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10. 10 More Men of 1897

THE PARTY VOTE given by the Protestants of New South Wales in order to defeat Cardinal Moran was probably responsible for the return of Brunker, a fine figure-head with mutton-chop whiskers; Abbott, whom we have seen; Walker, a mere commercial man, and Wise, of whom only the last won a place [sic] upon the Convention. The party vote in Victoria given to the Liberals as against the Conservatives or the Age [as] against the Argus, was responsible for the return of Berry, Fraser, Zeal and Higgins of whom curiously enough, as in the case of New South Wales, only the last and lowest upon the poll justified his selection. Of course Sir Graham Berry's return was a proper recognition of past services and abilities but his physical feebleness owing to advanced years rendered him unable to take any active part in the proceedings. He spoke admirably once or twice, but the rest was silence. Fraser as Grand Master of the Orangemen and Zeal as President of the Council received considerable Conservative support, but it was the personal friendship of the proprietor of the Age which led him to include them in the paper's list of the Liberal Ten. By their choice he gratified his personal preference and at the same time excluded Wrixon, Sargood and Murray Smith, the far abler members of the Conservative party. Higgins, though he made a thorough tour of the colony, would not have been selected but for the Age nomination. Of the remaining six Victorians Mr Peacock, the Chief Secretary, though taking an active interest in all the proceedings, spoke but two or three times, and even Dr Quick, than whom there was no member who had better mastered the subject or more closely followed the work of the Convention, partly from nervousness and partly from defects of manner, spoke rarely and without marked effect, although with great warmth, transparent sincerity and vigour of conviction. With four silent members, the Victorian team was too heavily handicapped to bear comparison with its rivals even if its remaining members had been stronger than they were.

The Premier [Turner] and Attorney-General [Isaacs] assisted in


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a practical way by the Chief Secretary, worked together and bore the chief burden between them. In some respects they were alike for both were self-made men, untiring workers, ambitious for themselves and for their colony but in appearance, tastes and powers a complete contrast. Turner, who as a young man was but a law clerk and who married on 25s. a week, was fortunate in finding a partner who assisted him at every step and constantly pushed him forward. He obtained his articles, qualified himself as a solicitor, became a partner in a profitable but by no means high-class practice and when by dint of economy and industry they had acquired a small competence, became a municipal councillor, mayor and finally member for St Kilda. He was far more than even Reid the average man, for while Reid wore an eyeglass, entered society and lived as a member of a learned profession, Turner was the ideal bourgeois who married early and who was in dress, manner and habits exactly on the same level as the shopkeepers and prosperous artisans who were his ratepayers and constituents. He was also bourgeois in his uprightness, straightforwardness, domestic happiness and regularity of habits, in none of which respects was there any likeness between himself and his fellow-Premier though he never read a book and had received his education in every-day life and in the practice of his profession. Reid had risen by his powers of speech, Turner by his trustworthiness and business capacity. As a speaker he was as plain, commonplace, and even slangy as Reid, but had none of the rich humour or oratorical flights or passages of polished rhetoric which formed the armoury of his rival. His merits were an obvious earnestness and a lucidity which made the most complex propositions plain. His faculty of work was enormous, his love of detail great and his whole life devoted to work either in his business or politics. He had no hobbies, no amusements and no diversions. He ate, slept and worked—worked at whatever he had to do with a tenacity and clearsightedness that made him in time a good lawyer, a good financier, a good administrator, a good speaker and a good leader of the House. He had no enthusiasms and no vices—his only emotions were indignation at scamped work or extravagance, except the inevitable sensitiveness as to maintaining his position which at times discovered itself in his demeanour. Ambitious, secretive and impressionable, he was timid and inclined to be envious. He had to find his principles as he went for there was no theoretic basis for them in the background. He arrived at them through expediency and they never became with him condensed


