Captain Cook and Lachlan Macquarie are being hunted down by didactic leftists. Last Friday one of these ‘correctors’ of history skulked through Hyde Park marking the historical villains to be defaced and ultimately eradicated from the public record.
Every self-interested wannabe wants a piece of the civil strife coming from the United States. Goodness knows why, it is a toxic situation. That history is not our history. When it comes to the assault on our own statues, despite the graffiti, James Cook committed no genocide. Although his statue was marked with ‘CHANGE THE DATE’, Lachlan Macquarie did not land with the First Fleet on January 26, 1788. But these inconvenient details don’t matter. Many cynical manipulators before have known that a lie ceases to be a lie if you repeat it as the truth. The Left won’t let anything get in the way of their instinct for destruction.
Because of this, all around the West, people are having to remind themselves how to cope with the past. All roads should lead us to one example.
Rome knows how to deal with history. It is a city with its fair share of layers. There is, of course, the conspicuous legacy of the great classical civilisation. Dig underneath and you’ll find the covert catacombs of the frightened martyrs. Rise up and you’ll witness the panoply of Christian Rome, from the Byzantine mosaics to the Baroque of the popes at the height of their temporal power.
One obelisk which we now see in St. Peter’s Square is the simplest exemplar of Rome’s layered eternity. It was brought to Rome from Egypt by the Emperor Caligula, and for years it then stood in the Circus of Nero bearing silent witness to the massacre of thousands of Christians. When those same Christians found themselves running the joint, they didn’t even think to destroy it. It still looked good, so it stands smack bang in the centre of the Christian world, capped by a Cross for good measure.
The site of the Roman Forum also has all these layers on the same level, the classical and the Christian; a triumphal arch here, a church tucked in there. Every year has left something behind, good and bad. Whatever it was, the Romans of every age have kept it, warts and all. And the result is glorious to behold.
Hyde Park is Sydney’s Forum. This might seem a stretch, but it actually fits the bill. It was a site for sports and recreation, even a race-track, which gave it its shape. It has been a place to dawdle and talk, to appreciate life and the city that frames the open space before you. A related limb, the Domain, has housed throngs of New South Welshmen hearing their fellow citizens, nutters and all, exercising their right to free speech; it was a living, green cradle of Australian democracy. Courts and temples and civic buildings front onto Hyde Park.
And like all good fora, it is rich with statues and monuments.
It is these statues which are now in strife. Despite the obvious inaccuracies of the graffiti, we know for what James Cook stands accused. He brought Britain here. But what are Lachlan Macquarie’s supposed sins?
When it comes to his treatment of Aboriginals, Macquarie was the first governor to systematically give land back. He constantly worked towards peace between settler and indigenous. This failed. His legacy is mixed due to an inevitable lack of understanding and the natural consequences of governing frightened and unforgiving settlers on the edge of survival, but his intentions were conspicuously good. When it came to convicts, he and his wife offended polite society by inviting reformed, successful convicts to dinner. Governor Lachlan Macquarie was enlightened. He is a hero worthy of our memory.
But there are more than two statues in Hyde Park. One the correctors did not notice on Friday night is that of William Bede Dalley. Perhaps he was just dismissed as another old, white man. Bigot, racist, filthy colonial master, the vandal would have assumed, and he would have been completely wrong. Dalley was the descendant of such reformed convicts as might have dined at Macquarie’s table. He was a politician, a barrister, and as the statue shows a ‘Scholar. Patriot. Statesman.’ He fought against sectarianism, and for the rights of Asian settlers. He was part of the rich colonial democracy which pre-dated and precipitated Federation. And now his statue is part of the park’s mix of characters, all flawed, but all heroic.
Perhaps the most obvious heroes of the park are those of the great War Memorial. While the stench of spray paint infected the culprit’s nostrils on Friday, he should have contemplated the huge mausoleum to the men and women who died protecting a land most (but not all) only happened to call home because of Captain Cook.
Let’s leave all these heroes of Hyde Park alone. Captain Cook who sailed the world and brought the world here. Governor Macquarie who unshackled the island prison. William Dalley who enriched its democracy. The fallen men and women, indigenous and non-indigenous, who died to protect their shared inheritance; the Commonwealth of Australia.
All are remembered in Hyde Park, gracing Sydney’s Forum.
David (Ngunaitponi) Unaipon, the man on our 50 dollar note, declared ‘wonderful is the soul of man… go back into the ancient civilisations and review the wonders… Think of the grandeur that once was Rome’s, the glories that once belonged to Greece. Amongst these ruins are monuments and fragments and magnificent temples erected to their gods…man is a worshipping creature irrespective of colour, language or clime.’
Every people has its gods, and every city has its heroes.
Looking on these silent guardians, our generation ought to wonder what legacy we will leave. If we spend all our time destroying things in the hope of forgetting, we may never add anything worth remembering.
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