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Wednesday, 11 August 1920


Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - It is with very great regret thatI rise to say a word or two about the death of Sir Samuel Griffith, the late Chief Justice of the High Court of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Angel of Death has indeed been busy amongst us of late, and some of our greatest men have left us. The death of Sir Samuel Griffith removes from our midst a great statesman, a great lawyer, and a devoted public ' servant. In the State of Queensland, his' adopted home, he made for himself a great and enduring reputation as a statesman and jurist. He was one of the fathers of the Commonwealth Constitution. When the Convention of 1891 met, he brought to the work of constitution-building a ripe scholarship, a long experience of political affairs, a singularly acute intellect, and a sound and practical judgment. . He was the chief draftsman of the draft Constitution of 1890, which was the basis upon which the Constitution was built. Though his judicial office in Queensland debarred him from membership of the Convention of 1897-1898, he took a keen interest in ite deliberations,, and was fruitful in wise suggestions.

When the High Court was established Sir Edmund Barton, with characteristic generosity - and insight, recognised Sir Samuel's superlative qualifications far' the position, of Chief Justice; and from that time until the recent breakdown of his health, Sir Samuel Griffith devoted his wonderful energy and his splendid mental equipment to the task of laying down the basis for the interpretation of the instrument in the framing of which he had played a leading part.

It has often been said that he was to Australia what Chief Justice Marshall was to America; and the comparison is just. One of the most brilliant lawyers of the age, he applied a keen logical faculty, and an unrivalled store of legal and constitutional knowledge to the new problems that arose for solution.

The -work will not remain where be left it. Nothing in this world is immutable, and the process of constitutional interpretation is subject to the universal law of change and development. But he had laid the foundations soundly and firmly; and it can safely be prophesied that his judicial reputation will increase with the years, and that succeeding generations will have cause to be grateful to the first Chief Justice of the High Court for his splendid contributions to the work of legal interpretation, and for his part in the establishment of a great legal tradition.

To his sorrowing wife and family, 1 wish to express, on behalf of this Parliament and of the people of Australia, the deepest sympathy in their bereavement. Theirs is the consolation that the memory of this great man will remain enshrined in the hearts of the people of Australia, in whose service he lived and died.







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