Imperial Contradiction: Australian Foreign Policy and the British Response to the Rise of Japan, 1894-1904

Introduction: Imperial Contradiction

Can any nation depend for its defence upon a foreign policy entirely conducted by statesmen responsible to another nation?

– F.W. Eggleston

F.W. Eggleston first asked the question above in a 1912 essay, and it would imprint itself on the minds of both Australian and British officials for decades.[1] Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, British imperial designs were in constant conflict with nationalist Australian notions of security. This divide was most lucidly showcased by war, such as in 1915, when the Gallipoli Campaign failed after heavy Australian losses, and during World War II, when Australian leaders were forced to turn to the United States for military assistance in the Pacific while London was focused on the battle for Europe. Differences in policy between the Dominion and the metropole were less pronounced in times of peace. Nevertheless, moments like the establishment of a separate Royal Australian Navy in 1911 and Billy Hughes’ 1919 speech in New York, outlaying the need for an “Australian Monroe Doctrine for the Pacific,” prove that these differences were never truly resolved, nor were they successfully repressed.[2]

The aim of this paper is to trace the imperial contradiction between Australian foreign policy and the British Empire’s involvement in the Far East, specifically with regards to the rise of Japan. This paper will trace the earliest developments of this contradiction, beginning with the signing of the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation Between Great Britain and Japan in 1894, and explicate their subsequent intensification by the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. To accomplish this, this paper analyzes discussions between Australia’s most outspoken political leaders and compares them to concurrent Foreign Office communications regarding the British handling of the fast-growing Japanese Empire. Through this analysis, this paper finds that the defensive policy of Australian leaders at the dawn of the twentieth century was a direct result of the nascent federation’s heritage as a far-flung group of settler colonies, the foremost concern of which was the preservation of its white population through exclusionary immigration policies. Britain, on the other hand, being a mature global empire, had to maintain a policy of accommodation when dealing with other foreign powers. This policy was particularly necessary with regards to Japan, whose unexpected rise posed a uniquely complex situation for British officials to tackle, especially considering its proximity to the increasingly vociferous nation of Australia.

Therefore, it is precisely because the newly founded federation caused such a problem for British officials in their dealings over Pacific affairs that the Commonwealth of Australia serves as a lens through which the historian can analyze one side of the imperial contradiction of British foreign policy in the early twentieth century. The simultaneous phenomena of Japan’s rising power and Australia’s budding nationalism and related aggression put a remarkably evident strain on the British imperial equation, as expressed through the dispatches of the top figures of its Foreign Office. Simultaneously, the predicament for Australia’s most influential leaders lay in expressing its newfound independence on the international stage, when confronted with both the prospects of an Asian country dominating the Pacific and a seemingly ambivalent imperial government.


Background: Uncoordinated Effort

To comprehend Australian foreign policy and defense policy before the scope of the main body of this paper, one has to first understand that there was none, at least no official one. Australia was a grouping of six remote colonies, the international affairs of which were completely under the purview of Britain’s Foreign Office. The foreign policy of the island-continent as a whole may have been informed by prominent figures from the various colonies, but the ultimate decisions were always made in London. Furthermore, choices were made regarding one or more of the Australian colonies without respecting the preferences of the others, and sometimes without even informing them.

It is no wonder, then, that moves to federation and independence were born out of and furthered by foreign policy issues like immigration and defense. All of the Australian colonies except Western Australia were awarded self-government in 1852, when a “smooth transition” granted the colonies bicameral parliaments—including popular lower houses—and local ministers, all funded by British taxpayers and defended by the Royal Navy.[3] The gold rush had begun a year earlier, and thousands of Chinese immigrants began to pour into work camps in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. Victoria implemented the first restriction against the Chinese influx in 1854 when a Commission of Enquiry imposed regulations on Chinese workers, keeping them in their own, separated labor camps.[4] The 1850s also saw the building of Australia’s first permanent fortifications due to outbreak of the Crimean War and fears of a Russian invasion.[5]

