Earl Grey and the Australian Colonies, 1846-1857: A Study of Self-Government and Self-Interest

By John M. Ward | Go to book overview

V
THE REPORT IN STATUTORY DRESS1

LORD GREY made his constitutional proposals of 1847in a spirit of liberal paternalism. In his own eyes he discharged a high imperial responsibility by drawing up a plan for the con-- stitutional development of the colonies. If it included features that they disliked or had never contemplated, Grey was not, greatly perturbed. He believed that it was the duty of the Colonial Office rather than of the colonists to think upon and, decide such large public questions. The government in Britain, so it seemed to him, had the experience of the whole empire on which to draw and enjoyed a measure of disinterestedness and political ability beyond what small colonial communities, often dominated by cliques and factions, were likely to possess.2

Among the Australian colonists there were strong objections to the role in which Grey had cast himself. His good intentions and high ideals were not understood. To the colonists he seemed to wish to regulate their constitutional development according to principles that they did not accept and which they had not been given sufficient opportunity to scrutinize. William Westgarth, the historian, merchant and politicianof Port Phillip, wrote to Hawes at the Colonial Office lamenting that the British government felt bound to legislate for the colonies in such detail as Grey apparently intended. He thought that, when the colonists strenuously objected to such plans,

it is not from any feeling that our interests are wilfully neglected, but on the contrary, that the child is too assiduously protected long after he has quitted the parental roof. . . Land Regulations, Political Constitutions are elaborately framed, the paragraphs

____________________
1
The words of the title are from W. P. Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Age of Peel and Russell, p. 369.
2
See Grey, The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration, i. 17f. 'This Country has no interest whatever in exercising any greater influence in the internal affairs of the Colonies, than is indispensable either for the purpose of preventing any one Colony from adopting measures injurious to another, or to the Empire at large; or else for the promotion of the internal good government of the Colonies, by assisting the inhabitants to govern themselves when sufficiently civilised to do so with advantage, and by providing a just and impartial administration for those of which the population is too ignorant and unenlightened to manage its own affairs.'

-107-

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Earl Grey and the Australian Colonies, 1846-1857: A Study of Self-Government and Self-Interest
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • I - The Story in Brief 1
  • II - A Man of Faith 18
  • III - The Grain and the Chaff 45
  • IV - The Golden Despatch 84
  • V - The Report in Statutory Dress 107
  • VI - Apathy in Australia 121
  • VII - Setback in Parliament 162
  • VIII - The 'Anti-Felon Confederation' 196
  • IX - A Noble Amateur: Governor-General Fitzroy 227
  • X - Governor-General Denison: 'A Man of More Purpose' 283
  • XI - Constitution-Making in the Colonies 319
  • XII - The Proposals of the Federalists 347
  • XIII - The Murray River Trade 393
  • XIV - The Failure of the Federalists 427
  • Bibliography 471
  • Index 491
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