‘Gratuitous Pugnacity’, The Bulletin, 3 March 1888.

Gratuitous Pugnacity (3 March 1888), p. 13.jpg

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‘Gratuitous Pugnacity’, The Bulletin, 3 March 1888.


Colonies, debt, Federation, free trade, government, internal debts, knight, Knight Henry, Phil May (1864-1903), Sir Henry Parkes, NSW Politics


Cartoonist Phil May here encapsulates the main problems of a premature pitch by NSW for Australian Federation. The doughty knight (Sir Henry) is ready to do battle with ‘all and sundry,’ for he needs to pay off (or perhaps unload the responsibility of) his debts. The symbols of his fiscal carelessness are daubed on his surcoat and shield. This was a sticking point in the Federation debate, where the difficult question “Who would take responsibility for the unequal debts and liabilities of the [other] colonies?” frequently arose (See Beverley Kingston, The Oxford History of Australia: Glad, Confident Morning 1860-1900, vol. 3, Oxford: OUP, 1993, p. 56). Indeed, this question was still being debated at the 1910 elections (See, for example: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15142572). While Sir Henry is keen to push forward, the female figure in the cartoon - ‘That State House’ - wears mourning black and remains unconvinced, for it is she who will have to find the money and manage things should the need arise. The State House in question is most likely the Senate, the then much debated Upper House of the projected Federal Parliament (See R. C. Baker, Federation, Adelaide: Scrymgour & Sons, 1897, p. 4).


May, Phil


The Bulletin


The Bulletin


3 March 1888 (p. 13)


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