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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Hon. Sir Julius Vogel

The Hon. Sir Julius Vogel, K.C.M.G., was born in London on the 24th of February, 1835, and educated at the London University School. His father was Albert Leopold Vogel, whose wife was the eldest daughter of Alexander Isaac, of Hatcham Grove, Surrey, and Wolsingham Park, Durham. After a short training in a mercantile house, the subject of this sketch emigrated in his 18th year to Victoria, when the goldfields held out attractions for the adventurous. After the usual ups and downs, incidental to life in those days, he became editor of the Maryborough and Dunnoly Advertiser, and launched out into other journalistic enterprises. In 1861, after an unsuccessful effort to gain a seat in the Victorian Parliament, he came to New Zealand when the Otago diggings were at their height, and purchased a half share in the Otago Witness, and started the first daily paper in the colony—The Otago Daily Times,—and, as editor of both, he wielded a powerful pen for many years. He soon took a leading part in the politics of the province, and in 1866 was the head of the Provincial Government, retaining that responsible position until 1869. He first became a member of the House of Representatives in 1863, and soon showed signs of that innate power which afterwards placed him at the head of the statesmen of his day. He first took office with Sir William Fox in 1869, as Colonial Treasurer, and during that administration he also held the portfolios of Commissioner of Stamps, Postmaster-General, Commissioner of Customs, and Electric Telegraph Commissioner. As soon as the Fox-Vogel Government assumed the reins of power, it was determined to alter the aggressive operations against the natives, and endeavour to settle the difficulty by a broad and peaceful policy of immigration and public works. But this could not be undertaken without opposition from various quarters. The people of the Middle Island complained bitterly of the cost of the Maori Wars; the Provincial Councils looked jealously at the propositions which threatened their powers and functions. When he expounded his immigration and public works scheme on the 28th of June, 1870, the colony was aghast at the boldness and magnificence of the proposals, but he was a leader with a vigour of mind and an intuitive knowledge of men and figures, excelling in debating power, lucid, logical and, above all, plausible, and he set his case before Parliament in so clear and convincing a manner that he disarmed opposition, and his policy was accepted by both Houses. His scheme, in its original form, although considered sensational, and altogether beyond the means of the colony at the time has, in the light of later days and riper judgment, met with general approval, but he had to bow to local demands and vary the original comprehensive and colonial character of it to suit provincial demands. The idea embodied in the policy of 1870, was that a sum of ten millions should be spent over a period of ten years on railways, roads, telegraphs, and immigration, the last named with a view of providing suitable labour to carry on the works, the immigrants thus obtaining employment as soon as they landed in the colony, and then as the waste lands were rendered accessible by their labours, they could take up sections and become producers. He did not propose to borrow ten millions in cash, for the colony was not in a position to ask for such a sum. He argued that the expenditure of one million per annum could be arranged partly by loan, partly by guarantee, and partly by payment in land, and he hoped by the time the ten years had elapsed that a trunk-line would be established through each Island. At that time, the only railway of any consequence in the colony was the line from Lyttelton to Christchurch, and thence to Rangiora north and Rakaia south, about 60 miles altogether, and it was expensively constructed on the broad guage system. The Canterbury Plains offered special advantages for railway building, and the enormous local revenues of that province, with its land regulations of £2 per acre, irrespective of locality or quality, and the high price of wheat gave an enormous impetus to page 61 that province, and Canterbury members were not long in combining to demand branch lines to feed the great South Trunk Railway. Their demands, in most cases, were reasonable enough, for settlement was marvellously rapid, and as fast as these branch lines were finished there was ample work for most of them, but the construction of them was fatal to the unity of the original scheme. Mr. Vogel continually pointed this out, but the strength of the provincialists, and the obvious advantages of constructing such lines first and leaving those like the North Island Trunk, through expensive and unsettled routes, until later on, were sufficient for Parliament, and as the work went on the original Trunk Railway gave way to a connection between Canterbury and the Bluff, with numerous branch lines. The gaps still to be constructed in either Island, even now, would hardly warrant their cost if the physical nature of the country and the value of the land to be benefited were the only considerations. The Colony's resources had become greatly strained by the expenses of the Maori Wars, and as the Imperial troops had been withdrawn, it was considered only proper that the Home Government should render some assistance to the colony as a quid pro quo, and Dr. Featherston and Mr. (now Sir) Francis D. Bell went Home as commissioners to state the case, and they succeeded in persuading the Home Government to guarantee a loan of one million for immigration and public works, the expenditure to be spread over a period of five years. Although that guarantee cost England nothing, it was of infinite service to the colony at the time. The greater Loan Bill passed both Houses, but in a different form from the original proposals, for there were provincialists and goldfields members, whose constituents would not benefit by railway construction, to be won over, and finally, after some considerable opposition and a great deal of criticism, power was granted to borrow four millions, to be expended as follows:—On railways, £2,000,000; on immigration, £1,000,000; North Island roads, £400,000; purchase of lands in the North Island, £300,000; water-races on goldfields, £300,000; telegraph extension, £600,000; and unappropriated, £40,000. Shortly after the rising of Parliament, Mr. Vogel went to England with a view of forwarding the interests of the Colony, and he succeeded in arranging matters in connection with the loans to be raised. He entered into negotiations with the postal authorities of Great Britain and the United States, and succeeded in initiating the San Francisco mail service, and was instrumental in obtaining the passage of an Act to enable the Colonies to enter into arrangements for reciprocal duties with each other, and he consulted with the Admiralty on the question of Colonial defence, the outcome of his efforts being that Colonel (afterwards Sir) W. F. D. Jervois drew up a scheme for the defence of the chief colonial ports. One matter he failed to impress the Imperial Government with the importance of—the annexation by the British Government of the Samoa group. Had those islands been taken over at that time, much bloodshed among the contending tribes and friction between England, Germany, and the United States would have been prevented. Their importance, and the general desire of the inhabitants to be subject to the British Crown is becoming more manifest year by year, but what would have been a mere matter of form in 1871, would now be a subject for the diplomatists of four great powers to deliberate on. Mr. Vogel returned to New Zealand in 1871, and devoted all his energies to the elaboration of the policy he had introduced. New Zealand began, to use his own words, to advance by “leaps and bounds.” There was a constant stream of immigrants pouring in, not only of those brought out free, but people with resources, who were attracted by the many advantages this colony offered, which were admirably set forth in a hand-book prepared by Mr. Vogel himself. At this period, his capacity for work and his fertility of resource showed at their best. He grasped all the details of the various departments he was the Ministerial head of, and, without meddling with officials, he introduced better and more systematic methods into the working of the Civil Service. On the 10th of September, 1872, the Fox-Vogel Government suffered a defeat, and the Stafford Government assumed power, but it, in turn, was out on the 11th of October, and Mr. Vogel formed a Cabinet, with Mr. Waterhouse as Premier, and himself as Treasurer and Postmaster-General. Parliament having risen, he went in January, 1873, to Sydney, to attend the Intercolonial Conference, the chief business of which was to settle the European mail service. During his absence Mr. Waterhouse resigned (the 3rd of March, 1873), on the ground that he had not sufficient influence in the Ministry, and Mr. Fox accepted the temporary Premiership until Mr. Vogel returned, on the 8th of April, when the latter assumed the position in addition to his other offices. He also became Telegraph Commissioner and Minister for Immigration later on. Among the most important and lasting monuments to his genius during this term were the Acts establishing the Government Life Assurance and the Public Trust Office. Had he
The Hon. Sir Julius Vogel

Photo, by Wrigglesworth and Binns.

