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  ― 9 ―

Part I: The Feet of Clay

Chapter I: Ships That Pass in the Night

IN the evening of April 1, 1912, two white men were camping upon a sandy rise overlooking Junction Bay, Northern Territory, Australia. Theirs was a strange presence, at a strange time, in those strange surroundings. But it is just as well that accident or fate had thrown them there, for otherwise this fragment of contemporary history—as matter-of-fact and unemotional as all history must be—would have been bereft even of a picturesque beginning. The air was pleasantly cooling after sunset, under the influence of a light eastern breeze which wafted along the night sounds of many animals from the direction of the lagoon. Low in the western sky the crescent of the young moon hung just atop of the tall timber. Towards the sea everything was very quiet. The sands extended far out to where a broad belt of blue mud deadened the soft ripple of the receding tide.

On the high ground, bare but for scattered tufts of grass, the men were safe from creeping things and mosquitoes. The calm beauty of the night invited to a long vigil of smoking and talking. Naturally, the Northern Territory—its vastness


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its present state and future prospects—was the topic of conversation. Both men had been animated by the same hopes to try their fortunes there. Now that only a few pompous formalities remained to be gone through before the transfer of the enormous, empty province to the Commonwealth would be complete, a booming prosperity could not fail to come, and they had hastened to the spot to be in its van.

The elder of the two was clearly an Australian by birth—tall, darkish, of that looseness of limb which denotes the breed. His name was Thomas Burt. He was a prospector and miner, and acted, like many others, as a self-appointed pioneer for British Capital, which was expected to become interested once more in the great mineral wealth of the country. Lately he had explored the district south and east of Pine Creek, and returning to this place for a spell, he had there made the acquaintance of his companion, a Yorkshireman, who had imported a stock of merchandise from Sydney into Port Darwin.

The two adventurers, attended by Burt's black boy, had departed from Port Darwin in a northeasterly direction. The Australian scorned beaten tracks, and they had headed straight for the wilderness. Exploration in the season immediately after the rainfalls, which had ceased early this year, was indeed a rare pleasure. Fresh water was still met with in every hollow, and game abounded. Bush and jungle looked now their grandest and loveliest. Nearer the coast the landscape became more brilliant in colour and variety. The fascination of the interminable solitudes enveloped them until they made up their minds to push right on to the sea. They kept as much as possible to the watershed, where progress was comparatively easy,


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away from the impenetrable network of creeks and flood-channels, overgrown by rank vegetation. So it happened, that after a leisurely ride of nine days, they emerged upon Junction Bay.

When the faint gurgle of flowing-in waves marked the turn of the tide through the utter stillness, Thomas Burt rose to stretch his limbs, and sauntered sleepily along the crest. The night was so clear that stars visible just above the horizon showed like signal lamps of ships skimming over the dark expanse of ocean. But the Australian did not look for lights out at sea; well he knew that the course for steamers lay far out of the danger-zone of islands and reefs which guard our continent to the north, and that proas, junks or small traders which might venture closer inshore did not waste good oil in those parts. Yet something must have caught his attention, for he peered out a good while over the murmuring waters. Suddenly he gave a sharp whistle, and faced round to his mate dozing beside the dying embers of the fire. He soundly shook the sleeper, and shouted in his ear—

“Rouse yourself and look over this anthill. Take your glass.”

The Yorkshireman stumbled to his feet. Several miles out he espied a gleam which unquestionably came from a well-trimmed ship's lantern.

“It can't be a steamer,” Thomas Burt commented; “they don't show their noses round here for fear of smashing 'em in. As for other navigators hereabouts, they have not the reputation of burning bonfires on their boats.”

He dropped his field-glass lazily. His friend continued watching through his. “I see two lights now,” he said.

The Australian re-applied his glass. “It must


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be a steamer, then,” he remarked. “They may be drifting.”

They kept a silent watch for some time. From the shore rose the odour of organic things decomposing in stagnant brine. Again Thomas Burt spoke.

“It's two ships. They kept in line, but now they are steering different courses right into the bay.”

The Yorkshireman shivered slightly in the freshness of the small hours. “We might give them a fire signal,” he said.

“Steady!” replied the other. “There's no fog. They've passed the bar a long way. Ah!” He gave a little gasp of surprise, for he had discerned yet more lights. “It's a whole fleet; they are manœuvring. There is purpose behind this. Our help won't be wanted.”

“Well,” queried the Yorkshireman, “what does it mean, Mr. Know-all?”

The Australian hazarded a conclusion: “I'll tell you. The Singapore squadron is on a training cruise, though what they are doing here I can't guess.”

His friend laughed. “Perhaps a new idea to dispose of the scrap-iron ships your people make so much row about. Piling them a-top some reef.”

At this moment a solitary red rocket shot up from the nearest steamer, vanishing in a luminous haze. A merry twinkle of lights from the more distant ships answered the signal.

“You see it is a naval affair,” said Thomas Burt.

The other had a bright notion. “O, yes,” he said, “and I can also inform you that it isn't the Australian Navy, because it has not been built yet.”




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“Lie down flat,” whispered the Australian, dropping to the ground himself.

From the leading vessel, which was bearing inshore gradually, and had approached to within three miles, the beam of a strong searchlight had been flashed on the land, and was now sweeping the shore. After less than two minutes' play it was masked again.

Through sand and scant grass the two travellers shuffled on all fours until they gained the inner slope of the rise. The Yorkshireman placed a trembling hand on the Australian's shoulder. “All this is so unaccountable,” he breathed.

Thomas Burt lifted his head cautiously over the crest. The other lights were drawing closer. “Evidently they know what they are looking for,” he said, frowning. “It did not take them long to find out, anyhow, since they have not turned on that ray again. I wonder if they calculated to have unasked eye-witnesses at this performance.”

“But we'll have to think of ourselves, mate,” his friend broke in.

The Australian nodded. They covered the ashes of their fire carefully with sand. A call, like the wail of a night-bird, summoned the black servant, who had been soundly asleep near the horses. By order of his master he saddled the animals, and led them further inland behind some thick scrub. The friends examined their guns and pistols, and returned to their posts. It was about two o'clock in the morning, and the tide was near its highest point, almost lapping the base of their lookout.

Five steamers lay in a crescent, stretching east, parallel to the beach. From the forecastle of each, a motionless, blinding cone of light illumined shore and adjacent waters. Although the vessels


  ― 14 ―
might be two miles distant, an ever-increasing din could be heard quite distinctly. Suddenly a puffing noise approached, and soon strings of three or four boats, towed by squat motor launches, emerged into the glare.

The friends had to pinch each other to make sure that they were not dreaming.

About the unintelligible event, the tropical night wrapped her scent-laden cloak, pierced only by a soothing, lulling wind and by the gleam of stars shining in calm aloofness on the high-vaulted firmament. As calmly aloof shone those five bluish rays in front of them, pointing the way for some dark Power creeping upon the sleeping continent with the inevitableness of Fate. So far, noise and shadowy glimpses had a curious atmosphere of detachment about them, as if the scene were projected on curling, hissing vapours.

The spell was rudely broken the instant the searchlights beat on the boats, which promptly executed a smart manœuvre. Within a hundred yards from shore, the motor launch swung round sharply. But the boats had already thrown loose from her and from each other. On they came nearly abreast, still propelled by the impetus of tugging. As this relaxed, two pairs of oars shot out of each boat and pulled strenuously for the beach. Then, as it touched ground, men leaped overboard and dragged it upon dry sand. Each boat disgorged about a score of occupants, who at once, automatically, began to discharge cargo. First, rifles were brought out and built together in the pyramids characteristic of all trained soldiery. A multitude of cases and bags followed. In five minutes the craft were run into the sea again. Three men jumped in, the oars started working, a file was formed and lines were passed between. Some little distance out,


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the launch hovered, waiting; promptly she caught up, the boats hitched up, and back into the gloom the mysterious procession puffed.

The watchers strained their eyesight in vain to unravel the identity of these nocturnal immigrants. Not more than 300 yards divided them from the nearest group. But as the latter was approximately interposed between the source of light and the observers, it appeared in merely silhouette, in black outlines against the surrounding brightness. It was evident that strict discipline was being enforced. One man alone gave out commands and was hurriedly obeyed. Of his words, it could only be made out that they were not English. Soon the boats landed reinforcements, ever and ever more. All the men seemed very tired; they lay down in the sand to snatch some sleep. This carelessness proved that the new-comers were not in the least afraid of any hostile attack.

When the two friends recognized that they would have to await the break of day for closer investigation, they left their exposed position and returned to the horses, which they found fastened to trees. The boy was away, but he responded to the call with little delay. Pointing to the sea he said, “Them plurry Chinamen.” His senses were sharper, perhaps, and his cat-like agility might have got him very near to the singular visitors. The men looked at one another in silence. Possibly they did not dare to give utterance to their secret suspicions while there was yet hope.

At last dawn paled the east. Along the beach bugles resounded. Some figures appeared on the crest of the rise—still compact black dots against the colouring sky. One pointed to the ground, and shouted. Others ran to join him. The whites knew; the morning glow had revealed their footprints,


  ― 16 ―
the imprints of hoofs and other traces of their camp.

Now with the abruptness of tropical latitudes, day broke gloriously. The first slanting rays of the sun lit up many faces on the ridge peering anxiously in their direction. But the thicket hid them well. Both friends focussed their glasses on those multitudinous prying features far off and then exchanged their thoughts in a simultaneous exclamation:

“Japanese! The Japanese!” A bitter curse was added.

Next moment the horses greeted the morning brightness with joyous neighs. Little the brutes knew that they were saluting the Rising Sun. The animals' cries betrayed the presence of strangers. The Japanese rushed to arms, and volley after volley was poured into the forest. But the whites were safe on their swift horses and glided away in true bushman fashion, never exposing themselves. Only once they turned back and fired one round in reply. One pursuer collapsed, shot down. That was Australia's welcome to the invaders. Behind, ringing bugle signals died out echoing in the woods—a last menace and challenge. On the two explorers tore to the south-west, to carry the fateful news to the world of white men.




  ― 17 ―

Chapter II: An Unadvertised Immigration Policy

FOR several years preceding 1912 constant reports of famine in Japan had reached Europe. Travellers had vouchsafed for their accuracy, and much money had been collected abroad, especially among the sympathetic British. The Government of the Mikado did its best to prove its concern and goodwill by continuing an ostentatious policy of emigration to its new possessions, Korea and Southern Manchuria. But those countries carried already large populations, and could only absorb limited numbers. For this reason the Japanese statesmen were compelled to look towards other emptier lands, and they began by turning their attention to the opposite shores of the Northern Pacific. How their bold policy was assailed by the white settlers of the Western Canadian and United States slopes, and how in the end it had to be abandoned, the present generation remembers well. The Eastern Island Empire had to recant its claims for equal rights and recognition of its subjects with the white citizens of American communities. Its submission to the inevitable was rewarded by the successful placing of a loan of £20,000,000 in London, New York, Paris and Berlin.

Foiled in this direction, yet strengthened financially, Japan had leisure to contemplate its failure with a view of profiting by its lessons. Publicity


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had beaten it. Everywhere on the west coast of North America there lived already too many white men, and every move had therefore been detected and counteracted swiftly. Japan was indeed in serious straits. Cramped for space in spite of victory, surrounded by overcrowded or inaccessible nations, oversea expansion was its necessity. Still suffering from the stress of the Russian campaign, it could think of war only as a last extremity. And the habitable parts of the globe were divided up and strongly held between the White Powers. The problem was to discover a district nominally owned by one of them where the white man had not entered into full possession, and had thus not morally forestalled the right of other races to settle, as long as-they were content to do so, under the foreign flag; a district, in other words, where the first steps of peaceful Japanese immigration could not rouse the fierce indignation which they had caused elsewhere. Such a district existed, nearer and more convenient to Japan than any other possible field of exploitation—the Northern Territory of Australia, with its 600,000 square miles and less than 1000 white people.

Japan had long cast longing eyes in that direction. Since the end of the year 1906, a steady stream of its subjects had invaded Java and Straits Settlements. But Java is one of the most thickly populated islands in the world; its acquisition by the Mikado would have meant, apart from other probable complications, the repetition of another and more troublesome Korea. The Straits Settlements were one of the master-keys of British dominion, and were, therefore, well out of Japan's reach as conquests. But as stepping-stones towards the Commonwealth, the temporary penetration of both was invaluable. Thus the ambitious Island


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Empire cautiously felt its way towards its goal, until its rebuff elsewhere and the slowly-awakening consciousness of Australian public opinion made its rulers fearful of being anticipated by an influx of State-assisted white settlers into the north of the Commonwealth.

Those developments may have precipitated the crisis. But several other facts, which have lately leaked out, seem to prove that Japan had selected the year 1912 for its descent upon Australia for some considerable time past. It is necessary to turn to the Island of Formosa for confirmation. Its helpless population about this time was said to be in such violent ferment (even after more than ten years of Tokio administration!) that a strong army of occupation was necessary. Tokio intimated further that it was desirable under the circumstances to isolate the malcontents from the outside world and from outside encouragement, and it adhered to this policy rigidly, to such an extent that news of interest from the little island dependency hardly got into the European and American press at all in the years just preceding 1912. Formosa seemed to be entirely forgotten—exactly as was desired by Japan.

Yet during this period of silence a very special system of immigration into Formosa was carried on under the direct supervision of the Japanese Government. In some respects it was military settlement, so that the semi-official admission merely strained the truth. But it had several other remarkable features. The immigrants were not soldiers of the line; they were reserve men who had served a full term, and were now in the very prime of life and vigour. People of low stamina might pour into Korea, Manchuria and North China, but they were carefully excluded from


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Formosa. The plain of Gilan, on the east coast, had been chosen for the site of the settlement. It presents tropical conditions similar to those of the Northern Territory. A still more approximate climate could have been met with on the west coast, with its full-length expanse of alluvial plains twenty miles wide, bounded inland by low hills gradually leading up to the Formosan Alps. But it would not have been so suitable for the purpose, owing to the openness of its geographical situation, facing China, whence it had been colonized. Swarms of junks were always employed in commerce with the mainland, and pried into every corner in the search for profitable business. The populous ports were frequented by European steamers. So there could have been no secrecy for uncommon proceedings.

The contrast of seclusion on the east coast was great. The Chinese had never crossed the mountains. What population there was consisted of half-tamed aborigines, living in stone huts and tormented by incursions of the fierce, nomadic hunter tribes of the hills. Jungle and thick forests encroached on the plain, which is shut off by high ranges descending vertically thousands of feet into the sea. It rises towards the interior in well-formed tablelands like the Northern Territory, though, of course, on a miniature scale. Here the parallel ends, for the towering Alps of the Formosan background, which send their rushing torrents down throughout the years, have no counterpart in tropical Australia. Yet, on the whole, the climatic conditions are similar. Equal methods of cultivation are rewarded by equally generous results in suitable parts of both countries. In summer the heat is very humid and enervating in Gilan, and people who have lived and worked there would feel the drier heat of the Northern Territory as relief. Considering


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everything, there can be no doubt that a better acclimatizing stage could not have been fixed upon on the road from temperate Japan to the torrid north of Australia.

At the end of the first quarter, 1911, several thousand Japanese had been concentrated in the plain of Gilan. They lived in large sheds at first, and were subject to severe discipline. No effort was spared to give them a thorough agricultural and pastoral training. According to one investigator, every twelfth man had passed a special Government course in those branches, and was now appointed headman of his fellows, for whose due efficiency he was made responsible. Every form of suitable cultivation was practised, but the greatest care was taken to raise a sufficiency of the necessaries of life, so that the new settlement might speedily become self-supporting. Rice, cane, sweet potatoes and various vegetables were grown on the plain, where goats, pigs, and poultry were also kept. The uplands were given over to wheat and other cereals, and to the pasturage of horses, cattle and sheep. Much attention was paid to the making of roads. In short, it seems that no detail was neglected which might in any way contribute to the success of the great enterpise of which the Gilan colony was only the preparation.

Many medical officers looked after the health of the settlement, and their exertions kept down fever and tropical diseases. Epidemic appears not to have occurred at all. A well-planned diet, combined with thoughtful management, which insisted on just the right measure of arduous open-air toil, and varied it with regular military exercises, promoted moral steadiness and healthfulness. Physical weaklings were eliminated by a judicious weeding-out process, and were repatriated without delay.


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On the other hand, reinforcements continued to swell the ranks. These newcomers, stimulated by the results already achieved, sought to surpass them in their own domain, and a healthy, absorbing competition between the camps sprang up. Nothing could have pleased better the supervisors of the experiment. It was certainly a difficult task to hold together such huge numbers of vigorous men long enough for effective training. Mere discipline could not ensure final efficiency. The settlers must also be willing to learn, and to that end they had to be kept in good spirits. Their tempers were, indeed, sorely tried by the incessant hard work until the introduction of a keen sense of rivalry provided a more personal interest and added a new zest to their labours.

Everything went well until the monsoonal deluges of autumn prevented field work to a large extent. Then, at last, the men began to get out of hand. Family instincts could no longer be repressed by toil, high promises, and the weeding-out of the less disciplined. Small bands deserted and roamed the hills searching for wives among the natives. As often as not they never returned. When the need for female partners made itself felt so pressingly, the authorities yielded to it. That they had delayed the matter so long, till nearly the end of 1911, was part of a deep-laid scheme. For the master-minds who had conceived the great enterprise were determined to bend even the natural passions of men to the service of the cause.

The invasion of the Northern Territory was timed to take place at the end of the rainy season (March, 1912), as later events have shown. That was obviously the correct moment, allowing the immigrants to begin cultivation of the soil forthwith and to gather the first harvest in the same year.


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But the official interest did not permit matters to rest here. It was desirable to bind the settlers to their prospective new homes by stronger ties than manual toil and its reward could forge. Only one possible way existed by which that goal could be attained: family settlement there. This was the consideration why the marriage of the colonists had been postponed. The idea was that the freshly united couples should spend a honeymoon of six or eight weeks in the plain of Gilan. Then the men were to be hurried off to their final destination, there to prepare proper shelter for their wives, who would follow a month or two later. During the last quarter of 1912 children would be born—natives of Australia—whom birthright, that most powerful moral or sentimental claim, would entitle to a share in the empty continent.

A simpler and more thorough method of colonization could not be imagined. It has become known to fame as the “Progressive Family System,” and admirers of Japan have called it its master-stroke of policy. The experience of many bitter failures, no doubt, led up to the evolution. For instance, the American venture suffered from being a mere migration of male coolies, with all the imperfections and vices attaching to that limitation. Evidently, a horde of bachelors, transplanted upon foreign soil, yet excluded from intermarriage because of race prejudice, could not really claim equal rights with the citizens thereof who represented families. Japanese genius had freed the Northern Territory settlement of this inherent weakness of tenure almost from the outset.

About the middle of January, every member of the huge immigration party, which, according to a conservative estimate, numbered now over 6,000 men, rejoiced in the possession of a wife. The


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young couples lived in wooden huts, constructed in advance by the men. The whole plan of accommodation and activity was as nearly as possible the prototype of the later Australian colony. The dwellings formed isolated villages of about 200 families each, some placed on the flats, others in creek valleys and on the high lands, and linked to a larger coastal settlement by roads and telegraph.

Suddenly the happy communities were alarmed by rumours of impending separation. It is likely that the men had been informed beforehand (some considerable time ago) that they would not remain permanently in Gilan. But that may have been forgotten. At all events, it seems that the reminder came as a rude shock. Still, the men were manageable. Anything can be done with the male Japanese once his patriotism is inflamed. But the women rose in fury. Perhaps they had not been warned when wooed by agency. Now, belated reasoning had no effect. All those subtle policy points, which awed the husbands even if they did not fully understand them, were lost upon the women. What they felt was that they were threatened with the loss of their husbands. The whole weight of female influence was brought to bear on the men. These grew restless. Contrary to regulations, the inhabitants of different villages gathered together to exchange views, and soon the whole colony seethed with discontent. The officers or headmen did their best to reduce their subordinates to order. In vain; the women's influence proved stronger. The men began to obstruct the preparations for departure; punishment of the worst offenders led to open defiance. One morning, a medical officer, going his usual rounds in a village, was set upon by a female mob and beaten to death with stones and household implements. The headman, rushing to


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his assistance, was wounded and hunted into the bush. After that, the officers telegraphed to Kelung and to Japan for military help.

The Government was greatly surprised. Human feelings threatened to overthrow its careful calculations, because they had not been taken sufficiently into account. That dangerous Japanese tendency, often commented upon, of regarding men as machines, may be right enough where males are concerned. In the Manchurian war it led to frontal attacks against entrenched positions, and yet was a success. But now that the principle was extended to women it broke down. Quick measures of repression were necessary. Already rumours of revolution had got abroad. Tokio side-tracked them by a cablegram, admitting the existence of trouble in Formosa, but attributing it to rural workers and miners who had imbibed crude notions of Western Socialism. This was also a satisfactory anticipatory explanation as regards the approaching comcentration of steamers in Formosan waters, which otherwise might have attracted attention. Everybody would now conclude that they were military transports carrying troops to the disturbed districts.

