Julius Vogel

Sir Julius Vogel KCMG (24 February 1835 – 12 March 1899) was the eighth premier of New Zealand. His administration is best remembered for the issuing of bonds to fund railway construction and other public works. He was the first Jewish prime minister of New Zealand. Historian Warwick R. Armstrong assesses Vogel's strengths and weaknesses:

Sir Julius Vogel
Julius Vogel, ca 1870s.jpg
8th Premier of New Zealand
In office
8 April 1873 – 6 July 1875
GovernorJames Fergusson
George Phipps
Preceded byWilliam Fox
Succeeded byDaniel Pollen
In office
15 February 1876 – 1 September 1876
GovernorGeorge Phipps
Preceded byDaniel Pollen
Succeeded byHarry Atkinson
Personal details
Born(1835-02-24)24 February 1835
London, UK
Died12 March 1899(1899-03-12) (aged 64)
Molesey, Surrey, UK
Resting placeWillesden Jewish Cemetery, London, UK
Political partyNone
SpouseMary Clayton (m. 1867)
RelativesWilliam Clayton (father-in-law)

Vogel's politics were like his nature, imaginative – and occasionally brilliant – but reckless and speculative. He was an excellent policymaker but he needed a strong leader to restrain him....Yet Vogel had vision. He saw New Zealand as a potential 'Britain of the South Seas', strong both in agriculture and in industry, and inhabited by a large and flourishing population.[1]

Early lifeEdit

Born in London, Vogel received his early education at University College School in University College, Gower St London. He later studied chemistry and metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines (later part of Imperial College London). He emigrated to Victoria, Australia in 1852, being editor of several newspapers on the goldfields, including the Inglewood Advertiser and the Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser.[2] After an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Victorian Parliament in the Avoca district in August 1861 (he lost to James Macpherson Grant and Benjamin George Davies),[2][3] he moved to Otago in October 1861, where he became a journalist for the Otago Witness. In November 1861, he founded the Otago Daily Times and became its first editor.[4] In 1863 James Grant was charged with criminal libel against Vogel in an election pamphlet but was found not guilty by a jury.[5][6]

On 19 March 1867, Vogel got married in Dunedin to his neighbour Mary "Polly" Clayton, the daughter of architect William Henry Clayton. They had three sons and one daughter.[4]

Political careerEdit

Vogel first became involved in politics in 1862, winning election to the provincial council of Otago.[2] Four years later became the head of the provincial government, a post which he held until 1869.[2]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1863–1866 3rd Dunedin and Suburbs North Independent
1866–1870 4th Goldfields Independent
1871–1875 5th Auckland East Independent
1876 6th Wanganui Independent
1884–1887 9th Christchurch North Independent
1887–1889 10th Christchurch North Independent

In 1863 he was unsuccessful in the 1863 by-election for Dunedin and Suburbs South. Later in an 1863 by-election he was elected a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives for the Dunedin and Suburbs North electorate.[7]

In the 1866 election, he was defeated by William Murison in the Waikouaiti electorate on Wednesday, 28 February.[8][9] It is unclear why Vogel stood in Waikouaiti as two days earlier, he had been returned unopposed at the nomination for the Goldfields electorate.[7][10] On retiring from the provincial government in 1869, he joined the William Fox ministry as colonial treasurer,[2] afterward holding the posts of postmaster-general, commissioner of customs, and telegraph commissioner at various times.[4]

In 1870, as Colonial Treasurer he introduced his "grand go-ahead policy" or great Public Works policy to revitalise and develop the country by borrowing overseas to build railways, roads and telegraph lines and to attract immigrants.

The Fox ministry having been forced to resign, Vogel carried a vote of no confidence in their successors, and in October 1872, returned to power as leader in the Lower House, colonial treasurer and postmaster-general. He represented several electorates throughout the colony: Dunedin and Suburbs North 1863–1866, Goldfields in Otago 1866–1870, Auckland East 1871–1875, Wanganui 1876 (resigned) and Christchurch North 1884–1889 (resigned).

Vogel successfully contested the 1884 election in Christchurch North against John Crewes.[11]

Vogel was the first Member of Parliament to be named in New Zealand.[12] He was named on 15 November 1887 by the Speaker of the House Maurice O'Rorke for saying that his fellow Member Robert Thompson was 'want of manners' in a debate about Vogel's use of constabulary for household purposes – a charge he denied.[13]

Premier of New ZealandEdit

Vogel and his ministry (1873)

Vogel was premier from 1873 to 1875 and again in 1876. From 1876 to 1881, he was agent-general for New Zealand in London, and, in 1884, he was again a member of the government of the colony. During his political career, Vogel worked generally successfully for reconciliation with the Māori people. In 1887, he introduced the first women's suffrage Bill to Parliament, but suffrage was not granted until 1893. He was knighted in 1875. He finally gave up the colonial office in 1887; from which date he lived in England and was the Agent-General for New Zealand.

