Edward Gibbon Wakefield: Builder of the British Commonwealth

Edward Gibbon Wakefield: Builder of the British Commonwealth

Edward Gibbon Wakefield: Builder of the British Commonwealth

Edward Gibbon Wakefield: Builder of the British Commonwealth

Excerpt

The most mysterious thing about Wakefield's life is the mystery in which it has been wrapped. He was the most practical British statesman of the nineteenth century.

This strange, far-sighted man of enormous mental and physical energies--the author of much splendidly vivid modern prose--was the founder of an Empire and builder of the Commonwealth. He saved Australia from being a semi-tropical Siberia, organised the systematic colonisation of New Zealand, and inspired the Durham Report on the Affairs of British North America; and how many of his countrymen today know it? Of course the British at present are rather underrating the significance of the Commonwealth for the world. Might not a little reflection on Wakefield's achievement be tonic for their pride?

Of the other mysteries about him which had either remained uninvestigated or whose solution had not been made sufficiently public, the most important--what he was up to in Canada between 1840 and 1845--is treated in this book together with some lesser ones. I have tried to give a more balanced account of his life and works than his earlier biographers were in a position to do. But this would have been a formidable task if the trail had not been blazed by them--that is to say by Dr R. Garnett (1898), Dr A. Harrop (1928) and Miss Irma O'Connor (1929). Next to them I feel my greatest obligation is to Dr Ursilla Macdonnell for her article on Wakefield in Canada in the Bulletin of the Department of History of Queen's University, Kingston (1925).

In the bibliography I have briefly alluded to the Wakefield 'mysteries' as well as giving references in footnotes when touching on the more obscure or controversial passages of the great career.

I am particularly grateful to Professor C. E. Carrington for the encouragement he gave me when I most needed it, together with some advice which I took (though to say so is not to . . .

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