― 186 ―

9. Chapter IX Searching for a Federal Capital

National capitals—Travelling parliamentarians—Sir George Reid—The joke of the tour—W. M. Hughes—A Yankee's humour—Founding a new church—Romance of Boydtown—Sir William Lyne.


MR. J. D. EDGAR, one-time Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, writes:

“National capitals are seldom the result of deliberate choice. For the most part they grow with the race, as in the case of Rome, Paris and London. Alexandria waxed great and rich on the banks of the Nile; so did St. Petersburg on the Neva; and Washington on the Potomac bids fair to excel them both in stately splendour. When a country is young and its history is not yet told in monuments, nor trophied in ancient architecture, its capital should be adorned in other ways. The Tower of London and the memories that cluster round Westminster Hall must help to inspire even prosaic members of the British Parliament with a dominant consciousness of the continuity of the Government in which they are taking part, and of the enduring nature of the laws they are helping to frame. Wise then were the advisers of Queen Victoria when, to compensate for the

  ― 187 ―
monuments of the past, they gave to Canada for her capital a site of surpassing beauty. Equally to be commended were those who conceived and carried out the glorious national buildings with which the rocky heights of Ottawa are crowned. The patriotism of the Athenian was kindled at the sight of the Acropolis, and every Scottish heart beats high when he sees the ancient castle on Edin's Hill. To fill a Canadian with pride in his country and confidence in its future, show him the noble pile of the national buildings, as they tower and glitter in the setting sun, far above the foaming river. It may not be a logical ground for his patriotism, but it is a sentimental one, and it will influence his feelings and his actions when he goes back to his distant home, whether it be on the western prairie, on the shores of the Atlantic, or on the far-off Pacific slopes.”

Beautiful as these ideas are, the motives that prompted the founders of Australian Federation to insist on the establishment of a federal capital for the Commonwealth were practical rather than sentimental. The main motive was to remove the Commonwealth Parliament and central administrative offices to federal territory remote from the parochial influences of any of the largely populated state capitals. It was also in a practical spirit that it was arranged that members of Parliament should make a tour of the proposed capital sites. In the federations most akin to the Commonwealth—namely, the Dominion of Canada and the United States—the capitals were chosen after much care and deliberation.

  ― 188 ―
As mentioned in the quotation given above, it was Queen Victoria, through her advisers, who selected Ottawa. In the United States, Congress gave President Washington extraordinary latitude in the choice of a site. He was permitted to plant the city anywhere within an area about eighty miles in length.

“The father of his country,” like Romulus of old, is described by Adams as pacing off in person the metes and bounds of the city to which his name is given.

The greater part of the site he chose proved to be in the rainy season a morass wellnigh impassable. When the machinery of government was moved there it was merely “a backwoods settlement in the wilderness.” In 1814, during the second war with Great Britain, it was captured by British troops, and the public buildings burned. In 1839 it was “a large straggling village reared in a drained swamp.” In 1871 its condition was described as deplorable, and one writer says: “The public buildings and grounds are neglected. The streets are deep in mud or clouded with dust, the unbuilt portions are morasses, and the sewerage is worse than useless.” All this has been since changed into the wonderful capital of to-day!

The Commonwealth Constitution provided that the seat of government should be in New South Wales, not less than one hundred miles from Sydney and in federal territory containing an area of not less than one hundred square miles.

Almost every small centre outside the one hundred miles radius put in a claim for the honour, but the

  ― 189 ―
number of sites were reduced by a commission to about a dozen. I accepted an invitation to join the members of the House of Representatives who made a tour of the sites early in 1902. It was a large party.

In those days motor-cars were unknown, and the tour occupied more than a fortnight. In the course of our wanderings we covered over two thousand miles by rail, more than four hundred by coach and a hundred and seventy-six by sea.

Amongst the hundred and one points we had to consider in making a selection were water supply, climate, facilities for drainage, proximity of building material, picturesqueness, accessibility, nature of soil and cost of resumption of land.

