Edward Stafford (politician)

Last updated

Sir Edward William Stafford

Edward Stafford.jpg
3rd Premier of New Zealand
In office
2 June 1856 12 July 1861
Monarch Victoria
Governor Thomas Gore Browne
Preceded by William Fox
Succeeded by William Fox
In office
16 October 1865 28 June 1869
Governor George Grey
Preceded by Frederick Weld
Succeeded by William Fox
In office
10 September 1872 11 October 1872
Governor George Bowen
Preceded by William Fox
Succeeded by George Waterhouse
6th Colonial Secretary
In office
4 November 1856 12 July 1861
Preceded by William Richmond
Succeeded by Isaac Featherston
1st Superintendent of Nelson Province
In office
1 August 1853 September 1856
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded by John Perry Robinson
Personal details
Born(1819-04-23)23 April 1819
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died14 February 1901(1901-02-14) (aged 81)
London, England
Political partyNone
Emily Wakefield
(m. 1846;died 1857)

Mary Bartley
(m. 1859;died 1899)
Alma mater Trinity College Dublin
Signature Edward Stafford Signature.jpg

Sir Edward Stafford GCMG (23 April 1819 – 14 February 1901) served as the third Premier of New Zealand on three occasions in the mid 19th century. His total time in office is the longest of any leader without a political party. He is described as pragmatic, logical, and clear-sighted.

Prime Minister of New Zealand head of the New Zealand government

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of government of New Zealand. The incumbent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 26 October 2017.


Early life and career

Edward William Stafford was born on 23 April 1819 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His family was prosperous, enabling him to receive a good education, first at the Royal School Dungannon in Ireland where he excelled as a scholar, and then at Trinity College Dublin. In 1841–42, he undertook travel in Australia, but chose to join relatives in Nelson, New Zealand in 1843, where he soon became active in politics, criticising Governor Robert FitzRoy's "weak" response to the Wairau Affray. In 1850, he joined increasing calls for New Zealand's self-government, including universal suffrage. [1]

Edinburgh Capital city in Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.

Royal School Dungannon

The Royal School is a public mixed Grammar school located in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It was one of a number of 'free schools' created by James I in 1608 to provide an education to the sons of local merchants and farmers during the plantation of Ulster. Originally set up in Mountjoy near Lough Neagh in 1614, it moved to its present location in 1636. It was founded as a boys school but became coed in 1986 when the school amalgamated with the Dungannon High School for Girls. It has four 'sister' schools, The Royal School, Armagh in Armagh, County Armagh, The Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, The Cavan Royal School in County Cavan, and The Royal and Prior School in Raphoe, County Donegal. The original intention had been to have a "Royal School" in each of Ireland's counties but only five were actually established, the schools planned for other counties never coming into being.

Trinity College Dublin Sole college of the University of Dublin, founded 1592

Trinity College, officially the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, is the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin, a research university located in Dublin, Ireland. The college was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother" of a new university, modelled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but unlike these other ancient universities, only one college was ever established; as such, the designations "Trinity College" and "University of Dublin" are usually synonymous for practical purposes. The college is legally incorporated by "the Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and other members of the Board" as outlined by its founding charter. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland's oldest surviving university. Trinity College is widely considered the most prestigious university in Ireland and amongst the most elite in Europe, principally due to its extensive history and unique relationship with both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. In accordance with the formula of ad eundem gradum, a form of recognition that exists among the three universities, a graduate of Oxford, Cambridge, or Dublin can be conferred with the equivalent degree at either of the other two universities without further examination. Trinity College, Dublin is a sister college to St John's College, Cambridge and Oriel College, Oxford.

In 1853, Stafford became the first Superintendent of Nelson Province. Among his achievements was the establishment of an education system (compulsory, free, and secular) which was later used as the basis of the national system. His administration of Nelson Province was well regarded by many. [2]

Nelson Province Provinces of New Zealand

Nelson Province was constituted in 1853 under the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, and originally covered the entire upper South Island, including all of present-day Buller, Kaikoura, Marlborough, and Tasman districts, along with Nelson City, Grey District north of the Grey River, and the Hurunui District north of the Hurunui River. It was reduced in size by the creation of Marlborough Province in November 1859, then abolished in 1876, along with all the provinces of New Zealand.

