WHYTE, James (1820-1882)


WHYTE, James (1820-1882)
premier of Tasmania
son of George Whyte, was born near Greenlaw, Scotland, in March 1820. His mother was a cousin of Thomas Pringle, the poet, secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society. Whyte came to Tasmania with his parents in 1832, and six years later took some sheep to Victoria and settled near Portland. He afterwards was partner in a station at Clunes where the Port Phillip gold mine was discovered, from which he drew large royalties. He returned to Tasmania in 1853 and was elected a member of the legislative council for Pembroke in September 1856. He became a minister without office in Gregson's (q.v.) ministry in February 1857, and for some years was chairman of committees in the council. On 20 January 1863 he became premier and colonial secretary and held office until 24 November 1866. Whyte and the colonial treasurer, Charles Meredith (q.v.) were the first to go on ministerial tours, and as a result vigorous efforts were made to open up the country by constructing roads and bridges. The ministry was defeated because its policy included an income and property tax. In 1869 Whyte succeeded in passing a scab act, and when he retired from politics in 1876 became its chief inspector. The act was very unpopular at first, but owners of sheep later realized the value of it. In 1881 Whyte was able to report that the sheep of Tasmania were free from scab disease, a most important gain to the pastoral industry and the whole colony. He died at Hobart on 20 August 1882 and was survived by his only son.
The Mercury, Hobart, 22 August 1882; J. Fenton, A History of Tasmania.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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