Henry Parkes

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For the author and professor of history at New York University, see Henry Bamford Parkes.
The Honourable
Sir Henry Parkes
GCMG
Henryparkes.jpg
7th Premier of New South Wales
Personal details
Born 27 May 1815
Canley, England
Died 27 April 1896(1896-04-27) (aged 80)
Sydney, New South Wales
Nationality British subject
Spouse(s) Clarinda Varney (m.1936-d.1888)
Eleanor Dixon (m.1889-d.1895)
Julia Lynch (m.1895-96)
Children Thomas
Clarinda Martha
Clarinda Sarah
Robert
Mary
Mary Edith
Milton
Lily Maria
Annie
Gertrude
Varney
Lily Faulconbridge
Sydney
Kenilworth
Aurora
Henry Cobden
Profession Statesman
Religion Anglican

Sir Henry Parkes, GCMG (27 May 1815[1] – 27 April 1896)[2] was regarded as the Father of the Australian Federation.[3] As the earliest advocate of a Federal Council of the colonies of Australia, a precursor to the Commonwealth of Australia, he was the most prominent of the Australian Founding Fathers.

Parkes was described during his lifetime by The Times as "the most commanding figure in Australian politics". Alfred Deakin described him as "though not rich or versatile, his personality was massive, durable and imposing, resting upon elementary qualities of human nature elevated by a strong mind. He was cast in the mould of a great man and though he suffered from numerous pettinesses, spites and failings, he was in himself a large-brained self-educated Titan whose natural field was found in Parliament and whose resources of character and intellect enabled him in his later years to overshadow all his contemporaries".[2]

Parkes was tall, with rugged facial features, a leonine mane of hair and a commanding personality. He was a persuasive orator, too, who eschewed flights of rhetoric and spoke as a plain man to plain men, with great effect, in spite of occasional difficulties in controlling his aspirates. He had no schooling worthy of the name but had read widely. It has been said of him that he lacked gracious manners and was too conscious of his intellectual superiority, but his kindly reception in the UK by the likes of Thomas Carlyle and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, suggests that he was not without charm. He was interested in early Australian literary men, having been a friend of both Harpur and Kendall. He was a bad manager of his own affairs; what he had he spent, and he died penniless.

Yet he evidently knew a good financier when he saw one, for he had able treasurers serving in each of his cabinets, and their financial administration was sound. He was vain and temperamental, and frequently resigned his parliamentary seat only to seek election again soon afterwards. He was not a socialist but he had strong views about the rights of the people and for most of his parliamentary life was a great leader of them. In his later years, however, he seems to have been worn down by the strong conservative opposition he encountered, and he was responsible for a smaller body of social-reform legislation than might have been expected. Early to recognise the need for Australian Federation, when he saw that it had really become possible to achieve, he fought strongly for it, at a time when many leading politicians in New South Wales were fearful of its effect on their colony. The indomitable character which had raised him from farm labourer to premier, and his recognition of the altruistic broader view that was required in a great movement such as Federation, had an immense effect when the cause's fate was in doubt, and weighted the scale in its favour.[4]

Early life[edit]

Birthplace in Canley, Coventry, England.

Parkes was born in Canley (now a suburb of Coventry), in Warwickshire, England, and christened in the nearby village of Stoneleigh. His father, Thomas Parkes, was a small-scale tenant farmer. Little is known about his mother, who died in 1842. He received little schooling, and at an early age was working on a ropewalk for 4 pence a day. His next work was in a brickyard, describing it as "breaking stones on the Queen's highway with hardly enough clothing to protect me from the cold". He was then apprenticed to John Holding, a bone and ivory turner at Birmingham, and around 1832 joined the Birmingham political union. Between then and 1838 he was associated with the political movements that were then endeavouring to better the conditions endured by the working classes.

He was steadily educating himself, too, by reading assiduously, including the works of the British poets. In 1835, he addressed some verses, afterwards included in his first volume of poems, to Clarinda Varney, the daughter of a local butler. On 11 July 1836 he married Clarinda Varney and went to live in a single room. Parkes commenced business on his own account in Birmingham and had a bitter struggle to make ends meet.[4]

Immigration to Australia[edit]

Following the death of their two children at an early age and a few unsuccessful weeks living in London, Parkes and his wife immigrated to New South Wales. They travelled aboard the Strathfieldsaye, which arrived at Sydney on 25 July 1839. Another child had been born two days before. On arrival they had only a few shillings between them and had to sell their belongings as Parkes looked for work. He was eventually employed with John Jamison, one of the colony's wealthiest settlers, on the Regentville estate near Penrith. He was paid with £25 a year and food rations. After spending six months at Regentville, he returned to Sydney and worked in various low-paying jobs, first with an ironmongery store and then with a firm of engineers and brass-founders.

