New Zealand statesman
Born 1845 Died 1906
Richard John Seddon was born at Eccleston, Lancashire, England, in 1845, his father being a schoolmaster at Eccleston Hill school. He was brought up to the engineering trade, and when eighteen went to Australia and entered the railway workshops at Melbourne. He was caught by the gold fever and went to Bendigo, where he spent some time in the diggings; but in 1866 he joined an uncle on the west coast of New Zealand, starting work as a miner. In 1869 he married Miss Louisa Jane Spotswood, of Melbourne. In the same year he was elected to a seat on his local Road Board, and he was soon returned to the Westland Provincial Council for the Arahura district, becoming its first chairman of committees. In 1879 he was returned to the New Zealand parliament for Kumara, and sat for that constituency for twenty-six years, though its name was changed to Westland. He was a member of the Ballance ministry (1891), holding the portfolios for public works, defence and mines; and on Ballance's death (1893) became premier, a position he retained till his sudden death on the 10th of June 1906.
During these years Seddon held a unique place in the public life of New Zealand, and in its relations with the empire. He combined his premiership with various offices as colonial treasurer, minister for education, postmaster-general, telegraph commissioner, minister of marine, minister for land purchase, and minister for labour, but his strenuous personality, and the confidence inspired by his determination to make New Zealand a living force among the British dominions, were the dominating features in all his course of action. His large physique, his profound earnestness, his gift of popular oratory, his expansive kindliness and his power of dealing with men, made him supreme among his own people.
He became known in a wider sphere after his attending the colonial conference in London in 1897, and thenceforth he was regarded as one of the pillars of British imperialism. During the Boer War, and afterwards in the movement for preferential trade with the colonies, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Mr Chamberlain, though he was characteristically outspoken in opposition to the introduction of Chinese labour into South Africa. His rough and ready views were frequently open to criticism, but his vigorous patriotism and intensity of character give him a permanent place among those who have worked for the consolidation of the British dominions.
A Life, by J. Drurnmond, was published in 1907.
Being the entry for SEDDON, RICHARD JOHN in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.