Adam Hamilton

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Adam Hamilton
Adam Hamilton (1926).jpg
Hamilton in 1926
14th Leader of the Opposition
In office
2 November 1936 26 November 1940
Preceded by George Forbes
Succeeded by Sidney Holland
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wallace
In office
1919   1922
Preceded by John Charles Thomson
Succeeded by John Charles Thomson
In office
1925   1946
Preceded by John Charles Thomson
Succeeded by Tom Macdonald
Personal details
Born(1880-08-20)20 August 1880
Forest Hill, Southland, New Zealand
Died29 April 1952(1952-04-29) (aged 71)
Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand
Political party Reform, later National
Spouse(s)Mary Ann McDonald (m.1913)
Relations John Ronald Hamilton (brother)

Adam Hamilton (20 August 1880 – 29 April 1952) was a New Zealand politician. He was the first non-interim Leader of the National Party during its early years in Opposition.

Leader of the New Zealand National Party

The Leader of the National Party is the highest ranked politician within the National Party in New Zealand. Under the constitution of the party, he or she is required to be a member of the House of Representatives.

New Zealand National Party Major New Zealand political party

The New Zealand National Party, shortened to National or the Nats, is a centre-right political party in New Zealand. It is one of two major parties that dominate contemporary New Zealand politics, alongside its traditional rival, the New Zealand Labour Party.


Early life

Hamilton was born in Forest Hill, near Winton, Southland. He originally trained to become a Presbyterian minister, but later decided not to pursue this course. He married Mary Ann McDonald in 1913, and in 1914, he and his brother John Ronald Hamilton started a grain business in Winton. In World War I, he was rejected for service on medical grounds. [1]

Winton, New Zealand Minor urban area in South Island, New Zealand

Winton is a rural town in Southland, New Zealand. It is located close to the east bank of the Oreti River, 30 kilometres north of Invercargill and 50 kilometres south of Lumsden. The town is named after Thomas Winton, a local stockman who lived and farmed in the area in the 1850s. Winton has a population of 2,211 as of the 2013 Census. The district thrived with the development of sheep and fat-lamb farms in the early 1900s. Later, dairy farming became the staple economy, although the town has also seen sawmills, and flax and linen-flax industries.

Southland, New Zealand Region of New Zealand in South Island, New Zealand

Southland is New Zealand's southernmost region. It consists mainly of the southwestern portion of the South Island and Stewart Island / Rakiura. It includes Southland District, Gore District and the city of Invercargill. The region covers over 3.1 million hectares and spans over 3,400 km of coast.

Presbyterianism Branch of Protestant Christianity in which the church is governed by presbyters (elders)

Presbyterianism is a part of the reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland.

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
1919 1922 20th Wallace Reform
1925 1928 22nd Wallace Reform
1928 1931 23rd Wallace Reform
1931 1935 24th Wallace Reform
1935 1936 25th Wallace Reform
19361938Changed allegiance to: National
1938 1943 26th Wallace National
1943 1946 27th Wallace National

In the 1919 election, Hamilton was elected to Parliament in the Southland seat of Wallace, standing as a Reform Party candidate. His brother John Ronald Hamilton was also elected, winning the neighbouring seat of Awarua from Joseph Ward. The brothers then sold their business, although Adam Hamilton remained active in the Southland agricultural sector. In the 1922 election, the brothers were both defeated, but they regained their seats in the 1925 election. Adam Hamilton retained his seat until his retirement, although his brother was defeated again in 1928.

1919 New Zealand general election Election in New Zealand

The New Zealand general election of 1919 was held on Tuesday, 16 December in the Māori electorates, and on Wednesday, 17 December in the general electorates to elect a total of 80 MPs to the 20th session of the New Zealand Parliament. A total number of 560,673 (80.5%) voters turned out to vote.

New Zealand Parliament legislative body of New Zealand

The New Zealand Parliament is the legislature of New Zealand, consisting of the Queen of New Zealand (Queen-in-Parliament) and the New Zealand House of Representatives. The Queen is usually represented by a governor-general. Before 1951, there was an upper chamber, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world.

Wallace was a New Zealand parliamentary electorate. It was established in 1858, the first election held in 1859, and existed until 1996. For a time, it was represented by two members. In total, there were 18 Members of Parliament from the Wallace electorate.

When the Reform Party formed a coalition with the United Party, Hamilton was made Minister of Internal Affairs. He also served, at various times, as Minister of Telegraphs, Postmaster General, Minister of Labour, and Minister of Employment. He was not popular in these roles – Great Depression had resulted in high levels of unemployment, and Hamilton was often criticised for the government's failure to improve the situation. He was also criticised when the Post and Telegraph Department jammed a pro-Labour broadcast on a private radio station by Colin Scrimgeour just before the 1935 general election. Hamilton denied knowledge of the jamming, but his reputation was nevertheless damaged.

