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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Sir William Fox

Sir William Fox, K.C.M.G., who was Premier of New Zealand four times, was born in England in 1812, and educated at Wadham College, Oxford, where he graduated M.A. in his twenty-seventh year. He was admitted at the Inner Temple in 1842, but did not long practice his profession, for in the same year he sailed for Wellington, New Zealand. In 1843 he received from the New Zealand Company the appointment of Resident Agent at Nelson, and continued to discharge the duties of this office until 1848, when he became Attorney-General of the Southern Province. On the death of Colonel Wakefield he rose to the position of Principal Agent of the Company, and controlled all its affairs in the southern districts of the Colony. In this capacity he soon showed such political wisdom and administrative power that on the passing of the new Constitution Act in 1853 he was elected a member of the first Parliament convened in the Colony. In 1856 he became Premier, but his Ministry lasted only a few days, and was succeeded by that of Mr. Stafford. Serious trouble with the Maoris in Taranaki was imminent in 1861, and the Stafford Government was defeated on the native question: Mr. Fox then formed a Ministry, which lasted until the middle of the following year. In 1863 he became Colonial Secretary in the Whitaker-Fox Ministry, but in the following year his Government resigned, owing to a disagreement with the Governor, Sir George Grey, relative to the management of the Waikato war, and the confiscation of the lands of the rebel natives. In 1869 he was again at the head of the Government. The following year, which marks the initiation of the Public Works policy, he included Sir Julius Vogel in his Ministry. In 1872 his Government resigned. Sir William was Premier of the Colony for the fourth and last time from the 3rd of March to the 8th of April, 1873. Being now well advanced in years, he allowed the active work of Parliament to fall into the hands of younger men. In 1880 he was appointed to the West Coast Commission to enquire into the native land titles, and to settle questions relative to the confiscation of Maori lands. His recommendations on this vexed question were regarded by Europeans and Maoris alike as eminently satisfactory, page 58 and he will long be remembered for the services he thus rendered to the Colony. To the younger generation Sir William Fox was better known as a social reformer than as a politician, and in later years he took a warm interest in the Temperance movement. He died at his home in Auckland in 1893.

Photo by Wrigglesworth and Binns. Sir William Fox, K.C.M.G.

Photo by Wrigglesworth and Binns.
Sir William Fox, K.C.M.G.