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The Great Constitutional Swindle

“Imagine American history erasing Washington or Jefferson, like Australian history erased Clark … Clark Who? …”

 “When Andrew Inglis Clark first ran for the Tasmanian parliament, the Launceston Examiner called him “the stranger from Hobart”, and he has remained a stranger to us for most of this century.

Clark came to understand the principles of federalism from the captains of the Boston whaling fleet which fished the great southern oceans and regularly came to port at his home town, Hobart.

It was this man who was most responsible for “the idea of the Australian nation”. Of the 126 sections of our current Constitution, Clark is directly responsible for 88. Yet there is no suburb named Clark next to the suburbs of Parkes, Deakin, Griffith, Forrest, Kingston and Barton that circle Parliament House in Canberra. But if we had a Thomas Jefferson, it was Clark.”

The following book review for Professor Botsman‘s 1999 Constitutional history treatise, “The Great Constitutional Swindle” first appeared in Workers Online, the Official Organ of LaborNet on 22 October 1999. Peter Botsman is a former Director of the Whitlam Institute, and a former Director of the Brisbane Institute. He studied at Cornell University, New York, from 1972 to 1974 and completed a joint BA (Hons) degree at Griffith University, Queensland in 1976. Following a Diploma of Education from Melbourne University and a Master of Philosophy from Griffith University, he completed his doctorate at the University of NSW in 1987.

Professor Botsman blogs at “Working Papers” and writes for non-mainstream media forums such as “New Matilda”.

Professor Botsman’s Book “The Great Constitutional Swindle” ranks amongst the bravest, frankest and most fearless attempts to tell the truth of Australia’s swindled constitutional and political destiny – in the face of fierce mistreatments and political, economic and human rights abuses that the lawyer class elite political establishment in Australia continues to mete out to whistle-blowers, even today, with quiet, devastating effectiveness.

The Great Constitutional Swindle” (2000) ranks with Marcus Clark’s “For the Term of his Natural Life” (1870 – 1972), Frank Hardy’s “Power without Glory” (1950), Professor Donald Horne’s “The Lucky Country” series (1964 – 2003) and Robert Hughes’ “The Fatal Shores” (2003) at the pinnacle of the greatest works on Australian history, ever written by Australian historians swimming against the tide of 222 years of post-British Australian political correctness (ie “political controls”) and human rights oppressions.

Republic –– The Great Constitutional Swindle

In an upcoming book* [*Published January 6, 2000], Peter Botsman argues the blanding out of Australian constitutional history is one of the big barriers to the Republican cause. 

Its hard for Australians to get excited about constitutional change and the November [*1999] referendum.

Why? The answer is that we have been gypped and swindled out of our heritage. It is not just that Australian history has emerged only since the 1960s. Not only that we have no civics lessons in our classrooms. No, the real reason for our apathy is that the most interesting figures, controversies and shortcomings of Australian Federation have been edited out. As a result, we have a story of the birth of the Australian nation that rightly bores most Australians to tears and is dominated by a small number of victors: Henry Parkes, Alfred Deakin, Edmund Barton and Sam Griffith. It is a story of great, bearded white men.

But there is another story which remains to be told. When Andrew Inglis Clark first ran for the Tasmanian parliament, the Launceston Examiner called him “the stranger from Hobart”, and he has remained a stranger to us for most of this century.

Clark came to understand the principles of federalism from the captains of the Boston whaling fleet which fished the great southern oceans and regularly came to port at his home town, Hobart.

It was this man who was most responsible for “the idea of the Australian nation”. Of the 126 sections of our current Constitution, Clark is directly responsible for 88. Yet there is no suburb named Clark next to the suburbs of Parkes, Deakin, Griffith, Forrest, Kingston and Barton that circle Parliament House in Canberra. But if we had a Thomas Jefferson, it was Clark.

He was a passionate republican, an engineer, founder of the University of Tasmania, designer of Tasmania’s Hare-Clark voting system, editor of small, vibrant literary magazines and, above all, a believer in inalienable human rights.

Incredibly, Clark purposefully abstained from voting in the 1989 referendum [sic, NB the third, federation referendum, of 1899] to enshrine the Constitution that he had worked so hard on. He believed there was still more work to be done.

Perhaps his initial fall from grace came because it was embarrassing to our official historians that a man so central to our Constitution could admit that it was far from perfect.

