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CHAPTER 4: STATE SOCIALISM IN THE ANTIPODES BY CHARLES FAIRCHILD - Thomas Mackay, A Plea for Liberty: An Argument against Socialism and Socialistic Legislation (LF ed.) 
A Plea for Liberty: An Argument against Socialism and Socialistic Legislation, consisting of an Introduction by Herbert Spencer and Essays by Various Writers, edited by Thomas Mackay (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981). Foreword by Jeffrey Paul.
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STATE SOCIALISM IN THE ANTIPODES
Knowledge, most serviceable to students and investigators of political, social, and economical growth, change, and decay, as well as to all those who practise the art or science of government, is to be gathered from our great self-governing colonies. In Australasia and in Canada alone have democracies already given several years’ fair trial to certain measures, of a socialistic character, recommended in these days to our legislators at home, but, up to the present, almost solely on theoretical or abstract grounds. Although much laborious, minute, honest, and ingenious consideration has recently been given by thinkers in Great Britain, for example, to such ‘socialistic’ remedies as a compulsory Eight Hours Law for all industries (or for government and municipal undertakings only), Free State Education (at the expense of the general tax-payer), Early Closing of Shops, and Local Option, the most convinced advocates of those experiments cannot do more than guess how they would work in the United Kingdom. It is to be regretted that the public in this country have as yet no complete, careful, and unbiassed account of important legislative acts adopted by the colonies, which are in advance—or perhaps rather in excess—of correlated Imperial Acts and of the results, already manifest in corpore vili beyond sea.1 For purposes of enquiry and comparison men and women in Australia are still very like Britons at home. Special forces there are, slowly fashioning out of populations of British origin a new and distinct type of citizen, with special ideas. But deep speculations on the future evolution of races and nationalities are not requisite in order to understand the effect either of specific laws or of State Socialism grafted on to a community, transplanted it is true, yet bearing with it institutions copied closely from our own and based upon ideas and traditions with respect to civil and religious liberty, property, order, law, commerce, and economic conditions generally which have been the common property of all liberal thinkers and legislators in this country for the last fifty or sixty years.
What Australasian colonists have done is especially instructive, because they have been specially privileged—enjoying indeed from the start a free hand. Their reforms or experiments have not been thwarted by the lack of money wherewith to give beneficence a fair trial. So vast has been the extension of credit to the Australasian colonies during the last thirty years, that private investors in Europe now enable Australasian governments, financial institutions, and private firms to dispose of some £300,000,000 sterling of foreign capital. Colonial statesmen have indeed been as happy as the heir to a great fortune in a novel, who is able to indulge the author’s brightest dreams of how to better things in general. Money borrowed in Europe has been, as a rule, laid out by colonial governments honestly, even if recklessly or unwisely. The honourable traditions of modern official administration in the United Kingdom have been transplanted in principle to the Antipodes, and no prominent public man there has enriched himself by the shameful means common in the American Republics. Opportunist statesmen, willing to go great lengths in order to retain power and salary and to win the favour of the ruling classes, have held office, and now hold office, in Australia; but as far as corruption or official peculation is concerned, ministers, legislators, and government servants have stood the rough assay of criticism and publicity well. Beneficent legislation has had a fair trial in the colonies, for the additional reasons that there is much less of that tangled undergrowth of private interests and acquired rights which confronts reformers and legislators in this country to clear away, while colonial democracies have no real knowledge of those historical, religious, or class grievances and animosities which warp and distort questions here. Except during an era of artificial and grotesque political rancour, subsequent to the 11th May, 1877, party bitterness has never flourished. It has no tap-root in the colonies, and quickly withers under the sun-rays of material prosperity. Nobody, it has been asserted, is ever really very angry with anybody else for more than a week together in the Australasian colonies.
The public in this country could have obtained fuller evidence with respect to the success or failure of legislation based on State Socialism, in the only part of the world where it has really had an extensive trial, were it not that, in the first place, colonists dare not now do much to dissipate the haze which discreetly veils their affairs.2 Year by year the private and personal interests of classes and masses alike are becoming more and more bound up with the borrowing policy of their governments, and with the enormous extension of commercial credit and nominal transfer of investment money from this country to the banks and financial institutions in the large colonial cities. The success of the periodical and now absolutely indispensable loans floated on the London market being at present the first and most vital of Australian interests, it is considered unpatriotic as well as suicidal to circulate widely any statements prejudicial to governmental or joint-stock credit.3
Many returned colonists residing in this country might furnish independent and valuable testimony on the new experiments and their results; but, by a curious natural coincidence, the man who is capable of making and keeping a fortune can seldom describe instructively, in print or in speech, the country, the people, or the institutions which have contributed to his success. There is, for instance, the typical returned colonist, possibly a wool-grower, professional man, or employer of labour on a large scale, and possibly a man of standing, experience, and powers of observation. When he first settles in South Kensington he may patriotically resolve to give the British public his particular views about protective tariffs, political financing, or the latest vagaries of Trade Union absolutism, in his particular colony, through the medium of the London Press. But, even supposing that he is neither a bore, a crotchet-monger, nor a mere partisan, when he settles in South Kensington our typical squatter, merchant, or man of culture is apt to become so delighted with the ways of the up-to-date Londoner, the cheapness of art-furniture, overcoats, stationery and umbrellas in the shops, and the solemn luxury of West-end clubs, that he grows pleasantly confused and ultimately dumb, as far as Britons anxious for information about State Socialism in the Antipodes are concerned. We have heard of late years something about the evils of Free Trade in New South Wales from furious protectionist partisans, hitherto in a minority in that colony; we have had some notes from gentlemen with a tiny Home Rule axe to grind. In the year 1886 the Sydney Protectionists, Trade Unionists, and Socialists paid the expenses of a special envoy to London, partly accredited by the Melbourne Trades’ Hall Council, whose business it was to enlighten the British public, and to dissuade British wage-earners from emigrating to the Aptipodes or spoiling the labour-market there. The British public learns something, but not much, from the third-rate literary man who occasionally voyages as far as New Zealand and back, then determines to make a book. The few journalists of ability who have made flying visits to the colonies of recent years refrain from saying much about graver colonial questions, chiefly because they recognise that it is extremely difficult to obtain trustworthy information, off-hand, on political, economic, industrial, or financial matters even on the spot. Australians are not demonstrative nor communicative to strangers, while local discussion of the serious and sinister problems accumulating behind the dominant policy of State Socialism is for various good reasons economised as much as possible at present. There is practically no magazine or review literature in Australasia. Two or three of the great newspapers published in Melbourne or Sydney contain of course a mine of undigested facts and information about State Socialism in the colonies, but they are virtually unread in this country.
The notes collected by Mr. Froude during his trip to the Antipodes in the early part of 1885 contain, like all his work, profound, brilliant, and suggestive passages. But ‘Oceana’ does not profess to be more than a sketch. Baron von Hubner’s ‘Voyage through the British Empire’ is a shrewd and sympathetic survey, by an historical friend of England, of the self-sown Englands beyond the sea. He does not offer to draw broad deductions for us. Lately some clerical tourists of more or less eminence have described for home readers what they saw in the colonies. It is well to remember that the various unestablished religious bodies there have from time to time received valuable grants of land from the State; the Scots Church in Melbourne, and the First Presbyterian Church in Dunedin, for example, possess real estate of enormous value at current rates. The principal ministers of religion are therefore well paid, prosperous, and enabled to maintain an informal standing reception committee, which takes traveling clerical celebrities from this country in hand, and, in the true spirit of Oriental hospitality supplies them with that kind of information as to Free State Education and crypto-socialism which is likely to gratify them. Persons with mines to sell, bi-metalists, and imperial federationists from beyond sea merely darken counsel.
This year Sir Charles Dilke has caused to be published a handsome book, in two volumes, wherein some of the problems confronting rudderless democracy in the great self-governing colonies are noticed. The opinions on such matters of one of the most industrious and conspicuous of our political recluses were awaited with curiosity. Some persons even hoped that Sir Charles Dilke might, after many years of intermittent interest in the affairs of the colonies, make democracy in Australia as instructive a text for, at all events, a brief homily, as De Toqueville made of democracy in America. But his new book leaves the impression that Sir Charles Dilke lacks, among other things, the critical insight, as well as the mental equipment generally, required in order to examine and explain for English readers those profoundly interesting problems of which he has heard. He has perhaps no political philosophy of his own, or if he has he economises it. Possibly the domination of a political philosophy, which adds so much to the symmetry and penetrating effect of French criticism, would have been inconvenient in this case. Its absence in an ambitious writer, proposing to deal instructively with problems which take us down to the very bed-rock of civil society, is in these days a defect. Sir Charles Dilke, it appears, has not visited the Australasian colonies for over twenty years. That is another defect. He rightly pays most attention to the colony of Victoria, but has virtually made himself the conduit-pipe through which to distribute the views of a group of cultured and interested Victorian protectionists and half-fledged socialists to the British public. A thriving and contented political party, generally describing themselves as Radicals, exists in Victoria. The impression remains that Sir Charles Dilke pined to call the radicalism of the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old. Accordingly he wrote for information about problems to some worthy Radical gentlemen in Victoria. And they wrote back to him in a cordial spirit, being delighted to find that a politician who was very much thought about in England, and had once been a minister of the Crown, was prepared to accept a brief from them.
Yet a man will hardly travel right round the world without learning that there is something to learn, and Sir Charles Dilke has done one service to the reading and thinking public here by discovering, and then frankly and clearly pointing out that State Socialism entirely permeates the ruling classes in Australia, and inspires the policy of ministries and legislatures there. ‘In Victoria,’ he says (i. 185), ‘State Socialism has completely triumphed.’ Nearly all previous writers on Australasia have failed to see that, and have discussed colonial borrowing. Protective Tariffs, hindrances to immigration and to the growth of population, the Labour question, Free State Education, etc., as though they were so many isolated or detachable phenomena. They are not isolated or accidental, but have all the same origin, being in their later phases merely the necessary product of half-digested socialistic ideas and theories. Sir Charles Dilke makes Victoria his principal text, no doubt because it is easier to get information, good or bad, about the finances, administration and general condition of that colony than of the others. Such facilities are mainly due to what might be called accident, that is to say, to the superior status and activity of the newspaper Press, in a country where newspapers may exercise immense influence. In New South Wales the daily Press is virtually represented by one enormously wealthy journal, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald,’ which now prudently expounds a dull opportunism, as far as colonial problems are concerned. It would be harsh and almost inhuman to criticise seriously the Adelaide (South Australian) newspapers. There is a true saying in the antipodes that ‘nothing ever happens in South Australia,’ although Mr. Henry George announces frequently that his views are making great progress there. The Brisbane newspapers perhaps cannot—they certainly do not—lead or direct public opinion intelligently. In New Zealand there is no single town population wealthy enough to support a really great newspaper, and the Press is poverty-stricken and uninfluential. In contrast to all this, during the last twenty years the people of Victoria have chanced to be served by two daily newspapers, as ably conducted, wealthy, and powerful as any printed in the English language. Englishmen are beginning to forget that it was once asserted, with some truth, that the London newspapers ‘governed England.’ While our innumerable London newspapers are, perhaps, wisely abandoning the attempt to steer English opinion, the Melbourne ‘Argus’ and the Melbourne ‘Age’ still conscientiously keep up the old fiction, and between them do govern and misgovern the colony. Their rivalry has been in many ways profitable to the colony. They make certain blunders and abuses—allowed to pass in the neighbouring colonies—impossible, and try to keep a search-light turned on to the administration. They do not quite succeed. Sir Charles Dilke, adopting views put forward by masters of ‘bounce’ and réclame here, who have done so much to finance colonial State Socialism, asserts (i. 243) that we in England ‘understand the way in which they float their loans’ (in Victoria), ‘and their system of bookkeeping; . . . and we are well informed as to the objects on which their debts (sic) are spent’; adding (ii. 230), ‘that no one who knows the public offices of South Australia, Victoria, or Tasmania can accuse them of more laxity in the management of public business than is to be found in Downing Street itself.’
I fear that our author has here yielded to the temptation to ‘sit down quickly and write fifty,’ in order to make unto himself friends, at any rate among our socialistic kin beyond sea. The truth is that nothing definite can be known about the finances of the Australasian colonies. State Socialism there dares not present a genuine balance sheet. As may also be said of the French Republic at this day, there is in Australasia no system of public accounts similar to that which prevails in Downing Street. In Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and New Zealand, the control of expenditure by local Parliaments is really very weak. No attempt has been made to introduce the imperial system of simple, methodical, and exact account keeping. Audit or check upon public expenditure is loose and ineffective in all the colonies. If we in England really understand ‘the system of bookkeeping, and the object on which debts are spent’ in Victoria, we know more than colonists themselves know. Meanwhile, for years past reports of imaginary surpluses, as well as misleading and worthless ‘official’ statistics, have been circulated in the Australasian colonies, and have been carelessly reproduced here.4 The statement is constantly put forward, for example, that the Victorian State railways, which are supposed to represent an expenditure on productive public works of the bulk of the money borrowed by that colony since 1865, honestly earn a surplus in excess of the interest on their cost. That statement is not, and never has been, true. The memorandum from the Railway Commissioners, read with the budget statement in the Victorian Assembly on the 31st July, 1890, at last frankly admits that the earnings of the State Railways fell short of the accruing interest for the year by more than £220,000.
