CHAPMAN, Charles (1752-1809), of Bathford, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1802 - May 1805

Family and Education

b. 23 Nov. 1752, s. of Col. Charles Chapman of Bathwick by his w. (d. 20 Nov. 1807). educ. Hoxton acad. m. 4 Feb. 1784, at Calcutta, Mary Williams, issue.

Offices Held

Writer E.I. Co. (Bombay) 1773, (Bengal) 1775; factor 1778; jun. merchant and agent at Nagpur 1781; resident at Bhagalpur 1783; sen. merchant 1785; member, board of revenue 1786; home 1787-9; salt agent at Hijili 1794; asst. at Jaunpur 1800; res. 1801.


Chapman’s father, at one time an East India officer, dissipated his fortune. His son, who first applied for a writership in 1770, made another in India. He appears to have acted earlier in his career as Warren Hastings’s private secretary and attached himself to him with an admiration bordering on idolatry. In 1778 Hastings sent him to explore the coast of Cochin-China and in 1781 appointed him to the difficult agency to the Berar Durbar. He acquitted himself well and on his return from furlough in 1789 Hastings recommended him to his successor Cornwallis. He was eventually given the management of Hastings’s interests in Bengal. In 1795 he organized the congratulatory address to Hastings from Calcutta on his acquittal. When he came home in 1801, he was estimated to be worth £70,000.

He invested in East India Company stock, purchased a country seat near Bath and proceeded to lose all but about £10,000 of his fortune at the gaming tables there, but not before he had purchased a seat in Parliament on the interest of (Sir) John Barrington*. He drew no attention to himself until 2 Aug. 1803 when he was a spokesman in favour of the Prince of Wales’s military pretensions and voted for Fox’s motion. On 10 Aug., endorsing the vote of thanks to the volunteers, he suggested the recruitment of sepoys for service in the West Indies where they would become ‘a counterpoise to the negro population’. He was in the minority critical of the war in Ceylon, and the next day voted for Pitt’s naval motion. He was also in the minorities on defence that brought down Addington’s ministry, 16, 23, 25 Apr. 1804. Lord Moira mentioned Chapman to John McMahon* (17 Apr.) as a Member to be rallied for opposition. Listed ‘Fox’ in May, he opposed Pitt’s additional force bill in June. In a speech of 8 June he repeated his suggestion for the employment of sepoys in the Indies and emphasized his preference for a strengthening of the militia over a strong regular army. In September 1804 he was listed ‘Fox and Grenville’ and later ‘deduct from Opposition’, but between 8 Feb. and 6 Mar. 1805 he was in five minorities against Pitt. On 5 Apr. he supported Philip Francis’s motion critical of British expansion by war in India. He was in the majority against Melville on 8 Apr., his last political gesture, for he resigned a month later. Warren Hastings remonstrated with him for giving up Parliament, with a hint about his folly in gambling. Chapman denied that his resignation was due to his improvidence, or that he was aware of the political intentions of his successor in the seat, James Paull.

Chapman’s addiction to gambling was alleged to have cost him £5,000 in a single night in 1808, while in town to attend an election at India House. He died 19 Mar. 1809, leaving his wife and family much poorer than they had a right to expect.

India Office Lib. J/1/8, ff. 60-62; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 124; Grier, Letters of W. Hastings to his Wife, 223-4, 435; PRO 30/11/49, Hastings to Cornwallis, n.d. [?1789]; Add. 29175, f. 155; 29214; 39871, f. 95; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1782; Gent. Mag. (1809), i. 286, 388.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: J. W. Anderson