Evan Mackenzie : pioneer merchant pastoralist of Moreton Bay / John H.G. Mackenzie-Smith.

Mackenzie-Smith, John (1991). Evan Mackenzie : pioneer merchant pastoralist of Moreton Bay / John H.G. Mackenzie-Smith. M.A. Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Mackenzie-Smith, John
Thesis Title Evan Mackenzie : pioneer merchant pastoralist of Moreton Bay / John H.G. Mackenzie-Smith.
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1991
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 269
Language eng
Subjects 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract
The role of Evan Mackenzie in the foundation years of the Moreton Bay District, 1841-45, has been misunderstood and misrepresented by successive generations of Australian historians. He has been falsely portrayed eis a poisoner of Aborigines and an urban speculator, while his positive contributions to the pastoral industry and the development of its entrepot at Brisbane Town being completely forgotten. It is the objective of  this thesis to redress this wrong and present a more balanced evaluation of his actions at the "end of the line."

Born in 1816 at Portobello, near Edinburgh, Evan Mackenzie was the second son of Sir Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy on the Black Isle. Sir Colin approached the model of an ideal leader. He was wealthy, influential, well respected and wielded his considerable power for the common good. On the other hand, his effective heir, Evan, enjoyed the privileges his father conferred upon him but was bent on using his advantageous position to gain selfish autonomy. His major obstacle to this end was usually authority exercised by minor officialdom and he summoned up intelligence, ruthlessness, and deceit to circumvent such irritants.

After his education at Eton College and a short period of service in the Austrian army as a cavalry officer, Evan and his younger brother, Colin John, decided to ride on the wave of capitalist investment in Australia and found a successful sheep station. They arrived in Sydney in March 1841.

Following advice from the surveyor-general of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Mitchell, the Mackenzies made their way to Moreton Bay which was on the eve of being thrown open for free settlement. Acting on local counsel, the brothers selected their station on the upper Brisbane River Valley and named it Kilcoy. In common with other pastoralists in the district, they established their run at the expense of the local Aborigines. Fierce resistance and counter-attack followed. Basically the Mackenzies enforced a policy of keeping the Aborigines at a distance from their run, but were ruthless in retaliation for the murder of their workers and the dispersal of their flocks. However, they were not the cowardly poisoners of the indigenes as portrayed by historians who formed their prejudices arising from interpretation of incorrect information.

Evan Mackenzie selectively suppressed his anti-authority attitude, made good use of his personal attributes and financial backing, and largely controlled his deceitful and egocentric behaviour to emerge as a significant colonial leader. He developed in the colonies that sense of responsibility which his father required to prepare him for his future duties in Scotland.

After establishing and consolidating his position in Moreton Bay by a series of well planned manoeuvres, Mackenzie set out to fulfil his potential. Identifying with the squatting cause, he led the district to overcome the ravages of drought, depression, and foreclosed mortgages. At this stage, he exercised power maturely for the common good.

His major contribution to the welfare of the northern district was the establishment of the boiling down establishment at Kangaroo Point in 1843. At this factory, excess stock were converted into tallow for export to Britain. This innovation saved Brisbane and the pastoral industry upon which it depended - above all, solving the squatters' cash flow problems. From that point onwards, pastoralists were assured of a stable return for their stock independent of bed-rock sheep and wool prices.

Having led the Moreton Bay District safely from economic catastrophe, Mackenzie extended his power base and entered into conflict with the southern establishment. From his sphere of influence at Kangaroo Point, this businessman attempted to foster the development of Brisbane as an international port. This inexorably led to battle with southern merchants and shipping interests which exerted a stranglehold over Brisbane's trade and fettered the area's development.

Mackenzie's ruthless pursuit of power was now moving him towards the pathological extreme of the continuum. He would stop at nothing to extend his power base in Brisbane. Success in his shipping subterfuge would give him and the squatting forces economic control over the north. The basic strategy centred upon eliminating the control of the Hunter's River Steam Navigation Company's over Brisbane's trade and redirecting this activity to Mackenzie's facilities at the Point. He would then command local and Sydney-bound trade.

Ultimately he failed as he had used up his collateral in fostering Brisbane's development and therefore was unable to clinch a deal with the London merchant bankers, Baring Brothers, to finance his plans. This so called speculator exhausted all his mental, physical, and financial resources in his attempt to boost early Brisbane. He was ahead of his time in his plans for the township, moving too early and too quickly to achieve his vision. At that stage of its development, Brisbane was not ready for him.

Yet, despite his positive efforts, Mackenzie characteristically overstepped the mark and alienated a significant section of the settlement. The aggrieved turned against him as his machinations interfered with their livelihood. Mackenzie's diversion from the responsible use of power inevitably caused him to be caught up in the momentum of his subterfuge and he was unable to turn back. Local and southern enemies regrouped and united to bring about his economic downfall. Concomitantly his personality regressed to that level which had been exhibited in his pre-colonial period. His attempt at personality reconstruction had failed.

In April 1846 Mackenzie returned to Scotland to take up the baronetcy of Kilcoy. In the final count, he became the prey of a succession of colonial, English and Scottish antagonists whom he had injured in his quest to get his own way. He was a victim of his past.
Keyword Mackenzie, Evan, Sir, 1816-1883.
Queensland -- History -- 1824-1851
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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