About a year after his arrival in Sydney, Parkes was hired by the New South Wales Customs Department as a Tide Waiter, and given the task of inspecting merchant vessels to guard against smuggling. He had been recommended for this responsible post by Jamison's son-in-law, William John Gibbes, who was manager of Regentville and the son of Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes who led the Customs Department.

Parkes' financial position improved due to his stable new government job, even though he was still burdened with a backlog of undischarged debts. Parkes continued to write poetry. A volume entitled Stolen Moments was published in Sydney in 1842. He met the poet Charles Harpur and William Augustine Duncan, the editor of a local newspaper; he mentions in his Fifty Years of Australian History, that these two men became his "chief advisers in matters of intellectual resource".[4] In early 1846, he left the Customs Department after a disagreement with Colonel Gibbes over a press leak that concerned the alleged behaviour of one of Parkes' co-workers. Despite this, Parkes would continue to remain on friendly terms with Gibbes and his family for the rest of his life. Gibbes' grandson, Frederick Jamison Gibbes, was also a member of the Parliament of New South Wales in the 1880s and like Parkes became a supporter of federation.

After his departure from the Customs Service, Parkes worked in the private sector. He worked as an ivory and bone turner and later ran a shop of his own in Hunter Street. At one stage, he owned several newspapers, including The People's Advocate and New South Wales Vindicator and the Empire. He was not successful as a businessman and eventually went bankrupt after running up debts totaling £48,500. He continued to support Australian culture and published poetry in his newspapers.

Campaign for self-government[edit]

During Parkes' early years in Australia, Parkes took an interest in political issues. Most notably, he joined the growing movement in the colony for self-governance. This was already a major political issue; the New South Wales Legislative Council had been reformed in 1843 to include elected members for the first time. He also became an opponent of the transportation of convicts to Australia and a supporter of land reform.

He voiced his opinions on political issues in Atlas and the People's Advocate. He first became involved in politics in 1848 when he worked for Robert Lowe in his successful cmapaign in the Legislative Council elections. The following year, he supported a petition to the Parliament of the United Kingdom for less restrictions on voting. He spoke in favour of universal suffrage for the first time. Parkes thought his own speech a very weak performance. The petition succeeded in securing less restrictive voting requirements.

On 8 June 1849, Parkes attended a protest in Circular Quay against the arrival of a convict ship arrived in Sydney. He continued to support the anti-transportation cause with writings and speeches, until the British Government ended almost all transportation to Australia 1853.

In December 1850, Parkes founded the Empire newspaper. At first a broadsheet only published weekly, it soon became a daily. Parkes was loyal to the British Empire, but also wanted critics of the establishment to have a voice. As a result the paper became critical of the incumbent Governor Charles Augustus FitzRoy and the rest of the colonial government. He also attacked William Wentworth's plans to introduce self-governance because it proposed an unelected Legislative Council and a restrictive franchise for the elected Legislative Assembly. The proposal was eventually passed after some amendments to make it more democratic. Some years later, Parkes said that, "in the heated opposition to the objectionable parts of Mr Wentworth's scheme, no sufficient attention was given to its great merits".

Election to Legislative Council[edit]

Wentworth went to England to support the bill in its passage through the British Parliament in 1854, and resigned his seat as a representative for the City of Sydney.[5] Charles Kemp and Parkes were nominated for the vacancy, and the latter was successful by 1427 votes to 779. Parkes in his election speeches had advocated the extension of the power of the people, increased facilities for education and a bold railway policy.

In any event, Parkes began his political career quietly. He was with the minority faction in the Legislative Council, and he and his political allies could afford to bide their time until the new constitution came into force. His workload at the Empire office was extremely heavy, and in December 1855 he announced his intention of retiring from parliament. He was persuaded to alter his mind, and a month later he stood as a liberal candidate for Sydney City in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.[4]

Legislative Assembly[edit]

The first parliament under responsible government commenced on 22 May 1856 but, for some months, little effective work was done. Ministry after ministry was formed, only to disappear within a few weeks due to factional instability. Parkes was once offered office but declined as he felt he would be deserting his friends. The Empire was not paying its way in spite of its reputation, and if it were to be saved Parkes would have to give his whole time to it.

Around the end of 1856, he resigned his seat. Considering the short period he had been in parliament the response was remarkable. The press and public men of the period united in deploring his loss, and more than one effort was made to start a testimonial for him, but he resolutely declined to accept one. It is clear that his sincerity and power had made a great impression on the community. He put all his energies into an attempt to save his paper. There was no limit to the number of hours he worked in each day, but he was unsuccessful. The liabilities of the paper amounted to fully £50,000 and, though his friends rallied round him and tried to ease the situation by advancing the sum required to pay off a mortgage of £11,000 in 1858, the position became hopeless.

