Australian Loyalty

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Australian Loyalty  (1887) 
by Henry Lawson

SENTIMENTAL AND POLITICAL

“Land of the free; thy kingdom is to come.” - CAMPBELL

THERE can be no doubt but that without sentiment the world would be worse than it now is; but sentiment, though a good servant, is a bad master. Though not wishing to make a virtue of selfishness, it must be admitted that a man is more liable to make a fool of himself when actuated by feelings of the heart than by those of the head, and in private life we are very apt to sacrifice the interests of those dependent upon us, for the sake of others, from sympathetic motives. Sentimental loyalty has recently done both these things in a most pronounced manner for Australians, and perhaps stigmatised them as petty bullies, with a tinge of cowardice into the bargain. This was the loyalty which sent several hundred jingoes and several thousand pounds to assist England in crushing a brave nation of savages who were fighting for a country of no earthly use to anyone but themselves. Following closely upon the “Contingent” bungle, and when the Russian war scare was at its height, this loyalty tumbled over itself in its hurry to make an independent colonial declaration of war against Russia by sending the money and jingoes thither. But war with Russia and war with the Soudanese were two very different things, and as the former did not come off perhaps Australia lost whatever benefit she may have derived from a dearlybought lesson not to meddle in Northern affairs.

Since then sentimental loyalty has gone on whining, blundering, and bullying through this year of Jubilee until it brought to the surface an undercurrent of Republicanism which long had existed in—spite of the Contingent, in spite of the Jubilee pop and fizz, and in spite of the lying messages to which our Government prostituted the cable which connects us with the Northern world.

And as sentimental loyalty has done this much for us, and brought gladness and hope to the heart of many a true Australian, with the knowledge that he is by no means alone in his convictions, we will dismiss it—with thanks.

“That Australia needs the protection of England against the encroachment of dishonest and designing nations” constitutes the hind legs of political loyalty. If the following questions are honestly answered political loyalty must either fall or go about on false legs, which it is most likely to do:—1. Are there no other nations which are not dishonest and designing on the face of the earth save England and her dependencies? 2. Is Australia bounded by nations that would annex and divide her as Poland was annexed and divided, that she needs protection? 3. Is Australia a neutral field of vantage for troops between two deadly hostile nations as Belgium is between France and Germany that she needs protection? Is Australia hated as a thief, a bully, and a hypocrite, as England is that she needs protection? Is Australia solid gold? Is she peopled by women alone; or does she misrule a nation of Irish and a nation of Hindoos that she needs the protection of England against the encroachment of dishonest and designing nations?

America needed the protection of England against the encroachment of her (England’s) free and easy taxation policy; and England proceeded to protect her in a manner essentially British. She made elaborate preparations to carry out the “stamping out” policy recently so loudly advocated here. But it was a game two could play, and America won it, and though the world was full of “swords and fire then”, she has gone on ever since, increasing in wealth and power, checked only for a few years by “dishonesty and design”, not of other nations, but within herself. The only protection Australia needs is from the landlordism, the title-worship, the class distinctions and privileges, the oppression of the poor, the monarchy, and all the dust-covered customs that England has humped out of the middle ages where she properly belongs. Australia’s progress has been marvellously fast, but not half fast enough for to-day. Once free, the spirit of independence or self-dependence will push her ahead 50 per cent faster. Poverty is but slightly felt in Australia, and therefore Australians sleep. They will awaken presently to find they have slumbered too long; to find the good old English gentleman over them; the good old English squire over them, the good old English lord over them, the good old English aristocracy rolling round them in cushioned carriages, scarcely deigning to rest their eyes on the “common people” who toil, starve, and rot for them; and the good old English throne over them all.

They will awaken to find the cornstalk in the Australian back softened and made pliable by winters of poverty, and the Australian forelock accustomed to being pulled to “your ’onner” the squire and his progeny. Then the Australians can kick and hurt themselves as the Irish do, threaten and starve as the poor of England do, explode dynamite and hang as the Nihilists do, and curse themselves for sleeping when their rights could have been made invulnerable without bloodshed and without toil.

This work is is in the public domain because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (February 2012).


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1922, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.