Sir George Grey
Sir George Grey in 1861
|11th Premier of New Zealand|
13 October 1877 - 8 October 1879
|3rd Governor of New Zealand|
18 November 1845 - 3 January 1854
|Thomas Gore Browne|
4 December 1861 - 5 February 1868
|Colonel Thomas Gore Browne|
|Sir George Bowen|
|Governor of Cape Colony|
|George Cathcart (Charles Henry Darling acting)|
|Philip Edmond Wodehouse (Robert Wynyard acting)|
|3rd Governor of South Australia|
15 May 1841 - 25 October 1845
|Born||14 April 1812|
|Died||19 September 1898 (aged 86)|
South Kensington, London, England
(m. 1839; died 1898)
|Relatives||John Gray (uncle)|
|Education||Royal Grammar School, Guildford|
|Alma mater||Royal Military College, Sandhurst|
Sir George Grey, KCB (14 April 1812 - 19 September 1898) was a British soldier, explorer, colonial administrator and writer. He served in a succession of governing positions: Governor of South Australia, twice Governor of New Zealand, Governor of Cape Colony, and the 11th Premier of New Zealand.
Grey was born in Lisbon, Portugal, just a few days after his father, Lieutenant-Colonel George Grey was killed at the Battle of Badajoz in Spain. He was educated in England. After military service (1829-37) and two explorations in Western Australia (1837-39), Grey became Governor of South Australia in 1841. He oversaw the colony during a difficult formative period. Despite being less hands-on than his predecessor George Gawler, his fiscally responsible measures ensured the colony was in good shape by the time he departed for New Zealand in 1845.
Grey was the most influential figure during the European settlement of New Zealand. Governor of New Zealand initially from 1845 to 1853, he was Governor during the initial stages of the New Zealand Wars and became a pioneer scholar of the M?ori culture, writing a study of M?ori mythology and oral history. He was knighted in 1848. In 1854, Grey was appointed Governor of Cape Colony in South Africa, where his resolution of hostilities between the natives and European settlers was praised by both sides. Grey was again appointed Governor of New Zealand in 1861, following the granting of a degree of self-governance to New Zealand, serving until 1868. He was appointed as Premier of New Zealand in 1877, in which capacity he served until 1879.
By political philosophy a Gladstonian liberal and Georgist, Grey eschewed the class system to be part of Auckland's new governance he helped to establish. Cyril Hamshere argues that Grey was a "great British proconsul", although he was also temperamental, demanding of associates, and lacking in some managerial abilities.
Grey was born in Lisbon, Portugal, the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel George Grey, of the 30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot, who was killed at the Battle of Badajoz in Spain just a few days before. His mother, Elizabeth Anne née Vignoles, on the balcony of her hotel in Lisbon, overheard two officers speak of her husband's death and this brought on the premature birth of the child. She was the daughter of a retired soldier turned Irish clergyman, Major later Reverend John Vignoles. Grey's grandfather was Owen Wynne Gray (c. 1745 - 6 January 1819). Grey's uncle was John Gray, who was Owen Wynne Gray's son from his second marriage.
Grey was sent to the Royal Grammar School, Guildford in Surrey, and was admitted to the Royal Military College in 1826. Early in 1830, he was gazetted ensign in the 83rd (County of Dublin) Regiment of Foot. In 1830, his regiment having been sent to Ireland, he developed much sympathy with the Irish peasantry whose misery made a great impression on him. He was promoted lieutenant in 1833 and obtained a first-class certificate at the examinations of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1836.
