australian Dictionary of Biography online here.

Defeat in parliament (Hanson): On the expiry of its three year term, the House of Assembly was dissolved on 1 March 1860 with elections held in March and April 1860 (see the notes for SA Assembly election 1860). The Assembly was called into session on 27 April 1860 and the Hanson government remained in office although the Treasurer and former Premier Finniss, resigned before the debate on the address in reply. Shortly after, on 2 May, Thomas Reynolds. a former minister in Hanson's government, moved a censure motion over the government's handling of funds assigned to the Agent-General's office in London. The motion passed in the Assembly by 23 votes to 12 and Premier Hanson resigned, with Reynolds being commissioned to form a Ministry which took office on 9 May 1860 (see Combe pp 92-93, in 'Sources' below).

Categorizing changes of government: Before the emergence of disciplined political parties that provide a clear indicator of government gains and losses, the reason for a change of government after a general election for the Assembly can be difficult to categorize. Premier Hanson did not seem to regard the result of the 1860 election as a criticism of his administration even though there had been a substantial number of newly elected members. He was willing to continue in office and submit a statement of policy to the Assembly through the Governor's opening address to the House. Nor was his Ministry defeated on a vote related to the address in reply which would have indicated the newly elected Assembly's general dissatisfaction with his government before the election.

As a consequence, the Hanson government's defeat cannot be categorized in this Database as resulting from a 'Loss of general election'. But comments by Combe imply that Hanson resigned as Premier because had become tired of a series of trivial criticisms and thought it was time for someone else to lead the government (see Combe p.93 in 'Sources',below). Howell, on the other hand regards the Hanson government as having had a history of administrative problems and was '... defeated by a fresh vote of censure in May 1860.’ Howell, p.109 in 'References', below. Given that such a vote of censure was passed, Howell's categorization of the reason for the fall of the Hanson government as a 'Defeat in parliament', is accepted for this Database as being a more appropriate explanation than 'Resignation of premier'.

References: For information on the structure of government set up in 1857, see 'Premier and ministry' in the notes to the First Ministry.

A detailed history of South Australia to 1857 can be found in Douglas Pike, Paradise of Dissent: South Australia 1829-1857, (London: Longmans Green and Co., 1957) and a survey of the introduction of responsible government in South Australia from 1836 to 1857 is provided in Combe 2009, pp 8-78 in 'Sources', below. The first Premier, Finniss produced his own history: B T Finniss, The Constitutional History of South Australia During Twenty One Years from the Foundation of the Settlement in 1836 to the Inauguration of Responsible Government in 1857, Adelaide: Rigby, 1886 (online through Trove here). [accessed 25 February 2020]

The question of the nature of politics and government in South Australia during the period up to 1890 is covered by P A Howell, 'Constitutional and Political Development, 1857-1890', ch.5, and Dean Jaensch, 'Parliament and Government', ch. 10, both chapters in Dean Jaensch (editor), The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History, (Netley, SA: Wakefield Press, 1986, ISBN 0949268518), and see Combe 2009 in 'Sources', below. While focused on a later period, useful background can also be found in the section on 'Representation' (pp 65-75) in J B Hirst, Adelaide and the Country 1870-1917: Their Social and Political Relationship, (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1973, ISBN 0522840450).

For a survey of Hanson's career, see 'Hanson, Richard Davis (1805-1876), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1972), online here [accessed 23 February 2020].


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.

Parliament of South Australia, Statistical Record of the Legislature 1836 - 2007, PDF format (2,136 KB).

'An Act to establish a Constitution for South Australia, and to grant a Civil List to Her Majesty', 1855-56, No. 2. online here, and a transcript of the Act here [accessed 21 September 2018].