Open main menu

Bannister, Saxe (DNB00)


BANNISTER, SAXE (1790–1877), miscellaneous writer, was born at Bidlington House, Steyning, Sussex, 27 June 1790. After a preliminary training in the grammar school of Lewes he spent some years at Tunbridge school under the celebrated Dr. Knox. He was then sent to Queen's College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1813 and M.A. in 1815. Although a great reader, he did not distinguish himself at college. In fact, he himself admitted that had it not been for the lucky circumstance of the examiners selecting the subject of Socrates, which he happened to have studied thoroughly, he would undoubtedly have been plucked. After leaving the university he lived at his father's for some time doing nothing. He joined the militia as an amusement, and on Napoleon's return from Elba, when the whole country was in a ferment, Bannister at once raised a company and volunteered for the army. He received a captain's commission, and was on the eve of starting for Belgium when the news of the battle of Waterloo brought peace to the country, and he retired from the army on half-pay.

After this he studied regularly for the bar, and was called in the ordinary course at Lincoln's Inn. Owing to some interest he obtained the appointment of attorney-general of New South Wales in 1823, the remuneration being set experimentally at 1,200l. He took a lively interest in the welfare of the coloured races, and was one of the founders of the Aborigines' Protection Society. In Australia he did not work very well with several of the leading members of the government; he considered their treatment of the natives too harsh. Indeed, his condemnation of the masters' power of flogging their servants ultimately involved him in a duel, which happily was not attended by fatal consequences. He left the colony under somewhat mysterious circumstances, having been removed from office in April 1826. His own account of the matter was that he sent home a despatch, saying that unless his salary were increased he should have to resign, and that the government, wanting to get rid of him and to put a friend of theirs into the position, at once appointed his successor, to whom the increased salary was awarded. Probably the government, owing to his strained relations with the other officials, were glad to remove him. To his dying day Bannister had this grievance against every successive government. The petitions he presented were legion, and he printed in 1853 a statement of his ‘Claims.’ But his efforts to obtain compensation were fruitless, although he was supported by many old friends of position and influence, such as Vice-chancellor Sir John Stuart, Lord Chief Baron Kelly, Lord Chief Justice Bovill, Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, and Sir Charles Eastlake.

About 1848 Dr. Paris, president of the Royal College of Physicians, gave Bannister the appointment of gentleman bedel of the college, which was a great boon at the time, the salary being 100l. and the fees about 50l. The closing years of his life he spent at Thornton Lodge, Thornton Heath, the residence of his only child, Mrs. Wyndham, the wife of Mr. Henry Wyndham, civil engineer. There he died 16 Sept. 1877.

In addition to many pamphlets on colonial and miscellaneous subjects he wrote: 1. ‘Essays on the Proper Use and the Reform of Free Grammar Schools,’ London, 1819, 8vo. 2. ‘The Judgments of Sir Orlando Bridgman, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1667,’ London, 1823, 8vo, edited from the Hargrave MSS. 3. ‘A Brief Description of the Map of the Ancient World, preserved in the Cathedral Church of Hereford,’ Hereford, 1849, 4to. 4. ‘Records of British Enterprise beyond Sea,’ vol. i. (all published), 1849. 5. ‘The Paterson Public Library of Finance, Banking, and Coinage; agriculture and trade, fisheries, navigation, and engineering; geography, colonisation, and travel; statistics and political economy; founded in Westminster in 1703, and proposed to be revived in 1853,’ London, 1853. 6. ‘William Paterson, the Merchant Statesman and Founder of the Bank of England; his life and trials,’ Edinburgh, 1858, 8vo. 7. ‘The Writings of William Paterson, with biographical notices of the author,’ 3 vols., 1859. 8. ‘A Journal of the First French Embassy to China, 1698–1700; translated from an unpublished manuscript, with an essay on the friendly disposition of the Chinese government and people to foreigners,’ London, 1859. 9. ‘Classical and pre-Historic Influences upon British History,’ second edition, 1871.

[Private Information; Bannister's Claims, Lond. 1853; Cat. of Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, pt. ii. p. 311; Cat. of Oxford Graduates.]

T. C.