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The Life and Work of Richard John Seddon


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This work was commenced two years ago, when Mr. Seddon was taking a very active part in New Zealand's politics; and the intention was that he should contribute largely to the material, so that the work should be, to some extent, autobiographical.

Having had many opportunities as a journalist of studying the political history of this colony, and having watched the rise and progress of the Liberal Party, I became well acquainted with Mr. Seddon's career from the time he entered Parliament, in 1879. Besides that, in writing and conversation, he sometimes expressed his opinions on political situations and public men, and spoke of his early battles, giving me a further insight into the view he took of past events and of those that were passing rapidly in front of him.

It was early in July, 1904, that I first asked him to allow me to write his biography. He fell in with the proposal at once, and telegraphed his hearty consent in the following message:—

Re your communication of the 21st ultimo., I shall be pleased to give you every reasonable assistance. Kind regards and best wishes.

R. J. Seddon.

I immediately prepared a scheme for the work, and submitted to him a list of questions, which I asked him to answer at his leisure. He replied as follows:—

Prime Minister's Office,
Wellington, 13th November, 1904.

Dear Sir


I duly received your letter, and have time and again tried to get an opportunity to comply with your request, but pressure of parliamentary business has prevented it. However, in the absence of direct replies to the questions you ask me to answer, I do not think I can do better than send you the Souvenir of my Silver page break Jubilee and a short account of my career. From these you will be able to gather a good deal of the information you seek.

Apologising for allowing your communication to remain unanswered so long,

I am, Yours Sincerely,

R. J. Seddon.

I did not wish to give him any more trouble than was absolutely necessary, and worked without further assistance from him. In May, 1906, Messrs. Whitcombe and Tombs informed me that they desired to have the work brought to a conclusion, and I found that I would have to appeal to him for further information. He was then arranging to go for a holiday trip to Australia. I suggested to him that I might accompany him on the voyage back to New Zealand, but he said that he would rather regard the time spent at sea as a real holiday, so I decided to wait until he was in New Zealand again. Shortly after leaving Sydney in the “Oswestry Grange” to return to New Zealand, he passed away.

At the request of the publishers, the work has now been completed. The lines followed are those that Mr. Seddon approved of, and a suggestion made by him in the course of conversation, that the work should sketch the history of the Liberal Party in New Zealand, has been carried out.

To avoid confusion, I have given statesmen throughout the work titles they received in later years. In the early part of their careers, for instance, Sir Harry Atkinson was Major Atkinson, Sir John Hall the Hon. J. Hall, Sir Joseph Ward the Hon. J. G. Ward, and so on. Dr. J. Hight undertook to read over the proofs. I am specially indebted to Mr. James Cowan, of the New Zealand Government Tourist Department, for the description of the Maori ceremonies on the occasion of Mr. Seddon's funeral, and for translations of the Maori songs and laments.

J. D.

Christchurch, New Zealand, September, 1906.