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Part III: Birth-Pangs of Twentieth Century Nationhood

Chapter I: Storm-Clouds Gathering in the West

ON August 12, 1912, two days after the Federal election riots in Perth and Freemantle, ss. Katoomba, under charter to the Commonwealth, steamed into the latter port, and landed the Federal District Commandant, Colonel Ireton, and two staff officers. His instructions were most severe. For the ease with which the entire East had been brought to bow to the supremacy of the central authorities, had led these to believe that the adoption of similar measures would have similar results in West Australia. Colonel Ireton was the right man for the task, but with the wrong orders, into the composition of which no spirit of forbearance had entered, nor any consideration that the State might have a mind of its own.

Even before the arrival of the Commandant, the local Government had received a peremptory wire from Melbourne demanding the punishment of the ringleaders in the election disturbances. And on the day following his return, the State legislative discussed the matter. It was a stormy sitting.


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Ministerial partisans pointed out that Western Australia was by no means the only place where acts of political violence had occurred. The Attorney-General denied that there were any ringleaders in the case, which he termed a spontaneous mob excess. In the end a resolution passed regretting the incident, and appealing to the Federal authorities to let bygones be bygones and to fix a near date for another polling, when care would be taken that the irregularities should not be repeated.

Though this attitude was studiously moderate, the temper of the local governing classes was not, as Colonel Ireton soon discovered. He found the coast militia totally disorganized. Owing to his prolonged, though unwilling, absence, Federal influence in the army was dead. Class I had been duly recruited in accordance with the proclamation, but it had fallen under the control of the State Government, which had appointed officers from the leading families on the coast, who were known for their separatist leanings. The Commandant's first act, therefore, was to call upon the Premier to cease all interference and to assist him to re-establish Commonwealth authority. In reply the Cabinet insisted, before everything else, on a guarantee that the constitution would be respected in all particulars. Colonel Ireton declared that such an undertaking was outside his department.

Immediately the cry of Federal insolence was raised. Another debate took place in the Assembly, the Premier calling attention to the fact that the arbitrary resolution of the late Federal Parliament had removed legal means of safeguarding the constitutional rights of the State. Other speakers complained that nothing had been done to strengthen local fortifications, although money had been poured out for such purposes in the East; that would


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show the danger of trusting entirely to the Commonwealth rulers for the defence of the State. The outcome was another resolution affirming the need that Western Australians should remain masters in their own house, and authorizing the Premier to retain control of the army unless constitutional guarantees were given.

Colonel Ireton received due information of this decision together with the intimation that the local forces would be organized on Federal lines, to which end his advice would be welcome. Moreover, he was assured that the troops would always act in harmony with the Federal army, provided that there would be no demands the fulfilment of which would leave the State defenceless. This was a plain hint that the local levies would not serve outside West Australia. The Colonel refused to recognize restrictions. He boldly proceeded to Perth barracks and appealed to the patriotism of the rank and file. His antagonists evidently did not care to employ personal violence against him. But they hit upon a means much more effectual and insulting. The soldiers were ordered out of his presence by their own officers and marched off rifle on shoulder, leaving him in possession of the empty building.

The Commandant, in a towering rage, wired a detailed account of the affront to Melbourne. It made a profound impression there, and from that moment, probably, may be dated the triumph of Extremist policy against the obstinate State.

He was instructed by telegraph to allow nothing to stand in his way, and to seize control of the militia at all hazards. It was simply to be insistent from a safe distance. The Colonel could not help noticing how fierce passions were being worked up. Harsh measures, he knew, would precipitate a crisis. He was not merely a military man, but a


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patriot. And it caused him intense pain to think that his actions might end in bloodshed. For two days he tried to come to a friendly understanding by a judicious use of private persuasion. But he was quite unsuccessful. Even Labour men and advanced Radicals, who had the reputation of being staunch Federalists, held aloof. For the issue was no longer theoretic. By the resolution of the late Parliament, and by subsequent developments in the East, the Commonwealth rulers had shown disrespect of constitutional obligations. Whatever their private opinions were as to the necessity, or otherwise, of this policy, Western Australians, within the circle of influence of the local authorities, now drew together in defence of their State. History repeats itself. It was the same thing in America fifty years ago. There, in the southern parts, many citizens lived, whose hearts were with the north for the abolition of negro slavery. Yet, when the call to arms sounded, they enlisted loyally under Confederate colours, in the cause of their home states against overbearing Washington. Matters were not advanced so far in Western Australia, but the current ran already in that direction.

Colonel Ireton recognized that his mission on the coast had failed. He could do nothing there. The naval detachment on board ss. Katoomba was not under his direct orders, and in any case too weak to be of any use. For a moment he thought of throwing up his commission. But that would merely have meant his professional ruin. Australia had no need of men in high positions who lost heart in a crisis. Moreover, his retirement would not improve the outlook. On the contrary, it would probably increase the madness of the State-Righters, There was still one chance for the Commandant—the miners of the interior were true Federalists. If


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he could get away to the goldfields, he might win their allegiance and, by training them to war, overawe the coast.

To gain time, and to throw his enemies off the scent—for they closely watched him—he fell ill. Nothing could have pleased the local authorities better, since it allowed them to postpone harsh measures while they quietly strengthened their hold on the masses. Colonel Ireton sent for the commander of ss. Katoomba, a naval lieutenant born in South Australia, whom he trusted and with whose assistance the escape was arranged. It was certain that, as soon as it became known in Perth that the Colonel was in the interior, his telegraphic connexion with headquarters would be interrupted. For this reason he wished to take with him the wireless apparatus fitted on the Katoomba as well as two experts to work it. As for the electricity required Kalgoorlie would not miss it.

The young lieutenant played his part well. Colonel Ireton got worse and worse, so bad, in fact, that he could not receive visitors for several days. Long cyphergrams were exchanged with Melbourne, but, under the circumstances, no suspicions were aroused. The two experts, with the wireless apparatus, left by rail, in ordinary garb, without attracting any attention. And on August 21, after the arrival of the mail steamer from Europe, a middle-aged gentleman of commercial aspect booked passage to Kalgoorlie by first train. It was the Colonel! SS. Katoomba remained in port for the best part of another week. Then she, too, steamed away. The entire Federal establishment on the West coast, which was looked upon with so much hatred and annoyance, had vanished suddenly.




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Chapter II: The Mastery of the Goldfields

COLONEL IRETON, alighting in Kalgoorlie, found himself in surroundings very different from those he had fled. However, he was quite prepared for this, for twice before he had been in the interior on journeys of inspection. He was not recognized and, indeed, he did not choose to proclaim his individuality and his purposes all at once. Instead, he renewed old acquaintances and made it his business to gather a circle of influential supporters round himself on the quiet. In this respect, he met with much success, and within twenty-four hours he felt strong enough to throw off his disguise.

The population of the Eastern Goldfields—as of all others—consisted mainly of adventurers who had drifted there from all parts of the world. Victorians, whom the decline of their own mines had driven further afield, and men of the other states of Eastern Australia, preponderated. There were many Europeans and Americans, but hardly any natives of Western Australia. Such a mixture of international elements did not understand the narrow parochialism of the coast. From the very nature of their toil in a hot desert country, at the bidding of wealthy companies, the shareholders of which resided mostly in the distant pleasure grounds of the globe, the miners were imbued with advanced


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socialistic ideas. Their vote had carried the accession of the State to the Commonwealth and was responsible for its permanent exclusive representation by Labour men in the Federal Senate. Moreover, the mining electorates never failed to send advanced Socialists into the House of Representatives, as well as into the State Assembly. In short, politically they formed a pronounced contrast to the coast, where a majority of the people cherished Moderate ideals and, consequently, resented fiercely the tendencies of the interior. For as the result of co-operation between the coastal labour minority and the interior Labour majority, advanced radicalism dominated the local legislature and continually menaced the coastal vested interests.

Yet the bonds of union were stronger than the mutual aversion. For the barren, arid goldfields depended absolutely on regular outside supplies of the necessaries of life and of all luxuries, which could only be drawn from the west coast as long as no transcontinental railway existed. On the other hand, the social and economic organization of the Coast was based on the needs of the goldfields, and must collapse if these should be diverted to other quarters.

When the Japanese invasion became known, the goldfields had faithfully reflected the alarm of the Eastern States and had loyally indulged in anti-colour riots after the fashion set there, though on a smaller scale. The energetic steps taken by the Commonwealth to create a national army roused much sympathy. In all the centres, Class I formed companies who zealously practised shooting. As the policy of the central Government became more relentless, so martial enthusiasm increased. Many a patriot, tired of the monotony of the dusty desert, looked forward gladly to the chance of a change,


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particularly if it should be full of excitement. Message after message was despatched to Perth demanding instructions and officers, and, above all, modern arms. Nearly every man possessed an ordinary shot gun, good enough to serve for drill or even firing practice. But the recruits were eager to have proper service rifles, so that they might get rid of the idea that they were playing. The State authorities, however, were not in a hurry to equip and train the miners. They could not hope to exact support for the cause of narrow parochialism from this large body of reckless, self-conscious Federalists. Perth, therefore, aimed at keeping the population of the gold-fields unorganized while arming, and thus placing in an advantage the coastal districts.

Colonel Ireton, on reaching Kalgoorlie, discerned at once that the underhandedness of the State Government had resulted in universal discontent. Many leaders of the miners were quite circumspect enough, especially with the aid of the latest advices, to penetrate the real meaning of the neglect. He set himself, without delay, to benefit by the resentment. Having assured himself privately of the assistance of a number of stout partisans, he called a secret meeting of the leaders of trades-union and friendly societies. Economic and political organization was very complete, and every association had become a centre of the malcontents. It was on this occasion that the Colonel threw off his reserve and carried his audience by a straight-forward, patriotic appeal. He received a unanimous promise of support. But it was now necessary to prevent that Perth should be warned early. He proceeded to the Post Office, and, proving his authority, ordered that no telegrams dealing with political and military developments, and no cypher telegrams, should be forwarded to the coast. He had no difficulty


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there, as he had to do with Federal officials. This precaution did not suffice, however. There were the railway telegrams, of which he had to secure control. Moreover, if he did not wish to see defeated all his efforts to maintain secrecy, he had to interrupt the train service, so that the conveyance of passengers or letters might be impossible. As the railway was under State management, he had to employ force. At the head of a numerous band of patriots, he overawed the staff of Kalgoorlie station. His wireless experts seized the telegraph. Others removed vital parts from engines, and even blocked and guarded the line. A special train, managed by the most determined and trusted Federalists, was despatched in the direction of Perth. These men were under orders to confiscate or destroy every telegraphic installation as far west as Merenden, to block the line at that place, to keep a strict watch there, to disable or to shunt back to Kalgoorlie any engine on the wayside stations. Colonel Ireton had opened hostilities. To account for the stoppage of the railway traffic, the authorities in Perth were informed by wire that a great train disaster had occurred. Apart from misleading them, this move was calculated to attract as much rolling stock as possible. The Colonel compelled the station people to make urgent appeals for relief trains, which he intended to seize, thus diminishing the means of communication at the disposal of the State.

Such strenuous measures could not remain secret even for hours. Kalgoorlie was thrown into fits of wild excitement. And the Commandant deemed it wise to take the citizens into his confidence forthwith. At night he addressed a huge open-air meeting by torchlight and unfolded his plans and his reasons with the utmost frankness. He said that he was instructed by the only lawful authority to


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organize the militia of the State, and that he would do so, even if he had to lead the loyal miners upon Perth. He adjured his audience to stand by him in defence of White Australia, in defence of the glorious inheritance of their race. He said that he did not plead for mercy or for favours; he merely pleaded that they should act like men, not like cowards, and should declare their allegiance there and then—for the misguided West Coast or for the Commonwealth. The ground had been well prepared by his supporters, and hurricanes of cheers signified the decision of the gathering. Afterwards the town council held a special sitting. At midnight the Federal Commandant was introduced, and the members placed themselves at his disposal in a body. He lost no time. Next morning he attended a conference of the managers of the chief local mines and promised that the stoppage of traffic would not last for over five days, on his part. Training hours were fixed in a friendly spirit so that the unavoidable work of the industry should not be interfered with. Then he worked out a simple but efficient course of military exercise and appointed the first batch of officers of the local militia. He slept in the train which rushed him off to other centres. His journey was an unbroken triumphant process. Everywhere he received ovations; everywhere he won the gratitude of the most influential and capable partisans by rewarding them with officerships. Within a few days Colonel Ireton was the undisputed master of the great Eastern Goldfields.

Meanwhile, relief trains rolled down from Perth. The comedy with regard to the imaginative disaster was, indeed, well maintained. Detailed lists of the casualties and descriptions of the losses were wired to the departmental heads. It was alleged that the


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line had been torn up and that considerable time must elapse until repairs could be finished and the traffic resumed. That all seemed so reasonable that no suspicions were aroused. Goods trains, too, went down the line. For there had been quite a burst of orders from the interior. Shrewd traders foreseeing prolonged trouble, thought it worth while to increase their stocks. Colonel Ireton rather encouraged this business venture—for reasons of his own. The merchants had fullest use of the telegraph for the transmission of open commercial messages.

But never an engine, or a car, or an employee returned from the West. Something seemed to be radically wrong. The responsible managers became restless. And the Minister for Railways had just decided to travel to the scene of the accident when the secret of the Colonel's illness leaked out. An employee, anxious for promotion, evaded the watch set by the Federals by leaving Southern Cross on a bicycle one dark night. He stopped a down train, but had much difficulty in convincing the startled attendants that he was not joking. The train was rushed back to the coast, where the news created consternation. Colonel Ireton was nearly forgotten. His retirement was explained satisfactorily by his illness. Courteous inquiries were as courteously acknowledged by his orderlies, who guarded his sick-bed and regretted deeply that personal callers could not be admitted, on account of the patient's nervous breakdown. Nobody really cared about him as long as he lay quiet. Disabled, he was preferable even to a more pliant substitute. And now the truth came out that his illness was a trick, as well as the railway disaster, and that he was in a position to menace the State authorities. Perth rang with the news. The two orderlies, hearing


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of it, hurried on board the Katoomba, which left Freemantle at once.

Until then (August 28) the State Government does not seem to have regarded seriously an armed conflict with the Commonwealth. Probably the former considered that it could bullock through by sheer obstinacy, relying not a little on the inaccessibility of its nerve centres by land, and on the fact that its antagonists possessed no navy. This assurance was no longer possible. Colonel Ireton's actions spelt compulsion. At the same time the complications caused by them went far to make a peaceful understanding unlikely. While only the Commonwealth had to be reckoned with, such an understanding might not have been popular, but it was neither very distasteful. It was quite different now that a Federal officer had succeeded to seduce a component part of the State to disloyalty. The whole west coast felt the blow as a mortal insult. Under such pressure, submission would be dishonour, and was therefore out of the question. As it had been all over the Continent, so it was in its western corner: when the crisis developed, Extremists gained the upper hand. Though the Government did nothing for some days, seemed, indeed, to be paralysed, strong influences were at work under the surface, shaping rapidly a course towards open resistance against the Commonwealth. The movement was directed by the officers of the local militia, who were afraid, with some reason, that the first Federal measure would be their own removal, after the insubordination and malice with which they had treated their lawful chief. Those who had shown their disdain too openly might expect even worse punishment. The fruit of their alarm seems to have been a regular conspiracy for the purpose of retaining power by means of the continuance of State control


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over the troops. These officers, forming the best organized body in the community, and being connected by ties of kinship with the leading families, rapidly acquired influence enough to overawe the official Government. While Ministers were still feebly struggling against being reduced to mere puppets of a military oligarchy, an incident happened which spurred the malcontents to action and committed the whole State to a policy of violence.

