Australia, like the United States, is a federal union. The six Australian states – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania – joined themselves together in 1901 to form one country. The first prime minister of the Commonwealth of Australia was a barrister, Edmund Barton. During the 1800s the Australian states were separate self-governing colonies of England. But customs and policies differed and a union was proposed. Federation became a fact on 1 January 1901. The Duke of York opened the first Federal parliament. Barton was a superb orator and risked his political career by becoming leader of the federal movement. He did a great deal to shape the actual form of the Commonwealth constitution, and was a member of the delegation which went to England with the bill in 1900.
Edmund Barton was knighted in 1902, when he resigned the premiership. He became a judge of the high court of Australia the following year, and died, aged seventy-one, in 1920.