― 140 ―

14. Chapter XIV In England For The Diamond Jubilee

WHEN I was setting out from Sydney on my road to Adelaide to embark for England for the Diamond Jubilee, I was honoured with a demonstration given by the citizens of Sydney in the Town Hall which redoubled my desire to render faithful service to a community which had bestowed on me so many generous marks of favour.

During my absence, which could not extend beyond the end of August, as the adjourned session of the Federal Convention was to begin in Sydney on September 1st, Mr. Brunker, the Colonial Secretary, acted for me, and Mr. Carruthers, the Secretary for Lands, took charge of the Federal Bill drafted by the Adelaide Convention. With the concurrence of Mr. Want and my other colleagues, it was arranged that Mr. Barton, who was the official leader of the Convention, should take charge of the federal proceedings in the Legislative Council.

The two Houses finished their labours in suggesting amendments in the Adelaide Bill before the Convention met again.

I left Sydney on the 10th to embark at Adelaide on May 12th. My wife went with me to Adelaide, but would not go to England, as our two children were not very strong, and were too young to travel or to leave.

  ― 141 ―

I am a good sailor, and looked forward to a pleasant rest on the voyage. The Orient R.M.S. Orizaba, on which I travelled, had seafaring qualities of the best kind, and was commanded by Mr. Clarke, R.N.R., who became an Elder Brother of Trinity. My frequent voyages have convinced me that sailors, whether officers or men, possess an average of the manlier qualities which any other class of men would find it impossible to equal. When you add, as you could in the case of Captain Clarke and most of the other commanders I have sailed with, social qualities and general intelligence of a high order, you find life at sea as enjoyable as it seems to be safe.

I always feel for the men who “go down to the sea in ships” that sort of respect and admiration which in olden times attached to the chivalry of the knight errant. They must be fond of danger and hard conditions of work; they can have no sort of craving for filthy lucre or ambition for worldly success. Far removed from the limelight by day and night, in fair weather and foul, sailors are the “reapers and binders” of all the world's harvests. Without them, the bulk of mankind would have remained at the level of hewers of wood and drawers of water.

The very considerable strain of public and professional duties during the previous six years enabled me to enjoy intensely my voyage to England. As everybody ought to know, and ought to remember, the best enjoyments are those which are earned by hard work.

Having reached Australia when seven years old, I knew little or nothing about the other end of the

  ― 142 ―
world. An interval of about three months and eighteen days between my departure from and my return to Australia meant a very rapid tour.

Determined to make the best of my time, I landed at Naples for an eight-day visit to Europe in company with one or two of my fellow-passengers. We went from Naples to Rome, then Florence, saw Milan, ascended Rigi, stayed at Lucerne, and visited the Brussels Exhibition. Thanks to Cook's guides we spent our time to great advantage.

The crowded, delightful impressions of those memorable eight days have become vague, but there are two or three which remain vivid.

A moonlight night amongst the ruins of the Colosseum brought me nearer to the grandeur and tragedy of ancient Rome than any page of history or triumph of art could. The vast amphitheatre seemed animated with the ghost-life of two sets of departed Cæsars, one armed with the fleeting power of Imperial Rome, the other inspired with the mightier power of human faith in thrones beyond the skies.

An ignorant tourist like myself, who travels without Baedekers, often gets more delightful sensations of surprise than the more industrious and enlightened traveller. Driving along one of the dusty roads which take one out of Rome, I saw a vast outline of hideous brick. Passing to the entrance, and pushing aside a filthy portièere, I found myself in one of the noblest temples of human piety the world contains. It blended the massive majesty of the past with a modern brightness and finish of surpassing grandeur. If I had known then—what everyone else knew—that this

  ― 143 ―
marvellous spectacle, those long avenues flanked by mammoth alabaster pillars, the priceless treasures of the sanctuary, the portraits of a long line of departed Pontiffs—that all these glories were a restoration by modern art built upon the blackened ruins of a recent fire—the rapture would have vanished, and I should have begun to appraise its intrinsic worth in figures. Accustomed during a long life to the Anglo-Australian style of man, woman, and child, the different races I saw, in my rapid progress from South-eastern to North-western Europe, also made a deep impression. Racial types, from thin to broad in shape, with tumult of tongue and movement, to almost stolid strides of energy and movement, swept past me, by progressive variations, almost according to the degrees of latitude.

