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Simon Adams

Simon Adams’s thesis is that capital punishment was crucial in how the West was won: ‘The gallows were a potent symbol of an unforgiving social order that was determined to stamp its moral authority over one-third of the Australian continent.’ But hanging was discriminatory; it ‘was never applied fairly or impartially in Western Australia’. Adams points to the fact that ‘there were 17 men hanged between 1889 and 1904, all of whom were “foreigners”: two Afghans, six Chinese, one Malay, two Indians, one Greek, one Frenchman and four Manilamen’, but not a single ‘Britisher’. Capital punishment was racist, reflecting the ‘distortions and prejudices of the British colonial legal system’.

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