ID 0347

State Government of Victoria beginning 20 September 1869 - period in office of Premier MacPherson, John Alexander ending on 9 April 1870

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

MacPherson, John Alexander
Date of beginning of period in office
20 September 1869
Date of end of period in office
9 April 1870 
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')

This premier did not win office as the result of an election, and was not (or has not been) in office long enough to contest an election as premier ; see 'Period in office' table above.

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Defeat in Parliament (McCulloch): Beginning of MacPherson's period in office; '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).

The motion, regarded as a matter of confidence, was 'That the selection of a gentleman, not a member of the Legislature, to fill one of the responsible offices of State, is contrary to the invariable parliamentary practice of this country, and a reflection on the character and capacity of Members of Parliament; this House, therefore, feels bound to record its disapproval of such selection'. The motion was debated on 14 September 1869, and carried against the government 34 to 26 in the early hours of 15 September; Victoria Parliamentary Debates, 1869 Session, vol. 9, 15 September 1869, p.1939. After some discussion with his colleagues, McCulloch tendered his resignation on 16 September 1869.

'The governor first approached Robert Byrne, who had moved the no-confidence motion against the government, but he had difficulty in finding a viable ministry among the antagonistic liberal and conservative ("constitutionalist") groups who had voted with him.... Byrne ... drafted MacPherson as an inoffensive leader.' Waugh, p.37 (see 'References'. below). MacPherson was commissioned as premier on 20 September 1869.

Defeat in parliament (MacPherson): 'In March 1870 MacPherson lost office after a no-confidence motion by a former supporter, prompted by disagreement about the budget [note omitted]. The government's opponents, McCulloch in particular, wanted spending reduced. MacPherson's conservative supporters abstained, and enough liberals voted against him to end his majority in the Assembly.' Waugh, p.38 (see 'References'. below); Victoria Parliamentary Debates, 1870 Session, vol. 10, 29 March 1870, p.329. MacPherson did not seek a dissolution (see Fitzpatrick in 'References' below) and resigned on 31 March 1870.

References: For a study of the Victorian parliament in this period, see, Wright, ch. 5 (in 'Sources', below), and note the 'Prologue' in Geoffrey Serle, The Rush to be Rich: A History of the Colony of Victoria, 1883-1889, pp 1-13 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1971). A study of MacPherson's premiership can be found in John Waugh, ' ''The Inevitable McCulloch" and his Rivals, 1863-1877', in Strangio and Costar (editors), ch. 3 (see 'Sources', below), and for a survey of MacPherson's career, see Dorothy Fitzpatrick, 'MacPherson, John Alexander (1833–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1974), on line here [accessed 20 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.