Sir Edmund Barton

(1849—1920) prime minister of Australia

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Australia's first prime minister (1901–03) and a high court judge. He was knighted in 1902.

The son of a sharebroker and estate agent, Barton was born and educated in Sydney, where he studied law. He entered politics in 1879, when he won the University seat in the New South Wales legislative assembly. Prominent in the federation movement, Barton led the delegation to London that persuaded the British government to adopt the proposed Australian constitution (1900). He became prime minister but resigned in 1903 and took a seat on the bench of the newly formed high court, where he remained for seventeen years.

A learned and able judge who was one of the finest public speakers of his day, Barton was awarded honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh.

Subjects: History.

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