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August 26th 2017 print

Keith Windschuttle

Standing Tall and Proud

In their sudden, unoriginal and disturbingly opportunistic crusade to see statues of the men who founded Australia reconsidered, if not banished entirely from public view, Stan Grant & Co trample fact and history for no better reason than the promotion of rancour, spite and division

macquarieOn Monday, August 21, Andrew Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald approached the University of Sydney’s public relations department on an information-fishing expedition. He said he’d been thinking about the removal of Confederate monuments in the US and wondered if there were any Australian targets that might deserve the same treatment. He asked the PR people to pass on to the university’s experts in Australian history the following questions:

  • Who are the most egregious historical figures in Sydney who have been celebrated with statues, monuments, place names in your opinion?
  • There are statues, streets, a university and place names dedicated to Governor Macquarie who ordered massacres of indigenous people. Should he be commemorated in this way?
  • Are there monuments to historical figures elsewhere in Australia who have had a similar role in historical injustices?
  • The inscription on Governor Macquarie’s statue in Hyde Park reads: “He was a perfect gentleman, a Christian and supreme legislator of the human heart.” What do you think of this?
  • Plaques of Rolf Harris have been removed in WA. Should monuments to Macquarie, Captain Cook etc be removed or explanatory notes added?
  • Why isn’t there the same acknowledgement of figures in Australian history who played a role in slavery, killings and land removal as there is in the US?

Taylor’s leading questions were clearly more those of an agent provocateur than that of the “Independent, Always” reporter the Herald proclaims on its masthead. He was obviously hoping to provide fodder for the emergence of a local activist campaign to emulate that in Charlottesville, Virginia, where, amidst scenes of street violence that left one woman dead, officials removed the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and in Baltimore, Maryland, where, in one night earlier this month, city authorities removed four Confederate statues commemorating the American Civil War.

andrew taylor tweet

 

 

 

 

Andrew Taylor promotes his own article detailing “concerns” about the “affront” of statues in Hyde Park.

 

The Australian campaign for the eradication of politically incorrect statues and similar historic symbolism began on the ABC last Friday with a column from Stan Grant, these days the ABC’s indigenous affairs editor.

Grant compared the local acceptance of statues of Captain James Cook with what was going on in the United States. “Statues are coming down, old flags of division are being put away and the country is tearing itself apart. Fascists, neo-Nazis and klansmen who wrap themselves in the flag of the Confederacy are reigniting the old grievances of the civil war.” Grant criticised Donald Trump’s attempt to blame both sides and quoted a New York Times editorial saying, “There’s a moral awakening taking place across America, but President Trump is still hiding under his blanket.”

But, Grant says, while America cannot avoid the legacy of racism, we in Australia find it all too easy to avoid. “We vanish into the Great Australian Silence.” Anthropologist Bill Stanner coined that phrase in the 1960s to describe what he said was “a cult of forgetting practiced on a national scale” but Grant says: “We have chosen to ignore our heritage. So much history here remains untold.”

Grant went to Sydney’s Hyde Park last week and looked on the statue of Captain James Cook. “It has pride of place, a monument to the man who in 1770 claimed this continent for the British crown,” Grant writes. On the base of the statue is inscribed in bold letters the words “Discovered this Territory, 1770”. Grant asked his readers to think about those words, then advised how to interpret them:

“My ancestors were here when Cook dropped anchor. We know now that the first peoples of this continent had been here for at least 65,000 years, for us the beginning of human time. Yet this statue speaks to emptiness, it speaks to our invisibility; it says that nothing truly mattered, nothing truly counted until a white sailor first walked on these shores.”

Grant’s disgust at the inscription on Cook’s statue is completely misplaced. When it says Cook was the one who “discovered this territory” it is perfectly accurate, if we take the word “territory” to mean the eastern coast of the Australian continent. Cook was, in fact, the first person in human history to traverse the whole of this coastline and to view its 2000 miles of shores and hinterland. No Aboriginal person had ever done that before – they never had the maritime technology to do so.

