BOUCAUT, Sir James Penn (1831-1916)

BOUCAUT, Sir James Penn (1831-1916)
premier of South Australia and judge
was born near Falmouth, Cornwall, on 29 October 1831. He was the son of a navy officer, Captain Ray Boucaut, and his wife, Winifred, daughter of James Penn, superintendent of the royal dockyard at Falmouth. Educated at the Rev. Mr Hayley's school at Saltash, Boucaut left with his father for South Australia in 1846, and after some colonial experience in the interior, returned to Adelaide. He was then articled to C. Fenn, and was admitted to the bar in November 1855. He had a great capacity for taking pains, an excellent memory for cases, and his 23 years at the bar were marked by steadily increasing success. In December 1861 he was returned to the house of assembly as a representative of Adelaide, but was defeated at the general election in 1862. In March 1865 he was elected for West Adelaide at the head of the poll. In October he became attorney-general in the first Hart (q.v.) ministry, and when the premier retired to go to England in February 1866, Boucaut took his place in a reconstructed ministry which was in power until May 1867. He was defeated at the 1870 election, but came into the house again as member for West Torrens in 1871. In January 1872 he became attorney-general in Ayers' (q.v.) sixth ministry, but retired when the cabinet was reconstructed early in March. On 3 June 1875 Boucaut formed his second ministry, in which he was commissioner of crown lands and immigration and, for a few weeks, commissioner of public works. An education bill was successfully taken through the assembly, and in September Boucaut brought in a bill authorizing the raising of a loan of £3,000,000 for the construction or extension of 13 lines of railway and various other public works. But opposition in the council, and the fear of increased taxation, temporarily held up railway extensions. The cabinet was reconstructed in March 1876, but resigned early in the following June. The ministry of J. Colton (q.v.), which followed, adopted part of Boucaut's railway extension policy and succeeded in carrying it through. Boucaut formed his third ministry in October 1877 with the portfolio of treasurer. During the following nine months some useful legislation was passed, including a crown lands consolidation bill, and provision for several railway lines and for the improvement of Victor Harbour. An income tax bill was defeated, but a property tax of threepence in the pound was agreed to. In September 1878, on the death of Mr Justice Stow (q.v.), Boucaut was appointed a judge of the supreme court.
Boucaut was a judge for 27 years. It was at first thought that he could not be content to be out of politics, but he had a real interest in legal work and proved to be an excellent judge. He was acting chief justice during the absence of Way (q.v.) in England in 1891-2, and on several occasions acted as deputy governor between 1885 and 1897. He resigned in February 1905 on a pension of £1300 a year, on account of failing health. He had an estate at the foot of Mount Barker, where he bred pure Arab horses. His health improved with leisure and he lived until 1 February 1916, being then in his eighty-fifth year. He married in 1864, Janet, daughter of Alexander McCulloch, who predeceased him. He was survived by five sons and a daughter. He became a Q.C. in 1875 and was created K.C.M.G. in 1898. He published in London in 1905, his vigorously written The Arab, the Horse of the Future, and in the following year, Letters to My Boys, An Australian Judge and Ex-Premier on his Travels in Europe. Though this is merely a reprint of letters written to his children when travelling in Europe in 1892, it makes an excellent book, far superior in interest to most work of this kind. Boucaut's Speeches on Railways and Public Works was published as a pamphlet in 1875.
In private life Boucaut was amiable and kindly, interested in old violins, in his horses, and his yacht, which he could handle like a master mariner. As a barrister he had a sound knowledge of the common law, and though perhaps not a great advocate, was thorough and persistent. In parliament he soon developed a knowledge of parliamentary procedure and his worth was quickly recognized. He was premier on three occasions, but for many years before there had been much intriguing for power, and the average life of a ministry was only about eight months. Boucaut was a stronger man than any of his predecessors, showed more statesmanlike qualities, and in spite of handicaps, succeeded in bringing in a forward policy. When he became a judge no man was left in the South Australian parliament of equal qualifications as a politician. As a judge he was fearless and conscientious, full of common sense and worldly wisdom. He was learned in common and statute law, and as a constitutional lawyer was unsurpassed in his time.
The Advertiser, Adelaide, 2 February 1916; The Register, Adelaide, 2 February 1916; E. Hodder, The History of South Australia; Debrett's Peerage, etc., 1915.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • James Boucaut — Sir James Penn Boucaut, KCMG (29 October 1831 1 February 1916) was an Australian judge and politician, Premier of South Australia three times: 1866–1867, 1875–1876 and 1877–1878.Early lifeBoucaut was born in Mylor, Cornwallcite web… …   Wikipedia

  • Boucaut — /ˈboʊkoʊ/ (say bohkoh) noun Sir James Penn, 1831–1916, Australian politician, born in England; premier of SA 1866–67, 1875–76, 1877–78 …  

  • Cornish Australian — Cornish Australians Ostralyon Kernow …   Wikipedia

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