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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Dow, Hon. John Lamont

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Dow, Hon. John Lamont, M.L.A., ex-Minister of Lands and Agriculture, Victoria, son of the late David Hill Dow, was born at Kilmarnock, Ayr, Scotland, on Dec. 8th, 1837. He came to Victoria with his father and the other members of his family, landing at Geelong in 1848. Mr. Dow having learnt farming in the Barrabool district, took up pastoral country, in 1861, at the Gulf of Carpentaria, in Northern Queensland, and had a chequered experience, through the depression in wool and the unhealthiness of the climate. In 1867 he returned to Victoria, and, having adopted journalism, became agricultural editor of the Leader, the weekly journal published by the Age proprietary. Having had intimate opportunities of studying the anomalies of the land question, Mr. Dow lectured on the subject throughout Victoria, and the agitation which he initiated had very much to do with the subsequent imposition of a land tax, with the view of limiting the aggregation of large landed estates. In May 1877 Mr. Dow was returned to the Assembly as member for Kara Kara, and has ever since enjoyed the confidence of the same constituency. Having remained loyal to the democratic and protectionist policy which he avowed on entering politics, Mr. Dow was included, as one of the Liberal representatives, in the Coalition Government formed by Messrs. Gillies and Deakin in Feb. 1886. He then resigned his press appointments. Previous to this, in 1883, he visited America as the special correspondent of the Age and Leader, and embodied the result of his investigations into the agricultural condition of the country in a series of letters, which were ultimately republished in book form, under the title of "The Australian in America." In 1885, having been appointed a member of the Victorian Irrigation Commission, he accompanied the president, Mr. Deakin, in his official mission to America to collect statistics on the subject; and on this occasion contributed a series of letters to the Age and Leader, which had much to do with smoothing the path of the Coalition Government when the results of Mr. Deakin's investigations were in the following year embodied in practical legislation. Mr. Dow during his term of office elevated the portfolio of agriculture to the position of an independent department, establishing a scheme of technical agricultural education by means of experts travelling through the colony, forming also a Forest Department and sections dealing with viticulture and pests inimical to vegetation, while a successful export trade in dairy produce and fruit was initiated under his administration. In the summer of 1890 Mr. Dow, as a director of the Premier Permanent Building Society, became involved in the legal proceedings taken against the officers of the institution after its disastrous suspension of payment, and insisted, contrary to the unanimous desire of his colleagues, who felt entire confidence in his integrity, on resigning his position in the Cabinet pending the result of the action taken. At the initiatory stage of the proceedings the prosecution were compelled to admit that there was no case against Mr. Dow, and to withdraw the indictment against him. He was at once invited to resume office, and did so, resigning with the rest of his colleagues in Nov. 1890. Mr. Dow married, in 1869, Marion Jane, second daughter of William A. Orr, of Toorak. Mr. Dow's younger brother, Mr. T. K. Dow, is also an eminent authority on agricultural matters.