Colonial loyalty [13 February 1851]

[Editor: An article discussing the possibility of independence for the Australian colonies from Britain. Published in The Empire, 13 February 1851.]

Colonial loyalty.

If emotions of affection or fidelity can only be sounded in their depths, and the genuineness of these feelings only safely tested by hardship and adversity, then is the loyalty of England’s Colonies not “above suspicion.”

Colonial virtue, notwithstanding all the fair things which have been written on our self-chastening endurance and our tenacious grasp of the parent’s hand, is not exactly of that sort which meekly holds the cheek to the smiter. Canada is not that tractable child, nor is the slow-footed and quiet-eyed Anglo-African an incarnation of docility. And stern stuff has been already manifested in the nature of the younger sons of the south.

We Australians, however comfortably the Herald may talk of our happy looks of loyalty on a Regatta day, soon begin to feel sour, when our toes get an extra pinch in English shoe leather. Nor is there anything un-English in this susceptibility of injury and injustice, and this outspoken and manly disposition to resent their infliction.

The feeling of revulsion explodes against governmental trammels, and not against kindred ties and affinities. And were we to sever our English connection to-morrow, the Australian colonies, unlike the early American, for certain very good reasons, would exult in being still, in commercial heart and in social soul, a portion of the English people. The reason of this permanency of English character is obvious enough, — it is in the great moral and intellectual advance made by the nation during the last eighty years, whence all national sympathies would receive a stronger nourishment in both for any bolder or more generous bearing in either.

The unhappy American question was little understood by Englishmen generally, and the Government of the time was more wicked and corrupt than any future Ministry will dare to be. Hence the unnatural bitterness and enmity which were engendered in the achievement of American independence, and which still exist too extensively in the present generation of Americans.

No reasonable fear can be entertained of any such estrangement of heart in these Southern Colonies. England and Australia, with God’s blessing, shall be mother and child still, though a purer and even a brighter flag shall wave in the sunshine over the one than that which has so long “braved the battle and the breeze” above the other. There is nothing bad and unseemly in entertaining the idea of separation, — nay, it is rather a truly English piece of wisdom to look at the event as a prospective certainty.

We are in no way influenced by disaffection towards the mother country; but, we think, as we expressed ourselves, in our last issue, that the idea of Australian independence has already germinated, and that it cannot be destroyed. The seed has been sown, and the green blades are sprouting through the soil. Whether we or our children shall be the husbandmen, to gather in and garner the harvest, we pretend not to foresay. Nor would we anticipate the season of the ripened corn. Come this eventful period soon or late nine-tenths of the Australian colonists will join with us in saying —

England, with all thy faults,
We love thee still.

The Empire (Sydney, NSW), 13 February 1851, p. 90 (2nd page of that issue)

Editor’s notes:
England, with all thy faults, We love thee still = a line from “Timepiece”, by the English poet William Cowper [see: William Cowper, Readings from Cowper, Phillips & Hunt, New York, 1883, p.12]

Regatta day = the commemoration of the founding of the colony of New South Wales was usually celebrated with a holiday upon which a naval regatta was held, in which boats and yachts of various categories took part

[Editor: Corrected “genuiness” to “genuineness” (the word “genuiness” does appear many times in various newspapers, but it appears to be a common spelling mistake rather than an archaic form of the word; a check of several older dictionaries has not shown an entry for it; however, in The New Spelling Dictionary of 1783 the word “genuiness” appears on page 25, mentioned in the entry for “Authenticalness”, but does not appear on page 156 in the entries for Genuine, Genuinely, or Genuineness, nor does it have its own entry; see: John Entick, The New Spelling Dictionary, Teaching to Write and Pronounce the English Tongue with Ease and Propriety (revised edition), Charles Dilly, London, 1783, pp. 25, 156); “permanancy” to “permanency”.]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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