Yet religions, or dogmas, which nobody can possibly comprehend do frequently make converts; perhaps because of the haze obscuring the financial basis of Colonial State Socialism, Sir Charles Dilke (i. 195) judges that ‘Lord Bramwell himself would’ find salvation, and ‘become a state socialist if he inhabited Victoria.’ Here we have the testimony of an absentee ‘inhabitant,’ who has not set foot in the colony for more than twenty years. Sir Charles Dilke, while vaguely civil to socialists in general, hardly understands that socialism is always a most logical, consistent and imperative creed. He has indeed a hazy notion that there are ‘moderate European Socialists’ with ‘practical programmes’—set to stop as soon as mischief threatens. Although he finds that New South Wales has built and managed her railways in accordance with socialistic teaching, he seems to look forward (i. 274) to their being worked ‘upon strictly commercial principles’ some day. In that case, he thinks, they could pay interest on their cost. He apparently does not understand how State Socialism works, why it is popular, seductive, and under favourable financial conditions, cumulative in its action, nor why it is combated and denounced by Lord Bramwell and other people. I take it the rough objections to State Socialism everywhere are, that it does not profess to ‘pay,’ in the business or commercial sense; that, as regards Great Britain, therefore, funds to meet deficits and to keep the system going could only be obtained by levying novel and penal taxes upon industrious and thrifty people, and by plundering owners of fixed capital, either by sheer violence or by violence cloaked in hypocrisy; that even if placed, somehow, on a paying basis State Socialism weakens and demoralizes the national character, by striking at the whole conception of patient, courageous and orderly toil, struggle and endeavour—the most wholesome and ennobling conception human beings have as yet thought out for themselves.
With a splendid subject and a splendid opportunity before him Sir Charles Dilke might have told us by what agencies the primary financial difficulty has been got over in Australia. He shirks all that, but says there is now ‘no objection or resistance to state ownership of railways’ or to ‘state interference’ generally; that ‘state socialistic movements render Australia a pioneer for England’s good,’ and hints that ‘the Australian colonies as regards State Socialism present us with a picture of what England will become.’ He is not able to tell us how State Socialism is affecting the national character, whether it is producing a nobler or baser type of man and woman in Australia. Our author has not however emancipated himself from the old-fashioned prejudice that triumphant socialism implies, sooner or later, the proclamation of the commune, the burning of public buildings and the shooting of hostages; he is delighted to be able to report that the sky has not fallen, that hens still lay, and that tradesmen still come round regularly with provisions in the morning, in a country where State Socialism is supreme. To him it is ‘an amazing fact’ that Socialism ‘in the French or English sense,’ and ‘Revolutionary, European or Democratic’ Socialism absolutely do not exist among the all-powerful working class in the colonies; he is so pleased with this aphorism that he repeats it in at least eleven different places.5 But whether State Socialism be installed by a revolutionary mob, by a dictator or by a Parliament, is not the main point. The real questions are: can the thing itself be honestly made to pay, and will it give to a nation healthier, wealthier, and wiser men and women? In Europe and the United States socialism does usually suggest the idea of revolutionary, violent or terrorist methods, simply because state treasuries are not easily lootable and because tax-payers and owners of fixed capital there still resolutely offer all the resistance in their power to the very practical, and almost the first, demand made by modern socialists, for money to carry out beneficent plans which cannot possibly pay on their merits. Probably nobody is a Revolutionary Socialist ‘in the French or English sense’ from choice.
Victorian Trade Unionists concentrated in one or two large towns have of late years been allowed by the cowardice or apathy of all other classes in the colony to monopolize political power. Although Trade Unionists still jealously dislike to see men belonging to their special class in Parliament they have long ‘owned’ ministers and legislators, and thus obtained peaceable but complete control over the public purse.6 They can pledge the credit of the colony in order to finance railways and public works which provide them, on their own terms, with ‘State’ employment and set the market rate of wages. In the course of a debate on Protection versus Free Trade held in the Concert Hall of the Melbourne Exhibition building before 2,000 people on the 8th April, 1890, between Mr. Henry George and Mr. Trenwith, the latter—a member of the Legislative Assembly for one of the Melbourne divisions and President of the Trades Hall Council—boasted, with truth, that ‘The Trade Unionists, wanting respectable houses, with a carpet on the floor and a piano, as well as good clothes and education for their children, told the legislators—their servants: “Put a duty on such and such goods for us.” ’ Sir Charles Dilke notices (ii. 275), that ‘there is no timidity in the South Sea Colonies with regard to taxation upon land,’ and intimates (i. 193), that the Victorian land tax—turned into a penal enactment by the radical party after their triumph in 1877 as an act of vengeance on their opponents—‘is certain to be extended whenever the colony is in want of money.’ This tax, our author truly says (ii. 275), has caused ‘a certain depression’—subjective timidity perhaps. Colonial ministries now find easier ways of raising money than by a land tax; but as long as the power remains of imposing taxes on large landowners, in order to pay off loans contracted and expended without the latter’s consent or approval, the setting up of barricades, burning cities, and shooting hostages will always be, for Australian State Socialists, works of supererogation.
If our domestic socialists ‘in the French and English sense,’ effectually controlled the Imperial Treasury, they might renounce felonious talk, cease to foment mutiny in the British Army and become Conservatives—in the best sense of the term. Sir Charles Dilke seems at one moment to realise how thoroughly practical are the aims and aspirations of the ruling class in Victoria, for he says (ii. 303), ‘The Christianity that they understand is an assertion of the claim of the masses to rise in the scale of humanity.’ This kind of Christianity has been understood in the same sense by the dominant classes in all ages and countries—from landowners, lay and clerical, in mediaeval times, down to British middle-class employers and capitalists of a couple of generations ago—who controlled the national purse strings. All those people honestly believed in turn that they were ‘the masses’—in the best sense of the term—and they raised themselves in the scale of humanity, at the public expense, accordingly. Meanwhile our author fails to see that Colonial Federated Labour or Trade Unionism cares little for abstract ideas. It is doubtful whether British artisans anywhere have hitherto cared much about them; the founders of the International and the leaders of the Comteist movement in this country at all events considered it doubtful after years of experiment. Australian Trade Unionists—if occasionally given to violence and prone to break their engagements—are as good-natured, friendly, affable and well-conducted as the representatives of any dominant class of Britons that history tells of. They are fond of amusement, manly sports, and betting on horse races. The same might have been said of that large class who at the end of the last century lived and thrived on the Irish Pension List. Sir Charles Dilke seems further to have imagined that even if Australian working-class democrats abjured ‘Revolutionary’ Socialism ‘in the French and English sense,’ they must at least hanker after land nationalization. He is pleased to find that they do not. Yet why should they? Unless the Australian Trade Unionist sees 30s. a week extra for himself in any State Socialistic movement he takes no interest whatsoever in it. There is no profit, direct or indirect, for any human being in nationalization of the land, hence in Australasia land nationalizers, or single tax leaguers, are, politically, about as influential and important a body as, let us say, the Swedenborgians in this country.7 In March 1890, Mr. Henry George visited Australasia. He became an object of curiosity and attention there, partly because of recent years many colonial politicians, especially in Queensland and New Zealand, have suffered from a chronic indigestion of his theories. Sir Robert Stout, Mr. Ballance, Mr. Dutton and Sir S. Griffith have each thinkered, in fragmentary, mischievous and futile fashion, with the Land Legislation of their colonies on Mr. George’s lines. Colonists however insisted, in 1890, on studying Mr. George as a Free Trader, and the local socialists, who are perhaps more logical than Mr. George is, refused to believe that Free Trade—which is so wrapped up with equal liberty to make contracts, unrestricted competition, self-help, cheap necessaries and other ‘individualist’ delusions—could work in with Nationalization of the Land, one of the most extreme developments of State Interference and State Socialism. Mr. Henry George, as an incoherent Free Trader, managed to puzzle and offend, instead of converting, Australian socialists who, quite logically, are Protectionists also. The fact, noticed by Sir Charles Dilke, that masses and classes in the colonies are now alike deeply interested in land ‘booms’ and in keeping up the value of freeholds, further explains Mr. Henry George’s recent decisive rebuff there.
High wages, in exchange for short hours of labour, do not come under the heading of idées, but are practical things. The prevalence of the eight hours’ rule in so many colonial industries is indirect, but strong, proof of the irresistible power conceded to Federated Labour. Although political dependents of the dominant class in Victoria at one time thought it worth their while to embody ‘the eight hours’ in one or two Mining and Tramway Acts,8 Trade Unionists have been of late years strong enough to get what they want without help of the law.9 Indeed owing to the non-repeal of the old British Statutes against ‘combination,’ Trade Unions were technically illegal in Victoria as late as 1885. Sir Charles Dilke says little about the Australian ‘eight hours’ system. He seems puzzled (i. 250) to understand how Victorian manufacturers manage to compete with foreign rivals, although ‘paying double wages for 20 per cent less time than at home.’ But he entirely underestimates the ‘protection’ of the tariff, as well as the other advantages enjoyed by the local manufacturer, and increases his confusion by taking ‘an average duty of 11 per cent’ on the total Victorian imports.10 He says (ii. 286) that the eight hours’ day ‘according to general admission has been found as satisfactory throughout Australia as in Victoria,’ a generalization which omits much one would like to know. ‘We might gradually,’ he thinks, ‘introduce it into the contracts of the State and the municipalities in this country, and give it the force of a general law in the case of those trades to which it would be most easily applied,’ but does not tell us by what devices the inconveniences of diminished ‘supply’ or production—as well as the waste and loss due to reduced efficiency of labour—are met and counterbalanced; nor whether the conditions which make the eight hours’ rule possible in Australia are to be found in Great Britain.
Short hours of labour and high wages seem to me largely convertible terms. Both are good things. The leisure enjoyed by colonial workmen, their brisk, cheerful and robust appearance, and the activity and ‘go’ displayed by one or two out-door trades (such as masons and house carpenters) who work under the eight hours’ system, are pleasant to behold. A very high ‘standard of comfort’ prevails amongst Australian workers, and no doubt, as Fleeming Jenkin argued,11 the standard or expectation of comfort, and the ideal scale of living for the family maintained by wage-earners, do determine the amount of effort which they will put forth to raise wages or reduce hours of labour. It is well to remember that the success of such efforts depends upon very variable conditions, political, social, etc. The ‘standard of comfort’ firmly believed in by Australian alluvial gold diggers in 1851-3 ‘embraced’ champagne at five guineas a bottle for themselves, gold horse-shoes, now and then, for their horses, and silk dresses at five guineas a yard, for the partners of their joys. What made that lofty standard of comfort possible in 1851-3 was the easily won gold on Bendigo flats and other alluvial diggings. What are the conditions which have enabled Australian Trade Unionists of late years to maintain a particular standard of comfort, wages, and hours? Sir Charles Dilke does not tell us. I believe they are entirely exceptional and artificial.
The first local circumstance, or condition, favourable to the success and permanence of ‘The Eight Hours’ rule in Victoria is the protective tariff. The second condition is the absence of keen competition among workers of all grades themselves. The third is the settled policy which regularly provides ateliers nationaux, or employment for that class which is supposed to be all-powerful at election time on state railways and so-called productive public works, thus ‘keeping a market’ for labour and creating a standard of hours and wages which private employers cannot compete against or vary. The fourth, correlated of course to the last, is the now inevitable, financial, or borrowing, policy of the various colonial governments; which reacts upon local banks and credit institutions. Colonial land legislation and the concentration of population in large cities are also favourable conditions. How many of these, it may be asked, exist in Great Britain?
