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Member Details

Sir Alfred STEPHEN, K.C.M.G.,C.B (1802 - 1894)

Member Photo
Date of Birth: 20/08/1802
Place of Birth: Basseterre, St Christopher (St. Kitts), West Indies
Date of Death: 15/10/1894
Place of Death: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Parliamentary Service
Position Start End Period Notes
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 22 May 1856 12 Nov 1858 2 years 5 months 22 days First (Quinquennial) Appointments under the Constitution Act. Date of Writ of Summons 13 May 1856.
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 23 Mar 1875 20 Mar 1879 3 years 11 months 26 days Life Appointment under the Constitution Act. Date of Writ of Summons 8 March 1875
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 28 Oct 1879 09 Nov 1885 6 years 13 days Life Appointment under the Constitution Act. Date of Writ of Summons 8 August 1879
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 27 Jan 1886 27 Oct 1890 4 years 9 months 1 day Life Appointment under the Constitution Act. Date of Writ of Summons 16 December 1885
President 20 May 1856 28 Jan 1857 8 months 9 days
Standing Order Commitee No.3 03 Jun 1856 18 Mar 1857 9 months 16 days
Library Committee No.4 03 Jun 1856 18 Mar 1857 9 months 16 days
Political Party Activity
Community Activity
Qualifications, occupations and interests
Lawyer. Chief Justice of New South Wales 1844 - 1873. Educated at village school Shefford, Bedfordshire, England, then Charterhouse, Reverend West Valentine's school and Honiton Grammar. Clerk to father at Basseterre 1815; returned England in 1818; entered Lincoln's Inn where read for Bar under cousins Henry and (Sir) James Stephen, the latter being future under secretary at Colonial Office; called to Bar 1823. Arrival at Van Diemen's Land with £3,000 and recommendations from James Stephen to his friend Governor Arthur 1825; Solicitor General 1825 from 1832; Attorney General from 1832 from 1837; Crown Prosecutor from 1825 until 1861. Established the colony's most lucrative private practice as a barrister, made financial speculations and invested in land. Journeyed to Sydney as a temporary judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 1839; puisne judge from 1841 until 1844; Chief Justice 1873. Lieutenant Governor from 1875 until 1891; acted as Governor from March until August in 1879 and from November until December 1885, and from November 1890 until January 1891; administrator of government 1872. In Van Diemen's Land was founding vice-president of Hobart Town Mechanics' Institute 1827, churchwarden St David's from 1827 until 1831, Registrar Archdeacon's Court from 1828 until 1831. In New South Wales helped found St Paul's College, University of Sydney, and was founding fellow of its Council from 1856 until 1870; Fellow of Senate of the University of Sydney from 1878 until 1887; Trustee of National Art Gallery of New South Wales from 1876; President of New South Wales Academy of Art from 1873, of Civil Service Building Society from 1875 until 1882, of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen, of Charity Organization Society, and of Industrial Blind Institution; life director of (Royal) Prince Alfred Hospital; left some organizations in 1880s but joined Primrose League. Trustee Hyde, Phillip and Cook Parks from 1878; Crown trustee of Australia Museum from 1880 until 1889; Chairman of Captain Cook Statue Committee 1873. President of Commission for Paris Universal Exhibition 1855; Vice-president for exhibitions at Paris 1878, Sydney 1879; President of New South Wales Commission for Cell and Indian Exhibition, London 1886. A frustrated legislator when judge; active Member of Legislative Council; in later life became an ardent campaigner for divorce law reform. Wrote many letters to Sydney Morning Herald, often under such pseudonyms as 'Respublica', 'Justitia', 'Nominus Umbra'. Author of Constitution, Rules, Practice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 1843 until 1845; Thoughts on the Constitution of a Second Legislative Chamber for New South Wales, 1853; Address on Intemperance and the Licensing System, 1870. Lived expensively; estate valued at almost 9:12,000. Father of Sir Matthew Henry Stephen, M.C. Stephen, S.A. Stephen, and uncle of H.W.H. Stephen (qq.v.)
Military Service
Honours Received
Knighted in 1846; Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1862; Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1874; Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1884; Privy Councillor (PC) in 1893
Membership of other Parliaments & Offices Held
Local Government Activity
Son of John, barrister and attorney. Later was a Supreme Court Judge of New South Wales, and Mary Anne, nee Pasmore. Married (1) Virginia Consett on 22 June 1824 at Holborn, Britain and had issue, 5 sons and 4 daughters. Wife died in childbirth. Married (2) Eleanor Martha Pickard on 21 July 1838 at Van Diemen's Land and had issue, 4 sons and 5 daughters. Church of England
Additional Information
Personal papers in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: 1. Sir Alfred Stephen - papers, 1807 - 1894 (MLMSS 211) 2. Stephen family - diaries and correspondence, 1802 - 1961 (MLMSS 777); photographs in the PICMAN Database. 3. Sir Alfred Stephen - papers and pictorial collection, ca. 1872 - 1894 (A149, A150, A710, A711, A179); photographs in the PICMAN Database. 4. Sir Alfred Stephen - papers, 1807 - 1894 (A669 - A673). Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6 Text from the book: 'The Presiding Officers of the Parliament of New South Wales', Sydney, 1995 Alfred Stephen was born on 20 August 1802 at St Kitts in the West Indies. He married Virginia Consett in June 1824; she died in childbirth in January 1837 and he married for a second time to Eleanor Pickard in July 1838.He had five sons and four daughters by his first marriage and four sons and five daughters by his second marriage. Upon his father's appointment to the New South Wales Supreme Court, Alfred Stephen accompanied his mother home to England from the West Indies. After completing his legal studies he arrived in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1825 and was commissioned as Solicitor-General. Within days of this appointment he was also selected to become Crown Prosecutor. Stephen's work load greatly increased from 1832 when he was also appointed Attorney-General. After a disagreement with Lieutenant-Governor Arthur, he moved to New South Wales where he accepted a temporary position as a Judge. In 1844 he was selected to become Chief Justice in New South Wales. Alfred Stephen was appointed to the new Legislative Council on four occasions between 1856 and 1890. While Edward Deas Thomson declined nomination as President of the Legislative Council on the grounds that he considered it a political appointment, Stephen accepted the position becoming the first President of the Legislative Council in 1856. From 1856 until 1858 Stephen used his understanding of shortcomings in the legal system to press for legislative remedies by introducing 14 law reform Bills, six of which were enacted. As President, Stephen ensured the Council's role as a house of review endured through the manner in which he guided the legislative process and suggested constructive alterations to legislation before the House. He attempted to mediate the 1879-80 dispute between the Assembly and the Council, and was unsuccessful in his bid to vary the Constitution Act by altering the Council's power to amend money bills. He died on 15 October 1894 in Sydney