Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grant, James Macpherson

GRANT, JAMES MACPHERSON (1822–1885), Australian statesman, was born at Alvie, Inverness-shire, in 1822, and educated at Kingdenie. When fourteen years of age he emigrated with his parents to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, where he was articled to Chambers & Thurlow, solicitors, but having gone to New Zealand in 1844 he volunteered in the war against Honi Heki, and was present in several engagements. Returning to Sydney he completed his articles: was admitted in 1847 as an attorney and solicitor of the supreme court, and received into partnership by Mr. Thurlow. In 1850 he went to San Francisco for the benefit of his health, and on his return to Australia, he and his brother went to Bendigo, where they were among the successful diggers in the newly discovered gold-fields. In 1854 he began practice in Melbourne. In December of that year the miners' riots took place at the Eureka stockade, Ballarat. Macpherson Grant openly took the miners' part, and joined them in condemning the policy of the government. On the trial of the miners he acted as their attorney without a fee, and in conjunction with Butler Cole Aspinall, barrister-at-law, obtained a verdict in their favour. He was returned as representative of the Bendigo miners to the legislative council of Victoria in November 1855, when he proposed the throwing open of the lands to the people. He also advocated vote by ballot, manhood suffrage, unsectarian education, and other measures which were afterwards passed into law. In the following year he was elected a member for the Sandhurst boroughs under the new constitution. In 1859 he was returned for Avoca. He first took office in Richard Heales's ministry as vice-president of the board of land and works, and commissioner of public works, and served from 26 Nov. 1860 to 20 Feb. 1861, during which period, in conjunction with the president of the board of lands, he initiated the occupation licenses, the first step towards settling the people on the lands. On the death of Heales, 19 June 1864, Grant succeeded him on 5 Sept. as president of the board of lands. His administration of this department was successful, and many well-to-do selectors settled on the public lands under the celebrated '42nd clause' of the Land Act of 1865. When the second M'Culloch ministry was constituted, 11 July 1868, he again undertook the administration of the lands department, and remained in office until 20 Sept. 1869. He joined Sir Charles Gavan Duffy 19 June 1871, and continued at the lands department until 10 June 1872. He was then out of office until 9 Aug. 1875, when he became minister of justice in the Berry administration, which post he held only until 25 Oct. in the same year. He took the same position in the second Berry administration, from 22 May 1877 to 5 March 1880. The last appointment he held was in Sir Bryan O'Loghlen's government, when he was chief secretary from 9 July 1881 to 8 March 1883. During these various changes he had continued to sit as the representative for Avoca, and was always considered to be one of the most prominent land reformers in Australia. He died 1 April 1885.

[Men of the Time in Australia, Victoria, 1878. p. 73; Heaton's Australian Dict. of Dates, 1879 p. 81; Times, 4 April 1885, p. 9.]

G. C. B.