BELL -FRANCIS DILLION - WELLINGTON 1863 ------- 1898
edmondsallan - Hello - In July 1869 Fox invited Bell to join his ministry without a portfolio. Later in the year Bell and Isaac Featherston were sent to London to plead for the retention of British soldiers and to secure a Treasury guarantee for a loan of 2 million to be spent on immigration and public works. Negotiations concerning the troops were unsuccessful; as a concession the British government gave its guarantee to a 1 million loan.
Bell returned to New Zealand in time for the 1871 general election. He was returned for the seat of Mataura, which he had held since 1866. When Parliament met, the government put him forward as speaker, a position he held until 1875. As a man who had never held strong opinions on anything and was used to adjudicating claims, he made a competent speaker. Bell was created KB in 1873. After deciding to re-contest his seat in the general election at the end of 1875, he then changed his mind and, anticipating that he would be appointed to the Legislative Council, withdrew. The government, however, made a policy decision not to make any new appointments to the council and Bell, to his annoyance, was left out in the cold. In 1877 Harry Atkinson finally made the appointment. He served on the council until 1882.
In 1880 John Hall appointed Bell and Fox to investigate disputed claims arising from the confiscation of Maori land on the west coast of the North Island. They recommended that a considerable amount of land should be returned, but also made it clear that no policy was 'worth a thought' that did not provide for the continued settlement of the country as well as for justice to the Maori.
In October 1880 Hall offered Bell the post of agent general in London. The appointment removed Bell from colonial politics to an environment he found more congenial. He was called on to represent New Zealand at a number of international conferences and exhibitions as well as at the 1887 Colonial Conference. He helped raise loans, interviewed applicants for top New Zealand positions, negotiated steam ship services and administered immigration policies. He had important and delicate diplomatic discussions on French intervention in the Pacific, dealing with the problem of French penal colonies and the future division of the New Hebrides. In these matters Bell's knowledge of French enabled him to play a more significant role in British diplomacy than was usually permitted to colonial representatives. His services saw him created KCMG in 1881 and CB in 1886.
Bell and his family returned to New Zealand in November 1891. The stay was brief. In June the next year, back in London, Margaret Bell died. Bell remained in London until 1896 when he retired to New Zealand and died at his Shag Valley station, near Palmerston, Otago, on 15 July 1898.
Although Bell belonged to a group of early settlers who were undeniably distinguished, appraisals of his personality were always qualified. He was regarded as quick, clever and hard-working, but also as shallow and unstable. He was a good-looking man, tall, with a high forehead and an interesting face marred by drooping eyelids that gave him a rather supercilious appearance. He was, by all accounts, vain. As a young man he was regarded as a great social asset and played hard with the bachelor set and officers of the imperial forces stationed in New Zealand. By his own admission he had a number of pre-marital sexual liaisons with both Maori and European women, which caused gossip and scandal. After his marriage he seems to have settled down and become devoted to his wife and family.
The unsettled circumstances of Bell's youth may have prevented him from attaining a secure identity. Always anxious to please, always charming and witty, he always said yes. People were never quite sure what he meant; they found that he shifted his position, talked around a subject, never came to a decision. He left a remarkable record of reports, dispatches and letters, all in beautiful, clear handwriting, which his father rewarded with payment when he was a child. These are testimony to his inability to say anything concisely. His cast of mind was that of the nineteenth century administrator rather than that of the politician. Although his friends repeatedly turned to him for administrative assistance, they rarely trusted him as a colleague in government and he rarely desired such trust. I think we have all met people like this .They all go to make up the world . They can also be a nuisance / waste of time / etc' Till wemeet again - Regards - edmondsallan