John Ballance (1839-1893), New Zealand statesman, eldest son of Samuel Ballance, farmer, of Glenavy, Antrim, Ulster, was born on the 27th of March 1839. He was educated at a national school, and, on leaving, was apprenticed to an ironmonger at Belfast. He became a clerk in a wholesale ironmonger's house in Birmingham, and migrated to New Zealand, intending to start in business there as a small jeweller. After settling at Wanganui, however, he took an opportunity, soon offered, of founding a newspaper, the Wanganui Herald, of which he became editor and remained chief owner for the rest of his life. During the fighting with the Maori chief Titokowaru, in 1867, Ballance was concerned in the raising of a troop of volunteer horse, in which he received a commission. Of this he was deprived owing to the appearance in his newspaper of articles criticizing the management of the campaign. He had, however, behaved well in the field, and, in spite of his dismissal, was awarded the New Zealand war medal. He entered the colony's parliament in 1875 and, with one interval (1881-1884), sat there till his death.
Ballance was a member of three ministries, that of Sir George Grey (1877-1879); that of Sir Robert Stout (1884-1887); and that of which he himself was premier (1891-1893). His alliance with Grey ended with a notorious and very painful quarrel. In the Stout government his portfolios were those of lands and native affairs; but it was at the treasury that his prudent and successful finance made the chief mark. As native minister his policy was pacific and humane, and in his last years he contrived to adjust equitably certain long-standing difficulties relating to reserved lands on the west coast of the North Island. He was resolutely opposed to the sale of crown lands for cash, and advocated with effect their disposal by perpetual lease. His system of state-aided "village settlements," by which small farms were allotted to peasants holding by lease from the crown, and money lent them to make a beginning of building and cultivation, has been on the whole successful. To Ballance, also, was due the law reducing the life-tenure of legislative councillors to one of seven years. He was actively concerned in the advocacy of woman suffrage. But his best known achievement was the imposition, in 1891, of the progressive land-tax and progressive income-tax still levied in the colony.
As premier he brought together the strong experimental and progressive party which long held office in New Zealand. In office he showed debating power, constructive skill and tact in managing men; but in 1893, at the height of his success and popularity, he died at Wellington of an intestinal disease after a severe surgical operation. Quiet and unassuming in manner, Ballance, who was a well-read man, always seemed fonder of his books and his chessboard than of public bustle; yet his loss to New Zealand political life was great. A statue was erected to his memory in front of Parliament House, Wellington.
(W. P. R.)