Sir James Penn Boucaut

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James Penn Boucaut, K.C.M.G.

Birthplace: Falmouth, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Death: February 01, 1916 (84)
Glenelg, City of Holdfast Bay, South Australia, Australia
Place of Burial: Saint Marys, City of Mitcham, South Australia, Australia
Immediate Family:

Son of Captain Ray Boucaut and Winifred Boucaut
Husband of Janet Boucaut
Father of James Penn Boucaut; Walter Hillary Boucaut; Leonard Harry Henry Boucaut; Max Arthur Boucaut; Alex Le Rey Alexander Boucaut and 2 others
Brother of Ray Parkin Boucaut; Lavinia Boucaut; Louisa Bastin Logan; Winifred Penn Monckton; Hillary Boucaut and 6 others

Occupation: Premier South Australia, Supreme Court Judge
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir James Penn Boucaut


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.

Death of Sir James Boucaut.

Sir James Boucaut has soon followed to the grave his old colleague in Parliament, in the Cabinet, and on the Bench, Sir Samuel Way. The late Chief Justice remained in harness to the last, but Judge Boucaut retired from the Bench eleven years ago. He had a long and distinguished career in Parliament, and dominated the political situation in the seventies. Sir James was a member of six Ministries, and was three times Premier. He entered the South Australian Parliament as member for the City of Adelaide in 1861. Pour years later he became Attorney-General in the Hart Cabinet, and succeeded to the Premiership the next year when Mr. Hart went to England. At various times he represented Adelaide, Burra, West Torrens, and Encounter Bay. It was as representative of the latter electorate in 1875 that he expounded at Gooiwa the famous "broad and comprehensive policy" with which his name has been so intimately associated. The taxation part of the scheme was rejected, by the Legislative Council, arid the Ministry was ousted the following year on a motion by Sir John Colton. The new Government did not last long, and Mr. Boucaut was back in the Premier's office again in 1877, and was able to carry out some of the public works of his original policy. The following year a vacancy occurred on the Supreme Court Bench through the death of Mr. Justice Stow, and the Premier took the position.

There was some surprise at his taking a Puisne Judgeship, as he might have had the chief position two years earlier, but passed it on to his Attorney-General, the late Sir Samuel Way. Thus ended Sir James Boucaut's political career. He proved a learned and capable Judge, commanding the confidence of the Bar, the public, and his colleagues on the bench. For 27 years he retained his position on the bench, and retired in 1905 through failing health. He led a retired life till he passed away on Tuesday last.

Sir James Boucaut's great public works policy was much doomed, as originally formulated; deserved. the title, of "broad and comprehensive," but it was sadly mangled in the Legislature. The guardians of property in the Legislative Council rejected the taxation proposals, which were the keystone of the scheme. As the value of property would be greatly enhanced by the proposed railways, the Government rightly imposed a tax on property to defray the interest oh the works. As the great public works policy was passed it was of doubtful utility. It added largely to our public debt and burdened the community with many unproductive public works, and passed the Bill on.

Judge Boucaut was the last of the judicial pensioners. He enjoyed a pension of £1,300 a year. The Judges Pensions Act was repealed in 1886, and Judges appointed after that date receive none. There is no reason why the Judges receiving the highest salaries in the Civil Service should be specially provided for. They should be able to make provision for their old age from their salaries. An attempt was made to engraft the pension system on the Federal Judiciary, hut it was fortunately defeated.

Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA) Publication: Publication: Feb 4 1916 Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Mr. Josiah Partridge practiced in Adelaide as a solicitor and was spoken of as "the honest lawyer." He had a prosperous business in conveyancing, &c., before the passing of the Torrens Act. A fall from his horse while riding from Glenelg to Adelaide injured his. spine so that for many years he could not sit up, and after a time he sold his business to Messrs. Herford & Boucaut, who were then young lawyers; the latter is now a Judge of the Supreme Court. OBITUARY. (1897, December 3). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), p. 2 (ONE O'CLOCK EDITION). Retrieved July 1, 2018, from''

BOUCAUT Ray, Winifred PENN, Jas Penn, Em Martha, Ray Parkin, Winifred Penn, Louisa Bastin, Lavinia, son Hillary, Sarah Jane, Bastin, Chas, svnt arrived in SA 1846-12-19 aboard Duke of Richmond from London via Plymouth


  • Birth: Oct 29 1831 - Falmouth, Cornwall, England
  • Death: Feb 1 1916 - Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia
  • Parents: Ray (Capt) Boucaut, Winifred Boucaut (born Penn)
  • Siblings: Emma Martha Taylor (born Boucaut), Ray Parkin Boucaut, Winifred Penn Monckton (born Boucaut), Louisa Baston Logan (born Boucaut), Lavinia Boucaut, Hillary Boucaut, Sarah Jane Harvey (born Boucaut), Bastin Boucaut, Charles Boucaut, Wilmot Amelia Boucaut, Charles Boucaut
  • Wife: Janet Boucaut (born Mcculloch)
  • Wife: Caroline Elizabeth Boucaut (born Mason)
  • Children: Alexander Le Roy Boucaut, Virginia Winifred Hamilton (born Boucaut), James Penn Boucaut, Walter Hillary Boucaut, James Penn Boucaut, Leonard Harry Boucaut, Max Arthur Boucaut, Ernest Bertram Boucaut
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Sir James Penn Boucaut's Timeline

October 29, 1831
Falmouth, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
August 25, 1866
Glenelg, South Australia
September 12, 1868
Adelaide South Australia
April 25, 1870
Glenelg, South Australia
February 4, 1872
Adelaide South Australia
August 3, 1873
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
March 27, 1875
Glenelg Adelaide South Australia
January 2, 1877
Adelaide South Australia
February 1, 1916
Age 84
Glenelg, City of Holdfast Bay, South Australia, Australia