Henry Parkes (1815 – 1896) premier, ‘father of federation’
Sir Henry Parkes, five-time Premier of New South Wales, and remembered as the father of Australian federation, said “we are pre-eminently a Christian people – as our laws, our whole system of jurisprudence, our Constitution… are based upon and interwoven with our Christian belief”
Sir Henry Parkes was a statesman and politician who is considered the Father of the Australian Federation. As the earliest advocate of a Federal Council of the colonies of Australia, a precursor to the Commonwealth of Australia, he was the most prominent of the Australian Founding Fathers.
Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896), politician and journalist, was born on 27 May 1815 in Warwickshire, England, youngest of the seven children of Thomas Parks, tenant farmer on Stoneleigh Abbey Estate, and his wife Martha, née Faulconbridge. Forced off their farm in 1823 by debt, the Parkes family moved to Glamorganshire and about 1825 settled in Birmingham, where Thomas was a gardener and odd-job man. Henry’s formal education was in his own words, ‘very limited and imperfect’; he briefly attended Stoneleigh parish school and later joined the Birmingham Mechanics’ Institute. Obliged as a boy to help in supporting the family, he worked as a road labourer and in a brickpit and rope-walk, before being apprenticed to John Holding, bone and ivory turner of Moseley Street. Having served his articles, he began his own business in 1837.
On 11 July 1836 at Edgbaston Parish Church he had married Clarinda, 23-year-old daughter of John Varney, butcher. They regularly attended Carr’s Lane Independent Chapel under the formidable John Angell James, whose precepts and oratorical style left a permanent impress on Parkes.
Sir Henry Parkes, five-time Premier of New South Wales, and remembered as the father of Australian federation, said “we are pre-eminently a Christian people – as our laws, our whole system of jurisprudence, our Constitution… are based upon and interwoven with our Christian belief…” (Sydney Morning Herald, 26th August 1885).
http://www.dr-fnlee.org/docs6/cfa/cfa.pdf Page 17
Parkes also warrants recognition for placing elementary education on a firm basis in New South Wales. His 1880 Act laid the foundations for the modem primary school system and reflected his belief, common to nineteenth century liberals, that education offered the best means of allowing children to fulfil themselves and gain a full place in society. State schools also had the potential for bringing children of different creeds and classes together, thus healing the sectarian rifts that were so strong in his day. These were noble ideals but they ran counter to the equally sincere and strongly held beliefs of those, particularly in the Roman Catholic church, for whom religion was central to education. Parkes’ Education Act proved divisive but it did nevertheless open doors of opportunity for many who might otherwise have found them closed.
In August 1873, Henry Parkes visited the area and in December 1873 the town was officially renamed Parkes in his honour.
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