James Patterson (Australian politician) bigraphy, stories - Australian politician

James Patterson (Australian politician) : biography

18 November 1833 - 30 October 1895

Sir James Brown Patterson, KCMG (18 November 1833 – 30 October 1895),

Australian colonial politician, was the 17th Premier of Victoria. 

Patterson was born in Alnwick, Northumberland, England to James Patterson, contractor, and Agnes, née Brown. Patterson emigrated to Victoria in 1852 to seek his fortune on the goldfields. After a few years as a digger and four as a farmer, he settled in Chewton, where he went into business as a butcher, later moving into real estate. He was Mayor of Chewton for four years before he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Castlemaine in 1870.

With the onset of the depression which followed the end of the Land Boom in 1891, Patterson emerged as the leader of the conservative critics of the governments of James Munro and William Shiels, who tried to deal with the crash by cutting government expenditure and raising taxes. Patterson spoke for the business and middle classes who did not want increased taxation at a time of depressed trade. In January 1893 Patterson moved a successful no-confidence motion in the Shiels government and became Premier.

Patterson's government, however, had no better solutions to the depressed state of Victoria's government. A series of bank failures in April lead Patterson to declare a "bank holiday" (1 May 1893 – 5 May 1893) preventing panicked depositors from withdrawing their money. There were near-riots outside the closed banks, and confidence in the colony's finances plummeted. Later in the year Patterson became convinced that tax increases were after all inevitable, which the liberal opposition supported, but his conservative supporters revolted and he withdrew the idea, leaving himself with no policy at all.

Affairs drifted until August 1894, when Patterson in turn lost a confidence vote in the Assembly. At the resulting elections the conservatives were heavily defeated by the liberals under George Turner. Patterson returned to the opposition benches and was created K.C.M.G. in 1894. He was still a member of Parliament when he died on 30 October 1895 from influenza in Murrumbeena, Victoria.

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