Guide to the Papers of Sir William F. D. Jervois (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Jervois, William, Sir
Papers of Sir William F. D. Jervois (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
4 October 1877 - 22 January 1878
Collection Number
7 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Papers concerning the political crisis in South Australia in October 1877 when the Colton Ministry was defeated in the Legislative Assembly by a no-confidence motion. They include a minute of Cabinet and Jervois' reply and notes by J.P. Boucaut on the formation of a new Ministry.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Citation items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the private residence of Mr John Jervois, London, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1981 (AJCP Reel: M1185). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The private residence of Mr John Jervois. London, England.

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Australia; Boucaut, J.P.; Colton, Sir John; Great Britain; Jervois, Sir William; South Australia; South Australia: politics and government; Governors and Governors General: South Australia


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 255, p95.

Biographical / Historical

Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois (1821-1897) was born at Cowes on the Isle of Wight and educated at Dr Burney's Academy near Gosport and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1839. He was posted to the Cape of Good Hope in 1841, where he began the first survey of British Kaffirland. He subsequently held a number of posts, including commanding royal engineer for the London district (1855-56), assistant inspector-general of fortifications at the War Office (1856-62) and secretary to the defence committee (1859-75). He was made a colonel in 1867 and knighted in 1874.

In 1875 Jervois was sent to Singapore as governor of the Straits Settlements. He antagonised the Colonial Office by pursuing an interventionist policy in the Malayan mainland, crushing a revolt in Perak with troops brought from India and Hong Kong. He was ordered to back down and the annexation of Perak was forbidden. He compiled a report on the defences of Singapore.

In 1877, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Scratchley, Jervois carried out a survey of the defences of Australia and New Zealand. In the same year he was promoted major-general and appointed governor of South Australia. He immediately faced a political crisis, following the resignation of the Colton Ministry. There was pressure on Jervois to dissolve Parliament, but he appointed James Boucaut as premier and there were no further troubles. His term was marked by economic prosperity and several beginnings: the University of Adelaide, the South Australian Art Gallery, the first tramway, and the building of the new Parliament House.

In 1882 Jervois retired from the Army with the rank of lieutenant-general. From 1882 to 1889 was governor of New Zealand, where he carried out further work on harbour defences. He occasionally clashed with ministers and his advocacy of Chinese migration to New Zealand and Australia aroused opposition. Nevertheless, he was a popular governor, travelling extensively and promoting cultural, scientific and sporting organisations.

In 1893 Jervois was appointed colonel-commandant of the Royal Engineers.

Item Descriptions

Series. Jervois Papers, 1877 - 1878

7 items

Biographical / Historical

Papers relating to the constitutional crisis in South Australia, 1877-1878.

On 18 October 1877 the ministry led by John Colton was defeated on a non-confidence motion in the House of Assembly. The motion was provoked by the action of the Government in commencing to build a new House of Assembly without securing the consent of the Legislative Council. The Cabinet urged Jervois, who had only arrived in the colony a few weeks earlier, to dissolve Parliament. He refused and the Colton Ministry resigned on 26 October 1877. Jervois asked James Boucaut, who had led previous ministries, to form a government. Boucaut resigned in September 1878 when he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia.

Address of Legislative Council to the Governor, (printed), 4 October 1877 (File 1)

Incorporating a resolution of 4 October 1877 on the conduct of the Chief Secretary and relations between the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly, n.d. (printed, 8pp).

Minute of Cabinet to the Governor, (2 copies), 20 October 1877 (File 2)

Setting out the background to the no-confidence resolution of the House of Assembly on 18 October 1877. (unsigned, 13pp)

Notes on dissolution of Parliament (File 3)

Signed 'H.A., C.S.', 20 October 1877. (copy, 3pp) ['H.A.' was possibly an error, as Richard Andrews was Crown Solicitor in 1877].

Draft replies by Governor to Cabinet minute (14pp) (File 4)

Memorandum for Chief Secretary [Sir Henry Ayers], n.d. (5pp) (File 5)

Notes by J.P. Boucaut on formation of new Government (3pp), n.d. (File 6)

Letter from Jervois (Adelaide) to Sir Hercules Robinson (Sydney), 22 January 1878 (File 7)

Receipt of letter from Robinson on recent constitutional proceedings in South Australia; refers to actions of Sir George Bowen in Victoria. (copy, 4pp)