MELBOURNE, May 8 1901
THE NEW COMMONWEALTH.
“PRIDE OF RACE.”
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.
MELBOURNE, May 8 1901; Jun. 13 1901.
Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York have arrived, and the tension, increasing in Melbourne for weeks past, is at last relieved. The explosion of enthusiastic loyalty with which they were welcomed must have been gratifying because of its absolute unanimity and universality. The scene presented has long since been described at length by means of the telegraph, and it only remains to refer to a few of its distinctive features. That which has provoked most comment has been the significant absence of our nearest foreign neighbours, the French. It is said that this is due to a departmental blunder, but the explanation is obviously inadequate. The occasion is too public, and has been too long notified to render such an excuse admissible. Their abstention has been conspicuous and intentional. The few French residents we have are naturally mortified, and probably their officials will be also when they realise the advantage that has been taken of their abstention by their great Continental rival. Germany is not merely represented by two men-of-war while other Powers have sent but one, but her expatriated sons have combined to erect a handsome arch of their own in Collins-street. They are thus in the ascendant both on land and sea, and occupy the pride of place among our visitors and in the pageants. The United States, Russia, and the Netherlands have each sent a powerful cruiser. The Australian Squadron of the Imperial Navy lies at anchor beside them. The crews are to be met in detachments everywhere. The streets are crowded with men in uniform, khaki predominating, though the blues of the Artillery, the green of the Australian Horse, and the scarlet of Militia officers vary the tints. Never on this side of the globe, where as yet warfare is unknown, have the Army and Navy been so much in evidence, so popular, nor, owing to South African battlefields, so specially representative of the Imperial idea.
THE EFFECT OF THE ROYAL VISIT.
It would be difficult to define all that the royal visit means to Australians. On the present occasion something must be allowed for their personal exultation at the achievement of Federation. The self-government granted to the Colonies individually by the Mother Country was so unfettered that they were able to treat each other as foreign nations, and did so, conducting their communications by means of diplomatic correspondence, visits, and conferences, and maintaining at their own free will fiscal wars against each other. Joy at the final abandonment of internecine conflicts and a delighted sense of the increased power and importance which are the natural offspring of union have contributed largely to the success of the demonstrations. But, with every allowance for these legitimate incitements to public gratulations, it is perfectly plain that the arrival of the Duke and Duchess is in itself, and apart from local interests, the predominating attraction to the vast crowds which are crammed into all the habitable buildings of Melbourne and overflow beyond all its neighbourhoods. They are subject to an enthusiasm which looks backward even further than the Commonwealth prospect carries them forward, and is accompanied by a sudden emergence of sentiments of allegiance that seemed to have become merely legendary and poetic. To old colonists the coming of their Royal Highnesses brings reminders of the homeland that awaken inextinguishable memories and fond emotions; to the native born they represent the far-off islands of the North with their great history, and to the Imperially minded they express a supreme national idea. As grandchildren of the ever-revered Queen and children of a Monarch genuinely popular with all classes the young couple are centres of interest and attachment. To the masses they bring, as it were, within sight and touch old-world traditions and venerated associations lying close to the springs of romance. In a country where all is so new they recall and typify the past. To a society created in the present out of a community mainly living on one level and with few contrasts or impressive personalities they enter as scions of an ancient and kingly race, embodiments of aristocratic eminence and remote distinction. Beyond the claims of rank they have charms of their own. Young and gracious, simple in manner and easy to please, the hearts of the people have been readily turned to them. These are some of the sources of their welcome, though deepest and most permanent of all is the pride of race which here, as elsewhere throughout the British Dominions, is inseparably bound up with its chief, most immediate, and most human symbol, the Crown. The scarcely veiled hostility of the French, the courteous distance of Russians and Germans are met with comparative indifference. Americans are not regarded as foreigners. Their admiral and his officers have everywhere been treated with special honours. They are greeted as kindred who cannot be enemies and may be allies. But the flaming warmth of welcome is reserved for our own tars, our own soldiers, our own flag, and the Heir to our own Throne. That is the pivot on which all turns, the centre of all hopes and aspirations. The royal visit has naturally and properly been signalised by an immense outburst of Imperial patriotism.
