Open main menu

The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Wrixon, Hon. Sir Henry John

Wrixon, Hon. Sir Henry John, K.C.M.G., M.L.A., Q.C., B.A., ex-Attorney-General of Victoria, is the eldest son of the late Arthur Nicholas Wrixon, formerly County Court judge in Victoria, by his marriage with Maria Matilda, daughter of Captain Bace, a military officer who greatly distinguished himself in the Napoleonic wars. Mr. Wrixon, who was born in Ireland on Oct. 18th, 1839, came out to Victoria with his father in 1850, and was one of the first fourteen students of Melbourne University. In 1857, however, he returned to Ireland in order to prosecute his studies at Dublin University, where he graduated B.A. in 1861, and won two gold medals at the famous Historical Society, attesting his powers as a speaker and a writer. Having been called to the Irish Bar in 1861, Mr. Wrixon practised in that country for a year, when seeing better prospects of professional success in Australia, he returned to Victoria, and was admitted to the Bar there in Oct. 1863. Having unsuccessfully contested Dundas in 1864, Mr. Wrixon took a high position as an advocate, and in 1868 was returned to the Assembly for Belfast, which he continued to represent till 1877, when he did not present himself for re-election owing to the unfavourable prospects created by the reorganisation of the constituency under the Electoral Act of 1876. In 1880, however, Mr. Wrixon successfully contested Portland, and has represented the constituency ever since. In the meantime he was Solicitor-General in the MᶜCulloch Ministry, from April 1870 to June 1871, but did not again take a portfolio until the formation of the Gillies-Deakin Ministry in Feb. 1886, when he accepted the Attorney-Generalship, retiring with his colleagues in Nov. 1890. As a private member Mr. Wrixon advocated the Hare system of Proportional Representation, and opposed the Service Reform Bill of 1880, on the ground of its conferring unconstitutional financial powers on the Upper House. As Solicitor-General under Sir James MᶜCulloch Mr. Wrixon carried the "Criminal Law Amendment Act," which made flogging the penalty in cases of criminal assault upon women and children. Whilst last in office Mr. Wrixon aided the Government in placing on the Statute Book consolidatory legislation, in the interests of neglected and criminal children. He was also instrumental in abolishing the probate duty on estates under £1000, and in otherwise simplifying and cheapening the administration of small estates. He procured the abolition of the patent fees formerly paid to the Attorney-General. In 1890 Mr. Wrixon visited England with the view of representing the colony before the Privy Council in the appeal lodged by the Government in the case of Ah Toy v. Musgrove, in which the Supreme Court of Victoria had decided against the legality of the exclusion of Chinese. Mr. Wrixon having in the meantime ceased to be Attorney-General, Sir Horace Davey, who had also been retained, led for the appellants; but the principal argument was that addressed to the Court by Mr. Wrixon, and the decision of the Supreme Court was reversed. He was made Q.C. in 1890, and was one of the delegates at the Federal Convention. He married, in 1872, Charlotte, daughter of the late Hon. Henry Miller. In Jan, 1892 he was created K.C.M.G., and in April was a candidate for the speakership of the Victorian House of Assembly in succession to Sir M. H. Davies, but was defeated by a small majority.