This speech is set in 1819, the year of the Peterloo Massacre, in which British cavalrymen killed fifteen people and injured hundreds during a mass demonstration in favour of universal male suffrage. Britain cracked down on democratic reforms by passing laws limiting freedom of association, political speech and writing, and freedom of the press.
Such freedoms had never existed in New South Wales.
Lachlan Macquarie, then governor of Great Britain’s convict colony, was the last of its great autocratic rulers.
During a commission of inquiry into Macquarie’s rule, John Macarthur, referring to Macquarie’s encouragement of emancipated convicts to fully participate in public life and society, accused the governor of ‘absurd and mischievous policy’ that encouraged ‘democratic feeling’. It was also suggested that Macquarie tolerated the views of Irish and American republicans.
Macquarie is now often portrayed as the father of Australian democracy, which would have infuriated the governor, who wrote of the ‘infernal and destructive principles of Democracy’ and had fought against the republican armies of America and France. Macquarie was an autocrat down to his well-polished military boots and a card-carrying Tory who believed passionately in ‘God, King and Country’.
The following almost-entirely-fictional speech reflects the views of British Tories in the early 1800s, who were paranoid about growing republican and democratic sentiment following the American and French Revolutions and regular Irish rebellions.
Republicanism is dead.
It is incomprehensibly Greek, decadently Roman, unfashionably French, brashly American and moronically Irish.
Plato argued that men should be ruled by philosophers, rather than kings. And so the Greeks deferred to bearded sheet-wearers who lived in barrels, spent all day in the bath and made triangles more complex than they need to be. The elevation of thought over action has left Greece nothing but shattered marble – and Lord Elgin has made off with most of that.
Roman republicans, unable to rule themselves, transformed men into god-emperors and horses into senators. The Eternal City, collapsed under the weight of its venal excesses, is now passed between Austria, France and Spain like an ageing courtesan who mistakes pity for love.
France successfully conquered itself after centuries of surrendering to everybody else, trading in its king for the anarchy of the Republic and the tyranny of a little corporal who never learned how to properly wear a hat. Napoleon is now Crusoeing it up on St Helens, the gardens of Versailles are given to brack and bramble, and the French Empire is ash, dust and that execrable runny cheese that only a Frenchman could like.
The disunited states of America bicker and squabble like spoiled children, each raising a militia to protect itself from the others and from power-hungry Washington. Five years ago, British troops burned the US Capitol and White House to the ground. America will never again be a power.
The Irish joined the United Kingdom in 1801 after centuries of rebellion and an even longer period of jokes at their expense. Yet, despite being gifted the benefits of civilisation, the Irish continue to fight everyone else and each other – leave an Irishman alone for a few moments and he’ll administer a self-glassing and then kneecap himself for good measure.
The Irish republicans, when they are not busy drinking and betraying each other, rush about saying ‘Citizen’ and planting Trees of Liberty, and where has that got them? They should stick to ‘Top o’ the morning’ and potatoes.
The people of New South Wales are all too familiar with the stale Guinness stain of Irish republicanism. The 300 Irish rebels of Castle Hill who sought to end British rule of the colony in 1804 were crushed by 29 troops and 67 civilian militiamen in the bloodiest battle of New South Wales’ short history.
Men who fight for king and country will always defeat a republican rabble.
Republicanism can only ever bring division to this new land, as it did in the mother country where Cromwell and his Parliamentarians took the head out of the head of state. After murdering his king, the self-proclaimed ‘Great Protector’ dismissed Parliament and ruled as a dictator.
Republicans are, by nature, destructive. They are united only in their desire to tear down kings and, when they seize power, all common purpose dissolves. Put a few republicans in a room and they’ll call it a Convention. Ask ten of them what form of government should replace the monarchy and you’ll get twenty different answers.
Within the breast of every republican leader, there beats the tiny heart of a tuppenny tyrant. Republics inevitably birth Ceasars, Napoleons and Cromwells, who do not rule as kings through the grace of God, but as emperors through the grace of no being higher than themselves.
