Badge and Sash of the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George awarded to Sir Edmund Barton #2013-0006-2
The Badge of the Knight Grand Cross is a gold cross with fourteen white enamel points edged in gold. At the centre on one side is a depiction of the Archangel St Michael, with sword in hand, encountering Satan. On the other side St George on horseback encounters a dragon. Both are inside a blue circle inscribed with the motto AUSPICIUM MELIORIS AEVI (‘Token of a better age’). The cross is surmounted by the Imperial crown and attached to a wide Saxon-blue ribbon with a scarlet stripe, to be worn from the right shoulder to the left side.
Sir Edmund Barton was born in Glebe, Sydney on 18 January 1849. In 1876 and 1877 Barton stood unsuccessfully for the University of Sydney seat in the NSW Legislative Assembly and eventually won it in 1879. On 3 January 1883 Barton became Speaker of the NSW Parliament, a position he held until 1887 when he was nominated to the Upper House. In 1891 Barton resigned from the Upper House and in a general election successfully contested the seat of East Sydney against George Reid. Barton became attorney-general in the Protectionist ministry of George Dibbs. Barton was out of the NSW Parliament from 1894 to 1897 and worked as a lawyer before returning to the Legislative Council in 1897. Barton was inspired by Henry Parkes’ speech at Tenterfield in 1889 and spoke persuasively for Federation in the Legislative Council. This resulted in Barton being nominated by the Council as a delegate to the National Australasian Convention in 1891. Here he impressed both Alfred Deakin and John Downer with his address on the Federal resolutions. When Andrew Inglis Clark fell ill, Barton became a member of the constitutional drafting committee. Barton was one of the primary driving forces behind the Federation conferences held at Corowa in 1893 and Bathurst in 1896. He was elected first of 49 candidates to the National Australasian Convention to be held in Adelaide in March 1897. Barton was chosen as leader of the draft constitutional committee and drove the committee to near exhaustion by producing a constitution by mid-April. The Convention met again in Sydney in September 1897 and in Melbourne in 1898 to consider further amendments to the draft constitution. Barton proved tireless at keeping the delegates on task in considering the 286 amendments proposed by the colonial legislatures. After the convention finally adopted the draft constitutional bill, Barton returned home to campaign for the support of NSW voters in the referendum that followed. Between June 1899 and July 1900 and after a number of further hurdles, a majority ‘Yes’ vote was obtained for the bill in each colony. In March 1900 Barton led the delegation to London to obtain the approval of the British Parliament and assent of the Queen. For three months they lobbied for the successful passage of the Bill through the House of Commons and House of Lords. On 9 July 1900, the Bill was enacted, and on 17 September Queen Victoria proclaimed 1 January 1901 as the date of birth of the Commonwealth of Australia.
After some initial confusion Barton was commissioned as Prime Minister on 25 December 1900. Lord Hopetoun, in what became known as the ‘Hopetoun blunder’, named the former NSW premier, William Lyne, as the first Prime Minister. Lyne had opposed Federation, and was unacceptable to prominent federation proponents who strongly supported Barton for the position. Barton’s first Commonwealth ministry consisted of Alfred Deakin, Charles Kingston and former premiers John Forrest, George Turner and William Lyne. Barton formed government with Labor support after the first federal election in 1901. One of Barton’s overlooked achievements was in getting consensus among his team of former leaders in shaping the new Commonwealth and its institutions.