William Russell (New Zealand politician)

Last updated

Sir William Russell
William Russell, ca 1878.jpg
William Russell in ca 1878
4th Leader of the Opposition
In office
26 June 1894 3 July 1901
Deputy James Allen
Preceded by William Rolleston
Succeeded by William Massey
7th Minister of Defence
In office
17 October 1889 24 January 1891
Prime Minister Harry Atkinson
Preceded by Thomas Fergus
Succeeded by Richard Seddon
Personal details
William Russell Russell

(1838-11-12)12 November 1838
Sandhurst, Berkshire, England
Died24 September 1913(1913-09-24) (aged 74)
Napier, New Zealand
Spouse(s)Harriette Julia Hodgkinson
Relations Andrew Russell (father)
Children7 sons & 4 daughters

Sir William Russell Russell (12 November 1838 – 24 September 1913) was a New Zealand politician from 1870 to 1905. He was a cabinet minister, and was recognised as Leader of the Opposition from 1894 to 1901. Though considered by other politicians to have little sympathy with working people as a major landowner his panache and involvement in local affairs led him to be liked and admired by Hawkes Bay's élite.

Leader of the Opposition (New Zealand) parliamentary position of the Parliament of New Zealand

In New Zealand, the Leader of the Opposition is the politician who commands the support of the Official Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition by convention leads the largest party not supporting the government: this is usually the parliamentary leader of the second largest caucus in the House of Representatives. In the debating chamber the Leader of the Opposition sits directly opposite the Prime Minister.


Early life

Russell was born in Sandhurst, Berkshire England and educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. [1] His father Andrew Russell was in the 58th Regiment of Foot, and Russell came with him to New Zealand in the 1840s. He then joined the 58th Regiment, and came to New Zealand as an ensign in 1857. He transferred to the 14th Regiment of Foot and came out to Auckland in 1861, serving until 1862. In 1862 he sold his Captain’s commission to settle in Hawkes Bay taking up with his brother 31,000 acres of rolling hill country 25 miles west of Napier in Tunanui, part of it later known as Sherenden. [1]

Sandhurst, Berkshire town in Berkshire, England

Sandhurst is a small town and civil parish in England of 7,966 homes and 20,803 inhabitants, primarily domiciliary in nature with a few light industries. It is in the south eastern corner of the ceremonial Royal County of Berkshire, within the Borough of Bracknell Forest, and is situated 32 miles (51 km) west-southwest of central London, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north west of Camberley and 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Bracknell.

Berkshire County of England

Berkshire is one of the home counties in England. It was recognised by the Queen as the Royal County of Berkshire in 1957 because of the presence of Windsor Castle, and letters patent were issued in 1974. Berkshire is a county of historic origin, a ceremonial county and a non-metropolitan county without a county council. The county town is Reading.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.


New Zealand Parliament
1875 1879 6th Napier Independent
1879 1881 7th Napier Independent
1884 1887 9th Hawke's Bay Independent
1887 1890 10th Hawke's Bay Independent
1890 1893 11th Hawke's Bay Independent
1893 1896 12th Hawke's Bay Independent
1896 1899 13th Hawke's Bay Independent
1899 1902 14th Hawke's Bay Independent
1902 1905 15th Hawke's Bay Independent

Russell was a member of the Hawke's Bay Provincial Council from 1870 until the abolition of the provinces in 1876. [1] He won the election for the Napier electorate in the New Zealand Parliament on 30 December 1875 in the 1875 general election, and was re-elected on 8 September 1879 in the 1879 general election. In 1881 after an electorate redistribution, he was defeated by Fred Sutton for the Hawke's Bay electorate. He won the seat on 22 July 1884 in the 1884 general election, and held it until he was defeated by Alfred Dillon in 1905. [2]

Napier (New Zealand electorate) New Zealand parliamentary electorate

Napier is a New Zealand parliamentary electorate, returning one Member of Parliament to the House of Representatives. It is named after the city of Napier, the main urban area within the electorate. The electorate was established for the 1861 election and has existed since. Since the 2014 general election, Napier has been held by Stuart Nash of the New Zealand Labour Party. Previously, it had been held by Chris Tremain of the New Zealand National Party, who stood down prior to the 2014 election.

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.

1875–76 New Zealand general election

The New Zealand general election of 1875–76 was held between 20 December 1875 and 29 January 1876 to elect a total of 88 MPs in 73 electorates to the 6th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Māori vote was held on 4 and 15 January 1876. A total of 56,471 voters were registered.

He was a Minister (Postmaster-General) in the short-lived Fourth Atkinson ministry of 1884; which lasted only six (or fourteen) days. In 1889 he joined the Fifth (and last) Atkinson ministry of 1887 as Colonial Secretary, Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice. He represented New Zealand at the Federation Conference in Melbourne in 1890, and later at the Australian National Convention in Sydney in 1892. [1]

Minister of Defence (New Zealand) minister in the government of New Zealand

The Minister of Defence is a minister in the government of New Zealand with responsibility for the New Zealand armed forces and the Ministry of Defence.

