Governor Denison’s regime under microscope

December 23, 2004

The next in a series of Port Arthur talks will examine patronage, corruption and intimidation under William Denison’s governorship of Van Diemen’s Land.

Dr Stefan Petrow will present the lecture on Wednesday 19 January at the Port Arthur Historic Site asylum at 5.30pm.

Writing in his famous Jail Journal, the Irish state prisoner John Mitchel denounced Governor William Denison for using “patronage, corruption, and intimidation” to win over public opinion and oppose the anti-transportation movement.

According to Mitchel, Denison turned a blind eye as “Government mobs of convicts
organised by convict officials”, threatened “the peace’”of Hobart Town.

These claims raise interesting questions about the role of the police under Denison.

Is it true that Denison encouraged disorder and was his reputation for using crude tactics justified?

What role did the police play during the agitation against transportation and did Denison use them to frighten anti-transportationists? Did he strengthen police numbers and powers, and did convicts continue to make up
a large percentage of the police?

Dr Petrow will address these and other questions in a paper assessing the extent to which patronage, corruption, and intimidation were characteristics of policing during a period of heightened political agitation under Governor Denison.