When the New Zealand Parliament was opened, however, Stafford did not seek election, claiming that it was inappropriate to enter national politics while still holding provincial office. [3] Despite requests from politicians such as Henry Sewell, Stafford declined to stand for parliament until the election of 1855, when he was elected MP for Nelson 1855–68 (resigned). [4]

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 her governor-general. Before 1951, there was an upper chamber, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The New Zealand Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world. It has met in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, since 1865.

Henry Sewell 19th-century New Zealand politician

Henry Sewell was a prominent 19th-century New Zealand politician. He was a notable campaigner for New Zealand self-government, and is generally regarded as having been the country's first Premier, having led the Sewell Ministry in 1856. He later served as Colonial Treasurer (1856–59), as Attorney-General (1861–62), and twice as Minister of Justice.

1855 New Zealand general election New Zealand general election held in 1855

The 1855 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 2nd term. It was the second national election ever held in New Zealand, and the first one which elected a Parliament that had full authority to govern the colony.

Premier of New Zealand

New Zealand Parliament
1855 1860 2nd Town of Nelson Independent
1860 1866 3rd City of Nelson Independent
1866 1868 4th City of Nelson Independent
1868 1870 4th Timaru Independent
1871 1875 5th Timaru Independent
1875 1878 6th Timaru Independent

First term

When the position of Premier was created in 1856, Stafford refused to compete for the office. [5] Instead, it was taken by Sewell. Sewell's term, however, lasted only thirteen days, after which he was replaced by William Fox. [6] Stafford refused offers of a ministerial position from both leaders. When Fox's government fell, having lasted exactly the same number of days as Sewell's, Stafford was deemed the only suitable candidate remaining, and agreed to become Premier. [7] Stafford to date remains the youngest New Zealand Prime Minister on gaining office at 37 years, 5 weeks of age. [8]

William Fox (politician) Premier of New Zealand

Sir William Fox was the second Premier of New Zealand and held that office on four separate occasions in the 19th century, while New Zealand was still a colony. He was known for his confiscation of Māori land rights, his contributions to the education system, and his work to increase New Zealand's autonomy from Britain. He has been described as determined and intelligent, but also as bitter and "too fond" of personal attacks. Different aspects of his personality are emphasised by different accounts, changing mainly due to the reviewers' political beliefs.

Among Stafford's first acts as Premier were measures to define the relationship between central and provincial government. Also notable was the unofficial establishment of Cabinet, which met independently of the official Executive Council. This meant that much government business was conducted without the presence of the Governor, straining relations between Governor Thomas Gore Browne and parliament. [9]

Executive Council of New Zealand

The Executive Council of New Zealand is the full group of "responsible advisers" to the Governor-General of New Zealand on state and constitutional affairs. All Government ministers must be appointed as executive councillors before they are appointed as ministers; therefore all Cabinet ministers are also executive councillors. The governor-general signs a warrant of appointment for each member of the Executive Council, and separate warrants for each ministerial portfolio.

Thomas Gore Browne British colonial administrator

Colonel Sir Thomas Robert Gore Browne, was a British colonial administrator, who was Governor of St Helena, Governor of New Zealand, Governor of Tasmania and Governor of Bermuda.

