Edmund Barton

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Sir Edmund Barton was Australia’s first Prime Minister and a staunch supporter of federalism, advocating for a unified commonwealth. He also argued vehemently for the conduct of commerce free of customs and taxes. He began his political career as a member of the Legislative Assembly for the electoral division ‘University of Sydney’. He was later appointed to the Wellington and East Sydney districts, where he also served as the Legislative Assembly’s speaker. He began as a member of George Dibbs’ ministry before joining Henry Parkes’ party. He was aided in his fight to have federal policy incorporated into the constitution by his friend Richard O’Connor and his successor Alfred Deakin. He was chosen Prime Minister of Australia in the early 1900s as a result of his growing popularity. He served as Prime Minister for around two years, instituting significant reforms, before quitting to found the High Court of Australia, where he served as a judge until his death. This illustrious politician was bestowed with four knighthoods, of which he accepted only one. Even today, he is revered by many, and various locations in Australia are named in his honor.

Childhood & Adolescence

Edmund Barton was born in Glebe, New South Wales, on January 18, 1849, to William and Mary Louise Barton.
He attended ‘Sydney Grammar School’ and ‘Fort Street High School’ for his elementary schooling. He later attended the ‘University of Sydney,’ where he studied classical literature and earned an honors degree in addition to his medal. He also demonstrated an interest in rowing and cricket during his collegiate years.

Edmund Barton’s Career

Edmund began his career as a barrister in 1871, after completing his education. Five years later, he ran for a Legislative Assembly seat as a member of the ‘University of Sydney’. He lost the election, not just that year, but also the following year.

In August 1879, Barton ran for the Legislative Assembly again, and this time he won. The Assembly was dissolved the following year, and he was appointed to the electoral committee in Wellington, New South Wales.
He was a two-year member of the Wellington committee before being appointed to the East Sydney electoral district, where he served from 1882 to 1887.

Simultaneously, he served as speaker of the Legislative Assembly, becoming the youngest member to be appointed in that capacity at the age of thirty-three. In 1884, he was elected President of the ‘University of Sydney Union’.
Edmund was a member of the Legislative Council from 1887 to 1889 and was also appointed Attorney-General of the administration led by George Dibbs, a member of Australia’s ‘Protectionist Party.

The youthful politician backed the Australian federation, which sought to unite six separate colonies into a single commonwealth. Thus, Barton attended the ‘National Australasian Convention’ in March 1891 as a supporter of federal leader Henry Parkes’ government.

Edmund advocated, as a delegate to the convention, that the country’s trade be liberalized. He also had a significant part in drafting a constitution that served as the foundation for the nation’s subsequent constitution.
His recommendations, however, were dismissed by proponents of protectionism, and the strong-willed political leader resigned from the legislative Council.

Parkes’ government, however, was brief, and in 1891, Parkes nominated Barton in charge of the federal movement. Despite his best efforts, however, the administration failed to enforce federal resolutions.

In December 1893, the political leader was forced to quit as Attorney-General after his decision to prosecute the government alongside buddy Richard O’Connor became public.
When the politician ran in the Randwick region’s July 1894 elections, he was defeated. He did not run again the following year, owing to the fact that he had a big family to support.

He returned in 1897, this time winning the elections by a landslide. He assisted Sir Samuel Griffith in drafting a constitution that included provisions for federal resolutions as a member of the ‘Constitutional Convention.
He was elected to the Legislative Council a few years later and was in charge of bills relevant to the planned federation. Additionally, he lost the Legislative Assembly elections to Reid, a fellow politician. However, in 1899, the latter joined Barton in his push for the Australian federation.

Edmund resigned as opposition leader the next year and was succeeded by William Lynn. In 1900, he left Parliament and traveled to London with friends Charles Kingston and Alfred Deakin in order to convince the British government of the need for the federation bill.

Edmund was appointed Prime Minister on January 1, 1901, following the failure of anti-federalist William Lyne’s attempt to create a new administration. Alfred Deakin, James Dickson, Richard O’Connor, and George Turner were among the finest political brains who served on the new Prime Minister’s cabinet.

Sir Edmund’s government staged the first-ever federal election in March 1901, in which the Prime Minister was selected without a single opposition candidate in the Hunter electoral division.
As Prime Minister, he instituted a number of reforms, some of which were deemed progressive while others were not.

He enacted the ‘Immigration Restriction Act,’ which empowered officials to bar anyone from entering Australia. This also served as the basis for the ‘White Australia’ policy, which restricted immigration to the country to white Europeans. He granted women citizens the right to vote in federal elections in 1902.

He resigned from parliament in 1903 and went on to form the ‘High Court of Australia’, serving as its first justice. On September 24, he was succeeded as Prime Minister by his close friend Alfred Deakin. Sir Barton was well-known for his fairness and impartiality as a judge.

His Significant Works

Sir Edmund is best known for his efforts to merge Australia’s self-governing states into a unified commonwealth and to expand the practice of unrestricted international trade. These federal policies were implemented and then practiced by this former Prime Minister after he resigned and became a judge.

Awards and Accomplishments

In 1900, the ‘University of Cambridge’ bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate in law (‘LL.D.’).
Sir Barton finally agreed to be knighted in 1902, when he was given a ‘Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George’ by the British Government. He was the first Prime Minister to earn the award while in office.
In 1905, the Japanese government bestowed upon the renowned Australian statesman the ‘Grand Cordon, Order of the Rising Sun’.

Personal History and Legacies

The young politician married Jane Mason Ross, whom he met in Newcastle, in 1877. Edmund Alfred, Wilfrid Alexander, Jean Alice, Arnold Hubert, Oswald, and Leila Stephanie were the couple’s six children.

Sir Edmund died of a heart attack on January 7, 1920, at the ‘Hydro Majestic Hotel’ in New South Wales. This eminent judge and statesman were laid to rest in the ‘South Head General Cemetery’ in the district of Vaucluse.
Between 1951 and 1969, this previous Prime Minister appeared on two Australian stamps.

In Australia, highways, government buildings, and suburbs have been named in his honor. They include the ‘Barton Highway,’ which connects Canberra to the Hume Freeway, and the ‘Edmund Barton Building,’ which houses the federal government’s offices.

Estimated Net worth

Edmund is one of the wealthiest politicians and is ranked among the most popular. Edmund Barton’s net worth is estimated to be at $2 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


“Toby Tosspot” is the moniker given to this legendary Australian Prime Minister by the journal ‘The Bulletin.