The Irish in Australia/Chapter 13
THE RIGHT HON. W. B. DALLEY, P.C—SIR WILLIAM FOSTER STAWELL—MR. JUSTICE MOLESWORTH—CHIEF JUSTICE HIGINBOTHAM—SIR REDMOND BARRY—THE HON. R. D. IRELAND, Q.C.—THE HON. JOHN HUBERT PLUNKETT, Q.C.—THE HON. EDWARD BUTLER, Q.C.—SIR ROGER THERRY—SIR PATRICK JENNINGS—DR. KEVIN IZOD O'DOHERTY—SIR MAURICE O'CONNELL—SIR ARTHUR PALMER—SIR JOSHUA PETER BELL—HON. J. M. MACROSSAN—IRISH-AUSTRALIAN VICEROYS—SIR RICHARD BOURKE—LORD LISGAR—SIR HERCULES ROBINSON—SIR DOMINICK DALY—SIR RICHARD MCDONNELL—SIR GEORGE KINGSTON—SIR GEORGE BOWEN—SIR RICHARD DRY—SIR GEORGE GREY.
If Australian citizens were asked to name the most popular man on their continent at the present time, William Bede Dalley would assuredly be the reply in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. He may be said to be the legitimate successor of Wentworth, and to have inherited the choicest gifts of the "Australian Patriot." No public man's speeches are more universally read than his, or have exercised a more ennobling influence on the formation and development of the Australian character. A born orator, he has supplemented his natural gifts with a rare and ripe scholarship, that enables him to draw from many sources a lavish wealth of illustration, a pleasing facility of application, and a command of the choicest and most convincing language. While yet a young man, he attained at a bound a place in the front rank of the public men of the colony, and, amidst the acclamations of thousands, was sent to the first Parliament as a representative of his native city of Sydney. Thirty years have passed since then, but never once has Mr. Dalley lost his hold on the sympathies and affections of his admiring countrymen. Whether valiantly defending his ministerial policy on the floor of the Legislature; or lucidly pointing out the path of progress to his fellow-countrymen in public meeting assembled, or in the hushed silence of a crowded court earnestly addressing a jury on some momentous issue; or at a great Catholic festival bearing eloquent testimony to the all-pervading truth and traditional grandeur of the Church of his fathers; or at a national demonstration, now recalling the pristine glories of the historical past, and anon making every one joyous through the instrumentality of his inherited Hibernian humour, Mr. Dalley has ever been an orator with a nation for his audience, and the most interesting figure in the eyes of his countrymen. He enjoys the unique distinction of being the only Australian citizen who has been called to the Privy Council—an honour conferred upon him mainly in recognition of his promptitude in organising and despatching an Australian contingent of soldiers to the seat of war in the Soudan a few years ago. Without expressing any opinion as to the propriety of his policy in this particular, concerning which there has been considerable discussion throughout the colonies, it is unquestionably true that Mr. Dalley's action in despatching a contingent to the Soudan had the effect of bringing Australia very prominently and dramatically before the eyes of the world, and of demonstrating to the older countries that a new nation was beginning to put forth its strength at the antipodes. Mr. Dalley was Acting-Premier of New South Wales at the time, in the absence of the head of the Government, Sir Alexander Stuart. It is related that Sir Alexander was one day last year escorting the Queen over the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London. A large picture of "The Australian Contingent to the Soudan" attracted Her Majesty's attention, and she paused in front of it for several minutes. Noticing a portrait affixed to the frame, Her Majesty inquired the name of the gentleman it represented. "That, Your Majesty," said Sir Alexander, "is the portrait of Mr. Dalley, which I have placed here to-day, because, though I am the Prime Minister, he it was who actually sent this body of men and officers to the Soudan." "An Englishman, I presume," remarked the Queen. "No, Your Majesty; Mr. Dalley is a native of New South Wales, and a man of Irish parentage, and a Roman Catholic, and there is not a more loyal subject of Your Majesty in all the British dominions." The Queen said no more, but Her Majesty may possibly have thought a little on the causes that operate to make Irishmen poor and discontented at home, but loyal and prosperous citizens abroad.
