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15. CHAPTER XV

CONCLUSION

ALL growth is not progress, and progress in one element of the life of a State may be fallacious as the measure of public well-being. The great fault in Australian advance, both in the community and the individual, is the overheated desire to do things too quickly and to compass too much. There is an impatience of those natural difficulties in the upward path which can only be surmounted by perseverance and fortitude. Very often, a little success has an intoxicating, rather than a steadying, effect. In many cases the fable of the dog and the shadow has a painful realisation. But for all this, and admitting to the full the drawbacks, the volume and momentum of Australian progress have been amazing.

In forming any estimate of the Australia of 1892, it is unfair and unreasonable to go back to the year 1788. My own Australian life fairly covers the free life of the Australian people. In the latter part of the last century England made a settlement in the land, not from any enlightened forecast, not from any wise design of extending empire, but from the hard pressure of the necessities of the State. The very names of the streets of Sydney tell a significant story of the political auspices


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under which the first foundations were loosely laid: George the Third and his sons—George, York, Clarence, Sussex, Kent, Cumberland; and the King's Ministers—Pitt, Castlereagh, Liverpool, Bathurst, Goulburn. For many years after the landing of the motley group of pioneers under Arthur Phillip, there was no sign of prevision, or forerunning thought, on the part of the British Ministers in connection with the mighty work which they had unwittingly begun. The selection of Phillip as the first Governor appears to have been a happy accident. If they had posted a notice on the beautiful shores of Port Jackson, ‘Rubbish may be shot here!’ it would not have been a burlesque on their treatment of the despised infant settlement. Throughout the first twenty-seven stormy years which followed the landing of Phillip, if the infant colony was never attacked by the common enemy, it owed its safety to its forlorn remoteness and its insignificance. It does not appear to have been seriously thought of, in the Downing Street of that day, that the little rude community in the Australian wilderness would be unable to live without food; and the King's representative on the spot, when giving a State dinner, had to request his guests to bring their own bread and meat. The first impetus to a more progressive condition was given by the enterprise and public spirit of private individuals. John Macarthur, in the field of production and industrial activity, and, at a later period, John Dunmore Lang, in the province of social life, rendered services which should never be forgotten. But the tide of progress still flowed against many impediments and interruptions, and the


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words ‘home’ and ‘comfort’ but slowly regained their place in the language of those who had to toil.

Fifty-five years passed away from the arrival of the ‘first fleet’ of Governor Phillip, before the British people settled in Australia obtained the faintest voice in the management of their public affairs. Instead of ‘one man one vote,’ there was not one vote for all the thousands in the country. So, if we date from that epoch, we have not yet completed half a century of enfranchised life.

In the foreground of the picture before us now stand the great cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane, which are justly entitled to take their place in the first rank of the cities of the world; and the Australian people, exclusive of New Zealand, New Guinea, and other Australasian groups of inhabitants, already exceed three millions in number. In population, then, united Australia is 50 per cent. in advance of the kingdom of Greece or the kingdom of Denmark, and is rapidly approaching the kingdom of Portugal and the Netherlands. In the ratio of natural increase Australia can claim pre-eminence. Her births are given at 34·76 per 1,000 against deaths 14·31 per 1,000, while the United Kingdom shows births 31·69 in 1,000 against deaths 19·21; France, births 24·33 against deaths 22·26; Germany, births 37·22 against deaths 25·45. In the racial elements of the population we have 60·80 born in Australia, 8·23 in England and Wales, 9·55 in Ireland, and less than 12 per cent. in all other parts of the world.

In 1825 the total trade of Australasia was of the


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value of 511,998l., or 10l. 13s. 11d. per inhabitant. In 1861 it had reached the value of 51,001,071l., or 40l. 5s. 5d. per inhabitant. In 1889 it had risen to 131,749,505l., or 35l. 5s. 11d. per inhabitant. Our shipping had expanded from a tonnage of 147,869 in 1822 to 16,162,820 in 1889. The total value of our agricultural crops was 24,806,453l. The gold raised from our mines was of a total value of 335,906,011l. The value of our native silver was 5,621,746l., of our copper 25,058,268l., of our tin 14,398,866l. Leaving out of view our inexhaustible fields of coal and our other groups of minerals, leaving out of view our millions of horned cattle and our tens of millions of sheep, there is enough in these striking figures to show the grandeur and the amplitude of the resources of Australia, and the industrial strength and enterprise of her people.

