Edward Smith Hall was of those early pioneers whose great work in winning for us the freedom of the Australian Press has been obscured by the more widely known achievements of Wentworth.
Bom in London in 1786, Hall came to Australia in 1812 armed with letters of introduction to Governor Macquarie. Failing to gain Macquarie’s favour, he joined Simeon Lord in forming a company to trade with New Zealand.
He became the first secretary and cashier (1817) of the Bank of New South Wales, and was one of the founders of the Benevolent Asylum of New South Wales.
For his work on behalf of the colony grants of land were given him by the Governor, the most important being the former site of Anthony Horderns huge store, and Moore Park, where the Girls’ High School is now situated.
One thousand acres were also granted to him at Lake Bathurst, where today many of his descendants live.
Hall founded the Monitor in 1826. His great activities in the cause of constitutional reform and the freedom of the Press soon aroused the wrath of Governor Darling, who tried to silence him by imposing a 4d duty impost on each copy of the Monitor. Hall replied by bringing out his paper as a weekly, and was prosecuted.
In his fight against the Governor, Hall was prosecuted seven times for libel, paid hundreds of pounds in fines, served three years in prison, and lost all his land except that at Lake Bathurst.
Refusing to be beaten, Hall continued his campaign, and had the satisfaction of seeing Darling recalled to England in 1831.
Hall also fought what might be called the battle for the “freedom of the Pews” as courageously as he fought for the freedom of the Press.
He attacked Archdeacon Scott as being “not a man of peace,” and was again fined. The archdeacon showed just how peaceful he was by hammering boards over Hall’s pew in the church and keeping Hall out. Again Hall won the fight, and Scott, too, was recalled.
Edward Smith Hall’s life of service ended in 1860.
Of him the Sydney Morning Herald said in 1856: “It it generally acknowledged that the Reform, Trial by Jury, Freedom of the Press, and Representative Government were largely due to the personal sacrifice of Mr E. S. Hall.”
Henry Parkes once truly said: “Australia can never really thank this great pioneer in the cause”