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Campbell, William (1810 - 1896)

Aberfoyle, Scotland
Financier, Pastoralist and Politician

William Campbell, the son of the forester of the Duke of Montrose, arrived in Australia in December 1838. In early 1850, he discovered gold on Donald Cameron's station at Clunes but, fearing that gold mining would ruin pastoral land and draw off the rural labour force, he did not announce his discovery until July 1851. He later claimed he was the original discoverer of gold in Victoria. A select committee of the Legislative Council of 1853-54 voted Campbell a £1000 reward, of which he received less than half. He distributed the sum between the men who had helped him in the discovery, and a number of hospitals and asylums.

Campbell was active in the separation movement that worked towards Victoria becoming independent from New South Wales. In November 1851, he was elected as member for Loddon to the first Victorian Legislative Council but resigned at the end of the third session and left for England. He returned to Victoria in 1859 and, in 1862, was re-elected to the council as member for North-West Province. An ultra-Conservative who fought to preserve established pastoral interests, in 1855 Campbell published The Crown Lands of Australia in Glasgow. In this book he attacked Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe as a man 'blinded with the love of power', and a 'landjobber'. La Trobe had introduced regulations permitting township and agricultural reserves to be proclaimed on the lease-held lands of the squatters. Campbell was also the author of The Discovery of Gold in Victoria published in 1856.

Keir Reeves

Campbell, William, The crown lands of Australia: being an xposition of the Land Regulations, and of the claims and grievances of the crown tenants: with documentary evidence appended: together with a few hints upon emigration & the gold fields, J. Smith & Son, Glasgow, 1855. Details
Strahan, Frank, 'Campbell, William (1810 - 1896)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp. 347-348. Details