In 1837, at the age of 25, Grey led an ill-prepared expedition that explored North-West Australia. British settlers in Australia at the time knew little of the region and only one member of Grey's party had been there before. It was believed possible at that time that one of the world's largest rivers might drain into the Indian Ocean in North-West Australia; if that were found to be the case, the region it flowed through might be suitable for colonisation. Grey, with Lieutenant Franklin Lushington, of the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, offered to explore the region. On 5 July 1837, they sailed from Plymouth in command of a party of five, the others being Lushington; Dr William Walker, a surgeon and naturalist; and Corporals John Coles and Auger of the Royal Sappers and Miners. Others joined the party at Cape Town, and early in December they landed at Hanover Bay (west of Uwins Island in the Bonaparte Archipelago). Travelling south, the party traced the course of the Glenelg River. After experiencing boat wrecks, near-drowning, becoming completely lost, and Grey himself being speared in the hip during a skirmish with Aboriginal people, the party gave up. After being picked up by HMS Beagle and the schooner Lynher, they were taken to Mauritius to recover.
Two years later, Grey returned to Western Australia and was again wrecked with his party, again including Surgeon Walker, at Kalbarri; they were the first Europeans to see the Murchison River, but then had to walk to Perth, surviving the journey through the efforts of Kaiber, a Whadjuk Noongar man (that is, indigenous to the Perth region), who organised food and what water could be found (they survived by drinking liquid mud). At about this time, Grey learnt the Noongar language.
Due to his interest in Aboriginal culture in July 1839, Grey was promoted to captain and appointed temporary Resident Magistrate at King George Sound, Western Australia, following the death of Sir Richard Spencer RN KCH, the previous Resident Magistrate.
On 2 November 1839 at King George Sound, Grey married Eliza Lucy Spencer (1822-1898), daughter of the late Government Resident. Their only child, born in 1841 in South Australia, died aged five months. It was not a happy marriage. Grey, obstinate in his domestic affairs as in his first expedition, accused his wife unjustly of flirting with Rear Admiral Sir Henry Keppel on the voyage to Cape Town taken in 1860; he sent her away. She lived a life of misery until old age brought a formal reunion in 1897.
Grey adopted Annie Maria Matthews (1853-1938) in 1861, following the death of her father, his half-brother, Sir Godfrey Thomas. She married Seymour Thorne George on 3 December 1872 on Kawau Island.
Grey was the third Governor of South Australia, from May 1841 to October 1845. Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord John Russell, was impressed by Grey's report on governing indigenous people. This led to Grey's appointment as Governor.
Grey replaced for George Gawler, under whose stewardship the colony had become bankrupt through massive spending on public infrastructure. Gawler was also held responsible for the illegal retribution exacted by Major O'Halloran on an Aboriginal tribe, some of whose members had murdered all 25 survivors of the Maria shipwreck. Grey was governor during another mass murder: the Rufus River Massacre, of at least 30 Aboriginals, by Europeans, on 27 August 1841.
Governor Grey sharply cut spending. The colony soon had full employment, and exports of primary products were increasing. Systematic emigration was resumed at the end of 1844. Gawler, to whom Grey ascribed every problem in the colony, undertook projects to alleviate unemployment that were of lasting value. The real salvation of the colony's finances was the discovery of copper at Burra Burra in 1845.
In 1844, Grey enacted a series ordinances and amendments first entitled the Aborigines' Evidence Act and later known as the Aboriginal Witnesses Act. Effectively, the act created the conditions for the unprosecutable mass murder of Aboriginal Australians, where settler solidarity and the law of evidence ensured that the murder and massacre of Aboriginal Australians by European colonisers could not be tried solely on the evidence of Aboriginal witnesses.
The act was established "To facilitate the admission of the unsworn testimony of Aboriginal inhabitants of South Australia and parts adjacent". Its stated aim was to make provisions for unsworn testimony by "uncivilised people" to be admissible in court, .
During this time, European settlement accelerated, and in 1859 the number of P?keh? came to equal the number of M?ori, at around 60,000 each. Settlers were keen to obtain land and some M?ori were willing to sell, but there were also strong pressures to retain land - in particular from the M?ori King Movement. Grey had to manage the demand for land for the settlers to farm and the commitments in the Treaty of Waitangi that the M?ori chiefs retained full "exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties." The treaty also specifies that M?ori will sell land only to the Crown. The potential for conflict between the M?ori and settlers was exacerbated as the British authorities progressively eased restrictions on land sales after an agreement at the end of 1840 between the company and Colonial Secretary Lord John Russell, which provided for land purchases by the New Zealand Company from the Crown at a discount price, and a charter to buy and sell land under government supervision. Money raised by the government from sales to the company would be spent on assisting migration to New Zealand. The agreement was hailed by the company as "all that we could desire ... our Company is really to be the agent of the state for colonizing NZ." The Government waived its right of pre-emption in the Wellington region, Wanganui and New Plymouth in September 1841.
