Saturday 2 May 1868
LOYAL LIBERAL REFORM ASSOCIATION.
A public meeting was held at the Town Hall, Prahran, last night, to inaugurate the Prahran branch of tlio Loyal Liberal Reform Association The Mayor of the borough, Mr Young, occupied the chair. The building, a very large one, was well filled. Mr Crews rose to move the first resolution.
He said they had henrd the principles of the association read by the chairman, and believing that those principles would be endorsed by a very large majority of the people in the country, he proposed that the meeting should approve of the objects and purposes of the Loyal Liberal Reform Association, and pledge itself to give the organisation all legal and constitutional support. In the old country it had been found, on all great occasions, and whenever any great reform was mooted, or when it became necessary to protect the rights and privileges of the pooplc, political associations for the purpose of united action were formed. That being the case, and knowing that the liberties of the people were in danger here, they were of opinion that the time had arrived when, in defence of, their liberties, an association should be formed, in order that they might be enabled to act unitedly in defence
of those liberties. Their opponents had an organisation, and when bad men combined, it was time that good men should be united. The first principle of the association was to strengthen and protect public opinion. Their opponents told them that they were the Constitutionalists, and desired to abide by the Constitution. The Loyal Liberal Reform Association asserted that they did not desire to go outside the Constitution, but to do all things constitutionally ; and as for their loyalty, they had just as much, if not more than their opponents. In deciding public questions, the ultimate appeal had always been to the people. ‘When public opinion in England had been definitely expressed on any particular point, the House of Lords did not act stubbornly, or throw, tho country into confusion by their stubbornness. With that experience before them, it became necessary to show the Legislative Council that if they did not know what was constitutional political action, they mnst be taught. It was with a view of teaching them that combinations of the character of the association were inaugurated, and through their instrumentality tho voice of the people was brought to bear. They had been told that Sir Charles Darling could have the £20,000, and that the Upper House was prepared to concede the point if they were allowed to vote for it in a separate measure. No one could fail to see that the Council’s asking the Assembly to send up the grant in a
separate measure was an unconstitutional request. (Cheers,) The Constitution Act declared that tho Upper House had not the right to amend, alter or vary a money bill. If the grant was sent up in a separate bill it would be conceding the power to the Council to alter, vary or amend, such bills. Though they might he prevented by the Constitution Act from doing so, by distinct resolution in the Council Chamber, they had only to bring a pressure to bear, which they deemed irresistible, and the alteration would be made in accordance with their wishes. Their mere dictation, therefore, as to what should be contained in a money bill was a usurpation of power and a breach of the Constitution Act. The first principle of the society aimed at the strengthening and protecting public opinion. The second principle aimed at the reform of the Upper House, in order that it might be come what it was intended to be, a moderating power in the State, working for and with the people, and not, as -it had hitherto been, antagonistic to public opinion and a hindrance to the material progress of the country. ‘What they desired to do with the Upper House was to give it a suspensive, but not a vetoing, power. It was intended, and they were always told that it was necessary, to have a second Chamber as a check to hasty legislation. If they gave a suspensive power to that House, they did all that was required ef them as a safeguard against hasty legislation. But because they gave the power of checking hasty legislation, it was not necessary that they should stop legislation altogether. Another object of the association was to facilitate the settlement of the people on the lands and promote colonial industry. Although they were proud of their Land Act, and believed that its working was attributable to the fact of their having an honest Minister of Lands, they could not shut their eyes to tho conviction that if it had been manipulated by the opponents of the present Ministry, by the Administration ruling prior to that of Mr M’CulIoch, or by the party now seeking to gain power, they would not have had reason to be proud of their liberal land law. Although the credit was due to Mr Grant that the act had worked beneficially for the colony, it was well known that there were many alterations necessary to make it more easy for persons to settle on the lands. The tariff, with all its defects, had also been a great boon to the country, and had given employment to hundreds who would otherwise have been idle. The third clause of the association’s programme meant, therefore, that they should alter the Land Bill in a more liberal direction, and amend the tariff in such a way as would give greater encouragement to the industries of the country; and with a good Land Bill and a good tariff they would go on and prosper, and see things more prosperous in the colony than had yet been witnessed. Another of the principles of the association had reference to the protection of the registry from fraud and faggot votes. It would be the duty of the association to see that the names of electors on the roll were men entitled to be there, and to fight the battle in the registration courts, in order to be prepared for any emergency that might arise. It would also be a duty to recommend men of stanch principles as candidates for the various districts, and also to lessen the expense of elections. By combination only could this be done. However true and stanch men might be, they could not afford to fight an election every six or twelve months. It would be the duty of the association to assist such men, and conduct the various elections. The Governor, by despatches from
