Tasmanian and family background
Andrew Inglis Clark was born in Hobart in 1848.
His father, Alexander Clark, was a Scottish engineer who arrived
in the colony in 1832, and was responsible for the design and construction
of a flour mill at Port Arthur. Though transportation came to an
end in 1853, Clark grew up in a community which had by no means
shaken off its origins as a penal colony.
Educated at Hobart High School, he at first seemed
destined to work in the family firm. Though he disappointed his
fathers expectations by embarking, at the age of twenty-four,
on a legal career, Clark drew deeply on the influences of a sober,
industrious, civic-minded and God-fearing family. In 1878 he married
Grace Ross, and had five sons and two daughters. He was very much
a family man. In later years the door of his study was always open
for his children. See also illustrated
Making his way in the world culturally
Clark had to make
his own way in the world. He trained for the law, taking his articles
with R. P. Adams, but his broader education depended very much on
his own initiative. He read widely, participated enthusiastically
in local literary societies, and edited 'Quadrilateral', a literary,
philosophical and political journal.
Clark was radical
for his times, a firm democrat and republican. He was inspired by
the Italian Risorgimento, and Joseph Mazzini was a special hero.
A member of the American Club, he celebrated with friends the centenary
of the Declaration of American Independence in 1876 with a rousing
speech in favour of the principles of the American Revolution and
their applicability to Australia.
Despite his reputation
as an extreme ultra-republican, Clark was elected to
the House of Assembly in 1878, largely through the influence of
the midlands landowner Thomas Reiby. He was an active politician
and campaigner for liberal causes. He was a leading light of the
Southern Tasmanian Political Reform Association (1885) which lobbied
for manhood suffrage, fixed term parliaments and electoral reform.
His political career culminated as Attorney-General in the P.O.
Fysh and E. M. Braddon ministries, 1887-92 and 1894-7.
See also illustrated version.
Clark and Federation
Clark was closely associated with the Federation
movement in its early years. The Tasmanian Parliament elected Clark
as a delegate on the Federal Council in 1888, 1889, 1891, and 1894
and the Australasian Federation Conference in 1890. At the Federation
Convention of 1891 his draft Constitution, which systematized provisions
drawn from the American Constitution and the Federal Council Act,
was warmly received by delegates from the other colonies.
Although tending to be too literary and verbose,
Clark described how the organs of central government would work
and proposed a separate federal judiciary, which would replace the
Privy Council as the highest court of appeal on Australian law.
A bout of influenza prevented Clark from initially joining fellow
drafters on the steamship Lucinda, where his draft was tinkered
with but not fundamentally changed: eighty-six of his ninety-six
sections found their way into the 1900 Australian Constitution.
By then Clark's support of union waned and had
turned into opposition. He apparently thought that financial clauses
would act deleteriously on small States like Tasmania and withdrew
from the Federation movement. Although this meant that his contribution
to Australia's foundation document was not fully recognized, the
order, form, substance, and American flavour of the Australian Constitution
owed more to Andrew Inglis Clark than any other single individual.
Sir William Deane, the former Governor-General, has fairly dubbed
him 'the primary architect of our constitution'. See also
Clark as law maker and jurist
While Attorney-General in the Fysh and Braddon
Governments, Clark became the most productive and progressive Tasmanian
Attorney-General of the nineteenth century. He introduced 228 Bills
into the House of Assembly and, displaying superlative drafting
skills, modernised and consolidated the law on a wide range of subjects.
As a democrat and a representative of the working
man, Clark sought to break the power of property in Tasmanian politics.
He believed in 'the rights of man' and advocated participation of
working men, women and minorities in the electoral process. His
legislative programme sought to remove inequalities in social and
economic affairs, and ensure all citizens reached their full potential.
Clark's best known achievement was the introduction
of the Hare-Clark system of proportional
representation based on the concept of the single transferable vote.
