The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Fox, Sir William

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Fox, Sir William, K.C.M.G., M.A., formerly Premier of New Zealand, third son of George Townshend Fox, J.P. and D.L. for co. Durham, was born on June 9th, 1812, and educated at Wadham College, Oxford, graduating B.A. in 1832, M.A. in 1839. He entered at the Inner Temple on Nov. 15th, 1838, and was called to the bar on April 29th, 1842. In the latter year he emigrated to Wellington, N.Z., and in 1843 succeeded Captain Wakefield as the Resident Agent of the New Zealand Company at Nelson. Early in 1848 he became Attorney-General of the Southern Province, but resigned when it appeared that no steps were to be taken to grant self-government to the colony. In Sept. 1848 he succeeded Colonel Wakefield as principal agent of the New Zealand Company. In 1850 he returned to England as honorary political agent of the Wellington settlement to assist in getting the Constitution Act through the Imperial Parliament, and travelled for a year in the United States. On May 7th Mr. Sewell formed the first responsible ministry; but on May 20th he resigned upon a want of confidence motion carried by Mr. Fox in connection with the powers of the provincial governments, which Mr. Sewell desired curtailed. But his tenure of office was as brief as that of his predecessor, as on June 2nd he also was defeated, Mr. Stafford assuming office with Mr. Sewell as treasurer. On July 3rd, 1861, Mr. Fox carried a vote of want of confidence in the ministry by 24 votes against 23, and formed a cabinet on July 12th. In 1862 Mr. Fox brought before the House a resolution affirming exclusive Ministerial responsibility for Maori affairs, and, the votes being equally divided, resigned the same year. On Nov. 2nd, 1863, Mr. Fox came into office as Colonial Secretary, Mr. Whitaker being Premier and Attorney-General. The Waikato war had now begun, and the burden of responsibility fell jointly upon the Governor (Sir George Grey) and the Fox-Whitaker cabinet. Mr. Fox carried through the Suppression of Rebellion Bill by a large majority; also the Defence Bill and the New Zealand Settlements Bill; and it was owing to difficulties with Sir G. Grey during the progress of the war (notably concerning confiscation) that the ministry resigned on Nov. 24th, 1864. Mr. Fox was not in office again till June 28th, 1869, when he once more became Premier and a member of the Executive Council, after the defeat of the Stafford Government. During his term of office in 1870 a bill was passed founding the University of New Zealand, and the Public Works scheme was inaugurated by Mr. Vogel. The Land Transfer Registration Act was also passed. On Sept. 10th, 1872, he resigned, and Mr. Stafford came in again; but on March 3rd, 1873, Mr. Fox once more returned to office, though he resigned on April 8th, leaving his colleague, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Julius Vogel, to take his place as Premier. On July 29th, 1879, Sir George Grey's Government was defeated on an amendment moved by Sir William Fox (as he was now), but he failed to secure a seat at the general election in the same year. In 1880 he was appointed, with Sir F. D. Bell, upon the Commission for the West Coast to inquire into the question of native titles and report upon the confiscated lands, and subsequently became sole commissioner. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1879, and since his retirement from public life has devoted himself to lectures and addresses upon the temperance question. He married May 3rd, 1842, Sarah, eldest daughter of William Halcombe, of Poulton House, Wilts, who died in June, 1892. Sir William Fox is the author of "The Six Colonies of New Zealand" (1851), and "The War in New Zealand" (1866).