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Sir Henry Parkes -- in praise of terror. (From the Archive).

Numerous commentators have noted that new US anti-terrorist laws -- the so-called USA PATRIOT provisions -- are of such sweeping purview that they would catch many of that nation's founders in their net, from guerrilla leader George Washington to Thomas Jefferson -- who, in his capacity as US ambassador to France during the great terror, opined that the liquidation of the entire aristocratic class was pretty much necessary if the revolution was to succeed. Even national treasures such as Mark Twain (`if dynamite is the only thing that can change the Russian government I say thank god for dynamite') have retroactively become terrorists.

Nevertheless it is rare to find a nation whose progenitors are openly supportive of terrorism, save for the rule-proving exception of Ireland. Here Australia can hold its head up high, for we have as our founder a man, Sir Henry Parkes, who distinguished himself not only by a measure of anti-Asian racism remarkable even for the nineteenth century antipodes, nor merely for writing bad poetry, but for being perhaps the first racist to write bad poetry in praise of the propaganda of the deed.

`The Beauteous Terrorist' was composed by Parkes after he read an account of the death of the Russian narodnik Sophia Perovskaia, executed for attempting to blow up the czar at a time when such activity was, as a pastime of Russian aristocrat youth, second only to hunting reindeer. Despite its assiduous pursuit of all the nineteenth century poetic vices, the work is of interest not only for its patent sincerity, nor for the fact that -- dammit -- it's moving, but also because Parkes clearly saw the cause of the `Terrorist' party as coextensive with that of an independent Australia. A reminder that, beyond the sanitised accounts of Federation, our founding years exhibited radical and reactionary impulses not merely in the one movement, but in the one man.
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Title Annotation:one of Australia's founders
Author:Serca, Kim
Publication:Arena Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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