Street Level Predestination

On the 6th October 1810 the last Autocrat of Sydney, having lived 9 months in the town, found himself fidgety with feeling over the state of street names. Consequently, a notice appeared in the Sydney Gazette making known the will of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

His Excellency the governor, being extremely desirous to do everything in his power that can in the least degree contribute to the ornament and regularity of the town of Sydney...

Extremely desirous.

[H]is Excellency deems it expedient to give regular and permanent names to all the streets and ways leading through the town, and to order posts and finger-boards, with the names of the streets painted on them, to be erected in conspicuous parts of the different streets where they cross each other, as well as at their respective terminations. These posts and finger-boards are accordingly to be immediately put up, and the streets are henceforth to be known and called only by the new names now given them… [1]

[1] 6 October 1810 Sydney Gazette in The Birth of Sydney. Edited by Tim Flannery. The Text Publishing Company. Kindle Edition. First Published 1999.

The result was the transformation of a series of rows and ruttings largely known by their use within the military camp: Back Soldier's Row, Middle Soldier's Row, Chapel Row, Barrack Street were transmuted into Kent, Clarence, Castlereagh, and York. But they still ran along the lines that some unremembered Adjutant directed when the soldier's first pitched their tents and jostled for positions on the ridge.

Those streets, laid down within their own matrix of necessity and contingency, have seen a city grow up around them. Each day they guide and direct the footsteps of a hundred thousand souls in their courses.

If my footsteps are ordered by the Lord, then his providential pathmaking has been effected in no small part through the laying down and naming of city streets. Do you see it? The places that I have come to in this city, the events and timings that have shaped my life in this place were brought into existence (granted, secondarily) by the available footpaths between its buildings. The course of my life—the names I have for it—where given me by a Scotsman on 6 October in 1810. When you think about providence and predestination, do you think from street level?

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