John West

John West (1809 – 1873) Congregational minister, author, newspaper editor
Arguably one of the most statesmanlike of Christians who influenced Australian public life was John West, Congregationalist minister of Launceston, and later editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. He is a marvellous example of a man of character who stood for the power of moral principles in public life.

Stuart Piggin from the Centre for the History of Christian Thought and Experience at Macquarie University, http://www.anchist.mq.edu.au/CTE/ writes:

Arguably one of the most statesmanlike of Christians who influenced Australian public life was John West, Congregationalist minister of Launceston, and later editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. He is a marvellous example of a man of character who stood for the power of moral principles in public life.

Politically, West was neither a conservative, nor a radical republican like his contemporary, John Dunmore Lang. He was a moderate and a liberal. He could see all sides of an argument and he believed in putting all sides on the grounds that the truth will win out without any help from biased presentations. He was also quite fearless.

The combination of impartiality plus courage made him a superb newspaper editor. The Launceston Examiner which he founded and edited was a magnificent newspaper. West explained that it was ‘not to be a religious newspaper, but what is more necessary, the paper of a religious man’.

West arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1838. It was a critical time, when the quest for representative government became intertwined with the demand to end transportation and begin federalism.

West represented the anti-transportation movement as a ‘moral’ cause and therefore attracted Christians to its flag (which was very like Australia’s flag today) like bees to a honey pot. The movement reads like an updated anti-slavery society, which of course it was, because the thread of Christian conviction which Wesley and Wilberforce began to weave into the tapestry of Australian history has been picked up by other needles, such as West.

West sought to win over those who wanted to retain transportation because it gave them cheap labour. He argued his case on the grounds of principle and practice. If something is right it is not only true, but it also works.

The principle? Governments are to ‘guard – not the rights or prejudices of a caste – but the order and morality of society’.

The practice? Everybody is better off, including the landowner, when labour is remunerated well. It is private enterprise with morality and representative government which is the route to prosperity.

Transportation ended to Van Diemen’s Land on the colony’s jubilee, 10 August 1853 and, appropriately, was rung in by church bells, not the roar of cannon, for it was a moral victory.

John Dunmore Lang, the radical republican, was one who castigated West for neglecting the eternal welfare of his congregation in Launceston, while he attended to the temporal affairs of the nation. But West would have none of it, arguing that the campaign to bring Australia to nationhood was a moral crusade.

It is interesting to reflect on the power of moral arguments. Research needs to be done on precisely why moral arguments were so effective politically then and what has to happen to make them potent now.

Source : https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/telling-untold-stories/

Further information on John West – Australian Dictionary of Biography :
http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020533b.htm

______________________________
Leave a Reply, comments are welcome.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Christians. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s