Friday, June 05, 2009

18th Century Celebrity Outlaw Traded For Five Gallons Of Rum

A great piece from Michael Stutchbury on why Australians love gangster television (because an admiration for bushrangers is hardwired into Australian culture) at Crikey (excerpts) :

John Caesar (or “Black Caesar” as he came to be known) was the first to take to the bush in search of a life of crime. A huge, hulking man built like the entire front row of the All Blacks, Caesar was a former Negro servant who was transported for theft. Arriving at Botany Bay in 1790, driven by hunger he stole an Aboriginal canoe and escaped into the surrounding bushland. Following a brief period raiding homesteads and Aboriginal camps, he was captured and returned to authorities, yet was not severely punished.

This set forth of a pattern that was to repeat itself over the next few years  — Caesar would escape, wander the bush for a time, receiving food and ammunition from sympathetic settlers who had heard of his exploits breathlessly recounted in the newspapers, before he was sent back to prison.

Unfortunately for Caesar, his exploits eventually went too far and provoked the authorities into appealing to that other great love of Australians  — drinking. Five gallons of rum, a liquid damn near worth its weight in gold to thirsty Sydneysiders, was the bounty placed on his head. A month later, in February, 1796 he was shot dead at Strathfield by a settler, who promptly claimed the reward.

The Full Story Is Here