The beginnings of disputes between Australian colonial leaders and British Foreign Office officials manifested in early interactions with the Chinese Empire and its migrant workers. In 1855, Victoria utilized the new British Passengers Act to limit Chinese immigration based on ship tonnage, and South Australia followed two years later. The British-signed 1860 Convention of Peking formally established the freedom of movement of Chinese workers coming into Australia, and the Foreign Office had to coerce the Australian colonies into accepting it—Victoria in 1865 and New South Wales in 1867.[6] Political developments in Australia leading to the rise of the Labour Party in the 1870s only further entrenched the idea of the necessity for policies of exclusion. The 1878 Seamen Strike, supported by other trade unions, reform groups, and radical politicians, was explicitly initiated in response to the Australasian Steam Navigation Company’s use of Chinese workers. In 1879, the Intercolonial Trade Union Congress of Australia and the Victorian Anti-Chinese League officially condemned immigration, and two years later the Victorian government introduced the Chinese Influx Restriction Bill, requiring all Chinese workers to obtain a special certificate to enter the colony.[7]

Meanwhile, British military considerations saw their first clashes with Australian interests, which resulted in some Australian leaders taking measures to maintain the security of the colonies. Stretched thin financially and logistically by tensions in Europe in the 1870s, British forces withdrew from the Pacific in great numbers, leaving Australian colonial governments feeling vulnerable. In July 1870, the Colonial Premiers met in Melbourne and decided to introduce permanently paid troops into their militias, as well as erect several fortifications to protect against coastal attacks.[8]

Australians began to see federation in the late 1880s and early 1890s as a means by which they could ensure the perpetuity of their defensive and exclusionary policies, which, under more direct British rule, had always been temporary and subject to English discretion. In 1883, the Premier of Queensland took control of New Guinea, a move that Lord Derby, the Colonial Secretary, rejected. In the same year, the upper half of the island was given to Germany; the formation of the Federal Council of Australasia was a direct result of this clash.[9] Then, at the 1887 Colonial Conference held in London, the Australian Colonial Premiers disagreed with British officials over complaints made by Chinese Imperial Commissioners over Australian discrimination toward their subjects. The next year, Victoria completely ignored British law and began to prohibit the re-entry of Chinese workers, and after the Sydney Conference on Chinese Immigration, all six colonies acted in concert to enact restrictive policies.[10] In 1891, the first Constitutional Convention, which was held in Sydney, resulted in plans to draft a constitution.[11] Decades of Australian efforts at coordinating for defense and against unwanted immigration were to be rewarded in writing both because of and despite British intervention.


Part I: 1894-1899, Federation and Exclusion

The most convincing piece of evidence that the Commonwealth of Australia’s founding and the exclusion of unwanted immigrants comes from timing. The Australian states were officially federated on January 1, 1901, and its brand new Parliament passed the Immigration Restriction Act in December of the same year; as Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds argue, Australia was “inaugurated in an act of racial expulsion.[12]” 13 However, to Australian statesmen at the time of federation, the first priority was not exclusion, but, rather, obtaining from the British the independence that would allow them to carry out such exclusion in the future. British leaders, themselves, were in the midst of securing the foundations for favorable relations in the Pacific, both economic and political, and were willing to permit and encourage nationalist Australian manifestation to the extent that it would not interfere with imperial plans for the region. The conflict between the two governments before Australia’s federation arose from the tension between the British desire for Australia to realize its dreams of full self-government and Australian fervor to maintain racial solidarity, a matter of security in itself for the aspiring Australian leaders.

1894 and the years that followed were pivotal for British imperial global strategy, as the empire sought to take economic advantage of the growing power and influence of Japan in order to enhance its own influence in the Far East. A year earlier, Russia had refused Japanese requests to withdraw its troops from Manchuria, so the Foreign Office looked to accommodate the trade interests of the Japanese to get them on the British side.[13] In London, on July 7, British and Japanese officials signed the Treaty for Commerce and Navigation, “being equally desirous of maintaining the relations of good understanding…by extending and increasing the intercourse between their respective states…based upon principles of equity and mutual benefit.” Most of the treaty details regulations regarding duties and taxation that one party was or was not allowed to inflict upon the other, but the beginning of Article I stands out as particularly significant in relation to the issue of immigration into Australia:

