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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Hon. John Bryce

The Hon. John Bryce sat in three successive ministries as Minister of Native Affairs and Defence. In the Hall Government from October, 1879 till January, 1881, he was Native Minister, and from October, 1881 to April, 1882, he held both portfolios. In the Whitaker Ministry which succeeded he was Minister for Native Affairs; and during the life of the third Atkinson Government, September, 1883 to August, 1884, held the dual position. Arriving in the Colony in 1840 as a child, he was brought up in New Zealand. During the Maori War he took an active part, becoming lieutenant of Yeomanry Cavalry Volunteers, and was present at the Hauhau advance on Wanganui. Mr. G. W. Rusden in his book “History of New Zealand,” said that “Mr. Bryce when in charge of this troop of cavalry dashed upon native women and children ‘ !cutting them down gleefully and with ease.’” Mr. Bryce went to England and instituted a libel action in which he was completely successful, £5000 damages being awarded, the judge remarking that the charge against Mr. Bryce was completely baseless. The subject of this notice entered Parliament in 1871 as member for Wanganui. At the time of the Parihaka trouble, when Te Whiti resisted the march of settlement Mr. Bryce was a member of the Hall Government and advocated firm action, but as his colleagues disagreed with him he resigned his seat in the Cabinet. Re-joining the Ministry about nine months later he led the historic expedition of Armed Constabulary and Volunteers, and occupied Parihaka on the 5th of November, 1881. Both Te Whiti and his principal attendant, Tohu, were arrested, as also a murderer named Hiroki who was subsequently executed. This bold stroke together with legislation afterwards introduced by the honourable gentleman was the means of breaking down Te Whiti's “mana,” and settling what at one time threatened to be a serious disturbance. In 1890 Mr. Bryce was re-elected for Wanganui and became leader of the Opposition when the Ballance Ministry was in power, but resigned his seat in the House in consequence of “a vote of censure having been passed upon certain expressions used by him in debate reflecting on the conduct of the Premier.” It is but just to aid that Mr. Bryce did not consider the words used improper. As a straightforward politician, Mr. Bryce gained general respect.