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12. CHAPTER XII

THE HOLLOWNESS OF DEMOCRATIC PROFESSIONS—ABSENCE OF SETTLED OPINIONS IN WELL-TO-DO MEN—TYRANNICAL ACTIONS IN THE NAME OF LIBERTY—AUSTRALIAN TORIES—LITTLE EFFECT OF THE UNIVERSITIES ON POLITICAL LIFE—ELECTORAL REFORM—THE BILL OF 1891—IMMENSE MAJORITY ON SECOND READING—REGULATION OF COAL MINES—EIGHT HOURS FOR A WORKING DAY—THE LABOUR PARTY IN PARLIAMENT—MY LAST SPEECHES AS MINISTER, MY LAST MEASURES, AND MY LAST DEFEAT—MR. DIBBS SENT FOR—INACTIVITY—NEW OBSTACLE TO FEDERATION—SIR SAMUEL GRIFFITH'S POLYNESIAN LABOUR POLICY—THE VIEWS OF SIR THOMAS MC ILWRAITH—PROPOSED CONFERENCE—MY OWN VIEWS

THE things done and the words spoken in the name of Democracy in the fair lands of Australia which have the repellent features and the harsh tone of oppression, must be familiar to all thoughtful observers. It would almost seem that when many men talk loudly of freedom, their meaning is the freedom to trample upon the rights of their fellow-men. I have heard a self-styled democrat—a very builder of the democratic arch—declare in his place in Parliament, that if the Free-traders attempted to hold a meeting, even with locked doors, the Protectionists would burst the doors open. There was no occasion for this violence of speech, and the Free-traders were in no danger of losing their right of open discussion; but the tyrannical desire to trample down all obstacles, including reason itself,


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was there, and it was bound to find expression. Going into a very different circle you will find men carefully dressed and sumptuously fed, who are very much disposed to take a short cut to the object they wish to reach without reference to the feelings, or the reasonable wishes, or even the lawful privileges of their fellows. Going among another class—almost the opposite —you will see men savagely assail their fellows because they honestly strive in their own way, as free men, to earn the means of subsistence for their families. These propensities would hardly be worth notice, so long as human nature remains what it is, except that they manifest themselves in aggravated form where the pratings about Democracy are most offensively obtrusive. In the Legislature a restrictive ruling is splendid if it stops the right man; in the Electorate, a majority is majestic so long as it is on the right side. A little examination of one boisterous character will discover that all his wild notions of liberty spring from a laudable desire to make all men wear the same class of half-dumpling hats and to an enlightened repugnance to what he euphoniously terms a ‘bell-topper.’ And I once heard a grey-bearded Irishman defend his ill-usage of a boy on the ground that all his life long in Ireland he had been oppressed, and that his time was now come to oppress somebody else. If not, what was the good of a free country to him?

Let it not be supposed that Australia cannot supply the true species of Toryism, if Toryism means resistance to reform and pertinacious retention of class interests. It is hardly to be expected that where the


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doctrine is held of restrictive interference and coercion in supplying the wants of the human family, the kindred affiliations of tyranny will not be found in close proximity. Protection is the foster-parent of all other arbitrary devices and methods in Government, it matters not in which hemisphere or under what skies the pestilential plant takes root. The difference is that the English Tory is, as a rule, an educated man who honestly believes that he knows what is good for the people better than the people know themselves, and who openly professes what he believes, while the Australian Tory, with no claim, as a rule, to education or any other elevating quality, seeks to carry out his own will in public affairs, and to shelter himself under the cloak of Democracy.

In a country like New South Wales or Victoria, there is no class politically superior to another. Neither birth nor family influence has any recognised place. I fear it must be admitted that even education has not the weight which it ought to carry with it into the councils of the country. We hope for better things from the young men who are passing through the higher courses of academic instruction under all the patriotic influences which endear to them their native soil. But so far the Australian universities have done but little to purify the tone and elevate the standard of Parliamentary life. The leaders in the several Legislatures have mostly been men of a different training, who have been chiefly indebted for their advancement to their own native energy and intelligence. But the political sentiments engendered, and the views of government formed,


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have not always been coloured by ultra-liberalism, and would recall to the mind of the student some of the utterances in the old House of Commons during the stormy resistance to the first Reform Bill. I might give many examples, but I will confine myself to the latest. Three of the Ministers now holding office in New South Wales (June 1892) took part in the debate on the second reading of the Bill for the redistribution of seats in the Parliamentary representation in September and October 1891. The scheme of the Bill was to divide the colony into single electorates, containing equal numbers of electors, and it was argued that this division was necessary to give effect to the principle of ‘one man one vote.’

Mr. Copeland, now the Lands Minister, said:—

The principle I strongly object to in the Bill is the principle of equal representation. I do not care for Gladstone, or for 50,000 Gladstones. No man would ever make me believe it is just in a thinly scattered population like ours to have representation in proportion to the numbers. It is impossible for the people in the inland districts to have the same political power as a given number of persons say in any Sydney electorate or any suburban electorate can have.

It need hardly be pointed out that in a new country, much more than in an old, long-settled country, intelligence, and the means of intelligence, as well as wealth, and all the higher social interests, must necessarily be greater in the city than in the interior. Mr. Copeland, who claims to be a pure democrat, proceeded to give emphasis to his views in the following language:—

I say, without hesitation, that if the three Sydney electorates


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did not return one member to this Chamber, Sydney would be better represented than any other portion of New South Wales. With a full sense of responsibility, having represented East Sydney in two Parliaments, I say that if East, West, or South Sydney did not send a member, those electorates could by no possibility suffer by not being directly represented here, bearing in mind, of course, that every man, once he finds his way here, is a member for the whole colony, and not merely a member for the electorate which returned him.

Mr. Lyne, now the Public Works Minister, said:—

One great objection I have to this Bill is that the distribution of seats is to be on the basis of absolute equality of representation.

And again:—

It is a fact that, as so many members of Parliament reside in the metropolitan electorates, and take an interest in their public affairs, those constituencies possess an advantage in that respect over constituencies situated at a distance from the seat of Government.

Mr. Dibbs, the present Prime Minister, said:—

I am one of those who have been of opinion for many years past that the country is insufficiently represented in the House, and that the city and suburbs are too largely represented. If we reduce the number of members from 136 to 100, we can effect a reduction of members in connection with the city and suburbs, with their great population over small areas. Let a reduction take place in the number of representatives—42—for the county of Cumberland. That, I think, is an undue representation. I approve of the principle of one member for 2,000 electors in the country districts, and I am strongly of opinion that one member for every 4,000 electors in the city and suburbs is sufficient.

