Frederick Whitaker

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Sir Frederick Whitaker

Frederick Whitaker, ca 1870s.jpg
Frederick Whitaker, ca 1870s
5th Premier of New Zealand
In office
30 October 1863 – 24 November 1864
21 April 1882 – 25 September 1883
Monarch Victoria
Governor George Grey
Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
William Jervois
Preceded by Alfred Domett (1863)
John Hall (1882)
Succeeded by Frederick Weld (1864)
Harry Atkinson (1883)
Constituency Legislative Council
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Parnell
In office
1866 – 1867
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waikato
In office
1876 – 1879
2nd Speaker of the Legislative Council
In office
Preceded by William Swainson
Succeeded by Thomas Bartley
1st Attorney-General
In office
7 May 1856 – 20 May 1856
In office
2 June 1856 – 12 July 1861
Personal details
Born (1812-04-23)23 April 1812
Bampton, Oxfordshire, England
Died 4 December 1891(1891-12-04) (aged 79)
Auckland, New Zealand
Resting place St Stephen's Cemetery, Parnell, New Zealand
Political party Independent
Augusta Griffith
(m. 1843; died 1884)
Children 8, including:
Frederick Alexander Whitaker
Parents Frederick Whitaker
Susanna Humfrey

Sir Frederick Whitaker KCMG (23 April 1812 – 4 December 1891) was an English-born New Zealand politician who served twice as the Prime Minister of New Zealand and six times as Attorney-General.

Early life

Whitaker was born at the Deanery Manor House, Bampton, Oxfordshire, England on 23 April 1812, the son of Frederick Whitaker and Susanna Whitaker (née Humfrey). Frederick junior undertook a legal education and became a solicitor and attorney at the age of 27. A year later he sailed to Australia and then New Zealand.[1] He married Jane Augusta Griffith, stepdaughter of Alexander Shepherd (Colonial Treasurer) at St. Paul's Church in Auckland on 4 March 1843.[1]

Whitaker lived in Auckland and was appointed a County Court judge until this position was abolished in 1844, at which time he returned to work as a lawyer. He was appointed to the General Legislative Council on 3 March 1845 until 22 December of that year.[2] He was then appointed to the Legislative Council of New Ulster Province, but that Council had not met when the new Constitution arrived.[3] He transferred to the new Legislative Council on 26 May 1853 and remained a member until his resignation on 19 December 1864. He was again appointed on 8 October 1879 and remained a member until his death 12 years later.[4] He also served as a major in the militia.

He was elected onto the Auckland Provincial Council on 19 October 1854 for the Suburbs of Auckland electorate, and he served until 25 September 1855.[5] He was appointed to the Auckland Executive Council from 14 March 1854 to 22 January 1855 and was the provincial law officer.[6]


Whitaker became the first Attorney-General of New Zealand in the Sewell Ministry led by Henry Sewell in 1856. He did not serve as Attorney-General in the subsequent Fox Ministry that was in power for a fortnight, but was again appointed to this position in the Stafford Ministry from 2 June 1856 onwards. He served as Attorney-General until the defeat of the Stafford Ministry on 12 July 1861 and went back to the law.[7] In October 1863 Whitaker was called upon to form a government to replace Premier Domett following his defeat at a vote of no-confidence.[8]

First Premiership

Whitaker's term as Premier lasted just over a year until November 1864. His term ended due to differences between himself and Governor Grey over the conduct of the New Zealand Wars. Whitaker also resigned as a member of the Legislative Council. He served briefly as the member of Parliament for Parnell from 1866 to 1867.

In October 1865 he was elected Superintendent of Auckland Province, which office he held until 1867. Then for nine years he stayed away from public office.

Second Premiership

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1866–1867 4th Parnell Independent
1876–1879 6th Waikato Independent

In 1876 he became MP for Waikato and later Attorney-General again in Atkinson's government; the Atkinson Ministry lasted until October 1877. Whitaker lost his seat in the House in 1879, when he was defeated for Eden. However, when Premier Hall wanted him to serve as Attorney-General again, he was appointed once more to the Legislative Council in 1879. When Hall resigned in April 1882, Whitaker became Premier for the second time, serving until September 1883.

Whitaker was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1884 and served again as Attorney-General, and as leader of the Legislative Council from 1887 to 1890. By then his health was failing, and he died in Auckland on 4 December 1891. He was buried at St Stephen's Cemetery in Parnell.[9]


  1. ^ a b Stone, R. C. J. "Whitaker, Frederick - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
  2. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 17.
  3. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 18.
  4. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 87.
  5. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 186.
  6. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 181.
  7. ^ Scholefield 1950, pp. 31–32.
  8. ^ Scholefield 1950, pp. 33.
  9. ^ "Imposing funeral cortege". Auckland Star. 7 December 2015. p. 3. Retrieved 14 May 2015.


  • Burke, Edmund (1891). Annual Register. Longmans, Green and Co. p. 209.
  • Scholefield, Guy (1950) [1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer.
  • The New Zealand Official Year-book. 1905. p. 25.
Government offices
Preceded by
Alfred Domett
Premier of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Frederick Weld
Political offices
Preceded by
William Swainson
Speaker of the New Zealand Legislative Council
Succeeded by
Thomas Bartley
New office Attorney-General
Succeeded by
William Fox
Preceded by
William Fox
Succeeded by
William Fox
Preceded by
Henry Sewell
Succeeded by
Henry Sewell
Preceded by
James Prendergast
Succeeded by
Robert Stout
Preceded by
Robert Stout
Succeeded by
Henry Sewell
Preceded by
Edward Conolly
Succeeded by
Patrick Buckley
Preceded by
Robert Graham
Superintendent of Auckland Province
Succeeded by
John Williamson
Preceded by
George McLean
and Commissioner of Telegraphs

Succeeded by
John Davies Ormond
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Robert Creighton
Member of Parliament for Parnell
Succeeded by
Charles Heaphy
Preceded by
William Jackson
Member of Parliament for Waikato
Succeeded by
John Blair Whyte

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