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17. Chapter XVII In London for the Jubilee

The St. Paul's and Westminster Hall ceremonies—His Majesty King George—Speeches and impressions—Migration to Australia —An immigrant's chances—Evils of Government aid.

I

DURING 1933, 1934 and 1935 I visited Europe. I spent in England four or five months of spring and early summer of each of those years. The Western Australian Parliament ordinarily sits from the end of July until a week or two before Christmas. My absence did not interfere with my work as President of the Legislative Council, and I was able whilst in Europe to render public service to Australia in a variety of ways, including attendance in a representative capacity at two International Parliamentary Conferences.

The hospitality of English people is unbounded, more especially towards visitors from the Dominions. Each of the three visits was in a private and not an official capacity, but notwithstanding I was overwhelmed with invitations to public and semi-public luncheons, banquets, receptions and such-like gatherings. As a member of the Empire Parliamentary Association I made much use of my entrée to the Imperial Parliament and had opportunities of hearing numerous debates in both Houses. I got into touch and formed friendships with various political leaders.




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Hospitality was not merely public. The Englishman is perhaps at his best in his own home. There were invitations to town houses and for week-end visits to the country houses. English hosts and hostesses are simple and unostentatious. In a subtle, perhaps unconscious, way they create the impression in the minds of their guests that they are to make themselves at home and do just what they like, and that by doing so they are giving pleasure to those whose guests they are.

The jubilee celebrations of 1935 could not fail to produce an indelible impression on anyone in London at that time. I was able to attend the State functions. I greatly appreciated the privileges extended to me, but, remarkable and imposing as they were, what to me was even far more significant was the frantic enthusiasm of the crowds in the streets. Rich and poor, old and young, strove with genuine earnestness to show by every means in their power their devotion and loyalty to the Royal Family. No ruler in the world could have a greater popular demonstration in his favour than the late King as he drove through the streets, not on one day alone, but whilst the celebrations lasted.

The variety and brilliancy of the uniforms at the thanksgiving service in St. Paul's produced a gorgeous effect, especially where here and there shafts of brilliant sunlight illumined the scene. King George and Queen Mary and the Royal Family, foreign potentates, Indian princes and ambassadors all brilliantly garbed, the bishops and judges in their robes, together with the political, naval, military and official leaders of the Empire, constituted a truly wonderful gathering of notabilities.


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But splendid as was the scene at St. Paul's on Monday, even still more impressive was the simple dignity of Thursday's ceremony when Parliament presented addresses to the King in Westminster Hall, where as His Majesty said, “Beneath these rafters of mediæval oak, the silent witnesses of historic tragedies and pageants, we celebrate the present under the spell of the past.”

There was an absence of uniforms, except those of the spiritual and law lords and the Speaker and his attendants. King George, the Princes, the members of both Houses of Parliament and the visitors were in morning dress.

The startling changes of the previous twenty-five years, with their struggles and anxieties, were aptly spoken of by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Sankey. “Elsewhere,” said he, “thrones and constitutions have failed to outlast the strain. Yet in this realm the development of public rights and liberties has not been arrested, but has been made wider and more sure. More truly than any of your illustrious ancestors your Majesty rules over a nation of free citizens. Yet in spite of, nay, rather because of, this wide extension of government by the people, the Throne stands more firmly than ever before as the centre of the national life.”

Still more apt was the reply of His Majesty. In the course of it he spoke some home truths when he said:

“It is to me a source of pride and thankfulness that the perfect harmony of our Parliamentary system with our Constitutional Monarchy has survived the shocks that have in recent years destroyed


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other Empires and other liberties. Our ancient Constitution, ever adaptable to change, has during my reign faced and conquered perils of warfare never conceived in earlier days, and has met and satisfied new democratic demands both at home and overseas.

“The system bequeathed to us by our ancestors, again modified for the needs of a new age, has been found once more, as of old, the best way to secure government by the people, freedom for the individual, the ordered strength of the State, and the rule of law over governors and governed alike.

“The complex forms and balanced spirit of our Constitution were not the discovery of a single era, still less of a single party or of a single person. They are the slow accretion of centuries, the outcome of patience, tradition and experience, constantly finding channels, old and new, for the impulse towards liberty, justice and social improvement inherent in our people down the ages.”

After the ceremony King George and Queen Mary walked slowly down the centre of the hall along the narrow passage between the seats. I occupied an end seat next to the passage. As His Majesty passed within a couple of feet of me, there was in his face a most wonderful expression of kindness, benevolence and thankfulness, the expression of a man who was genuinely anxious to do his best for the good of others. I thought how truly the then leader of the Labour Party, Mr. George Lansbury, had described him as “a very human person.” Even better than that simple phrase were the words of General Smuts:




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“With King George one never has the sense of position or pose or pomp. The centre of the mightiest and most successful group that has ever existed in history, he himself is simplicity itself. He requires no adventitious aids or props, and is content to be simply himself. And that simple self is compact of sheer humanness, which gives him a tact, a sympathy, and intuitive understanding of others which are his real sources of strength. His humanness, his simple integrity, sincerity and goodness inspire you with respect, devotion and— I must add—affection as nothing else could.”