done nothing else than brought into existence these two departments, his name would have lived as a statesman and a benefactor to the Colony. His fertile mind also conceived a project to form an incorporated company to exploit the unclaimed Pacific Islands, and to open up a trade with and exercise governing powers over them. It failed to attract capitalists, and fell through. In those days there were great opportunities in the Colony itself for investors, and the Pacific Islands were too distant and too little known. The session of 1874 was a stormy one. The provincial institutions had, up till this time done good work, each of them carving out its own destiny in its page 62 own way, but each was jealous of its neighbour, and the original six provinces had become dismembered. Wellington had split in two, and Hawkes Bay became a province, Nelson became divided, and Marlborough became independent; Southland was separated from Otago, and Westland, formerly a part of Canterbury, became a county. In some cases the new provinces plunged heavily into debt, notably Southland and Marlborough. Friction between the General Government and the Provincial Government was continual, and augmenting year by year, and at last Mr. Vogel suddenly gave notice of the Abolition of Provinces Bill. It came on the House like a thunderbolt; but he carried his resolution, giving the provinces time to put their houses in order, and when this was done a considerable portion of the old provincial service was incorporated into that of the General Government, and since that date (1874) the Administration of the Colony has centred in Wellington, the Act finally coming into operation in 1876. Towards the end of the year (1874) Mr. Vogel again visited England, his mission being to arrange for floating a large loan and the establishment of cable communication between Australia and New Zealand, and he was successful in both missions. He received the honour of knighthood in 1875, having previously been created a C.M.G. in 1872. It was during this visit that he entered into negotiations and concluded with the Bank of England and the Home Governments arrangements for the inscription of colonial stock. The Act was passed in 1877 and this has always been looked upon as one of the most beneficial and statesmanlike acts of his career. During his absence Dr. Pollen occupied the Premier's seat in the Cabinet, and on Sir Julius's return in 1876 he formally resumed it. At the end of that year Dr. Featherston, who had ably represented the Colony in London for many years as Agent-General, died, and Sir Julius went Home to fill the vacancy. He remained in England until 1881, and negotiated the five-million loan in 1879. He interested himself in Imperial politics, and never lost a chance of advocating the interests of New Zealand, both by speech and conspicuously able articles in the newspapers and magazines of the day; and he contested a seat in the interests of the conservatives in the general election of 1879, standing for Pensyn, but was defeated. In 1884 he returned to the Colony and at once entered public life again, and became Postmaster-General, Colonial Treasurer, Telegraph Commissioner, and Commissioner of Customs in the Stout-Vogel Ministry, which took office in September, 1884. The Colony by that time was suffering from depression, and with a view of relieving it he introduced the system of creating debentures to an amount equivalent to the accretions of the Sinking Funds. This plan of raising money was much criticised at the time, but it has been resorted to frequently since by other Treasurers. After over three years of power, the Stout-Vogel Cabinet fell on the 8th of October, 1887, and Sir Harry Atkinson came into office, and Sir Julius returned to London and has resided there since. He has since devoted his time chiefly to Literature, mostly in the periodicals. He made one attempt as a novelist in 1888, but the work, Anno Domini 2000, a romance of what New Zealand might be at that date, was not worthy of his talents. As a journalist he is brilliant, easy and convincing; as a financier, whatever may be said of his extensive borrowing, he had all the instincts of his race and knew the value and responsibilities of money, and in the light of the present day it must be acknowledged that if he borrowed heavily and spent freely that he gave the Colony very fair value for the money. He fostered local industries and encouraged enterprise by every legitimate means in his power, and although subjected to strong opposition, it never made him vindictive, and he never bore political malice. Some of his conceptions, which seemed wild in the days when he proposed them, have since proved to contain much that is useful and statesmanlike. Sir Julius married, in 1867, Mary, eldest daughter of Mr. W. A. Clayton, Colonial Architect, and has a family, of whom his eldest son, Mr. H. B. Vogel, is a barrister and solicitor, who had a practice in Wellington, and who is at present on a visit to London.