Thomas Daniel Chapman (1815–84) joined the East India Company at the age of fourteen. In 1837 he settled in London as a partner with the general merchants John and Stephen Kennard. It was on their behalf that he took emigrants and stores to Circular Head in north-western Tasmania in 1841. Chapman then moved to Hobart Town to act as an agent for the Kennards, married and, in 1847, established the independent firm TD Chapman & Co. The company exported wool, whale oil and timber. They imported groceries, hardware and clothing from Britain, sugar and corks from Mauritius and tea from Ceylon.
Chapman was first elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council in 1851 where he agitated for self-government for Tasmania. When the Tasmanian House of Assembly was created in 1856 Chapman became a minister under Tasmania’s first responsible government headed by William Champ. He was made colonial treasurer and upon taking the position realised that the estimated budget of the state was not £330,000 but only £250,000. To fix the deficit Chapman proposed increasing taxes and reducing the wages of public servants, a proposal that reduced his popularity. After William Champ’s ministry was defeated in 1857, his position as treasurer was given to another member of parliament. Chapman was in opposition during the Gregson, Weston and Smith ministries, from 1857 after Champ’s resignation, until 1861.
Chapman became premier after four years out of ministry, on 2 August 1861. He held office until 20 January 1863, a total of 18 months making him the second longest-serving premier after Francis Smith at the time. While premier he also took up his old job of colonial treasurer from November 1862 until January 1863. Although his term as premier ended, he became colonial treasurer again in Richard Dry’s ministry from 24 November 1866 until 1869. He also held the position in Wilson’s ministry from 1869 to 1872. In 1873 he resigned from the House of Assembly to become a member of the Legislative Council. In August 1873 he joined Alfred Kennerley’s ministry, holding the position of colonial secretary from 1873 until 1876. After this Chapman served in no more ministries but was President of the Tasmanian Legislative Council from 11 July 1882 until his death. Chapman is noted as being a good public speaker and an excellent financier. During his time in parliament. Chapman served in six electorates, in both chambers. He resigned because of bankruptcy.
Chapman’s elegant villa, Sunnyside, was built in 1847 at New Town, Hobart. The design is attributed to W. P. Kay, the Tasmanian Director of Public Works. The house was built in the austere Neoclassical style with a single-storey verandah running across the front and sides, and a projecting, central portico with paired columns, entablature and pediment. The corner of the house is turned by a quadrant of curved wall, very much in the manner of JL Archer’s Customs House (now Parliament House). [‘The influence of India on colonial Tasmanian architecture and artefacts’. Launceston Historical Society P&P, 2001, pg. 31.
New Town, Tasmania, Australia
Sunnyside, New Town
Colourised and enhanced photograph of Sunnyside (Swanston Street), the residence of the Hon. D. T. D. Chapman in New Town, Tasmania – circa 1868.