1895 Sydney-Phillip colonial by-election

A by-election for the seat of Sydney-Phillip in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly was held on 14 October 1895 because of the resignation of Dick Meagher (Protectionist).[1]


Meagher had defended George Dean who had been charged with attempting to murder his wife. Dean was convicted and sentenced to death, however Meagher managed to persuaded two out of three royal commissioners to find that the conviction was unsafe and, as a result, Dean was pardoned. The publicity from the case helped Meagher win the election for Sydney-Phillip in July 1895.[2] Rumours began to circulate that Dean had confessed to buying the poison. Jack Want, the Attorney General, read to the Legislative Council an account by Sir Julian Salomons of his conversation with Meagher, in which Meagher told Salomons that Dean had confessed to Meagher. Meagher initially denied the accusation,[3] however subsequently confessed stating "I am determined to endure mental torture no longer, nor to stifle the voice of truth … This awful lesson of my life I will endeavour to atone for in another clime. My resignation of my seat in Parliament accompanies this declaration".[2][4]

Sir Henry Parkes announced himself as a candidate,[5] however he withdrew prior to the nominations.[6]


Date Event
6 April 1895 George Dean sentenced to death for attempted murder.
24 July 1895 Sydney-Phillip election.[7]
25 September 1895 Attorney General, Jack Want, read to the Legislative Council Salomons account of his conversation with Meagher.[2]
8 October 1895 Meagher confessed and resigned from parliament.[2][1]
9 October 1895 Writ of election issued by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.[8]
15 October 1895 Nominations
17 October 1895 Polling day
21 October 1895 Return of writ


1895 Sydney-Phillip by-election
Monday 14 October [9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Protectionist Henry Copeland 426 47.3 -7.4
Free Trade Ralph Hodgson 303 33.9 -11.4
Labour James Wilson 163 18.2
Ind. Protectionist James Hanrahan [a] 4 0.5
Ind. Free Trade William Dumbrell [a] 1 0.1
Total formal votes 894 99.2 -0.1
Informal votes 7 0.8 +0.1
Turnout 901 46.2 [b] -15.6
Protectionist hold  


Meagher was struck off the roll of solicitors and was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice, but the conviction was quashed on appeal. Meagher was returned to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Tweed at the election in 1895.[1] It would take 25 years and an act of parliament before he was re-admitted as a solicitor.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b James Hanrahan and William Dumbrell withdrew prior to the poll.[9]
  2. ^ Estimate based on a roll of 1,949 at the July 1895 election.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Mr Richard Denis Meagher (1866-1931)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Nairn, Bede. "Meagher, Richard Denis (Dick) (1866-1931)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 24 November 2019 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  3. ^ "Mr Meagher's reply". Australian Town and Country Journal. 5 October 1895. p. 16. Retrieved 19 April 2021 – via Trove.
  4. ^ "Statutory declaration by R D Meagher". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 October 1895. p. 8. Retrieved 19 April 2021 – via Trove.
  5. ^ "The Phillip Division election. Address by Sir Henry Parkes". The Sydney Morning Herald. 14 October 1895. p. 3. Retrieved 19 April 2021 – via Trove.
  6. ^ "The Phillip election: Five candidates nominated". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 October 1895. p. 5. Retrieved 19 April 2021 – via Trove.
  7. ^ a b Green, Antony. "1895 Sydney-Phillip". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  8. ^ "Writ of election: Sydney-Phillip". New South Wales Government Gazette. 9 October 1895. p. 6547. Retrieved 19 April 2021 – via Trove.
  9. ^ a b Green, Antony. "1895 Sydney-Phillip by-election". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 17 April 2021.