Awarua by-election, 1897

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Awarua by-election, 1897

← 1896 general 5 August 1897 (1897-08-05) 1899 general →
Turnout 2,976

  Joseph Ward 1890.jpg Cuthbert Cowan.jpg
Candidate Joseph Ward Cuthbert Cowan
Party Liberal Conservative
Popular vote 2,066 910
Percentage 69.42 30.58

Member before election

Joseph Ward

Elected Member

Joseph Ward

A by-election was held for the Awarua electorate on 5 August 1897, for the seat vacated by Joseph Ward, which he had held since 1887. Despite having had to resign due to bankruptcy, he exploited a legal loophole and was re-elected to the 13th New Zealand Parliament.

Background and election[edit]

Joseph Ward first won election to the Awarua electorate in the 1897 election.[1] He held many portfolios in the Seddon Ministry, including that of Treasurer (i.e. Minister of Finance), when Justice Williams declared him "hopelessly insolvent" in 1896.[2] He was forced to resign his portfolios in Cabinet on 16 June.[3] In 1897, he had to file for bankruptcy, and was adjudicated bankrupt on 8 July 1897. He was then legally obliged to resign his seat in Parliament, which he did on 14 July.[1]

A loophole, however, meant that there was nothing to stop him simply contesting it again. He did so, and was re-elected with an increased majority.[4] His opponent, both in the previous general election in 1896 and in the by-election was Cuthbert Cowan,[5] who had previously represented the Wallace (1869) and Hokonui (1884–1890) electorates.[6]

Parliament passed a special Act on 13 October, the Awarua Seat Enquiry Act 1897,[7] which required the Court of Appeal to urgently decide whether he could be re-elected to Parliament, and the court decided in his favour. The court judgement was published as AJHR H32 of 1897.[8]

Ward actually gained considerable popularity as a result of his financial troubles; Ward was widely seen as a great benefactor of the Southland region, and public perceptions were that he was being persecuted by his enemies over an honest mistake. Gradually, Ward rebuilt his businesses, and paid off his debtors. Richard Seddon, still Prime Minister, quickly reappointed Ward to Cabinet.[2]

1896 general election result[edit]

1896 election[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Joseph Ward 1,836 63.60
Conservative Cuthbert Cowan[5] 1,051 36.40
Turnout 2,887 72.68
Majority 785 27.19
Registered electors 3,887

1897 by-election result[edit]

The following table gives the by-election results:

Awarua by-election, 1897[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Joseph Ward 2,066 69.42 +5.82
Conservative Cuthbert Cowan 910 30.58 -5.82
Turnout 2,976
Majority 1,156 38.84 +11.65


  1. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 243.
  2. ^ a b Bassett, Michael. "Ward, Joseph George". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  3. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 72.
  4. ^ a b c "The Awarua Election". The Timaru Herald. LX (2467). 7 August 1897. p. 3. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "The General Election". The Press. LIII (9565). 4 November 1896. p. 6. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 191.
  7. ^ "Awarua Seat Enquiry Act 1897". Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  8. ^ ""The Awarua Seat Inquiry Act, 1897," Report of Proceedings and Decision of the Court of Appeal, in the Matter of". Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1897 Session II, H-32. 1897. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.