Let Cook and Macquarie stand: Grant and Taylor are wrong

Let Cook and Macquarie stand: Grant and Taylor are wrong, by Keith Windschuttle.

On Monday, Andrew Taylor of The Sydney Morning Herald approached the University of Sydney’s public relations department on an information fishing expedition. He said he’d been thinking about the removal of Confederate monuments in the US and wondered if there were any Australian targets that might deserve the same treatment. …

Taylor’s leading questions were clearly more those of an agent provocateur than that of the “Independent, Always” reporter the Herald proclaims on its masthead. He obviously was hoping to provide fodder for the emergence of a local activist campaign to emulate that in Charlottesville …

The Australian campaign for the eradication of politically incorrect statues and similar historic symbolism began on the ABC last Friday with a column from Stan Grant, these days the broadcaster’s indigenous affairs editor. …

Grant went to Sydney’s Hyde Park last week and gazed at Cook’s statue. … On the base of the statue is inscribed in bold letters the words “Discovered this Territory, 1770”. …

Statue of Captain Cook, Hyde Park, Sydney, 1893

However, Grant’s disgust at the inscription on Cook’s statue is completely misplaced. In saying Cook was the one who “discovered this territory” it is perfectly accurate, if we take the word “territory” to mean the eastern coast of the Australian continent. Cook was in fact the first person in history to traverse the whole of this coastline and view its 2000 miles (3200km) of shores and hinterland. No Aboriginal person had done that before — they never had the maritime technology to do it.

On the other hand, if the Hyde Park inscription had said Cook discovered Botany Bay, Port Jackson, Moreton Bay or any other small local area on the coastline inhabited by the Aboriginal people Cook met, it would have been inaccurate and probably worth correcting. The local Aborigines clearly knew their own areas better than any foreign seaman. But in their lifetimes they remained confined to these areas and, although their predecessors had gradually spread themselves across the continent over thousands of years, none of them gained the view of it that Cook had in his four-month journey from Port Hicks to Cape York in 1770. He was the genuine discoverer of the whole entity.

In his moral objection to Cook’s great accomplishment, Grant also creates a straw man to knock down. He claims that no one present when the statue was erected in 1879 questioned that this was “the man who founded the nation”. Well, the statue doesn’t say Cook was the founder of the nation and I doubt any reputable historian would say so either. …

Australian history is quite unlike the American experience:

The great blemish on Macquarie’s Aboriginal policy in today’s eyes was his military response after Aborigines killed nine settlers in the Upper Nepean River district, between Mulgoa and Appin, in 1816.

Macquarie sent three military detachments to the region to track down and bring in some of the known killers. One military party, commanded by Captain James Wallis, found some of the wanted men of the Gundungurra people on the Cataract River. In the ensuing pursuit, the troops shot and killed 14 of the fleeing Aborigines, including two of the killers.

Now known as the Appin Massacre, the incident was the last major hostility in the Sydney region.

In November that year, Macquarie declared a general amnesty for any other Aborigines wanted for assaults on settlers.

In December he hosted a “general friendly meeting of the natives” at Parramatta that celebrated the end of revenge killings by both sides and the “coming in” of the last hostile tribe to settler society.

None of this Australian history deserves any comparison to relations between indigenous people and white colonists in North America, let alone to the griev­ances of the descendants of African-American slaves.

Grant’s attempt to drag the legacy of the American civil war into Australian history does not fit in any way, and his attempt to promote a political campaign against the public statues of some of the great men of Australian history, especially Cook and Macquarie, is sheer journalistic opportunism.

But that’s not its purpose. Instead, it’s all about delegitimizing current society, in order that it may be replaced by a brave new SJW world. Don’t get too caught up arguing about a tree; see the forest.