Author Topic: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901  (Read 3104 times)

Offline Volkodav

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Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« on: July 14, 2013, 09:52:29 PM »
This is one I came up with years ago while reading a book about battleships going back to the early ironclads at about the time I studied Australian History at school, and had come across mention that Federation initially got underway prior to 1850 but was delayed in part due to the gold rush(s).  I started developing wish lists of ships serving with Australia the idea being that there would eventually be three squadrons east, west and north with a fourth expeditionary squadron eventually being formed.  Unrealistic, yes but I did mention I was at school at the time so therefore young and stupid. 

Anyway, years later and all grown up I am revisiting it along the lines of how would the nation a whole have progressed had federation occurred 50 years earlier.  My thinking is instead of parting Victoria and Tasmania off from New South Wales the British Government decided to roll the Swan River Colony into NSW to create a larger, self governing colonial entity in the 1840s.  This entity would be responsible for its own defence, with the assistance of the UK but would remain an integral part of the British Empire as it went on to become a Federated Commonwealth State in 1851. 

There would have been a national army, consisting of a regular "Federation Guard" and a Australian Navy including an "Australian Marine" Corps that respectively became the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the Royal Australian Marines (RAM).  Australian Federation Guard units serving in Crimea would also be granted the "Royal" prenominal, i.e. the Royal Australian Horse, Royal Australian Horse Artillery, Royal Australian Regiment, Royal Australian Engineers and Royal Australian Regiment of Artillery while non Federation Guard units intended primarily for national defence not deployed to that conflict retained their original titles, i.e. the primarily militia and paramilitary Australian Light Horse and Australian Light Infantry.

As there were never any separate colonies there was only ever one navy that became the Australian Navy on Federation and the Royal Australian Navy later.  This navy was always tasked with defending the Australian Continent but was also tasked with protecting British interests in the Pacific.  To do this the RAN maintained a squadron of armoured frigates, progressing to Armoured cruisers, battle cruisers and eventually aircraft carriers supported by a couple of squadrons of lower rate cruisers and flotillas of torpedo boats then torpedo boat destroyers and destroyers.

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2013, 02:02:43 AM »
Interesting - I will have to do some reading up on my Australian history from around this time to get a better appreciation before being able to contribute meaningfully.

First thought:  I wonder how the newly federated Australia would view the US Civil War and whether this would have any influence on its development?

Second thought:  I wonder if we would have seen a defining national event such as the ANZAC landings coming out of the Crimean War instead of WW1?

Expect to have more contributions in the future.
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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2013, 02:34:01 AM »
To help put in context, this would have been the Australian Map just prior to Federation:



Van Diemen's Land, now known as Tasmania, became a separate colony in 1825.
South Australia became a separate colony in 1836.
The last convict ship arrived in New South Wales 1848.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2013, 02:46:53 AM by GTX_Admin »
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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2013, 02:46:24 AM »
Another thought:  Would the new Australia lay an even more significant role in the New Zealand Wars/Māori Wars?  Especially with newly returned veterans from the Crimea.

Yet Another thought: The Gold Rush in Australia from about 1851 would have proven very timely.  Likewise, the Eureka Rebellion in 1854 would have proven the new Country's first real nternal challenge - would again be interesting with Crimean War veterans available.


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Offline raafif

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2013, 07:53:14 AM »
Very interesting points Greg .... a few more to ponder ....

Why was it called New South WALES ? not New Britain ... guessing that the island of New Britain off PNG wasn't named at that time & "New England" was already taken by the yanks ?

I think you have to include Queensland as Capt. Cook named Redcliffe & Deception Bay (both just north of Brisbane).  Redcliffe was the first white settlement in Australia but quickly failed so they moved it to Sydney Harbour (the 2nd settlement).  The remains of Queensland's navy (3 ships) lies at the southern head of Margate Beach, Redcliffe -- don't know if there is anything left now but was recognisable as iron-ship remains in 1970.
Northern Queensland becomes a seperate state (a very old battle still being fought) .....
Originally the Queensland / NSW border was to be west from Coffs Harbour but was moved north to the Lamington Plateau escarpment as a favour to some corrupt politician.

Will the ships have names more in keeping with ties to Britain ?  ie HMAS Whitby (where Endeavour was built) or HMAS Chatham (biggest RN Dockyard, there is a HMS Chatham) ..... HMAS Golden Hind ???  Please tell me that most of the smaller ships like Destroyers are to be paddle-steamer types :-*

If successful, the Eureka Rebellion would have changed Australia's politics drastically - probably forging closer ties with NZ, Communism in Russia (more Aussie troops sent there in 1920) and cutting ties with the UK (but not the Trade Union Movement there) & making Oz a Republic fairly soon.  Even today Tasmania should be part of Victoria not a separate state :-((.