We turn to her political condition. If there is any part of the habitable globe where men are free, it is Australia. In regard to the supreme authority of Government, it is no figure of speech to say that we Australians are held to the Empire by a golden link. It could not be of lighter weight or of more intrinsic value. The British tie gives us a standing in the world, which is illumined by all the glory of the fatherland, and which carries in its very fibre the heroic greatness of our race. But so far from arbitrary or unsuitable conditions being imposed upon us from the seat of supreme authority, we have had planted in the colonies institutions as free, as open, as much in our own hands to mould to our own advantage, as the human mind


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could devise or conceive. Our liberties are absolutely in our own keeping. When we hear men talk, in gaudy language, of the severance of this great tie of national kinship, and of setting up from among themselves a supreme head of a new state, let us look at them, examine them carefully, and ask our sober judgment if we would like to live under a chief ruler of the stamp before our eyes. Or let us look abroad, and see where we can find a republic, or polity of any name, which secures to its subjects a fuller possession of freedom, a truer equality under the laws, and a safer enjoyment of life and property, than are secured by the several Australian Governments? We want change, it is true, but it is a change to the best class of men in the working of our free institutions. We want a further advance, but it is an advance to a state of political society, where the public good will be set above all other objects, where men will learn to make personal sacrifices to serve their country, and to hold such service pure and unsullied as the highest of all honours.

The colonies possess a system of Parliamentary Government modelled on the grand type of England, which was achieved through so many generations of strife and suffering, and at the cost of so many glorious lives. No system is perfect, or can be safe from abuse, so long as the world contains weak-minded and bad men. But this system, which every people that struggles to achieve a higher state of freedom accepts as its example, is the nearest approach to genuine self-government which mankind has yet seen. But to be good and healthful, the source must be pure, the stream


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in its course must be protected from impurities, and its current through all the ramifications of society must still be kept pure.

Parliamentary Government can only be carried on by political parties. But parties may be pure, honest, and patriotic. Every question of sufficient magnitude to enter into the policy of a Government, which means the active governing power of the country, must have two sides. By the moral and intellectual contentions as to which is the true side, light is thrown even upon the opposite forces, public opinion is informed and strengthened, and all classes of the community are better enabled to discern and appreciate the nature of the interests at stake. The wrong side—the side most detrimental to the country—may for a time prevail, but it has the least chance of prevailing under honest and open debate by opposing sides; and the right in most cases is sure to come uppermost in the long run. The mischief in party warfare is done by the pretenders, by those men who, with false notions of public distinction, seek election to the Legislature by professing a belief which is repugnant to their consciences. In Australian politics, how many men have gulped down ‘free selection before survey,’ and the maintenance of the Public School system, who hated both in their hearts? Let genuineness and earnestness be cherished by all parties as among the highest qualities of public men.

The burden of the day will rest with the nativeborn Australians of the future, and never since the dawn of civilisation have the youth of a nation had a fairer field to occupy or a nobler race to run. Let


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them drink in the moral splendours from the great lives of their ancestry; let them seek light from Pym, who, when all was dark and uncertain, raised a giant's voice for English liberty; from Hampden, who died on the battle-field for English liberty; from Eliot, whose life ebbed away in a damp dungeon for English liberty; from Vane, who laid his gracious head on the block for English liberty. Let them kneel to Milton for inspiration, let them sit at the feet of Locke to receive lessons of wisdom, let them feed their souls on the luminous pages of Burke. The heroic figures of the first half of the seventeenth century—the men who entered upon the deadly struggle with King Charles and Strafford—must for ever command the homage of the students of our constitutional history. Their place cannot be supplied by any of the great teachers of later times. They wrote the lessons which they set before us in their own blood. The magnificent fabric of freedom, founded many generations before their time, which the Stuart kings laboured so strenuously to destroy, rose from their ashes with renewed splendour; and every age since has produced wise and enlightened minds to enlarge its foundations, to adorn its colossal walls, and to protect its sacred precincts from desecration. It was left for the beneficent reign of Victoria to give fulness and harmonious proportion to that Constitution, which has been evolved through centuries of tumult, by noble efforts often foiled, and through the blood of patriots prodigally spilt.

One danger to a sound and healthy public spirit in Australia is the inordinate appetite for sports and


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amusements. Outdoor exercises and indoor recreations are excellent within rational limits; but man in a civilised state has capacities for something more, and lives under obligations to use his capacities for much higher objects. All things are subject to the unsleeping inroads of decay, and any good achieved cannot be left to preserve itself. Not only so, but the enemy is always at work, to turn to a wrong use or to impair or destroy. Hence the citizens of a free State have always on hand their duties in preserving the continuous well-being of the State. ‘Luxurious ease’ is a phrase that sounds sadly in disaccord with the conditions of a new state of social existence. In a young country every man has his part to fill, not only in the work of the day, but in preparing for the future.

