Labour History

“I Intend to Get Justice”: The Moral Economy of Soldier Settlement

Labour History (2014), 106, (1), 229–253.

Abstract

Soldier settlement was a key scheme in a suite of repatriation policies enacted in the aftermath of World War I. Across Australia thousands of returned men, including over 9,000 in New South Wales, took up the challenge and tried their luck on the land. Thousands failed. Through the voices of individual soldier settlers and using extensive and only recently released Department of Lands loan files, this article focuses on one aspect of the soldier settlement experience: their sense of moral economy. It argues that many soldier settlers drew on the labour movement’s expectations of their rights and entitlements in an effort to deal with government bureaucracy within a context of failing markets, poor land and rising costs.

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Footnotes

1.J. Carter, Sworn Statement, 8 June 1927, J. Carter, 12/6955, no. 3713, Lands Department, NRS 8058, Returned Soldiers loan files, State Records NSW. Hereafter simply the name of the settler and loan file number will be given. See also John Carter, B2455, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Personnel Service Dossiers, National Archives of Australia (NAA). Google Scholar

2.Justice Pike, Report on Losses due to Soldier Settlement, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia (:Government Printer, 24 August1929), 5. Google Scholar

4.Memorandum 16 August 1922; I. R. Hill to Director, 16 May, 22 September, 3 October, 16 October, 23 October, 21 November 1922; C. M. Donald to Director 20 April, 21 December 1920;I. R. Hill, 12/6393, no. 3459. Google Scholar

5.Selected studies on Australian World War I soldier settlement in Victoria include,Marilyn Lake, The Limits of Hope: Soldier Settlement in Victoria, 1915–38(:Oxford University Press, 1987);J. M. Powell, “The Mapping of Soldier Settlement: A Note for Victoria, 1917–29,” Journal of Australian Studies 2, no. 3(1978):44–51;J. M. Powell, “Australia’s ‘Failed’ Soldier Settlers, 1914–23: Towards a Demographic Profile,” Australian Geographer 16, no. 3(1985):225–29;Jacqueline Templeton, “Set Up to Fail? Soldier Settlers,” Victorian Historical Journal 59(1988):42–50;Monica Keneley, “Land of Hope: Soldier Settlement in the Western District of Victoria, 1918–1930,” Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History(2000), accessed March 2014,http://www.jcu.edu.au/aff/history/articles/keneley2.htm; andK. Frost, “Soldier Settlement after World War in South-Western Victoria”(PhD diss.,Deakin University, 2002). For Queensland, seeD. Parker, “An Assessment of Stanthorpe Soldier Settlement Scheme, 1915–1930”(BA Hons diss.,University of New England, 1982);Murray Johnson, “Promises and Pineapples: Post-First World War Soldier Settlement at Beerburrum, Queensland, 1916–1929,” Australian Journal of Politics and History 51, no. 4(2005):496–512; andR. A. Hawkins, “Socialism at Work? Corporatism, Soldier Settlers and the Canned Pineapple Industry in South Eastern Queensland, 1917–1930,” Australian Studies, no. 4 (1990):35–59. For Western Australia, seeI. L. Hunt, “Group Settlement in Western Australia,” University Studies in History and Economics 8(1958):5–42. Tasmanian studies include Quentin Beresford,“The World War One Soldier Settlement Scheme in Tasmania,” Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings 30(1983):90–100; andAndrew Richardson, “The Long Road Home: Repatriation in Tasmania, 1916–1929”(PhD diss.,University of Tasmania, 2005). British Empire soldier settlement schemes have been covered byKent Fedorowich, Unfit for Heroes: Reconstruction and Soldier Settlement in the Empire between the Wars(:Manchester University Press, 1995). Other studies includeJ. M. Powell, “Soldier Settlement in New Zealand, 1915–1923,” Australian Geographical Studies 9, no. 2(October1971):144–60;J. M. Powell, “The Debt of Honour: Soldier Settlement in the Dominions, 1915–1940,” Journal of Australian Studies, no. 8 (June1981):64–87;Ashley Gould, “Soldier Settlement in New Zealand after World War I: A Reappraisal,”inAn Anzac Muster: War and Society in Australia and New Zealand, 1914–18 and 1939–45, ed.Judith SmartandTony Wood(:Monash Publications in History, 1992);M. Roche, “World War I Empire Discharged Soldier Settlement in Comparative Focus,” History Compass 9, no. 1(2011):1–15. Google Scholar

