[Editor: This obituary of Alfred Deakin was published in The Register (Adelaide, SA), 8 October 1919.]
A bright star has disappeared from the intellectual firmament of the Commonwealth through the death of the Hon. Alfred Deakin, one of the most admired and best loved of Australia’s sons. For several years prior to his withdrawal for health reasons from the hurly-burly of federal politics in 1913 he was recognised among people of all classes and creeds throughout the Empire as the most prominent living Australian statesman. Among his fellow-countrymen he has been known, too, as a singularly high-minded, kind-hearted, and cultured patriot.
His public reputation was attributable to conspicuous native talent, an exceptionally wide range of knowledge, long and intimate experience of legislation in the changing conditions of the rapidly developing Commonwealth, unsullied personal character, and selfless devotion to the public welfare. Mr. Deakin’s politics, aspirations, and labours embodied the highest Australian ideals.
The announcement six years ago that he was compelled to retire from the Parliamentary arena occasioned disappointment and some degree of consternation, but hope was vainly entertained that after a season of rest and recuperation, he would return to political service and fulfil the glowing expectations of hosts of well-wishers.
Many circumstances rendered Mr. Deakin specially responsible for the policy followed by the Commonwealth Parliaments until the accession to office of the Fisher Ministry. He was always an ardent Federalist, and was one of the leading delegates of Victoria in the Federal Convention. He accepted office as Attorney-General in the first Commonwealth Government, and was thrice Prime Minister.
A gracious personality and a singular gift of persuasive speech made him generally popular both in Parliament and on the public platform. The announcement of an address by Mr. Deakin was always eagerly welcomed, and no other orator was ever accorded heartier ovations from an Australian audience. He had magnificent opportunities for the exercise of his gifts, and in his own State of Victoria won enormous influence over the people, and, by his advocacy of fiscal protection, secured on that issue a strong following in Parliament. He also stood out prominently as an advocate of the Australian sentiment, and in Victoria, especially, this preference for his native land was a considerable factor in his success.
His fervent oratory and noble aims made him a spokesman of whom all Australians were justly proud. He had the happy faculty of saying the right thing at the right time, and in felicitous terms. Even during the warmest political controversies, he preserved dignity in speech and manner, and neither personal ambition nor the emoluments of office ever appeared to affect his judgment. In a discussion angry opponents were often subdued and even disarmed by his unfailing courtesy and good humour.
At the Imperial Conference in London in 1907 Mr. Deakin won golden opinions by the forceful eloquence with which he presented the claims of the Commonwealth, and elaborated his Imperialistic views. The British public then learned, as they had not done before, that the Premiers of the self-governing Dominions included exceedingly able and farseeing men, who could command respect in any of the Parliaments of the Great Powers.
Mr. Deakin, however, was endowed with the orator’s temperament, which is usually deficient on the practical side. For some years he failed to rise to the necessity for marking out, in Parliamentary activities, a clear line of demarcation between opposing principles. An amiable attempt to steer a middle course and win adherence from rival parties, prevented him attaining to his full stature as a political leader and an Imperial statesman.
When a new situation arose through the development of the two-party system, which permits of the electors returning verdicts, on clearly drawn issues, he exhibited enlarged capacities and gave promise of immense usefulness as an administrator. He realized more than in the earlier part of his career the importance of devoting strict attention to departmental duties.
As a Federalist, no one was better qualified to fight the battle of the Federal Constitution, and to expose and overthrow the sophisms of the party who were seeking to undermine it. Mr. Deakin’s earnest and persistent championship of Federal principles helped materially to put to confusion the plotters for the abolition of the most valuable of the States’ rights; and enlightened electors have been deeply grateful to him for his strenuous and devoted efforts to defend and popularize safe governing methods adapted to Commonwealth needs.
Loyal natives of Australia will fervently desire to keep alive and propagate the sentiments and ideals of which Mr. Deakin was so able and so faithful an exponent.
The Register (Adelaide, SA), 8 October 1919, p. 6
Dominion = (in the context of the British Empire) one of the British Dominions (Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa), being those countries of the British Empire which were self-governed
emolument = recompense; compensation, fees, payment, profit, salary, tips, or wages arising from one’s employment or from fulfilling the duties of an office or post
faculty = an ability or aptitude to do something (whether natural, inherent, or acquired); a mental or physical capability or power
felicitous = delightful, pleasant; having an agreeable or pleasing style or manner; apt, appropriate, or suitable with regards to a particular occasion, situation, or set of circumstances; using words or speech well-chosen, well-expressed, or well-suited for a particular occasion
Great Powers = major world powers, i.e. those countries, kingdoms, or empires which possess considerable economic or military power, and are therefore able to wield significant influence on the world stage
Hon. = an abbreviation of “honourable”, especially used as a style to refer to government ministers, or as a courtesy to members of parliament (as a style, it is commonly capitalised, e.g. “the Hon. Member”)
hurly-burly = a situation or activity which is boisterous, busy, and tumultuous (and often loud, noisy); commotion, confusion, disorder, tumult, uproar
sophism = a clever and plausible false argument, especially one which has been deliberately constructed to deceive; a convincing and clever-sounding argument which is based upon deception or pretense; a false or invalid argument which is outwards correct in form, but which is actually incorrect or false; a fallacy
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]