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Charles Mann (1799–1860)

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Charles Mann (1799-1860), by unknown artist

Charles Mann (1799-1860), by unknown artist

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6620

Charles Mann (1799-1860), advocate-general, was born on 8 July 1799, at Syleham, East Suffolk, England, son of Charles Mann and his wife Sarah, née Moxon. After being articled to John Sheppard of Southwark he was admitted a solicitor in the King's Bench Division and set up practice in Cannon Street, London. He became associated with the South Australian colonizing movement, and in September 1835 read a paper to a well-attended meeting of the South Australian Literary and Scientific Association, answering the attacks by the Westminster Review on Edward Gibbon Wakefield's The New British Province (London, 1834) and other works on the colony. At the request of Captain (Sir) John Hindmarsh, and with the support of Lord de Saumarez, Mann was appointed the first South Australian advocate-general. He sailed in the Coromandel, arriving at Holdfast Bay on 12 January 1837.

Although he called himself a Whig, he seemed to believe that democratic spirit was the mainspring of emigration, 'the centrifugal force intended by Providence to overcome the cohesive effect of habit and civilized enjoyment; and send forth the burning democrat to the wilderness of nature with the Bible in the one hand and the axe in the other'. At the meeting on 10 February 1837 Mann supported Colonel Light's choice of the capital site and thereby won the enmity of Hindmarsh, whose attitude to the principles on which the colony had been founded drew further protests in April. In Mann's view the colony's success depended on preserving every power vested in the colonization commissioners by the Foundation Act (4 & 5 Wm IV, c. 95) on which the colony's land purchasers relied for their security and for government stability. In the disputes over the division of powers between governor and resident commissioner Mann acted as adviser to the latter, convinced that the former was seeking to undermine the statutory provisions. These views, expounded in the Council of Government, led to Mann's resignation from office on 17 November 1837. Next August he published an elaborate analysis of the powers of the various officials. On Hindmarsh's departure Mann considered himself de jure acting governor, though he made no bid for office. In London the crown law officers decided that Hindmarsh acted unconstitutionally in suspending Mann; Governor George Gawler arrived in October 1838 with orders to reinstate him but, dismayed by Mann's candour, declined his administrative assistance. In an able series of articles in the Southern Australian, which they had helped to found, Mann and John Brown argued that Gawler's appointment as both governor and resident commissioner was contrary to colonizing theory and to the intentions of the colony's founders.

Mann built up a large private practice, and became master of the Supreme Court of South Australia in 1844 and acting judge in 1849. He was appointed crown solicitor in 1850, police magistrate and insolvency commissioner in 1856, and commissioner of the Court of Insolvency and stipendiary magistrate in 1858. He died at his home in Gilbert Street, Adelaide, on 24 May 1860.

Mann was described by an early settler as 'clever, agreeable … brimful of information on innumerable topics'. As well as winning a prominent place as a pioneer, he took an active part in many public movements. He was one of the first trustees of Trinity Church, although he later attended the Independent Church of Rev. Thomas Stow and opposed state aid to religion. He was elected to Adelaide's first Municipal Council in 1840, gave popular lectures and supported claims for colonial self-government. He married four times: first (1829) to Elizabeth Mary Sheppard, who died in England; second (1837) to Maria Josepha, sister of John Brown; third (1852) to Mary Cook; and fourth (1855) to Ann Malpas who, with at least two of his sons and three daughters, survived him.

His son Charles was born in Adelaide on 8 April 1838 and after education at the Collegiate School of St Peter and training in law was admitted to practise in 1860 and had a distinguished parliamentary career. In the House of Assembly he represented Burra in 1870-75 and Stanley in 1875-81. He served as attorney-general in five different ministries for a total of two years and as treasurer in Morgan's ministry for two years and a half. In 1875 he was appointed Q.C. and in 1879 awarded the title Honourable for life within South Australia. On 10 August 1865 he married Isabella Noble, the eldest daughter of W. H. Rowland. He died on 7 July 1889.

Select Bibliography

  • G. H. Pitt, The Press in South Australia 1836 to 1850 (Adel, 1946)
  • K. T. Borrow, Charles Mann (Adel, 1958).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Mann, Charles (1799–1860)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Charles Mann (1799-1860), by unknown artist

Charles Mann (1799-1860), by unknown artist

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6620

Life Summary [details]


8 July, 1799
Syleham, Suffolk, England


24 May, 1860 (aged 60)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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