MINISTERIAL DIFFICULTIES SURMOUNTED.
The Ministry, after all, will meet Parliament without having a serious blunder recorded during its four months’ tenure of office. Sir William Lyne was so much impressed by the demonstration against him when he proposed to appoint Mr. Fegan, his late colleague in the State Ministry, to the position of Under Secretary of the Federal Home Department, that he did not venture to bring his project before the Cabinet, though publicly supported from motives of loyalty by the Prime Minister himself. A prolonged silence on the subject was broken at last this week by an intimation from Mr. Fegan of his intention to resign whatever claims he had to the post for which he was to have been nominated. The manner of his selection and of his withdrawal are sure to be criticised, but all the sting has been taken out of the charge which will be levelled against the Minister for Home Affairs. Then, again, the Cabinet has extricated itself from the difficulty in which it was placed by Mr. Chamberlain’s invitation to send a delegate to discuss the establishment of an Imperial Court of Appeal. Warned, perhaps, by its lesson in respect to Mr. Fegan, it has put the politicians severely aside in favour of Justice Hodges, of the Victorian Bench, now on leave of absence in London. If Sir Samuel Griffith or Sir Samuel Way had been requested to go, the compliment paid to either might have been interpreted as an indication of the wishes of the Government here as to the person to be appointed as one of the new Law Lords proposed to be allotted eventually to Canada, the Cape, India, and Australia. To all appearances the Government desires neither of these Chief Justices. They have also passed over Sir Josiah Symon, K.C., of South Australia, who, as chairman of the Committee of the National Convention on the judicial sections in the Commonwealth Constitution, might have been thought to have claims. He is now a Senator, and his despatch would have given a political colouring to the mission which it was wise to avoid. As an uncompromising antagonist of the maintenance of any right of appeal to the Privy Council he would certainly have been an unsuitable envoy. Any choice among professional men in Australia would have been difficult and invidious. All these difficulties have been avoided by the selection of a judge on the spot who has a high reputation in his own State for his legal acquirements and for his ardently Imperialistic feeling on all public issues.
In each of these instances Ministers have managed to steer past the rocks, and to reach, as far as administration is concerned, comparatively smooth water. If the celebrations cultivate social amenities among the members of our new Parliament, as we may naturally expect, the first session should open under propitious auspices. Melbourne has risen to the occasion. In spite of its inherent plainness of surroundings it has become picturesque and imposing, as well as demonstrative of the intense loyalty for which it is famous all over this continent. Whether this will have any influence in diminishing the local jealousies among Federal representatives or not remains to be seen. These will be kept alive by the disappointed seekers after positions of dignity or emolument, of whom some are already in evidence. The Free Trade strength lies almost wholly in New South Wales and Western Australia. The Protectionist phalanx consists of Victorians. The Labour Party dominates the Queenslanders. South Australia and Tasmania are divided almost evenly. It may be long before these State demarcations disappear—Sydney is exasperated because the Commonwealth Parliament sits in Melbourne, and because in that Parliament and its Ministry Victorian influences and Melbourne policy are dominant. To observers at a distance we are already an united people, but to those closer at hand it is plain that we are so far merely a bunch of provinces in juxtaposition involved in a joint enterprise out of which unity must come if we are to achieve success. It has not yet arrived, and may be long in coming. The work before us is that of cementing our several segments together and of blending as far as may be the multi-coloured streams of State partisanship and local prejudice into one broad stream of national life and purpose. How far our new Parliament may be a means to this end or simply a field on which old rivalries will be perpetuated in a new form is a question that our political prophets are as yet unwilling to attempt to answer.