The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
Novelists are often puzzled for a title. They write the whole book and it is only at the last moment that a name can be fixed on. It was so with our first number. We had jointed a Review together, but it was the deuce and all to find a title. "National," was decided on, when, with the perverseness of the dumb prophet father who wrote, "His name is John," we splashed the pen over the printed page with "Imperial."
We have won the affection of the Royal Colonial Institute in London, as has been evidenced in touching little ways, very flattering to us, but, as the Frenchman said after a dubious looking story, "I don't mean vat you mean." Our Imperial is not their Imperial. We must give them a galvanic shock by declaring that Imperial Federation is a chimera.
Magazines are written and published with prodigious toil and worry with an aim. Theoretically it is to advance great principles. Practically it is to yield a dividend. A sage once remarked that you have to get up on one side of the saddle, and when you are astride you can balance yourself. Our title was picked from a conviction that the young men of Australia were wholly out of political sympathy with their fathers. Years ago we could discern the nascent military spirit. We staked our all upon it. Doubtless the bias has been perceptible.
The awfully momentous nature of the proceeding, in the despatch of an Australian contingent to the Soudan, was not fully realisable until the 1 beria steamed away with them through Port Jackson. When those soldiers were torn away, so to speak, we felt as if there had been something like a tidal wave. In a former number we depicted the scene as our familiar ocean steamer, the Orient, bore up to Ismailia with the Guards on board. It never occurred to us for a moment that, in a year or two, the scene would be outdone, from an Australian point of view, by such a sensation as the departure of the Iberia. Such excitement was never before witnessed in Australia. It recalled, but far surpassed, that in Sydney over the funeral of Wentworth twelve years ago.
Now all Australia is arming up, as if the Soudan was on our own frontier. This shows the military spirit which underlies our devotion to out-door sports—cricket, football, rowing, racing, and bicycling. The Victorians are determined to go to the Soudan.
We discerned all the fire, all the fever, at the presentation of prizes in connection with the Rifle Association at the Melbourne Town Hall, in February. The left-hand half of the floor was occupied by the red coats, the right-hand side by the blue jackets. They were all alive, all agog, brimming over with the Soudanese page 77 Greek fire. The air was electric. It is no use lifting our mop to dam back the Atlantic.
Nevertheless the whole business is hateful to us. Because Gordon is killed Australia must fly to the Soudan! Meanwhile England is torpid, indifferent, unconcerned, and classes poor Gordon with poor Burnaby, Earle, and Stewart. The fact is the Australians want to fight for the pure love of fighting, and seize on any excuse. Nor will any amount of disaster flatten them. "We don't want to fight," say the English. "Wedo," say the Australians, "and insist on fighting. We don't care whether it is Arabs, Germans, French or Choctaws."
This sentiment, you know, is shockingly mischievous. It proves that there is no democracy among the young Australians. They want absolutism—and they will have it. No nation ever yet went begging for a dictator. Australia is impatient of the whole political system fastened upon it.
But the gentlemen of the Royal Colonial Institute must not confound a love of fighting with a love of Great Britain. The Australian means to have independence. He is exercising his arms.
Seriously, we are sorry this expedition has gone. It does not bode well for the British connection. It is a bit of filibustering. A great deal of misery will result. Our expectation is that the Australian contingent will be plunged into the thick of the fighting. Their losses will be heavy. Sickness, too, will slay more than battle. Gladstone and Derby think that it is only a flash in the pan. They are mistaken. Australia is in for it. The gaps in the ranks will have to be filled up with fresh shipments of men after the Australians have found their Abuklea and El Teb. Australia must be taxed for the Soudan war. The cry of the widows, orphans, and a host of dependents will wring our hearts. We have tripped into war with a light heart, like Ollivier. Our soldiers will be so many obstinate Gordons. We can play the Gladstone here at home, but will be forced to back them up while the taxpayer stands aghast.
This expedition recalls Cavour's move of sending the Sardinian contingent to the Crimea, and thus obtaining a voice in the councils of Europe. It is more effective than sending Australian members to the English Parliament.