Vogel is best remembered for his "Great Public Works" scheme of the 1870s. Before 1870, New Zealand was a country largely dominated by provincial interests and pork-barrel politics. After Vogel, as colonial treasurer, proposed borrowing the massive sum of 10 million pounds, New Zealand developed a significant infrastructure of roads, railways and communication, all administered by central government.

Vogel is also noteworthy as one of the few practising Jewish prime ministers outside Israel. Since Vogel, two other New Zealanders of Jewish descent have held the premiership: Francis Bell, an Anglican who briefly became prime minister in May 1925; and John Key, New Zealand's prime minister between 2008 and 2016 who was not religious despite attending synagogue as a child on occasion.[14] Benjamin Disraeli, of Jewish descent but Anglican, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom contemporaneously to Vogel's premiership.

Life after politicsEdit

Vogel has a reputation as the first New Zealander to write a science-fiction novel: Anno Domini 2000, or, Woman's Destiny, published in 1889. It anticipated a utopian world where women held many positions of authority. New Zealand went on to become the first country to give women the vote, and, from 1997 to 2008, continuously had a female Prime Minister, while for a short period (2005–2006) women simultaneously held all five highest government positions (Monarch, Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House and Chief Justice).[citation needed]

In honour of this book, the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for New Zealand speculative fiction take their name from him.[15]

He died in London, having retired there in 1887 after electoral defeat. He had been an invalid for several years.[16][17]

On his death at East Molesey in 1899, Vogel was interred in Willesden Jewish Cemetery in London.[18]


Several things bear his name today:

  • The Sir Julius Vogel Awards for science fiction writing.
  • Suburbs named Vogeltown in Wellington and New Plymouth.
  • Vogel House, the former official residence of New Zealand Prime Ministers for most of the 20th century.
  • Vogel Building in Wellington built for the Ministry of Works, now housing much of the Ministry of Justice. This building has been renamed the Justice Centre as of July 2013.
  • Various streets throughout the country named Vogel Street, such as the one in his former constituency of Dunedin.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Warwick Robert Armstrong, "VOGEL, Sir Julius, K.C.M.G." An Encyclopedia of New Zealand 1966 (1966)
  2. ^ a b c d e Mennell, Philip (1892). "Vogel, Hon. Sir Julius" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co – via Wikisource.
  3. ^ Kennedy, B. E. Vogel, Sir Julius (1835–1899). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Dalziel, Raewyn. "Vogel, Julius". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  5. ^ "Supreme Court – Criminal Session". Otago Witness. 30 September 1863.
  6. ^ "Tuesday, 29th September". Otago Witness. 2 October 1863.
  7. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 242.
  8. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 222.
  9. ^ "Waikouaiti Election". Otago Witness. No. 744. 3 March 1866. p. 8. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Nomination of Candidates". Lake Wakatip Mail. No. 297. 3 March 1866. p. 2. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  11. ^ Chalklen, Mollie. "John Crewes". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  12. ^ "Chapter 11 The Chamber, Buildings and Grounds – New Zealand Parliament". parliament.nz. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  13. ^ Hansard. Vol. 58. New Zealand Parliament. p. 379.
  14. ^ The New Zealand Herald, 26 July 2008, page B3.
  15. ^ "Curiosities: Anno Domini 2000; or Woman's Destiny by Julius Vogel" by Lucy Sussex, Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 2008, page 162.
  16. ^ "Obituary". Vol. LVI, no. 10294. 14 March 1899.
  17. ^ "Death of Sir Julius Vogel". 16 March 1899.
  18. ^ "Historic cemetery to get £2m heritage facelift". The Jewish Chronicle. 5 November 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2016.


Further readingEdit

  • Burdon, Randal M. Life and Times of Sir Julius Vogel (Christchurch, 1948)

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by Premier of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Daniel Pollen
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Postmaster-General
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Oswald Curtis
Succeeded by
Preceded by Succeeded by
Preceded by
William Russell
Succeeded by
Harry Atkinson
Preceded by Electric Telegraph Commissioner
Position abolished
Preceded by
Oswald Curtis
Telegraph Commissioner
New title Commissioner of Telegraphs
Succeeded by
George McLean
Preceded by
Richard Oliver
Succeeded by
William Russell
Preceded by
William Russell
Succeeded by
Harry Atkinson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Agent-General of New Zealand in the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Dunedin and Suburbs North
Served alongside: John Richardson
Electorate abolished
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Whanganui
Served alongside: John Bryce
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Christchurch North
Succeeded by