My Life in Two Hemispheres/Chapter 23
MY RECEPTION IN THE NEW COUNTRY
Sailed in the Ocean Chief—Religious equality established on board—Arrival at Melbourne—Deputation of eighty gentlemen come on board to welcome me—My statement of opinions—Public dinner in Melbourne—The "Backbone and Spinal Marrow"—Speech Melbourne in 1855—Public Library—University and Parliament House—Visit to the Legislative Assembly—Mr. Fellow's Bill—Public dinner in Geelong—Letter from Edward Butler—Condition of the Irish in Victoria—Letter from Orion Home—Visit and reception at Sydney—Henry Parkes, James Martin, John Hubert Plunkett, W. B. Dalley, and Edward Butler—Public dinner—Declaration of Henry Parkes—John Macnamara—Rev. Mr. West concerning the visit—Parkes' description of all I lost by leaving Sydney—Letter from Rev. J. D. Lang—Letter from Edward Wilson—His Australian projects—Property Qualification—Villiers and Heytesbury Election—Visit to the village of Killarney—Speech of George Johnson—State of the poll—John Mooney's proposal—Letter from Edward Whitty—Letter to William Carleton—Condition of Victoria in 1856.
There was no mail service to Australia in 1855, and after careful inquiry I took my passage in the Ocean Chief, a vessel of the Black Ball Line.
The captain was a frank and friendly Nova Scotian of Irish descent, and I speedily saw that we were destined to get on comfortably. His yarns were racy; one of them still makes me smile when it recurs to my memory. A skipper of his acquaintance entered a complaint in the log-book against one of his officers. "I regret to state (so it ran) that during the greater part of this day the first mate has been intoxicated and disorderly." Some days later the first mate made an entry in the log. "I am rejoiced to be able to state that during this entire day the captain has been sober, and his instructions for sailing the brig were quite intelligible." Among my shipmates was Wilson Gray, who had sold his share in the Freeman's Journal in order to adventure in the new and happy land.
On the first Sunday at sea I may be said to have begun my Australian career. The bell was rung at ten o'clock in the morning, and the captain read passages from the Book of Common Prayer to the bulk of the cabin passengers. When he finished I came out of my cabin and asked him if there was an Established Church on board the Ocean Chief. "Certainly not," he said. "Well, have the goodness to have the bell rung again, and I will read prayers for some hundred Irish Catholics in the second class and steerage." The captain complied, and I got through the business fairly well, and continued the practice till the end of the voyage.
For the first fortnight the good ship never got beyond a day's sail from Ireland. Up to the Equator we had as bad a passage as could be conceived—a head wind for a longer time than the captain had ever heard of in the North Atlantic, and then a longer calm than he ever remembered at sea. But when we crossed the line a favourable wind filled the sails for eight thousand miles almost without interruption, and we saw the new land lying on the lap of the Pacific within eighty days, during which we passed through two winters and two summers. All voyages are alike, and the recreations identical bets on the day's sail, sweepstakes on the date of reaching Port Phillip, deck billiards in the morning and loo and spoil five in the evening, and in the end concerts and amateur theatricals duller than a Dutch sermon. Some of us aimed to learn a little navigation, or at least to understand the ropes, and to make some acquaintance with Jack Tar. Jack was a comical fellow; he had a quarrel with the black steward, and one morning we heard the crew hauling at the ropes with a loud chorus, "I don't love a nigger, I'll be d—d if I do. Haul, haul away for the Black Ball Line." Daily confabulations with Wilson Gray on the destiny of the new country, and all we hoped to do and achieve there, gave a little flavour to life, and relieved the monotony of the wearisome amusements.
When we sailed into the noble land-locked harbour of Port Phillip, entered by a natural gateway called the Heads, the health officer who visited the ship brought me a letter requesting me not to land when we reached Melbourne till I received a deputation who desired to welcome me to the new country. I was much struck with a generosity which sprung forward to meet me before I set foot upon the shore.
"The deputation," said the Argus next day, "was very numerous, consisting of about eighty persons, including Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen, the latter naturally being in the largest proportion." It was headed by John O'Shanassy, one of the members for the city, and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, and he was accompanied by the most conspicuous reformers in the Chamber and leading members of the Municipal Council of Melbourne, and various notable citizens. Mr. O'Shanassy, after reading a generous address from Victorians, said he had another which, he was bound to say, was of a few days earlier date, from Sydney, urging Mr. Duffy to make that city his home in the New World, and he could not fail to note that it bore the signatures of some of the most distinguished men in New South Wales. My friends in Melbourne desired to entertain me at a public dinner to naturalise me in my new country.
I told the deputation that if I had been assured a little while ago that the Rock of Cashel would make a voyage to Australia it would not have appeared more incredible than that I should do so myself, but I was deeply discontented at the state of political affairs in Ireland, and determined to be no longer responsible for them. Three years ago by the labours of a few friends, of whom I was one of the humblest, an Irish Party had been formed of between forty and fifty members pledged to ask no place or patronage for themselves or others, but to give their support without party distinction to whatever Government would propose satisfactory measures for Ireland. There existed in the House of Commons officers specially appointed and salaried to wheedle, seduce, or corrupt adverse members, and unhappily they had been too successful with the Irish Party. Among the men pledged not to accept office one was now Attorney-General, another Solicitor-General for Ireland, a third Lord of the Treasury, and a fourth, when the Ocean Chief left England, was the only Parliamentary Secretary or all the Colonies and Dependencies of the Empire. Irish Nationalists wanted for Ireland what the reformers of Victoria had won for their colony. Victorians were not contented with having their affairs managed in a distant city by ill-informed or indifferent persons, and why should Irishmen be content? The Australians had succeeded and the Irish had failed, but let them not forget that they succeeded mainly by the aid of two potent allies, with whose aid Ireland also would have succeeded the Atlantic and the Pacific. As respects the invitation to a public banquet, I had left home intending as soon as I felt strong enough to resume the practice of my profession, and this was still my purpose, but it was not in my nature to be indifferent to public interests or sink into any sordid apathy. I therefore gladly accepted an invitation which gave me an opportunity of becoming more familiar with the public men and interests of the colony.
