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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



When Sir George Grey was driven from office he boasted that he would drag the new Ministry at his chariot wheels and compel them to pass his proposed legislation. These page 139measures were certainly passed, but it was probably Atkinson's influence that induced Sir John Hall to take up the reforms of triennial parliaments and other measures which Grey had promoted.

Hall remained as Prime Minister until 1883 and was succeeded by Whitaker. A few months later Atkinson took over and remained in office until the downfall of the Ministry in 1884.

Ill-health has always been alleged as the reason for Hall's resignation. But the following letter seems to indicate that there were serious differences of opinion in Cabinet.

J. C. Richmond to Rolleston, 3 April 1882:

On my way through Wellington I saw Hall and discussed the political situation. That Hall should retire on grounds of bad health even at so inconvenient a moment would cast no shadow on his character as a public man or on that of any of his colleagues. That a breakdown should take place at the very eve of the session on grounds of an ill-advised expression on one side or irritability on the other among your Cabinet would be in my opinion deplorable. For this reason and because I would not have the honourable and prudent party in the country suffer from the reflected discredit of such an event I write to say that it appears to me, without taking counsel with anyone, that Hall should withdraw his unfortunate word and you and Bryce your resignations in order to meet the House as a ministry and that Hall should be liberated after the vote on the address, which happily it is proposed to make a trial of strength. If you carry it the Government would on Hall's resignation naturally send for Atkinson. If you lose, then the question falls and you part as gentlemen able to accommodate small differences arising out of faults of manner should do.

I do not know Bryce well enough to have a right to address him, but if you think well let him read this letter.

Nevertheless there is no reference in Rolleston's letters to the Cabinet quarrels mentioned by Richmond. Writing to his brother, the Reverend Robert Rolleston, Rector of Stanton Rivers, on 18 April 1882, Rolleston merely says:

page 140

"We have a ministerial crisis here just now in consequence of the Prime Minister's resignation through ill health. I don't know yet what the issue will be. I will probably continue as Minister of Lands, which is the portfolio I have held throughout. I only took the native portfolio temporarily. Whenever I do go out I am going to live on the farm, which is doing very well just now."