Republicanism is an affront to God’s order. Does the Holy Bible refer to the republic of Heaven? Did Moses hold a referendum on the mount or allow the Allied Guild of Adulterers and Fornicators to move amendments to the Seventh Commandment? Must the Almighty buy the loyalty of unruly cherubim every four years with promises of softer clouds and bigger loincloths?
Republicanism encourages men to set their own laws, rather than honour the laws of God. Where republicanism leads, moral decay follows. It is the duty of the king and those who hold office at his pleasure to uphold God’s laws.
When I accepted my commission as governor of New South Wales, vice was rampant. I passed laws to check the scandalous and pernicious custom of persons of different sexes cohabiting and living together unsanctioned by the legal ties of matrimony. I erected a wall around the public parklands to prevent lewd, disorderly men and women using them for the most indecent and improper purposes. I outlawed nude bathing and made it an offence to shoot a neighbour’s dog on a Sunday.
I did these things because they were right, not because they were popular. I was able to do them because the king and his Parliament gave me the authority to pass laws on their behalf, without interference from the rent-seekers and parasitic special interests who seek to bend the law to their own benefit.
The greatest evil of republicanism is that, when not spawning tyranny, it stillbirths democracy, with all its infernal and destructive principles. Democrats believe we should be ruled by uneducated shopkeepers who vote with their hip pockets. I would be the first to defer to a fishmonger on the competing virtues of the haddock and the sturgeon, but I would not ask him to determine trade arrangements with the Orient, resolve the slavery question, or decide to invade France.
And I have heard men call me Democrat behind my back! As a man of honour, I cannot let this insult stand.
My critics say I have extended rights to emancipated convicts that should be reserved for those who have never felt the leg iron’s chafe. I say that once a man is free, his former state should no longer be remembered, or allowed to act against him. But I do not say he should be given the franchise!
I know that some who attended the recent Citizens’ Assembly support parliamentary representation in New South Wales and extending the franchise beyond propertied men of capital. This would be the thin end of the wedge. People would then inevitably call for the vote to be extended to women and the uncivilised native.
By now, you will have heard news of the disturbances at Peterloo, where malcontents called for universal male suffrage, an aberration birthed in the wilderness of Kentucky a quarter century past. Why should we Britons take political lessons from a people known only for growing blue grass and doing unnatural things to chickens?
The rabble at Peterloo complained that more than half of the British Members of Parliament were elected by 154 men. They moaned that the borough of Old Sarum, with only one voter, had two MPs, the same as half a million Lancastrians. They queried why Dunwich was granted two seats at Westminster when it had fallen into the sea over a century ago.
The answer is, of course, tradition. British tradition. And there is nothing more traditionally British than the monarchy. Our monarchy has endured six centuries and will endure six times six centuries more. A president may last for eight years, while a kingdom lasts forever.
Of course, some kingdoms collapse because of tensions between church and state. But Britain has inoculated herself against this risk by making her head of state the head of her church. Critics may say that this was done for the sole purpose of letting a fat lecherous ginger trade in his ugly old Spanish wife for his smoking-hot mistress, but stable governments have been founded on far shakier foundations.
The monarchy is all about stability. Our head of state is determined by birth, rather than by capricious talent or quixotic charisma. We know who will reign long over us long before the unfortunate democrats, and so no longer have to waste time worrying about it.
Britons need a British king . . . even if he is German. Or talks to trees. Or wears his underpants on his head.
And Australians, as I pray we men and women of this colony of New South Wales shall soon be known, are Britons to our bootstraps – or, in the case of some of the more liberty challenged among us, to our leg-irons. We enjoy tea, organised games, looking down on foreigners and all of the other benefits of British civilisation.
Can you imagine a day when Australia would no longer be a Little Britain on the outskirts of empire? When the Union Jack would fly no more from the flagstaffs of Sydney and Hobart Town? When the birth of a new member of the royal family would no longer result in an outpouring of joy, novelty tea towels and speculation as to likely hereditary diseases?
I pray that thoughts of such a day will never again darken our reflections.
God Save The King.
This project was made possible by support from the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund