Friday, January 29, 2010

George Reid

I'm pretty sure George Reid was a Prime Minister....probably around Federation time. Maybe? The thing is when I saw his name, I thought he was a repeat. I felt I had written about him before. But I searched through my posts and couldn't find anything. I'm guessing maybe he popped up in my research on someone else.

The sad thing is I can't remember much about Federation. All I DO easily remember is that Federation Day was on 1 January 1901. Well, hey. At least I remember the date. I'm just hoping, that if Reid was involved with Federation, when I read stuff, it feels like a review to me. I'll be sad if all the information seems totally new.

Let's see....

Lord Wiki says that Reid was the fourth Prime Minister of Australia. He had the job from August 1904 until July 1905. That's less than a year.

Now let's rewind to the beginning.

Baby George was born in Scotland on 25 February 1845. His dad was a minister for the Church of Scotland. It's a Presbyterian thing.

Anyway, there was this other Scottish Minister who had come to Australia in 1823. This was John Dunmore Lang. Lang became the first Presbyterian minister in New South Wales. Then he started bringing more ministers over to Australia. Daddy Reid was one of them.

The Reid family migrated to Victoria in 1852. Little George would have been six or seven. I wonder how he felt about moving to a whole new country.

Daddy Reid worked at Scot's Church. George Reid attended school at Scotch College.

Oh, now I'm confused. Lord Wiki says Scot's Church is in Sydney. I guess maybe they started in Victoria and then moved to Sydney? Where is Scotch College?

Well, Lord Wiki says that's in Melbourne.

I'm lost. Why would the father move to Sydney, and leave his family behind in Melbourne?

Here's the website for the church in Sydney. They say they were started by the Lang guy. I wonder if he's related to the other Lang guy. What's his name? Jack?

Well, I added John Dunmore Lang to my list. So I'll try to figure that out when I get to him.

Okay. Here we go. Lord Wiki says the family moved to Sydney when Reid was thirteen. Was his father there before that, working at the church? Or did he work at another church before that?

Well, there IS a Scot's church in Melbourne. I'm guessing maybe Daddy Reid worked there, and then worked at the Sydney church.

I think I get it now, and why Lord Wiki confused me. He says, His family was one of many families brought out from Scotland by Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang with whom his father worked at Scots' Church, Sydney. So I assumed he immediately worked for him. Maybe the word "later" before "worked", and "with" after "at" would have made things more clearer to me.

At the age of thirteen, Reid got a job as a clerk. I'm not sure if he did this and also attended school; or whether he dropped out.

Then we jump ahead to the age of nineteen. He became the assistant accountant in the Colonial Treasurer Department.

In 1875, Reid published something called Five Essays on Free Trade. He would have been about thirty at that time. Anyway, people were impressed with his work. He was given honorary membership to something called the Cobden Club.

Lord Wiki says the Cobden Club was a gentleman's club in London, specifically for guys who supported free trade. So it make sense that they would like Reid's writings.

The club still exists. The membership prices are much lower than I imagined. Well, I gotta convert the pounds to dollars. Let me see. It would be $450 a year in Australian dollars. I mean that's a lot of money, but I would have expected it to be much more than that. Our yearly synagogue membership costs more, I think. I don't pay it because I don't want to be a member. We haven't paid in years, yet we still get mailings from them that seem to say we're still members. I don't know if Tim is secretly paying, or if my parents are paying for us...trying to keep us more Jewish. Or maybe the synagogue think we're a charity case? I don't know.

Anyway, I wonder if the Cobden Club is for free trade people still; or it is more general these days. I also wonder if it's less gender-specific. I don't see anything on their website that indicates they're only for men.

Reid did some more writing. In 1878, the government published his New South Wales The Mother Colony of the Australias. I wonder if the other colonies agreed with the mother colony honor; or were they resentful and competitive?

While Reid did all this writing, he also studied law. By 1879, he was a barrister.

Lord Wiki says that Reid was a great public speaker. His speeches were both funny and educational. People liked him, but not everyone did. Alfred Deakin was not a fan. The two men did not get along.

In 1890, Reid was elected into the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. But Lord Wiki says he wasn't too active. He was too busy with his law stuff. Why would he be in Parliament then? Why join if you're not going to be active?

I am so damn confused. Lord Wiki is going back and forth with dates. I don't know if there's a mistake here, or my brain is just not comprehending.

NOPE. I just misread the date. Oops. Reid was elected into NSW Parliament in 1880, NOT 1890. Okay, now everything makes sense. Lord Wiki said that he lost in seat in 1884. I was thinking, how could that be, if he wasn't even in it until 1890?!

Maybe I need glasses.

So yeah. Reid came in during 1880, and left in 1884. Then in 1885, he was reelected.

Henry Parkes (the Daddy of Federation) was Premier around this time. He tried to give Reid some ministry positions, but Reid wouldn't take them. He didn't like Parkes for personal reasons, and felt he wouldn't be able to work with him. I kind of admire that. I think a lot of people would do anything to further their careers, even if it meant working with someone they didn't like. Although it depends on what you don't like about someone. Is it because they're a bully, or a bigot? Or do you just not like the way they tell jokes, or the fact that they're obsessed with their snow globe collection?

