[Editor: This article, about the visit of Lord Brassey to Australia (and his views on several topics), was published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 4 July 1887.]
Lord Brassey on Australian topics.
Lord Brassey is suffering from an affection of the eye, which first manifested itself during his visit to Melbourne. After the fatigue of the voyage he was desirous of spending the evening in rest, and he felt disinclined last night to discuss his views upon Australian topics at length.
His lordship has expressed his sympathy and interest in Imperial federation, but he states that he recognises the difficulties standing in the way of it, although he does not regard them as insuperable. In any Imperial Council that might be formed there is the difficulty of representation. Australia at the recent Imperial Conference has agreed to share the expense of defending her commerce, and that gives her an undeniable right to a voice in Imperial affairs — only a small right, it is true, but it might be increased by increased participation. In any council that might be formed, based on proportionate representation of population and wealth, the Australian vote would be so small as to be practically ineffective.
Lord Brassey believes that the despatch of the Soudan Contingent from New South Wales did more for the Empire and for the maintenance of its unity than all other deeds of the century. It was felt in Europe that Australia, alive to the fact that the occasion was one in which a united Empire should be exhibited to the world, came forward to succour the mother-country. It was an evidence to other nations that in times of difficulty it would not be with England alone they would have to reckon, but with the Empire.
With regard to the disposition amongst the wealthier classes in England to seek Australian or colonial investments, he thinks that English capital is flowing into these colonies, and will continue to flow, but Englishmen who love their own land best will continue to abide therein. There might be social troubles ahead in England, but there was no disposition observable amongst wealthy Englishmen to flee from them and seek refuge in Australia. England must remain the centre of the cultured, courtly, and refined life of the Empire.
Touching the relations of labour and capital, and the influence of trades unions, his lordship is of opinion that trades unions are useful, and even necessary, to facilitate business between employers and large bodies of men; and, further, that a few trained and competent men, representing a great multitude, engaged in any trade or occupation, might be the means of gathering and distributing useful knowledge as to the facts which must govern the price to be paid for labour. Periodical reports issued by carpenters’, brickmakers’, or shoemakers’ societies, pointing out the conditions of the trades in various countries, and the causes which might render necessary a temporary reduction of the labour rates, would be hailed with pleasure.
In reference to naval matters and the Australian squadron, his lordship thinks that some of the weaknesses of the navy are strikingly exemplified. In the Australian squadron there were a good many vessels, a good many pennants flying, but coming to real fighting vessels there was but one — the Nelson — a first-rate ship of the second class of British ironclads. Certainly, under the new arrangement agreed to by the Imperial Conference there would be a great improvement; but two heavy-belted cruisers and three vessels of the Archer class would be preferable to having the whole of the vessels of the one type.
There are many matters upon which Lord Brassey’s opinions will be of interest to Australians, and he will take the opportunity during his visit of expressing them at length.
The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 4 July 1887, p. 3
See also: Alex Hutchison, “Lord Brassey on Australian loyalty”, The Armidale Express, and New England General Advertiser (Armidale, NSW), 27 January 1888, p. 3
alive = aware of, having knowledge of, interested in, seized with a recognition of something’s importance; active, alert, animated, full of emotion; active, busy, exciting
Empire = in the context of early Australia, the British Empire
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)
mother-country = in an historical Australian context, Great Britain; may also refer to England specifically (may also be hyphenated, i.e. mother-country)
Soudan contingent = a contingent of 758 soldiers sent by the colony of New South Wales to aid the British military in the Anglo-Sudan War (1885), also known as the Mahdist War (“Soudan” is an archaic spelling of “Sudan”)
See: 1) “Sudan (New South Wales Contingent) March-June 1885”, Australian War Memorial
2) “New South Wales Contingent”, Wikipedia
3) “Mahdist War”, Wikipedia
succour = assistance, help, or support, particularly in a time of distress or difficulty (also spelt “succor”)
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]