I reached Dover from Ostend on Friday, June 18th, and was met by Sir Saul Samuel, the Agent-General for New South Wales. Sir Saul and I were old friends. I was in the Treasury when he was Colonial Treasurer, and he had always honoured me with his friendship. He had the happy fate—which he thoroughly deserved—of being highly esteemed at both antipodes. A host of letters and invitations awaited me. The letter that most delighted and surprised me was one from the Secretary for the Colonies, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, offering me, by command of Her Majesty, the rank of a Privy Councillor. This honour was conferred upon each of the eleven Premiers who came to England at that time. There is no greater distinction to which a Colonial could sensibly aspire.

Upon the night of my arrival I had to attend a

  ― 144 ―
dinner given to the visiting Premiers by the Imperial Institute. The President was H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Sir Wilfrid Laurier had the honour of sitting on his right hand, and I was placed on his left. Having spent most of the previous eight nights in travel, with a great deal of sight-seeing by day, I was haunted by a grave anxiety. In Australia I was the subject of many jokes owing to a bad habit I had of falling off to sleep. When I did sleep concealment was often impossible because my slumbers were sometimes really eloquent! I felt it would be truly horrible if I slept in that august presence, yet the odds were against me. I knew what my unfriendlies in Australia would say if I did go to sleep. Those who did not denounce me as a pig would accuse me of a pitiful ambition to show how thoroughly at home I felt in such distinguished company! I could not ask my future Sovereign to keep me awake. Next me, on the other side, was a most reverend ecclesiastic of grave aspect, Dr. Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I asked him to be good enough to keep me awake. I cannot forget the first terrible glance, but it was swiftly succeeded by friendly smiles and a gracious assent when I explained the fearful danger of my position. The Archbishop afterwards expressed a doubt to me whether any one of his ninety-two predecessors had been asked to undertake a similar mission. I quite believed him. Later on I found myself in another dilemma. I had a misty notion that you must never refuse any polite attention offered by a Royal personage. I had rather amused the President with a description of the way in which a cigar he had

  ― 145 ―
given to Sir George Dibbs was enthroned in a glass case in Sydney. But when the Prince asked me if I would accept a cigar too, I felt in a fix. If I did take it, that would look as if I had been fishing for it; if I did not, I might break an inflexible rule. However, as I did not smoke I said so, determined to clear my character even at the expense of my manners. I felt immensely relieved when His Royal Highness took up his pencil, autographed the menu card, and said, “Perhaps you will accept this?” I replied, “Yes, indeed, Sir, and this souvenir will remain longer in my family.”

There was an illustrious gathering of Britain's leading men that night. Among the speakers, in addition to the President, were Lord Lansdowne, Lord Rosebery, Lord Salisbury, Mr. Chamberlain, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Their speeches were all worthy of the occasion, especially those of Lord Rosebery and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. I also spoke. Some days later Lord Rosebery informed me that some thought I had made the best speech. I was immensely pleased, but he had, I felt convinced, made a vastly better one himself. However, that kind compliment regarding my first speech in England encouraged me immensely.

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee was unique in more ways than one. From 1837 to 1897 the British throne had been occupied by a Sovereign whose loyalty to her people and her Parliament and their constitutional rights had created a new precedent of the best kind. Personal supremacy could never again usurp the place of popular government beneath the British flag. Another new departure, perhaps just as valuable,

  ― 146 ―
was made by Her Majesty. A bridge of loving-kindness was thrown across the awful chasm which had separated human nature on the throne from human nature in the dwellings of the poor. Those touching messages of sorrow, of sympathy with the misfortunes and bereavements of the obscure — those cups of tea the Queen drank with the cottagers at Balmoral—attracted to the British throne a new sort of intimate personal loyalty in all the cottages of the Empire. Not the least claim to the gratitude of their subjects which the two Kings and the two Queens who succeeded Queen Victoria have earned is the sincere and devoted way in which they have emulated and expanded her example.