This is interesting. Back then, members of Parliament were not paid. They had to get an income from elsewhere. That's one of the reasons, Reid did the law career thing. He was actually against the idea of Parliament Members getting a salary. When the law was passed to provide payment, he put his money back into the Treasury. Wow. From what I see so far, this guy really stood behind his principles.

Now we get to the 1890's...for real, this time.

In 1891, Reid got married. He and his wife Florence would end up having three kids. She was much younger than him, so had time to pop them all out.

Around this time, Parkes retired as leader of the Free Trade Party. Reid took his place. In 1894, he became Premier of New South Wales. The people on the opposite side of the political coin were the Protectionists. Edmund Barton was one of those. What was Deakin again?

Lord Wiki says he was Protectionist too.

Here's the thing. Reid supported the idea of Federation. But it was a bit complicated because those leading the movement were part of the Protectionist group. Therefore, he didn't get too involved with it all.

I guess he was a bit on the fence. He did some famous speech that became known as the yes-no speech. If I'm understanding this correctly, it's called that because people could not determine his verdict. He spoke for over an hour regarding his decision, and the listeners were left confused. I think what he basically said was that although he could not label himself a deserter of the cause (Federation) he could not go as far as recommending that people support it.

I might be reading this all wrong. If I am, please correct me.

After Australia became a Federation, Reid got himself into Federal Parliament. He got the seat of East Sydney. Who is there now?

Oh. No one. The seat is gone.

Reid became the first Leader of the Opposition. That's a pretty cool honor to have in history.

He had some job conflict stuff. At this time, Parliament was in Melbourne. His law office was in Sydney. He had trouble balancing it all, and he didn't want to give up his law job because it paid much more than Parliament. Maybe by this time, he was accepting the Parliamentary salary?

In 1903, Reid resigned from Parliament. Then he got himself back into it in 1904. I'm a bit confused about all that. I'm just going to skip over it. Maybe another website will make it clearer to me.

In 1904, Reid became Prime Minister. From what I'm reading here, he knew his run in office would be short. It has something to do with the Free Trade Party not having the majority in Parliament.

In 1909, Reid resigned from Parliament. He soon became the High Commissioner of London. I wasn't sure what that was. Lord Wiki says it means he was the Aussie diplomat to the UK. He was the first person to have that position, and he had it until 1916. So we can say Reid was the first Australian Leader of the Opposition, and the first diplomat to the UK.

Reid died in London in 1918, and he's buried in London. I'm a little offended that he didn't get himself buried in Australia. But I have to remember in those days, London and Australia were so connected.

All right, I'm going to move onto one of those other websites. Where should I go first...the government Prime Minister page, or The Australian Dictionary of Biography? Maybe I'll flip a coin.

I got myself a penny. Heads will be PM page, and tails will be the dictionary.


So I'll go to the Prime Minister Page first. Reid sort of reminds me of Theodore Roosevelt. It might be the mustache. Roosevelt was President while Reid was Prime Minister. Maybe in those days, it was popular for leaders to have such a mustache.

Yeah. The Prime Minister of Britain at the time was Arthur Balfour. He had the same sort of mustache.

I'm going to read the Before Office Page.

Reid was the fifth of seven children. He was almost the baby, but not quite.

They arrived in Melbourne in 1952 during the gold rush. Now Lord Wiki gave me the idea that they came over for a church job. I'm guessing that's true, and it was just a coincidence that the gold rush was happening. OR maybe it wasn't exactly a coincidence. I know the gold rushes greatly increased the population of Australian. When you have more people, you usually end up needing more churches. If you have more churches, there's more jobs available for ministers.

In 1858, the family moved on east to Sydney.

Ah, there's something here that my little unschooling brain loves to hear. The website says, Reid remembered his first job as a great liberation from formal schooling, and the point when his education really began. Yeah. I think the real world provides a much better education than a classroom.

When he was fifteen, Reid joined a debating club. He was very good at that.

He was friendly and easygoing; well-liked by many people.

A lot of this stuff I saw on Lord Wiki's page, so I'm not going to repeat it.

Here's something I didn't get before. He was friends with Edmund Barton.

Besides being a big fan of free trade, Reid was also a fan of public libraries and public schools.

He was against the Chinese Immigration Restriction Act of 1889, even though many of his Free Trade buddies supported it. That's nice to know. Maybe he was less racist than most people of that time.

Now as for Federation, Barton had been Free Trade, but then switched to Protectionist. I'm guessing that probably effected Reid's opinion of Barton. He might have seen him as a traitor.

I think Reid supported Federation, but he worried about the free trade aspects....or lack of.

All right. Here's some information about the yes-no speech. What Reid said basically was that he personally WOULD be voting for Federation. However, he expressed to the voters what his reservations were regarding it all. Then he asked them to make up their own mind about voting.

That sounds like a pretty awesome and honest speech. It's better than politicians who pretend they're 100% behind something when they're really not.

