About Edmund Barton
Sir Edmund Barton, GCMG, KC (18 January 1849 – 7 January 1920), Australian politician and judge, served as the first Prime Minister of Australia and became a founding justice of the High Court of Australia.
Barton first became an MP in 1879, in the Parliament of New South Wales. He contributed solidly to the federation movement through the 1890s, eventually contesting the inaugural 1901 federal election as head of a caretaker Protectionist Party federal government. No party won a majority; however, the government was supported by the Australian Labor Party, against the opposition Free Trade Party. Barton resigned from the position of Prime Minister of Australia in 1903. He is one of only three Australian prime ministers who left the position at a time of their own choosing. Barton became a judge of Australia's High Court, serving for 17 years until his death in 1920.
He was born in Glebe, New South Wales, the ninth child of English parents William Barton, a stockbroker, and Mary Louise Barton. He was educated at Fort Street High School and Sydney Grammar School, where he was twice dux and School Captain and met his life-long friend and later fellow Justice of the High Court of Australia, Richard O'Connor. He graduated with first class honours and the University Medal in classics from the University of Sydney, where he also demonstrated considerable skill at batting (but not in fielding) in cricket. He was a founder and active member of the Sydney Rowing Club. Barton became a barrister in 1871. On a cricket trip to Newcastle in 1870, he met Jane Mason Ross, whom he married in 1877.
In 1879, Barton umpired a cricket game at Sydney Cricket Ground between New South Wales and an English touring side captained by Lord Harris. After a controversial decision by Barton's colleague George Coulthard against the home side, the crowd spilled onto the pitch and assaulted some of the English players, leading to international cricket's first riot. The publicity that attended the young Barton's presence of mind in defusing that situation reputedly helped him take his first step towards becoming Australia's first prime minister, winning a state lower house seat later that year.
Sir Edmund Barton died from heart failure at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath, New South Wales. He was interred in South Head General Cemetery in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse (see Waverley Cemetery). He was survived by his wife and six children:
- Edmund Alfred (29 May 1879 – 13 November 1949), a New South Wales judge
- Wilfrid Alexander (1880–1953), first NSW Rhodes Scholar (1904)
- Jean Alice (1882–1957), married Sir David Maughan (1873–1955) in 1909
- Arnold Hubert (3 January 1884-1948), married Jane Hungerford in Sydney 1907; he later emigrated to Canada
- Oswald (8 January 1888 – 6 February 1956), medical doctor
- Leila Stephanie (1892–1976), married Robert Christopher Churchill Scot-Skirving in London 1915