When the punitive force arrived the men had gone back to work. It was February, and the fields called for industrious hands. Preparations for departure were, however, quite neglected. This passivity did not prevent vigorous reprisals. The village which had given the signal for murder was burnt down, and scores of men and women died by the executioner's hand. Very soon the men, overawed by wholesome judicial massacre, were thoroughly subdued. The great enterprise was saved at the brink of ruin, and full attention could now be devoted to the proceeding embarkation.




  ― 26 ―

Here the marvellous organizing talent of the race had full play. A superficial survey of the transports, it is true, would hardly have suggested fancies of naval glory. They were tramp steamers of 2,000 to 3,000 tons, such as usually carry trade in Far Eastern seas, capable of a steady hourly speed of ten to twelve knots. Everything had been avoided which might have betrayed the real purpose. The exterior of each vessel was weather-beaten and grimy, but inside the greatest order prevailed. Each vessel could house 600 to 800 men in rough comfort. The bulwarks had been raised about a foot above the ordinary, which precaution gave the steamers the appearance of lying high in the water, and would deceive even critical observers, for none could suspect that the buoyancy was not real, and that every inch of space had been scientifically put to the best use. Each craft was fitted with wireless telegraph instruments and a searchlight. All were coaled sufficient to last for the whole distance, but 3,000 tons of best Japanese steam coal were shipped for emergencies by a steamer carrying the latest appliances for coaling at sea. Two swift destroyers acted as guardships and scouts. They had been cunningly disfigured to look like small tramps without losing too much of their speed. There were also cargo carriers and cattle boats, which sailed somewhat later.

The passage of a fleet through the Dutch Indies would have attracted notice. For this reason the transports and subsidiaries were despatched by three different routes, part passing between the Philippines and Carolines, thence through Dampier Straits, and skirting Ceram; part through the South China Sea and Sulu Sea, rounding the east coast of Borneo, and beating east through Flores Sea; and part sailing down West Borneo, entering


  ― 27 ―
Java Sea, and finding an outlet south through Lombok Straits. The collier and one destroyer went further west for scouting purposes, intent on passing through Sunda Straits into the Indian Ocean. As the whole plan had been carefully concerted no accidents occurred, but a Dutch cruiser sighted the destroyer while coaling at sea off Batavia. It happened at daybreak, and the Japanese vessels allowed themselves to be surprised. Though they separated at once, suspicions had been roused already. The destroyer steadily crept north, never revealing its true speed. Such a clumsy-looking, slow-going craft was, however, beneath Dutch notice, which turned to the more imposing collier. The latter boldly showed the flag of the Rising Sun, and steered straight for Batavia Roads, where she replenished her store of water. Her papers were perfectly in order: “ss. Honjo Maru, bound for Perth, West Australia, with a trial cargo of Japanese coal.” Dutch misgivings, if they existed, vanished before such information. Japanese enterprise was the talk of the day; their coal, perhaps, had not been heard of in connexion with Westralia so far, but everybody knew of the huge goldmines there, which might well look out for cheap fuel.

The collier left next morning and steamed up Sunda Straits, through which dangerous passage the destroyer had slipped during the night. Together they swept the Indian Ocean and Timor Sea to the east. Several proas supposed to have been in those waters never made port. All the routes converged in Arafura Sea, somewhere between Timor Laut and the Aroo Group. From this meeting-place the fleet made its accurately-timed descent, under the shadow of night, on Junction Bay. The strength of the first landing party can only be


  ― 28 ―
guessed at. Probably it consisted of about 3,000 men. It is certain that it was rapidly added to, and when the first collision between the races took place the number had at least doubled.




  ― 29 ―

Chapter III: Dancing on a Volcano

THOMAS BURT and his friend reached Pine Creek on April 6; exhausted and dishevelled. Their news created such an impression locally that a railway engine was placed at their disposal to take them on to Palmerston without delay, and they arrived there about noon the following day. The resident was away, over the Easter holidays, on a shooting excursion. His understudy, full of the importance of his temporary responsibility, granted them a patient hearing. When the bald statement of invasion burst upon his comprehension, he paled visibly. But the more the story was unfolded to his mental gaze, the calmer he grew. It was so palpably impossible. By the time it came to an end he had ceased to weigh its purport. Instead, he was quietly bethinking himself who among his kind friends could have invented and enacted this hoax. Therefore, to the surprise of his interviewers, the Acting-Resident preserved stoic calmness. He satisfied his official conscience by taking a preliminary record. As it was long after tea-time when he had done, he dismissed the friends for the night with thanks and a promise that the matter would be thoroughly investigated.

This diplomatic postponement gave the Acting-Resident leisure to collect his wits. The result of his reflections was that he called, on the morning


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of Easter Tuesday, a council of his leading brother officials. Bitterly he rued the action. What was a bold and improbable story when told first hand by men who seemed to believe in it, appeared a preposterous joke when recited in a doubting, colourless voice from depositions. It was a merry conference. The listeners tried to surpass each other in sarcastic comments. Was it likely that two men on a holiday trip should penetrate several hundred miles of country only partly charted? Was not game plentiful nearer home? It was, and so was also the opportunity of buying liquid poison from Chinamen or low whites, or, at any rate, opium, which would account for all sorts of raving hallucinations. What about the persons who brought the news? Nothing unfavourable was known of the Yorkshireman. But Thomas Burt had on previous visits incurred the displeasure of the ruling set by his Australian outspokenness and very personal criticism of existing conditions.

The meeting broke up when the two friends were announced. They met with a chilly reception. Nothing dounted, they began the arduous task over again of convincing a prejudiced bureaucrat against his will. Such was their earnestness that he began to waver and their patriotic hopes to rise proportionally, when an unforeseen development finally sealed the official ear against them.

That morning, April 9, an auxiliary schooner entered Port Darwin. Its owner, and captain of its Malay crew, was a Chinaman named Ah Ting, a well-known identity on the north coast, along which he had been trading for years. People regarded him as one of the few decent Mongolians in the Territory. On several occasions he had been of some service to the authorities, with whom he was consequently on good terms. Yet he was never


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obtrusive, but went quietly about his own business. However, it so happened that the police inspector had gone down to the water-front after the conference, and, quite casually, he encountered Ah Ting. He came from the East. How fortunate! Did he see any steamers? No. Here the dignitary felt justified to mention the strange rumours. Ah Ting laughed outright. Junction Bay, he explained, was his last stopping-place four days ago. He searched the trepang grounds of that neighbourhood. His eyesight, alas, must be considerably worse than that of his white friends, for he saw nothing. Of course they would send the fleet up. The Inspector hurried away to parade his special information before the Acting-Resident, with the effect that Burt and his friend were hustled off the premises, and were told to be glad that nothing worse happened to them.

The two friends took the only course left open to them. They appealed to the man in the street by spreading the alarming reports broadcast. Out of courtesy they had studiously refrained from doing so before, considering that the Resident should have the privilege of publication. This tactfulness placed them at a further disadvantage. For the members of the conference had meanwhile forestalled them by giving the story from their humorous point of view. And when the explorers came to supply the genuine version, the mythical rendering had already been mentally enjoyed and digested. The pre-requisite of sensation is shocked astonishment. This they had failed to rouse. Instead, they confronted critical appreciation. This joke—to hold up the Government, to bring about a solemn conclave of the chief bosses—was voted excellent. Some of the audience applauded them for having invented a new variation of an old bogey. Till then, the prophets had always pictured a Japanese


  ― 32 ―
Armada sweeping down from the north and dictating terms of equality while big guns were trained on the Australian capitals. It was something to hear a different account for once. Others, of a grumbling disposition, objected to being made the victims of an April joke. Even granted that it might have been conceived on the first of the month, still that was no excuse for ramming it down their throats after a week's delay. In short, the laugh had been against the warners, and from that moment all their efforts to awake Port Darwin to a sense of the real danger were doomed to disappointment.

Two days later the Resident returned. He was a a level-headed man, and if he could have heard the report first-hand and could have been a witness of the earnest sincerity in which it was delivered, things might have gone different. Unfortunately, he heard it from the understudy, together with Ah Ting's denial, and this combination convinced him so thoroughly of the preposterousness of the assertion that an interview with the two discoverers could not change his mind.

Burt and his friend were now officially hall-marked as “jokers of promise, but whose present attempt had failed rather badly.” As they persisted in voicing warnings, the languid Palmerstonians voted them bores, and forgot about them. So they were pretty much left alone. They diverted themselves by keeping a close watch on Ah Ting. But that, too, came to naught. There were no conspirators sneaking about the back door of that worthy at night. Just as he piled his goods, Chinese tit-bits and knick-knacks, into the front window of his neat cottage in the main street to announce his business, even so he seemed to wear his unblemished character in a glass case open for inspection, with his mingled air of childlike blandness and dignified


  ― 33 ―
patriarchalism. Nothing was known of his antecedents; that was in no way remarkable, for the same can be said of all his countrymen up north. But he had resided, on and off, for several years in the place, and was respected even by the many-hued scum. The friends quickly got tired of contemplating so much virtue, while painfully conscious that their own reputations were under a cloud.

They determined to take the first steamer to the south-east. None was due for some time. So they had plenty of leisure to study the peculiar conditions of which they had become the victims. The fact was that tropical Australia was suffering from a surfeit of warnings against the Asiatic menace. Its white inhabitants had one dominant desire: to hear no more about it. The position had been looked at from all possible points of view, and had been pronounced hopeless from every one. Yet nothing happened. There stretched the vast wastes of fertile lands, uncontrolled, open from year's end to year's end, at the very threshold of the over-crowded North. Nevertheless, only stray individuals crossed over, mostly to repent of it afterwards. Mongols and Malays who had entered quickly declined to the lowest levels of degeneration. And wherever they came into contact with the aborigines, it meant rapid, complete ruin to the latter. The vilest corruption spread to them. The death-rate of all the coloured races was terrible.

Sometimes an enthusiast would arrive from civilized Australia, and would talk for awhile. But nobody ever did anything. Soon the microbe of drift permeated his blood, and he would become as languid as the others. The white population of Port Darwin consisted of a set of officials and of those who catered for their wants. A few shipping


  ― 34 ―
agents and South Sea produce dealers constituted the independent citizen class. All considered themselves exiles. The years rolled by, and the procession of new faces went on, but the same stagnation prevailed for ever. Once it had been broken when the great effort was made, and a railway was pushed south as far as Pine Creek. As if in revenge, stagnation had settled on that very railway thicker than elsewhere, if that were possible. Under the law no coloured alien could own mining rights. As the Chinese who did not subsist on trade, vegetable cultivation or laundry work were miners, they had to rent claims for working from the white proprietors, who received anything above 10 per cent. of the gross yield for dummying. Such practices naturally lead to parasitism on the one hand, to presumptuousness on the other. Rusting mining machinery and a few cattle runs in the interior represented the highest attainment of the white race; cabbage gardens that of the yellow race.

It has been said that the Northern Territory was not a white man's land. With far greater accuracy it could have been called No Man's Land. For it is undeniable that the white inhabitants maintained their standard wonderfully well, compared to the physical and moral debasement of the immigrants of all other races. The truth is that it was, and is, the land of the worker; only to the loafer is the climate enervating. And the curse upon it was that no race ever set itself to subjugate the soil, to force from it the richest yield by honest toil. Up to April, 1912, the Northern Territory was really the Country of Hope-Deferred, awaiting its conqueror, and the race—white, yellow, brown, or black—which would first solve its problem by organizing laborious, intelligent cultivation, was destined to rule.




  ― 35 ―

Were the Japanese to be its masters? The two friends had gloomy forebodings. Quite unexpectedly, however, their hopes revived. There was a smart shipping agent in Port Darwin. As it happened, he personated the Opposition, which meant that he had fallen out with the official bosses. Also, he was occasional correspondent for a pushful Melbourne daily. He heard the story. Probably he did not set much store by it, but he chose, as a true Oppositionist, to differ from the authorities. It occurred to him that if they had not reported to headquarters about the affair, he might catch them napping. So, after a conversation with Thomas Burt, he condensed the news into a stirring summary, which he telegraphed to his paper. The editor on receipt was worried by grave doubts. The sensational character of the copy appealed to his journalistic instincts, but he was not sure whether its publication would not offend his readers. For he catered for a highly respectable merchant community, who might resent an attempt to scare them which bore the stamp of impossibility. In this dilemma he decided to bring the message under the notice of the Federal Government. Next day the Resident at Palmerston received an official inquiry by wire, and after the exchange of several more telegrams, he was instructed to carry out a search. The Federal Government had come to the conclusion that a cargo of Chinamen might have been dumped somewhere upon the coast in evasion of immigration restrictions, as had often been rumoured before.

Two days were spent at Port Darwin fitting the Government yacht for the cruise. A heavy rainstrom delayed her departure for another might, but at last she got away (April 15). All on board, from the police inspector (who was specially entrusted


  ― 36 ―
with the investigation) downwards, felt convinced that they were going on a fool's errand. The friends had offered to accompany the party. But the captain ironically insisted that they would not be safe if nothing should be discovered, as his crew were only human after all. So they were compelled to stay behind. On April 22 the yacht returned. The results of the mission were wholly negative. According to the official report, they had steamed along the coast beyond the longitude of Junction Bay, and had landed at convenient points. At Junction Bay a bush fire had raged recently; miles of forest had been destroyed, and the damage done extended far inland. Probably it had been extinguished only by the late rainstorm, which evidently was very severe in that neighbourhood, for fresh water was still found near the mouth of creeks. Neither ashore nor awash were any traces or signs met with betraying that any landing had occurred, or that a large number of men had been in those waters. No human being was seen, not even an aboriginal. They passed no vessels, and only once a solitary column of smoke showed on the horizon, far out towards the ordinary track of navigation.

The two friends were now completely discredited. They did not dare to throw doubt on the thoroughness of the search, for fear of antagonizing the local dignitaries still more. At any moment legal action might be taken against them to wring part of the considerable expenses out of them. Official scepticism had been justified so signally that even the Opposition did not care to associate any further with them. There was a general feeling of relief when the ss. Changsha steamed into port, and it became known that they had booked passage by her to the south. Her commander was, of course, duly regaled with the sarcastic version of the story.


  ― 37 ―
So he was quite prepared when his newly-acquired passengers boldly appealed to him to swerve off his proper course for the purpose of another investigation, and he blandly informed them that it was really carrying a joke too far to ask that he should risk his ship and his certificate on a dangerous coast. Thus the last hope vanished. Day and night the friends remained on deck anxiously scanning the waste of waters, until the longitude of Junction Bay had been left behind. Then they hid themselves from bantering fellow-travellers in their cabin, defeated, despairing men.

Their retirement did not last long. On the following afternoon the outlook sighted some wreckage floating by. Further on swarms of sea birds were noticed hovering over some undistinguishable, nearly submerged shapes. The steamer slowed down, a boat was lowered. Those submerged forms were found to be bodies of drowned men; of what nationality it was impossible to say, as their features had been largely eaten away. It was certain, however, that they were of either Mongolian or Malayan stock. The ss. Changsha was now approaching the wilderness of islands, intermingled with sandbanks and sunken reefs, endangering the western entrance of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Night fell, and she stood by awaiting the dawn. Evidently a ship had come to grief somewhere near, and it was seamen's duty to bring relief, if it were not yet too late. The morning revealed a wreck, driven on the rocks behind Cape Wessel. The captain decided to go over by boat to see for himself. Thomas Burt was permitted to accompany him. The wreck consisted of the fore-part of an iron steamer, firmly wedged in between the rocks. It presented a most singular appearance. The stern of the vessel had broken off, and the sea had swallowed it. But where it had


  ― 38 ―
parted from the bows the plates were twisted and rent strangely; fragments of hull and cargo lay scattered for a considerable distance along the line of reef; all the combustible material was charred or scorched, and the metal showed everywhere the peculiar discoloration which follows subjection to sudden enormous heat. No human being, alive or dead, was discovered. Probably the crew had escaped in the boats, which were all missing, and had taken the most valuable cargo away, while the remainder, for some reason, had been flung into the water. At any rate, there was no intact cargo left, though it was possible, by turning over loose heaps of wreckage, to gain a fair idea what it had been made up of. Quite a quantity of modern rifle ammunition was collected, and many broken parts of guns, some bayonets, tools, pieces of agricultural implements, shreds of blankets and of a clothing material similar to khaki, also tinned foods—in short, all the necessaries of life and defence for an isolated settlement in the Northern Territory, as Thomas Burt pointed out. Whoever the mysterious wrecked mariners had been, and whatever might have been their intentions, it was plain that they had tried to obliterate all traces of their misfortune. There could be no doubt about it—the vessel had been blasted asunder deliberately by means of explosives. The work of destruction had not been finished; why, nobody was able to tell for certain. Was it because the supply of explosives had become exhausted?

There were two heroes aboard the Changsha as she sped across the gulf to make up for lost time. She arrived at Thursday Island on May 1. Next morning Australia awoke to profound sensation. The Press sported scareheads. At last, after the delay of a precious, irretrievable month, the warning was heeded.




  ― 39 ―

Chapter IV: Japan Explains

THE Japanese colony in the Northern Territory had been successfully founded. Of its first period of existence and growth no official information has yet become available. It seems that during the few days that followed the landing of the men, stores and stock were discharged in large quantities, and that the fleet then withdrew discreetly, leaving the new settlers to themselves. Since white men had witnessed the invasion, contrary to calculation, and therefore inquiries might soon be instituted, that step was natural. Most likely, as a further precaution against too early detection, the new colonists left the coast altogether and proceeded some miles into the interior, burning the bush behind, so that every vestige of its presence should be wiped out. That, at least, is the only explanation for the negative results of the search from Port Darwin.

Meanwhile Tokio, silent and alert, awaited developments. The triumph of its policy depended on delay. Its subjects were all the time establishing a moral claim and demonstrating their peaceful intentions by patiently cultivating the wilderness. Given two or three months of quiet possession, such marvellous progress would be achieved as would touch the great heart of the British people, provided that it was skilfully and gradually prepared


  ― 40 ―
for the revelation. The Japanese statesmen had studied their problem well. Australia was merely a pawn in the game, not a player. Everything turned on the reception which the bold move would have in the United Kingdom. If it was there accepted as a challenge, then indeed a crisis would be precipitated. This was exactly the danger which had to be guarded against; a sudden explosion of British national pride, which would vent itself in the peremptory cry, “Hands off.” After that, submission or armed resistance would have been the only alternatives. Perhaps it would not be safe to assert that Japan would not have gone to war under any circumstances; that pushful Power owed its phenomenal rise mainly to its courage in facing the worst and to its infinite capacity in preparing for it. But Japan did not seriously contemplate war. Its rulers relied on their ability to convince the English masses of the harmlessness of the immigration, and to persuade them that the new citizens of their Empire were not standard bearers of militant conquest, but of patient civilization. None knew better that British sentimentality and the White Australian ideal had nothing in common.

Fortune favours the bold. The white witnesses of the landing failed in their warnings. April passed without alarm, and it was only in May that the cablegrams as to the discovery of the mysterious wreck by ss. Changsha, sent the first quivers of vague fear through the Commonwealth. There was really nothing definite about it, as not even the nationality of the wreck was known. Nevertheless, the Federal Government decided to place the facts before the Imperial authorities, together with a report of the Port Darwin rumours. This evoked nothing beyond a formal acknowledgment,


  ― 41 ―
and then, it seems, the matter was in the best way of being forgotten.

Several days later, however, the Japanese Ambassador became communicative. Probably Tokio considered that secrecy could not be maintained much longer, and that a voluntary statement, as an act of courtesy to an ally, would serve its ends best. Accordingly, the Japanese Ambassador informed the British Cabinet that the Japanese Consuls in Australia had drawn the attention of his Government to some rumours current there. His Government had pursued inquiries, and it had been ascertained that, in fact, a number of Japanese had entered the Northern Territory. His superiors regretted the occurrence and must decline responsibility, as they had been kept in absolute ignorance. It appeared that a committee of private philanthropists had been formed for the purpose of relieving the chronic famine by removing sufferers from the congested districts, and in its eagerness it had shipped some to the wastes of the Australian North, where it was understood they would prejudice no previous title, as the Territory carried no settled population. His Government apologized that it had failed to control private efforts properly so that no overflow into the possessions of its ally could have happened. No trouble would be spared to get at the exact facts, which would occupy some time. Great Britain would be kept fully informed, and early consideration would be extended to the question of how best to make amends.

The right cord had been struck. A powerful appeal had been made to the sentiment of the average Englishman, while simultaneously his patriotic conceits were flattered. Famished people, frantic but generous measures to help them, and a strong Government expressing sorrow for any


  ― 42 ―
breach of proprieties which might have been committed—to turn the scales against such facts would require a strong case indeed. Of course, the explanations and assurances proffered could be read in many ways. But British Ministers chose to take the most cheerful view; their despatches to the Commonwealth reflected it, and consequently had a soothing influence, implying, as they undoubtedly did, that not the slightest misgivings existed regarding a speedy, satisfactory settlement.