Immediately on receipt of the first news of the Japanese invasion, the Federal authorities had ordered war stores in England. After the mobilization, Parliament had voted large amounts for further purchases. As haste was deemed an important consideration, these had not been confined to Great Britain, but ready modern armaments had also been bought up in Europe and America. Among the latter was a large parcel of rifles—several thousand—with proper ammunition, and two light batteries of four guns each, from prominent German factories. A German steamer, manned entirely by a white crew, brought them out, and called also at Southamption, in consequence of the British maritime counter-boycott, where she shipped several thousand regulation service rifles. Somehow, in the stress of work, the responsible Federal officials seem to have lost sight of this cargo. At any rate, the vessel steamed into Swan River for further orders (September 2). The Freemantle agents informed the local authorities. A hurried meeting of the Cabinet was held. This was the crisis; for the seizure of all the high-class war materials would ensure the superiority of the coastal militia over any forces which Colonel Ireton might be able to put forward. But it would also be tantamount to a challenge against the Commonwealth. Some Ministers had not lost yet all sense of proportion


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and entreated their colleagues to be calm and loyal. At this juncture, it was proposed that the commanding officer should be consulted. That settled the question. The military demanded practically unanimously that they should be provided with the best weapons available, to which right they claimed to be entitled as much as their Eastern comrades. The Government declared its willingness to accept the consignment on behalf of the Department of Defence. It was landed quickly without demur, for the agents, overwhemed with profitable business on account of the maritime trouble, wanted to get the steamer away as quickly as possible.

When the vessel arrived at Adelaide, the occurrence became known, and a torrent of abuse was poured upon the Federal authorities for the carelessness of their officials. The Commonwealth Government breasted the criticism by assuming at once an uncompromising attitude. Perth was requested by telegraph to make immediate restitution of Federal property. But the more closely the State rulers inspected their acquisition, the less did they feel inclined to part with it. Moreover, they were already committed too far. Even a belated submission had ceased to be regarded as a guarantee against reprisals. Too much bitterness had been engendered; the populace began to grow accustomed to the idea of resistance in preference to slavish obedience. Better, the State-Righters argued, a fight in the open, now that the local troops were splendidly equipped, than exposure to the silent revenge of the Continental Extremists after the last constitutional safeguards should have been surrendered.

The Government of Western Australia replied that State money had been spent in the purchase of war materials and that, therefore, the people of the


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West were entitled to a share. Particularly so since a Federal officer had created dissensions within the community and was doing his worst to bring about a breach of the peace. Nevertheless, restitution would be made on condition that Colonel Ireton should be recalled, and as soon as he had left the state. Melbourne rejected these terms and repeated its demands, adding, moreover, a request for a formal apology and punishment of the responsible officials. Perth, in return, remained obdurate and revived the question of constitutional guarantees foreshadowing an appeal to the Imperial authorities for protection in case of coercive measures. This message terminated the diplomatic intercourse between Commonwealth and State.




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Chapter III: Clash of Arms

EVEN when the Government of Western Australia seized the consignment of Federal armaments, it had not finally decided on open resistance against the Commonwealth, though this action was distinctly hostile. Nothing illustrates more plainly the irresolution than the fact that the telegraphic connexions between Colonel Ireton and Melbourne quarters were not interrupted until the middle of September. So the Colonel had received timely warning of the improved equipment of the coast militia. But he was urged nevertheless to establish Federal authority throughout the State, by all means and at all hazards. In this effort, the cyphergram stated, he would be assisted by armed co-operation on the part of the Commonwealth, if it should become necessary. The Central authorities, and the Extremists at their back, dared at least to face the situation squarely. However, as soon as the wires snapped Colonel Ireton found himself completely isolated. The Federal department had not finished its wireless installations, and so his own apparatus was useless. He was thrown back on his own resources at a most trying time.

The District Commandant had made good progress with the organization of the miners. He had gained the confidence of his subordinates, and generally made the men feel that they were now


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parts of an efficient machine which could be relied upon to work smoothly. He hoped that a month's patient drill would render his forces superior to the coastal militia. It was a bitter disappointment for him to hear that, owing to a departmental blunder, the enemy had been given the advantage of better armaments. But he wisely kept his troops in ignorance of this! His own equipment had been a source of trouble to him from the outset. Altogether, he could put forward about 5,000 old service rifles, which had been sent down in the past from the coast which, with usual selfishness, had retained the newer patterns for its own use. In addition, there were on the goldfields about 4,000 shot guns of all makes, which had been requisitioned for public needs. Under any circumstances it was risky to match an army possessed of such weapons against a better-armed enemy. But when the latter was now equipped with the most modern rifles, and with artillery into the bargain, the venture became well-nigh desperate.

Inactivity, however, presented a danger still worse—the certainty of being starved out. Since the State rulers had found out the trick of the alleged train disaster, railway communication with the coast had ceased entirely. And the goldfields were absolutely dependent on imports for the necessaries of life. Thanks to the speculative enterprise of the traders, substantial additions had been made to the stocks. The traders were not permitted to reap the benefits of their smartness immediately. As soon as it became evident that the trouble would be prolonged, Colonel Ireton declared all provisions Government property and paid for them in receipts for settlement by the Federal authorities. This precaution staved off a panic. But it did not really improve the situation,


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which was, briefly, that, with the utmost care and economy, the resources of the eastern goldfields might last, without supplements from outside, into the second half of October. By the end of that short period of grace, therefore, new sources of supply would have to be opened either by the decisive victory or by the unconditional surrender of the army of the interior.

Everything considered, the Colonel did not feel justified to wait idly until the Commonwealth should have struck a blow. His orders were peremptory. Hesitation would merely discourage his men. Perhaps the Coast would submit rather than fight all Australia, which would be inevitable if it should forcibly resist him. His hopes of peaceable settlement, however, were rather low. Neither did he overlook the formidable difficulties in his path if the Coast should make a stand. But, at any rate, an active campaign would teach his forces the practice of war and would prepare them for a great effort when time should be ripe for co-operation with a Federal expedition. These reasons induced Colonel Ireton to push forward. On September 18 he moved his vanguard by rail to the vicinity of Spencer's Brook Junction, which was occupied after a sharp skirmish with a picket of the enemy the same night. The consequence was that the railway communication between the State capital and Albany districts was cut off.

On the following morning, the citizens of Perth and Freemantle were startled by the alarming headlines of the Press: “Civil War,” “Commonwealth Breaks Constitution.” “Federal Commandant Opens Hostilities.” By noon an official proclamation was published calling to arms all males from eighteen to under forty-five years of age. In the Assembly, the Premier declared that they would


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uphold the rights of the State, war or peace. The Government was, indeed, confident that the attack would be repelled. For the call to arms was, after all, only a formality. Class I stood ready to take the field. And during the last few weeks rifle corps and volunteers companies for the older classes had sprung into being by private efforts. It was well known that the enemy was badly equipped and had no artillery. The only point on which the State-Righters were anxious was whether the local Labourites would espouse the State cause or whether they would refuse to fight their comrades of the interior, in which case resistance would be practically at an end. But the Labourites sided with their fellow-citizens. Probably the alarming reports spread broadcast in the capital about Colonel Ireton's tactics were not without influence on their final decision. In fact, the invasion had degenerated into a great victualling raid. Conscious of the menace of famine, the miners confiscated all the live stock and all the provisions in the agricultural districts where they found themselves. That was unavoidable, but it had a very bad effect, especially as there were some ugly incidents of maltreatment of the enraged owners. There was no time for calm reasoning. Every man on the coast fancied that not only the community but his personal property was in danger. And the subtle contrast between opulent city and predatory province, which stretches through the ages, was revived in this modern place, under modern conditions, fanning world-old passions to fever-heat.

The command of the State army was entrusted to a retired British officer of distinguished career who had settled on a small estate near Perth, and with an energy and thoroughness peculiar to old military men, had identified himself with the cause


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of West Australia to such an extent that he hated the very name of the Commonwealth. His name was Morthill, and he was honoured by the title of “General,” perhaps because the Federal leader ranked only as Colonel. General Morthill enjoyed the entire confidence of his staff, and soon became the virtual dictator of the State, in whose hands the responsible ministers were as soft wax. He was, in every respect, a foeman worthy of Colonel Ireton's steel.

General Morthill's task was by no means simple. There was a large element of uncertainty about the situation, which had to be faced—the possibility of a Federal attack from the sea. To meet this danger, he concentrated his army at Perth. It consisted of nearly 4,000 well-trained men of Class I, who were all armed with new regulation service rifles, and of a reserve of 6,000 men, who were now being organized and for whom an abundance of good modern rifles was available. There were also the two batteries which had been seized, and four older, somewhat heavier guns. The General was a little inconvenienced by the shortage of rolling stock, owing to Colonel Ireton's confiscation of railway material of the Eastern line. In consequence the traffic of the other lines had been reduced to narrow limits, and every engine and truck which could be spared had been brought to the capital, the terminus of all the railways, whence, accordingly, troops could be moved out rapidly in every direction. Against Colonel Ireton's forces, the General, who fully recognized their desperate situation, proposed to play a waiting game, in the hope that they would be starved quickly into surrender. Their danger, however, was also their protection against attack. For the small State army could not be wasted in warfare in an arid


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desert, dependent on a single railway line. Wherefore only a detachment was posted at the fringe of the agricultural country to prevent raids by the enemy.

But the occupation of Spencer's Brook Junction was eagerly accepted by General Morthill as a challenge to battle. Both sides spent the following day hurrying troops forward. On September 20 the first skirmishes were fought and towards evening a State company succeeded in ousting the miners from a prominent hill, known as Mount Mary, which commanded the station. After that Colonel Ireton decided to retreat. His opponent had at least 5,000 men on the spot, while his own numbers did not exceed 4,000, because he had to leave behind strong detachments to guard the railway and the waterworks against treacherous destruction, there being some State sympathizers on the field, though they did not dare to proclaim themselves as such. Above all, the day's struggle had convinced him that he had no chance against the superior equipment of the enemy, whose fire was effective over a much longer range. During the night the army of the Interior entrained for the east and the main body was beyond the reach of General Morthill at dawn. The Colonel, however, to mask his failure and to counteract the discouragement likely to follow in its wake, had resolved to execute a surprise attack upon the most advanced State position.

For this purpose he retained 400 volunteers. A train stood ready about a mile beyond the slopes of Mount Mary, its last two carriages occupied by marksmen. Before sunrise (September 21) the volunteers crept uphill towards the hostile encampment, and as soon as it was light enough, a rush was made. But the enemy was on his guard


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General Morthill had decided on the previous evening to mass his foes on Mount Mary and to plant artillery there. Some reinforcements had already arrived under cover of the darkness. So, after some disorder at the outset, resulting in heavy losses on the part of the defenders, the fight came to a standstill. And soon the superior numbers and weapons of the State troops began to tell and the miners were thrown back. Before they could regain their train and safety, General Morthill, hurrying up, launched a counter attack. A party of his sharpshooters took up a sheltered position on the slopes whence they could range over the whole ground over which the volunteers had to return. Colonel Ireton was wounded in the arm. Just as he reached his carriage, two guns opened fire. There was only one escape left to him, if he did not wish to fall into the hands of the enemy with all his men. That was to leave the loiterers to their fate. After a warning whistle and another short wait, which during the struggle raged round the cars, the occupants of which fired from the windows and platforms, the train started, carrying off about 230 passengers. The other 170 stayed behind dead or wounded and in captivity. Altogether it was a disastrous affair for the Federals.

Colonel Ireton did not deceive himself regarding the consequences of the rebuff. His men, it was proved, were equipped too inferiorly to hold their own against the State troops. The usefulness, even the salvation, of his organization depended now on Federal action from the sea, which would divide the forces arrayed against him and would give him a chance of co-operation. Two days after his return to Kalgoorlie, there was a development which somewhat revived his hopes. At last he was able to communicate with Melbourne by wireless


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telegraphy. The main station had been constructed at Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island, which was already in cable connexion with the Continent. Three steamers, fitted with the necessary apparatus, completed the system. One was stationed in the centre of the Great Australian Bight near the point of intersection of 131° East and 35° South, another about five degrees further west and the same latitude, and the third was anchored in Port Esperance. This latter intercepted the messages from Kalgoorlie, only slightly more than 200 miles distant in a straight line, and transmitted them by way of the floating station to Cape Borda. None of the intervening spaces exceeding 300 miles, the installation, after some experiments, served its purpose very well.

Colonel Ireton at once telegraphed a summary of his failure to headquarters and insisted on the following alternative. Either a maritime expedition would have to be dispatched within ten days, or he would have to disband his forces and to surrender arms and his person, to prevent the horrors of famine in the loyal districts under his care.

But he was not the only one who received encouragement about this time. On October 1 a British cruiser steamed into Swan River to the immense joy of the coastal population, which knew that its leaders had appealed to London for Imperial protection less than three weeks ago. The arrival of the warship was interpreted as a prompt response and hailed as proof of British sympathy for the State. And the local Government did nothing to disabuse the masses, though it was aware that the demonstration, in reality, meant nothing of the kind. The cruiser had been sent to re-assure and to calm the people, not to excite it. For the lessons of the immediate past had not been quite


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lost upon England. Its statesmen did not wish to interfere in the domestic arrangements of the Commonwealth. Any other course would have been open to the suspicion that it was an attempt to exploit the present unhappy situation of Australia, and would probably have led to a violent revival of indignation in the sister-dominions. Moreover, educated political thought in Great Britain favoured Federation of the distant possessions as a means of concentrating and increasing Imperial power. Assistance to secession in one case, for the sake of temporary advantage, would have created a fatal precedent which in future might be fastened upon by malcontents in other colonies. For this reason alone it was not to be countenanced for a moment. Perhaps the trouble in itself was not regretted in London. While it lasted, the Commonwealth certainly could not devote much attention to the Northern Territory, and things there would be allowed to settle down. But all that would come about without Great Britain taking sides. Accordingly, the reply to the anxious State Government was couched in non-committal terms and merely expressed a firm hope that all parties would adhere strictly to a constitutional course.

It was a pious wish. Already rumours were current in Perth that a Federal fleet was on the point of sailing for the west coast. The Commonwealth Government, while maintaining the greatest secrecy with regard to the strength of its preparations, had allowed this fact to leak out, in the hope to alarm its antagonists and to induce them to concentrate their forces in defence of the capital, relieving the pressure on Colonel Ireton's army.

The Colonel, now in constant communication with headquarters, did not fail to scatter broadcast the good news of approach of succour from the


  ― 257 ―
East among his faithful followers. The work of reorganization proceeded with renewed energy. He established a reliable scouting service. His horsemen starting from a point on the railway about thirty miles east of Spencer's Brook Junction, which point he had fortified as an advanced base, made stubborn incursions into the enemy's territory. It was arduous work, in which many lives were lost, for in this guerilla warfare no side gave quarter. The most daring scouts pushed forward to within sight of Perth and kept the Colonel informed of every important movement of the hostile army.

Meanwhile General Morthill did not sleep on his laurels. He quite realized his danger of being caught between two fires. Yet he did not lose hope. His troops had already shown fine spirit. They fought for home and hearth, and had this advantage, that they were not in their own country, where the entire population was backing them up, where losses could be promptly filled and the wounded would be sure of loving care. On the other hand, the Federals would be absolutely dependent on a floating base, and from the moment they set foot on land they would find themselves on hostile soil, without any refuge in case of rebuff. The same considerations applied to Colonel Ireton's army, which, with every mile of its approach towards the coast, would be removed further from friendly support. General Morthill was inclined to underrate the importance of the miners. He knew that they were armed badly, and concluded from the hurried retreat after the first encounter that they were not possessed of the right enthusiasm either.

Business was at a standstill in Western Australia. The Government had no longer any real influence. For some days, there was much talk of its resignation.


  ― 258 ―
But as such a course would not have relieved its members from the responsibility for events which had already happened it came to nothing. The military opposed resolutely all backsliding tactics and insisted that the State should face its fate with dignity. Probably there was still a hope that allround firmness might lead to Imperial intervention. The Cabinet again protested by cable in London. But the Imperial authorities did not choose to depart from their attitude of correct reserve.

It was evident that the State stood alone. The Government now called upon General Morthill to see that the community be in a position to repulse outside violence. He became dictator. At his command Albany district was abandoned, and its defenders withdrawn to Perth, on the principle that the available forces, small as they were, should not be distributed over large distances and exposed to the danger of being cut off. Nine thousand men were massed within fifteen miles radius from Perth Post Office, and 3,000 more were camped at Midland Junction, ready to be thrown against the army of the interior, which was further opposed by a vanguard of 600 men strongly entrenched at Spencer's Brook Junction. Albany and Freemantle ports were mined.

These were the preparations of the State when the Federal fleet was signalled in its waters off Port Esperance (October 4). It stood out to sea again and proceeded to Albany, where a demonstration was made (October 5). For several hours the big steamers hovered round the entrance of King George Sound and several shells were fired into the quiet town. At nightfall the fleet continued its journey. There was method in these manœuvres. The Federal Commander-in-Chief had established wireless communications with Colonel Ireton and had


  ― 259 ―
exchanged plans of the campaign. The delay in the South had the purpose of attracting attention to the threatening invasion, and of facilitating thus the quiet advance of the army of the Interior within striking distance.

