1879 New Zealand general election

← 1875–76 28 August – 15 September 1879 1881 →

All 88 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
Turnout 66.5%
  First party Second party
  Sir John Hall, ca 1880.jpg George Grey, c. 1875.jpg
Leader John Hall George Grey
Party Conservative Independents Greyite Independents
Leader since 1878 1877
Leader's seat Selwyn Thames
Seats won 45 41
Popular vote N/A N/A
Percentage N/A N/A
Swing N/A N/A

Prime Minister before election

George Grey

Subsequent Prime Minister

John Hall

The New Zealand general election of 1879 was held between 28 August and 15 September 1879 to elect a total of 88 MPs to the 7th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Māori vote was held on 8 September. A total of 82,271 (66.5%) European voters turned out to vote, plus 14,553 Māori voters. Following the election, John Hall formed a new government.


Formal political parties had not been established yet; this only happened after the 1890 election.[1] The same 73 electorates were used as for the last election,[2] which was held in 1875–76. In October 1875, Parliament passed the Representation Act 1875, which resolved to increase the size of Parliament to 88 representatives across the 73 electorates.[3][4]

Two of the electorates were represented by three members each (Christchurch and Dunedin.[5] A further eleven electorates were represented by two members each (Auckland West, Franklin, Grey Valley, Hokitika, Napier, City of Nelson, Thames, Wairarapa, Waitaki, Wanganui and City of Wellington).[3][6] The remaining 60 electorates were represented by a single member each.[3]

The election came about when George Grey's government was defeated in a no-confidence motion in July. He successfully requested a dissolution from the Governor of New Zealand, Sir Hercules Robinson.[7]

Male Māori received universal suffrage (two years before European males were granted universal suffrage). The parliamentary term was reduced from five to three years.[8]


The election was held between 28 August and 15 September.[9] The date of election is defined here as the day on which the poll took place, or if there was no contest, the day of nomination.[10] The earliest date was the nomination meeting in the Avon electorate, where William Rolleston was declared elected unopposed.[11][12] The last elections were held on 15 September, where John Studholme and Edward George Wright were elected in the Gladstone and Coleridge electorates, respectively.[13]

The election in the Maori electorates were held on 8 September.[14]


At the nomination meeting in the Waimea electorate on 5 September 1879, Joseph Shephard, Albert Pitt, Oswald Curtis and Acton Adams were proposed, the latter three without their knowledge or consent, presumably by opponents of George Grey who had the support of Shephard.[15] With Pitt, Curtis and Adams all formally withdrawing from the contest, the returning officer declared Shephard elected unopposed.[16] In 14 seats there was only one candidate.[17]


In the European electorates, the male population over 21 years of age was 116,008.[18] Of those, 82,271 were enrolled and the turnout was 66.5%.[9] The male Māori population was estimated at 14,553, of which 6,686 voted (turnout 46%). The Maori statistics are to be treated with caution, though, as not much emphasis was put into precise data gathering. When the first Maori roll was established for the 1949 election, for example, more votes were cast than were voters on the roll.[9]

The initial results showed a virtual deadlock with no clear winner. Inititially the opposition seemed to have won slightly more seats than the "Greyites" (supporters of Grey) but not enough to claim a majority outright.[19] However, after several days of negotiations a new ministry was formed by John Hall who had ensured support from 45 members, with 41 backing Grey and 2 Independent of either faction.[20][21] Upon Grey's rejection, James Macandrew was unanimously elected leader of the liberals and sought to oust Hall and form a new ministry, but was denied after Hall induced four Auckland liberals (known as the "Auckland rats") to cross the floor.[22]

George Grey was elected in both the Thames and the City of Christchurch electorates.[23] Grey came first in the three-member Christchurch electorate (Samuel Paull Andrews and Edward Stevens came second with equal numbers of votes, and only 23 votes ahead of Edward Richardson).[24] Richardson petitioned against Grey's return on technical grounds, as Grey had already been elected in the Thames electorate.[25][26] The electoral commission unseated Grey on 24 October,[27] with Richardson offered to fill this vacancy a few days later. Grey kept the Thames seat and remained a member of parliament through that constituency.[28]

Laws were passed to confirm the results in three electorates where there was some doubt about the legitimacy of the results to confirm the winner (1879; the electorates were Marsden, Northern Maori and Western Maori);[29] and to clarify the law about electoral petitions (1880):[30]