Some critics in the Empire were not so easily quieted, and the central authorities might have come in for scathing condemnation if a more convenient scapegoat had not offered in the person of the British Ambassador at Tokio. It was indeed unpardonable that he had not had the slightest inkling of events happening under his very nose, according to the Japanese version. Yet something can be said in excuse. In Tokio the high game of world-politics was, and is, played at such a pace that it strained every nerve of the accredited diplomats. The significance of incidents of local import escaped them in this whirlpool of excitement. Perhaps the one who least troubled about them was the Imperial representative, resting secure on the loyalty of an ally. Nobody was more surprised than the dignitary himself when he received rather curt orders to investigate the matter on his part. But he was able to elucidate very little beyond what had been voluntarily disclosed. The committee of philanthropists existed, though he was sceptical about the accuracy of the date of its constitution; and its members acknowledged their full and sole responsibility for chartering and employing several steamers for the transport of starving emigrants to the Northern Territory. They also expressed hopes that they might be permitted


  ― 43 ―
to ship Japanese women to join the settlers, so that “the stain of immorality might be kept from Australia.”

This last intimation alarmed the Imperial Government. It looked like an inspired indiscretion, revealing that some definite plan had been formed; for had the Japanese ever been indiscreet except for a purpose? Henceforth the incident was regarded as serious. When the Ambassador of the Mikado notified his readiness to supply more details (May 13), he was subjected to searching examination. What London wanted to know was why, under any circumstances, the Northern Territory should have been selected as a dumping ground, while the large dependencies acquired in the last campaign were only half filled, and should, therefore, offer scope to private enterprise quite apart from official policy. Was there not enough room for both?

But the Ambassador pleaded impossibility. Those provinces, he said, were reserved to State control. The Japanizing process was being pushed on there with utmost energy, if only for strategic and economic reasons. It could not be accelerated further. What must not be forgotten was that famine conditions prevailed to a large extent on the continent, not only in China, as was well known, but also in Manchuria, and even in Korea. So the syndicate of philanthropists had endeavoured to open new avenues of relief.

This explanation was plain enough; yet it was merely the prelude to straighter talk. Apparently the Japanese Government recognized that delay and vagueness had been worked for all they were worth. Bold bluff now took their place. The ally was overwhelmed with a veritable deluge of frankness.

A point, the Ambassador said, which his Government


  ― 44 ―
desired to make clear was its non-interference with private citizens in the organization and execution of such a great enterprise. The fact was that, in his country, everything in which the Government of the day participated became a party issue. Political rivalries were so bitter that it might be truthfully said that even the famine was blamed on to the party in power. As no responsible Minister wished to prejudice private charity in the eyes of public opponents, they were compelled to take no notice whatever of these humanitarian efforts either one way or another.

The Ambassador was now in a position to state that some thousand Japanese had been landed in the Northern Territory about half way between Port Darwin and the Gulf of Carpentaria. They were all able-bodied men; sick or old people had been rigorously excluded. As yet no women had been sent; the health, intelligence, and general usefulness of the emigrants were such as would make them desirable workers anywhere. Why had they been disembarked many hundred miles from places where employment was probable, if they were such willing labourers? Why was a secrecy maintained which justified suspicions that the real object of the enterprise was seizure of the land? His Government admitted that the committee of philanthropists must have lost their heads to act as they did. It considered that they went practically mad, face to face with huge numbers of starving compatriots, who were doomed to hunger for want of an outlet, while yet uninhabited stretches of fertile country were only a few days' sail away. Should they obey restrictive laws which condemned them to inhumanity against kith and kin? Or should they help their people if it could be done without violating openly those harsh laws? As for the seizure


  ― 45 ―
of land, that was hardly the correct expression, because there was nobody from whom it could be taken. If consular reports were not mistaken, it was free to the landless, even in the settled parts of Australia, to raise and to harvest a crop on unused Crown lands. That was exactly what the famishing refugees did. They were raising crops on unused Crown lands, and did not claim the proprietorship of an acre. What they claimed was the right to keep alive in a district where they competed against no one and infringed on no vested interests. Surely no objections should stand against the dictates of common humanity.

The British Foreign Secretary replied that no doubt humanitarian draperies were convenient garments at times. Nothing could do away with the fact that here they had a large organized force virtually taking possession of country which had been under the British flag well nigh a century. It appeared that peaceable white men had been pursued and fired at. There was not much meekness in that; much more did it look like a criminal attempt to exclude all others.

But the Ambassador protested blandly that his Government knew nothing of blunders which the Japanese exiles might have committed. No means of communication with them existed. Whatever might be their sins, or crimes, there was no thought of sheltering the culprits. Let them be brought to law and be adequately punished. However, matters might not be so bad. Some excuse might be found for slight excesses. The refugees were in strange surroundings, and therefore liable to sudden panic. Perhaps, under the influence of some unaccountable excitement, they used their rifles unadvisedly. That phase would soon pass.

Then the immigrants were all armed? Why,


  ― 46 ―
naturally. Official immigrants, as well as committees organizing private emigration, were supplied with discarded service rifles. In Korea and Manchuria that was absolutely necessary for the safety of the settlers. And the Northern Territory contained much game which, it was hoped, would help to carry the colonists over the worst until the first crops would be harvested.

He became stern then. “There are also,” he continued, “lawless characters in every country, particularly in borderlands of civilization. To be perfectly frank, it is not the intention of my Government to allow its long-suffering subjects to become the victims of such. It would have been more in keeping with the traditions of my race to let them perish at home, if they are to perish. But we are no longer fatalists.”

Perhaps the Ambassador overstepped his mark in conveying a hint of such directness. But he wound up his explanations in the approved style of guarded diplomacy. His Government, he stated, declined to discuss British supremacy over the Northern Territory, because it must regard the mere raising of that issue as an insult to Great Britain. On the contrary, Japan, true to its alliance, was ready to employ all its naval and military forces against any nation which should dare to challenge that supremacy, Moreover, in proof of its own loyalty, it was willing to waive all claims to the future allegiance of its emigrants to Australia. No refugee had a brighter hope, or a desire more sincere than to be allowed to live and die a faithful subject under the British flag, which to his race was the emblem of justice. Just as in the Straits Settlements the Chinese were made welcome and soon yielded to none in fealty, so nothing better was asked by his compatriots. It was quite true that


  ― 47 ―
his Government pleaded that mercy be extended to starving exiles, but it had no sinister motives. In fact, as soon as the Imperial authorities had made known their will and taken the immigrants under their protection, the Mikado would be glad to issue a solemn proclamation, releasing all Japanese settlers in the Northern Territory from their dutiful obedience, and commanding them to be loyal subjects of the King.

That was the parting shot aimed straight at the White Heart of Australia.




  ― 48 ―

Chapter V: Australia's Reply

THE flutter of excitement into which the Commonwealth had been thrown by the cablegrams from Thursday Island relating to the Changsha discovery, died quickly away for want of nourishment. Thomas Burt and his friend were on the water again, bound for Brisbane. Taught by bitter experience, they had resolved not to fritter away their knowledge, but to keep their lips tightly shut until they were face to face with the Prime Minister of Australia, when they would make their great patriotic effort to gain the confidence of that statesman. Accordingly, they refused, on arrival in Brisbane, to supply information to the Press, leaving this to their fellow-passengers, who, knowing of the alleged immigration only by hearsay, preferred to confine their remarks to the wreck. The two friends continued their journey without delay by train to Sydney and Melbourne.

In this way a few more precious days were lost to the Australian people, who, in the absence of all confirmation, began to look upon the matter as a paper scare. Suspicion had always been ripe that Chinese sometimes entered the North without permission. If Japanese coolies should now have followed their example, it was plain that the thing could not go on much longer in this fashion, and that means would have to be devised to close the back-door


  ― 49 ―
effectually. It was the duty of Government to see to that and there was really no occasion for alarm. Such was the somnolent habit of thought of the average citizen of the Commonwealth right through the first third of the month of May, 1912, until he was broken of it by an avalanche of disquieting developments.

On May 10 the cablegrams of the morning press announced the official Japanese admission that immigration had really occurred. It caused general consternation. Nobody understood the purpose of this astounding move. While the majority maintained that the admission was a guarantee that the allied nation would assist in the withdrawal of the undesirable aliens, an influential Melbourne daily took the opposite view that nothing worse could have happened. After Japan, it argued, had formally interfered, it was sure to side with its subjects. This conflict of opinion was just arresting general attention when the two friends arrived in Melbourne and sprang their account, which left no doubt that an armed invasion had taken place, upon the already anxious continent. At last they had a full triumph of revenge. After having been slighted for so long by minor officials they were listened to by the Prime Minister of Australia. And the transparent sincerity of their forceful, concise report gained them his credence to such an extent that a summary was at once made available to the Press on behalf of the Government, thus acquiring the character of an official communication. It created an enormous impression. Within twenty-four hours there rose the cry, from the shores of the Pacific to Cape Leeuwin, that the Japanese must go, and that the insult to the Commonwealth must be atoned for. Backed up by such unanimous indignation, the Federal Government hastened to


  ― 50 ―
lodge a passionate complaint in London and to claim boldly the immediate employment of all the resources of the Empire in support of its cause.

The appeal reached Downing Street on the morning of May 13, the date on which the Ambassador of the Mikado chose to throw light on the situation from his point of view. It was a combination calculated to try sorely the patience of the Imperial statesmen. That an intrigue had been laid with consummate skill to shatter the anti-colour policy of the great southern dependency was plain enough. But the question before the responsible rulers of Great Britain was how far they should commit themselves in defence of principles of racial exclusiveness which were not shared by the masses in the United Kingdom. Rashness either way could only lead to disaster. For immense issues were at stake: on the one hand, the estrangement of a proud nation whose alliance was invaluable in Asia; on the other, fierce colonial resentment. British interests, paramount to all other considerations, demanded dilatory treatment of this awkward complication. Accordingly, the reply to Melbourne and the dispatches detailing the latest Japanese explanations were couched in reassuring terms implying full sympathy with Australian ideals though carefully avoiding any definite promise.

These early dispatches are remarkable for one striking omission, which illustrates better than many words could do the infinite capacity of the English Government for “riding a rail” during a grave colonial crisis. While the Ambassador's statement of facts is repeated fully and fairly enough, no mention is made of the Mikado's proposal regarding the transfer of allegiance. It has been attempted to justify the suppression on the


  ― 51 ―
ground that the offer was nebulous and that it was merely launched as a ballon d'essai. But the true reason why this suggestion was held back was certainly the fear that its introduction would have provoked the Commonwealth beyond endurance and, as far as the latter was concerned, would have put a stop to the further employment of diplomatic means there and then.

Meanwhile, the Press was used to pour oil on the troubled waters and, incidentally, to test popular feeling in Great Britain. That was decidedly in favour of Japan. No daily paper of standing in the United Kingdom had ever been critical regarding the ethics of the alliance. On the contrary, all had applauded it from the outset and a sudden somersault of any solid public organ into violent denunciation of the ally was therefore out of the question. Some fiercely Imperial sheets ventured on a gentle chiding, but on the whole the printed comments ran on calm, superior, impartial lines and it became quickly apparent that this moderation corresponded entirely with the present temper of the nation. The syndicated cable service of the great Australian dailies was conducted exclusively from London and, in consequence, reflected faithfully the sentiments prevailing there. So it was even in this case. After the first fulminations, there was a marked relaxation, and leading articles appealed to the people of the Commonwealth to curb their passions and to leave their grievances in the hands of the British Government who could be trusted to see justice done. In due course, cabled extracts of these well-intentioned exhortations found their way into the English Press which paraded them as a proof that Australia, with the exception of a few irresponsibles, was quite satisfied to accept whatever settlement the


  ― 52 ―
Imperial authorities should consider proper. And thus arose a misconception than which none could have been more dangerous or more fatal to Commonwealth aspirations at a time when the British mind was yet impressionable before it had settled in a definite groove.

All soporific efforts collapsed before the march of events. On May 16 astonishing news reached Melbourne by wire from Port Darwin. A Japanese deputation had arrived at the latter place consisting of three members who made a dignified entry under the folds of a Union Jack. Its mission was to pay homage to the Resident in his capacity as chief officer of the Territory. Though the reception was chilly the members did not seem to notice it. Two of them professed entire ignorance of the English language. That was another master stroke of Oriental cunning, for it left them free to spy about and to assist in every way the third colleague, the spokesman, without exposing them to the slightest risk of contradicting his statements. The spokesman, on his part, made haste to intimate that he exercised no particular authority over his comrades, and that he had not been selected for the leadership of the party by reason of his exalted station in the Japanese community, but simply because he was one of the very few who understood English. Having thus plainly defined his personal insignificance, he was by no means averse to answer questions, and his replies fitted in so closely with the official explanations of the Ambassador that no discerning observer can doubt that both emanated from the same source. Above all, he protested against the description of his compatriots as prohibited immigrants. They knew nothing about that. Kind, wealthy men of their own race, pitying their sufferings from famine, had


  ― 53 ―
helped them to leave the stricken provinces. But now they had voluntarily adopted the nationality of the country which enabled them to live and were willing to defend it against all comers. To give expression to this feeling of loyalty they had travelled so far to make dutiul submission to their new rulers. Everything in connexion with their settlement, he said, was open to official inspection. He could not state the total number of refugees, as they had landed at different points and were widely dispersed. However, he thought they exceeded two thousand. He hoped that business relations would soon be established between them and Port Darwin.

Their solemn exhibition of humble loyalty was not to be its own reward. The deputation pursued more practical aims. Towards the end of the interview, the spokesman informed the Resident that he had been charged by his compatriots to solicit a special favour. It was hoped that the Government might soon see its way to open schools, in which his people could be taught the language and the customs of their adopted country, so that they might quickly become desirable citizens. All expense so incurred would be paid for in produce after the first harvest was gathered.

The Resident assigned an empty cottage for the use of his visitors-in-state and demanded instructions by wire. Late the same evening (May 16) the Federal Executive in Melbourne met in council. A great opportunity was before it, for by a rare chance the invaders had delivered themselves into its hands. Port Darwin being within jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, the whole issue was transferred from London to the Antipodes the very moment that the offenders—or some of them—came within reach of the Australian authorities.


  ― 54 ―
Why they should have done so voluntarily cannot be easily explained. Probably Japan tried to bluff the Federal Government into some sort of negotiations with the deputation, when it would have seized upon the slightest signs of hesitation and weakness as evidence for British consumption that Australia itself had recognized that the problem called for diplomatic treatment. If so, its deep plot miscarried, for the Federal Executive was not in the mood for trifling. Its orders to the Resident of the Northern Territory were calculated, on the contrary, to force the game against Tokio as well as against London.

Next morning the three members of the Japanese deputation were arrested on a charge of shooting at British subjects with intent to murder. Other “persons unknown” were joined under the same indictment. But it was only the beginning. Warrants were issued against these “persons unknown, of Japanese nationality, who had entered the country without permission and had murderously assaulted white men, British subjects.” It was a sweeping, skilful move which did away with the international aspect of the case, for it imputed to the refugees a common crime to be dealt with in a common court of law. A few lines from the department of Justice had made outlaws of all the invaders.

Everything depended now on the possibility of proving the charge. The Federal Attorney-General decided to supervise the proceedings personally on the spot. As a fast P. & O. mail steamer happened to be in port in Sydney, she was chartered under pressure. The Attorney-General, his staff and the witnesses for the prosecution, viz., Thomas Burt and his friend, were rushed by train overland to catch her. At top speed, the splendid liner raced to the north (May 19) and covered the distance to


  ― 55 ―
Port Darwin in the record time of just under six days.

Australia was wild with joy over the energetic action of the national Government. Even the great dailies, spoon-fed with Tory sentiments from London, did not care to disagree and were content with some guarded appeals for circumspection and moderation addressed to Parliament. The Continent was now looking forward to the third session of its fourth Parliament, fixed by Executive proclamation (May 18) to open on May 30, 1912.

The Imperial authorities had not apprehended such rash enterprise on the part of the Commonwealth, the limitations of which were so manifest. It possessed no navy, and speedy land communications with the tropical North were non-existent. The deputation incident could not have been foreseen, of course. Still less, that it should be thus rapidly turned to advantage in Melbourne. London resigned itself to let the case proceed on its merits. If the arrested men could be proved guilty, they would have to suffer the penalty for their crime. No civilized people could quarrel about it. Anyhow, the trial would take some time, and for this reason alone it commended itself to British caution—Japan, too, refrained from protest. Doubtless its statesmen had not counted on this development. But they could not deny the right of Australia to have recourse to law, as the alleged offence had occurred within its dominions. For once, they had played straight into the hands of their antagonists and they had now to trust to chance to regain the lead.

The trial lasted one day (May 27). The evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution was unanswerable as far as it went. But the prisoners, who pleaded not guilty, set up a stubborn negative defence.


  ― 56 ―
Admitting that they were armed, they stated that the disembarkment had been carried out from several steamers simultaneously, over a wide stretch of beach. They had not discharged their rifles on the morning of the landing and had not heard any shots. It was impossible to refute their denials. The white witnesses had to admit that the Japanese were distributed over a large distance and that they had probably not all taken part in the assault. Identification of the prisoners as active accessories to the crime was naturally out of the question. So the case against the three Japanese broke down and they were released.

But they were immediately re-arrested under the charge of being prohibited immigrants and promptly sentenced to gaol pending the arrival of the first boat bound for the East, in which they were to be deported. This was at best a Pyrrhic victory, for it restored the international base of the dispute. Not that Japan contested this special decision. That would merely have prejudiced its case. The three men were prohibited immigrants and had gone into a trap. As for the bulk of the new settlers, hidden away in the inaccessible bush, it was quite a different matter. First of all, it would require some effort to bring them to justice. In the enormity of that problem, Oriental cunning would have a fair field to come into play.

Though foiled in one particular, the Federal Government abated nothing of its pushfulness. A proclamation, issued (May 29) to the people of Australia and cabled to London and to the Governments of all autonomous Colonies, called attention to the fact that the Commonwealth was invaded by hordes of murderous criminals carrying arms, who had entered in defiance of the laws sanctioned by the King, and warned every good citizen of the British Empire


  ― 57 ―
to have nothing to do with them, but to assist the authorities in every way to punish and to expel the miscreants. Supplementing the strong language, a body of specially picked constabulary was despatched by sea to Port Darwin (May 31). It numbered only twenty-five men, for the Federal Executive, unable to put into the field at once an army strong enough to cope with several thousand armed Japanese, affected to follow the rules of ordinary police administration. Should they be defied, then the matter passed continental confines, and Greater Britain would have to enforce respect for its acknowledged methods of procedure. That, at least, was the contention of the harassed Commonwealth authorities.

Both the proclamation and the threatened resort to force were furiously denounced in the leading Tokio journals, which asserted that there was no justification for them and that the real crime of the helpless refugees was their nationality. Herein, they maintained, lay a mortal insult to the Japanese race and the Government was exhorted not to stand idly by to see violence offered to men of their own colour. Officially stony silence was kept, but nothing was done to curb the intemperance of the Press in its endeavours to rouse popular passions.

The next step of the Federal Cabinet was the publication of the full text of their cable interchanges with London, under the plea that the sovereign people were vitally interested and had a right to know the full extent of their danger. This piece of strategy was contrary to diplomatic traditions and certain to hurt Imperial susceptibilities. Its result, as intended, was a startling convulsion of Australian and Colonial sentiment, leaving no doubt that the Commonwealth was wedded to the principle of a White Continent and would not tolerate


  ― 58 ―
any leader who did not champion it against all odds. That manifestation was of the highest value to the Ministry at this moment for Parliamentary reasons. It proved that the continuation of aggressive policy was the will of the people. And the Opposition would have to conform to it when it came to deal with the bold measures which the Government was formulating.

This memorable session opened on May 30.




  ― 59 ―

Chapter VI: A Study of British Sentiment

THE Japanese descent upon the Northern Territory had been well timed. Over the world of white men there lingered the afterglow of an epoch of unprecedented prosperity, of which Great Britain had had full measure. Its ruling classes were glutted with success and its enjoyment. Now that the outlook became less bright, their attention was wholly engrossed in the pursuit of more profit, before the oncoming period of depression, universally prophesied by experts. Even the class-war was less fierce; unemployment had steadily decreased for years; wages had been slowly rising, and the toilers' discontent was lulled somewhat by a sense of uncommon economic stability. If there was one wish shared alike by all England, it was the desire that an even tenor of political development, both at home and abroad, might be maintained. Consequently, there was a feeling of irritation when the immigration controversy threatened to cause a disturbance.

