Daily Archives: February 19, 2008

Embarrassing quotes in Australian history

arnold Great Southern Land (previous entry) is quite a treasure-house of memorable statements. Take for example the august Thomas Arnold of Rugby (right), an influential prig as Frank Welsh notes.

Feeling this, and holding our West Indian colonies to be one of the worst stains in the moral history of mankind, a convict colony seems to me even more shocking and monstrous in its very conception. I do not know to what extent Van Dieman’s Land is so; but I am sure that no such evil can be done to mankind as by thus sowing with rotten seed, and raising up a nation morally tainted in its very origin. Compared with this, the bloodiest exterminations ever effected by conquest were useful and good actions. If they will colonise with convicts, I am satisfied that the stain should last, not only for one whole life, but for more than one generation, that no convict or convict’s child should ever be a free citizen; and that, even in the third generation, the offspring should be excluded, from all offices of honour or authority in the colony.

— letter to Sir John Franklin on Franklin’s appointment to the Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmanian) government.

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Posted by on February 19, 2008 in Australia, weirdness


Outside the whale

Flawed and opinionated it may be in parts, but Frank Welsh’s Great Southern Land: A New History of Australia (Penguin 2005) is proving a very entertaining and informative read. A retired London banker, Welsh has devoted himself to a number of histories, especially of various outposts of the British Commonwealth. He sits somewhat apart from our “history wars”, evincing an enthusiasm for Australia’s successes that would have done John Howard proud, but at the same time warning us in a footnote to take Keith Windschuttle with a grain of salt.

Something of his tone and approach may be gleaned from this five minute talk on ABC Radio National:

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Posted by on February 19, 2008 in Australia, Best read of 2008, reading


Fortune’s wheel

The self-destruction of John Howard

Back in September 2007 I wrote:

…the Party has been searching for a scapegoat to find why the government has been on the nose now for poll after poll. Despite furious spinning to the contrary, it is clear that what has happened in the past few days is that the scapegoat has been found at last: it is John Howard himself. 

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