University of Tasmania
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Life and times of William Hutchins, first Archdeacon of Van Diemen's Land

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posted on 2023-05-26, 03:26 authored by Clarke, Dudley Barrington
The thesis seeks to examine and evaluate the life of the first Archdeacon of Van Diemen's Land who would have become its first Bishop bad he not died prematurely. The Introduction argues that there is an important middle ground between believer and unbeliever, that of nominal Christianity, upon which Hutchins set great store. As a conservative evangelical in the Simeon mould be regarded the Establishment as preserving Christian assumptions and categories of thought. Having observed radicalism in England and France, Hutchins opposed a liberalism which merely meant breaking free from assumptions, because it led to the loss of categories of thought and would eventually produce an inability to respond to Christian modes; he also opposed a utilitarianism that promoted only secular knowledge. Hutchins wished to establish a permanent foundation in Van Diemen's Land a Christian society that could withstand the inroads of liberal secularism, and be wished also to maintain a public system of education which would induct children into such a society. He knew the financial and ecclesiastical difficulties in England but he did not foresee the political problems he would meet in Australia. The first three chapters show how Hutchins's family, university and parish background confirmed in him the view that the Establishment was the way in which Christian attitudes and modes of thought could best be preserved, and that the established church had a special moral role to play in guiding and influencing the government. Chapters Four and Five describe the situation in Van Diemen's Land which led to Hutchins being called from his remote Derbyshire village parish. Chapters Six and Seven show some of the contrasts between England and Australia; for example minor controversies and time consuming trivialities beset clergy in both places but in the intense atmosphere of Van Diemen's Land they became significant and potentially disruptive. The Church Extension Act of 1837 and its consequences are dealt with in Chapters Eight, Nine and Ten. For Hutchins the quarrel was not whether aid should be given to denominations other than the Anglican: he agreed with that. He was concerned rather with the principle of establishment and the desirability of having a Parish Church in every community, an outcome not possible under the Act. Bishop Broughton's visitation of 1838, described in Chapter Eleven, did not advance the cause of establishment, nor did his tractarian tendencies enhance the image of the Church of England as a Via Media. Chapter Twelve tells the story of Governor Franklin's vacillation over the education question and demonstrates how the Presbyterians aided the cause of the secularists by separating public education from religion, despite Hutchins's warnings. Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen deal with other issues in which the Archdeacon found himself at odds with the Colonial Government but demonstrate how much his advice and assistance was valued by the Governor. The last three chapters attempt an assessment of his life and work in the light of the profound impact which his death made and has continued to make.


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