William Richmond

Christopher William Richmond (12 July 1821 – 3 August 1895), generally called William Richmond, was a 19th-century New Zealand politician. He held a number of Cabinet positions between 1856 and 1861. He worked as a lawyer and was appointed a senior judge.

William Richmond
C William Richmond 1888.jpg
Judge Christopher William Richmond ca 1888
5th Colonial Secretary
In office
2 June 1856 – 4 November 1856
Prime MinisterEdward Stafford
6th Colonial Treasurer
In office
4 November 1856 – 25 February 1859
Prime MinisterEdward Stafford
In office
26 April 1859 – 12 July 1861
Prime MinisterEdward Stafford
1st Minister of Native Affairs
In office
27 August 1858 – 10 November 1860
Prime MinisterEdward Stafford
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Town of New Plymouth
In office
Personal details
Born(1821-07-12)12 July 1821
London, England
Died3 August 1895(1895-08-03) (aged 74)
Wellington, New Zealand
Spouse(s)Emily Elizabeth Atkinson
ChildrenNine, including Mary Richmond
RelativesJames Crowe Richmond (brother)
Henry Richmond (brother)
Jane Maria Atkinson (sister)
OccupationLawyer, politician, judge

Early lifeEdit

Richmond was probably born in London on 12 July 1821. His father, Christopher Richmond, died when William Richmond was only ten years old, leaving William in the sole care of Maria (Lely) Wilson, his mother. He was raised in the Unitarian faith, and attended Unitarian schools. His health was always delicate, and he suffered from severe asthma throughout his life. From 1841 to 1843, he was in France, but in 1844, he began working in various law offices. He also developed a strong friendship with Richard Holt Hutton, a writer and theologian who influenced his views considerably.[1]

Emigration to New ZealandEdit

Richmond became a practising lawyer in 1847, but business was poor. James Crowe Richmond and Henry Richmond, his two younger brothers, sought better fortunes in New Plymouth, New Zealand, in 1850, and William Richmond considered joining them. On 15 September 1852, Richmond married Emily Elizabeth Atkinson, described by Joseph Hutton (father of Richmond's friend Richard Holt Hutton) as "a remarkable woman of singular intellectual power, moral earnestness and charming spontaneity of character". Shortly after their marriage, the two set out for New Zealand on the Sir Edward Paget, being joined by his mother, his sister, and Harry and Arthur Atkinson (two brothers of Emily; Harry would later become Premier). In New Plymouth, Richmond re-established his law practice, and soon became a prominent member of the local community.[2][3]

Political careerEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1855–1860 2nd Town of New Plymouth Independent
1860–1862 3rd Town of New Plymouth Independent

On 5 November 1855, he was elected to represent the Town of New Plymouth electorate in the 2nd New Zealand Parliament.[4] When Edward Stafford formed a government on 2 June 1856, Richmond accepted an invitation to become Colonial Secretary (forerunner to the modern Minister of Internal Affairs). When Henry Sewell resigned, Richmond also became Colonial Treasurer (forerunner to the modern Minister of Finance), although Sewell briefly resumed this post for two months in 1859. On 27 August 1858, he became New Zealand's first Minister for Native Affairs, but lost this post to Frederick Weld in late 1860. He also served as Commissioner of Customs.

Politically, Richmond aligned himself with the centralist faction, believing that the power of the provinces needed to be curtailed. Richmond also believed in the need to "reform" Māori institutions and culture, being particularly adamant about the need to eliminate the beastly communism of common land ownership. Richmond generally had a very low opinion of Māori, considering them to be savages.

He was confirmed at the 1860 general election, which was held on 28 November. After the Stafford government fell, Richmond did not remain in Parliament for long, and he resigned on 20 January 1862.[4] He was succeeded by Isaac Newton Watt.

Legal careerEdit

He established a law practice in Dunedin with Thomas Gillies, a fellow MP. He was soon appointed to a post as a senior judge, a role which he seemed to enjoy more than his former political career. In 1865, he turned down an invitation by Stafford to return to politics, despite a suggestion that he could become Premier.

During the "Barton Affair" of 1876–78 he was a member of the court with Chief Justice James Prendergast who imprisoned lawyer George Elliott Barton for a month for contempt of court, a ruling that split the Wellington legal profession.[5]

Towards the end of his life, Richmond became increasingly conservative, condemning the Liberal Party's proposals for women's suffrage, a land tax, and an income tax.[1]


Richmond died in Wellington on 3 August 1895.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Sinclair, Keith (22 June 2007). "Richmond, Christopher William 1821 – 1895". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  2. ^ Bagnall, Austin Graham (1966). "RICHMOND, Christopher William". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  3. ^ Porter, Frances (22 June 2007). "Atkinson, Arthur Samuel 1833 – 1902". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  4. ^ a b Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 136.
  5. ^ Morris, Grant (2010). "Bench v Bar: Contempt of Court and the New Zealand Legal Profession in Gillon v MacDonald (1878)". Victoria University of Wellington Law Review. 41 (3): 541. doi:10.26686/vuwlr.v41i3.5216.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Town of New Plymouth
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by Colonial Secretary of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Preceded by Colonial Treasurer
Succeeded by
Henry Sewell
Preceded by
Henry Sewell
Succeeded by
New office Minister of Native Affairs
Succeeded by