1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stout, Sir Robert

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STOUT, SIR ROBERT (1844–), New Zealand judge and statesman, was born on Sept. 28 1844 at Lerwick, Shetland Isles, where he was educated at the parish school and became a pupil teacher. He arrived in New Zealand in 1863, and became second master in the Dunedin grammar school and afterwards in the Duncdin district high school. On July 4 1871 he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, and he then matriculated at Otago University which opened in that month. In 1873 he took first-class honours in mental and moral science and political economy, and from 1874 to 1876 he was Law lecturer at Otago University. Elected a member of the Otago Provincial Council in 1872, he became provincial solicitor in 1873, and he held that position until the abolition of the provinces in 1876. In 1873 he was elected to Parliament as Liberal member for Caversham and in Feb. 1878 he became Attorney-General and Minister of Lands and Minister of Immigration in Sir George Grey’s Ministry. But in the following year he resigned owing to the serious illness of his partner, and he did not return to public life till 1884 when he entered Parliament again as member (M.H.R.) for Dunedin East. On the defeat of Sir Harry Atkinson’s Government he joined with Sir Jules Vogel in forming a Ministry, which lasted less than a fortnight (Aug. 16–28 1884), but after another Atkinson Government had held office for a few days (Aug. 28–Sept 3) a second Stout-Vogel Government was formed which lasted three years. In both the Stout-Vogel Governments Sir Robert Stout was Premier and Attorney-General. At the general election in 1887 the Government was defeated and he lost his seat by a narrow margin.

Refusing the offer of other seats, Sir Robert Stout remained out of politics till after the beginning of the long Liberal-Labour regime in 1891. Both by Ballance and by Seddon he was offered a portfolio but he declined both offers. In June 1893, however, he was elected at a by-election for Inangahua as an Independent Liberal, and at the general elections of 1893 and 1896 he was elected for Wellington City, to which he transferred his residence and his legal practice. In 1898 Sir Robert Stout resigned his seat, and in June 1899 he became Chief Justice.

In politics Sir Robert Stout was a strong Liberal of the individualistic school, devoting special attention to the land and labour questions and to educational and temperance reform. Among his principal measures were the Land Act of 1877, the first Land Tax Act, which he drafted in cooperation with Ballance and which became law in 1878, and the Civil Service Reform Act of 1886, which threw the doors of the service open to women and made examination and competition (the latter being added by the Legislative Council) the tests of all appointments except those of experts. As a member of a Royal Commission appointed in 1881 he helped the late Mr. Allen Holmes in forming the Code of Civil Procedure, which was enacted in the following year and made the Supreme Court Procedure of New Zealand one of the simplest in the world. A life-long abstainer, Sir Robert Stout was always a keen advocate of temperance reform. The local option bills which he introduced in 1876 and 1893 did not get further than their second reading, but the second of these measures forced the hand of the Seddon Government and led to the establishment of local option by a less liberal measure in the same session.

He became a meihber of the New Zealand University Senate in 1884, and also of the Victoria University College Council, Wellington. In 1903 he was elected chancellor of the university. He was made a K.C.M.G. in 1886. Besides writing many essays and lectures on social, literary and legal subjects, he was the author, jointly with his son, J. Logan Stout, of New Zealand in the Cambridge University Manuals of Literature and Science, and of the article on New Zealand in the Oxford University Survey of the British Empire, fie married in 1876 Anna Penrhyn, daughter of Mr. J. Logan, official clerk to the Superintendent of the Province of Otago. He had four sons of whom two served in the war as medical men and one obtained the D.S.O. and two daughters.