Stafford also clashed with the Governor on the subject of the distribution of powers, particularly responsibility for dealings with Māori. Thomas Gore Browne, disdainful of the chaotic nature of the Sewell and Fox premierships, did not believe that parliament should have control over such an important matter, while Stafford pursued his old goal of democratic self-government. Stafford, on behalf of the new government, refused all responsibility for financing actions undertaken by the governor without parliament's approval. [10]

In 1858 and 1859, Stafford was out of New Zealand, attempting to negotiate on the country's behalf for various services. His trip proved problematic, however – during his absence, his colleagues and the governor agreed to force Māori into selling land at Waitara, despite Stafford's strong objections. Stafford condemned the decision on grounds of both economics and morality and considered resignation. Eventually, he chose to continue his premiership, but Stafford's views on relations with the Māori were eventually to cause his departure regardless – attacks by William Fox on Stafford's "weakness", and Stafford's lack of support for the Invasion of the Waikato, caused him to lose parliament's confidence by a single vote in July 1861. William Fox became Premier once again. [11]

When Fox's government fell one year later, Stafford had the opportunity to become Premier again, but declined. His stated reason for doing so was his hostility to Governor George Grey, who Stafford believed he would be unable to override on policy matters – Stafford did not wish to become Premier if the Governor would simply block his policies. Instead, Alfred Domett took the premiership. Domett's premiership has been described as "like a Stafford ministry without Stafford". Domett was replaced by Frederick Whitaker after little more than a year, but Whitaker himself only lasted a similar time before being replaced by Frederick Weld. Weld, like Domett, followed policies similar to Stafford, although did not enjoy good personal relations with him. [12]

Second term

On 16 October 1865, when Weld retired due to ill health and stress, Stafford took up the premiership once again. As Premier, he continued Weld's legislative program, but reduced what he saw as Weld's excessive expenditure (this having been one of the issues that caused the dislike between the two men). His administration was marked by efficiency and frugality. He was rewarded by the public in the 1866 election.[ citation needed ]

Stafford's relations with the Governor, however, were gradually deteriorating. In particular, there was considerable debate over responsibility for financing military activity against Maori. Stafford took the view that the conflict was essentially an "imperial" one, started and promoted by the British authorities.[ citation needed ] As such, he objected to the British view that the colonial parliament should have primary responsibility for crushing the "rebel" tribes, and ignored the Governor's complaints about drastically reduced military expenditure. When the British government finally surrendered responsibility for dealing with the Maori, it demanded Stafford give substantial compensation for the costs of its military ventures. Stafford refused, and presented his own counter-claim for settler losses. In 1868, an agreement was reached where both sides would drop their claims.[ citation needed ]

Stafford's government maintained generally good relations with Māori for some time. This exemplified by the establishment of Māori seats in parliament in 1867, and by Stafford's request for the governor to pardon "rebel" Māori chiefs. However, the sudden military successes of Te Kooti and Titokowaru caused many to claim that Stafford's attempts at reconciliation had been misjudged.[ citation needed ]

Stafford sought to call an election and gain a fresh mandate, but his move was blocked by Governor George Bowen, who had a strong dislike of Stafford. Stafford's government was defeated in 1869. His replacement was, once again, William Fox.

Third term

Edward Stafford. Edward William Stafford.jpg
Edward Stafford.

Fox's government became increasingly dominated by its financial leader, Julius Vogel, and Stafford began to focus on him rather than on Fox. Stafford did not greatly disapprove of Vogel's extensive public works plans, but complained that Vogel was reckless in their implementation. Fox's diminishing control over his administration eventually allowed Stafford to reclaim the premiership in 1872. Stafford's majority was small, however, and he was soon defeated in a vote of no confidence. With Bowen again refusing permission for an election, Stafford had no option but to resign. He was replaced by George Waterhouse.[ citation needed ]

Stafford briefly attempted to unify the opposition, but found too many disparate personalities. Increasingly, Stafford began to work with Julius Vogel – despite Stafford's criticism of Vogel's financial policies, and Vogel's role in ending Stafford's last premiership, the two shared many similar views. When Vogel became Premier, Stafford was offered a ministerial position, but declined on the grounds that he needed to attend to personal affairs.[ citation needed ]

Later life

Stafford resigned from Nelson on 19 November 1868, and was elected MP for Timaru on 20 November 1868. He represented that electorate until he resigned on 25 February 1878. [4] When Vogel was seeking to retire, Stafford again had a chance to return to government, but again declined. Stafford retired in 1878, strongly disliking the new premiership of former governor George Grey.

