Henty was the eldest son of Thomas Henty and elder brother of Edward Henty, and was born at Tarring, West Sussex, England. James assisted his father in farming for a while and then joined the family bank, Henty and Henty and Olliver; but when the family decided to try its fortunes in Australia he went out with two brothers as the advance party.
Settlers in Australia
The Hentys had obtained an order to select 84,413 acres (34,161 ha), at Swan River, Western Australia and, having chartered a vessel and loaded her with their stock and implements, they arrived at Swan River Colony (near present-day Fremantle) in November 1829. There were many early difficulties for comparatively little good land could be found, some of the sheep died from eating a poisonous plant, and others were killed by dingoes. They might possibly have had troubles with the natives but Henty succeeded in conciliating them. After two years, because of the relatively poor quality of the soil at Swan River, it was decided to move to Tasmania, but it was found that the conditions governing land grants had been altered and it was practically impossible to obtain the land they wanted. James Henty then started as a merchant at Launceston and when his father arrived he was sent to England to put their case before the government. He returned in 1835 having failed in his mission. The long-drawn-out negotiations which followed caused much anxiety and probably conduced to the death of both of his parents in 1839.
Political and business career
In 1842 Henty was offered a seat in the Tasmanian Legislative Council but declined it. He visited England in 1848 and in 1851 settled at Melbourne where he established the flourishing business of James Henty and Company, merchants. The Henty's established a pastoral settlement at Portland Bay on 19 November 1834. In 1852 Henty was elected a member of the initial un-cameral Victorian Legislative Council for Portland, and from 1856 was one of the inaugural members for the South-Western Province in the now-upper house Legislative Council, a position he held until his death in January 1882. He did not take an important part in parliamentary work, but was one of the early promoters of the first Victorian railway, the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company, of which he was chairman of directors. He was a commissioner of savings banks and took a leading part in the business life of Melbourne. Henty had married in 1830 Miss Carter of Worthing, Sussex (she died in 1868). His son, Henry Henty (1833-1912), was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for a short period, and succeeded his father as a commissioner of savings banks. He took a great interest in the Church of England, and, carrying on the family tradition, was a much respected man of business.
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Henty, James". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
- Bassett, Marnie, Henty, James (1800 - 1882), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, MUP, 1966, pp 531–534. Retrieved 29 October 2012