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Sir Julius Vogel

Sir Julius Vogel

Sir Julius Vogel (1835-1899) was a New Zealand journalist, financier, politician, and prime minister. He led the country to economic recovery after the post-gold rush depression.

Julius Vogel was born in London on Feb. 24, 1835. At the age of 17 he joined the gold rush to Australia and became editor of the Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser in Victoria. In 1861 he moved on to Otago, where he helped to start the first daily newspaper in New Zealand. In 1862 he was elected to the provincial house, and the following year he won a seat in the central legislature in Auckland.

Vogel's precise political orientation was difficult to deduce, but he was associated with the conservatives, and in 1869 he became colonial treasurer in the administration headed by William Fox. It was a period of economic depression, following the boom of the gold rush, and Vogel proposed that the government should embark on a policy of heavy borrowing in London for the construction of roads, railways, and other public works, which would create jobs, increase purchasing power, and renew public confidence. It was a philosophy that acquired the label "Vogelism," and although it was widely criticized, it was accepted by Parliament, and the London market responded freely to his appeals.

In 1873 Vogel headed an administration in which he was both prime minister and treasurer. When the provincial governments put obstacles in the path of his policy, they were abolished, and the country thenceforward was governed under a unitary instead of a federal system. Whatever the criticism of the Vogel financial program, the New Zealand economy was buoyant when his prime ministership ended in 1876, and it remained so until the land boom collapsed in 1880.

Apart from his specifically financial measures, Vogel was also instrumental in the establishment of a government life-insurance office and in the creation of a public trust office for supervising the estates of deceased persons who had left no provision for the administration of their wills or had appointed the office to administer them. He was responsible for the arrangement whereby colonial loans were issued in the form of inscribed stock, and the Colonial Stock Act of 1877 was introduced by the British government largely as a result of his representations.

Vogel left for London in September 1876 to serve as the New Zealand agent general. He returned to New Zealand in 1882 and two years later took office for the last time in an administration which he led in collaboration with Sir Robert Stout and which lasted three years, until its defeat in 1887. Vogel finally left New Zealand in 1888, returned to live his last years in England, and died in poverty at East Molesey near London on March 12, 1899.

Further Reading

Randal M. Burdon, The Life and Times of Sir Julius Vogel (1948), is the standard political biography. W.P. Morrell, The Provincial System in New Zealand (1932; 2d rev. ed. 1964), is a good guide to the politics of the period 1852-1876. □

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