St Clair Donaldson

St Clair Donaldson

Name: St Clair Donaldson

Epoch: Early 20th Century (the \'Long Early Twentieth Century\')

Grouping Field: Humanities (Ideas Formatted as Ideas) and Social Science (Models)

Location Grouping: Individual\'s Work Location

Map Coordinates: 27°27\'51.6\"S 153°01\'47.3\"E

Years At Location: 1904-1921

One Historical Setting: Most Rev. St Clair George Alfred Donaldson, St. John\'s Anglican Cathedral, Ann Street, Brisbane City (1917)

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St Clair Donaldson was the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane from 1904 to 1921.

Impact On Brisbane Society

St Clair Donaldson was an imperial federalist.  He was also a strong advocate of the League of Nations, but read the League as a global version of imperial federation.  This stance put Donaldson in the middle between internationalists (both liberal and socialist) and the coarse nationalism of Billy Hughes.  However, the stance also reflected a conservative valuing in the resistance to de-colonialization, although Betty Crouchley points to Donaldson’s strong advocacy for autonomy in the Australian Church. The point expresses Donaldson’s beliefs in Christian patriotism, which clearly emphasised the need for a more energetic war effort, sacrifice and conscription.

Much more research has to be digested to be done before a fair reassessment can be made of Donaldson. Much of the Crouchley’s popular, and better-read, biography is captivated to Donaldson’s own worldview. To a large extent, Donaldson’s ideological views seeped into a conservative Brisbane society. However, the Alec Kidd has done a better job from his 1996 thesis and that will be added to the reassessment. John Moses has also assisted in that ongoing reassessment. Moses’ argument is that Donaldson, in the same vein as Moses’ perspective of Garland, expresses the Anglican fears in German war aims, and need not be to “judged them to be diabolical.” There is a difference of judgement in how Moses and I read Donaldson’s Christian patriotism, his 1917 lecture series. Although Donaldson has a few ideas for a new conception for peace, his argument for patriotism is extremely diabolical when he concluded that ‘faith of the Christian Imperialist’ is that which ‘rejoices in the racial characteristics’.  The legitimate fears about German wars aims do not ameliorate gross factorial distortions happening in Christianising Britannia patriotism. Furthermore, it is no good to excuse the behaviour by reference to the Anglican character of the era. The point being that the local Anglican establishment was at fault for not recognising the truthfulness (see Bernard Williams) as it was strongly vocalised by dissenters in this same era.

Entry for further reassessment.


Betty Crouchley, ‘Donaldson, St Clair George Alfred (1863–1935)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 4 July 2019.

Buch, Neville. The Changing Definition of Peace, Part 1: The Status Quo of Thinking in Queensland during the Armistice, Queensland History Journal, Royal Historical Society Queensland, Volume 24, No. 1, May 2019, pp. 119-121.

Dimont, C. T. (Charles Tunnacliff); Batty, F. (Francis) de Witt. St. Clair Donaldson, Archbishop of Brisbane, 1904-1921; Bishop of Salisbury, 1921-1935, Faber, London, 1939.

Kidd, Alexander Philip. The Brisbane Episcopate of St. Clair Donaldson 1904-1921, The University of Queensland, Department of History, Ph.D. Thesis, 1996.

Moses, John A. The struggle for Anzac Day 1916-1930 and the role of the Brisbane Anzac Day Commemoration Committee, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol, 88., No. 1, June 2002, pp.

Moses, John. Email Conservation, 30 January 2020.

Williams, Bernard. Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy, Princeton University Press, 2002.

Image Citation

Reverend St. Clair George Alfred Donaldson, Bishop Elect of Brisbane. Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd. (2005). State Library of Queensland