1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Massey, William Ferguson

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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
Massey, William Ferguson
See also William Massey on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MASSEY, WILLIAM FERGUSON (1856- ), New Zealand statesman, was born at Limavady, co. Deny, Ireland, on March 26 1856, the son of John and Marian (née Ferguson) Massey. He was educated at the national school and secondary school at Londonderry, and went to New Zealand in 1870 to join his parents who were among the Nonconformist settlers of 1862. Settling at Mangere, near Auckland, he became a farmer, and after serving an apprenticeship in local government entered Parliament as member for Waitemata in 1894. At the general election of 1896 he was elected for Franklin, and he has held that seat ever since. From 1895 to 1903 he served as Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives. During those eight years Seddon was at the height of his power and the fortunes of the Opposition were at their lowest ebb. For about half this period the party was without a leader, but the courage and faith of the Chief Whip held the party together, and in 1903 he was elected leader. Mr. Massey's chance came after the general election of 1911, which gave the Reform party, as it was now called, a small majority. After serving for 18 years in the Opposition, and without holding any intermediate office, Mr. Massey became Prime Minister on July 10 1912.

His first Cabinet held office for three years, the last of which was the first year of the World War. In Aug. 1915, the general election held in Dec. 1914 having resulted in almost a dead heat between the parties, a Reform-Liberal coalition was effected for the purposes of the war, with Mr. Massey as Prime Minister and Sir Joseph Ward, the Liberal leader, as Finance Minister. The national Government thus formed lasted throughout the war, and on its dissolution by the Liberals in Aug. 1919 Mr. Massey formed a new Reform party Cabinet. At the general election in the following Dec. he scored a decisive victory, due in a large measure to the very difficult position forced upon him at short notice by the dissolution of the Coalition. He was still in power at the close of 1921.

The portfolios held by Mr. Massey in his first two administrations as Prime Minister included those of Lands, Agriculture, Labour, Industries and Commerce, and Imperial Government Supplies. On Sir James Allen's retirement in 1920 he became Minister of Finance, holding also the portfolio of Mines and Railways. Besides enabling and encouraging the country to throw its whole weight into the war, Mr. Massey rendered important service by representing it at the Imperial War Cabinet and War Conference meetings of 1917 and 1918, at the Peace Conference in 1919, and at the Imperial Conference of 1921. At the Peace Conference he faithfully represented the sentiment of New Zealand in pleading for the retention of German Samoa in British hands, and in his uncompromising attitude on the indemnities and reparations to be exacted from Germany. The energy which he displayed in securing the Dominion a share in the valuable phosphates of Nauru I. was also much appreciated. Mr. Massey did valuable work as the second British representative on the Commission on Responsibilities for War and the Enforcement of Penalties, and as president of the sub-committee on Facts and chairman of the Drafting Committee.

He married in 1882 Christina (C.B.E. 1919), daughter of Walter Paul of Auckland, and had three sons (of whom Maj. F. G. Massey served in the war and won the M.C. and D.S.O.) and two daughters. He became a Privy Councillor in 1913, a freeman of London, Edinburgh and five other British cities, and hon. LL.D. of Cambridge and Edinburgh universities.

(A. R. A.)