Popular resentment, naturally, turned against the side which seemed to aggravate the difficulties of the situation. It was there Japan scored. Officially, it could afford to sit tight and to keep quiet, for its secret work had been so cleverly contrived that it could now be left to itself for a time at least. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, was driven


  ― 60 ―
to desperate measures of repression. The shortsighted demagogues and radical journalists, who dominated the English masses, condemned roundly the colonial excitement about a trouble which appeared to them, from their safe distance, fifth-rate at most. Nothing the Federal Government did was thought right by these zealous humanitarians. Its prosecution of the deputation was dubbed puerile exaggeration. The fierce denunciation of subjects of an allied Power in the proclamation was even taken as a reflection on Great Britain for the company kept by it. It was not understood in the Mother Country that the Commonwealth was acting according to the promptings of an irresistible instinct. As creatures of the night, exposed to sudden glare, dart instinctively for the nearest dark shelter, thus Australia, dazed by the sudden perception of deadly danger, started into convulsive movement. But the Commonwealth appeared to the badly-informed millions, who in the last resort sway Imperial policy, as responsible for the biggest part of the commotion, and this misconception disposed them all the more to look with tolerant eyes upon the case as presented by Japan. Tokio had prepared the way to their overgrown hearts cunningly. It claimed no right; it merely appealed to common humanity. And it thus flattered nicely the popular idea of the Mission of Empire. Here they were asked to stretch forth helping hands to humble supplicants; to elevate a race yet erring in outer darkness, to their own level of goodness; to bestow material prosperity on famishing hordes. Nothing could be more desirable. Nevertheless, a handful of white settlers 12,000 miles away, hardly visible in the surrounding vastness of an empty continent, told them to desist as harshly as if they had no voice in the matter at all.




  ― 61 ―

The English middle-classes, too, have always been moved deeply by religious considerations. Only acute fears, real or imagined, about the existence and growth of the Empire, could overcome their scruples in that direction. Nobody alleged that there was any reason for patriotic anxiety in the present development. The Japanese explanations were modest, even complimentary. The assurance that the immigrants craved the honour to be allowed to live and die under the Union Jack might be said to confer an extra lustre on the grand old flag. The ambitious request did not strike Britishers as very remarkable after all the speculations of recent years, that possibly Japanese soldiers would fight and die some day in defence of India for the Empire. An allied nation, of which such high expectations had been formed, could not be looked upon with contempt. Alas! they were heathens still. But the immigrants, removed from the retarding influence, one might almost say, from the bad example of the millions still groping in darkness in their native haunts, would offer a fair field for missionary work. Many ardent British believers thanked God for the chance.

The economic aspect, which so frightened Australian workers, was not understood by their comrades in the United Kingdom, who had to contend all their lives in free markets against the cut-throat competition of cheap labour, and who had also to put up with a steady inpour of East and South European cheap labourers. Where was the difference? Toilers in the Mother Country did not realize the significance of race contrasts, because, so far, they had not become acquainted with them firsthand. Distance and overcrowding formed a sort of protection. In the industrial districts of Great Britain white skilled and trained labour was so


  ― 62 ―
cheap and superabundant, as a rule, that the importation of Mongolians or negroes would hardly have been a paying game. At any rate, it had never been tried systematically. And thus British workers, having been spared the degradation of contact with lower races, could afford to take a lenient view. In their opinion, the difference was only skin-deep at worst. It passed their minds why any one should go into hysterics because a few Japs or Chinese wished to make a living at the other end of the world, where there was so much room for everybody.

Still, the middle and lower classes were not really antagonistic to Commonwealth ideals. They were merely hampered by the small extent of their knowledge and by the subconscious sense of superiority which warps the judgment of the average Englishman in matters colonial and foreign. Most of them regarded Australia as a kind of prodigal daughter, whose pranks had to be borne with good-humouredly. Her people were supposed to indulge in various irresponsible notions, and to be very ticklish on all labour questions, to such an extent that they had refused admittance more than once to honest Britishers who came looking for work. (This was a Press invention, but it had firmly taken root, nevertheless.) Of the Northern Territory, it was only known that it was very big, very hot, very empty; a gap on the map, yawning for population, yet not at all a white man's land.

But higher up in the social scale there were sections who cherished grievances against the Common-wealth. The banking world and the Stock Exchange interests belonged to them. It is difficult to define the reasons for this scarcely-veiled hostility of British high finance. The antipathy was based partly on sentimental grounds. Political life in the


  ― 63 ―
Antipodes was highly flavoured with that democratic levelling spirit which the wealthy classes in England had so often played with for their own ends, and cheated of its prize every time, and which they abhorred, therefore, with the hatred born of instinctive fear of a vague, unavoidable retribution. In a word, Australian democracy served as an irksome reminder of the smothered social conscience of British wealth.

Moreover, the broad masses there had remained very independent and ignorant of the obedient humility which the owner of riches can personally command in the Old World. Instead, the most popular prints were full of cleverly worded and ingeniously illustrated attacks on capitalism, national and international. Political leaders of far-reaching influence had echoed the contempt at times, and in several conflicts big vested interests had not been exalted officially above less gilded claims. There was, too, a steady current of legislation towards the restriction of the money power. Even British Imperialism had come in for criticism, and had been described as world-wide exploitation for the benefit of millionaires at home, with little regard for distant white toilers abroad. Such licence bred reaction. But it was not so much verbal presumptions as material consequences which high finance was troubled about. The new spirit, with its demands for living wages, its regulation of working hours, and restriction of cheap contract labour immigration, its inspection of producing methods and products was threatening the profits of old investments, and made remunerative new investments more complicated.

Capital, always conservative, does not easily accommodate itself to great changes. Above all, it loathes supervision. In the United Kingdom some


  ― 64 ―
modifications might be proper. But it had ever been recognized that east of the Suez Canal moss-grown European conventionalities had no currency, and that the road was left clear there for the unfettered play of commercial genius out on the golden quest, even as it had been in the old merchant-adventurer days radiant with Indian memories of glory and gain. Yet now, in the very heart of those privileged hunting-grounds, an upstart dependency dared to set up as moral arbiter of business methods. And not content to govern themselves in established communities, its citizens claimed control of the whole continent, and foreclosed the tropical north against Imperial enterprise.

Some things are only truly appreciated after they have been lost beyond hope. The whole northern fringe of Australia had lain practically unused for decades. Speculators in London had not perceived the fact that it contained the makings of another India until the definite formulation and adoption of the White Australia policy had made the realization impossible. Then, of course, they did not blame their own remissness, but the impudence of the colonials. For several years a section of the British Press, prompted by disappointed monopolists, conducted a campaign of slander against the young Commonwealth, accusing it of undue interference with private enterprise, and of a deliberate attempt to withhold its torrid districts from colonization. It was ably backed in this particular by “Little England” papers, which disliked the White Australia doctrine just as much, though for exactly opposite reasons. Between them, they drew a glowing picture of what the Northern Territory should be like if, instead of new-fangled theories, the approved traditions of Imperial colonization were followed. It was only necessary to appoint a capable administrator,


  ― 65 ―
with Indian experience, and to throw open the country to all comers. Or perhaps, as a sop to national prejudice, it might be reserved to Imperial immigration—of all colours, of course. Here was a chance to relieve the curse of Hindustan, overcrowding, by transferring whole villages and tribes. The new province could thus be stocked with a cheap, submissive, intelligent population, which would transform it into fruitful fields. Rice, cotton, tobacco, wheat and other tropical products could be cultivated. Railways, roads, ports and shipping would have to be constructed, together with the hundred other modern contrivances of trade required to distribute the wealth of the land and to supply the needs of its settlers. And British capital and industries would benefit. Why all these marvellous prospects should be sacrificed for a fad, in the interests of non-existent white citizens who could only be attracted by the certainty of high remuneration, if at all, passed the understanding of the average stay-at-home Englishman. As for the leaders of finance, they could never forgive such folly. The White Australia policy robbed them of profits which were as good as made but for its arbitrary interference. Anything was better than the stagnation which resulted from it. The present development was rather welcomed by the more virulent section as a fitting retribution. And the Press, influenced by them, began to hint that this complication could never have occurred if the old methods of colonization had been adhered to.

The nobility and gentry of the United Kingdom shared the coolness of the capitalists, partly for the same reasons; partly, however, because of a special class grievance. It may be said that the proud, democratic spirit of the Australian people represented the principle directly opposed to the social


  ― 66 ―
conditions which evolved a hereditary aristocracy. The contrast was too great to allow of mutual admiration. All attempts to graft a peerage upon the young continent had failed ignominiously. Some knighthoods had been granted, but it was a strange fact that, in quite a number of cases, men who were considered to have promising prospects before they were thus honoured fell victims to political extinction soon afterwards. The temper of the nation was republican in this respect. Members of the aristocracy, on their part, had not forgotten the origin of the colony. Between its citizens and themselves a great gulf was fixed. Their habits of thought were divided by centuries. Neither was able to take seriously the ideals of the other.

It has been shown that the general sentiments of the people of the Mother Country were widely divergent at this crisis. General sentiments, however, must not be confounded with political convictions. Regarding the latter, their unanimity was wonderful. There is really very little to choose between the most ardent Imperialist and the pronounced Little Englander, when their fundamental attitude towards colonies, particularly autonomous colonies, comes to be dissected. That may sound paradoxical, but it is true. Certainly, they disagree in their estimation, and, consequently, in their policy. But these are mere superficialities. Brush them aside, and there is revealed, at the back of the stolid British mind, the firm belief that the continued existence of the colonies is a benefit conferred upon them by the Mother Country. Through generations this conception has been handed down until recently the loud clamour of the daughter nations, for official acknowledgment of equality, began to tear at its roots. It has been said that but for the secession of the New England States,


  ― 67 ―
the idea of colonial equality would never have been formulated. Even so, it caused genuine consternation, though the expression was smothered in a frantic outburst of Imperial enthusiasm, led by patriotic trumpet-calls of a singularly united Press. This surprising unanimity should have given of itself careful observers pause to reflect. It suggested that there was something to be concealed, something to be held back or smoothed over. And all the din could not dispel the silent indignation which welled up in many British hearts. The pretensions were too enormous. Here, on the one hand, stood a nation welded by the storm and stress of a thousand years, by a struggle for bare existence at first, and afterwards for domination; a nation which had shaped Empire, and still maintained it by its sole strength. On the other hand, there rose a group of immense communities hardly yet advanced to nationhood, never tested in the furnace of adversity upon quality and extent of their own resources: raw materials of Empire, in fact, boldly asking for equality. In the background, as a dim warning, the spectre of the American analogy was made to loom. Thus pressed, Great Britain prepared to concede the demand with good grace. What passed far below the smiling surface, in the subconsciousness of the toiling millions, on whose ever-increasing exertions the grand structure is founded, was conveniently overlooked, and might have been choked in its own profoundness at last. But it was not given time. Japan once showed admirable perception of approaching convulsions in the body of the Russian colossus, and shaped its plans accordingly. Had its emissaries, with judgment still more refined, correctly gauged the symptoms which eddied faintly about the outskirts of Imperial enthusiasm, and allowed for them in the intrigue? At any rate,


  ― 68 ―
the spirited, high-souled part taken by the Commonwealth in the campaign for equality had not won many sympathies in the Mother Country.

The members of the British Government stood too high, of course, to be swayed by hidden undercurrents. Whichever party was in power, the leaders, once the mantle of responsibility fell their way, kept one aim steadily in mind—the greater glory of the Empire. That included the advantage of all its constituents, and was the one continuous policy. The second continuous policy embraced the cultivation of close friendship with certain great Powers and particularly the maintenance of the alliance with Japan. Probably it had never been contemplated that there could be a clash between the two. When it did happen, the issue, as it presented itself to the English Cabinet, was mainly a question of expediency. Its first effort was to appease Australian anxiety by insisting on the harmlessness of the incident. Japan, perfectly cordial, rendered the attempt abortive by frankness. It became, therefore, necessary to choose between the permanent estrangement of a valuable ally and the passing temper of dependencies. For of the volatility of colonial resentment repeated proof existed within recent years. No change of front could be charged against the Imperial statesmen. The doctrine of a white continent might well be propounded by the Commonwealth, but it could not be countenanced logically by the mistress of India. She tolerated it as long as its victims were too feeble to raise effectual protests, and Australia stood strong enough to enforce it. Once this assurance failed, a full reconsideration of the position became inevitable. Britannia could not unsheath her sword in such a cause.

Colonial friction with foreign Powers required


  ― 69 ―
careful watching. Encouragement in one quarter might lead to trouble in others. Young nations half freed from leading strings are very impulsive, and prone to try conclusions without urgent need. The weakest point of the immense Empire lay in the danger of a fifth-rate disturbance on the periphery, thousands of miles away from the nerve centres, setting up irritation which might end by convulsing the whole body. That had to be guarded against, for the shock might bring down the nicely balanced structure of British World Policy, the result of infinite care drawn out over a number of years, and now heavy with promise. Japan's continued cordial support was essential to carry the policy to full maturity. Australian aspirations, therefore, would have to be postponed.

It was of material assistance to the Imperial Government that the British Parliament was sitting, and could be made the fountain-head from which soothing and confident declarations poured forth. The Opposition obeyed the time-hallowed custom not to create difficulties in international affairs. Especially where Japan was concerned, the Cabinet might be described as holding a brief for the entire nation. As usual in such circumstances, successive questions were asked and then pompously answered in the House. The replies were so framed that they did not leave the slightest doubt as to the hope of the Ministers of settling the matter quickly and quietly. Further, they indicated that no dictation from outside would be accepted by the responsible advisers of the Crown; that warlike talk abroad should not be considered seriously; and that official relations with Japan were as cordial as ever.




  ― 70 ―

Chapter VII: Naval Power and World Politics

“THE supremacy of the British Navynote is the safety of Australia, and this supremacy is absolute.” That was the conviction in which the people of the Commonwealth, in spite of occasional warnings, placed their entire trust, and with which they justified before themselves and to the world, their shocking neglect of the first principles of defence. But while they were somnolently enjoying the fancied security, the world moved and Japan acted. It is easy to perceive, in the light of later events, the real meaning of the stupendous maritime armaments into which the Far Eastern


  ― 71 ―
Power launched out immediately after the successful war against Russia. Its policy aimed at nothing less than the creation of a war fleet, strong enough to overawe even the Mistress of the Seas at a given date, under special conditions, which had been foreseen by the astute statesmen of Japan, who had fully mastered the axiom that victory, diplomatic or otherwise, belongs to the side which can concentrate most power at the critical point. In the present crisis they knew that they would gain all if they could gain time. Whatever might be the extent of British indignation at first, it did not matter as long as it was kept in check by a sense of danger. Patriotic fervour cannot be bottled up. The Imperial authorities would soon come to see that Japan was still necessary to them as friend and ally. Then it might be reasonably expected that the problem of peopling the empty Northern Territory would be left in the hands of those best able to solve it, regardless of the clamours of others who had shirked the question, and owned no battleships to back them up. Tokio, indeed, had built the foundations of its stupendous intrigue upon hard rock.

In April, 1912, Japan possessed six battleships of the latest type, each superior to the famed English Dreadnought; another monster of yet improved design was being equipped for sea at Nagasaki dockyard, to be ready for service within three months. Three armoured cruisers of over 18,500 tons, with two more of 19,000 tons, rapidly approaching completion, rounded off the strictly modern armaments. But in addition there were the older vessels, which had given such excellent account of themselves in the late war, and the former Russian ships which had been captured and repaired. The mosquito fleet was far superor, both in quality and


  ― 72 ―
number, to the one which had some years ago proved the terror of the enemy. For crews the navy could draw largely, in the event of war, upon the veterans who had braved the horrors of Port Arthur and Tsushima, the only naval corps extant which had actually been through battle, and was yet available for another round. That was probably Japan's greatest, and quite unique, advantage. These old hands would not be racked by soul-destroying nervousness if they should come face to face with death again, a nervousness sure to play havoc with the efficiency of adversaries who had never passed the ordeal, courageous and well-trained though they might be. Behind the veterans surged on the younger generation of sailors, all fired by fanatic patriotism and by the ambition to enable the achievements of the former, still fresh in everybody's mind, not far-off memories of traditional feats of glory which had happened under conditions quite unmodern. Position, too, favoured the Japanese. Sheltered behind the length and width of the Old World group of continents, they would be able to choose their own battle-ground, and any enemy attacking them had to do so in their centre of power, where they could make the decisive stand in narrow, dangerous seas, familiar only to them, and in conjunction with coastal fortifications and submerged mines.

Great Britain's first fighting line consisted of the original Dreadnought and of twelve battleships of a similar, improved type, and of eight other vessels of nearly equal strength and much greater speed, which were classed as cruisers. Four more leviathan crafts were in course of construction, but they could not be made ready for sea before 1913. There was also an enormous host of battleships and cruisers of older designs, many of them superior to anything


  ― 73 ―
the Japanese could oppose in those classes. In high sea destroyers and torpedo boats England outnumbered its ally by two to one.

The naval resources at the command of the Imperial authorities offered, therefore, material enough for a combination equal to the task of blowing the Japanese fleet out of the water. There were, however, several points of grave importance to be considered. The evolution of the Dreadnought type had revolutionized the theories of maritime warfare. Enthusiasts maintain that one vessel of her design could sink a whole assortment of older battleships without much risk to herself, by reason of her immense superiority in gun-fire, armour, and speed. This opinion had been somewhat modified, but the new principle had been left untouched, that a Dreadnought could only be matched by a Dreadnought, but not by any number of less up-to-date craft, the success of which, if possible at all, would depend on the incalculable quality of leadership. Accordingly, Great Britain, to discount the risk attendant on war, would have had to place in the fighting line at least one more Dreadnought than Japan could bring forward, besides providing for decided preponderance in the other classes. That meant that twelve or thirteen of the largest and most modern battleships and cruisers, at least twelve older first-class battleships, as many older first-class armoured cruisers, and a cloud of mosquito craft would have had to be despatched to the other side of the globe, 13,000 miles away.

The proposition was impossible of execution, simply because the portion of the British Navy remaining in home waters, after the departure of such a fleet to the Far East, would not have been strong enough to guarantee the safety of the heart of the Empire against the ambitions of European


  ― 74 ―
rivals. Both France and Germany would have been given the one and only opportunity for which the fiery patriots of both nations had been waiting in vain for generations, the chance of attempting the invasion of England with more than forlorn hopes of success.

France happened to be on terms of close intimacy with Great Britain. But its people looked with perfect composure at the discomfiture of the Commonwealth, which had prevented the annexations of the New Hebrides by the Republic, and was frankly impatient of its presence in the South Seas at all. The warlike Gallic spirit was certainly decaying steadily under the ever-increasing pressure on its north-eastern frontier. Yet there was no telling that it might not be resuscitated in sight of such a unique opportunity, either of its own accord or under the influence of outside promises and promptings.

But even if France might be trusted, beside it rose a far more dangerous and relentless rival—Germany. This “narrowly confined, yet unbounded” nation, restless, unfathomable, firmly believing in its own glorious future, lifted on the highest crest of the universal wave of prosperity, teeming with a rapidly multiplying population, could not be trusted under temptation. Its forward, enterprising policy was confronted at every turn by the Empire, which had fathered most of the desirable places of the earth before the birth of modern Germany. The latter, therefore, had to play the part of the ambitious, ever watchful Jacob, out after a British Esau, too cunning to barter away his rights of primogeniture. In the immediate past Imperial diplomacy, backed by the Japanese alliance and by the entente cordiale with France, had outwitted Teutonic policy in several fields, and sixty-six


  ― 75 ―
million Germans were still resenting the supposed humiliation. Would they not see the finger of God in an occurrence which removed the impenetrable naval screen from between their armies and the English shores? Even official assurances of friendship could not have been worth anything under the circumstances.

Germany had seven improved Dreadnoughts in active service, and two more were so far advanced in equipment that they could be got ready for war within three or four months. The keels of yet another four had already been laid. There were also four very powerful cruisers, and two more building. Its fleet of older battleships and cruisers was maintained in a state of highest sea-worthiness, and its mosquito craft was both numerous and efficient. The crews, like the fighting machinery, had never been tested in grim earnest. But they were drawn from the seafaring population, conversant with the intimate ins and outs of their narrow, treacherous waters, and thoroughly trained. What they lacked in tradition was richly made up for by fierce rivalry with the army, the glory of which they did not despair to emulate and to surpass.

The menace of this huge concentration of naval force within 500 miles from London had to be neutralized before the Empire could risk the hostility of Japan. A new British alliance with another great maritime Power, if possible, might have checkmated Germany. Some openings may have suggested themselves. There was France, for instance, still mourning the loss of provinces forfeited forty years ago to the Teuton. A treaty binding the Empire to assist in their recovery within stated time-limits, as the price of immediate naval support, might have been accepted. Unfortunately, even an Anglo-French alliance would


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not have been a sure check on Germany, which might not consent to wait until a dispute was agreeable to all parties, but might crush the Republic under the weight of numerical superiority while Great Britain was engaged elsewhere.

Russia had no fleet. It did not love the English, whose flirtation with the little brown men was responsible for the collapse of Muscovite expansion in Asia. Its army was nominally formidable, but the task of propping up the tottering autocracy absorbed all available energy and might have become too difficult if the German neighbour should decide to aid secretly the transport across the frontier of war material and explosives for the revolutionaries. Official Russia recognized that friendly relations with the two allied monarchies over the western border were its supreme necessity.

