Saturday, May 30, 2015

The First Dismissal

In this essay by Luke Slattery he examines how political and social unrest in England affected events in New South Wales. After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 many soldiers returned to England to discover the country in recession and jobs disappearing due to the industrial and agrarian revolutions.As unemployment rose, so did political unrest.

In New South Wales the colony was governed by Lachlan Macquarie who 'aimed to rule for all of New South Wales without favour or prejudice'. (p7) To the horror of some of the colonists, this applied to the convicts and emancipist as well as the exclusives. Luke Slattery provides the following example on pages 13 & 14:
Former convicts such as Simeon Lord, the town's richest merchant, and Andrew Thompson, a landowner and prominent figure along the Hawkesbury River, did not owe their wealth to Macquarie. But it was to him that they owed their rising social status. Macquarie appointed them magistrates of their districts and put them in charge of his first infrastructure project: the Sydney-Hawkesbury turnpike road. He befriended them, invited them to his table, and encouraged officers in the military to do the same. Men who would never have amounted to much at home - in separate incidents Lord and Thompson had been convicted of stealing small amounts of cloth- rose to the status of gentlemen in the colony.
Macquarie set out to build a civilised town and employed the services of the convict, Francis Greenway, as architect for his projects. Much of the essay concerns the relationship between Macquarie and Greenway in transforming the appearance of the colony. However New South Wales was meant primarily to be a penal colony and many people in the colony and in England disapproved of Macquarie's actions in turning the colony into a place where people might like to live. The result was the Bigge enquiry when John Thomas Bigge arrived in the colony to make an official report for the government in England.

After more than ten years as Governor, Lachlan Macquarie decided to resign his position and return to the United Kingdom leaving the colony, whether the authorities liked it or not, as a much more livable place. Although many saw Macquarie's departure as expulsion, he had decided to leave some years previously. However if he had not made that decision, no doubt he would have been asked to leave once Bigge's report reached England. Back in England in 1822 Macquarie had to justify his actions to Parliament.

[The author has also written the historical fiction novel, Mrs M, based on this period of Australian history.]

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