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into a creed or digested into a dogma. He was Australian by birth but British to the backbone in the practical good sense, dislike of doctrine, dread of emotion and determination to compromise his way out of all difficulties. As each question rose before him he grappled with it as if it were a new brief, sent for friends and subordinates and sucked their brains assiduously, looked up a few authorities, or more often had them prepared for him, considered it as a man of affairs must and then came down to the House well crammed but also well capable of assimilating what he had acquired only when he needed it. Consequently there was no horizon in his mind, no perspective in his policy, no broad surface of principle upon which he rested except such as was naturally supplied by so sober and solid a mind out of its past experiences. Turner was of the English type, fat, solid, thick-necked and with a large even head. Isaacs his colleague was a short, spare, dark-skinned Jew with a thin neck, protruding lips, large nostrils and a high, narrow retreating forehead. His figure was loose and ill-made but it was his hands and head that were most remarkable. The hands were so heavily jointed and knuckled that they were almost deformed, the fingers flat-topped and the whole bony. The head was extremely long from the eyebrows which projected like a penthouse over the eyes to the point of the back brain which was equally prominent behind. From each of these extreme points the head sloped rapidly to a narrow ridge almost with an apex but not high above the ear though fairly broad at the base of the brain. Looked at from the front or back it was roughly triangular receding to the crown. What redeemed a face which was certainly plain and a figure that was ungainly, was the fire in the eye and the energy in the motion by which the whole was rendered tense, taut and agile. His smile was bright, light and winning in its regard either to his family, his intimates or the stranger he was welcoming, but the nostril quivered and the brows lowered readily upon provocation which he was not slow to take, though often slow to express. The son of a struggling tailor in an up-country town, he had as unpromising an outlook as could well be imagined for such a career as his proved. First a State School teacher and then a clerk in the Crown Law Office, he was everywhere saving to penuriousness, strenuous in self-education, resolute to succeed. He practised his French accent by following an itinerant Gallic knifegrinder from street to street, book in hand and engaging him in conversation. German he readily conquered and the classics offered no obstacle. Called to


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the Bar, he was eager for work, and willing to seek it, unwearying in preparation and dauntless in Court where his acuteness and thoroughness soon helped him to the front. But he did not relax his efforts and soon was in receipt of a large income out of which he generously provided for his parents, his brothers and finally his wife and children. There his unselfishness and generosity stopped short. Intellectual to the finger-tips and gifted with a marvellous memory, he was always acquiring knowledge, reading widely in all fields and it is said commencing the violin when approaching his fortieth year. He entered politics like Turner as a Liberal with Conservative leanings and was a member for a time of a Conservative Ministry, but under the stress of antagonism to his old colleagues and his sense of the requirements of the political situation, soon laid all his Conservatism aside and began to qualify for the future Radical leadership. While Turner's opinions were derived from actual political work, Isaacs' were carefully read up and elaborated from such authorities as he could consult, with whom he soon made himself thoroughly familiar. A clear, cogent, forcible and fiery speaker, he set himself at once to work to conquer the methods of platform and parliamentary debate and in both succeeded. He was not trusted or liked in the House. His will was indomitable, his courage inexhaustible and his ambition immeasurable. But his egotism was too marked and his ambition too ruthless to render him popular. Dogmatic by disposition, full of legal subtlety and the precise literalness and littleness of the rabbinical mind, he was at the same time kept well abreast by his reading of modern developments and modern ideas. He supplied the basis of literature and theory that Turner lacked, while from Turner he began to learn the arts of managing men and conducting business in the practical municipal way. Together they were strong and with Mr Peacock's knack of keeping himself in touch with men and things around them the two former were enabled to make a much better figure with [the] Convention than they would have done alone.

Higgins owed part of his prominence to the fact that he was soon at odds with his fellow-Victorians and with almost the whole Convention, but most of it to his dogged courage and power of intellect. A large-headed, rudely-featured youth who had conquered a tendency to chest weakness by means of the Australian climate, a rigid regimen and hard physical exercise, he was handicapped by what would have proved to many insurmountable obstacles to success as a speaker, an awkward manner, a nervous


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stammer and slowness of speech. But he was endowed with an iron will and a fine brain capable of prolonged effort and acting with the power and precision of a machine. By sheer hard work he won his way to the front at the Bar, into Parliament and into the Convention. Unlike Turner and Isaacs, he entered with fixed principles and well-thought-out ideals, having followed British politics with the keen interest of an ultra-Radical and a Home Ruler. An admirable dialectician, well versed in English literature of the best class, he was more versatile in interests than at first appeared. A keen observer of men and somewhat harsh judge of opponents, he prided himself upon a rigid rectitude of life and severe punctiliousness of demeanour which was due both to his self-respect and keen sense of humour, welded into one by a dominating egoism that ultimately overbore both. Under an inflexible exterior he was a man of strong passions, strong prejudices and towering ambition, capable of nourishing his designs undemonstratively and biding his time for long periods. He was drifting into opposition to the Turner Ministry because of their time-serving policy and soon adopted the same attitude in the Convention, doing them something less than justice and willing to join in defeating them as opportunity arose. It was his natural tendency as well as his tactics which led him to desire to outbid them as far as possible with the Radicals inside and outside of the Chamber. Gradually he unmasked his aims, and in his resolute devotion to them as his own and to his own ambition, became less and less scrupulous in tactics as he politically developed.