There remained another grand possibility: the enlistment of the United States of America in favour of the British Empire. The Great Republic owned a splendid navy, a large part of which, stationed in the Pacific, could be thrown straight against Japan, while the Atlantic squadron, joining the English home fleet, would render the United Kingdom secure against invasion. Here was a task worthy of a great statesman. If there really existed an Anglo-Saxon community of interests, as expressed in the famous phrase, “Blood is thicker than water,” now was the hour to unfurl its banner in the cause of the white race.

But America did not move. It was not forgotten that, a few years back, when its western fringe was in danger of being overrun by an aggressive influx of Japanese subjects, public opinion in Britain had sympathized demonstratively with the latter. America had triumphed over that organized attempt only by strong measures which led to the verge of


  ― 77 ―
war, and it could, therefore, afford to watch quietly, as an appreciative spectator, while similar tactics were directed from the same quarter against an English dependency. Besides, there were other potent considerations which inclined Washington to adhere to a policy of masterly inactivity. Japan had set up as self-appointed Mentor of China, and was patiently instilling a taste for the material benefits of Western civilization into a population of 400 millions, whose needs, once aroused, would overtax the comparatively small resources of the teacher. Then would come the turn of wealthier nations to act the disinterested friend towards China, to find capital for the development of the country, and to reap, in exchange, commercial advantages. And the United States were determined, in spite of temporary unpleasantness, to secure the lion's share, to which they were entitled by position and resources. To this end it was necessary to regain the confidence of the Asiatics, who were deeply offended by forcible exclusion from America. There was only one way of doing it: by treating them with marked respect everywhere else, to prove that colour distinctions did not extend beyond the border.

The British Empire was America's one dangerous competitor in the fight for domination of the Far Eastern markets, and, therefore, to be distrusted. Its alliance with Japan increased its influence, and a quarrel with the ally must weaken its whole position. Great Britain, however, was justified in quarrelling, for even hair-splitting Orientals could hardly raise objections against its defence of a colony by all means, fair or foul. But America had no such motive. If it allowed itself to be drawn into an entangling alliance at this moment, Asia would believe that it was actuated by racial hatred.


  ― 78 ―
And in the end, England's refined diplomacy might foist upon the partner all the blame for regrettable necessities, which were bound to occur in such a controversy, and thus divert Mongolian fury and resentment from itself. In that case it would probably succeed in keeping the United States out of the Far Eastern trade altogether. There is no gratitude in business or in politics.

The naval armaments of smaller friendly Powers did not count in this crisis. Japan had chosen the right hour and the right place; indeed, the stars in their courses seemed to fight on its side. Its experiences in the struggle against Russia had first suggested to its ally the evolution of the Dreadnought type, which created new conditions in maritime warfare, and practically consigned the older classes of battleships to the scrap heap. Incidentally, this development resulted in a distribution of sea power, which for one fateful moment, at a point which had escaped notice, rendered ineffective British naval supremacy. It was just for a short time. In the course of a few years overwhelming numbers of battleships and cruisers of latest design would have been flying the Union Jack. But the reflection is useless; the need of Empire demanded immediate action, and it could not be risked.




  ― 79 ―

Chapter VIII: Colonial Fancies

THE arrival at Port Darwin of the Japanese deputation, and the public professions of loyalty to the British flag by its members, induced the Imperial Government to communicate, without further delay, the Mikado's offer, proposing transfer of allegiance, by official sanction, to the Commonwealth authorities. It was the receipt of this information, as well as tactical party considerations, which led to the publication of all the cable interchanges. Australian statesmen had naturally a much clearer insight into the political instincts by which the other dependencies were swayed than into British habits of mind. Accordingly, they forgot the vexation, which their indiscretion must cause to the latter, in their desire to rally the sister dominions to their side by the disclosure of the Japanese suggestion. Nor were they mistaken in their estimation of the effect. The white colonies, already deeply agitated by the first news of the fresh immigration movement, stood aghast at the cool proposition that a simple oath of allegiance to the King of England should be held sufficient to open a passage for the brown or yellow man into the jealously guarded reserves of the white race. Their stupor, relieved by the energetic action of the Federal executive, made way for a deafening chorus of applause, urging on Australia to persist


  ― 80 ―
in its violent course, and calling upon Great Britain to keep its upstart ally in his proper place.

The unanimous anxiety of the autonomous dependencies was perfectly logical; they were all exposed to the same danger. Canada had recently been the playground of Turanian insolence, and it was rather due to the relentless determination of the United States than to British endeavours, that the Japanese immigration into America had been reduced to moderate limits. Its western seaboard, fertile and very thinly populated, stretched invitingly directly opposite the crowded eastern slopes of Asia. There was no guarantee that the latter might not disgorge another unassimilative torrent of humanity upon the shores of Columbia in the future, particularly if the idea should gain ground that the white man was relaxing his hold. Maoriland was in a still worse position. The “Little Dominion” had been even more intolerant of the Asiatic than its big neighbour. Once the coloured alien succeeded in getting a firm foothold there its own policy of exclusion would become untenable. Perhaps South Africa appeared less directly concerned for the moment. Its distance and isolation might prove some protection. Troubled, however, by the indigenous negro problem, as well as by the imported evil of a growing Indian coolie population, it was also vitally interested in the principle that the white man's pleasure should be the law of the universe. So the ring was complete. Greater Britain was consolidated by common needs and spoke with one voice.

And it pleaded moral justification. The restrictive laws of the several colonies had all received the Royal assent. They were all based on the same premises. Clearly, therefore, if they could be broken with impunity in one instance, they might as well be abolished everywhere, for all the security


  ― 81 ―
they would give after that. There was no doubt that the Japanese landing in the Northern Territory was a distinct infringement of a special act, which rendered all the immigrants liable not only to deportation, but also to a fine or imprisonment. But although Australia was thus concerned in the first place, the issue did really pass continental confines. It was Imperial, because the validity of the laws in the other colonies was involved. For this reason, the oversea dominions did not exceed their rights by demanding that Great Britain, as keeper of the Imperial sword, should enter the ring in defence of their privileges.

England looked upon the question in quite a different light. It had, of course, to be admitted that the restrictive laws had been sanctioned. But the Crown could hardly be expected to investigate in every instance whether the self-governing bodies, who promoted such measure, and who were so suspicious of any attempt of interference by the central authorities, had made sure beforehand of their ability to carry out the clauses. A law which cannot be enforced must be bad. Great Britain did not care to identify itself with failures. Moreover, the colonies had their own executives, whom they could hold responsible if scapegoats were required. People and politicians of the Mother Country did not like being burdened with the consequences of the shortcomings of others.

Excitement in the white dominions grew apace. At this early stage Australia managed to keep its indignation well in check, and its public protests, though firm enough, were comparatively free of bombast. Both Canada and Maoriland eclipsed it in outward show of resentment. There, even statesmen who had a reputation to lose, and papers which were known for impartiality and moderation


  ― 82 ―
in ordinary times, looked upon war as a foregone conclusion. After the collapse of the criminal prosecution of the Japanese deputation, a paroxysm of disappointed rage swept the two dominions, and the cry for war rose louder and louder. Perhaps this violence was not natural. It may have been an hysterical effort to conceal the military weakness of the colonies, which this crisis threatened to expose to all the world, and which could only remain secret if a patriotic panic in England made available the formidable resources of that Power by forcing the hands of its rulers.

But the Imperial Government was perfectly aware of its peril, and retained its mastery at home by the judicious use of Press and Parliament. So there was not much danger of a sudden national stampede. All responsible men were profuse in their expression of sympathy with the aspirations of the daughter nations. Nevertheless, all insisted that the Japanese immigration was a local incident which would have to be dealt with in the ordinary diplomatic way. The Stock Exchange advanced the shares of certain cable companies in view of an expected increase of revenue, while the hubbub lasted—a rather facetious compliment. The colonies, however, were not in the humour to appreciate jokes. Exasperated by the indifference of the British people they changed their tune, and threats of war against Japan gave way to threats of secession from England.

Unfortunately, this was not a new theme either. Great Britain was becoming accustomed to these occasional colonial storms. There had been so many of them of late. The Alaska boundary settlement, the problem of foreign possessions in the South Seas, the Newfoundland fisheries dispute, were all cases in point. Every time there had


  ― 83 ―
been a furious outburst of indignation, followed by resigned acceptance of the inevitable, under the noble plea of self-sacrifice for the sake of the Empire. The recollection of past scares discounted the effect of the latest sensation upon the stolid English mind, which was influenced by the talk of war and secession, precisely as formerly, by reports of Irish excesses. Instead of betraying fear and precipitancy, it became more obstinate and deliberate than ever.

The root of the trouble was that the military resources of the Empire were Imperial only in name, as they had been paid for almost exclusively by the over-burdened toilers of the United Kingdom. Certainly, some of the colonies contributed a small amount for the upkeep of the navy; yet if the whole sum thus received had been lumped up from the outset, it would hardly have been sufficient for the construction and maintenance of a single Dreadnought. Great Britain accepted the dole as evidence of good will, but without the least idea that the givers should thereby become entitled to a share in the control of the armaments, which was, indeed, the colonial contention, not in so many words, but in fact. For if the central authorities alone had the right to grant or to withhold the support of the Imperial forces, in every instance where foreigners threatened the interests of the self-governing dominions, then the latter were in all essentials reduced to abject dependency on England, in spite of airy boasts and complaisant acknowledgments of equality.

The colonies had all along mistaken territorial bigness for power. The misleading appearance of wealth, which was in reality merely the expression of the disproportion between the enormous natural resources of the new countries and their


  ― 84 ―
smallness of population, had given them an altogether exaggerated idea of their own importance. Born in a more enlightened age, free of the inherited economic and political difficulties which cleft the Old World, they scorned the European method of propitiating the insatiable God of Battles, by pouring ceaseless torrents of treasure upon his altars in the effort to keep them bloodless. The colonies preferred more rational investments; their savings went entirely into the work of opening up their vast dominions, and they also mortgaged their future prospects up to the hilt for the same purpose. That was well enough as long as world policy was a hobby confined to European nations. England was too vitally interested in the Balance of Power there, to allow any continental rival to become too strong, either by absorbing weaker neighbours or by establishing new bases in other parts of the globe, which might some day become formidable. A stupendous public debt still remained as a constant reminder of the determination with which Great Britain had fought for security in the past. Where so much had been suffered for the cause, and where, moreover, the probable course of future developments was so well defined, the watchfulness of England might well be trusted, and its daughters could afford to slumber peacefully. But a change came over the spirit of their dreams when Japan, with rapid strides, leapt to the front, and was introduced by the Imperial Government into the sacred circle of Great Powers as its friend and partner in world politics. Some honest fanatics tried to rouse the sleepers. Yet, before they could make any deep impression colonial sentiment was drugged fatally by the outburst of maudlin enthusiasm, which rewarded the valiant ally for his feats against the traditional enemy of Anglo-Saxondom, Russia.




  ― 85 ―

After that the pace became furious. A new Great Power had arisen, removed very far from the centres of British naval supremacy, an aggressive Island Empire, dependent for its existence on the possession of an unconquerable fleet. The two maritime nations were drawn together by the strongest impulses, for they had the choice of but two unalterable alternatives: to be friends or, sooner or later, to fight to the death, as the globe is too small for two naval supremacies. Wisely, they had agreed on the first proposition, which promised a rich harvest to both. All points of difference had been settled, and an extended, closer alliance was formed on the premises of real, mutual equity. And Japan proceeded, at the first opportune moment, to test the sincerity of its friend. It began in Canada, but had to withdraw before the uncompromising attitude of the United States, who dared to enforce a slightly varied Monroe doctrine, even on foreign soil, as long as it was American. Japan, therefore, was compelled to select a field for its experiments where the Monroe doctrine did not apply. Hence its descent upon the Northern Territory. And the rudely-awakened colonies perceived too late that empty square miles don't fight, and that, having neglected to provide for independent means of defence, they were absolutely helpless.

They could not even strike a blow at the invader, which, though perhaps insufficient in itself, might have placed Great Britain in the awkward position of either having to accept the responsibility of such action, and the consequences of such moral support, or else of appearing to desert its children before the eye of an astonished world. For Japan, as well as the invaded district, was accessible only by sea, and the colonies did not own a battleship between them. That was the less excusable when it is


  ― 86 ―
considered that much of their wealth was piled up on or near the seaboard, where their magnificent ports and capitals lie open to attack from the ocean or from rivers navigable for Dreadnoughts. It is not wonderful that in the dread hour of disillusion, panic shook them like the all-embracing tremors of an earthquake.

Still, some good came out of sound and fury. In Maoriland, the charming home of grandiloquent epithets, the “Defence League of all the Whites” was formed on May 22, 1909, and spread quickly to Canada, South Africa, and even to the United States. The avowed aim of the new association was the creation of a centre of enthusiasm, and the raising of funds for armaments in the interests of Australia. But this original purpose was soon overshadowed by its development into a recruiting organization. Many members emigrated to the Commonwealth, others persuaded or financed patriots and adventurers in the prime of life to do the same, all bent on resisting and repulsing by force the coloured invader. A considerable number of these were Americans from the Pacific slopes—men who did not need to be taught bitter hatred against the Japanese, and whose influence can be traced in the trend of later events. The whole movement may be said to have one achievement to its credit. It properly inspired, or suggested in some way, the formation of the White Guard, of glorious and tragic memory.




  ― 87 ―

Chapter IX: Parliament

AUSTRALIA was feverish. But its symptoms were quite different from those manifested in the sister dominions, where the colder climate makes people heavy and pessimistic. Of the chorus of rage and fierce denunciation of Japan which resounded there, Australians caught only the note of sympathy and applause which cheered them on to aggressive efforts. The British attitude was not understood at this early time and for this reason people refrained from criticizing it, the more readily as the Prime Minister, in a speech before the House immediately on the opening of the session, had recommended that nothing should be said or done to prejudice the position of the Imperial authorities. The members of the Federal Government chose to take a cheerful view of the future. They recognized—or said so—that caution on the part of the Empire was quite appropriate. So far, London had given no intimation that it was not prepared to insist on the evacuation of the Northern Territory by the undesirable aliens. Its fancy of exhausting, in the first place, all peaceful means to bring about that end, was certainly very trying. But the Australian nation, as a whole, had no suspicions of insincerity, being firmly convinced, in the consciousness of its own importance, that there was too much at stake for Great Britain, for Anglo-Saxondom, for White


  ― 88 ―
Humanity, to allow of any lukewarmness. A little bewildered by the delay abroad, the citizens felt relieved to turn their attention to the drastic measures and more drastic proposals of their own leaders. There, at last, was forward movement. Australia experienced the exalted sensations of a young hero girding his loins to beard the prowling enemy in his den. It had so much to do, so many duties to fulfil, that it really had no leisure for sadeyed reflection. Everybody discussed the possibility of linking up Port Darwin by railway with the South and how long it would take; or how many men the Commonwealth should be able to put into the field—some day-dreamers approached the half-million in their speculations. Of course, they all presumed that Great Britain would be there to back them up.

On the opening date of the Federal session, May 30, 1912, a proclamation was issued calling to arms Class I of the War Militia, comprising all the unmarried men, and the widowers without children, from eighteen to thirty years of age. The fact was immediately communicated to Parliament and justified as a measure of “Resistance of an armed invasion of Commonwealth Territory.” This, under the Constitution, amounted practically to a declaration of war.

The mobilization came as a glad surprise after the tension of the last weeks. The liable class precipitated itself into the ranks; if there was any regret, it was that of half-boys and older men that their time for active service had not yet come. Parliament reflected this happy unity. For the moment, all party strife was hushed. Even the action of the Government, which curtailed the time customarily allowed for the discussion of the Address-in-Reply, met hardly with any opposition. On


  ― 89 ―
Monday, June 3, the Coloured Inhabitants' Registration Act was introduced and passed through all stages in both Houses within three days. This measure was dictated by the fear of treachery and espionage. It had been the boast of Japan, that before the Russian war every one of its subjects abroad, regardless of social station or individual calling, had served as a spy, whenever an opportunity offered. People were justly afraid that similar tactics might be repeated in Australia. The only means of minimizing the evil was strict control of all Asiatics. Under the new law, every coloured alien was bound to report himself to the local authority within a stated time, and after that once a year regularly. A pass was handed to him, and whenever he travelled from his registered place of residence for more than three days, his movements had to be officially recorded on the back of it. If he could not show his pass, or if the endorsements were not in perfect order, he became liable to imprisonment until such time that he should prove his good faith and harmlessness. And should he fail to satisfy the authorities, who were ordered to keep detailed lists, then he was to be deported from the Commonwealth.

It is to be regretted that these restrictions were necessary, on account of the very serious consequences. The terrible cry of treason had been raised now and must inevitably swell in volume as long as the causes of the national agitation lasted. So far, Australia had treated the inferior races with good-natured contempt. Their influx had been stopped, but those who had already entered were left alone. Now, quite suddenly, they were officially held up to popular hatred and fury. The stigma of outlawry was affixed to all, Japanese, Chinese, Hindus, Afghans, Syrians, Negroes and


  ― 90 ―
others, with the single exception of the native aboriginals, who were not credited with sufficient intelligence to be dangerous. Some delay occurred before the white citizens became fully imbued with the sternly repressive spirit which shaped the Registration Act. But the seed had been sown, and in due course the growth of vengeful suspicion convulsed the whole community, causing endless suffering to the innocent as surely as the few who were possibly guilty.

Contrary to routine, this Bill was at once presented to the Governor-General for the King's assent. Meanwhile the House debated an Amendment to the Defence Act providing new rules with regard to exemptions from military duty. The mobilization was being carried out very thoroughly. Some murmurs of discontentment arose now because of the strictness with which every able-bodied man of liable age was enlisted. Commercial Britons have always loved to let others do the fighting for them. It is therefore easy to imagine what were the feelings of many prosperous parents and relatives who prided themselves on their English descent and habit of mind, when their young men were placed among the common rank and file and subjected to severe drill, with the prospects of a tropical campaign before them. In no country and at no time has it been considered a disgrace to dodge the recruiter. And it was the same in this instance. Forged and bought medical certificates, even artificial crippling, were resorted to, and many a pampered young fellow fled by sea.

The amendment dealt with such evasions, providing that only the certificates of medical men who had been sworn in as Federal officers should be valid. Every competent physician was admitted to the oath. High penalties were enacted against attempts


  ― 91 ―
to corrupt the officers and against all malpractices. It was also enacted that men who got married after the date of the proclamation, could not thereby escape liability to military service. And the excuse that a liable person had made arrangements to leave the country prior to the proclamation was especially excluded from the grounds for exemption.

The new clauses were put into operation immediately. Their harshness was, of course, resented violently. Young Englishmen, who had come out on business or for Colonial experience and had remained for over six months, but without any intention of settling permanently in Australia, were debarred from leaving and compelled to join the army. The outgoing vessels were kept under close supervision; escapees who in despair had stowed themselves away or had signed on as common seamen, were hauled back and enlisted. Cable reports of such occurrences found their way into the British Press and the ordinary reader, ignorant of the merits of the case and very shocked at the signs of oppression, looked upon Australia with more unfavourable eyes day by day.

Both the Registration Act and the Defence Amendment may be described as non-contentious measures. Their passage terminated the happy unity of Parliament, for now the main problem had to be faced: the necessity of financing the defence of the Commonwealth, the method of which could not be considered apart from party principles. Enormous sums were wanted to maintain the standing army and to improve its armaments. Moreover, the Railway Bill providing for the immediate construction of the transcontinental railway to Port Darwin would call for millions. It was here the first cleavage occurred between the Moderates, who represented the more conservative interests,


  ― 92 ―
and the ardent patriots, who preferred to suffer everything rather than surrender the White Australia ideal and who included not only people of every political persuasion willing to place fatherland before faction in the hour of national danger, even at the risk of offending British traditions, but also the entire Federal Labour Party. Mainly because of their connexion with the latter, they were soon dubbed “Extremists” by their opponents. Under that name, used at first as a reproach, and then appropriated as a term of distinction, like so many political appellations of the past, they will go down to history.

Once the Party spirit revived the Parliamentary struggle became very confused. Until then, the Commonwealth, as apart from the States, had never raised a loan. Now, Government proposed to do so. In addition, it introduced fresh taxation. To begin with, a Federal income-tax of two shillings in the pound on all annual incomes exceeding £150. Though this was an enormous impost, even the Moderates agreed to the principle, well aware that sacrifices were necessary, and only strove to reduce the rate. But it was merely a commencement. For the Government also insisted on the graduated land tax. So far the advocacy of such a measure had been associated exclusively with the Labour Party, who had never been able to convince a majority of the people of its expediency. That the present crisis was used to push it forward, enraged the Moderates. It was felt as a party affront. And the representatives of vested interests resented this attempted socialistic spoliation, as they termed it, and resolved to resist firmly.

