Critics’ Reviews

Bennett’s skilful and elegantly woven narrative shows how Dowling’s career owed as much to chance and patronage as it did to design. … It was not only Dowling’s desire but his natural inclination to stand above the hurly burly of politics and personality in New South Wales. But, like Forbes before him, he found this impossible. Applying the rule of law to the detriment of one of the young colony’s powerful individuals automatically condemned Dowling to being that person’s enemy. Bennett details some of the painful lessons Dowling learned in that regard … The impression left is that Dowling lacked the energy for these encounters. …

A stabiliser rather than innovator is perhaps the best assessment of Dowling’s career. .. In that climate [1830s Sydney], stability cannot have been a bad thing. They were tumultuous times amd Bennett’s account of Dowling’s role in such events as the Myall Creek massacre trials will fascinate many readers. – NSW Bar News, Winter 2002

Modest performance notwithstanding, [Dowling’s] story as told by Bennett provides several fascinating glimpses into the lives of Australian colonial judges, their sometimes rocky relations with each other, the criticism to which they were subject by politicians and the press, and the general stresses of administering justice in fragile, fractious societies. … The most engaging part of the Dowling biography is the description of the tensions between Sir James and two of his colleagues, William Burton and John Walpole Willis. … – John McLaren, Australian Historical Studies, Vol 34 (122), October 2003

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