The dinner was a notable success. Two hundred persons was the largest number for which accommodation could be found, and an overflow dinner had to be provided for in another chamber. Mr. O'Shanassy presided, and the attendance was very representative of the community. Of my speech I need only notice one paragraph, of which I never was allowed to hear the end: "I recognised," I said, "that this was not Ireland but Australia—Australia, where no nationality need stand on the defensive, for there was fair play for all. In such a land I could be, what I believed nature intended me to be if national injustice and fraud had not turned my blood into gall, a man who lent a willing and cheerful obedience to the laws, as the guardian of public and private rights, and who desired no more than to be permitted to live in peace under their protection. But let me not be misunderstood," I added. "I am not here to repudiate or apologise for any part of my past life. I am still an Irish rebel to the backbone and to the spinal marrow. A rebel for the same reason that John Hampden and Algernon Sydney, that George Washington and Charles Carroll of Carroltown were rebels—because tyranny has supplanted law in my native country. I would not be tempted by all the gold in Australia to repudiate my share in a struggle which was as just and holy a one as ever was lost or won in this world. But having been a good Irishman in my old home would not, I conceived, be a bad security for my becoming a good Australian in my new one." I added, regarding the principles of public liberty which I held, that I was a Radical reformer, but I was no more a Red Republican, as some one alleged, than a Red Indian.
Melbourne, which is now a handsome and picturesque city, was then a thriving village, in the by-streets of which primeval trees or their stumps might still be seen, and where huge chasms sometimes interrupted communication between adjoining streets. The public buildings were ultra-provincial, the Government offices were a two-storey villa, the law offices occupied a vacant corn store, the Public Works department was housed in a wooden shanty; but some progress had been made with an ambitious Custom House, and the young community had built a creditable Public Library and Museum, and the foundations and class-rooms of a University. The Legislative Council met in a small brick building known as St. Patrick's Hall, hired from the St. Patrick's Irish Society; but a new Parliament House was planned, on so great a scale that after forty years it is not yet finished.
The public library was as yet strangely unfit for its position in the capital of a new country. All the great eras of history were blank. There was not a single book on the English Commonwealth, but Clarendon and an anonymous Life of Cromwell, nor on the American Revolution but Bancroft, or on the French Revolution but Thiers, or on the Bonapartean era but the spiteful and libellous memoirs of Bourrienne. There was not a single volume on Australian affairs, and political economy was ignored. The modern poets were represented by Samuel Rogers and a single poem of Tennyson's. The modern novelists stopped with Scott. The philosophers were nowhere. Carlyle, Landor, Browning, Helps, John Wilson, De Quincey, William Hazlitt, Henry Taylor, Cornewall Lewis and Thackeray were not to be found. But the antiquities of Athens and Attica were abundantly represented. Three hundred volumes of Greek and Latin classics and the Book of Common Prayer in German, French, Italian, Greek, modern Greek, and Spanish; twelve volumes of the Bridgewater Treatises and their antithesis, Hobbs in sixteen volumes were offered as refreshment to the weary. But in good time all this has got thoroughly mended. The stranger can now walk into this noble building without introduction of any sort, and find himself as conveniently provided with facilities for study as in the reading-room of the British Museum.
Society was existing in a state of discomfort and inconvenience difficult to realise. In the capital the ill-lighted streets were also ill-paved, and the flag-ways made in patches or left unmade at the option of the owners of adjoining property. On windy nights one stumbled through some of the chief streets of Melbourne from fragments of solid flagging into unexpected pools of slush and mud. The principal highways in the suburbs bore the same relation to the streets that highways ordinarily bear to streets; that is to say, they were worse made and worse mended. On one of the chief highways to the goldfields, now traversed by a railway, I have seen a coach company after bumping over corduroy road for which the treadmill would have been a pleasant exchange, compelled to descend from their places, wade through a river, return to the vehicle and sit for two or three hours in dripping clothes. The Western ports within twelve hours' sail of the capital have sometimes been longer without Melbourne newspapers than London was ordinarily without newspapers from New York. After a day's rain Elizabeth Street, a great business thoroughfare, was a morass, where a passage was sometimes not merely difficult but impossible. I can recall a case in which I had to forfeit a dinner engagement in the next street because the ocean of sticky slush which separated us was impassable by man or beast.
I speedily visited the Legislative Assembly and made acquaintance with the leading members. They were generally men of capacity and experience, but I was assured that not one of these Legislators had ever seen a Parliament, and business was necessarily conducted somewhat at random. On my first visit to the Council an incident happened which suggested that a man of some European experience might be useful in the Legislature. There was a Bill on the notice paper introduced by Mr. Fellows, a leading lawyer, regulating the admission of barristers and establishing an Inn of Court and a Corporation of Benchers. I asked for a copy of the measure, and to my amazement found that it would exclude me and every other Catholic from the Bar of Victoria, as it was made a condition of admission to take the Oath of Supremacy, the identical oath which for more than a century English and Irish Catholics had refused to take. The exposure of the blunder, for it owed its origin to blundering not to bigotry, was fatal to the measure, which was withdrawn; but I fear the learned author never altogether forgave me my banter on the subject. There were only three or four Irish Catholics in the Chamber, but one of them, Mr. O'Shanassy, had attained a leading position, and it was said, not without wonder and shaking of the head in the city, that he must be a member of any Responsible Government created under the new constitution. The bulk of the population were Dissenters not unlike a Nonconformist congregation in England, intelligent and alert, but often filled to the lips with prejudice. They had never seen, as indeed who had seen, a Papist exercising supreme authority, and they were perturbed by the perils of so unaccustomed a spectacle.
Geelong was at that time the angry rival of Melbourne. The question which of them should be the capital of Victoria seemed to the Westerns still unsettled, though to others it was plain that Melbourne had won the race. If the question were still open Geelong had conspicuous claims. Nature seemed to have framed Corio Bay for the seat of a great city. The semicircle of hills gently sloping to the water, the deep, secure anchorage, the Barwon behind supplying fresh water, the Barabool Hills furnishing corn, wine, and fruit: behold the essential conditions of success. My friends in this charming little town invited me to a public dinner, at which I had a farther opportunity of developing my opinions.
Meantime the invitation from Sydney despatched so promptly pressed for acceptance. My friend Edward Butler was associated with Henry Parkes in the management of the Empire, and Parkes was the ablest man in the party of progress. Butler warned me of perils to which he believed I was liable with the cautious anxiety of a devoted friend.