The subjects of each of the high contracting parties shall have full liberty to enter, travel or reside in any part of the dominions and possessions of the other contracting party, and shall enjoy full and perfect protection for their persons and property.[14]

Although the treaty was in line with British doctrines of free trade and rights of movement, political conditions in an Australia fighting to achieve unity under the perceived threat of Asian immigration did not lend themselves to accepting the agreement. According to historian John Hirst, federal movement was revived as “a democratic crusade” in the mid-1890s after a few years of economic depression and internal tensions between colonies.[15] Not by coincidence, after a number of decades marked by a drop in the Chinese population due to immigration restriction and persecution, the 1890s saw the first big upturn in Japanese immigration, as the rising country started to send workers to the Queensland pearleries. Australians, wealthy and poor alike, feared this new wave of immigration, a concern that opportunist politicians used to their advantage. Especially influential in inspiring fear in the hearts of Australians was Charles Pearson’s 1893 popular book National Life and Character: A Forecast, which predicted the rise of China as a world power and declared that, one day, Europeans would “wake up to find [them]selves elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside by peoples whom [they] have looked down upon as servile, and thought of as bound always to minister to [their] needs.”[16]

The year 1896 exacerbated the split, as the Colonial Premiers one by one decided not to sign on to the agreement, a legal but undiplomatic move on their part.[17] Each Australian state then enacted further legislation against Japanese immigration, explicitly due to the rise in Japanese navy capabilities and their military defeat of China the previous year. The only exception to this concerted effort in 1896 was Queensland, the economic beneficiary of the immigration influx, but the colonial government managed to strike a deal with British officials through which they still maintained rights to exclude Japanese workers.[18]

The political mood in Australia was, therefore, not receptive to the 1894 treaty, and Australians’ coordinated efforts to work against it fueled the final push towards federation in the late 1890s. In an 1896 paper titled “The Present Federal Crisis,” Alfred Deakin, a highly influential figure during federation and a future Australian Prime Minister, referred to the connection between British dealings with Japan and the need for federation, declaring that “the course of events abroad is…uncertain, and portends graver urgencies for immediate union.”[19] For the next two years, Australian leaders met and discussed forming a federation, a topic that also surfaced at the 1897 Colonial Conference, which Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain presided over in London. There, Chamberlain made British support for nation-building clear, and a referendum to adopt a federal constitution was sent to the six Australian colonies.[20] On the controversial subject of immigration, though, the nations compromised, as Chamberlain proposed an Australian immigration policy based on a literary test, as opposed to flat out exclusion, a measure which the Japanese begrudgingly accepted.[21]

The wave of federation through popular democracy and rule of the majority swept through the country in 1898 and 1899, as the colonies ratified the constitution and made final plans for official federation and nationhood. “A federal constitution…represents the highest development of the possibilities of self-government,” wrote Deakin of Australian prospects. The nature of the popular rapture, however, proved the racially exclusive underpinnings of the federal movement, as well as its xenophobic motivations. As federation drew nearer, the people of Australia grew more and more committed to the unity of the colonies’ white citizens, explicitly against foreign influence. In the same letter, Deakin also noted how a “united Australia…can only come with the consent of the Australia-born” and that the nation was “not to fall into the hands of foreigners.” Deakin continued the sentiment by saying:

From the far east and the far west alike we behold menaces and antagonisms…Let us stand shoulder to shoulder in defence of the enlightened liberalism of the constitution.[22]

Local political groups and publications were even more open in expressing the racial component of Australian federation. The South Australian newspaper The Critic wrote in its June 4, 1898 issue that the new Australia would be “one people of one tongue.”[23] The Australasian Federation League of Victoria published the songs “Australians True,” which contained the lyric, “One race are we,” and “An Australian National Song,” which included the line, “One land, one flag, one brotherhood.”[24]    

