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Sir Julius Vogel Jill Leichter

Sir Julius Vogel Jill Leichter


Sir Julius Vogel 1835 - 1899, started the Otago Daily Times newspaper, served New Zealand's government as Colonial Treasurer, Postmaster General, Commissioner of Customs, Telegraph Commissioner, Minister of Immigration and twice held the office of Premier of New Zealand.

Born near London in 1835, Julius Vogel was a sickly child and educated at home until 13. His careful upbringing, however, didn’t curb his adventurous spirit and at 16 he sailed for Melbourne during the Australian gold rush. His business venture failed which prompted him to turn to journalism and politics. He worked for several newspapers and ran unsuccessfully for political office. Undaunted by defeat, in 1861 he sailed for Dunedin just after gold was discovered. He and a partner promptly started New Zealand’s first daily newspaper, The Otago Daily Times.

Politics beckoned and Vogel ran for office many times before winning a seat representing Waikouaiti in provincial government in 1863. The win launched a political career which lasted until 1876. In 1869, he moved to Auckland and subsequently held the offices of Colonial Treasurer, Postmaster General, Commissioner of Customs, Telegraph Commissioner and Minister of Immigration. Twice he served as Premier of New Zealand.

Vogel governed with foresight:

At his behest, the government borrowed money to build infrastructure in the 1860s and 70s. He advised setting aside land for debt repayment, an idea largely ignored that might have lessened the severity of the 1880s’ depression. He introduced policy to encourage immigration, doubling the population of New Zealand in the 1870s.

He was responsible for laying telegraph cables to improve international communication and trade. He advocated setting aside intact old growth forest and replanting cut forests, introduced the first women’s suffrage bill in 1887 and wanted a greater role for New Zealand in the Pacific. These ideas were ahead of his time and were unsuccessful.

Knighted in 1875, he quit politics in 1876 and moved to Britain in 1888, but his larger than life personality was tempered by terrible gout. Confined to a wheelchair near the end of his life, he lost his personal fortune and died in 1899 a poor man. Vogel is remembered for his ambitious policies and vision, essential to the development of New Zealand as a nation.


Image above header: Photographic portrait of Sir Julius Vogel, 1835 – 1899,reproduced here with the permission of the Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago. Photographer unknown.

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