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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



The culmination of the negotiations was that in September 1872 Stafford challenged the Fox-Vogel Ministry and after a long and bitter debate he succeeded in ousting them. But his triumph was short-lived, as in the following month Vogel turned the tables and again took office.

It is not clear why Rolleston did not join this short-lived Stafford Ministry in view of the fact that he had been in close and friendly correspondence with Stafford for some months preceding the successful attack. Probably the reason was that he would have had to resign his position as Superintendent of Canterbury. He himself had declared that the holder of such an office had no ambition to take any place on the benches occupied by the Government.1 It is true that three members of Stafford's Ministry were Superintendents of Provinces, but Stafford announced that they would resign during the session or at its end. It is also possible that, had the Ministry survived, Rolleston would have joined it at a later date as Stafford declared that his Ministry was incomplete and that further appointments would be made. Perhaps also the strong terms in which he had denounced Stafford in 1869 were a source of embarrassment to him and they had been very effectively page 102quoted by Vogel in the course of the no-confidence debate.

Rolleston to Fitzherbert, 6 December 1872:

The second point is one in which Stafford is principally concerned as representing the old colonist feeling as opposed to the carpet bag and paper collar adventurer party. There ought to be no room for doubt in the mind of the public that we mean to stick to the country. Now an injudicious remark of Stafford's as to selling his properties has done much harm. I hear it among working men and all classes. He ought to explain this as soon as possible. So far as I recollect it was a loose expression and did not convey what is generally understood. I believe Stafford to be a thoroughly good colonist and that his whole action belies any intention of abandoning New Zealand. It would be easy in a well prepared speech to his constituents to dissipate this impression, and I think he should meet his constituents as soon as possible. I have not met my constituents and do not intend to do so if I can help it. They are prosperous and careless of politics and it is better to let events mature a little. We shall have a great howl here for want of labour in a few weeks. The General Government works are not employing many hands, not above 200 at most, but the increased available capital from wool and the borrowed money which has been scattered abroad is leading to a larger increased area of cultivation and to increased building in the towns. Stafford should arrive down here soon but not attempt to enunciate a policy. It is an evil and corrupt generation that seeks after a sign.

Writing to Major Richardson on 11 December 1872 Rolleston says:

I saw your kindly notice of Canterbury which was very grateful to my Superintendental heart. I send you my address which bears a rosier hue. It was not my duty as Superintendent to bring in a discussion of general politics which would have turned the Provincial Council into a bear garden and I did my best therefore to inspire provincial patriotism as an antidote to the wretched greed which animates our Central Assembly. We have abused, distrusted, degraded and bribed the Provincial authorities till all idea of local government, any notion of freedom and being guided by the popular voice is gone. The infatuation of Canterbury and page 103Otago is somewhat disheartening. You will see that Tancred the other day pronounced the scheme of the General Government a failure. Coming from an outsider, as Tancred now is, the attack was very useful. H—is spending his time here instead of doing his colonial work, defending Ministers in the Provincial Council and assisting a very corrupt executive with which I am saddled. Without initiating jobbery he has ever said to corruption—thou art my sister.

1 Hansard, 27 August 1872, vol. xii, p. 697.