Stafford spent considerable time in England, devoting himself to business pursuits. He was granted a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George on his arrival, and was also offered governorships of Madras (now known as Chennai) and Queensland, which he declined. Upgraded to a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 1887 Golden Jubilee Honours, [13] Stafford died in London on 14 February 1901. He was survived by three daughters and three sons, the product of his marriage to Mary Bartley in 1859. Mary had died in 1899. A prior marriage to Emily Charlotte, daughter of William Wakefield, had been childless, with Emily having died in 1857 at the age of 29.

Related Research Articles

John Ballance 14th Premier of New Zealand

John Ballance was an Irish-born New Zealand politician who was the 14th Premier of New Zealand, from January 1891 to April 1893, the founder of the Liberal Party, and a Georgist. In 1891 he led his party to its first election victory, forming the first New Zealand government along party lines, but died in office three years later. Ballance supported votes for women and land reform, though at considerable cost to Māori.

Julius Vogel 8th Premier of New Zealand

Sir Julius Vogel was the eighth Premier of New Zealand. His administration is best remembered for the issuing of bonds to fund railway construction and other public works. He was the first Jewish prime minister of New Zealand. Historian Warwick R. Armstrong assesses Vogel's strengths and weaknesses:

Vogel's politics were like his nature, imaginative – and occasionally brilliant – but reckless and speculative. He was an excellent policymaker but he needed a strong leader to restrain him....Yet Vogel had vision. He saw New Zealand as a potential 'Britain of the South Seas', strong both in agriculture and in industry, and inhabited by a large and flourishing population.

Harry Atkinson Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Harry Albert Atkinson served as the tenth Premier of New Zealand on four separate occasions in the late 19th century, and was Colonial Treasurer for a total of ten years. He was responsible for guiding the country during a time of economic depression, and was known as a cautious and prudent manager of government finances, though distrusted for some radical policies such as his 1882 National Insurance (welfare) scheme and leasehold land schemes. He also participated in the formation of voluntary military units to fight in the New Zealand Wars, and was noted for his strong belief in the need for seizure of Māori land.

The 1st New Zealand Parliament was a term of the Parliament of New Zealand. It opened on 24 May 1854, following New Zealand's first general election. It was dissolved on 15 September 1855 in preparation for that year's election. 37 Members of the House of Representatives (MHRs) represented 24 electorates.

Dillon Bell New Zealand politician

Sir Francis Dillon Bell was a New Zealand politician of the late 19th century. He served as New Zealand's third Minister of Finance, and later as its third Speaker of the House. The town of Bell Block near New Plymouth – on land Bell bought from the Puketapu iwi in 1849 – is named after him, as is Bell Street, Whanganui. Bell's son, Francis Henry Dillon Bell, became the first New Zealand born Prime Minister in 1925.

David Monro New Zealand politician

Sir David Monro was a New Zealand politician. He served as Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives from 1861 to 1870.

Alfred Domett Prime Minister of New Zealand

Alfred Domett, was an English colonial statesman and poet. He was New Zealand's fourth Premier.

Frederick Weld Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Frederick Aloysius Weld, was a New Zealand politician and a governor of various British colonies. He was the sixth Premier of New Zealand, and later served as Governor of Western Australia, Governor of Tasmania, and Governor of the Straits Settlements.

The 2nd New Zealand Parliament was a term of the Parliament of New Zealand. It opened on 15 April 1856, following New Zealand's 1855 election. It was dissolved on 5 November 1860 in preparation for 1860–61 election. The 2nd Parliament was the first under which New Zealand had responsible government, meaning that unlike previously, the Cabinet was chosen by Parliament rather than by the Governor.

The following lists events that happened during 1869 in New Zealand.

The following lists events that happened during 1856 in New Zealand.

