University Of Tasmania
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Henry Hopkins and George Clarke: Two Tasmanian nonconformists

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posted on 2023-05-26, 01:03 authored by Alison AlexanderAlison Alexander
Henry Hopkins and George Clarke were two Congregationalists who lived in Tasmania between 1822 and 1913. Hopkins and his wife, both of lower middle-class origins, emigrated to the colony and quickly built up wealth, by importing and retailing ironmongery and by largely establishing the wool trade in Van Diemen's Land. Hopkins used his wealth to establish the Congregational church, and to attempt to build up a society where honest labourers could, by hard work, achieve independence. To this end he was one of a group who established banks, insurance companies, churches, schools and new industries, and supported many charities. When Victoria was settled, he duplicated his Tasmanian activities there. Hopkins' career is typical of many nonconformist merchants, and is a negation of the prevalent view that Van Diemen's Land was inhabited by bad convicts and worse free settlers. Clarke, Hopkins' son-in-law, was a Congregationalist minister, highly regarded by the community as a whole, and with a most influential congregation. He eschewed money-making and politics, and through sermons, lectures and pamphlets encouraged Tasmanians to be tolerant and reasonable. Though conciliatory, he occasionally made a public stand, for example, against Chiniquy's antiCatholic behaviour, and, earlier in New Zealand, against white injustice to the Maoris. Like Hopkins, Clarke was interested in education, though more at the tertiary level. He was instrumental in establishing the University of Tasmania, was its first Vice-Chancellor (1890--1898), then Chancellor (1898-1907). It was due to his wise leadership that the university survived many crises in these years. Hopkins and Clarke typify several trends in Tasmanian history: from rather Dickensian early days to a more sophisticated outlook, from a strongly evangelical creed to a more reasoned one, from a society largely concerned with economic survival to a secure, middle-class environ- ment. They also typify a class whose contribution to Tasmanian development has been largely ignored.


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