John Bryce

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the Scottish politician with the same name, see John Annan Bryce.
John Bryce
2nd Leader of the Opposition
In office
23 January 1891 – 31 August 1891
Prime Minister John Ballance
Preceded by John Ballance
Succeeded by William Rolleston
11th Minister of Native Affairs
In office
19 October 1881 – 16 August 1884
Prime Minister John Hall
Frederick Whitaker
Harry Atkinson
Preceded by William Rolleston
Succeeded by John Ballance
In office
8 October 1879 – 21 January 1881
Prime Minister John Hall
Preceded by John Sheehan
Succeeded by William Rolleston
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waikato
In office
1890 – 1891
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waipa
In office
1889 – 1890
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waitotara
In office
1881 – 1887
Succeeded by George Hutchison
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wanganui
In office
1866 – 1867
In office
1871 – 1881
Personal details
Born (1833-09-14)14 September 1833
Glasgow, Scotland
Died 17 January 1913(1913-01-17) (aged 79)
Wanganui, New Zealand
Spouse(s) Anne Campbell (married 1854), 14 children
Profession Farmer

John Bryce (14 September 1833 – 17 January 1913) was a New Zealand politician from 1871 to 1891 and Minister of Native Affairs from 1879 to 1884. In his attitudes to Māori land questions, he favoured strict legal actions against Māori opposed to alienation, and he personally directed the invasion of Parihaka and the arrest of the leaders of the movement.

Described as being stubborn and embittered to Māori questions,[by whom?] Bryce was the public face of a harsh policy towards Māori, but his actions were supported by the Premier and other members of his cabinet.

Early life[edit]

John Bryce arrived in New Zealand as a child in 1840, and had little formal education.[citation needed]

After a short time in the Australian gold-fields in 1851, he purchased a farm near Wanganui and remained a farmer for the next fifty years.[citation needed]

Early political career[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1866–1867 4th Wanganui Independent
1871–1876 5th Wanganui Independent
1876–1879 6th Wanganui Independent
1879–1881 7th Wanganui Independent
1881–1884 8th Waitotara Independent
1884–1887 9th Waitotara Independent
1889–1890 10th Waipa Independent
1890–1891 11th Waikato Independent

In 1859, Bryce started his political career. By 1862 he was representing his area in the Wellington Provincial Council, and by 1866 was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wanganui, a position he held for only a year before resigning due to ill-health.

Titokowaru's War[edit]

Main article: Titokowaru's War

When settlers were threatened by Māori led by Titikowaru in 1867, Bryce volunteered and became a lieutenant in the Kai-iwi Yeomanry Cavalry Volunteers. Bryce was proud of his commission, but an incident at William Handley's woolshed in November 1868 clouded his military career. Initially it was reported as an attack on a band of Hauhau warriors, killing two and wounding others and where Bryce was "prominent and set the men a gallant example" according to his commanding officer. Later reports had the Māori as a group of unarmed boys, aged from ten to twelve.

The incident in Which Bryce was alleged to have taken part was reported as an attack on woman and children in the "History of New Zealand" published in 1883 and led to a successful libel action against the publisher George William Rusden. Ex-Governor Arthur Gordon supported publisher Rusden but when the case went to trial Bryce won and was awarded damages as it was proved no women were present at Handley's woolshed, and Bryce denied being directly involved. Gordon's involvement and the damaging trial publicity delayed his elevation to the British peerage.[1]

Minister of Native Affairs[edit]

Bryce (top left) in a cartoon depiction of the Whitaker Ministry

In 1871, Bryce was back in Parliament as MP for Wanganui to 1881, and then MP for Waitotara until 1887. From 1876 to 1879, he chaired the Native Affairs Committee and between 1879 to 1883, was the Minister of Native Affairs. He expanded the powers of the Native Land Court in order to facilitate the sale of Māori land, reduced the scope of the Native Department, and enforced the law against any Maori resisting land confiscation and sales. These actions made him deeply unpopular with Maori and Bishop Octavius Hadfield reported that west coast Māori called him Bryce kohuru (Bryce the murderer).


Main article: Parihaka

The alienation of Taranaki land was challenged by Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi at Parihaka and their followers cultivated and planted confiscated land. When Bryce became Minister in 1879, two hundred Maori ploughmen were already imprisoned, and his introduction of the Confiscated Lands Inquiry and Maori Prisoners' Trials Act in 1879 allowed them to stay in prison awaiting trail for up to two years. By January 1881, his actions were being questioned in the British parliament, and he resigned to be replaced by the more moderate William Rolleston.

Rolleston was to be Native Minister only until October 1881, and in his last act, proclaimed that Parihaka inhabitants had fourteen days to comply with the law or faced confiscation of all their lands. Bryce became Native Minister, and on 5 November 1881 was at Parihaka at the head of 1,600 Armed Constabulary to arrest the leaders and disperse the village.

In April 1882 Premier John Hall privately criticised Bryce to the Attorney General and said he would resign 'unless Bryce turned over a new leaf'. When Bryce heard of this, he resigned, and the Hall Government fell. Bryce was re-appointed Native Minister under Premiers Frederick Whitaker and Harry Atkinson in 1882 to 1884.

Bryce lost his Waitotara seat in 1887. In 1889, Bryce was re-elected in 1889, this time to Waipa, and then in 1890 to Waikato. He was considered by some of his parliamentary supporters to be a possible replacement for Premier Harry Atkinson. Briefly he was Leader of the Opposition, but resigned from Parliament in 1891 for refusing to withdraw his criticism of the Premier. The Speaker, William Steward, ruled the criticism unparliamentary, and when Bryce refused to withdraw the words, "the House passed a vote of censure on him for not obeying the chair. He left the chamber, and never came back."[2]


  1. ^ Historical Frictions. M. Belgrave. Auckland University Press 2005.P262
  2. ^ "The Father of the House". The Marlborough Express. XXXIX (155). 5 July 1906. p. 1. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 


Political offices
Preceded by
John Sheehan
Minister of Native Affairs
Succeeded by
William Rolleston
Preceded by
William Rolleston
Succeeded by
John Ballance
Preceded by
John Ballance
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
William Rolleston
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Henry Shafto Harrison
Member of Parliament for Wanganui
serving alongside William Fox and John Ballance
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Succeeded by
William Hogg Watt
New constituency Member of Parliament for Waitotara
Succeeded by
George Hutchison
Preceded by
William Jackson
Member of Parliament for Waipa
In abeyance
Title next held by
William Goosman
Preceded by
John Blair Whyte
Member of Parliament for Waikato
Succeeded by
Edward Lake