Sunday, 8 July 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 27 - Independence

The prompt this week is Independence due to July 4 (American Independence Day) occurring during the week.

I therefore looked at a number of definitions for independence (and independent) - ability to live life without being helped or influenced by other people (Cambridge Dictionary), the ability to make decisions and live your life free from the control and influence of other people (Macmillan Dictionary) plus capable of thinking and  acting for oneself and not being influenced by others, impartial (Oxford Dictionaries). There is also the political use of the word, independence, when a country or state gains political freedom from outside control (Merriam Webster dictionary).

How can the prompt, Independence, be applied to my family story?

Independence can be defined as freedom so for the convicts 'freedom from servitude' was an important stage in their lives in their new land. In the early days of the Sydney colony, convicts were provided with small parcels of land and were encouraged, in their spare time, to farm the land to provide produce not only for the colony but also for their family. To be 'off stores' was an achievement and a step to independence for the family.

The above image, from the colonial Secretary's Papers, shows the recommendation to the Governor for the emancipation of Uriah Moses who had held a Ticket of Leave for eighteen years. Although he had received a Life Sentence he was about to be a free man.

My twelve convicts had no choice in the decision to travel to Australia at the end of the eighteenth century and first few years of the nineteenth century. However, once they had served their sentence it could be argued that they had now gained their independence and were able to make independent decisions that affected their later lives.

George Guest, for example, once the decision to close the Norfolk Island settlement was announced, immediately (1805) took his family and possessions to Van Diemen's Land to organise the best opportunities in the new environment. The last settlers left the Island in 1814. Not happy with the first possible settlement offered in the north of Van Diemen's Land George settled his family in Hobart.

Then there was Simeon Lord who, as one of the first former convict (Emancipist) businessmen in Sydney, frequently antagonised the Exclusives (free settlers in the colony) as he strived to establish (not always successfully) his business endeavours.

The colonies of Sydney, and surrounding areas, and Van Diemen's Land offered countless opportunities for Emancipists to establish farms or small businesses in towns as they gained their independence from their former lives as convicts. Yes, they had to contend with the forces of nature including floods, especially in the Hawkesbury area where many of my convicts settled, but they survived and worked to support their families and eventually lived independent lives.

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