General Smuts goes on to describe the King as “a simple human being—natural, sincere, truthful—whose life is spent for his people and who has no thought of self.”

All this was shown in the face of His Majesty as he walked down, and when, on reaching the entrance, he turned round and gazed for several seconds at the wonderful old hall and the crowd that looked towards him. Then he quietly walked out.

II

A happy memory of my stay in London during the jubilee year was a day spent at Chequers, the beautiful mansion that was provided by the munificence of Lord Lee of Fareham, to be used as an official country home for British Prime Ministers. My sister-in-law, Mrs. Geoffrey McIntyre, had been also invited. It was a Sunday near the end of March, 1935, as we motored from London, a lovely spring morning with the sun shining brightly, a bracing refreshing atmosphere and


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a sense of nature's awakening. Trees and bushes were in bud; early flowers, daffodils, violets and primroses, were in bloom. Travelling eastward, passing through quaint and picturesque villages and towns, finally we reached Chequers, found the gates open and drove up the long drive through the attractive park grounds with wide stretches of green grasslands studded with trees, amidst which sheep grazed. The suggestion was of quietness, peacefulness and rest. Chequers is at the end of the Chiltern Hills, far removed from the busy hum of people. It is just the retreat needed by the ever-harassed occupant of the highest ministerial office as an occasional relief from worry.

Though the house is in Elizabethan style yet it seems older than the sixteenth century, and the visitor is not surprised when he learns that parts of it date from a much earlier period. Spacious and with numeous gables, it looks a fitting home for Prime Ministers.

It was a simple family gathering. Ramsay MacDonald was transparently genuine in his kindly greeting. His daughter, Ishbel, was there, also a friend. His son, Malcolm, received us with happy friendliness. They made us immediately feel as much at home as if we had been members of this little homely group for years. Conversation at luncheon was mainly about Australia. The Prime Minister had toured it in 1906 and hoped soon to go there again. His son had paid it two visits.

After luncheon we strolled over the grounds. The Prime Minister showed deep interest in the surroundings, remarking on the difficulty of keeping the fine lawn in front of the house clear of weeds; then he


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talked of the flowers, trees and birds. It was evident he was a true nature-lover. We climbed a high and steep hill and admired the view, an immense and diversified expanse of typical English country. On the top of a hill not so high as where we were, were the remains of what he told me was an old fort of the Ancient Britons. It was where Cymbeline was born, an ancient stronghold from which the Roman invasion met with the stoutest resistance. It was part of the property attached to Chequers. Not far distant is the home and burial-place of John Hampden, who died of wounds received in the Civil War and was a cousin of Oliver Cromwell. These and other such historical memories were appropriate associations for the country residence of the head of the Government of the Empire. We were taken to the rose garden, inspected the terraces and parapets, box hedges and old sundials.

At afternoon tea the Prime Minister talked freely. I remarked that his work was so heavy and his responsibilities so great that the strain on him must be terrific. He said he was feeling it after so many years of public life and his various terms as Prime Minister and he hoped to be able to retire soon.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “Baldwin tells me that he, too, finds the strain more than he can bear. He does not want to lead.”

The visit was made some days after Hitler had delivered the famous announcement of Germany's return to conscription. The Prime Minister referred to it with a sadness in his voice. He felt it gave the policy of international peace and disarmament a severe shock. It might now be essential for Britain to strengthen her defences.




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I expressed the opinion that when the history of the last few years came to be written, his Government would get credit for all they had done to preserve peace.

“We did our best,” said he, “we risked even the national safety.” His tone of voice was that of a tired and disappointed man.

We spoke of the growth of the work of governments due to the ever-increasing scope of governmental activities. He mentioned that the questions to be dealt with to-day are complicated and countless. Decisions had to be made continually on important issues and made quickly.

“When I read biographies of my predecessors,” he said, “I envy them the comparatively little work they had to do and the time at their disposal.”

Then he went on to say that his eyes nowadays could not stand too much reading. He had had an operation for glaucoma and had to be careful.

“Come,” said he, “I love going round this house. Let me take you.”

It was clear he enjoyed showing the different rooms with their priceless treasures.

“The atmosphere is kindly,” said he, “and the ghosts are friendly and make me feel it is the proper home for Prime Ministers.”

As we wandered round he pointed to pictures by famous painters of the past, showed us wonderful cabinets, a library of old-world books bound in a style to last for centuries, rare china, miniatures, armour and ancient weapons. There was the ring of Queen Elizabeth that was brought to James the Sixth of Scotland to announce her death. On a mantelpiece was the


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sword worn by Cromwell at the Battle of Marsden Moor. Near it and framed with glass on both sides was a long letter written by him on the battlefield to his brother and whilst the loyalists were in flight.