Downing-street, was instructed not to coerce either branch of the Legislature. But these continual dissolutions were neither more nor less than attempts to coerce the representatives of the people. Men who had come fresh from the oountry, and had incurred considerable expense in defence of their principles, could not afford to be told that unless they assented to certain measures they would be sent back again and subjected to additional expense. If the Governor lent himself to any such proceeding, he would be acting in direct violation of the despatches from Downing-street. The necessity for retrenchment and economy in the public service was patent to all. The conservation of all political rights, and the feeling of loyalty and affection to the British throne and institutions was tho principal object for which they contended. They desired, above all things, to preserve their political rights, and they wore determined that the rights they possessed should not be wrested from them. They would not allow any despatch from Downing-street to rob them of those rights. It was only by the promulgation, through lectures, public meetings, and publications they could expect to enlighten those who had not the same facilities for judging of the true position of political affairs as those in and around localities within reach of the daily press ; and they hoped to accomplish this by the organisation which he asked their approval of. Mr Charles Cook said he seconded the resolution from a sense of duty. He was present to lend assistance in the inauguration of a branch of the association in the district, because he felt it a duty to step forward and protect not only his individual interests, but tho interests of his children. They were present to inaugurate and to approve of the objects of the association. He was sure that
there was nothing to which exception could be taken. It went- in for the rights of the people as they themselves understood them. He thought-they would agree with him that when their liberties were infringed it would he unworthy of them as Englishmen if they did not take steps for their preservation. That there was a necessity for doing so was most obvious – It had come to his knowledge that
a counter association had been organised, the principles of which were not printed on a plain and substantial paper like that used by the Loyal Liberal Reform Association, bnt it must needs be on a cream-laid and gilt-edged, dilettanti kind of paper, extremely emblematic of the organisation. Upon this cream-laid paper the objects of the association were set forth, as well as their views of constitutional government. By means of this association it was proposed to unite the friends of constitutional government, having several objects in view. The first of these objects was the government of the colony according to law and in conformity with the recognised principles of tlie Constitution. He was delighted to hear this, for he had always understood that the government of the colony according to law meant the rule of the majority, and until the minority was turned into a majority the constitutional precept must be recognised. The second clause of tho programme of their opponents was the effecting of all changes which experience might prove to be desirable in the Constitution or the laws of the colony by the regular and legitimate means provided by the Constitution itself. They did not tell the people what they were going to do with what the Constitution did not provide for. To judge by their recent conduct, they wanted to go outside the Constitution, and do somothing not provided by it. The Upper House and the Lower House were at loggerheads, and no one could see his way out of the fix. Even the Governor, with all his talent and experience brought from other Colonies, was unable to do so. The third object of the Constitutional Association was the administration of public affairs for the benefit of the country as a whole, and not with a view to the advantage of any particular class, sect, or party. This was one of those vague and nice definitions which men who had been in the colony for some years and knew, the old Victorian Association, which was started under the same auspices, some properly appreciate: there were the names of O’Shanassy, Sladen and Highett in the foremost rank of the promoters, but he did not see the name of Charles Gavan Duffy. The prospectus made up for that omission. Although Mr Duffy was not in the confidence of the new association, there was a greater than Mr Duffy: there was the honorable Edward Langton. It was the first time he know, or that he believed the world knew, that the individual he had named was entitled to the appellation of honorable. Whether he had been made a Minister, or it was intended to make a Minister of him, it was rather a significant fact that the prospectus of the Constitutional Association of Victoria left out the name of Mr Duffy, and inserted in its stead that of the honorable Edward Langton. The significance attached to this was, that there was a split in the camp. This Association also talked of their desire to maintain the connection with the mother conntry, and the recognition of the fact that the