Early in that year, Parkes had entered the Legislative Assembly again, this time as member for the North Riding of Cumberland. An interesting sidelight on his growing reputation is the fact that before this election (Sir) Charles Gavan Duffy wrote to a friend in Sydney, urging the desirability of Parkes' being elected. With remarkable prescience, he said: "I am confident that 10 years hence, and I do not doubt that 10 generations hence, the name which will best personify the national spirit of New South Wales in this era will be the name of Henry Parkes".

Parkes sat in this parliament for about six months but then resigned at the end of August 1858 on account of his insolvency. His liabilities were estimated at £50,000 and his assets at £48,500. On the literary side the Empire was an excellent paper, but only a man of great business acumen could have made a financial success of it at this period. The issuing of a certificate of insolvency was bitterly opposed and the proceedings were long drawn out. It is evident that Parkes had resorted to the usual shifts of a man in financial difficulties, but it was shown that, in some cases at least, he had acted under the advice of his banker, and he was ultimately exonerated by the chief commissioner in insolvency of any fraudulent intent.

Third Parliament[edit]

Relieved of his heavy work on the Empire, which was continued in other hands, Parkes stood for parliament and was elected for East Sydney on 10 June 1859. He stood as an independent candidate but in the list of candidates elected he was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as a "radical". He was generally in favour of Sir John Robertson's land policy, of the extension of education, and of free trade. He was not a bigoted freetrader as he was as strongly in favour of developing manufactures as he was of encouraging agriculture. He was a strong supporter of free trade, immigration programmes and education reforms. He introduced laws that gave the Government the power to employ teachers and create public schools, abolished government funding to religious schools and improved prisons.

Parkes also believed in immigration, and his well-known powers as an orator led to his being sent to England with W. B. Dalley as commissioners of emigration at a salary of £1000 a year each in May 1861. Parkes left his wife and five, soon to become six, children in poverty, on a rented farm at Werrington.[2] Their duties were confined to diffusing information, and Parkes spoke at about 60 meetings at towns in the west and north of England and in Scotland. He felt that he had done good work, but it was difficult to say how much effect his words had. During the 14 months he was in England he met many interesting people, and became in particular friendly with Carlyle and his wife. He returned to Australia in January 1863.

In August he opposed J. B. Darvall at East Maitland and was defeated; but in the following year, was elected for Kiama. In January 1866 the premier, Charles Cowper, resigned in consequence of an amendment moved by Parkes having been carried. Strictly speaking the governor should have asked Parkes whether he could form a government, but Sir James Martin was sent for and Parkes was given the position of Colonial Secretary. This ministry remained in office for nearly three years, from January 1866 to October 1868. An important piece of legislation carried through was the Public Schools Act 1866, introduced by Parkes, of which an essential part was that no man or woman would be allowed to act as a teacher who had not been properly trained in teaching. Provision was also made for the training of teachers, and the act marked a great advance in educational methods. A council of education was formed, and for the first four years after the passing of the act Parkes filled the office of president. In spite of the fears of some of the religious bodies the act worked well, and many new schools were established all over the colony.[4] Parkes also initiated the introduction of nurses from England trained by Florence Nightingale.[2]

In 1867 to 1868 Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (Queen Victoria's second oldest son) visited the Australian colonies. On 12 March 1868 the Duke, while attending a picnic at Clontarf near Sydney, was shot in the back by one Henry James O'Farrell. The assassin was Irish, and at the time claimed he was a Fenian. The wound while painful was not fatal. However the Colonial Government overreacted, and despite the Duke's requests for leniency it executed O'Farrell. O'Farrell had, in the meantime, admitted he was not really a member of the Fenians, but by the time of the execution other acts of violence connected with the Fenians (most notably the murder of D'Arcy McGee in Canada) spurred anti-Fenian and anti-Irish Catholic feelings. Parkes, in what may have been the most egregious blunder of his career, pushed this anti-Fenianism full throttle. For a while his claims of a vast Fenian conspiracy in New South Wales was believed, but when nothing further occurred public opinion began to reverse and he was attacked. As a result his political position weakened dreadfully.

