My Life in Two Hemispheres/Chapter 30
Policy of the Duffy Government—Southern industries—Land policy—Designs to adorn Melbourne—Spectator's estimate of the new Government—Judge Bindon's report on the reception of the new policy by friends and enemies—Convention of Australian Governments at Melbourne—Contest with Sir James Martin and its consequences—Vote of want of confidence, and its reception in Parliament—Comments on my defence by Wilberforce Stephen and others—Protection adopted, and why—Social reforms and impediments to them—Letter from John O'Hagan (note)—Banquets to the Government in great towns and goldfields—Dangerous banter—Appointment of Mr. Childers as Agent-General—National Gallery—Letter from Mr. Verdon—Letter from Thomas Carlyle—Reassembly of Parliament—Vote of want of confidence—How it was carried—Mr. O'Shanassy's interposition and its consequences—Proposed dissolution of Parliament—Conduct of the Governor, and comment of the Spectator on it—Letters from John Forster and the Bishop of Kerry—My use of power—The Chief Justiceship of New South Wales.
I undertook the administration of public affairs with the confident determination that for once there should be a Government framing large and generous projects, and against whose exercise of patronage or encouragement of enterprises no man could utter a just reproach. But reproaches which are not just can no more be shut out than the east wind. A quarter of a century after the events of that day, I look back on them with the confident assurance that nothing was done which needs to be repented, or which I would not repeat if the occasion occurred.
Among the designs in which I had been baulked by the ignorance and prejudices of successors, the design of establishing new industries suitable to a southern soil and climate, was the most important. I determined to take it up anew. Without importing more than a score of teachers there were already in the colony and under the control of the State two large reserves of workers, out of whom we might create prosperous schools of industry, and later a great commercial success. The foundlings of the State exceeded two thousand children of both sexes, and in our jails we had an army of indolent and dangerous men who ought, I thought, to earn their daily bread, and wherever they are capable of amendment be offered the occasion and agency of reformation.
Cashel Hoey was now acting as a member of the Board of Advice in London, and I invited his help in this work. After a little he wrote:—
"I have made a careful selection of all the reports from Consuls and Secretaries of Legation, bearing in any way on the Cultures and Industries you desire to introduce, and sent them, with a fresh instalment of French literature on the subject, by the Somersetshire to your address—about thirty volumes in all. I am daily expecting a collection of official documents from a friend, formerly in the Ministry of Agriculture and intimate with its heads. By correspondence, it is agreed one can do little. You must send agents to the places where you desire to find emigrants, with power to offer suitable inducements—for people engaged in such industries are in general well employed and not naturally disposed to emigrate. I believe your very best plan will be to found a model farm for each industry and to import on salary for a number of years the staff of skilled hands necessary to work it. You could then train your young people there to the best advantage. I am pushing inquiries, and will forward materials as fast as they reach me."
One of my Parliamentary supporters suggested that we had no need of these foreign dainties. For his part he was content with the native products of his own country, and if he were a Minister he would not pester himself ransacking Asia, Africa, and America for exotics. My friend's hair was disposed to stand on end when I told him that wheat, potatoes, and tobacco, which he found necessary to his daily comfort, were once foreign exotics, and that we had to ransack Asia, Africa, and America for such familiar friends of to-day as tea, coffee, and rice, and that the fig and even the grape were as foreign to our forebears as the mango was to us. But ignorance is not easily abashed. Another member whispered, "Let us alone with your new industries. You see what has come of them already. A Scot introduced their charming thistle, and we will have to put a sum on the estimates to extirpate it. Edward Wilson introduced the sparrow, and the sparrow is playing havoc with our vineyards. Some busybody introduced the rabbit, and the income of Ballarat would not save us from the consequences."
The Land Question, which had been my care from the beginning, had been ruined by maladministration. The Land Act of '69 proclaimed free selection over the entire colony, but Mr. McPherson, as Minister of Lands in the last Administration, made such large reserves on various pretences that a map of the colony in which the reserves were marked in red, and the land sold in blue, looked like a shawl of the McPherson plaid; and it was an aggravation of the wrong, that his chief, Sir James McCulloch, the largest owner of squatting runs in the colony, got an inordinate share of these reserves. But from the day we came into office the new Government determined to take the McPherson plaid off the shoulders of Victoria, and establish from the Murray to the sea the Free Selection accorded by law.
The public finances had fallen into confusion. There was a deficit of a quarter of a million. We promised to restore them to order without imposing any new burthen on industry, and in the end we turned the deficit into a surplus. The confusion had been created by a system of finance worthy of Laputa. The State had a reserve of over half a million sterling in the Melbourne banks, yielding only an interest of two per cent., and this identical money we had borrowed in London at five per cent, for a special purpose which had not yet accrued, and Parliament could authorise us to borrow from our own reserve to a prudent extent.
Nothing had been done for the imagination of the people. Melbourne was a provincial English town, and scarcely anything soared beyond the level of provincial mediocrity. All that I had learned in Continental travel I determined to utilise in this new land. History and political science was sometimes taught expressly by the aid of art. On the Pincian Hill in Rome there is a long array of historic busts lifted exactly to the level of the eye, which makes the grand history of Italy familiar to the people.
What imagination the Belgians have put into their Palais de Legislation! The great principles of their Constitution—Religious Equality, the Freedom of the Press, the Right of Meeting, and so forth, each held aloft on a tablet or banner by a characteristic allegoric figure. Why should we not do as much in the Fitzroy Gardens or the Parliamentary Reserve? I instructed the Agent-General to procure from Italy and Belgium some necessary data, and I induced a few men of adequate knowledge in Melbourne to prepare a list of the statesmen of the empire who ought to be so honoured.
