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by representative members as a mere tool of the Government, and not, according to the theory of the Constitution, acting for the colony at large; and if I took the opposite course and voted with the Opposition, as I did on most questions, I was reproached by the officials as a traitor to the Government. In fact, I was in this position if I voted with the Government, I was taunted with being a slave; and if I voted against them, I was taunted with being a traitor. . .
The position of nominees is one full of anomalies: they represent nobody; yet they have not the slightest affinity to an aristocratic institution. They are the scapegoats of the Constitution, the target for every attack, the butt of every jest.-Ignominy and obloquy rain thick upon them; and when it is asked whether the colonies have materials for a second Chamber, the question may, I think, with more propriety be put-Can they have materials for nominees? Can they have people so paramount in talent, so independent in property, so conciliatory in manner, so combining all sorts of contradictory attributes, that they can hold this invidious office without exposing themselves to the sort of treatment to which I have alluded?
Mr. Lowe then proceeded in a very marked manner to refer to the discussion which had taken place between himself and Wentworth a year or so before in the Legislative Council.'
Out of this miserable institution [Crown nominees] arose the dispute as to two Chambers. This question was argued between myself and Mr. Wentworth, a gentleman of great talent and influence in New South Wales. He was in favour of a single Chamber; I supported a double Chamber-neither of us on the abstract merits of the question. We never dreamt that the Home Government would sanction the principle of two elective Chambers. The only question was-Where will the nominees do least mischief? Mr. Wentworth said if the nominees were separated from the elected members and placed in another Chamber, the result necessarily must be that they would have a veto upon all the proceedings of the elected body, and that they might stop the legislation of the Lower House. I admitted that that was true: but I contended, upon the other hand, that there were compensating advantages to be derived by getting rid of the nominees out of the Lower House. I argued this question upon two principles. I contended, in the first place, that if the Lower House were exempted from the presence of nominees the check of the representatives of the people over the public purse-the public
See vol. i. p. 375.
expenditure-would be infinitely more efficient. I showed, with some justice, I think, that it was the public purse which in all Governments draws after it substantially the powers of legislation. I contended, in the second place, and I still adhere to the opinion, that by the presence of a large phalanx of nominees the representatatives of the people were in many cases effectually gagged against the expression of any opinion at all. . . .
Neither Mr. Wentworth nor myself ever touched, or dreamt of touching, the question of two Chambers per se.
This system of nominee members sitting side by side with elected representatives in a single Legislative Council was abolished when representative government was conferred on the Australian colonies. But we see a survival of it in New South Wales and New Zealand, with their nominee upper houses. Sir Henry Parkes, in his lately published work, has done good service in showing the abuses to which this system is liable, and to which, no doubt, the despatches that have passed between Lord Ripon and Lord Glasgow, the Governor of New Zealand, would furnish a suggestive commentary. Nothing, at all events, can be clearer than that Lord Sherbrooke, after his eight years of colonial experience, was opposed to nomineeism in any and every form.
'Why,' he writes to Sir Henry Parkes in 1853, 'have a nominated Council? Opinion in this country is in favour of two elective Councils, the upper one to be for a longer period, of more mature age, chosen from larger districts, and going out one-third at a time, so as to have a more permanent element in it. I trust that before you receive this letter the colony will have shown that, having shaken off the interference of the Colonial Office in its affairs, it is not going to load itself with fetters of its own forging.'
Before this letter was written, however, Mr. Lowe had found more effective ways of spreading his convictions on the subject of colonial government than by delivering addresses even to so intelligent a body of reformers as that over which Sir William Molesworth so fitly presided; for he had joined
the staff of the Times as a leader writer, and sat in the House of Commons as member for Kidderminster.
It is perhaps advisable to linger a little longer over this first public address delivered by Mr. Lowe after his return from Australia, which displays so much insight into the political problems of colonial communities. The old difficulty, however, presents itself of how fairly to present the substance of such an address without quoting the whole of it. There has surely never been a public speaker since the advent of parliamentary government with so much matter and so little mere verbiage.
In a most pregnant passage Mr. Lowe explains the essential difference between the old American territorial colonies, which were in reality corporations, and the more recent settlements such as the Australian communities. He shows how the former possessed the power of making bye-laws upon the condition that these should not be repugnant to the laws of England.'
In the slovenly manner (he continues) in which colonial affairs are managed, that term has been subsequently transferred into Acts of legislation for new colonies without defining what laws of England are meant.' He then proceeds to show by illustrations from his own experience in New South Wales that, owing to this confusion, various purely local enactments were vetoed by the Colonial Office, and other Acts, with which the Legislative Council had no right to meddle, as they were of an Imperial character, were allowed to pass unheeded by the authorities in Downing Street. The circumstances have, of course, so entirely changed in forty years in Australia that a considerable portion of this address has become obsolete. It would therefore be worse than idle to reproduce all the arguments so skilfully brought forward to show how, under the proposed franchise, both the higher and the lower classes of the community would be excluded; these two classes were (he explained) the pastoral tenants or squatters and the incoming
tide of free untainted immigrants. This state of things has entirely passed away; but Mr. Lowe's explanation of these anomalies must have convinced his hearers that the task of legislating for Australia was beyond the capacity of the Colonial Office. Mr. Lowe had much to say, also, as to the domination of the ex-convict or Emancipist party, which, happily, is also now a thing of the past. He next attacked Lord Grey's premature proposal to create a Federal Government of Australia. It surely says much for the Earl's political vigour and activity that he should have thought in those early days of doing for the Australian colonies that which they have not yet been able to do for themselves. It is something more than curious to peruse, after a study of the interesting but futile proceedings of the Sydney Convention of 1890, the following passage in Lord Sherbrooke's address of 1850 against Earl Grey's well-meant but premature attempt to federate the Australian colonies, so to speak, out of hand :
One word as to the Federal Government. I have never met with any man in Australia who thought such a system practicable. It is treated there as an absurdity, an opinion in which I entirely concur. In the first place, it would be attended with immense expense. If you have an appropriation of money for the purpose, you must have officers to look after the money. You will have in fact two Governments to maintain and pay for. In the next place, the Federal Government will represent nothing. There is no intercolonial feeling at all, or hardly any. The colonies have no foreign policy. They know the mother-country, but of neighbouring countries they know nothing. They have no community of feeling, and I believe they have little community of interest.
At the time they were spoken, these words were literally true. In forty years these various colonial communities have developed, and their political and commercial interdependence is now to some extent realised; but in these short, crisp sentences, spoken so many years ago by Robert Lowe, we may find the actual reason of the tardy consummation of Australian federation.
Towards the close of the address, Mr. Lowe reiterated his arguments in favour of a legislature of two Chambers. He did not, he explained, advocate an Upper House' upon the aristocratic ground.' There was ample material, he thought, in the colonies to furnish members of an Upper House. In all civilised communities there are persons of sound judgment and right feeling who, in one Assembly, would not think of opposing a measure proposed by a man of briskness and energy; but in another Chamber might be able to make valuable suggestions of the greatest utility. Men would choose their Chamber as a barrister chooses his Court. He did not wish to see any difference in franchise, or that the qualification for the second Chamber should be higher than for the first. There might be greater maturity of age required, or the members might sit for a longer period and go out in rotation. Then followed a remark which bespoke the possessor of that invaluable but indefinable commodity—colonial experience :
A high pecuniary qualification is not an aristocratic institution in a colony, but quite the reverse. The qualification in New South Wales is very high, and keeps out many intelligent men, but it does not prevent the presence on the Council of two members notoriously insolvent and not possessing any land. The solution of the colonial problem is to give full powers of local government with an explicit reservation of Imperial powers.
The reason for dilating at such length on this address to the colonial reformers of 1850 is the feeling that many intelligent persons would like to know how Lord Sherbrooke regarded the political problems presented by the Australian community, when they were quite fresh in his mind just after his return to London. If further excuse were needed, it may be found in the fact that of the questions treated in so clear and masterly a way, more than one remains to this day unsolved. As Sir Henry Parkes appositely reminds us, some of the colonies are still vexed with nominee representatives; the great southern group of English-speaking states