To the Electors of East Sydney.

Gentlemen,—On five different occasions, extending over a period of eighteen years, you have elected me by large majorities as one of your representatives in the Legislature. On the first of those occasions, in 1854, I expressed opinions on the principal questions of legislation and government which I still hold, with no modification except such as is derived from a fuller knowledge and a maturer judgment. My views, as then explained to you on several subjects of the first importance, have since been embodied in the laws of the country, as, for example, in the Municipalities Act, the Volunteer Act, and the Public Schools Act, which I had the honour to carry successfully through Parliament.

If the present were not an extraordinary emergency, I should, in offering myself again as a candidate for your suffrages, be satisfied to rest my cause on the records of the Legislative Assembly, where I have spent the best years of my life in your service. But the country is in the throes of a crisis such as has never before occurred in our history, and such as all friends of the Constitution must hope will never occur again. At this time, if at any time, the men who have largely shared in the political struggles of the country are entitled to speak boldly, and have a right to be heard.

A little more than a year ago a political combination took place in this country which has no parallel in English history, unless it be indeed the untoward union of Mr. Fox and Lord North, in 1783, which is thus described by Sir Thomas Erskine May:—‘The principles of the two parties were irreconcilable; and their sudden union could not be effected without imputations injurious to the credit of both. Nor could it be disguised that personal ambition dictated this bold stroke for power, in

  ― 268 ―
which principles were made to yield to interest. It was the alliance of factions, rather than of parties; and on either side it was a grave political error. Viewed with disfavour by the most earnest of both parties, it alienated from the two leaders many of their best followers.’ When Sir James Martin and Mr. Robertson, imitating this bad historical example, agreed to ‘bury the tomahawk’in the spoils of office, it was foreseen that nothing but disaster to our Parliamentary institutions could follow that double act of perfidy and betrayal. The pernicious consequences were not long in developing themselves. While Sir James Martin openly ridiculed the idea that the people had any regard for political principle, Mr. Robertson gave early proof of how well he had attended to the teaching of his new chief by proposing to double the ad valorem duties, which for two years he had been promising to repeal. Then followed the grand measure for raising a standing army, for which, as a beginning, the people are required to pay 20,000l. a year to enable Sir James Martin to keep them in order. To make up this military expenditure the clerks in the public departments, the messengers at the office doors, and the mechanics and labourers in the Government workshops have been compelled to submit to an arbitrary reduction of pay, with no attempt at an equitable adjustment of the pressure, even now that Ministers have had the necessary time upon their hands. An oppressive Stamp Act, utterly unsuitable to a young community like ours, has to be added to the first fruits of the Martin-Robertson compact.

After these and similar transactions, Parliament was prorogued on June 22, and the Ministers immediately rewarded their supporters in the first session by appointing two of them Police Magistrates, and by conferring offices and honours on the relatives and friends of several others. The Houses were not again called together for the despatch of business until November 14, making a recess of nearly five months, and rendering it impossible to make legal provision in the proper constitutional manner for the public service of 1872. The first measure then submitted to Parliament was

  ― 269 ―
the Land Bill now before the country, which, although it has since been modified by amendments, to pacify the angry feeling of the electors, still remains one of the worst Bills ever proposed in the Australian colonies, framed on no principle and embodying no policy which a community of intelligent men could recognise and accept. By this measure no advantages are extended to the agricultural settler which would improve his position, and the best apology which its authors can find for it is that the ‘free selectors’can, if they choose, remain under the present law; while by its provisions the pastoral tenants of the Crown will be enabled to secure the most valuable portions of their runs, up to the extent of 16,000 acres in one block, at an average of 8s. per acre, with thirteen years for payment, and all other persons in the country are denied any similar privilege. To the credit of those members of the late Assembly connected with the squatting interest, the greater number of them showed their independence and their contempt for this cunningly-designed sop by voting against the Government. The crowning transaction, or rather series of transactions, in this downward course of vicious legislation and misgovernment, is that which has resulted in the collection of the Border Customs duties, not less in opposition to Sir James Martin's declared policy of former years than to the latest decision of Parliament. The Attorney-General has made an elaborate attempt to put the sister colony in the wrong in this unfortunate dispute, apparently with a reckless disregard of the difficulties he is creating in the way of its just settlement. But even if Sir James Martin's case was not based upon wild assumptions, it is of no avail for him to rake up the transactions between the Government of this colony and Victoria for the last nine years. That part of his case was entirely cut away from him by his own act, when, on August 9 last, he invited the Victorian Government to a Conference, ‘to avoid, if possible, a renewal of the inconvenience so seriously felt by the residents in both colonies from the collection of duties on goods carried across the Murray.’He thus conceded the principle that it is not desirable to collect the duties. The real questions that remain

  ― 270 ―
now are—1st. Did he and his colleagues display the necessary capacity and wisdom to ensure success in the negotiations which were opened at his own instance? 2nd. Has he since refused to entertain a just proposal from the sister colony? The only answers that can be given to these questions leave the Government self-condemned.

Throughout these various procedings, the arbitrary genius, or in other words the inborn Toryism, of the gentlemen at the head of the Government, has for the first time forced its way to the surface, unchecked by any countervailing element in the Administration. The Toryism of Sir James Martin is unlike anything known to modern times; it is the Toryism of the Stuart dynasty, when the will of the obstinate king or the facile minister was sought to be carried out by the corruption of Parliament, by playing off one faction against another, by the employment of secret agents, and by maintaining an unauthorised and irresponsible consultative power within the Cabinet itself. The time is come when the electors must determine whether this noble colony is to be governed, not by the DIVINE RIGHT of James the Second, but by the DIVINE RIGHT of James the Third.

It is to be fervently hoped that this appeal to the people will result in the return of a body of men who will be prepared at all hazards to stem the torrent of chicanery and corruption which has set in upon our free institutions,—who, from an enlightened conviction, and by a firm example, will teach that political triumph does not always accompany the possession of power, but that victory is to be achieved by remaining in Opposition or by retiring from office, so long as the principles of a sound policy are faithfully maintained. What we want—to raise New South Wales to the first place in the Australian group, to which the boundless wealth of her natural resources gives her a fair title—is a public policy suited to the position and capabilities of the country, adopted and carried out in the light of English statesmanship. Our system of education should be extended until it embraces the children of every home. Every form of commerce and industrial enterprise should be

  ― 271 ―
left free to the fullest extent consistent with the needs of the State. Our lands should be alienated on a freehold basis, with the largest measure of advantages to those who will turn the soil to the best account. Our mineral resources should be developed by a liberal revision of the present law. The benefits of municipal government should be spread to the utmost practicable limit throughout the colony. Our external defence should depend upon a Volunteer organisation, numbering within its ranks the flower of our young men. Above all, we should encourage in the agricultural, pastoral, and mining pursuits of the interior the creation of wealth and the formation of society by the settlement of families and the secure investment of small capitals. By such means we may raise our country to a condition of prosperity hitherto unknown, and may hope to see our infant liberties zealously preserved by a brave and an intelligent people.

I am, Gentlemen,

Your faithful servant,


Sydney, February 9, 1872.

With this election the march of events was rapid. The voice of the people could not be mistaken. The ground was cleared for a new beginning. It is hard to believe that sensible men could have been guilty of such perverse courses as have to be explained, but the facts cannot be changed in their complexion and significance.