National Library of Australia
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The papers comprise letters, speeches, speech notes, a diary, a few photographs and some miscellaneous printed items, together with the typescript biography. They form a relatively small and uneven collection. Apart from some speeches and the 1929 diary, they provide little information about Bavin's distinguished career as a New South Wales parliamentarian and Premier. They are, however, an important source on Australian politics and law in the period 1900-1920 and, in particular, document Bavin's close association with the first two Prime Ministers of Australia.
The collection is available for reference.
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 Sir Thomas Bavin, National Library of Australia, MS 560, [series and/or item number]'.
The Bavin Papers were received from four sources over a period of thirty years. In 1959 Bavin's son, Mr J.W. Bavin, transferred the long series of letters written to his father by Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. In 1965 he donated further items, including the drafts of speeches and letters of Tom Roberts. In the following year a larger group of speeches, together with photographs, cuttings and Bavin's diary of his 1929 overseas tour, were presented by Miss Margaret Dalrymple Hay, who had been for many years Secretary of the University of Sydney Law School. In 1988 Mrs Valerie Tod, a grand-daughter of Bavin, donated the unpublished biography which had been written by J.W. Bavin under the name of 'Amicus'. Finally, another grand-daughter, Mrs Prue Wyndham, in 1990 presented the letters which now form Series 3 of the collection.
A manuscript biography of Bavin by Margaret Hay, entitled 'A High Adventure', is held in the Margaret Dalrymple Hay Papers (MS 2210).
Letters of Bavin can be found in a number of collections, most notably the papers of Sir John Latham (MS 1009).
A photograph of Bavin, signed and dated 1925, is held in the Pictures Branch.
The Bavin Papers were originally held at a number of collection numbers. In 1998 they were consolidated at MS 560 and this guide was produced which supersedes earlier lists.
Thomas Rainsford Bavin was born on 5 May 1874 at Kaiapoi, New Zealand, the son of the Reverend Rainsford Bavin, a Methodist minister. The family moved to Sydney in 1889. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School, Newington College and the University of Sydney, where he graduated as a B.A. in 1894 and LL.B. in 1897. He was admitted to the Bar in 1897.
Bavin became an enthusiastic supporter of Edmund Barton's National Federal Party and unsuccessfully stood for Parliament in the 1898 election. Following Federation, he became Barton's private secretary and was also Alfred Deakin's private secretary in 1903-1904. He returned to the Bar in 1904, but remained strongly interested in politics and wrote regular newspaper articles. From 1907 to 1911 he shared with Deakin the writing of the 'Australian Correspondent' column in the London Morning Post. In 1911-1913 he chaired the Royal Commission on Food Supplies and Prices. He became joint secretary of the Universal Service League in 1915.
Bavin lost Liberal pre-selection in 1910 and 1911, but he finally won the Legislative Assembly seat of Gordon as a Nationalist in 1917. He was Attorney-General in the Ministry led by Sir George Fuller in 1922-1925. Following the Government's defeat in 1925, he succeeded Fuller as Leader of the Nationalist Party. In 1927 he became Premier and Treasurer in a coalition ministry. In 1930, with the onset of the great depression, he took drastic measures, including the restoration of the 48 hour week, and in October the Government was defeated by the Labor Party led by J.T. Lang. Bavin continued to be Leader of the Nationalist Party, but in March 1932, faced with a challenge by Bertram Stevens, he resigned as Leader.
In October 1935 Bavin resigned from Parliament on his appointment as a Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court. For the rest of his life he suffered from continued ill-health. He remained, however, a prominent public figure. He was President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the Sydney University Law Society, the Sydney Repertory Theatre Society and in 1938 chaired the British Commonwealth Relations Conference at Lapstone. He died at Sydney on 31 August 1941.
Bavin was appointed K.C.M.G. in 1933. He had married Edyth Winchcombe in 1901 and they had a son and three daughters.
