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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



"I am glad", said Rolleston after his defeat in 1893, "I am out of politics. I have indeed had enough of it. If I had remained in politics, I should have shortened my life, and I want to live. I have a large family, and I must look after my own affairs for the rest of my life."

It was generally supposed that Rolleston had now left the scene of politics. The papers wrote laudatory articles of. an almost obituary character. They praised him as a great and patriotic statesman whose frugal way of life and high ideals should prove an example to the new generation. "As he descends the path of life's decline", said one writer, "may some rays of prosperity fall upon him and may his last days be peopled with thoughts of a past in which he played a useful and honourable part, and sweetened with sweet companionship of books"—and much more to the same effect. But the "New Zealand Cincinnatus—honest William Rolleston", as he was called, came back to sit in one more Parliament.

In 1896 he was elected for Riccarton. At that election his main thesis was an attack on the growing autocracy of Seddon. He described Seddon as "a resolute man with a great deal of intelligence, ability, and grit", but he complained of his Parliamentary dictatorship, of the impropriety of Seddon becoming adviser to a mining syndicate, page 194and the help given to this syndicate from public funds. On the other hand, he praised Sir John McKenzie, and recognised his earnest desire to promote closer settlement.

As a result of the election in 1896, Seddon's majority was substantially reduced, and the Opposition hopes began to rise. In the Government party a left wing had formed, and proved so threatening that Seddon at a party caucus declared that the question was whether the Government or the Opposition was to carry on the Government of the country.