EDMUND BARTON’S COPY OF THE BILL TO CONSTITUTE THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

National Library of Australia

This piece of paper is modest in everything but its import. Like so much of the story of Federation, it is incremental in its meaning. In order for the Australian constitution to come into effect, it needed to be passed by the British Parliament. This is a copy of that bill, which Edmund Barton annotated as it passed the House of Commons on July 5, 1900. Barton, a leading member of the Australian delegation that travelled to London to submit the bill, went on to become Australia’s first prime minister. This moment in history entered the National Library of Australia with his papers. You can see it, and the rest of the national collection, in Canberra.