Bavin was the private secretary of Sir Edmund Barton in 1902-1903, he was briefly his associate when Barton moved to the High Court, and he remained a close friend for the rest of Barton's life. Most of the surviving letters from Barton to Bavin were written in 1901-1909 and many of them are brief notes requesting Bavin's assistance on political and administrative matters. They refer inter alia to Bavin's defeat in the 1898 New South Wales election, his work as Barton's secretary, Cabinet arrangements, the 1903 Naval Agreement, preferential trade, mail contracts, Robert Garran, High Court cases, appeals to the Privy Council, the case of Deakin v. Webb, Federal politics, Alfred Deakin, Andrew Fisher, Barton's travels in Australia, his overseas trip in 1915, World War I, books and reading.
The 48 letters have been arranged chronologically (items 1-67). There is also a letter from Lord Hopetoun to Barton (item 68) and a note from Bavin to Barton (items 73-74).
Bavin was for a brief period in 1903-1904 the private secretary of Alfred Deakin. He remained a close friend and supporter of the Liberal leader. In 1907 when Deakin went to England to attend the Colonial Conference he asked Bavin to take over his work as the anonymous Australian correspondent of the London Morning Post. For the next four years the two men shared the task and many of Deakin's letters discuss Bavin's writings and the approach that they should take to various topics.
The letters deal inter alia with family news, especially the activities of Stella and Vera Deakin, books and reading, Bavin's newspaper articles, the possibility of Bavin entering politics, Deakin's relations with the Labor Party, the formation of his second Ministry in 1905, the 1906 elections, High Court cases, the Webb Case in the Privy Council, Bavin's articles for the Morning Post, Deakin's visit to England in 1907, industrial arbitration and wages boards, 'New Protection', the 1909 'Fusion', Deakin's return to power in 1909, relations with the Melbourne Age, the Financial Agreement of 1909, the electoral defeat of 1910, Bavin's work as a barrister, the Royal Commission on Food and Fish, the death of R.E. O'Connor in 1912, Deakin's ill-health and his departure from politics in 1913. There are references to J. Watson, Sir George Reid, Sir George Turner, W.M. Hughes, Robert Garran, B.R. Wise, A.W. Jose, Joseph Cook, Andrew Fisher, Charles Wade, J.A. Holman and the Reverend Albert Rivett.
The 167 letters have been arranged chronologically (items 1-177). Included in the correspondence is a letter to Deakin from the writer Louis Becke in 1911 seeking financial assistance, (items 145-47)
This series contains virtually all the surviving letters received by Bavin apart from those written by Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. They form a very small proportion of the letters that he would have received and it can be assumed that in most cases they were retained on account of the importance of the correspondents. A significant proportion of them were written by barristers and judges, while others were written by politicians, public servants, academics and church dignitaries. They mostly date from the years 1900-1920 and surprisingly few letters from the last twenty years of Bavin's life have survived.
Among the subjects discussed in the letters are Bavin's marriage, Andrew Inglis Clark's writings on constitutional law, developments in the legal profession, the work of the Supreme Court of South Australia, High Court cases including the River Murray Case and the Vend Case, the possibility of Bavin entering politics, federalism, the River Murray Agreement, Australian naval policy, the 1909 Defence Act, Bavin's writings on Australian politics, the 'fusion' of 1909, the 1910 Land Tax Act, the possible establishment of an Imperial Court of Appeal, the 1911-1912 Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry, the outbreak of World War I and the course of the War, Muirhead Collins' visit to France in 1917, conscription, the League of Nations, the Round Table, banks and the Depression, Bavin's defeat in the 1930 elections, Sir John Latham's impressions of Japan in 1941, holidays and Bavin's illnesses. There are references to Sir Josiah Symon, Sir Samuel Way, Alfred Deakin, Sir Samuel Griffith, B.R. Wise, Sir Isaac Isaacs, Sir George Reid, Winston Churchill and H.H. Asquith.
The letters have been arranged chronologically. Unless indicated otherwise, Bavin was the recipient.
The first group of papers in this series consist of notes made by Bavin for speeches given by Sir Edmund Barton in 1902-1903. To each speech are explanatory notes written by Margaret Dalrymple Hay. The rest of the series contains manuscript, typescript or printed speeches of Bavin, mostly dating from 1930-1940.
A biography, with copies of documents and photographs, by J.W. Bavin.