The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
The Hon. Sir Francis Dillon Bell
The Hon. Sir Francis Dillon Bell, K.C.M.G., C.B., who was Speaker of the House of Representatives from the 14th of August, 1871, to the 21st of October, 1875, is One of the most widely-known men in the Colony. Like other settlers of the early days, he was for many years associated with the New Zealand Company. He joined the service of this Company in England in 1839, filling the position of assistant-secretary, and for some time that of chief secretary in the London Office. Soon after the Wairau massacre he came to the Colony, and was employed in various capacities by the Company. In Auckland he negotiated the purchase of land, and at Nelson was engaged in settling many important disputes regarding land. While in the latter town he was chairman of the Association of landowners who reformed the system of settlement and adjusted the differences between the Company and its purchasers. Some time after this he was employed in a similar capacity in the Wellington Province, and was also engaged to negotiate with the natives for the purchase of land. In 1847 he took up his residence in New Plymouth, succeeding Mr. J. T. Wicksteed as agent for the Company in that town. In the following year he page 113 was transferred to Nelson in the same capacity, where he succeeded Mr. Fox, who had been appointed Attorney-General of the Southern Province. Not long after assuming duties in Nelson, the illness of Colonel Wakefield, the principal agent of the Company, demanded his presence in Wellington. This was in 1848. On the death of Colonel Wakefield, Mr. Bell returned to Nelson to resume his duties there. In the same year he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council of New Munster (as the South Island was then called). This position he held until 1850, when he resigned, with others, on account of a difference with the authorities in England as to the power of the members of the Council. In 1846 he was made a Justice of the Peace for the Colony, and two years later a Justice of the Peace for the South Island. In 1851, when the Company resigned its charter, Mr. Bell was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Wellington District, and also Commissioner under the New Zealand Company Land Claims Settlement Ordinance. Previously to this he had been appointed a Commissioner to investigate titles to land in the New Zealand Company's settlements. In 1853 he represented the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay district in the Wellington Provincial Council, and continued to sit for the same electorate until 1856. In 1854 he was summoned to the Legislative Council in Auckland, and in the same year became a member of the Executive Council. It will be remembered that the representative system of government was introduced in 1856, and in this year Mr. Bell sat for the Hutt in the new Parliament. The first responsible Government in the Colony was known as the Bell-Sewell Ministry, in which Mr. Bell acted as Colonial Treasurer. This Government, however, had but a short life. In the same year Mr. Bell was appointed Commissioner under the Land Claims Settlement Act of 1856. Five years later he was elected for Wallace, in Otago, and in the following year joined the Domett Ministry as Colonial Treasurer, Commissioner of Customs, and Minister of Native Affairs. As Native Minister, he visited Taranaki and accompanied the troops when they took possession of the Ta[gap — reason: illegible]aramiaka Block. A little later he went with Mr. Gorst to New South Wales and Victoria to raise troops for the war. His Ministry resigned in 1863, and in the following year Mr. Bell took up his residence in Otago. In 1865 he was elected to represent Mataura in the Otago Provincial Council, and in the same year was appointed a Commissioner to enquire into the condition of the Civil Service. In the following year he was elected for Mataura in the House of Representatives, and in 1869 he was elected for Dunedin in the Provincial Council, and in the same year became a member of the Fox Ministry. At the end of this year he accompanied Dr. Featherston to England to obtain a loan of £1,000,000 for public works and immigration. He returned to the Colony in 1871, and was re-elected for Mataura, succeeding Sir D. Munro in the Speakership of the House of Representatives. In the same year he was elected for Otaramika in the Otago Provincial Council. This seat he retained until 1873, when he was created a Knight Bachelor. In 1877 he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council of New Zealand. Three years later he was appointed a Royal Commissioner under the Confiscated Lands Inquiry and Maori Prisoner Trials Act, 1879. When the preliminary business of this Commission was concluded in 1880, he was appointed Agent-General for the Colony in London, which position he held until 1890. In 1881 he was created K.C.M.G., and in 1883 C.B.