"I would fain (he wrote) be present, if not the first to clasp your hand on landing where it seemed so improbable we should ever meet—improbable indeed that we should ever meet anywhere again. I have another reason for writing—to caution you not to fling yourself into the embraces of our poor countrymen, who would run away with you beyond the bounds of discretion. Only think of its needing the interference of Parkes and myself to quash an- incipient movement here to put you in nomination for Sydney. You occupy a dignified position in the minds of most people out here from the motives and manner of your retirement from Parliament which Parkes has zealously joined with me in putting in the right light; indeed we are much indebted to Parkes. Well, I am very anxious that from this position you should not lapse into a natural mistake of giving yourself unreservedly to our poor enthusiastic Irishmen. You will have to answer an invitation to a public banquet in this city shortly. The invitation, however, will be managed by Parkes and some other English as well as Irish friends. Remember these colonies are English, and any sympathy beyond that of Irishmen will be with yourself personally, not with the Irish cause. In the next place the disposition of the English is to look upon your character as recently seen by them, with wondering incredulity, reluctant to believe that you are not a demagogue of the 'reddest' school. In the next place, the upper class of English, who are our misruling Conservatives here, know your character better, and hate you for coming to disturb them as they fear in their stagnant despotism. These will decry you, if you give them a chance. In the last place there is the Irish place-men here constituting a class, and never did you see this species in so repulsive a shape. Those people, for the sake of the respectability of your character would pay you tribute in common with good Englishmen, and would welcome you in common with Irishmen for the sake of being popular with the Irish—only that they dare not. You will say naturally enough, 'Why should I trouble myself about all these people?' For several reasons. First, if you settle in this colony, it is well not to mar your entrance into it by a mistake. Next, the character of our old cause of Young Irelandism will be made or marred for ever in this part of the world by you; and, believe me, you will come to understand how this light can guide one's actions, feeling as if he should compromise his old friends and his old country the moment he compromised himself. It has been my guiding maxim many and many a lonely hour, and I hope and believe that in this respect my life here has been no subject of reproach. Then remember the future, friend and foe concur in destining you for a high career in Australia."
I had gone to the new world weary of political life, and resolved to become a successful lawyer. Some business came to me immediately, and I sat down to work. But a different course had been expected by political friends, and my natural tastes corresponded with their wishes to draw me into public life. The foundations of a new nation were to be laid, the principles for which reformers contended at home might have fair play in a country where there was no aristocracy, no large estates, no paramount authority, and to aid this development was a task which might repay endless toil.
I had been cordially received by the leaders of the Liberal Party, and their programme included the measures that seemed most urgent. Opening the public lands to the people, enlarging the basis of political freedom, and the proclamation of complete religious equality. Among the men who had been the most prompt to welcome me were a small sprinkling of squatters who insisted that I who had fought the battle of the tenants in Ireland must necessarily sympathise with the Crown tenants who were menaced in their rights by a new population who had come for gold, and would abandon the country when they had got it. But I retained one guiding axiom of Jeremy Bentham, then and always "the greatest good of the greatest number," and I found myself imperatively drawn to the other side. But I desired to be fair. After a little a select committee, an embryo cabinet was formed to consider the question, and met nightly in a lawyer's chambers in Temple Court. The case of the squatters was considered without passion, and with a sincere desire to be just. The position of my own race was another question to which I gave early attention. They were nearly a fourth of the population, but they exercised little or no authority. There was only one Irish Catholic magistrate in the Colony, and not half a dozen Irish Catholics in the Civil Service. To strangers at a distance who read of Murphys, Barrys, MacMahons, and Fitzgeralds in high places, it seemed the paradise of the Celt—but they were Celts whose forefathers had broken with the traditions and creed of the island. Mr. O'Shanassy was the only man of his race who occupied a distinguished political position. Aspinall, whom I had met a good deal with Edward Whitty in London, was now a working lawyer on the goldfields. Shortly after my arrival he indicated in the pleasant banter he loved what an Englishman thought of this system and the cause of it.
"Now that you have got over the exhaustion of your triumphal entry into Victoria, you must allow me to offer congratulation and welcome.
"I am living here on the Diggings at present, and have been some time, and you, I suppose, must see the diggings and the diggers very soon, whatever else you do. … O'Shanassy will tell you that it has long been a standing joke and grievance in this colony that every public appointment is given to Hibernians, whether it be a postman's or a judgeship. Only while Mr. Stawell holds office they should add Orange theology to the indispensable brogue. But nationality beats bigotry altogether. The most orthodox Englishman has no chance against even a 'Papist' if his spiritual defects be counterpoised by the temporal advantage of Hibernian descent."
Another early welcome came from Orion Horne. The poet (who resided in Dublin as correspondent of the Daily News during the Young Ireland era) had been a digger, an official, and was now content to be clerk to Mr. Michie, the leading advocate at the Melbourne Bar, and had the advantage of having a considerate gentleman for his employer.
"Welcome to Australia! The news of your arrival has only just reached me. How many associations with Dublin—all pleasing and full of energy—are at once conjured up with your name in my memory.
"Being 'an author,' of course here I come with my book! We don't think ourselves so barbarous here. What do you say to a publisher having brought out an Australian 'Orion' a twelvemonth ago, and found people to purchase?
"Well, you have come to a vast new field. You can make a fortune if you choose, but may also do something much better.
"I do not at present know your address, but will do myself the pleasure of calling upon you directly I learn it.
"Since I have been here I had a five years' training at the very Siberia of the goldfields, where there are the coldest winds, heaviest rains, deepest mud, and most wretched houses (besides the 'sweet voices' you wot of) of any part of the inhabited colony."
And Mr. Chapman, a Canadian publicist, who was now practising at the Melbourne Bar, called on me with a letter he had received from Robert Lowe, recommending me to his good offices, and through Chapman and S. H. Bindon, formerly Secretary to the Tenant League, I made acquaintance with the Melbourne Bar, the leaders of which I encountered later at the tables of the judges.