With slight exceptions the above conditions are in Australia all within the control of the very class which benefits directly by the eight hours’ rule. The absence of competition is indeed mainly due to the fact that Australia is remote from the European labour market. A voyage thither means, for an artisan or labourer in search of work, £18 at least, if he be a single man, and far more of course if he be married and have a family. These are, to millions of European workers, prohibitive rates, and constitute a natural or geographical protective duty upon human beings, i.e. upon competing ‘labour.’ We have only to compare steerage fares from Europe to United States ports—as well as from Continental ports to the United Kingdom—with passage rates to Australia to understand, firstly, why the eight hours’ movement has failed hitherto in America and, next, how necessary it will be to stave off, somehow, the competition of Continental labour in many of our home industries if one of the principal elements of the success of the Australian ‘eight hours’ is to be secured here. Except in Queensland, colonial labour leaders have compelled their political dependents to do away with that really socialistic measure, State-aided immigration. The various colonial governments have been similarly compelled to protest against any large immigration schemes, promoted from this side, even to remote West Australia. Every now and then Trade and Labour Councils urge governments to represent through the Agents General at home that there is really no field for labour in the colonies, and they take the most elaborate means to circulate the same fable in this country. Where land is abundant and nature propitious workmen make work for workmen. There is an absolutely illimitable field for free labour as applied to the resources of nature in the Australasian colonies. The development of that field would of course benefit every man, woman and child now living in Australia. But the arguments used by the old school of American Protectionists (who were individualists, perhaps without knowing it) that growing population and immigration make the surest market for native industries, or home manufactures, cannot be used by State Socialists in Australia. The horrors of competition and the necessity for quelling it are their main texts. This was the lesson which Mr. Benjamin Douglas, President of the Trades Hall Council, inculcated upon Lord Rosebery in Melbourne in 1884, and the virtual teaching of Australian labour leaders today is that every additional worker who lands, or is born and reared, in the colony is an additional competitor and therefore an enemy. While the ‘goal’ or ‘ideal’ of the economist and Free Trader, who finds before him boundless natural resources, may be roughly described as an ‘infinite’ increase in the number of workers—never quite overtaking ‘infinite’ increases in the demand for labour, production of exchangeable utilities and rise in wages—the goal or ideal of State Socialists and Protectionists, so far as it can be ascertained from the speeches, writings, and actions of such persons in Australia, is one single worker12 earning all the wages paid in his own, rigidly protected and stationary, trade and producing an infinitesimal amount of exchangeable utilities.13 This astounding but of course unacknowledged ‘principle’ underlies the whole policy of the dominant labour party and their political satellites in Victoria. They therefore remain consistently indifferent to the slow growth of population and its actual decline in the mining and agricultural districts, to steadily diminishing exports and the neglect or decay of innumerable profitable employments for labour, such as the production of frozen salted and tinned meat, fresh and preserved fruit, wine, oil, tobacco, dried fish, hides, pelts, butter, cheese, condensed milk, etc., for export. As long as their political dependents will borrow money incessantly in London, spend it on so-called useful public works in and around Melbourne and increase the tariff at regular intervals, the labour party are well satisfied. Deputations representing various trades have constantly and successfully urged government to increase the duty on the article they were interested in, on the general ground that unless it were raised above 25 per cent ad valorem they would have to sacrifice the eight hours’ principle and reduce wages.14
Colonial State Socialism revolves in a sort of circle, and the same sequence appears to present itself at whatever point we inspect it. Politicians sanction and float loans, to provide employment for their patrons on pleasant terms; local banks and credit institutions make use of the proceeds of State borrowing to ‘finance’ building societies, importers, manufacturers, tradesmen and private speculators, who in turn give credit to working men for goods, or for land and houses bought by them at inflation prices out of their savings. Neither shop debts, interest, nor instalments on purchases of land and houses, can be paid unless wages are good, and work on political railways and ‘useful public works’ plenty. These pleasant practices grow upon the community like opium eating. Ministers therefore dare not now hold their hand, calculate ways and means closely, or stop borrowing, lest the whole top-heavy fabric of State Socialism should come toppling down about their ears. The expenditure for all purposes by the Victorian government for the last two or three years has been at the rate of about £14,000,000 per annum.15 Part of this sum has been obtained by issuing bonds on the London Market, part from revenue. Under the existing hand-to-mouth financial policy it looks very much as though recent loans have been regularly floated to meet accruing interest on old loans; that is, on the total bonded debt of the colony. When those Melbourne banks, which keep the government account, require to remit money to London to cash half-yearly coupons coming off the Bonds, they can draw upon London against the proceeds of each fresh loan, instead of having to buy wool or wheat drafts in the local market, and remit them. This agreeable system appears to be never ending; as the local phrase goes, it ‘relieves the banks,’ and largely enables them to use their deposits to ‘carry’ land speculators, and to expand local credit generally. The other half of the State expenditure in Victoria is derived from revenue, i.e. from Customs duties mainly. Neither coin nor bullion are in these days sent to Australia. Transfers of ‘money’ from Europe to the colony therefore invariably take the shape of bankers’ drafts, against goods exported to the colonies; a fact which explains the abnormally large imports into Victoria of recent years. Government, through the Custom House, thus takes a heavy toll upon all foreign ‘money’ sent on private account for employment in Victoria. In addition, it levies a second toll upon any balance of new loans—left over after paying half-yearly coupons, or interest charges in London—which ultimately finds its way (in the shape of goods) to the colony. Thus the very same ‘money’ may figure twice over in the public accounts; once as the proceeds of Railway or Irrigation loans sanctioned by Parliament, a second time as ‘revenue’ intercepted in the Custom House.
This methodical system of inflation, this recurring Milion Segen from Lombard St., is locally so convenient and popular, that no class frets itself over such minutiae as the effect of the eight hours’ rule in diminishing the efficiency of labour and restricting production. There is great latitude in regard to public works. The generous policy of government is contagious. If the estimated cost of a new railway or public building be exceeded, in practice, a supplementary vote is hustled through Parliament late in the session; the whole thing is finally shaken up, shuffled, and discrepancies righted out of the next loan. No doubt the net effect of short hours, high wages and dishonest or slovenly ‘labour’ in Victoria is represented ultimately in diminished production of utilities for export.16 But the Trade Unionist who has just wrung from his employer a good rise in wages, or the average citizen, the ‘consumer,’ who has just been told by a kite-flying land syndicate that his back yard is worth £30,000, does not fret himself about dwindling production or exports. In Australasia there have been no means either of judging whether successive reductions in the hours of labour have created employment for ‘the unemployed,’ because in the first place no efficient workers are ‘unemployed,’ in the sense sometimes legitimately used here, in any of the colonies; and in the second place the Federated Trade Unions prevent ‘outsiders’ from obtaining employment, or even appearing in the labour market at all. Nor is any light thrown upon the argument that reducing the hours of labour in this country alone to eight would ‘kill’ certain trades. What is meant by the latter phrase in Great Britain, of course, is that our manufacturers could not compete either in the Home, or in neutral markets, with foreign manufacturers. Victorian manufacturers do not care about the great neutral markets; they export goods (in steadily diminishing quantities, by the way) to the adjacent colonies, but manage to do that partly because of the subsidiary advantages mentioned above, and partly by selling goods there at a reduction—as compared with prices charged to Victorian consumers—equal to the amount of the Victorian duty on such goods. The tariff, of course, protects the flank of capital and labour alike against the competition of foreign goods in the home market.
Australian State Socialists have for many years past opposed and thwarted sales of the freehold of ‘Crown’ land—‘the national patrimony’ they call it—and shilly-shallying attempts have been made to force the State ‘leasehold system’17 upon farmers and settlers. They have failed disastrously; but one indirect result has been curious. The land already ‘alienated,’ or granted in freehold, in the colonies, is now the only land which can be freely dealt in. There has been, in fact, an artificial scarcity, or official land ‘corner’ in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales. The quantity in the market being thus artificially limited, and land speculation being, with the exception of the turf, the only one not liable to be suddenly upset by strikes and legislation ‘in the interests of labour,’ the most reckless real estate gambling goes on from time to time in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney. A dangerously large proportion of the investment money remitted from this country of recent years, for employment in Melbourne, has gone to sustain land ‘booms,’ and is now represented by the ‘paper’ of land gamblers, held at fabulously inflated prices, by banks, building societies, mortgage, finance, and trust companies. Meantime enormous profits have been made by those persons who ‘got out at the top’ of the rise in land and house values in and near Melbourne. The phenomenal and ever-increasing concentration of population in a few large towns such as Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Newcastle of course stimulates the building and allied trades. It also swells the earnings of suburban railways and tramway companies, which depend for revenue on pleasure traffic. In Melbourne the heavy suburban railways traffic partly obscures the deficit which has to be faced on the interest account of the railway loans.18 The concentration of population also gives to the Federated Trade Unions immense strategical advantages. Nevertheless peaceable combination among wage-earners, even when reinforced by perhaps the most efficient, rapacious, and unscrupulous organization now existing anywhere, does not seem to diminish the profits of the large capitalist—or, in other words, the market rate of earnings—apportioned to capital in Australia by economic circumstances, which in the long run are really more powerful than socialistic legislators and labour organizations combined.19
Possibly Mill’s earlier opinions on that matter were shaken by a succession of notable Trade Union victories about twenty years ago. The mountebank economists of our own day assert that as State Socialism progresses, even unskilled labour in this country will henceforward secure an ever-increasing and permanent benefit, at the expense of capital. We have had, among other events, the London Dock Strike of 1889, in which the police observed an attitude of neutrality; also the triumph of a riotous and violent mob of municipal gas workers at Leeds. No doubt Irish farmers have in recent years secured for themselves a vastly increased share of the profits derived from Irish land; but that latter triumph, especially, was brought about by extra-legal, barbarous, or terrorist methods. To such methods any conceivable re-adjustment of proportionate profits, at the cost of the weakest class, is possible. As long however as the struggle between capital and labour proceeds peaceably according to the recognised ‘rules of the ring’; in other words, wherever civil order and civil rights are upheld by the executive, as they have been, with few exceptions in the colonies, combination, Trade Unionism, and incessant strikes do not seem to alter permanently the value of what might, at any given epoch, be called the normal fraction representing the proportionate shares of capital and labour. What we shall probably see from time to time, and under exceptional conditions of the market, will be merely numerator and denominator multiplied by a higher figure, the value of the fraction remaining unchanged. Employers and industrial firms in the colonies have been now and then crippled, impoverished, and driven from business by sudden and vigorously conducted strikes. Frequently Trade Unions in Melbourne and Sydney have without any warning ‘gone for’ an employer, tied by the terms of a large contract, and, as in the case of the original contractor for the Melbourne Parliament buildings, ruined him completely. In order to remedy such wrongs, the Melbourne Harbour Trust in 1886 proposed to insert a ‘strike clause’ in future contracts. The Trades Hall Council thereupon appealed to Government to withdraw the contributions from the Treasury to the Trust as a punishment. As far back as 1885 an Australian Steam Navigation Company was driven out of business by the action of the Federated Seamen’s, Firemen’s, Cooks’ and Stewards’ Union, and this latter, helped by allied bodies, has effectually strangled the development of the coasting trade, or anything like an Australian ‘merchant navy.’ The result is that the monopoly of a few old-established firms in the steam coasting trade is not challenged; they charge high freight and passenger rates; life is extremely insecure on these routes, and sea-borne trade is crippled and paralyzed. It is clearly seen in the United States that a high protective tariff alone will not keep up the prices of certain staple articles of manufacture, in face of keen local competition among capitalists themselves. Cutting rates, discounts, etc., help considerably by reducing from time to time the prices of manufactured goods in Europe and the United States. But in the United States, Factory Acts are not enforced, while ‘labour,’ although restless and irreconcilable, is utterly disorganized, and, as compared with labour in Australasia, impotent. The latter country, under State Socialism, seems to me to present the ‘ideal’ conditions for very rich capitalists: (1) a protective tariff; (2) vexatious and inquisitorial Factory Acts, based on the principle that the first duty of the State and the Legislature is to favour the Trade Unionist; (3) an all-powerful Trade Union organization, manipulated by unscrupulous, narrow-minded, selfish, and ignorant men. The irresponsible despotism of the latter implies perhaps even more than the tariff, for it reduces competition among capitalists themselves to a minimum. The dread of facing the insatiable demands and exactions of Federated Labour, and the costly and harassing provisions of Colonial Factory Acts, more and more deter small capitalists, beginners, or ‘small masters’ as they would be called here, from rivalling old-established firms and starting new competitive enterprises; while co-operative manufacturing does not of course commend itself to the thriftless and light-hearted Australian working-man.20
‘Free, Secular and Compulsory’ State Education in Victoria is noticed by Sir Charles Dilke among his problems. The Victorian system is described in the ‘Official Year Books’ as ‘secular instruction without payment for all children whose parents are willing to accept it.’ It is compulsory and truancy is punishable by fine. Sir Charles Dilke (pp. 366-383 of his second volume) does no more than translate the opinions of two of the best-known Melbourne partisans of the Act into guarded language, yet the history of this experiment in State Socialism and the result after eighteen years’ trial, ought to be carefully studied by legislators and by educators in Great Britain, seeing that it is now proposed, by various groups of politicians here, either to copy the main principles of the Victorian Education Act, No. 447 of 1873, or to embark on the very policy which made that Act logically inevitable. Sir Charles Dilke truly says that ‘Victorians are strongly attached to their free sytsem’; that it has ‘a marvellously strong hold upon their affections’; that ‘centralization is not unpopular,’ and that Dr. Pearson, the Minister for Education, seems to be well content with the education policy of his colony as compared to other colonies. Of all State Socialistic measures Free Education seems to be the most enticing. A political party could hardly choose a more attractive dole or bribe for the electorate. Its success, however, is cumulative, and it is only after some years’ experience that parents appreciate thoroughly what it does for them. Cash outlay to pay for the feeding, clothing, and education of children is, to selfish and self-indulgent parents, a constant source of irritation. The small sums which should go to buy bread and butter, boots or bonnets, for youngsters, or to pay for their schooling, may be much needed by the male parent for tobacco, drink, and perhaps ‘backing horses,’ while the mother constantly needs new articles of dress and amusements. Free Education, at the expense of that pillageable abstraction ‘the general taxpayer,’ thus appeals to some of the strongest of modern instincts. In Victoria it would now be absolutely impossible for any Ministry, or political party, to withdraw or curtail the privileges and advantages given under the Education Act. The tendency is to increase them and to add to the cost of the system year by year.21 No candidate for Parliament in Victoria now ventures even to criticise the system lest the cry of the ‘Education Act in danger’ should be raised against him. In Victoria, as in England, and more often in Scotland, rich parents do not scruple to throw the burthen of the primary education of their children upon their less prosperous neighbours.22 The excuse sometimes offered in the Colonies is that amalgamation of all classes of society in the State Schools is a democratic idea. The actual result, however, is that, where classes and masses do live in juxtaposition, many State School teachers try to make their schools select and quasi-aristocratic. In Melbourne gutter-children are edged out on any pretext, and a special school had to be set apart there for this class—the very class on whose behalf the ‘free’ element in the system was originally advocated. Popular as the Act is with Victorian town populations, it is in the remote and sparsely-settled agricultural and mining districts W. of long. 143, E. of long. 146, and, excluding Bendigo, N. of lat. 37, that the Act has the strongest hold. Farmers and ‘selectors’ who have little money to spare, amalgamated miners, who have killed ‘the golden goose’ of investment in mining properties by their organized idleness and short-sighted rapacity, are conscious that they could not possibly provide by co-operation, or local rating, anything approaching the educational privileges and luxuries bestowed by the central department in Melbourne. Meantime, ‘the general taxpayer’ has indeed become a mere mathematical, or algebraic, expression in Victoria; he has apparently neither body, parts, nor passions, does not cry out when he is squeezed, and is not represented in the Legislature. Sir Charles Dilke is right in saying that educational State Socialism is popular in Victoria and that the Minister for Education is well content.23
On the other hand, it is alleged that the Victorian Act has produced the evils of centralization in their worst form; that as soon as the State took over the entire cost of the system local control and responsibility at once became illogical and have now completely disappeared; that the cost of the system tends to increase indefinitely, owing largely to the fact that the State School teachers are banded together in a powerful Trade Union, the avowed object of which is to increase their salaries and privileges by political pressure; finally, that a distinct religious grievance, or disability, has been created by the Act of 1873. Protests against some or all of these evils and abuses have been made by colonists of high character and ability—all of them, except Mr. Archer, Protestants—in recent years; by the late Dr. Hearn, LL.D., Chancellor of Melbourne University, Mr. Andrew Harper, M.L.A., Judge Warrington Rogers, the present Bishop of Manchester, the Rev. W. H. Fitchett, Professor McCoy; and by critics as far apart in their Educational views as Sir Archibald Michie, Mr. W. H. Archer, and the present Bishop of Melbourne. No reply is made to these gentlemen by the apostles of Victorian State Socialism, because, from the point of view of practical politics, none is needed.
