Joseph Cook (1860 – 1947) Prime Minister
Joseph Cook, was born in England, the son of a coalminer. During his teens he joined the Primitive Methodists. He eschewed alcohol, gambling, sport and other forms of entertainment, and sought self-improvement through study at home. He became a lay preacher and a successful public speaker. He also became involved in trade union affairs.
Sir Joseph Cook, prime minister, was born on 7 December 1860 at Silverdale, Staffordshire, England, son of William Cooke, coalminer, and his wife Margaret, née Fletcher. He grew up in poverty. In 1873 his father was killed in a pit accident and he became the family wage-earner, a responsibility which developed in him a high degree of self-confidence and a strong sense of obligation. During his teens he joined the Primitive Methodists, and marked his conversion by dropping the ‘e’ from his surname. He eschewed alcohol, gambling, sport and other forms of entertainment, and sought self-improvement through study at home. Solemn and humourless, he nevertheless enjoyed the company of other people, among whom he was invariably quiet and modest. He became a lay preacher and a successful public speaker. He also became involved in trade union affairs: before he was 25 he had been elected successively to all the executive positions in his union lodge, and had also become interested in political issues; he supported tariff protection as a method of improving working conditions in the coalmining industry. By the early 1880s Cook had fulfilled his obligations to his family and, after being several times unemployed, he decided to migrate.
Among those first Labor representatives in the NSW Legislative Assembly was Joseph Cook (1860-1947), a Primitive Methodist local preacher who was one of two individuals in Australian history who rose from pitboy to Prime Minister.26 Cook was born in grinding poverty in Staffordshire, England. Following the death of his father in a pit accident, he began working full-time in the mines at age 13. Migrating to Australia in 1886, he quickly found a job requiring his mining skills and became an active trade unionist in Lithgow. He also continued his involvement in his local church and as a Primitive Methodist local preacher. Moreover, typical of many Methodists of his day, Cook studied to improve himself at every opportunity. He also became increasingly involved in Labor affairs, and in August, 1890, served on the Labor Defence Committee during the bitter maritime strike of that year.
An able public speaker and debater, Cook was elected president of the Lithgow branch of the Labor Electoral League in May, 1891, and was subsequently endorsed as its parliamentary candidate. The next month, he easily won the seat of Hartley in the Legislative Assembly and later, in October, 1893, was elected the leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in NSW.
His decline as party leader was as meteoric as his rise. At a Parliamentary Labor Party conference in March, 1894, the majority resolved that members had to bind themselves to accept caucus direction, even if they disagreed. The concept of “democratic centralism” did not appeal to Cook because it did not seem very democratic and left no place for matters of conscience. He was the leader of those who refused sign “the solidarity pledge.” Therefore, he stood and was elected as an Independent Labor member at the next election in July, 1894. It was the beginning of his drift from the Labor to the Liberal Party, which was consummated in 1905, with his alliance with George Reid.
In the interim, Cook continued to support legislation which he believed would benefit working people, even as he supported various coalition governments in the period after 1894. He always believed that it was the moral duty of government to elevate the working classes, and he maintained this view even after he became a Liberal. In 1901, he easily won election as an independent to the Federal seat of Parramatta, which included Lithgow and most of the Hartley state electorate. Over the years he became convinced that freedom was more important than class interests and that the Labor Party itself was beginning to be subverted by socialist ideas. He, after all, had begun his career as a pragmatic trade unionist rather than because of any ideological commitment to socialism.
Cook became Prime Minister in 1913 as a Liberal, and served for a little more than a year before his defeat at the hands of another evangelical Christian and former pitboy, Andrew Fisher. He left the Federal Parliament in 1921 to serve as High Commissioner in London until 1927, after which he retired from politics.
Cook remained a devout Methodist for his entire life. His reward for service to his adopted country has been vitriol from the pen of Manning Clark, who claims that Cook adopted the slogan “Everyone for himself,” a gross misrepresentation of Cook, his worldview and his career. All in all, Clark’s description of Cook is the typical simple-minded Clark caricature of an evangelical — a caricature which has been largely adopted by Graham Fricke in his book on Australia’s prime ministers.27 In any case, what cannot be denied is that Cook was a sterling example of an upwardly mobile Methodist whose upward mobility eventually separated him from his former Labor mates.
Refer also : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Cook
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