The Moderates, on the whole, were certainly as patriotic as other Australians. True, they paid more deference to the sentiment of the Mother


  ― 93 ―
Country, which to many of them was “Home.” And they were naturally more cautious, since they stood for the commercial and industrial proprietors, for the men of means and big landholders, who had most to lose. Some of their acknowledged leaders had not always been over-careful in their utterances as to the merits of the Commonwealth case. But they would have died as gladly as any of their compatriots in defence of their country's rights against the invasion of the Asiatic Power. Their objections to a graduated land tax were quite natural. Once the latter had become law, its principle acknowledged, law it would probably remain long after the immediate cause for its adoption had passed away. Before Federation, the predecessors of the modern Moderates had ruled the various States. In those days, the remedy for every financial difficulty had been borrowing. The result was that to-day four millions of people owed nearly 250 million pounds sterling to the British investor. It did not seem to hurt them. Why not follow the time-honoured device? The Moderates advocated another big loan, and were willing to vote a solid income-tax for the interest service. Further they would not, could not, dared not go.

On the other hand, the Government insisted on its graduated land tax. There was no party spirit prompting it. The crisis had not swept away political principles of a lifetime, but no reasonable Australian thought of faction strife just then. The facts were plain. The Commonwealth was entering the gates of a future of which nobody could foretell the portents. Was it wise, was it dignified to pledge the public credit at once to its utmost limits, without an honest attempt to pay out of the national pocket for the national cause? Was it even possible? London was not exactly enthusiastic, to say


  ― 94 ―
the least. A financial rebuff at this juncture might be disastrous. (Nobody, of course, had any idea of what was to happen shortly.) But London might be humoured by the creation of good security. The income tax was one means. And the graduated land tax? It was the only other way of raising a large annual amount. It had been talked about for many years. It had many supporters. It would not come as a shock to the people, because they were already acquainted with the idea. And money had to be found. That was why the Government was so determined about it.

So the Parliament battle began. Meanwhile the people looked on stupefied. They only knew that the Continent was in danger, that every moment was precious, that millions of money were wanted. Why was a whole week wasted in talk? Why could not their Representatives agree? Land tax or no land tax, the people were not in the mood for listening to technicalities. Deeds, not words! Find money! In the heat of the financial contest, each side overstated its case. The Moderates were quite willing to pass the income tax, even two shillings if it could not be helped. But as good Parliamentarians they could not have done so without pointing out the enormity of their unselfishness. Was not direct taxation reserved to the States? Look here, how patriotic we are! We sacrifice all ancient traditions—it should entitle us to consideration in other respects! The people outside are muttering: the States! Who thought of them? Commonwealth in danger, not States!

The other side is as explicit. Behind Government, the Labour Party is fighting. None of their responsible leaders would think of taking mean party advantages now. The people outside regard them with friendly eyes. They have always


  ― 95 ―
stood for White Australia. Also the graduated land tax has for long been a plank in their platform. But why re-state these things? It takes time even to tell truth, and time is precious! They have not the slightest wish to dwell on these facts. And yet, in the heat of debate! Ah, the people outside are out of order. Parliament, with the best of intentions, is settling down to raise points. The Long Parliament did so, once, around a tottering throne. Likewise a Congress, while a Sub-Continent was blazing to the sky. And a National Convention of France, with Hell hissing from every crevice beneath it. It is the chief delight, the second nature of all elected persons at all times.

A whole week lost! Something will have to happen. Ah, what is this, this fierce cry of rage, like the shout of a Continent? Something has happened! In the midst of hopeless confusion the Governor-General has announced that he has been instructed to withhold assent from the Coloured Inhabitants' Registration Act, on the ground that it is directly opposed to British principles of fairness and offensive to the coloured subjects of the Empire. A bombshell could not have had an effect more deadly. All Australia is suddenly awakening to a sense of its isolation. Government resigns at once (June 19). Melbourne, faithful Melbourne, threatens to lynch everybody who gives way on the colour issue. Did not some prominent Moderates counsel confidence in England but a short while ago? These Moderates will have to live in the House. Woe to those away in the country. They are marked men, exposed to the first fury of a disillusioned populace, insulted, even maltreated. Let nobody dare to form an administration while the Imperial authorities refuse to sanction the Registration Act. His blood upon himself! The State Governors even


  ― 96 ―
are moved to action. They report that no living soul can accept responsibility for the public peace as long as this matter remains unsettled. Never before have the cable operators worked so feverishly.

London listens. London waits. Nearly another week is gone. The excitement has not abated one jot. Instead, it has spread round the globe, to the Sister Dominions. They all call on the Mother to honour the will of a free Daughter Nation. London wavers. In the British Parliament the Colonial Secretary explains that the measure includes all coloured races and is therefore not directed specially against the Japanese. (Hear! hear!) Australia holds its breath. Yes, the Crown grants assent at last (June 26). But listen! On the understanding that the Federal Executive is sure of its own ability to enforce the Act. So let it be law!

Government is reconstructed at once. Nobody cares about the singular British reservation, which, in plain language, means that England disavows its obligation to see that the law is respected. Australia will look to that! But shall the financial haggling now start afresh? Wait a moment! Did not some hunted persons, during the period of national delirium, appeal to the authority of the States, since the Commonwealth was headless, heedless? Were there not some responses of smothered eagerness? Nothing has come of it, nor shall ever come of it. Resolution proposed by the Leader of the Federal Labour Party: “That until after the expulsion of the Japanese occupation force the High Court shall not hear appeals on behalf of the States against any action of the Federal Executive as approved by Commonwealth Parliament.” Inter arma silent leges. In vain the Moderates fight to the last ditch. The resolution passes the Representatives by a majority of seven, the Senate by three.




  ― 97 ―

It is the end. The same majorities vote two shillings income tax, land tax, loan of two millions, which, alas, shall never eventuate. Outside the people cry with one voice: Dissolution! New elections! The Sovereign of Australia wants to take his fate into his own hands and to re-fashion his court. Some time, of course, has still to be spent, usefully now.

On July 12 the Fourth Parliament of the Commonwealth dies. Double Dissolution it is, befitting the national crisis. The Orators have had their day. Now let the People act!




  ― 98 ―

Chapter X: Pax Britannica

THE events under review being of contemporary occurrence it is naturally impossible to lay bare the hidden springs which actuated international politics and the workings of which may fully account for the cautious restraint of the Imperial authorities. Secret motives and silent struggles must, of course, have existed, but they are not touched on in the communications between London and Melbourne, and between London and Tokio, which the British Government has found advisable to publish at different times for the information of Parliament. These, together with some duly authenticated, generally hazy ministerial utterances, form the only supply of official intelligence accessible at present. Everything beyond is uncertain. Unfortunately, the period is too recent by nearly a generation for those delightful indiscretions called memoirs.

The Governments of Japan and China protested against the Coloured Inhabitants' Registration Act as soon as its clauses became known. Japan's objections raised no ire in England. That nation was regarded as an equal. But that even the Chinamen should dare to remonstrate, and in such formidable company, was an innovation which could not be stomached lightly by the Empire-conscious Britons. By the perversity of fate, their resentment fell not so much upon the Chinaman


  ― 99 ―
as on the Colony which had made such a slight possible. The protest and the popular distaste had probably some connexion with the refusal of the King's assent to the measure. And when the sanction was granted at last, the Imperial authorities, apart from the special reservation mentioned before, thought fit to request the Federal Government not to take any further restrictive steps without consulting them in advance. They particularly warned against any attempt to subject the Japanese immigrants to a violent police persecution as threatened by the dispatch of a force of constabulary to the Northern Territory, on the ground that such a course was calculated to drive the refugees to despair and might result in armed resistance and bloodshed. The Commonwealth was, however, officially assured that its just rights would be protected by all the forces of the Empire. This was vague comfort, at best, and it drew, consequently, merely an evasive reply. The haste and harshness with which the provisions of the new act were brought into play soon taught the British Government that verbal behests on its part were apt to be overlooked.

It became therefore necessary to show plainly who was in reality master of the situation. The means employed for the purpose were most emphatic. In the evening of July 1, all serviceable vessels of the Australian squadron left port. Only three small craft remained behind, together with the old gunboat Protector, which represented the Commonwealth-owned navy in its entirety. Two days after the departure the British Government coolly informed the Federal Cabinet that colonial provocations were disturbing the friendly relations between the Empire and its neighbours, and that it had been compelled thereby to concentrate the fleet in


  ― 100 ―
Eastern waters, at Singapore, as a preparation for all eventualities.

There were voiced in Australia no wild official protests against the withdrawal of the naval screen. Only once was the matter referred to in a dignified manner in the Federal Parliament. Expressions of disgust were left to the Sister-Dominions, which did not disappoint expectations. A perfect yell of execration went up in New Zealand and in Canada.

Especially in the latter colony the Press and the politicians threw moderation to the winds. Oldestablished, reputable papers charged the Imperial authorities with selling their white dependencies to their yellow allies, and delivering them over bound hand and foot. Responsible Canadian statesmen indulged in self-congratulations that they, at least, had not spent money on a foreign navy to be left in the ditch in the hour of need. In New Zealand, a Minister of the Crown refused to be interviewed on the subject, stating as his reason that he could not help talking high treason if he opened his mouth. The sudden explosion alarmed the people of the United Kingdom and had farreaching results. But it did not frighten the British Government, which knew that it was so much empty sound.

Its members were far more concerned about the reports regarding internal developments in the Commonwealth. The overthrow of the Moderates, the rise and popularity of the Extremists, and the forcible opening of new sources of revenue which promised to provide the money needed to open active hostilities against the Japanese immigrants, were so many danger signals. Only in the Northern Territory was an immediate clash between organized forces of both races possible. So far the special constabulary had limited their efforts to Port


  ― 101 ―
Darwin and the neighbourhood of the railway, where they found ample work to do. The tributary system of mining was suppressed, and a majority of the Chinese were deprived in this way of their livelihood. Some whites who were disliked because of their familiarity with the coloured scum were tried on trumped-up charges and shipped south. But now Palmerston district was reduced to order, and open preparations were made for an expedition into the invaded territory. Already rumours gained currency that the police were to be reinforced by militia. The execution of this design would bring matters to a climax at once.

It seems that Tokio, during this anxious period, abstained carefully from identifying itself with its emigrants to the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, it is only natural to suppose that the Japanese statesmen paid close attention to the drift of events and that they entertained grave fears that the presence and plans of the constabulary might precipitate a crisis. There were other threatening developments. Since the first half of June an irregular corps of bushmen, intent on making merciless war on the invaders, was forming in North Queensland. It was called the White Guard, and all the most determined men and pioneers of the back blocks were enlisting in it. Hand in hand with this movement went an evergrowing bitterness against the coloured aliens. Most probably the Japanese Government had agents who kept it well informed of these complications. Whether and how far it used its knowledge to impress on its ally the necessity for rapid, energetic action, must remain pure conjecture in the absence of documentary evidence to date.

The suggestive fact is that on July 12 the Imperial Government proclaimed the north coast of Australia between degrees 132 East and 137 East a closed


  ― 102 ―
area for ordinary navigation purposes. All landing and discharging operations within these limits were prohibited except in the case of vessels furnished with special certificates signed by a nominated Imperial agent or by an officer of the British navy. Vessels without such permit approaching to within three miles of the mainland were declared liable to confiscation with all cargo. To enforce these rules, cruisers were despatched from Singapore. A gunboat anchored off Port Darwin. Its commander had orders to supervise the shipping at that port. A strict watch was kept also over the Western shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria by patrolling men-of-war. Of course, no difficulties were put in the way of through navigation from Port Darwin to Bourketown and further east, so that the intercolonial and oversea trade was not interfered with. But the measure practically cut off the invaded territory from the nerve-centres of the Commonwealth, as no convenient overland routes existed. Moreover, to complete the isolation, the commander of the gunboat off Port Darwin was vested with Imperial authority to control not only the waters, but the dry land as well, for the proclamation empowered him to take such precautions, within a coastal stretch twenty miles wide, as he might consider necessary to ensure the proper working of the maritime restrictions. Though the Japanese immigrants were not mentioned once in the extraordinary decree, it was evident to all observers that it was entirely in their favour, and that further proceedings against them from Port Darwin were made dependent on the sanction of an Imperial naval officer. And thus the use by Australia of the only base within striking distance of the enemy was suspended.

This meant, to all intents and purposes, the arbitrary establishment of a British protectorate


  ― 103 ―
over part of the Commonwealth. Tokio professed immediately to look upon it as such, and instructed its ambassador to entreat the English Government to garrison the settlements of the refugees by an Imperial force, on the ground that this step would serve best to refute the invidious colonial aspersions that Japan was coveting Australian soil.

Downing Street considered it prudent to explain the motives for its action and to disavow the ulterior aims which were charged against it in an official communication addressed to all autonomous colonial Governments. This document, which was published at once, laid stress on the point that British protection, and still more British citizenship, formed a privilege which could only be extended to applicants who conformed to a certain standard. There was no attempt to define the standard in the document, which, however, ran on with the reassuring statement that there was no reason to apply different rules in the present case. The temporary control of a small stretch of Australian coast line, it continued, was decided on for reasons of expediency, and questioned in no way the sovereignty of the Commonwealth. But as it was clear that the latter was not in a position to deal with the difficulty single-handed, Great Britain had to step in. This necessity had not converted the closed area into a protectorate, and no British garrison would be placed there.

As a further sop for the self-governing dominions, the Imperial authorities suddenly adopted towards Tokio an attitude of impartial firmness. The Mikado's offer was curtly rejected as an attempt to force citizens upon an unwilling nation. His Majesty's Government regretted that subjects of an allied Power had created, by tactless management, an untenable situation. Imperial claims must


  ― 104 ―
prevail on Imperial soil. The maritime restrictions would be enforced against Japanese shipping with equal thoroughness as against every other flag. And any interference with Commonwealth navigation by Japanese craft would be regarded as an unfriendly act.

The concluding sentences of the declaration of policy were calculated to appease Australian anxiety. For rumours were about that warships flying the ensign of the Rising Sun had been seen hovering off the coast, and the excited people believed that their mission was to pounce upon the unprotected shipping. Although the absurdity of the idea was palpable, its circulation had already led, in the general nervousness, to a rise of the local maritime insurance rates. It is doubtful whether the belated and merely verbal demonstration regained many colonial sympathies. But it is certain that the strong language of the British Government created widespread consternation in England. There the financial reaction caused by the long drawn-out disturbance overshadowed more and more the political interest. And a sudden fear of further complications, even of war, removed the last sentimental barrier against a panic in colonial securities.

The London Stock Exchange had taken jokingly the first reports of a Japanese invasion of Australia. Antipodean stocks were looked upon favourably, on the whole, in consequence of the very satisfactory harvest of the preceding year. Quotations ruled rather high, for the prospects of another splendid season as the result of sufficient early rainfalls were just being discounted. The economic outlook in the other self-governing dependencies being similarly reassuring, the condition of the markets for


  ― 105 ―
colonial state-land and railway securities could be summed up as remarkably healthy at the opening of the second quarter, 1912.

When the official Tokio explanation became known, consols declined slightly, but recovered quickly on the calmness shown by the Imperial Government. The big financial interests lent their support to steady the home funds, for now that cheaper money could be expected for the summer months the ground was being prepared already for a general rise in the more speculative markets, and a decided weakness in gilt-edged values would have spoiled the game. On reflection, this inflow of coloured labour into the empty spaces of the tropical Northern Territory was voted rather a good thing, and all the better if it should become a permanency.

But there was a small well-informed section with oversea connexions who quickly discerned great possibilities of a political scare. Quietly, a bear position was reared. It is not probable that the professionals committed themselves heavily at the outset: first honours, as is Stock Exchange custom in ticklish cases, went no doubt to gay outside plungers who exist to be egged on and sucked dry. Australian stocks began to give way. Next settlement disclosed a huge bear account. These pioneers fare badly, for strong forces counteracted the decline. People considered that the Commonwealth pace was too tremendous to last, even with all the applause of the Sister-Dominions thrown in. The line of policy which the Imperial Government proposed to follow became more clearly visible and inspired confidence. The fear of international complications diminished accordingly. A satisfactory solution was regarded as possible any day, after which the bulls were expected to have a great


  ― 106 ―
innings. This uncertainty, tempered with hopefulness, made prices move in jerks, now up, now down, within narrow limits.

Then came, as eye-openers, news of the mobilization, of the Registration Act and of the crisis in its wake. They marked the first serious set-back of high-class securities and the jubilant inrush of professional bears who were badly bitten however, for a vigorous rebound followed—the British Treasury had entered the fight. Large amounts of consols were taken up. It was rumoured that the Government had fathered a trust formed by leading banks and capitalists to back colonial issues from time to time, when the depression became too pronounced. No doubt the responsible statesmen wished to financially assist the daughter nations, in the hope that generous economic support would dispel the growing distrust of the latter and would render them more tractable with regard to political necessities.

The Stock Exchange, which was adversely influenced by the protest of the Far Eastern Powers, became more cheerful immediately afterwards on the report of the withdrawal of the Australian squadron, which was hailed as a well-deserved disciplinary lesson for the colonies, and turned gloomy again in contemplation of the overthrow of the Moderates in the Commonwealth and of the frenzy raging in the sister-dominions. The tension was now approaching the danger point, but was relieved once more by the establishment of British control over the invaded territory. Then came the strong note to Tokio, and vague fears of the possibility of war began to haunt the prosperous classes of England. Their alarm found expression in a steady stream of sales of all kinds of securities. Once this instinctive


  ― 107 ―
movement was fairly started its persistence defeated every attempt to stem it. And suddenly the bottom dropped out of the colonial markets altogether. Curiously enough, the first big raid was made not on Australian stocks but on Canadian issues. This flank attack showed rare disquistion. Perhaps it was accidental. But it carries the suspicion that at last the master minds of British High Finance had determined on severe chastisement of the obstreperous dependencies. If so, their strategy was helped by the fact that Canadian funds ranged considerably higher than the Antipodean equivalents, without possessing a larger intrinsic value. The reason for this was purely sentimental: it was a manifestation of the popular conviction that the trend of Canadian legislation had so far been more closely on time-honoured English lines. That sentiment being rudely shaken by the uncompromising advocacy in the Great American dominion of Commonwealth methods, the higher prices were no longer justified before critical eyes. Consequently Canadian Threes dropped six points within a few hours. In the midst of wild panic, the more speculative issues followed the head. Canadian Pacific Railway shares lost nearly twenty points before pulling up. Grand Trunk Railway, Hudson's Bay and industrial ventures suffered in proportion. There was no holding back the inevitable after that. The baisse tendency spread to other departments. All Australian and New Zealand values tumbled heavily. It became now apparent that the system, championed by colonial treasurers, of draining their states of every surplus shilling so that they may pick up a profit by investment, for fixed periods, at good rates of interest, in London, was at best a fair-weather luxury. At the critical moment, when ready money at call might have


  ― 108 ―
done wonders, all the cash was locked up and unavailable.

Next day many descriptions of stock were practically unsaleable. Support had ceased. Probably the British Government had been converted to the opinion that the cause of peace would be served best by the debacle of colonial finance. Even if it had been willing to help, it had no moral influence. For the economic policy of Great Britain, the unrestricted licence of the individual which is affected there as the commercial ideal, has internationalized the London Stock Exchange and has emancipated it from official control. It has become impossible to emulate the example of Continental Powers who, at times, have transformed the courses of their capitals into machines for waging financial warfare against a political enemy. Even unruly Wall Street is not unmindful of hints from Washington, because its money kings are dependent on indirect support from the national treasury in periods of scare and stress. But the London Stock Exchange acknowledges only one dominating factor: money power.

It seems that Japan had studied the financial side of the problem with its usual thoroughness. Its various funds lost some points during the first week of the panic, mostly on large continental sales. A few English papers, indeed, commented on the unpatriotic method of smashing Imperial values while the securities of the country with which the whole disturbance originated were maintained at a high level. Very little attention was paid in London to such exhortations. The bulk of the prosperous classes was against quarrels with the ally—now more than ever. For the losses were quite big enough already, without any further engineerings of international panics. Moreover, a severe fall


  ― 109 ―
in Japanese funds could only be brought about by spreading and magnifying the fears of war, which course would have been certain to affect adversely the price of consols and to lead to still further complications. And the great banks and capitalists were vitally interested that the ring should be kept, that the trouble should be confined to the colonial field. There were, nevertheless, some adventurous baisse speculators who organized attacks against the Japanese issues and occasionally succeeded in depressing them sharply. But the agents of Tokio had enormous gold reserves—part of the last loan—at their disposal in London, New York and Paris, and soon forced quotations up again.

Subsequent events impaired the credit of Australia further. Apart from temporary slight recoveries the prices of its State issues continued on the downward grade, until in the darkest days of the Commonwealth the old Victorian and New South Wales Threes went begging at half their face values.

