Famous Freemasons - William Ferguson Massey

William Massey - Prime Minister of New Zealand

Food For Thought
The Biography of William Massey on the NZ Government website < http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m39/massey-william-ferguson> begins -

"William Ferguson Massey was born at Limavady, near Londonderry in northern Ireland, on 26 March 1856. Bill Massey, as he was generally known, was the eldest child of John Massey and his wife, Mary Anne Ferguson. Bill's father came from a long-established Ulster family but both his mother and his paternal grandmother were Scots.

In 1862 John Massey sold the family farm in Ireland and with his wife and two of their children migrated to New Zealand with a group of Nonconformist settlers, arriving on the ship Indian Empire on 20 October. Bill Massey remained in Ireland for a further eight years to complete his education at a private secondary school, following primary schooling at the national school at Limavady. He arrived in New Zealand on the City of Auckland on 10 December 1870."

It was little different start to many of the New Zealand immigrants at the time, but he was to develop into one of the truly great New Zealanders in our country's history.

William Massey's father had intended to develop the plot of land which was granted to migrants who paid their own fares to New Zealand. However the bush section near Puhoi proved a disappointment and, instead he leased land at west Tamaki. It was here that William, his son, worked for the first two years after arriving in New Zealand. In 1873 Bill Massey went Ashburton to work for John Grigg on his Longbeach station for nearly three years, He again worked for his father before leasing his own 100-acre farm at Mangere around 1877,. He started contracting, buying a threshing machine which provided him with an additional income.

It was during this next five years that he met the daughter of a neighbouring farmer Walter Paul, who had migrated with his wife Christina Allan from Scotland to New Zealand via Australia. It was in Australia that their eldest daughter Christina Allan Paul had been born. She was 19 and Massey 26 when they married in the Presbyterian church at Mangere on 5 April 1882. They were to have seven children, two of whom, Walter and John, became members of Parliament.

The Masseys' wooden farmhouse burnt down in 1890 and they purchased a large red-brick house with a grey slate roof, which had been built in 1852 and was set on 17 acres of land in what became Massey Road, Mangere. There Massey built up an impressive library indicative of his wide reading. His favourites were Kipling, Shakespeare, Dickens, Scott, historical biography, and the Bible, especially the Old Testament which he could (and did) quote comprehensively throughout his life. This homestead was later given to the local community by Massey's son George and was turned into a community centre.

By the early 1890s Massey had become active in numerous local activities and organisations. He was chairman of the Mangere School committee, worshipped at the local Presbyterian church and was senior warden of the Manukau Freemasons' lodge, as well as a member of the Mangere Road Board and active in the local debating society. Of more importance he became chairman of the Mangere Farmers' Club, which in 1890 revived the Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Association of which Massey progressed to president from 1890 to 1893 In this role he was the de facto spokesman for farmers in the Auckland province. This position led to Massey's being chosen as vice president of the National Association of New Zealand. This was a political body formed in Auckland in September 1891 to organise urban and rural conservatives against the new, radical Liberal government led by John Ballance.

Massey stood as opposition candidate for his local electorate of Franklin at the 1983 election but narrowly lost. Several months later the Waitemata seat became vacant and opposition supporters in Waitemata sent a telegram to Massey asking him to stand for them in the by-election. Massey told the story that he was on top of a haystack when the telegram arrived, and that it was passed to him on a pitchfork. He accepted the invitation and after a hard-fought contest was elected to Parliament on 9 April 1894. He was to stay in Parliament for the remaining 31 years of his life.

The conservative independents whom Massey joined in the parliamentary opposition were a small lossely organised group and no match for the completely dominant Liberal government of Richard John Seddon. The opposition, led by William Russell, had only 15 of the 70 members of the House of Representatives. This imbalance in numbers also reflected the distribution of talent in the House. Massey was one of the few opposition members prepared to remain in the House day after day. Although not seen as a possible creative policy maker or dynamic leader, he became respected for his tenacity and clarity in debates. In time he revealed his astuteness as a tactician and organiser. By 1896 he was the opposition whip.