Meanwhile, British officials moved in the opposite direction and looked to expand relations with Japan. Russia and China officially allied against the Pacific nation earlier in 1898, giving Russia the rights to lease Manchuria and the logistically important Port Arthur, an area Japan had been forced out of during the Sino-Japanese War.[25] Japan quickly urged Britain to obtain a lease for the Liaodong Peninsula, just south of Manchuria, in order to make sure that the Russians did not take it. According to Sir Ernest Satow, a renowned British Japanologist and Minister-Plenipotentiary to Japan at the time, the Japanese position was that the “permanent occupation of such an important strategic point by a Western Power would imperil the peace of the Far East” and that the British should intervene to make sure that would not be the case.[26]

Satow himself derived his knowledge of Japanese affairs from his passion for the country and love of its language—he married a Japanese woman and raised a family in Tokyo—but he was also very honest about the complications entailed in establishing solid relations with his home country.[27] In his frequent notes to the Marquess of Salisbury, the Prime Minister, Satow acknowledged that Japanese control of the area would be “detrimental to the peace of the Far East” and that the Japanese themselves did “not seem to appreciate the value of diplomacy.”[28] Still, Satow advocated “the concurrence and support of the British” toward Japanese endeavors “to check Russian progress,”[29] which the Marquess agreed would be “in the common interest.”[30]

Even before official federation, though, Australian political leaders interfered with British diplomacy in the Pacific. The concession of Samoa to appease Germany, who also had aspirations for the Liaodong Peninsula territory, was “rendered impossible by the strong objections which the Australian Colonies would raise,” according to Salisbury.[31] A year later, the Marquess stressed over the Samoa situation even more, saying it was “fraught with difficulty.”[32] The Foreign Office was faced with the “strong and legitimate feeling which exist[ed] in the Australian Colonies against allowing the control of Samoa to pass into the hands of a foreign power” on one hand, and the imperial imperative to support British cooperation with Japan in the Pacific arena on the other.[33] Whose common interest the Prime Minister had been referring to remained uncertain.


Part II: 1900-1904, The Defense of White Australia

In 1901, the Australian nation came into being, its White Australia policy was made secure, and the infant nation initiated plans to defend itself. The federating years made clear that nationhood, along with what it took to secure it, invoked notions of race and exclusion for Australians. However, what that meant for relations after federation with a British mother country focused on maintaining international ties with a Japan gearing up to go to war with Russia was still up for interpretation. The situation in the Pacific gave Britain cause to wholeheartedly back its new Asian ally. To the newly appointed Australian leadership, however, the rise of British-backed Japan and tensions in the Far East made the need to establish a defensive force to protect the fledgling federation all the more urgent.

Discussions between Australian leaders and British officials over the defense of the soon-to-be Commonwealth unsurprisingly dominated the year preceding federation, as it proved to be the most controversial—indeed one of the only—issues involved in nation building. The specific article in dispute was Article 74, a piece of the document devoted to establishing in exactly which exceptional cases Australian policy could fall out of line with that of the Queen. In an early draft of the constitution, this line was defined by the term “public interest,” which Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain regarded as “so vague and indefinite as to have uncertainty in a matter where precision is of first importance.” According to the British, if Australia could independently make policy decisions that contradicted those formed in London, “a most important link of Empire would be impaired,” and it could “scarcely [have been] to the interest of Australia that the final decisions should not lie with the highest tribunal of Empire, beyond suspicion of local bias or predilection.”[34] During subsequent constitutional meetings, British officials brought up the Crown’s complaints, changed Article 74, and obtained Royal Assent, but the colony’s fervor to independently protect its interests remained.

As can be imagined, 1901 was a busy year for Australian leaders and British officials alike. The new British Foreign Secretary, the Marquess of Lansdowne, constantly expressed his desire to “act in concert with Japan” at ever-increasing odds with the Russian Empire.[35] “In the event of war,” Lansdowne wrote to Sir Claude MacDonald, the British representative in Japan, England “would remain neutral, but…[was] not likely to deprive [itself] of complete freedom of action.”[36] As the year went on, the need for a further “understanding or arrangement…with regards to affairs in the Far East”[37] became “highly necessary”[38] to both Britain and Japan in order that “neither of them should be overwhelmed by a combination of Foreign Powers.”[39] Thus, alliance negotiations had begun, as the British did “not wish to continue to act alone”[40] in the Pacific, and the Japanese sought to maintain “the status quo and general peace in the Far East.”[41]

