CHAPMAN, Henry Samuel (1803-1881)


CHAPMAN, Henry Samuel (1803-1881)
judge and politician
son of an English civil servant, was born at Kennington, London, on 21 July 1803 and was educated at Bromley, Kent. He first entered a bank but in 1823 emigrated to Canada and went into business there. In 1833 he started the first daily newspaper at Montreal, and in 1835 returned to England as a delegate to the British government for the redress of popular grievances. He remained in England for some time and took up the study of law. His obituary notice in The Times stated that he was admitted to the bar of the Middle Temple in 1840, but five years earlier he had published The Act for the Regulation of Municipal Corporations . . . with a complete index and notes, which suggests some earlier qualifications. He was contributing to the reviews and to the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in 1843 published the New Zealand Portfolio, Papers on Subjects of Importance to the Colonists. In this year he was appointed a judge of the supreme court of New Zealand and was stationed at Wellington until 1852. He was then sent to Tasmania as colonial secretary, but a few months later, as a nominee member of the council, left the chamber when a vote on the transportation question was being taken. Governor Denison (q.v.) held that as a representative of the government in the legislative council Chapman should have supported its transportation policy and virtually dismissed him, though he gave him leave of absence on half pay until the question could be referred to the secretary of state. The governor's action was confirmed and Chapman went to Melbourne in 1854 and practised as a barrister. In 1855 he was elected a member of the legislative council, and early in 1856 drafted the bill which brought in the ballot system of secret voting, afterwards known as the Australian system and adopted by other countries all over the world. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th edition, states that it was first brought in in South Australia, but the Australian Encyclopaedia, which has a good short history of the movement under "ballot", points out that it became law in Victoria on 19 March 1856 and in South Australia on 2 April 1856; though the South Australian proposals had been made first. In Victoria there were very vague ideas about the working of a secret system of voting. Chapman's special contribution was that he devised a method that was workable, and drafted the first bill to become law in any part of the world. Under it the voter struck out the name of any candidate he did not desire to be elected, and this procedure was followed in Victoria until federation came in. Though without a seat in parliament, he had been defeated at an election at St Kilda, Chapman was attorney-general in the first O'Shanassy (q.v.) ministry for a few weeks in 1857, and securing the St Kilda seat in December, in the following March was asked to form a ministry. This was done with O'Shanassy as premier and Chapman as attorney-general. This government resigned on 27 October 1859. In 1860 Chapman was a lecturer in law at the university of Melbourne, and in 1861 he was elected to the legislative assembly for Mornington. He resigned his seat in February 1862 to become an acting-judge of the supreme court of Victoria, while Barry (q.v.) took a year's leave of absence. In March 1864 Chapman was appointed a judge of the supreme court of New Zealand. He was stationed at Dunedin, retired in 1875, and died on 27 December 1881. He married (1) in 1840 a daughter of J. G. Brewer, who was drowned in the London in 1866 with some of his children, and (2) Miss Carr who survived him with at least three sons of the first marriage. One of these, Sir Frederick Revans Chapman, born at Wellington in 1849 and educated at the Church of England Grammar School, Melbourne, and in Europe, became a supreme court judge in New Zealand, and president of the court of arbitration. He was knighted in 1923 and died in 1936.
The Argus, Melbourne, 29 December 1881; The Times, 15 February 1882; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; The Victorian Historical Magazine, June 1917; Sir Ernest Scott, A History of the University of Melbourne; Calendars the University of Melbourne, 1860-2; J. Fenton, A History of Tasmania, pp. 240-1.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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