On the other hand, if the Hyde Park inscription had said Cook discovered Botany Bay, or Port Jackson or Morton Bay, or any other small local area on the coastline inhabited by the Aboriginal people Cook himself met, it would have been inaccurate and probably worth correcting. The local Aborigines clearly knew their own areas better than any foreign seaman. But in their own lifetimes they remained confined to these areas and, although their predecessors had gradually spread themselves across the continent over thousands of years, none of them gained the view of it that Cook had in his four-month journey from Port Hicks to Cape York in 1770. He was the genuine discoverer of the whole entity.

In his moral objection to Cook’s great accomplishment, Grant also creates a straw man to knock down. He claims that no-one present when the status was erected in 1879 questioned that this was “the man who founded the nation.” Well, the statue doesn’t say Cook was the founder of the nation and I doubt any reputable historian would say so either. At most he might be regarded as one of the founders of the first British colony in New South Wales, but this decision was taken by other Englishmen a decade after his discoveries. In any case, the nation was not actually founded until Federation in 1901, a political event that can hardly be attributed to Cook.

Grant’s column throws up other straw men that also display his inability to talk sensibly about Australian history. He writes:

“When I drive through the Blue Mountains west of Sydney to return to the country of my ancestors, the Wiradjuri, I cross the Coxs River named after William Cox the pioneer and road builder — the same William Cox called for the massacre of Aboriginal people.”

Grant quotes Fairfax journalist and author Bruce Elder, whose book Blood on the Wattle claims Cox once addressed a crowd at Bathurst in 1824 saying: “The best thing that could be done is to shoot all the blacks and manure the ground with their carcasses.”

Unfortunately for Grant, Elder’s book is notoriously unreliable. It was not William Cox who allegedly made this statement, but the Mudgee pastoralist George Cox, and it is most unlikely that he even said this. The sole source for the quoted statement was not a report from anyone who actually attended the meeting in question (held in Sydney, not Bathurst). It comes from a letter to the London Missionary Society written by Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld four months after the meeting.

Threlkeld, a former circus performer turned missionary, had long been generating funds for his mission at Lake Macquarie by reporting to England fancifully gruesome stories about the treatment of Aborigines in the colony, such as “the ripping open of bellies of the Blacks alive; the roasting them in that state in triangularly made log fires, made for the very purpose.” No one should take his claims seriously.

Taylor’s questions to the University of Sydney about Lachlan Macquarie being a figure of Australian history who played a role in slavery and killings similar to those in the US, display a grasp of Australian history no better than Grant’s.

In fact, rather than being guilty of slavery, Macquarie joined Arthur Philip in guaranteeing that institution never had any role in the Australian colonies. Macquarie was strongly influenced by both of his religiously devout wives, who supported the abolitionist movement for the end of the slave trade.

His first wife, Jane, was the daughter of the chief justice of Antigua in the West Indies and she owned a small number of slaves there. Jane died of consumption in 1796 and in her will she set her slaves free. Her husband followed her example and emancipated two slaves he had purchased in 1794 when employed in the Indian Army, enrolling them in a parish school at Bombay to learn to read and write.

Macquarie returned to England in 1807, the year of the abolitionists’ victory, and caught the enthusiasm for their cause. That year he married his second wife, Elizabeth, and came under the influence of her religious outlook, especially her belief that all human creatures were equal in the eyes of God. These views changed the course of Australian colonial history. Determined to avoid any comparison between convict transportation and slavery, Macquarie radically reformed the punitive regime for convicts, turning it into a program for their regeneration — now widely recognised as one of the few successful rehabilitation programs for prisoners in human history.

The English leader of the emancipist cause, William Wilberforce, had a strong influence on Macquarie. He named a new settlement on the Hawkesbury after his mentor and launched a Wilberforce-inspired evangelical religious revival to reform community morals, especially sexual licence, crime, drunkenness and family neglect. He used the evangelical movement to promote church-going, marriage, education and social mobility among the colony’s lower orders.

Macquarie translated Wilberforce’s agenda into policy towards the Aborigines. He established a Native Institution* for Aboriginal children five years before an industrial school for white children; he settled Aboriginal adults on a farm at George’s Head and gave them seed and tools; he built huts for others at Elizabeth Bay and gave them a boat, fishing tackle, salt and casks; in 1814 he inaugurated an annual gathering and feast for all the Aborigines of the Sydney region.