It may be well to bring home to the mind what the practical working of Parliamentary Government really is. This form of polity, as it now exists in England, has been fought for, laboured for, died for, by our ancestors; and the best men of later times have devoted their genius to its purified development in the light of human progress. The Australian Constitutions have been modelled on this august pattern, leaving us free to amend their provisions and give still further effect to the essential principles on which they rest. What are these principles? Mainly, in the first place, that the people of the country shall be enabled, by direct and indirect choice, to single out, and bring together, the men who are to govern them in the administrative and executive functions of the State, and to say when these men shall govern them no longer; and, in the second


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place, that the people shall have a potential voice in the making of the laws under which they live, and through their representatives shall have effective control over the raising and the expenditure of the public revenues, and the power to redress public grievances. All other are embraced in, or are subsidiary to, these cardinal principles.

At every step in this delicate, but sound and comprehensive, scheme of self-government, two words should be engraved on the mind of the free citizen—purity and integrity. To begin with the constituency. The ballot-box should be regarded by the elector as a sacred urn. No individual influence, no personal favour, no consideration whatever apart from the voter's sense of fitness for the discharge of high public duties, should determine the deposit of the vote in the ballot-box. Of course, where candidates for the vote put forth opposite sets of opinions, or opinions materially differing, the voter in the exercise of his judgment and conscience must select his side, but the selection must be honestly made in view of what he believes to be the public welfare.

Following the new member from the poll declared in his favour to his seat in Parliament, he cannot do better than accept the advice of Sydney Smith—to take his place loyally with his party—to shrink from pushing himself forward—never to speak unless he has something to say which others have not said—not to think of himself in connection with office, but, if office should come to him honourably, to be prepared by previous study and acquaintance with public affairs to


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accept it. It is well to remember always that reputation and honour cannot be derived from merely holding office, and only from filling office with dignity, ability, and usefulness. But the member of Parliament, in filling the place to which alone he has been directly chosen, has great occasions before him for useful labour, and though the higher duties and obligations of Ministerial office may never fall to his lot, he has a large field in which to serve his country. In that field, in watching the course of legislation, in checking abuse, in vindicating the injured, and in guarding the State from the blight of monopolies, from the dominations of ecclesiasticism, and from class interests entrenching themselves within its borders, he may gain a higher distinction than can possibly be achieved by the average Minister. John Bright won his brilliant crown of oratory and patriotic service as a plain member of the House of Commons—not as one of Her Majesty's Ministers.

But the Minister himself, if worthy of his high place, should live from day to day more sensitive to the burden of his obligations than solicitous of popular support. He should learn how to sustain himself in office with dignity, and how to quit office with dignity. And he should allow his mind at all times to be filled with the conviction, that the interests of the commonwealth are transcendently superior to anything that can affect himself personally. He should despise the vulgar suggestion of the retention of office by any means that jar with the integrity of the Constitution.




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What a noble incentive to high conduct in her service, now and in the future, is supplied by the glorious country we possess and her manifest destiny! In the beginning of this book, I quoted the words of the poet Campbell; in closing these desultory chapters, I again quote the poet's words:—

Land of the free! thy kingdom is to come,
Of states, with laws from Gothic bondage burst,
And creeds by charter'd priesthoods unaccurst;
Of navies, hoisting their emblazon'd flags,
Where shipless seas now wash unbeacon'd crags;
Of hosts, review'd in dazzling files and squares,
Their pennon'd trumpets breathing native airs,—
For minstrels thou shalt have of native fire,
And maids to sing the songs themselves inspire:—
Our very speech, methinks, in after time,
Shall catch th' Ionian blandness of thy clime;
And whilst the light and luxury of thy skies
Give brighter smiles to beauteous woman's eyes,
The arts, whose soul is love, shall all spontaneous rise.

Untrack'd in deserts lies the marble mine,
Undug the ore that midst thy roofs shall shine;
Unborn the hands—but born they are to be—
Fair Australasia, that shall give to thee
Proud temple-domes, with galleries winding high,
So vast in space, so just in symmetry,
They widen to the contemplating eye,
With colonnaded aisles in long array,
And windows that enrich the flood of day
O'er tesselated pavements, pictures fair,
And niched statues breathing golden air.
Nor there, whilst all that's seen bids Fancy swell,
Shall Music's voice refuse to seal the spell;
But choral hymns shall wake enchantment round,
And organs yield their tempests of sweet sound.

The present actors will soon disappear from the stage. Already, those whom we knew so well in the early days of the Constitution we know no more. A new generation is close upon us; the many will know


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no other land than fair Australia. They will bring, let us hope, with the tie of nativity, more ample stores of knowledge, nobler capacities for patriotic service, and an imperishable love of freedom and justice. Standing before the unlifted veil, let the meanest of us breathe a fervent prayer, that the Almighty may guide the young commonwealth on the high road of her starry future, that her people may be abundantly blessed within these encompassing seas of peace, and that their influence beyond may be a blessing to all mankind.

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