Reverend Samuel Marsden and the Aborigines

[Source: Clark, C.M.H; A History of Australia (Melbourne University Press (1962)    

MARSDEN, SAMUEL (1764-1838), "chaplain, missionary and farmer .... by 1802, he had received 201 acres in grants, and had purchased 239 from other settlers ... by 1805 ... increased to a 1730 acres ... in 1827 ... his holdings totalled 3631 acres by grant and 1600 by purchase ... unsuccessful request to buy another 5000 acres of crown l .... Marsden believed that material advance was a proof of the genuineness of his personal sense of salvation. At the same time he was spurred by the temper of the colony on his arrival. The officers had begun their single-minded pursuit of wealth ....

The eager materialism of this frontier society, the crude irreligion of his convict charges and their tendency to associate the chaplain with their other scourgers, helped :o confirm Marsden's drift into worldly undertakings.

The advent of the more religiously inclined Governor Hunter in 1795 recognized :he chaplain's efforts to reclaim the convicts' souls or at least to achieve an outward observance of moral and religious injunctions; but this effect was counter-balanced by Marsden's appointment as a magistrate and superintendent of government affairs at Parramatta. ... No aspects of Marsden's activities did more harm to his pastoral work or to his historical character in Australia than his reputation for extreme severity as a magistrate ... Marsden had a suspect flogged mercilessly in the hope of securing information about hidden weapons. This particular action was scarcely defensible, But Marsden was not the only magistrate who ordered the infliction of illegal punishments. His general severity can be attributed to his high-mindedness, his passionate detestation of sin and his conviction that Parramatta was such a sink of iniquity that morality could be preserved only by the most rigorous disciplinary measures. For all that, the flogging parson, like the hanging judge, is commonly regarded as an attractive character ...

.... it seems probable that his years as chaplain and magistrate confirmed his early doubts of the possibility of reclaiming the souls of the convicts, so steeped were they in vice and idleness, defeating the best of regulations with their 'invincible depravity'.

Feeling thus frustrated in evangelizing the convicts, Marsden looked elsewhere for professional fulfilment. He tried to civilize and convert the Aboriginals but his efforts were unsuccessful and, by the time Governor Macquarie founded the Native Institution, Marsden had abandoned all hopes of success with these people; by rejecting the material civilization of the European they baulked at what Marsden saw as the necessary first step towards conversion. 'The natives have no Reflection—they have no attachments, and they have no wants', he wrote ..."

A. T. Yarwood

[Source: Pike D., (Gen. Ed.) Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol 2 1788-1850, Melbourne University Press, (1967) Pages 207-212]