Colonel Ireton acted promptly. He had organized a mounted corps of 2,500 men and had equipped them with the best rifles. But this was his striking force, which he wished to keep intact for the decisive blow. The honour of opening the road was reserved to the second line, consisting of about 4,000 miners, who were to return to the gold-fields as soon as they had succeeded. About noon on October 5 the miners attacked the entrenched position of the State vanguard, after scouts had blown up the railway behind to delay the hurrying up of reinforcements. They were repulsed several times with severe losses. Again and again they charged, until after more than two hours they carried the rebels' camp. The still fierce resistance was stamped out finally by the free use of handbombs—a miner's contrivance. Only about 200 survivors escaped. The casualties of the victors outnumbered the entire strength of the defenders before the battle.

Before nightfall another engagement was fought along the railway line between the retreating miners and belated State reinforcements. But Colonel Ireton, with his picked cavalry and others, to the number of 4,000 altogether, did not wait for them. Instead, he turned southwards and occupied York, on the direct highway to Perth, in the afternoon. His chances were much improved. He had captured nearly all the modern rifles with which the State vanguard had been armed and, moreover, he had gained a start of several hours. In fact, he had outflanked the enemy.

General Morthill, who had hastened to the scene of


  ― 260 ―
trouble on the first news, was the man to make good a passing mistake. As soon as his scouts had informed him of Colonel Ireton's movements, he stopped the fight and arrested the advance of his troops. All night he diverted further reinforcements to the neighbourhood of the highroad, a distance of about ten miles over rough tracks in hilly country. His intention was to seize Mount Observation, fifteen miles from York in the direction of Perth. But herein he was forestalled by the Colonel, who had dispatched a vanguard to occupy this commanding point, and who followed with his whole army at dawn on October 6. All day long, the miners held Mount Observation successfully in a merciless struggle, mainly owing to their exclusive employment of handbombs, with which they repeatedly defeated the frantic rushes of the State troops at the critical moment. In the afternoon, however, a most discouraging development occurred in the rear of the Federals. General Morthill had repaired the railway and had sent several trains filled with troops to within two miles of York, which township had fallen into his hands. The retreat of the army of the Interior had been cut off. Its direct advance by road on the capital had also become impossible, because the enemy, though not yet victorious, was invincible by reason of his numbers and his equipment. Next morning, then, it would be surrounded on all sides. Artillery would come into play against it. And the final result, under such circumstances, could not be doubtful.

Colonel Ireton had, of course, left his wireless apparatus on the goldfields. So he was absolutely isolated from the outside world, without accurate knowledge of the activity of the Federal fleet. But he was aware that by this time the latter must be ready to land the army of invasion, and that the


  ― 261 ―
descent upon the coast would be attempted southwards of Freemantle. If he, therefore, wished to be of service in the decisive battle, he had only one chance of arriving early enough, or at all. It was quite feasible for him to evade to the south, before the ring had been closed tightly, and to lead his mounted corps over rough country and through thick forests upon Rockingham, in the vicinity of which township the disembarkment would probably take place. However, if he did so, he would have to sacrifice the infantry of miners, which, contrary to original plans, had followed him so far. Its presence would merely have hampered the rapid passage of the cavalry. With a heavy heart the Colonel divided his forces. After the losses of the day, still about 3,200 men remained. Two thousand horsemen he placed under his own command. The others, 900 men, infantry, and 300 men, cavalry, exclusive of the wounded, he entrusted to the leadership of his oldest captain. About three o'clock in the morning, Colonel Ireton, with his 2,000 riders, crept down the eastern flank of Mount Observation and marched south. Soon the deep head gullies of Helena River separated him from the State army; from that section of it, he had to fear no more.

At daybreak (on October 7) the Federal fleet appeared off Freemantle and began to shell the town. But the forts made such stout resistance that two hours later the fleet headed southwards again, without having accomplished much. The information was telegraphed to General Morthill, who was busy preparing a new attack on Mount Observation. That able leader perceived the vital necessity of crushing the army of the interior at once, before an invading force should be ready to co-operate with it. His conviction found expression in a series


  ― 262 ―
of furious assaults on the miners' position. The heroic little party of defenders had formed numerous subdivisions to mask its weakness and practised bushman warfare with admirable tenacity. About 9 a.m. the camp was carried. Shortly afterwards General Morthill, whose presence was urgently required on the coast, returned to Perth, leaving his most trusted subordinate to finish the work of destruction. This the latter did thoroughly. The miners were hotly pursued and driven right into the arms of the State detachment approaching from York. And the proud subordinate, looking about him on the field of carnage strewn with over three thousand dead and dying men, little dreamt of Colonel Ireton's escape, but reported to his General that the active army of the interior had ceased to exist.




  ― 263 ―

Chapter IV: Civil War in Australia and Its Inevitable Result

THE Federal Parliament assembled on August 28, 1912. The first weeks of the session were given over largely to the evolution of order out of the chaos of the elections. Where so many interests clashed, where so many intricate political questions required the utmost nicety of balancing and confidential negotiations before they could be handled safely, the startling developments in the farthest West were rather welcomed by Parliament as a means of diversion. At first nobody understood the seriousness of the situation. But when the drift of events at Perth became unmistakable, the great governing party of the Extremists entered wholeheartedly into the contest. Among them the most uncompromising and aggressive patriots, in whom, whatever their former political opinions, the crisis had fostered the wish to end the States misery for ever, blended with men whose economic ideas were socialistic and pre-required, if not a united Universe, at least a closely-knit Commonwealth for an experimental base. Both these sections had thus, from different motives, the same interest to seize this chance of enhancing Federal supremacy. After the confiscation of armaments in Perth, the Government hastened to fall in with their demands of rigour, which, indeed, no one in the House opposed. For the remnant of Moderates had learnt the value


  ― 264 ―
of silence on all points where Commonwealth and State Sovereignty collided; they did not wish to expose their patriotism to further suspicion.

Votes were passed to enable the Executive to grapple with the rebellion, as it was termed. Troops assembled at Adelaide, drawn from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Steamers were bought or chartered and altered into transports. While these preparations were going on, the reports of the defeat of Colonel Ireton reached Melbourne. The Government was accused by its own supporters of unnecessary delay in the despatch of the penal expedition, and saved itself only by promising that an army strong enough to impose the will of Parliament upon the rebels would leave within a week.

On October 1, 1912, the Federal Fleet departed from Adelaide conveying 15,000 men with 28 guns. After demonstrating off several points on the coast of West Australia, it arrived, about ten o'clock in the morning of October 7, off Rockingham, the port of the Yarra Timber Company, situated about fifteen miles south of Freemantle, and, after a short bombardment of the little township, began to land there the army of invasion. Telegraph and telephone reported the news to the State authorities, and large forces were immediately hurried southwards from Perth. Early in the afternoon, the first shots were exchanged between the scouts of the two armies. The Federal Commander-in-Chief was not at all anxious to precipitate battle. He knew well that his men were raw soldiers, and therefore liable to sudden panic. The enemy, on the contrary, could not be supposed to be suffering from similar weakness, having already become accustomed to concerted action under fire in the struggle against the miners. For these reasons the Commander-in-Chief did not


  ― 265 ―
like to take chances; he preferred to go slow and to rely on the more thorough training of his men, on his superior artillery, the efficiency of which could be augmented by the guns of his four auxiliary cruisers, as long as he remained within range of the latter.

General Morthill, who arrived at Clarence, halfway between Freemantle and Rockingham, at 3 p.m., was, on the contrary, eager to strike a decisive blow, being aware that the Federals, after having been cramped together on board ship in rough seas for a week, could not be in the height of condition. He rapidly led his vanguard against the Federal outposts and succeeded in sweeping them back. Night fell and stopped further progress. But the State troops were able to occupy Mount Brown, a prominent hill less than four miles distant from Rockingham, and to place eight guns in this commanding position.

This move practically forced the continuation of the battle next morning (October 8). For Rockingham could not be held by the Federals unless the galling fire from the State batteries on Mount Brown was silenced. During several hours a murderous struggle raged round the hill. The decision was brought on at last by a tremendous bombardment of General Morthill's key from the cruisers. One of the vessels took ground and had to be abandoned, sinking soon afterwards. But the heavier calibre of the remaining three ships' guns proved too strong. A State gun was wrecked. The defenders suffered terribly. By noon they had to quit the position, which was occupied at once by two Federal regiments with four batteries.

The advantage gained by the Commonwealth troops was exploited with energy. Another battery was established even further north on the road bend


  ― 266 ―
between Mount Brown and Clarence, well within the cruisers' range. Meanwhile the State army had retreated behind Clarence, which was burning fiercely. It was nearly three o'clock in the afternoon when a strong force of Federal volunteers rushed at them to complete their overthrow. But General Morthill was not beaten. Now that he had withdrawn his whole army beyond the cruisers' range, his resistance became desperate. Rush after rush was repulsed. And in the end, his front lines turned tables on the Federals in a furious counter-assault. Broken and decimated, and not too brilliantly supported, the volunteers fell back. Close behind, in hot pursuit, followed the West Australian élite, the sporting young manhood of Perth and Freemantle. General Morthill, by a masterly stroke of tactics, diverted them upon the advanced battery on the road bend. The covering Federal force, about 600 men strong, suddenly found themselves confronted by overwhelming numbers pressing so closely upon them that the batteries on Mount Brown and the cruisers had to cease fire in that direction, fearful of shelling their own ranks. It was the culminating moment of the battle. The Western Australians—in imitation of the miners—used handbombs with such deadly effect that every attempt to reinforce the advanced position was defeated. After a strenuous quarter of an hour, two-thirds of its defenders lay dead or wounded; who of the survivors could run, did so; and the battery was in the hands of the State army. But now, the spot having been abandoned by their own side, the Federal artillerists had their chance. From hill-slope and sea, they swept the battery with a hail of shell. As quickly as relays of horses could be brought up to remove the conquered guns, they were shot down. At last men hitched themselves to the guns, trying to drag them away,


  ― 267 ―
but they too, were mowed down in ranks. The position had become untenable. So the battery was wrecked with bombs. Then the State troops retreated, and the oncoming darkness saved them from further losses.

The terrible struggle of the afternoon left both armies in possession of the lines occupied by them at its beginning. General Morthill held a council of war, which resolved that the further advance of the Commonwealth should be contested inch by inch. Trenches were thrown up during the night. The State troops derived considerable encouragement from the arrival of reinforcements, belated portions of the Eastern division which had operated against Colonel Ireton. These, after the supposed annihila-of the miners, had thoroughly destroyed several miles of the Kalgoorlie railway. Not the slightest danger, therefore, was apprehended from that quarter.

All this time, Colonel Ireton was making a forced march across the Darling Range, that low cordillera unsurpassable in tristness, barrenness and steepness. His division passed the first night on a high hill near the junction of the gullies through which, in wet seasons, the waters rush which then form Helena River. About sunset on the second day they crossed the railway south of Kelmscott. The roar of the guns, twelve miles away, was plainly audible. Farms dot the country hereabouts, but the miners were not regarded with suspicion. Everybody took them for a Southern contingent which had been compelled, owing to the wholesale railway destructions, to make this short cut to the sea. Thus no warnings reached Perth in time. Just while the mortal combat round the advanced battery was at its height, two orderlies sent forward by Colonel Ireton reported themselves to the Federal Commander-in-chief.


  ― 268 ―
Officers departed hurriedly to confer with the Colonel. It was arranged that the miners should spend the night near a pond, still eight miles from the battlefield, so that the men and horses might be quite refreshed and fit for the great task before them. Many messengers passed between the two Federal camps in the dark hours, and the plan of action in the morning was perfected.

At dawn the Commander-in-Chief informed his army that Colonel Ireton would attack the enemy without delay. The news caused unbounded joy. Soon the frontal battle was renewed with undiminished vigour, but the Western Australians planted firmly on a bush-covered ridge behind trenches repulsed every effort, and their ten guns, three towards the sea, three in the centre and four on the Eastern wing, replied uninterruptedly to the fierce cannonade of the Commonwealth artillery. Three hours elapsed, and still the Federals had made no headway. Many anxious eyes and ears were straining for a sign from the miners.

Colonel Ireton proceeded with the deliberation of a man sure of success. Leading his little army right into the rear of the State position upon the road from Clarence to Freemantle, he concealed an ambush of 400 men in a forest patch. The remainder of his troops silently enveloped the eastern wing of the West Australians. Suddenly 1,500 rifles burst into flames in flank and back of the Rebels. A thundering charge of cavalry flung aside the rear guards, rode down the detachments covering the eastern battery, and conquered the four guns, among wild shouts of “Colonel Ireton! The Miners!” Throwing round the guns, the miners opened fire at point-blank range upon the State centre, supported by a deadly fusillade. Further south, the Federals broke into frantic cheering,


  ― 269 ―
hurling themselves upon the trenches where they no longer met with resistance, and exerting the pressure of victorious thousands upon the wavering enemy. Nothing could stop the panic in the State ranks. General Morthill tried to save his remaining guns and to organize a retreat. For a few moments he revived the courage of his immediate followers by his personal heroism. In vain. Quickly he fell, mortally wounded, fighting valiantly to the last. It was the signal for his troops to begin throwing away arms and to stampede, a lawless rabble, towards Freemantle. But the ambuscade soon barred their progress. Behind the Federals pursued hotly. No quarter was given. Only very few of the vanquished, who had the presence of mind to capture riderless horses, arrived at the port before the victors.

The chief instigators of Western Australian resistance had proceeded on the previous day to Freemantle, where they would be nearer the scene of action. As soon as they heard of the defeat, they rushed to the river and surrendered themselves to the commander of the British cruiser. This officer thus found himself in a most uncomfortable position. He had, of course, been friendly with these men. And now they threw themselves upon his mercy. He knew that the Commonwealth authorities would be furious if he gave them shelter. But he also knew that Great Britain always protected political refugees. So he allowed them to stay on board until he should have consulted his superiors by cable. While terror stalked the cities and every acre for fifteen miles south was red with the blood of victimized patriots, the ringleaders, whose blunders and obstinacy were responsible for everything, were out of immediate danger.

By noon Freemantle was completely in the hands


  ― 270 ―
of the Federals, who hurried on, by rail and road, to the capital. Perth offered no further resistance. Colonel Ireton, at the head of his mounted miners, was the first to enter it—a fine compliment paid him by the Commander-in-Chief. His men were quartered in the General Post Office and he himself was the guest of the State Governor, whose authority for the last few weeks had been more nominal than ever, all the most important and far-reaching measures having been ordered in the form of departmental instructions issued by General Morthill. A proclamation was fixed at the principal street corners guaranteeing the safety of private citizens, but stating that every one who should be taken prisoner in State uniform after sunrise next morning would be dealt with summarily.

The State army, as an organized force, had ceased to exist. During the afternoon and evening, its scattered units continued to pour into the outskirts of Perth. The more orderly elements who lived there or had friends or relatives near, destroyed their uniforms and reassumed common garb. Others bought or begged or, in the general confusion commanded ordinary clothing and set out for the country. But a more reckless or patriotic remnant refused to submit so quietly. There was a small nucleus of resistance left. Several companies of the reserve who had remained in the capital and its port on police duty or for supervision of the supplies service, had retreated to Guildford, that rural suburb of Perth, at the first news of the disaster. Here they were joined by numbers of Irreconcilables. At first they had no common aim. But a former Federal officer, who had violated his oath by fighting for his State and was quite aware that no mercy would be extended to him and his kind, proposed that they should retreat to the northern farming district and


  ― 271 ―
carry on their defence from there, as all avenues of escape by sea were cut off. Of course, only horsemen could take this risk. Moreover, it was important that they should be provided with the necessaries of life, with victuals, spare clothing, money and valuables. These could be had at Guildford, but not for the asking. For the terrified inhabitants, trembling for their own skins, did no longer look with favour upon a soldiery which was important to protect them.

