This paper will explore naval officers’ enactment of friendship in colonial space at the end of the eighteenth century. Crucial to sociability and commerce, the meaning of friendship was examined by moral philosophers such as Adam Smith and debated in intellectual cubs. For white supremacist writers like Lord Kames, its ideal manifestation was denied to supposedly ‘savage’ people. Defined as passionate, First Nations people were deemed to lack the self-command necessary for the interdependent, and sympathetic, friendship so crucial to commercial civility.
In this context how should we understand proclamations of friendship toward ‘the natives’* by the naval officers who invaded Eora country in 1788 and declared that Warrane be called Sydney? While some scholars argue that a cross-cultural friendship was manifested in eighteenth-century Oceania, this neglects the colonial power dynamic. It is also more easily applicable to spaces like Tahiti than Eora country. In Eora country, to legitimise white invasion, the British declared people savages and violently appropriated their land.
Rather than the expression of an egalitarian interdependency, in Eora country, friendship was an assertion of power. I will argue that the metropolitan model of friendship was applied – it was discursively the same. However, the colonial context reveals that a primary aim of ‘friendship’ was to assert a Whiteness of civility and sensibility. This Whiteness was then deployed to legitimise violence against Indigenous peoples, declaring them unsociable and unfriendly for their refusal to cede sovereignty and accept European civilisation at musket point.
*The Eora, Dharug, Dharawal and surrounding nations
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