1st New Zealand Parliament

Terms of the
New Zealand Parliament

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The 1st New Zealand Parliament was a term of the Parliament of New Zealand. It opened on 24 May 1854, following New Zealand's first general election (held the previous year). It was dissolved on 15 September 1855 in preparation for that year's election. 37 Members of the House of Representatives (MHRs) represented 24 electorates.

Parliamentary sessions

The Parliament sat for three sessions:[1]

Session from to
First 24 May 1854 17 Aug 1854
Second 31 Aug 1854 16 Sep 1854
Third 8 Aug 1855 15 Sep 1855

New Zealand had not yet obtained responsible government (that is, the power to manage its own affairs), and so the 1st Parliament did not hold any significant power.

The 1st Parliament was held before the creation of either political parties or the office of Premier. There were, however, appointments made to the Executive Council (the formal institution upon which Cabinet is based).[2] From 14 June 1854 to 2 August 1854, there was a four-person cabinet, New Zealand's first ministry, led by James FitzGerald, with Henry Sewell, Frederick Weld, and Thomas Bartley (a fifth member, Dillon Bell, also joined for a short time). Then, from 31 August 1854 to 2 September 1854, there was another four-person cabinet led by Thomas Forsaith, with James Macandrew, William Travers, and Jerningham Wakefield. Some historians consider FitzGerald and Forsaith to be New Zealand's first Prime Ministers, but neither held any formal leadership role, and since "responsible government" had not yet been obtained, they had little real power. Henry Sewell, appointed shortly after the 2nd New Zealand Parliament opened, is more often considered to have been the first Prime Minister.[2]

Sewell overwhelming Mackay, with Fitzherbert (hand covering mouth) looking on

On 17 August 1854 when the newly convened House of Representatives met, Governor Wynard was proposing to prorogue the General Assembly as he had not received authority from London. Sewell wanted to continue debate and the suspension of standing orders was moved. The minority "Wakefieldites" (followers of Edward Gibbon Wakefield) opposed the move, and tried to leave so that there would not be two-thirds of members present. This led to a violent turn when Sewell was reported to have pounced on the member for Nelson James Mackay and seized him by the throat. Suspension was moved an hour later when some members of the absent majority returned. Mackay was later found guilty of gross and premeditated contempt. There were moves to find the member from Dunedin James Macandrew guilty of contempt for entering the house with his hat on, but this was withdrawn.[3]

The 1st Parliament consisted of thirty-seven representatives representing twenty-four electorates.[2] Two regions of the colony (the inland regions of the lower North Island and the northwest corner of the South Island) were not part of any electorate, and so were not represented.

Electoral boundaries for the 1st Parliament

Initial composition of the 1st Parliament

Member Electorate Province Election date
Moorhouse, WilliamWilliam Moorhouse Akaroa Canterbury 24 August[4]
Bartley, ThomasThomas Bartley AucklandCity of Auckland Auckland 11 August[5]
O'Brien, LoughlinLoughlin O'Brien AucklandCity of Auckland Auckland 11 August[6]
O'Neill, JamesJames O'Neill AucklandCity of Auckland Auckland 11 August[7]
Merriman, FrederickFrederick Merriman Suburbs of Auckland Auckland 10 August[8]
Porter, WilliamWilliam Porter Suburbs of Auckland Auckland 10 August[9]
Carleton, HughHugh Carleton Bay of Islands Auckland 14 July[10]
Stuart-Wortley, JamesJames Stuart-Wortley Christchurch Country Canterbury 27 August[11]
Wakefield, JerninghamJerningham Wakefield Christchurch Country Canterbury 27 August[12]
Sewell, HenryHenry Sewell ChristchurchTown of Christchurch Canterbury 20 August[13]
Cargill, JohnJohn Cargill Dunedin Country Otago 1 October[10]
Cutten, WilliamWilliam Cutten Dunedin Country Otago 1 October[14]
Macandrew, JamesJames Macandrew DunedinTown of Dunedin Otago 27 September[15]
King, ThomasThomas King Grey and Bell New Plymouth 27 August[16]
Ludlam, AlfredAlfred Ludlam Hutt Wellington 18 August[17]
Wakefield, Edward GibbonEdward Gibbon Wakefield Hutt Wellington 19 August[12]
FitzGerald, JamesJames FitzGerald LytteltonTown of Lyttelton Canterbury 17 August[18]
Picard, AlfredAlfred Picard Motueka and Massacre Bay Nelson 18 August[19]
Mackay, JamesJames Mackay NelsonTown of Nelson Nelson 25 July[20]
Travers, WilliamWilliam Travers NelsonTown of Nelson Nelson 25 July[21]
Gledhill, FrancisFrancis Gledhill New PlymouthTown of New Plymouth New Plymouth 26 August[22]
Forsaith, ThomasThomas Forsaith Northern Division Auckland 23 August[23]
Lee, WalterWalter Lee Northern Division Auckland 23 August[17]
Crompton, WilliamWilliam Crompton Omata New Plymouth 26 August[14]
Bacot, JohnJohn Bacot Pensioner Settlements Auckland 13 August[24]
Greenwood, JosephJoseph Greenwood Pensioner Settlements Auckland 13 August[25]
Taylor, CharlesCharles Taylor Southern Division Auckland 23 August[26]
Gray, JohnJohn Gray Southern Division Auckland 23 August[25]
Cautley, WilliamWilliam Cautley Waimea Nelson 16 August[27]
Monro, DavidDavid Monro Waimea Nelson 16 August[4]
Revans, SamuelSamuel Revans Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay Wellington 12 August[28]
Weld, FrederickFrederick Weld Wairau Nelson 2 August[29]
Featherston, IsaacIsaac Featherston Wanganui and Rangitikei Wellington 12 August[30]
Clifford, CharlesCharles Clifford WellingtonCity of Wellington Wellington 15 August[27]
Hart, RobertRobert Hart WellingtonCity of Wellington Wellington 15 August[31]
Kelham, JamesJames Kelham WellingtonCity of Wellington Wellington 15 August[16]
Rhodes, WilliamWilliam Rhodes Wellington Country Wellington 18 August[32]

Changes during term

There were few changes during the term of the 1st Parliament, with only three by-elections being held. There were six resignations and one death during 1855, and those seats remained vacant for the remainder of the term.

By-election Electorate Date Incumbent Reason Winner
1854 Town of Nelson 19 June William Travers[21] Resignation Samuel Stephens[33]
1854 Waimea 21 June William Cautley[27] Resignation William Travers[21]
1854 City of Auckland 4 August Thomas Bartley[5] Resignation William Brown[34]
Christchurch Country

Stuart-Wortley resigned on 18 July 1855. His seat remained vacant.

City of Auckland

Bartley resigned on 11 July 1854. He was replaced by William Brown, who was elected on 4 August 1854.

City of Wellington

Kelham resigned on 3 August 1855. His seat remained vacant.

Dunedin Country

Cutten resigned on 23 July 1855. His seat remained vacant.


Ludlam resigned on 9 July 1855. His seat remained vacant.

Town of Nelson & Waimea

Cautley, MP for Waimea, and Travers, MP for Town of Nelson, both resigned on 26 May 1854. Travers subsequently contested the Waimea seat that Cautley had vacated, being elected on 21 June. Travers' own Nelson seat was won by Samuel Stephens on 19 June. Stephens died on 26 June 1855. His seat remained vacant.


Weld resigned on 13 June 1855. His seat remained vacant.

Wanganui and Rangitikei

Featherston resigned on 9 August 1855. His seat remained vacant.



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