It now became necessary to determine where I should reside. The gracious welcome I received in Melbourne might seem to settle that question. But in Sydney there was a much larger Irish population, who were eager and vehement to have me among them, and this popular enthusiasm was fortified by overtures from men of position and influence. Henry Parkes, who was afterwards longer than any other man Prime Minister of his colony, urged me to make no engagement till I had seen Sydney, that would prevent me settling there. And Edward Butler, who finally rose to be Attorney-General, and but for a malign accident would have been Chief Justice, was of the same opinion. Earth, says the philosopher, has no treasure like a prudent friend, and to me Butler was a prudent and generous friend till his dying day, and has bequeathed me the love of his children. I saw many reasons for preferring Melbourne. From the spirit of the men I had encountered, and the tone of the people and of public meetings, and the Press, it seemed certain that Victoria would take the lead of the Colonies in public spirit and courageous experiment. This was a motive all but irresistible.
I sailed for Sydney by the inter-Colonial steamer Telegraph, and when we reached the Heads we were met by the steamer Illalong, decorated with Irish and Australian colours, and carrying a large number of ladies and gentlemen who came to bid me welcome. When the two steamers reached the quay there were many thousand persons there: "Irishmen, Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Australians of every sect and creed having assembled," says the Empire, "to honour the patriot of Ireland."
In Sydney I found two parties, one devoted to unrestricted popular liberty, the other Conservative Liberals; but an Australian Conservative, as some one has said, is a man who accepts only four of the six points of the People's Charter. The head of the Government was Mr. Plunkett, an Irish Catholic, disposed to be most friendly, but though his private hospitalities were abundant, I raised an impediment which made it difficult for him to take any public part in welcoming me. The Governor at this time was Sir William Denison, who had been Governor of Tasmania when O'Brien, Meagher, and their comrades were prisoners there, and had earned the significant title of "the black snake" by his treatment of them. I positively refused to attend any banquet at which his health was proposed, and as the committee graciously yielded this point, Mr. Plunkett could not, without a violation of etiquette, attend. My hosts were very numerous, however. Mr. Flood, afterwards long a member of the Parliament created by the new constitution, announced that he had granted me a rent charge which was duly registered, to enable me to be elected for any constituency in New South Wales, and my remaining there was treated as a matter of course. But from the engagements made in Victoria, perhaps somewhat prematurely, I could not escape with good faith. In my speech I laughed at the contest between the old and the new colony, and cited some lines which were thought pertinent to the controversy:—
"Although our treacherous tapster Thomas
Hangs a new Angel three doors from us,
As fine as glittering gold can make it,
In hopes that strangers way mistake it;
We think it still a shame and sin
To quit the good old Angel Inn."
Perhaps the most notable circumstance of the evening was that Henry Parkes had the courage to declare that if he were an Irishman, and had witnessed the same calamities and misgovernment which had befallen Ireland in recent times, he would have done all that Mr. Duffy was blamed for doing to defeat and abate them.
On a much-mooted point I took a decisive stand. Some of the Liberals thought that to amend the constitution and enlarge its powers was the first business to which the legislature must apply itself. I exhorted them to prove their fitness for government by using the powers conferred upon them to develop the great resources of the country, and increase its prosperity before enlarging their boundaries. Next morning Mr. James Martin—afterwards Prime Minister and finally Sir James Martin, Chief Justice—called on me to express his satisfaction that I had discouraged rash and irrational projects, and at his table I afterwards met many of the more moderate politicians. I introduced two of my friends to him, whom the jealousy of political parties had hitherto prevented Martin from knowing, one was Edward Butler—afterwards his competitor at the bar, and finally for the office of Chief Justice—the other William Bede Dalley, who later became in politics his colleague, and in social life his brother-in-law. Dalley was a young man full of gaiety and badinage, and only partly awakened to the serious duties of life. But in time he grew prodigiously; he is the only Australian who has been granted a monument in St. Paul's for public services to the Empire, for it was this Irish Catholic Nationalist who, as acting Prime Minister, despatched the expedition to the Soudan, which has permanently increased the goodwill between the mother-country and her colonies.
During my stay in Sydney the first general election under the new constitution took place, and there was scarcely a constituency in which some candidate did not debate my visit and its possible consequences. John Macnamara, a merchant of wealth and intelligence, might be regarded as the leader of the Irish, and he besought me to stay in Sydney, and undertook that if I remained I should obtain professional business, to create an adequate income. Parkes was more anxious for my political career, and as Parliamentary labours would necessarily engross much of my time, offered me £800 a year to write for the Empire whatever I found convenient. His good-will was undoubted, and was frequently tested during our public careers; but no doubt he was mainly moved by the consideration that I could be useful to the popular party. The enthusiasm of my countrymen in New South Wales was marvellous; I was bid to test it by the fact that two Gavan-Duffy hotels and a Gavan-Duffy omnibus had sprung up within the month, and that during the election the Irish voters had been everywhere placated by so many extravagant compliments to me. One man in every three in the colony was an Irishman, and if they joined the popular party under my counsel its future would be secure. But the Sydney Morning Herald, the prosperous organ of the Conservative Party, was then under the control of a remarkable man, the Rev. Mr. West, the historian of Tasmania. Nothing in my visit to Sydney gratified me more than his comment on its close, from which I will quote a sentence or two:—
"Mr. Duffy," he wrote, "left this city yesterday, attended by the best wishes of thousands. He had been invited to several of the principal towns of the interior. To have gratified all his admirers would have consumed time which no man worthy of such honour could spare. In Mr. Duffy we have recognised a representative man—one who presents a view of a great section of our various population. We have found him in personal contact a pleasant, earnest, and practical man—looking to colonial affairs with the fresh views of a statesman unacquainted with local parties and accustomed to deal with the great questions of government where rhodomontade and sham cannot gain a second hearing. We shall always look back upon our share in the reception of Mr. Duffy as a public recognition of the natural and religious equality of all the subjects of the Crown."
The fact which most impressed me in New South Wales was that a second generation, with a larger experience, more cultivated taste, and more settled opinions, now occupied the public stage, and did not much differ from the corresponding population in England.
But I returned to Victoria, and acted with the friends whom I had found there. After my return Parkes wrote me a letter which painted very vividly and very truly all I had forfeited by that choice.
"Sydney, April 30, 1856.
