John Batman

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John Batman
John Batman portrait.jpg
Early 20th century drawing of Batman, based on an earlier engraving
Born21 January 1801
Died6 May 1839(1839-05-06) (aged 38)
Burial placeOld Melbourne Cemetery
OccupationGrazier, explorer, pioneer
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Callaghan
Childrenseven daughters, one son (John Charles Batman drowned 1845)
Parent(s)William Batman, Mary

John Batman (21 January 1801 – 6 May 1839) was an Australian grazier, entrepreneur and explorer, best known for his role in the founding of Melbourne.

Born and raised in the then-British colony of New South Wales, Batman settled in Van Diemen's Land (modern-day Tasmania) in the 1820s, where he rose to prominence for hunting bushrangers and as a participant in the Black War. He later co-founded the Port Phillip Association and led an expedition which explored the Port Phillip area on the Australian mainland with the goal of establishing a new settlement. In 1835, Batman negotiated a treaty with local Aboriginal peoples by offering them tools, blankets and food in exchange for thousands of hectares of land. The treaty resulted in the founding of Batmania, a settlement on the Yarra River which became Melbourne, eventual capital of Victoria and one of Australia's largest and most important cities. Batman moved there with his convict wife, Elizabeth Callaghan, and their seven daughters, settling on what is now known as Batman's Hill. He died of syphilis shortly afterwards at the age of 38.

Batman's Treaty was a matter of controversy in his day, and the colonial government in New South Wales refused to recognise it as legitimate. Although his proposed transaction was exploitative, Batman's treaty stands as the only attempt by a European to engage Australian Aboriginal people in a treaty or transaction rather than simply claiming land outright. It remains an event of great historical interest and debate.

Early life[edit]

Batman's English parents, William and Mary Bat(e)man, came to Sydney in 1797 aboard the ship the Ganges. William had been transported to the colony of New South Wales for receiving stolen saltpetre (a precursor ingredient for making gunpowder), but Mary accompanied him as a free passenger, along with their children Maria and Robert.[1] John, the couple's second son, was born on January 21, 1801 at Rosehill, Parramatta, now a suburb of Sydney, but at the time one of the early farming settlements of the fledgling colony.

After obtaining his ticket-of-leave, William started a timber-yard business that prospered, and he owned several properties and the licence for the Duke of Wellington hotel in Church Street, Paramatta. In 1810, William changed the family's surname from Bateman, perhaps to avoid convict stigma. William died in 1834, and Mary in 1840.[2]

Move to Tasmania[edit]

Watercolour of Batman's house in Van Diemen's Land

In 1821 John (aged 20 years) and his younger brother Henry journeyed to Van Diemen's Land (now known as Tasmania) to settle on land in the north-east near Ben Lomond.[3] He acquired 'Kingston', a property said to be "...large in acreage and poor agriculturally,...".[4]

In early 1826, Batman captured the notorious cannibal bushranger Thomas Jeffries and later on caught fellow bushranger Matthew Brady, resulting in an additional grant of land by the government.[3][5] Brady had been wounded in the leg in a conflict with the authorities, but got away safely. Batman went out unarmed on his own in search of Brady, and found him quite accidentally. He saw a man limping in the bush near a shallow creek, and hastened forward to him. It was Brady. He induced Brady to surrender and return with him. The outlaw was ill and suffering much pain, and did as he was asked. Brady was duly handed over to authorities at Launceston Gaol.[6] Both Jeffries and Brady were sentenced to death. They both hanged together on the gallows in Hobart.

Batman became a grazier. He participated in the capture of Tasmanian Aborigines in 1829.[7] He employed mainland Aboriginal people hired in Sydney, New South Wales, for 'roving parties' hunting Tasmanians.[8] Between 1828 and 1830, Tasmanians in this region were shot or rounded up by bounty hunters like Batman.[9]

