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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August 1, 1934)

Illness and Death

Illness and Death.

It was in the latter part of 1891 that the Premier's state of health. after long-continued ominous signs of impending trouble, at last compelled him to leave the duties of leadership to his colleague for a while. He had been working very long hours, at high pressure. While he was ill Mr. Seddon led the House. The Premier heroically returned to his duties before he was really well enough for the physical effort and mental labour. Ht suffered internally from an intestinal complaint; he had often to retire to his room in agony. Repeatedly he returned to the House to pilot through his measures, in particular the Electoral Bill. During the whole of 1892 he was suffering greatly, with too brief periods of relief from the duties of his position. He should have resigned, as his friends begged him. and abandoned his Parliamentary duties in the cause of health. Of course he would not: his reply to the doctor who pointed out the necessity for a complete rest after an operation, and possibly a long sea voyage. was that he would rather die at his post than abandon the cause to which the people had called him. He likened himself to a soldier on the battlefield who could not desert his comrades. A reply that revealed the heroic soul, but it was heroic folly. He insisted on carrying on with preparations for (he session of 1893, but an operation became urgently necessary. In his greatly weakened state he sank, and died, on the 27th April.

Like many another great and honest man he was a martyr to duty. But, like Seddon after him. he was perhaps obsessed, as ill-health increased, with the idea that he was indispensable to his cause and party. He was only fifty-four years old. Like another good colonist and statesman, Sir Donald Maclean, the great Native Minister who died at fifty-six, he was a victim to the responsibilities and anxieties of an harrassing public life.

Ballance's death was peculiarly pathetic, as Mr. James Drummond put it in his “Life of Seddon.” “He had spent many of his best years in a struggle against heavy odds. At last he had been victorious, with a greater victory than anyone had thought the Liberal party would ever achieve. He was taken away at the very moment when his position was assured; and he did not live to see the fruition of his schemes. The colony now looks upon him as one of its heroes, a simple, broad-minded cultured gentleman, with a large heart, which beat in sympathy with the people's needs and aspirations. The task he had undertaken in leading the country was not too much for his abilities, but it was too much for his strength.”