6.Richard Waterhouse, The Vision Splendid: A Social and Cultural History of Rural Australia(:Curtin University Books, 2005);Michael McKernan, Drought: The Red Marauder(:Allen and Unwin, 2005);John McQuilton, Rural Australia and the Great War: From Tarrawingee to Tangambalanga(:Melbourne University Press, 2001). See alsoGraeme DavisonandMarc Brodie, Struggle Country: The Rural Ideal in Twentieth Century Australia(:Monash University e-press, 2005). Google Scholar

7.Local studies of World War I soldier settlement in New South Wales includeJack Cockerill, Dyraaba Pioneers: The Dyraaba Soldiers Settlement(:Albert Cockerill Publishers, 2003);R. Sparkes, “‘Forty Acres and a Crow’: A Comparison of Soldier Settlement in Australia after Two World Wars”(MA Honours diss.,University of New England, 1996); andR. Sparkes, “Soldier Settlement following World War One: A Costly Experiment,” Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, no. 40 (April1997):15–23;M. J. O’Sullivan, “A NSW Land Settlement Study: Kentucky Soldiers’ Settlement, 1917–1975”(M. Litt diss.,University of New England, 1976);Selena Williams, “‘Not Openly Encouraged’: Nurse Soldier Settlers after World War One”(MA Honours diss.,University of New England, 2010). Google Scholar

8.Glenys Allison, “‘From Bullets to Pullets’: Bankstown Soldier Settlement,” Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society 95, pt 2 (November2009):144–57;Glenys Allison, “Shadows of the Great War: Group Soldier Settlement in Greater Sydney, 1917–1939”(PhD diss.,University of New England, 2011). Google Scholar

9.Senator Millen quoted inClem LloydandJacqui Rees, The Last Shilling: A History of Repatriation in Australia(:Melbourne University Press, 1994), 77. Google Scholar

10.Bruce Scates, A New Australia: Radicalism, Citizenship and the First Republic(:Cambridge University Press1997);Stephen Garton, The Cost of War: Australians Return(:Oxford University Press, 1996);Lake, Limits of Hope. Google Scholar

11.Along with our industry partners (and with the help of our principal research assistant Selena Williams) we created the website “A Land Fit for Heroes,” launched in 2010,http://soldiersettlement.records.nsw.gov.au/. Google Scholar

12.Daniel Ebrill to the Minister for Lands, 11 May 1931;D. J. N. Ebrill, 12/7154 no. 6234. We thank Catherine Tiernan for her diligence in reminding us of Ebrill’s outburst.Nathan Wise, “The Lost Labour Force: Working Class Approaches towards Military Service during the Great War,” Labour History, no. 93 (November2007):161–76;Nathan Wise, “Fighting a Different Enemy: Social Protest against Authority in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War,” Humour and Social Protest: International Review of Social History, Supplement 15 (December2007):225–41; andNathan Wise, “‘In Military Parlance I Suppose We were Mutineers’: Industrial Relations in the AIF during the Great War,” Labour History, no. 101 (November2011):161–76. Of course, not every settler cited in this article had been active in the union movement before his enlistment but all were acculturated in a language of “just entitlement” at the core of trade unionism. Google Scholar

13.Ray Markey, The Making of the Labor Party in New South Wales, 1880–1900(:UNSW Press, 1988);Frank Bongiorno, “Class, Populism and Labour Politics in Victoria, 1890–1914,” Labour History, no. 66 (May1994):14–32. Google Scholar

14.E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class(:Gollancz, 1963);E. P. Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present, no. 50, (February1971):76–136. Google Scholar