Queen was one of the branches of the Legislature of Victoria. In that announcement they were too late. It had been distinctly embodied in the programme of the Loyal Liberal Association. There was this difference between the two associations, that the annual subscription to the Constitutional was two guineas per annum, with further donations as deemed advisable. The very terms shewed that it was not intended to invite tho people to join the association. In the company of hon. gentleman and esquiree, of which there was a profusion in the prospectus of the Constitutional Association (not forgetting the hon. Mr Langton), the working man would evidently be out of place. But it was the more necessary, knowing such an organisation existed, that preparations should bo made to meet force by force, and if money was required to do it, money must be found. Organisations of such a character as the one contemplated had in England effected great things. That there had arisen a necessity for organisations must have been patent to every intelligent man who had studied the events of tho first six weeks. Responsible government had come to an end. The Governor had gone to sleep. Whilst he had responsible advisers the Governor, like the Queen, could do no wrong, but the Governor, to shield himself from the mischievous results of his lethargic action, retained, his late advisers in a position which enabled him to keep just within the verge of the Constitution without securing its vitality. These were evils brought about by the obstructive action of the Legislative Council, to counteract which in future they were asked to unite, and by a long pull and a strong pull effectually prevent a recurrence of such disasters as had been -witnessed during the last two months. He cordially seconded the motion. An amendment was submitted by a shoe maker, but on the chairman ruling that it was out of order it was withdrawn, and the motion was put and carried. Mr George Rolfe rose to move the second resolution. He said it had been observed by a local journal that the Upper House was as truly a representative body as the Assembly, In a despatch dated the 1st of January, the Duke of Buckingham had referred to the large amount of property represented by the Legislative Council, without making any reference to the large amount of property represented by the Legislative Assembly. In answer to those statements he desired to mention that the rateable property of the colony, fairly valued, amounted to 37 millions sterling, which amount, divided amongst the 11,000 electors of the Upper House, would give only one elector to an average of £3500. But as there was a very large amount of property besides land unrepresented in the Upper House, such as merchandise, mining scrip, bank shares and insurance shares, which would equal or might exceed the amount named — if that was recognised there would he only one elector to £7000 worth of property. He asked why should not all kinds of property he recognised. If the Council was to represent anything, it ought to be all interests in the State. The electors of members of the Assembly included the manhood of the colony, and included also the electors of the Council, and represented consequently the pastoral interest, the agricultural interest, the mining interest, the trading interest and tlie manufacturing interest. It represented, in fact, the wealth and intelligence of the colony. He asked them who had so great a right as the Assembly to deal with the taxation and appropriation of the colony. We were taxed here at the rate of 45s per head of population. Taking 11,000 as the number of the electors of the Upper House, and allowing the families of those eloctors to number three each, they would represent 33,000 of the population, or a sum of £74,250 would be paid in taxation by the electors of the Upper House. The remaining portion of the population, then, paid £1,410,750 in taxation. There were 625,000 people paying this, and these were represented by the Legislative Assembly. (Cheers.) Place the sum paid by the majority against the £74,250 paid by the Council, and where was the truth of the statement made by the journal to which he had referred. That statement was not true. (Cheers.) It was for them to say if 33,000 people should dictate as to the manner and matter of taxation and appropriation in this colony. It came, in fact, to this: should 33,000 people dictate to 625,000 people. (No.) It was the great privilege of the majority that it should rule. It was a principle stated by Allison in history. (Cheers.) Our Constitution was made in 1854, ‘by a Legislature a portion of which consisted of the nominees of Downing-street, and the other portion of the representatives of a section of the people, which section represented only one in every hundred. It was said that the English Constitution was the basis of our Constitution, but here they had given us a Constitution without any of the checks which the British Constitution had. There was a check on the House of Lords, but hero there was no check on the Upper House. The members of that body wore elected for ten years, six members going out every two years. But the Governor had no power to increase the numbers of that House now, or to dissolve it. Therefore, we had a Constitution with no check to it, and, worst of all, the people of the colony had no voice in the election of the members of the Council. The Legislature which framed the Constitution took on itself to pass it, and when the majority of the people wished to be heard against it, their outcry was disregarded. Therefore they had no voice in the election of a House which had always proved itself
