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3-056 (Text)

Item metadata
Speaker:
author,male,Wentworth, William Charles,63 addressee
ns1:discourse_type
Oratory
Word Count :
2748
Plaint Text :
ns1:register
Speech Based
ns1:texttype
Speeches
ns1:localityName
http://dbpedia.org/resource/New_South_Wales
Created:
1853
Identifier
3-056
Source
Clark, 1975
pages
335-40
Document metadata
Extent:
15669
Identifier
3-056-plain.txt
Title
3-056#Text
Type
Text

3-056-plain.txt — 15 KB

File contents



It will be enough for me to state briefly that these clauses embody the following great principles: - Entire freedom on the part of the colony from taxation by the British government - a repudiation of the schedules reserved by act of the British Parliament - the entire disposal of all the revenues of the colony, whether ordinary, casual, or territorial - the control of the Customs Department, with the power, as it were, to use the pruning knife in cutting down that department - the investment of all colonial patronage in the Governor for the time being and the Executive Council - the plenary power of legislation so long contended for by the Council, and the want of which has so often impeded the passing into law of measures which were essential to the welfare of the country, and as a necessary consequence of these, responsible government; and in consideration of all these privileges gained by the colony the bill gives to her Majesty a civil list securing certain fixed salaries to the different heads of departments of the public serviced to these rights and these concessions there did not seem to be any opposition, either in the House or out of doors, and I shall therefore proceed at once, and confine myself to those clauses only the introduction of which into the Bill has subjected me to so much obloquy and abuse. These are simple and few in number, and involve, first, the principle that the Constitution to be fixed by the measure shall not be altered, except by a majority of two-thirds of the members of both houses of the Legislature; second, the distribution of the eighteen representative members required to bring the number of the House of Representatives up to its present number, when the eighteen members who now hold seats as nominees are taken away; and third,- the composition of the Upper House, which the 4th and 5th clauses of the Bill propose to erect. These three points, I take it, are the battle field of this question, and it is therefore unnecessary for me to refer to anything else. On the first of these points, in respect to which so much clamour has been made, I will state, in passing, that there is not a single paltry joint stock company in the colony in which the same principle is not introduced.  It was the object of the committee who framed this Bill to frame a Constitution in perpetuity for the colony - not a constitution which could be set aside, altered and shattered to pieces by every blast of popular opinion. What community of men could, I ask, he brought to live together under such a government as this would be?  What security for person or the rights of property, or the administration of the law, or social order, would there be under such a Constitution?  Having examined objection No. 1, I will now proceed to objection No. 2, relating to the distribution of the additional representative members. A great deal of ridicule and abuse has been cast on the measure because of this clause, and also on the existing Electoral Act, because it is urged, it gives preponderance in the Legislature to one class.
I am firm in the conviction, that the representation of the country should be based on, or proportioned to, not the mere population, but the great interests of the country; and it should be so proportioned that no one interest shall have a preponderating influence over any other. Now, I contend, that the pastoral interest under the Electoral Act has no such preponderating influence. That interest is incomparably the largest, the most important interest in the country, and I hope it will continue so for ages. (Cheers.) I am quite confident, if the country is to continue to grow great and wealthy, this great interest must continue to flourish. It is for pastoral purposes alone that we can ever turn to successful account the illimitable wilds which exist in the interior of the colony, and which are under the system so much and so falsely cried down, producing annually millions of income to the colony. (Cheers.) Discontinue this system, give up pastoral pursuits, and this enormous amount of income will be simply destroyed. This would be a policy so preposterous that even the wildest democrat, if he understood the practical bearing of the question, would denounce it.  The wealthy class of the city consists chiefly of these men of business - these lords of the Exchange as they call or think themselves. (Great laughter.) There is my hon. friend from Darlinghurst (Mr. Barker), who is a manufacturer in a certain sense; he manufactures flour out of grain. My hon. friend the member for the Sydney Hamlets (Mr. Smart) is in the same position. Then there are some leather manufacturers, one or two brewers, an iron founder or two, and these I believe, with some trifling exceptions, are all. There is really nothing to represent here except a large mass of labour. (Great laughter.)  