I am not concerned just now with the soundness


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or unsoundness of this doctrine on Parliamentary representation, and I freely admit it is in perfect harmony with the policy of Protection. But it must be admitted also that they both belong to the Ante-Reform era, and the gentlemen who hold these opinions ought to feel a pride in being classed with Sir Charles Wetherell and his band of Anti-Reformers of sixty years ago.

This Electoral Seats Distribution Bill was the last measure introduced by me as Minister. In my reply I spoke as follows:—

I shall, in replying, first make some reference to the views expressed by honourable members who have given their cordial assent to the Bill, and I shall commence with the honourable member for Mudgee, Mr. Jones, who based his complaint upon the circumstance that, in the reapportionment of the constituencies, the various interests of the country had not been kept together. I scarcely need remind honourable members that it would be simply impossible to keep these interests by themselves. For example, suppose there is an agricultural district having a mining population to the east of it, and a similar population to the west of it, how is it possible to link these mining communities together in one electorate? It will be seen that it is simply impossible, under any circumstances, to collect and keep these interests together, even if it were wise to do so. But men who have thought on the question of settling the representation of the people in a free country have, almost without exception, argued that it is a merit in framing a constituency to comprise within it different interests, so that one shall react upon another, and that it would be an evil to have one body, say the coal-miners, represented by themselves, and the farmers, say, by themselves. That has been the view of the thoughtful men who, in times past, on different occasions, have endeavoured to think out the true theory of


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representation, so that what the honourable member regards as a disadvantage, I venture to think is a decided advantage. If we are to carry out the principle, one man one vote—or, as I should prefer to term it, the equality of voting amongst the population, what in the world have we to do with interests, mining, or agricultural, or any other? We, according to the principle which honourable members have themselves laid down, have only to deal with men. I listened with much attention, and with much interest, to the speech delivered by the honourable member for Argyle, Mr. Rose. I think it was a very clever speech, and one deserving consideration and examination, but the less examination it has the better it will be for the speaker. The honourable member laid down this strange doctrine—that Parliament, the very name of which signifies that it is a place where men parley, was a place where speaking ought not to be indulged in; and he went further and stated—a doctrine which I am quite sure is not the birth of any true feeling of Democracy—that we who come here are simply instruments to carry out what the electors who have sent us here have already decided. According to the honourable member it is a delusion to suppose that any of the honourable gentlemen who have come here since the last election may rise, as men in all ages of the world have risen, by a wise exercise of their faculties and a brilliant exposition of their principles in speech, to the position of lawgivers or statesmen. All that business is done for them by the electors.

Mr. ROSE: Hear, hear!

Sir HENRY PARKES: I am glad to hear that I am not misrepresenting this novel and strikingly luminous doctrine, that we are only here as so many leaden pipes—and we should be very leaden pipes indeed if we contented ourselves with that function—to carry out what some other men have designed, or in other words that the laws of the country are made by the electorate, and that that electorate sends delegates here who have to give effect to what it has decided. I do not believe that any of the new schools of thought in this young country have many disciples who would accept this new doctrine. I


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do believe that of all the multitudinous schools that have arisen lately, the Rose school, even if you call it by any other name, would not be the sweetest. I was surprised at the honourable and venerable gentleman who leads the Opposition. Not only the experience derived from his occupancy of my office, but that teaching which ought to accompany length of years, should have taught him differently. The honourable member's idea of the great principle of reform is to reduce the number of members to 100. Why not reduce the number to ninety or eighty? I should like to know where he would begin if he held the office I hold. He would think twice before he would reduce it by one.

Mr. DIBBS: If the honourable member wants to know where I would begin I will tell him. I would pension off the honourable member!

Sir HENRY PARKES: I do not think that would be a wise thing. In the first place I am not worth being pensioned off, in the next place the honourable member would set a very evil example in this democratic age when we are going to sweep all pensions away, in the third place he would not make one single foot in advance if I were removed from watching over him, so that it would be a three-fold blunder to pension me off, and it would be quite unnecessary. However, his great reform is to reduce the number of members to 100. You might reduce the number to 100, but so long as the honourable member for Grafton and ten or eleven more were here there would be as much talk as ever.

An HONOURABLE MEMBER: Especially the honourable member for Argyle (Mr. Rose)!

Sir HENRY PARKES: Well, I do not complain of the honourable member for Argyle, because he does not speak very often, and if he does not always say something wise, he invariably says something very curious. But if you want to save talk, and will allow me to reduce the number by twelve, I will save all the talk, because the over-talk in this House is confined to about twelve members, and unless in your reduction you take care to exclude them, there would be more talk than ever, with


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less chance of its being circumvented by sound sense. It is an entire mistake to suppose that numbers necessarily lead to floods of talk. That is abundantly proved both by the great pattern of all representative assemblies, the House of Commons, and by that illustrious body, the Senate of the United States. The talk there is not in proportion to the numbers. In the House of Commons there are nearly 700 members, and on a great occasion the speaking is done sometimes by eight or ten members, and in that Parliament there are hundreds of members with gifted powers of speech, of high qualifications from the universities, but they know that it is necessary, in order to the despatch of business, not to take up time in saying what others have said. There is a refutation at once—the completest that could be given to the assertion that mere numbers create this terrible inundation of wishy-washy, thoughtless talk. The honourable member for The Murrumbidgee, catching, I suppose, the infection from the honourable member for New England, spoke about the city and suburbs being over-represented, and the country districts under-represented. Well, this is no new doctrine; but it is very welcome to me, as it affords overwhelming evidence that we have in this Assembly a genuine old Tory party, and it is represented, by confession, by the honourable member for New England, Mr. Copeland, the honourable member for The Murrumbidgee, Mr. Dibbs, and the honourable member for The Hume, Mr. Lyne. In the opposition to the first Reform Bill, it was held that the great towns of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool, which at that time had no single member in the House of Commons, did not want members, that they were represented by the other members living in the neighbourhood of Westminster Hall, that they were represented by their means of easy communication. And just the very doctrines, and in the very same words, which were thundered against the Reform Bill by the old boroughmongers, are reproduced here against this Bill of mine. Coming back to the time in this House, before we had a Constitution, when sheep and cattle alone were represented in the old Council which made the laws of the country—I have sat in the gallery