At Orange we climbed to the top of Old Man Canoblas, a mountain peak that rises 4,600 feet above sea level. It was a bright clear day. There was a picturesque drive along a tree-sheltered road that climbed upwards, skirting awe-inspiring precipices. We were driven to a few hundred feet of the top. The remainder of the journey to the summit was done on foot. Sixty miles distant many towns were discernible.Round the foot of the mountain the country was dotted with smiling homesteads. In the foreground were the forest-clad mountain slopes.

We also visited Lyndhurst or Carcoa Garland, Bathurst, Armidale, Jervis Bay, Twofold Bay, Bombala, Dalgety, Queanbeyan, Bungendore, Lake George, Goulburn, Yass, Tumut, Wagga Wagga and Albury.

At each centre the local residents tried to impress on us that their town was the most suitable to be the federal capital. By a peculiar process of reasoning they argued that it was the real geographical centre of the

  ― 190 ―
Commonwealth. Finally, we thought Australia's real geographical centre moved round with us.

It was not clear that one site visited, Bathurst, was within the one hundred mile limit of Sydney. Local residents answered the objection by pointing out that a New South Wales statute directs that distances in all cases should be determined by the nearest practical road, and that by such measurement Bathurst is one hundred and twenty-four miles from Sydney. Another point advanced was that if the measurement were taken from the usual starting-place—the obelisk in Macquarie Place—instead of from the west boundary of the city of Sydney, Bathurst would be found to be outside the one hundred miles radius “in a straight line on a horizontal plane,” to quote the Interpretation Act of the Imperial Parliament.

From Jervis Bay we went by steamer to Twofold Bay, which we reached early in the morning. The port of Eden, perched on a green patch on the side of the hills overhanging the water, looked as though it were indeed well named. The water was gloriously blue, the air fresh and bracing and the whole scene brightened by a cloudless sun. Here was the harbour of what was one of the most favoured of the proposed federal capital sites. Some thought we were at the entrance to the promised land!

The drive to Bombala disclosed valleys on each side that in wealth of ferns and beautiful foliage are almost unrivalled. Running streams abounded, also bird life; the note of the bell bird was constant. The road climbs the Big Jack Mountain amidst magnificent scenery.

  ― 191 ―

There are towering hills and immense gorges and green covered banks along the creeks. One enthusiastic writer put it thus:

“The first views of the new district showed wild flowers bursting out from the tracks left by some tumbling mountain torrent, the cress growing profusely in the streams, the halting-place where water babbling over the pebbles, and rattling round the corners, where the willows bent to kiss them as they passed, gave a new and beautiful sensation. The immense gullies, with the timber-clad hills rising on either side to great heights, and almost excluding the sunlight, and the mountains towering away out in the distance, and spiking the clouds which endeavoured to pass over them, added to the elementary wonderment, and supplied the sensations of grandeur and immensity that were wanting to make the contrast with the rest of the tour complete. It was a sensation, indeed, of haunting trout streams, of soft hours spent in the blissful shade of overhanging boughs, of the peace and sweetness and luxuriousness of a country where the fall of rain is regular, and where the tired citizen can find perpetual recreation. At the top was the tableland, which spread as far as the eye could reach, and which, if not rich with the experience of recent abundant rains, was still covered with green fields and prosperous-looking homesteads, and intersected by a running river.”

Bombala is about forty miles from Eden. It is nearly equidistant in a direct line from Sydney and

  ― 192 ―
Melbourne. It is on a tableland averaging 2,400 feet above sea level. The thermometer ranges from an average of 66 deg. in summer to 43 deg. in winter and the rainfall is 29 inches.

About forty miles to the north-west is Dalgety, or Buckley's Crossing, where the Snowy river flows in a great volume along its winding course. Its water had not the brown muddy appearance of most Australian rivers. It was as clear as crystal; it ran over a stony bed, and, being snow-fed, it was icy cold. We were told it had more water in summer than in winter. In the distance there was the monarch of Australian mountains, Kosciusko, its top clothed in a white mantle of snow.

