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Samuel Griffith

Australian politician

Died when: 75 years 49 days (901 months)
Star Sign: Cancer


Samuel Griffith

Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, GCMG, PC, KC (21 June 1845 – 9 August 1920) was an Australian judge and politician who served as the inaugural Chief Justice of Australia, in office from 1903 to 1919.

He also served a term as Chief Justice of Queensland and two terms as Premier of Queensland, and played a key role in the drafting of the Australian Constitution.

Griffith was born in Wales, arriving in the Moreton Bay district of New South Wales (now the state of Queensland) at the age of eight.

He attended the University of Sydney, and after further legal training was called to the bar in 1867.Griffith was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly in 1872.

He served as Attorney-General from 1874 to 1878, and subsequently became the leader of the parliament's liberal faction.Griffith's terms as premier ran from 1883 to 1888 and from 1890 to 1893.

He led the Australian delegation to the 1887 Colonial Conference and took a keen interest in external affairs, giving financial and administrative support to the newly annexed Territory of Papua and establishing the Queensland Maritime Defence Force.

Domestically, he had a reputation as a radical and was initially seen as an ally of the labour movement; this changed after his government's intervention in the 1891 shearers' strike.

In 1893, Griffith retired from politics to head the Supreme Court of Queensland.He was frequently asked to assist in drafting legislation, and the Queensland criminal code – the first in Australia – was mostly his creation.

Griffith was an ardent federationist, and with Andrew Inglis Clark wrote the draft constitution that was presented to the 1891 constitutional convention.

Many of his contributions were preserved in the final constitution enacted in 1900.Griffith was involved in the drafting of the federal Judiciary Act 1903, which established the High Court of Australia, and was subsequently nominated by Alfred Deakin to become the inaugural Chief Justice.

He presided over a number of constitutional cases, though some of his interpretations were rejected by later courts.He was also called on to advise governors-general during political instability.

Griffith University and the Canberra suburb of Griffith are named in his honour.

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