Henry Sewell - the first Premier of New Zealand
This article was originally published in the April 2004 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Henry Sewell was born in the Isle of Wight in 1807 and educated at Hyde Abbey School, near Winchester. He qualified as a solicitor and practised successively at Newport, Pidford and Brockhurst.
On 15 March 1834 he married Lucinda Marian who died in 1844. In 1850 he married his second wife, Elizabeth Kittoe.
He moved to London in 1844 and began to take an interest in the Canterbury Association and became Chairman of the Society of Canterbury Colonists and Deputy Chairman of the New Zealand Company. He travelled to New Zealand on the Minerva which arrived in February 1853. From 1853 to 1856 he was the MP for the Town of Christchurch and from June 1854 a member of the Colonial Executive without portfolio.
There was a desire by many for full responsibility for New Zealand affairs to be transferred to the New Zealand Parliament and after a new Governor (Gore-Browne) assumed office, empowered to grant full responsibility, Parliament met on 7 May 1856 and Sewell was called upon to form a Government as the first Premier of New Zealand.
Sewell support of centralism, over the provinces, was so well-known that the strong provincial following in the House made it impossible for him to lead a government with success, and his ministry only lasted a fortnight. He was succeeded by Edwin Fox and briefly an Opposition MP before Edward Stafford became Premier and Sewell became Colonial Treasurer and later Commissioner of Customs.
After resigning as an MP and a few years in England, Sewell returned in February 1859 and in 1860 became an MP again. In August 1861 he became a member and Leader of the Legislative Council and Attorney-General.
He held a number of position as both an MP and MLC between 1861 and November 1873 when he retired from New Zealand politics. He left New Zealand for good in the spring of 1876 and it was in Cambridge where he died on 5 May 1879, aged 71
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