Samuel Griffith

Samuel Griffith

Name: Samuel Griffith

Epoch: Late 19th Century (the \'Long Nineteenth Century\')

Grouping Field: Applied Sociology, Politics and Reform

Location Grouping: Individual\'s Work Location

Map Coordinates: 27°28\'32.0\"S 153°01\'38.9\"E

Years At Location: 1890-1903

One Historical Setting: Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, Premier, Queensland Parliament House [Old], George Street, Brisbane City (1886)

Suggest An Edit
View Your Faviourties

Sir Samuel Walker Griffith was Premier of Queensland from 1883 to 1888 and from 1890 to 1893, and the first Australian Chief Justice from 1903 to 1919. For a Queensland politician and a lawyer, Griffith had extraordinary intellectual ability that put him ‘head and shoulders’ above his contemporaries and most of those that followed. He was the first Australian translator of Dante (The Inferno of Dante Alighieri in 1908). He was considered instrumental in the provisions of the free, compulsory and secular Education Act (1875), and in the preliminary moves to establish a university in the colony. His intellectual disposition was pragmatic, which allowed him to have insight into benefits of opposing views, even if it earnt him the anger of his natural allies. In the Queensland Parliament was the nemesis of the conservative leader Sir Thomas McIlwraith, and yet he formed the unlikely alliance with McIlwraith during his second premiership. Furthermore, he wrote radical articles for William Lane’s The Boomerang, yet as Premier, fearing insurrection, he used the military to break the 1890 Great Shearers’ Strike, earning him the nickname, “Oily Sam“. After his High Court career, retired to Brisbane where he died at Merthyr on 9 August 1920.

Impact On Brisbane Society

Samuel Griffith was the most prominent Queenslander, holding high office in the early federation, equally to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher (1908-1909; 1910-1913; 1914-1915). His intellect was unmatched among his political and bureaucratic peers, and he became an inspiration for the high hopes for education in Queensland, symbolised in Griffith University from 1975.


R. B. Joyce, ‘Griffith, Sir Samuel Walker (1845–1920)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 3 November 2017.

Evans, Raymond. A History of Queensland, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, Vic, 2007.

Fitzgerald, Ross; Megarrity, Lyndon; Symons, David. Made in Queensland : a New History, Special Q150 commemorative edition, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld, 2009.

Gibbs, Harry. Samuel Griffith, Boolarong Publications, Brisbane (Qld), 1984.

Graham, A. D. (Austin Douglas). The Life of the Rt. Hon. Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, G.C.M.G., P.C, Law Book Co. of A’asia, Brisbane Qld, 1939.

Johnston, W. (William) Ross. The Call of the Land: a History of Queensland to the Present Day, Jacaranda Wiley, Brisbane, 1982.

Joyce, R. B. (Roger Bilbrough). Samuel Walker Griffith, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia Qld, 1984.

Miller, Rodney G. The Quiet Rhetoric of Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, The University of Queensland, Department of History, B.A. Hons. Thesis, 1974

Murphy, Denis Joseph;, Joyce, R. B. (Roger Bilbrough). (ed.) Queensland Political Portraits, 1859-1952, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, Qld, 1978.

Vockler, John Charles. Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, The University of Queensland, Department of History, B.A. Hons. Thesis, 1953.

Watson, Tom; Logan, Greg. (ed.) Soldiers of the service: Some Early Queensland Educators and their Schools, History of Queensland Education Society, AEBIS Publishing, Brisbane Qld, 1992.

Image Citation

Samuel Griffith. Archive: State Library of Queensland