Frederick Charles Burleigh Vosper (1869-1901) was a radical newspaper editor who played a prominent part in the Western Australian Federation Movement. A passionate believer in trade unionism, republicanism and a white Australia, he represented the miners of the Kalgoorlie Goldfields in State Parliament. Vosper was a popular and fiery public speaker.
Born in Cornwall in 1869, Vosper migrated to Australia in 1886. On arriving in the north Queensland goldfields, he became a journalist at the Northern Miner. He developed a reputation as a radical journalist with a strong sympathy for trade unionism.
- By 1890 he had become the editor of the Australian Republican.
- Vosper was acquitted of two charges of seditious libel following his 'Bread or Blood' editorial in which he condoned revolution during the 1891 shearers' strike.
- The following year he was imprisoned for three months for inciting a riot during a miners' strike.
Voice for the Goldfields
Vosper became editor of the Coolgardie Miner (1894-97). The newspaper was a mouthpiece for his views on republicanism, opposition to Asian immigrants, justice for the working man and a whole range of local issues, such as miners' rights. He also argued for electoral redistribution to give the goldfields a fairer representation in Western Australia's Parliament. After unsuccessful negotiations with the Political Labor Party he ran as an Independent for the Legislative Assembly seat of North-East Coolgardie in the election of 1897.
Moving to Perth to sit in Parliament, Vosper helped establish the Sunday Times, becoming editor in 1898. While in Parliament he supported issues such as votes for women, a minimum wage, compulsory arbitration, penal reform and reform of the Lunacy Act.
By 1900 Vosper had come to oppose Federation as a bad deal and campaigned for a 'No' vote. Many of his goldfields' colleagues denounced him for this. His main objection was the lack of commitment to the building of a transcontinental railway. He still believed passionately in Federation but wanted a better deal for WA.
After the success of the referendum Vosper nominated as a candidate for the Senate as a free-trade liberal. But on the 6 January 1901, just five days after the Commonwealth of Australia came into existence, he collapsed and died from an attack of appendicitis at the age of thirty-one.
- Can you find more information about Frederick Vosper’s run ins with the law? (hint – check Trove Newspapers)
- Do you think Frederick Vosper would be successful as a journalist today? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Vosper changed his opinion on Federation? Who may have influenced this?
Australian Dictionary of Biography - Frederick Vosper
Parliament of Western Australia biographical register - Frederick Vosper