Sir Henry Parkes, GCMG (27 May 1815 – 27 April 1896) was a statesman and politician who is considered the Father of the Australian Federation. As the earliest advocate of a Federal Council of the colonies of Australia, a precursor to the Commonwealth of Australia, he was the most prominent of the Australian Founding Fathers.
Parkes was described during his lifetime by The Times as "the most commanding figure in Australian politics". Alfred Deakin described him as "though not rich or versatile, his personality was massive, durable and imposing, resting upon elementary qualities of human nature elevated by a strong mind. He was cast in the mould of a great man and though he suffered from numerous pettinesses, spites and failings, he was in himself a large-brained self-educated Titan whose natural field was found in Parliament and whose resources of character and intellect enabled him in his later years to overshadow all his contemporaries".
Parkes was tall, with rugged facial features, a leonine mane of hair and a commanding personality. He was a persuasive orator, too, who eschewed flights of rhetoric and spoke as a plain man to plain men, with great effect, in spite of occasional difficulties in controlling his aspirates. He had no schooling worthy of the name but had read widely. It has been said of him that he lacked gracious manners and was too conscious of his intellectual superiority, but his kindly reception in the UK by the likes of Thomas Carlyle and Alfred, Lord Tennyson suggests that he was not without charm. He was interested in early Australian literary men, having been a friend of both Harpur and Kendall. He was a bad manager of his own affairs; what he had he spent, and he died penniless. He is the father of Katherine Parkes.
Yet he evidently knew a good financier when he saw one, for he had able treasurers serving in each of his cabinets, and their financial administration was sound. He was vain and temperamental, and frequently resigned his parliamentary seat only to seek election again soon afterwards. He was not a socialist but he had strong views about the rights of the people and for most of his parliamentary life was a great leader of them. In his later years, however, he seems to have been worn down by the strong conservative opposition he encountered, and he was responsible for a smaller body of social-reform legislation than might have been expected. Early to recognise the need for Australian Federation, when he saw that it had really become possible to achieve, he fought strongly for it, at a time when many leading politicians in New South Wales were fearful of its effect on their colony. The indomitable character which had raised him from farm labourer to premier, and his recognition of the altruistic broader view that was required in a great movement such as Federation, had an immense effect when the cause's fate was in doubt, and weighted the scale in its favour.
Read more about Henry Parkes: Early Years, Campaign For Self-government, Legislative Assembly, Resignation, Re-election and First Premiership, Fifth Premiership and Federation, Honours, Literary Works
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... Parkes's literary work includes six volumes of verse, Stolen Moments (1842), Murmurs of the Stream (1857), Studies in Rhyme (1870), The Beauteous Terrorist and Other Poems (1885), Fragmentary ... It has been the general practice to laugh at Parkes's poetic efforts, and it is true that his work could sometimes be almost unbelievably bad ... In 1896, shortly after his death, An Emigrant's Home Letters, a small collection of Parkes's letters to his family in England between 1838 and 1843, was published at Sydney ...
Famous quotes containing the word parkes:
“Our business being to colonize the country, there was only one way to do itby spreading over it all the associations and connections of family life.”
—Henry Parkes (18151896)