National Library of Australia
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MS 213 contains papers relating to Sir George's public life between 1909 and 1935 and includes correspondence with Harold Boas, Herbert Brookes, S.M. Bruce, R.G. Casey, Robert Garran, H.W. Gepp, Walter Massy-Greene, J.A. Lyons, W.M. Hughes and others; correspondence relating to the secession movement in Western Australia 1929-33, and other matters; together with reports, press cuttings and photographs.
Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn2650216).
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of George Foster Pearce, National Library of Australia, MS 213, [box number and series and/or file number]'.
The National Library's collections of Pearce Papers were received in three separate groups, the first of which was received in 1951 from Sir George himself. The other two groups received in 1966 and 1967 came from his son Philip, through Peter R. (later Sir Peter) Heydon. Other papers from Sir George's three terms between 1908 and 1921 as Minister for Defence, were lodged in the Australian War Memorial. A further group of papers are held in the Commonwealth Archives Office (CP 820) having been transferred there in August 1960 via a strongroom from Pearce's office in Parliament House. These include (i) personal papers while he was Vice-President of the Executive Council (1926-29) and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (1930-31) and (ii) private papers 1915-30 relating to private and business interests, chiefly property, taxation and legal matters.
The three collections of Pearce Papers were catalogued as MS 213, MS 1827 and MS 1927 respectively, and descriptive lists are available for each collection.
George Foster Pearce was born on 14 January 1870 at Mt Barker, South Australia, a son of James and Jane Pearce. He attended the public school at Red Hill, S.A., leaving at the age of eleven to became a farm boy, and later a carpenter and joiner, before migrating to Western Australia. After trying his luck unsuccessfully on the Coolgardie goldfields in 1894 and working at his trade there, he return to Perth, where he became involved in the Labour Movement, municipal politics and trade union affairs. In 1898 he was elected to the first Subiaco Municipal Council and the following year was President of the Trades and Labour Council and the Carpenters' Union. Throughout this period he actively supported the movement for Federation.
In 1901 Pearce, as a Labour candidate, was elected to the Senate at the first Federal elections and he remained there until his defeat in 1937. He became Chairman of Committees 1907-8, Minister for Defence 1908-9, 1910-3, 1914-21, and 1932-4, Acting Prime Minister in 1916, Minister for Home and Territories 1921-6, Vice-President of the Executive Council 1926-9, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate 1929-31, and Minister for External Affairs and Minister in Charge of Territories 1934-7. In 1916, he supported Hughes in the conscription crisis, and with him, left the Labour Party.
Pearce visited England and Europe in 1911 to attend the Imperial Conference and Coronation of King George V: in 1919 to arrange the repatriation of Australian soldiers and to sign the Treaty of St Germain with Austria; and in 1927 to attend the League of Nations Assembly. As the Australian member of the British Empire Delegation he attended the Washington Conference for the Limitation of Armaments in 1921-22.
In 1927 Pearce was Minister responsible for the arrangements of the tour of the Duke and Duchess of York, who visited Australia to open Parliament House in Canberra.
He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1921, became a Commander of the Legion of Honour in 1924, and Knight Commander of the Victorian Order in 1927.
After Pearce's defeat for the Senate in 1937 he was a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission 1939-44 and Chairman of the Defence Board of Business Administration 1940-7.
In 1897 Pearce married Eliza Maud Barnett and there were two sons and two daughters. He was widowed in 1947. Carpenter to Cabinet, his autography, was published in 1951. Pearce died in Melbourne on 24 June 1952 and was accorded a State Funeral.
See also: PEARCE, George Foster, Carpenter to Cabinet (London, Hutchinson, 1951); HEYDON, Peter Richard, Quiet Decision, a study of George Foster Pearce, (Melbourne, M.U.P. 1965); MS 3155, Heydon, Sir Peter R., Papers 1901-1965. Records assembled during the writing of Quiet Decision.
The letters include a complaint from Mr Justice Higgins concerning the Government's handling of the strike and messages from Senator A. Gardiner and the Secretary, Railway Workers' Union, Sydney (Mr G. Bodkin) suggesting means of ending the strike.
Attached are two pamphlets: (a) Tudorites charged and condemned for soliciting German money c.1917; (b) Open letter from John Forrest to the electors of Swan Division advising them re voting at General Elections, 5 May 1917
The correspondence is official and deal chiefly with arrangements for the opening of Parliament House. Included is a printed copy of proceedings in the Senate for the occasion.
The series comprises two exchanges of letters and attachments: Letter from Senator Pearce to Dr Earle Page enclosing copies of letters sent by Senator J.D. Millen to the Prime Minister; Letter from Hon. J.G. Latham to Senator Pearce enclosing a memorandum on National Insurance and Maternity Allowance.
Copy of cablegram received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 9 May 1916
There are alterations in the handwriting of J.S. Murray who was Pearce's Private Secretary from 1925-1934.
This series includes some correspondence concerning the preparation and distribution of the articles and cuttings and drafts of the articles.
Comprises 3 reports: Copy of a report to the Metropolitan Council of the A.L.F. by D. Cameron, delegate for Western Australia, to the Australian Labour Party Conference at Perth, June 1918; Official Report of the Second Annual Conference of the National Labour Party of Western Australia, April 1919; Official Report of the Tenth Conference of the Australian Federal Labour Party, Melbourne, October 1924.
Longhand minutes, including principal points made by speakers and a record of decisions. The minutes are not signed, with the exception of one meetings. During the end of the book the minutes are in handwriting of C.W.C. Marr, the Nationalist Whip in 1921-25.
Includes a distribution list for the manifesto and some correspondence concerning the setting up of a National Labour Party organization in Western Australia.
Covering letter from Secretary of State. 9 February 1927
Includes Cottage of Pearce's grandmother at Mt Barker; On verandah of Pearce's birthplace at Mt Baker (From left to right: C.J. Pearce, H.J. Pearce, W.T. Pearce, G.F. Pearce); On verandah of Pearce's birthplace at Mt Baker (From left to right: C.J. Pearce, H.J. Pearce, W.T. Pearce, G.F. Pearce);