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myself and heard the members in those days bringing forward exactly these arguments, in exactly this language: that Sydney did not deserve any members; it was sufficiently represented by other members living in its midst; it was sufficiently represented by its power of organisation; it was sufficiently represented if it had no member at all. That is the doctrine which is promulgated now by the leaders of Her Majesty's Opposition; and they have proved out of their own mouths that they, talking of Democracy, are really in their hearts and in their souls as big Tories as ever sat in the old boroughmongering days of England, or as ever sat in the old Council here which was nominated by the Crown. I pronounce every man who holds this doctrine to be a Tory in his heart, let him say what he may. Why, what is your doctrine?—one man one vote. But in the metropolitan boroughs these democrats who are crying out ‘One man one vote!’ would promulgate this doctrine: one man no vote at all. That is exactly what they say. Now, if you are going to set up a standard of Democracy, be true to your own professions. If you are going to have men—and men alone—represented, 2,000 men in Sydney are as much entitled to their votes as 2,000 men in The Murrumbidgee, or in any other part of the country; and the moment you depart from that settled principle, that moment you cast to the winds your boasted principle of democratic representation. Be true. If you want property represented, say so; but do not go prating about the country of one man one vote, and here in your places endeavour to prevent men from having any vote at all. The honourable member wants an undue proportion of representation for one set of men against another set of men; what will the world think of his mere denial, which is not worth a rap? Facts speak with an eloquence with which neither he, nor I, nor any man here can speak. The honourable member says plainly that he wants an advantage for one set of electors in this country which he will not give to another set of electors. I say this: that if you are true democrats, if you wish to accomplish a just and equal reform, you must stand up for 100 men in one part of the colony having the same rights as 100 men


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in any other part of the colony. There is no other possible condition in legislation of this kind. We are not legislating now on any other hypothesis whatever. Everybody knows that where human contact is most possible, where mind can most closely and readily impinge upon mind, there and there only is the highest volume of thought evolved. Everybody knows that. It is natural, it is inevitable, wherever human souls are congregated together. But this gentleman, shocked at the least possible volume of enlightenment, wants to give to those who have not the same blessings a higher degree of representation. Then the honourable member (Mr. Copeland) said that this country could not submit to single electorates, because the population was of a shifting character. I will appeal to the common sense of any gentleman who is listening to me whether a double electorate, or an electorate of three members, would in any way modify the shifting of the population? The population would shift just the same, and it has no more to do in the chain of cause and effect with single electorates than it has to do with the moon.

Mr. COPELAND: The honourable gentleman is misquoting me. I did not refer to that with reference to single electorates, but with reference to the expansive clauses. This is an iron-bound Bill.

Sir HENRY PARKES: As the honourable member has introduced this question of the expansive clauses, I may say that objection can be met at once by the introduction of the expansive clauses. I do not object to that for a moment.

Mr. COPELAND: That will remove one difficulty!

Sir HENRY PARKES: But I see a great ground of objection on the part of those who object to numbers, because the expansive clauses are of no value unless they are acted upon to enlarge the number of the Assembly, so that they cannot be of any value to those who are opposed to the present number of representatives. The honourable member simply stated, in calm, measured tones, in the most prosaic set of words, that he objected to equal representation.

Mr. COPELAND: Hear, hear!




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Sir HENRY PARKES: I have not misquoted the honourable member; he objects to equal representation.

Mr. COPELAND: Equal proportional representation.

Sir HENRY PARKES: I thought we were elected to bring about equal representation. I thought that was our object. That is my object in this Bill, and my prime object, and all the provisions of the Bill tend to carry it out, or have been framed with a desire of their tending to carry out a system of equal representation. And if we are sincere in our advocacy of the principle of one man one vote, we must at all hazards, and by every means in our power, carry out a plan of simple and just equality in representation. The honourable member for New England is very peculiar in one thing. In his speeches, which always have strength, he has a strange faculty for substituting mere assertion for argument. He says, for example, ‘No one will make me believe the principle to be equitable.’ I should never expect to make the honourable member believe anything unless he was determined to believe it. He makes this bald announcement of his individual belief or unbelief, which, no doubt, is extremely interesting, and he makes it do service in the place of argument. He has not shown that single electorates would do any harm. He has not shown that they would in any way interfere with the disturbance of population on the outbreak of a gold discovery. That disturbance will take place, let your electorates be of whatever character they may; and that disturbance, like the law of necessity, knows no bounds, and all that a legislature can do is to rectify the disturbance as soon as there are evidences of a settled population in that part of the country. I will not indulge in any further argument in support of the Bill. It has always been announced as part and parcel of the measure of electoral reform. In the first Electoral Bill we introduced or embodied the redistribution of seats. The Bills were separated on this occasion, as we thought to afford a better opportunity for a fair discussion of the redistribution of seats. It was thought that there would be a good deal of difference of opinion upon this entirely new and radical change, and we thought it would be better to have


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that matter discussed so that it should not embarrass the machinery of what we may call truly the Electoral Bill. I have explained the course the Government adopted in parcelling out the country into these electorates. If any one of us had undertaken to do the work himself, and had allowed political prejudices, and even just political leanings, to influence the matter, there might have been some ground for cavil at us. But we took the course best calculated to give to our scheme a character above suspicion. We took the course of getting the most competent man to do the work, leaving to his judgment the division of electorates without attempting in any way, by instructions or even conversation, to influence him. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the result is a singularly happy one. I went last night to members who represent three different electorates, and who are not friendly to me, politically speaking. I asked these gentlemen, whether they had any complaint to make, and, virtually, they said they had none. I do not believe, inasmuch as very few persons have sought in any way to interfere with what has been done, that there is any serious feeling of dissatisfaction. But I wish to ask one question. What man or what set of men could have gone through this difficult and responsible task without displeasing someone? Is it possible that this great task of taking the whole of this vast territory, and parcelling it out into entirely new electorates, could have been performed, having regard to the character of the human mind, without causing some dissatisfaction, and the small amount of dissatisfaction which our step has caused speaks eloquently of the impartiality and honesty with which this arduous and difficult work has been done. The two Bills must stand together; the one is the natural complement of the other. It would be an absurdity, such as I do not believe this great Assembly would be guilty of, to create a new machinery for the representation of the people, and to place it upon the rotten foundation of the thing we are trying to sweep away.

Mr. LYNE: And which the honourable gentleman created!

Sir HENRY PARKES: I suppose the honourable gentleman thinks that is a severe observation. I was the author of the


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present electoral law. It was a great change for the better at the time; it was a very great advance; and it was all that was practicable then. This measure of ours, comprised in two Bills, aims at a thorough, a complete, an organic change; it aims at depriving many men of a power at the ballot-box which is not extended to every other man; it aims at bringing into the pale of the Constitution hundreds and thousands of men who are now practically excluded; it aims at bringing about a most wholesome system of originating the right to vote —that of self-registration; and, above all, it aims at doing away with those constituencies where one elector can vote for two, three, and four members. On the whole, I venture to say that this is as large, as liberal, and as beneficial a measure of reform, in the direction of bringing about a fair representation of a free people as was ever submitted to any legislature in the British Empire.

The second reading was carried by 79 to 11 votes, Mr. Dibbs voting with the majority, and Mr. Copeland and Mr. Lyne among the eleven. In three weeks afterwards I and my colleagues were out of office.

