William Massey

William Massey

Infobox_Officeholder
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name=William Ferguson Massey
honorific-suffix =
MP


caption=Rt. Hon. William Massey, aged about 60
office=19th Prime Minister of New Zealand
monarch=George V
term_start=10 July 1912
term_end=10 May 1925
predecessor=Thomas MacKenzie
successor=Francis Bell
office2=5th Leader of the Opposition
term_start2=11 September 1903
term_end2=10 July 1912
predecessor2=William Russell
successor2=Joseph Ward
birth_date=birth date|1856|3|26|df=y
birth_place=Limavady, Ireland
death_date=death date and age|1925|5|10|1856|3|26|df=y
death_place=Wellington, New Zealand
spouse=Dame Christina Allen Paul (GBE), married 1882, seven children
children=Walter William Massey
John Norman Massey
party=Reform (None until February 1909)
constituency=Waitemata, Franklin
religion=Presbyterian

William Ferguson Massey (often known simply as Bill Massey or "Farmer Bill") served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1912 to 1925, and was the founder of the Reform Party. He is widely considered to have been one of the more skilled politicians of his time, and was known for the particular support he showed towards rural interests. After Richard Seddon, he is the second-longest serving Prime Minister in New Zealand's history.

Early life

Massey was born in 1856 into a farming family, and grew up in Limavady a small town twenty miles from the city of Derry in Northern Ireland. His family moved to New Zealand in 1869, although Bill Massey himself remained in Ireland for a further year to complete his education. After arriving in New Zealand, Massey worked as a farmhand for some years before acquiring his own farm in 1877. Five years later, Massey married his neighbour's daughter, Christina Allen.

Early political career

Massey gradually became more prominent in his community. This was partly due to his involvement the school board, the debating society, freemasonry and the Orange Order, but the most important groups he participated in were farming associations. Because of his prominence in these circles, he became involved in political debate, working on behalf of rural conservatives against the Liberal Party government of John Ballance.

In 1893, Massey stood as a candidate in the general election, but was unsuccessful, losing to the Liberal candidate. In early 1894, however, Massey was invited to contest a by-election in the neighbouring electorate of Waitemata, and was victorious. But in the 1896 election he stood for the Franklin electorate, which he represented until he died in 1925.

Opposition

Massey joined the ranks of the (mostly conservative) independent MPs opposing the Liberal Party (which was by then led by Richard Seddon). These opposition MPs, however, were poorly organized and dispirited, and had little chance of unseating the Liberals. William Russell, official Leader of the Opposition, was able to command only fifteen votes. Massey brought increased vigour to the conservative faction.

While the conservatives did rally for a time, support for the Liberals increased markedly during the Second Boer War, leaving the conservatives devastated. Massey's political career, however, survived the period. Despite a challenge by William Herries, Massey remained the most prominent opponent to the Liberal Party.

After Seddon's death, the Liberals came to be led by Joseph Ward, who proved more vulnerable to Massey's attacks. In particular, Massey made gains by claiming that alleged corruption and cronyism within the civil service was ignored or abetted by the Liberal government. His conservative politics also benefited him when voters grew concerned about militant unionism and the supposed threat of socialism.

Reform Party

In 1909, Massey announced the creation of the Reform Party from his New Zealand Political Reform League. The party was to be led by himself and backed by his conservative colleagues.

In the 1911 elections, the Reform Party managed to gain more seats than the Liberal Party, but did not gain an absolute majority. The Liberals, relying on support from independents who had not joined Reform, were able to stay in power until the following year, when they lost a vote of no confidence.

Prime Minister

Massey was sworn in as Prime Minister on 10 July 1912. As time passed, however, some members of Reform grew increasingly frustrated at Massey's dominance of the party. He also earned the enmity of many workers with his harsh response to miners' and waterfront workers' strikes in 1912 and 1913. The use of force to deal with the strikers made Massey an object of hatred for the emerging left-wing. However, conservatives (many of whom believed that the unions were controlled by socialists and communists) generally supported Massey, saying that his methods were necessary.

Amongst the first Acts enacted by Massey's government was one which "enabled some 13,000 Crown tenants to purchase their own farms."cite book |last=Allen |first=Sam |title=To Ulster's Credit |year=1985 |pages=pp. 116 |location=Killinchy, UK ]

World War I

The outbreak of the First World War, however, diverted attention from these matters. The 1914 election left Massey and his political opponents stalemated in parliament, with neither side possessing enough support to govern effectively. As such, Massey reluctantly invited Joseph Ward of the Liberals to form a war-time coalition (created in 1915). While Massey remained Prime Minister, Ward gained de-facto status as joint leader. Massey and Ward travelled to the United Kingdom several times, both during and after the war, to discuss military cooperation and peace settlements. During his first visit, Massey visited New Zealand troops, listening to their complaints sympathetically. This angered some officials, who believed that Massey undermine the military leadership by conceding (in contrast to the official line) that conditions for the troops were indeed unsatisfactory. The war did, however, reinforce Massey's strong belief in the British Empire and New Zealand's links with it.

