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to an industrial and financial recovery. A Conference of Prime Ministers at Hobart in 1895 led to the passing by the several Colonial Parliaments of enabling Acts under which delegates were chosen, this time (following recent American precedents) by popular vote, to a new Convention which met at Adelaide (in South Australia) in 1897. It produced a second draft constitution, based on that of 1891, and laid it before the legislatures of the Colonies for criticism. About seventy-five amendments were proposed, and were considered by the Convention at its further sittings, which closed in March, 1898. The draft Constitution was then submitted to a popular vote, a new expedient in the British dominions, but one amply justified by the need for associating the people with the work. New South Wales alone failed to adopt it by the prescribed majority, because a large section of her inhabitants thought that her interests had not been duly regarded, but after a few amendments had been inserted at a conference of the Colonial Prime Ministers, her people ratified it upon a second vote. On this vote enormous majorities were secured in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, smaller ones in New South Wales and Queensland. The Constitution was then sent to England and passed into law by the Parliament of the United Kingdom under the title of The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (63 & 64 Vict. cap. 12). Action by the Imperial Parliament was not only a convenient way of overriding all the colonial constitutions by one comprehensive Act, but was legally necessary, inasmuch as some provisions of the Constitution transcended the powers of all the colonial legislatures taken together.

Since it had from the first been understood that the wish of the mother country was not to impose her own views but simply to carry out the wishes of the Colonies, only one slight alteration, an alteration rather of form than substance, was made in the draft as transmitted from Australia, the ill-considered notion of introducing a larger change having been eventually dropped by the British Ministry.

I have mentioned these details in order to emphasize the time, care and pains bestowed by the Australians— for the work was entirely their own-upon this latest effort of constructive statesmanship. The Constitution of the United States was framed by a Convention which sat at Philadelphia, with closed doors, for nearly five months, and was accepted by Conventions in all the thirteen States without change, though ten amendments were immediately thereafter passed by general consent, their adoption having been the price paid for the ratification of the main instrument by some doubtful States.

The Constitution of Canada took a little more than two years to settle. The Resolutions on which it was based were first of all drafted by a conference of delegates at Quebec. These were approved after full debate by the legislatures of the Provinces, and were, after some modifications, embodied in a Bill prepared by a small conference of Canadian statesmen who met in London. The Bill was then passed by the Imperial Parliament, never having been submitted to any popular vote. But this Australian instrument is the fruit of debates in two Conventions, of a minute examination by legislatures, of a subse

quent revision by the second Convention, of further modifications in a few details by a conference of Prime Ministers, and has after all this preparation been sealed by the approval of the peoples of the Colonies concerned. The process of incubation lasted for nearly nine years, being all the while conducted in the full blaze of newspaper reporting and under the constant oversight of public opinion.



The reasons and grounds assigned by the advocates of Federation were more numerous than those urged in the United States in 1787-9, or in Canada in 1864-6; but none of them were so imperative, for the Australian Colonies were far less seriously menaced by actually insistent evils, due to the want of a common national Government, than was the welfare either of the American States in 1787, or of Switzerland in 1848, or of Canada in 1867. In North America, it was the growing and indeed hopeless weakness and poverty of the existing Confederation, coupled with the barriers to commercial intercourse, the confusion and depreciation of currency, and the financial demoralization of some of the States, all of which had just emerged from an exhausting war, that drew the wisest minds of the nation to Philadelphia, induced them to persist in efforts to devise a better union, and enabled them to force its acceptance upon a people largely reluctant. In Switzerland it was the War of Secession (the so-called Sonderbund war) of 1847 that compelled the victorious party to substitute

a new and truly federal constitution for the league which had proved too weak. In Canada the relations of the French-speaking and English-speaking Provinces (Lower and Upper Canada) had become so awkward that constitutional government was being practically brought to a standstill, and nothing remained but that the leaders of the two parties should devise some new system. Australia was in no such straits. Her colonies might have continued to go on and prosper, as six unconnected self-governing communities. It is therefore all the more to the credit of her people that they forewent the pleasures of local independence which are so dear to vivacious democracies, perceiving that although necessity might not dictate a federal union, reason recommended it.

The grounds which were used in argument to urge the adoption of the Federal Constitution may be summed up as follows:

The gain to trade and the general convenience to be expected from abolishing the tariffs established on the frontiers of each colony.

The need for a common system of military defence. The advantages of a common legislation for the regulation of railways and the fixing of railway rates. The advantages of a common control of the larger rivers for the purposes both of navigation and of irrigation.

The need for uniform legislation on a number of commercial and industrial topics.

The importance of finding an authority competent to provide for old-age pensions and for the settlement of labour disputes all over the country.

The need for uniform provisions against the entrance of coloured races (especially Chinese, Malays, and Indian coolies).

The gain to suitors from the establishment of a High Court to entertain appeals and avoid the expense

and delay involved in carrying cases to the Privy Council in England.

The probability that money could be borrowed more easily on the credit of an Australian Federation than by each colony for itself.

The stimulus to be given to industry and trade by substituting one great community for six smaller


The possibility of making better arrangements for the disposal of the unappropriated lands belonging to some of the colonies than could be made by those colonies for themselves.

There was in these arguments something to move every class in the community. To the commercial classes, the prospect of getting rid of custom-houses and of finding a large free market close at hand for all products was attractive; as was also that of sweeping away the vexation of railway rates planned in the interests of each colony rather than for the common benefit of trade. Large-minded men, thinkers as well as statesmen, hoped that a wider field would bring a loftier spirit into public life. The workingclasses might expect, not only advantages in the way of brisker employment, but the establishment of that provision for old age and sickness which a Government covering the whole country and commanding ample resources could make more efficiently and on more

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