Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The First Dismissal, by Luke Slattery

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Luke Slattery has written a lively history of Lachlan Macquarie's time as governor of New South Wales and the conservative forces that brought him down.

The title of this short history by Luke Slattery is a bit of a stretch. There really was no first dismissal that can be likened to the 1975 dismissal of Gough Whitlam. Rather, this is a case of a competent Australian governor being squeezed out by conservative forces back in England.

Lachlan Macquarie was governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. During this time, Britain was ruled by a reactionary conservative government. It was not a good time for  progressives. Macquarie was under special watch. His interest in the reform of prisoners, and the actions he took to those ends, raised the hackles of Britain’s ruling elite. Hence Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, sent John Thomas Bigge as commissioner to investigate Macquarie’s government. It was a hatchet job right from the get go. Sniffing the ill winds, Macquarie resigned before he could be dismissed.

This is a highly enjoyable history featuring a rogues gallery of power grabbing politicians and  an appreciation of the colony’s early architecture. Slattery shows how leading figures like Macquarie, with their faith in the ability of convicts to reform, would give birth to the enterprising and egalitarian spirit of Australia today.

The First Dismissal, by Luke Slattery. Published by Penguin Specials. ISBN: 9780143572473. RRP: $9.99

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