Griffith was born on 21 June 1845 at Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire, Wales, second son of Rev. Edward Griffith (1819-1891), Independent minister, and his wife Mary, née Walker. As a child aged nine, Griffith arrived in Queensland when his father held the appointment as the Congregational minister at Ipswich (1854-56). At the University of Sydney (B.A., 1863; M.A., 1870), he earned first-class honours in classics and mathematics. In 1862 he won the (Sir Daniel) Cooper scholarship in classics, and the (Thomas) Barker scholarship in mathematics. In 1865 he was awarded the highly competitive Mort travelling fellowship from the University of Sydney. His half a year in England, plus a Grand Tour of Europe, gave him enviable cultural education for the times – learning Italian, reading French and English works, such as Shakespeare.
In 1867 Griffith returned to Queensland to complete his articles and pass the Bar examination. He first appeared in the Supreme Court that year and took silk in 1876. Griffith’s political career began in 1872 with the electoral win of the seat of East Moreton. It is said that between 1874 and 1890 Griffith and Thomas McIlwraith represented the opposing poles of Queensland politics. In May 1879 Griffith became the party leader of the Liberal Party, and from 1879 to 1883 was the Leader of the Opposition. Griffith was Queensland Premier from 10 November 1883 to 13 June 1888. He was again Premier from 12 August 1890 to 27 March 1893, in an alliance with his former foe, Thomas McIlwraith. Griffith’s greatest intellectual contribution, however, was his role in the Federation movement of the 1890s, which included much of the early drafting of the Australian Constitution. His work, after 1901, and late into his old age saw him as the leading legal advisor for the Commonwealth, being frequently called upon by Prime Ministers and Governor-Generals. In 1903 he became the first chief justice in the new High Court of Australia. During his sixteen years (1903-19) on the bench Griffith sat on some 950 reported cases, the highest annual number being 90 in 1906.
See Samuel Griffith on Scatterplot Matrix.
R. B. Joyce, 'Griffith, Sir Samuel Walker (1845–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/griffith-sir-samuel-walker-445/text11119, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 29 August 2014.
Samuel Griffith (1845–1920)
Political and Legal Theorist, Liberal