The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
The Ministry. — (Illustrated with Portraits of Members and their Wives.)
(Illustrated with Portraits of Members and their Wives.)
Though the present Ministry, with the Hon. R. J. Seddon as Premier, has been in power only since the 1st of May, 1893, it is really more than two years older than those figures represent. The Government headed by the late Hon. John Ballance was practically the same. It may be said, therefore, that the Administration of to-day has been favoured with the confidence of the country for nearly five years. Never in the history of the Colony's parliamentary life has the Opposition been numerically so weak. In a House of seventy-four members, nearly three score of them are pledged to support the men and measures of the present Government. That the Opposition is individually strong there can be little doubt; and of its usefulness there can be less doubt; but of its hopes of a majority nothing can be said. The Government, while claiming to administer the affairs of the Colony in a manner that in the end will be best for all classes, looks mainly to Labour for its support, and is, therefore, determined that the interests of Labour shall be paramount. However distasteful this may be to the classes who have hitherto ruled, there is nothing surer than that the Working Man means to have his innings. He has found men of considerable force of character and great courage, who are prepared to advance his interests; and the only alternative for those who object to the working man's choice of leaders is to provide him with better if they can. Both parties at present in the House may be called Liberal; the Conservatives have vanished from the political arena, never to return. The Opposition is more forcibly directed against the methods than the objects of the party in power. A party pledged to provide remunerative employment for every one willing to work, and the means of comfortable subsistence for the very few who are incapable of rendering any kind of service in return, might have a chance of ousting the present Government; but nothing less radical than that can hope to succeed. The thin end of the wedge of this reform has already been driven, in the shape of State farms. This principle, carried in the direction of its legitimate conclusion, must soon find work for every man, until every acre of land is made the most of, or until the physical needs of the whole world are provided for. If once the principle of “work for every one” be practically acknowledged in this country, there will be no need for further inducement for immigration. And to the present Government must be given the credit of having initiated this very desirable reform.
Mrs. Seddon is the daughter of the late Captain John Stuart Spotswood, land and shipowner of Williamstown, Victoria. He was one of the early pioneers of the Colony, and the land upor which a large portion of the town of Williamstown is built formerly belonged to him, as also the land upon which stands the township page 43 of Spottiswoode, on the Yarra. Her grandfather was Captain John Spotswood, of the 84th and 98th regiments, East Bay Neck, Tasmania, and her grandmother was the daughter of Major-General Waddington, of the Honourable East India Company, and at one time Governor of Bombay. There has been issue by her marriage eleven children, nine of whom are still living, viz., six daughters and three sons. The eldest daughter is the wife of the Rev. Mr. Bean, Vicar of Addington, Christchurch. The names of the family are Jane A. (Bean), née Seddon, Phœbe Alicia, Louisa J., Mary Stuart, Elizabeth May, Richard John, Thomas Edward, John Stuart Spotswood, and Ruby Jessie. Amongst the miners and residents of the West Coast the name of Mrs. Seddon is revered, and, although ofttimes Mr. Seddon, as all public men are, has been adversely criticised, yet none would dream of breathing a syllable adverse to his good lady. In fact, on several occasions, when political feeling has run very high at elections, many of the diggers refrained from voting against Mr. Seddon because they saw his rejection would be a reflection on his good wife, and cause her pain. As an evidence of the good feeling which is felt towards Mr. and Mrs. Seddon and their family on the West Coast, the townships of Greymouth, Kumara, Hokitika, and Ross, and the surrounding districts vied each with the others in giving some substantial and lasting token of their good wishes on the occasion of the departure of the Premier, Mrs. Seddon, and family, to take up their residence at Wellington. Mrs. Seddon is not one of “the New Woman” kind. She is retiring, and has devoted herself almost exclusively to her family, and to assisting her husband in his arduous duties. She has taken an active interest in Church and Benevolent matters, but in matters political her answer has ever been, “I am quite satisfied to leave politics and public affairs to my husband.”