I took an early occasion of stating my political policy to my constituents in a speech which met with singular success in the Australian Press, but on which there is no need to return. It was also the subject of unusual comment in the London Press, of which I will only copy one paragraph from the Spectator:—
If anybody wishes to know what the empire loses by English inability to conciliate Irish affection, let him read the speech addressed by Mr. Gavan Duffy, the new Premier of Victoria, to his constituents. It contains the programme of the new Government he has formed in Melbourne, and we have not for years read a political manifesto so full of character and power. Mr. Duffy is an Irishman, a Catholic, and a rebel, a typical man of the class which we English say can neither govern nor be governed; but he speaks like the man for whom the Tories are sighing, the born administrator, utterly free of flummery and buncombe, clear as to his ends, clearer still as to his means, ready to compromise anything except principle, but giving even to compromise an impression of original force. There is not in the entire speech a Hibernian sentence or an Irish foible, unless it be shown in a little soreness at the hostility of the Press—a soreness we think we trace also in the speech of a man (Mr. Gladstone) who is not Irish, but Scotch, and who speaks at Whitby instead of Kyneton
But I was more anxious to ascertain the impression made on my opponents, and Judge Bindon, who had been himself one of the McCulloch Ministry, sent me a friendly report from the Melbourne Club, the headquarters of the squatters and the Conservative party:—
The verdict of the smoking-room on your speech was, "clever!" "clever!" "clever!" The opponents mute as mice; I only judge of their dissent by their silence. They were cowed.I went to the Age office. George Syme was wild in his praises; said it was like "the fresh air descending from the mountains." The sub-editor, Mr. Poole, was frantic; said he never read such a speech; beseeched me to go and see the editor and warm him up. Would not let me out until I did it. Syme says you cannot be beaten, and if you were that no man can retreat from your speech now, it will be a standpoint. He prays that "you may keep the Pope and Irish out of your road!" Wherever I went the verdict was all the same way. No need now in being in a hurry about the "Commission to consider and report on the best means for planting and conserving State forests, and for inquiry and reporting as to the planting of foreign trees, suitable to the climate and for industrial uses."
I see no need now for haste; you can afford to keep it back, as "action" wants leisure, and one cannot let off all one's powder at once.
The reception of the new Government by the Press was fair and even generous. The principal journals on the goldfields which had accepted, and perhaps supported, the McCulloch Government, admitted that the late Administration had been lethargic and barren, and they were prepared to welcome successors who cut out work on a liberal scale and set themselves promptly to perform it.
It was a great encouragement to me that in several of the other colonies the policy I proclaimed was pronounced suitable for the whole Australian continent.
These designs needed, above all things, tranquillity to gather details, to ponder upon means and methods, and to consult the experience of other countries, but during the twelve months I was Prime Minister, however just and necessary the policy I proposed, I was never allowed one day's leisure. The wealthy class, to whom Free Selection meant extinction, the party who had held power so long that they deemed themselves robbed of their inheritance if any other one intruded into that domain, and the free lances fighting only for personal ends, were agreed upon one point—to misrepresent and disparage whatever we undertook. "If a man," says Dickens, "would commit an inexpiable offence against any society, large or small, let him be successful. They will forgive him every crime but that." But there was compensation in the sympathy and applause of the industrious classes, which burst out spontaneously and universally. The crowded events of this period must be dealt with briefly on pain of omitting some of them altogether. The colony lived fast, and laboured successfully in that time. I will specify some of our labours.
A provision in the Australian Constitutions which forbade them to make discriminating tariffs with each other, had long been a subject of complaint, and it was determined at this time to hold at Melbourne an inter- colonial conference of the Australian Governments, to urge on the Imperial Government the repeal of this provision. September was found to be the most convenient time generally, and I thought it right to accept that date, though it was highly inconvenient for us, as Parliament would be at that time in Session at Melbourne. A serious difficulty with New South Wales was pressing for settlement at this same time, and these public duties threatened to jostle each other. I will dispose of the New South Wales controversy first, as it had an ending unparalleled in colonial history.
New South Wales was entitled to the Customs Duties on goods entering that colony over the river Murray, and an arrangement had been come to with them to pay them an annual sum of £60,000 for the establishment of Free Trade between the colonies. This agreement, which was to continue for five years, was now about to terminate, and a subsidy of £100,000 was demanded. The negotiations were conducted in correspondence between Sir James Martin and myself, and I was of opinion that the new claim was altogether extravagant and unjustifiable. I finally proposed that the exact facts of the case should be ascertained by registering for twelve months the dutiable goods passing the river both ways, and accepting the result as the basis of a renewed agreement. Sir James Martin declined this proposal, but it was considered so just and reasonable by the Parliament of his own colony that a vote was passed censuring him for not accepting it. Upon this he dissolved the Assembly with disastrous results. He lost his seat for the capital, and was only rescued from political extinction by a country constituency. Two of his colleagues lost their seats also, and when the new Parliament assembled the majority promptly removed him from office. The succeeding Government was one with which it would be pleasant to work; Henry Parkes was the Prime Minister, and Edward Butler the Attorney-General. I concluded that Federation was now safe, but I took too little account of the strong and perverse interests I had to encounter at home. My most bitter party opponents in the Press acknowledged that I had vindicated the interests of the colony prudently and successfully. But a section of the Opposition in Parliament which did not dispute this fact, seized the opportunity when I was most deeply immersed in the Inter- colonial Conference to move in the Assembly a vote intended to destroy the Government. The vote concerned the Railway Department, and as it altogether failed is only necessary to be noticed in this place, because it withdrew me for a day from the Inter-colonial Conference, where my place as chairman was filled by Sir James Martin. When I returned to the Conference, we completed the case to be submitted to the Imperial Government. It was not reasonable, we insisted, that communities which founded great states, built great cities, and established a commercial navy larger than that of many kingdoms in Europe, and who did these things without asking assistance from the Imperial Government, should be treated as persons who could not be entrusted to regulate their own inter-colonial interests at their own discretion, and we claimed that all existing restrictions on the power of making fiscal agreements between the colonies should be removed. Our appeal was successful, and the statute we demanded was speedily passed into law.
