134 Facts About Alfred Deakin


Alfred Deakin was an Australian politician, statesman and barrister who served as the second prime minister of Australia, from 1903 to 1904,1905 to 1908 and 1909 to 1910, holding office as the leader of the Protectionist Party, and in his final term as leader of the Liberal Party.


Alfred Deakin was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1879, aged 23, additionally working as a barrister and journalist.


Alfred Deakin held ministerial office sporadically beginning in 1883, serving twice as Attorney-General of Victoria and aligning himself with liberal and radical reformers.


Alfred Deakin was a delegate to the federal conventions and served on the committees that drafted the federal constitution.


Alfred Deakin later campaigned at a series of referendums and lobbied the British government for its adoption.


Alfred Deakin succeeded Barton as prime minister in September 1903.


Alfred Deakin left office in April 1904 following an unproductive first term, but returned in July 1905 and was able to form a functional government with the support of the ALP.

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In 1909, in what became known as the Fusion, Alfred Deakin controversially led his supporters into a union with the Free Traders.


Alfred Deakin regarded his final term as prime minister, from June 1909 to April 1910, as his most productive.


Alfred Deakin retired from politics in 1913, in the early stages of a degenerative neurological condition that led to his death at the age of 63.


Alfred Deakin is regarded as one of Australia's most influential prime ministers.


Alfred Deakin was born on 3 August 1856 in his parents' cottage at 90 George Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria.


Alfred Deakin was of English and Welsh descent, the younger of two children born to Sarah and William Deakin.


Alfred Deakin's father left school at the age of 14 and became a travelling salesman.


Alfred Deakin met his future wife while travelling through Abergavenny, and they married at Grosmont, Monmouthshire in 1849.


William Alfred Deakin initially struggled to find steady employment, but later became involved with the carrying and coaching trade, transporting people and goods; he was listed as a carrier at the time of his son's birth in 1856.


Alfred Deakin spent his early years in Fitzroy, then lived briefly in Emerald Hill before his family settled in South Yarra in about 1863.


At the age of four, Alfred Deakin was sent to join his ten-year-old sister in Kyneton, a small country town where she was attending a girls' boarding school run by the Thompson sisters.


Alfred Deakin was the only male pupil at the school.


The Thompson sisters eventually moved their school to Melbourne, which Alfred Deakin continued to attend until the age of seven.


Alfred Deakin later recalled that he had been "an incessantly restless, random and at times studiously mischievous pupil", and regretted that he had not been made to work harder.


Alfred Deakin was passionate about Australian rules football a game which he played during his youth, though it is not known for which clubs or teams he played in.


In 1871, aged 15, Alfred Deakin passed the matriculation exam for the University of Melbourne.


Alfred Deakin formed an ambition to become a barrister, and began attending evening classes the following year.


Alfred Deakin was consequently admitted to the bar in September 1877, aged 21, without ever graduating from university.

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Alfred Deakin was a frequent speaker in the Melbourne University Debating Society, where he was mentored by Charles Henry Pearson, and was involved in the Eclectic Society.


Alfred Deakin spent much of his spare time reading, "from Chaucer to the great writers of his own time".


For some time Alfred Deakin was "more interested in dreams of being a dramatist, a poet or a philosopher" rather than a lawyer.


Alfred Deakin wrote numerous works of blank verse and narrative poetry, and in 1875 published Quentin Massys, a drama in five acts.


Alfred Deakin initially had difficulty in obtaining briefs as a barrister.


Alfred Deakin became active in the Australian Natives' Association and began to practise vegetarianism.


Alfred Deakin became a lifelong spiritualist, holding the office of President of the Victorian Spiritualists' Union.


Alfred Deakin stood for the largely rural seat of West Bourke in the Victorian Legislative Assembly in February 1879, as a supporter of Victorian Legislative Council reform, protection to encourage manufacturing and the introduction of a land tax to break up the big agricultural estates, and won by 79 votes.


In 1882, Alfred Deakin married Elizabeth Martha Anne Browne, daughter of a well-known spiritualist.


Alfred Deakin became Commissioner for Public Works and Water Supply in 1883, and the following year became Solicitor-General and Minister of Public Works.


