Friday, January 25, 2008

Weekend history post

If Boston had its Tea Party, Sydney had its Rum Rebellion. "The Rum Rebellion, also known as the Rum Puncheon Rebellion, of 1808 was the only successful armed takeover of government in Australia's recorded history." Michael Duffy's multimedia presentation describes this key piece of Australian history which is replete with references to Captain Bligh (yes, the Captain Bligh), liquor monopolies, prison colonies and real estate speculation.

What is striking about both the Tea Party and the Rum Bellion is the linkage between the notions of property and efforts to assert individual freedom. It's often forgotten that freedom was often framed in times past as the power to own oneself and the fruits of labor. It was a radical notion then and a shocking idea today in an era when socialism pretends to be the bedrock of individual rights; and so the historical events are worth remembering.



Update

An Australian reader writes:

I'd already read your post with interest. However, I fear your mainly American readers won't appreciate all the nuances in our history. The formation of Australia is actually very interesting. Few realise that the initial colonisation was substantially sponsored by people who were opposed to slavery. In 1786, Governor Phillip drew up plans for the proposed new colony. He wrote:

“The laws of this country [England] will of course, be introduced in [New] South Wales, and there is one that I would wish to take place from the moment his Majesty’s forces take possession of the country: That there can be no slavery in a free land, and consequently no slaves.”

13 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

Wretch's Weekend Digs in Brisbane

1/25/2008 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by James H. Webb



Same guys made it to Oz, where they brag about their convict ancestors.

1/25/2008 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Rascals in Paradise" by Michener is a good read.

1/25/2008 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

William Wallace

Randall Wallace

1/25/2008 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

The idea that liberty is owning one's self ("owning" just like property -- and one's labor) is a powerfully illuminating idea -- one taught explicitly all to infrequently any more.

Probably the single most important class I had in all my ~20 years of schooling, from kindergarten thru college, was Honors Freshman History in HS with Mr. Joiner. This was '79-'80.
Not only did we study the meaning and context of the Declaration of Independence literally line by line, and the Constitution as well -- he actually had us reading and deciphering major excerpts of John Locke's treatise on property, in th e original slightly antiquated English.

Probably next most important single course was a 200-level college course on the American Revolution in which we read many of the Anti-federalist writings as well as most of the Federalist Papers. Better yet, the prof was one from the old school, a teacher/student of military history, and the farthest thing from your typical Liberal Arts commie.

Vital stuff all glossed over and ignored these days.

1/25/2008 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

tony,

I haven't read Webb's book, but being of part Scot ancestry, I can well imagine his take on things.

I suspect such things sink into ones bones over millenia - I could no more change my feelings about freedom and liberty than I could surgically remove one of my own kidneys.

I will be free. Or I will die fighting for that freedom. Life without freedom isn't life at all; without it, death is welcome.

1/25/2008 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

From "The Two Towers:"

(The money quote is Eowyn's last statement, below)

"Aragorn: You have some skill with a blade.

Eowyn: The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain.

Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?

Eowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire."

My sentiments exactly.

Triton

1/25/2008 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

The most interesting thing about freedom is its costs. You can be free of the strictures of your employer or the opinion of other people provided you are willing to pay the cost. Once freedom is achieved it has value; it costs what you paid for it.

But freedom, like any other valuable thing, not only has a purchase price but also the potential to provide a return on your investment. Once you prosper as your own man, your own property, as a free man, the benefits thereof are linked to the original investment.

Those two economic consequences -- intrinsic value and as an asset -- render freedom something more than an airy sentiment. It is a tangible thing, with an actual value. And when it is lost it is a real loss, not a metaphorical setback.

When a politician encourages his constituency to give freedom away -- usually to him -- in exchange for a promise, the constituency is normally short changed. The offer to 'submit to this in exchange for such and such benefit' is a pitchman's come-on. The benefits are often evanescent and debased by inflation; but the transfer of freedom is normally permanent. The real demagogue is always something of a con man. And like the con man, the demagogue is interested not simply in what he professes, but in taking something of value from his mark. The tragedy is that crowds often give their most precious possessions, the power over themselves, to small, mean and cunning men.

1/25/2008 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Wallace:
My films portray ideals, and their heroes—both men and women—display courage and faith and love that isn't limited to masculine or feminine. These characters, by the way, are braver and more loving than I am myself; they are models that inspire me, not expressions of a spiritual level that I've achieved. And yes, the men are powerfully masculine, and strong, deeply convicted men aren't often depicted in films.

Why is that?

Wallace:
Our society as a whole is uncomfortable with them. As John Eldredge writes in his magnificent book Wild At Heart, boys are hard-wired to want to be William Wallace, but churches and schools try to turn them into Mr. Rogers. (And in case anybody wonders, I approved of Mr. Rogers; I watched his show regularly with my first son on my lap when he was three years old.)

William Wallace, the Musketeers, Lt. Col. Hal Moore. What do these men all have in common that we can learn from?

Wallace:
The fictional Musketeers, and the non-fiction characters William Wallace and Hal Moore, all shared a commitment that gave them identity and shaped their choices.
All these men believed in something Higher; we all become what we believe in.

Wallace:
As I do with male characters, I try to portray the kind of woman who exudes and inspires love and faith, courage and hope. And as my mother would say, "There would be more gentlemen, if there were more ladies."

1/25/2008 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Triton,

It's a good read. Webb goes back to Hadrian's Wall to establish the irrepressible Picts (Scots) and continues through the historic efforts of the English to dominate the Scots and Irish. He continues on through the earliest Scots-Irish immigrants, including the most famous of all, Andrew Jackson. It's illuminating, and gives me some idea why I and so many of my friends and family are such pains in the ass.

The only thing I have against the book is Webb himself, who in his Senatorial run and election proved himself to be a rude and pompous braggart. Of course, that goes with the territory, too.

1/26/2008 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

Recently I was at the Hilton Parmelia, which reminded me how short a time has passed between our comforts of today and an era where every day was a challenge, with few safety nets save the generosity of our companions. Puts the notion of government in a very different light. Though they have the same rot as every other 1st world government – Perth just finished a passenger train to no-where. And found themselves with a billion dollar surplus (thanks to their energy and minerals business) that they’ve already spent.

A very nice place, irrespective of having so much wealth that children don’t need to finish high-school but can enter the trades after 10th grade and earn a good living (for now).

1/26/2008 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Doesn't do much for the self-esteem to think I might be as big an ass as Webb!

1/26/2008 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

Doug,

I'm experiencing a similar mind-shudder... about myself, that is...

1/26/2008 10:25:00 PM  

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