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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57


page 13


The Premier of Victoria addressed the following despatch to Mr. R. Murray Smith, C.M.G., Agent-General for the Colony in England.

"Premier's Office, Melbourne, November 20th, 1884.—Sir, In your letters of the 1st and 15th August last, you reported the holding of a conference on Imperial Federation, presided over by the Right Hon. W. E. Forster, M.P., and you enclosed copies of the resolutions passed, but you stated that, in the absence of instructions, you did not feel warranted to take any part in the proceedings beyond silent attendance.

"2. These papers were laid before both Houses of Parliament on the 5th instant, and a recent telegram in the Melbourne Journals notified that a further conference on the subject would be held in London on the 18th instant. Accordingly, on the 12th idem, I despatched to you a telegram, of which I enclose a copy herewith authorising you to give a general support to the movement; and I would now explain a little more fully the considerations which have influenced me in this matter.

"3. The chief of those considerations is, the very anomalous position which these colonies occupy, as regards, respectively :—Local Government, and the exercise of Imperial Authority. In relation to the first, the fullest measure of constitutional freedom and parliamentary representation has been conceded to the more important colonies; but, as regards the second, we have no representation whatever in the Imperial system. Subjects of this part of the Empire may be deeply interested in the action, or, it may be, the inaction of the Imperial authorities, but they have no voice nor vote in those councils of the Empire to which Her Majesty's Ministers are responsible; thus, in all matters in which the exercise of the Imperial authority has interests for them, that authority is, to all intents and purposes, an unqualified autocracy; on the one hand we are under constitutional government, on the other under an antiquated autocracy or bureaucracy.

"4. The weakness of this position has at times been most disadvantageously apparent, and its humiliation keenly felt. Lately, more especially when policy of the highest concern to the Australasian Colonies has had to be administered by the Imperial Government, we have occupied the position of outside petitioners to the Colonial Office, with scarcely more influence than a county member of the House of Commons. I thankfully acknowledge the courtesy extended by the Colonial Office to yourself, as well as, I believe, to the other Colonial Agents-General; but it is something more than concessions of courtesy that is needed—Colonial interests are sufficiently important to entitle us to some defined position in the Imperial economy—to some tangible means of assserting, if necessary, our rights.

page 14

"5. It may be difficult to say in what way so vast and scattered an empire can be federated; but any scheme that may be decided upon, while it cannot take from us anything that we at present possess, must give to the colonies more tangible influence, and more legal and formal authority than they have now. I, therefore, had no hesitation in directing you to give a general support to the idea, guarding, of course, our local self-government.

"6. A further consideration is, that Victoria, and I am sure Australasia, is and always has been heartily loyal both to the Throne and the Empire—a national sentiment which has never failed to express itself on every suitable occasion. The notion, before now openly propounded by Professor Goldwin Smith and others, of disintegrating the Empire by cutting off the Colonies, has, I am persuaded, little sympathy from Australasians—nor is this altogether a matter of sentiment—but we believe that the Colonies, justly and wisely governed, may be tributaries of strength to the parent State; that they and it may be mutually recipients of numberless advantages. I am sure that I speak the mind of the colonists generally in expressing our desire to remain, as now, an integral portion of the Empire; and it is in this view, therefore, that I desire to support the movement for Imperial Federation.

"I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant,

"James Service,


"Robert Murray Smith,

Esq., C.M.G., "Agent-General for Victoria, "London."