Trenwith was yet another who had achieved success under the most unpropitious conditions, fighting an even harder fight than Turner, Isaacs or Higgins. A Tasmanian bootmaker who while yet a young man found himself illiterate, burdened with a wife and family and with his eyesight almost gone, he nevertheless maintained through a poverty that was almost abject the pursuit of knowledge. His powerful voice, powerful physique and powerful will enabled him to win at last a recognition among his fellows of his own craft and from this it was but a step to the public platform as a champion of his class. As such he had to encounter a storm of obloquy such as inevitably assails the pioneer and it was only after years of strife and more than one failure that he conquered a seat in Parliament. He was soon able to discover that the extravagant rhetoric and equally extravagant proposals of irresponsible men need expect no favour from Parliament, where indeed they could not even win attention. Master of a


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sledge-hammer style of oratory, very loud, very forcible and very logical, he softened away its excrescences of violence, watched and studied the temper of the House and gradually elbowed his way through its crowd of speakers into the front rank of its debaters. There were few adornments and few quotations in his speeches, the material for which he found largely in the addresses of those to whom he replied and for the rest drew out of his own recollection. If he had pursued his course of self-education as consistently in his later years as in his earlier, and if he had added a deeper knowledge of books to the knowledge of affairs which he acquired, he might have outshone all his associates, but as it was he became one of the best debaters in the Convention as in Parliament, won the same esteem for his ability and fairness and though he discharged his duties as to attendance with some laxity, exercised a considerable influence because he was not simply a brilliant delegate but distinctively the representative of the working classes—the only representative who had been elected and whom even his opponents were prepared to welcome as a partner—all except Adye Douglas, who glowered at him like a Highland seer and denounced his future as gloomily as the wizard did Lochiel's, with eyes burning from within an orbit of white hair and whisker and with uplifted and trembling finger and insisted upon regarding both Lyne and Trenwith, who were Tasmanian-born, as renegades to their native country. Of Deakin it is unnecessary to say anything except that on seeing the impression created by his fellow-Victorians he devoted himself from the first to the task of smoothing away resentments and overcoming difficulties, preferring to support amendments rather than move them as so many coveted to do, and in every way subordinating his votes and speeches and silences as he believed would most contribute to the attainment of Union. Many others were actuated by precisely the same motives, but none followed it in precisely the same manner of self-suppression in public coupled with continuous activity in private among the members.

Tasmania contributed in the person of its Premier the most distinguished-looking delegate of the Convention, Sir Edward Braddon, brother of the lady novelist of the same name and himself author of a book of sporting adventure besides tales and sketches, all of them admirably and characteristically written. Almost as thin as Holder, slight, erect, stiff, with the walk of a horseman and the carriage of a soldier, he had the manner of a diplomat and the face of a mousquetaire. An iron-grey lock fell


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artistically forward upon his forehead, bright grey eyes gleamed from under rather bushy eyebrows, a straight nose leading to a heavy moustache and a Vandyke beard. If his locks had been longer his whole appearance would have admirably suited a Cavalier costume. Beside the massive Kingston, the podgy Reid, the bourgeois Turner and the bluff Henry-the-eighth appearance of Forrest, he looked like an attaché from Paris surrounded by the fat burghers of a Flanders city to whom he was conveying the King's commands. He was a most amiable cynic, an accomplished strategist and an expert administrator, who having done excellent service in India had settled in Tasmania to enjoy his pension and add to it if possible. Politics contributed nothing, for remarkable to relate, though Premier, he held no office and drew no salary. He was no speaker, jerky, nervous and without flow, but for all that had a certain warmth and clearness of expression which but for a helpless manner would have made him pleasant to hear. An admirable negotiator, a devoted whist player, an indefatigable sportsman and thorough man of the world, he introduced into the Convention an element of manners in which it was by no means affluent. Henry, a sound, sober man of business, and Lewis, a thoughtful and gentlemanly young lawyer were the most useful of his allies, though Dobson, another lawyer of an irrelevant mind, was at times their best and in parts almost their worst debater. The new men from Western Australia were mainly spectators and votes. Leake, leader [of] the local Opposition, had a dignified address, and James, a younger lawyer promise of both fire and sparkle. It was mainly left to the rather overbearing Premier and his University conscience Hackett to speak and think for the group. With Kingston in the Chair, Barton, Abbott, Reid and Lyne of New South Wales, with Brown of Tasmania on his right—Forrest and Briggs on his left, all of them men of about six feet or above fifteen stone in weight, the Convention was physically massive. Douglas, Glynn, Carruthers, Zeal and Isaacs were its smallest members; Douglas its senior, James its junior and one of its best-looking men.

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