John O'Shanassy

Last updated

Sir John O'Shanassy
2nd Premier of Victoria
In office
11 March 1857 29 April 1857
Preceded by William Clark Haines
Succeeded byWilliam Clark Haines
In office
10 March 1858 27 October 1859
Preceded byWilliam Clark Haines
Succeeded by William Nicholson
In office
14 November 1861 27 June 1863
Preceded by Richard Heales
Succeeded by James McCulloch
Personal details
Born(1818-02-18)18 February 1818
Ballinahow, Tipperary, Ireland
Died5 May 1883(1883-05-05) (aged 65)
Boroondara, Victoria, Australia
Spouse(s)Margaret McDonnell

Sir John O'Shanassy, KCMG (18 February 1818 – 5 May 1883), was an Irish-Australian politician who served as the 2nd Premier of Victoria. O'Shanassy was born near Thurles in County Tipperary, Ireland, the son of a surveyor, and came to the Port Phillip District (later Victoria) in 1839. He went into business in Melbourne as a draper, and by 1846 he was rich enough to be elected to the Melbourne City Council and to become the founding chairman of the Colonial Bank of Australasia. By the 1850s he was a major landowner and one of the wealthiest men in the colony. He also became a recognised leader of the large Irish Catholic community.


O'Shanassy was elected to the inaugural Victorian Legislative Council for City of Melbourne in 1851. When Victoria gained responsible government in 1856, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for both Melbourne and Kilmore districts, he decided to represent the latter resulting in a by-election for Melbourne. [1] In 1868 he returned to the Council as member for Central Province, then in 1877 he went back to the Assembly as member for Belfast (later known as Port Fairy), which he represented until 1883.

Although he had been regarded as a liberal in his early career, in the colonial Parliament O'Shanassy emerged as the leader of the conservative opposition to the reforming ministry of William Haines, although there was no formal party system in Victoria at this time. His alienation from the liberals was mainly as a result of the tariff issue: most colonial liberals were protectionists, but O'Shanassy was a free trader.

When Haines's ministry fell in March 1857, O'Shanassy succeeded him as Premier, but his government fell in April and Haines returned to office. O'Shanassy was Premier again from March 1858 to October 1859 and his deputy was Charles Gavan Duffy. The combination of these two Irish Catholics heading up the colony's administration was a source of great consternation among the Protestant elite and ensured that sectarian issues emerged in the election of 1859.(G. Serle) However, the Duffy/O'Shanassy link strained, possibly, because O'Shanassy departed Ireland before the turmoil of 1848, while Duffy was involved in the 1848s troubles.(O'Brien) O'Shanassy was Premier again from November 1861. By the 1860s O'Shanassy had become a thorough-going conservative and his government was bitterly opposed by the liberal newspaper The Age and its fiery proprietor, David Syme. In retaliation, O'Shanassy withdrew government advertising from the paper. O'Shanassy's government was finally defeated in June 1863 over the land reform issue, and he never held office again.

O'Shanassy was awarded a papal knighthood in 1859, but news of that award did not reach Victoria until early 1860. The award was pilloried in the Melbourne Punch (19 January 1860, p. 209). Further, he received CMG in 1869 and a KCMG in 1874. He retired from Parliament in February 1883, shortly before his death in Boroondara, Victoria, Australia.

Related Research Articles

Charles Gavan Duffy

Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, KCMG, PC, was an Irish nationalist, journalist, poet and politician; a Young Irelander who, following emigration to Australia, was to become the 8th Premier of Victoria and one of the commanding figures in Victorian political history.

George Turner (Australian politician)

Sir George Turner was an Australian politician. He served two terms as Premier of Victoria, holding office from 1894 to 1899 and 1900 to 1901 as a liberal. After Federation he was invited by Edmund Barton to join the inaugural federal ministry, becoming the first Treasurer of Australia. He held office until 1904 under Barton and Alfred Deakin, then a few months later resumed office under George Reid. The government fell in 1905 and Turner retired from politics at the 1906 election.

William Irvine (Australian politician) Australian politician and judge (1858–1943)

Sir William Hill Irvine was an Australian politician and judge. He served as Premier of Victoria (1902–1904), Attorney-General of Australia (1913–1914), and Chief Justice of Victoria (1918–1935).