But to succeed is not the way to placate an Opposition. Some inaccurate and exaggerated gossip about differences in the Conference had got abroad, and Mr. Fellows accepting it as true, framed 3. vote of want of confidence against the Government, in which, after objecting to certain propositions to which the Colonial Conference had agreed, he asked the House to affirm that they had been induced to adopt these objectionable propositions by the Chief Secretary of Victoria. He proceeded to say that it was known the Chief Secretary had refused to sign an address to the Secretary of State, framed by Sir James Martin, because it contained a passage strongly objecting to the dismemberment of the British Empire. This was the case against me, but never had party rage more completely "o'er leaped itself, and fallen on t'other side." The answer was too easy. I asked the House to recall the day on which I was withdrawn from the Conference by the attack on our railway system. It was on this day the propositions in question were carried, and I never saw them till after they had been adopted. Next day when I saw them, I accepted and signed them, and I considered them altogether unobjectionable; but was the House prepared, at the instance of the learned member, to affirm that the Chief Secretary of Victoria was primarily and peculiarly responsible for their adoption? On the other point he was as hopelessly mistaken. The document which I had refused to sign contained the allegation that certain unnamed English statesmen desired to dismember the British Empire. I asked Sir James Martin who were the statesmen we were invited to condemn so emphatically. He replied, Mr. Gladstone and others. As I did not believe the charge was true, I refused to adopt it. It was, in fact, a slander on Mr. Gladstone, with which I would be ashamed to be associated. Mr. Fellow's speech was seasoned with suggestions against my policy as an Irishman in Ireland, and my answer to this part of the case was fortunate enough to meet with peculiar success. After a detailed reply which is needless to reproduce, this was the concluding sentence:—
I will soon have to account for my whole life, and I feel that it has been defaced by many sins and shortcomings; but there is one portion of it I must except from this censure. I can say without fear, and without impiety, that when I am called before the Judge of all men, I shall not fear to answer for my Irish career. I did what I believed best for Ireland, without any relation to its effects on myself. I am challenged to justify myself for having been an Irish rebel, under penalty of your fatal censure; and I am content to reply that the recollection that when my native country was in mortal peril I was among those who staked life for her deliverance, is a memory I would not exchange for anything that Parliaments or sovereigns can give or take away.
I had reached the hearts of my fellow-men, for tears overflowed the eyes of hardened politicians, and the House gave me a triumphant majority. The effect of the debate and division may be measured by the language held immediately after by a prominent member of the Opposition, Mr. Wilberforce Stephen, leader of the Equity Bar and Attorney-General in the next McCulloch Administration:--
Any one must have seen that the Chief Secretary has gradually been gaining the confidence of the House, though no one could anticipate that he would be able to retain office until the division which took place last night. Every one must feel after the result of that division that he has been adopted as the leader of the House, and that the House places the fullest confidence in him. … He may govern the country for many years, with all the strength which must be possessed by a gentleman who governs not by Parliamentary tactics, but by the mere force of genius, and by being at one with the sentiments of the country. … I do not hesitate to say that the present Chief Secretary is the most powerful Minister that this colony has seen since we have had Constitutional Government.
Political friends at a distance sent me abundant congratulations, but the sympathy of a dear kinswoman touched me nearer.
I cannot resist writing to thank you for your noble vindication of the past. It made me feel young again, swept away how many years of sordid cares and commonplace troubles, and set me face to face with the long ago. I could not read it without thick-coming tears, I cannot write about it without the same accompaniment. Your heart must have coined the phrases that so moved me and not only me, but all round me. I had feared that Philip's Irish blood was cooled or rather frozen by long bank discipline; he came home from the House mad with delight one and all they showed, thank God! their Celtic blood and kindly Irish nurture in their generous transports of delight and pride in their kinsman, not that he was Chief Secretary with a great following in the House though that is much to be proud of but that in the face of a hostile assembly at the risk of his great position, he dared to speak in words that shall live as the apotheosis of Irish treason.
Some of my colleagues, especially the Treasurer, Mr. Graham Berry, were Protectionists, and eager to carry their principles a stage farther than Mr. Francis had proceeded. I had been absent from the colony when the Francis Budget was carried. I had been the first to call attention to the exception, which Stuart Mill admits, authorising the State to give temporary support to the manufacture of an article for which the raw material existed abundantly in the colony. I had consulted Bright, Carlyle, and Mill, as the reader has seen, on what it was justifiable to do in a community determined to adopt the principle. I agreed that Protection should be given to articles which the colony was peculiarly fitted to produce, and the tariff was modified accordingly. The preference for Protection in Australia was in some degree a reaction from the shameful selfishness with which colonies had been originally governed. George III. would not permit colonists to manufacture a horseshoe, or a hobnail, nor to carry their produce to England in their own ships; and in quite recent times, when Victoria had commenced the manufacture of simple tweed for home use, English manufacturers imitated it in shoddy, undersold us in our own market, and ruined the reputation of the native article. England was Protectionist as long as she believed it to be her interest to be so, and this was a practice which necessarily found imitators in colonies. My policy was to give the working class anything which had been improperly denied them, but not to create any monopoly in their favour. They had cooled a good deal in their enthusiasm for popular measures. They lived in freehold houses, worked only eight hours a day, got good wages, shut out competition by forbidding assisted emigration, and their children were educated almost free. They would give a cheer and perhaps a vote to the popular leader, but they were no longer prepared to make any sacrifice for his public ends. Another serious evil was that they looked too exclusively to the amount of their wages, which greatly hampered the attempt to plant new industries and increase the prosperity of the state of which they were citizens.
The remaining business of the Session occupied a brief period, and I was happily set free for the more fruitful work of Administration. When I took my reforms in hand I found that long and slovenly mismanagement had created serious, almost insuperable difficulties to some of them. The land reforms we brought into immediate effect, and there was wide selection and settlement, but the social reforms were barred on every hand by a complete neglect of direction and supervision over the institutions we had long possessed. The chief Refuge for foundling children was a building separated from the barracks occupied by young soldiers, only by a broken wall, and how slender a boundary conduct and character brought to strengthen this defence was illustrated by the deplorable fact that among the wet nurses at the hospital there was scarely one who was a wife. There was a training-ship used as a reformatory for boys where it had been designed to make them skilled sailors, and I found that after years of apprenticeship to the business of the sea, nineteen-twentieths of them instead of being employed in our commercial navy, were hired out for agricultural or domestic work. I visited the principal jail to determine how far I might count on getting effectual work out of the prisoners. The unfortunate men expressed their willingness to try what I proposed, but they besought me to make one concession—that they might be permitted to make complaints of wrongs they suffered to me personally, not through the governor of the jail as heretofore, or in his presence. I promised to send one of my colleagues to hear the prisoners' complaints. There was a feeble system of prison labour already in operation, and they positively alleged that the principal part of their work was appropriated by the governor to his own use, and that they were punished if they did not fall in with this system. The governor of course denied the allegation, and found Members of Parliament to declare that it was an unpardonable offence to interfere with his salutary system of discipline. But I found that under fatal neglect of Ministerial control this officer had grown into something like a responsible minister. He amalgamated dissenting congregations without their consent, and in one instance took the amazing liberty of suspending a clergyman with whom he came into conflict.
