Last night in Sydney the freedom-loving faithful of Quadrant celebrated their magazine’s influential 50 years. The great and the good among Sydney’s intellectual elite were gathered, with a sprinkling of people from the outlying towns, such as Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.

Guest of honour was the Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard, MP. The PM was in fine form. He spoke about the importance of serious debate about important things, which of course is what Quadrant does. As one example, cheering for Henry: “Of the causes that Quadrant has taken up that are close to my heart, none is more important to me than the role it has played as counterforce to the black-armband view of Australian history. Until recent times, it had become almost de rigueur in intellectual circles to regard Australian history as little more than a litany of sexism, racism and class warfare”.

“Again, it would take the brave voices of a few individuals to take a stand against the orthodoxies of the day. And again Quadrant has been an outpost of lively non-conformity in its willingness to defend both Geoffrey Blainey and Keith Windschuttle against the posses of political correctness. Nowhere were the fangs of the Left so visibly on display in a campaign based on character assassination and intellectual dishonesty than in their efforts to trash the name and reputation of Blainey”.

Quadrant’s editor, PP McGuinness, sums up and looks ahead:

This is our mission: to defend the great tradition of free and open debate, to make possible dissent, while at the same time insisting on both civilised discourse and rational argument. This mission is not the same as at Quadrant’s founding, but it is not dissimilar. For while the communist dictatorship is no more, the love of anti-democratic dictators still survives among many intellectuals as does their determination to impose their own strange beliefs on the population as a whole. In his book The Myth of Sisyphus the great French writer Albert Camus concluded that the fate of humanity in its struggle for what is most worthwhile in life was similar to that of Sisyphus who was condemned forever to roll a large boulder up a mountain, only to see it crash back downwards towards the depths before he could get to the top. Nevertheless he concluded this determination for betterment and improvement was the most noble of humanity’s motives in everyday life, and it was this activity itself which made life worth living. With or without religion, it is the eternal struggle of people to make the world a better place, for themselves and others, but without coercion.

Dr Elizabeth Prior Jonson, the wife of Henry’s editor (who was sadly detained in Melbourne) summed up in thanking the PM: “There is a cosmic law of conservation of trouble. This will ensure Quadrant‘s relevance for the next 50 years.” She may well in the heat of the moment have applied the same logic to the PM’s own longevity.

We wish Quadrant another successful 50 years, and express the hope that Henry can march in step throughout that journey. The independent magazines, like Quadrant and, dare we say, the independent websites like Henry’s, are among the strongest bulwarks of democracy, and long may this remain the case.

Read more at Henry Thornton.