The Industrious Heart A History of New Plymouth / 17


Governor Gipps (who ruled New Zealand from Sydney between 1839 and 1840): 'Absent'. Governor Hobson (1840-1842): 'The invalid'. Acting Governor Shortland (1842-1843): 'Incompetent'. Governor FitzRoy (1843-1845): 'Without troops, without money, with- out discretion'. Governor Grey (first term 1845-1853): 'Energetic but deceitful'. This was the opinion of the outspoken editor of the Taranaki Herald, Garland Woon, I of the first five men appointed to govern New Zealand as personal representatives of the British monarch. It is a somewhat uncharitable view shared by many historians; but the difficulties faced were enormous and, as they' governed from a distance' perhaps not fully understood in the backwater of New Plymouth. Their first task had been to establish a stable administration, made doubly difficult by financial restrictions and unsettled relations between Maori and pakeha. In the beginning the country was divided into three provinces-New Ulster (the North Island), New Munster (the South Island) and New Leinster (Stewart Island). In 1846 New Leinster was merged with New Munster, the northern boundary ofwhich extended up to an east-west line from the mouth of the Pate a River. The 1852 New Zealand Constitution Acts of Westminster, abolished the two provinces and substituted six (at Grey's institution), of which New Plymouth (renamed Taranaki in 1858) was the smallest, and which itself was divided into three districts: Omata, Grey and Bell and New Plymouth.
Taranaki's first electoral roll, published in May 1852 showed that there were 105 voters in the town of New Plymouth and 175 in the Taranaki Country Districts. Voters' qualifications were: 'A freehold estate valued at £50 ($100) above all charges and encumbrances, the owner being of the male sex and over 21 years of age'; or being 'a householder occupying a tenement within the limits of a town of a clear annual value of £5 ($10) and having resided therein six calendar months before registration. At the first session of the General Assembly at Auckland on May 27 1854, Major J. Y. Lloyd represented Taranaki in the Legislative Council, and those in the House of Representatives were Wm M. Crompton for Omata, T. King for Grey and Bell, and f. U. Gledhill for New Plymouth. Gledhill, who owned a general store in Devon Street was defeated the following year by C. W. Richmond, but he won the seat for Omata in 1865. He was a member of the Provincial Council until that body was abolished in 1876. Christopher William Richmond, MHR for seven years, was a member of one of New Plymouth's most distinguished families. One of three brothers, his political and administrative abilities soon found avour with the Stafford administration. He became Colonial Secretary in 1865; Colonial Treasurer in the following year, and Minister for Native Affairs in 1858, a post for which he was particularly suited, as it was his concern over the frustration of the Taranaki settlers disturbed by inter-racial warfare over land sales which had prompted him to enter the political arena. However, he found the political bickering and the perpetual jostling for influence in the corridors of power distasteful. In July 1861 a parliamentary select committee justly exonerated him from a loosely- worded charge by Dr Isaac Featherston, that he (Richmond) as a member of the executive, had exerted improper influence in regard to the purchase of land in Taranaki. Featherston, then Colonial Secretary, held the view (in common with many colonists) that the Maoris, as a race, were doomed to extinction, and that the most Europeans could do would do be to 'smooth down their dying pillow'
He supported William Fox's 'peace at any price' policy, as against Richmond's endorsement of the Government's war policy. It was tactics such as these which no doubt led to Richmond resigning his Cabinet post and his New Plymouth seat in 1862 to take up a legal practice in Dunedin. He was made a Judge of the Otago circuit in that year, and later turned down tempting lures from Stafford to return to politics, the premiership being offered him if he so wished. He died in Wellington on August 3, 1895. I. N. Watt (1862-1863) and H. Turton (1863-64) were next holders of the New Plymouth seat, and in 1864, Charles Brown, who had been Taranaki's first Superintendent and who had represented Grey and Bell districts on two occasions, was elected to the New Plymouth seat. The first Premier of New Zealand, Henry Sewell, who held that post for a fortnight in 1856, held the New Plymouth seat for one session in 1865, his final term in the House after a long and distinguished parliamentary career. John Larkin Cheese Richardson, of Otago, represented Dunedin in the House of Representatives from 1862 until his defeat in 1866, when the Government gave him the Taranaki seat which he held for one year. He was elevated to Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 1868. Harry Albert Atkinson's first task on arriving in New Plymouth, aged 19, was to assist his relatives in developing their 400ha of farmland on which they built the family home, Hurworth (named after his father's home in Durham) on Carrington Road. He began his long parliamentary career when he was elected unopposed to Grey and Bell in 1861 and he held the New Plymouth seat in 1866. He joined the Vogel ministry, gradually assuming charge of the government and in 1876 he became prime minister, a post he held for five terms, during the last of which, in 1889, he held eight portfolios. Atkinson was an outstanding man in many ways: he classed himself as a man of the land, a yeoman; others called him a conservative, one of the last of the landed oligarchy to hold political power in New Zealand." It was Atkinson who, in 1875, pushed through the Bill abolishing the provinces. His ministry was defeated in the 1891 elections, and he died in Parliament Buildings on June 28, 1892, at the start of the new parliamentary session.