The whole patronage, finance, and administration of the State schools, down to the most minute details, are centered in one large department in Melbourne. The promoters of the present Act did their work thoroughly in 1872.24 The late Mr. Stephen and Mr. Francis sincerely believed that it was their mission to create a benevolent Educational despotism, a Ministerial department which would mould the youth of the colony into one admirable form, and, among other things, ‘control the evil of denominationalism which had raised its head there to such a fearful extent.’ Accordingly, when during the discussion of the Bill the principle of ‘free’ schooling—at the expense of the State alone—was accepted, the majority in Parliament, logically enough, rejected Local Option, or any claim by districts and localities to interfere with Elementary school patronage, finance, or administration. Boards of Advice were created, feeble parodies of the School Boards in this country; but they represent no fee or ratepayers, were given no power in 1872, and exercise none now. The only basis of local responsibility and control, as well as of authority, which can be claimed by local boards over the elementary education of the people, is local contributions, either in rates or school fees. On the other hand, if the State Treasurer be sole paymaster, Parliament insists, sooner or later, that the State shall be ‘master’ in every sense. Had the original promoters of the Victorian Act realised how completely it involved centralization, they might have shrunk from the prospect of responsibility for details since forced upon the Minister in Melbourne. The action, the inevitable action, of members of the Legislature has gradually brought about this latter state of things. Questions are asked in the Legislative Assembly, almost daily, as to the salaries of teachers, perhaps in remote districts, price of school books, supply of drinking water to children, repair of school buildings, etc. There is no one else in the colony—save the Minister of Education, who pays for all these things—to ask. It is quite useless for either Minister or Members of Parliament to refer back to local bodies; the latter pay nothing and manifestly have no status, and no right whatsoever to interfere. Naturally, therefore, the living interest and the stimulus given to education by the School Board system in Great Britain (outside the metropolis) are wanting in Australia. Victorian children are passed through the State machine, that is all the parents know. The majority of the latter may not approve of State school influences upon the morals, character, and behaviour of their children, but the whole thing, school books and materials included, costs nothing. Evils, abuses, and blunders, similar to those which have grown up under the London School Board, abound, but in aggravated form, under the Central Educational Department in Melbourne—official supervision, discipline, and methods being of course defective in a colony where the supply of first-class civil servants is limited, where petty office-seeking is a growing vice, where the schools to be looked after are, in many cases, practically as remote from Melbourne as London is from the Shetland Isles. The tangle of red tape, the unmanageable accumulation of returns, correspondence, and official documents, the delay, waste, and paralysis at the centralized Melbourne office, have been often described by responsible colonists.25 The Ministry, however, do not require to make any reply to such charges as these. They can always borrow their way out of such difficulties, and they know that as long as electors do not pay, electors do not care.
In a limited electorate such as that of Victoria, the State school teachers’ vote is a serious consideration. Although they have been, since 1885, under the Public Service Act, which was supposed to do away with political patronage, they have formed a powerful Trade Union, which meets regularly in conference, like the railway servants or any other labour Junta in the Colony, and threatens ministers and legislators. The principle that political influence should be used to extort money and other benefits for themselves from the Treasury is as frankly accepted and acted upon by these Victorian public servants as it was by Irish borough-mongers and Scottish ‘controulers’ at the close of the last century. It is said that in London the teachers’ vote and influence are potent at School Board elections, and fatal to the chances of candidates suspected of a desire to check extravagance and waste. In the United Kingdom, however, it may be anticipated that under Free State Education the teachers’ political vote and influence would be swamped by other, and far more numerous, political groups who have miscellaneous designs upon the Imperial Treasury. Theoretically such defects as exaggerated centralization at headquarters, decay of local interest and of ‘local’ control over extravagant expenditure, are not incurable. They might disappear in time were it not that any reformers are at once met by the money barrier. Reform would mean increase to local burthens, and Victorian colonists, used to having their children educated ‘for nothing’ or rather, at the cost of some person or persons unknown, by means of a financial legerdemain which has enabled the State Treasurer to borrow surpluses regularly in London, are less disposed every year to relieve the State Treasury of its tribute. Even the perpetuation of the religious grievance, which Roman Catholics complain of so bitterly, seems to me mainly due to financial considerations. I came to the conclusion in Victoria that Roman Catholics are subjected to a wrong more galling, but not unlike that which compulsory payment of church rates inflicted upon Dissenters in this country. A strange state of things in a self-governing community, the vast majority of whom are of English, Scotch, or Welsh birth or parentage. I found a partial explanation in the action and language of certain Victorian politicians who supported the Roman Catholic educational claims in the past. The late Sir John O’Shanassy, one of the Conscript Fathers of the colony, and a splendid specimen of the old Tipperary yeoman stock, managed this delicate matter, and managed it badly, for years. Sir C. G. Duffy managed it so much worse that colonists finally refused doggedly to even discuss the Roman Catholic grievance. Verily much can be forgiven to a colony which has reckoned Sir Charles Gavan Duffy among its leading politicians, which has learnt to know him, which indeed can never forget him.26 But unless the action, language, and opinions of those who complain of wrong and ask for concessions afford clear proof that granting their demands would imperil the lives, liberty, and property of their fellow-subjects, no enlightened community should be influenced by the blunders, follies, and excesses of the spokesmen. In Victoria it seemed to me the noxious virus secreted by State Socialism, State bribes, and State doles has already penetrated so far that colonists deliberately inflict a wrong in educational matters mainly because they have been persuaded that justice would cost a great deal of money.
Roman Catholic ecclesiastics and laymen in Victoria submit that although the State professes to provide money out of the taxes for the elementary education of all Victorian children this money is now so distributed that they, as conscientious Catholics, cannot possibly benefit by it in any way. As proof of their earnestness they have since 1872 expended nearly £300,000 in providing school buildings in which the children of conscientious Roman Catholic parents are now instructed in religious as well as secular subjects. Some twenty or thirty thousand children are thus provided for at no expense whatsoever to the colony, the secular education given being quite equal to that in the State schools. The Roman Catholic party now propose to continue to build their own schools, to appoint their own teachers, subject to Government examination as to efficiency in secular subjects, and ask for a per capita grant or share of the free education vote, based, as far as I understand, not on the departmental rate, but rather on the actual cost per child under their system of instruction (about one-half the departmental rate) for all children who pass the Government Inspectors’ examination in secular, or nonreligious subjects, according to the official standard for age, etc. This demand is refused. The replies vouchsafed to calm and moderate protests from both Protestant and Catholic colonists differ in no way from the stock apologies put forward for the religious disabilities of Protestants, Roman Catholics, Quakers, and other dissenters elsewhere in the past. The ‘thin edge of the wedge’ argument is used. It is said that if Victorian Roman Catholics were given a per capita grant for each child duly educated in secular subjects they would soon demand a grant for new school buildings also. It is said that the Roman Catholic religion is a bad religion and inimical to civil and religious freedom; indeed, Sir Archibald Michie, whose sensitive conscience prompted him to write one of the few existing pamphlets on this question, mentions the massacre of St. Bartholomew and the horrors of the Inquisition, and also quotes largely from Macaulay to prove this latter statement. What Macaulay says, and what all history teaches, about the effect of Roman Catholic ascendency upon human societies would be much to the point if it were proposed to give the hierarchy of that religion virtual control over the civil and religious liberties of citizens anywhere, but hardly answers the complaint that conscientious Victorian Catholics cannot possibly benefit from the annual education grant. It is said further that Roman Catholic Governments do not give money to Protestant schools; also that a portion of any grant given to Catholics in Victoria might be sent as a present to the Pope, instead of being used for education; also, that the alleged ‘Catholic conscience’ in this matter is really a ‘breeches-pocket conscience’; also, as has been said to Protestants who sought to establish schools of their own in Roman Catholic countries, that the teaching sanctioned by the State is very good teaching—if the dissatisfied ones would only think so. It is also alleged that the majority of Victorian Catholic parents now cheerfully send their children to the State schools. But that to my mind merely proved, in some instances, that such parents are lukewarm Catholics. The fact remains that a certain percentage of Victorian parents, rightly or wrongly, consider the anti-Christian education given in the State schools pernicious. If there were only fifty such parents in the colony a grievance would still exist under the Act. Apparently, also, Roman Catholic priests sometimes sanction the sending of children to the State schools, if no Roman Catholic school exists in the neighbourhood, possibly as a general indulgence to eat meat on Fridays is extended to sick or shipwrecked people, the inhabitants of beleagured cities, etc., but those, I think, are matters for Catholics to settle among themselves. Mr. Sutherland, a cultured member of the Unitarian body in Melbourne, has disclosed what seems to me the most effective argument against the Catholic claims. In a long letter to the Melbourne Argus, of April, 1885, he states that among sensible men and women in the colony there is a strong but vague hostility to the Catholic claim. ‘The object of my letter,’ he says, ‘is to give that consciousness a basis of figures and more definite form, so that the nation at large may be fortified in its refusal to entertain the Catholic claim.’ He then declares that ‘if the Catholics ever succeed in obtaining a separate grant it would imply the closing of several hundreds of the smaller State schools.’ I do not think Mr. Sutherland proved his case at all, but the vague impression that he might be correct in his view had a great influence with the colonists at the time, and has still.