There was no time for parley. What was not given voluntarily, the Irreconcilables seized by force. Where resolute men defended their property arms in hand, blood was shed. All the fury and despair of the losers broke out in a final orgy. Soon the flames of pretty residences towered against the midnight sky, like giant torches in honour of civil war. Happily, the horror did not last long. Colonel Ireton, roused from the first comfortable sleep which he had enjoyed for months, came to the rescue of sacked Guildford. An ever brightening glare in the east directed his march. After a short, sharp encounter with the completely surprised Irreconcilables those of the latter, who had their horses handy, got away. The less fortunate ones were shot. And the deliverers spent the small hours fighting the flames.

For the next week, the Commander-in-Chief, in his capacity as Federal High-Commissioner, was kept busy reorganizing the civil government of Western Australia. His task was not easy, as all the leading men of the State had fled the country, or were dead or in hiding. Military officers filled the most important posts temporarily. The first practical work was the repair of the railways and the despatch of provisions to the Goldfields. Colonel Ireton was sent on a special mission to Kalgoorlie


  ― 272 ―
to convey the thanks of the Commonwealth to the loyal miners and, incidentally, to supervise the transport of the enormous quantities of gold piled up during the interruption of the coastal train service.

Later, the Colonel was employed to stamp out the last embers of the rebellion. Troops were transported by sea to Dongara and Geraldtown. Armoured trains were fitting to control the northern line. A war of extermination was waged against the Irreconcilables who were commanded by former Federal officers who had sided with the State. These held out for weeks in inaccessible localities on the fringe of the farming districts. But their wants soon reduced them to stock-raiding and other predatory practices, with the result that in the end the whole countryside made common cause against them, and so the last phase of the fratricidal struggle deteriorated into a man hunt away in the backblocks north of Perth and the southern districts, full of heroic incidents, but devoid of historical interest except as far as serving, by reason of its sordidness and cruelty, to extinguish thoroughly any lingering sympathy which the coastal population might still cherish for the lost cause of Western Australia.

Like all civil wars within civilized communities, the rebellion was marked by extreme bloodiness. Considered relatively, the sacrifice of life had scarcely ever been equalled. Of the Federal regular forces, about 1,200 men were killed and nearly twice as many wounded. The casualties of the army of the interior were even higher; it is computed that 3,500 miners died in battle or perished afterwards. The State army is said to have lost 7,000 men, though no doubt many of the wounded recovered under the care of their friends. These numbers do not include the victims of the campaign against the Irreconcilables, whose last stand was literally smothered in


  ― 273 ―
blood. Altogether, it is hardly an exaggeration to place the deathroll at over ten thousand. Such a sacrifice of Anglo-Saxon life had not been contemplated for generations. And the entire population of the mutinous Coast did not reach 150,000 souls!

Yet terrible as the ordeal was, it had its uses. It removed for ever the contention that the Continent lacked internal stability. Parochial politicians had so often played with the idea of secession that the world had become doubtful whether Federation expressed the true sentiment of the Australian people. The energy with which the struggle for mastery had been conducted and the rapid, complete victory of the Commonwealth provided the answer. The lesson had been taught that no backsliders were tolerated, and that Australia was indivisible.

All eyes turned now on the Federal Parliament, the sole arbiter over the fate of the West Coast. Contrary to the fears of many, the ruling majority, though dominated by the Extremists, showed wise moderation. Complete amnesty was granted to the rank and file who would join the Commonwealth colours within a month from date of proclamation This extended to the irregular officers, with the limitation that these were to be transferred to the Eastern States and enlisted there without regard to their former rank in the rebel army, a humiliation mitigated, however, by the promise that they would be allowed, after a while, to qualify for promotion by examination. All private citizens, who would take within a month a new oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth before specially appointed commissions, were granted immunity from prosecution for any political or military acts in connexion with the late insurrection which might become known subsequently.




  ― 274 ―

Excepted from the general pardon were Federal officers who had violated their oath by fighting for the State. Much might be said in excuse for their transgression, but it was considered advisable to make a warning example of them. That these men were quite conscious of the enormity of their offence is proved by the fact that not one of them surrendered to the mercy of the victors. Penalty of death was pronounced against them. It was in reality superfluous; for the survivors had all joined the Irreconcilables, who were shot without trial whenever caught.

Throughout Australia, the sheltering of the ring-leaders of the revolt on board a British cruiser was resented bitterly. Melbourne at once opened negotiations with London for their extradition. But the English Government refused to do so on the ground that their crime was political.

In vain the Federal Executive urged against this contention that the refugees were British subjects who had committed high treason, not foreigners worthy of protection against tyranny. To cut short the dispute, the cruiser was ordered to Colombo, where the fugitives were landed. So they escaped the felon's death, and Parliament had to discover other means of punishment. Their private estates were declared to have reverted to the Commonwealth inclusive of all rights and future benefits to which the former owners and holders might be entitled. In this way the nation became possessed of much city and country property in the West, as well as of a large amount of money, valuable mining interests and other securities. However, generous provision was made for the families of the culprits; wives were granted annuities of £200 each, with an addition of £5 per year for each child under age. But a very important restriction was


  ― 275 ―
inserted: the recipients of such annuities were bound to reside in Australia. Thus the escapes were deprived of re-union with their families, or, as an alternative, the latter forfeited all claims of financial support.

Under the firm management of the Commander-in-Chief, order in West Australia was being restored. Life began to return to its ordinary channels; men again schemed and toiled for wealth. The removal of so many leading citizens had made room in front for others; and in the renewed vigour of business people strove to forget the hideous memories of the recent past. But this was impossible while military government continually reminded them of it. Therefore, genuine joy and gratitude was felt when it became known that a Civil High Commissioner had been appointed (October 30), and that, moreover, the choice had fallen upon a fellow-citizen, who in the days before Federation had been the idol of Western Australia and whose sympathies for his own State were above suspicion.

Timely relentlessness, then, as timely forgiveness, had restored—for ever, it is to be hoped—the unity of the Commonwealth.




  ― 276 ―

Chapter V: Great Britain Garrisons the Northern Territory

EVER since the closure of the Northern Territory Coast the British Government had been anxious to extend its control right over the district invaded by the Japanese. It is doubtful whether it was prompted by its ally; if so, the latter must have felt somewhat fearful of the White Guard, then on its march; and the eagerness, calmness and destructive thoroughness with which that body was met rather discount this assumption. Quite possibly the English Cabinet was moved entirely by a desire to achieve some progress regarding the interminable Australian entanglement, not only from reasons of Imperial import, but also from party-tactical considerations. So many signs were laid at its door by an amiable Opposition—estrangement of the Colonies, insecurity of foreign policy, financial weakness—that it was about time Ministers should score on their part, if they did not wish to be overwhelmed politically. The difficulty was to find a method which could be represented to the Home electors as tending towards a final settlement while meeting also with Australian applause.

The Imperial statesmen found themselves in a tight corner. Though the masses of the people, in their present temper, would have applauded any pressure put upon Australia, it would have been very unsafe to rely too much on the fact. As soon


  ― 277 ―
as calmness would prevail once more) everybody would be forced to admit that it was not the Commonwealth which had started the trouble, though its methods of dealing with it might be considered objectionable. Democracy is always sure to turn back from its extreme moods and to crush in the process the tools which gratified them. Apart from this danger, fully recognized by the astute managers of the party in power, it is certain that these were honest patriots and quite willing to help forward the cause of Australia as long as such a course did not imperil the delicate balance of international forces upon which their world-policy rested.

The Federal intimation that compensation would be granted to the sufferers from the anti-colour riots, on condition that the Japanese would leave the Northern Territory, was made by London the base of negotiations with Tokio, which was informed that the justice of its protests and claims would be greatly enhanced in the eyes of civilized humanity, if the immigrants, who had in effect broken the laws of the community entered by them, would be repatriated. In exchange for this graceful re-arrangement, Great Britain promised that it would use all its influence to mitigate the severity of the Commonwealth enactments against Asiatics.

But the Japanese very naturally preferred the bird in hand, and pointed once more to the famine existing in their provinces, as rendering impossible the proposed step. London retorted that nobody asked them to return the refugees to the districts whence they had come originally, while in the Island of Formosa and on the mainland fertile, thinly settled lands abounded. In reply, the advisers of the Mikado stuck to their batch of old excuses. Their ally was quite right, and even as was suggested, they did unceasingly. Consequently, all


  ― 278 ―
resources were strained to breaking point in the effort of hurrying famishing hordes to salvation in those inviting spaces. However, there was a limit; it would be criminal to dump larger numbers without preparations and provisions to keep them alive. Others would be doomed to perdition, if a check was applied in favour of outsiders who were well off where they were now.

It seems that the British Government went so far as to propose unofficially that the Imperial Exchequer should bear a share of the repatriation expenses, in recognition of the economic crisis which Japan was just passing through. But Tokio, on the ground that it would be more merciful to shoot the thousands of refugees than to kill them by slow starvation, refused definitely to agree to their removal, insisting that they were interfering with nobody's rights. Moreover, it revived the offer regarding the transfer of allegiance. Nothing was gained by the diplomatic effort, except that Japan did not choose to push any further its claims for an indemnity and satisfaction from the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, the control of the Northern Territory waters was quite one-sided. It was absolutely preventive with regard to Australia navigation. But if the stories of naval men, since retired, can be believed at all, there is no doubt that the restrictions were merely formal as far as Japan was concerned. Steamers under the ensign of the Rising Sun were always hovering about the prohibited coast, ostensibly employed to convey stores and love-gifts from their native country to the “famishing exiles.” So much has been admitted, in fact, by members of the English Cabinet, who have stated in Parliament that out of humanitarian considerations the supply of provisions to the settlement had been permitted, because such large numbers could not support


  ― 279 ―
themselves in the wilderness from the outset, and because, as long as their presence was tolerated, it would have been an impossible cruelty to let them starve. Apparently the indulgence was carried to the extent that the Japanese vessels were never searched and that nobody watched their movements closely. Under the circumstances it can be imagined easily how the cunning Orientals may have taken advantage of the laxity. Not only the manifold necessaries and even luxuries of life in an uncultivated country were imported, but also arms, ammunition, more men, and lastly the women who had formed part of the original settlement in Formosa and were to bring forth shortly a new generation, heirs by birthright of the new land.

Perhaps the British Government received, about the end of July, some special information which made it desirous of exercising, after all, a closer supervision. At all events, it proposed to the Federal authorities that an Imperial garrison should be placed in the Northern Territory. At first Melbourne would not hear of this, suspecting, no doubt, that a wish to interfere with the movements of the White Guard lay at the bottom of the suggestion. Moreover, its materialization would have looked very much like the establishment of a British protectorate over a province of the Commonwealth. But time passed, and nothing became known of any brilliant achievements on the part of the White Guard. Then came the revolt of Western Australia, and the turmoil and convulsion of that great crisis seemed likely to tax the resources of the Federation to the utmost for a long period. At this juncture London renewed its proposition and undertook, in proof of its good faith, to issue a declaration to Tokio, stating that the


  ― 280 ―
occupation of the Japanese settlement by an Imperial garrison would be on behalf of and without prejudice to the sovereign rights of the Commonwealth. As an additional bait it was hinted that the occupation would prepare the way for a later substitution of the Federal garrison after the restoration of law and order throughout the Continent. Probably this last suggestion induced the Federal Government to consent. After some further negotiations, Great Britain gained its point. No time was lost in giving effect to the agreement.

On October 1, 1912, a force of 400 marines, drawn from Singapore, landed in Junction Bay. Two days earlier the Imperial Government had addressed the note to Tokio, which had been formulated as the pre-requisite of the occupation. The advisers of the Mikado confined themselves to a courteous acknowledgement. And the Japanese settlers welcomed the garrison among great rejoicings. For nearly a week the most suspicious landmark in the wilderness was the Union Jack, which, on its pole, seemed to be their most cultivated plant. The fort in the centre of the main village was given up to the marines as barracks—the same block of buildings upon which little more than a month ago the doomed heroes of the White Guard had gazed with eyes burning and mortal hatred in their hearts. Everything was done to make the new occupants comfortable. Very soon the headmen, quiet citizens in shabby European dress as befitted honorary magistrates of a struggling community, paid calls to do homage to the English officers, for whom, afterwards, a gay round of life began. The Japanese, with childlike blandness, quickly won their hearts: what a good impression the members of the garrison gained is plainly discernible in the books and articles written by some of them.




  ― 281 ―

Sport, of course, was the chief means of combating the dullness of the sojourn so far from civilization. Nearly every form of it could be had in a district abounding with animal life, some of it not altogether harmless. A coolie was told off as body-servant for each officer, and others were ready to obey their orders, happy as kings at the magnificent remuneration of a shilling per day. But the rank and file were not forgotten either. Plenty of amusements were provided for them also; they had even the advantage of their officers, for no settler would dream of expecting payment for voluntary assistance rendered. An Anglo-Japanese cricket-match was arranged and went in favour of the British, as might have been guessed. In water sports, however, the Japanese more than held their own. At one end of the capital several houses of pleasure catered for the men, at whose command was a considerable number of lubras of all ages and some Malay women. Later, several geishas lent variety to the charms. A more select establishment in another quarter was reserved for the officers.

In spite of so many diversions, the garrison found leisure to explore the district thoroughly. It had the guidance of Japanese dignitaries who explained everything. Nevertheless, in the voluminous reports of the commanding Lieutenant-Colonel not many fresh facts are brought to light. They are marvels of exactness, but their compiler did not view things with those “eyes full of suspicion” which enabled Thomas Burt to discover so many formidable defence works. The British were, and felt, safe with friends. That has to be remembered at perusal of their despatches. The breast-high ramparts behind ditches must have appeared to these observers as mere lines of demarcation,


  ― 282 ―
and the logs placed cunningly to provide shelter passages as trees felled for timber or firewood, for nowhere are these features alluded to as possible fortifications. Some comment, however, is made with regard to the exceeding solidness of the houses, built not of boards but of stout timber, forming the outer ring of the villages.

There is nothing but praise on the state of the cultivations and the good condition of stock. “Apart from the race question,” the Lieutenant-Colonel sums up in one report, “there can be no doubt that these industrious settlers have done a great service by their careful cultivation and methodical penetration of the wilderness.” In another one he says: “Judging from what I have seen, not only in the central settlement, but in and around the outlying villages, I must state that English colonists, working individually, could hardly have done better. Occasionally an experienced farmer might have done better in some particular, but there would not have been such systematic thoroughness. The immigrants are eager to ask advice, and now that they have become better acquainted with us, they are glad of any casual hint which helps them to improve on their work. Unfortunately,” he continues, “the poor fellows do not always seem to be sufficiently educated to grasp our meaning, and persist in going on as they did before.” The Commandant shows that he has not grasped the working of the Japanese mind nor its method of cloaking iron tenacity under bland, seemingly yielding civility, or he would not have made such a refreshingly artless remark. He mentions that a quarter of the capital was being reconstructed at the time of his arrival after having been destroyed by fire; also, that during his wanderings he came across several burnt-out villages.


  ― 283 ―
No doubt these were the places burnt by the White Guard. But that struggle, or any fight against white men, was never alluded to by the Japanese in the presence of the British. Probably the garrison, fresh from Singapore, had either not heard of, or paid no attention to, the rumours at this early period.

Yet one fact impressed even the unsuspecting Lieutenant-Colonel: the complete absence of any male aboriginals, while so many native women were about. Inquiries on this subject evoked a rather feeble reply on the part of the Japanese. The lubras, they said, had been sold to them by their relatives, who, however, could not immediately enjoy life on the proceeds because the supply of tobacco and liquor to the blacks was prohibited. Therefore the latter had probably departed to the vicinity of Port Darwin, where they would have better opportunities. Others had always been shy of approaching the settlements, being afraid that they would be forced to work. But these stories, no doubt, were made up. It is not difficult to imagine why the presence of the male natives must have been inconvenient to the immigrants. The fellows had seen too much and might begin to boast of it to the British as soon as they should have discovered, with natural cunning, that the white and yellow races were really opposed to each other in spite of momentary friendliness. Moreover, the blacks were no longer useful as guides, since the country had been explored thoroughly, nor as subsidiaries, now that no further attacks were apprehended. On the other hand they might have become troublesome enemies in the bush. That possibility had to be guarded against. Probably the Japanese copied the example of the White Guard and butchered the male aboriginals.




