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George Augustus Robinson in Van Diemen's Land: Race, Status and Religion
Writing in his journal while on Flinders Island, a few days before Christmas in 1835, George Augustus Robinson reflected on the situation of the Tasmanians. They had been, he concluded, treated as bondsmen:
For the conduct persued towards them was such has would be persued towards bondsmen and this is the light in which they have been considered – whereas they are or ought to be freemen of the highest order – patricians not plebians – for they and not us are the legitimite proprietors of the soil – we hold by might not by right – oh, it is cruel not to provide abundantly for this remnant of the aboriginal race − parsimony in such a case is not only niggardliness but injustice – gross injustice – we have desolated them – despoiled them of their country – the land of their forefathers – and having placed them on an isolated spot. The least we ought to do is abundantly supply their wants.1 In this passionately expressed, indifferently spelt passage we can learn much about Robinson and his ideas – about race relations, about status and hierarchy – and above all about the Tasmanians.
In this passionately expressed, indifferently spelt passage we can learn much about Robinson and his ideas – about race relations, about status and hierarchy – and above all about the Tasmanians.Opinions of Robinson fluctuate widely and have done so since the 1830s. He has been both revered and reviled, viewed as a saviour and as a destroyer and agent of genocide. But many twentieth-century writers have rushed to judgement with little attempt to place him in his cultural milieu, to see him as a man of his time.
Publication titleReading Robinson: Companion Essays to Friendly Mission
EditorsA Johnston and M Rolls
Department/SchoolSchool of Humanities
PublisherMonash University Publishing
Place of publicationMelbourne
Rights statementCopyright 2012 Monash University Publishing