Biographical / Historical
An Auckland barrister and solicitor, Barzillai Beckerleg was born in Penzance, Cornwall on 5 November 1888 and immigrated to New Zealand in 1905. Beckerleg attended Auckland University College, graduating in 1923 with an LLB. Between 1917 and 1925 Beckerleg was employed by the Auckland solicitor Andrew Hanna, first as a junior clerk and later as a barrister and solicitor for the firm. Beckerleg then formed his own law firm, eventually occupying offices in Auckland’s Vulcan Lane.
A Christian Socialist with an interest in monetary and social reform; in 1933 Beckerleg formed the Dominion and Empire Organisation (D & E Organisation) in order to publicize his ideas. The stated aim of the organisation was “to promote Dominion prosperity and strengthen Empire, trade and relations”. The Organisation actively supported the New Zealand Labour Party’s 1935 election campaign stating that, Labour “was only major political party whose policy is consistent with the principles of Christianity, decent democracy, and common humanity” (Searchlight of Truth, Vol.1, No.1, 12 October, 1935). The organisation disseminated its ideas through a newsletter, The Searchlight of Truth, which first appeared in October 1935 as a newspaper and later as a series of open letters which Beckerleg produced and sent to local and overseas political leaders, statesmen and other interested parties until his death in 1965. Unfortunately over time Beckerleg tended to simply reuse material from earlier letters. As a result the later letters lack the clarity and relevance of those written in the 1930s.
Beckerleg made submissions on behalf of the D&E Organisation to the 1934 Government Monetary Committee and to the 1955 Royal Commission on Monetary Banking and Credit Systems and in 1936 and 1937 under the pseudonym “The Economist”, Beckerleg gave a series of regular radio talks on Radio 1ZJ a Christian radio station, which broadcast from John’s Buildings, Chancery St, Auckland.
During the Second World War Beckerleg was the secretary of the New Zealand Democracy Association. Formed by John H. Hogan (1916 -) in May 1942, to “protect the right of free speech and expression, except in respect of information to the enemy” (see Item 89/1) its founding members also included prominent Auckland citizens, Dr D.Robb, Professor A. Sewell, Cannon Averill and Hedda Dyson, editor of the Woman’s Weekly. Hogan was the editor of the Social Credit newspaper Democracy which was censored by the Attorney- General just prior to the founding of the Association for publishing articles attacking the Government’s methods of financing the war. Despite several successful public meetings in 1942 the Association does not appear to have existed beyond late 1943. John Hogan’s association with the Douglas Social Credit Movement appears to have been unattractive to some potential members including one member who withdrew his support because he believed in free speech but not social credit (Item 89/1).
Unlike John Hogan, Beckerleg was not directly associated with the social credit movement although he obviously shared some of the same ideas regarding monetary policy and appears to have investigated the possibility of forming a branch of the Douglas Social Credit Movement during the 1930s.
In 1914 Barzillai married Victoria Sturges, they had two sons, Sturges Barzillai Beckerleg and John Wallace Beckerleg. The family lived in Portland Rd Remuera. Like his father John Wallace Beckerleg, studied law at The University of Auckland graduating with an LLB 1948, after which he joined his father’s law firm.
Beckerleg was also an active member of the of Ara Whiti Masonic Lodge, a member of the Auckland Institute (1935), member of the New Zealand Rationalist Association and secretary of the Rawhiti Bowling Club.
Barzillai Beckerleg died in 1965 aged 77.
International Press Who's Who in New Zealand, Wellington, 1938.
For more information on John H. Hogan and the New Zealand Democracy Association see:
Taylor, N.M. (Nancy Margaret), The New Zealand people at war: the home front, Official history, the New Zealand people at war, Wellington, New Zealand, 1986.
Lambert, M. (Max Lambert) ed. Who’s Who in New Zealand, 12th Edition, Reed Books, Auckland, New Zealand, 1991.