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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Hon. William Swainson

The Hon. William Swainson was the first Speaker of the Legislative Council. He was elected on the 16th of May, 1854, and retired on the 8th of August, 1856. Mr. Swainson was born in Lancashire, England. A barrister of the Middle Temple, he was nominated in 1841 by Lord John Russell to succeed Mr. Francis Fisher, the first Attorney General of New Zealand, which position he held until the establishment of Responsible Government in 1856, Immediately after his appointment he sailed for the Colony, and was a fellow-passenger with Chief Justice (Sir William) Martin. As a member of the Executive Council, he, at the beginning of his career, inaugurated many useful reforms, and laid the foundations of many of the best institutions of to-day. The honourable gentleman, associated with the good Bishop Selwyn, greatly assisted the establishment of the Episcopal Church in this country. In 1866, in recognition of his valuable services to the Church, he was appointed to the high office of Chancellor of the Diocese of Auckland, and held the appointment continuously until his death in 1884. In the year succeeding his appointment to the Speakership, Mr. Swainson, while holding the post of Attorney-General, visited England and delivered lectures on “New Zealand as a Field for Colonization.” His love of the Colony is also well evidenced in his literary works, which bear the titles “Auckland the Capital of New Zealand,” “New Zealand and its Colonization,” and “New Zealand and the War.” Since his retirement from the Attorney-Generalship in 1856, Mr. Swainson figures but once as an Executive Councillor—namely, from April to July in the year 1879, during which short period he was a member of the Grey Government without portfolio.