I followed this controversy closely when in the colony, because I marvelled to see a so-called free, enlightened, and progressive democracy sheepishly furbishing up at the end of the nineteenth century rusty weapons and rusty arguments of religious intolerance. After a while it seemed to me still more significant and instructive that the desire of the majority to grab all the State money going should be the chief reason for this rare intolerance. Shabby selfishness and chronic mendicancy are imperceptibly, but surely, developed by State Socialism. Later, there follows incapacity to do a single just or liberal act. It is not denied by the partisans of the Victorian Education Act that if Roman Catholics should ever ‘pocket their conscience,’ as they are invited to do, and abandon their separate schools, an enormous sum would have to be at once spent on school-buildings for the children thus thrown upon the State, while the educational vote would be at least £100,000 a year higher. Roman Catholics thus virtually take a large amount of expenditure on their own shoulders, and colonists accept an alms from the denomination whose conscientious scruples they deride. I judged that men and women, degraded by State and Municipal borrowing and begging, lose national self-respect altogether after a while.27
The complaints of Roman Catholic Educators in Victoria are worth noting, because the Education Act of 1873 placed them under much the same disabilities as Church of England, Wesleyan and other Protestant Nonconformist Educators in the United Kingdom would endure if Mr. Morley’s declaration of the 21st of February, 1890,28 were embodied in an Imperial Education Act. But while Mr. Morley offered, ‘on behalf of the Liberal party,’ special privileges to Roman Catholics and Jews in the United Kingdom, the Victorian Act imposes equal disabilities upon all citizens who believe that the teaching of the Christian religion ought to be encouraged in elementary schools.
That which some regarded as merely a graceful philopena-present from Mr. Morley to Mr. Sexton raised certain hopes and gave a certain amount of satisfaction in other directions. Possibly the Roman Catholic hierarchy, who are well informed on these matters, did see the pitfall lying behind the offer from the so-called ‘Liberal, party,’ but some of the Roman Catholic clergy and laity in the United Kingdom must have been pleased at the recognition by so distinguished a catechumen as Mr. Morley of the claim of ‘one of the great hierarchies of obscurantism’29 to dispose of an educational grant from the Consolidated Fund as they pleased. Mr. John Morley has declared, too, that the educational claims of the Roman Catholic bishops and priests represent ‘the black and anti-social aggression of the syllabus and the encyclical,’30 and that ‘the supposed eagerness of the parent to send his child to a school of a special denomination is a mere invention . . . of the priests.’31 Some Nonconformists, as well as the whole of the secularist or anti-Christian body in the United Kingdom, may also have rejoiced at the prospect of financial vengeance upon the Church of England held out by an ex-Minister.
What has happened in Victoria shows how many of these hopes and anticipations are likely to be realised. I think there is conclusive proof that a free grant from the Consolidated Fund, or from ‘the State,’ implies secular or anti-Christian teaching, and no other kind, in ‘State’ schools; that it would be impossible permanently to single out one or two denominations and give to them a portion of such grant to dispose of as they please; finally, that the secularist or anti-Christian party, although actually in a minority—as they always have been and still are in Victoria—will manage, sooner or later, to drive a wedge between the rival Christian denominations and to impose their own educational, or may we say atheological, ideas upon the State.
Up to the 11th July, 1851, ‘the Port Philip District,’ now the colony of Victoria, was a portion of New South Wales. For eleven years after ‘separation’ or the grant of Autonomy, the educational system inherited from the parent colony was administered fairly well by a National Board and a Denominational Board, disposing between them of the Government grant.32 In August 1862 the Common Schools Act, promoted by Mr. Richard Heales, came into operation. It was administered by five quasi-independent Commissioners of Education. The Principle of the Act is alleged to have been secular education, pure and simple, but the Commissioners at first made regulations which sanctioned the blending of religious with secular instruction in voluntary or denominational schools. The latter increased slowly under the Common Schools Act. In 1872, when it was repealed, there were 408 of them in the Colony altogether, which had cost some £185,000 to erect. Of this sum the State had contributed £104,000. From the first there were conflicts and jealousies between the Ministry of the day and the Educational Commissioners, who insisted on exercising independent patronage and control. Among the community generally the discussion of educational problems between 1862 and 1872, as well as the investigations by the Royal Commission on Public Education in 1866, brought out like views to those common in this country at the time. There was the same jealousy of the ascendancy of ‘the creeds’ and ‘the parsons’ on the part of the Victorian average ratepayer, and the same want of cohesion and unanimity—or positive antagonism—among ‘the creeds’ themselves who were expected to champion the cause of religious instruction in Elementary State schools. The existing Act, No. 447, of 1873, is chiefly due to Mr. (afterwards Mr. Justice) Wilberforce Stephen, a doctrinaire liberal, possessed of much industry, sincerity, and erudition, now deceased. When Mr. J. G. Francis formed a Liberal-Conservative Ministry on the 10th June, 1872, in succession to Mr. C. G. Duffy, Mr. Stephen became his Attorney-General, and an Education Bill, reforming the abuses alleged to have sprung up under the Common Schools Act of 1862, was part of the Ministerial programme. The Protestant clergy of all denominations thereupon held a series of conferences, beginning in July, 1872, under the presidency of the late Bishop Perry, to discuss the situation. The partisans of secular instruction, pure and simple, consisting mainly of free-thinkers but reinforced by a few clergymen and sincerely religious laymen, had formed a Victorian Education League. It cannot be said that colonists generally were seriously discontented with the Common Schools Act; but they shared the educational enthusiasm among Britons generally at that epoch, and hoped also to get from a department of State a better and a cheaper system than ‘the parsons’ had given them. The Roman Catholic body in Victoria, who had even hesitated to accept State aid under the limitations embodied in the Common Schools Act, at once suspected serious mischief from Mr. Stephen’s policy, and prepared, in secret as their way is, to offer what resistance they could to the forthcoming Bill. As happened in this country when Free State Education was mentioned at the beginning of 1890, the Protestant denominations, clergy and laymen, were by no means irreconcilable towards what they believed to be the Free State Educational ideas of Government. In 1872 it was not understood how thoroughly Mr. Stephen intended to secularize Victorian education. Actuated by that spirit of futile opportunism, which to this day inspires the high strategy of so many Anglican Churchmen in the United Kingdom, the members of the conference of 1872 contented themselves with a series of moderate, neutral, and, as it looks now, entirely reasonable resolutions. They were unanimously in favour of what Mr. Morley has called ‘the organic principle of our constitution,’ local control of some sort over elementary education. Parents they thought should have something to say in the choice of teachers; the latter being permitted also to give religious instruction in State school buildings out of school hours; while Government would perhaps be able to draw up a Scripture lectionary, containing selected passages agreeable to all Protestant denominations. They were willing that henceforth no new ‘voluntary’ schools should be established in the colony, a self-denying ordinance which, by the way, struck directly at the Roman Catholics. Two or three members of the Protestant Conference declared for free, secular, and compulsory State education in principle, arguing that religious teaching could, and ought to be, carried on quite apart from secular teaching, by the clergy or by lay helpers, instead of by State school teachers. The late Professor Hearn, the most profound and brilliant thinker who has served the colony, appears to have foreseen most clearly the economical objections to Free State Education, and he indeed predicted, in a pamphlet issued at the time, the very evils of over-centralization, extravagance, and abuse of patronage at the Central Department which the Royal Commissioners unearthed ten or twelve years afterwards. The Education Bill was introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Mr. Stephen on the 12th September, 1872, in a speech of mammoth dimensions, yet not uninteresting reading even now, for it sets forth most of the sophistries and illusions which charmed educational enthusiasts twenty years ago. In those days Buckle was not yet regarded by advanced Liberals as a fossilized thinker, and traces of his influence crop up in Mr. Stephen’s interesting comparisons between enlightened and well-educated French youth, since the Revolution, and British youth, still in the trammels of ‘the creeds.’ Mr. Hepworth Dixon’s and Mr. Matthew Arnold’s rococo opinions about Swiss and Prussian education all figured at immense length in this speech and helped to benumb the intellects of worthy colonists, at that period hovering at the summit of the well-greased slide which was to carry them towards complete State Socialism. Mr. Stephen convinced the Legislative Assembly that elementary education directed by a central State authority would effectually purge the colony of clericalism and religious animosities. It was his belief that in a couple of generations, through the missionary influence of the State schools, a new body of State doctrine and theology would grow up, and that the cultured and intellectual Victorians of the future would discreetly worship in common at the shrine of one neutral-tinted deity, sanctioned by the State department. Noticing the objection that patronage would be abused under his Bill, Mr. Stephen declared that no minister would ever ‘dare’ to appoint teachers from political motives. A few years later, when Victorian protectionists and State socialists had made an end of Conservative ministries, this Conservative Education Act was used by Mr. Stephen’s opponents to pension and reward their followers, and teachers of the worst character and antecedents were pitch-forked wholesale into the State schools.
The opposition to the Educational Bill in the Assembly was half-hearted and feeble. Indeed, its various ‘principles’ proved themselves and each other as the discussion went on. The ‘compulsory’ principle was almost unanimously accepted from the first, probably because of the Prussian and alleged American examples. The old quibble, that education if ‘compulsory’ must be ‘free,’ next did service. Then, it having been assumed that the State must be teacher, it became manifest that the different groups who opposed the Bill, not being agreed among themselves, were utterly unprepared to answer the question ‘what particular religion is to be taught?’ The only logical solution was, ‘no religious teaching at all.’ The Bill passed triumphantly through committee on the 19th October, and came into force on the 1st January, 1873. Zealous Roman Catholics at once rejected the new Act. They refused to accept State aid on the official terms, and ‘went out into the wilderness.’ And there they are still. But they set to work to build new schools and to provide for the schooling of as many children as possible.33 The Church of England, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, and other Protestants determined, on the contrary, to give the Act a fair trial; as some put it, they walked straight into the trap. They gave up control of their schools and surrendered the buildings to Government, receiving compensation for valid interests, and have made no attempt to carry on ‘voluntary’ elementary schools since 1873. Mr. Morley, writing on the Victorian experiment at the time, gracefully describes what was done by Mr. Stephen in 1872 as ‘throwing a handful of dust over the raging insects,’ i.e. the Christian denominations. In the same work he quotes the saying of an opponent: ‘religion can only be taught in elementary schools by the lay master. If taught by the clergyman it would only be regarded as an insupportable bore.’ This certainly has been the experience in Victoria. State school teachers are heavily fined if they give religious instructions ‘at any time.’ During the last ten years earnest efforts have been made by Protestant ministers of religion and laymen to get together classes of State school children for religious instruction after school hours, the buildings being always at their disposal then. These efforts have completely failed. Secularism, or what some call free-thought, is the one creed virtually established and endowed by the Victorian Education Act. It may be questioned whether neutrality is possible in this matter; children either learn some form of belief or of disbelief. In the State schools, we are told officially, ‘lessons on morals and manners are given fortnightly; for the treatment of those apparently drowned and of those bitten by snakes, periodically.’ Eclectic heathenism is the note of State school morality in Victoria. The children are however taught English Grammar, Arithmetic, and Geography very well indeed; and the way in which they will repeat the names of all mountains, capes, bays, lakes—as well as of the two rivers—in Australia, perhaps suggests that, after all, fin de siècle heathenism may be ‘much misunderstood.’ Meanwhile the system must continue to be extravagantly costly: it is swathed in and strangled by red tape; it inflicts injustice upon conscientious religious bodies; it deposes parents from responsibility and the teacher from the free exercise of his noble craft; it prescribes a stereotyped form of procedure on a track where constant progress and free experiment are most essential.
In his survey of the colony of Victoria, Sir Charles Dilke (i. 248-52) mentions the Early Closing of Shops—under the 45th clause of the amended Factory Act (862) of 1885—among ‘experiments tried’ not among ‘problems’ of Greater Britain. But it is perhaps entitled to rank among the rapidly accumulating problems of Sillier Britain, seeing that Sir John Lubbock’s Bill still loiters with intent round the door of the House of Commons. The readers of Sir Charles Dilke’s book are led to understand that in Victoria the experiment is a success, and that since 1886 retail shops have been compulsorily closed at the statutory hours of 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on Saturdays, without injury to business, without protest from tradesmen or customers.
The 45th clause of the Act in question gave a species of local option to municipal bodies, and, inter alia, the power to fix the fines for selling goods after 7 p.m.34 Certain municipalities at once exercised all the powers available to mitigate the impending nuisance, thereby exciting the wrath of the Socialist party, who promptly threw over the principle of local option and complained that a beneficent measure was being defeated by a base conspiracy. Sir Charles Dilke seems to sympathise with these complaints. He mentions the unfriendliness of the municipalities and the lowness of the fines, and adds somewhat inconsequently, ‘the light fines have been a success, for the publication of the names of the offenders has been sufficient.’ It was sufficient in one notable instance35 to get the fines paid for the offender by public subscription; but that of course is not what Sir Charles Dilke means.
The story of the Victoria Early Closing law is worth recalling. It has long been practically obsolete in the colony, and when it was (on that very ground) proposed in 1890 to enact a similar, but far more drastic, measure, the public appeared to have forgotten not only the details but even the date of the first experiment.
