Sir Henry PARKES

Historical Feature:

Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896), regarded as the 'Father of Federation', had already served more than fifty years in public life when he embarked on the most ambitious political cause of his career. From his arrival in Sydney from England in 1839 with his first wife Clarinda, Parkes campaigned for constitutional reform, for the 'freedom and independence' of his adopted land. His persuasive talents for organising earned him one of the first seats in the new NSW Legislative Assembly of 1856, and he was in and out of politics and power for the rest of his life, including 5 terms as Premier.

In the pages of 'The Empire', the newspaper he founded in 1850, Sir Henry Parkes established his reputation as an energetic defender of liberalism, with a progressive belief in the importance of education. His rocky commercial fortunes and his ambitious pursuit of personal goals led to criticism during his stormy career, but Parkes' speech at Tenterfield in 1889, calling for a 'great national Government for all Australia', was a moment when the strength and commitment of political will was crystallised, providing the focus for a new era in Australia's history.
Imposing in stature and a fiery orator, he is now regarded as a central figure in the history of Australian politics. In 1889, Parkes dedicated himself to uniting the separate colonies of Australia under one federal government. He was one of the most vigorous and eloquent advocates for the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia.
By 1890, Parkes' political skill had succeeded in winning a Federation Conference in Melbourne (attended by all Australian and New Zealand colonies). The conference agreed a Federal Convention should meet in Sydney the following year to draw up a constitution for a federated Australia. In less than one year, Parkes had set the wheels in motion. Throughout the meetings of the convention, Parkes was the figurehead and maker of inspirational speeches.

Although Parkes did not live to see the final constitution (eventually hammered out in the late nineties), the work he had done so much to foster at the beginning of the decade did not die. He remained an inspiration to later bands of federalists and the final constitution was in most essentials very similar to the original draft of 1891.

Certificate of Authenticity accompanying the 1996 One Dollar Sterling Silver Proof Coin,
Presentation Card for the 1996 Mint Set - Canberra Mint.

The following description of Sir Henry Parkes perhaps captures the true essence of the great man. In 1891 Alfred Deaken wrote; 'His huge figure, slow step, deliberate glance and carefully brushed-out aureole of white hair combined to present the spectator with a picturesque whole which was not detracted from on closer acquaintance. Movements, gestures, inflexions, attitudes harmonised, not simply because they were intentionally adopted, but because there was in him the substance of the man he dressed himself to apear'.

Source: Back of 1996 One Dollar Sterling Silver Proof Coin distribution package.

Sir Henry Parkes is featured on the following Australian coins & banknotes:

  • 1996 Dollar
  • 1996 Dollar - 'C' Mintmark
  • 1996 Dollar - 'S' Mintmark
  • 1996 Dollar - 'B' Mintmark
  • 1996 Dollar - 'A' Mintmark
  • 1996 Dollar - 'M' Mintmark
  • 1996 Silver Dollar
  • 1950 Specimen Fifty Pound Note

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