Kiwi of the Week

  • John McKenzie

    McKenzie's early memory of evicted crofters shaped his whole life's philosophy and his land-reform work in the Liberal government of the 1890s.

Frederick Whitaker

Premier: 30 Oct 186324 Nov 1864; 21 Apr 188225 Sept 1883
Age on becoming premier: 51
Electorate: None - member of the Legislative Council

Despite Frederick Whitaker’s advanced views on electoral reform, this two-time premier tarnished his reputation by land speculation and confiscation.

Whitaker reached Kororareka in 1840 and followed the capital to Auckland a year later. In 1845 he became an adviser to the governor. Although he sat briefly in the House of Representatives, his power base was the upper house, the Legislative Council, where he became speaker in 1855.

Whitaker mixed politics with business, working closely with financier Thomas Russell. When Domett resigned he became the first premier to lead from the Council. In the early 1860s Whitaker and Russell led the ‘war’ party. He believed that to uphold ‘civilisation and progress’ European settlers must have easy access to Maori land. He urged ruthless pursuit of the war, and favoured large-scale confiscations of Maori land.

After being toppled in 1864, Whitaker opposed moving the capital to Wellington. Three years later he left politics to join Russell in business. In 1876 he returned, holding several posts before again becoming premier in 1882. A year later he resigned to attend to his flagging investments.

Whitaker’s last years were stressful as he teetered on the brink of financial ruin. He returned to public life in 1887 as attorney-general but retired due to ill health in 1890.

Written by Gavin McLean

See also:

How to cite this page: 'Frederick Whitaker ', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/people/frederick-whitaker, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 31-Jan-2014

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