Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Edmund Barton


I'm back to Federation stuff.

It's early in the morning. I couldn't sleep. Hopefully, my brain is awake enough to understand things today.

I lay in bed for about an hour this morning; too awake to fall asleep, and too tired to get up and research. I finally dragged myself out of the bed.

What do I know about Edmund Barton? Not too much. He was the first Prime Minister of Australia. I think he was from Sydney. Balmain, maybe? Glebe? I'm pretty sure he had a connection to one of the Sydney neighborhoods we visited...or had planned to visit.

I shall go talk to Lord Wiki now, and learn more.

Baby Edmund was born on 18 January 1849. I think that would make him a Capricorn, or maybe an Aquarius.

The birthday website says he's a Capricorn.

In numerology, he's a 5. That's the freedom number.

Does any of this fit Barton?

I have no idea.

Baby Edmund wasn't born in Balmain. His birthplace was Glebe. I like Glebe. I bought books there.

Now Glebe also reminds me of the young adult novel, Looking for Alibrandi.

Lord Wiki says Barton was the ninth child. That means he had eight older siblings. I wonder if he had any younger ones.

Daddy Barton was a stockbroker.

Barton went to Fort Street High School and Sydney Grammar School.

Fort Street is the one that's a public school,but a bit prestigious like a private school.

John Kerr went there....I think.

Yep. Lord Wiki says I'm right. H.V Evatt went there as well. Maybe one day I'll have the school of every Australian memorized. Well, no...probably not.

Barton did well in school. He was school captain. He was also dux. I think that's what we call valedictorian in America.

Lord Wiki says that, at Sydney Grammar School, Barton met his friend Richard O'Connor. I guess that's important for some reason. Well, later they'd be part of the High Court of Australia together. Okay. I'll just assume this is significant.

Barton went to the University of Sydney. He studied classics. He played Cricket. He was great at both.

In 1871, he became a barrister. He'd be about twenty-two at the time.

By then he had a girlfriend named Jane. He met her while playing cricket in Newcastle. The lovely couple tied the knot in 1877.

Barton was really serious about the cricket stuff. I didn't know that.

In 1879, he did the umpire thing at the Sydney Cricket Grounds. A decision of a fellow umpire made people mad, and there was a riot.


Barton helped defuse the difficult situation. It was his diplomacy in the situation that might have led him to being the first Prime Minister.

I'm actually getting sleepy, and my tummy hurts a bit.

I think I'm going to take a break; see if I can go back to sleep.

I shall be back later.....

Well, crap. I couldn't get back to sleep.

I hate that....just laying in bed, thinking and thinking about stuff I don't want to think about.

Now there's a whole section of Lord Wiki that I don't understand.

I'll do the best I can.

I'm getting that Barton tried to get into the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He was defeated twice, but finally got a seat in 1879. He'd be about thirty then.

In 1880, he became the member for Wellington. This division was eliminated way back in 1904.

After he did the Wellington seat for awhile, Barton took over for the East Sydney division. This division was also eventually eliminated....cut up into smaller divisions.

In 1882, Barton became the Speaker of the Assembly.

Barton supported free trade, but then later allowed himself to be Attorney-General under a Protectionist Leader of New South Wales.

I need to see what Lord Wiki has to say about the whole protectionist thing. I know a little bit about it. And I can at least assume it's probably the opposite of free trade.

Well, yeah. Lord Wiki says it's about restraining trade. I would assume it's like what I read about when I researched Wayne Swan; the idea of giving preferential treatment to Australian companies and Australian made products.

Australia's Protectionist Party was founded in 1889. Lord Wiki says it was strongest in Victoria, and also rural New South Wales.

What I want to know is why did Barton go from supporting Free Trade to supporting a political group that was the opposite of that? Did his viewpoints change? Or did he change his viewpoints when he saw that doing so might lead to promotions in his career?

Barton supported the whole Federation thing.

One thing he wanted was the abolishment of appeals to the Privy Council.

I had to look up Privy Council. It's a British court thing. I think basically, Great Britain had the last say. They were still the ultimate authority. Barton was just trying to loosen the ties a bit. According to Lord Wiki though, it seems it took a LONG time for Barton to get his wish. It looks like laws (or whatever) weren't passed regarding this until 1968. I might be reading things wrong. Feel free to correct me.

Barton helped write the draft of the Australian Constitution.

Then soon he broke away from the Protectionist Party. Why? They weren't supporters of Federation. Well, I'm glad Barton stood by his principles.

The big daddy of Federation, Henry Parkes, encouraged Barton to be the leader of the Federation movement.

Then for some reason, Barton got himself involved with the Protectionist Party again. He agreed to do this by getting the new leader to agree to some federation stuff.