The festivals of ancient times may have been celebrated with greater magnificence of outward show. The trophies attesting the triumphs of war, the sight of the captive chiefs of other lands in their chains of shame, may have thrilled with a fiercer fire the plaudits of the plebs who filled the streets of Rome; but how insignificant all those memories became when compared with the unprompted reverence, the genuine affection, of hundreds of millions of the human race—the voyaging of so many Rulers across the seas to render voluntary homage to their Queen and Empress, in whose pure, unselfish grasp the Royal and Imperial sceptres of the greatest family of nations the world has ever seen had been so firmly held for sixty glorious years!

The procession to St. Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday, June 22nd, was the grandest national spectacle I ever saw. The route was a long one, and every pavement

  ― 147 ―
and window and roof space was crowded with bright and cheering crowds. In beauty and gaiety London for one day at least put Paris in the shade. The English people “assisted” at this national tribute to our greatest Queen with all the enthusiasm of a Southern race. As I passed along I saw on the radiant faces of the youthful generation the promise of even greater days.

We Colonial Premiers had every reason to be gratified by the constant roar of welcome we got, as representatives of the Oversea Dominions. Far more impressive than anything about us was the appearance of contingents of Colonial and Indian troops, which gave a soul-moving significance to the whole display, for they seemed to reveal in visible shape that valour and readiness to fight for the Empire of which later days have given matchless proof.

The morning was misty. On arrival at St. Paul's we were placed in front seats on the daïs on the western steps where the short religious ceremony was to take place. Her Majesty's Ministers, with characteristic courtesy, placed us in better seats than they occupied themselves.

One of the most delightful incidents in that never-to-be-forgotten ceremony was this. As the Queen's carriage came in sight the curtain of mist dissolved, and the sun appeared just as if that monarch of the skies had at the last moment determined to join in the general rejoicing.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Prime Minister of Canada, was the senior of our Colonial representatives, and we were all proud to acknowledge him as our leader.

  ― 148 ―
In those days there were not the intimate relations which now exist between Britain and France; and I regarded this Franco-British Prime Minister as the most interesting of all the distinguished visitors.

To save time at the Conference, I suggested that before we began our meetings with Mr. Chamberlain, the Premiers should discuss together the matters to be submitted, and that course was taken.

Photograph facing p.148. The Imperial Conference of 1897. Rt.Hon.Richard Seddon (New Zealand), Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Canada), Rt.Hon.Joseph Chamberlain (Sec.State for Colonies), Sir George Reid (New South Wales), Sir John Gordon Sprigg (Cape Colony), Sir Edward Braddon (Tasmania), Sir George Turner (Victoria), Sir William Whiteway (Newfoundland), Sir John Bramston (Colonial Office), Sir Hugh Nelson (Queensland), Hon.C.C.Kingston (South Australia), Sir John Forrest (Western Australia), Hon.Harry Escombe (Natal), Mr.Edward Wingfield (Colonial Office), Sir John Anderson (Sec. Colonial Conference), Earl of Selborne (Colonial Office)

On the questions of commercial relations Mr. Chamberlain made some striking observations, which show very clearly his view then of Imperial trade relations.

The difficulties in the way of special inter-Imperial concessions or international bargains owing to the most-favoured-nation clause in existing commercial treaties was fully discussed.

In the matter of defence, the importance of settled plans in each of the Australian Colonies for joint action in times of danger was fully considered.

Two aspects of the matter were brought up—one, the contribution to the maintenance of a British squadron in Colonial waters; the other, a general payment towards the expense of the Imperial Navy as a whole.

At a dinner given to us by that admirable Imperial unit, the Royal Colonial Institute, over which H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught did us the great honour of presiding, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Goschen, made an excellent speech, but seemed to make an appeal for more liberal Naval subsidies from the Colonies. In speaking later I dwelt upon the fact that our immense developmental tasks,

  ― 149 ―
coupled with the smallness of our population and the largeness of our territories, made it difficult to respond to such an appeal. Lord Goschen was rather nettled by my remarks, which he thought had been premeditated, but as a matter of fact they were not. Later, the First Lord attended the Conference, made an admirable and conciliatory speech, expressed his willingness to continue the existing arrangement, and promised to send a first-class cruiser as flagship to replace the Orlando. We all cordially thanked him. In the Conference we had a most interesting discussion on the question of coloured immigration. The Premiers had to express the strong views of the Colonists on this subject. The Secretary of State had to voice Imperial objections to local legislation. No agreement or resolution was come to on this matter.