James McCulloch

Sir James McCulloch,, British colonial politician, was the fifth Premier of Victoria.

William Haines (Australian politician)

William Clark Haines, Australian colonial politician, was the first Premier of Victoria.

William Nicholson (Australian politician)

William Nicholson was an Australian colonial politician who became the third Premier of Victoria. He is remembered for having been called the "father of the ballot" due to his responsibility in introducing the secret ballot in Victoria.

Richard Heales

Richard Heales, Victorian colonial politician, was the 4th Premier of Victoria.

Charles Sladen

Sir Charles Sladen,, Australian colonial politician, was the 6th Premier of Victoria.

James Francis

James Goodall Francis, Australian colonial politician, was the 9th Premier of Victoria. Francis was born in London, and emigrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1847, where he became a businessman. He moved to Victoria in 1853 and became a leading Melbourne merchant. He was a director of the Bank of New South Wales and president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. He married Mary Ogilvie and had eight sons and seven daughters.

George Kerferd

George Briscoe Kerferd, Australian colonial politician, was the 10th Premier of Victoria.

Graham Berry

Sir Graham Berry,, Australian colonial politician, was the 11th Premier of Victoria. He was one of the most radical and colourful figures in the politics of colonial Victoria, and made the most determined efforts to break the power of the Victorian Legislative Council, the stronghold of the landowning class.

Bryan OLoghlen

Sir Bryan O'Loghlen, 3rd Baronet, Australian colonial politician, was the 13th Premier of Victoria.

James Service

James Service, Australian colonial politician, was the 12th Premier of Victoria, Australia.

Thomas Bent

Sir Thomas Bent was an Australian politician and the 22nd Premier of Victoria.

James Patterson (Australian politician) Australian colonial politician

Sir James Brown Patterson, Was an English born Australian colonial politician, was the 17th Premier of Victoria.

William Henry Fancourt Mitchell

Sir William Henry Fancourt Mitchell was an Australian police commissioner and politician, President of the Victorian Legislative Council for fourteen years.

Henry Samuel Chapman

Henry Samuel Chapman was an Australian and New Zealand judge, colonial secretary, attorney-general, journalist and politician.

Charles Ebden

Charles Hotson Ebden was an Australian pastoralist and politician, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, the Victorian Legislative Council and the Victorian Legislative Assembly.

Robert Stirling Hore Anderson

Robert Stirling Hore Anderson, MLC was an Irish-born solicitor and Australian colonial (Victorian) parliamentarian.

Sir Archibald Michie, was an English-born Australian lawyer, journalist, Agent-General, Attorney-General of Victoria and politician.


  1. "Political Condition. The New Parliament". The Argus. Trove. 29 October 1856. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
Victorian Legislative Council
New seat Member for City of Melbourne
September 1851 – March 1856
With: William Westgarth 1851–53
John Smith 1853–56
James Johnston 1851–52
Augustus Greeves 1853–56
John Hodgson 1853–56
Henry Langlands 1853,
Frederick Sargood 1853–56
James Murphy 1853–55,
Thomas Rae 1855–56
Victorian Legislative Assembly
New district Member for Kilmore
November 1856 – December 1865
Succeeded by
Richard Davies Ireland
Victorian Legislative Council
Preceded by
Thomas Fellows
Member for Central Province
March 1868 – April 1874
With: James Graham 1868–74
John Fawkner 1868–69
Henry Walsh 1869–71
Archibald Michie 1871–73
Theodotus Sumner 1873–74
George Cole 1868–74
Thomas T. à Beckett 1868–74
Succeeded by
Frederick T. Sargood
Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Henry Wrixon
Member for Belfast
May 1877 – February 1883
Succeeded by
John Madden
Political offices
Preceded by
William Haines
(First Term)
Premier of Victoria
March – April 1857
(First Term)
Succeeded by
William Haines
(Second Term)
Preceded by
William Haines
(Second Term)
Premier of Victoria
(Second Term)
Succeeded by
William Nicholson
Preceded by
Richard Heales
Premier of Victoria
(Third Term)
Succeeded by
James McCulloch