Isaac Featherston

Isaac Earl Featherston NZC (21 March 1813 – 19 June 1876) was a New Zealand politician, and was known for his advocacy for the establishment of New Zealand self-government, and the importance of the provincial governments.

Isaac Featherston

Portrait photo of a man around 60 years of age
Isaac Featherston
7th Colonial Secretary
In office
12 July 1861 – 2 August 1861
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wanganui and Rangitikei
In office
24 May 1854 – 9 August 1855
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for City of Wellington
In office
In office
1st Superintendent of Wellington Province
In office
2 July 1853 – 23 April 1858
In office
28 June 1858 – 14 March 1870
Personal details
Born21 March 1813
Newcastle upon Tyne
Died19 June 1876(1876-06-19) (aged 63)
RelationsJohn Cargill, Charles John Johnston sons-in-law

Early life and familyEdit

He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England on 21 March 1813 as son of Thomas Featherston and Jane Earl. He qualified in medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1836, later at 10 December 1839 marrying Bethia Campbell Scott. He decide to leave England due to problems with tuberculosis in hope of a cure in New Zealand, leaving in December 1840. He arrived in Wellington in May 1841 on the New Zealand Company ship Olympus as surgeon-superintendent.[1] On 1 September 1869, his third daughter, Kate, married fellow member of parliament John Cargill.[2][3]

Political careerEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1853–1855 1st Wanganui and Rangitikei Independent
1855–1858 2nd Town of Wellington Independent
1858–1860 2nd Town of Wellington Independent
1860–1866 3rd City of Wellington Independent
1866–1870 4th City of Wellington Independent

Featherston served in the first, second, third, and fourth Parliaments. He represented the Wanganui and Rangitikei electorate in the first parliament until he resigned on 9 August 1855, and then represented the City of Wellington electorate in the second, third and fourth parliaments. In 1858, he resigned his seat in Parliament[4] and his Wellington superintendency, apparently wanting to return to England. Instead, he successfully stood for re-election in both positions within months.[1]

Featherston was Colonial Secretary (forerunner to the modern Minister of Internal Affairs) in 1861, and a Minister without Portfolio from 1869 to 1871, having been appointed in both instances by William Fox.

Featherston was also heavily involved in the politics of Wellington Province. He was elected unopposed as the first Superintendent from 1853.[1] He resigned from this post on 23 April 1858.[5] He was re-elected on 28 June 1858[5] and held the post until 1870.[1] His superintendence oversaw some slow growth in Wellington before in 1865 it became the capital of the colony.[6]

From 1871 he was the first Agent-General for the colony in London, the precursor to the High Commissioner.[7]

Wakefield–Featherston duelEdit

A duel on 24 March 1847 was fought in Wellington between Colonel William Wakefield and Featherston (who was Wakefield's doctor) over a newspaper editorial of Featherston on the New Zealand Company land policy which questioned Wakefield's honesty. Featherston fired and missed. Then Wakefield fired into the air, saying he would not shoot a man with seven daughters.[8]


The town of Featherston in the Wairarapa is named after him, as is Featherston Street in Wellington.


  1. ^ a b c d Hamer, David (22 June 2007). "Featherston, Isaac Earl 1813–1876". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  2. ^ "Marriages". Colonist. XII (1254). 1 October 1869. p. 5. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  3. ^ "News of the Week". Otago Witness (928). 11 September 1869. p. 13. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  4. ^ "HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES". Otago Witness (340). 5 June 1858. p. 5. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  5. ^ a b Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 234.
  6. ^ Hamer, David (1990). "Wellington on the Urban Frontier". In Hamer, David; Nicholls, Roberta (eds.). The Making of Wellington 1800-1914. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press. pp. 247–248. ISBN 0-86473-200-7. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  7. ^ McLintock, A. H., ed. (11 August 2009) [originally published in 1966]. "Featherston, Dr Isaac Earl". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  8. ^ McLintock, A. H., ed. (23 April 2009) [originally published in 1966]. "Duell". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 3 July 2010.


Political offices
New office Superintendent of Wellington Province
Succeeded by
William Fitzherbert
Preceded by
Edward Stafford
Colonial Secretary
Succeeded by
William Fox
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Wanganui and Rangitikei
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Robert Hart, James Kelham and Charles Clifford
Member of Parliament for Wellington
Served alongside: Charles Clifford, William Waring Taylor, William Fitzherbert, William Barnard Rhodes and Charles Borlase
Succeeded by
George Hunter, Edward Pearce
Diplomatic posts
New title Agent-General of New Zealand in the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Julius Vogel