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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Thurston, His Excellency Sir John Bates

Thurston, His Excellency Sir John Bates, K.C.M.G., F.L.S., F.R.G.S., Governor of Fiji, is the eldest son of the late John Noel Thurston, of Bath, Gloucestershire, and was born on Jan. 31st, 1836. In early life he went to sea, and in 1866 was employed in the British Consulate of Fiji and Tonga, becoming acting Consul in July 1869, the duties of which position he discharged till Dec. 1869. At this time the state of affairs in Fiji was of a highly anomalous character, the native King, Thakambau, being driven to his wits' end by the difficulty of controlling his own people and the motley band of white settlers who flocked to the new Alsatia from all quarters of the globe. In 1859 he offered the sovereignty of the island to the Queen, but, on the advice of the Duke of Newcastle, the proposal was rejected. The same fate befell the suggestion that England should assume a temporary protectorate, and in 1864 a responsible Ministry was formed under the King on the Anglo-Saxon model. A Parliament was subsequently created, which came to loggerheads with this Cabinet. The Ministry now fell to pieces, and on their resignation Mr. Thurston was called to office by the united voices of settlers and natives, becoming Chief Secretary and Minister for Foreign Relations in May 1872. In March 1874 he was appointed "chosen and special adviser" of the native King and chiefs, to confer with her Majesty's Commissioners as to the annexation of the islands to Great Britain; and upon the offer of cession became Chief Secretary under the "ad interim Government." He was again nominated as special adviser to the King and chiefs in Sept. 1874, for the purpose of conferring with Sir Hercules Robinson as to the act of cession. When that was completed in Oct. 1874, Mr. Thurston was appointed Colonial Secretary and Auditor-General of the colony, and also Secretary to the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific in Sept. 1879. He administered the government of Fiji from Nov. 16th to Dec 20th, 1880, and in 1880 and 1881 was sent upon special duty connected with treaty negotiations to the Friendly Islands. He was Deputy Governor of Fiji in Oct. 1882, during the absence of the Governor on duty as High Commissioner for the Western Pacific; and administered the government from Nov. 1883 to July 1884. He was appointed Assistant High Commissioner for the Western Pacific in Nov. 1883, and acted as Consul-General for the Western Pacific from April to June 1884. In March 1885 Mr. Thurston was summoned to England in connection with the joint commission appointed to inquire into the claims of German subjects to lands in Fiji; and in August of that year was appointed British Commissioner on the Anglo-German Commission for the discussion of the interests of German and British subjects respectively in the South Seas, and for the more precise definition of British and German territorial interests in those regions. He again administered the government in 1885-6, and was made Lieutenant-Governor in 1886. He held this position till the next year, when he was appointed Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner and Consul-General for the Western Pacific. In 1880 he was created C.M.G., and K.C.M.G. in 1887. Sir John married on Jan. 14th, 1883, Amelia, daughter of John Berry, of Albury, N.S.W.