Colonial Factory Acts profess to be modelled on Imperial Acts, but contain important variations and ‘extras.’ Labour being well able to take care of itself is, generally speaking, indifferent to that legislative protection which has been thought necessary for European workers under their entirely different conditions. Yet for years prior to 1885, the Trades Hall leaders, anxious to have all operatives well in hand and under discipline, had demanded, on behalf of the bootmaking and clothing trades chiefly, legislation which would drive all outside piece-workers into factories. Female hands work at these ‘light’ trades, and girls of some refinement, aged or sick people, cripples, women with babies to look after, etc., who dislike factory life, take work home. Male Trade Unionists in the Antipodes have always objected to female labour, being anxious to get all the wages paid in all trades into their own pockets. Accordingly a bogus outcry was raised that ‘the sweating system’ prevailed in Melbourne boot and clothing factories, and the politicians in 1882 packed a Royal Commission to solemnly enquire into the evils of the sweating system in a country where the supply of well-paid labour never approaches the demand. A Report containing various foolish and futile suggestions duly appeared; some of these were embodied in a Ministerial Factory Bill introduced, but dropped, in 1884. In the middle of February, 1885, a dispute was worked up by the Trades Hall Leaders in the boot trade on this very question of ‘giving out’ piece-work. It lasted for fourteen weeks and was settled by arbitration and compromise, largely in favour of the Trade Union. In the following session the Chief Secretary, yearning to do something for ‘the paper-collar-proletariat,’ introduced a modified Factory Bill which, in addition to sops thrown to the Trades Hall Council, contained the Early Closing provision for the benefit of shop assistants, who also considered that they ought to be raised in the scale of humanity by the State. Hardly any attention was paid by the outside public or the shop-keeping class to the Early Closing proposal while it was before Parliament. Victorian citizens, modest as M. Jourdain, are not generally aware that they have developed such a grand institution as State Socialism. They leave such matters to politicians and geniuses. Business was not very flourishing at the end of 1885, and small tradesmen in Melbourne, trying their best to make a living, and taking for granted that the Members of the Legislative Assembly were absorbed in their normal avocations of drawing their salaries, squabbling over obscure personal matters (absolutely uninteresting to outsiders), and fetching and carrying for the Trades Hall Council—paid little attention to the Factory Bill, while the one Melbourne newspaper which saw what was going to happen failed to rouse the interest of shop-keepers on the subject. Members of the Legislative Council (who are elected under a more restricted franchise than Members of the Assembly and get no salaries) insisted on tacking the principle of local control on to Early Closing when it came up to them and would probably have rejected the clause altogether if tradesmen outside had known at first what they found out subsequently and had made some vigorous protest. The Bill quietly slipped through both Houses in December and came into operation—after the triennial elections for the Assembly were over—in March, 1886. Early Closing of shops got a fair trial—for a week. That was quite sufficient. The powerful City Council which rules in Central or ‘Greater’ Melbourne as it is called, worthily represents many of the noble and ancient traditions of self-government. It is independent of the politicians and the dominant class, too wealthy to require to sponge upon the Treasury and strong enough to do its duty. A few days after the ‘Silly Shops Act, 1885,’ came into operation the Melbourne Town Council called upon tradesmen aggrieved under its provisions to petition. They were all aggrieved and they nearly all petitioned. The hours of closing were at once extended, and to show their appreciation of this piece of legislative folly the Town Council fixed the fines at a nominal sum. One or two of the suburban Councils quickly plucked up courage to follow the example. Meanwhile the Early Closing Law remained in force in many districts. The results gradually developed were most remarkable and, as there was no precedent in any civilised country for a similar absurdity, unexpected. It was found that Early Closing did not operate alike in any two districts; even at different ends of the same street it produced quite different results. It would, indeed, have been as reasonable to prescribe one uniform class, style and quality of goods for shops in all quarters of the city as to prescribe a uniform hour for ceasing to buy goods. In the fashionable parts of Melbourne, for example, the Act had no direct effect whatever, for the large shops there always closed at 5 o’clock; the class of customers who dealt with them, living in the suburbs, all went home about that hour. It was discovered that many of the assistants in fashionable shops kept small shops themselves in the suburbs, which practically did no business before 7 p.m. It was discovered that closing at 7 in some of the suburbs really meant, to large retail drapers and grocers, closing at 6, because all their assistants went to tea in relays at the latter hour; six to seven was in short the ‘off’ hour. Female servants, who in Melbourne patronise the shops extensively, began to find that they could not get out in the evening to make their purchases; by the time they had cleared away and washed up the dinner or tea things the shops were closed. A large number of small retail tradesmen of course kept no assistants, doing the whole work themselves. ‘Friends of Man’ and Socialists had defended the Early Closing law on the plea that the downtrodden assistant wanted to improve his mind at night and to attend lectures and classes; but if there were no assistant at all in the shop, his or her mind could hardly be improved; still the shop had to close. Business men, clerks, artisans, etc., at work all day in Melbourne, began to find out that by the time they got to their homes or lodgings in the suburbs, had their dinner or tea and strolled out to make purchases, or even to get their hair cut, the shops were all closed. This class was obliged to lose half an hour from their work in the middle of the day to do their shopping in Central Melbourne. A vast amount of trade was therefore at once transferred from the suburbs to the shops in the centre of the town. It was discovered that a number of poor people—washerwomen, dressmakers, casual workers—as a rule did not bring back work, or get paid for it, till late in the evening; when they had money wherewith to do their small shopping, they found shops closed. As the Australian winter drew in, the streets, unlit by the lamps in shop windows, were dismal and deserted. The ‘exempted’ tradesmen36 began to find to their surprise that customers would not even deal with them when the streets were half dark; one shop, it appears, in some way brings business to another. It had been necessary expressly to prohibit exempted tobacconists, chemists, etc., from selling stationery, cutlery or groceries at night, after the stationers’, cutlers’, and grocers’ shops were shut. Mr. E. G. Fitz-Gibbon, the Town Clerk of Melbourne, stated, a few months after the Act came into operation, that he had received hundreds of letters from small suburban tradespeople complaining that they were being utterly ruined by it, and similar results were described in the Legislative Assembly, without contradiction, in July 1890. Meanwhile the local municipal bodies one after another put the various powers given to them by the 45th clause into effect. A Shopkeepers’ Union (after the mischief was done) commenced a vigorous agitation. This was met by a counteragitation, comprising mass-meetings, processions, rioting, breaking the windows of large shops, and cowardly violence on the part of young loafers belonging to the Political Early Closing League and the Shop Assistants’ League. A great meeting of the latter had been held in the Town Hall just before the Act came into operation, at which one of the least ‘serious’ members of the discredited Government of May, 1877, as well as the notorious Dr. Rose, M.L.A., and a popularity-hunting gentleman, who was just then weaning a new religion, made soulful orations. Nevertheless Government hesitated to enforce the Early Closing law, almost from the first. It gradually dropped into disuse, and has long remained a dead letter in the colony. It was remarkable that some few tradesmen approved of and supported it all through.37 They devoutly held the socialistic doctrine that the public might be, and ought to be, dragooned, by a paternal Government, into shopping at certain hours; not at the hours which suited customers but at the hours which suited indolent shopkeepers. The majority of Melbourne shop assistants, mostly young fellows born in the colony, seemed to have grasped the root principle of State Socialism thoroughly, namely that the Legislature ought to provide what Sir Charles Dilke calls a ‘beautiful national existence’ for them, and that it was to the State, rather than to their own exertions, that tradesmen’s assistants ought to look for success, wealth, and comfort in life.
During the last twenty years professional office holders, paid legislators, half-educated dreamers and enthusiasts in Australasia, have attempted to satisfy these new and vague longings; to enact the part of a State socialistic ‘stage uncle’ towards the democracy there; but have never had sufficient thoroughness or daring to carry out socialistic or collectivist maxims and theories of government and society—maxims and theories which, at all events, are consistent, precise, and of logical obligation, if once we grant the socialist’s premises. State Socialism in the Antipodes has therefore been a hybrid affair; the tentative experiment of men who hoped to do partly, and without committing themselves too far, what thoughtful socialists and collectivists tell us they can do completely, if we will only give them a free hand. Experiments in crypto-socialism, tried upon a society at base, free, commercial, modern, English, would long ago have broken down on the financial side had it not been that the legendary repute of those lands for natural wealth, such as gold, wool, fruitful soil and a fine climate, has tempted investors in Europe to fling their money at the heads of Australasian borrowers. Latterly, as the frightful cost and necessarily unproductive results of State Socialism became apparent to Colonial ministers, they have, to prevent a collapse of the whole thing, been driven to apply for ever-recurring loans in Europe—on false pretences. Sir Charles Dilke does not see the pretence, or is silent about it. The tone of his book, where State socialists and the despotic Colonial proletariat are in question, is one of deferential subserviency, seasoned with half-genuine admiration, recalling those third-rate fashionable novelists of fifty or sixty years ago, who affectionately described the births, deaths, mariages, and occasional foibles of our ancient aristocracy. As to the money lent or the credit extended by persons in this country to Australasian governments, financial institutions, and private traders, it may perhaps some day be worth the while of a ‘Council of Colonial Bond-holders’ to enquire into the nature of the ‘securities’ which now cover those investments. In one sense it is true that Britons have lent goods, rather than cash, to Australasian colonists, always on the implied understanding that the latter will send us back exchangeable utilities in return—as soon as the reproductive public works become productive. Public works constructed on State socialistic principles, unfortunately, never do become productive.38 Australian colonists send to the foreigner fewer and fewer goods or utilities each decade; instead, reams of promissory notes. Whether this system of one-sided free trade be destined to last for a long time or a short time, certain it is that it has already wrought profound—but, I trust, not irreparable—injury to colonists themselves. Victorians of the new generation have, seemingly, come to believe that the real source of wealth is in Lombard Street, rather than in the soil and climate of their superb fatherland. The subtle poison of State Socialism appears to be hurtful to workers born in the colony especially. Their fathers roughly held that man, standing face to face with reticent Nature, is duty-bound to ask himself, ‘How much is in me? how much in my opportunities?’ and thenceforward to fight his very best to vanquish difficulties, perhaps in the end wrenching fame, wealth, and comfort from the circumstances surrounding him. Such, as we know, was the old pioneer spirit which for a while opened up a bright and noble destiny for the colony. In that kind of struggle often the prize won was not so good a thing as the lessons learnt in trying to win it. State Socialism today in the Antipodes seems to me to preach to willing disciples the despicable gospel of shirking, laziness, mendicancy, and moral cowardice. The further consciousness among all classes there, that triumphant and popular State Socialism depends for its existence on absorbing money from abroad, without reasonable prospect of ever being able to repay it, seems to me bad also.
[1 ] Returns relating to colonial legislation—Canadian liquor legislation chiefly—have been occasionally presented to Parliament. In 1889 Mr. Bradlaugh obtained one return showing the limitation of hours of labour ‘in Canada and the United States’, but as Acts of Congress are often loosely carried out, or allowed to remain dormant, American ‘results’ are not very instructive. When Sir John Lubbock’s Early Closing of Shops Bill was discussed, in 1888, some reference was made to the Victorian Factory Act of 1885. In 1890, when Mr. Goschen’s Local Taxation Bill was reviewed, it was not noticed at all that the whole question of ‘compensation’ to owners and lessees of licensed premises had been fully thrashed out and dealt with in Victoria in 1884, under conditions almost exactly similar to our own. A Glasgow newspaper (Aug. 1890) stated that Mr. Bradlaugh next session might raise the question of obtaining—either through colonial governors, or by small commissions sitting in the colonies—independent evidence as to the scope and results of certain State Socialistic enactments in Australia; and added, rightly enough, that the British public, through ‘Consular Reports,’ knew a good deal more about American, or Portuguese, legislation than about colonial Of course the official etiquette in such matters is to refer to the Agents General for the Colonies. But although these gentlemen are always most willing to give information, the majority of them have now been absent from their own colonies for years; they may also, while members of Colonial Parliaments, have been zealous partisans—or opponents—of the very legislation on which an unbiased opinion is required.
[2 ] A then member of the opposition in one of the colonial legislatures—himself an acute observer, able thinker, and scathing critic in the Local Assembly of the financial, economical, and moral results of State Socialism—visited London early in 1890. On his return to Australia he assured a newspaper interviewer that he had been careful, in conversation with public men in London, to refrain from mentioning any awkward facts which might tend to alarm investors in the United Kingdom. This reticence is significant. Yet, it is not the business of Australian colonists to warn investors here against lending them that money without which State Socialism—including protected industries, fancy wages, short hours, extravagant educational privileges, and other ‘collective’ luxuries—would long since have collapsed. Caveat emptor is a principle discreetly inculcated by colonists of all classes.
