ID 0341

State Government of Victoria beginning 27 October 1859 - period in office of Premier Nicholson, William ending on 26 November 1860

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

Nicholson, William
Date of beginning of period in office
27 October 1859
Date of end of period in office
26 November 1860 
Reason for end of preceding period in office
Loss of general election 
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')

* to view table drag left or right.
Election Premier at election Premier's party Premier after election Premier's party
VIC 26 August 1859John O'ShanassySupport from parliamentary factions and independentsWilliam NicholsonSupport from parliamentary factions and independents

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Loss of general election: Beginning of Nicholson's period in office; The O'Shanassy government grappled with the issues of the electoral composition of the Assembly, and policies relating to the sale and lease of crown lands. Its legislation was either rejected or seriously amended by the Legislative Council, and the government steadily lost public support. At the general election held in August and September 1859, support for the O'Shanassy ministry was greatly reduced, prompting O'Shanassy's attempt to resign midway through the election; see Serle, p.293 (see 'References', below). Governor Barkly persuaded him to continue in office until the Assembly met after the election. The O'Shanassy ministry was defeated after the address in reply debate on 22 October 1859 by 56 votes to 17; Victorian Hansard (Argus Reports), 1859-60 vol. 5, 22 October 1859, pp 99-100. Nicholson was commissioned as Premier on 27 October 1859.

The Nicholson government '...largely consisted of leading merchants and others who had been prominent in the Constitutional Association [in favour of liberalized parliamentary representation]. For the moment, about half the Assembly were fairly firm supporters', Serle, p.293 (see 'References', below). The goal of the Nicholson government was to pass a land bill regulating access to crown lands, but key elements of the bill were repeatedly blocked by the Legislative Council, prompting Nicholson to offer his resignation on two occasions although later persuaded by Governor Barkly to continue; see Serle, p.297 (see 'References', below).

Defeat in parliament: 'The nine months battle over the land Act had exhausted the government and had left the long session almost barren of important legislation.... When parliament reassembled in November 1860 Nicholson's ministry was obviously weak and divided, with no attractive policy to offer.... Thus, on the address in reply Brooke, with O'Shanassy in support, carried an amendment against the government by thirty-four votes to twenty-one', Serle, pp 300-301 (see 'References', below); Victorian Hansard (Argus Reports), 1860-61 vol. 7, 21 November 1860, p.41.

References: For a detailed study of parliamentary government in Victoria in this period, see, Geoffrey Serle, The Golden Age: A History of the Colony of Victoria, 1851-1861, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1963). Nicholson's period in office is surveyed in pp 293-301.

In addition to the reference above, a study of Nicholson's premiership can be found in John Waugh, 'Haines, O'Shanassy, Nicholson and Heales: The Old Guard', in Strangio and Costar (editors), ch. 2 (see 'Sources', below), and for a survey of Nicholson's career, see Peter Cook, 'Nicholson, William (1816–1865)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1974), on line here. [accessed 9 February 2014].


Parliament of Victoria, One Hundred Years of Responsible Government 1856-1956, (Melbourne: Government Printer, 1957, Parliamentary Paper No. 40 of 1956-58); Paul Strangio and Brian Costar (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019); Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria 1856-1990, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0195533593). In consulting these sources, note the difference between ministries and periods in office.