Colonization, Education, and the Formation of Moral Character: Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s A Letter from Sydney
Edward Gibbon Wakefield proposed a scheme of “systematic colonization” that he claimed would guarantee the formation of civilized moral character in settler societies at the same time as it reproduced imperial class relations. The scheme, which was first hatched after Wakefield read Robert Gourlay’s A Statistical Account of Upper Canada, inverted the dominant understanding of the relation between school and society. Wakefield claimed that without systematic colonization, universal schooling would be dangerous and demoralizing. Wakefield intervened in contemporary debate about welfare reform and population growth, opposing attempts to enforce celibacy on poor women and arguing that free enjoyment of “animal liberty” made women both moral and beautiful.