Parker, Henry Watson (DNB00)

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PARKER, Sir HENRY WATSON (1808–1881), premier of New South Wales, fourth son of Thomas Watson Parker of Lewisham, Kent, and Mary, daughter of John Cannell of Sevenoaks and Carrendon, Hadlow, in the same county, was born at Lewisham in 1808. It is believed that he was educated as a solicitor. He went out to New South Wales as private secretary to Governor Sir George Gipps in 1838, and when the governor left in July 1846 he decided to make his home in the colony. On 8 Dec. 1848 he was nominated to the legislative council, and on 17 May 1849 became chairman of committees. In 1856, when the constitution was reformed, he was elected to the legislative assembly for Paramatta. The new régime opened with a good deal of political unsettlement. Three ministries were formed between June and October. Parker was a candidate for the post of speaker, but was defeated by one vote, and in October he was called on to form the third administration under responsible government, becoming premier on 3 Oct. 1856. His advent to power was received with satisfaction, and he retained office till September 1857, when he was beaten on a question of electoral reform. His administration marked the beginning of politics proper and of progressive legislation in Australia (Parkes).

Parker was knighted in 1858, and soon afterwards returned to England, where he settled at Stawell House, Richmond, Surrey. In December 1868 he contested Greenwich unsuccessfully against Mr. Gladstone. He was a man of culture and refinement, quiet and unobtrusive, and political life was not much suited to his tastes. Though he took little further interest in the affairs of the colony, he was made K.C.M.G. in 1877. He was a commissioner for the exhibitions held at Sydney in 1880 and Melbourne in 1881. He died at Richmond on 2 Feb. 1881. Parkes names him as one of the best men who have taken part in the government of New South Wales.

Parker married, in 1843, Emmeline Emily, third daughter of John Macarthur of Camden Park, New South Wales, who survived him. He left no issue.

[Mennell's Dict. Austral. Biogr.; Colonial Office List, 1878; Parkes's Fifty Years of Australian History; official returns; private information.]

C. A. H.