On the question of preferential trade, preference was unanimously agreed to; but two views were expressed, one in favour of a preference reducing existing duties in favour of Great Britain, the other in favour of making a preference by increasing the duties levied upon the goods of foreign nations. Great Britain and New South Wales were the only two countries with Free Trade tariffs. In their case the scope existing for any sort of preference was of the smallest.

I know that I utter the views of every member of the Conference when I express my strong admiration of the rare blending in Mr. Chamberlain of statesman-like views with business capacity. This union of attributes gave his speeches and writings a force and a completeness enabling him to produce masterful

  ― 150 ―
effects which only minds of the highest quality could rival.

No acknowledgment of Mr. Chamberlain's efforts to make the visit of the Premiers a pleasant one would be adequate without a reference to Mrs. Chamberlain. That which is so bright and charming in American women, and that which is of such sterling merit in British women, in Mrs. Chamberlain were happily united.

The Prince of Wales invited the Continental and Colonial representatives to meet a distinguished company at dinner at Marlborough House. An unfortunate delay of thirty-five minutes spoilt the dinner, although the quality of the wines remained to comfort us. It was caused by the late arrival of the French Envoy. During those fatal minutes the Prince must have often and most heartily d——d the Envoy, but not a shadow of his annoyance appeared in his face, or in the marks of courtesy he bestowed upon his guests. When the Envoy arrived, evidently unaware of his error, the Prince embraced him with a happy smile which won the admiration of all beholders. In humbler circles, where exalted personages are not expected, the only ruined dinner would have been that of the gentleman who arrived so late!

Many who had worked hard for Imperial federation attached great importance to our visit, and hoped that some sort of scheme would be evolved. Mr. Chamberlain told us that in Britain Imperial federation was “in the air,” and that she was ready if the self-governing Dominions were. But, as he most sensibly said, “the subject seems to me to depend entirely upon the feeling

  ― 151 ―
which exists in the Colonies themselves. Here you will be met half-way. The question is whether, up to the present time, there is such a genuine popular demand for closer union as would justify us in considering practical proposals to give it shape.”

He suggested that “it might be feasible to create a great Council of the Empire to which the Colonies would send representative plenipotentiaries—not mere delegates who were unable to speak in their name, without further reference to their respective Governments, but persons who, by their position in the Colonies, by their representative character, and by their close touch with Colonial feeling, would be able, upon all subjects submitted to them, to give really effective and valuable advice.… It might slowly grow to that Federal Council to which we must always look forward as our ultimate ideal.”

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Gordon Sprigg, and I accepted an invitation to visit Paris and attend a banquet given by that most useful and influential centre, the British Chamber of Commerce. Sir Wilfrid made a beautiful speech—that is to say, I am sure he did—I do not speak French. When my turn came I had to explain that I had the accent, and I had the gestures, but alas! I had not the language. In the Australian Colonies, which I never expected to leave, very few can speak two languages, as the small number of foreign residents there invariably speak English. On the night of our arrival there was a premièere at the Comédie Française. I greatly desired to see it, but was told that there would certainly be no room. Still, I went, and made for the Box Office. The

  ― 152 ―
seller of tickets made a gesture which showed that the House was overflowing. I felt at a loss how to proceed, when an attendant came across the vestibule, took me to one of the best seats in that beautiful theatre, the only vacant seat—and refused to allow me to pay. I felt that one was well looked after in Paris! I could not understand a word of the play, but I fancy that my Puritan ancestors would be grateful for that. I am sure some sort of domestic tragedy was involved, and I fear that the heroine was much to blame.

Our visit was shortly after the incident of Fashoda, and the drivers in whose care I was placed, with strict instructions to return me to the Hotel Chatham, glared at me every chance they got. A face covered with notes of interrogation and a finger pointing to some national edifice elicited only a scowl. Fifteen years afterwards they seemed to understand me better!

