Our Western Civilisation and Australian cultural heritage values, the supposed unifying ‘glue’ of our society, are vaguely defined and are not spelled out in a logically coherent form, yet they are powerful and they are frequently referenced across national life.
They are commonly manipulated and ‘fudged’ as ‘playthings’, partisan tools of political persuasion, and also as points of contention in culture wars, the national school curriculum and environmental policy.
This has resulted in increased polarisation and lack of trust across society.
Because our cultural heritage values lack coherence the West and Australia have also struggled to mount a credible counter narrative, beyond militarism and security policing, to gain traction in the battle of ideas with radical Islam.
Is there in fact a coherent democratic narrative that has integrity?
Discover the Spirit of Tasmania and Western Civilisation uses Tasmania as a case study to outline a logical and historically-referenced narrative which centres on the gradual emergence from a dark past towards values of human equality and subsequent democracy and human rights.
It also examines the sometimes draconian repercussions, right up to the present, where people are characterised and treated as less than equal.
The book critically analyses and distils this emergent spirit of Western, Anglosphere culture with reference to interpersonal relations and environmental sustainability.
This is a holistic vision for the future that makes a claim for common ground, inclusiveness, reconciliation and new responsibility, an integrity that will be necessary for rebuilding trust and conviction across society and to support claims as to the merits of Western Civilisation in Asia and on a world scale.
“… a vision that deserves to be heard” Barry Franks, journalist
Available at Fullers Bookshop;
Chapter 11: Tasmania and the Tolpuddle Martyrs
Wesley’s Methodism provided an ethical foundation which spawned an emerging confidence to exercise equal human rights to dignity for all, something which was to peacefully revolutionise Anglosphere civilisation.
George Loveless, a Methodist lay preacher in southern England, came to the realisation, along with a group of other lay preachers, that if they were ‘to prevent our wives and families from being utterly degraded and starved’ they would have to bargain collectively to achieve a wage rise as rural workers.
After forming what was an early attempt at a labour union, George Loveless and five other Methodist lay preachers faced a class-based, draconian over-reaction by the government.
This reaction came as a surprise to the British nation because the Methodists were no revolutionary creed. Their Jesus inspired social conscience and vision of social justice was tempered by respect for the institutions of government and society, strict adherence to Christian moral codes, and obedience to the law.
Unionism was a civilised response to starvation and economic degradation. It broke none of the spirit behind common law and did not involve harm to others, criminality or the more primitive, destructive political responses of the day such as machine breaking, arson, animal maiming, rioting, rebellion or revolution.
With a trumped-up charge under an archaic law against pledging allegiance to anyone other than the Crown, George and his fellow lay preachers were arrested. Lord Melbourne used the justice system as a tool of vested elite interests, fearful of collective bargaining, to sentence the Methodist preachers to seven years transportation ‘down under’.
When Tolpuddle Martyr’s leader and Methodist preacher George Loveless was exiled to Tasmania it sparked popular unionism in Britain which led to a better life for millions and helped create greater social justice and broad-based democracy in Britain and Tasmania.
The sentences, along with using the ’terror of Tasmania,’ were designed to destroy the union movement in Britain. However by turning six ordinary men into martyrs the government started a ‘whirlwind of outrage’ throughout Britain.
In sycophantic Tasmania the Tolpuddle Martyr leader, George Loveless, was seen as a notorious rebel, initially hobbled in a chain gang. But in England the six became a national cause. Governor Arthur in time became impressed with Loveless’ ‘Jesus like’ moral and pacifist qualities as well as the depth of his Christian convictions, and later placed him as a convict stockman on the Domain farm in Hobart.
Meanwhile in England, 800,000 signatures had been gathered protesting the savagery of the sentences and, in the first ever case, the government relented, commuting the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ sentences after only three years.
Unions emerged from the Tolpuddle case with new friends in Parliament. Though there were other ‘craft unions’ before the Tolpuddle Martyrs it was they who triggered the first mass union protest, assembling 100,000 supporters, and they who catapulted the movement onto centre stage in British politics. They had new found legitimacy as players in industrial society and accelerated movement to a more broad-based democracy.
Fears of a French-style revolution had motivated the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs but ironically the working class political response was in time to become the Anglosphere’s, including Tasmania’s, peaceful version of revolution in pursuance of less exploitation and a more egalitarian and fair society.
Tasmania had been an important strategic weapon in the suppression of dissent throughout the British Empire. It was used as a ‘gulag’ to suppress rebel slaves from the West Indies, unruly Khoi from the Cape Town Colony, Maori militants from New Zealand, Aboriginal rebels from Sydney, French Canadian and American patriots from North America, Irish rebels, Swing rioters and the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
Banishment to Tasmania could now no longer be relied upon to bury a political problem for the British.
In Britain the Tolpuddle Martyrs are celebrated as the emotive symbol of the birth of unionism with a major Festival each July. http://www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk/index.php?page=martyr-s-festival
There is little in Tasmania to record the time of their leader, George Loveless, and his three years here as a convict, except a street name near Richmond and a musical performed in Tasmania and taken to the Tolpuddle Festival in England.
Close to the western side of the Tasman Bridge you will see Government House and part of the farm coming down to the highway where he worked. Perhaps you could give him a passing thought and reflect on what was achieved as you drive by.
In prison, George Loveless scribbled some words:
“We raise the watchword, liberty. We will, we will, we will be free!”
This rallying call underlined the Martyrs’ determination and has since served to inspire generations of people to fight against injustice and oppression, helping to create a more civilized worldwide Anglosphere society.
Australian intellectual and lawyer ‘Doc’ Evatt was a High Court judge in the 1930s, Attorney-General under Labor Prime Minister Curtin during WW2 and was elected President of the United Nations General Assembly in the late 1940s. He was so touched by the pivotal story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs that he wrote a book about them where he firmed his concept of human rights.
‘Doc’ Evatt’s conviction and oratory skills were such that he became de-facto spokesman for medium power and undeveloped countries after WW2. Geoffrey Robertson writes, “He was an architect of the world’s most important institution. His genius is present in the Charter of the United Nations … the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.”
Evatt saw justice in ethical unionism trying to ‘ameliorate the lot of the poor’ and ‘injustice within the law’ used against the Tolpuddle Martyrs. As President of the UN General Assembly he had wide input and personally instigated article 23, 24 and 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which refer to the right for fair pay, the right to join a union, for reasonable hours and for an adequate standard of living.
Robertson writes of him being regarded as, “the statesman who most contributed to this crucible period of modern history.”
*Shannon Davey is a Tasmanian with a background in physical and social geography, psychology, philosophy and history. He has an honours degree in the distribution of mental illness in Tasmania and has studied educational leadership and management at the master’s level. His career took him throughout the state as a teacher and as a primary school and district high school principal. Shannon has been a church deacon and was a Tasmanian state surfing champion in the nineteen seventies and eighties. He is married to Susannah and has three children, Emily, Rachael and Josh.