"My Dear Duffy,—Your decisive words leave no hope of your leaving Victoria, and I fervently hope your life may be abundantly blessed both in household happiness and public good. The wish you have so frankly and affectionately expressed—that we may work together to the end of life—will remain a perfect light of gratitude within my troubled existence. If it could have been, I should have felt it a glorious privilege to have had a spirit like yours, mourning, rejoicing, admonishing, and encouraging in the trials and wrestlings of daily life, and I think I might have grown almost great in the gentler strength of a high-principled brotherhood such as I can now only dream of. Some of these days I will come in upon you all of a sudden so that I may satisfy myself of the attractions that have fixed you in Victoria. Now I cannot help teasing you with a faint picture of some of the good things you have missed. Here you might have been at once the popular leader and the highest Minister of State, with a fairy nook on the romantic shores of our noble haven for your home and the most cultivated men in the community as your admiring friends. But what would have been of far higher interest a more spiritual satisfaction to you here you would have had a direct and definitely-ordered mission which there is no one else to enter upon."
The Rev. Dr. Lang was one of the most energetic politicians in Australia. He was head of the Presbyterian College in Sydney, and had reared a generation of students destined to become public men, and he had been a member of the Sydney Legislature during its whole career. Dr. Lang had got into conflict with the Catholics on the question of immigration and of local elections, with the merits of which I was imperfectly acquainted. But there were two facts I knew of him which recommended him to my sympathy. When the Repeal agitation was at its height in '43 he was in London, and wrote a pamphlet justifying and applauding the movement. Of the project most alarming to prejudiced minds—the Council of Three Hundred—this was the language he held:—
"The Repealers are at present electing members for a National Council of Three Hundred, and there is no reason whatever to doubt that, in the present temper of the Irish nation, they will readily find a sufficient number of resolute and devoted men to form such a body; and by whatever name we may choose to miscall the men who will thus be chosen by their country, the wise, both in Europe and America, will at once vouch for their undoubted nobility. The body that will thus be formed will therefore start into existence with the prestige of the original American Congress, and will thenceforth give the law to Ireland."
And in Australian affairs he and Robert Lowe had been the only members of the Legislative Council of New South Wales who joined the Port Phillip members in demanding the erection of Victoria into a separate colony. On my return to Melbourne he addressed a public letter to me accounting for his absence from the reception at Sydney, and proposing a task which he believed to be the highest which an Australian statesman could undertake. Australian reformers, he said, regarded my arrival as an event of the deepest interest, as leading towards the end to which all these noble Colonies were tending—their entire freedom and independence. He believed it to be equally the interest of the Colonies and of the mother-country that this predestined end should be speedily realised. He held it to be equally a law of nature and an ordinance of God that full-grown communities, such as these Australian Colonies had become, should be self-governed, free, and independent. He loved his native country and deeply honoured the Queen, but his first duty was to the country in which he lived. Though he regretted as a Sydney man that I had not taken up my abode in the older colony, as an Australian he could not but rejoice that I had determined to settle in Victoria, for it was there the public battle would be fought and the victory won. I replied that I might demur to so abrupt a demand of a new-comer to stand and deliver his opinions on so grave a public interest, but as I had always believed that frankness like honesty was the best policy in the end, I would answer him at once. I did not think the course he recommended was a wise one. It was doubtless no more the destiny of Australia to remain for ever what it is than it had been the destiny of England to send subsidies for ever to the Cæsars, or of the American colonies to continue to the end little quarrelsome communities rivalling and hating each other. But the practical question was whether it was proper to ripen by public agitation or other artificial methods the natural growth of events to this end. You, I said, if I understand you, think it is; I think decidedly not. We have just attained constitutions which give the people of this country sovereign power over their own soil, their own laws, and their own institutions. Let us grow accustomed to the practice of self-government, and demonstrate our fitness for it by wise laws, wisely administered, and by a scrupulous respect for the principles of justice and liberty. Our duty at present, it seems to me, is to employ and improve the powers we possess. Let our new state, when it comes, be a man, not a blustering boy, impatient for the toga virilis. At present the rage of private gain is too intense, and the interest in public affairs too slight, to afford a security for the healthy development of this noble country into the great empire which it is destined to become. When they have turned their gold dust into broad acres of Australia Felix, we shall be in a better condition for grave experiments.
One of the most remarkable men in Victoria was Edward Wilson, founder of the Argus; large, sombre, silent, he was a striking figure wherever he appeared. In the time of the old Council it was his practice to ride down to St. Patrick's Hall, and frown down from the Press Gallery on the old Legislative Council. His enemies nicknamed him Edward the Black Prince. In the early days of Port Phillip, he had founded the Argus without any previous experience of journalism, and after many perils made it an able and prosperous daily paper. He had taken a strong course in favour of the Ballarat insurgents, and other opponents of despotic government, but when the Constitution was proclaimed he thought there were peaceful and legitimate methods of obtaining redress, and that violence was no longer admissible. When he came to see me, I was much pleased with his intelligence and liberality of spirit on all subjects but one. In my judgment he was a just and upright man, poisoned with early prejudices. There were sixty members to be elected to the new Parliament, and he wrote a series of articles entitled "here are the Sixty?" discussing with perilous frankness the faults and merits of candidates. Mr. O'Shanassy he admitted to be one of the most useful, industrious, and disinterested of members, but he could not approve of his election for Melbourne, because he esteemed him too friendly to the Pope and Papal interests. On the relation of England with Ireland, however, he spoke with much more sympathy with the wronged. Mr. Wilson wished me to write occasionally in the Argus, but I told him I had little leisure to write, and I had promised to send whatever I could write to Henry Parkes for his Empire, and as Parkes expressed extravagant satisfaction with what I had done, I could not possibly desert him. Mr. Wilson continued to take an interest in my career. He invited me to meet his political friends at his table, and he advised me from time to time on questions which he thought ought to be taken up early. After my election, he sent me a list of such questions which were mainly non-political and non-contentious, in a letter of general sympathy:—
"Dunster House, November 8, 1856.
"My Dear Mr. Duffy,—A good deal of talk, and a good deal of thought about you had nearly reached their climax in a note, when I found your card upon my table. I have to congratulate you upon your return, and upon the flattering circumstances by which it was accompanied. You were scarcely inclined to believe me when I told you that certain attacks, however irritating, did not reach very far in their effects. Do not the facts of your election rather tend to prove it? I have been thinking lately that the time is come for me to carry out my promise of supplying you with numerous suggestions for reforms. I think I promised you fifty. Sinnett has been staying with me for a few weeks, and we have been for some days cudgelling our brains for suggestions. And allow me to hint, my dear Mr. Duffy, that a country can scarcely be considered to be so very badly governed, in which two such ardent reformers as Sinnett and myself, who have been scribbing away for years on the subject, cannot scrape together at least the number I promised you. I send you, however, such as I have, and have no doubt that during the currency of the session I shall be able to make up the number. Some of them you will doubtless think wild and Utopian, I can only say that they are such as I would have a try at, were I in the House. I feel convinced that your present policy is one of practical utility. The colonists are inclined to give you a fair trial, combined with a slight shade of suspicion, and anything which may be construed into an over-eager grasping at office would be permanently injurious to you. This colony strikes me as being a singularly favourable field for the trying of enlightened experiments—in matters which a larger, older country cannot venture upon—but which, being found successful here, may be safely and with readiness adopted elsewhere. Do not you, then, imagine that because you are exiled from your favourite Ireland, you are therefore in no position to benefit Ireland. You may benefit her by proving to the British public that they may venture freely into reforms, to a greater extent than you might possibly have benefited her during a long lifetime spent amongst the more unwieldy elements of political existence of an old, stubborn, and established country. Never mourn then over ' exile,' but turn it to the best possible account. That is the part of the true patriot.—I am, my dear sir, yours very truly,"Edward Wilson."
The accompanying paper contained six- and- twenty projects, of which many got afterwards accomplished. These were half-a-dozen of them:—
1. Justice to the Aborigines. This should be one of the first acts of our free Parliament. Provision for them should be the first charge upon the land fund. Hitherto we have behaved to them like cowards, tyrants, and swindlers, selling millions' worth of their land, and refusing them the most miserable pittance. We should now give them food, shelter, protection, clothing, and medical attendance, while any of them remain.
2. Agriculture ought to be made a department of the State, recognising it in the most distinguished manner, and placing it upon the most enlightened footing.
3. A properly appointed Board of Audit of Accounts, securing good value for moneys expended. A Government audit does not provide this. Money may not be actually misappropriated, but it may be grievously misspent.
4. Establishment of a mint.
5. Introduction of the ballot into municipal elections.
6. Leasing Corn Lands for cultivation; the tenants to have the right of ultimate purchase. This system is approved by Mill, and might have a fair trial here, superseding to a great extent all other taxation.
Other suggestions were an amendment of the Criminal Law, improvement of the paid and unpaid magistracy, the better regulation of public-houses, and other social reforms, and, finally, the employment of the military on public works, an experiment which was afterwards made without either economy or advantage of any sort.
I took chambers in Temple Court, the lawyers' quarters, and sat down determined to work at my profession. Business came, which I did to the best of my ability. But the men who had welcomed me so cordially insisted that I must enter the new Parliament. There was work to be done to gratify the highest patriotism or ambition, for here was to be laid the corner stone and foundation of a new empire. I was weary of politics, and would gladly have stood aside for a time. This was not Ireland, but a new country to which I owned no hereditary service or allegiance. But the old passion for public life awoke, and I at length consented. The new constitution required a qualification of £500 a year real property for the Legislative Council or Upper House, and £300 a year for the other Chamber, but the popular party, or substantially my own countrymen, created a fund in a few months, and purchased me a residence and certain other property affording a qualification for either House. I had always refused any favour like this in Ireland, but here it was the retaining fee for services which could not be undertaken without it. The title deeds were presented to me at a public dinner, and the result, representing an immense constituency in upwards of a hundred districts of this colony and New South Wales, which cordially joined in the project, made it a political demonstration of peculiar interest and significance. It was necessary to find a constituency, and at length Villiers and Heytesbury was selected, and I went down to meet the electors. Villiers was a farming county possessing some of the best soil in the colony, notably the Farnham Survey, a district which a syndicate of Irish gentry was enabled to buy under Colonial Office regulations at i an acre, and which was now let at a rent which refunds the purchase money more than once every year. Heytesbury was a squatting constituency, and I had scarcely taken the field when it was announced that Mr. William Rutledge, the owner of the Farnham Survey, at that time, and Mr. John Allen, a squatter from the other county, were candidates for the two seats which the electors were entitled to fill.
A requisition was presented to me containing more signatures, it was said, than there were electors who voted on both sides in the last contest. The attempt of some screech owls in Melbourne to excite sectarian animosity naturally found imitators here; but both the contesting candidates found it convenient to declare that they gave no sanction to these malign proceedings. I announced meetings in succession in the principal centres of population. An election in Australia was very like an election in Ireland, a hustings where the candidates were proposed, and public meetings where they explained themselves.
I positively refused to make domiciliary visits to the constituents, and still more decisively to visit public men among them. But there]was a village called Killarney inhabited, I was told, by Irish evicted tenants who had thriven prodigiously in their new home. This was a sight I longed to see, and my committee fixed a time for a visit. The first house we entered had all the evidence of rude careless plenty. A bottle of Martell's brandy was immediately placed on the table, flanked by a huge decanter full as it seemed of sparkling transparent water. I had slight experience in drinking raw spirits, but it was impossible to refuse pledging the prosperity of the Irish village. I poured a spoonful of brandy into a tumbler, and after drowning it in water, put it to my lips. The brandy, I concluded, must be of abnormal strength, for the water had' not made it palatable, and I had recourse to the decanter a second time, and filled my tumbler to the brim.
"Is this water bewitched?" I cried, "the brandy does not grow weaker but stronger, the more I pour upon it." The farmer and his good woman burst into a merry laugh; the transparent fluid was not water but gin. There was a similar plenty in all the houses, and a similar hospitality. In one of the last I entered I met a signal illustration of what Ireland had lost by want of education. The farmer took me aside, and asked me to look at his bank book. He could not read or write, and as he rented his land from the "Stores" in Belfast and gave them his harvest to sell, he was completely at their mercy. There was nothing wrong in the account which I could detect, but I saw with amazement that an Irish peasant who had probably found it hard to retain potatoes enough for daily bread in Ireland had one item in his bank account of £1,500, the price of his wheat, and had more comfort and plenty about him than any ordinary squire at home. Every man here, I observed, had a horse to ride; every farm a team of bullocks, but men and women, content and thankful as they are for the prosperity of the new country, "won't forget old Ireland were it fifty times as fair."
