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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Ex-Speakers — Of The House Of Representatives

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Of The House Of Representatives.

Five gentlemen, exclusive page of Sir G. M. O'Rorke, K.C.M.G., have occupied the position of Speaker of the House. The first was Sir C. Clifford, Bart., who held office for seven years. For eleven years afterwards Sir D. Monro, Kt. Bach., occupied the chair. Sir F. D. Bell, K.C.M.G., C.B., succeeded him, remaining in office four years. The only other occupants of this high position were Sir W. Fitzherbert, K.C.M.G., and Major the Hon. W. J. Steward. The present popular Speaker has held office for a longer period than any of his predecessors.

Sir Charles Clifford, Bart. first Speaker of the House of Representatives, was originally elected on the 26th of May, 1854, at the opening of the first session of the first parliament. Again on the 15th of April, 1856, he was elected for the second parliament and continued to hold the office until the 3rd of June, 1861. Sir Charles is the son of George Lambert Clifford, grandson of the Hon. Thomas Clifford, and great grandson of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. Born at Mt. Vernon, Liverpool, in 1813, and educated at Stonyhurst, he came out to Wellington with the early Port Nicholson settlers in 1843. While on a visit to England in 1850 he took a prominent part in the agitation for the grant of Constitutional Government to New Zealand. On the passing of the Constitution Act he returned to the Colony, and was elected to the first House of Representatives, of which he became speaker. Sir Charles engaged in pastoral pursuits in the Colony, and finally returned to England. In 1858 he was made a Knight Batchelor, and in 1887 he was created a Baronet of Flaxbourne, Marlborough.

Sir David Monro, Kt. Bach. M.D., the second speaker of the House of Representatives was born in Edinburgh in 1813. Educated at Edinburgh Academy, and at the Edinburgh University he obtained his degree in 1836. He also studied at the Medical Schools in Paris, Berlin and Vienna, and came to the Colony as one of the early settlers in Nelson under the New Zealand Company. Dr. Monro took a prominent part in the agitation for constitutional government. In 1849 he became a Legislative Councillor of the Province of New Munster, Middle or South Island. He gained a seat in the first New Zealand Parliament in 1854, and succeeded Sir Charles Clifford, Bart., as speaker on the 3rd of June, 1861. Five years later he was re-elected to the chair of the house, and the same year received the honour of Knighthood from the Queen. Sir David was unseated in 1871 as the result of the first election petition presented in New Zealand. He died on the 17th of February, 1877.

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 The Hon. Sir Francis Dillon Bell 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.

The Hon. Sir William Fitzherbert, K.C.M.G., was speaker of the House of Representatives from the 15th of June, 1876, until the 13th of June, 1879, when he vacated the chair, being elevated to the position of Speaker of the Legislative Council on the following day. Reference is made elsewhere to Sir William as an ex-Minister of the Crown, and as an ex-Speaker of the other branch of the Legislature.

