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CHAPTER IV.

OLIVER SPENCE, DICTATOR.


On the first Monday after the issue of the General Strike Manifesto, a National Convention of delegates from all parts of Australia was held in the Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney. The delegates had been elected by meetings convened by local sections of the Brotherhood of the Poor, which had now ceased to be a secret organisation. Each delegate having solemnly declared his fidelity to the cause of the People, the Convention was declared open by Oliver Spence, who then addressed it as follows:—

"Fellow Men!"

"We are assembled here to-day as the delegates to a Convention which is probably the most important gathering which has ever taken place on Australian soil. We are the bearers of the mandates of an indignant and wrathful people who have chosen us to consider and devise for them a Constitution which shall be, for the first time in our history, a just one. Let us devote ourselves to that task with zeal yet discretion.

"We are, it is true, the appointed of a minority, and with that fact our enemies already taunt us, but, I would ask you, has it not always been minorities who have achieved anything worth achieving? who have brought about any unmistakably radical political or economic changes? And more, was it not a minority which plundered and oppressed us?

"If, then, we, being determined men who would not be obedient slaves, have preferred to risk death rather than endure enslavement, who DARES to question our right to rebel?

"We have disregarded the apathy of the majority, have attacked the ruling MINORITY, and overthrown it.

"I again say, who DARES to question our right?

"An old English aristocratic writer has said,

'Treason never conquers—
What's the reason?
If it conquers,
None dare call it Treason!'

And although we do not wish to ill-treat those whom it might please to call us traitors, yet the quotation substantially expresses our position.

"If we had waited for the majority to rebel, then we might have waited an eternity, for they were so brutalised by excessive toil, and dispirited by the evidences of the enormous power of wealth, that they had become ox-like in their lives, and suffered to continue that oppression which it had become well-nigh impossible to-remove by pacific methods.

If the majority has been apathetic, however, it cannot long remain so, but must soon range itself on our side, for, without speaking of the justice of our cause, we are the victorious party, and 'nothing succeeds like success.'