Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Vogel, Julius

1411656Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 3 — Vogel, Julius1901William Pember Reeves

VOGEL, Sir JULIUS (1835–1899), premier of New Zealand, son of Albert Leopold Vogel and his wife Phoebe, daughter of Alexander Isaac of Russell Square, London, was born in London on 24 Feb. 1835. He was educated at University College School, London, and at the Royal School of Mines. Both his parents died when he was sixteen, and after serving as a merchant's clerk in his grandfather's office he emigrated to the gold-fields of Victoria, where, after gaining a livelihood by various shifts, he became editor of a small country newspaper, 'The Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser.' After being beaten in an attempt to enter the Victorian parliament he was drawn in 1861 to Otago, New Zealand, by the large discoveries of gold then made there, and, settling in Dunedin, bought a half-share in the 'Otago Witness' and started the 'Otago Daily Times.' As brother-editor and partner he had the novelist, Mr. B. L. Farjeon. He quickly made his paper what it still is, one of the leading morning journals in the colony, and with its help was chosen in 1862 a member of the Otago provincial council. There in 1866 he became, and for three years remained, head of the provincial executive.

Vogel's entry into the New Zealand House of Representatives was made in 1863, and six years later he was appointed colonial treasurer in the cabinet of Sir William Fox [q. v. Suppl.] To the treasury were soon added the post office and the departments of customs and telegraphs, and he became the moving mind of what was quickly called the Fox-Vogel ministry. In 1869 the colony, still struggling with the native tribes, was exhausted by nearly a decade of intermittent and inglorious warfare with them, and it was embarrassed by English disfavour and the low price of its staple export, wool. The imperial troops had been withdrawn, and though, with some reluctance, the imperial government guaranteed a loan of 1,000,000l. to enable the colonists to carry on the warfare with their own militia, the colony and the provinces owed some 7,000,000l., and were depressed and disheartened. Vogel believed that if peace could be secured the great natural resources of the islands might rapidly developed by making roads, bridges, railways, and telegraphs with money borrowed by the colony in London. He proposed to raise 10,000,000l. for this work, and to take as security five million acres of land adjacent to the proposed railway lines. His parliament authorised the borrowing of 4,000,000l., but refused to touch the public lands, which were the endowment of the provinces. Except during one month in 1892, when Sir Edward Stafford ejected the Fox-Vogel ministry, Vogel remained in office for seven years, and was always at the head of affairs, though not always premier. The Maori wars were honourably ended, public works were rapidly pushed on, immigrants poured in, the San Francisco mail service was begun, and a cable laid between New Zealand and Australia. The ballot act was passed, the Torrens land transfer system adopted, the public trust office opened, and the government life insurance department set up. Finally (1874-6) Vogel, hitherto accounted a provincialist, allied himself with Stafford and Atkinson, and abolished the provinces. Immediately afterwards he appointed himself agent-general in London, and, resigning the premiership, quitted the colony.

Vogel left New Zealand prosperous and confident. Nearly all the money he had borrowed had been wisely spent. Unfortunately, no steps were taken to check speculation in land, which went on wildly, especially in the south island. This, combined with a steady decline in the prices of wool and grain, brought about a reaction in 1879, the effects of which lasted for fifteen years, and which was popularly attributed to Vogel's policy of public works and loans. In 1877 an imperial act was passed confirming an arrangement made by Vogel in 1875 with the Bank of England, by which colonial stocks were authorised to be inscribed there, to the great advantage of the borrowing colonies. In 1880 Vogel, who had been knighted in 1875, was a candidate for election to the British House of Commons ; he stood for Penrhyn as a conservative, but was beaten. In 1881 he resigned the agent-generalship, as the New Zealand government obj scted to his connection with certain public companies, and in 1884 re-entered New Zealand politics. Elected for Christchurch by a large majority he was welcomed back to the colonial parliament by numbers who hoped from his resourceful, inventive, and sanguine mind some scheme or policy which might restore cheerfulness and prosperity to the overclouded colony. Since lavish borrowing had for the time gone out of fashion, the phrase 'Vogel with the brake on' was caught up as representing the combination of prise with prudence, which a coalition between Vogel and the radical party was expected to bring about. The coalition was arranged, the Atkinson ministry was ousted, and Vogel became treasurer once more, under the radical chief, Sir Robert Stout. Fate, however, did not aid the Stout-Vogel government. Prices, low in 1884, fell still further in 1885 ; the largest financial institution in the colony, the Bank of New Zealand, showed signs of embarrassment; the customs revenue declined ; and Vogel, who had come into office to reduce taxation, found himself obliged in 1887 to admit a heavy deficit and ask for more taxes. The ministry was defeated, appealed to the country, and was beaten. Sir Robert Stout and many of his section dis- appeared from parliament, and though Vogel was returned with a substantial following, he did not prolong the struggle, but, after leading the opposition unsuccessfully for one session, quitted the colony finally.

