Henry Parkes

Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896), the leading figure in nineteenth-century Australian politics, was premier of New South Wales in 1872-75, 1877, 1878-83 and 1887-91. He was a liberal who pursued democracy and equity within a laissez-faire framework. His advocacy of Federation from 1889 and leadership at the Federation Conference and the Australasian Federal Convention of 1890-91 gave impetus to the movement. Courtesy Australian Dictionary of Biography


1 January 1848

NSW Constitutional Association

The NSW Constitutional Association is formed by radical patriots, including Henry Parkes, to agitate for extension of the franchise and land reform. In his first public speech, made at the City Theatre in January 1849, Parkes advocates universal suffrage as the best guarantee that the people, growing in enlightenment, would avoid the excesses of Paris and Frankfurt. His radicalism reaches a high point in April 1850 when John Dunmore Lang and James Wilshire establish the Australian League to work for universal suffrage and transformation of the Australian colonies into a Great Federal Republic.


John Dunmore Lang.
Apr 1850

The Australian League

John Dunmore Lang, with aid from Henry Parkes, James Wilshire and other radicals, establishes the Australian League to encourage a sense of national identity, to resist any further convict transportation and to promote, by moral means exclusively, the entire freedom of the Australian colonies and their incorporation into one political federation. The League collapses after two meetings.


John Dunmore Lang.
24 October 1889

Tenterfield Oration by Henry Parkes

The Federation movement gathers momentum when Henry Parkes writes to other colonial premiers and proposes a meeting to develop a federal constitution. In the same year he delivers his Federation speech, urging colonial governments ‘to unite and create a great National Government for all Australia’.


Sir Henry Parkes