Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Former Member Details

Sir Francis FORBES (1784 - 1841)

Member Photo
Date of Birth: 01/01/1784
Place of Birth: Smith's Island, St George's Harbour, Bermuda
Date of Death: 08/11/1841
Place of Death: Newtown, New South Wales, Australia
Parliamentary Service
Position Start End Period Notes
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 01 Dec 1823 16 Apr 1836 12 years 4 months 17 days An Appointed Member of the first Legislative Council 1824 - 1843. Leave of absence to proceed to England 16 April 1836 and did not return
Political Party Activity
Community Activity
Qualifications, occupations and interests
Lawyer; Chief Justice of New South Wales 1824 - 1837. When aged 19 he went to England and entered Lincoln's Inn. His call to the Bar was deferred until 1812 and then he became a Crown Law Officer in Bermuda. By 1816 Forbes sought advancement. Was Bermuda's most distinguished native son jurist. After serving as Bermuda's Attorney General from 1810, he was appointed as Chief Justice of Newfoundland in 1818. He served there from 1816 until 1821 and was influential in securing Newfoundland colonial status and the establishment of constitutional government. Was appointed as the first ever Chief Justice (1824 - 1837) of the huge Colony of New South Wales. Following the inquiry into the Colony's affairs by Commissioner Bigge. Bigge's investigations began in 1819 following the far reaching changes made in the Colony by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Bigge was keen to grant greater jurisdiction to the Local Courts which had previously been administered from England. Arrived in Sydney in 1824 and opened the new Supreme Court of New South Wales on 17 May 1824. Suffered from bouts of illness and secured a years leave to return to England. Retired in 1837 and was honoured with a Knighthood the same year. He was in a peculiar position of power. Not only was he sole judge, subject only to appellate powers vested in the Governor, but he was an official member of the Executive and Legislative Councils, and all colonial legislation had to bear his certificate that it was not repugnant to the laws of England.
Military Service
Honours Received
Knighted in 1837
Membership of other Parliaments & Offices Held
Local Government Activity
Eldest son of Dr Francis Forbes of Bermuda and his wife Mary Tucker. Married in 1813 to Amelia Sophia Grant, daughter of Dr David Grant of Harley Street, London, formerly of Kingston, Jamaica, and had issue, two sons
Additional Information
Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. C. H. Currey, 'Sir Francis Forbes, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales', Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1968. J. M. Bennett (ed.), 'Some Papers of Sir Francis Forbes, First Chief Justice in Australia' (Foreword by Sir Laurence Street), Sydney, Parliament of NSW, 1998 (A Parliament of New South Wales Centenary of Federation Project). Biography and portrait in ‘Australian Men of Mark’, Volume 1. Sydney, [?1889] , page 41 The website of the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History is: