[Editor: This letter to the editor, written by Alex Hutchison, which advocates political independence for Australia, was published in the “Correspondence” section of the The Armidale Express, and New England General Advertiser (Armidale, NSW), 27 January 1888.]
Lord Brassey on Australian loyalty.
To the Editors of the Armidale Express.
Gentlemen — Because of past favours I am again emboldened to trouble you. A short time ago this noble lord paid a visit to Australia, and as a result it is worth noting how busy he has made himself since his arrival in London.
He says: “Whilst I noticed that the Australians as a whole were very loyal to the British Crown, at the same time I noticed among the colonists a current running quite in the opposite direction, and favourable to the severance of Australia from the Empire. This current of thought might be considered to become dominant should any untoward event arise in regard to the colonial policy of the Home Government.”
This exactly confirms what I said in reference to the apparent accidental visits taking place so often. The object of all such visits have a sharp and well defined point. As it is natural when a lord arrives at his majority, he considers himself, and the law looks upon him, as a fully-developed man — able to take care of himself; and, being conscious of his freedom and the responsibility which that freedom brought with it, he sets himself to work in right good earnest in facing the world first to making a home for himself.
It has always appeared to me in the nature of things that so long as a man was made to feel his inferior position during his minority it is a curbing of his manly aspirations, and has a tendency to check the fuller development of his manly powers. As with a man, so with a nation; a child cannot remain such during the altered period of a man’s life.
As St. Paul said: “When I was a child I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” This is as certainly true of a nation. First the seed, then the blade, then the ear. It is, therefore, that all these stages of development have been attained by the Australian child that lord this and lord that are so interested in feeling the pulse of the Australian man-child about to be ushered into its majority.
Sir H. Parkes at Bega, who is a curious combination of the autocrat, the democrat, the aristocrat, and the plutocrat, admitted the other day that, before another generation passed, Australia would be free and take her place among the nations of the earth. But why not now? The present time is opportune; before we get dragged into European and Asiatic squabbles, in which we have not the slightest interest, nor never can have so long as we attend to our own business, and prosecute the divine mission allotted to us in the future life and career of a great nation.
As we are now on the best possible terms with our old parent, having the deepest respect for each other, it seems that no better opportunity could present itself than the present. As a counterpoise Lord Brassey urges as the best scheme that can be adopted to strengthen the hands of those favourable to Imperial federation that the defences of the coaling stations should be placed in a thorough state of efficiency, and that ironclads be despatched, and the squadron strengthened, manned, and equipped. All this is to be done at our cost to stimulate a spirit of love and patriotism; and the band of the Grenadier Guards is to be despatched to enchant and charm our affections. Not only so, but he says the Royal Princes should be sent out to the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition.
Gentlemen, is this not the height of supercilious buffoonery? Since the withdrawal of the imperial troops from our shores, who has attempted to molest us? or who has threatened to do so? No one. It is the cunning craft of our over-grown mother by false pretences to swallow us alive, after having devoured our substance with a rapaciousness measurable only by her greed. She pretends affection for us; threatening us with shot and shell, that is what the ironclads mean, and at our expense.
Is it not a fact that he — who was bribed by honours — recently forced through the Assembly by trickery the Naval Defence Bill, committing us to £30,000 annually for this purpose? Is it not a fact that in our history of 100 years for the first time that useless tool committed us to the position of a military vassal of a country which has drawn more gold from Australia than any other country in the world. Let Australians know this, that no country has supplied so much gold and increased the wealth of Britain so much than Australia. And what is she doing with it? Oppressing the Irish people, the Scotch crofters, and the English peasantry. In a word, maintaining a monstrous and cruel system of Government on our own flesh and blood.
If the rulers of England have any sincerity about them, any true humanity in their bosom and thought of justice, any desire to strengthen the bonds of affection, either with Australia or consolidate the British Empire, let them do justice to its parts by giving that liberty which they take, and the federation of the Empire is secure in the affections and hearts of the people. The true secret to the federation and strength of the Empire consists in the administration of “justice.” Not in coercion, nor in shot and shell, nor fraud nor force, but in justice to all and favour to none lie the strength of the Empire.
