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Inglis Clark’s 1888 ‘Memorandum on Chinese Immigration'
Introduction and commentary by Richard Ely. Read PDF file

Clark’s ‘The Future of the Australian Commonwealth:A Province or a Nation?’ Introduced by Richard Ely. Read PDF file

Inglis Clark’s ‘Machinery and Ideals in Politics’ Introduction by Michael Roe Read PDF file

Protecting Commonwealth from Church: Clark’s ‘Denominational Education and Beyond’, Richard Ely Read PDF file

Clark’s ‘Why I am a Democrat’ Introduced by Richard Ely Read PDF file

Clark's exercise book containing his essay 'Why I am a democrat'.
- click to enlarge

Why I am a democrat

I am a democrat, firstly because the distribution of political power and privileges in accordance with the physical, moral and intellectual capacities of individuals is an impossibility, and because the political organisation of society upon a basis of the accidental and artificial inequalities of birth and wealth inevitably produces evils that, in proportion to their extent, and their intensity proclaim the institution under which they arise as incapable of accomplishing the highest and ultimate purposes for which the social organism ought to exist.

In view of this aspect of the question I once described myself in my place in Parliament as a Democrat by despair, because, while believing that all other systems were self-condemned by their distinctive fruits, I wished to guard myself from being understood as believing that the triumph of democracy would regenerate humanity and expel evil from the world.

I indulge in no dream like that; but I desire the abolition of every institution that confers political power or personal privilege as an appendage to birth from a particular parentage, or to the possession of wealth, as so many obstacles to a more efficient marshalling and co-operation of the energies of humanity in its combat with the evils that arise inevitably from the imperfections and limitations of man's nature.

To evoke the highest efforts on the part of every soldier in an army in the hour of battle it is necessary that they all should be animated by a mutual affection for one another and a mutual confidence in the faithfulness and the courage of each; and these can be secured only by such an equality of participation in the burdens and dangers of the
battle as the topographical condition and tactical exigencies permit. But where individuals associate on terms of permanent inequality in the participation [in?] burdens and privileges there will be either distrust, suspicion, resentment and rancour or cringing deference and servility on the one side; and a corresponding distrust, suspicion and hatred or arrogance and contempt on the other. All such sentiments are directly and
essentially antisocial in their nature and effects and tend therefore to the disorganisation and disruption of the social and political systems which produced them.

The highest social ideal is the participation of each and all in the advantages and joys of true comradeship in all that makes our life, but this ideal can never be realised without an equality in mental culture and in capacity of aspiration and sympathy such as can be produced only after the removal of those extreme inequalities of material condition and
political power and privilege which in the past have separated master from slave, lord from serf, and peer from peasant and made such comradeship impossible.

(Go to pdf version of essay with commentary by Richard Ely)

The essay from which this comes is 'Why I am a Democrat' Clark papers, C4/D38. University of Tasmania Archives. It is not certain when it was
written, but some scholars suggest around the mid-1890s. It is in the
style of a political activist, so is likely to pre-date Clark's move to
the Supreme Court bench in 1898.

Clark states an ideal in this essay, and does so passionately; yet there
are hints confirmed in other writings by Clark that he saw elements
in human nature as seriously impeding realization of the democratic
ideal. It had to be fought for, in the face of 'the evils that arise
inevitably from the imperfections and limitations of man's nature', and
success was not assured.

Clark came from a strict Calvinistic Baptist background. He was baptised
as an adult when he was twenty-two years of age. Shortly after that,
Clark became a Unitarian, ardent for human progress; but one can wonder
if he retained, nevertheless, elements of Calvinist pessimism about human
nature. (notes by Richard Ely)

Some of Clark's books of essays. Clark Papers, University of Tasmania Archives, Hobart
View larger photo

The Constitution of the United States of America’ (undated 82 page manuscript in Clark's handwriting: being part of Clark's lectures on the evol-ution of federalism), Clark Papers, University of Tasmania Library, C4/F1.

Observations on the subject of Naturalization under the Constitution of the Commonwealth’, Deakin Papers, National Library of Australia, Canberra Ms no. 1540/14/617. xxxiv-v. Referred to and partly quoted on pp. xxxiv-v of J Williams’‘Introduction’ to the 1997 Reprint of Clark’s 1901 Studies in Australian Constitutional Law.

The Evils of Monarchy’, Clark Papers, University of Tasmania Library Archives, Hobart, C4/F4b. Referred to and partly quoted on pp. x-xi of J Williams, ‘Introduction’ to the 1997 reprint of Clark’s Studies in Australian Constitutional Law, and partially reproduced in S Bennett (ed.), The Making of the Commonwealth, Melbourne, p. 139.

Drafts and copies of various essays. Clark Papers, University of Tasmania Archives, Hobart, C4/D19-D48.

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Last Modified: 01-Nov-2003