Coalition with the Liberals

The coalition government, partly because of the difficulty in obtaining enough consensus to implement meaningful policies, had grown increasingly unpopular by the end of the war. Massey was particularly worried by the rise of the Labour Party, which was growing increasingly influential. Massey also found himself fighting off criticism from within his own party, including charges that he was ignoring rural concerns. He dissolved the coalition in 1919, and fought both the Liberals and Labour on a platform of patriotism, stability, support for farmers, and a public works program. He successfully gained a working majority.

1922 elections

Economic problems, however, lessened support for Reform. In the 1922 elections, Massey lost his majority, and was forced to negotiate with independents to keep his government alive. He was also alarmed by the success of Labour, which was now only five seats behind the Liberals. He began to believe that the Liberals would eventually disappear, with their supporters being split between Reform and Labour - the socially liberal wing to Labour and the economically liberal wing to Reform. Massey set about trying to ensure that Reform's gain would be the greater.

In 1924, however, illness forced Massey to relinquish many of his official duties. The following year, he died of his illness. A memorial to him exists in New Zealand's capital city. Massey University is also named after him - the name was chosen because the university initially had a focus on agricultural science, matching Massey's own farming background.

Trivia

* Massey was New Zealand's second longest-serving Prime Minister, after Richard Seddon. (See List of New Zealand Prime Ministers by term)
* Two of his sons became Reform MPs: John Norman Massey (1885-1964) who represented his father's Franklin electorate from 1928 to 1935 and from 1938 to 1957 (for National); and Walter William Massey (1882-1959) who represented the Hauraki electorate from 1931 to 1935.

Further reading

:*citation |first = R.D. (comp.) |last = Batt |title = The Massey Collection: a description of items associated with the life and work of the Right Honourable William Ferguson Massey presented to Massey University by his family |place = Palmerston North, [N.Z.] |publisher = Massey University |year = 1977

:*citation |first = Nellie E. |last = Coad |title = New Zealand from Tasman to Massey |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = Harry H. Tombs |year = 1934

:*citation |first = H.J. |last = Constable |title = From ploughboy to premier: a new life of the Right Hon. William Ferguson Massey, P.C |place = London, [England] |publisher = John Marlowe Savage & Co. |year = 1925

:*citation |first = William James |last = Gardner |title = 'MASSEY, William Ferguson', from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 18-Sep-2007 Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 18-Sep-2007 |url = http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/1966/M/MasseyWilliamFerguson/en |accessdate = 2008-04-24

:*citation |first = William James |last = Gardner |title = W.F. Massey |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = A.H. Reed & A.W. Reed |year = 1969

:*citation |first = Barry |last = Gustafson |author-link = Barry Gustafson |title = 'Massey, William Ferguson 1856-1925'. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007 |url = http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/ |accessdate = 2008-04-24

:*citation |first = Robert |last = Hogg |title = Politics in New Zealand |place = n.p. |publisher = n.p. |year = 1924

:*citation |first1 = Alec (ill.) |last1 = Lawson |first2 = Will |last2 = Lawson |title = Christmas cartoons, 1916 |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = W. Macbeth |year = 1916

:*citation |first1 = Alec (ill.) |last1 = Lawson |first2 = Will |last2 = Lawson |title = The twins’ travels |place = Christchurch, [N.Z.] |publisher = Andrews, Baty |year = 1919

:*citation |first = Barrie |last = MacDonald |title = Massey’s imperialism and the politics of phosphate [Massey memorial lecture ; 1982 ; Occasional publication (Massey University) ; no. 7] |place = Palmerston North, [N.Z.] |publisher = Massey University |year = 1982 |isbn = 0-908-66500-8

:*citation |first = D. Christine |last = Massey |title = The life of Rt. Hon. W.F. Massey P.C., L.L.D. : Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1912-1925 |place = Auckland, [N.Z.] |publisher = D.C. Massey |year = 1996

:*citation |first = D. Christine |last = Massey |title = The life of Rt. Hon. W.F. Massey P.C., L.L.D. : Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1912-1925 |edition = 2nd |place = Auckland, [N.Z.] |publisher = D.C. Massey |year = c.1999

:*citation |first = William F. |last = Massey |title = Election speeches of Mr. Massey, 1911: newspaper clippings |place = n.p. |publisher = n.p. |year = 1911

:*citation |first = Guy H. |last = Scholefield |title = The Right Honourable William Ferguson Massey, M.P., P.C., Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1912-1925: a personal biography |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = Harry H. Tombs |year = 1925

:*citation |first = Francis |last = Stafford |title = State banking: an object lesson from the Commonwealth: notes thereon as embodied in correspondence sent to the Prime Minister of New Zealand |place = Gisborne, [N.Z.] |publisher = P.B. Herald Office |year = 1922

External links

* [http://www.primeminister.govt.nz/oldpms/1912-15massey.html Prime Minister's Office biography]


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