Weld, Frederick Aloysius (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60
Weld, Frederick Aloysius

by Charles Alexander Harris
1904 Errata appended.

WELD, Sir FREDERICK ALOYSIUS (1823–1891), colonial governor, born on 9 May 1823, came of a well-known Roman catholic family, being the third son of Humphrey Weld of Chideock Manor, Dorset, and Christina Maria, second daughter of Charles Clifford, sixth baron Clifford of Chudleigh. He was educated at Stonyhurst College and at Freiburg in Switzerland, and in 1844 emigrated to New Zealand in order to devote himself to grazing sheep and cattle. He soon attracted public notice, and was in 1848 offered a seat in the nominee council, which he declined, soon afterwards taking a leading part in the agitation for representative institutions. In 1850 and part of 1851 he was in England, but later in the latter year carried out explorations of some interest in the uninhabited districts of the middle island, and again in 1855 around Nelson. In that year he also paid a visit to the Sandwich Islands, and ascended Mauna Loa.

Weld became in September 1853 a member of the House of Representatives of New Zealand. In 1854 he was for a time one of the special members of the executive council. In November 1860 he joined the first Stafford ministry as minister for native affairs, but was thrown out of office in July 1861 by the resignation of the ministry. In November 1864 he was summoned by the governor, Sir George Grey, to form a ministry. The period was a critical one; there had been much dissension between the retiring ministry and the governor; the policy of the ministers as regards the Maoris was distrusted, and their interference in respect of military operations was resented. Weld laid down the conditions on which he could accept office in a memorandum which enunciated the sound principles of ministerial responsibility. The governor accepted them at once. On 24 Nov. 1864 he became premier and chief secretary, and, though less than a year in office, gave a completely new turn to events, and left a mark upon administration in New Zealand. His first efforts were directed to concluding the Maori war with colonial troops and by guerilla methods rather than with the expensive imperial troops, and, although he was embarrassed by a dispute with the military commander, Lieutenant-general Sir Duncan Alexander Cameron, he laid the basis for the successful termination of the war; at the same time he carried out the confiscation of Waikato, instituted native land courts, and carried a native rights bill. He also initiated proposals for the representation of the Maoris in the House of Representatives. His administration restored the credit of the colony, and brought back stability to its finances. A telegraph cable for connecting the two islands was begun, and the capital of the colony removed to Wellington, in accordance with the recommendation of commissions made in 1863. In July 1865 the crisis caused by the differences with General Cameron had blown over, and Weld met his parliament again; but on the Otago reserves bill he was shaken, and on a question of imposing stamp duties he was all but defeated. His health was already giving way, and on 16 Oct. 1865 he resigned, and, as the house was dissolved, returned to England for change and rest.

His administration made a considerable impression in Downing Street, and in 1869 he was appointed governor of Western Australia. In his new sphere Weld continued to do well. He obtained the introduction of an elective element into the Legislative Council, and encouraged the establishment of municipal institutions; an education act passed in 1871 provided for the equality of all religious denominations. His administration coincided with a period of distinct development in the colony; it was marked by the completion of a system of internal telegraphs, the establishment of a steam service round the coasts, and the commencement of the first railway. In January 1875 he was transferred, on the completion of his term of office, to Tasmania. He came at a difficult time, when the personal antagonism of factions in the legislature occupied attention to the exclusion of public business. His conflict with the judges over the release of the woman Hunt created a storm. His term of office is chiefly marked by the discovery of tin. He was at Sydney for the opening of the International Exhibition of 1879, and was transferred in April 1880 to the government of the Straits Settlements, where he arrived on 6 May.

Again Weld's lot fell on a time of much expansion in the colony to which he was appointed. In the regulation of the rapid Chinese immigration he had a difficult task. His name is connected with general improvement of the public buildings and the Raffles Museum, but he particularly devoted himself to the consolidation of relations with the native states. In March 1883 he went to Malacca to settle the Rembau disturbances, and laid the foundation of the arrangements which led to the existence of the protected state of Negri Sembilan; in May 1885 he arranged a new treaty with the sultan of Johore; in May 1887 he proceeded to Borneo as a commissioner to report on the claims of certain chieftains against the British North Borneo Company. In November 1887 he went to Pahang, and left there a British agency, which was soon followed by a regular protectorate.

Weld retired on a pension in 1887, and, returning to England, died at Chideock Manor, Bridport, on 20 July 1891. He was made C.M.G. in 1875, K.C.M.G. in 1880, and G.C.M.G. in 1885. He married, on 2 March 1858, Filomena Mary Anne, daughter of Ambrose Lisle March Phillipps de Lisle of Garendon Park, Leicester. By her he had six sons and seven daughters.

Weld was a man of ability and culture; straightforward and chivalrous, both as minister and governor, but apparently wanting in tact and discretion. Port Weld in the Straits Settlements is named after him. He wrote two or three pamphlets on affairs in New Zealand, the chief of which are ‘Hints to intending Sheep Farmers in New Zealand,’ London, 1851, and ‘Notes on New Zealand Affairs,’ London, 1869; the latter contains a good sketch of his own policy.

[Burke's Landed Gentry; Mennell's Dict. of Australasian Biography; Gisborne's Rulers and Statesmen of New Zealand; Rusden's Hist. of New Zealand, vol. ii. chaps. xii. and xiii. pp. 267 seq.; Colonial Office List, 1886; Weld's Notes on New Zealand Affairs, Parl. Papers of 1865; Fenton's Tasmania, ch. xviii.; information furnished by Sir James Swettenham of the Straits Settlements.]

C. A. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.277
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
158 ii 28 Weld, Sir Frederick A.: for Marsh read March
29  for Garenden read Garendon