The Crisis in Victorian Politics, 1879-1881: A Personal Retrospect

The Crisis in Victorian Politics, 1879-1881: A Personal Retrospect

The Crisis in Victorian Politics, 1879-1881: A Personal Retrospect

The Crisis in Victorian Politics, 1879-1881: A Personal Retrospect

Excerpt

In the later months of the year 1900, Alfred Deakin wrote two memoirs of that phase of Australian history, and of his own life as a statesman, which the coming proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia would shortly bring to an end. The first, covering 1898-1900, completed his account of the Federation movement, in the final episode of which he had so recently been engaged as one of the delegation sent to London to watch the passage of the Enabling Bill through the Imperial Parliament. The complete account, edited by Deakin's son-in-law, Herbert Brookes, was published in 1944 as The Federal Story. It is a vivid recollection of events still very recent to Deakin as he wrote about them. In the second memoir he went back twenty years to the beginning of his political life in Victoria. Whereas his account of the Federal movement had almost entirely omitted references to his own activities, the present memoir is a chapter of autobiography, as well as an historical essay 'for the information of those curious as to the real manner of conducting the affairs of a colony prior to the Federal Union'. Walter Murdoch printed some passages from it in his Alfred Deakin--A Sketch (1923), and in the text of his early chapters followed Deakin closely in a number of places. In her unpublished thesis, 'The Economic and Political Development of Victoria, 1877-1881' (1951), Dr J. E. Parnaby also quoted passages from the manuscript to which she had been given access. The full and continuous narrative is now made available for the first time. Deakin had intended his account of political life in Victoria to cover his experiences from 1878-1900. When it was 'put aside December 1900 incomplete' (a few days after he had declined the offer of a Privy Councillorship), he had in fact covered only the first four years of that period. Within a month he had assumed office as the first Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, and in the next decade was to be three times Prime Minister. It is therefore likely enough that the memoir would in any case have remained incomplete. The reason for suspending it on 4 December 1900 can, however, be precisely given. Deakin had just received from London . . .

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