Heidelberg Historical Society


The first elections to be held in Victoria, or Port Phillip as it was at the time, were in 1843. The article's heading mentions the Legislative Assembly, but this is not correct. Members were elected to represent Port Phillip in the New South Wales Legislative Council.

At that time, voting was by a show of hands in public meetings. The first stage consisted of the nomination of candidates. Thomas Walker, who purchased a number of allotments in the Heidelberg area in 1838 was a nominee, but Hawdon and R.H. Browne were not. Dr Nicholson and Charles Ebden also nominated, as did the Rev. J. D. Lang and explorer Thomas Mitchell.

As the article shows, a lot of parading, displaying and crowd activity took place, requiring the presence of police. It was all quite exciting.


Australasian Chronicle, Sydney, Tuesday 27 June 1843 Page 4.

” Tuesday last being the day appointed by his Excellency the Governor for the nomination of candidates to serve as members for the district in the legislative assembly, a temporary hustings had been erected for the proper observance of this ceremony, the first witnessed in Australia Felix, adjoining the cattle market, of which the police magistrate, Major St. John, the officially nominated returning officer, took possession; about eleven o'clock a strong body of police, consisting of the regular constabulary and a number of men holding tickets-of-leave, who had been sworn in to perform that special duty, covering the base of the hustings to repel any undue pressure of the crowd, and to preserve order generally. Cards were issued by the returning officer to all those who wished to be admitted to the hustings, which were found sufficiently capacious to accommodate all applicants without inconvenience. About half past eleven o'clock Sir Thomas Mitchell's committee arrived on the ground, preceded by banners indicating the leader under whom the gentlemen composing it that day served, who had no sooner taken their position on the hustings than Dr. Nicholson's committee hove in sight, also heralded by banners of similar import, and followed by the committee of Messrs. Ebden and Walker, forming of themselves a long train of gentlemen of the first respectability in town, wearing breast-knots formed of red and white coloured ribbons, marshalled by the town band, and numbers of persons "unfurling to the breeze" standards of variegated silk manufacture, bearing the appropriate and neatly executed inscriptions of Ebden and Walker, and separation, education, and immigration, &c., &c. The other candidate, Dr. Thomson, arrived soon after, as also did Dr Lang, accompanied only by a few friends, and without the slightest attempt at any sort of display. The latter gentleman on being recognised ascending the hustings was rather roughly hissed, but he had no sooner set his foot on the platform than several persons rallying round him, and whispering words of encouragement in his ear, his drooping courage was suddenly revived, and he turned a bold front to the exasperated crowd below. The preliminary arrangements being all completed, the eventful business of the day commenced at twelve o'clock by Major St. John briefly addressing the electors; at the conclusion of which, Mr. James Montgomery proposed Dr. Thomson as a fit and proper representative, which was seconded by Mr. Skene Craig.

Dr. Lang was proposed by Dr. McArthur, and seconded by Mr. O. S. Brodie.

Sir Thomas Mitchell was proposed by Mr. J. L. F. Foster and seconded by Captain McCrae.

C. H. Ebden was proposed by Captain Cole, and seconded by Mr. A. Langhorne.

Thomas Walker, Esq., was proposed by Mr. Joseph Hawdon, J. P., and seconded by Mr. Alexander Andrew.

Dr. Nicholson was proposed by Mr. A. F. Mollison, J. P., and seconded by Mr. Cuninghame.

Major St. John having requested the candidates in their order of nomination to address the electors, Dr. Thomson stepped forward and did so briefly, but much to the purpose. When he had finished, Dr. Lang presented himself as willing to pass through the same ordeal, but such a storm of hisses and groans fell upon the hustings that scarcely one word he uttered was audible, and while it raged at its height, his old friend, "the Scottish Highlander," essayed to check the progress of the fierce elements, by which act of generosity he gained the golden opinions of all parties, but without success, and the Doctor was compelled to retire from before the electors of Port Phillip with precipitancy and ill-concealed mortification.

The place of the repulsed Doctor was supplied, by Mr. Ebden, who was most favourably received, and his address listened to with the greatest attention.

Major St. John then demanded a show of hands in favor of each candidate, the result of which proved that Dr. Lang, Dr. Nicholson, Mr. Ebden, Sir T. L. Mitchell, and Mr. Walker, had been duly nominated.

Dr. Thomson then demanded a poll, which Major St. John acceded to, intimating the polling would take place next Tuesday.

Mr. Ebden then proposed that the thanks of the electors be given to Major St. John, the returning officer, which was accordingly done in three hearty cheers, when the meeting separated, the whole business of the day having passed off without the slightest accident or uproar."

Successful candidates, after various other stages of the election, were Charles Ebden, Thomas Walker, Charles Nicholson, Alexander Thomson, John Dunmore Lang.