At the 1893 elections held on 28 November, Massey stood as opposition candidate for his local electorate of Franklin but lost narrowly to the Liberals' Major Benjamin Harris. When several months later the Waitemata seat became vacant, opposition supporters in Waitemata sent a telegram to Massey asking him to stand in the by-election. According to Massey he was on top of a haystack when the telegram arrived and it was passed to him on a pitchfork. Massey accepted the invitation and in a hard-fought contest was elected to Parliament on 9 April 1894. He was to stay in Parliament for the remaining 31 years of his life.

The small, dispirited, loosely organised collection of conservative independents whom Massey joined in the parliamentary opposition were no match for the completely dominant Liberal government of Richard John Seddon. The opposition leader, William Russell, was supported by a mere 15 of the 70 members of the House of Representatives, and the imbalance in numbers also reflected the distribution of talent in the House. Massey was one of the few oppositionists prepared to remain conscientiously in the House hour after hour and day after day. Although not seen as a creative policy maker or dynamic leader, he became respected for his tenacity and clarity in debates and in time revealed his astuteness as a tactician and organiser. By 1896 he was the opposition whip.

Massey seriously considered retiring from politics in 1896 unhappy with the demands on his family life, the financial costs, and the inability in opposition to influence events. Instead he relinquished his Waitemata seat and again contested his home constituency of Franklin in which he defeated Harris, the government whip. Over the country as a whole the opposition almost doubled its numbers in the House to 28.

The opposition adopted a more clear-cut conservative position on land tenure and labour legislation. Massey became the major advocate of freehold land tenure. He was a strong supporter of the construction of the main trunk railway line between Auckland and Wellington. He continued to stress the importance of individual responsibility and initiative, and individual incentives and rewards. He opposed state compulsion, preferring co-operation at the local level. In foreign affairs Massey suggested an inquiry into whether or not New Zealand should join the Commonwealth of Australia, and accepted the recommendation of a royal commission that New Zealand should remain independent while maintaining economic co-operation. Although in later years Massey was to advocate handing over Germany's Pacific islands territories to New Zealand and Australia, in the 1890s he opposed Seddon's annexation plans for the Cook Islands and Niue.

Following the Seddon Governments landslide victory in the 1899, the opposition was left with only 15 seats. Massey easily retained his seat with two-thirds of the votes cast. The jingoism of the South African war, economic prosperity and industrial harmony consolidated Seddon's government between 1899 and 1902. This and the number of seats made the opposition's position almost impossible. It largely ceased to operate as an organised unit, and during most of that time Massey, as whip, served as de facto leader.

The results of the 1902 election provided no change in the relative strengths of the government and opposition. It was obvious that an effective and credible opposition leader was essential, one who could devise and manage tactics in the House and would appeal for support in the electorate at large. The two possibilities were the opposition's financial spokesman, James Allen, and Massey. Massey who although younger was clearly the better organiser and a more genial personality. Massey was unanimously elected leader on 9 September 1903, with Allen becoming his unofficial deputy.

Massey campaigned strenuously inside and outside Parliament over the following two years. At first he made little impact on Seddon's remarkable reputation and hold on power. At the 1905 election Massey's opposition members won only 18 seats. Massey remained leader even though there was a suggestion that he might be replaced by William Herries. Then on 10 June 1906, Seddon died suddenly. His replacement, Sir Joseph Ward, was a clever man but not the brilliant campaigner or manager of people that Seddon had been. For the first time Massey was to be compared to another "mortal" politician and not the demigod Seddon had become in the eyes of the public.

Ward and the Liberals won the 1908 election. Massey had campaigned for the return of a strong, unified opposition which could challenge alleged Liberal corruption, cronyism and incompetence, especially in the public service. He continued to emphasise freehold tenure and to exploit growing concern, among both rural and urban property owners, at the advent of militant unionism and socialist,and anarchist propaganda. Aided by the country quota the opposition won 27 seats at the 1908 election; Massey began referring to them as the alternative government. In February 1909 Massey announced that he and his supporters would thenceforth be known as the Reform Party.

A quarter-century of almost continuous prosperity was ending in 1920. The prices Britain paid for New Zealand produce started to fall, and the country slipped into recession. Massey encouraged stronger producer boards with the New Zealand Meat-producers Board in 1922 and the New Zealand Dairy-produce Control Board in 1923. Reform Party supporters, however, became more insistent that taxes should be lowered, government spending cut, public servants dismissed and wage demands rejected. Massey's absence from New Zealand from 16 April to 30 September 1921 limited his ability to control domestic events on a day-to-day basis during that time.

