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THEY PI..AYED THEIR PART.
Kipling, m a quat i am winch was once quoted by .1 Governor of New South Wales with embau-assing conse- quences, congratulated Sydney upon having turned its birthstain lo good, "forcing stiong wills perveise to stead- fastness." The Celebrations Committee has gone one betlei than the poet. It has decided lo ban Hie biilhstaln, .so far as next year's pageantiy is con- cerned. No convicts will disembark at Farm Cove, nor in the subsequent pro- cession will Iheie be the slightest reminder that theie would have been no Landing except for the need to find a new home for Biitain's suiplus prison population. This impressive feat in the bowdleiisation of history has been greeted with varying degrees of derision by coi respondent s of the "Heiald" and others. Mr. H. J Rumsey, wno has boldly called his roll-call of the First Fleet "Til? Pioneeis of Sydney Cove," suggests thal the repiesentation of the settlement without mention of the two thirds who involuntarily participated in it is comparable io (he story of Hamlet without the Prince Professor Roberts describes the omission as "priggishness or ob->eui autism," while Mi. Spooner frankly alludes to ii, as "snobbishness" But. whethei 01 not the ban is "very stupid," as Mi Lionel Lindsay assorted on Thursday ils real weakness is indicated in his lemark that "bv making the convicts absent "we are makine their presence moie "pronounced " "Conspicuous by then absence," indeed, will be the "true patriots" who, if they left their country foi (heit country's good, did » vast amount of good woik in the land of then enforced adoption By discreetly leaving this family skeleton in Ihe cup boaid the committee ha« ensured its attendance at the feast
The transportées were, in truth, a motley crew. Not foi them the bright uniforms of the navy and the marines Some of them had gambled away such spare clothing as they possessed when they left England-Governor Hunter complained some years later that, one shipload of miserable wretches arrived "naked." The morals of some of the convicts were in as poor case as their garments. No amount of sentimental whitewashing, by way of reaction to the excessive fastidiousness of the Celebrations Committee can disguise the fact that the convict pioneers included a number of "complete villains," as even Phillip, who was a humane man for his times and wished to befriend his charges, was forced -to admit. Surgeon Arthur Bowes, of the Lady Penryn, in the First Fleet, de- clared that "there never was a moro "abandon'd set of wretches collected in "one place -t any period than are to "be met with in this ship," and that disgruntled letter-writer, Lieutenant Ralph Clark, of the Marines, lavished upon the ladies of the Friendship epithets which were quite unfit for the eyes of his "dear Betsy" at home in England. But these were not altogether unprejudiced witnesses, nor were the ruffians whom Phillip had hanged o,r lashed fairly representative of the prisoners as a whole. He pronounced the great body of them "quiet and contented," and Hunter was able to say in 1812 that "there are many men who "have been convicts, and are now "settlers, who are as respectable as any "people who have gone from this "country." It is a curious commentary! on the present ban that convicts were' uermitted to join in public celebrations from the earliest times, and themselves staged a dramatic performance as early as 1789; and it is certain that a later Governor, Macquarie, .would ^have had no sympathy with their exclusion from the-1038 festivities. Macquarie patron- ised, among other emancipists, that able surgeon, Dr. William Redfern, who had been transported Coi a minor offence, and made good use of the architectural services of Francis Howard Greenway, whose offence in England was that he had concealed his pffects in bankruptcy.
The , truth is that, 'not merely was Australia founded on account of the convicts, but that it would have made scant progress in its first 50 years with- out them. We have, perhaps, more to be ashamed of in our treatment of the aborigines, some of whose pathetic remnants, will stage n corroboree at Farm Cove, than of the penal origins of our country. The brutal transporta- tion system reflected at least as much
discredit,upon its authors and some of its operators as upon the majoilty of its ' victims. It belongs to the old. unhappy, far-off things of another age. Yet, as Dr. John Dunmore Lang, whose words are recalled by a correspondent tö-day, wrote in 1875, it is a great historical fact which cannot be ignored. The effort to do so is likely to provoke more ridicule than a candid recognition of circumstances, which, so far from being discreditable to Australia, em- phasise the magnitude of our achieve- ment in building up a vigorous, independent, and freedom-loving nation from such unlikely beginnings at Sydney Cove. It would be the poorest sort of snobbery to deny that many men and women who were brought to this country under degrading conditions rose superior Lo their misdoings and misfortunes, and played their part in laying the foundations oi the