Thereafter poverty and bodily infirmities combined to keep him out of public life. He lived quietly near London, where for the last three years of his life he held a small post, under the New Zealand government, the duties of which were nominal, and the salary 300l. In addition to this quasi-pension the colony after his death gave his widow 1.500l. Vogel died at Hillersdon, East Molesey, on 12 March 1899. His physical sufferings had been great. For many years he had been tortured by gout, afflicted with deafness, and partly paralysed in the lower limbs. The courage and buoyant spirit which helped him to struggle against his atHictions,to toil over complicated financial problems in a sick-room, and to direct a colonial political party from a bath-chair, were not the least admirable of his qualities. Bold and sanguine as he was in temperament, his constitutional hastiness did not prevent his manner in private lift? from being uniformly kind, considerate, and even patient towards those around him. A speculator, though without greed or hardness, his rashness in his private affairs gave colour to the harsh verdict of the many critics who declared that in public life he was a gambler masquerading as a statesman. This was not true. The policy of developing colonies by borrowing and spending state loans is obviously open to abuse. But it would be more easy to show that those who followed in Vogel's footsteps went too far and fast than that he himself wasted public money uselessly. Finane apart, he left his mark on the institutions of New Zealand; the public trust and state life insurance offices have flourished; women's franchise, proposed by him in 1887, became law in 1893; the conservation of the New Zealand forests, which he unsuccessfully prayed for, is now a recognised necessity; the extension of British influence in the South Seas, advocated by him in 1874, then dismissed as a dream by the colonists, and which, when he attempted it at Samoa in 1886, was thwarted by the colonial office, was a scheme the scouting of which most Australasians now regret. Vogel's imperialism, as set out in many magazine and newspaper articles, though vague and dreamy, was in effect an anticipation of the views of a subsequently popular school. Curious mixture as he was of visionary and financier, his visions were often tinctured with realism, just as his finance was inspired by imagination. Industrious as well as original in administration, he was a persuasive and copious rather than a brilliant or incisive talker and speaker. He wrote clearly and easily on political matters, though his solitary novel, ‘Anno Domini 2000, or Woman's Destiny,’ written late in life, has little merit. His other publications were: ‘Great Britain and her Colonies’ (London, 1865, 8vo) and ‘New Zealand and the South Sea Islands’ (London, 1878). He also edited the ‘Official Handbook of New Zealand’ for 1875.

Vogel, who was a Jew of the Ashkenazi rite, married, on 19 March 1867, Mary, daughter of William Henry Clayton, colonial architect, New Zealand, and left two sons and a daughter. Another son was killed when cut off with Major Wilson's force by the Matabele in 1894.

[Gisborne's New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen (1840-97), 2nd edit. London, 1897; Rusden's History of New Zealand, 2nd edit. Melbourne. 1896; Anthony Trollope's Australia and New Zealand, London, 1873; Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily News, 14 March 1899; Jewish Chronicle, 16 March 1899; Reeves's Long White Cloud, London, 1898; Burke's Colonial Gentry, ii. 518.]

W. P. R.