This brings me to those clauses of the Bill, which, out of doors, were more immediately the cause of the opposition against the measure, and which are the main subject-matter of grievance in the petition which has been presented this afternoon. These are the clauses which provide for the composition of the Upper House, and which had raised an unexpected clamour against the Bill out of doors.  I sincerely hope that the Constitution the Council is about to frame will be a constitution that will be a lasting one - a conservative one - a British, not a Yankee constitution. (Loud and prolonged cheers.) I hope that it will be one under which in all times to come the people of New South Wales will repose in safety and security, and that it will assimilate in every possible respect with the constitution of the glorious fatherland. (Loud cheers.)  If the Council would look to the whole range of the British colonies - throughout the West Indies and British America - and if it were considered that the nominee principle was universal throughout this extensive range - that it has ruled for nearly two centuries in some, for a great length of time in all that, so far as can be collected from the best authorities on colonial matters, from the opinions of the local press, a single objection has never been raised against it; surely these are facts which ought to have great weight here. (Hear, hear.)  Seeing, therefore, that the form of constitution now proposed for New South Wales exists,. and has long existed, in the wide range already mentioned, that no complaints (excepting those arising from the jealousies of antagonistic races) have been made against it, I would ask the Council whether this colony is now to give up the great boon which it so earnestly prayed for four years ago? (Hear, hear.)  And this brings me to the important principle involved in the hereditary clauses of the Bill. As the report of the select committee states,. they are framed to a certain extent in accordance with analogous clauses to be found in the Imperial Act 3 George III, c. 31, for making more effectual provision for the government of the province of Quebec. The principle of conferring an hereditary right of being summoned to the Legislative Council, upon those upon whom the Sovereign might confer hereditary titles, rank, or dignity, is therein set forth, and was maintained by Pitt, Burke, Wilberforce, and all the great statesmen of that day, except Fox, whose attempt to defeat the measure failed, and the clauses were carried, enacting that the Sovereign might confer hereditary titles upon the colonists of Quebec, coupled with seats in the Upper House, which were to descend to their sons. The design of Pitt was to establish an hereditary class in Quebec, upon the same principle as that which rules in the case of the peerage of England. But in this age of the world the committee were prompt to see that this hereditary right to seats in the Council could not be maintained, for it very often happens that the most brilliant fathers have the most stupid sons; and as talent and ability are not naturally hereditary, it could not for a moment be proposed that the seats of those upon whom hereditary titles might be conferred should descend to those who should come after them.  an Upper House framed on this principle, whilst it should be free from the objections which have been urged against the House of Lords, on the ground of the hereditary right of legislation which they exercise, would lay the foundation of an aristocracy which from their fortune, birth, leisure, and the superior education which these advantages would superinduce, would soon supply elements for the formation of an Upper House, modelled, as far as circumstances will admit, upon the analogies of the British Constitution.  Now, it must be borne in mind that the principle of electing a portion of the Upper House from those holding hereditary titles is one which cannot be carried into practice for the next forty or fifty years; it is to be seen, therefore, that the committee proposed to sow the seed of an institution which will have ample time allowed it to grow to maturity. (Cheers.) And it is also to be remembered that this principle of forming a house, the one portion patented by the Sovereign, and the other elected by those holding hereditary rank, obtains at present in the House of Lords in the case of the election of Scotch and Irish peers, upon whom no hereditary right of legislation is conferred, but only the hereditary right of election. (Hear.) When a generation having this hereditary right amongst them arises here, I (recalling the menaces of a certain portion of the colonial press, its tendencies to democracy, its recklessness of consequences) predict that it will be found a good and stable bulwark, necessary for the defence of good government and conservative institutions. A powerful body will be formed of men of wealth, property, and education - men not raised from any particular section of the community, but front every class that has the energy to aspire to rank and honour. (Hear.)  Here are no poor, no middle class, in the sense in which these words are used at home; all are rich; yet what do people aspire to here, who having accumulated perhaps £50,000 or £100,000 do not care to pursue the drudgery of money - making any longer? I will tell the Council: they aspire to a speedy migration to other lands, seeing it is better to themselves and families to build up homes where the democratic and levelling principles so rapidly increasing here are scouted; and where there are high and honorable pursuits anti distinctions to which the children of the prudent may aspire. (Loud and prolonged cheers.) Who would stay here if he could avoid it? Who, with ample means, would ever return, if once he left these shores, or even identify himself with the soil, so long as selfishness, ignorance, and democracy hold sway? (Renewed cheers.) And yet what a glorious country would this be to live in if higher and nobler principles prevailed; blessed with the most bounteous gifts of providence, it affords in its rich and illimitable tracts happy homes for millions yet unborn. (Hear, hear.) With regard to the clauses in question, I know not the opinions of hon. members, but I can only say that if they be not adopted, the colony will be virtually disfranchised. (Loud cries of hear from all sides.) Why, I ask, if titles are open to all at home, should they be denied to the colonists?
Sir, I have said before, and I repeat it, that the great and insuperable objection to all these elective bodies is that they are inflexible; their numbers are unalterable, and can neither be added to nor diminished.  The third estate of the realm can exercise no authority over them but the authority of dissolution. I have shown that that authority is not sufficient to preserve the vessel of the State from wreck - that the elective element, doubly represented as it would be in any such Constitution, must and will become too powerful to be controlled - and that under such a form of government the throne must give way. Sir, I think that these arguments ought to be sufficient to convince the House, and the country at large, that this proposed elective Upper House is an innovation which we cannot safely admit. Yes, sir, it is an innovation we can never introduce without contemplating, not in the far future, not as my hon. and learned friend has stated, but as an immediate, or at least an approximate result, the severance of our allegiance from the mother country, and of our loyalty to the throne (hear, hear, and no, no) - the severance of that ancient and glorious tie which binds us to our fatherland - that golden link which, I trust, will ever bind us to it - which those may sever or attempt to sever who hike, but which I trust will be maintained for ages to come by a very large majority of the loyal and respectable portion of this community. (Loud cheers.)  But I would say, sir, is there not - to say nothing of large landholders - is there not a class peculiarly fitted for hereditary distinctions? a class which has been great and powerful in all ages and in all countries where it has-existed; which must continue to be great and powerful here as long as the great interior wilds of this country can be applied to no other purpose than the sustentation of sheep and cattle? Yes, sir, we have among us, and we shall have among us to the latest generations, our Shepherd Kings. And I believe that, as they are a body peculiar to this colony, so are they, as a general proposition, the body most fitted of all in the colonies - I mean the principal men among them - to receive these hereditary distinctions. I can afford to say this now, because I can scarcely be called a squatter myself any longer.
But I am not inclined to persist in them if the opinion of this House should be against me. (Hear, hear.) I am willing to give them up. The bill is a perfect measure without them. It will then still leave us a nominated Upper House - an element which I believe to be an essential and indispensable element in the Constitution - an element which, though antagonistic at times, and necessarily antagonistic, because it exercises, and has a right to exercise, a veto on the legislation of the Lower House, contains within it a principle without which, I have shown, there is no safety-valve, and can be none, in the British Constitution  Sir, without inquiring how far a charge of this latter kind is true or false, I deny the imputation altogether - I will not even admit that I commenced my life, like the old gentleman whom my hon. and learned friend, the member for the Northumberland Boroughs, quoted last night, a republican, that I became in middle age a Whig, and that I shall die a Conservative.  Sir, at all events, I shall die with Conservative principles; but however I may die, I deny emphatically that I ever was a democrat or a republican. I was a Whig, I admit, till I was ashamed of Whigism. I was a Whig until that great Whig leader and despot - that man who played so many pranks with the colonies of the British Crown, and with this colony in particular - Earl Grey and his faction converted me from Whigism. (Cheers and laughter.) In the wildest flights of declamation I have ever indulged in I defy anyone to say that I ever ceased to be an advocate for the British Constitution. What has been the uniform object of all the political battles I have fought but to confer such a Constitution on this country? It is fortunate for me that my consistency in this particular - the deep ardour and attachment that I feel, and have ever felt, to that Constitution, can be established in other ways than by mere unsupported allegation.

http://ns.ausnc.org.au/corpora/cooee/source/3-056#Text