James Robert Wilshire was born in 1809 at Sydney into a family of Congregationalists, and prospered in the tannery business. In public affairs he advocated abstention from alcohol and supported J.D. Lang’s campaign against transportation.
He was elected the first Alderman for Phillip Ward in 1842 (until 1853 when Council was replaced). In 1843, as Sydney’s second Mayor, he presided over the first Mayoral Ball.
He was a member of the first Legislative Council for the City of Sydney from 1843 to 1856, and MLC for the City of Sydney from 1855 to 1856, when he represented Sydney in the new Legislative Assembly. He was a Legislative Councillor from 1858 until his death in 1860.