An Autobiography HTML version

was the middle Spence girl, and then the old lady said, "It is a very hot country you come
from," her only idea apparently of wonderful Australia. And to think that in times long
past some intriguing aunts tried very hard to arrange a marriage between my father and
the deaf young lady who had about 600 pounds a year in land in and near Melrose. She
might have been my mother! The idea was appalling! None of her children inherited the
deafness, and they took a fair proportion of good looks from their father, for the mother
was exceedingly homely. A brightlooking grandson was on the rug looking through a
bound volume of Punch, as my nephew in Australia loved to do. The two mothers were
school companions and playmates.
My return to London introduced me to a wider range of society. I had admissions to the
Ladies' Gallery of the House of Commons from Sir Charles Dilke, Professor Pearson's
friend, and I had invitations to stay for longer or shorter periods with people various in
means, in tastes, and in interests. To Mr. Hare I was especially drawn, and I should have
liked to join him and his family in their yearly walking tour, which was to be through the
Tyrol and Venice; but Aunt Mary protested for two good and sufficient reasons. The first
was that I could not walk 16 or 20 miles a day, even in the mountains, which Katie Hare
said was so much easier than on the plains; and the second was that to take six weeks out
of my visit to the old country was a great deal too much. If it could have done any good
to proportional representation I might have stood out; but it could not. For that I have
since travelled thousands of miles by sea and by land; and, though not on foot, I have
undergone much bodily fatigue and mental strain, but in these early days of the
movement it had only entered the academic stage. My "Plea for Pure Democracy" had
been written at a white heat of enthusiasm. I do not think I ever before or since reached a
higher level. I took this reform more boldly than Mr. Mill, who sought by giving extra
votes for property and university degrees or learned professions to cheek the too great
advance of democracy. I was prepared to trust the people; and Mr. Hare was also
confident that, if all the people were equitably represented in Parliament, the good would
be stronger than the evil. The wise would be more effectual than the foolish. I do not
think any one whom I met took the matter up so passionately as I did; and I had a feeling
that in our new colonies the reform would meet with less obstruction than in old countries
bound by precedent and prejudiced by vested interests. Parliament was the preserve of the
wealthy in the United Kingdom. There was no property qualification for the candidate in
South Australia, and we had manhood suffrage.
South Australia was the first community to give the secret ballot for political elections. It
had dispensed with Grand Juries. It had not required a member of either House to stand a
new election if he accepted Ministerial office. Every elected man was eligible for office.
South Australia had been founded by doctrinaires, and occasionally a cheap sneer had
been levelled at it on that account; but, to my mind, that was better than the haphazard
way in which other colonies grew. When I visited Sir Rowland Hill he was recognised as
the great post office reformer. To me he was also one of the founders of our province,
and the first pioneer of quota representation. When I met Matthew Davenport Hill I
respected him because he tried to keep delinquent boys out of gaol, and promoted the
establishment of reform schools; but I also was grateful to him for suggesting to his
brother the park lands which surround Adelaide, and give us both beauty and health. To