Member Electorate Affiliation[31] MP's term Election date
William Montgomery Akaroa Greyite Third 1 September[32]
William Sefton Moorhouse Ashley Conservative Sixth 11 September[32]
William Speight Auckland East Greyite First 10 September[33]
William John Hurst Auckland West Greyite First 6 September[34]
James Wallis Auckland West Greyite Second 6 September[35]
William Rolleston Avon Conservative Fourth 28 August[36]
William Murray Bruce Conservative Third 9 September[37]
James Bickerton Fisher Buller Greyite First 9 September[38]
William Barron Caversham Greyite First 9 September[39]
Alfred Saunders Cheviot Conservative Third 6 September[40]
Samuel Paull Andrews Christchurch Greyite First 10 September[41]
George Greya Christchurch Greyite Third 10 September[42]
Edward Cephas John Stevens Christchurch Conservative Third 10 September[33]
John Davies Ormond Clive Conservative Fifth 10 September[43]
James William Thomson Clutha Greyite Third 11 September[44]
Edward George Wright Coleridge Conservative First 15 September[45]
William Gibbs Collingwood Conservative Third 11 September[46]
Thomas Dick City of Dunedin Conservative Third 2 September[47]
Richard Oliver City of Dunedin Conservative Second 2 September[43]
William Downie Stewart City of Dunedin Conservative Second 2 September[48]
Vincent Pyke Dunstan Greyite Third 3 September[49]
Allan McDonald East Coast Greyite First 5 September[50]
Joseph Tole Eden Greyite Second 5 September[51]
Harry Atkinson Egmont Conservative Fifth 5 September[41]
Benjamin Harris Franklin Greyite First 11 September[52]
Ebenezer Hamlin Franklin Conservative Second 11 September[53]
Edward Wakefield Geraldine Conservative Second 9 September[35]
John Studholme Gladstone Conservative Fourth 15 September[48]
Robert Trimble Grey and Bell Conservative First 8 September[51]
Richard Reeves Grey Valley Greyite Second 5 September[54]
Edward Masters Grey Valley Greyite First 5 September[55]
James Fisher Heathcote Greyite Second 8 September[38]
Richard Seddon Hokitika Greyite First 5 September[56]
Robert Reid Hokitika Greyite First 5 September[54]
Thomas Mason Hutt Conservative First 9 September[57]
James Walker Bain Invercargill Conservative First 1 September[39]
Charles Christopher Bowen Kaiapoi Conservative Third 5 September[58]
Harry Allwright Lyttelton Greyite First 4 September[10]
Walter Woods Johnston Manawatu Conservative Third 6 September[59]
William Henry Colbeck Marsden Greyite First 11 September[60]
James Shanks Mataura Greyite Second 29 August[56]
John Lundon Mongonui and Bay of Islands Greyite First 10 September[61]
Richmond Hursthouse Motueka Conservative Second 2 September[62]
Cecil de Lautour Mount Ida Greyite Second 30 August[47]
Fred Sutton Napier Conservative Second 8 September[48]
William Russell Napier Conservative Second 8 September[40]
Albert Pitt City of Nelson Conservative First 6 September[63]
Acton Adams City of Nelson Conservative Second 6 September[10]
Andrew Richmond Nelson SuburbsSuburbs of Nelson Conservative Fifth 8 September[36]
Thomas Kelly New Plymouth Conservative Fourth 6 September[64]
William Swanson Newton Greyite Third 2 September[48]
Maurice O'Rorke Onehunga Greyite Fifth 9 September[43]
Frederick Moss Parnell Greyite Second 4 September[37]
Courtney Kenny Picton Conservative Fourth 30 August[64]
James Macandrew Port Chalmers Greyite Seventh 5 September[65]
William Jarvis Willis Rangitikei Conservative First 3 September[66]
Patrick McCaughan Riverton Independent First 6 September[65]
Seymour Thorne George Rodney Greyite Second 8 September[46]
Henry Driver Roslyn Conservative Fourth 5 September[67]
John Hall Selwyn Conservative Fourth 29 August[53]
James Fulton Taieri Conservative First 9 September[46]
George Greya Thames Greyite Third 2 September[42]
John Sheehan Thames Greyite Third 2 September[56]
Richard Turnbull Timaru Conservative Second 6 September[51]
William Gisborne Totara Greyite Third 29 August[46]
James Clark Brown Tuapeka Greyite Fourth 6 September[68]
George Ireland Waikaia Independent First 8 September[62]
John Blair Whyte Waikato Conservative First 8 September[69]
George McLean Waikouaiti Conservative Third 6 September[70]
Joseph Shephard Waimea Conservative Second 5 September[15][16]
Frederick Alexander Whitaker Waipa Conservative First 10 September[69]
Henry Bunny Wairarapa Greyite Fifth 4 September[71]
George Beetham Wairarapa Conservative Second 4 September[72]
Arthur Seymour Wairau Conservative Third 8 September[56]
Samuel Shrimski Waitaki Greyite Second 5 September[73]
Thomas William Hislop Waitaki Conservative Second 5 September[74]
Reader Wood Waitemata Greyite Fifth 9 September[45]
Hugh Finn Wakatipu Greyite First 12 September[38]
Henry Hirst Wallace Conservative First 4 September[74]
John Bryce Wanganui Conservative Fourth 5 September[68]
John Ballance Wanganui Greyite Third 5 September[39]
William Hutchison City of Wellington Greyite First 5 September[62]
William Levin City of Wellington Conservative First 5 September[61]
Alfred Brandon Wellington Country Conservative Sixth 11 September[68]
Henare Tomoana X-01Eastern Maori Conservative Second 8 September[51]
Hone Tawhai X-02Northern Maori Greyite First 8 September[75]
Ihaia Tainui X-03Southern Maori Greyite Second 8 September[75]
Wiremu Te Wheoro X-04Western Maori Greyite First 8 September[69]

a George Grey was unseated on petition in Christchurch, as he had already been elected in the Thames electorate[76]

Government formation

Following the election, John Hall formed a new government on 8 October 1879, and Hall thus became the 12th Premier of New Zealand.[77][78] The Hall Ministry stayed in power until 21 April 1882, i.e. some months after the next general election.[78]

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