Tag: Wellington

Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his New-Model English Society

Though he was a rather colorful fellow with questionable views on society, Edward Gibbon Wakefield is remembered today as a colonial reformer and advocate of systematic colonization. His writings and actions helped to reform British views on colonial development. He was one of the founders of New Zealand and much of the settlement was based upon his ideas for a model societal structure.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield (* 1796; † 1862), Brit...
Edward Gibbon Wakefield (* 1796; † 1862), British statesman and promoter of colonization of Australia and New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wakefield was a London land agent’s son, born on March 20, 1796, and educated at Westminster. In 1826, he met Ellen Turner, the young daughter of a wealthy silk merchant. Wakefield spirited her away to Scotland where he pressed her into a quick marriage ceremony. When they were discovered, the wedding was annulled by Parliament and Wakefield was sentenced to three years in prison for kidnapping.

During his time in prison, Wakefield turned his thoughts toward corrective punishment and colonial development. From prison, he began to publish papers stating his position on these topics. He strongly promoted the colonization of Australasia and provided detailed plans for how he felt it should be accomplished.

His plan involved the New Zealand Company buying land at a pittance from the indigenous tribes, and then selling it at a high price to “gentleman settlers” and investors. Revenue earned through these land sales would finance the immigration of free settlers; however, since these newcomers would be unable to purchase land of their own, they would make up a laboring class to work for the landowners.

Many members of the New Zealand Company embraced Wakefield’s ideas and put them to use in the colonization of South Australia. While these supporters envisioned the creation of a “perfect English society,” Wakefield viewed their work there as a failure and instead turned his focus toward New Zealand.

In 1837, Wakefield chaired the first meeting of the New Zealand Association, where he was joined by a number of wealthy supporters. A bill was drafted detailing their intentions; however, it was strongly opposed by Colonial Office officials and the Church Missionary Society. The opposition was horrified by claims made in Wakefield’s pamphlets, where he declared his intentions to “civilize a barbarous people” who could “scarcely cultivate the earth.” They took issue with the unlimited power that would be wielded by the colony’s founders, and felt that the indigenous peoples of the region would simply be exterminated.

By the end of the year, however, Wakefield’s association was gathering favour throughout the government, and in December they were offered a Royal Charter which gave them responsibility over the administration of the colony of New Zealand. They soon merged with the New Zealand Company and continued under that name.

treaty of Waitangi version in the museum on th...
treaty of Waitangi version in the museum on the Waitangi grounds, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the government could impose further control, the Company set out to buy up as much land as possible. By the end of 1839 they had purchased land in Wellington and as far north as Patea, and intended to buy as much as 20 million acres in Nelson, Wellington, Wanganui, and Taranaki. Their ambitions were cut short though, when the government intervened with the Treaty of Waitangi. This treaty allowed only the government to make any further land purchases.

When the government began to question the land titles of the Company, Wakefield campaigned for self-government, though this was easily opposed by the governor, Sir George Grey. In 1853, Wakefield emigrated to Wellington and became involved in the political institution in New Zealand. Just one year later though, his health broke and he was forced to live in retirement until his death in 1862.

While Wakefield’s views were often impracticable due to his lack of first-hand knowledge, he was instrumental in the colonization and settlement of New Zealand. Due to his strong beliefs in modeling the settlements on the structures of British society, many New Zealand towns were established this way. While population growth wasn’t rapid by any means, many were attracted to life in New Zealand and colonies were quickly established. When the New Zealand Company arrived in 1839, there were a mere 2,000 immigrants in the country; by 1852 that number had climbed to 28,000.

Immigrants Made Good – Nathan Mayer Rothschild

English: Nathan Mayer Rothschild.
Nathan Mayer Rothschild. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nathan Mayer Rothschild was born on September 16,  1777 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was one of five sons, and the fourth child of Mayer  Amschel Rothschild and Gutle Schnapper. In his brief 59 years, Nathan Rothschild would lead his four brothers to the peak of the financial world and synonymize the Rothschild name with international wealth and power.

Nathan was certainly the most restless and gifted of the Rothschild brood. He had enormous energy, creativity and ambition, and it came as no surprise when he left Frankfurt at age 21 to launch a branch of the family’s firm in Manchester. He initially worked as a textile merchant, but soon found his true passion working in the world of finance.

He moved to London and began trading bills of exchange through a banking enterprise that he founded in 1805. In 1806, Nathan married Hannah, the daughter of Levi Barent Cohen. This union lifted him into a prominent position in London society and provided him with invaluable access to business contacts among London’s elite. What may have taken years to accomplish was quickly within his grasp, and Nathan wasted no time amassing a substantial fortune.

His brothers, as part of the Rothschild network, were able to build on the foundation that Nathan had established. They were in position to achieve great things in the world of finance, and they quickly gathered fortunes of their own. As their fortunes skyrocketed, so did their social standing, and in 1816, Nathan’s two older brothers were granted noble status by the Austrian Emperor. The brothers prefixed the Rothschild name with von or de to show their new status; however, Nathan chose not to use his aristocratic title though he too was elevated.

He was a popular man, enormously respected and admired. He doted on his wife and children, providing for them indulgently. In the business world, his brusque determination and high standards were legendary. His London house, NM Rothschild, dealt in foreign currency exchange and gold bullion which brought him extraordinary success. The man was brilliant, and while his business dealings and strategies have been examined down through the years, few fully understand how he achieved such rapid supremacy on the world scene.

So enormous was his wealth and business success that he was approached with contracts from the British Government. Through 1814 and 1815, he supplied Wellington’s troops with gold coin, and went on to issue 26 government loans between 1818 and 1835.

slavetradeAside from his business successes, Nathan Rothschild was a prominent campaigner against the slave trade. He spoke out strongly against the slave trade and partially financed the 20 million pound government buyout of the slaves on Britain’s foreign plantations.

As with any figure who achieved such high status on the global scene, legends and conspiracy theories sprung up around the Rothschild name – and particularly around Nathan Rothschild. Many of these stories are largely embellished of have been twisted over time; however, the fact remains that Nathan Rothschild was truly one of the most successful immigrants in history. By the time he passed away in 1836, his personal fortune made up as much as 0.62% of British National income and he had established the Rothschild family as Europe’s most prominent investment bankers.


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