A meeting was announced at Tower Hill, the centre of Mr. Rutledge's estate. His tenants promised to support him, but declared that they would vote for me also. Two of the local newspapers supported me and two were adverse. I was accused of various offences, especially religious bigotry. The first effectual check to this slander came from two Presbyterian ministers, who had been in Ireland during the Tenant League, and declared their intention to support me. But a more picturesque incident and one more calculated to fascinate popular opinion occurred at the Tower Hill meeting. When I had concluded my speech, a vigorous, intelligent-looking young man, with a long whip in his hand, whose team one might safely assume was at the door, entered the meeting, and when I sat down immediately came forward to speak. "You all know me, I believe," he said, "but if any one don't know me I am George Johnson, the road contractor. I never saw Mr. Duffy before, but I daresay I know a good deal more of him than any of you. My father was one of the old Protestant Corporation of Dublin, and my family high Tories; and I would probably be full of prejudice and bigotry but that I read the Nation from the time I was a schoolboy. You know whether I do not live on friendly terms with my neighbours, Protestant and Catholic, and keep alive the memory of old Ireland on all fitting occasions." (A peal of cheers greeted this inquiry.) "Well," he said, "what I am the Nation has made me." As this was the first occasion on which the principle of religious equality was plainly fought out in the colony, the result was of more than temporary or local interest.
When the poll was announced it disclosed some curious facts. I received more votes on Mr. Rutledge's estate than the proprietor. I received more votes in the had not employed a single paid agent, and that I had not spent twenty pounds on election expenses. This country was regarded in Europe as sordid and greedy, but I believe that £5,000 would not hire the amount of actual labour that had been generously expended on my election. This result was largely attributable to the testimony of Irish Protestants and Presbyterians, but mainly to the unpurchasable zeal of countrymen who shared my religious and political convictions.district than the Warnambool candidate, and more votes in the Belfast district than the Belfast candidate. I recall with interest that I was able to say when the election was over that I had not personally canvassed a single elector; that I
My Irish friends throughout the colony were so numerous that it is impossible to name them here, and it would be invidious to make selections. But one incident had consequences which must be specified. John Mooney was considered the richest Irish Catholic in the colony. He had come out as a soldier in an English regiment, bought his discharge, and by marvellous knowledge of cattle had gradually risen to opulence. When I arrived he vacated his residence in the city and placed his house and servants at my disposal, and he took always an active part in whatever concerned me. While I was engrossed in the business of politics he came to me one morning and said in the most frank and friendly way that I was neglecting my profession for politics, and would land myself in difficulties in the end. He wanted to be of service to O'Shanassy, and to me along with him. A very promising squattage was in the market, on which the immediate payment would amount only to £5,000. He was disposed to buy it and divide it into five shares between O'Shanassy, myself, and Messrs. Harney and Curtain, keeping one share for himself that he might watch over the experiment. He would answer for the success of the undertaking. I thanked him, but replied that I had not £1,000 to invest, having put whatever I possessed into a property qualification and shares of the Colonial Bank. Mooney replied that he had always a few thousand pounds for which he could not find immediate employment, and that it would not inconvenience him to lend me a thousand pounds to be repaid out of the profits of the run. I then told him there were objections that could not be overcome. My opinions were that the squattages ought to be broken up to make way for agricultural settlement, and that though no doubt a man might honestly hold these opinions though he possessed squatting property, the people would be slow to believe that he would sacrifice his personal interest, and it would be long before a squatter would be accepted as a safe and disinterested leader of the people. He said the public would know nothing about it, the run could be registered in the names of Curtain and Harney. I rejoined that if nobody knew it but myself the objection would remain, but in politics everything became known, and I would be certain to be asked some day in the Assembly if I was not squatting in secret, and though the transaction might be perfectly innocent its discovery would be like the revelation of a crime. It was bad enough to be an Irish Papist; if, moreover, I was a squatter, I might as well retire from Parliament unless I abandoned my convictions, which was not a practice I was accustomed to. Mooney's sincerely generous offer was accepted by the other gentlemen he had in view, and he did not exaggerate its value, for to most of them it became the seed of a rich harvest.
At this time I received many Irish letters and newspapers congratulating me on my reception in Australia. But it is needless to return on them. Edward Whitty, a keen and sympathetic critic, wrote:—
"Congratulations. The word contains all I have got to say. Of course I've seen all the papers. Your speeches perfect.
"The Argus seems well done. What do they want with an editor from London? I am doing the London Correspondence, and am told that the editorship is in futuro, but I doubt. I'm in the thick of the Australian people here, from Wentworth downwards."
I find in the "Life of William Carleton" a letter which I wrote to him at this period. I republish it because a line written at the moment often lights up an obscure situation better than much retrospection, and I shall often borrow a vivacious sentence from a correspondent for this purpose.
"My Dear Carleton, I have often meditated a letter to you, and often expected one from you; but I was deep in the battle of life, and you will do anything for your friend except tell him how you are. Mrs. Callan from time to time tells me something of you, and I dare say, or swear, she does as much for me to you. The Nation will have kept you acquainted with my public operations, and as for private life, there is no country like the old country, and there are no friends like the old friends. You and Mrs. Callan and I have sometimes had a three-handed talk, the like of which I will enjoy no more this side the Styx.
"Do not dream of Canada, my friend; an oak of the forest will not bear transplanting. Even a shrub like myself does not take kindly all at once to the new climate and soil. I never for a moment regretted having left the Ireland where Judge Keogh and Archbishop Cullen predominate; but the slopes of Howth, the hills of Wicklow, and the friends of manhood are things not to be matched in this golden land.
"I have met your books here as common as any one's, thanks to Routledge's cheap series. But the reading public is but a little leaven in the whole mass. Perhaps what you would enjoy most here is the Irish farmhouse, with all the rude plenty of thirty years ago revived, as I have met it hundreds of times. But it would need the author of 'Traits and Stories' to describe the strange hybrid, an Australian-Irish farmer with the keenness and vigour of a new country infused into his body. I am just returned from my election where they fought for me like lions in the name of the poor old country; and, to do them justice, Protestants as well as Catholics. We have bigots here, but the love of country is a stronger passion than bigotry in the heart of the exile.
