Section 24 [The Foundations of Culture in Australia, by P. R. Stephensen, 1936]

[Editor: This is a chapter from The Foundations of Culture in Australia (1936) by P. R. Stephensen.]

§ 24

“Yours For Australia”

During five decades, from 1850 to 1900, we grew swiftly towards our nationhood, more swiftly than any other nation in history has grown. Spread over such a huge area, we nevertheless grasped, as a people, the concepts of unity, common interest, defence, and democratic self-government: and we established the Federation, the Commonwealth of Australia, under no outside compulsion, but voluntarily, as a pure essay in national logic.

In the ’eighties and ’nineties, at the close of one of the most dramatic centuries in human history — the century which saw the steam-engine perfected and the machine-age thus launched — we Australians arrived with a simple hurrah at our national self-definition. In the ’eighties and ’nineties men signed their letters. Yours for Australia, and wore lapel-buttons blazoning the same naive slogan: Australians reached out eagerly then to embrace their nationality. In an atmosphere of patriotic excitement and high hopes the Commonwealth of Australia was born, the White Australia ideal was formulated and proclaimed, Australian Democracy established itself (on the sound principle of “one bloody man, one bloody vote”); and Australian literature grew up as a rowdy infant under the tutoring of J. F. Archibald and A. G. Stephens.

The astonishing Nineteenth Century ended with the death of Queen Victoria and the foreboding rattle of Mausers in South Africa. . . .

Even while Australia at home had come peacefully to birth as a nation, Australian soldiers were dying, bullet-riddled, on the kopjes of Empire.

P. R. Stephensen, The Foundations of Culture in Australia, W. J. Miles, Gordon (N.S.W.), 1936, pages 91-92

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