[3 ] Although there is not, and never has been, any speculation—in the gambler’s sense—in colonial securities on the London Stock Exchange, and although no large account in them is ever open ‘for the fall’ there, an uneasy superstition prevails in the colonies that ‘the Stock Exchange bears’ are, somehow, habitually interested in depressing those securities. As far as that institution is concerned, colonial bonds are taken up and held in large blocks, by a few very rich ‘jobbers,’ who try to retail them gradually to the investing public. Practically the Stock Exchange must always be a ‘bull’ of colonial securities.
[4 ] A Colonial Office Return, 81 of 1890, ‘Statistics of the Colony of Victoria,’ gives (p. 50) the ‘net earnings’ of the State Railways since 1884 at a fraction over four per cent. The reality of these ‘net earnings’ is extremely doubtful. The ‘Finance Account’ on p. 32 will not bear examination. A note on the same page gives the ‘statement’ (really an official précis of that year’s budget) ‘distributed to members of the Legislative Assembly in July, 1889,’ which showed a credit balance, or surplus, of £1,607,559. These figures, it is cautiously added, were ‘not final.’ They certainly were not; for by the close of the Parliamentary session, on the 21st November, 1889, it was discovered that the huge surplus—which the hon. the treasurer in August had generously distributed in doles, such as £60,000 a year extra, to railway labourers; £140,000 a year to municipalities; £250,000 bounties on exports, to already ‘protected’ industries, cottage asylums, wire netting for the State rabbits, public buildings, etc.—had no existence.
The whole story of this bogus surplus had already been told in the Melbourne Press two months before the Colonial Office Return in question (which reproduces it as genuine with the endorsement of the then governor of the colony, Sir Henry Loch), was ‘presented to both Houses of Parliament, by command of her Majesty.’ In the last hours of the session of 1889, the hon. the treasurer announced that the government balance in the hands of the associated banks had fallen to £142,000, that he had been compelled like all his predecessors to borrow from ‘Trust Funds,’ but to the extent of £1,230,000, and that he would require to float at once on the London market a loan for £1,600,000 (formally devoted by Parliament to railway construction in 1885) as well as a further loan of £4,000,000 to square his accounts. It was subsequently admitted by ministers that the surpluses of that and previous years had been mainly arrived at by the strange but, it appears, time-honoured bookkeeping expedient of crediting the revenue with all money received during the financial year and ‘carrying forward’ certain expenditures, or debits, to futurity. A memorandum to the Premier from Mr. Edward Langton (an old Victorian public servant and financier of ability, who is banished from political life because he is a free trader) was published in the principal Melbourne newspaper, Dec. 4, 1889, and showed that, according to the Victorian audit commissioners, for years past, large sums had been expended without the sanction of Parliament, improperly withdrawn from the debit side of the public accounts and carried forward for subsequent adjustment. Since 1885-6 this ‘charging forward’ amounted to £3,500,000. The audit commissioners, it further appeared, are powerless to interfere with this ‘system of bookkeeping.’ It transpired at the same time that no separate or distinct Railway departmental account or budget existed; the audit commissioners and the railway department did not even agree as to the real amount of the railway capital account; no railway ‘sinking fund,’ or reserve, to meet losses, such as compensation to passengers for railway accidents, existed; while expenditure which, by the General Post Office, or by any solvent railway, in this country, would be charged to revenue, was habitually charged to a floating capital account, to be recouped out of future loans. The fiction of ‘non-political control’ of the Victorian railways is reproduced by Sir Charles Dilke. It is true that (chiefly owing to the efforts of the ‘Argus’) since 1884, Mr. Speight, a railway authority of great experience from the Midland Company, a born judge of work and possessed of singular energy, ability and tact, has been ‘at the head’ of the Victorian Railway department. But in matters of high State Socialistic finance the ‘Minister of Railways’ was, until the attempt to create a new Parliamentary Committee ad hoc in 1890, supreme. Mr. Speight has been constantly attacked and thwarted by the labour party and their political satellites, but now shows some signs of having become a convert to their ideas. Chaotic as is the condition of Victorian ‘bookkeeping,’ matters are still more confused in New South Wales. From February, 1886, to January, 1887, an Irish gentleman, who in the romantic garb of a disguised troubadour had won the heart of a charming colonial heiress, and thus laid the foundation of political eminence, was premier of the colony. He managed, before stumbling out of office, to associate himself with a deficit of £1,000,000, which has since been stated in the local Parliament, Feb. 1889, to have grown to £4,064,844. The truth is that no one in the colony knows how the matter stands. In South Australia and Queensland the ‘system of bookkeeping’ and ‘the objects on which their debts are spent,’ are, as Mr. Herbert Spencer would say, ‘unthinkable.’ New Zealand, the colony whose credit has stood lowest of recent years, alone has what may perhaps be called a sinking fund, and managed, at least on paper, to reduce her debt by £1,383,432 in 1889-90. Irregularities and bad management in the public accounts of Victoria and New South Wales might no doubt be remedied in time, were it not that the prosperity of the dominant class and their dependents is now inextricably bound up with the continuance and extension of reckless financing. In order to appreciate the State Socialistic ‘system of bookkeeping’ in Victoria, we ought to imagine Mr. Goschen dimly suspecting a deficit, drawing freely on funds in the hands of the Receiver General of the Court of Chancery in order to pay off incoherent issues of Exchequer bills; and squaring one year’s public accounts by council drafts on India—in the following year. Meantime distributing ‘surpluses’ thus obtained in bribes to various political groups, suggested by the Social Democratic Federation.
[5 ] Pp. i. 185, ii. 264, 265, 267, 268, 269, 272, 279, 288, 296, 357.
[6 ] Mr. Mathew Macfie, in a paper read before the Colonial Institute, Dec. 10, 1889, designed to show that the Australian colonies were crippled and restricted by lack of population, and efficient labour, says, ‘The operatives in Victoria are organized into a compact phalanx under leaders who have succeeded by dogged persistence in imbuing the colony with the notion that they constitute the party which controls voting power at elections. So widely is this assumption believed that candidates at a Parliamentary Election, to whom salary or political influence is a consideration, defer with real or affected humility to the wishes of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne. The inevitable outcome of this state of political subjection on the part of the members of the House, and in many cases of the Government also, is the injustice of class legislation.’ Sir Charles Dilke, writing perhaps from the point of view of an ‘inhabitant’ of a quarter of a century ago, describes (ii. 316), the great respect felt for the Trades Councils, and their almost invariable wisdom, moderation, sense of responsibility, and marked spirit of justice.
Mr. Macfie, who spent several years in Victoria, and only returned in 1889, is however a specially valuable witness, because he lived right in the centre of the Protectionist and State Socialist camp, having been editor of a powerful weekly journal, mainly owned by the same gentleman whom Sir Charles Dilke styles (ii. 272) ‘the Founder of Australian Protection,’ adding that ‘he might easily, had chance so willed it, have made in the world the same name that has been made in later days by Mr. Henry George, having put forward in most eloquent and powerful language the same principles at a much earlier date.’ In the Antipodes Evolution, of course, proceeds à rebours, and the Founder of Protection in question, who might, had chance so willed it, have become the rival of Mr. Henry George, although he still diverts his admirers, whose pennies and patronage are making him a millionaire, with cheap denunciation of capitalism and landlordism, is today the wealthiest landowner in the colony.
[7 ] Mr. William Webster of Aberdeen once described to me, as evidence of the spread of the light in the colonies, an ardent land nationalizer from the Colonial Little Peddlington, South Australia, who owned much land himself. It was, I gathered, mortgaged, beyond its then value to local banks. Now there are two sections of land nationalizers, confiscationists and anti-confiscationists, the former being, of course, mere brigands, the latter honest, but ignorant folk, who imagine that the mystic ‘State’ can, somehow, invent money wherewith honestly to buy up all the freehold land in the world before nationalizing it. The Little Peddlington landowner, it seems, had joined the anti-confiscationist section, and as his land was quite unsaleable and a burthen to him, I was not surprised to hear that he had high hopes from ‘the State,’ and was very enthusiastic.
[8 ]The Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Act (765) of 1883, Sect. 62 says. ‘The days of labour (sic) of any person employed by the Company . . . shall be eight hours,’ but permits overtime, ‘for special payment,’ to the amount of sixty hours’ work per week. ‘The Company shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £5 for every breach of this section.’ It has never been necessary to enforce this penalty. The Regulation of Mines Act (783) of 1883, Sec. 5. says: ‘No person shall be employed . . . for more than eight hours in any day, except in case of emergency.’ The penalty for a breach of this section by a ‘mine owner’ is £50 fine; by ‘any other person’ a fine of £10, recoverable by summary process before two justices. Although I can find no cases of prosecutions under this section, it seems to have been evaded, for an Amending Act ad hoc (883) of 1886 enacts, solely, that: ‘no person shall be employed below the ground in any mine for more than eight consecutive hours . . . from the time he commences to descend the mine until he is relieved of his work.’ . . . The burthen of proving innocence of charges under these sections is thrown upon the mine owner or ‘other person.’
[9 ] A familiar argument for an eight hours’ statute in Great Britain is that Trade Unions cannot enforce the rule themselves. Legal agencies are sometimes superfluous. In the grim days when landlords were absolute in Ireland the legal machinery for collecting rents was very imperfect, actually far behind that existing in England; the Act of 1860 first gave large powers in that respect to Irish landowners. Aware of this, I once asked a venerable Irish farmer how landlords managed to collect rent in his youth? ‘Well, you see,’ he said, ‘landlords didn’t want much lawyer’s law in thim times. The mashther’s rint-warner just wint round wid’ a big cart-whip, and he found no pettyfoggin’ impidimints at all.’
[10 ] The bare, or ‘face,’ duty on the principal imported articles, which really compete with local manufactures, will be found over a course of years to average from 30 to 50 per cent ad valorem. On some kinds of paper, matches, earthenware porcelain, china and glass and on wearing apparel, it has worked out of recent years at some 75 to 150 per cent ad valorem. In order to arrive at the total advantage or ‘pull’ which the Victorian manufacturer enjoys, we may safely treble the nominal or ‘face’ amount given in the tariff list. Thus, a nominal duty of 25 per cent ad valorem means that at least 75 per cent protection is enjoyed by the local manufacturer. Victorian importers must provide two separate capitals, and pay an average of 6 per cent interest on at least one of them; one is locked up, perhaps for many months, in the Custom House, the other is required partly in Europe to pay for goods and partly to work with in Melbourne. We must add freight, insurance, and heavy port and landing charges, at a port where wharf labourers get 1s. 3d. per hour for seven and a-half hours of work, and difficulty, loss of time and interest involved in executing orders in a market 13,000 miles distant.
[11 ]Recess Studies, Edinb., Edmonstons, 1870.
[12 ] The Victorian Tariff Commission of 1883-4 elicited the curious fact that one lonely human being earned his living by cutting corks in the colony. Thus, for the benefit of this cherished unit, a duty of 4d per lb. on cut corks had been maintained, which was extremely irksome and injurious to the Colonial wine industry generally.
[13 ] The Victorian Commissioners to the last Calcutta Exhibition were denounced at the succeeding Annual Trade Union Congress in 1884 for having suggested that a market might be found in British India for some Victorian manufactures. They were accused of a design to reduce Victorian wages to the Indian level. Representative Trade Unionists have recently protested against the State Technical Colleges because young Victorians learn to become ‘fitters,’ lathe hands, etc., there, and thus compete with ‘Labour.’
[14 ] Victorian Free Traders have come to use arguments really borrowed from American Free Traders, from a country where ‘Protection’ is merely a patch of a strange colour on a garment woven throughout of ‘individualistic’ materials; contending, for example, that Protection in no way benefits the material interests and pocket of the Victorian working-man. Mr. E. Jowett, of the newly-formed Democratic Free Trade League, in a public debate with Mr. Hancock of the Trades Hall Council, on June 11, 1890, took this ground. In the United States Mr. Jowett’s contention is a truism, and, if we consider wage-earners as a class, and connote free trade in labour, no doubt it is equally true everywhere. But if we consider merely those Trade Unionists now alive in Victoria, and the circumstances determining ‘competition’ among them, I think it will be found that the high tariff, by increasing enormously the cost of living, has frightened away transient or casual workers, has deterred others from marrying early or rearing large families, and has thus diminished ‘competition’ generally. Except among Jews and Roman Catholics, the birth and marriage rates in the colony are ominously low. Married women born there are living under artificial, and in many respects unhealthy social conditions, shirk more and more of recent years the duties and exertions of maternity and rearing children. Already the most lucrative branch of medical practice in the colony depends on this sinister fact. The enervating effect of the climate upon women and young children, cost of house-rent, necessaries of life, servants, and even milk, in Melbourne, explain if they do not excuse ‘civic cowardice’ of this type.
