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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



The story of William Rolleston is that of a man, well born and well educated in England, who desired in early life to escape from the trammels and conventions of the circle in which he found himself. He felt stifled and smothered by Old World restrictions. He saw in the young rising settlement of Canterbury the chance of freedom. But he also had a wider vision. He dreamed of the possibility in New Zealand of building up a new and better social order. It was natural that this ideal should appear readily attainable in a virgin country free from tradition and precedent. He once confided in a friend that, as a youth in England, he was considered "a terrible radical", and that it was dissatisfaction with English institutions as they existed and the hope of founding a political Utopia in a new world that impelled him to emigrate.

It was this call that led him to plunge into political life. He began in Provincial politics. He was at first a member of the Provincial Government, and later Superintendent of the Province of Canterbury. His occupancy of this post page xiiduring the last eight years of its existence coincided with its most halcyon days of prosperity and progress. During the same period he was a Member of Parliament, and later rose to Cabinet rank. In this capacity, for five years, he proved himself a constructive reformer and an administrator of outstanding ability.

Altogether he was in politics for thirty-six years, though during the last decade (1890-1900) his political fortunes were chequered, and, at successive elections he met with alternations of victory and defeat.