1881 New Zealand general election

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1881 general election
Flag of New Zealand.svg
  1879 8 (Māori) & 9 (general) December 1881 1884  

All 95 seats in the House of Representatives
 First partySecond party
  Sir John Hall, ca 1880.jpg George Grey, c. 1875.jpg
Leader John Hall George Grey
Party Independent Independent
Leader since18781877
Leader's seat Selwyn Auckland East
Seats won4539
Seat changeSteady2.svg 0Decrease2.svg 2
Popular voteN/AN/A

Prime Minister before election

John Hall

Subsequent Prime Minister

John Hall

The New Zealand general election of 1881 was held on 8 and 9 December in the Māori and European electorates, respectively, to elect 95 MPs to the 8th session of the New Zealand Parliament.


1881 was the first time a general election was held under universal male suffrage; all MPs were elected in single-member electorates; and the country quota was introduced, allowing rural electorates to have 25% fewer voters than urban electorates. Beginning with the 1881 election, all elections in European electorates were to be held on the same day, a measure not introduced for Māori electorates until 1951. [1]

1881 electoral redistribution

The previous electoral redistribution was undertaken in 1875 for the 1875–76 election. In the six years since, New Zealand's European population had increased by 65%. In the 1881 electoral redistribution, the House of Representatives increased the number of European representatives to 91 (up from 84 since the 1875–76 election). The number of Māori electorates was held at four. The House further decided that electorates should not have more than one representative, which led to 35 new electorates being formed: Ashburton, Auckland North, Awarua, Christchurch North, Christchurch South, Coromandel, Dunedin Central, Dunedin East, Dunedin South, Dunedin West, Foxton, Franklin North, Franklin South, Hawke's Bay, Hokonui, Inangahua, Kumara, Lincoln, Manukau, Moeraki, Peninsula, St Albans, Stanmore, Sydenham, Taranaki, Tauranga, Te Aro, Thorndon, Waimate, Waipawa, Wairarapa North, Wairarapa South, Waitotara, Wakanui, and Wellington South. In addition, two electorates that had previously been abolished were recreated: Bay of Islands and Oamaru. [2]

These changes necessitated a major disruption to existing boundaries. Only six electorates remained unchanged: Waikato, Waipa, Bruce, Lyttelton, Nelson, and Picton. [2]

The electoral distribution was the first that formally acknowledged the existence of a country quota, where country electorates contained 25% fewer voters than town electorates. [3]

The election

The 1881 election was held on Thursday, 8 December, in the Māori electorates and on Friday, 9 December, in the European electorates to elect a total of 95 MPs to the 8th Parliament. A total number of 120,972 (66.5%) voters turned out to vote. [4] In 11 seats there was only one candidate. [5] 36 and 55 seats were in the North Island and South Island, respectively, plus the 4 Māori electorates. [6]

The incumbent government led by John Hall retained office having support from 45 members with 39 "Greyites" (supporters of George Grey) and 11 Independents not affiliated with either faction. [7]


The following table shows the successful candidate for each electorate. [8]