Following his term as Governor of South Australia, Grey was appointed the third Governor of New Zealand in 1845. During the tenure of his predecessor, Robert FitzRoy, violence over land ownership had broken out in the Wairau Valley in the South Island in June 1843, in what became known as the Wairau Affray (FitzRoy was later dismissed from office by the Colonial Office for his handling of land issues). It was only in 1846 that the war leader Te Rauparaha was arrested and imprisoned by Governer Grey on an unrelated charge, which remained controversial amongst the Ng?ti Toa people.
In March 1845, M?ori chief H?ne Heke began the Flagstaff War, the causes of which can be attributed to the conflict between what the Ng?puhi understood to be the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) and the actions of succeeding governors of asserting authority over the M?ori. On 18 November 1845 George Grey arrived in New Zealand to take up his appointment as governor, where he was greeted by outgoing Governor FitzRoy, who worked amicably with Grey before departing in January 1846. At this time, H?ne Heke challenged the British authorities, beginning by cutting down the flagstaff on Flagstaff Hill at Kororareka. On this flagstaff the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand had previously flown; now the Union Jack was hoisted; hence the flagstaff symbolised the grievances of Heke and his ally Te Ruki Kawiti, as to changes that had followed the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
There were many causes of the Flagstaff War and Heke had a number of grievances in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi. While land acquisition by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) had been controversial, the rebellion led by Heke was directed against the colonial forces with the CMS missionaries trying to persuade Heke to end the fighting. Despite the fact that T?mati W?ka Nene and most of Ng?puhi sided with the government, the small and ineptly led British had been beaten at Battle of Ohaeawai. Backed by financial support, far more troops, armed with 32-pounder cannons that had been denied to FitzRoy, Grey ordered the attack on Kawiti's fortress at Ruapekapeka on 31 December 1845. This forced Kawiti to retreat. Ng?puhi were astonished that the British could keep an army of nearly 1,000 soldiers in the field continuously. Heke's confidence waned after he was wounded in battle with T?mati W?ka Nene and his warriors, and by the realisation that the British had far more resources than he could muster; his enemies included some P?keh? M?ori supporting colonial forces.
After the Battle of Ruapekapeka, Heke and Kawiti were ready for peace. It was T?mati W?ka Nene they approached to act as intermediary in negotiations with Governor Grey, who accepted the advice of Nene that Heke and Kawiti should not be punished for their rebellion. The fighting in the north ended and there was no punitive confiscation of Ng?puhi land.
Colonists arrived at Port Nicholson, Wellington in November 1839 in ships charted by the New Zealand Company. Within months the New Zealand Company purported to purchase approximately 20 million acres (8 million hectares) in Nelson, Wellington, Whanganui and Taranaki. Disputes arose as to the validity of purchases of land, which remained unresolved when Grey became governor.
The company saw itself as a prospective government of New Zealand and in 1845 and 1846 proposed splitting the colony in two, along a line from Mokau in the west to Cape Kidnappers in the east - with the north reserved for M?ori and missionaries. The south would become a self-governing province, known as "New Victoria" and managed by the company for that purpose. Britain's Colonial Secretary rejected the proposal. The company was known for its vigorous attacks on those it perceived as its opponents - the British Colonial Office, successive governors of New Zealand, and the Church Missionary Society (CMS) that was led by the Reverend Henry Williams. Williams attempted to interfere with the land purchasing practices of the company, which exacerbated the ill-will that was directed at the CMS by the Company in Wellington and the promoters of colonisation in Auckland who had access to the Governor and to the newspapers that had started publication.