As Tasmanian Colonial Governor, George Arthur, observed, Batman "...had much slaughter to account for". Closer examination of this quote from Governor Arthur reveals a more complex picture of Batman's motives and actions on behalf of the government in these so-called "roving parties".[10] For example, in September 1829, Batman (aged 28), with the assistance of several "Sydney blacks" he brought to Tasmania, led an attack on an Aboriginal family group together numbering 60–70 men, women and children in the Ben Lomond district of north-east Tasmania. Waiting until 11pm that night before attacking, he "…ordered the men to fire upon them..." as their 40-odd dogs raised the alarm and the Aboriginal people ran away into thick scrub, killing an estimated 15 people. The next morning, he left the place for his farm, with two badly wounded Tasmanian men, a woman and her two-year-old boy, all of whom he captured. However, he "...found it impossible that the two former [the men] could walk, and after trying them by every means in my power, for some time, found I could not get them on I was obliged to shoot them." The captured woman, named Luggenemenener,[11] was later sent to Campbell Town gaol and separated from her two-year-old son, Rolepana, "...whom she had faced death to protect."[12] Batman reported afterwards to British Colonial Secretary, John Burnett, in a letter of 7 September 1829, that he kept the child because he wanted "...to rear it...".[13] Luggenemenener died on 21 March 1837 as an inmate at the Flinders Island settlement.[14]

Later, Rolepana (aged 8 years), travelled with him as part of the founding party of Melbourne in 1835. After Batman's death in 1839, Rolepana would have been 12 years old. Boyce notes that Rolepana was employed by colonist George Ware at 12 Pounds a year with Board on Batman's death, "...but what became of him after this is also unknown."[15] However, Haebich records Rolepana as having died in Melbourne in 1842 (he would have been about 15 years).[16] She also says that:

Batman openly defied Governor Arthur and [George Augustus] Robinson by refusing to hand over two Aboriginal boys in his employ: Rolepana (or Benny Ben Lomond) and Lurnerminer (John or Jack Allen), captured by Batman in 1828. He claimed the boys were there with the consent of their parents,....He also demonstrated a strong proprietorial interest in the boys, when he told Robinson they were 'as much his property as his farm and that he had as much right to keep them as the government'. Indeed Batman was convinced that the best plan was to leave the children with the colonists, who clothed and fed them at no expense to the government and raised them to become 'useful members of society'. In a series of letters to Governor Arthur, he 'pleaded hard for the retention of youths educated by settlers and devoted to their service'.[17]

Batman rose to prominence during the time of the Black War of 1830 (aged 29), during which he participated in the Black Line – the formation of a "human chain" across the island to drive Tasmanian Aborigines from their lands into a 'manageable' area.

In February 1830, Batman wrote to the British Colonial Secretary, John Burnett, about his difficulty in 'coming up' with [i.e., capturing] the Tasmanian Aborigines.[18] In the same letter, he asked in explaining his difficulty in capturing Tasmanians in the bush, "...if he could follow known [Aboriginal] offenders once they had made it 'to their own ground'.[19]

The 19th-century artist, John Glover, captioned one of his Tasmanian paintings Batman's Lookout, Benn Lomond (1835) "...on account of Mr Batman frequenting this spot to entrap the Natives."[9] Batman's neighbour in Van Diemen's Land, Glover said that he was "a rogue, thief, cheat and liar, a murderer of blacks and the vilest man I have ever known".[20]

The

Batman offered in exchange for stretching from Melbourne to Geelong, but the colonial government in New South Wales did not acknowledge the treaty.

Batman was diagnosed with syphilis in 1833.

By 1835, Batman's property, "...Kingston [near Ben Lomond], covered more than 7,000 acres (2,800 ha), had appropriate animals and buildings, and numerous hands; but it was too rugged to be highly productive."[3]

Foundation of Melbourne and Batman's Treaty[edit]

A late 19th century artist's impression of Batman's Treaty being signed

Batman sought land grants in the Western Port area, but the New South Wales colonial authorities rejected this. So, in 1835, as a leading member of the Port Phillip Association he sailed for the mainland in the schooner Rebecca and explored much of Port Phillip.