MemberElectorateAffiliationMP's term
William Montgomery Akaroa GreyiteFourth
Edward George Wright Ashburton GreyiteSecond
William Fisher Pearson Ashley GreyiteFirst
George Grey Auckland East GreyiteFourth
Thomas Peacock Auckland North IndependentFirst
Joseph Dargaville Auckland West IndependentFirst
William Rolleston Avon ConservativeFifth
James Parker Joyce Awarua GreyiteSecond
Richard Hobbs Bay of Islands ConservativeSecond
James Rutherford Bruce IndependentFirst
John Munro Buller Independent LiberalFirst
William Barron Caversham GreyiteSecond
Hugh McIlraith Cheviot ConservativeFirst
Henry Thomson Christchurch North ConservativeFirst
John Holmes Christchurch South GreyiteFirst
James William Thomson Clutha ConservativeFourth
David McMillan Coleridge ConservativeFirst
Alfred Cadman Coromandel GreyiteFirst
Thomas Bracken Dunedin Central GreyiteFirst
Matthew Green Dunedin East IndependentFirst
Henry Fish Dunedin South IndependentFirst
Thomas Dick Dunedin West ConservativeFourth
Vincent Pyke Dunstan GreyiteFourth
Allan McDonald East Coast GreyiteSecond
Joseph Tole Eden GreyiteThird
Harry Atkinson Egmont ConservativeSixth
James Wilson Foxton ConservativeFirst
Benjamin Harris Franklin North GreyiteSecond
Ebenezer Hamlin Franklin South GreyiteThird
William Postlethwaite Geraldine ConservativeFirst
James Sutter Gladstone IndependentFirst
Joseph Petrie Greymouth ConservativeFirst
Fred Sutton Hawkes Bay ConservativeThird
Henry Wynn-Williams Heathcote ConservativeFirst
Gerard George Fitzgerald Hokitika ConservativeFirst
Henry Driver Hokonui ConservativeFifth
Thomas Mason Hutt ConservativeSecond
Thomas S. Weston Inangahua ConservativeSecond
Henry Feldwick Invercargill GreyiteSecond
Isaac Wilson Kaiapoi ConservativeFirst
Richard Seddon Kumara GreyiteSecond
Arthur O'Callaghan Lincoln ConservativeFirst
Harry Allwright Lyttelton ConservativeSecond
Walter Woods Johnston Manawatu ConservativeFourth
Maurice O'Rorke Manukau IndependentSixth
Edwin Mitchelson Marsden ConservativeFirst
Francis Wallace Mackenzie Mataura GreyiteFirst
John McKenzie Moeraki GreyiteFirst
Richmond Hursthouse Motueka ConservativeThird
Cecil de Lautour Mount Ida GreyiteThird
John Buchanan Napier GreyiteFirst
Henry Levestam Nelson GreyiteSecond
Thomas Kelly New Plymouth ConservativeFifth
William Swanson Newton ConservativeFourth
Samuel Shrimski Oamaru GreyiteThird
Frederick Moss Parnell GreyiteThird
James Seaton Peninsula GreyiteSecond
Edward Connoly Picton ConservativeFirst
James Macandrew Port Chalmers GreyiteEighth
John Stevens Rangitikei Independent LiberalFirst
Seymour Thorne George Rodney GreyiteThird
John Bathgate Roslyn GreyiteSecond
John Hall Selwyn ConservativeFifth
John Evans Brown St Albans GreyiteThird
Walter Pilliet Stanmore ConservativeFirst
William White Sydenham GreyiteFirst
James Fulton Taieri ConservativeSecond
Robert Trimble Taranaki ConservativeSecond
George Morris Tauranga ConservativeSecond
Charles John Johnston Te Aro ConservativeFirst
John Sheehan Thames IndependentFourth
William Levin Thorndon ConservativeSecond
Richard Turnbull Timaru GreyiteThird
James Clark Brown Tuapeka GreyiteFifth
John Blair Whyte Waikato ConservativeSecond
James Green Waikouaiti ConservativeSecond
William Steward Waimate ConservativeSecond
Joseph Shephard Waimea GreyiteThird
Frederick Alexander Whitaker Waipa ConservativeSecond
William Cowper Smith Waipawa Independent LiberalFirst
George Beetham Wairarapa North ConservativeThird
Walter Clarke Buchanan Wairarapa South ConservativeFirst
Henry Dodson Wairau GreyiteFirst
Thomas Young Duncan Waitaki GreyiteFirst
William John Hurst Waitemata ConservativeSecond
John Bryce Waitotara ConservativeFifth
Cathcart Wason Wakanui ConservativeSecond
Thomas Fergus Wakatipu ConservativeFirst
Theophilus Daniel Wallace GreyiteFirst
William Hogg Watt Wanganui ConservativeSecond
William Hutchison Wellington South GreyiteSecond
Henare Tomoana X-01 Eastern Maori ConservativeThird
Hone Tawhai X-02 Northern Maori GreyiteSecond
Hori Kerei Taiaroa X-03 Southern Maori GreyiteFourth
Wiremu Te Wheoro X-04 Western Maori GreyiteSecond


  1. "The Origins of the Māori Seats". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  2. 1 2 McRobie 1989, pp. 43–48.
  3. McRobie 1989, p. 47.
  4. "General elections 1853-2005 - dates & turnout". Elections New Zealand. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  5. Wilson 1985, p. 286.
  6. Wilson 1985, p. 173.
  7. "New Elections". Thames Star. XII (4042). 12 December 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  8. Cooper 1882, pp. 1–3.