In 1885 Alfred Deakin secured the passage of the colony's pioneering Factories and Shops Act, enforcing regulation of employment conditions and hours of work.


In 1885, Alfred Deakin became Chief Secretary and Commissioner for Water Supply and from 1890 Minister for Health and, briefly, Solicitor-General.


Alfred Deakin was Victoria's delegate to the Australasian Federal Conference, convened by Sir Henry Parkes in Melbourne in 1890, which agreed to hold an intercolonial convention to draft a federal constitution.


Alfred Deakin was a leading negotiator at the Federal Conventions of 1891, which produced a draft constitution that contained much of the Constitution of Australia, as finally enacted in 1900.


Alfred Deakin was a delegate to the second Australasian Federal Convention, which opened in Adelaide in March 1897 and concluded in Melbourne in January 1898.


Alfred Deakin was somewhat out of sympathy with the tendency of the convention, and sided with the majority in only 55 percent of divisions; fewer occasions than all but five delegates.


Alfred Deakin supported wide taxation powers for the federal government, successfully opposed conservative plans for the indirect election of senators, and attempted to weaken the powers of the Senate, in particular seeking to prevent it from being able to defeat money bills.


Alfred Deakin had told the National Australasian Convention of 1891 'To introduce an American Senate into a British constitution is to destroy both'.


Alfred Deakin often had to reconcile differences and find ways out of apparently impossible difficulties.


In 1900 Alfred Deakin travelled to London with Edmund Barton and Charles Kingston to oversee the passage of the federation bill through the Imperial Parliament, and took part in the negotiations with Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, who insisted on the right of appeal from the High Court of Australia to the Privy Council.

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Alfred Deakin defined himself as an "independent Australian Briton", favouring a self-governing Australia but loyal to the British Empire.


Alfred Deakin certainly did not see federation as marking Australia's independence from Britain.


In 1901 Alfred Deakin was elected to the first federal Parliament as MP for the Division of Ballaarat, and became Attorney-General of Australia in the ministry headed by Edmund Barton.


Alfred Deakin was active, especially in drafting bills for the Public Service, arbitration and the High Court.


Alfred Deakin's second reading speech on the Immigration Restriction Bill to implement the White Australia policy was notable for its blatant racism, including arguing that it was necessary to exclude the Japanese because of their good qualities, which would place them at an advantage over European Australians.


Alfred Deakin attempted to resign from cabinet in April 1902, writing two letters of resignation to Barton.


Alfred Deakin wrote to Barton that "my retirement will be a relief from a strain which has been severe at times", and hoped to still assist the government as a backbencher.


Alfred Deakin agreed to drop the proposed pay rise and Deakin agreed to continue as a minister.


Alfred Deakin was Acting Prime Minister of Australia until Barton's return in October 1902.


Alfred Deakin secured the passage of the Customs Tariff 1902, which the Senate had twice returned to the House with a series of proposed amendments.


In view of the urgent need for government revenue, Alfred Deakin successfully convinced the House and his fellow ministers to accept the amendments, but in a way that avoided setting a new constitutional precedent over money bills.


Alfred Deakin continued his efforts to establish a federal judiciary when parliament resumed in May 1903.


In July 1903, Alfred Deakin was tasked with securing the passage of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which had been drafted by Charles Kingston.


Alfred Deakin made the second reading speech on the bill at short notice, following Kingston's surprise resignation from cabinet.


Alfred Deakin argued the bill, which would introduce a compulsory arbitration scheme for industrial disputes, would "bring both employer and employee before the bar of a tribunal which would mete out even-handed justice".


The ALP, with the "mischievous support" of the opposition, had passed an amendment extending its provisions to state railway workers, which Alfred Deakin regarded as unconstitutional.


Alfred Deakin received much of the criticism for the decision to withdraw the bill.


Alfred Deakin was his presumed successor and faced no significant opposition from the government and its supporters.


Alfred Deakin seriously considered allowing William Lyne to take over the government, but Lyne proved unable or unwilling to do so.


Alfred Deakin relinquished the attorney-generalship and took on Barton's external affairs portfolio.

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Parliament was dissolved a month after Alfred Deakin took office, with the 1903 Australian federal election called for mid-December.