  ― 284 ―

However, the British accepted the explanation of their fellow-subjects of the second degree. As was the case all through, nobody felt called upon to push independent investigations. Some exceptions to the rule, men who had grown somewhat suspicious, perhaps on account of vague tales of the lubras, were discouraged officially to pursue too far adventurous quests, which it was by no means their duty to engage in. Imperial troops had to preserve above all England's old reputation of dealing fairly by Asiatics. A prying policy among people who showed every confidence and friendship would not have been in account with this aim. The moderation had its reward. The longer the garrison stayed the more British interests benefited, and the popularity of the Empire became even more pronounced among the brown candidates for citizenship under the Union Jack.




  ― 285 ―

Chapter VI: A Transformation Scene in the North.

THE Imperial garrison had hardly arrived in the Japanese settlement when the Federal Government began to regret that it had ever consented to its establishment. It had done so in the belief that the internal dissensions in Australia would be prolonged. The rapid and complete triumphs of the Commonwealth army had proved the wrongness of that assumption. Immediately after the occupation of Perth, the Federal Executive cabled to London that it was now prepared to garrison and to police the Northern Territory with Australian troops. But Great Britain was not at all pleased with the offer and objected that Australia was still practically at war with Japan. Melbourne, however, hastened to deny the existence of a state of war as strongly as it had insisted on it a few months ago. Tempora mutantur.

Every report of the excellent relations between the garrison and the invaders increased the disgust of the Commonwealth patriots, whose secret hopes that the Imperial force would serve as an exponent of white supremacy were quickly superseded by suspicions that the whole display was more in the way of a compliment to the Japanese than a measure of protest against their claims. The Extremists, particularly, professed deep anxiety lest


  ― 286 ―
the British statesmen should be encouraged by the exemplary friendliness which had sprung up between their soldiers and the public enemy of Australia to make permanent the present arrangement. Under the constant pressure from all sides, the Federal Government continued to urge its request. Its main point was that London had promised the substitution of Australians, and that otherwise the Commonwealth would not have acquiesced in the matter at all.

Great Britain was very unwilling to withdraw its men. At the same time, however, its rulers had learnt by the experience of the past half-year and were not at all desirous of further colonial quarrels. Already the temper of the great southern dependency grew very ugly over this affair. Press and politicians there threatened that Federal troops would be sent into the invaded district even without Imperial permission, and that England would be given a chance to prove whether it would dare to interfere with Australian actions on Australian soil. If so, then, it was pointed out, let Canada look to it that it might not be treated one day after the same fashion in Columbia, or New Zealand in the North Island, or South Africa in any of its own large possessions. In fact, here were all the materials for another national explosion in all the autonomous dominions, cowed as they were for the moment. Faced by these awful possibilities, Great Britain felt inclined to yield, especially as the Commonwealth merely proposed to place a garrison in the Northern Territory, not an army.

But there was another factor which had to be reckoned with—the Japanese Government. Though no doubt well informed about the new Federal demand, it maintained a correct silence, any arrangement about the Northern Territory being clearly


  ― 287 ―
an internal affair in which only the Empire and the Commonwealth were concerned. An opportunity to speak their mind, however, came to the discreet advisers of the Mikado when the impending change was communicated to them by the allied power. Then Tokio, calm and courteous as usual, mentioned its misgivings. It recognized that it had no voice in the matter, but asked to be allowed to express regret that its former subjects should lose a protective force which had shown them so much kindness, and also to utter a hope that the successors would cultivate similar good feeling. Only thus the full benefits of the labour of the immigrants could be secured for their adopted country. For the refugees were proud of their race and conscious of the service they were rendering to humanity by civilizing the wilderness. They were also very sensitive, a quality which they shared with all Japanese, for whose resentment of irritation or insults nobody could accept responsibility, least of all their own Government, which was only too painfully aware of this particular national failing.

The Imperial authorities did not hesitate to cable a full account of the diplomatic pronouncement, so carefully veiled in its language and yet so ominous, to Melbourne. But the Commonwealth was bent on having its way, and London did not care to oppose its demand much longer. Hardly had the consent been gained when two crack steamers of the Federal fleet were raced from Adelaide, where they had beeen overhauled, to Perth. There Colonel Ireton embarked with a large special staff of the most energetic and promising officers and 350 picked men, who had all been through the Western campaign (November 2, 1912). The whole force proceeded by sea directly to the Northern Territory and arrived at the mouth of the inlet, on which the


  ― 288 ―
Japanese main settlement was situated, on the morning of November 11. On the same day the British garrison evacuated the fort for their successors and was taken by the Federal steamers to Port Darwin, whence they returned to Singapore. Both these vessels were fitted with wireless telegraphy. One anchored in the harbour of Port Darwin, the other in the inlet leading to the fort. In this way Colonel Ireton was in practically uninterrupted communication with headquarters in Melbourne.

The Japanese settlers extended an outwardly cordial welcome to the new garrison. They sported once more their large stock of Union Jacks. But the Australians were less appreciative than their precedessors and refused to salute the flag, the use of which by the aliens was, speaking strictly, improper. Moreover, as soon as they had entered into possession of the fort, they lowered the British ensign flying over it, which had originally been supplied by the Japanese, and unfurled the Commonwealth banner. The significance of these actions was not misunderstood by the ceremonious Orientals. The friendly services of the polite brown men, so highly valued by Tommy Atkins, were now rarely asked and always paid for, a practice which reduced the mutual relations between the two races to cold formality and prevented absolutely the growth of a better understanding. Colonel Ireton did not regret this development. He had his instructions. The encouragement of fraternizing tactics was not mentioned in them. His garrison was expected to show plainly by its conduct who was the sovereign of the country. His duty was to explore the invaded district thoroughly, to gain an intimate knowledge of the enemy's methods and resources and, if possible, some insight into his further plans; in a word, to prepare everything


  ― 289 ―
for the ultimate campaign. And he set to work upon his task with rare zeal.

Many reports compiled by the Colonel or members of his staff, dealing with the subject, very detailed and from every conceivable point of view, are now in the Federal archives. Through all of them runs the same note of astonishment at the efficiency of the Japanese organization which is also sounded in the official reports of the British garrison, though the Australian comments are more subdued and tinged with a bitterness reminiscent of Thomas Burt's diary. Great changes, of course, had taken place since the latter was written. The soothing influence of womanhood, of motherhood, was now penetrating the whole settlement. Numbers of children were born there daily. Perhaps no other fact did more to deepen the coolness between the two races into revengeful estrangement. For the Australians, who keenly missed appropriate sex partnership of their own race, watched helplessly the rapid progress of the despised Asiatics from a mere horde of invading nomads into a settled nation bound to the conquered soil by the most sacred ties—by little brown babies quite unconscious of their own significance, all young Australians—Austral-Mongoloids. And the white heirs to the Continent had to stand by impassively, condemned to look on and to record the event. Contrary to ordinary Oriental customs, the women were splendidly cared for. They were forbidden field work and other hard tasks. District medical officers made regular rounds several times a week through all dwellings, and in the capital the married couples frequently assembled in the Public Hall to hear lectures in their own language, probably on sex hygiene and the treatment of infants. Evidently the Japanese authorities had thoroughly mastered,


  ― 290 ―
and were not afraid to carry into practice, the principle that public health and the protection of child-life before and after birth is the first duty and the grandest asset of a progressive State.

The neighbourhood of the main settlement had been cleared for miles from bush and jungle: irrigation had turned swampy lagoons into paddyfields protected by strong embankments at the mouth against the brackish water of the inlet. A mixed system of farming had been devised. Each family owned a plot of some acres which the proprietor cultivated individually and the produce of which belonged to him. But large areas of the richest agricultural and pastoral land were reserved near each village and were worked by gangs of the male inhabitants, who had to give their services in regular rotation once or twice a week. These gangs were also employed to clear the country and to make roads. And they did the harvesting both in the private and public blocks, under the leadership of the elders, who directed them in such a way as the condition of the fields seemed to demand, without fear or favour of individuals. Such a system was possible only for a highly enlightened race or for a slavishly disciplined one. While it lasted it must beat out of sight any results obtainable by individualistic white colonization. The Turanians bade fair to establish a record which Aryan people would be unable to equal. If they were allowed to go on, their claims to possession would become ever stronger by right of their achievements.

That the invaders had no intention of leaving Australia was evident from the diligence with which they made themselves at home. Several roads were made connecting the capital with the outlying settlements and the latter among each other. Their construction was solid though rough,


  ― 291 ―
and they led over the high ground, wherever possible, so that they were little exposed to damage by floods in the wet season. Where swamps had to be crossed, the roads had been steadied with logs, and light wooden bridges, easy of repair or renewal, were thrown over creeks. Then there was the network of telegraph lines. It was really difficult now to get lost in the district, which less than a year ago had been an impenetrable wilderness.

Relentless war was waged by the Japanese against vermin; thus they justified their possession of arms. They drove away the romance of the tropical bush, and wherever they went they created an atmosphere of hard work-a-day reality. But this was the inevitable result of civilization, which at last had come in triumphantly in spite of the Australians who had hesitated too long about it. The wholesale destruction of game in the vicinity of the main settlement compelled the garrison to rely for its food supply almost entirely upon Port Darwin, where Federal depôts had been established. Several vessels catered for this service, and combined with this open purpose the more secret one of closely watching the coast.

The Japanese possessed two steam launches, a cutter and half a dozen whale boats. A wharf was under construction for building more small craft locally. The timber was derived from the opposite shore of the inlets about two miles further up, where thick forest slipped down nearly to the water's edge. In this locality a saw mill was situated. That was not the only factory. Near the wharf a flour mill was in course of erection, though the machinery had not yet arrived. Around it several large stores for the collection of surplus produce had already been finished. Each stood isolated, surrounded


  ― 292 ―
by a high earth rampart and a ditch filled with water. These were the largest buildings in the capital, with the exception of the central offices, the headquarters of the district and municipal authorities and the terminus of all the telegraph lines. In an adjoining outhouse, a steam engine, coupled to a dynamo, furnished the necessary electricity. The public hall was another large edifice and appeared to serve both as a temple and a lecture-room, where often in the evenings addresses were delivered to crowded audiences. As the Japanese language was employed exclusively, the whites had not even a decent excuse for being present. The purpose of these meetings, however, seemed to be quite harmless; apparently they dealt chiefly with demonstrations on agricultural subjects, such as irrigation and the use of modern implements.

Though the discipline of the invaders was marvellous, they were managed so discreetly and their authorities dispensed with pomp and circumstance to such a degree that it was difficult to discover the real rulers. Colonel Ireton observed that much deference was paid by the multitude to the medical officers, which conduct is quite intelligible in the light of subsequent revelations regarding the part played by them in Formosa. But he soon noticed that they, too, received orders in turn from higher instances. At the head of the whole organization stood a board of five Elders, as they named themselves in English. Every member of this set seemed to wield equal power. In their dealings with the Australians, they consulted together about every step. The Board of Five was the final court of justice and inflicted capital punishment. Many of its responsibilities, however, were transferred upon the Headmen, who governed each quarter of the main settlement and every village. These


  ― 293 ―
again were assisted by small councils of the most worthy citizens. No military display was indulged in; although all the inhabitants of the capital owned rifles, they never underwent any warlike training within the knowledge of the Federal garrison for the whole period during which the latter resided in their midst. Nevertheless it is probable that at least one or two high military officers served in the Board of Five, that every headman was a staff officer, and that the village councils consisted in reality largely of former non-commissioned officers. Everything, in fact, was calculated to preserve discipline and to prepare defence.

After a fortnight of strenuous work, Colonel Ireton was able to draw a map of the invaded district, in which, besides the capital, seventeen outlying villages are shown, the nearest about twelve miles and the most distant over ninety miles away from that centre. He computed the population from the number of private dwellings, which were as a rule tenanted each by a family consisting of husband and wife. As every quarter of the main settlement contained between five hundred and six hundred residences of this kind, and the villages from one hundred and fifty to three hundred each, he calculated that the total number of adult inhabitants could not be much less than twelve thousand. In addition, there were the infants, which continued to be born at such a rate that the natural increase of the community at the end of the first year would amount to about forty per cent.

Colonel Ireton prided himself on his conviction of having charted everything worth notice. His surprise passed all bounds when a party of his men reported that they had discovered, on a hunting trip, a path not on the map leading south-east to the banks of Liverpool River, where they had met with a gang


  ― 294 ―
of about 150 Japanese actively engaged in clearing the land and utilizing the timber for the construction of houses. Near by were temporary shelters after the fashion of the aboriginal mia-mias. None of the gang understood English, so that no verbal information could be had, and protracted investigations failed to reveal any clue as to the manner in which these immigrants could have got into this place. But the headman of the nearest charted village, over twenty miles away, who was known to speak broken English, volunteered an explanation. He said that the gang had come from a settlement farther west, the inhabitants of which had quarrelled, because they belonged to adjoining districts in Japan, separated by fierce rivalries and long wars for ages. The faction whose forefathers generally had the worst of the deal had been taunted with the fact, when remembrances were exchanged, to such an extent that the strife of long ago had nearly been revived. To prevent such a calamity, it had been decided to remove one of the contending clans by forming a new community. The statement was so uncommonly straightforward that it roused the suspicion of the whites, for as a rule the Japanese were most discreet, especially where the concealment of internal difficulties was concerned. So the party visited several villages farther west on its return. But everywhere a full complement of male and female residents was found. It was strange, because no women were with the gang on Liverpool River.

The fact set the Colonel thinking. To his knowledge, all the western settlements were inhabited by couples. Therefore, if the story of the headman was correct the outside faction must have left its wives in the care of traditional rivals. That was most unlikely. Sexual jealousy was the only passion of the patient, toiling immigrants which had


  ― 295 ―
sometimes asserted itself so strongly in ugly brawls that its existence could not be hidden entirely by their leaders from the prying Australian eyes. Suddenly the truth dawned on Colonel Ireton. These womanless colonists were not exiles from another camp. They were new arrivals. Their presence meant that, while he was scouting inland to obtain accurate information with regard to the resources of the enemy, a steady stream of the invaders kept pouring in all the time. Until he should have discovered by which way they came and at what rate, all his calculations were valueless. It was certain that they did not enter the country from the official port, for his garrison watched the approaches and surroundings closely and Federal steamers patrolled frequently the whole western expanse of coast on their journeys to and from Port Darwin.

The waters farther east were supposed to be searched regularly by British men-of-war, for the prohibition of commercial navigation there had not yet been cancelled. In reality, the supervision was very lax. A small cruiser stationed at Thursday Island made occasionally the round of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It had never called at the Japanese port or in Junction Bay since the Federal occupation. Practically, the enemy had a monopoly of several hundred miles of coast line, where many sheltered inlets invited unostentatious landings. Colonel Ireton remembered that he had had a significant warning immediately after his arrival. The experts managing the wireless telegraph on board the steamer which conveyed him here had mentioned that the apparatus was intercepting wireless waves from an apparently very distant source. Two days later a Japanese steamer made her appearance and proceeded right up to a jetty running into deep


  ― 296 ―
water in the inlet, near the stores, where she discharged cargo for the settlement. The Colonel and his staff were invited by her captain to lunch on board, and were afterwards shown over the vessel, which was of the tramp type, tidily kept, provided with up-to-date discharging gear, manned by an ample Japanese crew, and fitted with apparatus for wireless telegraphy, a fact which interested the Colonel more than anything else. As he could not discover anything like a wireless station ashore, he concluded that the steamer must have communicated with other vessels far out at sea. Having accounted thus to his own satisfaction for the observation of his experts, he forgot the incident. But now he began to doubt the correctness of his former surmises and resolved to investigate personally and at once.




  ― 297 ―

Chapter VII: Like Tigers at Bay

EARLY on November 25, 1912, Colonel Ireton left the fort with an escort of two officers, a sergeant and four men. The latter led several spare horses carrying provisions and a collapsible boat, the parts of which were well hidden under the other baggage, for the explorers did not wish to let the Japanese into the secret of their destination. With this intention they travelled due south to deceive possible watchers and also to evade the swamps and creaks of the coast. Ostensibly they were bound on a hunting trip. About noon on the following day they turned eastwards and were soon out in the original wilderness. Progress was slow, continually impeded by natural obstructions. But from time to time a marked tree or rock was passed showing that the intrepid invaders had penetrated even here, and these observations filled the explorers with fresh hopes. At nightfall they crossed Liverpool River and camped not far from its right bank.

Next morning they pursued their quest further. Fortune favoured them. They found a track running from the north-east to the south-west about four miles distant from the river. It was very rough, but its condition indicated plainly that it was much frequented. Soon it bent round to the north near a village in a clearing. There were many dwellings, but only very few settlers were to be


  ― 298 ―
seen. It occurred to the Colonel that this must be a kind of half-way house established for the comfort of weary immigrants on their march to the interior, and that a similar station was probably situated on the banks of Liverpool River at the end of another day's journey, which station he had missed luckily by crossing farther down. He had no wish to make his presence known to the villagers, who might have means to warn the secret coastal base—the existence of which could no longer be doubted—of the approach of the whites. Much time was lost in the endeavour of the little party to pass through the bush surrounding the settlement out of sight and hearing of its inhabitants. The explorers were just expecting to come out on the track again when the din and tramping of a large moving crowd made them recoil. They left the horses in care of some of the rank and file far back in the thickets; then the officers crept forward cautiously to ascertain the cause of the commotion. They beheld a force of about two hundred Japanese marching inland. A vanguard of twenty men, rifle on shoulder, headed the procession. Behind, in motley array, the main crowd followed, some carrying burdens, others leading horses laden with crates of living poultry or with bulky packages, still others driving cattle, sheep and goats. Another armed detachment brought up the rear. It was afternoon before the track was clear once more. The explorers pushed on for another twenty miles and camped for the night in a sheltered spot.

Little more than two hours' spirited riding after sunrise (November 28), and the party had the first glimpse of the sea—the endless, sparkling crescent of Boucant Bay. At this point the track turned sharply to the west to the mouth of Liverpool River. Quite unexpectedly it opened upon a village


  ― 299 ―
on a side channel of this river, nestling in a fold of the ground, which position, in conjunction with thick lines of high mangroves on the banks, hid it completely from the sea. It seemed that the Japanese were using the place merely as a temporary convenience, as a residence for immigration officials. It consisted of less than twenty houses and three large sheds serviceable as stores or barracks. There was no sign of any cultivation around it. About a mile further down was an opening in the mangroves. A log-paved road led down to it from the sheds and a gang of coolies were removing goods from there on hand-trucks. The explorers hurried down and espied a large steamer standing out to sea. It was too late to stop her for inspection, but that was really needless. There could be no doubt that she was the transport which had landed the immigrants encountered on the previous day. Moreover, something else attracted the Colonel's attention. A small steamer lay motionless in the mouth of the river, a few hundred yards away. She had two very high masts, with loose wire dangling from the top. One glance through his glasses convinced the Colonel that this was the floating Japanese station for wireless telegraphy. He jumped into a boat and was paddled over. For the sake of safety, his escort carried a supply of Commonwealth flags, one of which was unfurled with satisfactory results. The crew lined up, cheering. Unfortunately, that was the only British accomplishment acquired by them. None, from the captain downwards, confessed to a knowledge of the English language. They did not try to interfere with the close inspection to which the vessel was subjected, and which proved it to be admirably adapted to its purpose. On the contrary, their courtesy was perfect, but explanations,


  ― 300 ―
of course, were impossible in the absence of an interpreter.

On shore the farce continued. The headman of the village gloried to conduct his vistors in dumb show. It was noticed, however, that he persistently overlooked a certain building, on which, consequently, their curiosity soon centred. As the door was locked and the guide did not seem to understand that the key was wanted, Colonel Ireton and his officers entered through a window, to the pantomimically expressed horror of their cicerone. The place was a splendidly equipped telegraph office, though there were no overhead wires. The wires disappeared in a wooden pipe running down the wall. This was another proof of Japanese cunning. The station was evidently connected with the capital by underground cable. Subsequent investigation upheld this supposition, and revealed plainly the whole scheme of the enemy's carefully planned communications. Every fresh reinforcement was thus telegraphed to the capital where the Board of Five was kept informed of all details and was enabled in turn to use unimpeded and unsuspected the wireless service of the existence of which no white man had dreamed. It was possible, indeed likely, that other floating stations were hidden in unfrequented waters among the island clouds to the north of Australia, forming a connexion between Tokio and the new Japanese colony.

Colonel Ireton did not prolong his stay. He was powerless to interfere at present and wished to transmit his astonishing discoveries to headquarters as rapidly as possible. For a moment he felt tempted to cut the cable, but he was sensible enough to recognize the uselessness of such an action. He departed the same afternoon, intent on following


  ― 301 ―
the track right to its end. Next day the party covered sixty miles and passed five villages, two of which were mere refreshment stages, but the three others lay in fertile country farther south and teemed with population. No women were visible—conclusive evidence, beside the unfinished state of the settlements and the backwardness of the cultivation paddocks, that the inhabitants were recent arrivals. Some miles farther on the track, which after crossing the river had turned due west and then north-west, lost itself altogether, and the explorers had to face again the hardships of slow, pathless progress, until in the afternoon of November 30 they crossed a telegraph line and knew that they were within the confines of the district of older settlement. Under the circumstances it was not wonderful that neither the Imperial garrison nor the Federals had conceived any suspicion of a beyond, owing to the prudent policy of the Japanese to leave a broad strip of untouched wilderness between their public and secret spheres of operation.

The Commandant's return was timely. The garrison was in danger of getting out of hand, irritated by the demeanour of the invaders, whose coolness began to change to defiance, as many incidents, petty in themselves, showed. He affected to ignore them in the hope that a bolder move on the part of the enemy might give him an opportunity to employ stern measures. It occurred very soon. Probably the Elders were much annoyed over his successful excursion, which had taken them by surprise, and were eager to get in a counter-stroke. They requested the honour of an interview (December 2) in the course of which they intimated that they wished to terminate the occupation of the fort by the Federal troops, because they required it for their own use. They justified this remarkable demand


  ― 302 ―
with the plea that the fort had been built by Japanese labour and was therefore the property of their community. Admitting that they had loaned it to the Imperial garrison, such courtesy did not signify that they had parted with the rights of ownership to all comers. The former surrender was an acknowledgement that they considered themselves part of the British Empire. The Australian army was not Imperial, but a local force, and they had never asked for a Federal garrison. At any rate, the site was too central and too valuable for military purposes and was wanted for civic extensions.

Colonel Ireton replied that the site, and indeed all the land occupied by the Japanese, was vested in the Commonwealth and had never been lawfully alienated. His interviewers did not wish to open that portentous question, yet they were not so easily beaten. Politely declining to discuss this point with a military officer, they attacked his position from another quarter. Apart from the issue of ground rights, they said, there could be no doubt that the buildings belonged to their community, wherefore they craved permission to remove the materials, as timber was getting scarce in the immediate surroundings of the capital and was urgently required for new constructions.

The Colonel simply stated that he knew nothing about the men who built the fort. It might have been their people, or it might not. However, he took it over as the successor of the Imperial garrison and meant to keep it. Here, indeed, the Japanese had committed a sin of omission. In their joy of having in their midst an Imperial force, the presence of which gave an air of loyalty and legality to their sinister proceedings, they had not foreseen that one day Federal troops might be substituted. The evacuation of the fort had been a spontaneous act of


  ― 303 ―
gratitude, without any records or reservations in writing. They had now occasion to repent of their hastiness. For Colonel Ireton was not a man who overlooked any weakness in the armour of his adversaries, and declined politely but firmly to discuss the matter any further. A letter addressed to him by the Board of Five was returned with the remark that he regarded this particular incident as closed.

On the following day (December 3) a Federal cargo boat arrived from Port Darwin with stores for the garrison and steamed right up to the Japanese jetty, as had been done before. It being Sunday, the discharging did not commence at once, and the captain and crew, with the exception of a couple of men, spent the evening in the fort, retailing the latest news. Suddenly, in the dead of night, an alarm was raised. The jetty was enveloped in flames, so that it was impossible to get to the vessel from the land side. The few hands aboard tried their utmost to push the steamer out into the stream away from the wooden structure, which burned fiercely as if it had been soaked with some inflammable stuff. But wind and current seemed to drive her against it. In the end they had to jump into the water to swim ashore. Jetty and steamer became a total loss.

The Japanese Elders insisted that the disaster was due to the carelessness of the whites and claimed heavy damages for the destruction of their property. Colonel Ireton repudiated responsibility on the ground that the fire had broken out on the jetty. He refrained from hurling accusations which he could not prove. But every Australian was convinced that the disaster was due to incendiarism. The spirits of the little force, isolated from all the world, had never been very cheerful. A deeper gloom


  ― 304 ―
now crept into the brave hearts, when it was realized that the enemy was not afraid to strike in the dark, from the back, and did not hesitate to sacrifice his own work if he could gratify his hatred by doing so.

Still it might have been worse. The Federals congratulated each other on the fact that the first attempt had not been directed against the fort, which was entirely built of timber. Every reasonable precaution was taken immediately. Several sheds not used permanently were demolished and the material covered with earth. The guards were strengthened and received orders to fire on any nightly prowler who should ignore their challenge. Colonel Ireton informed the Elders of the new rules under the pretext of preventing misunderstandings; they did not deign to acknowledge the communication.

The Federal Commander was very much disquieted. His instructions enjoined mainly the ceaseless assertion of Commonwealth sovereignty. How that was to be done against an enemy who had all the advantage of possession and real power, he was left to find out for himself. He began to fear that the Japanese would not recoil from the use of violence, if they should think that they had a good case. It became necessary, in the interests of the many lives under his care, to enlighten the Federal Government with regard to the precarious position of its garrison and to ask for more detailed orders. Though he was in wireless connexion with headquarters, this service was most roundabout and altogether too much dependent on go-betweens for his needs. He could never be sure that his messages were rightly interpreted in Port Darwin and transmitted in full to their destination. Therefore he decided to proceed to Port Darwin, where he could place himself in direct communication with Melbourne by the overland


  ― 305 ―
telegraph. Moreover, there were several local matters he wished to attend to personally. Since the bad feeling between the two races had become more pronounced, the Japanese had gradually stopped the sale of foodstuffs from their cultivations to the garrison, which consequently had to rely more and more on imports from its base. So far these had not been too well regulated, and the Colonel desired to make better arrangements.

Colonel Ireton never hesitated once he had made up his mind. He entrusted his command to the oldest captain, a man whose coolness and courage had been tested thoroughly in the civil war, and boarded the fast steamer which served as his floating wireless telegraph station, bound for Port Darwin (December 4). He did not forget to issue a final warning to his men not to provoke the enemy during his absence, which, he promised, would not extend over more than a week.




  ― 306 ―

Chapter VIII: Bleeding White

FOR a man who, like Colonel Ireton, had sojourned for a month in the silent bush, surrounded by a silent enemy, Port Darwin presented a scene of dazzling activity. The township was very full. Several well-known Federal officials were there in connexion with the railway construction to the south. This great work had been taken in hand from both ends, and the line from South Australia advanced rapidly. Though nearly everything had to be imported, the combined efforts from the north and south added about a mile every two days. But even if this rate of progress could be maintained throughout, years would elapse before the completion of the transcontinental link, without the possession of which the Commonwealth could not strike at the invaders. Many people doubted whether the enormous task could be finished at all. Some wagered that the work would soon stop through want of funds. Wild rumours were circulating of the extreme measures to which the Federal Government was driven in a hopeless attempt to avoid bankruptcy, and wilder prophecies foreshadowing the worst complications.

Colonel Ireton loathed listening to the idle talk. Nevertheless he could not but perceive that the interests of his garrison did not seem to receive much attention at headquarters. In vain did he demand stricter orders. The Federal authorities confined themselves


  ― 307 ―
to an assurance of their continued unlimited confidence in his ability; beyond this they merely repeated that details would have to be left to his discretion; that he should decide each case on its merit, always bearing in mind, however, that the invaders should never be given the slightest advantage on which a title to any possession in the Northern Territory could be based; and that he should never cease to assert the supremacy of the Commonwealth. The Colonel was bewildered by this strange indifference. He looked, so to speak, through the wrong end of the telescope, placed, as he was, 2,000 miles away from Australia's nerve-centres, at the terminus of the overland telegraph. It was as well for him. For if he could have seen things in their true proportions, he would have despaired.

Alas, Australia has entered the phase of passive suffering. Its determination to keep the whole Continent white remains as yet unbroken. That is still the tacit presupposition of all national development, but the enthusiasm with which the establishment of the Federal garrison was greeted only six weeks ago has died out. What influence can a handful of white soldiers, buried in the boundless North, have upon the vital issue? They cannot reconquer the Territory, they cannot hunt the enemy out. Fools those who expected great things from them! Both official and popular interest in their doings are at a low ebb. In one quarter of the world, it is true, there is no sign of weariness with regard to the garrison. Every now and then the Japanese Press speaks of it with increasing bitterness. Just at present, while Colonel Ireton is in Port Darwin, a heated discussion is carried on about his exaggerated claims—so called—of ownership. The Tokio journalists take their cue from the British Press, which, of course, is denouncing


  ― 308 ―
wildly the financial measures of the Commonwealth, and make invidious comparisons that the same censured tendencies are being indulged in even against the poor refugees.

So the respectable British Press has continued hostile against Australia. The official relations, however, between London and Melbourne have become less strained, for the Imperial Government, benefiting by the lessons of the immediate past, is refraining tactfully from any further interference with Commonwealth legislation. Since the middle of November several English warships are again stationed in the capital ports. Perhaps this improvement has had something to do with the indefinite attitude of the Federal authorities towards the Colonel. They may be aware that new troubles with London are likely if they associate themselves publicly with a policy of oppression against the Japanese settlers, though they may secretly encourage it. Less directness will leave them free to plead that any particular action of their officer was not ordered by them, and to uphold or disavow him without loss of dignity. Perhaps they, too, have been taught the value of a better understanding with the Mother Country. Poor Colonel Ireton!

If there is any reapproachment to Great Britain, it does not find legislative expression. Parliament still rushes on undaunted—like a steam-roller, crushing through all accepted principles of fiscal policy and crushing vested interests right and left. Needs must when the devil drives. Ruthless action, not regretful sympathy, is the only means of avoiding bankruptcy. Forced loans, embargo on gold exports, absentee taxes, another shilling on the income-tax, which steadily yields less, double land-taxes—all the old nightmares of troubled Moderate consciences have become realities. And, in spite of everything, money is pouring


  ― 309 ―
in. If only the transcontinental railway and the armaments, which might have been financed leisurely in the good years gone by, did not swallow up every penny. Call it pounds, shillings, pence! It is nevertheless the very life-blood of the community, drained away in a ruddy, irrecoverable torrent. For all imports have to be paid for in gold. Though the mines produce at high pressure and every ounce finds its way into the official coffers against due certificate, they can hardly keep up with the demand. For internal uses, there is Commonwealth paper, of a value fixed by statute.

Even so, everything might yet be well, but for another pitiless If! If only the nation would go on creating wealth in accustomed fashion! Unfortunately, Parliament alone seems to be working. How unsettled the people have grown, how restless! The avenues of employment have narrowed. Trade is at a standstill. Military training has thrown the labour supply out of gear. Whatever business is done is transacted on a cash basis—in paper. Who knows how much the paper will be worth at the final reckoning? Who can concentrate his mind on ordinary toil while the terrible uncertainty lasts? Like a black thunder-cloud suspense hangs over Australia.

Spring is far advanced. It has been a glorious season. Soaking rains in many parts have clothed the countryside a rich green. Nature, like mankind, seems to be mocking the doomed Continent. The wheatfields are bending in golden heaviness, harvesting should begin. Wool, the staple product of Australia, should already be choking the ports. Instead, much of it is still on the sheep's backs, shearing is proceeding painfully slow. Everywhere there is an outcry for labour. Political excitement has kept in the cities this year large numbers of men who in ordinary times would have gone up country about


  ― 310 ―
mid-winter. Certainly there is no plethora of employment in the towns either, but the general disorganization of business creates many casual jobs. At any rate, in the centres of population one is an active member of the body politic, one knows what is happening and takes part in it—thrills so dear to half-educated democrats. Away in the backblocks, on the contrary, one becomes a mere machine, grinding through hard tasks—not a pleasant change while so much is going on. The young men, moreover, are absorbed in the army, and though the authorities are doing everything to release them for agricultural work, many prefer the easy military life and hold out for increased monetary inducements. On reflection even ardent patriots do not like paper money. It is not a safe investment to toil for. Hard cash or no hands!