The immense interests at stake in the question of who should possess the public territory, and the interest of wealthy importers, disguised under a zeal for Free Trade, created classes ready to spend profusely, and to exhaust their very considerable interest in damaging the Government. During the recess the fire of their journals was fierce and incessant. A happy accident furnished a convenient mode of reply. The popular sympathy with the Government expressed itself in invitations to banquets in all the great towns of the colony in succession, and on all the great goldfields. I was unwilling to divert time from administrative work, but I could not allow the authority of the Government to be undermined by slander, and I accepted the invitations and took the field in our defence. I scorned to answer personal attacks, but the standard-bearer of a party, the head of an Administration cannot permit his principles or his colleagues to be belied, and I answered all that had been said against us to the vehement satisfaction of our audiences. I still more industriously expounded and justified the opinions which we represented. I presented to the people the record of a state endowed with prodigious natural gifts, and which might confidently count, with wise government, on a great future. Her revenue was greater than that of any British colony, far greater than that of all the South African colonies united or all the West Indian settlements, greater than any of the Australian colonies or of three of them taken together, and greater than one of the oldest and most populous of the colonies—Canada. Her foreign commerce was in about the same proportion as her revenue to that of these other British possessions. And this prosperity was on the increase, the three great colonial interests—mining, agriculture, and squatting—were more prosperous than they had been for the past ten years. A community where property is widely diffused among the class who actually till the land is of all others the community most contented, most orderly, and where manners are simplest and morals purest—and that class of cultivators obtain most from the soil and increase most rapidly the savings which constitute the wealth of a nation. I constantly reiterated the advice to be prudent and saving, not because I rated money-making as the highest of human pursuits, but because history teaches that national wealth is the nurse of civilisation and liberty. With wealth come the agents of civilisation and the inevitable ambition to be first in the arts of peace and war; and the late conflict in the United States furnished conclusive evidence that great prosperity is not incompatible with self-sacrificing public spirit. The Australian was distinguished from the American by a greater love of holiday and a keener enjoyment of life, and—if I might venture to say so—a juster idea of the relative value of money and happiness. The new Government had found the public finances in a disastrous condition, a serious debt had been created by our predecessors, and they predicted that at the end of the financial year there would be a deficit of £200,000, but before popular hope and unwonted confidence in the Government these difficulties disappeared. There would not be a deficit of 2½d.; on the contrary, we would end the year with a surplus. This was the business of to-day, but we projected, as we were bound to do, not only for to-day and to-morrow, but for the far future. We did not forget that Victoria was bound to set an example to the other colonies which would facilitate the coming of the time when they would be united together, and become the centre of a system of states yet unborn the three dozen Victorias for which there is space on the surface of Australia.
The comments of the Press in Australia and England on these banquets would fill a volume, but I am content always to cite only the verdict of opponents.
The correspondent of the London Standard in Melbourne who saw the men and transactions close at hand, and whose political sympathies were adverse to those of the Government, wrote to his journal:—
A banquet has been given to the Ministry at a place called Creswick, at which Mr. Duffy made an exceedingly able speech. I begin almost to believe in Mr. Duffy. It is difficult to refrain from admiring the consummate skill—different entirely from anything I have otherwise seen here—with which he manages everything. Indeed, were it not flat heterodoxy, I should be inclined to say that Mr. Duffy is the only statesman we have here. He is, at any rate, the only public man here who knows anything about Parliamentary tactics; and had he a fair opportunity he would, I doubt not, be of infinite use to this country.
The Ballarat Courier, which had habitually supported the McCulloch Government, was one of a dozen goldfield journals which preferred the new Government to the old. "All the pent-up stream of life," it exclaimed, "pours downward like a cataract. The Ministerial demonstration at Sandhurst reads more like a royal progress than a compliment paid to a newly-formed Administration."
I am not writing history, or it might be needful to inquire, How has Victoria lost the primacy which belonged to her in that era? These transactions, when this narrative is being written, present themselves to me in the perspective of history, and I cannot but recognise that I committed one serious mistake. The opponents of the Government consisted of three sections who had recently assailed each other with imputations which it might be assumed could never be forgiven. The late Government had been charged by one of the other sections with having manipulated an Act of Parliament to put many thousand pounds into their private purses, and in return the assailants had been treated with habitual and exasperating scorn. I unwisely took it for granted that these offences could never be pardoned. In one speech I complained banteringly that I did not know who was leader of the Opposition. The hon. member for Richmond was generally assumed to be so, but whenever there was a remote chance of a gentleman being sent for by the Governor, there were three Richmonds in the field. The leader of Opposition (I said on another occasion) ought to be a man who commanded a party ready and able to act as a Government, but though such a party once existed, I exultingly declared that it had disappeared. "Hans Breitmann had a party. Where is that party now?" This was perilous chaff, and taught my opponents the necessity of uniting.
Mr. Verdon performed the functions of Agent-General to my entire satisfaction, but the office was tenable only for three years, except in the case of formal reappointment, and the salary was inadequate. I was well disposed to set these wrongs right, but there were always a number of critics in Parliament not unwilling to hold the office themselves, and it was an impossible task. Mr. Verdon was offered an important and remunerative office in connection with the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank, of which he was a London Director, and he announced his intention to retire. I had applicants enough for the vacant office to man a frigate, and the Speaker informed my colleague, Mr. O'Grady, that Mr. Francis, now leader of the Opposition, was extremely anxious that the office should be conferred on Sir James McCulloch, who had gone to England, and if this were done he would be willing that I should succeed Sir James when I ceased to be Chief Secretary. But I was determined that my distribution of patronage should have no element of self-interest in it. I was relieved from my difficulty by a letter from Mr. Childers announcing his willingness to undertake the office. He was eminently fit, and altogether unobjectionable—having, in fact, been sent home by the party I displaced to undertake an office of the same character.
