GELLIBRAND, Joseph Tice (1786-1837)


GELLIBRAND, Joseph Tice (1786-1837)
first attorney-general of Tasmania
son of William Gellibrand, was born in London in 1786. He studied law, was called to the bar, and in August 1823 was appointed attorney-general of Tasmania at a salary of £700 a year, with the right "to practise as a barrister under the same restrictions as are observed in this country". He arrived at Hobart accompanied by his father on 15 March 1824, and at the opening of the supreme court gave an address as leader of the bar, in which he spoke of trial by jury "as one of the greatest boons conferred by the legislature upon this colony". The full benefit of trial by jury had, however, been withheld from the colony, and Gellibrand's speech is held by some to have been the opening of a campaign for an unconditional system. Gellibrand was a believer in the liberty of the subject, and he was consequently bound to fall foul with a man with the autocratic tendencies of Governor Arthur (q.v.). At the beginning of 1825 R. L. Murray began criticizing the government in the local paper the Hobart Town Gazette, and Arthur believed that Gellibrand was in "close union" with Murray. Eventually Gellibrand was charged with unprofessional conduct in having as a barrister drawn the pleas for the plaintiff in a case, and afterwards as attorney-general, acted against him. As a consequence of the charge Alfred Stephen (q.v.) the solicitor-general applied to have Gellibrand struck off the rolls. The many complications of this case are fully discussed in chapter XVIII, vol. II of R. W. Giblin's Early History of Tasmania. As a result Gellibrand lost his position and began practising as a barrister. He established a high reputation in Hobart. In January 1827, with J. Batman (q.v.), application was made for a grant of land at Port Phillip, the petitioners stating that they were prepared to bring with them sheep and cattle to the value of £4000 to £5000. This application was refused and in 1828 Gellibrand made some efforts to obtain a government appointment at Sydney without success. In 1835 Gellibrand made an attempt to obtain a revision of his case, and counsel's opinion on it was obtained from Sergeant (afterwards Mr justice) Talfourd. His opinion was "that the charges have been grounded in mistake or malice, pursued with entire inattention to the rights of the accused, and decided in prejudice and anger. The charges respecting professional practice are too absurd to stand for a moment". In the same year Gellibrand became one of the leaders of the Port Phillip Association and in January 1836 he crossed the strait and landing at Western Port walked with companions to Melbourne. From there he went to Geelong and then proceeded north in the direction of Gisborne. After returning to Melbourne a journey to the north-east brought him to the Plenty River. He returned to Tasmania and in company with a Mr Hesse crossed to Port Phillip again and landed near Geelong on 21 February 1837. They decided to follow the Barwon until its junction with the Leigh, and afterwards make their way to Melbourne across country. The two men did not arrive at their destination and though search parties were organized no trace of them was ever found. Gellibrand died probably about the end of February 1837. He married and was survived by at least three sons, one of whom, W. A. Gellibrand, was a member of the Tasmanian legislative council from 1871 to 1893, and was its president from 1884 to 1889. Another son, Thomas Lloyd Gellibrand, became the father of Major General Sir John Gellibrand, K.C.B., D.S.O., who was born in 1872.
Gellibrand was a man of fine character; Bonwick, in his Port Phillip Settlement (p. 429), pays a great tribute to his honesty, ability and powers as a leader. It was unfortunate that he should have been the victim of the autocratic system of the time.
Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vol. XIV, ser. III, vols. IV and V; R. W. Giblin, The Early History of Tasmania, vol, II, chapter XVIII; C. R. Long, Journal and Proccedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XXI, p. 306; C. H. Bertie, The Home, May 1931; Letters from Victorian Pioneers, p. 279.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Joseph Gellibrand — Joseph Tice Gellibrand (1786 ndash; 1837) was the first attorney general of Tasmania.Joseph Tice Gellibrand, son of William Gellibrand, was born in London in 1786. He studied law, was called to the bar, and in August 1823 was appointed attorney… …   Wikipedia

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