Print Page print
By accepting a knighthood, Dibbs upset major figures in Australia. They saw it as a betrayal of his republicanism.

Image title:
Sir George Dibbs

National Library of Australia

Image ID:

George Dibbs (1834–1904)

Premier of New South Wales

Dibbs was educated in Sydney at Dr Lang's school and became, like Lang, a republican. He liked acting boldly and took risks in his business as a merchant. Twice he went bankrupt.

In politics, in the late 1880s, he was the leader of the up-and-coming Protectionist Party. Parkes was the leader of the Free Trade Party. While Parkes worked for Federation, Dibbs did all he could to wreck his plans. Parkes tried to stop him attending the 1891 Federal Convention but parliament voted for him to go. At the convention, Dibbs tried to put the other colonies off Federation by saying Sydney must be the capital.

In 1894 he suggested that New South Wales and Victoria should combine, with the other colonies joining later. This was a scheme for unification, not Federation. Victoria was suspicious and the smaller colonies were definitely opposed. The federalists wanted the whole continent for the new nation.

When Dibbs visited England in 1892 he accepted a knighthood from the queen, even though he was a republican. He said he could not say no to a lady.