He failed to secure manhood suffrage and womanhood suffrage, but
did secure the passage of social and industrial laws, such as amending
the licensing acts, protecting children from neglect and abuse,
legalising trade unions, preventing cruelty to animals, and updating
the marriage, defamation, trustee and companies laws.
Clark resigned as Attorney-General
after his Cabinet colleagues did not seek his advice over the legality
of leasing Crown land to a private company. After a period as Leader
of the Opposition, Clark left politics to become a Judge of the
Tasmanian Supreme Court in June 1898.
Although his forte was constitutional
law, as a Judge Clark's time was divided between presiding in jury
trials in civil and criminal jurisdictions, hearing civil cases
as the sole Judge, and receiving appeals from lower courts. One
of his most celebrated cases, Pedder v. D'Emden involved constitutional
law and the doctrine of intergovernmental immunities.
This was the first important constitutional
law case heard by the High Court, which supported Clark's dissenting
judgment and established the principle that the judiciary had authority
under the Constitution to determine the limits of the powers of
the Commonwealth and State Parliaments and to invalidate legislation
which exceeded those powers.
Clark's judgments were detached and fair and gave
no hint that he allowed himself to be influenced by the strong political,
moral, and social values which he privately held.
While a Supreme Court Judge, Clark published
his Studies in Constitutional Law in 1901, which confirmed his reputation
as a leading constitutional lawyer. This strengthened his claim
to a position on the High Court, but he was denied this much desired
prize. In 1903 the chance of a seat evaporated when the Commonwealth
Parliament cut the number of High Court Judges from five to three.
In 1906 when the bench was enlarged he was again passed over and
this soured relations with his Federation colleague Prime Minister
Alfred Deakin. Clark remained on the Tasmanian Supreme Court until
his death in 1907.
See also illustrated
'Rosebank', Clark and his coterie
At Rosebank, his home in Battery Point,
Clark amassed a considerable library, and on Saturday evenings there
gathered in the room many of the best minds of Hobart to discuss
the latest ideas and issues. His coterie was known for its free-thinking
and its radicalism, and acknowledged his intellectual leadership
by referring to him as padre.
Despite his onerous professional engagements,
Clark remained an avid reader and from his pen flowed poems, reviews
and essays, including items privately circulated, on a surprising
range of subjects. He corresponded with overseas luminaries, visited
the United States of America in 1891 and 1897, and was a member
of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
Clark naturally supported the establishment of
the University in Tasmania in 1889, and played a critical role in
parliament in fending off a cost-cutting measure that would have
stifled it at birth. From 1901 to 1903 he served as Vice-Chancellor.See
also illustrated version.
Clark has long had admirers, nationally and locally,
among democrats and republicans. The recent debate over the Republic
refocused attention on his conception of the legally independent
Commonwealth, and his constitutional thinking has become more rather
than less influential in federal jurisprudence.
There is now broad agreement that his role in
Federation more than justifies Sir William Deanes description
of him as the primary architect of our constitution.
Still, he deserves to be better known and appropriately commemorated
in his home-state. The unassuming headstone which once marked his
grave stands at the corner of Nelson Rd and Peel St as his only
In 1991 a conference on Clarks contribution
to Australian democracy was organised by Marcus Haward and James
Warden, and the papers were published as An Australian Democrat.
The Life, Work and Consequences of Andrew Inglis Clark by the
Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies in 1995.
For the Centenary of Federation (2001), the University
of Tasmania has made Clark the focus of its celebrations. A public
lecture and symposium were held in the university on 27-28 September2001,
and two major new books have been published by the Schools of Law
and History and Classics: Frank and Lawrence Neasey, Andrew Inglis
Clark, and Richard Ely (ed.), A Living Force. Andrew Inglis
Clark and the Ideal of the Commonwealth. Proceeds from the sale
of these books will go into university scholarships and prizes.
See also illustrated version.
The illustrated version of this biographical information
is in the Clark
Exhibition. For more detailed biographical information go to
Clark's Biography. See also Obituaries:
Two remembrances of Clark.