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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Burton, Sir William Westbrooke

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Burton, Sir William Westbrooke, fifth son of Edmund Burton, of Daventry, Northamptonshire, by Eliza, only daughter of Rev. John Mather, of Chorley, Lancashire, was born on Jan. 31st, 1794, and educated at Daventry Grammar School. He entered the navy in 1807, taking part in the attack on New Orleans in 1814. In Nov. 1819 he entered at the Inner Temple, and was called to the bar in Nov. 1824. Having practised with success, he was Recorder of Daventry from 1826 to 1827, and Puisne Judge the Cape of Good Hope from 1828 to 1832, when he was appointed to a similar post in New South Wales, which he held until 1844, when he was transferred to Madras, where he remained till 1857, when he retired from the bench and returned to Sydney. He was nominated to the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and was President of that body from Feb. 1858 to May 1861, when just prior to the expiry of the function of the House by effluxion of time, resigned, with nineteen other members, on the attempt of the Cowper Ministry to carry the Robertson Land Bills through the House by the nomination of twenty-one new members, favourably disposed to the policy of the Government. When the Council was reconstituted under the instructions of the Home Government in that year, Sir William Burton was not again offered a seat, Mr. Wentworth succeeding him in the presidential chair. Consequent thereupon Sir William decided to quit the colony and return to England, where he died in Aug. 1888. Sir William was knighted by patent in Nov. 1844. He married, first, on April 5th, 1827, Margaret, daughter of Leny Smith, of Homerton, who died in Sept. 1846; and secondly, on June 11th, 1849, Maria Alphonsine, daughter of John Beatty West, M.P. for Dublin, who survived him. Sir William was the author of a brochure, entitled "The State of Religion and Education in New South Wales," in which he drew a terrible picture of the state of the convict establishment at Norfolk Island in the year 1834, when he visited it as a judge to try a contingent of mutineers, of whom thirteen were subsequently hanged, though Judge Burton mercifully postponed the executions until he could consult with Sir Richard Bourke, in Sydney, secure that, at any rate, they should be provided with the consolations of religion before being launched into eternity. The pamphlet called forth a reply from Bishop Ullathorne.