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Edward Gibbon Wakefield

Wakefield, Edward Gibbon, 1796–1862, British colonial statesman. He was attached to the British embassies in Turin (1814–16) and Paris (1820–26), but in 1826 was convicted of an attempt to marry an heiress by trickery. While in prison (1827–30) Wakefield prepared material for a book on capital punishment (pub. 1831) and studied colonial affairs. He evolved his important theory of systematic colonization, embodied in such works as A Letter from Sydney (1829) and A View of the Art of Colonization (1849). Concerned by the problems of increasing population, with resultant poverty and crime, he advocated the settlement of the colonies by ordinary citizens rather than by transported convicts. He argued that land should be sold in small lots at a moderate fixed price instead of given away (the funds thus gathered to be used to support further colonization), and some self-government should be allowed. These influential ideas led to the founding (1834) of the South Australian Association and the establishment of the South Australian colony. Wakefield accompanied (1838) Lord Durham to Canada as an adviser and influenced Durham's report on Canadian government. In 1839 he founded the New Zealand Land Company, which colonized part of that territory. He went to New Zealand in 1852 and entered into politics there, but suffered a complete breakdown in 1854.

See his collected works, ed. by M. F. Lloyd Prichard (1968); biographies by I. O'Connor (1929) and P. Bloomfield (1961); R. C. Mills, The Colonization of Australia (1915, repr. 1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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