Social Misconstructions in the Analysis of the Australian Experiences of the French-Canadian Patriote Convicts, 1839-1848
AbstractIn June 1839 conditional pardons were approved for 58 convicted participants in the Lower Canada Patriote Rebellion, and their death sentences were commuted to penal transportation to New South Wales for life. They sailed as convicts on board H.M. store ship Buffalo and arrived in Sydney in February 1840. Some wrote diaries or journals of their experiences, and these documents present a view that has come to dominate current discussion of the period of “exile”. This view proposes that the Patriotes were frequently humiliated and subjected to slave labour conditions that were alleviated only by benevolent interference on the part of leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. However, recent archival research contests the accuracy of such self-serving descriptions and indicates that their continued acceptance is an ongoing social misconstruction of reality. The Patriotes were treated more humanely than was usual and were provided with far more significant alleviations to their situation by a colonial government usually depicted as indifferent.