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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield

Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the first Managing Director of the New Zealand Company, was the eldest son of Mr. Edward Wakefield, Bunham Hall, Essex. He was born in 1796, and was educated for the bar. It is a matter of history that when thirty years of age, Mr. Wakefield came prominently into notice by his abduction of the young heiress, Miss Ellen Turner, daughter of the High Sheriff of Cheshire. Their marriage, which had been solemnised at Gretna Green, was dissolved by special Act of Parliament, and the rash bridegroom was sentenced to imprisonment for three years. Mr. Wakefield was a man of genius, with too much pluck to be altogether cast down by even so serious a mistake and its due punishment. He wielded most successfully “the pen of a ready writer,” and colonisation was his pet theme. The settlement of the Colonies of South Australia and New Zealand was certainly accelerated by his efforts, but there will probably always be differences of opinion as to the benefits his schemes conferred on these colonies. He had worked hard in pushing ahead the Colony for over twelve years before he himself acted on the advice which he had so consistently given others. In 1852 he landed in New Zealand, first settling in Canterbury, but shertly afterwards removing to Wellington. He was elected to represent the Hutt District in the first Parliament, in 1854. Speaking of this Parliament in his “New Zealand and its Colonisation,” (1859) the Hon. W. Swainson wrote: “Among the members returned to the House of Representatives on the occasion of the first general election, there were several experienced, energetic and able men. Conspicuous among them was Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Possessing acknowledged ability, the chief promoter of the colonisation of New Zealand, the founder of the modern school of colonial politicians, a man who has been justly described as ‘one of the shrewdest of mankind,’ Mr. Wakefield naturally filled a large space in the small colonial Parliament.” Mr. Wakefield took a leading part in the agitation for responsible Government, but he was, perhaps, too brilliant to be trusted by a Parliament almost all the members of which individually felt themselves his intellectual inferiors. On the 10th of May, 1862, Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield died, at Wellington, in all probability somewhat disappointed with the results of his life's work, great as they certainly were.