Unresolved land disputes that had resulted from New Zealand Company operations erupted into fighting in the Hutt Valley in 1846. The Ngati Rangatahi were determined to retain possession of their land. They assembled a force of about 200 warriors led by Te Rangihaeata, Te Rauparaha's nephew (son of his sister Waitohi, died 1839), also the person who had killed unarmed captives in Wairau Affray. Governor Grey moved troops into the area and by February had assembled nearly a thousand men together with some M?ori allies from the Te ?ti Awa hapu to begin the Hutt Valley Campaign.
Richard Taylor, a CMS missionary from Whanganui, attempted to persuade the Ng?ti Tama and Ng?ti Rangatahi to leave the disputed land. Eventually Grey paid compensation for the potato crop they had planted on the land. He also gave them 300 acres at Kaiwharawhara by the modern ferry terminal. Chief Taringakuri agreed to these terms. But when the settlers tried to move onto the land they were frightened off. On 27 February the British and their Te Ati Awa allies burnt the M?ori Pa at Maraenuku in the Hutt Valley, which had been built on land that the settlers claimed to own. The Ngati Rangatahi retaliated on 1 and 3 March by raiding settlers' farms, destroying furniture, smashing windows, killing pigs, and threatening the settlers with death if they gave the alarm. They murdered Andrew Gillespie and his son. 13 families of settlers moved into Wellington for safety. Governor Grey proclaimed martial law on 3 March. Sporadic fighting continued, including a major attack on a defended position at Boulcott's Farm on 6 May. On 6 August 1846, one of the last engagements was fought - the Battle of Battle Hill - after which Te Rangihaeata left the area. The Hutt Valley Campaign was followed by the Wanganui Campaign from April to July 1847.
In January 1846 fifteen chiefs of the area, including Te Rauparaha, had sent a combined letter to the newly arrived Governor Grey, pledging their loyalty to the British Crown. After intercepting letters from Te Rauparaha, Grey realised he was playing a double game. He was receiving and sending secret instructions to the local M?ori who were attacking settlers. In a surprise attack on his p? at Taupo (now named Plimmerton) at dawn on 23 July, Te Rauparaha, who was now quite elderly, was captured and taken prisoner. The justification given for his arrest was weapons supplied to M?ori deemed to be in open rebellion against the Crown. However, charges were never laid against Te Rauparaha so his detention was declared unlawful. While Grey's declaration of Martial law was within his authority, internment without trial would only be lawful if it had been authorised by statute. Te Rauparaha was held prisoner on HMS Driver, then he was taken to Auckland on HMS Calliope where he remained imprisoned until January 1848.
His son T?mihana was studying Christianity in Auckland and Te Rauparaha gave him a solemn message that their iwi should not take utu against the government. T?mihana returned to his rohe to stop a planned uprising. T?mihana sold the Wairau land to the government for 3,000 pounds. Grey spoke to Te Rauaparaha and persuaded him to give up all outstanding claims to land in the Wairau valley. Then, realising he was old and sick he allowed Te Rauparaha to return to his people at Otaki in 1848.
Auckland was made the new capital in March 1841 and by the time Grey was appointed governor in 1845, it had become a commercial centre as well as including the administrative institutions such as the Supreme Court. After the conclusion of the war in the north, government policy was to place a buffer zone of European settlement between the Ng?puhi and the city of Auckland. The background to the Invasion of Waikato in 1863 also, in part, reflected a belief that the Auckland was at risk from attack by the Waikato M?ori.
Governor Grey had to contend with newspapers that were unequivocal to their support of the interests of the settlers: the Auckland Times, Auckland Chronicle, The Southern Cross, which started by William Brown as a weekly paper in 1843 and The New Zealander, which was started in 1845 by John Williamson. These newspapers were known for their partisan editorial policies - both William Brown and John Williamson were aspiring politicians. The Southern Cross supported the land claimants, such as the New Zealand Company, and vigorously attacked Governor Grey's administration, while The New Zealander, supported the ordinary settler and the M?ori. The northern war adversely affected business in Auckland, such that The Southern Cross stopped publishing from April 1845 to July 1847.Hugh Carleton, who also became a politician, was the editor of The New Zealander then later established the Anglo-Maori Warder, which followed an editorial policy in opposition to Governor Grey.
