Deakin @Victorian

Legislative Assembly

Australian Parliamentary democracy was only 22 years old when Alfred Deakin stood for the seat of West Bourke.

 

England gave Australia the right to local colonial government in 1856 the same year Deakin was born. There was a battle going on between the early settler land owners, the new immigrants and the growing strength of the merchant class that was bordering on civil war!

 

It was an age old struggle seen in Europe, England, and the new world of America and now Australia. Would the wealthy elite rule and dominate the working class? 

Amazingly on his very first day he resigned his position during his maiden speech because there had been a discrepancy in the ballots and being the honest man he was, he didn't want to remain in office if there was any question of his legitimacy. His decision angered Premier Berry, but for Deakin there was no question that to retain his integrity he must resign.

 

"Always highly nervous, no matter how small the gathering to which I spoke, on this occasion my condition was so agonizing as to seem to threaten mental paralysis. This was mitigated by the circumstance that I gave little or no indication of the tremors that thrilled me, dried my palate and robbed me of control of my voice and knowledge of my movements" Alfred Deakin when he resigned his seat- July 8th 1879.

 

For the next 10-20 years he remained in the background, content to learn his new trade, even though he was often called upon by various Premiers to assist in important political, party and national issues including the future of Federation.

 

In his journal he wrote "I was by no means anxious to rush to the front of Parliament, being quite satisfied in my own mind that there was a long apprenticeship to serve before I should be fitted to assume greater responsibilities than those of the average member."

 Deakin's watch

Deakin seen here (on far left) in the Turner Government, a gentle well educated man who was thrust into the rough and tuff of colonial politics, happy to be on the back bench learning the trade of being an accomplish politician, maybe dreaming of the future federation.   

Deakin's ambition was not to be a politician but through a process of elimination from his boyhood desire to be an actor, then poet, then writer he came to accept that he had a calling and aptitude for oratory and Government .

 

"So it was that at length I became a politician from 1880 to 1890 by sheer force of circumstance rather than independent choice." Alfred Deakin

David Syme was instrumental in encouraging Deakin to stand for the seat and he was to enjoy Syme's ongoing support for many years.