Higinbotham and Darling Grant

The second crisis began because Higinbotham could not let the issue rest. The nature of Darling’s recall meant that he would not receive a pension from the British government. Thus, on 1 August 1867, Higinbotham proposed a £20 000 grant from the Victorian government to Lady Darling in lieu of a pension, which was tacked onto the Appropriation Bill for that year. Higinbotham furiously declared that the vote should be passed in silence:
It is not merely a compensation to Sir Charles Darling, it is not merely a renewal of the expressed opinion of this House on his merits, but, when it is passed … [i]t will be the censure of the Legislative Assembly upon the constitutional faction of 1865 … I will tell those honourable members that I have always considered the faction to which they belong as the very vilest faction by which this country has been cursed.[58]

It is not surprising that the exact issues underlying the Darling Grant Crisis were generally unclear to the public in England,[59] since at its basis was Higinbotham’s desire to see his viewpoint triumph. Such were Higinbotham’s feelings that he was not beyond using dubious tactics to entrap the Council — albeit unsuccessfully — into passing the grant.[60] The Council asserted that it was a ‘literal or substantial violation’ of colonial regulations to make grants to current employees, and once more that it was coercive and unconstitutional to tack money bills.[61] But Higinbotham wanted his views to triumph, stating to the Assembly, ‘let us regard it as a contest in which there should be no parley and no truce.’[62]
The Ministry once again tried to force the Council’s compliance by placing the issue before the people in early 1868. During the campaign, Higinbotham declared to a large meeting that all that was required for good government was a representative of the Crown and the representatives of the people. The plutocratic Upper House falsely claimed to represent both. The people returned the Ministry with an increased majority.[63] At this stage, the Governor, Sir Henry Manners-Sutton, received instructions from the Colonial Secretary not to permit the Assembly to send the tacked Bill to the Council. The McCulloch Ministry immediately resigned because ‘Her Majesty’s Government … have seen fit to depart from their former determination that the controversy should be locally decided’,[64] but was soon reinstated when an alternative Ministry could not be formed. The crisis ended uneventfully when Darling was reinstated in the Colonial Service on condition that he advise the Victorian government that neither he nor his wife could accept the grant.

[58] Quoted in Turner, above n 20, 140.
[59] Letter from Ellen Keen to George Rusden, 28 April 1867, in Rusden Papers (Leeper Library, Trinity College, The University of Melbourne) vol 11.
[60] Letter from George Rusden, Clerk to the Legislative Council, to Sir James Palmer, President of the Council, 2 August 1867, in Rusden Papers (Leeper Library, Trinity College, The University of Melbourne) vol 7, vii: ‘How Higinbotham & co were prevented from carrying out their sly designs to entrap the Legislative Council in 1867’.
[61] George Rusden, A History of Australia (1st ed, 1883) vol 3, 357. See also Alpheus Todd, Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies (2nd ed, 1894) 142.
[62] Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 22 October 1867, 145 (George Higinbotham, Attorney-General).
[63] Turner, above n 20, 144.
[64] Dispatch from Sir Henry Manners-Sutton, Governor of Victoria, to the Duke of Buckingham, Secretary of State for the Colonies, No 53, 28 March 1868, AJCP CO 309/87, fr 259.


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