Reform's 1922 election campaign was very negative and the result was only 37 seats won, with the Liberals 22 and Labour 17. The 4 independents held the balance and had to be courted by Massey. The opposition parties were reluctant to co-operate with one another and Massey remained prime minister, although he complained that governing with such an uncertain majority made his life hell all the time.

Between 1923 and 1925 Massey took steps to combat inflation and keep interest rates down. He increased old-age and widows' pensions and instituted pensions for the blind. Export prices started to improve and state loans were used to establish agricultural banks. There were tax cuts, especially for farmers, and continued spending on public works, housing and the rehabilitation of servicemen onto farms. A railway workers' strike in 1924 was crushed. Massey's strategy was not only to create a favourable climate for the 1925 election but also to persuade Liberal voters that in 1925 the choice was between Reform and Labour, in the anticipation that the majority of Liberal voters would shift to Reform. He did not live to see the results of his long-term strategy, which at the 1925 election helped to give Reform its greatest victory ever with 56 of the 80 seats in the House.

On 28 August 1923 Massey sailed for his fifth and last visit to Britain. He was not well and returned to New Zealand ill and tired on 24 January 1924. Cancer progressively weakened him during 1924 and by October he was forced to relinquish many of his duties as prime minister. An operation on 30 March 1925 was unsuccessful and on 9 April he returned from hospital to his home in Tinakori Road, where he died on 10 May 1925 aged 69. He was buried on 14 May at Point Halswell at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. On 19 September 1930 a large memorial was unveiled at the site. His wife, Christina, who was made a GBE in 1926, died at Wellington on 19 April 1932 and was interred with her husband.

Massey's entire parliamentary career was marked by crises and difficulties with which few other major New Zealand politicians have had to cope, and none over such a long period. He inherited a small, unpopular, disunited and dispirited opposition that had to compete against the charismatic appeal of Seddon. His governments from 1912 to 1925 grappled not only with problems resulting from prosperity but with economic recessions, strikes, growing divisions within society, a world war and the worst epidemic in the country's history. A three-party splitting of the vote resulted in Massey only once, in 1919, winning an election with sufficient seats to assure himself a majority in the House, and even then it was small. A less astute or tenacious parliamentary tactician would not have been able to hold his caucus together or manage the House as well as Massey did, even if in his later years he became a more distant, authoritarian and irascible figure.

Despite his assumption of a bluff, rustic persona in public, Massey is one of New Zealand's most significant politicians. He took an opposition that had all but ceased to exist, and by force of personality and astute political leadership both inside and outside Parliament transformed it into an organised political party. He and his party saw farmers as the developers of the countryside, the base of the economy and the personification of the young nation's pioneering spirit. This inevitably brought them into conflict with other sectional interests, particularly the emergent union movement and the Labour Party. Yet although Massey espoused the cause of conservatism, both his personal instincts and his practice while in office place him in a tradition of humanitarian pragmatism.

EDITED FROM SOURCE: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m39/massey-william-ferguson

Perhaps the report on a book re-appraising William Massey's legacy to New Zealand provides a fitting and cogent end to this Famous Freemason.

A Great New Zealand Prime Minister?
Reappraising William Ferguson Massey
Edited by James Watson and Lachy Paterson

The book

One of New Zealand's longest-serving Prime Ministers, his political legacy has not always been treated kindly. However, recent work by historians suggests that a reappraisal of Bill Massey which this book provides is overdue.

It is clear, a century later, that Massey was Prime Minister at a particularly turbulent time in its history. The opening essay by Erik Olssen reviews the development of his own assessment of Massey over almost five decades. After initially imbibing the established Labour Party view of the man as thoroughly reactionary and anti-democratic, he recounts his growing awareness that there was much about Massey's personality and career that contradicted that portrayal. The following chapters examine aspects of Massey's life and leadership in chronological order from his experience as a teenage immigrant from Ulster through to his part in the Versailles Peace Conference and the tough campaign in 1923, less than two years before his death, for Imperial Preference, which secured the market for New Zealand products in Britain for the next half century.

