Quote of the Day: Joseph Gerrald

link to image From a sign in the Sydney Botanical Garden put up close to the place where Joseph Gerrald’s (one of the “Scottish Martyrs”) grave once was:

For myself, my friend, whatever destiny awaits me, I am content. The cause which I have embraced has taken deep root, and must, I feel, ultimately triumph. I have my reward. I see through the cheering vista of future events the overthrow of tyranny, and the permanent establishment of benevolence and peace. It is as silent as the lapse of time, but as certain and inevitable.

Joseph Gerrald, 17 May 1795



One dedication on the sign reads like this:

Joseph Gerrald was born in the West Indies, educated in England and practiced as a lawyer in Philadelphia, USA. In London he became a leading member of the British Reform Movement advocating equality, free speech, regularly elected parliaments and universal suffrage. He was one of the “Scottish Political Martyrs’ tried for sedition at Edinburgh in 1794 and sentenced to 14 years transportation to New South Wales. He died at Sydney on 16 March 1796 aged about 35, and was buried in his garden on the site of the First Farm, near this spot.
Michael Flynn 1996

From Wikipedia:

“…In 1793 he published a pamphlet “A Convention the Only Means of Saving Us from Ruin”. In this he stated that the influence of 162 men returned 306 of the 573 members of the house of commons. He advocated that a convention should be elected that would really represent the people of Great Britain, and that there should be universal suffrage in the election of delegates. There was no machinery for carrying out his plans even if they met with general approval, but in November 1793 the “British Convention of the Delegates of the People associated to obtain Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments” met at Edinburgh. The delegates represented various political societies of the day in Scotland and England.

The aims of the convention were most moderate, but Gerrald and others were arrested, and in March 1794 he was tried for sedition. It was felt that the case was prejudiced, and while out on bail Gerrald had been urged to escape, but he considered that his honor was pledged. At his trial at Edinburgh he made an admirable speech in defense of his actions, but was condemned to 14 years transportation. The apparent courtesy and consideration with which the trial was conducted could not conceal the real prejudice which ruled the proceedings. Gerrald was imprisoned in London until May 1795, when he was hurried on board the store ship Sovereign about to sail for Sydney. He arrived there on 5 November 1795. He was then in a poor state of health and was allowed to buy a small house and garden in which he lived. He died of a rapid consumption on 16 March 1796…”

Gerrald’s tombstone (missing since 1807) recorded: He died as a martyr to the liberties of his country.

(click on the image for a larger version)

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