obstructive to the best interests of the people. (Cheers.) He would ask to’m be allowed to read a quotation from a work on the British Constitution to which we were told ours assimilated with reference to the powers of the House of Commons, which body resembled the House of Assembly here. It was from Eischel’s English Constitution : — ?’ In 1860 the Lords, after the income tax and the stamp tax had been assented to by the Crown, rejected the bill for the abolition of the paper duty. On Lord Palmerston’s motion, on this occasion, three resolutions were adopted: — 1st. That the right of granting of aids and supplies to the Crown is in the Commons alone. 2nd. That, although the Lords had occasionally exercised the right of rejecting bills of different kinds, yet the exercise of that power was justly regarded with peculiar jealousy, as affecting the rights of the Commons to grant the supplies and to provide the ways and means for the service of the year. 3rd. That this House has in its own hands the power so to impose and remit taxes, and to frame bills of supply, that the right of the Commons as to the matter, manner, measure and time may be maintained inviolate.’ Another short extract from the same authority: : — ‘At an early period the granting of supplies by the Commons was the means of transferring all power to that House; the greater independence which the Lower House has achieved since the Reform Bill renders this power al most unlimited. It is a fact not to be denied, that as the kingly power had before descended to a seat lower than that of Parliament, the House of Peers now took rank in the Government below the Commons. It will ever stand in history that the House of Commons became the true governing power in Great Britain in 1832, and from that date the other power existed, not by their own strength, but by a general agreement founded on considerations as well of broad utility as of decorum and ancient affection. In like terms does Disraeli describe the position of the Upper House in relation to the Lower: ‘ All the power of the country is concentrated in the Commons ; the Upper House itself and the monarch have publicly declared and acknowledged that the will of tho House of Commons is decisive ; a simple vote of the Commons urged the Duke of Wellington, in 1832, to declare in the Upper House that he was forced to abandon his master in the most difficult and painful circumstances. The present – House of Lords originates nothing ; it has, in fact, announced itself as a mere court of registration, and if, by any chance, it ventures to alter some miserable detail in a clause of a bill that excites public interest, what a clatter through the country at conservative banquets, got up by rural attorneys- about the power, authority, and independence of the House of Lords. The Honse of Peers was not in faver of tho abolition of the corn tax, but the Duke of Wellington declared that it must yield, and it meekly submitted.’ He would now read them a quotation from Lord Brougham’s speech on the debate on the Corn Laws in 1832 ; and he would first of all mention that he was speaking of the people whose cause he and others who worked with him were now advocating. This was what he said : — ‘ But if there is the mob, there is the people also. I speak now of the middle olasses — of those hundreds of thousands of respectable persons — the most numerous, and by far the most wealthy order in the community; for if all your lordships’ castles, manors, rights of warren and rights of chase, -with all your broad acres, were brought to the hammer, and sold at fifty years’ purchase, the price would fly up and kick the beam when counterpoised by the vast and solid riches of those middle classes, who are also the genuine depositories of sober, rational, intelligent and honest English feeling. Unable though they be to round a period or point an epigram, they are solid right-judging men, and, above all, not given to change. If they have a fault, it is that error on tho right side — a suspicion of State quacks; — a dogged love of existing institutions — a perfect contempt of all political nostrums.’ (Cheers.) That was Lord Brougham’s idea of the masses. One other little quotation, and he had done. He would refer again to Lord Brougham, and state that when ho delivered this speech he was speaking, of the House of Lords and the objects of that House. The speech was delivered at a time of great popular excitement, when the House of Lords had expressed its determination to throw out the Reform Bill, and when the Duke of Wellington had to barricade his windows ; said Lord Brougham : ‘ We and our order and its privileges are the objects of the people’s hatred, as the only obstacles which stand between them and the gratification of their most passionate desire. The whole body of the aristocracy must expect to share this fate, and be
exposed to feelings such as these. Do I hear it constantly said that the bill is rejected by all the aristocracy. Favor, and a good number of supporters, our adversaries allow it has among the people ; the Ministers, too; are for it ; but the aristocracy, say they, is strenuously opposed to it. I broadly deny this silly, thoughtless assertion. What, my Lords! the aristocracy set themselves in a mass against the people — they who ‘ sprung ‘ from tho people, are inseparably connected with the people, are supported by the people, are the natural chiefs of the people. They set themselves against the people — for whom peers are ennobled, bishops consecrated, kings anointed — the people to serve whom Parliament itself has an existence, and the monarchy and all its institutions are constituted, and without whom none of them could exist for an hour.’ (Cheers.) Had he then a seat in the Upper Honse, he would read the members of that body this extract, and he would ask them then if they could be opposed to democracy, without which they could not exist for an hour. He would ? say to Mr Fawkner, how can you bo opposed to democracy, when it was from it you sprung ? How dare such a man as you call our Attorney General mad when your whole body is not worthy to be compared to his little finger ? He said this with all respeot for the Upper Chamber, for he had no desire to see it swept away. It was, when properly constituted, one of tho safeguards of the Constitution, but they must have some check on it. (Cheers.) The Governor must have power to dissolve it, and it must be established on a broader basis. (Cheers.) In South Australia £25 was tho qualification for the electors of the Upper Chamber, and a member need have no more. They could go through the constitutions of the second chambers in tho whole world, and he defied them to find one with such arbitrary powers as ours possessed. (Cheers.) He would now read the resolution or memorial which had been placed in his hands. It was as follows : —’That the address of the council of the Loyal Liberal Reform Association to his Excellency the Governor to the following effect be, and is hereby approved of: 1. That the council of the Loyal Liberal Reform Association have had the despatch of his Grace the Duke of Buckingham under their consideration ; that in that despatch, the Secretary of State pointedly alludes to the Legislative Council as representing a large portion of the property and intelligence of this oountry, excluding any reference to the Legislative Assembly as re presenting either one or tho other. 2. That the Secretary of State thereby infers that the Legislative Assembly does not represent the property of tho country in so large a proportion as the Legislative Council; that any such assumption must be contrary to fact, as the aggregate property held by the constituent body of the Legislative Assembly including, as it does, all the rateable property in the country is far in excess of the aggregate of property held by the constituent body of the Legislative Conncil, and therefore, that the Assembly as a representative body, is, in fact, representative of property largely in excess of the Legislative Council. 3. That, if any doubt of the fact should exist in your Excellency’s mind, you may he pleased to direct that inquiry should be made by a Royal Commission, or other means at your Excellency’s disposal as to the fallacious assumption that the Legislative Council stands before the Assembly as representing the wealth of the oountry.. 4. That the Secretary of State has farther alluded to the intelligence of the constituents of the Legislative Conncil. That we are not aware of what special information his Grace the Duke of Buckingham may have upon this subject, but we must remind your Excellency that the constituent body of the Assembly includes the mining population engaged in pursuits of a highly
scientific character, carried on frequently under I the most adverse circumstances, yet pursuing their avocations with great intelligence and the most courageous industry, to the great advantage of the conntry, even to tho extent of millions sterling, and yet they form no part of the constituent body of the Legislative Council.- 5. That the artisan and mechanical classes of this conntry are not behind similar classes in England in intelligence, and that such classes have produced the most illustrious discoverers in science and manufactures. That, from the days of Watt to Faraday, this class has furnished men who have largely contributed to raise England to her pre-eminent position as an industrial colony, and yet such classes here form no part of tho constituent body of the Legislative Council. 6. That, therefore, the Legislative Council has no pretense to any exclusive representation of either property or intelligence, or to any representation in those respects paramount to the Assembly, inasmuch as with reference to property the Legislative Assembly represents the whole property of tbo colony — including the property represented by the Legislative Council, whereas the Legislative Council represents only a part of such property. 7. That any elected body not subject to dissolution is irresponsible ; and irresponsible bodies have ever been, from their constitution and tendencies, ill-calculated to harmonise with those which are responsible. 8. That your Excellency may be pleased to invite your responsible advisers, whoever they may be, to consider the most advisable means to effect such alterations in our Constitution as may render the recurrence of dead-locks between the Houses of Le mgislature impossible, and to create that harmony of action in the Legislature which constitutes the excellency of the British Constitution, and the want of which was so plainly foreseen by many illustrious English statesmen when the subject was under Imperial consideration.'(Cheers.) Mr William Miller seconded the resolution. He said he had listened to many speeches in the course of his lifetime, but he had heard that evening the best lectures on political economy it had over been his his lot to listen to. (Cheers.) All the people wished was to harmonise existing things ; but much as they loved the country they had left, much as they loved the land they lived in, there was one thing they loved more than all, and that was their personal right to govern themselves.(Cheers.) Mr Henderson supported the resolution, stating that the only persons amongst the Opposition ready to take office were Messrs Sladen, Langton, O’Shanassy, Follows and Gillies. Mr Duffy was not included in this list, but it was understood if he was not he would vote against the Ministry if it was formed. The resolution was then put and carried, and a vote of thanks having been passed to the chair the meeting broke up.