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William Swainson (1809-1884) was born in Lancastermarker, England on 25 April 1809 and educated in Lancaster Grammar Schoolmarker. His legal education was in Middle Templemarker and he was called to the bar in 1838. He became the second, and last, Attorney-General of the Crown Colony of New Zealand and instrumental in setting up the legal system of New Zealand.

The Tyne

He worked in conveyancing for only a few years, and with this relatively little experience was appointed to be Attorney-General of New Zealand in 1841. The boat The Tyne left England taking Swainson and two other prominent figures in the future of New Zealand law, William Martin, who was to become the first Chief Justice, and Thomas Outhwaite, who was to become Registrar of the Supreme Courtmarker in Aucklandmarker, to New Zealand. The Tyne carried a vanguard for the creation of the legal system with which New Zealand was to achieve home rule.

Legal and political activities

It is said that during their five month voyage they set out much of the foundations of the laws they intended to frame for the new colony. Certainly they must have arrived prepared, as within six months of their arrival in New Zealand on 25 September 1841 they had passed 19 enactments creating the basis of governance in the new colony. Swainson frequently defended the interests of the Māoris on the issue of land claims from settlers, notably over disputes concerning the Treaty of Waitangi, which had been signed in 1840.
The Treaty of Waitangi


George Grey became governor in November 1845. Swainson, Martin and Grey together formulated components of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852. Swainson remained Attorney-General until 7 May 1856 when responsible government began in New Zealand. He was replaced as Attorney-General by Frederick Whitaker. Swainson was appointed to the subsequent New Zealand Legislative Council (the upper house) and became its first Speaker. He remained in this position for about one year, and was also replaced in this position by Frederick Whitaker in 1855. Swainson remained a member of the Legislative Council until 1867.

Ecclesiastical activities

Bishop Selwyn approached him to help create the basis of an independent church, tied to the Church of England, by drafting its constitution, although the church never became the established religion. In 1866 Swainson became chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Aucklandmarker. He died a bachelor in Aucklandmarker, on 1 December 1884

See also

William Swainson is commonly confused with the naturalist William John Swainson who also arrived in New Zealand in 1841.

References




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