[15 ] During the last seven years Government expenditure has increased by 41 per cent, while population has increased by 15 per cent only. Public and corporate debts have increased by £22,000,000, and annual exports of ‘produce and manufactures’ fallen from twelve to nine millions.
[16 ] Anyone who attempts to estimate the economic effect of the reduced hours and fancy wages enjoyed by Labour in Victoria, is at once confronted by the fact that the whole industrial or manufacturing system there is very much a system pour rire. While economists in Europe dispute the existence of a ‘wage fund,’ one becomes aware in Victoria of three such ‘funds,’ a fictitious ‘wage fund,’ an equally fictitious ‘capital fund,’ and finally a ‘consumers’ fund,’ all miraculously supplied by the State and the foreign investor. The ‘efficiency of labour’ means something definite in the United Kingdom, where labour and capital jointly compete in ‘market overt’ for the world’s custom, where withdrawal of capital or diminished efficiency of labour would at once tell upon the nation’s home trade, exports and imports. But in Victoria, where every £1 worth of local manufactures which figures in official returns has cost at least £1 10s. to produce, and is nevertheless ensured a forced consumption in the colony by the protective tariff, close calculations as to the effect of reduced hours of labour, wages, etc., are almost impossible.
The population of Victoria in 1883, when resistance to State Socialism virtually ceased, was 921,743, and the exports of home produce were £13,300,000. In 1887 the population was 1,036,119 (estimated), and the exports (which have since risen and then declined again) £8,502,979. Thus, while population had increased some 27 per cent, exports had decreased nearly 40 per cent. All the while the class (farmers, graziers, etc.) who do produce utilities for export, actually work far more than eight hours per diem. The diminution in the yield of gold appears however to be largely due to the action of ‘the amalgamated miner’ who has long enforced ‘the eight hours.’ Indirectly, too, short hours and high wages in Melbourne affect the supply as well as the efficiency of labour and production generally in the colony, workers being tempted to despise the slow process of developing the natural resources of the colony by hard toil.
[17 ] An unfortunate expression of the late Professor Fawcett’s to the effect that he ‘viewed with alarm the rapid alienation of the public domain in Australasia,’ is constantly quoted by the advocates of ‘bottling up’ the nation’s patrimony. The net result is that while the land’s departments may not sell freeholds to willing purchasers, the ‘nation’s patrimony’ is a huge breeding ground for rabbits, costing thousands of pounds annually for wire fencing, etc., and, as far as production of utilities is concerned, useless.
[18 ] Mr. Andrew Harper, M. L. A., estimates the loss—after deducting net earnings from interest payable—on the State railways (excluding the Hobson Bay system, the most remunerative of the suburban lines) at £258,000 for 1888-9, and the Melbourne Argus, in July, 1890, estimated this loss, for 1889-90, at £500,000. ‘Working expenses’ alone, it seems, having risen from 52½ per cent in 1879 to 68 per cent in 1889-90.
[19 ] I saw nothing in Victoria to justify the opinion expressed by J. S. Mill in his latter years (Fortnightly Review, May, 1869) that ‘There is absolutely available for the payment of wages, before an absolute limit is reached, not only the employer’s capital but the whole of what can possibly be retrenched from his personal expenditure . . . there is no law of nature making it inherently impossible for wages to rise to the point of absorbing not only the funds which the capitalist has intended to devote to carrying on his business, but the whole of what he allows for his private expenses beyond the necessaries of life.’
[20 ] A partner in one of the two great Melbourne newspapers mentioned to a friend one day that the Union to which his compositors belonged was about to decree some increase of wages or fresh advantages for its members. The friend replied that he was not surprised to hear it; and further counselled the employer to receive a deputation from the Unionists in question; to grant their demands gracefully; in addition, to present each of them with a gold watch. ‘But,’ objected the first speaker, ‘why the gold watch?’ ‘Because,’ said the other, ‘the consistent tyranny and the never-ending exactions of this same Union, which is ever with you, are rapidly making your fortune, by effectually keeping out of the business every man with capital enough to think of starting a newspaper in this city. If you go into your composing-room you will see a strange thing; your type-setters, instead of being mostly young men, as in London, New York, or San Francisco, are mostly grey-haired men. Were Melbourne in “the States” the most intelligent and ambitious of your “hands” would long since have got credit and help somewhere and started newspapers for themselves; there would have been at least six Melbourne daily morning papers—four of them making money, and thereby reducing your profits. As it is you have one serious rival, if you have even that. Certainly as long as the Compositors’ Union absolutely holds the field here, you will never have another. Meanwhile your type-setters expect to die type-setters, while you and your partners will die millionaires.’
[21 ] During the debates on the present Act the late Mr. J. W. Stephen, Attorney-General in the Francis Ministry, in charge of the Bill, declared that the cost per scholar in average attendance would never exceed £2 per head. It is now close upon £5. The Elementary education vote has grown from £217,704 in 1872-3 to over £600,000 in 1887-8. One official excuse for lavish expenditure is that in rural or remote districts the cost of giving education of a high quality to all children must be far greater than in the towns. All the time the rural population steadily decreases, while the town, i.e. the Melbourne, population is now over 40 per cent of the total for the colony. In 1861 it was 25.89, in 1871 28.87, and in 1881 32.81. The school attendance has only grown from 184,000 in 1874 to 192,000 in 1887. Apparently interest on some £1,120,000, cost of State school buildings, wear and tear, depreciation, etc., do not figure in the education vote, and seem to be paid out of the imaginary net surplus from the State railways.
[22 ] In 1888 a Board School teacher in Glasgow puzzled me not a little by complaining bitterly of some charge of trifling misbehaviour against his pupils (out of school hours), which had appeared in a newspaper for which I was at the moment responsible. He feared, I discovered, that his school might lose the genteel cachet which it enjoyed. Some of the best people in Buchanan Street, he said, sent their children to him. There is, however, historical excuse for this trait among the best people, seeing that the Scottish Board School system is in some way ‘sib’ to the noble old parochial, burgh, and grammar school system, which for nigh two centuries did so much, in the Scottish Lowlands, to keep alive the true spirit of local self-government, and to develop, brace, and stimulate the best points in the national character.
[23 ] This philanthropic and cultured gentleman, formerly a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and, according to the testimony of Mr. David Gaunson, ex-M.L.A., one of the greatest living authorities on the history of the middle ages, may be regarded as the Prosper Mérimée of the State Socialistic Empire in Victoria. He entered politics as a Free Trader, but was speedily reconciled and received into the Protectionist and State Socialistic fold. In the latter interest he stood unsuccessfully for a constituency in 1877. On the accession of the Protectionist party to power in that year the Ministry declared a Royal Commission on the Education Act to be urgently required, and Professor Pearson (anticipating the Duke in The Gondoliers) became a Royal Commission (limited). He however contented himself with writing a thin but interesting Essay on the education question in the colony, in which, with rare prescience, he condemned the evils of ‘payment by results.’ His suggestions were entirely ignored by his political patrons, but a fee of £1000 was paid to him for his literary labours upon the thin Essay. Afterwards he was provided with a seat in the Legislative Assembly, a gentleman, whose original avocation was that of a brewer’s traveller, having resigned his seat in order to become Librarian to Parliament.
[24 ] The educational policy of 1872 received an impetus from the Franco-German war! The classic fiction, that the German forces owed their victories over the French to superior ‘book-learning,’ did duty in Australia at the time, and is repeated there to this day.
[25 ] After eleven years’ working of the Act it was admitted before the Royal Commission of 1882-4, by officials of the department, that they had never yet been able to compile a trustworthy school census, and the number of children in average attendance was still a matter of guesswork. Professor Pearson, in 1882, described the whole school census system as ‘confused and disorderly.’
[26 ] Mr. W. H. Archer, the gentlest of men and the most earnest advocate of the Roman Catholic claims in Victoria, in a memoir of his friend, Sir John O’Shanassy (Melb. Rev. xxxi. 243), mildly, but firmly, repudiates the insinuation that he himself was responsible for bringing Sir C. G. Duffy to the colony. It appears that Mr. Archer wrote to the late Frederick Lucas, editor of The Tablet, asking him to come out to Australia to champion the Roman Catholic cause. When the letter reached England Lucas was dead, but it was published in the London press. By the next mail, oddly enough, Mr. C. G. Duffy arrived in Melbourne. Then he was presented with £5000. Afterwards, according to Mr. Archer, Mr. Duffy ‘used an unlucky expression as to his being “an Irish rebel to the backbone and spinal marrow;” ’ this, it seems, made the English, Scotch, and Welsh colonists angry. They did not then comprehend their Mr. C. G. Duffy, nor foresee that he would continue for many years to draw the only pension accepted by an ex-minister in the colony, quite in a loyal manner.
[27 ] The Report and evidence furnished by the Royal Commission on Education which sat in Victoria from early in 1882 to the middle of 1884, are a mine of information on the working of free, secular, and compulsory State education. I do not suppose that so much could be learnt on this important subject from any other source. It is unpleasant reading for Victorian State Socialists, and after adopting a few trifling recommendations contained in the report they have quietly ignored it. A précis or synopsis of the minute and exhaustive evidence procured by the Commissioners as well as the final ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ reports, which are not very lengthy, ought to be available for members of the Imperial Parliament before ‘Free Education’ is seriously debated in this country. The Commissioners by a majority of one, out of eleven, decided against the Catholic claims on the general grounds that a grant to Roman Catholic schools would amount to endowment of one particular form of religion.
[28 ] Mr. Morley, speaking to Mr. Acland’s amendment in favour of free education, said. ‘Our position I think is this, that when a school is intended for all it should be managed by the representatives of the whole community. When on the other hand the school claims to be for the use of a section of the community, as for example the Catholics or the Jews, it may continue to receive public support as long as it is under the management of that sect.’
[29 ] ‘The Struggle for National Education,’ reprinted from the ‘Fortnightly Review,’ 1872-73, second edition, p. 97.
[30 ] Ibid. p. 63.
[31 ] Ibid. p. 87.
[32 ] In 1851 the grant for denominational schools was, according to Mr. W. H. Archer, thus divided. Church of England, 48 per cent; Presbyterians, 22 per cent; Wesleyans, 6 per cent; Roman Catholics, 22 per cent. In the following year he says, the latter ‘obtained a grant in proportion to their real numerical strength.’
[33 ] Mr. J. F. Hogan, late of Melbourne, writes to me, ‘In a few of the Roman Catholic primary schools in Melbourne fees are charged, but in the vast majority throughout the colony expenses are paid by collections and donations . . . So that practically the system is as “free” as that of the State. The religious orders are now largely employed as teachers, and expenses are thereby reduced to a minimum. Recently new scholarships, new Inspectors and a new curriculum have been introduced. . . . In country districts a few Protestant children used formerly to attend Roman Catholic schools, retiring during the religious instruction half-hour. But this is becoming rare.’
[34 ] The 45th clause permitted ‘shops of any particular class’ (not scheduled as exempted), ‘on obtaining a license,’ to keep open after 7 p.m. ‘. . . on a petition certified by the municipal clerk as being signed by a majority of the shopkeepers keeping such shops, within . . . district.’ It also gave municipalities power to fix fines. This power was taken away by an amending Act, ad hoc, 961 of 1887, which imposed fines, for a minimum of 10s. to a maximum of £5.
[35 ] A Shop Assistants’ League, patronized by a few political hacks, socialists, and idle apprentices, finding that government did not care to enforce the Act, employed agents provocateurs to ‘spot’ tradespeople selling goods after 7 p.m. in the outlying suburbs, wherever the municipalities had lacked courage to follow the example of the Melbourne Town Council, and exercise the powers of local option under the 45th clause. On the 23rd of August following, a grocer named John Peregrine, in the suburb of Prahran, was spotted and fined £2 7s. for selling ‘small quantities of tea and soap’ after 7 p.m. The Argus next day commenting, in a leader, on Peregrine’s conviction, said, ‘this we believe, is the first instance of a crime of this particular sort having met with retribution in any civilized community. A medal of some inexpensive substance might be struck to commemorate this epoch-making event.’ The article wound up by asking, ‘Are there any public-spirited people who will subscribe to a fund for the payment of these abominable fines?’ In a day or two this appeal was successful, a list of subscribers appeared in the paper, and Peregrine’s fine was repaid to him.
[36 ] Chemists, coffee-houses, confectioners, eating-houses, restaurants, greengrocers, tobacconists, booksellers and news agents, were exempted under schedule 3.
[37 ] In June, 1890, the suburban municipality of Hawthorn petitioned the Legislative Assembly to enact a ‘really’ compulsory Early Closing law. 1200 small shopkeepers had petitioned in favor of the Bill of 1885.
[38 ] I know that it is the private opinion of two of the most experienced members of the late and present Victorian Ministries that the whole of the money (some £1,000,000) already advanced by the State to local Irrigation Trusts, under the vaunted State Irrigation scheme, must be ultimately repudiated by the localities in question.