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

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Finlay, E M(Eleanor Margaret) (1992) Making good in Van Diemen's Land : Robert Logan, convict and merchant. Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

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.

Item Type: Thesis (Coursework Master)
Keywords: Logan, Robert, 1808-1882, Logan family, Prisoners, Merchants
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references. Thesis (M. Hum.)--University of Tasmania, 1993

Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2014 23:59
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2016 01:31
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