United Division

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United Division  (1888) 
by Henry Lawson

IT cannot be denied that these colonies are bitterly jealous of each other’s position in the esteem of the English upper crust, and that this jealousy has helped to make the Australians such contemptible toadies is amply proved by the recent visits of British big bugs to our shores. We are told that Cain killed his brother Abel because he was jealous of the latter’s influence with the Lord, and we may safely assume that had Cain and Abel been heterodox there would have been no blood spilt between them. On the same line of reasoning, if Australians were to be Australians, or rather if Australians were as separate from any other nation as Australia from any other land, there would be no jealousy between them on England’s account. There would of course remain little friendly rivalries between the colonies, but these would only act as spurs to their common prosperity.

There can be no Imperial Federation in the true meaning of the word Federation. Imperial Federation means a union between England and each one of her colonies individually, whilst the colonies themselves would be divided by bitterness and jealousy of the meanest and most despicable kind. Say, can there ever be as brotherly a feeling between the Australian colonies of Great Britain as there would be between the United States of Australia?

Why on earth do we want closer connection with England? We have little in common with English people except our language. We are fast becoming an entirely different people. We are more liberal, and, considering our age, more progressive than England is. The majority of English people know nothing of Australia, and even the higher classes understand neither us nor our country. The latter entertain a sort of good-natured contempt for us which is only the outcome of their contact with our own shoddy aristocracy, which is several degrees more contemptible than that of England.

The loyal talk of Patriotism, Old England, Mother Land, etc. Patriotism? after Egypt, Burmah, Soudan, etc. Bah! it sickens one. Go and read “His Natural Life”, and other natural lives, by Marcus Clarke, and then talk of the dear old Mother Land that gave us birth.

Another argument used by the loyal, is that we should at least entertain a brotherly feeling for Englishmen and be ready to assist them in extremity. So we should, but we cannot assist Englishmen in Soudan or Burmah, neither can we assist them in Egypt with the “eyes of centuries” looking down upon us. “Where then can we assist Englishmen?” you ask. Amid the slums and alleys of London, or under the pitiless eyes of the stone lions (symbolical of the pity of the aristocracy) in Trafalgar Square, my masters!

Who says Australia offers not a home for every poor Englishman, or any other countryman that finds his way to our shores? And what sort of thanks do we get for it? Take the Cockney newchum, for instance; for many years after arrival, the burden of his cry is “Yer oughter go ’ome to Hingland, young man. Yer oughter see Lunnon, young man.” When he is not saying this he is running down Australians and the country that gives him food and shelter to their very faces. If England is such a glorious place why do not all the newchums stay there, or go back as soon as they earn passage money?

We shall never be understood or respected by the English until we carry our individuality to extremes, and by asserting our independence, become of sufficient consequence in their eyes to merit a closer study than they have hitherto accorded us. Every few weeks an English journalist or big bug comes out on a flying visit, drinks champagne and gorges beef with men who are no more representative Australians than Laplanders are, and returns to England a recognised authority upon the colonies.

Dr Cameron Lees has just gone, and left his “last impressions” of Australians upon the page of a Melbourne daily—among a lot of type marks—that amount to the same thing as saying Australians are provided with a pair of arms and a pair of legs apiece. He says that there is a tendency to bounce amongst some young Australians. He is very near the truth in that statement, but the tendency to bounce, as he calls it, is that spirit of independence that is growing and spreading slowly, surely, and almost silently. The calm precedes a storm. Telegrams fly, war clouds spread, and the air is filled with rumours, but nothing happens, and when everything is calm again war breaks out in some totally unexpected quarter. It is the same with revolution; so long as the proper spirit is spreading amongst our young men, we are satisfied that it spreads without bombast or parade.

There is one thing that we see with regret. It is that jealous, unkind feeling that exists between New South Wales and Victoria, and it is caused by reasons explained in the beginning of this article. Deny it as you may, it is nevertheless true that these two colonies do not entertain anything like the good-will that they should for each other, and although Victorians are very American in their egotism and very ready to disparage New South Wales, it must be admitted that the latter colony has not always treated the former in a fair spirit. The Soudan bungle was born partly of sentimental loyalty and partly of the afore-mentioned jealousy existing between the colonies, and now at a time when the colonies should club closer together our Government is doing all they can to widen the breach by trying to pass a bill enabling New South Wales to monopolise the name “Australia”.

If this feeling of animosity is fed or permitted to grow between the two colonies it will end—laugh as you may—in iron and fire and cannon smoke rolling over the Murray!—and then! “Perish Australia!”

Federation should begin at home.If Federation —whether Imperial or of the world should ever appear in a better light than at present there will be plenty of time to consider it. But for the present, let our colonies try to cultivate a still more brotherly feeling for each other, and the day will come when the sons of all the colonies can clasp hands and say truly, “We are Australians—we know no other land!”

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.