A Beautiful Child Of The New Century
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE twentieth century ushered in the birth of a glorious commonwealth. Australia is so far away that people do not realize that it has an area almost as large as the whole of Europe, and that the commonwealth which has just been formed is likely to play so important a part in shaping the civilization of the world.
Before the beginning of this year, the colonies of which Australia and New Zealand are composed had each a government of its own, enjoying the large measure of liberty which Britain grants to some of her dependencies. But with the opening of the new century the commonwealths became a federation, with a central government, and possessing an accession of privileges which practically makes it independent. The people of Australia had a free hand in framing their constitution, and they made it so separate from the empire that now the only tie that binds it to Great Britain is fealty to the monarch and the acceptance of the Chief Executive, who is not elected, but appointed by the British Government. The legislative power is entirely in the hands of the new federation, and now, for the first time in her history, a law passed in Australia does not need the signature of the monarch to make it operative. The constitution is modeled after our own, with some differences. One of these is that the Federal Congress has control of the laws of marriage and divorce and also of labor legislation. Another is that Senators are not elected by the Legislatures, but by the direct vote of the people. The enormous public domain still unoccupied does not belong to the Federal government, but the Legislature of each State controls that portion which lies within its own borders. The Legislatures also control and manage the lines of railroads within their several provinces, but the postoffice, the telegraph and telephone service is under the control of the Federal Government. Each State sends six members to the Senate, and the members of the House of Representatives are elected on a basis of population. Cabinet ministers are chosen from members of the Federal Congress and must possess the confidence of the Congress; otherwise they may be driven from their offices by a hostile vote. The proclamation of the constitution was made the occasion of general rejoicing. At Sydney, the capital city, the Governor was sworn in, and the people gave themselves up to a week of festivity. In other large cities there was a general holiday, the buildings were decorated for the day and illuminated at night.
A notable feature of the celebration was its intense religious spirit. The new constitution expresses " humble and firm reliance upon the blessing of Almighty God." At the inaugural ceremonies, held in Centennial Park, Sydney, the Anglican Archbishop of Australia read a prayer which had been prepared by Lord Tennyson, Governor of South Australia and son of Alfred Tennyson, which was as follows :
" O Lord God Almighty, high above all height, whose lifetime is eternity, we Thine unworthy servants give Thee most humble and hearty thanks for all Thy goodness and loving kindness. We glorify Thee in that Thou hast. been pleased in Thy providence to unite Australia in bonds of brotherly love and concord, and in one commonwealth, under our most gracious sovereign lady, Queen Victoria. We beseech Thee, grant unto this union Thy grace and heavenly benediction, that a strong people may arise to hallow Thy name, to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before Thee in reverence and righteousness of life. Furthermore, we pray Thee to make our empire always a faithful and fearless leader among the nations in all that is good ; and to bless our queen and those who are put in authority under her, more especially in this land. Let Thy wisdom be their guide, strengthen them in uprightness, direct and rule their hearts, that they may govern according to Thy holy will ; and vouchsafe that all things may be so ordered and settled upon the best and surest foundations that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety may be deepened and increased among us ; and that we Thy people may perpetually praise and magnify Thee from generation to generation. Blessed be Thy name forever and ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
It is to be hoped that our own nation will never so far forget God that he shall be compelled to turn to other peoples in far-off seas to accomplish with them the work he has in mind for us, but with unfaltering faith in him and obedience to his commandments, we may unite with all free peoples in spreading personal liberty and a knowledge of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.