Frederick Aloysius Weld (1823 - 1891) was a New Zealand politician and a governor of various British colonies. He was the sixth person to serve as Premier of New Zealand, and later served as Governor of Western Australia, Governor of Tasmania, and Governor of the Straits Settlements .
Weld was born near Bridport, Dorset, England, on 9 May 1823. His mother, Maria Christina Clifford, was the daughter of Charles Clifford, Baron of Chudleigh . His father, Humphrey Weld, was the son of Thomas Weld, founder of the prestigious Jesuit college at Stonyhurst. Weld's upbringing was strongly grounded in the Catholic faith. He received a good education, studying at Stonyhurst before attending the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, where he studied philosophy, chemistry, languages and law. He had originally intended to pursue a military career, but was convinced otherwise by his tutor at Fribourg. He instead decided to seek a career in the colonies, and arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, on 22 April 1844.
In New Zealand, he entered a partnership with his cousin, Charles Clifford. The two established a number of sheep stations around the country, and Weld became relatively prosperous. Weld found a life of agricultural management to be too mundane, however, and soon became active in political concerns. One of his more significant campaigns was to ward against any potential discrimination against Catholics in New Zealand. He later became active in lobbying for representative government in New Zealand.
When the creation of the New Zealand Parliament was announced, Weld stood for election. He became a member of the 1st Parliament as the representative of Wairau, an electorate in the northeast of the South Island. The main political division of the day was between "centralists" (favouring a strong central government) and "provincialists" (favouring strong regional governments). On this spectrum, Weld established himself as a moderate centralist, although he tended to oppose the extremes of either side.
Weld was also a member of the brief "cabinet" formed around James FitzGerald. This represented an attempt by Parliament to assume direct responsibility for administering New Zealand. Acting Governor Robert Wynyard managed to block this move, however, and Weld's role as a "minister" came to an end. Despite the failure of the FitzGerald "cabinet", Weld was pleased that Catholics were able to participate fully in politics. The fact that Charles Clifford, also a Catholic, had become Speaker was also encouraging to him.
Weld resigned from Parliament a short while before the end of its first term, returning to England for a brief time. When he returned, he was elected to the 2nd Parliament, again representing Wairau. He briefly returned to England again to marry Filumena Mary Anne Lisle Phillipps, with whom he would have thirteen children.
In 1960, Weld was invited to join Edward Stafford's government, taking over responsibility for Native Affairs from William Richmond. In this role, Weld had to contend with conflicts such as the First Taranaki War. Although Weld disliked the prospect of war, and believed that Governor George Grey had mishandled the situation, he believed strongly in the need to assert the power of the government, describing it as a "painful duty". Weld lost his ministerial position when the Stafford administration was defeated.
In 1864 (by which time Weld was representing Cheviot, formed from the southern half of his old Wairau seat), the government of Frederick Whitaker resigned due to disputes with the Governor. The point in question was who should bear responsibility for funding British troops stationed in New Zealand. Weld, believing that it was British ineptitude that caused conflict with the Maori in the first place, strongly objected to Grey's demands that Parliament should fund the troops. Weld instead believed that British troops should be removed from New Zealand altogether, and be replaced by local forces.
Weld, as one of the more respected members of Parliament, was asked to form a new administration, which he agreed to do on two main conditions. Firstly, Weld insisted that his policies for dealing with Maori should be adopted - punishment for "rebellion" would come in the form of confiscation of land, not any form of criminal proceedings. Secondly, the capital of New Zealand would be moved to Auckland to the more central location of Wellington. Both conditions were granted, and Weld became Premier.
As Premier, Weld met with mixed success. The capital was indeed moved to Wellington, and his proposals for Maori relations were adopted. These two things generated considerable bitterness, however - Aucklanders were angry about the change of capital, and Maori were angry about the confiscation of over a million acres (4,000 km²) of land in the Waikato area. Weld's other success, the withdrawal of British troops from New Zealand, was also controversial, and generated considerable hostility from the Governor. In addition, the government's financial situation was precarious.
A little less than a year after taking office, Weld's government resigned.
Weld, suffering from poor health and stress, retired from politics in 1866, and returned to England the following year. A short time later, however, he began a career as a British colonial governor. From 1868 to 1874, he served as governor of Western Australia, and from 1875 to 1880, he was governor of Tasmania. From 1880 to 1887, he was governor of the Straits Settlements (consisting of Malacca, Penang, and Singapore).
Weld finally retired from political life in 1887, although remained active in other fields of work. In 1891, visiting the Straits Settlements once again, he contracted a serious illness, and returned to England. He died in Chideock on 20 July 1891.