Berlin, November 2, 1871.
My dear Duffy, I received some days ago in South Germany a letter from Clarke, telling me that he understood that Verdon was giving up your agency. I authorised him to telegraph to you and say that my services were at your disposal if they were desired; and he tells me that he has done so.
I think you will know that my only reason for offering to serve you is my sincere wish to do all in my power for the colony to which I owe so much I shall not be in the least hurt or surprised if you make, or have made, some other arrangement; although in that case I would ask you to consider before you make any use of my telegram. But perhaps I need hardly suggest this caution to an old friend.
I shall read with much interest the accounts of your doings, and I presume you will now be able to take up some of the old plans we used to discuss in 1856.—Believe me, yours very truly,
Hugh C. E. Childers
Before retiring from office Mr. Verdon disposed of the remnants of business, the most important being an engagement which he and his Board had made with Mr. Herbert to paint for the colony a replica of one of his famous frescoes in the House of Lords.
Our friend Herbert has been commissioned to paint a portion of his great work—"The descent of Moses from the Mount"—for the Melbourne Gallery, and he feels that it would be so much better to reproduce the whole work, that he will accept a really insignificant addition to the price he is to receive for the part, and complete the picture, if you will let him.
Long before I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Herbert, I thought and said that it would be a great thing for our Gallery to have a second original of his famous and most beautiful work, and I do not hesitate to urge most strongly that if possible the opportunity should not be lost of securing it. Unless the instruction go from Melbourne nothing can be done, for Herbert feels great delicacy even in making the liberal offer he submits. I have forwarded by this mail a letter to Wardell, in which Herbert gives the particulars of his offer, and I have asked that it may be submitted to you.
In May, '72, I received a communication from Sir Redmond Barry, President of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, referring to the practice which exists in the House of Commons of having the annual estimates for the British Museum explained and supported by some trustee who is a Member of Parliament and familiar with all the facts and circumstances connected with the Institution. He enclosed a resolution of the Trustees requesting me to undertake that office.
In the midst of perverse and self-interested assailants it was invigorating to receive the congratulations and applause of Thomas Carlyle:—
Chelsea, London, May 28, 1872.
Dear Duffy,—About ten days ago I received the report of speech, the newspaper with your portrait and sketch of Biography, &c., &c., all of which, especially the first-named article, were very welcome and interesting. The portrait is not very like, though it has some honest likeness; but in the speech I found a real image of your best self, and of the excellent career you are entering upon, which pleased and gratified me very much. Though unable to write, except with a pencil, and at a speed as of engraving (upon lead or the like), I cannot forbear sending you my hearty Euge, euge, and earnestly encouraging you to speed along, and improve the "shining hours" all you can while it lasts. Few British men have such a bit of work on hand. You seem to me to be, in some real degree, modelling the first elements of mighty nations over yonder, scattering beneficent seeds, which may grow to forests, and be green for a thousand years. Stand to your work hero-like, the utmost you can; be wise, be diligent, patient, faithful; a man, in that case, has his reward. I can only send you my poor wishes, but then these veritably are sorry only that they are worth so little.
Nothing in your list of projects raises any scruple in me; good, human and desirable we felt them all to be, except that of gold-mining only. And this too, I felt at once was, if not human, or to all men's profit, yet clearly colonial, and to Victoria's profit, and therefore inevitable in your season. But I often reflect on this strange fact, as, perhaps, you yourself have done, that he who anywhere, in these ages, digs up a gold nugget from the ground, is far inferior in beneficence to him who digs up a mealy potato—nay is, in strict language, a malefactor to all his brethren of mankind, having actually to pick the purse of every son of Adam for what money he, the digger gets for his nugget, and be bothered to it. I do not insist on this, I only leave it with you, and wonder silently at the ways of all-wise Providence with highly foolish man in this poor course of his. Adieu, dear Duffy, I have written more than enough. If' I had a free pen, how many things could I still write; but perhaps it is better not! I am grown very old, and though without specific ailment of body, very weak (in comparison), and fitter to be silent about what I am thinking of than to speak. I send my kind and faithful remembrance to Mrs. Callan. John my brother, is gone to Vichy again (day before yesterday); Forster is looking up again, now that the collar is off his neck. Good-bye with you all—Ever truly yours,T. Carlyle.
Parliament was to reassemble in May, and during the recess two things had been going on simultaneously, the colony had been pronouncing for the Government in successive demonstrations from Geelong to Stawell with an enthusiasm which had no parallel in our history, and the groups of the Opposition which a year or two before had assailed each other with language of unbridled contumely were agreeing to a vote of no confidence, and manipulating doubtful individuals. All the great fortunes in the colony were among our opponents. Their exclusive interests were at stake, and they spent lavishly in social efforts to unite all the sections of the Opposition against the obnoxious Government. I would be ashamed to record some of the base devices employed to cajole individual opinion. An amendment on the Governor's speech, which looked ludicrous in its naked cynicism, was proposed. The one measure which was notoriously an open question in the Cabinet was education, and we were censured for not submitting an Education Bill to the House. I answered we were not agreed upon Education, nor was the House agreed upon it; we were prepared to submit measures on which practical results might be obtained, but Education was not such a question; my predecessor and others before him had failed to induce the House to agree to any Education Bill.
"In this excellent bed died three people of fashion." The solemn plausibility with which I was urged to do what they knew I would not and could not do, reminded me of an Irish story of '98, when a yeoman captain rode up to a farmhouse to arrest one of the youngsters. The lad naturally made off by a back door and the yeoman roared at the farmer not to allow him to escape. "Dinny," cried the farmer, "Dinny you vagabond, why don't you come back and let the gintleman shoot you."