The Reform Party, formally the New Zealand Political Reform League, was New Zealand's second major political party, having been founded as a conservative response to the original Liberal Party. It was in government between 1912 and 1928, and later formed a coalition with the United Party, and then merged with United to form the modern National Party.

The United Party of New Zealand, a party formed out of the remnants of the Liberal Party, formed a government between 1928 and 1935, and in 1936 merged with the Reform Party to establish the National Party.

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

In 1935, Hamilton was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal. [2] Having served as a member of the Executive Council for more than three years, Hamilton was granted the retention of the title of "Honourable" following the 1935 election. [3]

The King George V Silver Jubilee Medal is a commemorative medal, instituted to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the accession of King George V.

Party leader

In 1936, after losing power to the Labour Party, Reform and United agreed to merge, creating the National Party. Despite his somewhat tarnished public image, Hamilton was selected to lead the new party, taking over from interim leader George Forbes. Hamilton was essentially a compromise candidate – Forbes and his main opponent, Gordon Coates, refused to serve under each other, and the Coates faction backed Hamilton as an acceptable alternative. George Forbes himself is believed to have preferred Charles Wilkinson, but Coates (formerly the leader of Reform) was determined to have a fellow Reformist as leader. Hamilton was duly elected, although only by one vote. [4]

The New Zealand Labour Party, or simply Labour, is a centre-left political party in New Zealand. The party's platform programme describes its founding principle as democratic socialism, while observers describe Labour as social-democratic and pragmatic in practice. It is a participant of the international Progressive Alliance.

George Forbes (New Zealand politician) New Zealand politician

George William Forbes was a New Zealand politician who served as the 22nd Prime Minister of New Zealand from 28 May 1930 to 6 December 1935.

Gordon Coates New Zealand politician

Joseph Gordon Coates served as the 21st Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1925 to 1928. He was the third successive Reform prime minister since 1912.

Given the narrowness of his victory, many did not see Hamilton as the National Party's real leader. He was frequently accused by being a puppet of Coates, with suggestions even being made that Hamilton was merely holding the position until Coates built up the strength to take it himself. Hamilton was not particularly charismatic, and did not inspire great loyalty from his colleagues. He was also closely associated in the public mind with the Depression era. [5]

In the 1938 election, Hamilton and the National Party were harshly critical of the Labour government, accusing it of promoting communism and of undermining the British Empire. The campaign was seen by many as alarmist and negative, and Hamilton's own performance was widely censured. On election day, National was heavily defeated.

The National Party's defeat weakened Hamilton's grasp on the leadership somewhat, but any debate as to his future was cut short by the onset of World War II. In 1940, Hamilton suggested that Labour and National should form a wartime coalition, but this was rejected by Labour leader Peter Fraser. Fraser did, however, agree to establish a six-person "War Cabinet". This cabinet would control New Zealand's military endeavours, while leaving domestic concerns to the regular cabinet. The War Cabinet would consist of four Labour MPs and two National MPs. Hamilton and Coates were National's two representatives. Participation in the War Cabinet was fatally damaging to Hamilton's leadership of the National Party, however, as many National MPs argued that he could not be party leader while serving on a Labour-led council. On 25 November, a vote of 13 to 8 replaced Hamilton with Sidney Holland. [6]

Later career

Hamilton (far left) with members of the war cabinet, 1941 Group of NZ cabinet ministers (1941).jpg
Hamilton (far left) with members of the war cabinet, 1941

Hamilton remained a part of the War Cabinet, and was eventually joined by Holland (despite the original claims that a National Party leader could not be in Cabinet). In 1942, however, National withdrew from all co-operation with the Labour Party. Hamilton, along with Gordon Coates, protested against this move, and ceased attending National caucus meetings. Both Hamilton and Coates then rejoined the war administration despite condemnation from their party colleagues. [7]

Eventually, Hamilton managed to bring about a rapprochement with the National Party, unlike Coates who became an independent, and he contested the 1943 election as a National candidate. He did not seek re-election in the 1946 election, choosing to retire from politics.

Hamilton died in Invercargill on 29 April 1952. [1]

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  1. 1 2 Gustafson, Barry. "Hamilton, Adam". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  2. "Official jubilee medals". Evening Post . CXIX (105). 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  3. "No. 34275". The London Gazette . 17 April 1936. p. 2487.
  4. Gustafson 1986, p. 17.
  5. Gustafson 1986, p. 38.
  6. Gustafson 1986, p. 39.
  7. Gustafson 1986, p. 318.

Further reading

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
John Charles Thomson
Member of Parliament for Wallace
Succeeded by
John Charles Thomson
Succeeded by
Tom Macdonald
Political offices
Preceded by
James Bell Donald
and Minister of Telegraphs

Succeeded by
Fred Jones
Preceded by
George Forbes
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Sidney Holland