Edward Gibbon Wakefield
This enormous 1849 portrait of Wakefield overlooks the garment exhibition in a mezzanine gallery in the Christchurch museum. This picture took two Royal Academicians to paint — not because of its whopping size, but because of a division of labour. J Edgell Collins RA painted most of the picture (fee: 300 guineas). Richard Ansdell RA, specialist animal painter, added the dogs (fee: £100). The museum label sums up Wakefield’s place in New Zealand history: Edward Gibbon Wakefield was a controversial reformer of English colonial theory and a founder of the New Zealand Company. Wakefield’s main innovation was the notion of a ‘sufficient price’ for land. Wakefield felt that English colonies had experienced difficulties because land had been given away or sold too cheaply. A sufficiently high but reasonable land price would have three benefits. It would promote stronger communities by removing the attraction of cheaper land in remote regions. It would ensure a supply of hired labour by keeping land ownership out of reach of new immigrants for several years, and it would provide a source of income to administer the colony and to finance further subsidised immigration.
He sought to transplant and protect traditional English social structures in colonial settings, and advocated the establishment of colonial centres with specific religious denominations. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Church of England settlement of Cantebury, which he intended would encapsulate his colonial aspirations.
Taken 5 July 2004. Filed under
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