Well, some people did not find this speech to be awesome. Barton and Deakin weren't pleased, especially since the referendum wasn't passed. I guess they put part of the blame on Reid.

It seems the friendship between Reid and Barton had pretty much shattered. When Barton became the first Prime Minister  he didn't give Reid a job in his ministry. Was Reid hurt by that? I don't know. He became Leader of the Opposition. I guess that was after Barton didn't invite him into his Ministry? I can't image that happening these days. I don't think people would go from being rejected from a ministry of one party to leader of the oppositional party. I'm thinking in those days, the line between parties was thinner.

Here the website talks about Reid's time as Prime Minister. I see further evidence that there was less of a division between parties. They say that Reid's Deputy Prime Minister was a Protectionist. His cabinet was made up of a combination of Free Trade and Protectionist people.

There was some complicated issue with the High Court while Reid was Prime Minister. I'll read and try to understand.

It involved Josiah Symon, the Attorney General. Symon was not happy with an amendment made to the Australian Constitution. This amendment said that Australian court cases could appeal in British courts. I guess he was one that wanted more independence from England.

Well, I'm failing to fully understand it. Maybe I'll get it someday. For now, I'll just leave it at there being some sort of conflict.

I'll also say I sneaked a peak at Lord Wiki's entry on Symon. He too has the same type of mustache. I did a little reading too. Basically, it seems Symon had issues with the High Court. He made life difficult for them, and Reid had to intervene somewhat.

After Reid was Prime Minister, he became leader of a new party. This was the Anti-Socialist Party.

Oh, wow. If I'm reading this correctly....Reid might have had a huge influence on Gallipoli. The ANZAC troops were originally to be sent to England, but Reid argued that the Middle Eastern climate would be better suited for them. On Christmas Eve, he visited the troops while they were camped out near the Egyptian pyramids. Four months later, many of those men were killed. I wonder if Reid felt some guilt over that....or at least maybe regret.

Well, this makes me feel better. Although he was buried in London, the Australian flag was draped over his coffin.

This is weird though. I figured maybe he was buried in London because he had died there, and people felt it was too annoying to have to move the body. But this page says he died in Sydney. Why the hell was he not buried in Sydney? Now I might like to be buried or have my ashes in Australia. But that's different. I'm not the President of the United States. I think there's something a bit rude about being the leader of a country, and then wanting to be buried elsewhere. Although maybe it's not what Reid wanted. Maybe he didn't specify, and England just really wanted his body in their ground.

Well, lastly I'm going to look at the Australian Dictionary of Biography. I'm going to give it a quick read, and see if there's stuff I haven't yet learned from the other sites.

They say Reid was known as being a bon vivant. I didn't know what that meant, so I looked it up. An online dictionary says it's a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink.

He liked food. He liked wine. And it seems he also liked women.

I can picture that sort of person.

The website says that in 1879, Reid submitted a long poem to the Sydney International Exhibit. It was known as being an awful poem, and Reid was later embarrassed every time it was brought up. That's pretty funny.

The other websites said that Reid stayed fairly inactive in politics because he was working as a barrister. This website ads that it wasn't just his work that kept Reid busy. He also wanted to maintain his active social life.

They talk about how Reid was very much against restricting Chinese Immigration. It's interesting to me. In America, it seems the Free Trade/Anti-Socialist folks are the ones more likely to be anti-immigrant. It's us socialist-types who seem to be more welcoming. And I think that's the same with Australia today. The more economically liberal folks seem less welcoming to immigrants...asylum seekers and all that.

As for America's immigration issue...specifically the one with Mexico. I'm getting into the idea of Mexico becoming another American state. The idea came to me a few weeks ago. It makes sense. So many Mexicans come here illegally. If Mexico is a state, it would make them automatic citizens. Then we wouldn't have people whining about illegal immigrants. We'd also have a ton more space. As any good ideas that appear in my brain, it's doubtful that I've actually thought of something original. So I just looked it up. Lord Wiki says there is indeed a movement to make Mexico a state. It wouldn't be one state though. It would be 10-15 states. Wow. I think that would be cool. We're so close and connected least here in Texas. We might as well bond together and become one. I think if it happens though, we'd definitely need to make Spanish an official language of the United States. It pretty much is, anyway.

Back to Reid.....

The website says his sense of humor was very entertaining at times, but it could also be a bit biting. Then again, there were a lot of jokes directed at him....especially about his weight. He was very obese. But it seemed he took the jokes in stride. Once a heckler inferred that Reid's big belly was a pregnancy. Instead of acting hurt, Reid managed to joke back.

Reid was gregarious. He had impressive social skills, yet he didn't have many close friends. I can understand that. I know it's said by many that it's better to have a few close friends rather than have a lot of casual friends/ acquaintances. But sometimes it's so hard to trust people, and it's hard to find REAL friends. I would probably personally prefer to have a few close true friends, but I'm finding it feels safer and easier not to put all my eggs in one or two baskets.

Anyway, I'm going to quit and go do something else.

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