Amid the commotion of federation in Australia, the passage of the Immigration Restriction Act in the same year proved Australia’s most marked departure from British imperial policy of working toward an alliance with Japan to date. The Act also revealed that the young nation was still bent on the exclusionary policies that so characterized its earlier colonial years. The nations agreed upon a policy of immigration restriction through a literacy dictation test, but its exact terms and expressed goals were not what Chamberlain had envisioned at the Colonial Conference back in 1897. Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton originally supported an English test, but British officials disapproved of the method due to the potential for it to alienate other Europeans.[42] After the establishment of a rule that tested potential immigrants on knowledge of any European language, the bill may have been granted Royal Assent more smoothly had it not been for its implicit aim at Japanese immigrants working in Queensland and Britain’s desire to form an alliance with Japan.[43]

The maintenance of White Australia was not only effected at the exclusion of the Japanese. 1901 also saw the successful passage of the Pacific Island Labourers Act, which deported thousands of Queensland workers back to the islands their families had come from. When a group of the workers who were to be deported petitioned the Queensland government to let them stay, their efforts were immediately rebuked.[44] Deakin, a newly elected member of the first Australian Parliament, believed the petitioners’ aims were to “thwart the wishes of a large majority of the people of Australia.” The topic was apparently the “principal issue” in the Queensland federal elections, and allowing the Islanders to remain in Queensland would apparently “impair the principle of White Australia.”[45]

The debate over the exclusive act intensified as the British worried about the erosion of the integrity of imperial promises that they had made to Japan. Chamberlain echoed the sentiment that the act was “contrary to the spirit of the Treaty” and that “Inter-Empire free trade” was paramount to the British in his correspondence with Australian politicians during 1902 and 1903. In an official memorandum, Chamberlain wrote:

His Majesty’s Government has shown every sympathy with the efforts of the people of Australia to deal with the problem of immigration, but they have always objected…to specific legislative discrimination in favour of, or against, race and colour, and that objection applies with even greater force to the present case, in which the question of the rights of the white population of Australia as against the influx of foreign immigrants…a matter which cannot affect the conditions of employment in Australia and in no way affects that purity of race which the people of Australia justly value.

He also warned the colonial government that their actions would cause “friction with foreign governments and serious results would be likely to ensue to Australian trade and credit.” Chamberlain was attempting to reconcile the cosmopolitan attitude of the metropole with the defensive racism of its settler colony.[46]

The latter won out, as Australians saw immigration restriction as not only crucial to the maintenance of the racial purity they so desired, but also to their independent voice within the British Empire. In July of 1902, Barton, after debating British officials on the issue, wrote to Deakin and said that the “Immigration Restriction Act…conflict[ed] in some degree with the [1894] Treaty” but that it might “be administered so as not to sensibly” do so.[47] Deakin confirmed Barton’s sentiments when he wrote definitively that the “Act is not invalidated by conflict with the Treaty,” and that “no violation” was committed with its passage.[48] Australian leaders took their first and soon-to-be second Prime Ministers’ sentiments to heart that year as they enacted the Post and Telegraph Act, prohibiting Asians from working on ships carrying Australian mail, and the Commonwealth Franchise Act, enfranchising white women, while explicitly denying the same for any Asian resident.[49] In 1903, Deakin, by expressing a sentiment held by Australians for a half century, had the final say:

The object of the Act is to restrict the influx of undesirable immigrants, and especially of coloured races whose entrance in numbers would be a serious menace to the social and political institution of the Commonwealth, and might permanently impair the purity of race which its people value very highly.[50]

White Australia was not to be denied, not even by the British.

How best to protect it, however, had yet to be decided, and after the principle of White Australia was upheld through the passage of the Immigration Restriction Act and subsequent discussions, the following years in Australian politics were heavily devoted to establishing the defenses of the nation. Back in 1901, the London-based Colonial Defence Committee released their official recommendations for the new federation. First and foremost in their report was the statement:

The maintenance of British supremacy at sea is the first condition of the security of Australian territory and trade in war.