I felt ever so much more at home when I visited my birthplace in Scotland as the guest of the town of Johnstone, in Renfrewshire. The enthusiasm which greeted me, the removal of the horses from the carriage and my triumphal progress in the streets afterwards, did indeed surprise me. It showed that on “suitable occasion” Scottish people can “let themselves go” just as freely as the denizens of brighter climes. In the evening, at the dinner given me, I made a heartfelt apology for leaving my native land two months after I was born. I explained that it was from no selfish motive. I wished, in casting myself at that age on the cold world, to make more room for my struggling fellow-countrymen. I expressed the

  ― 153 ―
belief, from what I had since seen, that the sooner one leaves his native land and the less he knows about it, the more ardent his love for it becomes. Besides, out in far Australia, when disparaging remarks about Scotland were made, as if it were a barren blot on the map, I was able to declare, with absolute truth, that during the whole of my stay in Scotland I found it to be “a land flowing with milk and honey!” This was one of the very few jokes on which I used to travel. I took great care not to repeat it in the same town.

The most trying hot day I had during my absence from Australia was not in the tropics, but in the place farthest north I reached—Edinburgh. I had another disappointment. The beauties of the Scottish capital had been so lavishly impressed on my willing imagination that I was far from satisfied with the reality, impressive as it was. I hope my Scottish readers will not on that account class me with a young Australian who visited England many years ago. He was taken by a friend round the sights of London, and seemed to be very irresponsive. At last they came to St. Paul's Cathedral, and the visitor was asked to admire its beautiful design and massive proportions. The young Australian admitted it was “not so bad,” but added, “I wish you could see Dan Cooper's store in Sydney!”

There is, of course, a great difference in all countries between the position of a Prime Minister when in office and his position when he is out of office. But I think the difference is greater in England than in any other country. Probably the density of

  ― 154 ―
Mr. Gladstone's retirement during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations was caused by his own wishes in the matter. I do not know. But when Lord Carrington (now the Marquess of Lincolnshire) invited the Colonial Premiers to a week-end at Gwydyr Castle, visiting Mr. Gladstone at Hawarden on the road, I felt that one of the greatest privileges of my life was offered me. No other conceivable engagement could have kept me away. With Lord and Lady Carrington, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Mr. Seddon, and I went. I wondered how anyone could stay away!

Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone were in the garden, with members of the family. Mr. Gladstone took us through his famous library, and we had tea under a magnificent tree on one of the lawns.

He was then 87 years old; but that grand old face and those piercing eyes were still suggestive of their former power. The conversations were mainly general, but occasionally personal. His knowledge of Imperial affairs was obvious. The only remark he made about his own career was this: “Sixty-one years ago I was Under-Secretary for the Colonies!”

I never will forget the thrill I felt when, in parting, he took me by the hand and said: “May the Lord cause His face to shine on you and yours!”

We in the Colonies are able to admire British statesmen free from Party likes or dislikes. Mr. Gladstone had no more ardent admirer of his broad sympathies and intellectual excellences than I was. Yet, after that dramatic ordering of the British warships through the Dardanelles in 1878, few could be

  ― 155 ―
more ardent admirers of Lord Beaconsfield than I was. Before that I never looked upon him as quite an Englishman. After that I could not think of any man who was a truer Englishman. Britain had sunk to a level of European contempt that was astoundingly low. In an instant, by that fearless move, she recovered her vanished prestige, and became again the centre of the world's politics.

Photograph facing p.154. A reminiscence of Hawarden, 1897. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Mr.W.Ewart Gladstone, Lady Carrington, Mr.Richard Seddon, Mrs.Gladstone, Sir George Reid, Lord Carrington, Sir Lewis Dawes.

There can be no doubt about this. Colonial isolation from any share in the exercise of executive power in things Imperial—a fact which makes the periodical gatherings of the representatives of the Cabinets of the Empire deliberations without decision—helps immensely to promote the harmony of such gatherings. Still there must be some evolution leading to closer and stronger relations. Defence seems the best subject on which to begin Imperial federation. This war is showing wonderful results of enthusiastic loyalty, but it is also showing us more clearly than ever the absurdity of treating defence as if it were a series of independent local conundrums.

From my arrival in London to my departure was a period of less than five weeks. That period included short visits to Wales, Scotland, and France. At this distance of time—nineteen years—I still feel bewildered by the multitude of business meetings, great spectacles, and overwhelming hospitalities which I, in common with my brother Premiers, survived.

