George Reid

Sir George Reid

George Reid cph.3c31684.jpg
4th Prime Minister of Australia
In office
18 August 1904 – 5 July 1905
MonarchEdward VII
Governor-GeneralLord Northcote
Preceded byChris Watson
Succeeded byAlfred Deakin
Leader of the Opposition
In office
19 May 1901 – 17 August 1904
Prime MinisterEdmund Barton
Alfred Deakin
Chris Watson
Preceded byNew position
Succeeded byChris Watson
In office
7 July 1905 – 16 November 1908
Prime MinisterAlfred Deakin
Andrew Fisher
Preceded byChris Watson
Succeeded byJoseph Cook
12th Premier of New South Wales
In office
3 August 1894 – 13 September 1899
GovernorSir Robert Duff
Lord Hampden
Preceded byGeorge Dibbs
Succeeded byWilliam Lyne
Leader of the Free Trade Party[a]
In office
18 November 1891 – 16 November 1908
Preceded byHenry Parkes
Succeeded byJoseph Cook
High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
In office
1 January 1910 – 1 January 1916
Preceded byNew position
Succeeded byAndrew Fisher
Member of the Australian Parliament
for East Sydney
In office
29 March 1901 – 18 August 1903
Preceded byDivision created
In office
4 September 1903 – 24 December 1909
Succeeded byJohn West
Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for St George's, Hanover Square
In office
11 January 1916 – 12 September 1918
Preceded bySír Alexander Henderson
Succeeded bySir Newton Moore
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for East Sydney
In office
14 December 1880 – 3 August 1884
Preceded byJohn Davies
Succeeded bySydney Burdekin
In office
2 March 1887 – 3 August 1894
Preceded byGeorge Griffiths
Succeeded byDistrict Abolished
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Sydney-King
In office
3 August 1894 – 30 March 1901
Preceded byConstituency Created
Succeeded byErnest Broughton
Personal details
Born(1845-02-25)25 February 1845
Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Died12 September 1918(1918-09-12) (aged 73)
London, England
Resting placePutney Vale Cemetery
51°26′26″N 0°14′21″W / 51°26′26″N 0°14′21″W / 51.440426; -0.239237
Political partyNone (before 1887)
Free Trade[a] (1887–1909)
Liberal (1909–1910)
Unionist (after 1913)
Florence Brumby
(m. 1891; wid. 1918)
EducationScotch College
ProfessionCivil servant, barrister
Reid in the 1890s

Sir George Houston Reid GCB, GCMG, PC, KC (25 February 1845 – 12 September 1918) was an Australian politician who led the Reid Government as the fourth Prime Minister of Australia from 1904 to 1905, having previously been Premier of New South Wales from 1894 to 1899. He led the Free Trade Party[a] from 1891 to 1908.[1]

Reid was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland. He and his family immigrated to Australia when he was young. They initially settled in Melbourne, but moved to Sydney when Reid was 13, at which point he left school and began working as a clerk. He later joined the New South Wales civil service, and rose through the ranks to become secretary of the Attorney-General's Department. Reid was also something of a public intellectual, publishing several works in defence of liberalism and free trade. He began studying law in 1876 and was admitted to the bar in 1879. In 1880, he resigned from the civil service to run for parliament, winning election to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.

From 1883 to 1884, Reid served as Minister for Public Instruction in the government of Alexander Stuart. He joined the Free Trade Party of Henry Parkes in 1887, but refused to serve in Parkes' governments due to personal enmity. When Parkes resigned as party leader in 1891, Reid was elected in his place. He became premier after the 1894 election and remained in office for just over five years. Despite never winning majority government, Reid was able to pass a number of domestic reforms concerning the civil service and public finances. He was an advocate of federation and played a part in drafting the new constitution, where he became known as a strong defender of his colony's interests. In 1901, he was elected to the new federal parliament representing the Division of East Sydney.

Reid retained the leadership of the Free Trade Party after federation, and consequently became Australia's first Leader of the Opposition. For the first few years, the Protectionist Party governed with the support of the Labour Party. Alfred Deakin's Protectionist minority government collapsed in April 1904, and he was briefly succeeded by Labour's Chris Watson, who proved unable to govern and resigned after four months. As a result, Reid became prime minister in August 1904, heading yet another minority government. He included four Protectionists in his cabinet, but was unable to achieve much before his government was brought down in July 1905. One notable exception was the passage of the landmark Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration ACT, which dealt with industrial relations.

At the 1906 election, Reid secured the most votes in the House of Representatives and the equal-most seats, but was well short of a majority and could not form government. He resigned as party leader in 1908, after opposing the formation of the Commonwealth Liberal Party (a merger with the Protectionists). Reid accepted an appointment as Australia's first High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in 1910, and remained in the position until 1916. He subsequently won election to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, serving until his sudden death two years later.

Early life

Reid was born on 25 February 1845 in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland. He was the fifth of seven children born to Marion (née Crybbace) and John Reid; he had four older brothers and two younger sisters.[2] He was named after George Houstoun, a former Conservative MP for the Renfrewshire constituency who had died a few years earlier.[3] Reid's father, the son of a farmer, was born in Tarbolton, Ayrshire. At the time of George's birth he was a minister in the Church of Scotland, which he had joined in 1839 after previously ministering in various secessionist Presbyterian churches; he remained loyal to the established church in the Disruption of 1843.[4] In 1834, he had married the daughter of another minister, Edward Crybbace; she was about nine years his junior.[2]

In April 1845, Reid and his family moved to Liverpool, England, where his father had been appointed minister of an expatriate Presbyterian congregation. His two younger sisters were born there. The family struggled financially, and his father made the decision to emigrate to Australia. Reid arrived in Melbourne in May 1852,[2] and his father subsequently led congregations in Essendon and North Melbourne. He moved the family to Sydney in 1858.[5] Reid received his only formal schooling at the Melbourne Academy, now known as Scotch College. He received a classical education, and in later life recalled that he had "no appetite for that wide range of metaphysical propositions which juveniles were expected to comprehend"; he found Greek a "lazy horror".[6] He left school aged about 13, when the family settled in Sydney, and began working as a junior clerk in a merchant's counting house.[7] At the age of 15 he joined the debating society at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, and according to his autobiography, "a more crude novice than he had never begun the practise of public speaking".[8] In Sydney, Reid's father became a colleague of John Dunmore Lang at the Scots Church, and then from 1862 until his death in 1867 was the minister of the Mariners' Church on George Street. His mother, who died in 1885, was involved in the ragged schools movement.[5] In later life, Reid praised his parents for his good upbringing.[7]

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