Never before had the airy pretentions of dependencies been reduced to more complete absurdity. The shallowness of the talk of perfect equality, of the right of autonomous states to shape their own destinies, was glaringly exposed. British supremacy had successfully asserted itself. Not by violent altercations or by force, but by the simple process of lowering the values of colonial stock. It was in vain that the victims shrieked furiously, and that they denounced the methods of the manipulators of the collapse. Undeniably there were sounds reasons for the decline, which the sordid features surrounding it could not do away with. It was all very fine to sing high Imperial strains in quiet times. But when the tail tried to wag the dog, when a few free and easy millions attempted to


  ― 110 ―
overlord the toiling masses of the United Kingdom who paid for the display, then the make-believe of pretty phrases and ornaments had to be brushed aside. Without regard for the sufferings of individuals, great Britain seized the baton. It was true that the act involved tremendous sacrifice. Many millions of pounds were lost to the backbone of Imperial power, the sober, steady English and Scottish middle classes. That, however, was merely a rearrangement of wealth, and the disadvantages might be turned to profit in the long run, if the decline was severe and lasting enough to cause a permanently higher rate of colonial interest on loans advanced by the mother country.

Nevertheless, the cruel lesson did not have all at once the desired effect on Australia. There was too much at stake for it. It could not acknowledge the mastery of London on any conditions at this moment. It was actually invaded, and the surrender of its principles might have meant its extinction as a white nation. Besides, the force of the blow was not realized fully because the citizens of the Commonwealth were kept in excitement by internal political developments, which appeared far more important to them. Indeed, nothing could have driven more disciples into the ranks of the Extremists than the financial collapse, which must be held largely responsible for the civic convulsions which followed.

But the Sister Dominions were stunned by the shock. The complete cutting off of the national credit sobered the calmer leaders. Appeals to caution were heard above the last wild shrieks for instant succession. That proposition was settled, anyhow. It was recognized that the colonies were wholly subject to public opinion in England, and that they would have to fall into


  ― 111 ―
line with the declared British policy regardless of their own wishes, whenever their opposition was taken so seriously as to lead to panic in London. The outlook was black. Many self-governing states had millions of loan funds falling due at early dates, which must be renewed. Most of them had started works, the progress of which called for more loan money. Nearly all had borrowed already to the limit, confident of the exhaustlessness of the British purse and of the splendours of their own future. Even in good times only a small part of the sums required for development could be secured locally. A further part might be had in France, perhaps, provided that deep peace reigned. Under present circumstances the pockets of the whole world were sealed against colonial needs.

Thus the White Dominions had pawned the right to work out their own destinies and to go their own way. They had pledged so recklessly the national credit, and thereby national independence and honour, that they had become counters in a game in which they had no say. It was no use blinking the facts. There is no equality between creditor and debtor if the latter cannot meet his bills without the help of the former. This unlooked-for position had now arisen: the colonies had no option but to propitiate London by conforming to its views on international issues. After some vexatious delay, they might hope to be allowed again to negotiate for financial accommodation on reasonable terms, though, perhaps, they would have to consent to a higher rate of interest than they were used to in the past.

Some time elapsed, of course, before the return to unquestioning loyalty by Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa was complete. For several weeks after the Stock Exchange panic, colonial indignation


  ― 112 ―
seemed to lose nothing of its intensity of expression. Popular orators still bragged of the national ability to stand alone, of being at the mercy of none. But one by one the politicians with any aspirations to responsibility dropped out of the performance. The language of the leading papers became moderate. The “Defence League of All the Whites” began to show signs of paralysis, brought on by the retirement or cool reserve of its wealthiest members. Those who persevered began to lose caste. It was not that the sympathy with Commonwealth aims diminished. But deference to the sentiments which swayed the great heart of the Empire was of higher importance, loyal acquiescence in the world policy of the Central Government took precedence before all other considerations. Once more Pax Britannica ruled triumphant.




  ― 113 ―

Chapter XI: Furor Australiensis

SO Australia, at last, was made to wake up—under sledge-hammer blows: Imperial attempt of legislative interference, annihilation of naval screen, isolation of the invaded territory, debacle of public finance; under such an avalanche of disasters the young Commonwealth staggered into consciousness of its desperate position. But it was no longer a merciful Commonwealth marching proudly in the van of humanitarian effort. It was a wounded giant groping blindly round, in the first fierce transport of rage, for something he might wreak vengeance on—for some victim. In vain the beginnings of the election campaign! That could wait. Later, when its time was ripe, it would grow of itself into that raging, tearing convulsion known to history, for good reasons, as the “Flaming Elections.” At present the elections seemed too far off to attract popular passion. Some immediate scapegoat was wanted. And who was nearer than the unfortunate coloured aliens still residing in the country? So far the genius of Australia had been opposed to the infliction of personal revenge on private individuals for failings of the race to which they belonged. But where so many sacred illusions were swept away, this fine generosity could not last much longer. Imperceptibly and rapidly the idea


  ― 114 ―
gained ground that it must be the first and foremost business of Australia to get rid of the Asiatics altogether, before other problems could be taken in hand. At this moment immigrants from the western slope of North America began to enter the Commonwealth, firstfruits of the “Defence League of All the Whites.” The new arrivals were yet few in number, but quite sufficient to permeate the seething multitudes with Yankee notions of race standards and with Yankee methods of dealing with inferior races.

The storm broke in Melbourne. A pushing Emporium there, famous for topical advertisements, alluded in one of these to the universal brotherhood of man. It also exhibited in one of its show windows a white and a yellow figure shaking hands over a conciliatory motto. Of course commercial men might wish for relaxation of the tension, but a more ridiculous blunder could not have been made just then. Crowds assembled in front of the shop and soon became threatening. The window was smashed and the whole concern on the point of being sacked. Only the valour of the police and the presence of mind of the proprietor saved the situation. Big posters were made hurriedly and pasted everywhere, reading: “Down with the Japs,” “No quarter for Mongolians,” “White Australia for ever,” a change of mind which satisfied the besiegers and proved a sound stroke of business as well. From that moment onward nearly all shops displayed signs: “No coloured people served.” The boycott had begun.

It was merely the prelude to racial convulsions all over the Continent. Some of the worst excesses have become known as the Sydney Riots.

The immediate cause was a quarrel on board a ferry steamer on Saturday afternoon (July 13). A


  ― 115 ―
couple of Chinamen were accused of having annoyed, either by looks or words, some white girls. In the end the alleged offenders were thrown into the harbour. When the boat arrived at Circular Quay the police made an attempt to arrest the supposed ringleaders. But they were rescued by other passengers. The Quay is always crowded. Soon thousands thronged round the wharf where the disturbance took place. They were thickly interspersed with rough elements, who quickly got tired of looking on passively. Some Japanese seamen from a Nippon Yushan Kaisha steamer which was in port, passed at this moment and were subjected to jeering remarks. Other coloured marines received the same attention. There are generally plenty of them about in that quarter on their way between the City and the transoceanic steamers. Feeling secure by reason of numbers of supporters within, call, they did not conceal their resentment. A gang of half-grown boys, emboldened by the chance of exhibiting pluck before a large audience, thereupon began to pelt them with dirt. The coloured men retaliated forcibly and some young-fellows were badly beaten. This spectacle infuriated the crowd, while the noise attracted comrades of the seamen from the ships near by. They brought iron bars and other heavy weapons as means of defence. The opposing forces soon came to blows and a pitched battle raged between the white riff-raff on the one hand and a yelling multitude of maddened Lascars, Chinamen, Japanese and other Asiatics on the other. Knives and revolvers came into play. Night had fallen before the police, compelled to side with the populace and to use freely their firearms, succeeded in crushing the resistance of the coloured crews. About a dozen of the fighters and some harmless citizens caught in


  ― 116 ―
the throng lost their lives, and many more were wounded.

Crazy with the sight and scent of blood, the masses surged up town, amidst cries of revenge. Their numbers were continually swelled by fresh recruits. A huge mob assembled round Belmore Markets, on the other end of the City, in the Chinese quarter. On Saturday nights a cheap fair used to be held there, which attracted, beside a large contingent of the poorer decent classes, a goodly percentage of the lowest scum. Many selling-booths were hired by Orientals and the coloured element was much in evidence. It is not probable that a demonstration there had been planned beforehand. Rather it may have been that the chance of loot under cover of racial excitement animated the meanest whites. Anyhow, a series of scuffles ensued round the Asiatic booths, the owners of which defended their property with all the stolid obstinacy which marks the race. In the overwrought state of public feeling, this was sufficient to start a general fray. Even decent, order-loving whites took part in it, and they and meek, peaceable Chinamen battled against one another like maniacs. Everywhere goods were strewn, shrieking women and children were dragged down and trampled upon. The harassed police stopped the uproar by cutting off the electric light. Hundreds rushed to the exits, careless of prostrate bodies which they trod down. Suddenly, a fire broke out in the wooden shed. Somebody picking his way through the darkness and confusion may have dropped a lighted match on the heaps of inflammable stuff littered about. Many persons, men hurt in the fight, women and children, were still in the tottering ancient pile. A terrible panic followed. The flames leapt up and enveloped everything with lightning speed. Within


  ― 117 ―
three minutes it had become impossible to save any one. The surrounding streets were choked with multitudes demented by horror. Through them the police, assisted by volunteers, now opened approaches for the fire brigades. No further regard was paid to human life. Over quivering forms, which had been flung into the roadway by the jostling crowds, fire-engines thundered. For the conflagration, raging next to the gasworks in a district of produce and dry goods stores, threatened the whole city with destruction. This was Sydney's delirious night of colour riots.

How many were burnt and otherwise killed had never been officially stated. According to private computations, over two hundred perished. The fire was overcome in the early hours of Sunday morning. Quiet reigned all that day. No coloured seaman was allowed to leave ship. The alien inhabitants kept behind closed doors, and when they ventured forth again they were seldom exposed to anything worse than occasional horseplay. Sydney had had enough of the ruling passion.

The centre of the disturbance swiftly shifted to Melbourne. Some disgraceful scenes occurred there, too, on Saturday night in the pleasure part of Bourke Street. However, the police managed to suppress outrage in that quarter. But the ball had been set rolling. The pushes, alert to perceive the advantage vouchsafed to them by the moral lapse of the community, organized little private raids on unprotected Chinese shops in the suburbs. Windows were smashed, goods robbed, and occasionally, in a well-timed rush, the till-money was carried triumphantly. Bad as this was, when Sunday morning dawned, Melbourne was yet free of murder. The papers, breaking the local laws against Sunday publications, issued extras detailing the Sydney


  ― 118 ―
happenings exaggerated beyond their hideous reality. All town discussed them, and in the evening suspicious gangs appeared in the crowded streets. As the aliens had been warned and did not show themselves in public, the police relaxed their vigilance somewhat, especially as no excesses were reported during the most lively hours. About 9 o'clock noise arose in the Chinese quarter. It appears that a band of larrikins had invaded Little Bourke Street. At that late hour, the Mongolians had most likely grown less anxious, reassured by the previous unbroken tranquillity. Some youths, at any rate, managed to close with the yellow-skins who, conscious of their numbers, struck a defiant attitude. All at once a piercing cry was heard. A young Australian had been stabbed; he staggered along the street, only to collapse in the gutter. Within an incredibly short time, hundreds of rough whites filled the back street, athirst for revenge. Many of them carried weapons. The Chinese retreated behind walls, but it was too late. While the advance of the police was blocked under showers of stones, doors were beaten in, windows forced open, and in dens, courtyards and alleys a mortal combat raged. Half an hour elapsed before the constabulary, with full reinforcements from the central barracks near by, could restore a semblance of order. Several policemen were killed and wounded; the civilian losses on both sides were considerable. It was rumoured that some ruffians, caught red-handed as they were setting fire to a place, were despatched on the spot. On Monday morning Melbourne had resumed its usual busy way. As in Port Jackson, no coloured seamen were allowed to land. And the Asiatic inhabitants were too scared to give further challenge by parading in the open.

The example set by the two sea-capitals was emulated


  ― 119 ―
all over the interior of the Continent wherever the hated aliens dwelt. A long list of deeds of violence against a helpless minority stains the fair record of Australia here. Everywhere the same features were repeated. Ingrained contempt changed into sullen suspicion; some imprudence or impudence committed by a yellow man followed by a white blaze of indignation quenched only by the trickling of the red blood of the maimed offender or his unfortunate kinsfolk. A number of the wildest outrages has never become known outside a restricted local circle. They are of interest only to the student of national waves of dementia.

In the big ports the resentment against the coloured aliens smouldered on, although its expression did not again become so sanguinary. The struggle became now economic.

On Wednesday, July 17, 1912, an edict was issued by the Trades Halls of Sydney and Melbourne forbidding to the affiliated maritime unions any work in connexion with any vessels carrying coloured crews. Every Australian port, large or small, fell into line loyally as soon as the telegraph had transmitted the message. With twenty-four hours, it had become impossible along the whole coast of the Commonwealth to coal, load or discharge, or even to victual ships coming under the prohibition. The employers of the sea-capitals very naturally tried to break down the boycott. But they found few willing hands to aid them. A handful of unfortunates recruited by King Hunger—for that potentate too was on the point of invading the Continent where his very name had been unknown so long—were overawed by the populace and had to be withdrawn, since even the police would not guarantee their safety. The imagination of the whole nation was fascinated by the boldness of the boycott. Though


  ― 120 ―
the White Australia doctrine was threatened at the heart, the Extremists, undaunted, declared that the Ocean should be white as well. It was not a new policy, as it had been a pet ideal of advanced patriots of years, and had been officially advocated by the Commonwealth delegates at the last Imperial Navigation Conference. But its reassertion in the present crisis was a stroke of daring worthy of the stern Romans of old who carried war into Africa while unconquered Hannibal still menaced their gates. Alas, the times and circumstances were very different now!

Nevertheless, at first, results were not of a kind to make the Extremists repent of their thoroughness. The suffering on account of the partial stoppage of oversea circulation was counteracted to some extent by a sensational decline in the price of the necessaries of life. Monopolistic rings, which had kept high the local values while shipping cheaply for competition in the world's markets, collapsed when the shrinking of export facilities overwhelmed the outlets with supplies of perishable goods.

While the maritime boycott was in full swing, news arrived from Queensland of further excesses eclipsing in cruelty the southern riots. In the latter, the white riff-raff had borne the largest share. It was quite different in the North, while on the contrary decent, influential white men were the ringleaders. In tropical Queensland, Japanese used to run many of the bad houses, to which coloured womenfolk resorted. Unfortunately, the matter did not rest there. They insisted on running them on such peculiar lines of their own that it had often been prophesied that one day the whole thing would be washed off in blood. After the invasion, the hatred of these Pandars was augumented by the fear that every one of them might be a spy.


  ― 121 ―
Their opportunities in that direction were certainly considerable by reason of their trade. The disgust which had accumulated against them had become at least equal to the ferocity which burned negroes at the stake on the other side of the Pacific.

Upon this poisonous ground Western Americans, with all their traditions of race violence, set foot in quest of the White Guard. It is not probable that their influence was employed in the interests of law and order. Soon after their advent, in poured the reports of how the South had dealt with the Asiatics. What followed has never been cleared up fully. It seems that a secret league was formed among the best white elements and rapidly extended to all the picturesque townships scattered along the blue Pacific and round to the Gulf of Carpentaria. One evening, nearly a fortnight after the capitals had given the signal, an end was made with one accord right over North Queensland (July 27). The brothels were entered, all inmates seized. Of the subsequent proceedings no official version exists. Close private inquiry on the spot would be unsafe, for too many influential persons are still alive who were deeply implicated in the conspiracy. Apparently the culprits were not only exterminated, but exterminated in the most degrading fashion. In towns where only a few were taken, they were burnt at the stake. Where the numbers were larger, they were hanged and made targets of. So far it is hardly possible to pity the victims much. But there is one blot. The coloured trade goods disappeared for ever. These unfortunates, brought up to a life of infamy, perhaps sold into it by fond parents, were irresponsible. Some say that they were shot and buried quietly; others, that they were drowned. As a fitting termination, the Asiatics who plied less contemptible callings received warning that their


  ― 122 ―
safety could be guaranted only until after the departure of the next few steamers bound north.

The first news of anti-colour riots was served up to the British public as Sunday reading. Several up-to-date preachers referred to it in their sermons, likening the misguided Antipodeans unto Assyrian wolves. On Monday the London Stock Exchange marked its disapproval in a more practical manner by depressing Australian State funds several points more. And they fell still lower when the meaning of the boycott was realized. There never was a worse dislocation of trade. The leading shipping companies met boycott with boycott by holding back steamers due for the journey out or by diverting them to other parts of the world, and by cabling orders for the vessels in Commonwealth waters either to leave undischarged or to be laid up where they happened to be at the time. The stoppage sent up the prices for meat, butter and fruit in the markets of the United Kingdom. Moreover, the woollen industry began to suffer under the uncertainty of the outlook in the chief wool-producing country at a period when the early shearing should have started.

But the material losses were of small account compared to the damage inflicted upon the national pride. The greatest indignation was caused by the alertness of competitive foreigners to gather profits at the expense of British shipping supremacy. Continental lines discovered a method to end the deadlock. As is well known they already maintained regular services and had secured a large portion of the best paying Australian trade. Very quickly they rushed out a steamer-load of white seamen sufficient to work their laid-up vessels independent of coloured labour. Other steamers manned exclusively by European crews followed in


  ― 123 ―
quick succession, calling at English ports for cargo and thus giving a long start to the enterprising Continentals, who were placed incidentally in a position to dictate monopoly rates for return freight. At last the British companies had to adopt the same course. The counter boycott was broken. For the moment white labour had won the day. And the foreigners had established still more firmly their hold on Pacific trade.

The disgust of classes and masses alike in the United Kingdom against the Commonwealth had had time to become deep-rooted when the first rumour of the Queensland atrocities—so called by the London Press—leaked out. Public opinion was emphatic in condemnation. The effect was electric and transformed the existing bitterness into a dead set against Australia which nothing could overcome. Should Britannia bare her righteous sword in defence of such brutal, bloody deeds? The thing was not to be thought of. Several sensational journals demanded bombardment of the guilty ports and a blockade of the Commonwealth until all the perpetrators of the outrage should be punished, and until satisfaction should be given to the insulted nations. There can be no doubt that the series of violent outbreaks, and particularly this culmination, did immense harm to the Australian cause. Above all, weak-kneed adherents in the sister dependencies who were peering round anxiously for a chance to conciliate the financial over-lords, were supplied with a pretext to recant their former implicit applause under the plea of horrified humanity. From this period may be dated the ascendency of the Moderates in the other autonomous colonies.

Japan and China renewed their protest in more pressing terms. Ominous accounts were bruited about of significant movements on the part of the


  ― 124 ―
navy of the former Power. The Imperial Government promised a searching investigation and immediately lodged a claim with the Commonwealth for a substantial indemnity to be paid to the victims or their relatives. The Federal Executive replied that they were willing to consider favourably all reasonable demands on condition, however, that the beneficiaries should agree to leave the Continent for ever. Moreover, they insisted upon the speedy removal of the prohibited immigrants from the Northern Territory, on the ground that without such a safeguard they were unable to guarantee the non-recurrence of excesses. It was a clever piece of strategy, diverting the attention from the past to the future by a counter-claim the perfect legality of which rather weakened the case for Asia as long as it was not complied with. The advisers of the Mikado did not relish the proposition.




  ― 125 ―

Chapter XII: Pereat! (The Flaming Elections)

DECKS clear for action! What matter if a world outside cries horror over thee, Australia? Better be Devil than King Log, croaked over by Frogs. The violent rearrangement of race-standards, too, was merely an incident of clearing the decks, had become, in the fatal course of the stars, thy Necessity. Onward, Australia, now face thy other Necessities.

Only a month has gone by since Parliament wrangled about financial tricks. How ridiculous it looks to-day, this fierce debating of a loan and what should be done to make it attractive! How very simple everything has become! Loans! The whole rich world has not a penny to spare for Australia. Even a usurer would not lend to a dying man who has already pawned his valuables. If thou wilt money, get thee to thy own pocket. Let us count up the cost. Armaments by sea and land: they will swallow millions. Transcontinental railways: tens of millions. Be humble, Australia, thou canst not do it!

It cannot be done? This is election time. What throngs round the platforms! What seas of heads and excitement! What strange mutterings, stranger silences! Listen! Listen to the men to whom the people of Australia listen. They do not


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talk of impossibilities. Are we not, value calculated for heads, the wealthiest nation on earth? Where are the limits of our rural production? Our mines, but last year, yielded in gold alone sixteen million pounds sterling! Who dares suggest that this treasure, torn from the bowels of our country by our hands, is not ours for the sacred purpose of defending our rights? Private claims? Fatherland before dividends! Traitors and cowards are those who say otherwise.

Traitors! Yet another old-world word, the true meaning of which had never before been fathomed in Australia. Multitudes mutter it, half shyly at first, with downcast eyes. Already they steal furtive glances at each other. Whisperings rise into plain language. Traitors! Are there any such among us? That Hell-Hound, Political Suspicion, is unchained. Its bark shall be heard throughout the length and width of the Commonwealth; its bite, too, shall kill without mercy.

