Chapman, John (1801-1854) (DNB00)
|←Chapman, John (1704-1784)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 10
Chapman, John (1801-1854)
|Chapman, Mary Francis→|
CHAPMAN, JOHN (1801-1864), political writer, was born at Loughborough, Leicestershire, on 20 Jan. 1801, and was the eldest of the three surviving sons of John Chapman, clockmaker of that town. He received his education first at a school kept by Mr. Mowbray, and then under the Rev. T. Stevenson; but he taught himself Greek, and paid a French workman of his father's to teach him French. His passion for books and the agitation set up by liim and some of his young companions led to the establishment of the Loughborough Permanent Library; and by 1817 he was devoting his Sundavs to teaching in the Sunday school, and hai become secretary of a peace society, and of the Hampden Club, of which his father was president. At this time he was helping his father in his business ; but about 1822, which was the date of his public admission into the general baptist church, his attention was directed to the machinery required for the bobbin-net trade, technically called 'insides.' He joined his next brother, William, in setting up a factory for the production of this machinery, and in a few years was able to build a large factory, and erect a steam-engine for it. In December 1824 he married Mary, daughter of John Wallis, a Loughborough lace manufacturer. He soon became a pro- minent adherent in the town of the philosophical radicals, and a riot breaking out in Loughborough on the occasion of the Reform Bill, he courageously diverted an attack upon the rectory, though the rector was his strong opponent. In 1832 he visited France to investigate the condition of the lace-machine trade there, his own finn doing a large business, then contraband, with foreign houses. Chapman and others petitioned parliament to repeal the machine exportation laws ; but protection for the time triumphed, and the firm of J. & W. Chapman was in 1884 completely ruined. Stripped of all but his books, which a neighbouring manufacturer, Mr. Walker, bought and presented to him, Chapman set off from Loughbrough to London, leaving his wife and children behind. He first performed manual work for mathematical instrument makers, then obtained employment as mathematical tutor, and wrote tor the 'Mechanic's Magazine,' of which for a short time he was editor. He became sccretarv to the Safety Cabriolet and Two-wheel Carriage Company in 1830 ; in the same year his wife and children joined him in London. He recognised defects in the vehicle which Hansom was then building (Paddington Mercury, 29 July 1882), and invented all the valuable improvements which have made the modern 'Hansom cab.' A patent for it was granted to him and a capitalist, Mr. Gillett, on 31 Dec. 1836, and it was enrolled 21 June 1837. In 1838 he became deacon and superintendent of the Sunday schools of a baptist chapel then in Edward Street, and removed in 1840 to Praed Street ; and about the same time he was helping in the management of the 'Mechanic's Aunanac,' the 'Baptist Examiner,' the 'Shareholder's Advocate,' and the 'Railway Times,' whilst (at a later period) he contributed to the 'Times,' * Mommg Advertiser,' 'Economist,' 'Daily News,' ' Leader,' &c. In 1842 he was employed by George Thompson, then M.P., especially to consider the position of India and its trade and rights (his own Cotton and Commerce, preface, p. x), and in 1844 he laid before the railway department of the board of trade a project for constructing the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (his own manuscripts). He was laughed at at first as a visionary (ib.), but after nearly three years' assiduous endeavour the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company was started, with offices at 3 New Broad Street, and Chapman landed at Bombay in September 1845 to make preliminary investigations. He was received by the provisional committee of his company at Bombay with the greatest cordiality (ib. p. xii), and he returned home in 1846 with his plans matured and his report completed. His projected route was submitted to Robert Stephenson, wlio approved of it, but dissensions among the directors caused an abrupt severance between Chapman and his company. His claim for payment for his services was submitted for arbitration to the East India Company, and he was awarded the one final payment of 2,500l.
Chapman's sympathies with India never cooled. He issued a pamphlet in October 1847 on the cotton and salt question, entitled 'Remarks on Mr. Aylwin's Letter,' &c., and presented to parliament on behalf of native merchants in the Bombay presidency a petition in four oriental languages respecting the reform of civil government In India (Gen. Bapt. Mag. 1856, p. 215). lie prosecuted his inquiries about Indian cotton from 1848 to 1850 in Manchester and other places in preparation for his book, 'The Cotton and Commerce of India,' which he issued on 1 Jan. 1851. This he followed by two papers in the 'Westminster Review,' one on 'The Government of India' (April 1852), and another on 'Our Colonial Empire' (October, same year). In March 1853 he issued 'Principles of Indian Reform . . . concerning . . . the Promotion of India Public Works,' which went through a second edition at once, and wrote 'Baroda and Bombay,' a protest against the removal of Colonel Outram from his post as resident at the Guikwar's court at Baroda; a copy was sent to every member of parliament, with the result that Outram was quickly reinstated. Two months later, in May, he wrote an introductory preface, at the request of the Bombay Association, to Nowrozjee and Furdoonjee s 'Civil Administration of the Bombay Presidency;' his paper, 'India and its Finance,' appeared in the 'Westminster Review' for July that year; his 'Constitutional Reform,' in the same pages, in January 1854; and his 'Civil Service' in the number for July. A great scheme for the irrigation of India was also being prepared by him, and he was in constant communication concerning it with the board of control. His unwearied activity had obtained for him the support of Cobden, Bright, Macaulay, Sir Charles Napier, Herbert Spencer, and others. He visited Loughborough in August 1854. After his return to town, he was suddenly seized with cholera on Sunday, 10 Sept. 1854, and died on the following day, aged 53. On his desk was an unfinished paper, a review of Humboldt's 'Sphere and Duties of Government;' and almost immediately after his death the government sanction for his irrigation scheme was delivered in full form at his door. His unfinished paper appeared in its incomplete state in the 'Westminster Review' of the next month, October ; and the editor paid his talents the rare compliment of reprinting his 'Government of India 'paper in a subsequent number. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. His wife and three out of ten children survived him.
[General Baptist Magazine, 1856, pp. 172-5, 209-17, 293, 296, 330-1 ; Nottingham Review, 1833, scattered from 11 Sept. to 3 Dec.; Paddington Mercury, 29 July 1882; Repertory of Patent Inventions, November 1837, No. xlvii. new series, pp. 272-80 ; Chapman's Baroda and Bombay, p. 148 ; Chapman's Cotton and Commerce of India, preface, pp. x, xiii, and text, pp. 240, 242, 369; Chapman's manuscripts in possession of his son, J. W. Chapman, architect ; private information.]