For a variety of reasons I received my release with a feeling of joyful satisfaction. There was much to be done which I should have rejoiced in endeavouring to do, if the path before us had been open and free from ambushes—if we could have entertained a reasonable hope that we should receive such support as honourable men could accept. But the position in which the Government found itself placed was to me almost insupportable. The Labour members—some thirty in number, in a House of 141 members—decided to support us at the opening of the Session, but they gave their support after a manner of their own, and very much as an ungracious man gives charity. Even in


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dealing with measures of which they approved, they seemed to find an offensive satisfaction in trying to compel the Government to take their course rather than its own. The division which decided us to retire afforded a fair illustration of this purely captious feeling.

A Bill for the regulation of the working of Coal Mines had been so altered in committee that it was reported with a clause fixing the hours for labour, with an allowance for a meal-time, at something like seven and a half. Mr. McMillan, the late Treasurer, moved the recommittal of the Bill to reconsider this clause. On this motion an angry debate ensued, and late in the evening Mr. Barton, the present Attorney-General, who at that time sat on the Ministerial benches, moved that the debate be adjourned. The Ministers accepted Mr. Barton's motion in order that they might gain time for consultation. The Minister of Mines himself (in charge of the Bill) appealed to his friends to consent to the adjournment as a concession of fair play to him. The Labour members approved of the Bill without exception, but they could not resist the temptation to humiliate the Government they were supporting, and they voted against the adjournment to the number of 22 in a House with 51 members absent, many of them with a sneering laugh on their faces. The result was that the Ministers thought they had had enough of this sort of treatment, and they resigned, and the Bill went with the Ministers.

In the course of this debate I made the following speech:—




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This Bill has a history very peculiar, so far as I am concerned. Though I am at the head of the present Ministry, I am not responsible for this Bill, and I wish to make that distinctly clear. When this Bill was in committee in the last Parliament, I was lying on a sick bed in peril of my life. In my absence, when it was hardly possible for me even to read the reports, my colleague, the Secretary for Mines and Agriculture, assented to the introduction of the eight-hours principle in the Bill. Now, before I take up the history of the Bill from that point, I desire to be distinctly understood on the character and principles of a piece of legislation of this kind. I hold that the duty of the legislature is to take every precaution which wisdom and humanity can dictate to preserve the health of men working in mines, to protect their lives, and to afford them the amplest security. I recognise the exceptional danger of the avocation, and this Bill was introduced with the twofold object of giving all fair guarantees to men possessed of capital in their investments, and at the same time to preserve the rights and the health of the persons employed in the coal mines. The principle of eight hours was introduced in the peculiar way which I have explained. Now, with regard to the apportionment of time in the lives of men who labour. I cannot be suspected of being an enemy to the eight hours system, for I was the first man of any position whatever in this country who advocated eight hours as a day's labour. Thirty-five years ago, before any other public man supported it—and before some of the men who are listening to me were born—I presided at a large public meeting, the first ever held here, to advocate eight hours as a sufficient time for men labouring under an Australian sky. I say here, what I have said many a time and often, that civilisation itself would lose its charm and its value to me if it did not lighten the burden of those who labour, if it did not lighten the burden of the masses of humanity. I trust the time will come when, in the progress of enlightenment, the necessity for toil will be greatly reduced. I can see no satisfactory object in the ordinary course of moral development if that does not come about. But I distinguish very broadly between eight hours being sufficient for


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a man to labour and Parliament presuming to say how many hours he shall labour. The economic question of how long a man shall labour in the twenty-four hours disappears from my mind when you conjure up some power of Parliament, which I deny exists, to fix the hours of a man's labour. If that creature, endowed with divine capacity, a human being, who we are told on the highest authority was created in the image of God himself, has any right in the whole world, it is the right to dispose of the attributes of his own life so long as he injures no other human being. I deny that any human institution such as Parliament has the moral power to limit the time he thinks well to labour. It seems to me that the question of what is a sufficient period for toil disappears altogether, and another question arises, whether Parliament has the right to say to a man, ‘You shall labour eight hours, but no longer?’ If it has that right, it has the right also to say, ‘You shall labour eighteen hours.’ The question is not whether eight hours or ten hours shall be a day's labour, but whether Parliament has the right to say to a human creature—a creature endowed with the divine capacity of reason—‘You shall work for a given number of hours.’ If you once establish that, you establish not the eight hours system, but the right of Parliament to fix ten hours, twelve hours, fourteen hours, or any number of hours as a day's labour. It is because I feel that is an act of tyranny—which I deny that any Parliament in the world has the moral right to perform—that I am opposed to fixing the hours of labour by legislation. Nor is it wanted. The working-classes of this country are sufficiently strong to make good—indeed they have made good—their will to work eight hours without asking Parliament to prostitute itself, to exercise a power which in all moral justice it does not possess, to say how many hours a man endowed with reason is to labour. The true freedom of a man is to dispose of his time and of his faculties as best accords with his own convenience, and to violate that freedom is an act of tyranny—a Parliament may do it, but a Parliament has often done most wicked and abominable things, and it cannot do this thing without violating the laws of God,


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which made man absolutely free to do the best he can for himself. Hence, then, while I would go with the workers—that is, with the masses of my fellow human creatures—to lighten their burden to the utmost of my power by all moral means, and while I contend that moral means are sufficient, I deny the moral right of any Parliament under the sun to fix the hours of labour. Now I come to this Bill. On my sick bed, when I could not leave it, I remonstrated with my colleague at what was then done, and I told him the other evening that we could not go beyond what had been already done. I explained to him that it was quite justifiable to limit the hours of labour, to prevent injury to growing youth. I agree to that entirely. I entirely concur in limiting the hours of labour in the case of growing youth. It is necessary to prevent injury to their health. The community has an interest in the sound growth of the rising generation. It is desirable that every child should become a healthy and strong man or woman, and for the sake of society, as well as individuals, the principle of the English Factories Act is perfectly justified. I go further than that; I am willing to limit the hours of labour for adults who have to work in an atmosphere inimical to health. I entirely concur in that; but I draw the widest possible distinction between that and statutory regulation as to how a hale, ordinary man should dispose of his time under the ordinary circumstances of society. I hold no opinion stronger, I believe in no principle as more sound, than in the liberty of every individual man to regulate his own life and to dispose of his own time. I am not going to raise any question concerning industrial organisations. They have taken root and have spread largely, and in many respects I believe they have worked admirably. I am raising no question as to industrial organisations for the support of the sons of toil, but, rising above all considerations of that kind, is the individuality of human existence, and I contend that it is not in the power of any man, or set of men, to interfere with the right of a respectable, industrious, and well-meaning citizen as to how he shall dispose of his time. In that question, as I understand it, I am at issue altogether with my honourable friend