In Dalgety there was certainly no lack of building stone. As one of the Press reporters said:

“Boulders were everywhere. Wherever you went off the road you tumbled over boulders. You sat upon them. If exhausted nature asserted a claim for rest you leant against them; in climbing a hill you fell against them if you turned your eyes for a moment aside; you clutched hold of them to steady yourself in descending the river banks. They stood out on the top of every hill, half a dozen together, some seven or eight feet high. They were as thick as trees in the mallee, as conspicuous as cloves in a ham at Christmas, as plentiful as mosquitoes in a swamp.”

As the party came in sight of the Snowy river there was a lone fisherman sitting on a rock in the stream with a rod and line. Someone quoted Dr. Johnson's definition of an angler, “A rod, a line and a hook all

  ― 193 ―
joined together, with a worm at one end and a fool at the other.” He was wrong in this case. The man was certainly no fool. As we drew nearer the rotund form looked familiar. It was George Reid, the leader of the Opposition. Whilst waiting at Dalgety to join our party he was fishing for trout.

At one of the centres visited there was a huge gathering at which, whilst he was speaking, he was asked by interjections if he would vote for that place as the site for the federal capital. He immediately answered, “Most certainly I will,” whereupon he was interrupted by rounds and rounds of tremendous applause. When silence was restored he repeated the remark, “Most certainly I will vote for this site.” There was further prolonged applause, and he then added, “provided I think it is the most suitable site.”

I remember that at Goulburn the party had a novel experience. On our arrival a dense mist prevailed in which it was impossible to see for more than a few yards. “What rotten luck!” said local enthusiasts. They insisted on taking us to view the site. In order to be agreeable most of us complied. We felt it was the big joke of the tour. I was one of those induced to climb a hill, not knowing the height. We painfully toiled higher and higher through the mist. After half an hour's exertion, the top seemed no nearer and the fog no thinner. Urged on by our guides, I was one of those who persevered. We found that the mountain rose above the mist and that at the summit the atmosphere was quite clear. That did not help us to view the site. Nothing could be seen but a great sea of clouds all around with the tops of hills standing out here and there like islands.

  ― 194 ―

A favourable impression was created by Tumut. Many of the party strongly supported its claims. When we saw it, there was much to admire in the beauties of its scenery, its rich lands, and its plantations of healthy well-matured trees. It seemed almost intended to be a good site, not for the crowded haunt of busy people, but for a spacious and beautiful garden—perhaps a quiet old-fashioned garden city something like what several members hoped the federal capital would become. What seemed an ample water supply was provided by the Tumut river, a strong stream that runs (so we were told) all the year round between banks picturesquely clothed with luxuriant vegetation.


The strain of travelling day after day by trains, by sea and in lumbering four-horse drags over rough roads was considerable, especially as most of the members were middle-aged or elderly men. Happily, the journeying was relieved by cheery conversation and amusing episodes.

One of the liveliest of the party was W. M. Hughes. He was a martyr to indigestion and needed constant exercise to keep fit. Sometimes the track was heavy for the vehicles, and the horses painfully ploughed their way along. He usually jumped off the coach and ran beside it for miles. He did not seem to tire or perspire and he had not an ounce of superfluous flesh. Some of the younger members sought to emulate him, but not successfully.

As a practical joker he was inveterate. There was an elderly member, Mr. Solomon, who represented Fremantle. Mr. Solomon, despite his age and the whiteness

  ― 195 ―
of his hair, was a keen dancer. At one of the towns we were entertained at a dance in which he was participating. Mr. Hughes did not dance and found the time hanging heavily. Hughes had noticed that a shop in the main street had the name “Solomon” over the front. He pulled his hat low over his head, and disguising himself as much as he could, went to the dance hall and asked for the Fremantle representative. When Solomon came out he did not recognise Hughes, who drew him away into the darkness and told him a relative of his who lived in the main street over his shop was seriously ill, dying in fact, and wished to see him. Solomon said he had no relative in the locality, but notwithstanding he would go and see the sick man. He returned to the dance hall for his overcoat. When he came out Hughes was gone, but Solomon went to the main street and found the shop with the name over the door. He had to knock two or three times and loudly. Eventually the door was opened by a somewhat frightened old lady in a dressing-gown. Solomon explained why he had called, but she said no one of the name had lived there for years, and then slammed the door in his face with a loud bang. The next day Solomon confided to Hughes and other members how he was certain that the man who had called at the dance hall had intended to rob him as he was going to take him to the shop, but for some reason had not. No one disillusioned Solomon, who thought he had had a narrow escape.