According to the British, Australian trade and freedom was “secured by the action of the Imperial Navy,” and, therefore, Australian naval independence was secondary.[51] An Australia unilaterally dependent upon the will of the Queen was not enough for Barton and Deakin. In 1902, they pushed the British to focus more efforts toward defending Australia, and imperial representatives repeatedly rejected the duo’s appeals, leading Deakin to write that there was a “universal feeling” of “disappointment” on the part of Australians about the “attitudes of the British Government on all subjects,” that the British government “neglect[ed] to make any advances towards trade preference,” and that they “oppos[ed] military proposals approved by all [Australian] parties.”[52] Barton went so far as to suggest that, “before the conclusion of Treaties, views of Colonies affected should be obtained as far as might be consistent with confidential negotiations with foreign governments.”[53] Not surprisingly, both sentiments fell on deaf British ears.

Of course, on the British side, the conversation was influenced by the mother country’s activity in the Pacific, specifically in regard to the alliance with Japan, made official on January 30, 1902, with the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Agreement. The alliance gave the Japanese rights to commercially expand in Korea—a territory sought by the Russian Empire—officially declared that British “naval forces should…act in concert with those of Japan,” and declared that the British Empire harbored “no intention of relaxing her efforts to maintain…available for concentration…a naval force superior to that of any third Power.”[54] The Marquess of Lansdowne thought of the deal as a reflection of “close and uninterrupted communication” and “mutual advantage” and thought that it was “to be invoked…in the defence of British interests.” Although the British may have maintained a policy of “strict neutrality” on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, their diplomatic allegiances, despite the cries of their own Australian subjects, lay firmly alongside Japan.[55]

Knowledgeable of the alliance and ignoring British will, Australia went ahead with its plans to establish its own measures of defense. Sir John Forrest, the Australian Minister of Defence, made clear in a 1902 report that “the duty of the Commonwealth to adequately contribute to the defence of Australia and of its floating trade” was primarily that of Australians themselves. While Forrest was aware that “it is absolutely necessary to depend upon the Royal Navy for our Naval Defence,” he also believed that, “owing to the progress made by Foreign Powers in the construction and maintenance of powerful sea-going cruisers,” it was imperative that Australia develop its own force “independent of the Royal Navy.”[56] Less than a decade later, Australia was granted its own autonomous Navy. British imperial designs for the Pacific may have put their trust in the Japanese, but subsequent Australian defense build-up proved that concurrence on the part of Britain’s own colonial state was much harder to come by.

It is significant that though Sir John Forrest supported the establishment of Australian defense forces, he was not an advocate of any kind of Australian independence, as other passages of the same paper clearly state:

We must altogether get rid of the idea that we have different interests to those of the rest of the empire…Our aim and object should be to make the Royal Navy the Empire’s Navy.[57]

Forrest’s attitude reveals that early Australian leaders, like Alfred Deakin and Edmund Barton, were not fighting for freedom from British command but, rather, were struggling to reconcile their aspirations for the Empire with the protection of their Australian citizens, something they had thitherto achieved through exclusive immigration policies. Likewise, British imperial officials had to balance the concerns of their own colonial subjects while considering the global implications of their actions. It was during these few years just after the establishment of the Commonwealth that the imperial contradiction between Australian foreign policy and British relations in the Pacific reached its zenith.


Conclusion: Imperial Divide

Contradiction then turned into divide. E.L. Piesse, an Australian foreign policy analyst and former intelligence officer, wrote two decades later that “in no country did the success of Japan against Russia in 1905 produce a greater impression than in Australia.”[58] As British diplomats rewarded Japan for their victory with a new, stronger alliance, and as they began to withdraw ships from the Pacific in order to keep pace with a growingly belligerent Germany,[59] rumors of Japanese espionage sparked Australian questioning of the true interests of the Royal Navy and ignited moves for Australia to develop its own measures for defense.[60] At a 1907 Colonial Conference, Prime Minister Alfred Deakin noted the condescension and lack of concern of British officials for Australian protection.[61] In 1908, he looked to the United States of America for a partner by inviting President Theodore Roosevelt’s naval fleet to tour the Pacific. A year later, compulsory military training for all Australian boys was introduced, and a year after that, the Royal Australian Navy set sail.[62]

