The Federal Struggle

After his time in colonial politics he decided that the struggle for federation was the most important issue of the day.  

 

So much that he declined every ministerial cabinet position from 1890 to 1900, so he could focus his attention on moving the nation towards Federation.

 

According to his granddaughter Judith Harley this was at great personal sacrifice. "This meant a loss of income which he could ill afford at the time." He had a young family, two daughters Ivy, Stella and Vera was born in 1891. 

 

"Perhaps one of his greatest contributions to Federation was the capacity to get resolutions sometimes out of near chaos" Judith Harley

Deakin is seen here speaking from McDonaugh's Star Hotel 

Port Macquarie, NSW, as he travelled all over the country promoting the hope of Federation.      State Library of NSW.

He would often play peace maker behind the scenes accepting that other delegates had greater experienced to labour over the complexities of the constitution. Deakin was very pleased when he heard the decision to include in the preamble, that Australia would "humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God" Australian Constitution

 

To support his young family he went back to practicing law and remained on the backbench, while attending the numerous federation conferences, councils and conventions in Australia and in London as the nation moved slowly towards becoming one nation.

 

Deakin used his considerable oratory skills to move the spirit of the Australian people when at times it looked like people were losing their heart for the idea. There were many competing agendas and self-interests in the nation and often it looked like all was lost and another 50 years would pass before the nation would be ready.

 

Travelling to London in 1887 and again in 1900 to debate the important issues facing the two nations, he presented Australia's position to the British Colonial office that was not often supportive. 

 

 

It was on 11th March 1900 that Deakin, Barton and Charles Kingston arrived in London and for the next 3 months they fought for the free passage of the Commonwealth Bill without amendments. The Colonial office had many suggested changes but through the hard negotiation of the 3 Australian's only one amendment was allowed, to give the Privy Council final say on constitutional matters.

Rudyard Kipling

Deakin was to develop a friendship with Rudyard Kipling during this trip that continued for many years and Kipling's letters to Deakin can be seen in National Library in Canberra. The three men came back to Australia heroes because they stood up to the mighty British establishment.

From 1890 to 1898 Deakin attended all the Federation conferences and was a key contributor in all the debates that decided on the core principle foundations of the Commonwealth of Australia. Sir Henry Parkes is credited as the Father of Federation, but Parkes only attended the first National Australasian Convention in April 1891 and in October that year resigned from office.

Deakin however worked tirelessly for 10 years to see Federation become a reality and later implemented many of the legislation that secured the nations future.