Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Hall, John (1824-1907)

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HALL, Sir JOHN (1824–1907), premier of New Zealand, born at Hull on 18 Dec. 1824, was third son of George Hall, shipowner, of Hull and of Elloughton, Yorkshire. In his eleventh year he went abroad to finish his education in Germany, Switzerland, and Paris. He spent the three years 1840–3 in a merchant's office at Hull. In 1843 he entered the secretary's department of the London General Post Office, and soon became private secretary to the secretary of the post office. He served as a volunteer in the hon. artillery company and as a special constable during the Chartist riots of 1848.

In 1852 he emigrated to Lyttelton, New Zealand, bought a neighbouring sheep run, and remained a prominent citizen of the province of Canterbury for the rest of his life. In 1853 the provincial councils were called into being by Sir George Grey [q. v. Suppl. I], and Hall became the member for Christchurch district of the Canterbury provincial council, on which he sat, except during his occasional absences from the colony, until the councils were abolished in 1876 by act of the central legislature. From 7 Feb. to May 1855 he was provincial secretary, and from May 1855 to 1859 was a member of the provincial executive. After a visit to England he became in 1862 member for the Mount Cook district; in 1864 he was re-elected to the provincial executive and was until 1869 secretary for public works.

Meanwhile he had been made resident magistrate for Lyttelton, sheriff, and commissioner of police on 27 Nov. 1856; a resident magistrate for the colony on 27 April 1857; and a justice of the peace in May 1857. From December 1858 to July 1863 he was a resident magistrate for Christchurch, and from January 1862 to 15 June 1863 first mayor of Christchurch. He was also the first chairman of Selwyn county council, and chairman (in 1869) of the Westland provincial council. In June 1863 he was commissioner of the Canterbury waste lands board. As a provincial politician ho is best known as the originator of the road board system in Canterbury, and for his sheep ordinance.

In 1855 elections were held for the first responsible parliament that assembled in New Zealand, and Hall was one of the Christchurch members for the house of representatives until 1859. On 20 May 1856 he became colonial secretary under Sir William Fox [q. v. Suppl. I], but the ministry lasted only for a fortnight; during that period Hall spoke against voting by ballot. On his return from England in 1862 he was called to the legislative council (4 July). Resigning] in February 1866, he was at once re-elected to the lower house by the Heathcote division as a supporter of Sir Frederick Aloysius Weld [q. v.] and an opponent of provincialism, holding the seat till 1872. He was a member of the executive council under the Stafford ministry (24, Aug. 1866–28 June 1869), postmaster-general (24 Aug. 1866–5 Feb. 1869), and electric telegraph commissioner (12 Oct. 1866–5 Feb. 1869). In 1867 he attended the intercolonial postal conference in Melbourne. During 1868 he acted as colonial treasurer during Sir William Fitzherbert's absence and drew up an able financial statement.

In 1872 he was called to the legislative council. He was a member of the executive council 20 July–10 November 1872, and colonial secretary in the Waterhouse cabinet from 11 Oct. 1872 till 3 March 1873. Ill-health then drove him to England till 1875. He became a member of the executive council under (Sir) Harry Atkinson [q. v. Suppl. I], without a portfolio, on 1 Sept. 1876. On 13 Sept. the government resigned, and he was not reappointed in the reconstituted ministry on account of his health.

As a prominent Anglican he strongly opposed the education act of 1877, which established secular education. Withdrawing from the upper house, he was chosen member for Selwyn in the general election of 1879. For some months he was leader of the opposition, and early in October he carried a hostile motion against Sir George Grey by a small majority. On the 8th he formed a ministry. He remained premier, supported by Sir Frederick Whitaker [q. v.] and Sir Harry Atkinson, until 21 April 1882; ill-health then compelled his retirement, but he continued to advise his colleagues. In the same year he visited England and was made a K.C.M.G. Premier during a period of great commercial depression. Hall was continually faced by a need for retrenchment and fresh taxation. The chief work of his government was the repeal of Sir George Grey's land-tax, the suppression of a Maori demonstration headed by the prophet Te Whiti, and the passing of the triennial parliaments bill and the universal suffrage bill, both measures which had been supported by the party he defeated.

Hall again sat in the house of representatives for Selwyn from 1883 until 1894, when he retired from political life. In 1890 he represented New Zealand at Melbourne, at the first conference on Australasian federation. In 1893 he introduced into the ministry's electoral bill an amendment conferring the vote upon women, a reform which he had always actively supported. It was passed into law on the eve of the general election. In 1905 he was chosen master of the Leathersellers' Company in London, but was unable to leave New Zealand to take the office. In 1906, the year of the New Zealand exhibition, he became first mayor of Greater Christchurch. On 25 Oct. he fell ill, and on 25 June 1907 he died at Park Terrace, Christchurch, and was buried in the family vault in Hororata cemetery.

He married in 1861 Rose Anne (d. 1900), daughter of William Dryden, of Hull. By her he had issue three sons and one daughter.

[Mennell's Dict. of Australasian Biog.; Gisborne's New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen, 1897 (with portrait); Rusden's Hist. of New Zealand; Reeves' The Long White Cloud; speeches and obituary notices in New Zealand Times, Auckland Star, Canterbury Times, 3 July 1907 (portrait).]

A. B. W.