He resigned from the Martin ministry in September 1868, and for the next three and a half years was out of office. In the first year of the Robertson government he moved a want-of-confidence motion which was defeated by four votes. Parkes continued to be one of the most conspicuous figures in the house, and at the 1869 election was returned at the head of the poll for East Sydney. A much larger proportion of assisted Irish immigrants than English or Scotch had been arriving in the colony for many years and Parkes felt there was an element of danger in this. He stated that he had no feeling against the Irish or their religion, but his protestations were without avail and the Irish section of the community became hostile to him. Whatever may have been the merits of the question it would appear that in this matter Parkes put convictions before policy.

Resignation, re-election and first premiership[edit]

In 1870 Henry Parkes was again in financial difficulties and was obliged to resign his seat. He had been in business as a merchant in a comparatively large way, and when declared insolvent he had liabilities of £32,000 and assets of £13,300. He was at once re-elected for Kiama, but an extremely hostile article in the Sydney Morning Herald led to his resigning again. The suggestion had been made that his presence in the assembly while in the insolvency court might influence the officials. It was not until December 1871 that a seat could be found for him and he was then elected at a by-election for Mudgee. The Martin-Robertson ministry had involved itself in a petty squabble with the colony of Victoria over a question of border duties, and Parkes effectively threw ridicule on the proceedings. When parliament met the government was defeated and a dissolution was granted. In the general election which followed Parkes was generally recognized as the leader of the people's party, and the ministry was defeated at the polls. When parliament assembled Parkes was elected leader of the opposition, representing East Sydney.[5] The acting-governor had sent for William Forster before parliament met, but he was unable to form a ministry, and in May 1872 Parkes formed his first ministry which was to last for nearly three years.

Parkes had always been a free-trader and no doubt his convictions were strengthened when in England by contact with Cobden and other leading free traders. During his first administration he so reduced the duties in New South Wales that practically it became a free trade colony. Generally there was a forward policy. Railway and telegraph lines were much extended, and at the same time there was some reduction in taxation.

In 1873 the retirement of Sir Alfred Stephen, the Chief Justice, led to an incident which raised much feeling against Parkes. It seems clear that Parkes at first encouraged his Attorney-General, E. Butler, to believe that he would be appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales. Opposition developed in many quarters and Parkes gradually realised that Sir James Martin was generally considered to be the most suitable man available, and offered him the position. When the announcement of his appointment was made on 11 November 1873, Butler took the opportunity to make a statement, read publicly the correspondence between Parkes and himself, and resigned his seat in the cabinet. However much Parkes may have been to blame for his early encouragement of the aspirations of his colleague, there appears to be no truth in the suggestion then made that he had, by appointing Martin, found means of getting rid of a formidable political opponent.

The ministry went on its way though unable to pass bills to make the Upper House elective and to amend the electoral law. The council was jealous of its position and succeeded in maintaining it for the time being. Two or three unsuccessful attempts were made to oust the government without success, but in February 1875, Governor Robinson's decision to release of the bushranger Frank Gardiner led to the defeat of the ministry. Subsequent discussions between Robinson, Parkes and the Colonial Office clarified the governor's responsibilities in pardoning prisoners.[2]

Second premiership[edit]

When Parkes was defeated Robertson came into power, and for the next two years little was done of real importance. Parkes became tired of his position as leader of the opposition and resigned early in 1877. In March the Robertson ministry was defeated and Parkes formed one which lasted five months. The parties were equally divided and business was sometimes at a standstill. Parkes said of this ministry that it had "as smooth a time as the toad under the harrow". Robertson returned to the Premiership from August to December 1877, including an election in October.

Parkes was returned for Canterbury.[5] James Squire Farnell then formed a stop-gap ministry which existed for a year from December 1877 to December 1878. In the middle of this year Parkes made a tour of the western districts of the colony speaking at many country centres. This gave him many opportunities of criticizing the government then in power. At the end of the year it was defeated, but the situation was still obscure, because the parties led by Robertson and Parkes were nearly equal.

Third premiership[edit]

Robertson tried to form a government but failed, and tired of the unsatisfactory position which he was confronted with, resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly. He was then approached by Parkes, and a government was formed with Robertson as vice-president of the Executive Council and representative of the government in the Upper House. The combination was unexpected, as each leader had frequently denounced the other; but everyone was glad to escape from the confusion of the preceding years, and the ministry did good work in its four years of office. It amended the electoral law, brought in a new education act, improved the water-supply and sewerage systems, appointed stipendiary magistrates, regulated the liability of employers with regard to injuries to workmen, and made law other useful acts. In the 1880 election Parkes was returned for St Leonards.[5] When the Parkes Government left office in there was a large surplus in the New South Wales Treasury. Towards the end of 1881 Parkes was in bad health. He still kept up his habit of working long hours, and except for week-end visits to his house in the mountains he had no relaxation. It was suggested that a grant should be made by Parliament to enable him to go away on a voyage, but he declined to allow this to be brought forward. He also vetoed a suggestion that a substantial testimonial should be presented to him by his friends.

Parkes decided to visit England at his own expense, and at a banquet given by the citizens just before sailing, he drew a picture of what he hoped to do in the coming to years. He was never able to carry it out but at least he had the vision to see what was needed. He stayed in America for about six weeks on his way to Europe and did his best to make Australia better known. In England he was received as an honoured guest, and while everywhere he insisted on the desirability of preserving the ties between England and her colonies, he asked always that they should be allowed to work out their own salvation; "the softer the cords" he said "the stronger will be the union between us". Among the friends he made in England was Tennyson, and Lord Leigh, being aware that Parkes had been born at Stoneleigh, invited him to stay at Stoneleigh Abbey. Parkes was much interested to see again the farmhouse in which he was born and the church in which he was christened. On his way home he visited Melbourne where he was given a banquet on 15 August 1882. Two days later he was back in Sydney.

Electoral defeat[edit]

When Parkes returned the government was apparently in no danger, but there was a general feeling that an amendment of the land laws was necessary. Far too much of the land was falling into the hands of the large graziers and dummying was a common practice. As far back as 1877 Parkes had realized that the land laws were not working well, and Robertson's bill only proposed comparatively unimportant amendments. Robertson, however, was a strong man in the cabinet and Parkes unwisely took the line of least resistance. The ministry was defeated, a dissolution was obtained, and at the election the party was not only defeated, Parkes lost his own seat at East Sydney. Another constituency, Tenterfield, was found for him but he took little interest in politics for some time. He went to England as representative of a Sydney financial company and did not return until August 1884, having been absent 14 months. In November, he resigned his seat and announced his retirement from politics.

He was now in his seventieth year. He opened an office in Pitt Street as representative of the financial association which had sent him to England, and remained in this position until 1887. He could not, however, keep long away from politics. At the beginning of 1885 W. B. Dalley, while acting-premier, offered a contingent of troops to go to the Sudan and the offer was accepted. Parkes strongly disapproved and, though public opinion was against him, on 31 March he won Argyle. When he took his seat in September objection was taken to claims of parliamentary corruption he had made when resigning from Parliament in 1884, and Sir Alexander Stuart moved a resolution affirming that the words he had used were a gross libel on the house. His motion was carried by four votes and Parkes was quite unrepentant, but the ministry did not dare go any farther. One of the supporters of the ministry moved that Parkes should be expelled but only obtained the support of his seconder.

Fourth premiership[edit]

In October 1885 parliament was dissolved, the government was reconstructed and George Dibbs became Premier of New South Wales. At the election Parkes stood against Dibbs at St Leonards, and defeated him by 476 votes. It was, however, pointed out that this success was due not a little to Parkes's advocacy of a bridge across the harbour, and a railway line going inland from North Shore. The ministry was defeated and was succeeded by a Robertson ministry which lasted only two months. The next ministry, under Sir Patrick Jennings, had a life of nine months but was defeated in January 1887. In the meantime Robertson had retired from politics and Parkes, as leader of the opposition, formed a ministry and obtained a dissolution. He fought a strenuous campaign pointing out that in the four years since he was last in office the public debt had more than doubled and the surplus of £2,000,000 had become a deficit of £2,500,000. He proposed to do away with the recent increase in duties, to bring in an amended land act, and to create a body to control the railways free of political influence. Parkes had made enemies in various directions, but generally his personal popularity was great. His speeches, not always free from personal attacks, were received with enthusiasm, and his party was returned with a two to one majority. When parliament met free trade was soon restored and there was a well-meant but abortive inquiry into the state of the civil service.

The question of Chinese immigration was much before the public in Australia, and Parkes was opposed to their coming. He was received with "loud and continuous cheers" in the legislative council when he spoke of the need "to terminate a moral and social pestilence, and preserve to ourselves and to our children unaltered and unspotted the rights and privileges which we have received from our forefathers".[6] Along with many politicians of his day, Parkes avoided the claim that the Chinese and other Asians should be excluded because they were an "inferior" race. Some years before, he had said of them: "They are a superior set of people . . . a nation of an old and deep-rooted civilization. . . . It is because I believe the Chinese to be a powerful race capable of taking a great hold upon the country, and because I want to preserve the type of my own nation . . . that I am and always have been opposed to the influx of Chinese." In spite of some discouragement from the British Government he succeeded in passing an act of parliament which raised the entrance tax to £100 per head.