SOURCE: http://www.otago.ac.nz/press/books/otago065665.html
Photo montage:William Massey at Akaroa, As leader of the opposition and in 1905
At the 1911 election Massey was a nationally known figure. He had shaved off his beard and his massive physical frame, reminiscent of Seddon, was a distinct advantage in a political system where the voters expected the country's leading politician to be larger than life. The Liberals lost 16 seats, leaving them with only 30. The Reform Party won 36. The remaining 14 seats went to unpredictable independents, Labour candidates and Maori MPs.

The begginnings of the first Reform Party government led by Massey was marked by uncertainty, unscrupulous political manoeuvring, nasty intrigue, accusations of bribery, and bitter recriminations in which Massey himself indulged. In February 1912 a no-confidence vote against the Liberal government was defeated by 40 votes to 39 on the Liberal speaker's casting vote. Massey was furious. A second no-confidence motion moved in July 1912, however, was carried with the help of five Liberal dissidents by 41 votes to 33. On 10 July Massey was sworn in as prime minister.

Massey's first cabinet consisted of himself, Allen and Herries, F. H. D. Bell, A. L. Herdman, William Fraser, R. H. Rhodes, F. M. B. Fisher and Maui Pomare. Six of the nine were university graduates, and the senior ministers apart from Massey were city men, indicating that Massey was neither prejudiced against men more educated than himself nor interested in leading merely a country party government. Allen, until his resignation in 1920, and Bell, were his closest and most able lieutenants during the following years.

Although Allen and Bell were prepared to argue with their leader from time to time, after 1912 Massey came increasingly to dominate both his caucus and the party. Not a vindictive man, Massey nevertheless could fly into a temper and was intolerant of those who did not share his own somewhat narrow religious and political outlooks and principles. The party organisation enjoyed almost no independence and merely did what Massey requested.

The incoming Reform government was immediately faced with two of the major industrial disputes in New Zealand's history: the 1912 Waihi miners' strike and the 1913 waterfront and general strikes, which split the community into two irreconcilable camps. Massey, his attorney general, Herdman, and Police Commissioner John Cullen adopted a partisan position; the use of special constables, who became known as 'Massey's Cossacks', earned Massey the undying hatred of many urban workers, an enmity passed on to their children. However, more conservative voters, especially in the farming community, saw Massey's stand as firm and decisive, arguing that Massey simply took the 'Red Feds' at their word and met their revolutionary rhetoric and intimidatory tactics with superior force.

Massey not only fulfilled his promise to oppose the industrial militants but he also established an independent public service commissioner to appoint and promote public servants without political cronyism and religious discrimination. He implemented a third major election policy plank by passing an act to make the leases of Crown tenants freehold.
The December 1914 general election was held after the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 which distracted public attention from both domestic issues and electioneering. The result again denied Massey a clear working majority in Parliament. He held 40 seats - exactly half - but was in a minority after the appointment of a speaker. The deadlock in the House, accompanied by growing public agitation for a wartime coalition government similar to that in Britain, led Massey reluctantly to invite Ward and the Liberals. He also invited the small group of Labour MPs to join Reform in a national government. Labour declined but the Liberals and Reform Party entered into coalition on 4 August 1915. Massey remained prime minister but Ward, who took the finance portfolio from Allen, was de facto joint leader of the government. Massey and Ward disliked each other on personal, political and religious grounds, and any decision to legislate was only made if there was unanimity in the coalition cabinet. This made the period of national government frustrating.

Massey not only fulfilled his promise to oppose the industrial militants but he also established an independent public service commissioner to appoint and promote public servants without political cronyism and religious discrimination. He implemented a third major election policy plank by passing an act to make the leases of Crown tenants freehold.

On 24 August 1916 Massey, accompanied by Ward, sailed for Britain on the first of five extended visits he was to make overseas during the following eight years. Allen, minister of defence, was left as acting prime minister during Massey's absence, which lasted until 25 June 1917. Massey attended meetings of the Imperial Conference, the Imperial War Cabinet and also toured Britain, receiving honorary LLD degrees from the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, the freedom of the city of London, the first of 10 cities to so honour him between 1916 and 1921.

Massey also visited New Zealand troops, many of them in hospital following the battle of the Somme, where in three weeks the New Zealand Division suffered 7,000 casualties including Massey's youngest son, George, who was seriously wounded. Massey's willingness to meet the troops and listen to their complaints annoyed others in authority, including New Zealand's governor general, Lord Liverpool.

