JOHN WARD 1805-1890
A TRIBUTE FROM A WELLINGTON CITIZEN.
On 1st August 1839 John Ward the secretary of the New Zealand Land Company wrote a letter to the Company surveyor William Mein Smith which had a significant effect on the future shape of our city. Some interesting extracts from the instructions given in this letter are:
...If you find that Col. Wakefield has selected the spot which he considers most eligible for the first and principal settlement you will precede hither with the ‘Cuba’ in order to complete the survey as soon as possible.
...In laying out the plan of the town you must as closely as possible adhere to the conditions on which the Land Orders have been sold, as expressed by the enclosed copy of the terms of purchase-providing at all events, that every holder of a Land Order obtains one full acre of land within the town.
The Directors wish that in framing the plan of the town, you should make ample reserves for all public purposes, such as a cemetery, a market place, wharfage, and probable public buildings, botanical garden, a park and extensive boulevards. It is indeed desirable that the whole outside of the town, inland, should be separated from the country sections by a broad belt of land, which you will declare that the company intends to be public property, on condition that no buildings be ever elected upon it.
The form of the town must necessarily be left to your own judgement and taste. Upon this subject the Directors will only remark that you have to provide for the future rather than the present, and that they wish the public convenience to be consulted and the beautiful appearance of the future city to be secured, so far as these objects be accomplished by the original plan, rather than the immediate profit of the Company....
The letter also contained instructions for the size of both town and country sections, and the method to be used for their allocation.
Although Ward would have received instructions verbally from the directors, he needed to interpret these instructions, putting his own slant on the written directives. The letter was signed by Ward and not per pro the directors.
John Ward was born in East Cowes Isle of Wight in 1805. He was the son of John Ward, collector of Customs, and Martha Arnold, the sister of Thomas Arnold of Rugby School fame. As a young man he had planned on a legal career but after travelling widely in Europe and making friends with many high profile persons, including the French aristocrat and politician Marquis de Lafayette, and the historian philosopher Barthold Niebuhr, Ward became disenchanted with the law school and its dry company. He was offered, and accepted, a position as Inspector of Prisons, a situation that he only held briefly before being approached by George Lambton the Earl of Durham, who offered him the job as his personal secretary. Durham was the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Colonisation Company, and through his influence Ward was engaged as the Company Secretary.
In 1839 Ward wrote ‘Information relative to New Zealand’, a public relations booklet for potential settlers.
Problems arose with the legality of the contracts entered into by the settlers, so Ward wrote to William Wakefield, the Company representative in Wellington, instructing him to seek guidance from Hobson on any matters arising from the contracts, as they may not be legally enforceable.
In 1841 Ward began a diplomatic career, located in Hamburg, as British Commissioner for the revision of Stade Taxes. He was a committed believer in free trade, and on this subject, held informal talks with many high profile Eurocrats, including King Leopold of Belgium and King Frederick iv of Prussia. His efforts for the revision of taxes on British goods eventually brought success when in 1861 Prime Minister Robert Peel agreed to revise the taxes being charged on German grain imports. These taxes had been a major stumbling block to the elimination of taxes on British goods entering Germany.
In 1845 Ward was appointed Consul-General to Saxony, based in Leipzig. By 1848 Germany was in a revolutionary mode, with citizens from the many independent states making up Germany, demanding constitutional reforms.
In 1860 Ward was promoted to Charge d’affaires and Consul General for the independant Hanse Towns of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck. He had many friends among the intelligentsia of Europe meeting several times with the Prussian president Otto Von Bismarck in Berlin, who by 1868 was building up his military capability with arms and gun-boats produced by the Krupp’s factory. Bismarck’s intention was to use bullying tactics to unify the various independent states, and bring them under the control of Prussia. Ward was disturbed by these Prussian ambitions. Within a few years Bismarck had control of most of Germany, and Britain remained neutral. In spite of his concerns, Ward did not believe that there would ever be a war between Britain and Germany.
John Ward was a friend of the oppressed. He formed a Polish Society in London after that country had been invaded by Russia, and was an advocate for education in science and technology, sending reports back to London on German technical instruction methods. His brief stint as Inspector of Prisons had convinced him that solitary confinement, and daily counselling, was the best means of reforming prisoners. Ward initiated negotiations on behalf of his friend the Sendic (senator) Sieveking of Hamburg, who wished to purchase the Chatham Islands from the New Zealand Company, but this transaction was not approved by the Colonial Office.
In 1870 John Ward’s responsibilities to the Hanse Towns was ended, when under pressure from Bismarck they joined the North German Federation. A subsequent cut-back in British public spending meant no job was available for John Ward, whose integrity, and service to the country, earned him a C.B.E.
In retirement John Ward was critical of the British Government for their apathy in dealing with German ambitions. The following quote from his 1872 memoirs explains his frustrations.
‘For a number of years past England has almost withdrawn herself from Continental affairs, and the notion, whether right or wrong, prevails, that we are indifferent to the fate of foreign nations, except in so far as our commercial interests are involved ..... this is the reason why important political secrets are withheld from the knowledge of the British representatives abroad’.
The frustrations of diplomatic advice not being taken seriously by a Government determined to remain neutral, left him embittered. Ward also believed that the Crimean war could have been prevented if the diplomats had been listened to.
John Ward was an intelligent man with an abiding love for theatre, literature and philosophy. He married Caroline Bullock in 1832 and died at Dover in 1890. John and Caroline had three daughters and two sons. One son, also John, followed his father into the diplomatic corp. The other son was the distinguished historian and writer Adolphus William Ward.