If it wasn’t for Richard Seddon - we’d be Australian.
We’ve written about Seddon before (King Dick the lion from the Wellington zoo is named after him) but most people don’t know that it was Seddon who turned down an invitation to make New Zealand part of the pending new Commonwealth of Australia.
Seddon is a towering political figure in New Zealand. His importance to our history can’t be overlooked. He championed old age pensions, liquor licensing, opposed women’s suffrage - then changed his mind and supported it.
Born on June 22, 1845 in Lancashire, England, to Thomas and Jane Seddon. Both were teachers. Ironic because Seddon wasn’t a good student, ending up working on his grandfather’s farm from about 12-years-old.
He also worked at a foundry and engineers but contracted smallpox and lost his job.
In 1863 he worked his passage to Melbourne and worked at railway workshops before trying his hand at prospecting. When that failed he returned to the workshops.
When he became engaged to Louisa Jane Spotswood her father wasn’t having it, at least until he improved his financial status. So he sailed for New Zealand where he tried gold digging again. He made enough to return to Melbourne and marry Louisa who had waited three years for him, before returning with him to New Zealand.
His political career began by going on to the Arahura Road Board then becoming its chairman. After that it was the Westland County Council, then he became the first mayor of Kumara before being elected in Hokitika.
His political career has been well documented. He was considered boisterous, loud and a bit boastful while underneath he suffered from depression and anxiety.
It was his profound knowledge of Parliamentary procedure that led him to win the Premiership in 1893.
In 1900 Seddon established a Royal Commission of inquiry to determine if New Zealand should become a state of the Commonwealth of Australia.which had been proposed since 1895.
He was playing for time. Seddon was a staunch imperialist and also believed in a strong Pacific - but not that New Zealand should become Australian.
The 10 man royal commission eventually returned with a unanimous no.
Seddon then dropped the word Premier and began calling himself Prime Minister. He would be one of New Zealand’s longest serving.
He remained in power until his death in 1906 - when he was returning from a trip to Australia and suffered a heart attack on board the Oswestry Grange and died at sea.
Seddon is buried at the Bolton St Cemetery where a large memorial is dedicated to him (and family).
Pic from Denise Jans.
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