The Hon. John McKenzie, Minister of Lands and Immigration, Minister of Agriculture and Commissioner of Forests, has had much experience of colonial life, having been in New Zealand for thirty-five years. As his name implies, he is a native of Scotland, and was born on the estate of Ardross, Rosshire, in 1838. After leaving school he worked for some time on his father's farm, thus gaining large experience in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. When quite a young man, however, he determined to leave Scotland, and to seek his fortune in another country. New Zealand was chosen as the scene of action, whither he sailed in 1860. On his arrival in Otago he followed the same life as that to which he had been accustomed in Scotland, and found employment on Puketapu Station, near Palmerston South. Here he put such industry and ability into his work that he soon rose to the position of manager of the station. Dissatisfied, however, with working for an employer, he determined to begin farming on his own account. With this end in view, he took up a section in Shag Valley, where he settled down to the life of a farmer. But as the quiet pursuits of the country did not give scope to his energies, he resolved to enter public life. The position he first filled, that of clerk and treasurer to the Bushey Road Board, was humble, but it was good training for the discharge of higher functions. About the same time he became secretary to the local school committee. In 1868 he contested with Mr. Geo. McLean the seat for Waikouaiti, in the Provincial Council. Although unsuccessful at this election, the labour was not lost, for he was thus brought prominently before the people as an aspirant to public honours. In 1871 he was elected a member of the Provincial Council—a position which he held until the abolition of the provinces in 1876. About the same time he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. Some years later he was elected a member of the Waikouaiti County Council, and was appointed Property Tax assessor for the same district. In 1882 he was successful in getting the Waihemo County created, and was elected first chairman of the new council. In 1881 he was elected a member of the House of Representatives for the first time, and two years later he secured a seat on the Otago Education Board, which position he held for nine years. Mr. McKenzie occupied for many years a seat on the Otago Land Board. The first constituency represented by the honourable gentleman was Moeraki, but he has sat for several electorates since then. His first appointment in the House was that of whip in the Stout-Vogel Government of 1884–87. Retiring by nature, he did not come prominently before the public until after the general election of 1890, when Mr. Ballance offered him the portfolios he now holds. Since Mr. McKenzie's term of office, much advanced land legislation has passed through the House. It is well known that the tendency of this legislation is in the direction of land nationalisation. The quantity of land which may now be taken up by one person is defined by law, and no one is allowed to retain possession of his section unless the improvements required by the Act are made in the manner stipulated. These stringent measures are necessary to check the spirit of speculation, which is so rampant in the Colony, and if Mr. McKenzie succeeds in his purpose, he will effect a reform of no mean kind. At the last general election the honourable gentleman was elected for the Waihemo Constituency, defeating Mr Scobie McKenzie by over 300 votes.
Mrs. McKenzie (née Annie Munro), is the daughter of Mr. John Munro, a tenant farmer on the Novar Estate, Glenglass, Rosshire, Scotland. Here the subject of this notice was born and brought up. On the 23rd of May, 1860, she cast in her lot at the hymenial altar with Mr. (now the Hon. John) McKenzie, and on that selfsame day the brave young girl left her native heath with her juvenile consort, to seek their fortunes in far away New Zealand. The pluck and self-reliance shown by Mr. and Mrs. McKenzie on their wedding day has not been unrewarded. Fortune has favoured them, and together they have risen to a high position in the Colony. The New Zealand Graphic of September the 17th, 1891, says, speaking of Mrs. McKenzie and her children: “Their family consists of two page 47 fine sons, both well-grown young men, and three bright, intelligent daughters, one of whom generally accompanies her mother in her visits to the House. Mrs. McKenzie's tastes are essentially domestic, and in training her children, supervising her household, and hospitably entertaining her friends, she has always found ample scope for her energies, as well as the purest of all enjoyments.” Mr. and Mrs. McKenzie had another daughter who died at the early age of thirteen years.
The Hon. William Montgomery, M.L.C., member of the Executive Council without portfolio comes of an old family which emigrated from England to the North of Ireland about the year 1620. The hon. gentleman was born in London in 1822, and was educated at the Belfast Royal Academical Institution, the great public school of the North of Ireland, under his uncle, Henry Montgomery, LL.D., who was head English master. On leaving school the subject of this notice chose a seafaring life, and threw himself into his duties with such zest that before he was nineteen he was entrusted with the command of a vessel trading to the Mediterranean. Mr. Montgomery spent thirteen years of his early life at sea, but decided to visit Australia, owing to impressions produced by reading the late Dr. Lang's book “Australia Felix.” In 1860 he crossed over to New Zealand, and settled in Canterbury, where for many years he engaged in mercantile pursuits. The future politician was returned as a member of the first road board—the Heathcote—in 1864, and was elected to the chairmanship. A year later he was successful in gaining a seat in the Canterbury Provincial Council for Heathcote constituency, which he represented continuously till 1870. In the Council he soon rose to prominence, becoming Provincial Treasurer in 1868, under Mr. Rolleston's superintendency and retaining the position till 1870, when he retired for a time from politics. In 1872 he again offered himself for a seat in the Council, and was re-elected without opposition, becoming president of the Provincial Executive Council, which position he held for about eighteen months. It was not long before Mr. Montgomery offered himself for a seat in the General Assembly, to which he was elected in 1874 as member for Akaroa, which he represented for nearly fourteen years continuously. In 1877 the honourable gentleman declined the Colonial Treasurership because he disagreed with Sir George Grey's manipulation of the Canterbury land fund as colonial revenue. When the late Sir H. A. (then Major) Atkinson became Premier, Mr. Montgomery became leader of the Opposition. On the formation of the Stout-Vogel Administration in 1884, he accepted office in that Government as Colonial Secretary and Minister of Education. Mr. Montgomery has ever been an advocate of manhood suffrage, triennial Parliaments, and representation on a population basis, and has voted consistently with his opinions. He has long taken an active interest in local institutions in Canterbury. As long ago as 1867 he was chairman of the Christchurch Chamber of Commerce. He sat as a member of the Canterbury Board of Education in 1866; a year after joining he was elected chairman, and he continued to hold a seat till the board ceased to exist in 1875. Two years after this the honourable gentleman was elected a member of the Board of Education of Canterbury under the Education Act of that year, and still retains the position. In 1873 he was appointed a Governor of Canterbury College by the Provincial Council; three years subsequently he became chairman of the Board of Governors, which office he held till 1885. In 1865 Mr. Montgomery was married to Miss Jane Todhunter, daughter of John Todhunter, Esq., of London. He has two sons—William Hugh and John. The eldest son is a member of the House of Representatives for the Ellesmere District.