Meanwhile the landholders are reduced to despair. Most of them have only touched a few silver or copper coins of late. The harvest will rot on the fields if it is not secured quickly. Already rural associations are forming, at first for the purpose of mutual assistance in harvesting. The large owners are distinguishing themselves in this movement, uniting their permanent hands in gangs and setting them shearing, the drawing of lots deciding the rotation in which the various stations are to be taken. Such firmly knit bodyguards, having been once created, are found useful in more ways than merely shearing or reaping. And quickly the recruiting of forced labour becomes their most important function. To such a pass have things come in Australia, the Land of the Free!

Liberty or no liberty, the wool must be marketed, the crops must be brought in. If not voluntarily, the necessary work must be done by compulsion. Law and order have been set at naught so often that one more transgression does not count. There


  ― 311 ―
is no authority out back to which the victimized bush workers and small selectors can appeal for protection. Those who become reconciled with their lot and show willingness, are treated fairly well, and even persuade friends to join. So the ranks of the dependents swell. In like proportion the mettle of the organizers rises. The insignificant local unions are drawing towards each other and are rapidly being forged together to powerful district leagues. Soon the moving spirits will begin to dream of an all-embracing Rural Association, stretching from Central Queensland through Middle and West New South Wales to North-West Victoria and into the interior of South Australia. And the big proprietors, whose retainers form the backbone of the organization and who naturally control it, may then hope to influence the inevitable land legislation of the Federal Parliament in favour of present holders.

Already the enormous increase of numbers is begetting a consciousness of strength and an impatience of opposition, which has also grown apace. For a large percentage of the western toilers belongs to the Australian Workers' Union, one of the most uncompromising labour bodies in the Commonwealth, and defies the incipient Association. No wonder the latter resents such behaviour, if only by reason of the dangerous example set to the more pliable men. The latent antipathy between the landless and the land monopolists is changing to revengeful fury. Occasional explosions of violence on both sides become more frequent. Soon the illimitable bush, so well adapted to keep its secrets, will be turned into a battleground of the worst human passions. Press gangs will infest it. Boycott and kidnappings will be daily occurrences. In retribution, fires of unaccountable origin will rage and consume many a proud homestead. And not many questions will be asked of any


  ― 312 ―
suspected incendiary—his end will be swift and sure whether he be guilty or innocent.

In the cities the misery is just as intense. Is it not spring, the season when that other dreaded Oriental invasion, the Plague, rears its head? It has been fought bravely in the past, it has been kept in check, but never quite exterminated. Now is its chance. No funds for sanitary improvements. A general enfeeblement of health. Universal listlessness. Famine rampant. Not plague alone, typhoid, low fever, consumption and a host of other diseases find a fertile soil. The death rate is multiplying.

Groan, ye mothers! Wrestle in prayer, fathers! Pray, not for the lives of your dear ones, but that they may have a chance to die in the defence of their country, striking a blow for deliverance—not like drowning rats in a sinking ship! Alas, the Heavens are deaf. Lost opportunities never come back. Stagnation everywhere! Only a solitary something is felt moving by all, creeping nearer and nearer like a death-reptile with fascinating, paralysing eyes: Public and Private Bankruptcy!

The contemporary historian, to be of any use, must poleaxe his sympathies and bury them at sea, by night, with a heavy weight for ballast, so that they may never trouble him again. Else he becomes unreliable. It is his duty to accumulate hard facts. Hard facts point their own moral. And yet, may not even memories of his dead sympathies visit him in the darkest hour, to lighten his cruel task?

Australia, thou didst not deserve this fate! Numberless were thy mistakes, but generosity was responsible for the most of them. Many hearts full of sorrow, many eyes dimmed with tears, were cheered by thy triumphant march in the van of humanitarian effort. It seemed that under thy congenial blue skies a new


  ― 313 ―
Greece was arising, a more perfect Athens, scorning slavery and conferring the sacred rights of citizenship upon its entire manhood and womanhood; and which, even as in Athens of old those deserving citizens had been ostracized who monopolized political favour, would dare to ostracize Old-World monopoly and injustice. And is this to be the result?

Perhaps it is all not true. It may only be a nightmare. Thou wilt awake, Australia! Thou wilt arouse thyself, thou wilt gird thy loins. Thou wilt confound the false coiners of cheap insular phrases who would persuade thee to rely on what thou canst not control! Every one of thy sons shall be a warrior, every one of thy daughters a warrior's helpmate! Not for conquest. But in defence of thy inalienable right of shaping thy own destiny. Then, only then, thou mayest safely continue thy triumphant march. Then thou wilt enter into thy proud Twentieth Century Nationhood, which will be a joy, not an oppression! Thou wilt—What? … At present thou art staggering through the midnight of thy fate, tired, dead tired!




  ― 314 ―

Chapter IX: Massacre

UNDER the circumstances, Colonel Ireton did not accomplish much in Port Darwin. Apart from a more satisfactory arrangement of local services in connexion with his mission, his one success was the exaction of a firm promise from headquarters that two more steamers fitted with wireless telegraph would be despatched to the North at once. One of these he intended to station off the secret Japanese base, while the other was to patrol the coast regularly. He did not prolong his stay, and on the evening of December 9 he arrived again in the fort.

The Federal garrison had hardly ventured out of barracks in the meantime. One night a determined attempt had been made by swarms of the enemy to burn down the fort. The free use of firearms had kept them in check. But the prowlers had carried off their dead and wounded under cover of the darkness, leaving no trace by which they might be identified, and no proof of their criminal enterprise. Otherwise, the Japanese continued to ignore the existence of the whites, except in one particular. A new jetty was being constructed in place and on the foundations of the old one which had been destroyed. The invaders worked at it in a great hurry. Large gangs of toilers were employed day and night. Even some of the most substantial buildings were demolished, so that the seasoned timber, of which there was evidently


  ― 315 ―
a dearth, might be used for this structure. And a few Australian soldiers, who followed the peaceful occupation of fishing, were warned off its neighbourhood. As they did not seem to take notice, fences were erected on land, and well manned Japanese boats patrolled unceasingly the waters round the jetty.

Colonel Ireton had no sooner heard of the fresh development than he regarded it as a hint of providence. The jetty was all but completed. So next morning he ordered his steamer alongside. As she approached, a Japanese hastened forward and asked the captain for a wharfage fee. He was referred to the Colonel, who, of course, refused to listen to such demands. Nothing more happened until the steamer began to discharge cargo. Then an unarmed party of Japanese advanced boldly and seized the first cases. They held their ground unflinchingly, though the carriers tried to drive them off with blows, and unfolded a Union Jack, thus imparting an official character to their proceedings. Colonel Ireton, on being informed, perceived that he had fallen into the trap of the enemy, who had foreseen what he would do and who had devised a careful plan to outwit him. It was too late to withdraw with honour. Accepting the situation, he alarmed the garrison and marched down to the jetty fifty men under his personal command. Meanwhile the other side had not remained passive. The Elders were wending their way to the same place, attended by a large escort. Both parties arrived almost at the same moment. The Colonel ordered his men to remove the goods, which consisted of half a dozen cases. But the Elders prevented the execution of this instruction by sitting down, in calm deliberation, on top of the disputed cases. Even the Colonel recoiled from the idea of treating these magistrates with the offhandedness which


  ― 316 ―
would have been meted out to the common rabble. There was an awkward silence. Then he asked curtly what they meant by robbing the Commonwealth. “We rob nobody and nothing,” their spokesman replied. “We simply place embargo on the goods in lien of payment of the fee due to us for the use of the jetty.” “This is Australian soil,” said the Colonel; “nothing will be paid for landing cargo in our own territory.” “That may be so,” was the retort, “but this jetty was built under your eyes by our people for the benefit of the community. We do not wish you to have anything to do with it at all, for fear it might be burned down again. But if you use it, it is only just that you should pay the ordinary fee which we charge against our own steamers, and which would be enforced against the shipping of all nations.”

It was evident that nothing could be gained by arguing the point. So the Colonel said: “Apply to the courts. But I won't have violence here while I and my comrades can shoot straight.” Turning to his men, he called out: “Remove the goods. If any fellow resists, shift him.” The Elders exclaimed in chorus: “The British Empire stands for justice. We cannot get justice here.” “Go then where you can,” mocked the Colonel, and added: “You have no case at all. In every civilized country you have to get a permit before you can start building. I am the Federal officer in authority in this district, and I know you did not apply to me for permission. By the law of the nation, I can command you to remove your jetty altogether. I shall do so if there is any more obstinacy. Forward, men!” The spokesman stepped close to Colonel Ireton: “Take care,” he hissed, “Japan is stronger than your Commonwealth.”

He was cut short by a scuffle, in which he and his colleagues were brushed aside contemptuously, while


  ― 317 ―
the coolies were knocked down in all directions. Next moment the Australians had secured the goods and were continuing the discharging of the steamer regardless of the multitudes of Japanese thronging round, who for once had deserted their ordinary duties and were standing about in thick clusters at short distance, as if they had been invited to witness the hoped-for discomfiture of the whites. Though sadly disappointed, they never stirred. No sign, no order came from the Elders, and in its absence no Japanese dared to spring to the assistance of his leaders. Discipline held the Asiatics in an iron grasp, which even the sight of acute humiliation could not relax. The Elders exchanged a few words in their own language and retired, followed by all their faithful subjects. Obviously, they considered that, after all, the propitious moment had not yet arrived for a final reckoning with the hated Federals. The steamer left the jetty before nightfall, for Colonel Ireton did not like to court the risk of another conflagration.

After the jetty incident the Japanese did not let a day pass by without some demonstration of their utter dislike of the Australians. They had already exterminated the wild animal life in the district of older settlement to such an extent that hunting trips had to last over several days before sufficient game could be had to vary the monotonous diet of the garrison. Now they began to destroy the fish in the inlet by explosions of dynamite, doubtless for the purpose of putting an end to the angling sport, which formed perhaps the chief recreation of the lonely white exiles. This callous behaviour outraged the clean sporting instincts for which the Australians are famous, and, probably more than anything else, caused the latter to loathe the alien race.




  ― 318 ―

But this was not the worst. Even while Colonel Ireton was still absent on his visit to Port Darwin, curious accidents commenced to happen. Bridges, which had often been crossed in perfect safety, became unstable. Planks shifted. In the log roads over swamps, deep treacherous holes opened, concealed mostly under a cover of branches or grass. Several horses had been hurt at these danger spots and had to be killed. A man broke his leg; another was thrown by his frightened animal on such an occasion, and fractured his collar-bone. At first it was thought that the rainy season, which was now at its height, was responsible for the bad state of the tracks. Colonel Ireton's sub-commander wrote a letter about it to the Elders and received a courteous acknowledgement regretting the mishaps, but pointing out that the roads and bridges had not been designed to withstand the weight of horse traffic. Colonel Ireton himself was inclined on reflection to suspect a new villainy on the part of the cunning Asiatics. There seemed to be so much method about these occurrences. He could not prove anything, however. So he had to hold his peace and to be content with warning his men to be very careful and to travel only in broad daylight.

The Colonel kept his men much in the fort now. His idea was to lie quiet until the promised steamers should arrive, when he intended to boldly plant a detachment at the secret base and to generally overawe the enemy. But this penning-up of a garrison bereft of enjoyments and diversions could not be carried out for long without evil consequences. Although the Commander was well liked, discipline began to suffer. The veterans of the Western campaign grumbled. That affair had been breezy. Nobody thought much of the heavy losses, which were forgotten in the great patriotic stir. Here, on


  ― 319 ―
the contrary, everything stagnated. There was no action to defeat the creeping tactics of the coloured aliens, no hope of a change by which this dead waste of weeks and months might be justified. It was bad enough to break the hearts of heroes. So Colonel Ireton had to give way by consenting to another series of hunting trips. As it had not rained for some days, he decided to lead personally the first party.

He rode out with fifty men on the morning of December 12. About twelve miles to the south he came to the largest bridge of the district, over a creek dry in winter, but through which torrents roared often in summertime. However, there was only a chain of ponds in it now. A gang of coolies were working at the bridge when the whites approached. But these fellows disdainfully turned their backs on the latter, as had been their habit of late, and retired without uttering a word. The Colonel called out a warning. Three men cantered over the structure and signalled that all was safe. They were too hasty. Suddenly, when they were within a few yards of the other side, a crash was heard. Planks broke, and two riders were precipitated into the bottom of the creek. The third just managed to parry his horse and to hurry back. The coolies looked on from some distance, without moving a limb to render assistance. This callous apathy threw the Colonel into a violent rage. Leading his escort through the bed of the creek, he ordered the arrest of the loitering Japanese. While some soldiers pursued and secured them, without meeting with any resistance, others attended to the victims. One was dead, having dislocated his neck in the fall. His comrade was unconscious and suffered from a broken arm. Both horses had to be shot.

Colonel Ireton immediately returned to the fort with his eleven prisoners. He was determined to


  ― 320 ―
bring matters to a head. In his capacity as Chief Federal Magistrate and Commander-in-Chief, he proclaimed martial law over the Japanese settlement the same afternoon and informed the Elders that he would try all offenders, and in the first place the arrested coolies, before a summary court of justice consisting of Commonwealth officers appointed by him. He further stated that the trial would commence on the following day at 10 a.m. in front of the fort, and that an alleged ignorance of the English language on the part of the accused would not be allowed to interfere with the course of the justice in Imperial territory, before an Imperial court; if, however, an interpreter should be furnished by the Japanese community, his appearance would not be objected to. Notices to this effect were also nailed to the outsides of the principal buildings in the four quarters of the capital, and a further supply was handed to the Elders by an orderly of the Commandant, with the peremptory demand that they should be published in every outlying village.

The Board of Five solemnly protested against the introduction of martial law, on the ground that it had not been proved that properly constituted civil courts would be unable to deal with any matters arising among the settlers. For this reason they refused to help the court without a guarantee that such action would not be taken as an acknowledgement of its powers. The Colonel refused to listen to any conditions. Nevertheless, a Japanese offered his services privately. But he would accept no payment from the whites. He said that he would rather rely on the prisoners for his reward. All this, of course, was a farce originating in the desire of the Elders to get into touch with the captives. The Asiatic mind ever prefers to move in curves rather than in a straight line.




  ― 321 ―

Proceedings opened punctually at 10 a.m. on December 13. Deal benches formed the seat of justice, surmounted by a tent roof supported by bare poles, so that sun or rain were kept out and yet the view of the audience was not obstructed.

The court consisted of twelve officers under the presidency of Colonel Ireton, The two other officers acted as Crown Prosecutor and Counsel for the Defence. Fifty men, with fixed bayonets, kept guard. The remainder of the garrison was held ready for instant action within the fort No Japanese were visible, with the exception of the interpreter, who begun by doubting, on behalf of his clients, the competency of the court and subsided only when he was told that he did not represent counsel. The ordinary routine of courts was observed. The Prosecutor outlined his case and called witnesses—the members of the hunting party—who were then cross-examined by the other side. Their evidence brought out the facts clearly, the collapse of the bridge, the presence of the accused, who had uttered no warning and had rendered no help. As for the defence, the interpreter was irrepressible in spite of the previous snub and soon ran it himself. He maintained that it had not been proved that the prisoners had been on or near the scene of the disaster. The witnesses, in reply, stated that all the accused belonged to the gang which had worked on the bridge. So the interpreter was thrown back on the old assertion that the occurrence was an accident and that any possible blame must attach to the whites, because they had carelessly subjected the structure to an overweight.

The court found that the prisoners worked on the bridge when the hunting party approached, and that it was their duty to warn travellers of its unsafeness. This had not been done, either from gross neglect or from malice, and loss of life had been the direct consequence


  ― 322 ―
of the omission. Furthermore, no help had been rendered, either by them or by their mates, which callousness aggravated the offence. The prisoners, therefore, were found guilty and were sentenced to a public flogging of twenty-five lashes each.

During the afternoon Colonel Ireton received a communication from the Elders intimating that they were unable to vouch for the maintenance of peace if the feelings of the Japanese community should be outraged by the public execution of the sentence. But he resolved to persist without mercy. His men were enthusiastic and looked forward eagerly to the moment when brown malefactors should writhe under the whiplash of the whites in revenge for so many silent insults. Some of the officers were more anxious, but even the most cautious man had to admit that it was time to take risks. That the Elders, so imperturbable and cool hitherto, should have become so frantic that they condescended to a threatening message, was considered a good sign. The Australians were still convinced that the enemy would not dare to employ open violence; though the Empire might tolerate the outwitting of one of its units by diplomacy, it was inconceivable that its rulers would look on calmly if arms were raised against men who wore its uniform. These soldiers, a mere handful, felt that the whole striking force of the Empire was at their back and conducted themselves accordingly.

