Wynyard, Robert Henry (DNB00)
|←Wyntoun, Andrew of||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63
Wynyard, Robert Henry
WYNYARD, ROBERT HENRY (1802–1864), major-general, born on 24 Dec. 1802, was the younger son of Lieutenant-general William Wynyard (1759–1819), colonel of the 5th regiment, equerry to George III, and deputy adjutant-general, by his wife Jane, daughter of J. Gladwin of Hubbin in Nottinghamshire. He received an ensigncy in the 58th foot on 25 Feb. 1819, was promoted lieutenant on 19 July 1823, and obtained a company on 20 May 1826. On 25 July 1841 he attained the rank of major, and on 30 Dec. 1842 that of lieutenant-colonel. In 1845 he was despatched to New Zealand to take part in the Maori war. He arrived at Auckland in October with two hundred men of the 58th regiment, and proceeded up the Kawa Kawa river in December in command of the advanced division. He took part in the surprise of Kawiti's stronghold, Ruapekapeka, on Sunday, 11 Jan. 1846, while the garrison were engaged in divine service. He left New Zealand in January 1847, but in January 1851 was appointed to command the forces in the colony; and on the death of Major-general George Dean Pitt in April, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of New Ulster, one of the two provinces into which New Zealand was divided. His term of office ceased in January 1853 on the division of the colony into six smaller provinces, and on retiring he received the thanks of the governor, Sir George Grey, and the colonial office. In the same year he was elected first superintendent of the province of Auckland, a post which he resigned soon after he became governor, and on 20 June 1854 he was promoted to the rank of colonel.
In January 1854 Sir George Grey left New Zealand, and the government of the colony devolved on Wynyard as senior military officer. The time was critical. A new Constitution Act instituting a system of parliamentary government had been received in February 1853, and Grey had already called the provincial councils into existence, but Wynyard had the task of dealing with the colonial assembly; he opened it on 7 May 1854 with a speech, which was probably composed for him by Edward Gibbon Wakefield [q. v.] Wakefield had recently arrived in the colony, and Wynyard, realising his need of an adviser while discharging duties to which he was unaccustomed in circumstances so unusual, relied chiefly on his counsels. The assembly, immediately after its convocation, carried an address to Wynyard, requesting him to inaugurate a system of government by ministers responsible to the electorate, an arrangement for which there was no provision in the new constitution, but which had recently been introduced into Canada. Wynyard, with the approval of William Swainson (1809–1883) [q. v.], the attorney-general, compromised the matter by adding several members of the assembly, including Henry Sewell [q. v.] and (Sir) Frederick Aloysius Weld [q. v.], to the executive council. Not satisfied with this arrangement, the new nominees proceeded to demand the resignation of several members of the council, including the treasurer and the attorney-general. Wynyard, however, did not consider that his temporary authority entitled him to replace crown officials by persons responsible to the assembly without the sanction of the colonial secretary, and refused this fresh demand. The new members of the executive council endeavoured to coerce him by tendering their resignations, but he remained firm and allowed them to retire. In spite of an attempt to cut off supplies, and a stormy scene in the house of assembly, Wynyard maintained the original compromise until the colonial secretary signified his approval of the introduction of constitutional government. On 15 April 1855 the royal assent was given to an act establishing the system.
In September 1855 Colonel Thomas Gore Browne assumed the office of governor of New Zealand, and on 26 Oct. 1858 Wynyard attained the rank of major-general. In February 1859 he was selected to command the troops in Cape Colony, and between August 1859 and July 1860 he filled the post of governor-in-chief and high commissioner during the absence of Sir George Grey in England. This office devolved on him a second time in August 1861, from the time of Grey's departure for New Zealand until the arrival of his successor in January 1862. Wynyard was nominated C.B. and received a pension for distinguished services, and afterwards, on 9 Oct. 1863, was appointed colonel of the 98th foot. He died at Bath on 6 Jan. 1864. By his wife Ann, daughter of H. Macdonell, he had four sons.
[Mennell's Dict. of Australasian Biogr. 1892; Miscellanea Gen. et Herald., new ser. 1877, ii. 270–1; Gent. Mag. 1864, i. 267; Rusden's Hist. of New Zealand, 1883, i. 542–9; W. L. Rees and L. Rees's Life and Times of Sir George Grey, 1892, ii. 369; Garnett's Edward Gibbon Wakefield, 1898, pp. 350–7; Gisborne's New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen, 1897, pp. 57–61, 76–80; Reeves's Long White Cloud, 1898, pp. 252–3.]