Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Henry George in Australia: Where the Landowners Are "More Destructive Than the Rabbit or the Kangaroo"

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Henry George in Australia: Where the Landowners Are "More Destructive Than the Rabbit or the Kangaroo"

Article excerpt

Information about Henry George's lecture tour of Australia in 1890 can be found in his 1890 diary (1) and in the five letters he sent from Australia (2) for publication in his newspaper, The Standard, in New York.

The aim of this paper is to supplement the above sources with further details from the reports of George's lectures in contemporary Australian newspapers. (3)

The paper is in three sections. Section I is a brief day resume of the itinerary. Section II contains some general observations on the events of the tour. Section III is a commentary on selected themes of the reported speeches and on some of the principal questions and criticisms from the audiences to see whether they throw any new light on George's policies.


The Itinerary: A Brief Resume (4)

HENRY GEORGE AND HIS WIFE ANNIE ARRIVED by ship in Sydney on March 6, 1890, having departed from San Francisco on February 8. They were met at Circular Quay by a cheering crowd who marched in procession with a brass band and accompanied the Georges, in a four-horse coach, to the Town Hall, where the Lord Mayor made an official speech of welcome and George responded. That evening was a banquet in Henry George's honor at the Town Hall. Formal welcomes and banquets were to become frequent features of his tour.

His first lecture in Australia was delivered at the Protestant Hall in Sydney on Saturday evening, March 8, on the topic "The Land for the People." He spoke for two hours without notes and at the end "received a recognition that was magnificent in its spontaneity and heartiness" (Echo, March 8). It was the first of six public lectures he was to deliver at various times in Sydney. The following day, Sunday, March 9, he preached in the Pitt Street Congregational Church on the text "Thy Kingdom Come," the first of nine Sunday sermons he gave in Australia in nonconformist Protestant churches. (5) Three more public lectures followed in Sydney on successive days.

On Thursday, March 13, the Georges set out by train on a six-day lecture tour of five country towns to the west and north of Sydney--Lithgow, Orange, Bathurst, Newcastle, and Maitland--and returned to Sydney on March 19, which was spent writing a report of his visit so far for The Standard.

The following day, March 20, they travelled by train to Melbourne, lecturing at four (6) inland towns en route--Goulburn, Cootamundra, Wagga Wagga, and Albury--arriving in Melbourne on March 25. He gave three lectures in Melbourne followed by lectures in four towns to the north and west of Melbourne--Bendigo, (7) Echuca, Ballarat, and Geelong--returning to Melbourne on Easter Monday, April 7, to engage in a well-publicized public debate with William Trenwith, a prominent Labor spokesman and a leading advocate of protectionism. After returning to Sydney, George set out on another tour of inland towns (8) in New South Wales, lecturing at Blayney, Carcoar, Cowra, Grenfell, and Forbes. He left Forbes at 6 a.m. on April 15 to return to Sydney, travelling all day by coach and all night by train.

The following day, Wednesday, April 16, was spent composing the second report for The Standard. On Thursday evening, April 17, he and his wife set out for South Australia via Melbourne, arriving in Adelaide on the morning of Saturday, April 19. They were met at the train station by a deputation of supporters, as usual, and on this occasion by the American consul. Despite the long journey, George took the opportunity of an election day in South Australia to tour the polling places and see an Australian election in progress. He was very impressed with the Australian system of secret ballots and particularly noted the relative absence of accusations of corruption. The people of Australia, he said, "seem to thoroughly believe in the purity of their government and public men" (Standard, June 11). That afternoon they were given a formal welcome and a "beautifully illuminated address" to which George made a lengthy speech in reply. …

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