After a short debate the motion was lost, but the Opposition had another in reserve. The Government was charged with the abuse of patronage, but the cases cited were so trifling that they are not worth dwelling upon except two: The Pier-mastership at Williams town being vacant was filled up by the appointment of an experienced officer of the Mercantile Marine, who had come originally from Sydney. The method of his appointment was hinted at in the newspapers, and openly stated and insisted upon in political gossip. Coming from Sydney he was manifestly a Catholic, as the facile logic of party politics insisted, and there could be no doubt he brought me an introduction from Archbishop Folding. When I stated that he was not a Catholic but a Wesleyan- Methodist, that neither he nor anybody else had ever brought me an introduction from Archbishop Folding, and that he was appointed as usual by the Minister of the Department without reference to the Cabinet—except when the list of appointments was submitted for approval—I had only half answered the case. For it still remained to inquire whether the Minister who did appoint him, had not done so under some improper influence. The Minister of Railways put into my hands the document which induced him to make the appointment. It declared that Mr. Dennis "was eminently qualified for the appointment of Pier-Master," and this recommendation was signed by five Members of Parliament. I would read their names, and the House would note that every one of the five was now sitting in Opposition, and cheering the charge of abuse of patronage against the Government. The other case was made much more of. When Mr. Childers was appointed Agent-General, both he and Mr Verdon informed me that he must have a secretary, as political engagements occupied much of his time. Under the Act which authorised the appointment of secretary, the office was in the gift of the Agent-General and his Board of Advice. Mr. Cashel Hoey was one of the Board of Advice. He was a young, vigorous, capable man, eminently fit for the office of Secretary, and as I had recommended him to Sir James McCulloch for his position on the Board, there was no possible reason why I should not recommend him to Mr. Childers. I did so, and Mr. Childers appointed him. There were many men in the Assembly who would gladly have gone to London in such an employment, but there w;is an Act of our local Parliament which forbade the appointment of any member of the Assembly to an office of profit till six months after he had ceased to be a Member, and this was an appointment which must be filled up at once. I told the House when the subject was mentioned, that the appointment of Secretary was one without which Mr. Childers could not be retained as Agent. The correspondence last year had amounted to over 11,000 letters. The Postmaster-General, the permanent officers of the Colonial Office, the contractors who furnished firearms, railway plant, and the like to the colony had to be seen from time to time, and this was not a work which an Imperial Cabinet Minister could be expected to undertake. I added that the appointment would not cost the colony a penny, as the selection of Mr. Childers saved the payment of a pension larger than the salary of a secretary. But gentlemen who wanted office, and gentlemen who wanted to save their squatting interests were not open to reason. Mr. Hoey had been formerly editor of the Nation after my departure for Australia, but subsequently became a member of the English bar and resided in London. Articles in the Nation years before he became editor were attributed to him. It was declared he must be peremptorily removed from office. The vote against the Government was carried, and after a time he was removed. The fall of the Government was brought about by a couple of members staying away from the division, and a couple more changing their opinions, the majority against us being only five. One of the two deserters was a curious case and had curious consequences. Kilmore, which had long been represented by Mr. O'Shanassy, sent to this Parliament an Irish farmer named Larry Burke. Burke supported the Government for a time, but Mr. O'Shanassy, to whom he was long known, besought him to vote against us on the question of patronage, Mr. O'Shanassy, who was now a prosperous squatter in New South Wales, having become one of our most vehement and vindictive opponents. Burke's constituents were not gratified by this change of opinion, and when he returned among them his welcome was not cordial. It is better to finish the story at once that its moral may not be lost. When a General Election came round, Mr. Burke was assured by his constituents that they would have nothing more to do with him, and Mr. O'Shanassy, who desired to re-enter the Assembly, announced his intention to stand for Kilmore. He expected Larry Burke who had been so complaisant with his vote in the House, would retire in his favour; but Burke burst into a rage at the man who had brought about his unpopularity attempting to profit by it. He insisted that he would stand and win. While the two disunited Irishmen were rallying their supporters to the fight, a journalist, who had been a steadfast friend of mine in Dalhousie, stood against them and defeated both.
The decision of Parliament the Government regarded as only the first step in the contest. There was afterwards an appeal to the constituents. We considered we were distinctly entitled to a dissolution of Parliament. The present Assembly and several before it had been elected under the control of our opponents, the existing Government had had no opportunity of appealing to the country, and the majority against them was so small that it was improbable a strong Government could be formed out of it. I stated the case in a paper, which I had reason afterwards to know the Cabinet in London regarded as entitling me to a dissolution. But after the fall of Sir Charles Darling we had got an impoverished peer for Governor, whose business in the colonies was to increase his balance at the banker's. He allied his family with that of a shipowner and squatter. I was assured in various directions that a majority could not have been obtained but that the Governor's son-in-law had whispered to the leaders of the Opposition, that they need have no fear of a dissolution as the Governor would not grant one. The Governor, on behalf of his son-in-law, denied this allegation; but that was a matter of course. It was not disputed on any hand that an appeal to the people would have given us a decisive majority. But the one solitary power which a Governor has been permitted to retain, and which has not once in a long reign been exercised by the sovereign, was employed to betray the interests of the community to the opulent minority. Mr. Francis, who had made a fortune in Van Diemen's Land, supplemented by Victorian squatting, became Chief Secretary in a Government in which fierce Free Traders and devoted Protectionists sat side by side. When the Ministerial elections were over, the Governor wrote to me saying the Secretary of State had authorised him to offer me a Companionship of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. I had much satisfaction in refusing the offer, which I considered little better than an insult. A day or two after he wrote again, informing me that he had been authorised to offer me a Knighthood. It would have been a pleasure to me to decline this offer also, but some of my late colleagues were of opinion that my doing so would be greatly misunderstood; that the distinction was the same which had been conferred on Sir James McCulloch, and that I could not refuse it in my native country if she, like Victoria, had a Parliament and a Government of her own.
The controversy on the dissolution extended to England, where it was debated on imperial grounds. Lord Canterbury, it was insisted, had violated the principles of the Constitution and thrown the administration of responsible government in colonies into fatal confusion by a wholly indefensible proceeding. The Spectator examined the facts in minute detail. It was the case (the writer said) of a Ministry which, by large and liberal measures, had attracted a most unusual amount of European attention. Mr. Duffy had been defeated by a small majority, and advised a dissolution in a state paper which, on constitutional principles, was absolutely unanswerable. He had not had a dissolution before, whereas his opponents had had five dissolutions. He had good reason to expect a majority at the hustings. The Times correspondent at Melbourne admitted he would get a majority:—
The Governor is bound to allow a Ministry to submit itself once wiithin a term of years to the popular vote. This obligation Lord Canterbury disregarded, apparently for no reason at all except personal dislike for the only reason given in his minute, that Mr. Duffy had been defeated by a vote of no confidence and not by the rejection of any of his measures, is perfectly childish, and is indeed an unanswerable argument for granting an appeal against a vote so obviously personal. … This sympathy, moreover, must be personal, and not political, for on the only question on which the victors have not adopted the policy of the vanquished—secular education—the Colonial Parliament defeated the victors and upheld the vanquished. Partiality of that kind is as fatal to a constitutional governor as to a judge, and if not a reason for removal, is at least a final reason against continuing him in a similar appointment after his term of office has expired.
