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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Mitchell, Hon. Sir William Henry Fancourt

Mitchell, Hon. Sir William Henry Fancourt, M.L.C., who was for fourteen years President of the Legislative Council of Victoria, was the son of the Rev. George Barkley Mitchell, vicar of St. Mary's and All Saints', Leicester, and chaplain to the late Duke of York. He arrived in Tasmania at a very early age, and for a time filled the office of acting Colonial Secretary. He went to Port Phillip about 1840. and engaged in squatting pursuits, taking up country in the neighbourhood of Kyneton. At the time of the first gold discoveries, when the police were in a very disorganised state, the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. La Trobe, appointed him Chief Commissioner of Police, with almost unlimited powers, and the result was that after a time a tolerably efficient force was created. He introduced the cadet system by promising a number of young fellows commissions and outfits as police cadets on their passing through a successful probation in chasing bushrangers and doing escort duty. Bushranging was by this means to a great extent stamped out Captain (afterwards Sir) Charles Macmahon was appointed by the Chief Commissioner as head of the city police, and Mitchell going home on leave of absence, Macmahon succeeded him as acting Chief Commissioner. On his return in Sept. 1856 he entered political life, and was elected to the Legislative Council as one of the five original members for the north-western province, for which he was re-elected whilst he remained in public life. Mr. Mitchell was Postmaster-General of Victoria in the Haines Government from April 1857 to March 1858, during which time he effected an almost total reorganisation of the department. He was Commissioner for Railways from Dec. 1861 until June 1863 in the third O'Shanassy administration. In March 1869 he was elected Chairman of Committees of the Legislative Council, and retained that office until Oct. 1870, when, on the retirement of Sir James F. Palmer, he was elected President. In 1875 he received the honour of knighthood, and was five times re-elected President of the Upper House of the Victorian Legislature prior to his final retirement in Nov. 1884. He died on Nov. 4th, 1884.