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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Ex-Speakers Of The Legislative Council

Ex-Speakers Of The Legislative Council.

page 99

Since the formation of the General Assembly in 1854, six gentlemen have passed into the list of Ex-Speakers. Three of them occupied the chair for a total of nearly thirty-five years, the other three averaging but little over a year each. The present Speaker has held the honour upwards of three years. Only one of the Speakers of the Upper House had occupied a similar position in the House of Representatives—that one being the Hon. Sir William Fitzherbert, K.C.M.G., who retired from the Speakership of the Lower House on the 13th of June, 1879, and on the following day was elected Speaker of the higher body. Sir William's combined term extended from 1876 to 1891.

The Hon. William Swainson was the first Speaker of the Legislative Council. He was elected on the 16th of May, 1854, and retired on the 8th of August, 1856. Mr. Swainson was born in Lancashire, England. A barrister of the Middle Temple, he was nominated in 1841 by Lord John Russell to succeed Mr. Francis Fisher, the first Attorney General of New Zealand, which position he held until the establishment of Responsible Government in 1856, Immediately after his appointment he sailed for the Colony, and was a fellow-passenger with Chief Justice (Sir William) Martin. As a member of the Executive Council, he, at the beginning of his career, inaugurated many useful reforms, and laid the foundations of many of the best institutions of to-day. The honourable gentleman, associated with the good Bishop Selwyn, greatly assisted the establishment of the Episcopal Church in this country. In 1866, in recognition of his valuable services to the Church, he was appointed to the high office of Chancellor of the Diocese of Auckland, and held the appointment continuously until his death in 1884. In the year succeeding his appointment to the Speakership, Mr. Swainson, while holding the post of Attorney-General, visited England and delivered lectures on “New Zealand as a Field for Colonization.” His love of the Colony is also well evidenced in his literary works, which bear the titles “Auckland the Capital of New Zealand,” “New Zealand and its Colonization,” and “New Zealand and the War.” Since his retirement from the Attorney-Generalship in 1856, Mr. Swainson figures but once as an Executive Councillor—namely, from April to July in the year 1879, during which short period he was a member of the Grey Government without portfolio.

The Hon. Sir Frederick Whitaker, K.C.M.G., M.L.C., succeeded the Hon. Mr. Swainson on the 8th of August, 1855, as speaker of the Legislative Council, and held the office till the 12th of May, 1856. The honourable gentleman was a member of the first ministry which was formed in May, 1856; he sat in several governments, and became Premier of the Colony in April, 1882. Full particulars of Sir Frederick's career will be found under the heading “Past Premiers.”

The Hon. Thomas Houghton Bartley, M.L.C., became Speaker of the Legislative Council on the 12th of May, 1856. He was the third Speaker and held the position till the 1st of July, 1858. Further particulars of the honourable gentleman are given under the heading “Members of the Executive Council prior to the establishment of Responsible Government.”

The Hon. Sir John Larkins Cheese Richardson, Kt., M.L.C., was speaker of the Legislative Council from the first of July, 1868 to the 14th of June, 1879. Sir The Hon. Sir John Larkins Cheese Richardson John held office as a minister of the Crown between the years 1864 and 1869 in the Weld and Stafford Governments. Further particulars of his career will be found under the heading “Ex Ministers.”

page 100

The Hon. Sir William Fitzherbert, K.C.M.G., M.L.C., was elected to the Speaker's Chair of the Legislative Council on the 14th of June, 1879, and was from time to time re-elected speaker till the 23rd of January, 1891. Sir William had been speaker of the House of Representatives for three years before his election to the chair of the Council, and was a member of several Ministries. The subject of this notice was born in 1810. His father was the Rev. Samuel Fitzherbert, of Buckshire House, Dorset. Educated at Queen's College, Cambridge, where he The Hon. Sir William Fitzherbert graduated, B.A. 1832 and M.A. 1836, he was elected a Fellow of the College. After studying medicine he became a Fellow of the Boyal College of Physicians, and practised for some time in Hanover Square, London. Arriving in the Colony in 1842 he was placed at the head of the colonial magistracy in the following year. Sir William joined in the agitation of the early days with the object of securing responsible government. He first sat in the House of Representatives for Wellington in 1856, and afterwards represented the Hutt. In 1871 he was elected Superintendent of the Province of Wellington. After the close of the Maori War the Imperial Government made a demand for one-million-and-a-quarter of money to recoup the expenses incurred in putting down the native rebellion. Sir William Fitzherbert, who was at that time Colonial Treasurer admitted that half-a-million was due, but repudiated the balance entirely. The amount due was fully paid, and Sir William was sent to England to arrange the matter. Personally he protested against the claim and stood out firmly against it. After many interviews with the Duke of Buckingham and other officials, the Imperial Government waived their claim and Sir William was jubilant. After his return he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1876. Three years later he was raised to the Legislative Council, and continued a member till his death in 1891. Sir William was made C.M.G. in 1872 and K.C.M.G. in 1877. He visited England in 1887 to represent New Zealand at the Colonial Conference. In 1890 he was elected a delegate to the Federation Conference, but died in 1891 before the assembly met. Further particulars of his career will be found elsewhere, under the headings “Ex Ministers,” and “Ex Speakers of the House of Representatives.”

Major the Hon. Sir Harry Albert Atkinson, K.C.M.G., M.L.C., was Speaker of the Legislative Council from the 23rd of January, 1891, till his death on the 28th of June, 1892. The honourable gentleman's career is referred to at length as a Past Premier of the Colony. His birthplace there stated as “Hurworth” should read “Cheshire,” the date of his arrival “1853” instead of “1831,” and the date of his election to Parliament “1861,” and not “1863.” On coming to New Zealand Major Atkinson was a fellow passenger of the late Mr. Justice Richmond. In 1863 his band of volunteers became known as the Taranaki Bushrangers, their work then being to scour the country round New Plymouth, especially the bush, and keep it clear from wandering and marauding parties of the Maoris who had infested the country and done great havoc in 1860-1861. On joining the Weld Ministry in 1864, the policy pursued was the well-known “self-reliant policy,” involving on the one hand the assumption by the Colony of the full control of native affairs, and on the other the withdrawal of the British troops. In the session of 1875 when Sir Harry was Colonial Treasurer an important change was made in the Constitution of the Colony by the abolition of Provincial Governments and Legislatures. During Sir Harry's last term of office as Premier of New Zealand (1887-1891) he did the last though not the least important of his services to New Zealand in inducing Parliament to adopt a policy of serious retrenchment and of living within its means.

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