Clark learned the finer points of federalism from US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

What does it say about the official history of Australia, that until recently we have known little about this seminal founding father? How was Andrew Inglis Clark swindled out of his rightful place in history?

The first reason was Alfred Deakin’s myth of the Lucinda.

At the 1891 Constitutional Convention Deakin praised Sam Griffith who, with Charley Kingston, Edmund Barton and others, disappeared up the Hawkesbury on the Queensland government steamer the Lucinda and returned after just a few days with a comprehensive draft constitution that was to become the constitution we know today.

To Deakin and everyone else it appeared that Sam Griffith had performed a miracle – not only was Premier Griffith writing the Constitution over this Easter period, he was cabling instructions up to Brisbane to arrest strike leaders George Taylor and Julian Stuart during the Queensland shearers strike.

The untold story was that over the entire year of 1890, Andrew Inglis Clark had researched an Australian federal constitution, travelling to America, consulting constitutional experts, studying the Canadian and colonial constitutions and working up the comprehensive draft which was given to both Sam Griffith and Charley Kingston in January 1891. It was this document that became the backbone of the Australian Constitution. We know that Griffith made many structural improvements to Clark’s Constitution but he actually made some fundamental errors that had to be corrected by Clark at later conventions.

The second reason we don’t know about Clark is that the workings of the 1891 convention with its committee-style deliberations, were veiled in secrecy, and added to this, Clark himself had a propensity to stay out of the limelight. It was not until July 1958 that John Reynolds, Barton’s biographer, published the original Clark draft constitution. It was only then that we could see how much of Clark’s 1890 draft was reflected in the current Constitution.

Clark viewed the heart of the Constitution as a “living forum open to each coming generation to re-interpret.” The significance of Clark for us 100 years later is that once we grasp his idea of the Constitution as a living force Australians will become more interested in changing, adapting and debating a moribund, horse-and buggy Constitution.

Professor Peter Botsman is executive director of the Brisbane Institute. His book “The Great Constitutional Swindle” will be published by Pluto Press in November. Peter will discuss his book at Glebe books this Wednesday October 27 at 6pm.



  Issue No 36

22 October 1999  




View the original 1999 link: http://workers.labor.net.au/36/a_interview_botsman.html

James Johnson, Independent Federal Candidate for Lalor               

Last Updated: September 25, 2011 

 


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Constitutional Human Rights Lawyer & Independent Federal Candidate for Lalor (Commonwealth of Australia). Advocating Smaller, Open Governments with Lower Taxes and Smaller, Faster, Better Bureaucracy. Also Advocating Justice & Politics Reforms. Defending Families & Civil Rights and Freedoms. http://www.jamesjohnson2020.com http://www.jamesjohnsonohr.weebly.com http://www.twitter.com/JamesJohnsonCHR I also blog at http://www.JamesJohnsonCHR.blogspot.com

Discussion

3 thoughts on “The Great Constitutional Swindle

  1. Interesting facts about our history. Now, we are being educated about the history of our constitution. Andrew Inglis Clark~ had no idea who he was until now. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted by Arlen Wood | September 27, 2011, 6:49 am
  2. James 

    Agreed Clark does not receive due credit as a study of him and his work along with a comparison between the US and Aust Constitutions is fascinating. Clearly Clark admired the US governance model and drew heavily on their Constitution for ours but I’ve always seen him as more our James Madison than Thomas Jefferson. This distinction is by no means a diminution  of Clark given Madison’s central role in helping to establish the US Republic. 

    As it happened Jefferson wasn’t even at the 1787 Convention, being Minister to France at the time. Again not to diminish Clark but the Sage of Monticello was a bit of a once-off like  Washington and Franklin who were giants of their day,  casting very long shadows to today. 

    Given Jefferson’s notoriety it’s  easy to point to him but to be honest I don’t think we really have a comparative figure in our history. Certainly elements of Jefferson’s thoughts and his Virginia Constitution are present in the US Constitution (Sep of Church/State etc) but the document is  actually based in large parts on James Madison’s Virginia Plan. This outcome is similar to how much of Clark’s original draft went into the original document and remain in the one we have today. 

    Clark’s, at the time, radical views on an Australian Republic are usually given as the reason for his his lack of recognition amongst the pantheon of the founders of the Australian Commonwealth. That hostility coupled with his movement out of politics to the Tas Supreme Court and relatively early death have meant that the story of a true founding father has been lost to us. 

    Posted by wonk-arama | November 25, 2011, 3:39 pm

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