Alfred Deakin was the first prime minister to call an early election, to catch his opponents off guard and take advantage of a large number of urban educated female voters who could cast a ballot for the first time.


Alfred Deakin outlined the government's platform at a speech in Ballarat on 29 October 1903.


Alfred Deakin called on voters to unite behind "fiscal peace and preferential trade for a White Australia".


The "fiscal peace" to which he referred was an end to conflict over the recently enacted tariff, while "preferential trade" referred to the idea of Imperial Preference, which Alfred Deakin hoped would bring Australia closer to Britain and the rest of the Empire.


Alfred Deakin went on to call it "absolutely essential" for the three parties to be reduced to two "as soon as possible", although he stated that he was unsure which parties should merge.


Alfred Deakin's analogy passed into common usage to describe the unstable party system in the first decade after Federation.


However, according to Brett the analogy was imperfect, as realistically the Labor Party and Free Traders would never agree to an alliance; Alfred Deakin's party was an obligatory partner in any coalition government.


Alfred Deakin sought to form an "understanding" with the ALP during the parliamentary recess after the election, but made little progress.


Alfred Deakin believed that the government did not have the constitutional authority to do so, whereas the ALP thought the issue should be determined by the High Court.


The amendment passed by 38 votes to 29, which Alfred Deakin treated as a motion of no confidence in his government.


Alfred Deakin was under no obligation to resign, as the ALP had not intended for the amendment to be treated as a confidence motion.


The Liberal Protectionists rejected the agreement, according to John Forrest out of reluctance to serve in a ministry Alfred Deakin did not lead.


Alfred Deakin felt that the power of the Protectionists would be diminished by Labor's party discipline.


Alfred Deakin's speech did not attack the government on policy grounds but condemned the ALP's principles of caucus solidarity and organisational control over the parliamentary party.


Alfred Deakin saw himself as a progressive liberal torn between conservative obstructivism on one hand and Labor's materialist collectivism on the other.


Alfred Deakin eventually apologised in the House for his reaction.


Alfred Deakin declined to join the Reid government, but lent his support and encouraged Protectionists to accept ministerial posts; others within the party joined the crossbench.


Alfred Deakin maintained an "enigmatic public silence" on the Reid government's actions, particularly during the long parliamentary recess from December 1904 to June 1905.


Alfred Deakin had been engaged to write monthly anonymous articles for the National Review, in addition to his weekly articles for the Morning Post.

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Alfred Deakin met with Salvation Army founder William Booth on a number of occasions, even chairing one of Booth's meetings at the Royal Exhibition Building.


Late in 1904, Alfred Deakin purchased 7 acres at Point Lonsdale.


Alfred Deakin named the property "Ballara" and moved a wooden house onto the land, which served as a holiday home for the rest of his life.


Alfred Deakin's supporters began to lobby him to seek a return to government in 1905.


Alfred Deakin was reinvigorated by a trip to Western Australia early in the year, where he was struck by the development of the Eastern Goldfields and received encouragement from John Forrest and Austin Chapman.


On 24 June 1905, the weekend before parliament resumed, Alfred Deakin delivered a two-hour speech to his constituents in Ballarat.


Alfred Deakin claimed the pragmatic middle ground for his party, criticising the policies of Labor and the Free Traders as vague and impractical, and further accused Reid of breaking their fiscal truce.


The significance of his address was elevated two days later when The Age stated that "Mr Alfred Deakin's Ballarat speech, read in any light, is a notice to Mr Reid to quit".


Reid sought a dissolution and early election, but was refused by the Governor-General, Lord Northcote; Alfred Deakin was then commissioned to form a new government.


Alfred Deakin resumed office in mid-1905, and retained it for three years.


The Papua Act of 1905 established an Australian administration for the former British New Guinea and Alfred Deakin appointed Hubert Murray as Lieutenant-Governor of Papua in 1908, who ruled it for a 32-year period as a benevolent paternalist.


Alfred Deakin's government passed a bill for the transfer of control of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth, which became effective in 1911.


Alfred Deakin had long opposed the naval agreements to fund Royal Navy protection of Australia although Barton had agreed in 1902 that the Commonwealth would take over such funding from the colonies.


In 1908, Alfred Deakin was again forced from office by Labor.