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who spoke last, and also with those great industrial organisations which are trying to give legal validity to this period of eight hours; but if my voice can be accepted as expressing a warning, I would warn them that in seeking from the legislature a definition of eight hours, they only establish the principle that the legislature has the right to fix the hours whether they be eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, or eighteen. You do not fix the time at eight hours for ever; you fix it for a moment; it can be altered to-morrow, and extended or decreased; and when you do it you give to the legislature a power which was never intended, which is not amongst its functions, which is contrary to the laws of God, and to the laws of human freedom. Now, in regard to this Bill, some of the provisions in it are such that, so far as I am concerned, I would rather retire from office to-morrow morning than give my assent to them. Retiring from office is of no consequence either to me or to anybody else; but to assent to what I believe to be false and dangerous principles is a matter of the highest importance to us and to our posterity. If one thing is necessary, it is that we should establish clear and definite principles in the laws of the country. A principle is a thing very different from any arrangement of expediency. The object of the Government was, if possible, to carry a measure for the healthy regulation of the coal-mining industry; to do all that we thought the necessity of the case required, to look carefully to the interests of the workers, but not to overlook the interests of the employers. If the party of labour in this House claim that they are acquainted with labour, so am I. If any of them have worked hard, so have I. If any of them have suffered severely, so have I. If any of them have gone through hard and necessitous circumstances, so have I. I worked at as hard labour as a man could put his hand to in this country for 5s. a day—when the price of a four lb. loaf was 2s. 8d. That ought to have taught me what my sympathies should be in reference to my fellow-creatures. I believe that, to the best of my strength, I have struggled for their good. I am not conscious that I have had any single occasion when I could serve the cause of the greatest number of my fellow-creatures, and have


  ― 314 ―
failed to serve it. If anyone should reply to me, that I did such and such a thing at a time of commotion and tumult, my answer would be that, charged with the responsibilities of government, I should do the same again to-morrow. But I have, to the best of my power, tried to serve the masses of my fellowmen since I have occupied a public position in this country. I believe I am serving their interests best in preserving them from this delusion: that it is possible for them, by Act of Parliament, to fix the number of hours which shall constitute a day's labour. As I have just said, you may establish the principle that Parliament has the right to regulate labour, but you cannot fix the time, except for the occasion. I implore the House to think twice before they establish what, I conceive, is a violation of the principle of human freedom. But, supposing that it were a right thing—that is, supposing that it were a wise thing in the interest of the masses of humanity—to fix the hours for a day's labour by Act of Parliament, surely it ought to be done by a special statute. Surely no man who hears me would say that it ought not to be done by a special enactment, when the subject could be fairly discussed—when it could be debated without the inconvenience of any serious impingement on other provisions, which we all admit to be good and necessary. Surely that is reasonable. I think it is an unwise, an impolitic, and a dangerous thing at any time to seek to introduce violent changes in a Bill not intended to carry out any changes of the kind. With regard to this Bill, I agree to a large extent with many of the arguments advanced by my honourable friend the late Treasurer; and so far as I am concerned, having been absent compulsorily when the Bill assumed this form, and absent again when the principle was extended the other night, I shall not hesitate, whatever my colleagues do, to support the honourable member who has moved the recommittal of the Bill. As far as we are concerned, we ought, in the interests of the gentlemen who seem to take the most interest in this measure, to try to send it to the other Chamber in such a shape as would make it fairly acceptable. We ought to send our measures to the other Chamber without any feature which would unnecessarily provoke


  ― 315 ―
hostility, and especially in the consideration of a measure of this kind, which is not of a political character, and which ought not to awaken any very angry feelings. We ought, if possible, to avoid any feature in the Bill which would endanger its passing through Parliament and becoming law. It was the desire of the Government, as my colleagues behind me know, that this Bill should have become law during the last Parliament. It did not become law, and it is our desire that it should become law now; and if there is any delay or mishap, we, the introducers of the Bill, cannot be held responsible. As for the amendments that have been introduced, I neither dispute the right to introduce them, nor for a moment do I doubt the good motives of those who introduced them; but I believe that they ought not to have appeared in this Bill, and in any Bill one of them at least, I think, could never be sustained by fair argument, and never would receive the countenance of persons who have closely investigated the principles which ought to be implanted in the institutions of civil society. I should like to know what Mr. Herbert Spencer would say about this question.

Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: Smother him. What has he got to do with it?

Sir HENRY PARKES: Who is it that says smother him?

Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: Smother his opinion. Is his opinion to influence this House? Are we intelligent men, or are we to be insulted?

Sir HENRY PARKES: I once, some thirty years ago, had a conversation with Thomas Carlyle. He told me, in the course of that conversation, that he in youth had been charmed by Burns's utterance that

The man's the gowd for a' that.

But, said that wise man—and you cannot smother him; he is in his grave—I have since found out how completely hollow is the dictim in Burns's verse. The man is not the gold; but is often very base metal, indeed, and one man is so far from being equal to another as not to be a thousandth part equal to another.


  ― 316 ―
And so it is. In this House we are all equal; but if the honourable member who interrupted me in such a pleasant manner were to live to be a thousand years of age, in all probability he would never accomplish one single great good for his fellow-creatures. I do not appreciate—I have never seen any reason to appreciate—

Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: That is what they used to say about the honourable member!

Sir HENRY PARKES: The honourable member rudely interrupted me in a way which I think I ought not to be interrupted; in a way which was quite irrelevant to the course of my speech. I simply have to say that because an honourable member is elected to this House he does not thereby become anything more than he was before his election.

Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: I do not claim it!

Sir HENRY PARKES: Suppose I went out of this House tomorrow—and I should be very glad if I could—I should be just the same Henry Parkes that I am now.

An HONOURABLE MEMBER: We should miss the honourable member!

Sir HENRY PARKES: I do not know that anyone would miss me; but my influence in this country would be just as great, possibly much greater, my province for good would possibly be much larger, if I were relieved from office and from a seat in this House. Election to the House makes no difference whatever. If any of the gentlemen who have got into the House recently think that that makes them anything other than what they were the day before, they are under a great mistake. Conspicuous station does one thing: it brings under the observation of all mankind who are near enough to gaze, the real qualities of the person who occupies that station; and unless he has powers and faculties to rise to the level of the station he has attained, it only does him an injury, and tends to sink him into that obscurity to which sooner or later he is sure to return. In making these observations—which have been called from me by the interruption of the honourable member—let me for a moment remind the honourable member that I have seen the election of


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everybody to the Parliament of this country. I have seen them appear and I have seen their disappearance. I have seen them come up the hill, and I have seen them go down again. I have seen them disappear never to be heard of again. From the assembling of the first Parliament until this day it has been my bitter fortune to watch the beginning of each session and the end of each session; and having sat in every Parliament, I have seen what became of persons who for a time made a great stir in the political atmosphere. One thing is certain, there is no rock for us but those principles which are immortal, and which cannot be injured by any mere contrivance. True principles live for ever, and one of those principles is the inalienable right to freedom of every human being who is brought into this world, and anyone who makes an assault upon this individual freedom, whether he knows it or not, is in his heart and soul in all essential respects as great a tyrant as the Emperor Nero. Tyranny is an arbitrary interference with your fellow-men, the compelling of your fellow-men to do a thing which their honest reason and just judgment tell them they ought not to do, and whether it is in the guise of a manifesto from a trades-union or the edict of an autocrat, it is tyranny just the same in all its elements. And freedom is the power, uninterfered with by anybody, untouched by anybody, protected by honest laws, for every man born into a free state to do what he thinks best for his own individual advancement and the advancement of his fellows.

Mr. Barton's motion for the adjournment of the debate was negatived by 49 to 41 votes. It did not appear that any serious thought was entertained of critical consequences. Several members of the Opposition voted with the Government, but the Labour members, capriciously voting with the small knot of mischief-brewers, gave the majority of eight against us. Ministers met in Cabinet on the following Monday, and all concurred in the view that the most dignified course


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for ourselves, and the one most likely to prove conductive to the true interests of Parliamentary Government, would be to retire. When the House met in the afternoon, October 19, I made known our decision in the following statement:—

It will be borne in mind that, in moving the adjournment of the House on Thursday night, I intimated that the Government attached much importance to the vote which had just previously been taken. Time, since then, on account of the House not meeting again until to-day, has afforded Ministers the fullest opportunity to consider the situation. We of course fully recognise that the motion made was not one which need necessarily affect the existence of the Ministry. But we had spoken on the motion of the adjournment of the debate, moved by the honourable member, Mr. Barton, and in face of what the Secretary for Mines and Agriculture, more especially, said, the House was pleased to defeat the motion by a majority of eight. We recognise that those motions which affect the existence of Ministries naturally divide themselves into two classes. One class are of a character which necessarily compels the resignation of a Ministry unless circumstances justify an appeal to the people—such, for example, as direct votes of want of confidence and direct votes of censure. Another class of motions which may seriously affect the Government do not partake of this character. They do not necessarily compel a resignation; but they place the Ministers of the day in this position—that they are fully justified in determining their own course. A Ministry would not be justified in retiring from office under ordinary circumstances, however much that Ministry might desire retirement. But a motion such as that of Thursday night fully justifies the men forming the Government to look upon their own position and elect their own course out of the unpleasantness. We, as I have said, have had ample time to consider the situation—to consider whether we are under any obligation to continue the administration of affairs,


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and we have arrived at the conclusion that the situation in which we have been placed entirely justifies us, in the interests of our own reputations, and what is of much more importance, in the interests of the country and in the interests of Parliamentary Government, in not proceeding further with the attempt to manage the affairs of this country. There are certain lengths to which men may go from a desire to carry certain measures, and I do not disguise from the House or from the country that there are matters pending before this Parliament which are very very dear to me. Still there is something of much higher moment and of much higher concern, and that is to preserve that standard of self-respect and that sense of honour which are essential to governing a country to the satisfaction of, and with usefulness to, the people of that country. Ministers met this morning, and after a very brief statement from me, embodying the substance of what I have just said, they unanimously, and without a word of discussion, agreed with my view that our proper course was to resign office. I at once proceeded to Government House and tendered to His Excellency the Governor our resignations, and we now hold office until our successors are appointed. Just before I came here I received from His Excellency a note informing me that he had sent for the honourable member for The Murrumbidgee, Mr. Dibbs, to form a new administration, and asking me, at Mr. Dibbs's request, to move that this House do adjourn until to-morrow, and I now make that motion.

Mr. Dibbs, who received his commission on the Monday, did not succeed in completing his Ministry until the following Thursday. Mr. Barton, who had not been in very cordial relations with Mr. Dibbs, was not even communicated with for two or three days.

Since my resignation in October, 1891, I have taken little part in public affairs. I have been a hard worker for fully seventy years—from my early childhood; and before leaving office I felt a weight of weariness almost


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insupportable, and a sense of unhandsome treatment where I ought to have found support; and naturally I have had little desire since to return to active participation in political warfare.

During the stormy time I remained in office after the rising of the Federation Convention, I had no possible opportunity of taking any effective step in the cause of Australian union, owing to circumstances affecting the Government from within and from without; and on that account alone I felt a profound regret in retirement. The other Australian Governments which were represented in the convention have done nothing. But some of them have done much to create obstacles to union. It is impossible for any true believer in Federation to view without apprehension the resuscitated movement in favour of the importation of coloured labour.

There has always been a hankering among the large Australian employers, more especially those connected with pastoral pursuits, for cheap labour. First the Imperial convict was preferred to the free immigrant; then the Indian coolie, then the South Sea Islander, had the preference. Fully forty-five years ago the late Benjamin Boyd fitted out vessels for the labour trade among the Islands. As far back as 1854 a Select Committee of the old Legislative Council was appointed on my motion to enquire into the subject of Asiatic labour as carried out in the northern parts of the colony, now Queensland. The revival of the subject at the present time is not by any means new, though it is new in some of its present phases. Polynesian labour has been tried


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in Queensland, and formally given up after trial. The present Prime Minister, Sir Samuel Griffith, exerted himself vigorously to bring it to an end, and strongly argued against it both on industrial and constitutional grounds. I recollect a conversation in his presence when I happened to think of the difficulty of white men doing the labour required in the tropical parts of Queensland, upon which Sir Samuel sharply interposed with the words, ‘Who says they can't do it?—I say they can!’ The revival of the traffic after all this by Sir Samuel Griffith himself is therefore a surprise to most people at a distance.

Sir Samuel Griffith publicly recanted, and completely turned round from his former stand on the question, but those associated with him hold the same opinion now as they formerly held. While this movement is started afresh in Queensland, similar hankerings after cheap labour are showing themselves in South Australia. That colony, struggling with the unwieldy northern territory unhappily tacked on to her, finds herself in a worse plight than the Siamese twins. One voice cries to the East, while the other appeals to the West. She would, and she would not. It is delightful to feel free, but it is convenient to have at hand a servile class. The bewildered Prime Minister, looking abroad, thinks he sees a similar bait to that which is tempting Queensland. If Queensland must have her Polynesians, why not a goodly batch of Indian coolies for the northern territory? But it would be a fine stroke of oriental policy to induce the great colonies of New South Wales and Victoria, who have no earthly concern in the


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unsavoury business, to join in a mock consideration of it. So South Australia proposes a conference, and New South Wales and Victoria, for some inscrutable reason, give their assent.note But Queensland shows mettle, and stands upon her rights. Sir Samuel Griffith declines to submit the decision which has been ratified by his Parliament to an ‘irresponsible conference;’ and after much clumsy pressure has been brought to bear upon him in vain, he finally sends this telegram to South Australia:—

I am not aware of any instance in which a conference has considered matters involving contentious political questions, upon which party feeling runs high in the several colonies, and on which a strong difference of opinion exists. So far from the discussion of such matters at a conference, followed by the formal expression of the collective opinion in the form of resolutions, tending to promote federation, I think it would have the contrary effect. The colonies immediately interested are South Australia, West Australia, and Queensland. Although we would willingly submit the matter to a federal authority with responsibility or power to give effect to its conclusions, I do not think an expression of opinion by an irresponsible conference, even if it were representative and certainly expressed the opinion of the colonies, would be accepted by the supporters or opponents of either view in the colonies whose legislatures are charged with the responsibility of action. The representatives of the colonies are not immediately interested, and could have neither a full sense of responsibility nor sufficient information. Whether, therefore, the collective resolutions of the conference favoured the introduction of coloured labour or not, I think public opinion would not be affected, but the respective legislatures


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would, I think, be bound to follow their own opinion. The importance of the question is a reason for establishing a federal authority to deal with it, but not, we think, for calling a conference, the functions of which are entirely dissimilar.

Nine days after that, on June 12, Sir Thomas M‘Ilwraith arrived in Sydney, and on the same evening he permitted himself to be ‘interviewed’ by a gentleman connected with the ‘Sydney Morning Herald.’ These are some of the views expressed by Sir Thomas, then holding the office of Treasurer in the Queensland Ministry:—

Do you (the reporter enquired) hold that there is a real need for the reintroduction of kanaka labour into Queensland?

Yes, and the necessity is proved by two facts; the immediate closing of the industry in the past and the prospect of only coloured labour being disallowed in the colony according to the Act of 1885, and also from the fact, proved in every sugargrowing district in the colony, that white men will not do the field work in tropical agriculture. This has been tried over and over again by the planters in almost every district, and with almost uniform failure. I do not mean to say that, physically, European labour is not able to tackle such work; but, if done, it would be at the expense of health and constitution, and the men would ultimately give way. As a matter of fact, however, white men will not do the field work, even at wages which are quite outside the power of the planters to give.

You say, positively, that white men cannot do the work?

They cannot do it for any length of time—they would reduce themselves to blackfellows.

In what respect do you mean?

In working in a climate unsuited to their constitution.

What wages have white men received in the past for the work proposed to be taken up by the kanakas?

As a matter of fact, white men have never been employed at it. They have left it as soon as they have entered upon it.




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Then is it a fact that those who have gone so far as to take it up have relinquished it immediately after the first pay-day, never to return to it?

I would not say ‘after the first pay-day,’ but after they have had a little experience of it—perhaps a few months.

Have you any idea at what rate of pay they were engaged?

I know a case at the present time where the unemployed at Townsville have refused an engagement for six months, at 1l. a week and board and lodging, on a sugar-plantation.

May it be supposed that these unemployed men would have undertaken the work if larger wages had been offered?

I don't believe they could do the work, except temporarily. Of course, too high wages make the industry impossible, because, in tropical industries, the labour in tropical countries has to be competed with.

Are you prepared to say kanaka labour could with advantage be employed in the colonies generally?

No; I do not believe in it being employed generally. I only believe in it for tropical agriculture. In all the pastoral districts west of the main range—which is about seven-eights of Queensland—white labour is much more suitable for the work.

As to the number of kanakas which may be introduced into the colony—is any limit contemplated?

There is to be no limit, except the wants of the colony.

Can you say what is about the extent of those wants?

They would try materially the resources of the Polynesian Islands in time. It has been proved repeatedly from statistics, by men thoroughly acquainted with the subject, that one kanaka gives employment for two white men, directly and indirectly.

Who have been the losers by the temporary cessation of the traffic in kanaka labour in Queensland?

The sugar-planters and the general community.

To what extent has the employment of kanaka labour in Queensland in the past, in your opinion, benefited that colony— I mean financially?

I could not tell you that. Generally speaking, the cultivation


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of sugar was one of the most successful industries in the colony, and was very profitable to the colony. But the late failure of sugar-planting in Queensland was due, not only to the laws connected with labour, but to the reduction throughout the world in the price of sugar of late years.

Are you altogether in accord with the position taken up by Sir Samuel Griffith in the matter?

Yes: thoroughly.

What are your views with regard to the proposed Intercolonial Conference?

The situation is thoroughly explained in the telegrams which have been despatched by Sir Samuel Griffith, in which I completely concur.

You object, I understand, to the wisdom of the action of the Government and Parliament of Queensland in this matter being questioned by the other colonies?

Until federation occurs, every colony should take the responsibility of legislating on its own questions.

The employment of coolie labour is involved in this connection, is it not?

These two classes of labour are quite distinct. If South Australia desires to legislate on coolie labour for the benefit of that colony, the proper course is for her to accept the responsibility of taking that step alone. If her legislation were to affect detrimentally the other colonies, no doubt she would hear of it in a legitimate way. At present, to shift her present political difficulties from the colony to a convention, which would, almost to a certainty, not express the opinions of the colonies, would show her weakness.

It will be observed that Sir Thomas is not quite positive in the opinions he explains. He will not say that ‘European labour is not able to tackle such work.’ By doing the work they would ‘reduce themselves to blackfellows.’ ‘White men have left the work as soon as they have entered upon it;’ this, however, is


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afterwards explained to mean, ‘after they have had a little experience of it—perhaps in a few months.’ Sir Thomas does not think Polynesian labour could be advantageously employed in the colony generally, and ‘only believes in it for tropical agriculture.’ He admits, too, that the system of importing Polynesian labour for what he calls the ‘tropical agriculture’ of Queensland would ‘try materially the resources of the Polynesian islands in time’—that is, it would drain away, largely by disease and death, the male inhabitants, leaving the females to their obvious fate. Sir Thomas commits himself to the monstrous fallacy that ‘one kanaka gives employment to two white men directly and indirectly.’ As the so-called ‘kanaka’ is imported on account of his few wants and his low wage-value, it is a heavy demand upon our credulity to believe that he, in some miraculous way, gives employment to two of the white men whom he is engaged to supplant.