When he found the current site of central Melbourne, he noted in his diary of 8 June 1835, "This will be the place for a village."[3][5][21] and declared the land "Batmania".[22][23]

Batman's Treaty negotiations with Kulin peoples (Aboriginal peoples of now central Victoria) took place in June 1835 on the banks of the Merri Creek in present-day Northcote (an inner suburb of Melbourne), "…using legal advice from the former Van Diemen's Land attorney-general, Joseph Gellibrand, and with the support of his Aboriginal companions from New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land."[24]

However, Batman did not visit the colonial camp that was later set up on the Yarra River (i.e., Melbourne) until November 1835.[25] Debate has continued for more than a century over this moment in the birth of Melbourne. Batman writes in his diary on Monday, 8 June 1835 that ".. the boat went up the river I have spoken of, which comes from the east, and I am glad to state, about six miles up found the river all good water and very deep. This will be the place for a village. The natives on shore." The previous day Batman and his party had returned from their meeting with the Kulin Elders along the hills bordering the northern banks of the Yarra. It remains quite unclear whether the party saw the 'place for a village' by the 'Falls' – a long used homesite for the local peoples, and similarly unclear whether Batman was in the boat that explored the Yarra on the 8th. But the site has already been noted for its virtues by numerous Britons including John Helder Wedge and Batman's Parramatta friend Hamilton Hume."

Batman negotiated a treaty (now known as Batman's Treaty but also known as the Dutigulla Treaty, Dutigulla Deed, Melbourne Treaty or Melbourne Deed), with Kulin peoples to rent their land on an annual basis for 40 blankets, 30 axes, 100 knives, 50 scissors, 30 mirrors, 200 handkerchiefs, 100 pounds of flour and 6 shirts. It is unlikely that Kulin people would have understood this as a transfer of land or agreed to it if they had, but, as Percival Serle wrote, "No doubt the blankets, knives, tomahawks, etc., that he gave them were very welcome". In any case, Governor Bourke deemed such a treaty invalid as the land was claimed by the Crown rather than the Kulin peoples and other colonists including the rival party of John Pascoe Fawkner arrived to settle Melbourne.

Later life[edit]

Batman and his family settled at what became known as Batman's Hill at the western end of Collins Street. Having sold his property 'Kingston' in Tasmania and brought his wife, former convict Elizabeth Callaghan, and their seven daughters to Melbourne, he built a house at the base of the hill in April 1836. His son, John, was born in November 1837.[3]

However, Batman's health quickly declined after 1835 as syphilis had disfigured and crippled him, leaving him in constant pain. By the end of 1837 he was unable to walk and was forced to give up squatting and move into trading and investment, but he greatly overstretched his finances and was left vulnerable by his reliance on delegating work to others.[3] As the disease eroded his nose, forcing him to wear a bandage to conceal his ruined face,[26] he became estranged from his wife. In his last months of his life Batman was cared for by his Aboriginal servants, who carried him around in a wicker perambulator.[27][28]

Following Batman's death on 6 May 1839, his widow and family moved from the house at Batman's Hill and the house was requisitioned by the government for administrative offices.[29] Batman's will, made in 1837, was out of date at his death as many of the assets bequeathed to his children had already been sold.[3] Years of legal wrangling followed his death, led by Eliza Batman, who had remarried in 1841 to Batman's former clerk, William Willoughby, and had only been left £5 in the will by her embittered first husband. The case dragged on, even after Batman's heir-at-law, his son John, drowned in the Yarra River in 1845, and its costs absorbed what was left of Batman's estate.[3]

Legacy[edit]

Statue of John Batman at former National Mutual Plaza off Collins Street in Melbourne unveiled 26 January 1979
The historical monument marking where Batman landed at Indented Head in 1835.

Batman was buried in the Old Melbourne Cemetery[30] but was exhumed and re-buried in the Fawkner Cemetery, a cemetery named after his fellow colonist (and rival), John Pascoe Fawkner.[31] A bluestone obelisk was constructed in 1922 which was later moved to Batman Avenue before being returned to the Queen Victoria Market site in 1992. The obelisk is inscribed with the Latin "circumspice" meaning "look around", the entire city of Melbourne being his legacy. The obelisk also states that Melbourne was "unoccupied" prior to John Batman's arrival in 1835.[32]

Australian sprinter Daniel Batman claimed to be a direct descendant of John Batman,[33] although this claim is dubious, given that Batman's only son, John Charles Batman, died aged just 8 or 9 years old by drowning in the Yarra River on 11 January 1845.[34]

Batman's legacy has been challenged in recent years, and most criticism has focused on his killings of Indigenous people in Tasmania. In 2016, Darebin Council voted unanimously to change the name of Batman Park in Northcote.[35] It is now called Gumbri Park, after Gumbri (Jessie Hunter), great-niece of Wurundjeri leader William Barak and the last girl born on the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve in Healesville. [36]

