The Scottish presence in the Moreton Bay district 1841-59

Mackenzie-Smith, John (1999). The Scottish presence in the Moreton Bay district 1841-59 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Mackenzie-Smith, John
Thesis Title The Scottish presence in the Moreton Bay district 1841-59
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1999
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor Rod Fisher
John Laverty
Total pages 324
Language eng
Subjects 200208 Migrant Cultural Studies
370502 Migration
Formatted abstract
This thesis examines Scottish involvement in the Moreton Bay District of New South Wales during the period from first pastoral occupation in 1841 to the achievement of colony status in 1859. In doing so, it focuses upon the social, political and cultural agendas of three pre-eminent Scots. Evan Mackenzie designed an oligarchy for the squatters, John Dunmore Lang strove for democracy based on agriculture and William Augustine Duncan promoted effective government and accessible culture. Their quests to forge the ideal colonial society generated nearly two decades of socio-political strife in northern Australia. In that class struggle, a Scottish-inspired, urban alliance in the second decade endeavoured to dismantle the elitist system that had been created by Scottish-dominated squattocracy in the first.

Hitherto neglected by historians, the roles of the ordinary, Moreton Bay Scots are examined in this process. The immigration records of over 1000 direct immigrants arriving at SMoreton Bay between 1848 and 1859 have provided a group profile which indicates equal intakes from Highlands and Lowlands, high levels of education, almost universal Presbyterianism and a marked imbalance between single males and females. Along with a longitudinal study of the first workers at Kilcoy, the papers of William Pettigrew have revealed the overriding influence of Calvinism and the importance of the Scottish network in forging their upward mobility.

The highly connected pioneers within this ethnic minority were predominant in the district's power structure, possessing the potential to exert overriding political, social and economic control. However, the Scots subscribed to the notion that the district's progress was dependent upon community unity rather than the pursuit of an inward-looking national agenda. Scottish assertion was delayed until 1849 when David McConnel withdrew most of his compatriots from Lang's evangelical union to found the first Presbyterian church. Although willing to work alongside settlers of other nationalities, the Scots showed that they would break ranks when their national identity was threatened.

Not unexpectedly, most clannish, well-connected and financially-flush Scottish pastoralists were inordinately successful in achieving their goal of capital accumulation. Although many relaxed restraint and morality on the frontier to unleash a harsh form of capitalism in the ruthless pursuit of profit, there were shining examples of Scottish humanitarianism, such as the Archers of Durundur.

On most contentious issues at Moreton Bay, the Scots were divided, usually aligning according to class. The squatters' attempt to establish a plantation economy and control of the port of Brisbane split the northern community accordingly. Threatening the immigrants' self-improvement ethic, obstructing agriculture and foreshadowing a replication of repressive Scottish elitism, the squatters' designs were opposed by a coalition of workers and middle-class liberals. The threat dissipated following the collapse of Mackenzie's Scottish-backed plans to ship wool directly to Britain, the failure of the squatters' rival port of Cleveland Point and the British government's final abolition of transportation.

The arrival of Duncan as sub-collector of Customs in 1846 heralded the first potent pro-government presence in Brisbane and the demise of its closed society. Earning the undying enmity of the squatters and their urban allies, Duncan exposed northern racism and restored the influence of the southern legislature. Gradually this learned official coaxed Brisbane out of the cultural melee which had been a marked disincentive to respectable settlement.

The watershed for the squatters' hegemonic pretensions occurred in 1849 when Lang's middle-class immigrants asserted numerical democracy over pastoral autocracy. Lang, the consummate propagandist, recruited predominantly English nonconformist emigrants, including many political radicals, through the Scottish-controlled British Banner. Goaded by Lang from Sydney and encouraged by James Swan's liberal Moreton Bay Courier, the Langites united with like-minded government immigrants and Brisbanites in confronting the squatters. After resolving the cheap labour issue, this loose coalition joined influential pastoralists to achieve separation from New South Wales in 1859.

Overall, this investigation demonstrates that Moreton Bay was a fertile ground for the establishment of Scottish Calvinism, based on profit motives, self-improvement and individual responsibility. Within this free enterprise and laissez-faire environment, distinguished by the nexus of capitalism and religion, the many apolitical Scots flourished anonymously. More significantly, visionary leaders such as Mackenzie, Lang and Duncan had ample scope to unleash their differing concepts of the ideal society mediated by their unique brands of Scottishness, their stubborn personalities and large doses of pragmatic ruthlessness. Nascent Queensland was shaped by their combined yet multifarious efforts.
Keyword Scots -- Queensland -- Moreton Bay Region
Immigrants -- Queensland -- Moreton Bay Region
Scotland -- Emigration and immigration
Moreton Bay Region (Qld.) -- Emigration and immigration
Moreton Bay Region (Qld.) -- History
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

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