Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/See, John

SEE, Sir JOHN (1844–1907), premier of New South Wales, born at Yelling, Huntingdonshire, on 14 Nov. 1844, was son of Joseph See, formerly of that place. In 1853 he accompanied his parents to New South Wales. The family settled first at Hinton on the Hunter river, where See obtained his education and was employed upon a farm until he was sixteen. Accompanied by a brother, he then settled on the Clarence river and engaged in farming. Dissatisfied with his prospects, he soon went to Sydney and entered the produce trade, and by strenuous application and unremitting toil built up the flourishing concern of John See & Company, of which he was the head. At the same time he became a partner in the small coastal shipping house of Nipper & See, which ultimately developed into the North Coast Steam Navigation Company, of which he was managing director.

See's first association with political life began in November 1880, when he was returned to the legislative assembly of New South Wales as member for Grafton. That constituency he represented continuously until 1904, being re-elected eleven times. In 1885 he joined Mr. (afterwards Sir George) Dibbs's first ministry, in which he was postmaster-general from 7 Oct. to 22 Dec, being sworn a member of the executive council. As treasurer in the third Dibbs administration (23 Oct. 1891-2 Aug. 1894) he introduced and piloted through parliament the protectionist tariff of the government. On 12 Sept. 1899 See joined the government of Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Lyne as chief secretary and minister for defence, and arranged for the despatch of troops to South Africa during the Boer war. He succeeded Sir William Lyne, who took office in the federal government as premier on 27 March 1901, and thus became the first premier of New South Wales as a state in the federation. During his term of office he received King George V and Queen Mary when, as duke and duchess of Cornwall and York, they visited Australia in 1901. On 15 June 1904 he resigned office on private grounds, and retired from the legislative assembly, but accepted a seat in the legislative council, which he held till his death. He was mayor of Randwick for three years and president of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, and was director of numerous insurance and other business concerns. He was created K.C.M.G. on 26 June 1902. See died at his residence, 'Urara,' Randwick, on 31 Jan. 1907, and was buried in the Long Bay cemetery.

He married on 15 March 1876, at Randwick, Charlotte Mary, daughter of Samuel Matthews, of Devonshire,and had four sons and three daughters.

[The Times, Sydney Daily Telegraph, and Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Feb. 1907; Sydney Mail, 6 Feb. 1907; Year Book of Australia, 1905; Johns's Notable Australians, 1908; Burke's Peerage, 1907; Colonial Office Records, 1908.]

C. A.