The third New Zealand Parliament was a term of the Parliament of New Zealand. Elections for this term were held between 12 December 1860 and 28 March 1861 in 43 electorates to elect 53 MPs. Two electorates were added to this during this term, Gold Fields District and a new Dunedin electorate created by splitting the existing City of Dunedin into Dunedin and Suburbs North and Dunedin and Suburbs South, increasing the number of MPs to 57. During the term of this Parliament, six Ministries were in power.

1860 Town of Christchurch by-election New Zealand by-election

The Town of Christchurch by-election in 1860 was triggered by the resignation of Richard Packer as the Member of the House of Representatives for the Town of Christchurch electorate, and occurred during the term of the 2nd New Zealand Parliament. The previous representative of the electorate, the politician Henry Sewell, had returned after three years in England and the general expectation was that Sewell would be the sole contender for election. The Lyttelton Times wrote several provocative editorials, generally endorsing Sewell for his obvious ability, but criticising him for not publicly talking about his policies and plans. Sewell eventually arranged a public meeting the evening prior to nomination day; this was the only public meeting during the election campaign. After a lengthy address, which was favourably received by the Lyttelton Times, a second contender for the office put his name forward at that meeting: the publican Michael Hart. Sewell, a former premier and one of New Zealand's most senior politicians at the time, was successful against the political novice Hart.

Colony of New Zealand constitutional monarchy in Oceania between 1841-1907

The Colony of New Zealand was a British colony that existed in New Zealand from 1841 to 1907, created as a Crown colony. The power of the British Government was vested in a governor, but the colony was granted self-government in 1852. The 1852 Constitution was inaugurated after the first parliament was elected in 1853, and the first government of New Zealand was formed in 1856. The Colony of New Zealand had three capitals: Old Russell (1841), Auckland (1841–1865), and Wellington. In 1907, the colony became the Dominion of New Zealand with a more explicit recognition of self-government within the British Empire.

This is a chronological list of all the living people who have served as Prime Minister of New Zealand at each moment in New Zealand history. In 2016, Radio New Zealand published a podcast series of interviews of all five of the former prime ministers, although before the series was completed, the sitting Prime Minister resigned, becoming the 6th former prime minister, but he declined to participate in the series. In 2017, four of the then-six former PMs spoke jointly about increasing refugee immigration to New Zealand.

The 1872 Egmont by-election was a by-election held on 3 October 1872 during the 5th New Zealand Parliament in the Taranaki electorate of Egmont.


  1. Public Meeting, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume IX, Issue 456, 30 November 1850, Page 158
  2. Election Intelligence, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XIV, 7 November 1855, Page 2
  3. Edmund Bohan (19 February 2014). "Story: Stafford, Edward William". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand . Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  4. 1 2 Scholefield 1950, p. 140.
  5. House of Representatives, Daily Southern Cross, Volume XIII, Issue 919, 18 April 1856, Page 3
  6. General Assembly, House of Representatives, Saturday, 3 May 1856, Daily Southern Cross, Volume XIII, Issue 925, 9 May 1856, Page 2
  7. Bohan 1994, p. 96.
  8. . 'NZ politics, Premiers and PMs'.
  9. Bohan 1994, p. 100.
  10. Bohan 1994, p. 84.
  11. Bohan 1994, p. 168.
  12. Bohan 1994, p. 198.
  13. "No. 25712". The London Gazette . 5 January 1888. p. 212.


Political offices
New office Superintendent of Nelson Province
Succeeded by
John Perry Robinson
Preceded by
William Fox
Premier of New Zealand
Succeeded by
William Fox
Preceded by
Frederick Weld
Succeeded by
William Fox
Preceded by
William Fox
Succeeded by
George Waterhouse
Preceded by
William Richmond
Colonial Secretary of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Isaac Featherston
Preceded by
John Richardson
Succeeded by
James Paterson
Preceded by
John Hall
Succeeded by
Julius Vogel
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
James Mackay
Samuel Stephens
Member of Parliament for Nelson
Served alongside: Alfred Domett, Oswald Curtis
Succeeded by
Nathaniel Edwards
Preceded by
Alfred Cox
Member of Parliament for Timaru
Succeeded by
Richard Turnbull