Speaking at the celebration of the national anniversary of 1886, at Sydney, at a time when Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues were engaged in drafting their scheme of Home Rule for Ireland, Mr. Dalley, in proposing "The day we celebrate," observed: "There has been perhaps no period of Irish history when this festival day of national and patriotic memories has been celebrated amid circumstances of such absorbing interest, widespread anxiety, and I may also say, of reasonable hope of a final and satisfactory settlement of the Irish question by the Imperial Government, as it has been to-day. That question is at this moment the one upon the solution of which the genius, the wisdom, and the liberality of Imperial statesmen are employed, for the twofold purpose of tranquillising Ireland and consolidating the Empire. It is admittedly a question of the supremest importance, and therefore of the greatest difficulty. It can only be determined by men who are prepared to do everything which the situation demands from their courageous statesmanship, and which a conscientious sense of duty requires. Should it be the privilege and, I may say, the blessing of those statesmen to deal with it successfully, their works will unfold a new page in the history of the achievements of modern legislation, and in the glory of the Empire. And in the stupendous work upon which great men are at this moment, while we sit here banqueting, engaged—to which they are devoting, the experience of illustrious lives—the statesmanship which has built up the grandeur and protected the renown of the Empire—and to which they are giving the value of services which are a kind of consecration of any cause—I say in this, perhaps of all works of modern times, the greatest in its difficulty, and the vastest in its consequences, they should be supported by our warmest sympathies and our purest prayers. It is under these circumstances that we are here this evening to celebrate a festival which appeals, and ever has appealed, to the emotional sentiment of one large section of the community, and the kindly feeling of all just and gentle men of all parts of the Empire. How different is our fortunate condition here to that of the Imperial statesmen who are called upon to face the situation in England. If this were a political demonstration—which it is not, and never should be—I might properly say that while our immediate duty is to provide for the removal of a paltry pecuniary deficit, which can be instantly effaced by a little self-denial and a slight immediate personal sacrifice there, at the heart of the Empire, the deficit to be met is one which has gone through centuries of accumulated indebtednessness—a deficit which retrenchment cannot help to extinguish nor fresh taxation efface; which can only be met and removed by heroic justice, and a statesmanship little short of inspiration."
Mr. Dalley was recently offered the high position of Chief Justice of New South Wales, in succession to the late Sir James Martin, but, with characteristic generosity, he declined the honour in favour of the present holder of the office—Sir Frederick Darley, a Dublin man, who followed the Munster circuit for nine years, and afterwards attained considerable distinction at the colonial bar.
"The ability of our countrymen in the administration of government and in the science of politics has been exhibited in our colonies, as well as in numerous instances at home. It was shown by Lords Wellesley, Lawrence and Mayo, in an empire which was founded by Clive and Hastings, and extended by Wellington and Gough. In Canada it was proved by Lords Monck and Lisgar, where also Sir Garnet Wolseley maintained the national reputation. In Australia, under circumstances of almost unparalleled difficulty, similar powers were exercised by several Irishmen in the civil and legal organisation of a new society, notably by the subject of the present sketch."
It is in these words that the Dublin University Magazine introduced its illustrated sketch of the colonial career of Sir William Foster Stawell, the recently retired Chief Justice of Victoria, and now the Lieutenant-Governor of that colony. As a junior member of the Irish bar, he thought he saw a quicker way to fame and fortune in a young and rising colony, and he was not disappointed in his anticipations. From his first appearance in Melbourne, he took a leading position at the bar, and on the erection of Victoria into a separate colony in 1851, his appointment as first Attorney-General of the newly-born state was only what every one expected. He had a herculean task before him, for the gold discoveries, happening at the same time, caused an immense influx of population, disorganised the whole machinery of government, and threw the colony at large into dire confusion. But, as his biographer has truly remarked: "The master mind off Sir William Stawell rose to the occasion, and it is with honest pride we record that some of his most efficient colleagues were Irishmen. Perseverance, integrity, and ability crowned an arduous struggle with success. Light and order were educed from darkness and chaos, and the prosperous and magnificent colony of Victoria emerged from the hopeless confusion in which it had its birth. To none was this more attributable than to Sir William Stawell." Perhaps in his dealings with the diggers he was somewhat too arbitrary at times; and it might have been better if he had not shared in the official impression that the gold-seekers were an essentially dangerous class, and must be kept in constam fear of the law. The unhappy collision between the diggers of Ballarat and the Imperial troops would never have occurred if this erroneous idea had been dissipated in time, and a more conciliatory policy adopted towards a large body of adventurous freemen, the great majority of whom were untainted by crime. At the same time, it cannot be denied that there were not a few lawless elements amongst the heterogeneous crowd that assembled with such marvellous rapidity on the Victorian gold-fields in 1851; and thing, after