HOLDER, Sir Frederick William (1850-1909)

HOLDER, Sir Frederick William (1850-1909)
premier of South Australia and first federal speaker
the son of James Morecott Holder and his wife, Martha Breakspear Roby, was born at Happy Valley, South Australia, on 12 May 1850. His father was a state school teacher who gave his son a good education. On leaving school he entered the education department but soon became a journalist. He for a time edited the Burra Record and also wrote for the Adelaide Register. He took an interest in municipal affairs, was elected a member of the Burra Corporation, and for two years was mayor. In 1887 he was returned to parliament as a representative for Burra, and retained his seat at ensuing elections with large majorities until the coming of federation. From June 1889 to August 1890 he was treasurer in the J. A. Cockburn (q.v.) ministry, and on its defeat was elected leader of the opposition. He sat on many royal commissions during his parliamentary career in South Australia, and his reasonableness and sincerity made him a very valuable committee man. In June 1892 he carried a vote of want of confidence in the Playford (q.v.) ministry, and took office as premier and treasurer. He had only a small majority and it was a time of great financial difficulty. He was defeated in October 1892. When the Kingston (q.v.) government was formed in June 1893, Holder was allotted the portfolio of commissioner of public works, but in April 1894, when Playford became agent-general for South Australia, Holder took his place in the government as treasurer and minister controlling the Northern Territory, and held these positions until December 1899. Australia was going through a period of lean years and Holder proved himself to be a capable and careful treasurer. When the Kingston ministry was defeated the succeeding Solomon ministry lasted only a week, and Holder was commissioned to form a government. He became premier and treasurer on 8 December 1899 and continued in power until he entered the federal house in May 1901.
Holder had played no small part in the federal campaign in South Australia. He travelled the country, spoke at many meetings, and was elected a representative of South Australia at the 1897 convention. He was a member of the finance committee, was responsible for the scheme by which the bookkeeping period was to be shortened to one year with a sliding scale of payments to the end of five years, when the federal surplus was to be distributed on a per capita basis. This was adopted at the Adelaide session but afterwards was abandoned. He was elected a member of the federal house of representatives, and when parliament met he was the only nominee for the speaker's position. He was twice re-elected to the position, and presided over many debates when feeling ran high and the greatest tact and firmness was required to keep the house in order. The fact of there being three parties in the house made it extremely difficult to transact business and tempers were easily ruffled. The climax came with the sitting that began on 20 July 1909, when the speaker continually had to call members to order and it took all his powers to keep the house in control. On 22 July, after a sitting of 14 hours, Sir William Lyne (q.v.) made an intemperate speech which brought a storm of interruptions only stayed when the speaker fell insensible on the floor of the house. He died a few hours later on 23 July 1909. He married in 1878 Julia Maria Stephens who survived him with four sons and four daughters. He was created K.C.M.G. on 26 June 1902. He published in 1892 Our Pastoral Industry, a reprint of a series of articles which appeared originally in the South Australian Register. A few of his speeches were also published and he wrote a good deal for newspapers and reviews.
Holder was a comparatively frail man who did an enormous amount of work. He was a lay preacher in the Methodist Church, much valued in church councils, a total abstainer who often lectured on total abstinence and other subjects, and he was also interested in philanthropic work. In politics he showed great qualities of leadership, was a good treasurer and a good administrator, and his courtesy, fair mindedness, and great knowledge of parliamentary procedure eminently qualified him to be the first speaker of the Commonwealth parliament. In the early troubled years, however much the leaders of the different parties might distrust each other, all united in their tributes to the speaker at the end of each parliament, for all recognized that he not only knew the duties of his position but carried them out impartially and inflexibly.
The Register, Adelaide, 24 July 1909; The Argus, Melbourne, 24 July 1909; H. G. Turner, The First Decade of the Commonwealth; Quick and Garran, The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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