Saxe Bannister

Saxe Bannister (1790 – 16 September 1877) was a writer and the first Attorney-General of New South Wales, Australia.

Saxe Bannister
1st Attorney-General of New South Wales
In office
14 April 1824 – 13 October 1826
Succeeded byWilliam Moore
Personal details
Steyning, Sussex, United Kingdom
Died16 September 1877
Thornton Heath, England
RelativesThomas Bannister (brother)

Early life and educationEdit

Bannister was born in Steyning, Sussex, son of John Bannister. He matriculated at The Queen's College, Oxford, in December 1808 and graduated B.A. 1813, M.A. 1815.[1]


He volunteered for active service when Napoleon escaped from Elba. With a captain's commission, he was on his way to Belgium when the Battle of Waterloo ended the war. He retired from the army on half-pay, and was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn.

Attorney-Generalship of New South WalesEdit

Bannister was appointed the first attorney-general of New South Wales in March 1823, and he arrived in Sydney early in 1824. On 17 May 1824, he was sworn in at the first sitting of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. He had been given a salary of £1,200 a year with the right to practise as a barrister, but he became discontented with his position; in October 1825, he was in conflict with Governor Thomas Brisbane on the question whether he was bound to draft a bill which seemed to him to be repugnant to the laws of England. He appeared to have taken his office and his responsibilities far too seriously; and, though Governor Ralph Darling spoke of Bannister as "often misled by an injudicious zeal, but indefatigable, conscientious and honourable in the highest degree", Bannister found it extremely difficult to work with him. In September 1826, in a dispatch to under-secretary Hay, Darling described one of Bannister's letters to the governor as "very offensive and insolent".

Resignation as Attorney-General of New South WalesEdit

In April 1826, Bannister wrote to Darling to say that he could no longer hold his office at its present remuneration. On 13 October 1826, he was informed that his resignation had been accepted. This furnished Bannister with a grievance for the rest of his long life. He left for England on 22 October 1826 and afterwards did a large amount of writing; the British Museum Catalogue lists about 30 of his publications. Many are pamphlets but among the longer works are: Statements and Documents relating to Proceedings in New South Wales in 1824, 1825 and 1826 (1827), Humane Policy; or Justice to the Aborigines (1830), British Colonization and Coloured Tribes (1838), and William Paterson, the Merchant Statesman (1858).


Bannister died at Thornton Heath, England, on 16 September 1877, survived by his wife and a daughter, Mrs Wyndham.


  • Serle, Percival (1949). "Bannister, Saxe". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  • Currey, C. H. (1966). "Bannister, Saxe (1790–1877)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 2 February 2008 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  1. ^ Joseph Foster Alumni Oxonienses 1715–1886