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W. G. WENTWORTH.

-, -.

Australia's First Patriot.

(BY K. R. CRAMP, O.B.E., M.A,, Hororary Seen.

tary and Fellow Royal Australian Historical

Society.)

Despite its youthfulness as a nation, Aus- tralia can number among its sons many men of outstanding ability and public spiritedness whose claim to fame no nation would hesitate to acknowledge. In a list of such dis- tinguished Australians many would concede the pride of place to William Charles Went-

worth

We claim him as Australia's first native born patriot because he first saw the light of da' in Norfolk Island-then included in the boundaiy of New South Wales-as early as October 26, 1793. Both the time and place of birth have been chnllcngcd, but as'yet unsuccessfully; and In the meantime the date has been universally accepted and 'Went worthlan celebrations held accordingly, i

The character of the "Botany Bay" estab llsi.ment-a synonym for New South Wales naturally rendered it impossible to offer satis- factory educational facilities to the son of a freeman. Little wonder, therefore, that Dr. D'Arcy Wentworth, perceiving the budding genius of his son, and wishing to place him where the conditions were more favourable, shipped him while he was yet but 10 years of age to England, yvherc, under the influence of Dr. Alexander Crombie, of Greenwich, the foundation of a sound classical, mathematical, and scientific education was well and truly laid. He visited Australia as a youth of 17 years, only to return to the Motherland sis years later to equip himself at Cambridge an ' the Middle Temple, r ondon, with higher scholastic and legal I aining that would enable him to play his part as Australia's champion of liberties in the legal, journalistic, and political spheres of our colonial life. During this temporary sojourn in New South Wales between his two voyages to England he had, as " young man of 20 years, performed signal service In the field of exploration in associa- tion with Gregory Blaxland and Lieutenant William Lawson on that historic occasion in 1813. They pursued a course which approxi- mately coincides with the toute of the present Western road to beyond Mount Victoria; they then descended the almost Impassable slopes of Mt. Vork, crossed the stream that forms th. natural geographical boundary between the Blue Mountains and the Main Range, and terminated their investigations at Mt, Blaxland, Just beyond the Cox and Lett Rivers. They thus completely crossed the Blue Mountains and rendered it relatively easv for those following to open up the mag- nificent plains around Bathurst.

During his second sojourn in England, Wentworth drew public attention to the land of his birth, first, by his poem on Australasia, which he described as "a new Britannia in another world," and then by the publication of his "Statistical, Historical, and Political Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen. Land." In the latter work he en- larged on the great advantages ? offering to emigrants, over those in America. Almost synchronising with the publication of Bigge's report, it materially influenced the British authorities to liberalise the government in New South Wales by conceding to her a Legis- lative Council and an improved judicial system. Wentworth, however, was far from

satisfied.

JOURNALISTIC PIONEER.

In conjunction with his friend, Dr. War- dell, he produced New South Wales's first independent newspaper, which In truly char- acteristic fashion he named "The Australian." Its first leading article bore the impress of the personality of Wentworth, "Independent, yet consistent; free, yet not licentious; equally unmoved by favours and by fear-we shall pursue our labours without either a syco- phantic approval of, or a systematic opposition to, acts of authority merely because they emanate from Government." Consistent with this profession, "The Australian" attacked Governor Darling for his unwarranted sever- ity against the two soldiers who had been guilty of theft because they regarded the convict's lot easier than a soldier's life. It further resisted him to the utmost when, by drastic measures, Darling sought to stifle the Press that had dared to lift its voice in denunciation of his actions.

Wentworth's influence was also exercised on behalf of the establishment of a system of civilian Juries, in place of the more intolerant military jury system that had been in opera- tion since the foundation of the colony. The limited right to juries granted in 1823 was partly withdrawn in 1828; but Wentworth's persistent demand for "the birthright of every British subject" resulted in the grant- ing of the complete jury system during th«

thirties.

As the vice-president of the Australian Patriotic Association, Wentworth maintained a vigorous agitation for the extension of con- stitutional freedom. On behalf of the asso- ciation he drafted suggestive constitutions, one of which provided for a Legislative Coun- cil consisting of 40 elected and 10 nominated members. This may be regarded as the basis of the Constitution actually granted in 1842, when a Council was provided, with two thirds of its members to be elected by the landholders, the remaining 12 being the Gov- ernor's nominees. In this we had the germ of the bicameral system, for 13 years later the Council split into two parts, the elected members constituting the Legislative Assem- bly, and the nominees forming the Legisla- tive Council. But this final stage was not reached until Wentworth's thunderous de- nunciations forced the Home authorities lo recognise the claims of the free Inhabitants of the colony to manage their own concerns.

Wentworth was elected in 1843 as the first representative of the City of Sydney, and by virtue of his dominant personality and sin- cerity of purpose he quickly became the leader of the popular party against the Governor's nominees. As the colony was then passing through a period of depression, the Council adopted with relief his Lien on Wool Act, which, by permitting the sheepowners to mortgage the wool growing on the sheep:-* back, saved them from financial collapse till better times carne. The advice he tendered in those precarious years smack3 largely of the advice given in our own recent financial crisis. "We ought to consume less," he. urged, and produce more, to import less and export more."

Wentworth was the main force at work when a Declaration of Remonstrance was for- warded to the British Government, claimlnsr full right for the colonists to control taxa- tion and expenditure and to subordinate th« Government to tile Legislature-In short, claiming the full privilege of responsible gov- ernment. This declaration was by Henry Parkes pronounced to be "one of the founda- tion stones of the fabric of our constitutional liberties." under Wentworth's guidance the draft Constitution was prepared; and, though his proposal for an Upper House of hereditary membership received short shrift, the Con- stitution finally granted was based upon the principles laid down by him.

DRAFT BILL ACCEPTED.

Accompanied by Deas Thomson, Wentworth sailed to England and induced the British Government to accept the draft bill, which in its fundamental principles gave us the Con- stitution we have to-day, though within the succeeding eighty years it lins undergone im- portant modifications The franchise has been extended to all, and with the aid of the ballot box has rendered it thoroughly democratic; while the Council has been converted from a nominated to an elected House But the main Ideal of Wentworth persists

One other outstanding achievement must be noted. To Wentworth self-government and education were closely associated An en- franchised but ignorant people constitute a menace It is little wonder that with such views he was in the forefront of the move- ment which was to give Sydney Its University. It was his motion that brought Into being a select committee to Inquire into the question of founding the institution; it was he who expedited the drafting of the committee' report, and lie it was who proposed the second reading of the bill, which, in his opinion, was opening the path of every child in the colony, including the poor man's child, to profit by the measure and secure an education fitting him for the highest offices It was, therefore, but fitting that when the University Senate was constituted, after official assent had been given to the bill In October, 1850, William Charles Wentworth was the first mentioned as en- titled to appointment to that august body.

What better memorial could one wish for

than the institutions of freedom and higher

education with which we are endowed. Free- dom of the Press freedom of public meeting, freedom of public speech íepresentative and rsporsible Government, the establishment of civilian juries, croyyned by the foundation of one of the leading Univci sities of the world this vast accumulation of achievement calls upon us to do homage to the name of Went- worth, and associate ourselves with the memorial servicp to be conducted on Sunday, October 25, In the church erected to his memory on ground once trod by the object of our reverence_

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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