One of Hughes's jokes had an ending that caused considerable laughter at his expense. When the party reached a town in the evening, a number of them would gather occasionally in a room of one of the

  ― 196 ―
hotels and indulge in comic tomfoolery. Hughes, who was a strict teetotaller, was a ring-leader of these gatherings and often enjoyed himself so hilariously that a stranger might for a moment think that he was intoxicated. One evening the party was engaged in a mock initiation ceremony to some supposed lodge with a high-sounding and absurd name. W. M. Hughes was the Master of Ceremonies. He grabbed a poker, stuck it in the fire, made it red-hot, and waved it about whilst he carried on strange antics and made excruciatingly funny speeches. He happened to lay the poker aside, where it lost its red glow but still remained burning hot.

A member of the party, Mr. Willis, who suddenly came into the room, thought he would join in the fun and seized the poker. Not knowing that it was hot, he began applying it to Hughes's legs playfully. Everyone shouted out to tell him that it was hot. In the clamour no one could be heard, and he continued to tap Hughes's legs with it.

The higher Hughes jumped the more the other continued to use the poker. It was not until there was a smell of burning from Hughes's legs that he stopped.

Hughes's trousers were so burned that he could never wear them again, but he took the thing in good part.

Wherever we went we were taken to an eminence and shown a wonderful view. “It amuses me,” said Mr. A. Paterson, a Queensland member, “to see men climbing a hill and declaring their amazement at the view. Of course they get a great view if they ascend a height. Why, you would get a good view from a hill in the Sahara desert.”

  ― 197 ―

Sir William Lyne was the federal minister who represented the Government with the party. The exchanges between him and Sir George Reid, leader of the Opposition, were witty. They were strong opponents, but warm personal friends. One day they had travelled together in the same buggy. They were both bulky men, and at a reception that evening Lyne said Reid had done him an excellent turn by sitting in the front seat of the vehicle and sheltering him from the cold wind and dust. Reid, in reply, jocosely observed that what happened was probably only in anticipation of a coming political change in the minister's views, as his friend had that day agreed to sit behind him for the first time in his life.

Amongst those who participated in the tour was one of the most singular of the members, King O'Malley, who told us he was born a few miles inside the Canadian border and thus missed “by a few miles” becoming President of the United States. He hoped to obtain a measure of consolation by getting the Treasurership of the Commonwealth, and had supreme confidence in his capacity for statesmanship.

For three years he had been a member of the Legislative Assembly in South Australia, but failed to secure re-election, and went to Tasmania, where at the first federal elections he was elected to the House of Representatives. Though he never was Treasurer, yet for more than four years he was Minister for Home Affairs.

He was typical of the old-time stage Yankee, and appeared to cultivate that character's accent, mannerisms

  ― 198 ―
and dress. A broad-brimmed hat, a full beard, his tall and lean appearance and flowing coat tails, accentuated his Americanism, also he addressed everyone as “brother” or “sister.” Even those who inwardly resented his familiarity and odd behaviour could not fail to like him and enjoy his humour. Early in the first session, when Mr. Bruce Smith was delivering an academic speech in choice and correct English, he declared that no great political economist was other than a free trader.

“That's not so,” interjected King O'Malley.

“Perhaps,” said Bruce Smith, “the honourable member will name one accepted political economist who is a protectionist.”

“Carey,” promptly came the answer.

“I confess,” said Bruce Smith, “I never heard of him. Who is he?”

Then came the startling reply, “He is the bald-headed eagle of the Rocky Mountains.”

King O'Malley at times could be very caustic. He represented a Tasmanian constituency, and another of the Tasmanian representatives bitterly resented his state having as a member a man whom he was in the habit of describing as “a mere Yankee bounder.” When he told O'Malley so to his face, O'Malley's reply was to liken the other to “a withered sausage skin filled with wind and water.”