Look at the men who draw the largest crowds. Nearly all our polished orators are gone, Moderates and Extremists alike. They were far too prettily articulate to voice the tempestuous fury now coursing through the veins of the nation. Only a few who have overcome their Parliamentary experience are still tolerated. Beside them other leaders, unknown to fame the day before yesterday, have risen into prominence; persons quite ignorant of diplomatic methods of expression, yet possessed of something infinitely more impressive at the present moment. Note the gloomy fires of conviction smouldering in their feverish eyes! They unburden themselves, in endless procession, at every busy street corner in city and country town, at all times of day and night. Money! Find money! is their eternal refrain. Money to blaze a


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track to the invaded northern wilderness! Money for armaments to strike at the enemy! Millions of money. And at all times, day or night, listeners crowd round, eager to absorb, to discuss every new suggestion. It is a continual roar, accentuated by yells of defiance, broken into by groans of dissent, and reasserted triumphantly in thundering applause, as some appeal strikes home. What strange words the attentive ear catches above the din! Forced loans! Embargo on gold exports! Absentee taxes! Ah, the money must be found. Shout again, ye patriots! Drown protests in applause! Let universal hoarseness be the badge of patriotism! Roar of storm, roar of sea, what are ye against the roar of a despairing people!

Tremble, therefore, ye Moderates! All those who have to lose most. Call it not spoliation, class war, socialism. Not the bitter partisan would dare to think of faction shibboleths now. It is Necessity! Life or Death of a White Continent! Those pitiless new leaders do not stoop to inquire how a man voted in the past, or what are his general political principles. Even many a smiling Labour orator, happy in the knowledge of having whooped all his life for a White Australia in well-rounded periods, has been pulled up short by them with that icy question: What else did you do for the cause besides talking? and has been ordered rudely to stand down. No Parliamentary procedure here. Down they did step, pale, noiseless, under storms of angry hoots and jeers, to political extinction. Where such things are happening daily, what chance for the faltering Moderate's excuse: The whole nation neglected its defence! All are equally guilty! All should suffer equally! There should be no singling out by which some are made to lose more than others! Ah, my friends! A continent in convulsions is not a


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Court in Equity. Those others will have their full share of suffering exacted from them. They will have to hunger, to die; it is all they can give. But the fortunate some ones whose all includes the ability of material sacrifices will also have to give this all, as a privilege and honourable duty; their lives, too, if necessary. What is the use of digging up old party differences, as if they did matter now! Are you willing to lay down everything to save White Australia? Are you for or against the Sacred Will of the People? That is the only test.

Honour where honour is due! Many prominent Moderates are doing their best without any invitation. Among them men who have always held strict views on the rights of property, and of whom unselfishness is least expected. They are spending their cash, they are mortgaging their possessions—God knows at what heavy loss, for the first weeks after the London panic are not the correct time for financial transactions. Some are equipping companies. Orders for four completely armed torpedo boats, payment for which is guaranteed by private deposits, are cabled to Europe. Alas, not everybody can be a hero. Every man of means has already suffered terribly, directly or indirectly, by the funds debacle or the maritime boycott. Wives and children have to be considered. Moreover, who can say that the Commonwealth will win? If not, what then? Good Moderates, we shall have beggared ourselves for nothing! Let us bestir ourselves. Let us appeal to common sense. It may be dangerous, but desperate men must risk something. The call is not made in vain. Some courageous Moderates begin to talk back at the pitiless street leaders. Our battle cry? Filial obedience to England! It is, after all, the grand old Mother Country. Even the Extremists cannot deny that


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without its help we cannot succeed. Our propoals? Accept unreservedly the intervention of the Imperial authorities in the Northern Territory dispute on condition that the Japanese Government will undertake to stop all further immigration! Unhappy Moderates, not far wrong!—whom fear made drop, by accident, on a constructive idea. So much the worse for you, because you are an hour too early. Blood, red blood of white men alone, can cool the delirious fury of Australia. Meanwhile the new suggestion complicates the confusion. Numbers of the old generation, who were born in Great Britain, listen. Their responsive chord has been struck—for the last time. Good patriots, these old folks, but not good enough for the present emergency. So their sons think—native Australians, who know little of past associations. Bark, Hell-Hound: Father suspect to son, son to father! Families rent by deadly enmity! Tears and curses. Some more poison. Will the cup never fill?

It is filling, steadily. It is brimming over. What hurrying, shouting, haranguing in the busy street! A human torrent surges in front of a newspaper office. Of late the Press has obediently reflected the overwhelming national opinion. But now one important daily has come out in defence of the Moderate proposals. In support, it has published some severe condemnations of the Commonwealth attitude from British contemporaries and has even dared to point the moral in a leading article which seemed to approve to some extent of those strictures. The crowd have set out to ask the meaning of this relapse; they have arrived to give their answer. Down with traitors! Constables, do not strike patriots! Crash of breaking glass; men, mounting on other men's shoulders, climb through the windows; the police guard, attacked from rear


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and front, is overwhelmed; the torrent pours its hundreds into the building, whence the terrified staff have escaped by a back entrance. Smash! Those linotypes will never print offensive views again. All the reinforced police can do is to dissuade the avengers from burning down the whole concern. Thus the People have corrected the Press. There will be no need to repeat the lesson.

The mouthpiece silenced, it is the turn of the instigators. Triumphant procession along the main thoroughfares. Those quaint figures dragged in front and kicked at, spat upon by the populace, are the effigies of prominent Moderate spokesmen, which will be cremated publicly. Half the city leaves its work to witness the solemn function in the park. Bright are the flames, more fiery the oratory. What can the police do? They are but men, patriots too. Still they have presence of mind to send urgent warning to the objects of national aversion. It was high time. Excited multitudes returning from the park gather before the offices of some leading offenders. Down with traitors! has become, under the stimulus of mock executions, death to traitors! Thanks to the foresight of the police, the terrible words do not yet become terrible deeds, for the intended victims are in hiding, where they will remain for many a day. Ridicule ruins their cause all over the country.

Straightforward Moderation is dead. With their battle-cry: No surrender of the White Australia doctrine! the Extremists will carry every electorate. It is madness to fight them on that issue. Instinctively, the remnant of Moderates tries a diversion by the introduction of minor questions into the election campaign. Rattle, rattle, old bones: Sectarians, Single-Taxers, State-Righters, to your guns! Political extinction threatens all of


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you! Fate offers you a rallying-point. A session of the State Parliament of New South Wales has begun. All eyes of a continent are looking towards Sydney.

New South Wales Parliament has been convened (July 16), for the purpose of assisting the Federal authorities in the organization of defence. Very laudable intention! Why, then, are various hostile allusions to the growing pretensions of the Commonwealth tolerated? Why do not Ministers state more definitely their conviction that everything, even constitutional points which might be interesting in peaceful times, has to be subordinated to the vital needs of the hour? Could not a more suitable moment be found for the airing of the well-known grievances of the Mother State? Defence is hardly mentioned. The Moderates, dominating the Government Party, are fighting tooth and nail for a diversion, in the forlorn hope of inflaming party passion. Who can blame them? It is their last chance. Alas, the floodgates of Parliamentary talk are opened again; who can shut them? Not the Labour Opposition. It is very strong, and most patriotic. But it is not foolish enough to terminate this opportunity of exhibiting its patriotism in brilliant colours. So it only creates scenes in the House, which end in the exclusion of the majority of its members for three sittings. Finality seems as far off as ever. Sydney grown restless. Those pitiless street leaders, who have no time either for Moderate tricks or Labour tactics, become attentive. What! shall the world think that Australia is disunited because a handful of professional politicians cannot hold their tongues? Much good have they done!

On Tuesday, July 23, the debate on the Address-in-Reply is to continue, after having swallowed


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all last week. Suddenly it is interrupted by a hoarse roar outside. Honourable members pale visibly. Macquarie Street is a sea of heads, all turned in gloomy menace towards Parliament Buildings. The officiating Senior Constable whispers to the Speaker. The House begins to thin rapidly. Mr. Speaker, in a great hurry, adjourns it. Too late. Ghosts of all departed Parliamentarians! Some thousand rude feet of unelected persons trample upon the sacred precincts. A few dare-devil members who strike the attitude of Roman Senators are hustled, flung out bodily. It is the end of the Mother State dignity. Ministers have fled for their lives. Until nightfall, New South Wales is without a Government. Then, under cover of darkness, a semblance of order is restored. The Cabinet, as many of it as can be found, agree on the needful: indefinite prorogation of Parliament. Henceforth the Federal rulers may sleep quietly, if the utter collapse of State assertion can lull them in the present circumstances. The entire East, nerve centre and backbone of the Commonwealth, is solid. All the old fads, bugbears but four months ago, have dissolved in the furnace-heat of national excitement.

And now commences—retribution! The first days of August witness the growth of the movement known to history as the Baiting of the Moderates. Alas, unhappy Australia, how changed thou art in so short a time! For a hundred years, thy men, whatever their political differences, have fought each other on terms of equality; they have never yet forgotten that antagonists, though misguided or wilfully blind, were men and brothers; they have listened before they struck; they have reasoned; above all, they have forgiven. But to-day? Proudly be it said humanity dies hard in Australia even in this frightful crisis. Innumerable


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instances are still told how men generously risked their lives to save others whom they loved not, how political enemies of a lifetime rushed to rescue each other and, clasped in mutual silent embrace, disarmed for the moment the mob fury. What are such isolated rays of light upon the surging sea of national despair, clamorous of victims! Ever since the race riots, it has been dangerous to express any opinion not concurrent with the popular conviction. Now it becomes a crime even to say nothing. It seems so suspicious. If one is a good patriot, why not state the fact boldly? Aye, and act up to it? Suspicion is the great sickness of this people so bitterly disappointed in the Empire. After that experience, what is not possible? What if by some mysterious means the Moderates should manage to control the New Parliament? The idea is extravagant, ridiculous. Yet otherwise sane citizens discuss it under their breath, their brows clouded with grim determination. Rather anything, rather death! Smash the Moderates' organizations! Burst up their meetings! Hunt down their partisans!

Nomination Day arrives (July 31). It seems to confirm the secret fears, for Moderate candidates stand for a good many electorates. Poor fellows, at any other period they would be sincerely pitied. Not among them are the traitors to be sought after who would destroy the Commonwealth. Every one would bear arms for his country. But patriotism, too, has its bounds. It is the courage of despair which animates them. Shall they all be beggared? Shall their women and children starve? They will, if those stern street leaders get their way. No, a thousand times no! While the Moderates, who have to lose most, can help it, the Extremists shall not conquer, come what may.




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The roar of the streets has become deafening. The Moderates have no chance there. They met by invitation, their electioneering takes the form of a vigorous house-to-house canvas of all possible supporters. The streets scent danger. Patriots meet and speak openly. Why this sneaking conspiracy? It must be stopped. But how? There is only one means. And so the last, worst happens. The canvassers are tracked down, private houses entered, law and order completely set at naught. Riot and flame! Death cries! The Moderate cause extinguished by terror! Yet with all its terror, wonderful is the oratory of the streets, which glorifies every deed of violence. Heartbeat of a maddened nation! Not the desultory talk of former elections, when some party or persons tried their best to divert Australia from its vital interests for the sake of their own aggrandisement. Lifegiving talk, straight to the point! Like panting of enormous machinery getting up steam ready to rush, to crush down, to create!

August 10 is Polling-Day. Such enthusiasm was never seen. Dying citizens totter to the booths to record their votes; they know it is their last sacred duty upon this earth. All country roads are black with the multitudes of vehicles and passengers streaming to the polling-stations. Some districts poll nearly every registered vote, in none does the percentage fall below ninety. And now the returns roll in. Four Moderates have just squeezed into the Senate, six into the Representatives; all the rest are Extremists. Many brilliant men of all the old parties find themselves left in the cold. Their places have been usurped by those pitiless street leaders. For once Australia has chosen a Parliament of Necessities, not of Ornaments.

Triumph! Triumph! And a deep, sudden


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hush! Do the people realize what this victory has cost and that it is only a beginning? Not a long respite is granted. Already a new tremor of excitement issues from Melbourne. The Federal Government is thrown into feverish activity. Again something has happened. Several elections have been prevented by riots in Western Australia.

Western Australia! Why, nobody has thought of it! Accessible only by sea, hidden behind the turbulent waters of the Great Bight, it slipped from the popular mind during this convulsive period. There are less than 300,000 souls thinly fringing its coast or dotting its desert goldfields. Less than 300,000 human beings in a million square miles, in complete isolation. They cannot be a great help, and the Commonwealth has more important matters to trouble about. The seaboard, it is said, does not cultivate Federal sympathies. Its numbers are not awe-inspiring. As long as the East is solid, nobody need worry about the West, which will follow the example of the former. Such are the notions of the average Eastern citizen.

The Federal authorities have so far shared this point of view; the more indignant are they now. Western Australia, of all places! Did we not place entire confidence in it? When after the conference in Melbourne of all our District Commandants prior to the mobilization we dismissed the others again did we not keep back here the Commandant of the West because he was of more value for the pressing work at headquarters than for drilling the scarce recruits in his own department, who might be licked into shape just as well by local soldier men? True, the Commandant himself, an officer of merit, by name and title Colonel Ireton, warned us that his absence might lead to complications. At any rate, we have now sent him back at last. He


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is on the water this very moment. Wait till he has landed if he will not make things hum!

Things are humming already, it seems. Perth, too, has its streets, but they roar a tune very different from the East. The maritime boycott has made the loose connexions with the nerve-centres of the Commonwealth looser still. Listen, for a change, to the particular Western note. It started right in the Australian key. We, too, have raged and trembled about the invasion. Then came, at the most inopportune time, the financial debacle. We had just negotiated a huge loan, sufficient to counteract for some years our chronic deficits. Of course, all these sweet hopes have now come to nothing. Should we not be disappointed? Are our politicians wrong in charging the failure against the Federal embroilment? For we have solid grievances. We joined the union on the distinct understanding that the construction by the Commonwealth of a transcontinental railway across the deserts to South Australia would be taken in hand at once. Nine years have passed and only a survey has been sanctioned on the result of which, it is now said, the execution of the work will depend. Meanwhile, South Australia, which has always done its worst to block our scheme, need not wait for its own transcontinental railway. Do they not talk of unheard-of sacrifices to be borne by the whole continent to make it possible? Sacrifices! Nothing else has ever been our share! Under the rules of continental free trade, the more advanced East pours in manufactured goods and agricultural produce in cut-throat competition with our local articles. Are we ever to suffer thus and to get nothing in return?

There is in this world a sure retribution in store not only for every sin of commission, but for also every


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sin of omission. Cut off by waterless wastes of land, by watery wastes of sea, the West has little in common with the main body of Australia. Such an isolated detachment must bear bitter fruits. Many public men of the State have been pronounced Anti-Federalists. Of late there has been a lull in the expression of their sentiments. But the financial failure revives the criticism. Mistrust follows in its wake. Is it to be pay, pay, pay, without end? And for what purpose? Can the Commonwealth, which spurns the advice of Great Britain, win? We, the State, have every reason to be friendly with England, our Mother! At any rate, she cannot fail us. She may not wish to fight on account of the incursion of a few thousand Orientals upon the Northern Territory. But if ever Japan should descend upon the west coast, which commands the routes to India and South Africa, she cannot remain inactive. So what have we to fear? Why should we ruin ourselves for the Commonwealth, which laughs at the idea of straining its purse for our sake?

Thus the talk grows wilder. Of course, it is only talk. None of the glib critics has any clear idea of what is to be done. None of them is conscious that they are firing a train connected with a hidden mine of latent rage the explosion of which will rain blood upon all Australia. But if men walk the brink of a precipice they should beware of giddiness. This continual play upon grievances may yet inflame popular passions which the talkers never reckoned with.

The election campaign is now at its height in the West. And here the Moderates, shouted down and hunted out in the East, get a hearing. The sea coast, in contrast to the interior, has always been Moderate. Its well-to-do middlemen have been struck


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hard at their most vital point, their pockets, by the maritime boycott. The farmers, too, conservative and parochial as everywhere else, back them. They know that the goldfields, Federal to the back-bone, will return Extremists. All the more reason why the Coast should see to it that the other side is not quite silenced. But is it possible? Labour-in-politics, with its White Australian platform, is strongly organized even here. In the last Parliament, one of the seaside constituencies was represented by a Caucus man. Can he be ousted? It shall be tried!

All the time, the telegraph is transmitting confused reports of the terrible struggle in the East. Still, they are quite sufficient to embitter the campaign of the coast. The Moderates, feeling themselves in strength, are fighting like demons! They have hit on a happy name: the Great Westralian Party! So violent are their arguments, so strong their grievances, that many a good Labour man cannot quite shut his ears against them. Nevertheless, the toilers are too strictly disciplined as that they could be relied upon. They may humour the loudest talkers, but who knows how they will vote? The nearer draws that fatal hour of decision, the more soul-racking grows the suspense of the Moderates. They cannot explain away the complete mastery of the Extremists everywhere else. Will they be extinguished here, too? Their antagonists pursue the campaign steadily, without the wild fever of the East, yet without laxity. This calmness is aggravating. We Moderates are in force in this corner. Why not use it? Why not do as we are done by all over the Continent? Is not the Commonwealth devouring us? Rouse party fury! Burst up meetings! Shout down the enemy! Alas, it is not always that two can play at a


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game. The Extremist gatherings are thickly attended, every attempt to break them up is stoutly resisted; they hurl defiance with mocking cheers: “Federation for ever!” And so it happens on the eve of Polling-Day that the surging crowds of State partisans, beaten back with hard blows in their last great effort and despairing of success, yell answer: “Down with the Commonwealth!” The streets of Perth resound with the echoes of popular fury, which die away in the night, little heeded.

Voting is brisk next day. The polling, proceeding orderly during the morning, soon leaves no doubt that the Extremists will retain Perth and may win Fremantle. These startling rumours are whispered round among excited mobs of State-Righters, whose temper is swiftly rising beyond control. And suddenly, the mine blows up. There is a wild rush upon a polling-booth in the threatened constituency. The officials are attacked, the ballot boxes seized and smashed, voting-papers and lists torn up and scattered. After that, nothing can hold back the rioters. Mobs, continually swelling in numbers, hurry to the next booth and repeat the work of destruction, among cries of: “What's the good of Federation!” “We don't want the Commonwealth!” “Down with the Federal black-guards!” Fate flies swiftly. By five o'clock in the afternoon, nearly every polling-station within the three metropolitan divisions had been similarly ransacked.

That is the news which agitates the Central Government and penetrates on stormy wings into the remotest recesses of the Commonwealth. What matter that Perth sobers down, that State authorities and local Press declare with one voice that the whole affair has been a mere street disturbance


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caused by a spontaneous impulse due to disappointment and fear, totally unpremeditated? Quite right; but what are facts against frenzy? Do not argue, act! One thing only is clear: Federation has been insulted, the elections are cancelled. Why are not the culprits brought to justice? The whole solid East gasps but two words, which the Federal Executive duly telegraphs: immediate satisfaction: the Coast receives the imperious message indignantly. Why are we to prosecute every second citizen? Men, too, who have done nothing worse than allowing themselves to be carried away by a mistaken outburst of State loyalty? Let the East mind its own business. How is it that their own jails are not overflowing? Such violence as they indulged in we never thought of! The State hesitates; its Parliament is being convened; that may decide how amends are to be made. Delay therefore. And the Commonwealth has time to reflect. What kind of reflection! The new members, those pitiless street leaders, look to it that the insult is never forgotten. Western Australia! Is it not there that public men dared to boast, among great applause, that they were willing to draw swords to sever the bonds of Federation? At that time, the Commonwealth, being then in its right senses, smiled and went about its work. Now, in its mad hour of disaster, the Commonwealth remembers! What if they meant it? So this insult, and all that led up to it, was merely accidental? Listen to the reawakening roar of the East! Is not Western Australia our biggest gold producer? Do we not propose an embargo on gold exports? Is there nobody who might be interested to thwart us? Questions like these, once asked, shape their own answer in such a crisis. Ah, it is conspiracy! An attempt to rend to pieces our indivisible continent!


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Bark, Hell-Hound of Suspicion! Gnash thy teeth! Out of thy hundred throats spit black poison! Westralia, a human life is staked on every minute of delay! Quick, for God's sake and thy own! Strike down the offenders with iron hand! Or thyself shall thus be struck down.

The Flaming Elections may be said to have terminated the first great epoch of Australian history. So far the young community has developed largely on the lines of older civilized white nations, sheltered for all purposes, as it fancied, beneath the world-sweeping draperies of the British Empire. That illusion has now been shattered. Upon the outer gates of the Commonwealth a relentless enemy hammers, with whom there exists no possibility of mutual understanding and conciliation. Within, those who have to lose most and whose most sacred duty it should have been, for this reason, to organize the defence, are victimized of necessity. The accompanying convulsions are paralyzing the national vigour. Still worse, one of the links binding the component parts of the Continent is on the point of snapping under the strain of misunderstanding, jealousy, suspicion, and the spectre of fratricide rises against a background of inextricable confusion. To crown all, public credit, the life-blood of modern defence, has been cut off without mercy at the critical moment. All the bonds of nationhood, in the accepted sense of the term, seem to break together.

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