Henry Sewell (1807 – 1879)

Henry Sewell could do amazing things with money and numbers – which made him more than a little unpopular!

Henry’s father died when he was teenager and left a £3000 debt over the family from a collapsed banking project. Maybe this was when Henry’s number skills became prominent as he tackled the debt full on. It followed the young politician around like a dark cloud, taking 30 years to get paid off.

A lawyer by trade, he became the Deputy Director of the Canterbury Association, arriving at Lyttelton in 1853. He walked off his ship, the ‘Minerva’ (fellow passengers were the newly married John and Jane Deans and Edward Gibbon Wakefield) with his sleeves rolled up. He was about to take on one of the toughest roles in the Association. With his gentle nature, he would find Christchurch politics pretty rough.

With his wife at his side, Elizabeth Kittoe, he was sent to sort out the increasing money problems and debt in Christchurch! He instantly clashed with James Edward Fitzgerald but I guess he wasn’t there to make friends. He also gained the “Town of Christchurch” seat in the first New Zealand Parliament later that year. From the beginning, he fought those back in England for New Zealand to be self-governing, something that John Robert Godley, his very good friend had fought for ’til his dying day.

In 1856, he was the Colonial Secretary and Treasurer. Leaving those roles in good hands, he returned to England, continuing to watch over the young colony as he mingled with the big wigs back in London. In 1859 he was back on Christchurch soil but resigned from his job just after a month. Henry’s next role was in the Legislative Council but he left just 4 years later in protest over how the government was handling the land problems with the Maori.

Throughout Henry’s career, he never did more than a few years in his different roles. He was very gentle-mannered and found his working life unpleasant at times so he would just move on. Amongst many of the founding fathers he would clash with, even John Robert Godley was amongst them eventually.

He returned to England for good in 1873 and died there in 1879.

*image courtesy of http://www.tiritiowaitangi.govt.nz *

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