At the time of the northern war The Southern Cross and The New Zealander blamed Henry Williams and the other CMS missionaries for the Flagstaff War. The New Zealander newspaper in a thinly disguised reference to Henry Williams, with the reference to "their Rangatira pakeha [gentlemen] correspondents", went on to state:
We consider these English traitors far more guilty and deserving of severe punishment than the brave natives whom they have advised and misled. Cowards and knaves in the full sense of the terms, they have pursued their traitorous schemes, afraid to risk their own persons, yet artfully sacrificing others for their own aggrandizement, while, probably at the same time, they were most hypocritically professing most zealous loyalty.
Official communications also blamed the CMS missionaries for the Flagstaff War. In a letter of 25 June 1846 to William Ewart Gladstone, the Colonial Secretary in Sir Robert Peel's government, Governor Grey referred to the land acquired by the CMS missionaries and commented that "Her Majesty's Government may also rest satisfied that these individuals cannot be put in possession of these tracts of land without a large expenditure of British blood and money". By the end of his first term as governor Grey had changed his opinion as to the role of the CMS missionaries, which was limited to attempts to persuade H?ne Heke bring an end to the fighting with the British soldiers and the Ng?puhi, led by T?mati W?ka Nene, who remained loyal to the Crown.
When he returned to New Zealand in 1861 for his second term as governor, Sir George and Henry Williams meet at the Waimate Mission Station in November 1861. Also in 1861 Henry's son Edward Marsh Williams was appointed by Sir George to be the Resident Magistrate for the Bay of Islands and Northern Districts.
Following a campaign for self-government by settlers in 1846, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the New Zealand Constitution Act 1846, granting the colony self-government for the first time. In his instructions to Grey, Colonial Secretary Earl Grey (no relation to George Grey) sent the 1846 Constitution Act with instructions to implement self-government. George Grey responded to Earl Grey that the Act would lead to further hostilities and that the settlers were not ready for self-government. In a dispatch to Earl Grey, Governor Grey stated that in implementing the Act, Her Majesty would not be giving the self-government that was intended, instead:
"...she will give to a small fraction of her subjects of one race the power of governing the large majority of her subjects of a different race... there is no reason to think that they would be satisfied with, and submit to, the rule of a minority"
Earl Grey agreed and in December 1847 introduced an Act suspending most of the 1846 Constitution Act. Grey wrote a draft of a new Constitution Act while camping on Mount Ruapehu in 1851, forwarding this draft to the Colonial Office later that year. Grey's draft established both provincial and central representative assemblies, allowed for M?ori districts and a Governor elected by the General Assembly. Only the latter proposal was rejected by the Parliament of the United Kingdom when it adopted Grey's constitution, the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852.
He took pains to tell M?ori that he had observed the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, assuring them that their land rights would be fully recognised. In the Taranaki district, M?ori were very reluctant to sell their land, but elsewhere Grey was much more successful, and nearly 33 million acres (130,000 km2) were purchased from M?ori, with the result that British settlements expanded quickly. Grey was less successful in his efforts to assimilate the M?ori; he lacked the financial means to realise his plans. Although he subsidised mission schools, requiring them to teach in English, only a few hundred M?ori children attended them at any one time.
Grey gave land for the establishment of Auckland Grammar School in Newmarket, Auckland in 1850. The school was officially recognised as an educational establishment in 1868 through the Auckland Grammar School Appropriation Act of the Provincial Government.Chris Laidlaw concludes that Grey ran a "ramshackle" administration marked by "broken promises and outright betrayal" of M?ori people. Grey's collection of M?ori artefacts, one of the earliest from New Zealand and assembled during his first Governorship, was donated to the British Museum in 1854.
