James Whyte (Australian politician)

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James Whyte
James Whyte.jpg
6th Premier of Tasmania
In office
20 January 1863 – 24 November 1866
Preceded by Thomas Chapman
Succeeded by Sir Richard Dry
Constituency Pembroke
Personal details
Born (1820-03-30)30 March 1820
Greenlaw, Scotland, UK
Died 20 August 1882(1882-08-20) (aged 62)
Hobart, Tasmania
Nationality United Kingdom British
Spouse(s) Sarah Wilkinson (1852)
Elizabeth Gregson (1856-1865)
Elizabeth Coverdale (1868-1882)
Children John Wilkinson Whyte

James Whyte (30 March 1820 – 20 August 1882) was a Scottish-born Australian politician who served as the sixth Premier of Tasmania, from 20 January 1863 to 24 November 1866.

Early life

James Whyte was born near Greenlaw, Berwickshire, in the Scottish Borders, the son of George Whyte (died 1836), a captain in the yeomanry, and his wife Jessie (née Walker). The family emigrated to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) in 1832, and as a young man Whyte was a pioneer sheep-farmer in Victoria with his brothers, gaining some wealth from a gold strike at a property at Clunes, Victoria, in which he was a partner, and returning to Tasmania in 1852.

Political career

Having failed to win a seat in 1854, Whyte was elected to the Legislative Council for Pembroke in 1856. After serving briefly as a minister under the premiership of Thomas Gregson and serving as chairman of several council committees, he became premier and colonial secretary on 20 January 1863.[1] His government engaged in road and rail development, in public service reform, and in fiscal reform including an unpopular proposal for a property and income tax which was to cause its downfall in November 1866. In 1869-70 he was involved in framing laws to prevent the spread of scab disease in sheep, and was chief inspector of sheep from 1870 until 1882. He continued as an active member of committees until 1875, retiring from parliament in 1876.

Other works

Whyte was an active and philanthropic Presbyterian Christian, a fellow of the Royal Society of Tasmania, and an original proprietor of the Tasmanian Daily News (incorporated with the Hobart Town Daily Mercury in 1858). He was married three times:

  • (1) in January 1852 to Sarah Wilkinson (died in childbirth, November 1852);
  • (2) in May 1857 to Elizabeth Gregson, elder daughter of Thomas Gregson (died 1865);
  • (3) in June 1868 to Elizabeth Coverdale, daughter of Dr John Coverdale, superintendent of an orphanage at New Town.

Whyte died in Hobart in 1882, leaving one son, John Wilkinson Whyte.


  1. ^ Percival Serle (1949). "Whyte, James". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Angus & Robertson. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Chapman
Premier of Tasmania
1863 – 1866
Succeeded by
Richard Dry
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