Left-wing historians today record with some satisfaction that all Macquarie’s Aboriginal policies eventually failed. This is only partly true.

While the Native Institution could not attract enough children to sustain its existence, the farm at George’s Head on Sydney Harbour remained in Aboriginal hands and provided several generations with a living for almost a century. Even though the others were not successful, they still demonstrated Macquarie’s intention towards the Aborigines. He regarded them as his equals and thought that with only a little assistance they could make the transition from hunting and gathering to agricultural society.

The great blemish on Macquarie’s Aboriginal policy in today’s eyes was his military response after Aborigines killed nine settlers in the Upper Nepean River district, between Mulgoa and Appin, in 1816.

Macquarie sent three military detachments to the region to track down and bring in some of the known killers. One military party, commanded by Captain James Wallis, found some of the wanted men of the Gundungurra people on the Cataract River. In the ensuing pursuit, the troops shot and killed 14 of the fleeing Aborigines, including two of the killers.

Now known as the Appin Massacre, the incident was the last major hostility in the Sydney region. In November that year, Macquarie declared a general amnesty for any other Aborigines wanted for assaults on settlers. In December he hosted a “general friendly meeting of the natives” at Parramatta, which celebrated the end of revenge killings by both sides and the “coming in” of the last hostile tribe to settler society.

None of this Australian history deserves any comparison to relations between indigenous people and white colonists in North America, let alone to the grievances of the descendants of African-American slaves.

Grant’s attempt to drag the legacy of the American Civil War into Australian history does not fit in any way, and his attempt to promote a political campaign against the public statues of some of the great men of Australian history, especially James Cook and Lachlan Macquarie, is sheer journalistic opportunism.

Grant and others in the media are encouraging racial conflict for no good reason, except for the dramatic news reports they would like to see generated. They should be ashamed of themselves for their wanton provocation.

*editor’s note: The SMH, in a 2015 report, predictably cast the Native Institution as a progenitor of the Stolen Generations. The report begins thus:

“This week, Rosemary Norman-Hill visited a site of a school where 200 years ago her great-great-great grandmother Kitty was forced to abandon her Aboriginal way of life and integrate into white society.”

Keith Windschuttle is the editor of Quadrant. This essay was first published in The Australian.

Comments [19]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    Stan Grant’s despicable endeavour to foster division and tribalism in the nation of Australia is about as low as human morality could sink. He is reported saying “So much history here remains untold.” How very true that is! All of the horrendous, barbaric details of Aboriginal “culture” remain almost completely hidden from society at large and most certainly not taught in school. Quite apart from the permanent state of conflict and bloodshed between the hundreds of different tribes, there was cannibalism, particularly of unwanted babies, sexual brutalisation of young girls, the barbaric treatment of women and the cruel, pointless genital disfigurement of young men, most of which are still practiced today. Some other details, even more repulsive, can only be learned by seeking out contemporary accounts written by first-hand observers which are too well hidden for all but the most dedicated searchers to find and one is loath to describe.

    Aborigines, especially those enjoying the bountiful fruits of western civilisation as Grant does, ought to be grateful to providence that people came this way from the far side of the world bringing the blessings of their culture and with it the opportunity for a stone age people to be emancipated from a short-lived life of rough savagery and join the civilised world. That, of course, would require courage and honesty, both entirely absent from the character of grant and his ilk.

  2. Jody says:

    Scott Morrison has posted very angry comments today on Facebook about this which are worth reading. He’s bloody angry and calls it BS and pulls no punches. Worth reading folks!! Give him credit for telling it like it is.

    Meantime, Stan has ‘culturally appropriated’ our media by acting the middle class white guy and pretending to be middle class. I dislike this cultural appropriation which we are apparently so guilty of ourselves. And that Honourary doctorate for the ‘genius’ aboriginal who died recently…I want the deceased musician’s family to give us back our honourary PhD as this is straight CULTURAL APPROPRIATION.