He was a believer in professional politicians. He thought politics should be a profession, legislation should be the work of trained experts, and members

  ― 199 ―
of parliament should be well paid, not less than £1,000 a year. Members were then paid £400 annually, and King O'Malley said he could not make ends meet on his parliamentary allowance as he had to live in two places at the same time—namely, his constituency in Tasmania and in Melbourne, where Parliament sat, and he had to constantly travel. Giving these reasons, he consequently formally applied for permission to erect a tent in the gardens of Parliament House in Melbourne, so that he and any other member who desired could camp there and do his own cooking and washing. Permission was not granted, but members' allowances were gradually increased and ultimately they were raised to £1,000.

As a raconteur O'Malley was appreciated during our tour. There was a story that he told with great delight that purported to be a personal experience of his when young and reckless. Many new religions had been started in the United States, the promoters got large land grants, became affluent and important men, and he and other young bloods did not see why they should not found a sect. A few adherents were secured, a church was established with some such high-sounding names as “The Rock-Built Lily-Bound White Church of Jerusalem,” and bishops and other dignitaries were appointed. A prophetic announcement was made by the chief founder that in a certain remote mountain valley half an hour after midnight on a particular date an angel would appear and hand to a representative of the church tablets on which would be inscribed commandments which adherents had to obey.

  ― 200 ―

King O'Malley explained that a man had been found whose family name was “Angel.” For a stipulated payment he was to appear at the right moment at the appointed spot. He was to cover himself with a huge white sheet, wear stilts, carry an electric battery for lighting purposes and hand over certain tablets that were to be given to him beforehand.

The man who received them could make a solemn affidavit that he had been given them by “an Angel,” and others could swear that they saw him get them from “an Angel.” None of them would thus commit perjury, but only two or three were actually in the secret.

The supposed prophet in a trance-like condition insisted that the angel would appear and that the world would be astounded. Religious fervour was worked up amongst some men and women adherents, who were convinced that a great revelation was about to be made.

It was a dark night when some twenty or thirty persons gathered together in the valley. The prophet was amongst them, urging them to engage earnestly in prayer. He got the group to go on their knees and solemnly plead for the messenger from heaven to appear. They waited a couple of hours. The time was drawing near. Everyone was in a state of silent expectancy. Suddenly they saw on a high rock an imposing figure all in white with a light above his head. It was an awe-inspiring spectacle. With a deep groan the crowd crouched down until their faces almost touched the ground. There was a hush and a feeling of dread. Slowly and reverently the prophet advanced towards the figure, and, falling on his knees, was seen to receive the tablets. “The Angel” then vanished.

  ― 201 ―

Next day scores of fresh adherents joined the church. The story of the apparition got into the papers. It spread far and wide. Testimony was given by men and women who had no doubt that what they saw was supernatural. The church appeared to be firmly established.

According to King O'Malley the prophet announced that he was bound, after he had received the tablets, to take them with him and disappear into the solitude of the mountains to study and fast and pray. In a few days he would return to his disciples, and then the gospel would be explained and preached. In the recesses of a remote mountain cave he met “The Angel.” The prophet, who was armed with a revolver, said afterwards that all would have been well had he shot dead his fellow-conspirator, but instead a solemn promise was extracted from him that he would leave America and never again be seen in the country. Then the money stipulated was paid over.

When the prophet returned his disciples received him with respect that almost approached worship. More and more people joined the church. An appeal for funds for building a stately edifice in the valley where “The Angel” appeared to house the sacred tablets was meeting with a generous response. The future of the new church looked bright.

Suddenly the whole scheme was shattered. “The Angel,” whilst waiting at one of the ports for a ship that was to have taken him to Europe, became gloriously drunk in a saloon. He also became garrulous. He joked to the bar attendants about his being an Angel by name and also an angel messenger from heaven. They linked up what he said with what they

  ― 202 ―
had read in the Press. A reporter heard of it, interviewed the man, gave him drink and money, got the full story, and published it under scare headlines. Immediately a copy of the paper reached the prophet he got on a fast horse, was last seen riding for his life out of the reach of his infuriated disciples and dupes and was never seen or heard of after that.

Such was King O'Malley's chief story, told with many embellishments and great dramatic power. When he thought his audience was gullible, he described himself as the prophet, and when they believed him he was intensely pleased.