In 2017, artist Ben Quilty called for Batman's statue to be removed from the Melbourne CBD, describing him as a mass murderer who "makes the American Confederates look friendly" and adding that "changing the inscription [on his statue] to 'mass murderer' might slightly appease my sense of justice."[37]

The Victorian electoral Division of Batman was abolished in 2018 and renamed the Division of Cooper after Aboriginal political activist William Cooper.[38]

Places named after John Batman[edit]

A roadsign for Batman Avenue in Melbourne.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "John Batman: A Life …". Tasmanian Times. 11 October 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  2. ^ "John Batman: A Life …". Tasmanian Times. 11 October 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Brown, P. L. (1966). "Batman, John (1801–1839)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 14 March 2008 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  4. ^ Webb, Gwenda. "John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner". Companion to Tasmanian History. University of Tasmania. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b Serle, Percival. "Batman, John (1801–1839)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
  6. ^ "LIFE OF BUSHRANGER POWER". Western Mail. National Library of Australia. 12 February 1910. p. 43. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  7. ^ Henry Reynolds, (1995) Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-examination of the Tasmanian Wars, Penguin, Melbourne, p.50
  8. ^ Henry Reynolds, (1995) Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-examination of the Tasmanian Wars, Penguin, Melbourne, p.78
  9. ^ a b Bill Gammage, (2011) The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, p.40
  10. ^ John Batman – C P Billot pp 48.. '..{Batman}proceeded not with a sword but an olive branch, and whose sympathy for the much injured and unfortunate race of beings was second only to that of George Augustus Robinson's, had much slaughter to account for...' Billot provides further details here that help us in the 21st century begin to understand the events discussed in this following paragraph.. quote pp 48 of the same book '[in September 1829 Batman] and his party was attacked by a well-armed group of some seventy of the most dangerous natives of the island. The attack was so closely pressed that, for the first and probably only time in his life, John was forced to order his men to open fire on the natives. As a result of this order fifteen natives were killed."
  11. ^ Rosalind Stirling, John Batman: Aspirations of a Currency Lad, Australian Heritage, Spring 2007, p.41
  12. ^ James Boyce (2008) Van Diemen's Land, Black Inc, Melbourne, pp.200–201
  13. ^ Henry Reynolds, (1995) Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-examination of the Tasmanian Wars, Penguin, Melbourne, p.81
  14. ^ Kristyn Harman, Send in the Sydney Natives! Deploying Mainlanders against Tasmanian Aborigines, University of Tasmania Web site (http://www.utas.edu.au), p.14
  15. ^ James Boyce (2011) 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia, Black Inc, Melbourne, footnote No. 136 on p.236
  16. ^ Anna Haebich, 2000, Broken circles: fragmenting indigenous families, 1800–2000, Fremantle Press, p.101
  17. ^ Anna Haebich, 2000, Broken circles: fragmenting indigenous families, 1800–2000, Fremantle Press, p.100
  18. ^ Henry Reynolds, (1995) Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-examination of the Tasmanian Wars, Penguin, Melbourne, p.69
  19. ^ Henry Reynolds, (1995) Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-examination of the Tasmanian Wars, Penguin, Melbourne, p.128
  20. ^ "Who's Who". National Museum of Australia. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  21. ^ James Boyce, (2011) 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia, Black Inc, Melbourne, p.74
  22. ^ Bill Wannan, Australian folklore: a dictionary of lore, legends and popular allusions, Lansdowne, 1970, p.42
  23. ^ Alexander Wyclif Reed, Place names of Australia, Reed, 1973, p.149
  24. ^ James Boyce, (2008) Van Diemen's Land, Black Inc, Melbourne, p.245
  25. ^ James Boyce, (2011) 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia, Black Inc, Melbourne, p.85
  26. ^ Annear, Robyn (2005). Bearbrass: Imagining Early Melbourne. Black Inc. p. 4. ISBN 1863953973. Constant pain in his feet and legs has made him dependent on this wickerwork Batmobile, and the bandage around his face (such a noble profile in his centenary portrait) hides the fact that his nose is decaying.
  27. ^ Hunt, David (2016). True Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia, Volume 2. Black Inc. ISBN 1925435326. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  28. ^ Hinchcliffe, Joe (26 August 2017). "Call to remove statue of John Batman, 'founder of Melbourne', over role in Indigenous killings". The Age. Retrieved 5 April 2020. He was ostracised by the white community and wheeled around town in a barrow by two Aboriginal men – ironically among the few people who would acknowledge him.
  29. ^ Sid Brown (November 2002). "Batman's Hill to Southern Cross – via Spencer Street". Newsrail: 335–347.
  30. ^ "On These Days – Parliament of Victoria". www.parliament.vic.gov.au. Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  31. ^ "John Batman". www.whitehat.com.au. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  32. ^ Carolyn Webb (3 June 2005). "History should have no divide". The Age. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  33. ^ Jacquelin Magnay (5 March 2005). "Brat's all folks: sprint ace Batman comes of age". Sydney Morning Herald. www.smh.com.au. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  34. ^ "Domestic Intelligence". The Melbourne Weekly Courier. II (55). Victoria, Australia. 17 January 1845. p. 1. Retrieved 3 June 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  35. ^ Tippet, Harrison (22 July 2016). "Darebin Council unanimously backs plan to rename Batman Park". Herald Sun. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  36. ^ Gardiner, Ed (11 May 2017). "Batman Park in Northcote to be renamed Gumbri Park". Herald Sun. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  37. ^ Hinchcliffe, Joe (26 August 2017). "Call to remove statue of John Batman, 'founder of Melbourne', over role in Indigenous killings". The Age. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  38. ^ "Names and boundaries of federal electoral divisions in Victoria decided". Australian Electoral Commission. 20 June 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  39. ^ Thomas O'Callaghan (1918). Names of Victorian Railway Stations. Government Printer. ISBN 0-9580716-0-8. (2003 facsimile edition)

