Robert McNab

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Robert McNab in 1908 Robert McNab (1908).jpg
Robert McNab in 1908

Robert McNab (1 October 1864 – 3 February 1917) was a New Zealand lawyer, farmer, historian, and politician of the Liberal Party. He was Minister of Justice for the 18 months before his death.

The New Zealand Liberal Party was the first organised political party in New Zealand. It governed from 1891 until 1912. The Liberal strategy was to create a large class of small land-owning farmers who supported Liberal ideals, by buying large tracts of Māori land and selling it to small farmers on credit. The Liberal Government also established the basis of the later welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and trade unions. In 1893 it extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.

Minister of Justice (New Zealand) New Zealand minister of the Crown

The Minister of Justice is a minister in the government of New Zealand. The minister has responsibility for the formulation of justice policy and for the administration of law courts.


Early life

McNab was born in 1864 at Dunragget farm near Invercargill. His parents were Janet and Alexander McNab, a runholder. [1] His father represented the Murihiku electorate on the Otago Provincial Council (1858–1861), [2] and the Cambelltown electorate on the Southland Provincial Council (1861–1865), and was for short periods on the Southland Executive Council and the council's Speaker. [3]

Invercargill City in South Island, New Zealand

Invercargill is the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world. It is the commercial centre of the Southland region. The city lies in the heart of the wide expanse of the Southland Plains on the Oreti or New River some 18 km north of Bluff, which is the southernmost town in the South Island. It sits amid rich farmland that is bordered by large areas of conservation land and marine reserves, including Fiordland National Park covering the south-west corner of the South Island and the Catlins coastal region.

Robert McNab received his education from Invercargill District High School and the University of Otago, from where he graduated with a BA in 1893, an MA in mathematics and mathematical physics in 1885, and LLB in 1891. He was admitted to the bar in 1889 and had a law practice in Invercargill from 1890 to 1896, which was followed by running the family farm on the upper Mataura River. [1]

University of Otago university in New Zealand

The University of Otago is a collegiate university based in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. It scores highly for average research quality, and in 2006 was second in New Zealand only to the University of Auckland in the number of A-rated academic researchers it employs. In the past it has topped the New Zealand Performance Based Research Fund evaluation.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.

A Master of Arts is a person who was admitted to a type of master's degree awarded by universities in many countries, and the degree is also named Master of Arts in colloquial speech. The degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history, communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

Political career

New Zealand Parliament
1893 1896 12th Mataura Liberal
1898 1899 13th Mataura Liberal
1899 1902 14th Mataura Liberal
1902 1905 15th Mataura Liberal
1905 1908 16th Mataura Liberal
1914 1917 19th Hawkes Bay Liberal

He represented the Mataura electorate from 1893 to 1896 when he was defeated by George Richardson. In 1898 Richardson was adjudged bankrupt. McNab won the subsequent by-election, and held the seat again to 1908 when he was again defeated, by George James Anderson. In 1914 he won the Hawkes Bay seat, which he held until he died in 1917. [4]

Mataura was a parliamentary electorate in the Southland Region of New Zealand, from 1866 to 1946.

George Richardson (New Zealand politician) New Zealand politician

George Frederick Richardson, sometimes published as George Francis Richardson, was a 19th-century Member of Parliament in Southland, New Zealand and a cabinet minister.

A by-election, also spelled bye-election, is an election used to fill an office that has become vacant between general elections.

He was a Cabinet Minister, and was Minister of Lands, and Minister of Agriculture, from 1906 to 1908 in the Ward Ministry. [5] He was Minister of Justice, Minister of Marine, and Minister of Stamp Duties from 1915 to his death in 1917 in the Reform Government when Reform was in a temporary wartime coalition with the Liberals. [6]

The Reform Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand from 1912 to 1928. It is perhaps best remembered for its anti-trade union stance in the Waihi miners' strike of 1912 and a dockworkers' strike the following year. It also governed during World War I, during which a temporary coalition was formed with the Liberal Party.

Historical work

McNab began researching New Zealand history in the late 1890s, and published numerous articles and books including the Historical Records of New Zealand at the request of the government. In 1913 McNab donated his collection of 4,200 books on history and geography to the Dunedin Public Library, with the condition the collection be added to continually. [1] As of 2008, the McNab New Zealand Collection contains around 83,000 items.


McNab, who never married, died in Wellington on 3 February 1917. He was buried in Invercargill. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Traue, J. E. "McNab, Robert". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  2. Scholefield 1950, p. 222.
  3. Scholefield 1950, pp. 225ff.
  4. Wilson 1985, p. 217.
  5. Wilson 1985, p. 74.
  6. Wilson 1985, p. 76.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Alexander Herdman
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Josiah Hanan
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
George Richardson
Member of Parliament for Mataura
Succeeded by
George Richardson
Succeeded by
George James Anderson
Preceded by
Hugh Campbell
Member of Parliament for Hawkes Bay
Succeeded by
John Findlay