Judging the Macquaries
2021 Shortlisted Australian Christian Book of the Year.
The Black Lives Matter movement is bringing the characters of powerful people in colonial times into sharp focus, particularly their attitudes and actions towards slavery and indigenous peoples. Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie are among those being scrutinised and reassessed. They arrived at the penal colony of NSW, a remote outpost of the British empire in 1809. The European invaders had barely survived two decades in an alien environment but, for countless millennia, home to its Aboriginal inhabitants. Lachlan was the new governor. Elizabeth, his wife, was his closest friend and fiercest supporter.
The colony was an unruly mix of convicts, soldiers and settlers. At the time, Lachlan Macquarie's leadership was judged by his handling of the convicts. Lachlan and Elizabeth treated the convicts humanely, forgiving them and restoring them to society. His superiors considered him far too lenient, yet to Sydneysiders, as 'The Father of Australia', he had gifted them the path to a prosperous future.
Today, Lachlan is being judged by his treatment of Aboriginal people. The Macquaries thought they were being kind, yet they ignored the injustice of dispossession. Aboriginal people were British citizens under the protection of British law - a law they were expected to obey. Although known for his humanity, Lachlan had a fatal flaw. When hostilities broke out between Aborigines and settlers on the outskirts of the colony, he took the fateful decision to send in the military. This will never be forgotten, yet his sins were the sins of the empire he tried so hard to serve.
Award-winning author and historian John Harris never baulks at handling controversial subjects. In this timely book, he tackles the disputes that marked Lachlan Macquarie's period as governor and the complex controversies which still surround his actions today.
"John Harris paints a more spiritually positive picture of Governor Lachlan Macquarie than had previously been understood … The picture of Macquarie is in sharp contrast to his chief antagonist Rev Samuel Marsden. The book caused me to reassess the more positive view of Marsden that I argued in 2015."
Peter Adam, Former Principal of Ridley Theological College, Melbourne
Judging the Macquaries ended up being a book about … what people thought of [Lachlan Macquarie] at the time … One person who “immensely disliked” Macquarie was Reverend Samuel Marsden, the senior chaplain of the Church of England in the New South Wales colony. Marsden felt that people who had lost their class had no right to regain it … He saw that as an example of the wrath of God …whereas Macquarie underlined in his prayer book that God preferred to restore rather than punish. Macquarie thought that transportation to Australia was enough; that it was sufficient punishment.
John Harris paints a more spiritually positive picture of Governor Lachlan Macquarie
than had previously been understood … The picture of Macquarie is in sharp contrast
to his chief antagonist Rev Samuel Marsden. The book caused me to reassess the
more positive view of Marsden that I argued in 2015.
Peter Adam - Former Principal of Ridley Theological College, Melbourne
Publication date: 2021
Title: Judging the Macquaries
Subtitle: Injustice and Mercy in Colonial Australia
Formats: Hardcover, ebook
ISBN: HB 9780647530412, EB 9780647530429
Page count: 440 + 8pp colour plates
Specifications: 234 x 156 x 30 mm
Categories: Australian History, Christian Biography
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