At Twofold Bay I was much interested in the ruins of Boydtown, which is on the bay opposite Eden. It had several tumble-down, uninhabited houses.

About it there are strange and romantic associations. It takes its name from its founder, Benjamin Boyd, who in the forties of the last century was a well-known Londoner, a member of the Stock Exchange, a financier, a banker and company promoter. In 1841 he decided to transfer his activities to Australia. He voyaged in his own yacht, Wanderer, and brought with him the artist Oswald (afterwards Sir Oswald) Brierly. Three steamers and a schooner flying Boyd's personal flag preceded him with stores.

He had founded the Royal Bank of Australia in London, and he opened a branch in Sydney. Then he embarked in the whaling industry, made Twofold Bay the base of his operations, and established Boydtown. Pastoral pursuits were what more particularly attracted him to the locality. He held extensive grazing areas,

  ― 203 ―
and his intention was to make Boydtown the port for the Monara Plains, to which he made a road.

The beauty of Twofold Bay entranced him, and he believed it was going to be of great importance. Blood-stock was imported. He got Kanakas as shepherds, but neither he nor they knew anything about sheep farming. Wild dogs played havoc among the flocks. Furthermore, the coloured men did not behave themselves. They got into disfavour with the authorities, who insisted on their being deported. Money was spent lavishly. Boyd entered public life. For a short period he was a member of the Legislative Council.

Boyd's operations appeared to be successful for a few years and to promise well. Then a change came about. After seven years heavy losses were reported. The outlook was gloomy. Money for the enterprise had been obtained from the bank he had established, and the bank was compelled to close its doors, whilst the shareholders had to provide nearly £100,000 to meet liabilities incurred by Boyd. An arrangement allowed him to retain some ships and also land at Twofold Bay.

At this time there was a rush to California, where new goldfields were being opened up. Boyd sailed for California in the Wanderer in the hope that he might restore his shattered fortunes, but was not successful. In 1851 he was on a cruise in the Pacific Islands, where he met with a mysterious end. The Wanderer anchored in a small bay off an island of the Solomon group, supposed to be uninhabited. One morning, with a member of the native crew, he went on shore to shoot game.

Later an attack was made by natives on the yacht. There was a hard fight, but they were prevented from

  ― 204 ―
getting on board. Boyd had not returned. An armed boat crew were sent on shore.

The marks of knees were seen on the ground as if there had been a struggle. There was also gun wadding that must have fallen out of Boyd's pocket. A vigorous search was made, but nothing further was discovered. Boyd could not be found.

The Wanderer set sail. Soon after she was wrecked on the Australian coast.

Statements that subsequently were made caused the belief that Boyd was detained on the Solomon Islands by the natives in order that they might learn from him some of the arts of the white man. It was said that he was taken away and hidden when vessels came within sight. Belief in this theory was strengthened by the absence of any bloodstains on the scene of the struggle. As the islands were approached by sea, natives were often observed (so it was reported) hurrying away a curiously dressed individual as if anxious to place him in hiding. The captive was supposed to be the unfortunate founder of Boydtown.

A warship, sent many years later to the island by Sir William Denison (then Governor of New South Wales), found trees and rocks marked with the word “Boyd.” The natives denied any knowledge of him, and nothing further could be learned as to his fate.

What is told to the visitor to Twofold Bay is mostly vague and legendary. The particulars I have given were related to me in Melbourne by a man who was a friend of Boyd in California.

I went over the deserted ruins of Boydtown. Someone

  ― 205 ―
has said that the first institution to be established in a new town in America was a saloon, in England a church, and in Australia a racecourse. Boyd supplied not only the American but also the British requirement.

The hotel had what must have been a well-furnished saloon. In one room there was the dilapidated remains of what had been a fine billiard table. The church, which had a substantial tower, was never used. In its vicinity were three or four graves. They were grass-grown, but the tombstones still showed the short and simple annals of those who half a century previously found their last resting-place in Boydtown.

There was what was left of a store, also a building that was Boyd's private residence. There were evidences of streets having been laid out, and other indications of an extensive town having been planned.