The house had many relics of Cromwell, one of whose relatives married a former owner. There were portraits of his two daughters and both his sons. The Prime Minister also showed us a wonderful life mask of Cromwell.

At the end of a long room there was a lofty stained-glass window showing the coats of arms of the numerous residents of Chequers since the eleventh century. Under each were the names in full, also the length of residence done in old lettering. A window close by gave the coats of arms, names and dates of residence of the Prime Ministers who have lived at Chequers since it was given to the nation.

I remarked that it was fortunate that the house was owned by the country as it would thus be preserved for all time. The Prime Minister said it was specially fortunate as when it was handed over it was in a bad state of repair. The woodwork was in a terrible state. Few private individuals could have afforded the great expense of restoring it, and had it not been restored it would have become a ruin.

Up by small rickety winding stairs we came to apartments in which Lady Mary Grey, the sister of Lady Jane Grey, had been imprisoned for a couple of years. The poor lady's offence was that she had married her coachman, which was a serious crime in the eyes of Queen Elizabeth. In frames round the walls were letters sent by Lady Mary to Lord Burleigh pleading for her release. They were without avail, and Lady


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Mary evidently lost patience. On the white wall there are drawn by her caricatures of a vixen-faced disagreeable lady evidently meant to be Elizabeth.

Our hosts insisted on our staying until late in the afternoon so that it was quite dark when we got back to London. Our memories of Chequers are of a homely, hospitable family in picturesque surroundings and a Prime Minister weary and worn out with the cares and worries of office. Soon afterwards he retired in favour of Mr. Baldwin.

III

In looking back over a life not many years short of three score and ten, it is remarkable that the most readily remembered is what is bright and pleasant. Disappointments, hard toil, sufferings and struggles are mostly forgotten. What I have written relates to experiences since I first went to Australia some forty-five years ago. There are many who may want to know whether I am pleased I went, also whether I would advise young people of to-day who so desire to do likewise. My reply to both questions is an emphatic “Yes.”

There is no country with a brighter future than Australia. It is capable of supporting in reasonable comfort a European population at least ten times as large as it has at present, it is a country with vast tracts of fertile land and rich inexhaustible mineral resources. Nowhere is there more scope for human energy, and to-day there are as good opportunities in it as ever.

The bad name that Australia has had as a field for immigrants is due to the spoon-fed Government-aided migrant whose independence has been sapped and


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who sinks until he becomes a mere grumbling loafer. The pioneers had to rely entirely on their own resources, and I would advise anyone to stay in England if he cannot come without Government aid. A young man who comes to Australia should be ready and willing to work hard, be satisfied with small beginnings, not expect to make a fortune in a few years and then leave Australia for ever, but be prepared to throw in his lot and make his permanent home in the country.

True, a man may go to Australia, do his best and deserve to succeed and still may fail. That happens everywhere. There is always the element of chance in life. A turning one way may lead to fortune and a turning another way may lead to ruin, and there is no fingerpost or the slightest indication as to which turning should be taken. I do not say that a young man going to Australia will be successful, but I am convinced that his chance of success in Australia is better than anywhere else, and that his chance is better if he altogether ignores Government aid and, as the pioneers did in the past, relies on his own resources solely.

Frequently it is pointed out that there are to-day thousands of Australian unemployed. In all countries there have ever been unemployed and there ever will be unemployed. Amongst human beings, wherever they be, there is invariably a percentage of “unemployables” —men who constitutionally cannot or will not work and men, many of whom, whilst continually asking for work, do not want it when they get it, or if they take it do not retain it. In the early days of settlement in Western Australia, before the population numbered 4,000 people, there were those who pointed out that many of the settlers were unemployed and


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there was no work for new arrivals—a warning was issued to intending immigrants and the warning, issued as it was a hundred years ago, has to-day a strangely modern ring. If migration to Australia be discouraged until unemployment has quite disappeared from the Commonwealth then it will never be encouraged.

Despite the failure of numerous Government immigration schemes in Australia and the failure of numbers of individual migrants in Australia, the average man who is determined to work hard and succeed has an excellent chance of making a success of his life. The new arrival will experience setbacks. He must go there in the right spirit; he must be ready to settle permanently in Australia; he must not think only of the country's disadvantages and be hankering to get away from it; he must remember it is a new land; it is in the making and should not be compared with older and more settled parts of the world. To come to Australia as a migrant is a wonderful adventure, but to be richly successful is the work not of a few years but a lifetime. Suddenly won fortunes should not be expected. For a thrifty hard-working man who keeps on trying, a good competency for himself and his family is almost certain to come to him in time, and there is an excellent chance of getting even better results than a good competency. Men fail everywhere, but let me say again there are opportunities to-day in Australia for any man who relies solely on himself and is endowed with patience, energy and industry and is anxious to win through.

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