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God, the churches, and the making of the Australian commonwealth

Ely, Richard 1975 , 'God, the churches, and the making of the Australian commonwealth', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This study began about three years ago as an inquiry into how the
two religious clauses in the Australian Constitution- the "recognitlon"
of deity in the preamble, and Section 116 - became part of the
Constitution; and also into the meaning of these clauses in the minds
of the Convention delegates. That remains its core, but the study
has expanded its scope in two ways. It soon became evident that
behind the events immediately associated with the inclusion of the
two religious provisions lay a story of considerable interest, and
that the natural terminal point for this story was not the close of
the Convention in March, 1898, or even the referenda in 1898 and
1899, but the early Commonwealth period.
It was only late in 1896 at the "People's Convention" at
Bathurst that extensive Catholic and Protestant interest in the
federation movement became aroused. From early 1897 the public efforts
of the non-Catholic clerics, who operated largely under the aegis
of Councils of Churches in the various colonies, chiefly were
directed to two aims: to obtain the formal "recognition" of deity
in the preamble; and to secure the saying of prayers in the federal
parliament. On a less publicized level, many hoped to achieve some
kind of official or semi-official standing in the emerging Commonwealth.
Some hoped, additionally, to obtain a new source of politicolegal
leverage for pet projects such as sabbath reform.
These Protestant and Ang1ican initiatives received in their
publicized aspect wide pub1ic support. They also, in 1897-8,
provoked spirited, well organized, and extensive public opposition.
This came partly from secularists (such as Barton and Higgins) who
were concerned to protect civil government from clericalism and
involvement in religious quarrels; and partly from religious voluntarists - notably the Seventh Day Adventists - who were
concerned rather to protect the Church from State. The
Adventists, who had suffered legal persecution at the hands of
"Sunday observance" Protestants, provided the main organizational
base for the counter-campaign.
Both groups achieved some success. By March, 1898, Protestant-Anglican
pressure had secured the incorporation of a "recognition"
clause in the Constitution. In June, 1901, the two Houses of the
Commonwealth parliament, responding to similar pressure, agreed
to commence their sessions with corporate prayer. However their
opponents, In March, 1898, were able to persuade the Convention
to include a clause (Section 116) totally prohibiting the clerics
from achieving their less advertized political and status ambitions.
Catholic initiatives largely came from or remained closely
associated with Cardinal Moran. He intervened on three occasions.
Once, to stand for election to the Federal Convention; once, to
support the Federation Bill in the 1899 rendum; and once, to
secure what he deemed his right of precedence at the 1 January
ceremony at Centennial Park at which the Commonwealth was inaugurated. Each intervention was dramatic and controversial. Only one
was successful. Yet although many ratlonists were loath to
admit it, the eventual success of the federation movement probably
owed more to Moran than to any other church 1eader.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Ely, Richard
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