We want no knavery played on us, but true and genuine justice, and in return true and genuine affection will surely be the strongest ties to strengthen the Empire and attain the homogeneity of its people. But suppose we did require an army and a navy to defend our shores, I hold it would be a thousand times better for the colonies to unite and form the nucleus of such themselves, which could be done with the amount we are committed to spend, and then at the expiration of ten years we have nothing to show for the absurd expenditure.
The conduct of our public men — falsely called statesmen — is most reprehensible, and is a disgrace to an enlightened people; but, as we are about to enter on the centennial fiasco, I must close. Only I think it a disgrace to men making pretensions to honour to see the country looted and robbed by flunkies feasting and drinking champagne and riding free, while the real party that pays for it all is denied the right to share in the carnival.
Long live Australia. May peace and prosperity mark your progress from this day forward.
The Armidale Express, and New England General Advertiser (Armidale, NSW), 27 January 1888, p. 3
This letter mentions the visit of Lord Brassey to Australia. For some relevant newspaper reports regarding his visit, see the following articles:
1) “Arrival of Lord and Lady Brassey: The yacht Sunbeam: Welcome by the Naval Artillery Volunteers”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 4 July 1887, p. 3 [a report on Lord Brassey’s visit to Sydney]
2) “Lord Brassey on Australian topics”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 4 July 1887, p. 3 [a report on Lord Brassey’s views regarding Imperial Federation]
3) “Lord Brassey upon Australia”, Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate (Newcastle, NSW), 28 December 1887, p. 5 [includes the quote from Lord Brassey; also includes other points mentioned in the letter, and therefore was possibly the basis for the above letter from Alex Hutchison]
Alex. = an abbreviation of the name “Alexander”
Assembly = the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of parliament in the various colonies and states of Australia
blade = the leaf of a plant; the thin, flat part of a leaf, attached to the stem of a plant
counterpoise = a counter balance
crofter = someone who lives or works on a croft (a small farm), especially regarding small farms in Scotland and the north of England (male farmers of crofts were also known as “croftmen”); the owner or tenant of a croft
ear = the part at the top or spike of the stem of a cereal plant (such as barley, corn, and wheat), being the part which contain the grains, kernels, or seeds of the plant
Empire = in the context of early Australia, the British Empire
flunkies = plural of “flunkey” (also spelt “flunky”): a subordinate or underling (especially one who acts in a fawning, obsequious, or servile manner); a yes-man (someone who constantly agrees with, or goes along with, a superior, in order to gain favour); someone who carries out menial tasks; a servant
hold = to believe in (or to have, or to hold) an idea or opinion
Home Government = in an historical Australian context, the British government
H. Parkes = Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896), the owner and editor of The Empire newspaper (Sydney), and Premier of New South Wales for five separate terms (1872-1875, 1877, 1878-1883, 1887-1889, 1889-1891)
See: 1) A. W. Martin, “Parkes, Sir Henry (1815–1896)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “Henry Parkes”, Wikipedia
ironclad = a naval vessel whose sides were clad (covered) with metal plates, so as to provide armour for protection during warfare (such ships were especially used in the mid to late 19th Century)
knavery = deceitful, dishonest, or unprincipled behaviour; deceitfulness, trickery; the poor behaviour of a knave (a deceitful, dishonest, or unprincipled man); (archaic) the youthful antics, mischievousness, or poor behaviour of a knave (a boy, especially a boy servant; an adult male servant; a male underling)
Lord Brassey = Thomas Brassey, 1st Earl Brassey (1836-1918), a British Liberal Party politician, and Governor of Victoria (1895-1900); he was born in Stafford (England), and died in England in 1918
See: 1) B. R. Penny, “Brassey, Thomas (1836–1918)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “Thomas Brassey, 1st Earl Brassey”, Wikipedia
majority = age of majority; the age at which a person legally obtains the rights and privileges of an adult (depending on the state and era, usually between 18 and 21 years of age)
rapaciousness = greediness, insatiableness; having a strong and excessive wish to take things for oneself, or to plunder, particularly the drive to acquire money or to possess things, especially using force, or using unfair, immoral, or predatory methods
[Editor: Changed “know this that” to “know this, that” (inserted a comma).]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]