Minister of Justice (New Zealand) Minister of Justice in New Zealand

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.

Federation of Australia process by which six separate British self-governing colonies became the country of Australia

The Federation of Australia was the process by which the six separate British self-governing colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia agreed to unite and form the Commonwealth of Australia, establishing a system of federalism in Australia. Fiji and New Zealand were originally part of this process, but they decided not to join the federation. Following federation, the six colonies that united to form the Commonwealth of Australia as states kept the systems of government that they had developed as separate colonies, but they also agreed to have a federal government that was responsible for matters concerning the whole nation. When the Constitution of Australia came into force, on 1 January 1901, the colonies collectively became states of the Commonwealth of Australia.

When the Liberal government of John Ballance came to power in 1890, the Opposition had not yet coalesced into a truly formal party. Russell was recognised as Leader of the Opposition from 1894 to 1901. Noted for his courtesy, honesty and consideration, Russell was at times completely overwhelmed by Prime Minister Richard Seddon in the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate. Even members of his own party acknowledged his nature was ill-suited to parliamentary brawls. [1]

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.

1890 New Zealand general election

The New Zealand general election of 1890 was one of New Zealand's most significant. It marked the beginning of party politics in New Zealand with the formation of the Liberal Government, which was to enact major welfare, labour and electoral reforms, including giving the vote to women.

Richard Seddon 15th and longest-serving Prime Minister of New Zealand

Richard John Seddon was a New Zealand politician who served as the 15th Premier of New Zealand from 1893 until his death in office in 1906.

In June 1900, following defeat at the 1899 general election, the opposition strength fell considerably. The conservative MPs could not agree on a new leader upon holding their first caucus of the session. However, Seddon still continued to address Russell as their leader until July 1901. [3] For over two years the conservatives were virtually leaderless, although chief whip William Massey often informally filled the role and eventually succeeded Russell as leader in September 1903. [3]

1899 New Zealand general election

The New Zealand general election of 1899 was held on 6 and 19 December in the European and Māori electorates, respectively, to elect 74 MPs to the 14th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The election was again won by the Liberal Party, and Richard Seddon remained Prime Minister.

William Massey Prime Minister of New Zealand

William Ferguson Massey, commonly known as Bill Massey, was an Irish-born politician in New Zealand who served as the 19th Prime Minister of New Zealand from May 1912 to May 1925. He was the founding leader of the Reform Party, New Zealand's second organised political party, from 1909 until his death.

Russell was later appointed to the Legislative Council on 26 June 1913. He died at Napier soon after on 24 September 1913. [1]


He married Miss Harriette Julia Hodgskin of Cawley Priory, Sussex, England in 1867. They had eleven children, four daughters and seven sons. One son, Second Lieutenant Lionel Philip Russell, of the Second Battalion, Prince of Wale's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) was attached to the 14th Mounted Infantry in the South African War. He died aged 24 of the wounds he had received in Holland (19 December 1901). Another son, Captain Walter Russell 'Dick' Russell of the Northamptonshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion, attached to 1st Battalion, was killed in action on 23 October 1914 in France aged 33.

He lived on his estate Flaxmere near Hastings. He also owned Tunanui Station which he had bought with his brother near Napier. When the partnership expired he retained the Flaxmere and Sherenden estates. A sports lover, he was President of the New Zealand Jockey Club.

In recognition of his long service, [1] he was made a knight bachelor on 14 August 1902, [4] after the honour had been announced in the 1902 Coronation Honours list published on 26 June 1902. [5] As was the custom until the first quarter of the 20th century he continued to use his military rank of Captain until he was knighted. His full name according to electoral rolls and the Cyclopedia of New Zealand was Captain the Hon. William Russell Russell, then Sir William Russell Russell, i.e. Russell was his middle name and also his surname.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Grant, S. W. "Russell, William Russell". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  2. Scholefield, Guy (1950) [1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 137.
  3. 1 2 Wilson 1985, p. 282.
  4. "No. 27465". The London Gazette . 15 August 1902. p. 5327.
  5. "The Coronation Honours". The Times (36804). London. 26 June 1902. p. 5.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Julius Vogel
and Commissioner of Telegraphs

Succeeded by
Julius Vogel
Preceded by
Thomas Fergus
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
William Pember Reeves
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Donald McLean
Member of Parliament for Napier
Served alongside: Donald McLean, Fred Sutton
Succeeded by
John Buchanan
Preceded by
Fred Sutton
Member of Parliament for Hawke's Bay
Succeeded by
Alfred Dillon