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Introduction.

AFTER a succession of events, including many failures, a convention has met in Sydney, composed of delegates formally appointed by the various Australian Parliaments, and entrusted with the task of framing a Federal Constitution under which the various colonies can come together to form a dominion—a nation within the British Empire, and under the Crown. The constitution so framed is to be submitted to the various Legislatures for their consideration. If the measure is so fortunate as to obtain their approval, then it will be remitted to Great Britain, where it will be placed upon the Imperial Statute-book, after which it will be duly brought into operation. The object of these papers is to call attention to the issues which have to be faced, to explain the problems, and to advocate a policy which will enable the colonies to come together for Australian purposes, while fully preserving their local liberties.

Federation has passed through three stages. The first was that of the early Grecian leagues, about which it may be said that a federal union was attempted because the Greeks were a highly civilized people, and that it failed because they were a primitive race without the social experience, the political expedients, and the material advantages—such as the printing press and the railways—of to-day. Then we have the mediæval stage, the memory of which alone is


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preserved by such titles as the Lombard League, the Rhenish Confederation, the Holy Roman Empire—by-phrases which the hasty student is apt to pass by with the curious wonder bestowed by the traveller on the flotsam of history. The people of Europe were as ill equipped as the ancient Greeks, and were more barbarous, and were therefore less fitted for federal conditions. Only one federation has emerged from the mediæval chaos of Europe, and that is Switzerland. Modern federalism is a discovery of the last century, and the claim is undeniable that it has been evolved by the free English-speaking race to whom apparently belongs the task of perfecting the political institutions of the world. It was in England that representative institutions were developed and maintained, and the representative idea made it possible for England's offspring across the Atlantic to create the true federal system. It has been claimed for the American federation that it was the first to provide itself with an independent and an adequate revenue; that it was the first to establish a federal judiciary with the supreme power of interpreting the federal bond; that it was the first to commit all internal and external commerce to the Union. These were great principles to affirm, but the founders of the Union introduced yet another principle which was of still greater moment. Former federation had been alliances of states, but to this essential alliance of states the framers of the American constitution were able to add a union of the people. One set of constitutions—particularly the House of Representatives and the President—spring directly from the people; and another set—particularly the Senate and partly the Judiciary—spring from


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the people also, but through the people in their organisation of states. The two elements of the people and of the states are not fused; neither is the one nor the other ignored; but the two are brought together for working purposes. This is the new and cardinal principle on which the future of federation turns, for it permits of the co-existence of the national spirit without which union is a failure, and of the local independence which has been dear to men throughout the ages. On the one hand the expression of the national will is complete, and on the other the Union is to a large extent preserved from the temptation which has proved fatal to many federations—that of the great states offending the susceptibilities or encroaching on the privileges of the weaker states. The weaker states in an alliance must not only have some measure of protection but also they must have some sphere in which they can regard themselves as equals rather than as poor relations, taken into counsel for form's sake but without practical influence. The striking merit of the American plan, as compared with the earlier federal schemes, is its recognition of this duality, and the more this principle is departed from the less probable is the chance of permanent success.

It is said that the advocates of Australian federation are too fond of looking to America, to Canada, to Switzerland, for their examples, rather than to Great Britain. But it must be remembered that Great Britain is not a federal community, and that if she ever became one; if Imperial Federation ever became a reality; many of her existing institutions would require to be modified. We look to federal countries merely for federal information. It must


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be remembered, also, that while Canada, Switzerland, and Germany have largely drawn upon America for ideas, the founders of the United States kept as close to the British constitution as was consistent with the idea of a federal republic. Washington and his colleagues had had a quarrel with the British Government, but they had a general admiration for British institutions as the best known to them. It follows that in these references to existing federations we by no means turn our backs upon the British model, for it is on the British model that these federations were framed. The broad rule we in Australia have to lay to heart is that which our federal predecessors had in mind, namely, not to depart from the familiar lines without just cause or of necessity.

The poet probably was right, as true poets often are, when he declared, “Humanity, with all its fears, with all the hopes of future years,” to be bound up with the success of federal unity. We cannot hope to unify the world. We cannot hope even to unify the British Empire. Australia, for instance, would assuredly decline any other permanent connection with the parent country and the sister dependencies than that of the modern federal type. She would not commit her local affairs, under any circumstances, to a mixed body sitting in some other part of the world; and even as regards common Imperial issues, she would expect that the several parties to the federal compact would have something like an equality of influence. Nor is it desirable that there should be large unifications. The tendency of vast unified countries, such as Russia and China, must be to become monotonous; there must be a terrible sameness


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of institutions, customs, and laws, and a hurtful sacrifice of individuality. It can scarcely be advisable that men should come to be as alike as Birmingham buttons, nor that states should have interchangeable parts like machine-made watches. If, therefore, large portions of the globe are to be brought politically together, so that they may be saved from wars without and feuds within, it must be by means of a true federal scheme which allows the parts to work for themselves and to think for themselves, and to advance themselves in culture and in wealth, while they recognise joint interests and mutual obligations. Competition is the essence of life, and co-operation is becoming more and more a necessity in human progress; and it may be claimed for federation that it reconciles these two principles in public affairs, and renders possible the “greater nation.”

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