Grey was again appointed Governor in 1861, to replace Governor Thomas Gore Browne, serving until 1868. His second term as Governor was greatly different from the first, as he had to deal with the demands of an elected parliament, which had been established in 1852.
Immediately prior to Grey's re-appointment as governor, there were rising tensions in Taranaki that eventually led to the involvement of British military forces at Waitara, in what is called the First Taranaki War, from March 1860 until the fighting subsided in 1862.
The leaders of the King movement or K?ngitanga had written a letter to Governor Browne stating that the Waikato tribes had never signed the Treaty of Waitangi and that they were a separate nation. Browne regarded the stance of the K?ngitanga as an act of disloyalty; and prepared plans for the invasion of Waikato, in part to uphold "the Queen's supremacy" in the face of the K?ngitanga challenge.
Grey launched the invasion of the Waikato in 1863 to take control of the heartland of the K?ngitanga. The war brought thousands of Imperial British troops to New Zealand: 18,000 men served in the British forces at some point during the campaign, with a peak of about 14,000 troops in March 1864.
In the later 1860s, the British government determined to withdraw Imperial troops from New Zealand. At the time the M?ori chiefs Te Kooti and Titokowaru had the colonial government and settlers extremely alarmed with a series of military successes. With the support of the Premier Edward Stafford, Grey evaded instructions from the Colonial Office to finalise the return of the regiments, which had commenced in 1865 and 1866. In the end, the British government recalled (removed) Grey from the office of Governor in February 1868. He was replaced by Sir George Bowen and during his term hostilities concluded with the abandoned pursuit of war leader Riwha Titokowaru - again in Taranaki - in 1869.
Grey was greatly respected by M?ori and often travelled with a company of chiefs. He induced leading chiefs to write down their accounts of M?ori traditions, legends and customs. His principal informant, Wiremu Maihi Te Rangik?heke, taught Grey to speak M?ori. Historian Michael King noted:
He learned M?ori and persuaded M?ori authorities to commit their legends and traditions to writing, some of which were subsequently published ... His collected papers would turn out to be the largest single repository of M?ori-language manuscripts.
Grey bought Kawau Island in 1862, on his return to New Zealand for a second term as governor. For 25 years, he lavished large amounts of his personal wealth on developing the island. He enlarged and remodeled Mansion House, the former residence of the copper mine superintendent. Here he planted a huge array of native and non-native trees and shrubs, and acclimatised many exotic birds and other animal species. The invasive species he introduced included pine trees and Australian marsupials (possum and wallabies), which went on to become significant weeds and pests. He also amassed a celebrated collection of rare books and manuscripts, artworks and curiosities, plus artefacts from the M?ori people.
In 1865, during Grey's second term as governor, the capital was transferred to Wellington, which was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital because of its proximity to the South Island. Grey had appointed the commissioners responsible for the recommendation.
Grey was Governor of Cape Colony from 5 December 1854 to 15 August 1861. He founded Grey College, Bloemfontein in 1855 and Grey High School in Port Elizabeth in 1856. in 1859 he laid the foundation stone of the New Somerset Hospital, Cape Town. When he left the Cape in 1861 he presented the National Library of South Africa with a remarkable personal collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and rare books.
During his term as Governor, Grey faced a growing rivalry between the eastern and western halves of the Cape Colony, as well as a small, but also growing, movement for local democracy ("responsible government") and greater independence from British rule. "There were moves for responsible government in the Cape Parliament in 1855 and 1856 but they were defeated by a combination of Western conservatives and Easterners anxious about the defence of the frontier under a responsible system. But undoubtedly Sir George Grey's political ability, charm and force of personality - aided by the parliamentary leadership of liberal-minded Attorney-General, William Porter - contributed to this result." In South Africa Grey dealt firmly with the natives, endeavouring to "protect" them from white settlement while simultaneously using reservations to coercively demilitarize them, using natives, in his own words, "as real though unavowed hostages for the tranquillity of their kindred and connections." On more than one occasion, Grey acted as arbitrator between the government of the Orange Free State and the natives, eventually drawing the conclusion that a federated South Africa would be a good thing for everyone. The Orange Free State would have been willing to join the federation, and it is probable that the Transvaal would also have agreed. However, Grey was 50 years before his time: the Colonial Office would not agree to his proposals. In spite of their instructions, Grey continued to advocate union, and, in connection with other matters, such as the attempt to settle soldiers in South Africa after the Crimean War, instructions were ignored.
