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I

MY stay at Casterton was useful to me and pleasant. I wanted to learn further about Australia. I resigned and went to Melbourne, where there had been a remarkable land boom. Fortunes were made in a few months, but the fortunes were in paper. Blocks of land rose rapidly in price. People lost their heads, and thousands were seized with a mad frenzy for speculation. The boom had burst just before my arrival in Melbourne. It was followed by the historic financial crisis of 1893. The crisis was felt all over Australia. It was by no means a sudden crash. The bank failures were spread over a period of sixteen weeks. Melbourne suffered most. I was only a few weeks there when I went to Sydney. It was a common sight in Melbourne and Sydney to see the banks mobbed by struggling, excited crowds desirous of withdrawing their deposits. Men and women were in a state of intense fear of losing what money they had. Those with but a little money were more panic-stricken than persons who had fortunes to lose.




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Great confidence was felt in the Government Savings Banks. In Sydney, as the money withdrawn from one of the private banks was deposited in the Government institution, it was promptly despatched by a back way and returned to the bank from which it was taken. This particular bank was one of those that remained open during the crisis. Banks having a paid-up capital and reserves of £5,000,000 and deposits of £53,000,000 closed their doors. Wages and rents fell precipitately, there were innumerable bankruptcies, and there was much unemployment. Many families were reduced from affluence to poverty. Huge mansions built in the boom days became untenanted or were let as lodging-houses with several families in each building. The crisis gave a rude shock to a young and hopeful community. My money was fortunately in the Union Bank, one of the banks that weathered the storm. Otherwise my financial position might have been very awkward. As it was, the trouble did not affect me personally.

In Sydney I attended a lecture on federation delivered by the then Grand Old Man of Australia, Sir Henry Parkes. I had heard much about him. I read that he was the son of humble parents in Coventry, Warwickshire, that he was put to work when he was eight, that he managed to educate himself, that he became a supporter of the Chartist movement, and that in 1839, when he was twenty-four years old, he had the courage and enterprise to migrate with his wife to New South Wales, where he got work as an agricultural labourer. Later, he followed numerous


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occupations, and ultimately became an ivory turner. Fifteen years after his arrival he was elected to Parliament. Finally, he was Premier of five different New South Wales ministries. All this caused me to wish to see him and hear him speak.

The lecture was advertised to be given in a hall in one of the suburbs. I had difficulty in finding the hall. When I reached it I found that it was comparatively small and ill-lighted. The attendance was sparse.

Sir Henry was not in as much public favour as he had been. He was tireless in furtherance of the federal union of the six Australian colonies and was ever ready to advocate it by voice and pen. It was the daydream of his later years. He was seventy-eight years of age.

When he began to speak he created a distinctly bad impression. It was disappointing to hear him misplace his aspirates in a marked way. As he proceeded the listener got accustomed to this mannerism and forgot it. He had a good choice of words. It was not, however, the accent or the language that were thought of as he went on, but the excellence of his matter. He dealt with the need for Australian unity, federations past and present, the differences in outlook between the various Australian colonies and how these differences might be reconciled by an all-round spirit of compromise. As he elaborated his ideas, his breadth of view and broad statesmanship as well as his great fund of knowledge were discernible. This, combined with his striking appearance, his masses of white hair and beard and his leonine head, could not fail to command the respect and admiration of any audience. I felt he was wise, far-visioned and indeed a truly great man.




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Some three years later he died. It was a pity he did not live a few years longer to see his dream of Australian Federation realised. He has been rightly called “The Father of the Australian Commonwealth.”

Another public meeting that I attended was held in the largest hall in Sydney and had reference to the unemployment difficulty. Many distinguished citizens of Sydney were on the platform, the various institutions and sections of the people were represented, and the vast building was packed to overflowing. Influential men delivered rather ponderous addresses. The meeting was non-party in character. Before its close the chairman intimated that the Trades and Labour Council had by invitation sent a representative whom he called on to speak. At that time the Labour Party counted for little in politics. The representative who came forward in response to the chairman's call looked a mere boy. He was dressed in ill-fitting clothes, and the audience at first did not know whether to laugh or feel indignant at the youngster's impertinence in obtruding himself into the company of speakers on the platform. He had not completed more than a few sentences before they changed their minds. His voice was clear, his language perfect, the gestures those of a practised elocutionist and the matter of the speech capital. He spoke for only ten minutes, but in that ten minutes he had aroused the audience to the wildest pitch of excitement. The tenor of his remarks was that the meeting had been discussing proposals that would be merely temporary in their results, that the cause was left severely alone, that prevention was better than cure, and that it was for Parliament to take steps to prevent unemployment by effecting certain


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radical reforms that he outlined. Once the chairman tried to stop the young orator, but he had the meeting overwhelmingly with him, and in response to the demands of those present went on and finished his speech. When he sat down the audience rose and again and again thundered their approval. The young man, then but twenty-two years of age, was W. H. Holman, who more than twenty years later was known throughout Australia and the Empire as Premier of New South Wales.

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