On a headland at the entrance to Twofold Bay an excellently constructed lighthouse was erected. We were told it was not allowed to be lighted, as if it were permitted the Government would be under the obligation of keeping it lighted, and there was another lighthouse on the other side of the harbour.

My attention was directed to an old two-story house from which the doors and windows had disappeared. It was perched on a lofty crag like the eyrie of an eagle. It was the home of Boyd's friend, Brierly, the landscape painter. Certainly the dwelling was picturesque and commanded a wonderful view of the sea and the coastal cliffs.

The subsequent career of Brierly was different from

  ― 206 ―
that of Boyd. He had studied art under distinguished masters, and had two pictures in the Royal Academy when he decided to join Boyd and come to Australia with him. He was then twenty-four years of age. Boyd gave him the management of his whaling enterprises, a position for which the young artist could not have had many qualifications. He made his home at Twofold Bay for five or six years, and probably tried to learn what he could about whaling. His brush was not idle. There is a picture by him in the Sydney Art Gallery, “South Sea Whaling off Twofold Bay.”

The captain of a warship induced him to go for an extended voyage made for survey purposes in Australian waters. That and other voyages unsettled him. He did not return to the solitude of his picturesque Boydtown home, but went to London. A few years later, through the influence of naval friends, he was brought under the notice of Queen Victoria, from whom he received many royal favours, including commissions to paint pictures, also a knighthood. He lived to be nearly eighty. Boyd's vision and enterprise ended in his failure and destruction. It was his comrade, the artist, who prospered.


A party of Senate members similar to that from the House of Representatives also made a tour of inspection of the proposed sites for the federal capital. When votes were taken by an exhaustive ballot in each federal chamber, the Representatives chose Tumut and the Senate Bombala. Neither of these two sites was ultimately selected.

A New South Wales member confided to me that

  ― 207 ―
he was awkwardly situated, as he had two of the proposed sites in his electorate. His constituents required him to declare which of the two he would vote for. If he did not vote for either of them, he felt he had no hope of re-election, but if he voted for one of them he would be bound to have the hostility of the voters who favoured the other side. He was a conscientious member, and he was extremely worried, as I knew he did not favour either of the sites in his electorate, and thought a site in another part of the state was the best.

An even more difficult problem faced Sir William Lyne. There were three towns in his electorate, each claiming to be the capital site. He had an uncertain seat. We thought that no matter how he voted he could not fail to arouse the hostility of two of the three towns. We were mistaken. We did not know what a wily politician he was. He actually succeeded in doing what appeared to be impossible—namely, pleasing all three. The exhaustive ballot system was adopted for selection. He voted in the first ballot for the town that of the three was most likely to be eliminated. Then he voted for the next of the three that he knew would be least favoured. When the second was eliminated he voted for the third. He thus voted for the three.

He was a big, heavy man, and was usually known as “The Rogue Elephant.”

It was in May, 1902, that the parliamentary tour I have referred to was made, but it was not until long after that that the site of the federal capital was selected.

The fact that in the first Parliament the Senate

  ― 208 ―
selected Bombala and the House of Representatives Tumut created a deadlock. The next Parliament passed an Act favouring Dalgety. This decision met with strong opposition in New South Wales, as the site was too far from Sydney, and the New South Wales Parliament, by resolutions carried in both Houses, suggested Tumut, Lyndhurst or Yass. Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister, and the question was then deferred for years on the plea that it might create friction between the Commonwealth and New South Wales. It was not until 1909 that Canberra was finally selected as the best site, and it was not until four years later that the official ceremony was held to mark the initiation of operations in connection with the establishment of the seat of the Commonwealth Government.

Curious to say, neither the party from the House of Representatives nor the party from the Senate in 1902 visited Canberra, though we went to Queanbeyan, which is but four or five miles distant. I remember we viewed the Queanbeyan locality in unfavourable circumstances. It seemed to be suffering from a drought. A lake we saw was dry except for some shallow water near the centre. Forests of ring-barked trees, standing bare and white, like so many skeletons, gave an air of desolation. The land was, however, some of the finest for agriculture in the state. It was unfortunate we were not taken to what is now Canberra, which is unquestionably an excellent site. It is 2,000 feet above sea level, two hundred and four miles by rail from Sydney; it is seventy-five miles in a direct line from the sea, and access to it can be obtained by a railway one hundred and twenty-three

  ― 209 ―
miles long to Jervis Bay, which is its port. The federal territory comprises an area of nine hundred and twelve square miles and twenty-eight square miles at Jervis Bay.

