Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Irish Convict Legacy Down Under

The Irish convicts had brought a "primitive" collectivism with them on the transport ships, a common will to stick together that had nothing to do with ideology (although it would greatly affect the tenor of socialist movements in Australia a hundred years later) but everything to do with kin and clan. They were seen, and despised, by English authorities in Australia as tribal people whose allegiance were not touched by the work-ethic of Protestant individualism. They were "depraved beyond conception....designing and treacherous", ranted the Reverend Samuel Marsden from the depths of his bigotry; "and their loyalty to one another could not be broken":
"They consider their engagements to each other of whatever nature they be, as sacred; and when they are detected in the Commission of any Capital Crime....they will suffer death before they will give information of any of their accomplices; and when brought to the fatal Tree, will deny their Guilt with their last Breath....Thus many of them live and die in the most hardened and impenitent State."
The Irish were the largest and most cohesive white minority in penal Australia, and their folkways were bound to make a deep mark on the ethos of all convicts and their descendants.... 
 Common oppressions make common causes, and Emancipists and Currency were ranged together against the Exclusives. The Anglophile "aristocracy" was scorned as a thin, derivative elite whose standards had little of benefit to add to the emerging folkways of life in New South Wales."

  --- The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes

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