We come back to the usual problem -- population - we don't have enough people to man anything but a small navy & can't hope to patrol much more than our own coastline unless bolstered by the RN -- gold rush pays for mecenary sailors ?

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2013, 01:59:31 AM »
Given that by 1850 the population of the Swan River Colony had only increased to 5,886 and it was struggling, the merger could also have been a way of shoring up support for the colony to prevent its failure.
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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2013, 02:01:35 AM »

I think you have to include Queensland as Capt. Cook named Redcliffe & Deception Bay (both just north of Brisbane).  Redcliffe was the first white settlement in Australia but quickly failed so they moved it to Sydney Harbour (the 2nd settlement).  The remains of Queensland's navy (3 ships) lies at the southern head of Margate Beach, Redcliffe -- don't know if there is anything left now but was recognisable as iron-ship remains in 1970.
Northern Queensland becomes a seperate state (a very old battle still being fought) .....
Originally the Queensland / NSW border was to be west from Coffs Harbour but was moved north to the Lamington Plateau escarpment as a favour to some corrupt politician.


Queensland only became a colony in its own right on 6 June 1859.  Under this scenario, that might not even happen.
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Offline raafif

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2013, 04:10:57 AM »
Queensland only became a colony in its own right on 6 June 1859.  Under this scenario, that might not even happen.

true .... in the real world Qld was still using pre-federation paperwork in 1957 - my brother's birth certificate says "Colony of Queensland" ;D

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2013, 03:55:52 PM »
Queensland only became a colony in its own right on 6 June 1859.  Under this scenario, that might not even happen.

true .... in the real world Qld was still using pre-federation paperwork in 1957 - my brother's birth certificate says "Colony of Queensland" ;D

So, they were frugal as opposed to current state & federal departments which waste millions of dollars with unnecessary name changes every other year, scrapping tonnes of pre-printed paper in the process.

Interesting point would be the retention of most, if not all, of the gold from the gold rush in Australia & the inherent increase in national wealth as a consequence, rather than most of it going to the UK, after the miners were paid a British government-controlled pittance for their efforts. This might, in turn, have negated the hostility which led to the Eureka Rebellion, meaning it never occurred.

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2013, 02:52:04 AM »
Queensland only became a colony in its own right on 6 June 1859.  Under this scenario, that might not even happen.

true .... in the real world Qld was still using pre-federation paperwork in 1957 - my brother's birth certificate says "Colony of Queensland" ;D

Things move at their own pace here in Queensland... ;)...Don't you worry about that...
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Offline Rickshaw

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2013, 01:05:46 PM »
An interesting idea but the impetus wasn't there in 1851.  The colonies were tiny, they were hugely independent minded and the conditions which created the move towards Federation hadn't really come about.

You might be interested in my counter-factual, "Remember Eureka!"  which posits Federation delayed until 1951 because of colonial independence.

Offline Volkodav

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Re: Australian Federation occurs in 1851 instead of 1901
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2016, 11:35:28 PM »
As I recall from my studies there was considerable interest in both federation and self government prior to the gold rush, the discovery of gold being pivotal as it was the massive resulting social upheaval that derailed the process.  The secret would have been to expediate the process and get it over and done with before the gold rush(s), which would have had the interesting side effect of gathering New Zealand and a number of Pacific islands and territories into the arrangement.

What is interesting is the initial apparent good intentions towards the Maoris as the primary concern was to control European colonisation in the region and as far as possible reduce French influence / control.  Working on the basis that what the British were interested in was trade and security it is conceivable that they could have sponsored an Australasian or even Oceanic Federation, Confederation, or Commonwealth without the multitude of parochial states we ended up with in reality.  The added advantage is there is a (small) possibility that the original intent of the Treaty of Waitangi could have been continued past the governorship of Robert Fitzroy (Vice Admiral, former captain of HMS Beagle of Charles Darwin fame) whose brief included enforcing the treaty and protecting the Maori from the excesses of settlers and the New Zealand Company. 

My thinking is the extra resources of the larger colony governed from Sydney could have permitted the (now) Lt Governor responsible for NZ to achieve the results desired by the colonial office, this success is then mirrored, again successfully throughout the rest of the colony.  The activities of the various colonial companies are curbed meaning in particular, no major Maori grievances means no Maori wars, but also more honesty, openness and less corruption.  Self government is progressed on the basis of a whole commonwealth rather than a progression of colonies and the initial arrangements are settled in the early 1840s with the Commonwealth being gazetted in 1850.

Considering this earlier self government I wonder if the society would be more egalitarian or whether there would be received nobility?