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John Fitzgerald Leslie Foster (1818 - 1900)

John Fitzgerald Leslie "Alphabetical" Foster aka Foster-Vesey-Fitzgerald
Born in Dublin, Irelandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married after 1850 in County Wicklow, Irelandmap
[children unknown]
Died at age 81 [location unknown]
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Profile last modified | Created 31 Dec 2016
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Ireland Native
John Foster was born in Ireland.
John Foster came free to the Colony of New South Wales (1788-1900)
The original Eureka Flag.
John Foster was involved in events associated with the Eureka Rebellion at Ballarat.

Colonial Secretary of Victoria from 1853-1854. The government's scapegoat for Eureka

John Leslie Fitzgerald Vesey Foster (1818-1900), civil servant, landowner and author, was born on 19 August 1818 in Dublin, the second son of John Leslie Foster, a Tory member of parliament and baron of the Irish Court of Exchequer, and his wife the Honorable Letitia Vesey, née Fitzgerald. His mother was a sister of Lord Fitzgerald and Vesci and in compliance with his will she and her son John assumed the surname of Foster-Vesey-Fitzgerald in 1860.

He sailed for Sydney and travelled overland to Port Phillip in 1841 and in 1844 went into partnership with his cousin, (Sir) William Stawell, on a neighbouring property, Ratherscar. Foster also acquired land on the Maribyrnong River near Melbourne. His pastoral ventures brought him no great fortune but with his family background they identified him with the colony's conservative squatting element.

In June 1846 Foster was elected as representative of Port Phillip in the New South Wales Legislative Council [1]

In 1848 he is listed as owning Moyriesk Station in Victoria, a station of 43, 200 acres, with grazing capacity for 8000 sheep. Presumably named after the family estate in Moyriesk, Clare, Ireland. [2]

In 1850 Foster sold his land rights and returned to Ireland where he married Emily, daughter of Rev. J. J. Fletcher, D.D., of Dunran, County Wicklow.

Next year he applied for the colonial secretaryship and in 1853 returned to Victoria to take up the post on 20 July.

When the miner's protests boiled over into a military response at Eureka Stockade, it was Foster that was made the focus of public criticism.

He died at South Kensington on 3 January 1900, survived by a son and two daughters.[3]

Eureka Stockade

He served under Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe until May 1854 and then acted as administrator of the colony until Governor Sir Charles Hotham arrived in June.

Foster's executive positions in a time of financial difficulty and goldfield unrest made him the target of much criticism. He was blamed for the extravagant public works programme and growing gap between revenue and expenditure which so alarmed Hotham on his arrival.

More serious in its consequences for Foster was the goldfields question.... Foster bore little responsibility for Hotham's goldfields policy, but he remained the focus of public resentment. Far from being oblivious of the miners' problems, he was well aware that economic distress led to social unrest, and proposed that the licence fee be abolished and replaced by an export tax on gold. The proposal was rejected and when Hotham arrived the licence system was more rigorously enforced, with dire results at Ballarat. Under strong pressure from Hotham, Foster offered to resign on 4 December 1854;[4][5] a week later Hotham accepted the offer and promised recompense for the loss of his £2000 salary and £1000 pension. Foster remained in the Legislative Council until elected in 1856.

Foster was never compensated. Hotham's promise was twice rejected by the Legislative Council and once by the Legislative Assembly. Foster defended himself in spirited letters to (Sir) James Palmer, published in Melbourne in 1855, and in 1867 visited the colony to give evidence to a select committee which in vain recommended his compensation. He admitted that he would not have resigned had he foreseen the lasting resentment against him; clearly he was made a scapegoat for Eureka.

As an author among other speeches Foster published was one on the Eureka crisis in 1854.[6]


  1. Parliment, NSW, accessed 2016
  2. Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848-1957), Tuesday 12 Dec 1848, p1.
  3. Australian Dictionary of Biography, accessed 31 Dec 2016.
  4. National Library of Australia; Parliamentary paper (Victoria. Parliament) ; 1854-5, C. no. 36
  5. National Library of Australia;Eureka Stockade : a series of 15 reports on the riot at Ballarat. Volume Part 3, Resignation of John.L.Foster
  6. National Library of Australia: Melbourne : John Ferres, Govt. Printer, between 1854 and 1858

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