Up until 1880 there was no political parties as such, but only shifting parliamentary factions revolving round national leaders and conserv- atism had dominated politics. Typical of many farmers was William Hine, who owned property on part of which the Crematorium now stands. In 1882 he wrote to his brother in England: ' I like to hear from the old country .I hope Gladstone will never get in office again. Ireland would never have been so bad but for him. The lower class in England would never have been so bad but for him. I see they want paid members of parliament. That is the case here, but here you would get the worst class of men. (In New Zealand payment of members took the form of an allowance under the Parliamentary Honorarium and Privileges Act of 1884, later amended to provide for annual salaries.) But other voices were being heard; other influences appeared. Smallholders on the outskirts of the town, and much of the urban population sought change. The 1884 general election was perhaps the most important in New Plymouth up to that date, for it marked the beginnings of liberalism as a political force, although no party organisa- tion existed in the accepted sense. Four candidates presented them selves. Thomas Kelly then 53, had represented the town since 1869, and he had a reputation for' supporting every Premier regardless of policy'. He was well-liked in the town, and the consensus was that he was unlikely to be unseated in the 1884 election. Charles Brown, a former member, had been unsuccessful in his bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in 1881. 'An honest politician' the Taranaki Daily News called him. Edwin Metcalfe Smith; 'the working man's candidate' was one of the most colourful characters ever to campaign in the province. He was an experienced armourer and ironworker and had fanatical faith in New Plymouth's natural resources, having drilled several oil wells and establishing the New Zealand Steel and Iron Company and the Te Henui Ironworks (this earned him the nick-name of 'Ironsand'); he had produced what he claimed was the first gramophone record made in the colony, and had advocated a floating breakwater for the port. The idea of this' eccentric' man standing for parliament was almost a joke, but many of the large attendance in his electorate in June 1884 were soon aware that there was more to him than met the eye, or the ear as he was to demonstrate fifteen years later when he was elected. Oliver Samuel (35) was the fourth candidate. He was a fluent speaker and an able lawyer; he was a Borough Council and Taranaki County Council member, a legal advisor to several local bodies, a keen sportsman, and his marriage to the daughter of Octavius Carrington, gave him a link with the town's 'aristocracy'. He referred to himself as 'a Social Darwinist denouncer of fads'. At his first electioneering address he told the big crowd that his reason for standing was that he wanted to see a change and he did not think the others could defeat Kelly. The election proved him right. The town shut up shop for the day and crowded round the single booth to hear the results. Samuel took 27% of the poll with 243 votes (the lowest number recorded by a successful candidate in the colony; Kelly received 138 and Brown 82. The surprise was not the defeat of Kelly, but Smith's remarkable 172 votes, which reflected the desire of 'the working man' to be represented in the House. Samuel became a keen supporter of the Liberal movement led by John Ballance, MP for Wanganui. He served for two terms, in 1884-1890. His last year in office was one of depression and political unrest: there had been strikes in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and in the elections of December 5, Ballance led the Liberals to victory. At that election 'Ironsand' Smith won the New Plymouth seat, campaigning as a Liberal. An event of great significance accompanied the 1893 election (again won by Smith). Ballance with Stout and Vogel, had seriously advocated women's suffrage in Parliament, which was achieved in that year. 'Thus, in the election of November 1893 the women of New Zealand, enrolling and voting in numbers that astonished the country, first exercised their right to use the ballot box in a State or National election. New Plymouth women were eager. The polling booth was in the downstairs chamber of the Borough Council building, instead of the usual upstairs courtroom. 'The Registrar, Mr T. Shailer Weston, in order to avoid congestion, wisely arranged for the voters to proceed through the building after recording their votes. "As soon as the door was opened at 9 a.m. there was a rush of female voters and for some considerable time the booth was thronged by women." The result: "Jronsand" Smith "convincingly retained his seat for the Seddon Government" (Ballance died earlier that year). "Upon the declaration of the poll Mr Smith, sitting in his trap, was dragged by enthusiastic supporters to the town's centre." The Herald added: "the only thing that could be taken exception to being egg-throwing. The female voters were not blamed" .In 1896 a change in the electoral boundaries embraced New Plymouth in the much wider area of Taranaki, in which farmers were able to exert greater influence. Consequently a Conservative, H. Brown, won the New Plymouth seat which he occupied for three years.

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