Having left England when a child, and having spent between forty and fifty years at the other end of the world, the visit widened my views of everything

  ― 156 ―
to an extent which made me feel how singularly narrow my outlook had been. The broader views and clearer vision which thus came to me, whilst they taught invaluable lessons and strengthened my feelings of admiration for the British people, did not diminish—indeed, they enlarged—my sense of the golden opportunities and my belief in the future greatness of the lands oversea.

If we would only spend some of our leisure in observing the operations of our own minds, we should sometimes be interested in the results. That is my experience, at any rate. Very many years ago a young Australian actress, Miss Nellie Stewart, in one of her performances—I think it was as “Olivette” in The Two Admirals—introduced the song, “Nearest and Dearest,” which she sang delightfully. More than a quarter of a century later, as the train that was taking me from London to Liverpool, on my road home, was gliding out of the station, a London pressman called out to me, “Will you give me a farewell message to England?” I called out, “Nearer and Dearer!” Then Madame Emily Soldene, representing an Australian journal, called out, “Have you no message for Australia?” I cried out, “Nearest and Dearest!” When the first call came the song flashed into recollection; but, thinking of the land of my adoption, I altered it to the comparative, “Nearer and Dearer.” When the second call came the superlative was ready. If I had never heard that song about a quarter of a century before I do not think I could have responded so promptly and tersely in both cases. Just consider how many millions of

  ― 157 ―
mental impressions that one had to flash through on the spur of the moment!

Mr. (now Sir William) Lever had asked me to open a bridge at Port Sunlight, near Liverpool, in connection with that immensely interesting industrial concern of which he then was, and still is, the honoured head. I willingly consented, and fixed the day I was leaving for New York.

After naming the Victoria Bridge, we had a great gathering at luncheon, and they seemed to like the speech I made. A great deal had happened, both to Liverpool and myself, since I left it forty-five years before!

I embarked on the Majestic in the afternoon.

As I had to leave New York for Montreal on the day of arrival, and Toronto a few days afterwards, and was to embark at Vancouver a very few days after that, I had only time for a flying visit to the Niagara Falls. I had left Australia with such vague and exaggerated notions of the wonders ahead of me that reality in most cases had been disappointing. But Niagara was one of the rare sights which overwhelm even high flights of the human imagination. There, the accumulated energy of Nature dwarfed the lordship of man down to a point of insignificance. Perhaps the finest effect is that which I saw by the light of a full moon, a panorama of perpetual movement—cascades of palest green breaking into whirlpools of purest white. It seemed hardly an accident that those wondrous Falls should be on the border line of those two American federations to which so much of the world's future belongs.

  ― 158 ―

Sir William Van Horne, then head of the Canadian Pacific Railway, sent me over from White Bay to Vancouver in his car. At White Bay I had the good fortune to meet the Premier of South Australia, Mr. C. C. Kingston, and Mrs. Kingston, and Mr. and Mrs. (now Sir Charles and Lady) Mathews on the same train. This was a very pleasant chance, as I was able to offer them a share of my good fortune.

In Australia we have some long lines of railway, and some great elevations to pierce or surmount, but the Canadian Pacific is, I think, the grandest railway on the face of the globe. Running along Fraser River we saw the backs of myriads of salmon in close formation right against both banks. It was a sight of fishing opportunity never to be forgotten by a fisherman like myself, who had rarely realised expectations.

The western plains of Canada in those days (1897) were only beginning to have one big centre. Now they are vast wheatfields interlaced by important cities. No wonder that even prosperous farmers in the Great Republic so often emigrate to Canada and consent to change their flag and their President for our King!

Vancouver even then was an important place, but we had to go straight from the train to the R.M.S. Miowera.

We touched at Honolulu, Suva, and Auckland, reaching Sydney the day before that fixed for the opening of the second session of the Federal Convention.

  ― 159 ―

As we steamed up the harbour, then stopped to allow my wife and two little children and a host of good friends and loyal supporters to join me, I felt as if the happiest moments of my life had reached me.

I had a great reception from the citizens, who seemed to think that I had done well.