Recall of Injustice


Hobart, Australia

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Featured in All Glorious Gardens Group on 04/17/12

The Sir John Eardley-Wilmot monument in St David’s Park, Hobart, Tasmania surrounded by Autumn leaves.

Taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH1 point & shoot in early May 2011.
HDR in Simply HDR for Mac.

EARDLEY-WILMOT, Sir JOHN EARDLEY (1783-1847), lieutenant-governor, was born on 21 February 1783 in London, the son of John Eardley-Wilmot and his wife Frances, née Sainthill. His grandfather was chief justice of common pleas, his father a master in chancery. Through this background, rather than as a result of personal achievement, Wilmot was created a baronet in 1821.

He was appointed as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land reportedly because of his work and interest in prison reform and juvenile delinquency.

When Wilmot arrived at Hobart Town in August 1843, colonial affairs were dominated by the probation system of convict discipline and by economic depression. Probation aspired to new standards of scientific and effective punishment. Early in their sentence convicts would remain in gangs, preferably employed so as to defray their upkeep; later they would enter the labour market as wage-earners. Settled colonists thus reaped no benefit of cheap assigned labour, and therefore abhorred the new system. They objected most to paying all local police and judicial expenses, insisting that these largely arose from Britain’s use of the island as a convict dump and hence should be met by the British Treasury. Feeling against Whitehall rose very high.

Wilmot was in a dilemma. Government must go on, but colonists and British government alike refused to pay. In his dispatches he generally took the colonists’ side, arguing that police and judicial costs were Britain’s responsibility.

The Colonial Office found Wilmot slap-dash in administrative procedures, too lenient in creating new jobs and granting leave of absence, arbitrary in his judgments, careless of referring major issues to Whitehall, cursory in describing local affairs. Whatever Wilmot’s virtues, he was guilty on every count. Between March 1844 and February 1846 dispatches brought him twenty-seven separate rebukes. In particular, the Colonial Office deplored his neglect to explain the working of probation.

Further troubles accrued to Wilmot from tales of his licentious behaviour that carried to New South Wales and to England. After their publication in the London Naval and Military Gazette, October 1845, leading colonists signed a repudiation. The validity of the charges remains doubtful.

All these elements of discord coalesced in the one dramatic event of Wilmot’s career, his recall.

A dispatch of 30 April 1846 carried the news to Wilmot. Simultaneously Gladstone wrote a private letter telling him that the rumours concerning his private life rendered him ineligible for further employment in colonial service.

Wilmot’s own letters of this period became passionate as he declared himself ‘The Victim of the most extraordinary conspiracy that ever succeeded in defaming the character of a Public Servant’. He demanded redress, and stayed in the colony to gather rebutting evidence. Soon he became ill, and died of no diagnosed disease on 3 February 1847.

Friends and family maintained Wilmot’s cause. The issue was brought against Gladstone in the Oxford University election of 1847; for support he appealed to Nixon, who clung to an earlier public statement so worded as to uphold Wilmot. Both Gladstone and his successor, Earl Grey, recanted the personal allegations, while maintaining the validity of the recall. The colonial press discussed the episode with heat, using it as a weapon in their squabbles. Feeling for Wilmot gathered weight, the Colonial Times, 9 February 1847, even declaring him ‘murdered’. Citizens of Hobart subscribed to a Gothic mausoleum for Wilmot; erected in 1850, it still stands in St David’s Park.
(Source = Australian dictionary of biography)

Featured 07/30/11 in Hobart Tasmania Group

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