Early on December 14 the tent was set up again. Twenty-five yards away four flogging stocks were constructed of broad deal benches fitted with stout leather straps. While these preparations were under way, the Elders requested an interview, but the Colonel postponed it until after demands of justice should be satisfied, as he could not permit criticism of the findings of the court or interference with their proper performance. At 10 a.m. fifty Australians,


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fully armed, marched out and surrounded the tent where the court was already assembled. A few minutes later the prisoners were brought down, escorted by another detachment of soldiers. An officer read the judgement and then showed the signatures to the oldest captain, whose duty it was to see it carried out. Eleven floggers, who had been selected by ballot from the ranks, one for each culprit, stepped forward and seized their charges. A military surgeon hurriedly examined the prisoners to ascertain whether they were physically fit to undergo the punishment. Then the oldest captain called out in a loud voice: “Now let justice be done!”

Opposite, in a wide half-circle, groups of Japanese clustered in deep silence, nearly without motion, in attitudes of panting suspense. So they remained until they heard the slashing noise of the first blow, and the shriek which followed. A hundred voices took up, repeated, intensified the cry. It was like the wail of a wounded monster. With the suddenness of lightning, the groups dissolved into a whirling sea of humanity, surging forward with stretched arms. They carried no weapons—their mission was a last peaceful appeal of a warlike race. A short command—a white file formed to meet them, dividing, breaking, pushing back the brown flood. Behind, the flogging went on as if nothing was happening. For a moment the Japanese wavered. But the fourfold screams of the victims spurred them to fresh exertions. On they came again, and now they closed with the soldiers, who were forced to use their rifle butts, even their bayonets, to repulse the ju-jitsuing fiends. Suddenly an alert mob outflanked them and rushed swiftly towards the flogging stocks. Before, however, the rioters could interrupt the execution of the sentence, the Colonel had sprung forward and ordered his men to fire; they did so at


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point blank range, with terrible effect. The rapidly advancing crowd fell back in indescribable disorder. Many of the survivors threw themselves flat on the ground. Their bodies, and those of the slain, remained after a minute the only visible sign of the formidable onset and its fatal end.

The flogging had been done with: the culprits were set free; orders were given to succour the wounded, when, all at once, a new commotion in the Japanese quarters attracted the attention of the Australians. There rose, from behind the low ramparts, a well-armed host. Thin lines dashed forth, curling around the flanks of the handful of Federals. These were now retreating leisurely, as if unconscious of the singular manœuvre. At a bugle call, the Asiatics threw themselves down. Instinctively, the whites did the same. A volley rang out, followed by terrific sectional fire. The enemy, at last, had come into the open. A large force tried to intercept the retreat to the fort. Colonel Ireton's efforts were all in the direction of defeating this purpose. With the help of the reserves, who had been left within, he succeeded. The majority of his men regained the sheltering barracks. He himself had to be carried in, shot through the hip. Five officers and forty-two men lay outside, dead or wounded.

As quickly as the battle fury had broken loose it died away. The Japanese army withdrew out of the firing zone and assumed a waiting attitude at a safe distance. From the central offices the Board of Five approached under a Union Jack surmounted by a white towel. They came to dictate the terms of surrender. For that was what it amounted to. Only about two hundred and fifty unwounded defenders were left to oppose the invaders. The provisions in store would hardly last a fortnight and, of course, no relief could be expected. Indeed,


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the Elders did not look forward to a siege. Apologizing for the painful necessity which had brought them there, they announced that in case of a renewal of hostilities the fort would be a mass of flames within an hour. On the other hand, if peaceful counsels prevailed, they promised that the wounded would receive immediate care. Under the circumstances, the conditions were soon formulated and accepted. Colonel Ireton agreed to ship his whole garrison to Port Darwin as rapidly as the Federal steamer, which served as floating wireless station, could be got alongside the jetty. Only the badly wounded men were to remain behind in charge of the military surgeons, and the Japanese bound themselves to do everything in their power to assist the latter and to supply proper food. The whites retained their arms. As there was not enough space in the vessel for the horses, it was determined that the Japanese should take care of them for three weeks, and should deliver them to any authorized person who might demand them within that period. After that they should become the property of the settlers.

The garrison embarked early on December 16. It must be admitted that the conquerors behaved modestly after their triumph. There was no jeering, no ironical cheering. Colonel Ireton, who should have remained with the other wounded men, insisted on being removed at once. He died at sea, less from his wound than from a broken heart, as his faithful soldiers are fond of asserting. According to his last wish he was buried in the placid waters which lave the shores of the Northern Territory, wastes which he had battled for so bravely, and died for in the bitter end.




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Chapter X: Black Christmas—Peace on Earth, but No Great Joy for Australia

IN the afternoon of December 16, London time—two days after the massacre of the Federal garrison therefore—the Japanese Ambassador to the Court of St. James informed the British Government of the unfortunate occurrence. This was perhaps the most remarkable proof of the wonderful organization which enabled the invaders to flash wireless messages to Tokio within a few hours. That this method of communication existed was no longer a secret, because the quick response of the Japanese Press to the alleged oppression of the settlers by the Commonwealth Commander could only be explained in this way. The Ambassador was very suave on this occasion, as usual. He said that the dreaded clash between the tyrannical Federal garrison and the harassed refugees had at last come to pass. As far as he knew the blame rested with the Australians, who had presumed to maltreat several of his former compatriots under the pretext of a crime which without any doubt was no crime, but an accident, and any connexion with which, moreover, had not been proved against the hapless victims. Nevertheless, he was charged to express the sincere regrets of the Mikado and his advisers for the lamentable affair, which had resulted in the death of about a score of white soldiers, while the losses of the settlers were


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even larger. His Government must reserve the right to lodge reasonable claims against the Commonwealth on behalf of the refugees, since the latter, to the sorrow of every one of them, had not yet been admitted to British citizenship. At the same time he could assure the allied nation that Japan felt no resentment against individuals who, of course, had to obey orders, and was willing to consider favourably any suggestion of a compensation to the wounded and to the near relations of the dead, provided guarantees were given that the conditions, which had led up to the climax and were the cause of the proposed monetary sacrifice, could not recur.

But what the diplomat left unmentioned the Tokio Press boldly spoke out. The papers, which had already made furious comments about the jetty quarrel, now called distinctly for war against Australia, even against the Empire. With regard to the latter case, they indulged in some exquisite contortions for the purpose of conveying the impression that they could not contemplate or even talk about such a possibility without pangs of acute suffering. “Every one in this country is proud of our alliance with the Mistress of the Seas,” one journal wrote, “and every one desires to be loyal to her. These feelings are reciprocated by the people of Great Britain, as we know. But Britain is merely part of a whole, and if we may believe the clamours of other portions of her Empire she is a part rapidly diminishing in importance. We have to consider those others. The loudest among them at present is Australia. Who are the Australians? They are the men who have owned a Continent for a century and imagine that a handful of them have a better right to it than hundreds of millions of our race. They are the men who could not hold it for an hour against our will by their own strength. Yet they


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think that they may oppress a small number of our starved compatriots. They defy us daily. They insult us daily. By God, we shall end this shameful thing. If England can be ordered about by such people, she can be our friend no longer. We are all very sorry that our honourable friendship should terminate for such a paltry reason. But it is not our fault. Honour commands us to make war on Australia. Let us do so, and then we shall see. Let us make war against every one who helps Australia. They say England will have to help her. If so, we may be beaten. We are not afraid to face our fate and may admit at once, therefore, that according to all human calculation of probable events we shall be beaten by mighty England. That will not be a dishonour. The sons of Day Nippon do not quarrel with the inevitable. But do not let us drift into war. If Great Britain wants to fight us, not because of her own grievances, which do not exist, but because she has no will apart from the other portions of the Empire, well, let us strike the first blow with all our power, with all our heart.”

Other papers wrote in a similar strain. Moreover, Tokio gave an exhibition of its dreaded public opinion in another form. Crowds gathered in its streets and listened to popular orators denouncing the Commonwealth. Afterwards there were some riotous demonstrations. The Japanese Government did not forget to point to this occurrence as an expression of the will of the people. But another little incident had a far deeper effect on the temper of the British masses. It was reported by cable to the English Press that on December 18 a Japanese squadron, composed of three battleships of the Dreadnought type and two enormous cruisers, had paid a friendly visit at Weihawai, the British station at the entrance of the Gulf of Pechili. The same issue of the London morning


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papers which brought this item contained also a summary of the first Federal statement and protest to the Imperial authorities about the Northern Territory affair, which was described tersely and correctly as a massacre.

And that afternoon (December 19) the Japanese Ambassador demanded boldly an official apology on the part of the Commonwealth for the flogging of the eleven prisoners. He insisted that there was no justification for the punishment, because the offence of which these men had been accused, even supposing that they had been guilty of it, was not one for which flogging was resorted to in civilized communities. It was an outrage, an incitement to bloodshed, and his nation was proud of the fact that it had been revenged instantly. But that was not enough. Japan, as the representative of the Asiatic races against which this foul insult had been levelled, regretted the necessity of having to ask its ally to exact satisfaction from the latter's dependency. This request was the crowning mercy of the record-breaking Far Eastern diplomacy. It did not only compel the Imperial authorities to take sides at once, but it determined the choice for them. The British people would never tolerate Ministers who shielded floggers. Everybody knows to-day, of course, that Colonel Ireton's method of dealing with cowardly assassins erred rather in the direction of leniency. But if he had shot the male-factors, he would have had a better chance with the well-meaning, but insularly narrow-minded humanitarians who rule the Empire in the last instance and who have an inherited horror of corporeal chastisement.

That very influential section of the English Press which preaches Imperialism from a capitalistic point of view, and which would have smiled at the flogging of Asiatics if it had happened in India or in some other


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colony with approved conservative principles, had nothing to say to the Commonwealth. It did not even wax furious any more about the legislation passed by the Federal Parliament. Its readers, the wealthy classes of the United Kingdom and their hangers-on, had become resigned to the thought that Communism—as they termed it—must run its full course in Australia. They were no longer alarmed at any particular manifestations of those tendencies. In fact, they took such a hopeless view of Australian affairs that they were surprised at nothing—a state of mind which denotes the death of all sympathy. And their papers reflected the apathy and were only strong on one point: that the helpless and demoralized Commonwealth was now less than ever worth the risk of exposing the Heart of the Empire to danger.

The great hope of the Australian people, overwhelmed with so many internal difficulties and stupefied by this new terrible blow, was a resurrection of sentiment in the sister dominions. If anything was able to fan into flame again the hatred of coloured races, it was surely an affront directed against a section of the Imperial defence forces. But the autonomous colonies were as tired of the interminable Northern Territory deadlock as the mother country. Before it was finally settled, London refused to lift colonial securities out of the slough of despondency or to find fresh funds, which were required most urgently. The ordinary citizens of those far-away dependencies did not understand the causes which compelled the Australians to hang back from the enemy, instead of rushing at him in the good old British style. They would have joined gladly in a willing, closely contested war. This melancholy stagnation, however, proved too much for them.

Already in the evening of December 16 the Imperial authorities had preferred a peremptory


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demand that the Commonwealth should place the Northern Territory into their hands. The Federal Government, in its turn, asked for guarantees that the principle of the White Continent would be upheld. Its action was applauded by the whole nation. On December 19 Great Britain proclaimed a blockade of the whole Australian coast. Probably this step had been contemplated for some weeks, as the vessels of the Australian squadron, which were usually concentrated at Sydney, had been distributed among the capital ports about a fortnight ago. Now the men-of-war left the harbours and stationed themselves off the heads of the ports of Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne and Freemantle. Two gunboats cruised off Adelaide. No merchant ships were allowed to pass in or out. Never had a blockade been rendered more easily efficient. There was a subtle irony in it, too: Australia's subsidized navy was employed to coerce Australia.

The blockade created consternation in the ranks of the Extremists. It interrupted completely connexion with Western Australia, Tasmania and Northern Queensland. If it should last for some time, old separatist hopes might be revived. Moreover, the construction of the transcontinental railway to Port Darwin, which was wholly dependent on imports for its materials, would have to be stopped. On the other hand the Imperial statesmen, who had taken this desperate step, were secretly at least as anxious as the Federal politicians to terminate the blockade, which arrested absolutely the circulation of produce and was sure to bring about the entire economic ruin of the Commonwealth within a few weeks. Great Britain feared one thing—the repudiation of the public debt by Australia. There was really little danger of it as long as any other chance remained of restoring the fortunes of the community.


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For even the most resolute Extremists, while impatient of personal privilege and private monopoly, were too patriotic to contemplate calmly the disgrace which the disavowment of obligations entered into voluntarily would bring upon the nation. But a prolonged blockade might force the Continent into bankruptcy.

Under the circumstances it was natural that cable-grams were exchanged unceasingly between London and Melbourne. About noon on Christmas Eve it became known that a preliminary understanding had been arrived at and that the blockade was ended. That Christmas will never be forgotten in Australia. It was Black Christmas: Christmas of desolation. The open country was in the throes of a silent, merciless struggle. The harvest was in danger of being spoilt. Desperate landholders and farmers stopped short at nothing which would give them labour to prevent further damage. Men were hunted, trapped and, if they resisted, even killed like vermin. In retribution, many a fine homestead, many a grand wheat paddock blazed to the sky. In the big cities, people were hardly yet realizing the state of the interior. Still a few precursory murmurs made themselves heard already. Soon they were destined to swell into another wild street roar of sympathy with the oppressed toilers, which would drown all excuses, every plea of necessity by the owners of the soil, and would precipate the whole vexed, vital land problem for settlement by popular fury, suspicion and resentment. Buildings and streets, damaged in the riots, had fallen into disrepair. Many citizens, wealthy or well-to-do a short year ago, were beggared. Others, less unfortunate, did nevertheless feel beggared by comparison with their former standing. The principal financial institutions survived only by


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reason of protective Parliamentary enactments. The rate of unemployment was frightful. A majority of townspeople seemed to depend on casual jobs for a livelihood. And all over the Continent there remained hardly a family which did not mourn the recent death of some dear member killed in the wars, the riots, by disease, famine, or by some other horror for which the great crisis was responsible.

After the preliminary understanding had been announced, several weeks passed during which negotiations were carried on between London and Tokio, and between London and Melbourne. The final agreement was published on February 26, 1913, and contains the following clauses:

The White Continent was now a memory of the past. But the White Commonwealth had at last become an acknowledged reality. In spite of its failure the defence of the greater ideal was not without beneficial results. Its very violence had destroyed the causes which underlay the failure and what had been saved had at least been saved on basic conditions which made the recurrence of former mistakes and sins impossible. Above all, a long peace was wanted now. Australia required immigrants, time to recover breath, leisure to work out its destiny along the track blazed in the Terrible Year. Therefore a practically unanimous Parliament accepted the agreement against the chief principle of which it had waged heroic war in vain.

It is impossible to review here the aftermath of the Commonwealth crisis—the prolonged economic convulsions, the agrarian excesses, and the slow, painful


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recovery. Suffice it to say that few outward traces of the national collapse remain to-day (1922). A rarely interrupted succession of good seasons has brought into full play the marvellous fertility of the soil. Again wealth is increasing, though the financial burdens incurred in consequence of the Japanese invasion are pressing heavily. The transcontinental railway to Port Darwin has been completed and is now being linked up with the Eastern lines.

A great deal depends on successful white settlement in the North. So far little has been achieved; perhaps the time has been too short. But it is the problem which in vital importance overshadows all others. For the alienated extreme Northern corner—Australia Irredenta—is flourishing with a hostile civilization. Under lenient British rule a new Japanese empire is in the making. Already it is said to contain, if the second generation is counted in, an Asiatic population of 200,000 souls. It is constructing railways and ports. A truce has been cried until 1940 A.D. Till then the Commonwealth must get ready for its relentless march to the North to save the purity of the race by sweeping the brown invaders back over the coral sea. The alternative is the irretrievable conquest of tropical Australia by the hordes of the Orient. In this struggle the still larger issue is bound up whether the White or the Yellow Race shall gain final supremacy. Christian civilization cannot afford the loss of this Continent, FOR AUSTRALIA IS THE PRECIOUS FRONT BUCKLE IN THE WHITE GIRDLE OF POWER AND PROGRESS ENCIRCLING THE GLOBE.

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