15.Alan Atkinson, “Four Patterns of Convict Protest,” Labour History, no. 37 (November1979):28–51. See alsoE. J. Hobsbawm, Bandits(:Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969);Eric Hobsbawm, “Custom, Wages and Workload,” Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour(:Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1964);E. P Thompson, “The Moral Economy Reviewed,”in his bookCustoms in Common(:Penguin, 1993);Stuart Macintyre, Colonial Liberalism(:Oxford University Press, 1991); andBen Maddison, “From ‘Moral Economy’ to ‘Political Economy’ in New South Wales, 1870–1900,” Labour History, no. 75 (November1998):81–107. Google Scholar

16.Atkinson, “Four Patterns of Convict Protest,” 30. Google Scholar

17.Inspector’s Report, 3 October 1922, 15 February1927;T. Porter, 12/7183, no. 6642. Google Scholar

19.For further consideration of the role of the inspector (and an engaging discussion of the gender politics of the scheme) seeKate Murphy, “The ‘Most Dependable Element of any Country’s Manhood’: Masculinity and Rurality in the Great War and its Aftermath,” History Australia 5, no. 3(2008):72.1–72.20. Google Scholar

20.See, for example, The New South Wales Handbook for Returned Soldiers and Sailors(:Government Printer, 1919) and Minister for Lands, NSW, Land for Soldiers(:Government Printer, February1918and April 1920). For a commonwealth perspective, see the commonwealth government journal, Repatriation, published from March 1919 to December 1920; andAustralian Land Settlement for Returned Soldiers and Sailors: The Australian State Government Proposals(:Repatriation and Demobolisation Dept, January1919). Google Scholar

21.C. J. King, An Outline of Closer Settlement in NSW, Part 1: The Sequence of the Land Laws, 1788–1956(:Department of Agriculture, 1957), especially 254–56. Google Scholar

22. Land for Soldiers(April1920), 3. Google Scholar

24.In his report, Pike defined this as “such an area as, when worked by an industrious settler, will, under average seasons and circumstances, return him sufficient to meet his commitments to the State and to maintain himself and family in reasonable comfort”;Pike, Report on Losses, 14. Google Scholar

30.Letter from J. McInnes to J. A. Watson, 10 October 1921; J. McInnes, 12/7274, no. 7914. The war gratuity paid a flat rate of one shilling and sixpence a day from the date of embarkation to the signing of the Versailles Treaty on 21 June 1919. Legislated through theWar Gratuity Bill, 1920, it was to be a gift from the people of Australia to the ex-servicemen and women who served during the war. Google Scholar

39.Lake, Limits of Hope, especially chs 4 and 5. Google Scholar

43.Memo byG. I. Marland, 9 March 1923; F. N. Smith to A. A. Watson, 19 July 1921; F. N. Smith, 12/7005, no. 4304. Google Scholar

44. Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March1921;Smith’s Weekly, 12 March 1921;Truth, 13 March 1921;Daily Telegraph, 12 March 1921. Google Scholar

46.E. H. Haselden to Minister, 7, 29 November1930; E. H. Haselden, 12/7090, no. 5369. Google Scholar

48. Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April1919. Google Scholar

49. Coolah Advocate, 12 November1919, clipping in file for H. Berman, 12/78497, no. 310. See alsoSydney Morning Herald, 6 October 1920. Google Scholar

50.J. C. Patten toThe Land, 21 March1933; J. C. Patten, 12/7415, no. 10249. Google Scholar

51.Pike, Report on Losses, 22. Google Scholar

53.J. Dillon to Minister, 22 December1919; Memorandum, 23 September, 16 December1919; G. H. Douglas, 12/7499, no. 692. Google Scholar

54.Inspector’s Report, 27 February1928; R. T. McClean, 12/7299, no. 8346. Google Scholar

55.Extract of letter from W. J. Hay 28 August1920; J. Dixon, 9033. Google Scholar

56.W. Tolley to the Director, RSS Branch, 20 October1920; J Dixon, 9033. Google Scholar

57.Peter Stanley, Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny, Murder and the Australian Imperial Force(:Murdoch Books, 2010). Google Scholar

58.Memorandum, 13 October1927; C. J. Ryan to Under Secretary, 2 May1923, 16 June1923; C. S. Ryan, 12/7118, no. 5753. Google Scholar

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Scates, Bruce

Oppenheimer, Melanie