Sir John Hall: Pioneer, pastoralist and politician
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis is a biography of Sir John Hall, a prominent New Zealand pioneer, pastoralist and politician. The study of his life provides insight into the colony's wider history but there is a significant personal dimension to this biography. It begins with an examination of Hall's childhood and early career in Britain and Europe, showing how his family and social context moulded his character and established habits and attitudes which remained with him for the rest of his life. Later chapters reveal how he made his fortune and explore his relationship with his wife and children, his response to family tragedy and the way in which he faced old age and mortality. By putting Hall in his context, we can learn much about the nature of the society in which he lived. The thesis explores his social role as a great pastoralist in the Hororata district, calling into question Stevan Eldred-Grigg's suggestion that there was a New Zealand 'gentry'. It examines the lives of his employees and the structure of his local community in the light of Miles Fairburn's theses about transience and 'chaos' on the colonial frontier. And, since Hall returned to Britain and Europe for lengthy periods, it makes suggestions about the status of colonials in English society and about Hall's emerging sense of New Zealand identity. Hall's prominence in public life rested on his career in politics which spanned forty years. He made a weighty contribution both in Canterbury's Provincial Council and in the General Assembly. The thesis focuses on Hall's place in the early faction system, his changing attitudes to the roles of the provinces and the central government, his contribution to the Stafford ministry of 1866-1869, his role as premier from 1879 to 1882, his handling of the Parihaka incident, the emergence of party politics and his part in the struggle which won the parliamentary suffrage for women. Hall was the author of significant administrative reforms and numerous measures promoting the colony's development. More surprisingly, perhaps, he was clearly the most significant democratic reformer in New Zealand's history. The paradoxical connection between his reforming role and his conservative political principles is thoroughly explored.