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3-304 (Original)

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addressee,male author,male,Higinbotham, George,49
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Public Written
Official Correspondence
Clark, 1975
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Sir, - I have had the honor to receive to-day from you, and three other gentlemen who favoured me with an interview, a copy of a resolution passed at a recent meeting at which you presided of the Victorian Protection League, expressing the desire of the meeting that I should come forward as the "leader of the Liberal party" in Victoria. The Political approval and confidence implied by this resolution command my acknowledgements, and I believe I cannot more fitly express my sense of obligation to the friendly feeling which dictated this invitation than by responding to it in terms which shall at least be free from all intentional ambiguity or reserve.
I have to say then, in reply to the request of your branch meeting, that there cannot be a leader except where there are followers, and that at this moment the Liberal party does not exist as a party in Victoria. A master of politics has defined a political party to be "a body of men united for promoting, by their joint endeavours, the national interest upon some principle in which they are all agreed." I am not acquainted with half a dozen politicians in this country, of whom it could now be said with any regard to accuracy that they constituted "a party" within this, the only natural and national definition of the term. There are not a few public men in Victoria who desire to promote the national interest, but they are not united. There are others who are united, but they aim at promoting interests quite different from, and often hostile to, national interests. A political party must exist before it can have a leader, and a party which shall not be a faction nor a cabal can only form itself upon the basis of political opinions and principles regarding national interests held in common by some considerable section of the people, and of the representatives of the people, acting in concert with one another. So long as the electors of Victoria continue to be indifferent to questions that concern the whole community; so long as they return members to serve in Parliament who are valued chiefly for the local advantages they secure for their district, or on account of their personal claims to the esteem of their constituents, it will be vain, and moreover unjust, to expect that members of Parliament shall actively and unitedly exhibit care for national interests, or zeal for public rights. Whenever the people awaken to a sense of the grave social and political dangers that threaten the future welfare of this country, a majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly will not be slow to combine for the purpose of discovering and of applying remedies. [549] As soon as the constituencies become really alive to the supreme importance of preserving the remnant of the public estate for the public use, of saving all the fertile districts of Victoria from total depopulation and perpetual barrenness, of opening for public use the public roads which everywhere have been appropriated by lawless forces, and of applying the healthy discipline of a most just and politic tax to a class that now defies, wherever it has not yet succeeded in evading, the law - the members of the Legislative Assembly will be influenced by similar views, and will continue to effect these necessary objects, and they will then shrink no longer from addressing themselves in earnest and united action to the needful preliminary duty of establishing in this country self-government, which now exists by law only, but not in fact. Care for national interests as distinguished from local and personal interests, first on the part of the constituencies, and next on the part of the representatives of the constituencies in the Legislative Assembly, is, in my judgment, an essential condition precedent, and will be found to be the only possible basis of union of a really Liberal political party.
To such a party, when it has sprung into existence in the Legislative Assembly by a process of national growth, must be left the choice of its leader; and I shall not presume to anticipate its choice by prematurely advancing myself as a candidate for that honorable and most responsible post. In the meantime I decline to usurp a position of prominence, to which your invitation, gratifying and encouraging as it undoubtedly is, does not constitute a completely adequate call, and in which, under existing circumstances, I know. that my views, both of public policy and of the present paramount duty of the Victorian statesmen, would procure for me a very small and wholly insufficient amount of parliamentary support. I am content and resolved to remain for the present a private member of Parliament, unembarrassed by association with any existing political combinations; and in following this course, I believe that I shall best fulfil the duties, as I understand them, that now attach themselves to my office of a representative of the people.
I have the honor to be, Sir, your faithful servant, GEO. HIGINBOTHAM.