all, may have been ordered for the best when the helm of public affairs in the new and suddenly famous colony was intrusted to the safe and steady hand of Sir William Stawell. So experienced a judge as Sir Charles Gavan Duffy would seem to be of the same opinion, for, in one of his historical essays, he says: "It is certain that Mr. Stawell, who, as Attorney-General, long continued to direct the public affairs of the colony, was a man in many respects singularly well qualified for his office. Of a vigorous intellect, indefatigable industry, and clear integrity, he only wanted more sympathy with the mass of the community and less of that love of victory at all costs which is the weakness of strong men, to be an eminent ruler." Soon after this troublous epoch, Victoria received her new constitution, and Sir William Stawell entered the first Parliament as member for Melbourne, in company with his countryman and old opponent in debate. Sir John O'Shanassy. He at once resumed the Attorney-Generalship in the first responsible government that was formed, an office that was soon to be exchanged for the exalted one of Chief Justice, which he filled with honour and credit for well-nigh thirty years. In Mr. Justice Molesworth and Mr. Justice Higinbotham, both Dublin men, he had two accomplished colleagues on the bench of the Supreme Court. The former is a judicial authority of the highest standing, and he is said to be the only judge in the colonies whose decisions have invariably been upheld by the Privy Council. The latter is the idol and the champion of the working classes. As a visible testimony of their gratitude and esteem, they have erected his statue in the Trades' Hall, one of the most unique and extensive buildings in Melbourne, and a striking illustration of what the organisation of labour can accomplish. In the days when Mr. Justice Higinbotham was an active politician, and a democratic leader in parliament during a grave constitutional crisis, the fiery eloquence with which he espoused the popular cause, and resisted what he conceived to be the unjust and tyrannical interference of the Colonial Office in London with the legislative independence of the colonies, secured him the confidence and the attachment of the great bulk of the people to an extraordinary degree. Though no longer in Parliament, and though now hampered with judicial restraints, he is still their leading platform orator whenever the interests of labour are endangered or some new reform has to be gained, and the enthusiastic cheering that greets his appearance at a great public meeting in Melbourne is a pleasing proof that the populace is not invariably fickle. Mr. Higinbotham may be the exception that proves the rule, but here at least is one public man who has never forfeited the favour of a democratic people, and whose popularity has only been mellowed by time. On the recent retirement of Sir W. F. Stawell from the bench, Mr. Higinbotham was at once appointed to the Chief Justiceship.
To the cultivated tastes of Sir Redmond Barry, one of the first of Victorian judges, Melbourne, as is narrated elsewhere, is indebted for the possession of two of its noblest institutions—the public library and the university. A judicial Irishman of lesser degree—Judge Bindon—is to be credited with having established that splendid system of technological training, which has been in successful operation throughout Victoria for years, and which has done so much to elevate the tastes and improve the workmanship of thousands of young colonial artisans. The Hon. R. D. Ireland, Q.C., a member of the Irish Confederation of 1848 (as was also Judge Bindon), was for many years the most famous advocate at the Victorian bar, and one of the wittiest speakers in the Legislative Assembly. Many anecdotes of his readiness at repartee are narrated. On one occasion, when he occupied a seat on the front Opposition bench, a member of the government of the day, who bore a reputation for cunning smartness in political life, began to indulge in some depreciatory personal criticism of his parliamentary opponents. Said he, in pompous style: "On the front Opposition bench, Mr. Speaker, I see neither a Pitt, nor a Burke, nor a Sheridan." "No," quietly retorted Mr. Ireland, looking straight across the table with a twinkle in his eye, "but I see a Fox on the other side of the House." Every one present felt that this happy pun upon a great statesman's name fitted the ministerial speaker's public character like a glove, and he immediately subsided amidst general laughter. As senior law officer of the Crown, Mr. Ireland was the colleague of Sir John O'Shanassy and Sir Gavan Duffy in two Victorian Ministries. Sir Gavan was Minister of Public Works, and in that capacity had occasion to call for tenders for the completion of the Houses of Parliament in Melbourne. The bluestone found in the colony being rather difficult to work, the architect, a staunch Protestant, suggested alternative tenders, with Carrara marble as the material of construction. Some Scotchmen, who were interested in the selection of the local article, set the story afloat that His Holiness the Pope was the secret proprietor of the Carrara quarries, and that Sir Gravan's real object was to try to put Victorian money into the Pope's pocket. A "Papal Aggression" agitation on a small scale sprang up, and when, a few weeks afterwards, tenders were called for the construction of another public building, a no-Popery member rose in the House and gave notice of his intention to ask what material Sir Gavan meant to employ in this particular case. Sir Gavan happened to be absent when the question was formally put, but his colleague, Mr. Ireland—an Irish Protestant—was there, and he gave the honourable and suspicious member an answer that, if it did not remove his doubts, made him look supremely ridiculous, and squelched the stupid anti-Papal agitation amidst universal merriment. "Nothing was yet determined," said Mr. Ireland, "as to the material, but the Minister of Public Works was strongly suspected of meditating the use of Roman cement."
Daniel O'Connell once publicly complimented a young Mr. Plunkett as "the man who had liberated the county of Roscommon," meaning thereby that the young man to whom he referred had been chiefly instrumental in inducing his native county to follow in the footsteps of historic Clare, and send a Catholic representative to the House of Commons. In after years that young man became the Hon. John Hubert Plunkett, Q.C., Attorney-General of New South Wales, a position he filled for a quarter of a century under circumstances that are thus described in the representative organ of the colony, the Sydney Morning Herald: "As Attorney-General under the old régime, Mr. Plunkett was both grand jury and public prosecutor, and it is something, indeed, to say that in those days of irresponsibility, Mr. Plunkett showed not only great ability, but the highest independence and impartiality. Nothing could have been more high-minded or public-spirited than his official conduct." In one conspicuous instance he vindicated the outraged majesty of the law with a spirit and determination that brought him some temporary odium, but which, when angry passions gave place to quiet thought, won him the respect and admiration of every honest man on the Australian continent. In these early days, the unfortunate aborigines were treated as worse than dogs by the white men who had dispossessed them of their hunting-grounds, and had done them the still deadlier wrong of familiarising them with the worst vices of civilisation. They were indiscriminately shot down on the slightest provocation, and often without any provocation at all. The loss of a white man's sheep or bullock was deemed sufficient justification for murdering in cold blood every black that could be found for miles around. Mr. Plunkett resolved on exercising his authority to check this wholesale destruction of human life, and, by a salutary lesson, to teach all inhuman white scoundrels that the blacks, equally with themselves, were under the protection of the law. An outrage of more than ordinary atrocity soon gave him the opportunity of enforcing this much-needed lesson. A party of ten Europeans, hearing that a number of aborigines were encamped in their neighbourhood, sallied forth with loaded guns to have what they called a "little sport." Stealing on the unsuspecting savages, they opened fire and shot down thirty of the hapless creatures, men, women, and children being included in this frightful and unprovoked massacre. The "sportsmen" returned to their homes well pleased with the success that had attended their shooting excursion. So blunted was their moral sense, that the thought that they had committed a great crime would probably be the last to enter their minds. Hundreds of blacks had been murdered in a similar manner, and the law had called no white man to account. So what reason had they to fear punishment for what they had done? But in this anticipation they were mistaken. The ugly facts somehow leaked out and reached the ears of Mr. Plunkett, whose indignation was fired by the recital. He there and then determined that these horrible offenders should not go unpunished. Setting to work immediately, in spite of the formidable obstacles that were thrown in his way, he succeeded in collecting sufficient evidence to place the whole party on their trial. At every stage he was obstructed by influential friends of the prisoners and numerous sympathisers, who refused to believe that killing the blacks was really murder. Every effort was made to suppress the evidence, but without avail. With invincible courage and determination, Mr. Plunkett prosecuted his self-imposed mission of mercy to a dying race, elicited link by link the whole dreadful story, and awakened the slumbering conscience of the nation to the iniquity that was working in their midst. Truth and justice finally prevailed; seven of the murderers expiated their crime on the scaffold, and the poor blacks were in the future treated more like human beings and less like legitimate game for every white scoundrel in possession of a gun.
When parliamentary government came into operation in New South Wales, Mr. Plunkett sat for some years in the Legislative Assembly, and at a later period he became a member, and was for a time president, of the Legislative Council. Throughout his political career he was distinguished for the same sterling honesty of purpose, strict impartiality, and generous consideration for all classes of citizens, that signalised his official actions as permanent Attorney-General of the colony. "I confess," said Sir Gavan Duffy, in speaking of Mr. Plunkett at a public gathering, "I am proud to see a man of my own creed and nation, who for five-and-twenty years had a power almost uncontrolled over the course of legislation, secure for himself the adherence of the most adverse classes by his systematic liberality and justice. Every clergyman of the Church of England voted for this Irish Catholic; the Wesleyans supported him; the Jews supported him. And why? Because when power was centred in his hands, he protected and secured their religious liberty." To the sorrow of the nation whom he had served so well, John Hubert Plunkett died in Melbourne in 1869. His funeral oration was pronounced by Father Isaac Moore, an eloquent Jesuit then attached to the Australian Church, but who was subsequently recalled to Ireland, and was one of the select preachers on the memorable occasion of the opening of the great cathedral of Armagh. Father Moore truly remarked of the deceased statesman that "his example, his integrity and his blameless life, secured for him, and indirectly for us, the respect of those who by their early associations and early training, had imbibed against Catholics a host of prejudices. Nor during his sway of high office has he been associated with anything questionable. He was esteemed by all, and by all beloved. When he came to these colonies, he found the Church which did not need aid richly endowed, while the Roman Catholics, who were poor, were obliged to provide for the education of their children and for divine service unassisted. Not only this, but in other things they were made to feel that they were not on a footing of equality. Even in such a state of society, one liberal spirit can do a great deal towards a reform. One such spirit alone, so isolated and against such odds, did produce a great effect. It is mainly to him whose memory we honour, to him and his great fellow-champion of liberty in the parent colony, Sir Richard Bourke, that we in common with other denominations, owe the religious freedom we now possess."
The Hon. Edward Butler, Q.C., is another cherished name in the annals of the bar of New South Wales. As a young man fresh from Kilkenny College, he was the coadjutor of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy in reviving the Nation after the storm of '48 had passed away. Amongst his contributions were the graceful ballads that appeared in the new Nation, over the signature of "Eblana." When he made the parent Australian colony his home, he wrote extensively for the Sydney press, besides occupying a seat in Parliament and appearing as counsel in most of the important cases that came before the higher courts. In 1873, whilst he was holding office as Attorney-General in the Ministry of Sir Henry Parkes, the Chief Justiceship became vacant, and every one expected that Mr. Butler, by virtue of his position as senior law officer of the colony and his acknowledged pre-eminence at the bar, would have received due promotion to the bench of the Supreme Court. But the Premier, Sir Henry Parkes, an unscrupulous politician who, on more than one memorable occasion, has exhibited a rabid anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bias, to the astonishment of all Australia, passed over his gifted Attorney-General and gave the highest of judicial offices to a man who was Mr. Butler's junior at the bar. Naturally after such an unwarrantable reflection, and such a gross violation of the proprieties, Mr. Butler at once severed his connection with the Ministry, and never held office again during the few remaining years of his existence. Sir James Martin, the barrister who was so unjustly promoted to the Chief Justiceship over the head of Mr. Butler, was also an Irishman, but one of a different stamp to the noble-minded, unselfish, and patriotic Edward Butler. Sir James delivered many able addresses from time to time, but there is little in any of them to suggest that their author was a native of Cork. In this respect he differed very much from his colleague, Mr. Justice Faucett, a Dublin man, who is frequently the chosen mouthpiece of his countrymen and fellow-Catholics. In the early autocratic days of the colony the Irish Catholics were fortunate in having a valiant defender on the judicial bench in the person of Sir Roger Therry, whose vigorous addresses and well-reasoned pamphlets did much to stem the tide of intolerance that at one time threatened to flood the country. For kindred services to the faith of his fathers in subsequent days, Sir Patrick Jennings, the Prime Minister of New South Wales last year, was highly honoured by the late Sovereign Pontiff. Besides being in the front rank of the politicians of the parent Australian colony, Sir Patrick continues to sturdily champion the interests of Catholicity, when assailed from time to time for political or party purposes. At the present time (April, 1887) he is attending the Imperial Conference in London as the representative delegate of the senior colony of Australasia.
Queensland, though the youngest of the colonies, is not without its roll of distinguished Irishmen. At the head of its list of honour stands the valued name of the Hon. Kevin Izod O'Doherty, M.D. The doctor's first exile to Australia, as most people know, was the reverse of voluntary, for he was sent out by the British Government in a convict ship, in company with honest John Martin, under a sentence of ten years' transportation for his connection with the events of '48. The year 1854 brought a conditional pardon to such of the Irish exiles as had not escaped to the "land of the free and the home of the brave." Liberty was given them to reside anywhere "out of the United Kingdom." Dr. O'Doherty then took up his residence in Paris, and very justifiably ignored the condition attached to the Queen's pardon, in snatching a stolen visit to his native city of Dublin, and returning to the continent with a faithful and gifted bride—"Eva," the poetess of the Nation—who had promised the young medical student when he was going into captivity, that she would wait for him, and who had devotedly kept her word. Two years later the pardon was made wholly unconditional, and Dr O'Doherty, after spending some time in Ireland, resolved to establish his home in the new colony of Queensland, which had just been called into existence. Brisbane, the capital of the infant state, presented him with a seat in the Legislative Assembly, where for years he showed in a marked manner the innate capacity of the Irishman to work with perfect harmony a complete system of local self-government in a mixed community. The doctor has himself given an interesting and humorous account of his first entry into colonial political life. "When I had been only a short time in the colony, and before I had connected myself in any way with public affairs, I was bodily laid hold of and forced into public life, simply because I was known as an Irish exile. I warned my friends who had invited me to take part in public affairs that I was no orator, and that all I could do was to give them an honest vote, but they replied that that was all they wanted, an honest vote being a great deal better than a glib tongue with no honesty in it. A stalwart Irish Orangeman went round and got signatures to the requisition inviting me to stand, and another Protestant, a wealthy native of the colony, insisted on proposing my election, not only on that, but on every subsequent occasion, during the six years that I represented the constituency of Brisbane. It must not, however, be imagined that all the Orangemen in the colony were like my friend. I had rather a comical experience to the contrary. On the day of the first election, before the result of the poll was declared, I had to attend a meeting at some distance from Brisbane, and on my way back that night, meeting on the road a car coming from the town, I shouted to one of the occupants, 'Pray tell me how the election has gone on? 'Oh,' said the person addressed, with a fine North of Ireland brogue, 'bad enough. That b——y Papist, O'Doherty, has got in.' This story, however, would not be complete if I did not add that this same man, black Northern as he was, voted for me at the next election, and, moreover, became a very good patient of mine." The doctor was subsequently invited by the Governor of Queensland and the Executive Council to take a seat in the Legislative Council, and he continued to be a member of that chamber up to the date of his departure from the colony. From the beginning of his Australian career Dr. O'Doherty has been an avowed Irish Nationalist, and the acknowledged leader of his countrymen in Queensland; but, though he never concealed the strength of his convictions on the great question that lay nearest to his heart, he at the same time never forfeited the goodwill and esteem of his fellow-citizens of other nationalities. They, in fact, admired him all the more for his life-long consistency in being, to quote the phrase of one of themselves, "as ardent in the cause of his youth as though his head were still untouched by the snows of time." The crowning honour conferred by the Irish in Australia on this true and tried champion of the liberties of their race, was on the occasion of the great Irish-Australian Convention held in Melbourne towards the close of 1883, when delegates from all parts of the southern continent and the adjacent islands assembled in force, and enthusiastically elected the aged "Young Irelander" to the presidential chair.
Other Irishmen, whose names are prominent in the history of Queensland, are Sir Maurice O'Connell, a relative of the Liberator, and a European soldier of distinction, who was on four occasions the acting-governor of the colony, and one of the first presidents of its Legislative Council; Sir Arthur Palmer, Prime Minister for five years, and one of the most successful pioneer colonists; Sir Joshua Peter Bell, a Kildare man, who, after holding office in the lower house as colonial treasurer, was called to the presidency of the upper chamber; the Hon. H. E. King, a Limerick man, who for years was the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly; the Hon. John Murtagh Macrossan, a working miner, who, by force of character and natural gifts, rose to the position of political head of the Mining department; the Hon. Patrick Perkins, the ministerial colleague of Mr. Macrossan and administrator of the department of Lands; and Denis O'Donovan, parliamentary librarian, and the accomplished author of "Memories of Rome."
Oftentimes has it been remarked how Irishmen are so singularly successful in governing the Greater Britain that occupies so large a share of the world's surface; whilst they, themselves, have been systematically denied the privilege of ruling in the land of their birth. It is a strange and striking anomaly that Ireland should be the only place on the face of the earth where Irishmen are not permitted to govern. History shows how Irish governors have been mainly instrumental in building up and consolidating the colonial empire of Britain, and yet, during the currency of the nineteenth century, Ireland has never had a viceroy chosen from her own distinguished sons. Englishmen and Scotchmen have been regularly sent to govern a nation that supplied rulers to every quarter of the civilised globe. Carrying coals to Newcastle were wisdom in comparison with this, and it is no small satisfaction to know, that such a ridiculous and exasperating state of things is visibly coming to an inglorious end. It is a matter of absolute certainty that the Irishmen who have manifested the highest qualities of government in distant colonies, and gained the esteem and affection of the mixed communities whom they were appointed to rule, would have been equally successful in the land of their birth, if only the opportunity had been given them at home for the exercise of their commanding abilities. Foremost in the list of those Irish-Australian viceroys stands the honoured name of Sir Richard Bourke, the most able and the most popular of all the Sydney governors. "He had," says Mr. Sutherland, in his "History of Australia," "the talent and energy of Macquarie (one of the early governors of New" South Wales), but he had in addition a frank and hearty manner, which insensibly won the hearts of the colonists, who, for years after his departure, used to talk affectionately of him as 'good old Governor Bourke.' During his term of office, the colony continued in a sober way to make steady progress. Governor Bourke, on his landing, found that much discontent existed with reference to the land question. It was understood that any one who applied for land to the Government, and showed that he could make a good use of it, would receive a suitable area as a free grant. But many abuses crept in under this system. In theory, all men had an equal right to obtain the land they required; but in practice it was seldom possible for one who had no friends among the officials at Sydney to obtain a grant. An immigrant had often to wait for months and see his application unheeded; while in the meantime a few favoured individuals were calling day after day at the Land Office, and receiving grant after grant of the choicest parts of the colony. "Governor Bourke made a new arrangement There were to be no more free grants. In the settled districts, all land was to be put up for auction; if less than five shillings an acre was offered, it was not to be sold; when the offers rose above that price, it was to be given to the highest bidder. This was regarded as a very fair arrangement; and, as a large sum of money was annually received from the sale of land, the government was able to resume the practice—discontinued in 1818—of assisting poor people in Europe to emigrate to the colony. Beyond the surveyed districts, the land was occupied by squatters, who settled down where they pleased, but had no legal right to their 'runs,' as they were called. With regard to these lands, new regulations were urgently required, for the squatters, who were liable to be turned off at a moment's notice, felt themselves in a very precarious position. Besides, as their sheep increased rapidly and the flocks of neighbouring squatters interfered with one another, violent feuds sprang up and were carried on with much bitterness. To put an end to these evils, Governor Bourke ordered the squatters to apply for the land they required. He promised to have boundaries marked out; but gave notice that he would in future charge a small rent, proportioned to the number of sheep the land could support. In return he would secure to each squatter the peaceable occupation of his run, until the time came when it should be required for sale. This regulation did much to secure the stability of squatting interests in New South Wales. After ruling well and wisely for six years, Governor Bourke retired, in the year 1837, amid the sincere regrets of the whole colony."
A contemporary eye-witness, Mr. Marjoribanks, speaks of Sir Richard Bourke as being "extremely popular amongst all classes. He was a man that scorned oppression of any kind, but he was remarkably conscientious in endeavouring to do justice to all. Whatever he considered right, he carried into effect boldly and fearlessly, disregarding equally threats and flattery. He was so much beloved, indeed, and his character for the conscientious discharge of his duty is still held in such veneration, that I have seen tears come to the eyes of many of the people in that country whenever his name was mentioned. They collected several thousand pounds for a monument to him, which was on the eve of being erected when I left Sydney, and he will be the first governor to whom that honour has been paid. He returned home by way of Chili, on the west coast of South America, and his fame had gone before him, as, when he landed in Valparaiso, the authorities there turned out to pay him every respect in their power."
The monument here referred to assumed the form of a splendid statue, erected in the Sydney Domain, and bearing an inscription which is an apt summary of the good work achieved by this great Irish-Australian governor: "This statue of Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Bourke, K.C.B., is erected by the people of New South Wales, to record his able, honest, and benevolent administration from 1831 to 1837. Selected for the government at a period of singular difficulty, his judgment, urbanity, and firmness justified the choice. Comprehending at once the vast resources peculiar to this colony, he applied them for the first time systematically to its benefit. He voluntarily divested himself of the prodigious influence arising from the assignment of penal labour, and enacted just and salutary laws for the amelioration of penal discipline. He was the first governor who published satisfactory accounts of the public receipts and expenditure. Without oppression or detriment to any interest, he raised the revenue to a vast amount, and from its surplus realised extensive plans of immigration. He established religious equality on a just and firm basis, and sought to provide for all, without distinction of sect, a sound and adequate system of national education. He constructed various works of permanent utility. He founded the flourishing settlement of Port Phillip, and threw open the wilds of Australia to pastoral enterprise. He established savings banks, and was the patron of the first mechanics' institute. He created an equitable tribunal for determining upon claims to grants of lands. He was the warm friend of the liberty of the press. He extended trial by jury after its almost total suspension for many years. By these and numerous other measures for the moral, religious and general improvement of all classes, he raised the colony to unexampled prosperity, and retired amid the reverent and affectionate regrets of the people, having won their confidence by his integrity, their gratitude by his services, their admiration by his public talents, and their esteem by his private worth."
