Australia: End of the Ming Dynasty

Even seated at his littered desk in Canberra's Parliament House, he always seemed bigger than life. His great black eyebrows clumped out angrily, like saltbush in the Great Sandy Desert, and his vast stomach bulged defiance against his double-breasted suit. He was quarrelsome, autocratic, always demanding, and the greatest orator his country has yet produced. He founded the Liberal Party that swept him to power, forged the government coalition that kept him there for 16 years. Prime Minister Sir Robert Gordon Menzies not only governed Australia. He overpowered it.

When he resigned last week at 71, he did it in...