Though Parkes was personally opposed to it, a payment of members act was passed, and two important and valuable measures, the Government Railways Act and the Public Works Act both became law.[4] The government, however, was defeated on allegations that W. M. Fehon, whom he had appointed a rail commissioner, was corrupt. Parkes wife had died in February 1888. A year later he married Eleanor Dixon, which was considered hasty.[2]

Fifth premiership and Federation[edit]

At the ensuing election Parkes was returned with a small majority and formed his fifth administration, which began in March 1889 and lasted until October 1891. As far back as 1867 Parkes at an intercolonial conference had said: "I think the time has arrived when these colonies should be united by some federal bond of connexion." Shortly afterwards a bill to establish the proposed federal council was introduced by him and passed through both the New South Wales houses. This was afterwards shelved by the action of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Various other conferences were held in the next 20 years at which the question came up, in which Parkes took a leading part, but in October 1884 he was blowing cold and suggesting that it would be "better to let the idea of federation mature in men's minds", and New South Wales then stood out of the proposed federal council scheme.

A wood engraving of Sir Henry Parkes moving the first resolution at the federation conference in Melbourne, 1 March 1890

In October 1889 a report on the defenses of Australia suggested among other things the federation of the forces of all the Australian colonies and a uniform gauge for railways. Parkes had come to the conclusion that the time had come for a new federal movement. He now felt more confidence in the movement and on 15 October 1889 telegraphed to the premiers of the other colonies suggesting a conference.

On 24 October 1889, at the Tenterfield School of Arts, Parkes delivered the Tenterfield Oration. The oration was seen as a clarion call to federalists and he called for a convention "to devise the constitution which would be necessary for bringing into existence a federal government with a federal parliament for the conduct of national undertaking".

Parkes convened the 1890 Federation Conference of February 1890 and may be considered the first real step towards Federation. In May he moved resolutions in the assembly approving of the proceedings of the conference that had just been held in Melbourne, and appointing him and three other members' delegates to the Sydney 1891 National Australasian Convention. On 18 May he broke his leg and was laid up for some time. It was 14 weeks before he was able to be assisted to his seat in the house. When the convention met on 2 March 1891 Parkes was appointed president "not only as the Premier of the colony where the convention sat, but also as the immediate author of the present movement". The next business was the debating of a series of resolutions proposed by Parkes as a preliminary interchange of ideas and a laying down of guiding principles. It was at this convention that the first draft of a bill to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia was framed. Parkes proposed the name of Commonwealth of Australia for the new nation.

When it was about to be submitted to the New South Wales assembly Reid on the address-in-reply moved an amendment hostile to the bill. Parkes then announced that in view of Reid's amendment he proposed to put the federal bill third on the list. Dibbs moved a vote of no confidence, defeated only on the casting vote of the speaker, and Parkes resigned on 22 October 1891.

Retirement[edit]

Sir Henry Parkes and the second Lady Parkes in the 1890s
Hampton Villa, Balmain, New South Wales, where Parkes lived from 1888 to 1892
Kenilworth, the Gothic home in Annandale where Parkes lived until his death in 1896.

Parkes was now in his 77th year and his political career had practically ended. He was never to be in office again, and it was a blow to him that when he notified his supporters that he did not desire the position of the leader of the opposition, Reid was elected to lead his party. After that Parkes became practically an independent member. In 1895 he opposed Reid at the general election for Sydney-King and was unsuccessful by 140 votes. He had fought Reid because he felt that the question of federation was being neglected by the government, but Reid was too popular in his constituency to be defeated. Parkes's second wife died in the course of the election and he had many other anxieties. In 1887 a sum of £9000 had been collected by his friends and placed in the hands of trustees for investment. From this fund he had been receiving an income of over £500 a year, but the financial crisis of 1893 reduced this to little more than £200. Parkes was obliged to sell his collection of autograph letters and many other things that he valued, to provide for his household. A movement was made in December 1895 to obtain a grant for him from the government but nothing had been done when he fell ill in April 1896 and died in poverty on the twenty-seventh of that month.

While the last ten years of his life were his most influential politically, Parkes faced immense personal turmoil following the death of his first wife, Clarinda Varney (after whom Clarinda Falls at Faulconbridge, New South Wales, were named). He remarried quickly to Eleanor Dixon and they had two more children. Dixon soon died and Parkes remarried yet again, this time to Julia Lynch. Towards the end of his life he rented Kenilworth, a Gothic mansion in Johnston Street, Annandale, a Sydney suburb. He was given a low rent because the owner wanted the prestige of having Parkes as a tenant. He died there of natural causes on 27 April 1896, five years before Australia became a federation on 1 January 1901, having established the political directions for the new country. Parkes had left directions that his funeral should be as simple as possible; a state funeral was declined, but a very large number of people attended when he was placed by the side of his first wife at Faulconbridge, in the grounds of his former home in the Blue Mountains. His portrait by the artist Julian Ashton is in a public collection in Sydney.

