James Balfour (1830 – 1913) politician, general merchant, Presbyterian lay leader
James Balfour was the “father” of the Victorian Legislative Council. Apart from his Parliamentary and his business career Mr. Balfour took an active part in the courts of the Presbyterian Church. He was a devout son of that church and gave without stint of the best that was in him for the promotion of its welfare.
Mr. Balfour was the “father” of the Victorian Legislative Council, in which he had occupied a seat continuously for 30 years. His Parliamentary record, however, goes back even further than that, for 47 years ago he was a member of the Legislative Assembly. Although 83 years of age, he was up to within a few days of his death a virile man, clear-headed and forceful in debate, and physically active and energetic. His kindly personality and courtly manners made his a notable figure in the Council, and, while enjoying the strong friendship of the veterans of both Houses, he was warmly regarded by the new men for the helping hand he extended, and the high standard he set in personal and political probity.
Mr. Balfour’s political career covered a greater number of years than that of any other surviving public man in Victoria. He held the East Bourke seat in the Assembly during part of the stormy times of the tariff und Darling Grant crises. Later on he was elected to the Legislative Council, and as the South-Eastern Province was from time to time remodelled Mr. Balfour stood for the part which lay nearest the city and ultimately, in the last redistribution was elected for the East Yarra Province. His business interests prevented him from accepting many offers of office made to him but on two occasions he found it possible to join Cabinets in an honorary capacity—first in the Gillies Ministry, towards the end of his career, in 1890, and then with Mr. McLean from December 5, 1899, to November, 1900.
Apart from his Parliamentary and his business career Mr. Balfour took an active part in the courts of the Presbyterian Church. He was a devout son of that church and gave without stint of the best that was in him for the promotion of its welfare. He was perhaps the foremost layman in the General Assembly for Victoria and was during the stormy proceedings of the early eighties an uncompromising upholder of his convictions in relation to church polity. Both in and out of Parliament he was a strong advocate of Bible instruction in State schools.
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