  3. Blair says:

    “We know now that the first peoples of this continent had been here for at least 65,000 years,”
    Grant
    Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigines comprise Australia’s “first peoples”, but “research has
    dated human occupation (in the Torres Strait) to almost 3000 years ago.
    Torres Strait islanders are Australia’s second peoples.
    http://lryb.aiatsis.gov.au/PDFs/davis_pt1.pdf
    Third peoples, British, fourth Irish, fifth ?

  4. AlanIO says:

    I notice the back-dating has moved to 65000 years. If Mr Grant and his ilk are going to persevere with this form can a DNA test for all the elders of aboriginal tribes be arranged? There is a tribal map of Australia (about 1990) with pre last ice age estimations.

    Would someone now reveal the extent of those invasions and the details which led to the map? We have a few relics, like rock carvings and flint/bluestone spearheads and stone axes to show now. Incidentally I have my own heritage, Paternal and Maternal, which takes me back to Touregs etc. All this invasion talk is puerile and political stunts which are costing more money to ruin everyone. Use the money saved to reduce the Australian debt.

    Joe Friday(Dragnet) asked for the facts and it seems to me the facts are required. AlanIO

  5. Lacebug says:

    As much as I agree with the analysis of this whole PC bullshit, and am disgusted by the resultant vandalism of the Hyde Park statues in the middle of the night, it’s hard not to agree with Grant that Cook didn’t really ‘discover’ anything, seeing as people were already living here.

    • Jody says:

      It’s very CHILLING to consider that trashing statues, monuments and icons is the stock in trade of the Taliban and IS. I’m afraid we live with increasing tyranny now and this needs to be LOUDLY declared. Who will be brave enough to do it? To call out the Left as having tyrannical inclinations to which they’re willing to revert when they feel their cultural marxism is under threat; this needs to happen NOW.

      I’ve been reading an excellent biography of the composer Brahms and I stumbled along this passage which I think is terribly relevant:
      Firstly, Viennese historian Carl E. Schorske is quoted: “Beginning with the economic crash of 1873, challenges to the liberal hegemony grew ever more powerful. At the same time, within liberal society itself cries for reform mingled with groans of despair or disgust at the impotence of liberal Austria. A widespread, collective oedipal revolt began in the 70s to spread through the Austrian middle class”. Then the author of the biography, Jan Swafford, writes:

      ‘The LIBERAL bourgeoisie had not ultimately lost its money or its lifestyle or its love of music, but rather was losing, bit by bit, its power and direction. Among them, writes Schorske, “a sense of superiority and a sense of impotence became oddly commingled”. As symptom of that impotence now began the epidemic of suicide among the großbürgertum (big bourgeoisie) in Vienna. And all over Austria, wracked by the conflicting claims of CONTENTIOUS GROUPS, the wave of reaction rose. Schorske notes that in their politics the LIBERALS had ‘succeeded in releasing the political energies of the masses, but against THEMSELVES rather than against their ancient foes (the aristocrats)’. In the 1870s Vienna entered a twilight that over the next decades would deepen into darkness’.(p.388)

      • Warty says:

        Both very interesting quotes, Jody, but for the dull of mind can you explain what you understand ‘liberal’ to mean in this context. The words means sometimes violently different things to different people.
        Never liked Brahms, despite persevering, despite thinking that I should like him if my parents did (never seemed to help for some reason).

        • Jody says:

          I’m unsure of the later 19th century Austrian form of liberalism; I guess it means the antithesis of the repression of the Metternich era (from the Congress of Vienna) and the police state and reflective of a time when people enjoyed the freedom to indulge themselves, acquire possessions, associate freely, let business prosper etc. As is stated from the book the period in question is circa 1873 when the Hapsburg Monarchy was in its decline. I felt the parallels between then and now were too compelling to overlook, particularly the ‘contentious groups’, the sense of superiority and conflict within the bourgeoisie.

          • Jody says:

            PS Warty: I’ve included the Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, played by Stephen Kovacevich (complete with the score if you read music). This is a staggering work and one of the greatest ever pieces of music in the piano literature – the fugue of the last few minutes always brings me to my knees:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9tbCkACbGU

    • Warty says:

      Lacebug, ‘discovery’ is not a one way thing: one man’s discovery is another man’s yawn. The fact that a full blood aboriginal may not identify with Captain Cook is fine. There are others in our Australian community that are impressed by his voyages of discovery.