Amongst the successors of Sir Richard Bourke in the governorship of New South Wales, Sir John Young (afterwards Lord Lisgar), a County Cavan man; and Sir Hercules Robinson, a son of Westmeath, were perhaps the most conspicuous for their executive ability and the widespread popularity they acquired. A ripe scholar and a gifted speaker, the public addresses of Sir Hercules Robinson were invariably of a high order of excellence, and well merited! the honour of collection and republication in permanent form that has since been paid to them. His brother. Sir William Robinson, who now rules over the extensive colony of South Australia, has attained distinction in another field as a musician and a composer. South Australia was governed for a number of years previously by a genial Galway man, in the person of Sir Dominick Daly, "a thorough Irish gentleman, who during his term of office endeared himself to the people of South Australia by his courtesy and affability, and by the great interest he always manifested in everything affecting the welfare of the colony." Even Mr. G. W. Rusden, who, in his voluminous "History of Australia," has but too frequently allowed his anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bias to warp his calm and critical judgment, admits that "the urbanity of Sir Dominick Daly won golden opinions, and his death at the close of the customary term of government, elicited such earnest feeling as to prove the hold he had gained upon the people by his genuine sympathy with their interests."
Another authority declares: "Of all the different governors of South Australia, none had been more generally esteemed than Sir Dominick. Combining the most genial manners with the greatest tact—thoroughly comprehending the nature of a constitutional government, and having no political prejudices, he managed in a remarkable degree to gain the sincere good-will of all classes in the colony." Sir Dominick's immediate predecessor. Sir Richard McDonnell, was an Irishman of the most active and energetic type. Not content with governing the settled districts of South Australia, he engaged personally in several exploring tours through the unknown regions to the northward, and thus added a large extent of valuable pastoral territory to his colony. It was during Sir Richard's administration that responsible government was inaugurated in South Australia, and, by his wise guidance and conspicuous tact, the system soon worked as smoothly and as successfully in South Australia as in the other colonies. The first parliament elected under responsible government appointed as its Speaker the foremost Irish colonist of his time, Sir George Kingston, who presided in that capacity over the House of Assembly for many years. Both Sir Richard McDonnell and Sir George Kingston rejoiced in their nationality, and, during their residence in the colony, invariably took a leading part in the Hibernian festivals on St. Patrick's Day. It was another Irish governor—Sir George Bowen—who, as has been remarked by Dr. O'Doherty, "well and duly laid the foundation of a free government in the colony of Queensland," and who in after times was a popular ruler in New Zealand and Victoria. More than one Irishman has been placed over the little island colony of Tasmania, but the greatest name in her history belongs to the son of a United Irishman, who was expatriated by the British Government during the early years of the century. The infant son accompanied his exiled father to the antipodes, and took a glorious revenge on the Imperial authorities by becoming in course of time Sir Richard Dry, first Speaker of the Tasmanian House of Assembly, and Prime Minister at the time of his lamented death. Mr. Fenton, the historian of the colony, describes Sir Richard as the "most popular statesman Tasmania ever possessed. He was known and beloved by all. He inherited a magnificent estate from his father, and possessed ample means wherewith to indulge the generous impulses of his warm-hearted nature. His liberality knew no bounds. Indeed, at one time it had well-nigh crippled his resources."
In New Zealand, Irishmen have always been well to the front, and in consequence the Hibernian roll of eminence in this enterprising State would occupy a large amount of printed space if given in full. Sir George Grey, son of an Irish mother and one of the most ardent of antipodean advocates for home rule, has a unique record, extending over half-a-century, as a fearless explorer, a versatile author, a successful governor and a distinguished statesman. He is the Gladstone of the south, the "grand old man" of New Zealand. Sir James Prendergast, Chief Justice; Sir G. Maurice O'Rorke, Speaker of the House of Representatives; the Hon. P. A. Buckley, Colonial Secretary; the Hon. John Ballance, Native Minister; the Hon. Alfred Tole, Minister of Justice; and the Hon. J. E. Fitzgerald, first Superintendent of the Province of Canterbury, and an orator of great power and pathos, worthily uphold the reputation of the old land amongst the public men of New Zealand.