Sunday, 6 July 2008

The contagion of English vice, and English villainy

Source: English chronicle or Universal Evening Post. 07 October 1786.

The letter which starts at left and continues in the body of this blog below argues in 1786 against transportation to New Holland, specifically Botany Bay. There was quite a lot of support against the "First Fleet" project, not least due to the fact that the last time this was tried on a large scale it all backfired and the Americans had themselves a revolution.

Also in the mix at this period (known as the Enlightenment) was a general feeling in some circles that foreign peoples should be left to themselves, and that European trade or intervention only ever led to misery for the locals who came in contact with them. You can read the dilemma for early explorers in the diaries and memoirs of the likes of Cook and D'Urville (you can read an example quoted from Cook on the Australian Aborigines here, and a hilarious comment on it from his biographer and editor Beaglehole here). Hard work and bondage was the only state most Europeans themselves knew, and transferred the system overseas. Hence the huge amount of popular revolutions in the ensuing 50 years.

This anonymous writer argues that dumping Britain's detritus (by which he means convicts, soldiers and sailors) on the rest of the world can only be bad for Britain's image, and just plain disastrous for the South Sea populations. So bleeding heart liberals have been around a while! (and always seem to be losing and left to try to pick up the pieces)

The letter continues below. (Italics, etc are as they appear in the original, my comments in square brackets)

...the contagion of such a neighbourhood, is next to impossible. I am afraid it would be altogether superfluous, to take religion into the consideration: for if its interests are to be as little regarded upon this occasion, as I understand it uniformly to have been aboard the ballast-lighters, it is no unreasonable presumption to suppose, that this formidable emigration is to be unattended by any chaplain of any denomination whatsoever.

I am at a loss to conceive the degree of horror, which a plan of this kind must excite in the minds of the foriegn societies, pro propaganda fide; - will they not most naturally, with uplifted hands, exclaim against it, and bestow upon it, the appelation of a plan formed by some English society, pro propagandis vitius Anglicanis? [Not speaking Latin, probably not!] And, however, in excuse, it may be alleged, that the propagation of vice upon the coast of New Holland, or, as it is generally called Botany Bay, is not likely to be very extensive among the New Hollanders, on account of the scantiness of their numbers; yet I am afraid such will be the zeal of these Missionaries, that this excuse will not be of any long duration. Many of the islands in the South Seas, as we are assured by our late circum navigators, are exceedingly populous; - but they are not only populous, they are also extrememly fertile; and they are inhabited by some of the handsomest women in the known world. Can anything therefore be more probable than that the parties of these abandoned wretches, will, after a while, be formed for a fresh transportation to better climates and and more cultivated regions? The inevitable consequence of which will be, that the contagion of English vice, and English villainy, will be disseminated in the space of a very few years, throughout every country, situated within the South Seas.

For the honour of the Christian religion, for the honour of humanity, and for the honour of my country, I very anxiously hope that a scheme so injurious to the interests of mankindin general, will not go forward; or if it does, that all imaginable care will be taken to prevent, as much as possible, the national disgrace, which will follow so probably wide a diffusion of of national iniquity, without some means to counteract its defects to this salutary end; it ought to be held indispensibly necessary, that every gentle method be employed of reclaiming [ie: to the church], at least, in some degree, the intended exiles before they embark for the place of their destination. And to bring them to some sense of moral and religious duties, surely Government will take care that they are attended on their voyage of irreproachable character; for whom should be made a very ample provision, upon express condition, that he make New Holland his residence, as chaplain to this convict colony for the rest of his days.


A PLAIN ENGLISHMAN [I wonder if this "Plain Englishman" was this guy angling for a job?]

October 6 1786

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