In 1840, eighty-two Americans were transported from Canada to a life of penal servitude half a world away in Van Diemen's Land, now Tasmania. As members of the Patriot Army that had conducted border raids into the colony of Upper Canada in 1838, they saw themselves as courageous republican activists, impelled by a moral duty to liberate their northern neighbors from British oppression. Instead of heroic liberators, they became political prisoners of Her Majesty's government. Sent to Van Diemen's Land by Lt. Governor Arthur-in the hope of deterring any more Yankees from exporting their abhorrent ideology to the Queen's domain-the Patriot exiles endured years of harsh treatment before they were eventually pardoned. Not being British subjects, their transportation was almost certainly illegal. Eleven of the Patriots wrote narratives about their time in Van Diemen's Land. From these interlocking accounts, Cassandra Pybus and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart have constructed a compelling story of the Patriots' experiences as convicts, drawing also on unpublished letters, newspaper reports, and government archives. This story of political exile and punishment provides a window into the everyday life of the many thousands of forgotten men and women who endured the calculated cruelties of penal transportation. Virtually unknown until brought to life in this remarkable book, the story of the Patriots also considers the political and legal issues of penal transportation as a tool of political repression.
American Citizens, British Slaves
Yankee Political Prisoners in an Australian Penal Colony 1839-1850
Publication Date: October 31st, 2002
270 pages| 6 in x 9 in
Cassandra Pybus is a senior research fellow at the University of Tasmania and the founding editor of the e-journal Australian HumanitiesReview.
Hamish Maxwell-Stewart is a Port Authur Fellow and History lecturer at the University of Tasmania.