Sir George was recalled in 1859. He had, however, scarcely reached England before a change of government led to the offer of another term, on the understanding that he abandon schemes for the federation of South Africa and, in future obey his instructions. Grey was convinced that the boundaries of the South African colonies should be widened, but could not obtain support from the British government. He was still working for this support when, war with the M?ori having broken out, it was decided that Grey should again be appointed governor of New Zealand. When he left his popularity among the people of Cape Colony was unbounded, and the statue erected at Cape Town during his lifetime described him as
a governor who by his high character as a Christian, a statesman, and a gentleman, had endeared himself to all classes of the community, and who by his zealous devotion to the best interests of South Africa and his able and just administration, has secured the approbation and gratitude of all Her Majesty's subjects in this part of her dominions.
Although by philosophy Grey was a liberal, his extremist views on the questions of the British Empire, of emigration, of Home Rule for Ireland and the cause of the English poor were contrary to the interests of Gladstone's Liberal government. Grey was marked as a "dangerous man". In 1870, at a parliamentary by-election for the Borough of Newark that followed the death of the sitting Liberal MP, Grey stood as an independent liberal against Gladstone's Liberal candidate Sir Henry Storks. Determined that Grey should not be elected and seeing that splitting the liberal vote would result in both Grey and Storks losing to the Conservative candidate, the Liberal government engineered an arrangement where both would withdraw, leaving another Liberal candidate, Samuel Boteler Bristowe, to take the seat. Storks was rewarded with the post of Surveyor-General of the Ordnance and Grey returned to New Zealand later that year.
|New Zealand Parliament|
In 1875 Sir George was elected Superintendent of Auckland Province (24 March 1875 - 31 October 1875). He stood in the general election for both the Auckland West and the Thames electorates in the 1875-1876 general election. In the two-member Auckland electorate, only Grey and Patrick Dignan were put forward as candidates, and were thus declared elected on 22 December 1875. The two-member Thames electorate was contested by six candidates, including Julius Vogel (who was Premier in 1875), William Rowe and Charles Featherstone Mitchell. On election day (6 January 1876), Grey attracted the highest number of votes and, unexpectedly, Rowe beat Vogel into second place (Vogel also stood in Wanganui, where he was returned). Hence Grey and Rowe were declared elected for Thames. A protest against Grey's election was lodged with the returning officer the following day, protesting that Grey had not been eligible to stand in Thames as he had already been elected in Auckland West. This petition was filed to the House of Representatives at the end of January.
With this controversy going on for several months unresolved, Grey advised in mid-June 1876 in a series of telegrams that he had chosen to represent Auckland West. On 8 July, the report of the committee inquiring into his election for Thames was read to the House. It was found that this was in accordance with the law, but that he had to make a decision for which electorate he would sit. On 15 July 1876, Grey announced that he would represent Thames, and he moved that a by-election be held in Auckland West for the seat that he would vacate there.
Grey opposed the abolition of the provinces, but his opposition proved ineffective; the provincial system was abolished in 1876. On defeating Harry Atkinson on 13 October 1877 in a vote of no confidence, he was elected Premier by Parliament. He asked Governor Lord Normanby for a dissolution of parliament but was flatly refused. Grey thought New Zealand's unique constitutional provincialism was under threat, so championed radical causes, such as one man-one vote. An economic downturn in 1878 put pressure on incomes; defection across the floor of the house of four Auckland members defeated Grey on a vote in October 1879. He resigned as prime minister. Grey described his philosophical radicalism:
This is a revolt against despotism.... What I am resolved to maintain is this, that there shall be equal justice in representation and in the distribution of land and revenue to every class in New Zealand ... equal rights to all - equal rights in education, equal rights in taxation, equal rights in representation ... equal rights in every respect.
