Sir Julius Vogel, KCMG (February 24, 1835 - March 12, 1899) was New Zealand's only practicing Jewish prime minister. His administration is best remembered for the issuing of bonds to fund railway construction and other public works.
He was born in London
and was educated at University College School
. He later studied chemistry
at the Royal School of Mines
(now part of Imperial College London
). He emigrated to Victoria, Australia
in 1852, then moved to Otago
in 1861, where he was the first editor of the Otago Daily Times
He first became involved in politics in 1862, when he was elected to the provincial council of Otago
, and four years later became the head of the provincial government, a post which he held until 1869.
Member of Parliament
In 1863 he was elected a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives, and on retiring from the provincial government in 1869 he joined the Fox ministry as colonial treasurer, afterward becoming successively postmaster-general, commissioner of customs, and telegraph commissioner. The Fox ministry having been forced to resign, Vogel carried a vote of no confidence in their successors, and in October 1872, returned to power as leader in the Lower House, colonial treasurer and postmaster-general.
Premier of New Zealand
He was premier from 1873 to 1875 and again in 1876. From 1876 to 1881 he was agent-general for New Zealand in London, and in 1884 was again a member of the government of the colony. During his political career, Vogel worked for reconciliation with Māori
, an effort generally regarded to be successful. In 1887, he introduced the first Women's Suffrage Bill to Parliament, although suffrage was not granted until 1893. He was knighted in 1875. He finally gave up colonial office in 1887, from which date he lived in England.
He is best remembered for is his "Great Public Works" scheme of the 1870s. Before 1870, New Zealand was a country largely dominated by provincial interests and pork-barrel politics. After Vogel, as colonial treasurer, proposed borrowing the massive sum of 10 million pounds, New Zealand developed significant infrastructure of roads, railways and communication, all administered by central government. This ultimately led to the end of provincial government in 1876.
He is also noteworthy as one of the few practicing Jewish prime-ministers outside Israel. Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell, a non-practicing Jew, would later serve as New Zealand's prime minister.
Life after politics
Vogel is reputed to be the first New Zealander to write a science fiction novel, Anno Domini 2000 - A Woman's Destiny, published in 1889. It anticipated a utopian world where women held many positions of authority, and in fact New Zealand became the first country to give women the vote, and since 1998 has continuously had a female Prime Minister, while for a short period (2005-2006) all five highest government offices (Queen, Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House and Chief Justice) were simultaneously held by women.
On his passing in 1899, Julius Vogel was interred in Willesden Jewish Cemetery in London.
Several things bear his name today: