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‘PUBLIC AFFAIRS.

‘We belong to no party in politics. But there are questions that transcend all party considerations, and rise to a magnitude of national importance in the light of our present interests and our future destiny. It seems to us that more than one such question rises to notice from the late Ministerial changes. As Sir James Martin told the electors of East Sydney, it matters little to the people what set of men may be receiving the rewards of office so long as good government is secured to the country. It may be that a doctrine of political morality so irrefragable would look better if it were enforced by some one not directly interested in preserving things as they are. Its soundness cannot be disputed. It matters very much however by what means Ministers are brought into existence and sustained in power. Parliamentary government, as it has been worked out by our countrymen at home, has depended for its unexampled success much more upon a sense of political honour, upon rules of individual action clearly recognised although unwritten, and upon the observance of party obligations, than upon any principles of government laid down by Locke, Beccaria,


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or Jeremy Bentham. And we hold to the belief that unless the same rules of political conduct, the same landmarks of constitutional usage that have guided English statesmen, are adopted by those English colonists who are trying the experiment of governing themselves, Parliamentary government as transplanted among them must be more or less a failure. Though the opposite of absolute despotism, the form of government under which we live is capable of being made something worse than any despotism that is still sustained by high personal qualities, if our public men should cease to follow the guidance of those whose patriotic virtues have created and preserved it in England.

‘We shall not concern ourselves just now with the rumours freely circulated of the share which persons unconnected with Parliament are said to have had in the formation of the new Administration. The public may hereafter be better informed on that subject by the discussions in the Assembly, and we are desirous of laying upon ourselves at all times the restraint of correct information. But it has been stated authoritatively, and has not been denied by anyone, that proceedings took place with the concurrence of Sir James Martin, after he was called to the assistance of the Governor, which we venture to say are unprecedented and must be felt as a reproach to our free institutions.

‘A meeting of the Opposition in the Assembly, regularly convened by circular, was held to consider the claims of gentlemen to be raised to the position of advisers of the Crown. Of course, the members at such a gathering would meet on equal terms. The youngest


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and least experienced would have his voice in the consultation like the oldest and best informed, and every member of a legislative body soon finds out that there is something inherent in his relation to the State which gives his voice a potency. Gentlemen whose sagacity had never soared above the points in a breed of cattle or the grazing capabilities of a sheep run, would suddenly have to decide upon the capacity of their friends for statesmanship, and few men are disposed to rate themselves incompetent for any task flattering to their intellect which others assign to them. Modest members who had often felt the need of advice in giving their votes on simple questions before the House, would now be privileged to say who should represent Parliament in the Executive Council, and be entrusted with administering the affairs of the country. Everyone who was happy enough to form a twenty-ninth or thirtieth part—whatever may have been the exact proportion of numerical strength—of Her Majesty's Opposition, was at liberty to put his spoke into the new wheel of State. There was no obstacle to his taking his turn at Cabinet-making except his unavoidable absence.

‘Now, it must be obvious that the recognition by Sir James Martin himself of an assemblage of this character was a step towards making Government a delegacy from a mob, a small and privileged mob it may have been, but nevertheless a mob in all the essentials of acting without authority or accountability. Its suggestions and counsels, if acted upon, could lead to nothing but embarrassment and weakness, and if it never was intended to act upon them, it was nothing


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short of deception to countenance it. No wonder that the result of this meeting gave satisfaction to nobody.

‘The notable expedient of balloting for Ministers which arose out of the abortive proceedings at this meeting is worse still; and enough to make all sensible people feel ashamed of our political leaders. A grave gentleman starts the objection that it will be unpleasant to discuss the merits of his friends in their presence, and suggests that each member shall take a list of the Assembly, mark off the six names of his choice, and hand it into the man who holds the fate of all in his hands. This plan, which might have formed part of some design to make government ridiculous, is gravely adopted by the assembled legislators, apparently without any suspicion of the folly of the thing, and it receives the approval of Sir James Martin, with the saving qualification that he should not consider himself bound by the result of the ballot. Could anything be devised more outrageously opposed to the spirit of Responsible Government or more devoid of the sanction of constitutional practice? Who ever heard of an English statesman, holding his Sovereign's commission to form a Government, taking the opinion of his followers in detail, or assenting to a general ballot for his colleagues?

‘The scheme of Parliamentary government supposes that a small band of superior men in whose political character and administrative capacity, as a whole, the Legislature has confidence shall govern us so long as they can retain that confidence. The grand security for good government by these men consists in their


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direct responsibility to a larger body of men, who, in their turn, are responsible to the whole people. But it has never been proposed that these rulers should be elected, directly or indirectly, by the representative body. When a Ministry retires, the practice has been for the Crown to communicate with some member of the Legislature, not less distinguished by his knowledge of the existing political situation and his acquaintance with contemporary political characters, than by his talents and his public services; and he is communicated with because he possesses this knowledge which is supposed to qualify him in a special manner to select the other high servants of the Crown. In the execution of this great commission he is responsible at the same time to the Crown and to the people's representatives. For either to interfere with his execution of this task would be to diminish to the extent of that interference the responsibility which ought to rest upon him alone. The function of the Crown is to see that he is equal to the duty imposed upon him; the function of the Legislature is to see that he honourably performs it.

‘We ought not to feel surprised, however much we may regret, that the preliminaries to which we have adverted are speedily followed by negotiations and combinations that shock our sense of political propriety. And herein lies the danger to the people. It is this that makes matters, trifling in themselves, of the highest concern to the well being of the community. Once off the rail, who can answer for the engine which so far has carried the train with speed and security? Those who resort to means that amaze the community


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to obtain power are not likely to stop at trifles in retaining it. But the mischief will not end with their retirement from office. The next set of Ministers may commence their deviations from the constitution, not from the original land-marks, but from the marks left by their predecessors. We may live to see a Ministry balloted for in fact, and an Executive Council sworn under the dictation of some person unknown to the Constitution.’

While I was engaged in this temporary journalistic work, an American gentleman, Mr. H. H. Hall, who had established a line of steam vessels between Sydney and San Francisco, proposed to me that I should accept the position of his agent in endeavouring to obtain the support of the several Australian Governments to his enterprise. No service could have been more congenial to me, and I accepted the proposal without hesitation. I believed Mr. Hall to be a man of indomitable energy, and of large practical knowledge of the business he had in hand, though I knew him to be crippled in means, and I had great faith in his ultimate success. As a member of the Parliament of New South Wales I had, from the earliest initial steps, given my warmest support to the Trans-Pacific route for postal and commercial communication, and I entered upon the duties I now undertook with zeal and perseverance. I visited all the other colonies, and in all I met with the most friendly greetings. All the Ministers gave me their patient attention, with no greater discouragement in any case than that arising from the closer pressure of questions of immediate urgency. Especially Sir Arthur


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Palmer in Queensland, Sir C. Gavan Duffy in Victoria, Mr. Justice Boucaut in South Australia, and the late T. G. Chapman in Tasmania, extended to me the most marked attention and personal kindness.

All questions relating to the future of the Pacific are full of interest for intelligent men all over the world. Its many groups of fertile lands—the least known the most valuable in view of civilising agencies and the extension of Australian commerce; its comparatively untracked fields for maritime enterprise, these will present to coming generations vast attractions not dreamt of by men of to-day. All relating to the early movement for uniting America and Australia by a chain across the Pacific Ocean must be fraught with abiding interest for enquiring minds. While in Melbourne I addressed the following letter on the subject of my mission to the members of the Victorian Parliament:—

Melbourne, August 22, 1871.

Sir,—I beg permission to address you, as a Member of the Legislature of Victoria, on a matter which I think you will admit to be of public importance. The subject is the expediency of this colony granting support to the Mail Line of Steam Packets established by Mr. H. H. Hall, between Australia and America, in connection with the postal communication now opened across the North American Continent to Europe. In order that I may not be misunderstood, I desire in the first place to explain the position I occupy in asking your attention.

In April last Mr. Hall applied to me in Sydney to visit the other Australian Colonies as his attorney, to represent the claims of his Mail Service to the support of the Australian Governments. Having time at my disposal, at least for a few months, I undertook the mission he proposed, and it is in that


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capacity that I now address you. I may, however, state that I should not have engaged myself in this duty if I had not felt, as an Australian legislator for the last seventeen years, a deep interest in extending our scheme of International intercourse, call it by what postal name you may, to the great English-speaking communities of America; and it is probable that if this had not been the case no application would have been made to me on the subject.

It will be best to explain also the circumstances in which Mr. Hall seeks the support of Victoria, and that of the other colonies. As the great Trans-Continental Railway which unites the Pacific and Atlantic shores of the United States approached completion, Mr. Hall conceived the idea of establishing regular postal communication with America and Europe, by running a line of Australian steam packets to Honolulu, to which port a line of American steamers was already running from San Francisco. The colonies of New South Wales and New Zealand entered into an agreement to subsidise this pioneer service for twelve months, the amount contributed by New South Wales being 10,000l. As the vessels under this contract had to make the détour of New Zealand, their voyages were open to the objections of unnecessary protraction and of encountering unnecessarily tempestuous weather. During the twelve months Mr. Hall visited America to arrange for the punctual transmission of mails across the Continent, and to effect other improvements of the service; and on the expiration of his contract, in March last, he reorganised the line by running his packets on the direct route viâ Fiji, and through the whole distance to San Francisco, without any change of vessel or unnecessary delay at an intermediate port. I enclose a chart of the mail route as now decided upon, giving the distances of each principal division, and the various steam postal connections with other parts of the world.

The present line consists of the three finest steamships of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company's numerous fleet (which fleet includes upwards of thirty vessels), and the owners are prepared to engage themselves to build other ships to meet


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the increasing demands of the service. I enclose some particulars of the character of these vessels, and also of the charterer's arrangements for the satisfactory conveyance of mails and passengers.

It is this service, in the hands of the originator of the Pacific route, based upon an experience gained by sixteen complete voyages, and reorganised with the view of affording the greatest amount of advantage to these colonies, which Mr. Hall has brought under the notice of the Government of Victoria, with the hope of receiving a subsidy towards its maintenance. The Parliament of New South Wales has, by a very large majority, granted a subsidy of 15,000l. per annum to the new service. I respectfully submit that this line of mail packets in actual operation is a very different thing from any proposal, let it be made by whomsoever it may, to bring into existence an Ocean Mail Service at some future time, with all the inevitable obstacles and possible casualties which lie in the region of experiment before it. As to the chain of communication thus established, I cannot for a moment conceive that any person whose mind is accustomed to the treatment of large affairs will regard merely from a point of local interest the questions, in a great measure profoundly social and political, which it opens for consideration.

The postal and commercial advantages of the new Mail Line through America to Europe are undeniable and manifold. The direct route across the Pacific pierces, as it were, the Fijian Archipelago, which fertile and beautiful islands already are partly occupied by a numerous British community, and are manifestly destined to become an extensive field for industry and commerce. More distant, it connects Australia with the prosperous little kingdom of the Sandwich Islands, and it terminates at the great commercial city of San Francisco. From this point regular lines of communication branch off to Vancouver's Island and British Columbia; to San Diego, Mazatlan, Manzanillo, Acapulco, and Panama; to Guayaquil, Callao, Cobija, and Valparaiso; to China and Japan. Along the Trans-Continental route the places of importance in the interest


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of civilisation and human progress are too numerous to be touched upon here; but Ogden, Omaha, and Chicago stand out as marvels of the conquest of nature by the indomitable forces of our colonising race. The land journey ends in New York, whence communication is frequent and easy to all parts of the Dominion of Canada, to the West Indies, to all parts of the Atlantic coasts of North and South America, and to all parts of Europe. The finest steamships afloat leave New York every day for England.

It is impossible to contemplate the immense populations speaking the English language, numbering from 70,000,000 to 80,000,000 of souls, including the most adventurous and inventive powers of industrial enterprise, the highest forms of social culture, and the most honoured sources of intelligence and thought, which this scheme of postal and living intercourse connects intercommunicably in all the interests of civilisation, without being impressed with the beneficial influence it must exercise on the progress of these colonies, so far as reason can forecast the results that are yet unrevealed in the future. I venture to think that, as with nations, so with communities endowed with as many of the attributes of nationhood as these colonies possess, there are higher objects to be kept in view than the mere achievement of material prosperity. To be indifferent to the intellectual life, the political tendencies, and the social manifestations of the great communities in America which owe their origin to the same national stock as ourselves, would be to betray an insensibility to our gravest responsibilities as an undivided Australian people. The sister States of America, and the sister Provinces of Australia, whatever may be the forms of government in which their free aspirations seek security and rest, ought to grow up side by side in friendly intimacy and honourable emulation, warning each other from internal dangers, instructing each other in national development, strengthening each other by the example of moral effort, and supporting each other in the defence of freedom. As time rolls on, all that is good in the laws and literature of the elder offspring should be reflected back in the laws and literature of


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the younger. The Pacific Ocean that lies between them—the calmest and most beautiful of oceans—should be the accepted type of the calm and glowing friendship uniting them as the two foremost powers of Christian progress in the next century.

I hope I shall be readily pardoned in speaking to you of these higher political considerations, apart from the value of this Line of Steamships for the delivery of mails and the purposes of commerce. It seems to me that the benefits of the Mail and Passenger Line through America would be extended in a new direction by maintaining the Suez line in conjunction with it. Thus would be formed, so to speak, an open pathway round the world, distinctly marked out, and on which time might be reckoned with something like accuracy, touching upon points of ancient historical interest, and passing through countries rich in the newest marvels of industrial life and activity. In such a world-wide circuit of communication, Australia would be the mid-way resting-place; and it cannot be doubted that, with such means of regular intercourse, a continuous stream of visitors from among the educated and affluent classes of Europe would pass leisurely and observantly through the Australian Colonies; some carrying away with them to other countries a living knowledge of our conditions of life and prospects of advancement, and others settling in our midst with new stores of capital and intelligence. Information respecting the colonies, acquired and disseminated by the instrumentality of influential persons of this class, would be of more value than all the reports, lectures, and books, without the same authority, that could be issued. The postal facilities of such a system would be complete, embracing the Indian Empire and other parts of Asia, with which it is necessary to keep up regular communication.

Being aware that the Cape route to Europe finds favour in a special manner with many intelligent men in Victoria, it is with deference to their opinion, and diffidence in the expression of my own, that I submit for consideration some objections to that route. None of the results of a political and social character which I have endeavoured to indicate can be secured by