The Hon. Major William Jukes Steward, Speaker of the House of Representatives from the 23rd of January, 1891, to the 8th of November, 1893, was born at Reading, in Berkshire, in 1841, and was educated at King Edward VI. Grammar School, Ludlow, Shropshire, and at Dr. Benham's Commercial School, Gloucester. His father, Mr. William Steward, was well known in the former town as a leading citizen. Early in 1862 the embryo Speaker decided to leave the Old World, and elected to come to Lyttelton per ship “Mersey,” Captain Duncan Smith, in preference to joining the Nonconformists' contingent then about to leave for Albertland, Auckland. This decision was somewhat remarkable, inasmuch as he came from an old Nonconformist family, two of his maternal uncles, the Revs. John and Edward Jukes being ministers of the Congregational Church. On arrival in Christchurch, Major Steward, who was accredited to Mr. C. W. Turner, then manager of the Bank of Australasia, finding that that gentleman, with a partner, had just purchased the business in that city of Messrs. Peacock and Co., accepted employment under the new firm. Later on he entered into business on his own account, in partnership with Messrs. Axup and Bell, building the well-known Leamington House. But this kind of life had little in it to interest the coming politician, who soon turned his attention to journalism, becoming proprietor of the North Otago Times. In 1871 Major Steward first entered Parliament as member for Waitaki, which electorate then included the town of Oamaru. During the currency of the fifth Parliament he succeeded in securing additional representation for his district, but at the next general election (1875) he was defeated, the winning candidates being the Hons. Messrs. Hislop and Shrimski. Advantage was taken of Major Steward's freedom from parliamentary duties, and he was elected Mayor of Oamaru for the years 1876-7-8. In 1879 he removed to Waimate, and purchased the Waimate Times. During the same year he was elected for Waimate, and has represented that district under its two names of Waimate and Waitaki continuously since that date. The Major's political career has been page 114 marked throughout by punctilious attention to duty and unwavering perseverance. As early as 1872 he introduced the Deceased Wife's Sister Marriage Bill, and for four successive years carried it in the Lower House, only to be sent back by the Legislative Council. Though Major Steward undoubtedly had the honour of first introducing this Bill to a colonial Parliament, New Zealand was not the first colony in which it became law, nor did the Major see it placed upon the Statute Book during his first term of membership. This was done, however, during the first session of the succeeding Parliament, and for his gallant efforts to hasten this reform, Major Steward received the thanks of the English Marriage Law Reform Association. On his re-entering Parliament in 1881, Major Steward again found the Upper House a serious stumbling-block to reform. This time it was his fortune seven times to induce the House of Representatives to send up his Bill abolishing cumulative voting at School Committee elections. This Bill, the Major claims, was the thin end of the one-man-one-vote wedge, and certainly the extreme caution of the “Lords,” would favour the conclusion that they similarly viewed it. The seventh attempt, however, proved victorious, and Major Steward was encouraged to try the “Lords” again. For three sessions he sent up an amended Licensing Bill—making the elections triennial instead of annual, as previously—before the Legislative Council could see the wisdom of passing it into law. The ex-speaker has originated a number of valuable amendments in legislation; for example, clause 168 of the Land Act, 1885, which empowered the acquisition by the Crown of private lands in areas not exceeding [gap — reason: illegible]000 acres in any one locality, which was the beginning of the movement for the expropriation of land, since perfected in the Land for Settlements Act, 1894. The Major's latest effort at reform is in the direction of the abolition of party government by the substitution of an elected for an appointed Executive. In the session of 1894 he was within six votes of carrying his point on a division of 21—27, and in 1895 secured a division of 27—35. By Major Steward's Registration Act Amendment Act of 1874 every ratepayer—no matter how small the amount of rates paid—became ipso facto an elector. It was computed that this Act nearly doubled the number of the electors of the Colony at a stroke. It has, however, since been repealed and superseded by a wider franchise. In 1867, under the nom de plume of “Justice Aubrey,” Major Steward published a volume of poems entitled “Carmina Varia;” and most important occasions since that date have been celebrated by a poem from the Major's pen. His career as a volunteer began in the Old Country, where he was sergeant of the tenth company of the 48th Regiment of Volunteers (Shropshire), under Captain Sir Charles Rouse Boughton. In this country he has taken great interest in the volunteer movement, being mainly instrumental in the formation of the Oamaru Rifles, the Oamaru High School Cadets, the Hampden Rifles, the Otepopo Rifles, and the Oamaru North School Cadets; and for over five years he commanded the North Otago district, and is now the senior Major on the Army List of the Colony. In 1873 Major Steward was married to Miss Hannah Whitefoord, granddaughter of Colonel Whilefoord, and great-granddaughter of Sir Adam Whitefoord, of Blaiquhan, Ayshire Scotland by whom he has a daughter and two sons.

Major The Hon. W. J. Steward.

Major The Hon. W. J. Steward.