The third Lady Parkes survived Parkes, together with five daughters and one son of the first marriage, and five sons and one daughter by the second. One of his sons, Varney Parkes, an architect, entered parliament and was postmaster-general in the Reid ministry from August 1898 to September 1899. Another, Cobden Parkes, eventually became the New South Wales Government Architect.

Marriages and children[edit]

Parkes was first married to Clarinda Varney on 11 July 1836 in Birmingham.[7] She died on 2 February 1888 in Balmain, New South Wales, aged 74. They had twelve children:[8]

  • Thomas Campbell Parkes (18 April 1837 – 5 May 1837), born and died in Birmingham aged 17 days.
  • Clarinda Martha Parkes (23 June 1838 – 24 June 1838), born and died in Birmingham aged one day.
  • Clarinda Sarah Parkes (23 July 1839 – October 1915), married William Thom and had issue.[9]
  • Robert Sydney Parkes (21 December 1843 – 2 January 1880), married and had issue.[10]
  • Mary Parkes (16 February 1846 – 5 December 1846), died aged under 10 months.
  • Mary Edith Parkes (3 March 1848 – 15 December 1919), married George Murray and had issue.[11]
  • Milton Parkes (14 December 1849 – 19 January 1851), died aged 13 months.
  • Lily Maria Parkes (27 October 1851 – 25 March 1854), died aged 2 years.
  • Annie Thomasine Parkes (9 January 1854 – 6 February 1929), remained unmarried.[12]
  • Gertrude Amelia Parkes (13 April 1856 – 31 July 1921), married Robert Hiscox and had issue.[13]
  • Varney Parkes (4 June 1859 – 14 May 1935), married firstly Mary Murray and then her sister Isabella Murray, and had issue. An architect and Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.
  • Lily Faulconbridge Parkes (7 February 1862 – 14 October 1932), remained unmarried.[14]

After his first wife's death, Parkes remarried to Eleanor Dixon on 6 February 1889 in Sydney. They remained married until her death on 16 July 1895 in Annandale, New South Wales, aged 38. They had five children, three born before their marriage:

  • Sydney Parkes (1884 – 20 April 1937), married Marion Edith Morrissey and had issue.[15][16]
  • Kenilworth Parkes (1886 – 4 November 1910), married Maude Howard (later Armstrong) and had issue.[17][18]
  • Aurora Parkes (1888 – 29 October 1974), married Emanuel Evans, without issue.[19][20]
  • Henry Parkes (1890 – 8 July 1954), married Katherine Rush and had issue.[21][22][23]
  • Cobden Parkes (2 August 1892 – 15 August 1978), married Victoria Lillyman and had issue. Public servant and New South Wales Government Architect.[24]

Parkes married thirdly in Parramatta on 23 October 1895 to Julia Lynch,[25] his 23-year-old former cook and housekeeper.[26] They had no children, but Lady Parkes raised her stepchildren from Sir Henry's second marriage. They remained married until his death a year later. Lady (Julia) Parkes died on 11 July 1919 in Lewisham, New South Wales.[27]

Honours[edit]

Parkes was created Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1877 and Knight Grand Cross of the same order in 1888.

His image appears on the Australian one-dollar coin of 1996; and on the Centenary of Federation commemoration Australian $5 note issued in 2001.

Literary works[edit]

Sir Henry Parkes and Miss Annie Parkes in the 1890s

Parkes's literary work includes six volumes of verse, Stolen Moments (1842), Murmurs of the Stream (1857), Studies in Rhyme (1870), The Beauteous Terrorist and Other Poems (1885), Fragmentary Thoughts (1889), Sonnets and Other Verses (1895). It has been the general practice to laugh at Parkes's poetic efforts, and it is true that his work could sometimes be almost unbelievably bad. Yet though he had no real claims to be a poet he wrote some weak, sincere verse which has occasionally been included in Australian anthologies. His prose work includes Australian Views of England (1869), and his autobiographical Fifty Years in the Making of Australian History (1892), extremely interesting in places but necessarily giving a partial view of his own work. A collection of his Speeches on Various Occasions, delivered between 1848 and 1874, was published in 1876, and another collection dealing mostly with federation appeared in 1890 under the title of The Federal Government of Australasia. In 1896, shortly after his death, An Emigrant's Home Letters, a small collection of Parkes's letters to his family in England between 1838 and 1843, was published at Sydney, edited by his daughter, Annie T. Parkes.

