Lucas, John

2012
Cite this

Lucas, John

John Lucas was born on 24 June 1818 on Thomas Rowley's Kingston Estate in Camperdown. [1] As the grandson of two First Fleet convicts who made good, Nathaniel Lucas and Olivia Gascoigne, John was born into a large enterprising family with strong colonial connections. A capable man with strong views on a variety of issues, John served the people of New South Wales for 20 years as a member of the Legislative Assembly, and served the Governor for a further 20 years as a member of the Legislative Council. When he died at home on 1 March 1902, he was the patriarch of a large family and bequeathed an estate worth £11,000. [2] He was buried in a large family grave at Rookwood Cemetery on 3 March 1902.

The early years

John was educated at the Church of England school at Liverpool and later at Captain Beveridge's boarding school in Sydney. [3] In 1834, at 16 years of age, he was apprenticed to a carpenter, and became a builder by trade. This followed one of the family lines of business – his grandfather, Nathaniel, had been a master carpenter, millwright and boat builder, as had his father, John senior. [4] By 1841 John was living and working in the Maitland area, where he married Ann Sammons, before returning to Sydney sometime around 1847.

An enterprising man

On his return to Sydney, John was granted a wine and spirit license, and followed another of the family businesses by opening a hotel at Redfern. He also started to purchase significant amounts of property. In addition to land in Camperdown and later Cobar, John also purchased 45 acres (18.2 hectares) at Lapstone Hill in the lower Blue Mountains in 1867, followed a few years later with another ten acres (four hectares). Local legend around Glenbrook reports that he had the Lucasville station on the old Lapstone Zig Zag line built just to service his holiday home, but this action may have been slightly more community-minded than it first appears. The station wasn't opened until 1878. [5] Leasing notices indicate that there were quite a few homes in the immediate area by the 1870s, and so it is likely that the Lucasville station provided a convenient embarkation and disembarkation station at the top points of the Zig Zag for a number of families. [6]

The Legislative Assembly

John Lucas was the member for Canterbury for most of his 20-year career in the Legislative Assembly, from 1860 through to 1880. In one election he was also returned as the member for Hartley, an uncommon but possible outcome at a time when elections were held over a period of several weeks and members could nominate for a second seat if they failed to win the first. [7] However, actually being returned as the successful candidate for two seats in the same election usually only occurred if a candidate was not confident of winning their first choice seat, and the election for the second choice seat was being held very close to the first one. John stood aside from Canterbury in that election and remained the member for Hartley, forcing a second election for Canterbury. [8] He served the electorate of Hartley from December 1864 to November 1869.

John was a committed protectionist, and wrote a series of letters to the Empire in 1858 outlining his position and his recommendations for the future of trade policy in New South Wales. [9] These were later annotated and released as a pamphlet, which is undated but presumed to have been issued in 1885 from the notations in the text. [10] He was also committed to free, non-sectarian schooling for every child, and wrote another series of letters to the Empire in 1859 on the subject. These too were later collated into a pamphlet, along with some speeches that he had made on the topic in the early 1860s and a marked up comparison between Charles Cowper's Education Bill and Henry Parkes's version. Again, this is not dated, but it is presumed to have been released sometime in the 1870s. Lucas remained annoyed with Parkes's apparent willingness to take full credit for the Bill:

'In writing this, I do not desire to detract from the credit due to Sir Henry Parkes on the subject of Public Education … Nevertheless, he has not the right to arrogate the whole of the credit of our education reform, as the late Mr. W. Forster, myself, and others cleared the land, ploughed and harrowed the ground, sowed the seed, and tended the crop until it was ripe for harvesting.' [11]

Consistently noted as an independent thinker, Lucas never regularly allied himself with anyone trying to form a government. While his political leanings sat more in line with John Robertson than with Parkes, Lucas appears to have valued his independence and resisted joining the embryonic factions that were slowly developing in the New South Wales parliament in the 1860s and 1870s. [12] He did support Robertson to form a ministry in 1875, but this is the only instance so far identified of him doing so.

Protector of Jenolan Caves

One of Lucas's greatest achievements during his time in the Legislative Assembly was the protection of Jenolan Caves, at the time known as the Binda Caves, from mining. John had an extensive interest in mining; he was the director of at least two mining companies – the Bowenfels Coal Mining and Copper Smelting Company and the Hill End Gold Mining Company – and was Minister for Mines during Robertson's ministry in 1875–77. [13] However his action to protect the Jenolan Caves came during the early 1860s. He wrote a long report for the Sydney Morning Herald, aimed at educating the public about the beauty of the Caves:

the Ark Cave … contains several large and lofty chambers, with many finely-formed stalactites and columns in every direction; and it is much to be regretted that visitors are so mischievous as wantonly to destroy these beautiful works of Nature. [14]

Lucas is currently revered by the Caves Trust as a saviour, and the Lucas Cave is named in his honour, but some have suggested he was a vandal for signing his name in the limestone and souveniring stalactites for his office. [15] However, in the context of the time, it is difficult to accept that Lucas saw his actions as damaging the caves. Nineteenth-century natural history collections are often re-imagined as vandalism or anti-conservationist and, as the caves were then only accessible to adventurous types, bringing specimens back to Sydney was the only way to convince the government of the beauty of the caves.