Further reading[edit]

  • Bell, Agnes Paton (1965). Melbourne: John Batman's village. Melbourne: Cassell
  • Billot, C.P. (1979). John Batman : the Story of John Batman and the Founding of Melbourne. Melbourne : Hyland House. ISBN 0-908090-18-8
  • Billot, C.P. (1985). The life and times of John Pascoe Fawkner. Melbourne : Hyland House. ISBN 0-908090-77-3
  • Campbell, Alastair H. (1987). John Batman and the aborigines. Malmsbury, Australia: Kibble Books. ISBN 0-908150-09-1
  • Harcourt, Rex (2001), Southern Invasion. Northern Conquest. Story of the Founding of Melbourne, Golden Point Press, Blackburn South. ISBN 0-646-40336-2
  • Prior, Wannan and Nunn (1968). A Pictorial History of Bushrangers. Melbourne: Paul Hamlyn
  • Attwood, Bain (2009), Possession: Batman's Treaty and the Matter of History, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, (xviii + 416 pages)
  • Boyce, James (2008), Van Diemen's Land, Black Inc, Melbourne ISBN 978-1-86395-413-6
  • Boyce, James (2011), 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia, Black Inc., Melbourne ISBN 978-1-86395-475-4
  • Reynolds, Henry (1995), Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-examination of the Tasmanian Wars, Penguin, Melbourne ISBN 0-14-024322-4, at page 50, onwards for role in removal of Tasmanian Aborigines.
  • Jan Critchett, (1990), A distant field of murder: Western district frontiers, 1834–1848, Melbourne University Press (Carlton, Vic. and Portland, Or.) ISBN 0-522-84389-1
  • Ian D Clark (1990) Aboriginal languages and clans: An historical atlas of western and central Victoria, 1800–1900, Dept. of Geography & Environmental Science, Monash University (Melbourne), ISBN 0-909685-41-X
  • Ian D Clark (1995), Scars in the landscape: A register of massacre sites in western Victoria, 1803–1859, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (Canberra), ISBN 0-85575-281-5
  • Ian D Clark (2003) ‘That’s my country belonging to me’ – Aboriginal land tenure and dispossession in nineteenth century Western Victoria, Ballarat Heritage Services, Ballarat.
  • The Gunditjmara People with Gib Wettenhall, (2010) The People of Budj Bim: Engineers of aquaculture, builders of stone house settlements and warriors defending country, em Press, Heywood (Victoria)

Online[edit]