The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/FitzGerald, James Edward

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FitzGerald, James Edward, C.M.G., B.A., J.P., son of the late Gerald FitzGerald, of Queen's County, was born in 1818 at Bath, and educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1842. He was assistant in the Department of Antiquities, British Museum, 1844-8, and Under-Secretary to the British Museum 1849-50. When the Canterbury Association was founded, to settle the province of Canterbury, N.Z., he became an active member, and in 1850 arrived in one of the first four ships at Lyttleton, N.Z., where he started and edited for two years the Lyttleton Times, acting at the same time as Police Inspector and Immigration Agent. In 1853 he was chosen first superintendent of Canterbury, and held the office till 1857, when he went to England as agent for the province. He was one of the members for Lyttleton returned to the first Parliament in 1854, and was appointed to the Executive Council on June 14th. This was the first step taken towards responsible government, Mr. FitzGerald becoming virtually the first Premier of New Zealand. The newly appointed members were anxious to secure genuine power for themselves as representatives of constituencies, and they urged the Acting Governor (Colonel Wynyard) to get rid of the permanent office holders and re-constitute the Government upon "the ordinary responsible basis." This request being put before the office holders, including Mr. William Swainson (Attorney-General), Mr. Alexander Shepherd (Colonial Treasurer), and Mr. Andrew Sinclair (Colonial Secretary), they declined to advise on the subject, and on August 2nd Mr. FitzGerald and his colleagues resigned from the Executive Council. In 1857-60 he was agent in England for the province of Canterbury. In 1862 Mr. FitzGerald re-entered Parliament as member for Akaroa, and on August 12th, 1865, became Minister for Native Affairs, in succession to Mr. W. B. D. Mantell, in the Weld Administration, which office he held till Oct. 16th, when the Cabinet resigned upon a practical failure to carry stamp duties. In 1866, after his retirement from public life, Mr. FitzGerald was appointed Comptroller-General, and in 1872 Commissioner of Audit, and Comptroller and Auditor-General in 1878, which office he still holds. In 1870 he was created C.M.G. Mr. FitzGerald married in 1850 Fanny Erskine, daughter of the late George Draper, of London.