In 1911, however, and in direct contradiction with Australian action, the British renewed their alliance with Japan, an agreement to which Australia expressly would not adhere. In fact, Japanese actions on behalf of the British during World War I only served to further entrench Australia’s suspicion. In 1916, Australian leaders refused to lift tariffs enacted toward Japanese trade, even though Japan had promised that no unwanted Japanese immigration into Australia would ensue. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes was instrumental in getting rid of the racial equality clause that the Japanese so desired and that the British may have been willing to concede.[63] As the end of the twenties approached, Japan, having been explicitly excluded from the elite club of Western power, began to militarize, and the wheels of war in the Pacific began to turn.

Of course, it must be remembered that the British imperial equation is so vast and so complex that no one component in its global web can fully represent its grander totality, and no one phase of its extensive history can describe the complete arc. In the case of the early Australian federation alone there is still much more work to be done. Newspapers and journals from the young nation must be studied to gather more data on Australian public opinion to gauge how it influenced the nation’s leaders. On the British side, Japan was only one of a great number of powers it had to contend with in the East Asian arena. Closer study of its dealings with the likes of China, Germany, France, Russia, and other countries could begin to expose the bigger picture of Britain’s affairs and motivations. What has been revealed already, however, is that although the imperial ties connecting Australia to its mother country remained and continue to this day, the very fabric that constituted them was changed forever during the decade surrounding the turn of the century, the decade the Australian nation was born.

Theodore Miller (’16) is a History major in Branford College. 


Primary Sources

Documents on British Policy Overseas, Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Pearson, Charles H. National Life and Character: A Forecast. London: MacMillan and Co., 1913.

Piesse, E.L. “Japan and Australia,” Foreign Affairs 4:3 (1926): 475-488.

The Deakin Papers. National Library of Australia, Collection MS1540.

“Treaty of Commerce and Navigation Between Great Britain and Japan.” The American Journal of International Law 2:3 (1911): 477-489.

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Hirst, John. “Empire, State, Nation.” In Australia’s Empire, edited by Deryck M. Schreuder and Stuart Ward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Hyslop, Jonathan. “The Imperial Working Class Makes Itself White: White Labourism in Britain, Australia, and South Africa Before the First World War.” Journal of Historical Sociology 12:4 (1999).

Lake, Marilyn, and Henry Reynolds. Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Millar, T.B. “The Defense of Australia.” Daedalus 114:1 (1985): 259-279.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Osmond, Warren G. Frederick Eggleston: An Intellectual in Australian Politics. Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, 1985.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Online Academic Edition, s.v. “Russo-Japanese War.” Last updated Nov. 27, 2014. <>.

Ward, Stuart. “Security: Defending Australia’s Empire,” In Australia’s Empire, edited by Deryck M. Schreuder and Stuart Ward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

[1] Warren G Osmond, Frederick Eggleston: An Intellectual in Australian Politics (Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, 1985), 63.

[2] The Mercury, (Hobart, Australia, June 6, 1918), 4.

[3] John Hirst, “Empire, State, Nation,” in Australia’s Empire, eds. Deryck M. Schreuder and Stuart Ward (Oxford University Press, New York, 2008), 143-144.

[4] Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds. Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s countries and the

International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008), 17-20.

[5] Stuart Ward, “Security: Defending Australia’s Empire,” in Australia’s Empire, ed. Deryck M. Schreuder and Stuart Ward (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 232-233.

[6] Lake and Reynolds, 20.

[7] Ibid., 30-36.

[8] Ward, 235-239.

[9] Ibid., 239.

[10] Lake and Reynolds, 37-43.

[11] Ward, 240.

[12] Lake and Reynolds, 137.

[13] “Russo-Japanese War,” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. (Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web, Dec. 09 2013).

[14] “Treaty of Commerce and Navigation Between Great Britain and Japan,” The American Journal of International Law 2:3 (1911): 187-199.

[15] Hirst, 152.