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it; and I need not add that postal communication with Fiji, the Sandwich Islands, and America cannot be so secured. It would afford us no compensation for closing our communication with India and China. Our limited experience of steam navigation by the long sea route is sadly chequered by our recollection of the disasters which have occurred in the cases of the Royal Charter, the London, and the Queen of the Thames. But those disasters will be accounted for by circumstances peculiar to each case, and it will be said that they did not in any way arise from the proper course and destination of the ships. Leaving out of sight, therefore, the great proportion which the lost vessels bear to the number of steamships hitherto employed in the navigation, and confining the question to what is known as the Cape route, without reference to past accidents, we still have to reconcile its practicability as a mail route with the unalterable laws of nature which array the elements against it for several months in the year. Nor is it prudent to ignore our knowledge that one line of steamers which attempted it some years ago ruinously failed. If stormy seas and heavy gales have to be conquered by increased power of steam, not only increased cost but increased discomfort and increased liability to accident must be taken into account. It can scarcely be supposed that passengers, travelling for pleasure or for information, will prefer the voyage by way of the Cape, with its unbroken blankness and dreariness, to either of the other routes, where the monotony of a long journey is relieved and enlivened by frequent changes of scene and many new objects of interest. It is only as an immigrant route, and then with powerful steamers under subsidy, that the Cape route, as it appears to me, would confer advantages on Victoria, and those advantages, I still venture to think, would be shared in common with the other colonies. The immigrants, once landed in Melbourne, would disperse themselves, so long as the passage from one colony to another could be made for twenty shillings, wherever the remuneration for labour, combined with other circumstances, seemed to present the most attraction.

An Ocean Mail Line connecting Australia with Europe


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ought to be, and in its nature is, a federal service. The more widely and generally it extends its operation, the more valuable it is to each community, and to every member of each community, that participates in its benefits. I should consider it a great mistake for New South Wales to relinquish her interest in the Suez Mail Line, though her mail delivery by that route is much later and attended by much less convenience than that of South Australia or Victoria; and I believe the public opinion of the colony accords with this view. Yet New South Wales alone of the Australian colonies has had to bear the expense of opening the American route. For two years she paid at the rate of 55,000l. per annum towards subsidising the Panama Mail Ships, and up to this moment she is the only colony of the Australian group which has supported by a subsidy the Line via San Francisco. It would not be easy to prove that New South Wales has any interest superior to that of Victoria in opening this line of communication. The settlements on the Pacific Route are equally markets for the one colony as for the other; and the intercourse of Victoria with America is greater than that of New South Wales.

In fact, the proposal I have submitted to the Government of Victoria on behalf of Mr. Hall is, that Melbourne shall be the terminus of his line of steamers, asking an additional amount of subsidy to cover the additional cost of such modification of the service. In this case, the ships of the trunk line would depart from and arrive at Melbourne viâ Sydney, Levuka, and Honolulu, the time for the delivery of the Mails in both directions between this port and San Francisco being thirty-three days, and between this and the port of Liverpool forty-eight days, subject to the usual penalties. It is probable that Queensland will be connected with the main line by a branch steamer running between Moreton Bay and Fiji, and that a branch steamer will also run between Fiji and New Zealand, as marked on the accompanying chart.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

HENRY PARKES.




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Mr. Hall failed at this stage of his enterprise by the steamers placed under offer to him being withdrawn by the Company to which they belonged, and my connection with him came to a sudden close. But he was a man who knew nothing of any such word as ‘defeat’; and in a short time he managed to get ships built on the Clyde to his own designs for the service. By this time I had returned to political life, and was in office at the head of my first Administration. Mr. Hall obtained a contract from the Government, negotiated by Sir Saul Samuel, and he successfully established the service. Eventually he was superseded by his principals on the ground of the necessity for a more practical man to direct the management. Mr. Hall was one of those ‘dreamers’to whom the world owes so much—who do things while others are considering the best means of doing them, and who never acknowledge that they have been outdone. In some disgust he returned to America, and a few years afterwards I met him in New York with a new enterprise upon his hands—nothing less than an Inter-Oceanic Railway across the isthmus of Tehuantepec.

The political confusion and the absence of definite party purpose in New South Wales in 1870 and 1871, as already glanced at in this chapter, culminated in the beginning of the following year in the complete disruption of existing alliances and the exclusion of several of the Ministers from Parliament. Early in January, 1872, I was elected for a country constituency, but within a few days after my return the Legislative Assembly was dissolved. I then offered myself as a


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candidate for East Sydney, and was duly elected. On account of the strange state of popular discontent into which the colony had been plunged I give my address to the electors:—

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