The correspondence between me and Lord Canterbury was moved for in the House of Commons. I was assured on competent authority that the action of the Governor was disapproved of in the Colonial Office, and it is notable that he never after received any public employment.
Among the applicants for an appointment while I was in office one described himself as a kinsman of Robert Browning, and I sent his letter to John Forster, who knew where the poet was better than I did, to ascertain his wishes on the subject. In reply Forster wrote:—
Palace Gate House, Kensington, London.
5th September, 1872.
My dear Duffy,—I saw with regret the fall of your Administration, not because I think you will be less happy out of all those cares and responsibilities, but because I thought the whole affair, as far as I could understand it, of unequalled shabbiness in regard to the grounds taken for the no-confidence vote, and with a sequel, on the part of the Governor, grossly unfair. I thought your paper of reasons for a dissolution unanswerable, and I think I can assure you that all capable or thinking men here are with you.
But now you are out of it I hope you won't go on "squaring the circle" there when you ought to be here "climbing trees in the Hesperides." Not that we have much of a garden, or of golden fruit, amongst us just now, but there are some friends that would give you warm welcome, noble and dear old Carlyle among them, if you should resume your former purpose of coming to our side of the world again for your well-earned otium, a still profitable labour, cum dignitate.
I sent your enclosure to Browning, who has evidently, however, small interest in the subject of it, though grateful to you for this kindness to himself. He describes him as a connection of his father's, "whom I just remember in my boyhood as the awful example to youth—a true ne'er-do-well, for whom an infinity of pains was expended in pure waste, and who finally took himself off to New Zealand, full five-and-forty years ago." I need not quote farther, but he has not heard of him since, and so prefers that the old memories should be left to sleep.
Dr. Moriarity, the Bishop of Kerry, was one of the most steadfast of my friends during my Irish career, and I saw with pain and astonishment abuse of him in National and Fenian journals. He wrote to me at this time what may be regarded as his vindication, and though he judged the Fenians too hardly, his defence may put his detractors to shame. The Home Rulers of that period, whom Parnell afterwards scattered and supplanted, did much to justify his opinion of them.
The Palace, Killarney, November 11, 1872.
My dear Mr. Duffy,—It gave me very great pleasure to hear from you, and to have the assurance that you do not forget your old friends And these friends must rejoice for your success. Was it not you who said, "the strong man and the waterfall carve their own channel"? I remember the story you told me of the poor fellow who presented you a tattered prayer-book. The change of fortune since that day testifies to a well-worked life.
As to your Government, of course, like every other Government, it should fall some time, as every besieged fortress must be sooner or later taken; but I did regret that you had not more time to serve interests and persons dear to us, especially poor Hoey. I regretted, too, that the Press in this country did not defend you as you deserved There was much of very cordial acclamation when you became head of the Government. It seemed to me that there was silence, when we should not expect it, when the Opposition triumphed.
You say your Irish politics are not changed. Now I hope that C. Hoey and myself may say the same, for surely our politics consist in loving our country and serving it the best way we can. And surely the best way is not the same way always. If we admired a noble and unselfish band of rebels in '48 it does not follow that we should admire a set of cowards and swindlers who pretend to play rebellion in '68. If we opposed the Government under Palmerston, it is not inconsistent to support it under Gladstone. The abuse of Gladstone in the Nation is to me perfectly disgusting. To say that Murphy, the no-Popery lecturer, should be better received in Ireland than the man who disestablished the Church and passed Ballot! Now I think if you were in Ireland you would agree with Hoey and myself. I must admit that the Nation did you justice in the Keogh affair by republishing your articles. All agreed that you were a true prophet.
What more about Irish politics? There are our Home Rulers. If you were here I do not think you would be amongst them. They do not mean what they say. The cry answers the same purpose as the Conciliation Hall £5 note. When our Kerry election was lost by the most outrageous mob violence, I consulted Gladstone, and Glynn the Government Whip, on the advantage of pursuing our petition. They both dissuaded us, and Glynn gave me to understand that the Home Rulers were just as obedient to his whip as any other supporters. With Butt as its leader it can he nothing but a sham, except in as far as it is obstructive, keeping out of Parliament honest men who prefer losing a seat to telling a lie.
I am expecting J. J. McCarthy here this evening. We often talk of you, and wish you among us again.—With kind regards to Mrs. Duffy, I am yours sincerely,
✠ D. Moriarty.
There are many evidences that I did not use power selfishly or churlishly. The Governor communicated me the thanks of the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the services I had rendered in collecting materials and evidence respecting the Alabama claims.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had before Parliament a Bill to legalise certain exchanges of Church land, and they voted me their thanks for the facilities I had afforded them, and Rev. Dr. Lang sent me. from Sydney cordial thanks for the help I gave some of his political friends to obtain a vote from the Victorian Parliament in recognition of his early aid in separating the colony from New South Wales.
After resigning office I took up the business which had engaged me in Opposition. I returned to the care of the National Gallery, which I had commenced. We photographed our best pictures, to be sent to museums and art galleries in Europe. As Chairman of the Committee of Trustees of the Gallery, my name was printed conspicuously on the proof of the cover sent to me. I asked my colleagues to place above it the name of Sir Redmond Barry, the President of the museum and gallery, and Sir Redmond acknowledged the courtesy with effusion:—
Carlton Gardens, Melbourne.
My dear Sir Charles,—I am very sensible of the compliment which you and the Committee of the National Gallery propose to pay me, as well as of the mode in which it is conveyed.
I accept your offer with pleasure as an expression of good feeling. It renders truly enjoyable to me the performance of the duties which we perform in common as administrators of the great institution, the affairs of which we have the honour to conduct.—Believe me to be, my dear Sir Charles, yours very faithfully,
August 27, 1873.
From the Press I had received the ordinary party support, and more than the ordinary party opposition, but I recall with pleasure that one able and original journalist followed each public transaction in which I was engaged with a wise, generous, and sympathetic commentary; the sort of commentary which, infinitely more than unmeasured praise, strengthens and encourages a public man. The writer never made himself known to me while I was in the exercise of power, and when I returned to the freedom of Opposition I thanked him for his liberal and unselfish co-operation. The writer was Mr. A. L. Windsor, author of a volume of essays, which, long before I knew who was the writer, I noted in my diary as exhibiting "the luminous style, the wide knowledge, and governing sense which distinguish Macaulay."
In acknowledging my letter Mr. Windsor said:—
It was a sublime puzzle to me how my brethren on the Press of Melbourne could have conspired to have delivered over into the hands of the British Philistine the only politician who ever attempted to infuse sweetness and light into the dull, confined, parochial, commonplace spirit of colonial statesmanship.
Unpleasant news came to me over the Sydney border. A controversy had sprung up between Parkes and Butler, in which, though I think neither of them was altogether in the right, Parkes was decidedly most to blame. The Chief-Justiceship at this time became vacant, and he had offered it to the Attorney-General, who accepted. After a time, ever, a number of the Government supporters in Parliament objected on grounds which, when they were analysed, seemed to resolve themselves into the fact that the office ought not to be given to a Catholic. Parkes reported these facts to Butler in the presence of their colleagues, and Butler said that to acquiesce in such an objection from such a motive would be to insult the men of his own creed who formed so large a share of the population. A long and courteous, but extremely bitter correspondence, ensued, during which Butler resigned the Attorney-Generalship, and Parkes offered the office of Chief Justice to Sir James Martin. Cynical persons naturally said that to remove the leader of the Opposition in Parliament was a fine stroke of diplomacy, and perhaps accounted for his second thoughts on the subject. To other persons the selection of Martin, who, like Butler, was born and bred a Catholic, but was a Catholic who had ceased to go to Mass, seemed to indicate that there was a submission to sectarian prejudice. I told Parkes my opinion on the transaction frankly, and our relations were disturbed, but not terminated. When he saw that I meditated a journey to Europe, which might be a final one, he wrote:—
Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney.
Feb. 18, 1874.
My dear Duffy,—I write to bid you farewell, and to wish you and yours every blessing.
Though circumstances have occurred to chequer the course of our friendship, yet that friendship has been to me in many respects an unmixed pleasure. I owe you much for the consolation your vords have afforded me in time of trouble, for the happy thoughts you have set in motion in our personal intercourse, and for the fine intelligences you have been the means of making me acquainted with. For all accept my truest and my kindest wishes for your welfare.
I shall no doubt occasionally hear of you if not from you, and your fortunes in life will always have a special interest for me.—Very truly yours,
- Childers wrote me on this occasion: "I congratulate you very sincerely on Sir James Martin's ignominious defeat; not only because it must be personally gratifying to you, but because, to my mind, it will do more for co-operation between the colonies, and ultimately for Federation, than any single event I remember since your speech in 1856."
- The Argus, which not unfairly claimed to be the leading journal of the colony, was most unfriendly to my Administration, but the Australasian, a weekly journal published by the same proprietors, was more gene Speaking of this scene it said:—
"He avowed, in accents which quivered with emotion and produced powerful effect upon the House, that no honours which he had achieved or might achieve, here or elsewhere, could afford him the pride and gratification which he derived from the retrospect of his efforts in early life on behalf of his native land, when it was smitten with famine and pestilence, and the number of those who perished or fled exceeded the population of the whole of these colonies."
- The gravity of the offence may be measured by the memorandum I found necessary to send to the officer in question:—
"Mr. Duncan has taken a most improper liberty in suspending a chaplain, and communicating with the head of a denomination respecting his successor, without my authority. I have so frequently had occasion to check Mr Duncan's assumption of a Minister's functions that if it happen again consequences will be serious for him.—(Signed) C. G. D."
- A welcome tribute came from my old home and my old friends. John O'Hagan, then a leader of the Equity Bar of Ireland, wrote:—"I heard of your promotion as far back as Circuit, when Sir Colman O'Loghlen, coming in to Mess, said, 'Duffy is Prime Minister of Australia,' and I greeted it with a hoch lebe. I read both your speeches with the deepest interest and admiration, and the feeling uppermost in my mind was what I am sure must be in your own—Davis's line about Sarsfield—'Oh, that this were for Ireland!' It is certainly a proud thing for you to have won your eminence by your own right hand, in the teeth, as I can see, of the bitterest National and religious prejudice; and to have extorted from envy itself its reluctant tribute. Your Sandhurst speech has in truth excited my brain, and I could not go to bed without writing to you."
- The present Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Clarke.
- In one case I had been fortunate enough to induce an able and worthy man, whose career was marred by a fatal weakness, to become a water-drinker during the twelve months I was in office; but when the critical moment approached, shameful tempters induced him to violate his pledge and rendered him useless in the contest.
- Mr. Verdon wrote:—
"But he (Childers) must have a secretary, and has said so to you. I have told him how well fitted Mr. Hoey is for such a post, and, if he is authorised to appoint any one he will appoint him."
- When the debate on which the Government fell reached Mr. Hoey, he wrote in a spirit worthy of a man of honour:—
"You know me well enough to dispense me from telling you with what keen anguish I found I had been the cause of your fall from power, and not all the tenderness and consideration with which you express yourself on the subject can ever lessen this grief. You well know that what has befallen, or may befall myself—happy as I have been in my work here—is little in comparison with this pain. I can only console myself with the feeling that I could not have anticipated or imagined it. If I could, not all the gold in Ballarat would have tempted me to pass the door of this office."
- Mr. Manners Sutton, afterwards Lord Canterbury. A story of which the Governor was the hero got a good deal laughed at in political circles. The Members of the two Houses are entertained at dinner in successive batches at Government House. On one of these occasions he met a notable man, of whom he must have heard many anecdotes, which stimulated his curiosity. "I believe," he said, in a tone of superb graciousness, "you were originally a tailor?" "I was, your Excellency." "And pray, how are you employed at present?" "I am employed at present taking your Excellency's measure."