[16] Charles H. Pearson, National Life and Character: A Forecast (London: MacMillan and Co., 1913), 96.

[17] Lake and Reynolds, 143-144.

[18] E.L. Piesse. “Japan and Australia,” Foreign Affairs 4:3 (1926): 476-477.

[19] Alfred Deakin. “The Present Federal Crisis,” The Deakin Papers, National Library of Australia. (1896),


[20] Hirst, 153.

[21] Lake and Reynolds, 145-147.

[22] Alfred Deakin. “On Federation,” The Deakin Papers. (1899), 11/207.

[23] The Critic, The Deakin Papers. (June 4, 1898), 11/346.

[24] Australasian Federation League of Victoria. “Songs of Union,” The Deakin Papers. (1899), 11/172.

[25] Encyclopaedia Britannica, Online Academic Edition, s.v. “Russo-Japanese War,” last updated Nov. 27, 2014, <>.

[26] “Satow to Marquess Salisbury,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Dec. 1, 1897), FO Japan 485.

[27] N.J. Brailey. “Satow, Ernest Mason (1843-1929),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[28] “Satow to Marquess Salisbury,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Mar. 26, 1898), FO Japan 496.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “Marquess Salisbury to Satow,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Mar. 31, 1898), FO Japan 501.

[31] “Salisbury to Viscount Gough,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Jul. 20, 1898), FO Germany 1466.

[32] “Salisbury to Sir F. Lascelles,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Sept. 15, 1899), FO Pacific Islands 332.

[33] “British Colonial Office to Foreign Office,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Jun. 24,1899), FO Pacific Islands 326.

[34] “Chamberlain to Governor of South Australia,” The Deakin Papers. (Apr. 5, 1900), 11/527-542.

[35] “Lansdowne to MacDonald,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Mar. 16, 1901), FO Japan 538.

[36] “Lansdowne to MacDonald,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Apr. 17, 1901), FO Japan 538.

[37] “MacDonald to Lansdowne,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Nov. 1, 1901), FO Japan 563.

[38] “Lansdowne to MacDonald,” (Apr. 17, 1901).

[39] “Lansdowne to MacDonald,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Nov. 6, 1901), FO Japan 563.

[40] Marquess of Lansdowne. “Memorandum,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Nov. 11, 1901 FO 92.

[41] “MacDonald to Lansdowne,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Nov. 28, 1901), FO Japan 563.

[42] Lake and Reynolds, 137-138.

[43] Piesse, 478.

[44] Lake and Reynolds, 150-152.

[45] “Alfred Deakin to Lord Tennyson,” The Deakin Papers. (Sept. 23, 1902), 14/213-226

[46] Joseph Chamberlain. “Memorandum,” The Deakin Papers. (Apr. 17, 1903), 14/869-877.

[47] “Edmund Barton to Alfred Deakin,” The Deakin Papers. (Jul. 19, 1902), 14/300-301.

[48] Alfred Deakin. “Minute Paper,” The Deakin Papers. (Jun. 16, 1902), 14/842-845.

[49] Lake and Reynolds, 155-157.

[50] “Alfred Deakin to Lord Tennyson,” The Deakin Papers. (1903), 14/371-373.

[51] Colonial Defence Committee. “Memorandum,” The Deakin Papers. (Mar. 30, 1901), 14/527-533

[52] “Alfred Deakin to Edmund Barton,” The Deakin Papers. (Jul. 29, 1902), 14/270.

[53] “Edmund Barton to Alfred Deakin,” The Deakin Papers (Aug. 2, 1902), 14/308-309.

[54] “Anglo-Japanese Agreement,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Jan. 30, 1902), 125.

[55] “Lansdowne to MacDonald,” Documents on British Foreign Policy Overseas. (Jan. 30, 1902), FO Japan 563.

[56] Sir John Forrest. “Observations,” The Deakin Papers. (Mar. 15, 1902), 14/549.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Piesse, 479.

[59].Ward, 243.

[60] Piesse, 479-480.

[61] Lake and Reynolds, 193-195.

[62] Piesse, 479-480.

[63] Ibid., 480-488.


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