Why did Robert Richard Torrens choose Cambridge? Cambridge 1865.

Sir Robert Richard Torrens c1880 from the National Library of Australia here.

His introduction address to the people of Cambridge provides very little on this. Even the Conservatives did not know how the Cambridge Liberals secured the services of Torrens.

…and clearly they rated him as a colonial administrator, but really did not like some of the things that he stood for – things that today, such as the secret ballot for voting, we take for granted as normal.

Torrens’ address does set out what his policies would be. Three years after publishing this address, he was elected by the newly-expanded electorate.

I’ve transcribed Torrens’ address from the British Newspaper Archive here.



“HAVING been informed that second Candidate in the Liberal interest desired. I beg leave to introduce myself as aspirant to the high honour of representing your Town in the next Parliament. A stranger volunteering in this way labours under many disadvantages, not the least of which is that in making himself known he becomes unavoidably exposed to the charge of egotism. I must therefore beg indulgent consideration whilst I go through this necessary preliminary.

“Suffice it to say, that I have spent many years in one Her Majesty’s most flourishing Colonies, where I have held in succession the highest offices of State, and have taken a prominent part in the Legislation. Amongst measures initiated by me I may mention the Art embodying what is known as “The Torrens’ System of Conveyancing upon the principle of Registration of Title to Land.” This measure, first introduced in South Australia, was upon the evidence its beneficial working adopted in each of the Colonies in the Australian group succession.

“The thanks of Parliament have been awarded me in four Colonies in recognition of these services. In the absence of a more comprehensive measure, I would support Mr. Baines’s Bill; but I must, at the same time, observe that scheme has yet been brought forward which comes up to my views of what is required in the extension of the Elective Franchise, with such adjustments may afford a reasonable assurance that existing Institutions shall not be overwhelmed by the mere force of numbers.”

“My convictions in favour of the Ballot are the result of practical experience. Under that system I was elected Member for the City Adelaide, polling nearly 4,000 voters; the entire cost of my election did not exceed £200, and the contest was conducted with no more commotion than is exhibited upon the ordinary occasion of electing a Member of a Club.

“As a sincere Churchman, I desire to see the unconditional repeal Church Rates, as, in my judgement, they occasion an amount of irritation and offence which far outweighs the pecuniary consideration at stake, even assuming, what is more than doubtful, that these rates can legally be recovered. I could not support any administration that did not adopt the policy of non-intervention in the affairs of Foreign nations, as enunciated Lord Palmerston.

“I hold it to be essential to the honor [sic] and dignity of the country that the utmost reserve and caution should characterise our diplomacy when fulfilling the sometimes unavoidable duty of mediation. I regard the Colonial possessions of this country conducing largely to her wealth, power, and standing amongst the nations of the earth. Our policy in dealing with these possessions should such to strengthen the feelings which at present unite us in heartfelt loyalty under a common Sovereign. At the same time, it is but reasonable that the Colonies should be called upon to contribute their quota to the external defences of the Empire.

“The utmost economy, consistent with the efficiency of the public service, should characterise the administration internal affairs. Recent disclosures indicate the existence of many sinecure offices, and the non-existence of effectual supervision to check malpractices and defalcations on the part public servants.

“If honoured by your preference, I would devote my best energies to abolish the one and supply the other: and I venture to hope that my experience in the public service, extending over 20 years, may have qualified for the efficient performance this work. I purpose taking early opportunity of placing before you my political opinions at greater length, And have the honor [sic] to remain,


Your most obedient servant

Robert R Torrens.


May 27, 1865

Unsuccessful in 1865, some of you might be interested in how much he spent on his joint campaign with  Dr William Dougal Christie.

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