Massey and Ward returned to England on 2 May 1918 for a further Imperial Conference. They arrived back in New Zealand on 12 October. When the war ended on 11 November rejoicing in New Zealand was muted by the onset of an influenza epidemic which killed more than 8,500 people. Christina Massey had been appointed a CBE for her work during the war with servicemen on leave and the dependents of servicemen killed overseas, and she helped organise emergency care for the sick during the epidemic. She became a victim herself and her health was permanently impaired thereafter

Massey travelled once more to Europe on 12 December 1918 where he represented New Zealand at the Paris Peace Conference, signing the Treaty of Versailles on New Zealand's behalf on 28 June 1919. He was concerned at the post-war chaos in Europe and the rise of communism in Russia but was sceptical about the idea of a league of nations. Instead he continued to look to Britain and the British Empire to guarantee New Zealand's future economic and military security. Loyalty to the British Empire and a deep faith in the positive characteristics of the British people were prominent aspects of both Massey's and the Reform Party's outlook and public appeal. During the latter years of his life he was also influenced by British-Israelism, with its mystical belief in the divine mission and the permanency of the British Empire. Massey declined the offer of a peerage or even a knighthood and returned to New Zealand on 5 August 1919 to contest a general election delayed since 1917 because of the war.

The post-war situation in New Zealand worried Massey. The country was deeply divided between town and country, employer and worker, conservative and radical, conscriptionist and anti-conscriptionist, rich and poor, Protestant and Catholic. Many people were prepared to blame the government for the appalling war casualties, inflation, profiteering, and the atrocious urban housing and inadequate health services revealed by the epidemic. The New Zealand Labour Party, formed in 1916, appeared to have largely united the previously fratricidal left-wing sections of society and to have become the beneficiary of the widespread disillusionment with the coalition government. In 1918 Labour won three by-elections through which three of the party's apparently most revolutionary leaders, Harry Holland, Bob Semple and Peter Fraser, entered Parliament. Ward, seeking belatedly to distance himself from the government's unpopularity, withdrew from the coalition in August 1919 and went to the electors with a radical and expensive policy. Massey also had to silence some critics in his own caucus and prevent the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Farmers' Union from forming a country party to compete with Reform for the rural vote.

Massey campaigned against the Liberals and Labour on a policy of patriotism, stability, law and order, defence of the rural sector, and the protection of private property. He promised to expand New Zealand's exports, improve urban housing and health services, and, predictably, spend more on public works, especially railways.

At the 1919 election, and again in 1922, an organisation known as the Protestant Political Association of New Zealand (PPA) campaigned actively in favour of the Reform Party. The PPA, a violently anti-Catholic organisation led by the Reverend Howard Elliott, was strongly represented in Reform's extra-parliamentary organisation; half of the Reform Party's Auckland executive belonged to the PPA, for example. Although Massey publicly disassociated himself from the PPA, he always took a negative attitude to the selection of a Catholic candidate by the Reform Party in any electorate; he was critical of the Catholic church's stand on issues, such as their opposition to the Bible in schools movement; and he held secret meetings with the PPA's secretary, Henry Bilby. His anti-Catholicism was no doubt confirmed by his membership of the Orange, Oddfellows' and Masonic lodges, the last of which chose him as its grand master in 1924. By that time, however, the PPA had been largely discredited and it was openly critical of Massey for not meeting its expectations. Massey's successor, Gordon Coates, was to disown the PPA completely in 1925.

The election on 17 December 1919 was the first and only time during his 31 years in Parliament that Massey had a clear majority of the seats. Reform with 36 per cent of the vote won 45 seats, the Liberals 18, Labour 8, and there were 10 independents. Allen resigned in 1920 and took up the post of high commissioner in London, however, Massey found two other very capable lieutenants in the soldier-farmer Coates and the erudite Dunedin lawyer William Downie Stewart.
Photo montage: World War I photograph of Premier William Massey being greeted by a Haka from members of the Maori Battalion, Talking to a Wounded Soldier
Montage: Massey shakes the hand of the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George on the steps of No 10 downing street,  and three photographs of William Ferguson Massey in his later years as Prime Minister