The Legislative Council

In 1880, Parkes chose to promote a number of independent thinkers from the Legislative Assembly to the Legislative Council, and Lucas was one of the new appointees.

In 1881–82, Lucas sued the government over some land at Darling Harbour. This land was resumed by the government, but was valued at some £70,000 less than Lucas's valuation. [16] The land was immediately adjacent to the railway line, allowing for the loading and unloading of goods without need for a cart, and Lucas's valuers took that into consideration. However, the government valuers decreed that this should not be a factor in the decision to determine compensation for the resumption of the land, and accordingly most of the value of the land disappeared. [17] John declared that, having been so shabbily treated after nearly 25 years of service to the people of New South Wales, he would resign. However, it appears that he became convinced that there was more good civic work that he could still perform, and he stayed a member of the Legislative Council for another 16 years.

John was a strong opponent of Federation, believing it to be premature. In a speech to the Legislative Council on 17 September 1890, he outlined his objections. [18] At the time, the Federation councils were considering proposals such as nationalising the railway system, and giving the Federal Government the power to change state boundaries, or even subdivide the states to make smaller ones. Lucas opposed both measures as detrimental to the interests of New South Wales and highlighted the abundant natural resources held by the state that he feared would then come under the control of the new Federal government. His opinions were strongly opposed by other Legislative Council members at the time, although he is occasionally referred to in more modern scholarship as being correct in his impression that Federation would be bad for New South Wales.

References

John Lucas, A Speech on the Federation of the Australasian Colonies delivered in the Legislative Council, 17 September 1890, released in pamphlet form in May 1891

John Lucas, 'A Visit to the Binda Caves', Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 1863

John Lucas, 'Darling Harbour Compensation Case – Lucas v. Minister for Works', State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, bound pamphlets, DSM/ 042/ P16

John Lucas, Protection v. Free Trade, Empire General Steam Printing Office, Sydney, 1858

John Lucas, Whether is Protection or Freetrade the Better Fiscal Policy for New South Wales? [19]

Peter McKay, A Nation Within a Nation, Peter McKay, Geelong, 2001

RW Rathbone, 'Lucas, John (1818–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 5, 1974, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lucas-john-4045/text6435, viewed 15 March 2012

Notes

[1] Peter McKay, A Nation Within a Nation, Peter McKay, Geelong, 2001, p 676

[2] Peter McKay, A Nation Within a Nation, Peter McKay, Geelong, 2001, p 678

[3] Peter McKay, A Nation Within a Nation, Peter McKay, Geelong, 2001, p 676

[4] There is no evidence that John Lucas senior and John Lucas junior ever differentiated themselves by those designations. I have used John Lucas snr here to clarify which John is being discussed.

[5] 'Lucasville Station', NSWrail.net, http://www.nswrail.net/locations, viewed 24 September 2010

[6] Hardie and Gorman, 'To Be Let', Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 1879, p 16

[7] Michael Hogan and Lesley Muir, 'Voting in Colonial New South Wales', in Michael Hogan, Lesley Muir and Hilary Golder (eds), The People's Choice, Federation Press, Annandale NSW, 2007 p 32

[8] RW Rathbone, 'Lucas, John (1818–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 5, 1974, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lucas-john-4045/text6435, viewed 15 March 2012

[9] John Lucas, Protection v. Free Trade, Empire General Steam Printing Office, Sydney, 1858

[10] John Lucas, Whether is Protection or Free trade the Better Fiscal Policy for New South Wales?, [19]

[11] John Lucas, 'Letters, Speeches and Notes on Educational Reform', State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, bound pamphlets, DSM/ 042/ P267, 1883, p 72

[12] P Loveday and AW Martin, Parliament, Factions and Parties: The First Thirty Years of Responsible Government in New South Wales, 1856–1889, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1966, pp 1–3

[13] RW Rathbone, 'Lucas, John (1818–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 5, 1974, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lucas-john-4045/text6435, viewed 15 March 2012; 'Mining', Sydney Morning Herald, 15 July 1872, p 5

[14] John Lucas, 'A Visit to the Binda Caves', Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 1863, p 3

[15] Noel Rawlinson, Conservationist or Vandal, Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society, New South Wales, 2010 (1976), p 25; John Lucas – Patron of the Jenolan Caves, http://jenolancaves.org.au.webomatics/com/print.html, viewed 19 January 2011

[16] John Lucas, 'Darling Harbour Compensation Case – Lucas v. Minister for Works', State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, bound pamphlets, DSM/ 042/ P16, p 11

[17] John Lucas, 'Darling Harbour Compensation Case – Lucas v. Minister for Works', State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library, bound pamphlets, DSM/ 042/ P16, p 8

[18] John Lucas, A Speech on the Federation of the Australasian Colonies delivered in the Legislative Council, 17 September 1890, released in pamphlet form in May 1891, pp 2–3

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