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

Premier of the Colony

Premier of the Colony.

When the Session of 1891 opened, a division on the election of the Speaker gave the Liberal party a majority of seven-37 against the Conservative party's 30. The Government resigned on this decision, and Mr. Ballance was requested by the Governor to form a Ministry. He did so, and chose the following members of his Cabinet: —Mr. W. P. Reeves, Minister for Education and Justice; Mr. Seddon, Minister for Public Works, Mines and Defence; Sir Patrick Buckley, Attorney-General, Colonial Secretary and Postmaster-General; Sir John. McKenzie, Lands, Immigration and Agriculture; Sir Joseph Ward, Post and Telegraph Department; Sir Alfred Jerome Cadman, Stamp Duties. In addition to the Premiership, Mr. Ballance took over the duties of Native Minister and Commissioner for Trade and Customs. (These Cabinet members were, of course, all plain “Misters” then; the knighthoods came later.) This was the sturdy “band of brothers” who pioneered the great political reforms and social improvement policy of the New Thought in New Zealand affairs.

After a stormy first season, during which the much-detested property-tax was repealed, but other Liberal reforms were obstructed by the Conservative die-hards in the Legislative Council, the Government made twelve new appointments to the Council in order to get its measures passed into law. This was not done without a bitter struggle for the Colony's rights of self-government, for the Governor of the day, Lord Glasgow, refused to approve of more than nine new members of the Upper House. Mr. Ballance required the twelve in order to give his party a working majority. The controversy created a great stir in the country; the situation turned on the right or otherwise of a Governor to ignore the advice of his Ministers on such a question. It was tolerably clear that there would be a serious difference with the Imperial authorities if a Governor was to be permitted to flout the constitutional rights of the. people. The dispute was referred to the Secretary of State page 19 for the Colonies, who decided that the Governor must accept unreservedly the advice of the Government. This victory for the Liberal cause assured the steady progress of the Liberal legislation.

Ballance was not the first land laws reformer. Mr. Rolleston, in a previous administration, had introduced the perpetual-lease system of tenure. Ballance's special service was in the village settlement scheme which he developed during his period of office as Minister of Lands in the Stout-Vogel Government.