Edward Wilson (journalist)

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Edward Wilson (13 November 1813 – 10 January 1878) [1] was an English-Australian journalist and philanthropist.


Edward Wilson.jpg


The second of the three children of John Wilson (1774-1834), a linen draper, and Mary Wilson (1766-1838), née Jones, Edward Wilson was born at Hampstead, London on 13 November 1813. He never married.


He was educated at a "large private school" in Hamstead where, among his schoolmates, were William Clark Haines (1810-1866), the first Premier of Victoria, the brothers James Spowers (1813-1879) and Allan Spowers (1815-1876), proprietors of The Argus, and Douglas Thomas Kilburn (1813-1871), the artist, ethnographer, and daguerreotypist. [2]

Having left school, with his parents wanting him to "engage in commerce", he entered a business house at Manchester, and subsequently went to London, involved in the "Manchester trade". [2]


In 1842 he migrated to Australia. At first, he had a small property on the northern outskirts of Melbourne but in 1844, in partnership with James S. Johnston, took up a cattle station near Dandenong, Victoria.

The Argus

He bought The Argus around 1847 from William Kerr, incorporated with it The Patriot, and five years later absorbed another journal, The Daily News.

In the early days of the gold-rush the paper was produced under great difficulties, but the circulation kept increasing, and it became a valuable property. Wilson strenuously opposed the influx of convicts from Tasmania, fought for the separation of the Port Phillip District from New South Wales, and opposed Governor Charles Hotham in his attitude to the miners; but when the rebellion broke out he took the stand that there were peaceable and legitimate methods of obtaining redress. When Charles Gavan Duffy came to Victoria and went into politics Wilson sent him a list of suggested reforms which included justice to the Aborigines, [3] the organizing of agriculture as a department of the state, the introduction of the ballot into municipal elections, and the leasing of crown lands for cultivation with the right of ultimate purchase. He was the first to raise the cry "unlock the lands". He was in fact a thorough democrat in sentiment, and an ardent reformer. Costs of running the Argus had increased and Wilson was close to ruin, but was saved when Lauchlan Mackinnon bought a partnership from James Gill, and took over management. [1]

Rambles at the Antipodes

In 1857 and 1858, he travelled throughout colonial Australia and New Zealand, and on to England where he consulted experts in relation to his failing eyesight (due to cataracts) via the so-called "Overland Route"; and, whilst doing so wrote an extended series of 21 articles for The Argus' newspaper. [4] The articles, which were published on a regular basis (often three articles in a single week), were later collected together and published in their aggregate (with an additional statistical appendix, and 12 lithographs by Samuel Thomas Gill) in 1859, as Rambles at the Antipodes (1859). [5]


He took much interest in acclimatization, founding the Acclimatization Society in Melbourne in 1861, as its first president, and, in the same year, visiting Sydney and founding the Acclimatization Society of New South Wales.


Wilson finally settled in 1864 at Hayes, Bromley in England, and lived the life of an English country gentleman, at Hayes Place, farming 300 acres. [6] He occasionally contributed to The Times and the Fortnightly Review; an article from this journal, Principles of Representation, was published as a pamphlet in 1866. Another pamphlet, on Acclimatization, was printed in 1875.


He died at Hayes, in Kent, on 10 January 1878. [2] His remains were repatriated to Australia on the SS Aconcagua , and he was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery, on 7 July 1878, in a grave that "is immediately opposite the burial place of Sir Charles Hotham". [7] [8] [9]


The bulk of his estate was used to form the Edward Wilson Trust which since his death has distributed several million dollars to Victorian charities, in particular the Melbourne, Alfred and Children's hospitals in Victoria.



  1. 1 2 Serle, Geoffrey. "Wilson, Edward (1813–1878)". Australian Dictionary of Biography . Melbourne University Press. ISSN   1833-7538 . Retrieved 3 November 2013 via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  2. 1 2 3 Anon (1878).
  3. Wilson did not mince his words:
    "This country has been shamelessly stolen from the blacks. . . . In less than 20 years, we have nearly swept them off the face of the earth. We have shot them down like dogs . . . and consigned whole tribes to the agonies of an excruciating death. We have made them drunkards and infected them with disease, which has rotted the bones of their adults, and made few children as exist amongst them a sorrow and a torture from their very instant of birth. We have made them outcasts on their own land, and are rapidly consigning them to entire annihilation." (Wilson, 1856a).
  4. The first was published in August 1857 (Wilson, 1857a), and the last in October 1858 (Wilson, 1858k).
  5. With (Wilson, 1857a,b,c) forming the first chapter, (Wilson, 1857d,e,f,g,h,i) the second chapter, (Wilson, 1858a,b.c,d,e) the third chapter, and (Wilson, 1858f,g,h,i,j.k) the fourth and last chapter.
  6. 1871 England census; RG10 875 folio 50
  7. (General News Items), The Argus, (Monday, 8 July 1878), p.5.
  8. See photograph of Wilson's grave at: Edward Wilson, at Find a Grave.
  9. See photograph of Hotham's grave at: Sir Charles Hotham, at Find a Grave.
  10. "No.IV" was not published within the pages of the regular Argus, with those published jumping from "No.III" (14 June) to "No.V" (18 June). Given the accurate "verbatim/reprint" nature of the contents of Rambles at the Antipodes, the inescapable conclusion is that the missing article was published at page one of a (currently un-digitized by TROVE) Supplement to The Argus on 15, 16, or 17 June as were each of 1858f, 1858g, 1858h, 1858j, and 1858k in the October of that same year and that the text of the missing article was identical to that which was later published in the aggregate volume (i.e., Wilson, 1859, pp.92-102).

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