Named after Sir Henry Parkes[edit]

He is also commemorated in his birthplace Canley, Coventry by the naming of a road (Sir Henry Parkes Road) and a primary school (Sir Henry Parkes Primary School). Canley railway station also commemorates the link with Sir Henry Parkes with Australian-themed decor.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Parkes, Hon. Sir Henry". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource
  2. ^ a b c d e f Martin, A. W. "Parkes, Sir Henry (1815–96)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Federation.". Australian Government. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Serle, Percival. "Sir Henry Parkes (1816–1896)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 29 March 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Sir Henry Parkes (1815–1896)". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  6. ^ The Sydney Mail, 19 May 1888
  7. ^ 16 February 1888, Sydney Morning Herald, Obituary of Lady Parkes. Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/13671259?searchTerm=&searchLimits=l-publictag=Clarinda+Parkes
  8. ^ 28 April 1896, Sydney Morning Herald, Sir Henry's Family. Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/14047165?searchTerm=Henry%20Parkes%20thom&searchLimits=
  9. ^ 19 October 1915, Sydney Morning Herald, Personal Notices. Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/72096234?searchTerm=Clarinda%20Thom&searchLimits=l-decade=191
  10. ^ 2 January 1880, Sydney Morning Herald, "Bereavement in the Premier's family". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/108743897
  11. ^ 17 December 1919, Sydney Morning Herald, "Personal Notices". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1252317?zoomLevel=3&searchTerm=mary%20edith%20murray&searchLimits=l-decade=191
  12. ^ Obituaries Australia, "Parkes, Annie Thomasine", http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/parkes-annie-thomasine-16597
  13. ^ 2 August 1921, Sydney Morning Herald, "Personal Notices". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/15953510?searchTerm=Gertrude%20Hiscox&searchLimits=l-decade=192%7C%7C%7Cl-year=1921
  14. ^ Obituaries Australia, "Parkes, Lily Faulconbridge", http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/parkes-lily-faulconbridge-16585
  15. ^ 25 December 1905, Sydney Morning Herald, "Marriages". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/14750607?searchTerm=Parkes%20Morrissey&searchLimits=
  16. ^ People Australia, "Parkes, Sydney", http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/parkes-sydney-16601
  17. ^ Obituaries Australia, "Parkes, Kenilworth", http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/parkes-kenilworth-16602
  18. ^ State Library of New South Wales, "Maude Armstrong – Letter received from Julia Parkes", http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=89000
  19. ^ People Australia, "Evans, Aurora", http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/evans-aurora-16603
  20. ^ 31 October 1974, Sydney Morning Herald, "Personal Notices".
  21. ^ People Australia, "Parkes, Henry", http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/parkes-henry-charles-16604
  22. ^ 12 July 1954, Sydney Morning Herald, "Personal Notices". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/18434241?searchTerm=Henry%20Parkes&searchLimits=l-decade=195%7C%7C%7Cl-year=1954%7C%7C%7Cl-category=Family+Notices
  23. ^ 31 December 1914, Clarence and Richmond Examiner, "Social Notes". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/61640574
  24. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography, "Parkes, Cobden", http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/parkes-cobden-11342
  25. ^ 26 October 1895, Northern Star, "Marriage of Sir Henry Parkes". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/72567127?searchTerm=Julia%20Lynch&searchLimits=l-decade=189
  26. ^ 2 November 1895, Warwick Argus, "Sir Henry Parkes married a third time". Accessed through Trove: Digital Newspapers, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/76651940?searchTerm=Julia%20Lynch&searchLimits=l-decade=189
  27. ^ Obituaries Australia, "Parkes, Lady Julia", http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/parkes-lady-julia-16606

Further reading[edit]

  • Martin, A.W. Henry Parkes: a Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1980). The most comprehensive biography online edition at ACLS E-Books
  • McKinlay, Brian (1971). The First Royal Tour, 1867–1868. London: Robert Hale, 200p. ISBN 0709119100.
  • Travers, Robert (1986). The Phantom Fenians of New South Wales. Sydney: Kangaroo Press, 176p. ISBN 0864170610.
  • Travers, Robert (1992). The Grand Old Man of Australian Politics: The Life and Times of Sir Henry Parkes. Sydney: Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0864174411.

Primary sources[edit]

  • Parkes, Henry. Fifty Years in the Making of Australian History (1892), memoir online
  • Parkes, Henry, and Annie T. Parkes. An Emigrant's Home Letters (1896) 164 pages online edition
  • Parkes, Henry. Speeches on Various Occasions Connected with the Public Affairs of New South Wales (1876) 464 pages; online edition
  • Parkes, Henry. The Federal Government of Australasia: Speeches.... (1890) 189 pages; online edition

External links[edit]

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