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On Ballance: a Biography of John Ballance, Journalist and Politician, 1839-1893

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posted on 2021-11-07, 22:09 authored by McIvor, Timothy J

This thesis is a biography of John Ballance, New Zealand's first Liberal Premier. It examines his career as journalist and politician, from his arrival in New Zealand and Wanganui in 1866 until his death in 1893. Ballance is viewed from a number of different perspectives: as editor and owner of a 'frontier' town's newspaper, as a prominent Wanganui personality closely involved in promoting local development, as Member of the House of Representatives and, finally, as a national political leader. The first chapter looks briefly at Ballance's early life in the north of Ireland and Birmingham. Chapter two then discusses his arrival in Wanganui, the establishment of the Evening Herald, and his participation in the war against Titokowaru. The following chapter begins with an examination of Ballance's attitude to political and economic issues of the 1870s, in particular his opposition to the provincial system, and ends with his entering Parliament for the first time in 1875. A little over two years later he became Colonial Treasurer in the Grey Government (chapter four). Chapter five covers the period 1879 to 1884, and Ballance's only electoral defeat, in 1881. Chapter six examines the broad base of his liberal philosophy, and shows how its different strands are inter-related, all pointing to a democratic, secular society, with considerable emphasis on individual and national self-reliance. In 1884 Ballance re-entered Parliament, and became Minister of Lands and Native Minister in the Stout-Vogel Government. His activities and initiatives when holding these two portfolios are the subject of chapter seven. Chapters eight and nine lead up to the crucial election of 1890. Ballance, after some initial hesitation, accepted the leadership of the Opposition in 1889. Land reform predominated his campaign at the election. Chapters ten to twelve discuss Ballance in power (1891-93). His major problem was to secure and consolidate the new Liberal regime, in the face of opposition to government measures from the Legislative Council and an alleged withdrawal of capital from the country. Ballance's reaction was to pursue a non-borrowing, self-reliant policy, and to establish a Liberal Federation to organise support for the Government at grass roots level. The conclusion discusses the 'Ballance tradition'.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Hamer, D A