Prime Ministers of New Zealand

Robert Stout

Born 1844, Lerwick, Shetland Islands

Died 1930, Wellington, New Zealand

Stout was born at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, and went on to be educated at the local parish school, and then Lerwick Academy. At the age of 13 he had acquired such a sound grounding that he was appointed a pupil teacher. At 18 he completed his apprenticeship, and soon after decided to leave for New Zealand.

Stout landed at Dunedin in April 1864. He had intended to become a land surveyor, but due to lack of openings, he accepted a post as second master in the Dunedin Grammar School. In 1867 Stout decided to study law, and was admitted to the bar in 1871. He later went on to lecture in law.

Stout did not make his appearance in politics until 1872 when he was elected to represent Caversham in the Otago Provincial Council. In 1875 he was elected to the House of Representative for Caversham, and in March 1878 was invited to become Attorney-General in the first liberal ministry. In July of that year Stout also took the portfolios of Lands and Immigration, offices he held until 24 June 1879. The ill-health of his partner, however, prompted him to resign in order to devote more attention to his practice.

Stout remained out of Parliament for five years, until July 1884 when he became Member for Dunedin East, entering Vogel's short-lived ministry. This ministry lasted just 12 days until 28 August 1884 when Stout, who had been sent for, took office as premier. The general election of 1887 occurred in the midst of a depression which was crippling New Zealand. The electors were unhappy and drastic action was witnessed, Stout himself losing his Dunedin East seat. He was out of politics for some years, and briefly returned as Member for Inangahua, until he was elected for Wellington City.

On 10 February 1898 he resigned his seat in Parliament. He was a member of the council of Otago University from 1891 until 1898, when he went to live permanently in Wellington. Once in Wellington Stout was one of the founders of Victoria University College.

Stout was appointed Chief Justice on 22 June 1899, and administered the office until his retirement in 1926.

Stout died 19 July 1930, in Wellington.

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