It was not until May, 1927, more than a quarter of a century after the establishment of the Commonwealth, that Parliament House at Canberra was officially opened by H.R.H. the Duke of York. I was present at the Canberra ceremony, which took place in the Senate chamber. The Duchess looked pretty and charming, winning everyone's heart there as she did throughout Australia.

W. H. Hughes was amongst those present, as bright and cheery as when we were touring in search of a site for the federal capital. He came to me, and pointed to a mutual friend who was standing near and remarked, “That blighter has no right to be here.”

“Why not?” I replied. “That is Drake. He was Postmaster-General in the first Federal Ministry.”

“That is so,” said Hughes, “but in an article I wrote that was published a few days ago in a Sydney paper I said he was dead. I thought he was, and now I feel it is not right that he should be walking round here making a liar of me. I must go and ask him what he means by treating me like that.”

Stanley Bruce, who was Prime Minister at that time, did not come into federal politics until 1918, and he was different in many was from other holders of the office.

Barton's reputation rests, not on his work as first

  ― 210 ―
Prime Minister, but on his efforts before the establishment of the Commonwealth to secure federal union. Two of Deakin's Governments were short-lived, and the third left nothing remarkable to its credit. Watson, during the three or four months that he led the first Federal Labour Ministry, lost the commanding position he had previously of holding the balance of power between the Government and the Opposition.

When the Revenue Tariff or Free Trade Party were badly routed at the polls, Reid recognised that a vast majority of the electors was against him. Wisely he accepted the verdict. He and that dour Scotchman, Allen McLean, came together and formed a Ministry, but it existed less than twelve months.

Andrew Fisher was three times Prime Minister, and his second Labour Government was responsible for important undertakings that are elsewhere referred to in this book. The Cook Ministry lasted between two and three months. Hughes was Prime Minister of one Labour and two National Governments. When he resigned in February, 1923, he was succeeded by Stanley Bruce, who became a new force in federal politics. Bruce had been Treasurer for fifteen months previously, but to the great bulk of the Australian people he was almost unknown. He was then but forty years of age, handsome, well groomed, dressed with scrupulous care, and possessed of independent means. Though an Australian by birth, yet in accent, diction and other respects he seemed less Australian than English. Spats are not worn in Australia, but, despite the jibes of week-end papers, he wore them constantly.

His sporting and war record, as well as his great ability, won him the respect of even his severest critics.

  ― 211 ―
A student of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was a member of the Cambridge crew who in 1904 beat Oxford, and seven years later he coached the Cambridge crew. During the war he served with the Worcester Regiment in Gallipoli and was severely wounded. Later, as captain with the Royal Fusiliers, he was again wounded. In 1915 he won the Military Cross, and the following year the Croix de Guerre.

A ready, polished speaker, he could always hold the attention of audiences. Sometimes, but not often, he was humorous. Once at a Kalgoorlie gathering Mr. E. A. Mann, then federal member for Perth, said that a man who at the close of a meeting was asked to make a speech of thanks should “stand up, speak up and shut up.” Mr. Bruce, in reply, said a better definition of a speech for such an occasion was that it should be “like a lady's dress, short enough to be interesting and long enough to cover the subject.”

Bruce's chief achievement as Prime Minister was his preparation for the financial depression which he announced as inevitable. The passage of the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the states was a wonderful achievement, for which he deserves most of the credit. It had to be carried through thirteen Australian Houses of Parliament and afterwards submitted to a referendum of Commonwealth electors. It resulted in placing the power of all further Government borrowing in the hands of a Loan Council and made the whole of Australia responsible for the payment of not merely Commonwealth, but also state Government debts. That and the heroic financial emergency legislation of the Commonwealth and state Parliaments saved Australia's credit and solvency.