The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Baker, Hon. John
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Baker, Hon. John
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Baker, Hon. John, M.L.C., J.P., F.R.G.S., sometime Premier of South Australia, was the eldest son of Richard Chaffey Baker, of Lopen, Somersetshire, and Mary, his wife, daughter of John Anstice, of South Petherton, Somersetshire. He was born at Ilminster, Somerset, England, in Dec 1812. He emigrated to Tasmania in early life, and married on June 7th, 1838, Isabella, second daughter of George Allan, of Allan Vale, Tasmania. In the same year he visited South Australia, where he permanently settled about a year later. Soon after his arrival he concluded an arrangement with the South Australian Company for the importation of ten thousand sheep from Tasmania; and from this time entered largely into pastoral pursuits, and was very successful. Mr. Baker was also concerned in forming a company to import draught horses from England, and bred and trained many successful performers on the turf. He was a director of the Bank of Australasia and of the South Australian Mining Association, and was the first chairman of the Chamber of Commerce on its establishment in 1850. He was also a lieut.-colonel in the South Australian Infantry force, and represented Mount Barker in the mixed Legislative Council from 1851 to 1856. Whilst a member of this body he opposed the abolition of State aid to religion, and supported the proposal for a nominee Upper House—in each case unsuccessfully. When responsible government was inaugurated, in 1857, he was elected to the new Legislative Council, and retained his seat till his death. He was Premier and Chief Secretary for eleven days—viz., from August 21st to Sept. 1st, 1857. The next year he was commissioned by his fellow-colonists to present an address to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of the marriage of the Princess Royal, and this he did at a levée at St. James's Palace in March 1859. Shortly afterwards he returned to South Australia, and died at Morialta on May 19th, 1872.