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Edwards was said to be a
hard-working, cheerful man who inspired loyalty and took his responsibilities very seriously.

Image title:
Lieutenant General
Sir James Bevan Edwards

State Library of Queensland

Image ID:
neg. no. 195226

James Edwards (1834–1922)

A British major-general who influenced Federation

Edwards was educated for the army in England and served in it all his life.

At a conference with the British government in England in 1887, the Australian premiers agreed that a British officer should inspect and report on their soldiers and sailors and their forts and guns. The British government sent Major-General Edwards. He reported that the forces of the different colonies needed to be able to work together; officers should be trained in one college; and the breaks in the railway gauges should be overcome so troops could be moved quickly. He said Australia could not be properly defended until its separate forces were organised into one federal force.

In 1889 Henry Parkes used this report to say that the colonies should plan to federate so that a federal government could organise one army. The other premiers were at first reluctant because they distrusted Parkes, but they did finally agree to meet him and plan the 1891 Federal Convention.

Back in England, Edwards became a supporter of imperial federation, the union of Britain and all her colonies.