Friday, 11 November 2011

Samuel Birch (1809-1878)

Family history research can also provide information about the history of a local area, state or country.

Samuel Birch was the eldest son of Thomas William Birch and Sarah Guest. He was born in Hobart on the 23rd of July and died in Hobart on the 15th of February 1878. An obituary that appeared in The Mercury newspaper, February 16 1878) described Samuel as having "long been associated with various philanthropic societies in Hobart Town, and although, by some, deemed to be ecentric, had much sympathy for young people, and was for many years associated with the Bethseda Church of England Sunday School; besides being distinguished for his efforts in the promotion of temperance among the young." In his will he donated 50 pounds each to three Hobart churches.

A search in Trove - - under the name of Samuel Birch also shows his interest in political processes. From 1861 to 1872 his name regularly appears on electoral material in the newspapers supporting candidates for forthcoming elections.

Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) became a separate colony in 1825. In 1850 the Australian Colonies Government Act was passed in the British Parliament allowing for representative government in the colony. The Legislative Council was increased to 24 members - eight of whom were appointed by the Governor and for the first time sixteen representatives elected by men who owned land or paid rent. This new Council first met in 1852. In 1854 the Legislative Council passed the Constitution Act enabling the creation of two houses of Parliament. Royal Assent to these changes was provided in 1855. In 1856 the name of the colony was changed to Tasmania and elections were held for the new parliament.

The newspapers around the time of elections provided much space for candidates and their supporters to put their case. Some examples are provided.

'At a meeting held at the Alliance Rooms on Friday evening, the 17th instant, for the appointment of a Committee to secure the return of Mr. H S Barrett as Member for the City, the following gentlemen were unanimously appointed, with power to add to their number'. A list of the names of 31 gentlemen followed including Samuel Birch. The item was signed by R A McLean, Election Agent. (The Mercury Monday 20 May 1861 p3)

The Mercury 21 May 1861 p1 contained an advertisement advising that 'Mr HS Barrett would meet the electors of Hobart Town at Bethseda School House, upper end of Davey Street, on Tuesday evening next at half past seven for the purpose of addressing the electors, and answering any questions that may be put to him.'

Another example of the elctoral process is provided in a letter and reply that appeared in The Mercury Saturday 25 May 1861 p1. 'To William Tarleton Esq. Sir, We the undersigned Electors of the District of Queensboro', hereby request that you will allow yourself to be placed in nomination as a Candidate for this District. The present depressed state of every interest in the Colony demands from the sons of Tasmania the most energetic measures to retrieve her position.
Your well-known habits and abilities, your extensive official experience, the interest you have at stake, and your long residence among us, in our opinion justify us that in anticipating that in our country's hour of need your participation will not be found wanting.' The letter was signed by thirteen gentlemen including Samuel Birch. Beneath the letter a reply from Mr. Tarleton was also published. Similar letters were published for other potential candidates.

An advertisement in the same issue of the paper advised that Mr. Tarleton would meet with the Electors of Queensborough at The Travellers Rest on Tuesday 28 May at 7 o'clock and at the Cascade Inn on Friday 31st May.

However on Thursday 30 May The Mercury on page 2 contained another series of letters with the electors of Queensborough requesting Robert Walker Esq to be their candidate as Mr Tarleton had withdrawn from the contest. Robert Wlaker accepted.

In The Mercury 10 June 1861 p4 the candidates for the election for the House of Assembly for the Queensborough Electoral District to be held on Tuesday 11 June at Kingston, Sandy Bay and Cascade Road. There were seven candidates including Robert Walker.

In October it was announced that the elected member for Hobart Town had resigned so another election for the seat would be held on 28 October. This time Charles meredith was the proposed candidate. (The Mercury 25 October 1861 p4). On 4 November 1861 a bye-election was held for the Queensborough electorate as the winning candidate had died. Robert Walker was again a candidate proposed by Samuel Birch and the other members of election committee. (The Mercury 1 November 1861 p4).

The electoral processes could be said to have kept Samuel Birch and other Hobart gentlemen occupied for much of 1861.

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