1861: Sushun, by Empress Dowager Cixi 1842: Stephen Brennan, desperate bushranger

Themed Set: Bushrangers

November 9th, 2011 Headsman

The romance of the road, the temporary autonomous zone — in Australia, the characteristic form of the social bandit is the bushranger.

Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia, 1852 by William Strutt.

Escaped convicts or other outlaws who could live rough on the remote frontiers of British imperial authority, rangers of the bush whether as gentleman outlaws or merely as robbers embodied the personal freedom so antithetical to the great penal colonies. Not uncommonly, they married that persona to a trenchant critique of the prisons state they escaped.

And no wonder.

The prisoners of all classes in Government are fed with the coarsest food; governed with the most rigid discipline; subjected to the stern, and frequently capricious and tyrannical will of an overseer; for the slightest offence (sometimes for none at all the victim of false accusation) brought before a magistrate, whom the Government has armed with the tremendous powers of a summary jurisdiction, and either flogged, or sentenced to solitary confinement, or retransported to an iron gang, where he must work in heavy irons, or to a penal settlement, where he will be ruled with a rod of iron.

History of the Australian Bushrangers

Bailed Up, by Tom Roberts, depicts a Bushranger stagecoach robbery. (Details)

While they filled up the hangman’s docket in the 19th century and they weren’t all picturesque political refuseniks, Bushrangers by and large enjoy a positive posthumous image, celebratory songs and everything.

For the next three days, we’ll meet a few of them … culminating in the most famous bushranger of all.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: Themed Sets

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