    • BobC says:

      dis|cover
      [dɪˈskʌvə]
      VERB

      find unexpectedly or during a search:
      “firemen discovered a body in the debris” · [more]
      Discover means
      synonyms: find · locate · come across · come upon · stumble on · [more]
      BECOME AWARE OF (A FACT OR SITUATION):
      “the courage to discover the truth and possibly be disappointed” · [more]
      synonyms: find out · come to know · learn · realize · [more]
      be the first to find or observe (a place, substance, or scientific phenomenon):
      “Fleming discovered penicillin early in the twentieth century”
      synonyms: hit on · come up with · invent · originate · devise · [more]
      divulge (a secret).
      “they contain some secrets which Time will discover”
      synonyms: divulge · disclose · tell · let out · let slip · let drop · [more]

      The individual tribes had no comprehension of the extent and shape of the coastline of eastern Australia.

  6. Doubting Thomas says:

    What really gets up my nose is the way our radical left (and their useful idiot running dogs) appropriate within nano-seconds the latest fad from the dregs of the American political environment selecting historically irrelevant issues and pretending that modern Australian society is in every respect analogous to ante bellum America. I visualise an enormous school of bait fish, or a swarm of starlings that swoop and swerve instantly in perfect synchrony at some signal from a leadership imperceptible to human observers. Desecration of historical monuments Is the perfect example of how quickly our radical left can adopt such nonsense. It also demonstrates what I believe to be the defining trait of modern leftists, the total lack of any sense of proportion. They also lack any appreciation of the virtual certainty that their actions will serve as a compelling precedent to be used against them when the pendulum swings.

  7. Bill Martin says:

    Stan Grant is reported to be “appalled” by the vandalising of historical monuments in Sydney. And well he might be. Who does he think engendered the idea in the tiny intellect of the moron responsible for the “appalling” act? Did he get the idea all by himself from the similarly “appalling” activities of virtue-signalling antifa idiots? Or was it Grant’s widely publicised mentioning of local monuments in connection with the American events?

  8. mags of Queensland says:

    Australian children know next to nothing about the history of Australia, except that the country was ” invaded” by the British. Nothing about the reality of white settlement and the hard work and privations that they suffered to start and grow the nation we have today. People like Stan Grant wouldn’t even exist because he is not a full blood aboriginal and chooses to forget the other side of his ancestry. Happens all the time with those on a mission to infer that ” his” people suffered under this so called invasion.In fact, most of the ” aboriginal” population wouldn’t exist either.

    Playing to the idiot fringe will always get a response. Pity those promoting these ridiculous activities are not held personally responsible for their actions.

  9. Lawrie Ayres says:

    So Stan is Wiradjuri man. I expected him to be much darker or is that Stan has some white heritage as well. I also suspect it is that heritage that gave him his education and position in life yet he despises it, or at least seems to. Was it his poor old mum or was it his dad that was white and he now despises? Stan and his ilk make me sick with their hypocrisy of bagging whites but accepting their largesse. Without Cook and Macquarie Stan would not exist.

  10. Ian MacDougall says:

    Grant writes. On the base of the statue is inscribed in bold letters the words “Discovered this Territory, 1770”. Grant asked his readers to think about those words, then advised how to interpret them:
    [Some of] my ancestors were here when Cook dropped anchor. We know now that the first peoples of this continent had been here for at least 65,000 years, for us the beginning of human time. Yet this statue speaks to emptiness, it speaks to our invisibility; it says that nothing truly mattered, nothing truly counted until a white sailor first walked on these shores.”

    This is the most sublime bullshit.
    The statue commemorates Cook’s discovery: no more.
    Cook told the world of his discovery, and in time the other parts of Grant’s ancestry arrived. Some were possibly in leg-irons, some keen to dig for gold; whatever.
    But without them all, Stan Grant would not be walking and pontificating among us today.

    NB: The square brackets are mine – IM.