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

By John M. Ward | Go to book overview

VII
SETBACK IN PARLIAMENT

'He could conceive no earthly object in this general assembly, and, with all due respect for Earl Grey, he thought it was the result of a mania in his mind for finishing off constitutions. Earl Grey appeared actually to have such a mania, which he was unable to resist, and, after having failed so often in constitutions in single colonies, he now sought to unite five colonies all in one Bill.'1

'The provision [for federal union] would only come into operation when desired by the colonists themselves, and on that ground he thought it a most useful one; but if struck out of the Bill, he did not see that any very serious injury would be done, the chief evil being, as he conceived, that it would create the necessity of coming back to Parliament at a future period.'2

THE scheme of federal union provided for in the Australian Colonies Bills of 1849 and 1850 was the work of James Stephen and of Lord Grey. From July 1847, when Grey had made the first official suggestion of a federal legislature for Australia, up to the introduction of the original Bill in June 1849 all the initiative and most of the official support given to the idea had come from them. Inside the Colonial Office their policy was doubted by both Hawes and Merivale. The Privy Council Committee, which endorsed their ideas, was consulted by Grey at the suggestion of Stephen. Grey acted as its chairman and Stephen drafted its Report. The two together bore the principal responsibility for the Report in its final form.

The colonists in Australia had exhibited a great variety of responses to the federation scheme. Their attitudes had ranged mostly from lukewarm acquiescence through complete indifference to downright hostility. Intermittent support had come from such groups as the Launceston merchants, who for a time had hoped that a federal government would follow an economic policy suited to their needs. Most of those who had shown any favour to the federation plan had done so because they wished for uniform duties of customs throughout Australia. Few had had even a glimpse of the other benefits that might have resulted

____________________
1
C. B. Adderley in the House of Commons, 25 April 1850, Parl. Deb. cx, 803.
2
Earl Grey in the House of Lords, 10 June 1850, Parl. Deb. cxi, 973.

-162-

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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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