Alfred Deakin then formed a coalition, the "Fusion", with his old conservative opponent George Reid, and returned to power in May 1909 at the head of Australia's first majority government.


Alfred Deakin was sworn in as prime minister for a third time on 2 June 1909.


The Third Alfred Deakin Ministry contained five first-time appointees, reflecting the need to balance the competing interests within the new party.


Alfred Deakin subsequently sought to enshrine the agreement in the constitution, at the urging of state premiers.


Alfred Deakin did not call an early election, allowing the parliament to run to its maximum permissible length.


Alfred Deakin expected a "sweeping victory", anticipating that after being confirmed in office he could complete his legislative agenda, attend the 1911 Imperial Conference and then hand over to a successor.

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In what he called "the Waterloo of the Liberal Party", many former Protectionists lost their seats, and Alfred Deakin himself won by fewer than 500 votes.


Alfred Deakin's diaries indicate that he would have preferred to resign and retire from politics, but he was asked to stay on in the absence of an obvious successor.


Alfred Deakin led the campaign against the Fisher government's proposed constitutional amendments in 1911, which would have significantly expanded the powers of the federal government.


Alfred Deakin spent two months campaigning for the "No" vote, visiting every state except Western Australia which turned out to be the only state to vote "Yes".


Alfred Deakin made his final speech to parliament on 18 December 1912 and publicly announced his intention to retire on 8 January 1913, after informing Joseph Cook a day earlier.


Alfred Deakin supported Cook, who defeated John Forrest by a single vote.


Alfred Deakin retired from parliament at the 1913 federal election held in May, which saw Cook and the Liberals form government with a bare one-seat majority in the House.


Alfred Deakin was offered the role initially by Cook and then by Andrew Fisher, who returned as prime minister in September 1914.


However, Alfred Deakin's involvement was subject to political interference from external affairs minister Hugh Mahon, and he decided on an early return to Australia.


In October 1914, Alfred Deakin wrote that he had "no continuity of memory or argument" and relied upon "impressions that fade or are forgotten in a few minutes and often in a few seconds".


Alfred Deakin died at his home on 7 October 1919, aged 63.


Alfred Deakin was granted a state funeral at Queen's Hall in Parliament House, Melbourne, after a period lying in state.


Alfred Deakin was interred next to his parents in the non-denominational section of St Kilda Cemetery, joined by his widow Pattie following her death in 1934.


Alfred Deakin was a member of the Eclectic Association; fellow members included authors Theodore Fink, Arthur Topp, Arthur Patchett Martin and David Mickle.


Alfred Deakin wrote anonymous political commentaries for the London Morning Post even while he was Prime Minister.


Alfred Deakin's account of the federation movement appeared as The Federal Story in 1944 and is a vital primary source for this history.


Alfred Deakin's collected journalism was published as Federated Australia in 1968.


Alfred Deakin was active in the Theosophical Society until 1896, when he resigned on joining the Australian Church led by Charles Strong.


Alfred Deakin processed a deep spiritual conviction and read widely on the subject.


Alfred Deakin read to us on Sundays from the Bible, from great preachers, and he was deeply, always deeply conscious of being, as he put it, 'a tool for providence to work through'.

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Alfred Deakin made his only real enemies at the time of the Fusion, when not only Labor but some liberals such as Sir William Lyne reviled him as a traitor.


Alfred Deakin is regarded as a founding father by the modern Liberal Party of Australia.


Alfred Deakin was first offered a knighthood at the 1887 Colonial Conference, aged 30, but declined to accept.


Alfred Deakin's refusal was "singular, indeed unique, among Australian politicians of comparable prominence".


Except for Chris Watson, who was never offered the appointment, Alfred Deakin was the only Australian prime minister not to be a privy counsellor until Gough Whitlam in the 1970s.


Alfred Deakin refused to accept any honorary degrees as prime minister, believing they should only be awarded based on academic prowess.


Alfred Deakin rejected honorary Doctor of Civil Law degrees from the University of Oxford in 1900 and 1907, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Cambridge in 1912.


Alfred Deakin is one of only two prime ministers to have a university named in his honour, along with John Curtin.


Alfred Deakin had a long and happy marriage and was survived by his wife and their three daughters:.