As an on-looker of these proceedings, I felt that, having taken the part which I had considered it my duty to take for the last forty-four years against the introduction of persons, either of inferior race or labouring under disabilities imposed by the criminal law of England, I could not remain silent without incurring the suspicion of being indifferent, or of having modified my opinions. I addressed the two following letters to one of the morning papers—‘The Daily Telegraph.’ The first letter was addressed to both the morning papers, but the ‘Herald’ declined to publish it:—

Sir,—It is a startling commentary on the high-flown boasts of Australian democracy, that at this moment a proposal is


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submitted for a conference of these colonies to consider the question of introducing into Australia inferior and unprivileged races of men. The Parliaments of two of the colonies, it is recorded, have already given their sanction to the dark irruption. And great interests are at stake which cannot be conserved without cheap and submissive labour. What does all this mean? Consider it in whatever light you will, it means something to be done which the free men of our own race are not competent to do. It means some necessity, real or imaginary, which can only be met by the service of aliens, who cannot be admitted to our franchises, who are ignorant of our conditions of life, and whose bone and muscle can be obtained on a low commercial scale. Does it, then, mean slavery? Let us see.

There are other slaves besides the human creatures who are stolen from their native soil and sold in a foreign market to the highest bidder. Slavery itself may be a slavery of degrees. There may be an absolute slavery; there may be a mitigated slavery. But slavery in any form has no natural place in the life of a free people. The only foundation and the only security for the freedom of a people is political equality. The concession to popular feeling which has been so widely made that the new traffic shall be hedged round by special precautions and safeguards concedes too much. Special precautions and safeguards are incompatible with the equal rights of free men. But however well designed this exceptional code of regulations may be, who is to ensure its beneficent enforcement? There must be functionaries of some sort in the place of the man-stealer, the man-seller, and the man-driver of the old system with the ugly name. No one will pretend that the best and most tender-hearted of men will volunteer for these unenviable posts. Let us suppose a labour ship—I will not say slave ship—at one of the islands; there is no electric telegraph, no press, no judicial court, no constable, no pulpit or platform orator to overlook or pry into the ship's doings; and do we not know that the labour agent's sense of right and duty will largely depend upon temperament, disposition, and bias of


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feeling. But the cause is half abandoned which pleads for tolerance through this litany of pretences.

We are told by Burke that where there is ‘a vast multitude of slaves, those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom.’ Hence the rebellious spirit of Virginia and North and South Carolina at the beginning of the revolutionary war. Is this the latent reason of the desire for inferior and unprivileged races in Australia? But were we to throw open our doors to the Indian coolie and the benighted islander, would not our restriction on the Chinese be a grim farce? In one respect the proposed new traffic would result in a worse form of real slavery than the open slave trade supplied to the Southern States of America. The African slavers planted both sexes on those rich lands by their awful trade in flesh and blood, and we know that many happy family groups relieved the tragic gloom of hopeless servitude. But we should have loathsome clusters and sprinklings of one sex embittered by the enforced absence of the other.

In the course of human progress barbarous peoples have changed their character by slowly winning step by step their rights and privileges. It is proposed that we should reverse the order of progress, and barter away our character as a free people to secure the profitable investment of ill-directed capital, which even now reserves its wage fund for aliens. England expended the gigantic sum of twenty millions sterling to compensate the West Indian planters for the emancipation of their slaves. Are we to gather up our resources to initiate a system of castes and degraded classes, which cannot exist among us without weakening our free institutions and vitiating our national character? The application of the word federal to any design of this stamp is a mockery and a profanation.

Yours, &c.

HENRY PARKES.

June 1, 1892.

Sir,—Our admiration is involuntarily evoked for Sir Samuel Griffith in the constitutional attitude he has assumed on the


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coloured labour movement in Queensland. Whatever may be said of his policy, the mental acumen of Sir Samuel Griffith is in striking contrast to that of his neighbours in clearly discerning his duty and responsibility under the Constitution. The Ministry having decided, and the Parliament having ratified that decision by giving to it the force of law, that Queensland is to return to its dealings with Polynesian labour, it was impossible for the Prime Minister to submit the solemn resolve of the Government to the idle criticisms of an idle conference outside his own country.

Queensland has considered the question without your leave or advice, and has decided for herself. Sir Samuel Griffith has gone through his recantation, and has deliberately shifted his footing from the rock to the sand. In all this unhappy business of marching backwards, what have the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria to confer about, on the invitation of another acute statesman who, without the openness and courage of Sir Samuel Griffith, has for months past been wandering through Asia making philanthropic enquiries about black labour? Does not the mere proposal for a conference on a matter so obvious as this suggest to the mind of any free man, as it suggested to mine, an uneasy readiness to engage in a ‘parleying with slavery?’

But I am told, with a show of indignation, that it is not slavery; that the islander will be a free agent, and that he comes to do work which cannot be done by your own countrymen, and that his interests while in your service will be strictly safeguarded. Your own countrymen do the work on your cattle stations, in other of your avocations on the soil, in your woolsheds, in your mines, in the various avenues of your trade, and why not on your sugar-plantations? Is there not some other reason for your craving after the poor islander? Is he not required to serve under conditions which you dare not offer to a free man of your own blood? If he is a voluntary party to your bargain, why do you not make the attractions of your service known to him, and leave him to his own choice of forsaking his fishing ground, his cocoanut groves, and his banana


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fields, his kin and his home, in order to serve you in Australia? It would be easy enough to arrange for his free passage to one of your ports. What need to send your ships specially fitted out and specially officered for the poor islander? Above all, if his service is free and voluntary, what is your special Act of Parliament wanted for?

I say nothing here of the inevitable consequences of your man-trade with the island-world of the Pacific, which you will not be able to control or mitigate,—of the bad blood that will be engendered in savage breasts to score its achievements of vengeance in the future, the violated ties of nature, the bitter sense in the islander's experience of your boasted civilisation, the impossibility of his finding any natural place in life after his servile sojourn with you, and the ghastly record of mortality connected with the traffic and the servitude.

Let us confine ourselves to the first chapter of this retrograde movement. Queensland has acted within her constitutional right, and she knows it, and she proudly tells the intermeddlers around her to mind their own business. But there is above and beyond Queensland a more powerful voice—the voice of the free people of all Australia. There is a higher tribunal than the Government of Queensland—the tribunal of Civilisation. If her neighbours have no status for active interference, they have the right and the duty of remonstrance; and the right and duty to let the world know that this diseased passion for degraded labour is confined within the borders of Queensland. Instead of paltering to a sickly demand for a conference where there is nothing to confer about—where everything is clear and definite—the two great central colonies, with their two millions and a half of free people, should speak out the true voice of all and insist upon the preservation of this Australian land for an Australian Commonwealth.

Yours, &c.

HENRY PARKES.

June 10, 1892.

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