Friday, December 9, 2011

Sydney : Know Thyself


Maybe it says a lot about Sydneysiders- the fact that they know little of the man the city is named after.

 Lord Sydney, Tommy Townshend was the British Home Secretary when two fledgling towns were named in his honour, Sydney in Nova Scotia in 1785 and the NSW colony’s capital Sydney Town in 1788.

Viscount Sydney
But its Thomas Townshend’s enlightened policies that the country owes much to and which make today’s ‘law and order’ exponents look decidedly narrow minded as Lord Sydney’s biographer, barrister and former politician Andrew Tink admitted today.
 On 702 ABC with Richard Glover Tink said many of the policies he raged about when he was Opposition Attorney General for many years were far to the right of Townshend’s ideals

Lord Sydney was determined that the convict colony should be an example of penal reform and the first governor Arthur Phillip was ordered to ensure once convicts had served their sentence they were to be re-admitted back into society with the rights enjoyed by ordinary citizens and encouraged to pursue an honest career. Where possible convicts could work whilst serving their sentence and paid suitable wages. There was to be no slave labour in the new colony. Such ideals survive now only in Scandinavian countries.

When he declared the colony should have civil courts, much to the chagrin of his cabinet colleagues in London who pondered who would actually access them, Townshend declared prisoners of course. In fact the first case was a serving convict who successfully sued the captain of the ship that had transported him for losing his luggage.

Andrew Tink
When Townshend was ennobled he took his title from a favourite uncle Algernon Sidney (family squabbles forced the change in spelling) who was executed by Charles II for treason for republican sympathies.
 Lord Sydney has been largely over looked by historians. Manning Clark claimed he was irrelevant and mediocre but the truth is somewhat different.

While remaining loyal to the Crown Sydney sympathised with the American colonialists during the War of Independence and it was he who eventually negotiated peace with the new American republicans and managed to retain the Canadian colonies for loyalists to settle in. His influence on all three countries was substantial but largely forgotten, especially in the Australian city named after him which has continued somewhat with Townsend’s egalitarian ideals.

It’s taken Andrew Tink 7 years to find a publisher but after the success of his award winning biography of the great explorer William Charles Wentworth Ascension Press have now published Lord Sydney, The Life and Times of Tommy Townshend.Click here for more details.