In the 1890's, Barton pushed for Federation. It was a bit of a struggle. Yeah. I'm not going to go into details because I dont' really understand everything yet.

In 1898, the draft of the constitution was finalized. There was a referendum vote. I guess this was about Federation. Barton and his cause lost.

Don't cry though. In 1899 it passed.

In 1890, Barton said adios to Parliament. He traveled to London with Alfred Deakin and another guy. They chatted with important British people about Federation issues.

The British government did not like the Privy thing being abolished. Barton negotiated with them a bit. He said the British could handle some certain issues. Australia's High Court would be in charge of others.

Okay. Here's a rather interesting story.

When the Australia Federation was hanging out in the birth canal, there was a bit of a struggle to pick a first Prime Minister. A lot of people assumed it should be Barton; well, you know since he was the leader of Federation stuff. It would make sense that he become leader of the country.

I guess when the whole Federation thing began, the Governor-General role came in place. The first British to get that job was John Hope. Lord Wiki says John Hope was a bit out of touch with politics in Australia. He tried to give the job to the current Premier of New South Wales. The problem with that is the current premier was anti-Federation.

People weren't happy with the choice, but soon things were remedied. Barton became Prime Minister.

Barton's Ministry was sworn in on the first of January 1901. I remember talking to people who said this date might be a better day for Australia day than 26 January.

I was thinking about important dates in Australia the other day, and comparing them to America's.

We celebrated our Bicentennial in 1976. This was the anniversary of 4 July--our whole freedom from Britain thing.

Australia celebrated its Bicentennial in 1888. This was the anniversary of Arthur Phillip and the first Fleet arriving in Australia.

I'm having trouble saying what I want to say here.

I guess it's that in America we put our birthday on the day that we became a free and separate country from Britain. Australia's birthday is the day the people arrived. That would be like us celebrating our beginnings on the day the Pilgrims first arrived.

We count our ages differently. Maybe that's what I'm trying to say.

Through my American eyes, the country of Australia is really 108 years-old and not 221 years-old.

If we're going to say Australia is 221 years old, than I'd have to say America is 389 years-old.

The birth of countries is hard to pinpoint though. We could say why should Australia and America start with white history. Why not say Australia is 40 thousand plus years old. Why even start with humans? Why not date Australia's birth at the time that it became a separate continent. That probably didn't happen over a day...maybe not even a decade. But still.....

It's kind of like humans. We celebrate the anniversary of the day we're born. Why? Why don't we instead celebrate the day we're conceived. That's when we truly started, right?

Anyway, back to Barton.

The first Legislation that Barton's government worked on was the Immigration Restriction Act. And here we have the birth of the White Australia Policy. I don't think I knew it went back that far.

Oh, this is lovely. Lord Wiki says that Barton said, The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman.

So Barton was pretty racist.

I know. I know. It was the times that he lived in.

I know people today who are about as racist as Barton. So I don't think our times have changed all that much actually.

My feeling is that there's just as much racism today as there was in Barton's time. I think the difference is that the anti-racist people are stronger now. We have a stronger voice, and we have more power.

Barton liked long dinners and wine. I don't like long dinners. I eat way too fast. Then I have to just sit there. But sometimes the conversation is very interesting. Then I don't mind so much.

Barton did judge stuff as well as Prime Minister stuff. I'm not sure if this was while he was Prime Minister, or earlier. Maybe later?

Yes later.

I didn't read carefully enough. Bad Dina!

He left the Prime Minister job in 1903. Then he helped form the High Court of Australia.

In 1920, Barton died of a heart attack at a health retreat. Yikes! They didn't do their job too well! The place was called the Hydro Majestic Hotel. It still exists. It's in the Blue Mountains.

It's closed right now, but according to their website, they're going to open again soon.

Three times, Great Britain tried to make Barton a knight. He kept refusing. Finally, in 1903 he accepted the honor.

I am done with the Lord Wiki part of this post.

I shall have to move onto other fun stuff.

Here's the government Prime Minister page.

They describe their first leader in a very nice way. Admired for his intellect and calm temper, Barton’s glowing eyes revealed a keen sense of humour, while his ample girth was evidence of a love of good food, fine wine and stimulating conversation. With a rich and engrossing voice, he commanded authority wherever he spoke.
Glowing eyes? That sounds a little dangerous. It's like Village of the Damned. These days, there are less glowing eyes in horror though. Now the popular thing seems to be spooky muddy black eyes. I've seen it on X-Files, Charmed, and now True Blood.

How is ample girth evidence of stimulating conversation? I look forward to seeing the dietitian who makes millions selling that idea. Lose weight by talking less...or at least make sure your conversation is not too stimulating.

The website says Barton was the youngest. There were no siblings younger than him--at least not ones that survived.