His government did not operate particularly well, with Grey seeking to dominate the government came into conflict with the governor. His term as premier is regarded by historians as a failure. Towards the end of 1879, Grey's government got into difficulties over land tax. Eventually, Grey asked for an early election, in 1879.
Grey was elected in both the Thames and the City of Christchurch electorates in September 1879. Grey came first in the three-member Christchurch electorate (Samuel Paull Andrews and Edward Stevens came second with equal numbers of votes, 23 votes ahead of Edward Richardson). Richardson petitioned against Grey's return on technical grounds, as Grey had already been elected in the Thames electorate. The electoral commission unseated Grey on 24 October, with Richardson offered this vacancy a few days later. Grey kept the Thames seat and remained a member of parliament through that electorate.
In 1889, recalling his earlier proposal for the Governor to be elected from his first draft of the 1852 Constitution Act, Grey put forward the Election of Governor Bill, which would have allowed for a "British subject" to be elected to the office of Governor "precisely as an ordinary parliamentary election in each district."
By now Grey was suffering from ill health and he retired from politics in 1890, leaving for Australia to recuperate. While in Australia, he took part in the Australian Federal Convention. On returning to New Zealand, a deputation requested him to contest the Newton seat in Auckland in the 1891 by-election. The retiring member, David Goldie, also asked Grey to take his seat. Grey was prepared to put his name forward only if the election was unopposed, as he did not want to suffer the excitement of a contested election. Grey declared his candidacy on 25 March 1891. On 6 April 1891, he was declared elected, as he was unopposed. In December 1893, Grey was again elected, this time to Auckland City. He left for England in 1894 and did not return to New Zealand. He resigned his seat in 1895.
Grey died at his residence at the Norfolk Hotel, Harrington Road, South Kensington, London, on 19 September 1898, and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. Grey lived longer than any other New Zealand Prime Minister, 86 years and 158 days.
Places named after Grey include Greytown in the Wairarapa region of New Zealand's North Island, the Grey River in the South Island's West Coast region (and thus indirectly the town of Greymouth at the river's mouth), and the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn; the Division of Grey, an Australian Electoral Division in South Australia and the town of Grey in Western Australia. Grey Street, Melbourne and Grey Street, Onehunga are also believed to have been named after George Edward Grey.
In South Africa, Grey was instrumental in the founding of the Grey Institute, later named the Grey High School, Port Elizabeth, Grey College, Bloemfontein and Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. Grey's Pass near Citrusdal and the towns of Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal and Greyton, Western Cape are named for him, while Lady Grey, Eastern Cape is named after his wife. The main business thoroughfare in the town of Paarl (Western Cape) is named Lady Grey Street after his wife, while Cape Town has Sir George Grey Street in the inner city suburb of Oranjezicht draped over the foothills of Table Mountain.
The Governor, an historical drama miniseries based on Grey's life, was made by TVNZ and the National Film Unit in 1977, featuring Corin Redgrave in the title role. Despite critical acclaim, the miniseries attracted controversy at the time because of its then-large budget.
Colonel George Gawler
| Governor of South Australia
Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Robe
Captain Robert FitzRoy
| Governor of New Zealand
Colonel Thomas Gore Browne
Colonel Thomas Gore Browne
Sir George Bowen
Charles Henry Darling (acting)
| Governor of Cape Colony
Robert Wynyard (acting)
Sir Philip Wodehouse
| Premier of New Zealand
| Superintendent of Auckland Province
|Provincial Councils abolished|
|New Zealand Parliament|
| Member of Parliament for Thames
Served alongside: William Rowe, John Sheehan
| Member of Parliament for Auckland East
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1905
Title next held byFrederick Baume
|New constituency|| Member of Parliament for Auckland Central
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1905
Title next held byAlfred Kidd
| Member of Parliament for Newton
| Member of Parliament for Auckland
Served alongside: Charles Button, William Crowther