University of Tasmania
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Making good in Van Diemen's Land : Robert Logan, convict and merchant

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posted on 2023-05-26, 23:04 authored by Finlay, E M(Eleanor Margaret)
The name Tasmania, still more its former version, Van Diemen's Land, is inextricably linked in the public mind with convictism and the era of transportation. The worst aspects of convictism, naturally enough, are the ones which have for many years captured the attention of writers of works such as Marcus Clarke's \For the Term of his Natural Life\"' the obvious example. The excessive severity by today's standards of the original sentences the horrors of the passage out the brutality exercised frequently in the name of discipline the total helplessness of victims of unjust treatment the sheer animality of the degradation to which some were reduced and which to others was habitual the violence of one convict to another all tend to fix the 'horror' image in the public mind to the extent that even today it is a rich source of sensational ideas for the popular writer and the tourist industry. In contrast last century the 'They'd-never-had-it-so-good' school of thought concerned with maintaining the punitive function of the system and uneasily suspicious that convicts came to Van Diemen's Land as to the promised land and flourished mightily were bolstered in their beliefs by tales reaching England of cases like that of Henry Savery clerk and journalist and of countless others living like gentlemen in exile. More recent studies which contrast social conditions in British cities of the time especially London with life in the colonies imply with more justification and more moderately that in most cases the intended sufferer was in fact better off as a convict or ex-convict transportee than at home. Witnesses before the Select Committees of the House of Commons last century set up to examine the system supplied ample evidence to support both extreme views. In any case their conclusions tended to reflect or at least be coloured by the moral attitudes of their members. A totally accurate picture was unlikely to emerge from those sources. The innumerable modern studies of the system - as a whole or in part - most prominently A G L Shaw's \"Convicts and the Colonies\" and L L Robson's \"Convict Settlers of Australia\" emphasise the enormous complexity of the system in Van Diemen's Land and the variety of convict experience under both the assignment and probation systems. For an unfortunate many the system was indeed a hell on earth whether in government gangs or with private masters; on the other hand for others material success came to a spectacular degree. There was as well a more muted kind of success - to survive the servitude earn enough to live on establish a family and a place in the colony even if unable to return `home' to bear however lightly the criminal 'brand' for the rest of one's life - this too was the convict experience. This was the experience of Robert Logan. Obviously there is no such person as the typical convict. It is possible however to examine the histories of individual convicts in sufficient detail to be able to say \"Well for this man it was like this.\" This study is only indirectly concerned with the theoretical aspects of secondary punishment and its purposes punitive and reformatory. It follows Robert Logan on his road to respectability a road surprisingly close to the path followed by the colony of Van Diemen's Land itself."


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Copyright 1992 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Includes bibliographical references. Thesis (M. Hum.)--University of Tasmania, 1993

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