"I hope you have pleasant news from Canada. If the two girls would return from that frozen swamp, it would add a zest to your life. …
"Goodbye, my dear Carleton, at either end of the earth I hope you will not entirely forget me. Many of the pleasantest recollections of my life have in the foreground an Irish peasant lifting a head like Slive Donard over his contemporaries. Always yours,
" C. G. D."
When I had time to look about me I made some acquaintance with the marvellous country in which I found myself. The population were only settling down from the frantic orgies which followed the discovery of gold. It was but half a dozen years since Melbourne was overrun by successful diggers, whom shopkeepers denominated "the new aristocracy." Drunkenness was their ordinary enjoyment, and the public-houses swarmed at all hours of the day and night with roaring or maudlin topers. The mad recklessness of that time exceeds belief. I have heard from eye-witnesses stories of diggers ordering the entire stock of champagne in a public-house to be decanted into a washing tub, and stopping every passer-by with an invitation to swill; of one frantic toper, when he had made all comers drunk, insisting upon having the bar-counters washed with claret; of pier glasses smashed with a stockwhip in order to make an item worth the attention of a millionaire; of diggers throwing down nuggets to pay for a dram, and declining to accept change; of pipes lighted with a cheque; of sandwiches lined with bank-notes. A favourite recreation of the digger on his pleasure trip was to get married. A bride was not difficult to discover, who permitted herself upon short notice to be adorned with showy silks and driven in an equipage as conspicuous as the circumstances permitted to a bridal which, in many cases, bound them together only during good pleasure. The facility of cheating the digger inflamed the greed it fed; and it is said that some publicans, impatient of the slow process of intoxication, had no scruples of stupefying them with drugs into an insensibility which made robbery easy. The digger need ask in vain for no luxury of which he had ever heard, for an extensive system of forged labels prevailed, and cynical persons predicted that ^the digger would have his taste so perverted that he would turn with disgust from port wine if it was not drugged with bad Scotch whiskey, or brandy which had not been sprinkled with cayenne pepper.
But all this had passed away, and the diggers had settled down to steady industry. Their earnings were not greater than in the ordinary pursuits of the colony, but the employment had the unspeakable charm of not being a servile one. They began and ended work when they pleased, and there was always the chance of a great success, which gave the pursuit the subtle fascination of gaming. It was work, they were accustomed to say, in which a gentleman or a Republican could engage without any sense of humiliation, and many gentlemen had engaged in it. From the diggings I made my way to the regions of squatting. The open country was charming, and often presented scenes which the native artist will certainly make memorable hereafter. The ordinary landscape in a pastoral district is a plain, bordered with low broken hills, and dotted with the sparkling lightwood or wild cherry, or the dingy gum-tree with fragments of its bark swinging like the rags of a tatterdemalion. In an agricultural district a common scene consists of undulating hills of rich chocolate soil running down into long grassy valleys, or succulent meadows, fattened by the great fertilisers, rain and sunshine. It is a blessed land, seamed with gold, fanned with healthy breezes, and bathed in a transparent atmosphere like the landscapes of Guido. When men of Northern energy and perseverance possess this gracious soil we shall see marvels. The newcomer can scarcely look upon these charming landscapes without seeing them in imagination studded with warm farmhouses, with here and there the sparkling villas for which they seem to be expressly framed; but a generation must pass, fertile in wise laws, before we shall see these results. At present a few men possess and degrade this noble territory. The squattages I have visited make a strange contrast. You may sit down to table with a sheep farmer in a dirty wooden shed which he calls his homestead, and dine, if you can, off coarse mutton killed too soon and cooked too soon, moistened by tea without milk, in the midst of a region of pasturage, or with fiery brandy and mawkish water, and bread without leaven, the whole placed on the table by a slovenly man with bare arms and uncombed hair, who has cooked the meal in an outhouse reeking with sheepskins and where half a dozen shepherds are recreating themselves with tobacco; or if fortune be land, you may happen on a charming cottage, deeply verandahed and sheltered with plantations of European shrubs. These are the homes of squatters who settle down with their family, and show a generous desire to spend their wealth on adorning and civilising the country which produced it, but it is a more common practice to squat in the Melbourne Club and leave the inn to be managed by a "super." The rural hotels are generally comfortless, though supplied with a rude abundance. Every meal is furnished with the heavy, unwholesome dainties of a bush inn, but nothing clean, wholesome, or appetising.
The gold frenzy has completely disappeared; for the last few years the streets of Melbourne have been safer than the streets of London at the same period. In the suburbs the practice of leaving windows unbarred and articles of daily use on the open verandah seems to the stranger to argue a security like that of the golden age, but means simply that the population are almost universally in circumstances which place them above the temptation to steal.
- An incident which happened on the day of my first visit to the Assembly will help to realise the vigorous and somewhat reckless spirit of the times. A gentleman with whom I was lunching undertook to drive me to St. Patrick's Hall, and on our way I was amazed at the wild bounds and gambols of his horse. I noticed the fact to my host. "Ah, poor fellow!" said he, "it is nothing. He is only a little shy because he has never been in harness before,"
- "There was a story current that while Mr. Horne was a warden on the goldfields he was so disgusted with the knavery of a party of diggers who brought a complaint before him that he inflicted a fine on both plaintiff and defendant. When the case was referred to the Attorney-General with an inquiry whether that was British law, that considerate official remarked that it was not, but that no doubt Mr. Horne was administering poetic justice,"
- In my diary of this date I find this entry:—"I was much struck by an observation of Mr. Macnamara that the history of Ireland can never be adequately written without examining the records of the convicts in Botany Bay establishment. He spoke with deep feeling of the cruelty with which the agrarian and political prisoners were treated. I wish I had time to look into this Irish episode. Muir, Palmer, and the Scottish reformers of 1793, and Joseph Holt and the Irish insurgents of 1798, and men sentenced for agrarian offences in Ireland or for seditious conspiracy in England often, he said, proved useful and estimable colonists."
- "Life of William Carleton," by . London: Downey and Co. J. O'Donoghue