He was born on Hereford Street. I have to look that up, of course.
It's a little bit west of Glebe Point Road. That's where all the awesome bookstores are, right?

Later, Barton and his family moved to The Rocks...Cumberland Street. This was when Barton was only two. Glebe didn't really play a huge part in his life then. I thought he had more of a connection. Maybe they moved back there later?

As a young married man, Barton lived in Manly. This made life a bit challenging because the Ferry stopped running at 5 pm.
The website says Barton didn't support female suffrage. But he made a deal with the suffrage groups. He'd help give them the right to vote if they agreed to vote in support for Federation.

He was racist.

He was sexist.

He had glowing eyes.

Kind of a scary guy to have as Prime Minister. I still kind of like him though.

Barton was late a lot. Nicola Roxon wouldn't like that much.

Barton and his wife had six children.

In 1896, the family moved to Carabells Street in Kirribbili. Was that after Manly? I'm guessing it was.

I'm going to use the toilet and then look at the biography dictionary site.

The site says that Daddy Barton came from London in 1827.

Mommy Barton ran a girl's school.

Barton's nickname was Toby. How did that come about?

He loved learning Greek and Latin. I guess that's part of what he learned in his classics degree.

We talked about languages yesterday. My friend did Latin in high school. She seems to think it had been a foolish choice. I think it's a GREAT language to learn. Yeah, it's a bit dead. But so much of our language comes from Latin. I think it would be a great foundation in learning other languages. Plus, it would also help you learn medical and scientific words. Oh! And when you watch scary movies with spooky Catholic chanting, you'd be able to know what the hell is being said.

At one point, Barton was part of the defense team for a notorious murderer. Alfred Lester. Well, I don't see much on Google about Lester, so I'm somewhat disagreeing with the notorious part. I guess he might have been notorious, but by now he's a bit forgotten.

Barton's nickname in later years was Toby Tosspot. The other websites, I looked at, said the same thing. But I kept trying to ignore them. I don't really quite understand what tosspot means.

Well, Lord Wiki is telling me now. It's British slang. An insult. It used to refer to someone who drinks a lot, but these days it's more about masturbation.

This website agrees with the last. Barton had glowing eyes.

They say Barton was an omnivorous reader. I've never heard that term applied to reading before. I'm guessing it means he read a variety of stuff. Can someone be a carnivorous reader?

I'm now looking for stuff named after Barton.

There's a suburb in Canberra. Lord Wiki says it's the most socio-advantaged place in Australia. I guess a lot of rich people live there.

In that suburb, there's an Edmund Barton Building. It's an office building, and it's on the heritage list. It is seen as an example of 20th century architecture. Some folks like it. Some folks don't.

I'm looking at a photo of it right now. I'll probably have to put myself in the latter group.

There's a Division of Barton in New South Wales. This is the one that's the seat of Robert McLelland. Oh's the murder seat. Why do I keep forgetting that story? Fortunately, Lord Wiki continues to remind me.

Now I'm reading about the 100th birthday of the Federation. This was in 2001. There were parties and parades in Sydney. Was it a big deal? I would imagine it would be, but I hear more about the 1988 celebrations. Perhaps it's because they were more controversial? Or maybe not much was done in 2001 because the Olympics had just taken place. Maybe Australia was trying to rest. Also, there's the fact that Federation Day happens on New Years. That might overshadow it a bit. We were in Australia on New Years. I wasn't excited. I've never liked New Years. The first of January never seems like the beginning of the year to me. Anyway, I wish I had known about Federation. I would have been excited, and happy to celebrate that.

Anyway, I think I'm done for now.

Tomorrow I shall be researching more Federation folks. I'll understand more and more about all of this...hopefully.


  1. Edmund Barton - I had no idea who he was until 2000 - I was 18

    On the eve of federation (probably 2000 sometime) there was a commercial centered around Barton. An interviewer was out on the streets asking Australians who was Australia's first PM and no one had a clue. We could all name America's first but not ours. Pretty sad actually and then they went on to say that it was because Australia was formed by a vote and not a war.

    During school we were taught all about Cook and even people like Henry Lawson and co but not our Prime Ministers. Why is this?

    Dina - you have to do Harold Holt if you haven't down him. Absolutely hillarious


  2. Katie,

    Thanks for your comment. What you said fascinates me.

    It shocks me about Australians not knowing the first PM because George Washington is one of the few things almost all Americans know.

    We have the street interviews too--where it's shown how dumb Americans are, and how we have huge gaps in our education.

    I do wonder why Australia knows more about Cook and Lawson rather than Prime Ministers. Might it go along with Australians liking the anti-hero...the bushrangers and all that.

    I don't know....

    Also, I'm curious. Who are Australian kids more likely to know about...Cook or Arthur Phillip?

    Here's a link to my old post about Holt: