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Title: Early Australian History. Convict Life in New South Wales and
       Van Diemen's Land, Parts I & II]
Author: Charles White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1204081.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2012
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Title: Early Australian History. Convict Life in New South Wales and
       Van Diemen's Land, Parts I & II]
Author: Charles White

* * *




New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.













Early Australian History.


A Series of Historical Sketches, bearing upon Australian Colonization
and Convict Life in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.



How strangely the links fit in! Little did the British Government think
when issuing the orders in Council in 1786 for establishing a Convict
Settlement in New South Wales, that they were taking the initial steps
towards founding a "New Britannia in the Southern World." Yet so it was.
If the American War of Independence had not closed the plantations of
Virginia against the reception of transported offenders, and cast upon
the British Government the duty of fixing upon some other place to which
they might send some of the prisoners who then filled the gaols of Great
Britain to overflowing, the wonderful land of which Captain Cook had
spoken as having been discovered by him, and concerning which the
interest of the English people had been considerably excited at the time
his narratives-were published--the land which now ranks as one of
the richest, most populous, and most progressive of the British
dependencies--might to this day have remained in the possession of the
aborigines; producing nothing, promising nothing; locked up from
civilization and all its blessings (and curses), and unknown save to the
few thousands of blacks who might from year to year inhabit it. And what,
then, would the world have lost--what, then, should we who live in it
have lost?

Pessimists, time and again, have raised a lachrymose wail about the
'stain' which must always rest on the colony through the criminality of
its early life; but these men can never see anything but the evil, and
even that evil they would intensify for the sake of making their wailing
more mournful. 'Tis true that the beginning was in some measure bad, but
that bad beginning was better than no beginning at all; and, fresh from
long and deep research among old records, I am bold to declare that the
earlier convicts were not the worst criminals who came out to the
colony, and that some of the darker and bloodier stains which deface the
first pages of the colony's history were made by men who counted the poor
chained wretches under them as worse than the offal in a
charnel-house--men who came out free, who lived freely, lied and robbed
and murdered freely, and who literally fattened on the blood of other
mortals a thousand times better than themselves, although those mortals
had been banished from their fatherland in chains. The facts in proof of
this assertion will appear in proper order; at present we must deal
with events that transpired before either bond or free from Britain's
shores placed foot upon Australian land for the purpose of making it
their home.

Great Britain had had experience of transport colonization before ever
Australia was thought of. For upwards of a century and a half, historians
tell us, great numbers of convicts were annually sent across the
Atlantic to American plantations, most of them being sold to the
planters for a term of years or for life, and from this source, for a
considerable period, England is said to have derived a revenue as large
at times as £40,000 a year, the convicts being sold to the planters at
an average of £20 each. But here, also, out of evil good arose. Virginia,
one of England's earliest and most successful attempts at colonization,
is a remarkable instance of prosperity outflowing from beginnings of the
darkest moral shade. In the case of Australia, the conditions were
different, but the elements were the same, and now that the old order has
changed, giving place to the new, we, from the midst of the free,
beneficent and flourishing institutions now existing--from surroundings
of the most favorable character--from conditions of private, social and
public life of which any nation might be proud--look out upon the
fast-fading picture of the past, and marvel exceedingly at the change.

"Read me anything but history," said Walpole; "that is sure to be
false." And a good many in Australia living at the present day would
give not a little of their possessions to be able to create a general
distaste for and hatred of colonial history, and to induce those who
cared to read that history to believe that it was false. They fear the
record because of its truth, and because they have reason to know that
in this case "truth is stranger than fiction." And I purpose giving only
such facts, in this somewhat irregular narrative, as can be vouched for
either by living witnesses or by written (some very badly written)
official records. The reader can, of course, if he choose, keep in view
the maxim of Epicharmus--"Be discreet, and bethink thee to be
mistrustful, to disbelieve rather than otherwise;" but neither doubt nor
distrust on the reader's part will render less true the records--some of
which are written in ineffaceable letters of blood.


PART I.----The Story of the Ten Governors.



IT was early in the year 1787 that a fleet of eleven sail could be seen
rendezvousing off the Isle of Wight, the names of the vessels being the
Sirius, frigate; the Supply, armed tender; the Golden Grove, Fishburn,
and Barrowdale, storeships; and the Scarborough, Lady
Penrhyn, Friendship, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, and
Alexander, transports. On board were Captain Arthur Phillip, styled
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of New South Wales, with other inferior
officers--a Lieutenant-Governor, a chaplain, a commissary, judge
advocate, surgeon, adjutant, quarter-master, two assistant surgeons and
an agent for transports; a garrison of 200 marines, fully officered; 200
soldiers, forty of whom were allowed to take their wives and families;
81 other free persons and 696 convicts--making a total of 1044 persons.
Of this number 1030 were safely landed in the colony in January, 1788,
having been eight months on the water. Of the number landed about 300
were females, twenty-eight being wives of the military, and 192
convicts. It must not be supposed that these male and female convicts
were criminals of the deepest die, for they were mostly young persons
from the agricultural districts of England, and out of the whole 696,
only 55 were sentenced for longer periods than seven years, and the
sentences of a large number would expire within two or three years after
their landing. The laws of England a century ago, and their
administration, were very different from what they are now, and large
numbers of those who crowded the gaols, and were sent from the gaols
across the water to the new land, had never been accused of anything
worse than poaching or smuggling, while many of them were suffering for
political offences which in later days made statesmen, and crowned the
'transgressors' with imperishable glory. That there were some very bad
men and women in the first batch, and in the batches that followed in
their wake, is true; but the number was proportionately small, and their
influence for evil was necessarily contracted.

The first ship of the fleet, the Supply, with the Governor on board,
anchored in Botany Bay on 18th January, 1788, and was closely followed by
the other ships. Concerning the landing we find the following record in
the history of Governor Phillip's voyage, published in the following
year:--"At the very first landing of Governor Phillip on the shore of
Botany Bay, January 18th, 1788, an interview with the natives took
place. They were all armed, but on seeing the Governor approach with
signs of friendship, alone and un-armed, they readily returned his
confidence by laying down their weapons. They were perfectly devoid of
clothing, yet seemed fond of ornaments, putting the beads and red baize
that were given them on their heads and necks, and appearing pleased to
wear them. The presents offered by their new visitors were all readily
accepted, nor did any kind of disagreement arise while the ships
remained in Botany Bay." Well would it have been for the aborigines if
Governor Phillip's spirit had animated all those who in after years,
during the succeeding efforts of colonization and settlement, were
brought into contact with them. Some of the facts detailed later on will
prove that, in the fullest sense of the term, civilization to the blacks
meant nothing more nor less than physical and moral ruin, and that in
the sound of the first gun fired from a British piece on Australian soil
the original occupants of that soil heard their death knell.

The story of the first landing of Governor Phillip's mixed party, and
the subsequent removal of the settlement from Botany Bay to Port
Jackson, whose harbour, from its sheltered position, deep water, and
almost immeasurable bays and bold headlands, was seen to be the most
desirable haven that anyone could wish, must be familiar to the reader;
as also must be the formalities observed by the Governor on January
26th, 1788, in taking possession of the land--hoisting British colors on
a flagstaff erected on the site now occupied by Dawes' Battery, drinking
the King's health around the pole amid much excitement and cheering,
while the blacks saw and heard from a distance the wonderful sights and
sounds, little dreaming that the company of white-faced mortals upon
whom they gazed would in so short a space of time push them off the land
which Nature had given them to possess.

The work of clearing a sufficient space for tents and stores on the
shores of Sydney Cove occupied about a fortnight, and this done, the
work of establishing a regular form of Government was carried out in a
very solemn manner by the Governor. The military was drawn up under
arms, the prisoners stationed apart, and the Royal Commission and the
Acts of Parliament authorising the establishment of the Courts of
Judicature having been read by the Judge-Advocate, a volley was
fired, and his Excellency delivered an address to the convicts. He
reminded them that they were now so placed that by industry and good
behaviour they might soon regain the advantages which they had
forfeited, and promised that every assistance should be rendered them in
their efforts to reach the position which they had lost by their
offences; but he told them plainly that no mercy would be shewn to
offenders against the law. He advised those of the convicts who were in
a position to do so to marry, holding out to them promises of
assistance; and he closed his address by declaring his earnest desire to
promote the well being of all who had been placed under his control, and
his determination, with the help of God, to render the colonization of
the new land advantageous and honorable to the colony.

Speaking of this time, Collins, one of the earliest writers on the
colonization of New South Wales, says: "The confusion that ensued will
not be wondered at when it is considered that every man stepped from a
boat literally into a wood. Parties of people were everywhere heard and
seen variously employed; some in clearing ground for the different
encampments, others in pitching tents or bringing up such stores as were
more immediately wanted; and the spot which had so recently been the
abode of silence and tranquility was now changed to that of noise,
clamour and confusion; but after a time order gradually prevailed
everywhere. As the woods were opened and the ground cleared, the various
encampments were extended, and all wore the appearance of regularity."
Let anyone now mix with the thousands of hurrying, bustling mortals, of
every age and color and clime, who daily come and go to the water's edge
where this landing took place, and as he gazes across the crowded
harbour or turns back to pass through the mazes of buildings and the
ever-thickening stream of people in the city of Sydney and the adjacent
suburbs, the one great surprise of his life will be the marvellous
change which has taken place in the short space of a hundred years.

Four months after the first landing--in May, 1788--the Governor directed
every person in the Settlement to make a return of what live stock was
in his possession, and this was the full record:--1 horse, 3 mares, 3
colts, 2 bulls, 5 cows, 29 sheep, 19 goats, 49 hogs, 29 pigs, 5 rabbits,
18 turkeys, 29 geese, 35 ducks, 122 fowls, and 89 chickens. And only
this from which the supply of fresh meat for more than a thousand
persons was to be drawn! From this small stock, in the following month,
the two bulls and four of the five cows were lost through the
carelessness of the man who had charge of them; although the loss
eventually proved a great and permanent gain, the stray animals being
afterwards discovered--in November, 1795--on the other side of the
Nepean River, a place there after called the Cowpastures, the seven
having become nearly fifty. Governor Hunter, who had succeeded Phillip,
in person went in search of the missing cattle and personally inspected
the herd, satisfying himself that they were the descendants of the
original importations by having one of them killed. These wild cattle
were religiously preserved from destruction, and increasing greatly
divided into mobs, each under the charge of a victorious bull, until the
general increase of stock diminished their value. The surrounding small
settlers consumed not a little of the wild beef, and, subsequently, when
beef ceased to be a luxury, the remnants of this wild tribe, which had
sprung from the original stock, were destroyed by order of the
Government. It is recorded that about the time this wild herd was
discovered three miserable cows of the Indian breed sold for £189, and
two years afterwards two ships were employed eight months in bringing 51
cows, 3 bulls, and 90 sheep from the Cape, at enormous cost. Running
along the years we find at the beginning of 1887, in the three colonies
of Australia alone--New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland--the
following record of live stock possessions:--


New South Wales:
............369,663 Horses
.........1,367,844 Cattle
.......39,169,304 Sheep
...........209,576 Pigs.

............308,553 Horses
.........1,303,265 Cattle
.......10,700,403 Sheep
............240,957 Pigs.

............278,694 Horses
.........4,071,563 Cattle
.........9,690,445 Sheep
..............61,861 Pigs.

.............956,910 Horses
..........6,742,672 Cattle
........59,560,152 Sheep
............512,394 Pigs.


And this is not the only illustration that Australia has furnished of a
'little one' becoming 'a thousand.'

It was towards the close of 1792 that Governor Phillip resigned his
command in the colony and returned to England; and here a word or two
may be said in praise of his uprightness of character, kindness of
heart, firm discipline, and administrative ability. His position was a
peculiarly onerous one, his duties were most difficult, and the noble
example of disinterestedness and self-sacrifice set by him on more than
one occasion when actual starvation stared the colonists--free as well
as bond--in the face, has never been surpassed by any ruler in ancient
or modern times. After the lapse of a hundred years one can hardly
conceive the difficulties attendant upon official life in the days when
Governor Phillip held absolute sway. The rough and rude material which
he had to shape into order and decency would under favorable
circumstances have tested the humanity and statesmanship of the kindest
of mortals and the most skilful of generals; but it was under the most
unfavorable conditions that Governor Phillip successfully carried the
people placed under his charge through the initial stages of
colonization and settlement. The convicts at times gave great trouble,
and had it not been for the strictness of the discipline
enforced--although no approach was made to arbitrariness, much less
official cruelty--it is more than probable that felony would have proved
too much for the powers of militaryism, and lawlessness would have
triumphed. It is not every man who, in a similar position, would have
used his powers so wisely--powers the equal of which have, perhaps,
never been held or exercised by any other official in the British
dominions. He could sentence to 500 lashes, fine £500; the regulation of
customs and trade were in his hands; he could fix prices and wages,
could sentence a man to death and execute him, or grant an absolute
pardon; he could bestow grants of land, or prevent a would-be purchaser
from investing in any article for use or trade. As Samuel Sidney well
puts it: "All the labour of the colony was at his disposal, all the
land, all the stores, all the places of honor and profit, and virtually
all the justice. His subjects consisted of his subordinate
officers--for, as captain-general, the commandant of the troops was
under his orders,--of the few who resorted to New South Wales to trade,
whose profits were at his disposal, and the convicts, outcasts without
civil rights. The distance from England, the few means of communication,
the indifference of the English to the fate of the inhabitants of a
penal colony, or of any colony, rendered the governor, so far as the
control of law extended, actually irresponsible. As there was no law, so
there was no publicity and no public opinion to restrain the despotism
which was the only possible government in such a penal colony." More
powerful than many Sovereigns, yet exercising that power more like a
kind parent than a despotic king, what wonder that he should have
succeeded in preserving order in a community and under conditions most
unfavorable, and where failure would have attended the efforts of most

Under the unfavourable circumstances existing, it was not to be expected
that during the four-and-a-half years of Governor Phillip's reign any
great progress in the direction of proper settlement would be made; but
there was progress, nevertheless. The work of cultivation was carried on
by the Government as well as it was able on the public account, but the
conditions of soil and labour were so unsuitable that the yield was not
nearly sufficient at the best to provide for the wants of the
inhabitants, whose numbers were ever increasing by the arrival of fresh
ship-loads of convicts. On two or three occasions the colony was put in
the greatest straits through the failure of the crops and the absence of
provisions. During the first year nothing was produced in the colony
except a few vegetables, and the stock of provisions brought out from
England was in danger of being exhausted before fresh supplies could be
procured. Everyone was put upon short allowance, and disaffection among
the troops and the convicts speedily manifested itself. Some of the
former entered into a conspiracy for plundering the public store, and
succeeded in abstracting a quantity of provisions before the plot was
discovered. As a warning to others the chief conspirators, seven in
number, were hanged by the Governor straight off. Starvation stared the
people in the face, and, regardless of consequences, the convicts broke
regulation bounds and strayed into the bush in search of herbs and
roots. The result was a natural one--scores of them were murdered by the
blacks, and so many were being cut down in this way that an order was
given for every one found beyond certain boundaries to receive one
hundred and fifty lashes. If any of the unfortunates managed to get away
from the aborigines only wounded they were sent to the hospital, and
flogged as soon as they recovered. In those days death was not always
the worst fate that could befall a prisoner.

The early records declare that one man who was caught by the solitary
clergyman in the settlement stealing potatoes from a garden, was
sentenced to 300 lashes, to have his ration of flour stopped for six
months, and to be chained for that period to two others who had been
caught robbing the Governor's garden.

During this trying period Governor Phillip lived on the same ration as
was allowed to the meanest person under his charge, the weekly provision
issued to everyone being simply two and a half pounds of flour, two
pounds of rice, and two pounds of pork. The humanity of the Governor is
seen in the fact narrated by Collins that he gave up 3 cwt. of flour
which was his own private property, declaring that he did not wish to
have on his table at such a time more than the ration that was received
in common from the public stores.

When the people were on the very verge of despair and death, their eyes
were gladdened by the sight of a provision ship sailing into the
harbour, and bringing 127,000 lbs. of flour, being a four months' supply
for the settlement. A few days afterwards four ships arrived bringing
1000 male and 250 female convicts. It can readily be imagined what would
have happened had these transport ships discharged their living freight
before the public larder had been replenished by the timely arrival of
the vessel with provisions.

It is worthy of record that the first grant of land was made to a
settler named Ruse in 1791, he having declared that he was able to
support himself without aid from the Government stores on a farm which
he had occupied fifteen months, the grant of land having been made as a
reward for his industry. In December, 1792, there were 67 settlers
holding under grant 3,470 acres, of which 470 acres were under
cultivation and another hundred cleared. The bulk of this land was near
Sydney, and was then, as it is now, looked at from an agriculturist's
point of view, 'miserably barren;' and the little provision that was won
from the soil was chiefly due to the fact that the work was done by
convicts and without pay. These free settlers--most of them convicts
free by servitude or pardon--were supported entirely for eighteen months
by the Government, assistance being rendered as soon as they went on the
land. They were clothed, received their tools and primitive implements
of husbandry, and grain for seed, from the Government stores, together
with the use of as many convicts as they would undertake to clothe,
feed, and employ; while huts were erected for them also at the public

The Government also did a little farming on its own account, and the
site of the present Botanical gardens was one of the first plots to be
brought under cultivation.

Among the first settlers were some of the marines who had formed the
first garrison and whose places were filled by detachments of the corps
raised expressly for service in the colony, afterwards called the 102nd
Regiment. Those who chose to stay had quantities of land granted to them
in proportion to their rank, and several of those who availed themselves
of the advantages offered became wealthy colonists in the course of a
few years. The regulations under which land was granted to
non-commissioned officers and privates on the expiry of their terms of
service were as follows:--To every non-commissioned officer, an
allotment of 130 acres of land, if single; and 150 if married. To every
private 80 acres if single and 100 if married; and ten acres for each
child at the time of granting the allotment--free of all taxes,
quit-rents, and other acknowledgments for the term of five years; at the
expiration of which term to be liable to an annual quit-rent of one
shilling for every fifty acres. As a further inducement to engage in
public service, a bounty was offered of £3 per man to every
non-commissioned officer and private who would enlist in the new corps;
and an allotment of double the above proportion of land if they behaved
well for five years, to be granted them at the expiration of that term,
the allotments not to be subject to any tax for ten years. And at their
discharge at either of the above periods, they were to be supplied with
clothing and one year's provisions, with seed-grain, tools, and
implements of agriculture. The service of a certain number of convicts
was to be assigned to them for their labour when they could make it
appear that they could feed and clothe them.

A list of the prices of agricultural stock and produce at the close of
Governor Phillip's reign will shew how scarce were some of those things
which now are almost beyond counting. Flour (ship's) was 9d per lb.,
potatoes 3d per lb., tea 8s to 16s per lb., sugar 1s 6d per lb., (and
black at that!), porter 1s per quart, spirits 12s to 20s per gallon,
sheep (the Cape breed) £10 10s each, milch goats £8 8s, breeding sows £7
7s to £10 10s, laying fowls 10s each. Of cattle and horses there were
none for sale.

The rough mortality table for 1792 shews that there died two persons of
the civil department, six soldiers, 418 male convicts, 18 female
convicts, and 79 children. The marvel is that under such unfavourable
conditions of life the mortality was not much greater. Referring to this
subject Collins says:--"The weakest of the convicts were excused from
all kinds of labour; but it was not hard labour that destroyed them; it
was an entire want of strength in the constitution, which nothing but
proper nourishment could repair. This dreadful mortality was confined to
this class of people; and the wretches who were detected (stealing) were
in general too weak to receive a punishment adequate to their crimes.
Their universal plea was hunger; a plea which, though it could not be
contradicted, imperious necessity deprived of its due weight, and
frequently compelled punishment to be inflicted when pity was the
prevailing sentiment." When, however, the settlement was again placed on
full rations (July, 1792), there were better filled stomachs, more
contentment, and fewer deaths.

The year of Governor Phillip's departure was made remarkable also by the
arrival of the first foreign trading vessel. She was from the United
States, and entered Port Jackson in November, loaded with goods which
the enterprising American skipper considered suitable to the new market.
As it happened, the goods forming his cargo were in great demand, and he
disposed of them at a high profit. In the same month one of the first
warrants of emancipation was made out in favour of the notorious London
pick-pocket, Barrington, to whom the credit of composing the prologue to
one of the first dramatic representations attempted in the colony was
given, and which contained the oft-quoted lines:

"True patriots all, for be it understood,

We left our country for our country's good."

The following is the full text of that peculiar document:--

From distant climes, o'er wide-spread seas we come,

Though not with much eclat, or beat of drum;

True patriots all, for, be it understood,

We left our country for our country's good:

No private views disgrac'd our generous zeal.

What urg'd our travels was our country's weal;

And none will doubt, but that our emigration

Has proved most useful to the British nation.

But you inquire, what could our breasts inflame.

With this new passion for theatric fame;

What in the practice of our former days,

Could shape our talent to exhibit plays?

Your patience, Sirs, some observations made.

You'll grant us equal to the scenic trade.

He, who to midnight ladders is no stranger,

You'll own will make an admirable ranger.

To seek Macheath we have not far to roam,

And sure in Filch I shall be quite at home.

Unrivalled there, none will dispute my claim,

To high pre-eminence and exalted fame.

As oft to Gadshill we have ta'en our stand,

When 'twas so dark you could not see your hand.

Some true bred Falstaff we may hope to start,

Who, when well-holster'd well will play his part,

The scene to vary, we shall try in time.

To treat you to a little pantomime.

Here light and easy columbines are found,

And well-bred harlequins with us abound;

From durance vile our precious selves to keep

We often had recourse to th' flying leap;

To a black face have sometimes ow'd escape,

And Hounslow Heath has proved the worth of crape.

But how, you ask, can we e'er hope to soar

Above these scenes, and rise to tragic lore?

Too oft, alas! we've forced th' unwilling tear,

And petrified the heart with real fear.

Macbeth a harvest of applause will reap,

For some of us, I fear, have murdered sleep;

His lady too with grace will sleep and talk,

Our females have been used at night to walk.

Sometimes, indeed, so various is our art.

An actor may improve and mend his part;

"Give me a horse," bawls Richard, like a drone,

We'll find a man would help himself to one.

Grant us the favour, put us to the test,

To gain your smiles we'll do our very best;

And, without dread of future Turnkey Lockits,

Thus, in an honest way, still pick your pockets.

It is worthy of note also that the first attempt to penetrate the Blue
Mountains was made during Governor Phillip's reign. In the month of
December 1789, Lieutenant Dawes and a party essayed the task, but
returned to Sydney after nine days' absence without having as much as
touched the cover of that sealed book which in future years was to open
up to the people of all countries such a vast area of wealth-producing
soil. For many years thereafter the Blue Mountains were looked upon as a
curtain hiding from view a most mysterious land; but it is safe to say
that no dream of wealth and beauty then crossing the mind even
approached the reality which many thousands at the present day both feel
and know.

Governor Phillip embarked for England on the 11th December, 1792, and
settled in Bath on a pension of £500 a year, which was granted by the
British Government, for his services in establishing the colony. He died
at Bath in 1814.



During the greater portion of the three years following Governor
Phillip's departure the Government of the settlement was practically a
military despotism. The Government devolved, first upon Major Francis
Grose, and secondly upon Captain Patterson, senior officers of the 102nd
Regiment of the New South Wales Corps, and these officers by
incompetency on the one hand and wretched militaryism on the other
succeeded in establishing an order of things the whole tendency of which
was evil, and the results of which have extended down the whole line of
the hundred years which have now passed since the foundation of the

A word or two here concerning the "New South Wales Corps," of which
these officers were distinguished members, must be said. The corps had
been raised in England in 1790-1 for service in the colonies--a service
which was not considered at that time either dignified or honourable for
any British officer of much repute to engage in; and consequently many
of those who found their way into it possessed a very low estimate of
morality and honesty. They were, therefore, quite prepared to engage in
any work, however dirty, or unjust, or arbitrary, that would bring
pecuniary profit to themselves or satisfy the gross sensuality of their
natures. And they found in the convict settlement a splendid field for
the exercise of their evil inclinations.

The first use Grose made of his power was to issue an order merging the
civil in the military authority. From this time forth the officers of
the Corps held the reins of power, and they were not slow to avail
themselves of the opportunities thus offered for self-aggrandisement;
and so firmly did they batten themselves on the life of the
colony--social, civil, and political--that for nearly a quarter of a
century after the issue of Grose's first order they literally wielded
the helm of State, against Governors and people alike.

Their first division of the 'spoils' consisted in land appropriation.
Although Governor Phillip had only alienated about 3,000 acres of the
public land to private individuals, these military robbers appropriated
more than 15,000 acres to themselves within a very short time, their own
immediate friends coming in for a share of the plunder. And for long
after their messmates had vacated the gubernatorial seat this small but
powerful class continued to 'grab' the public estate with greedy
fingers, and those of them who were steady as well as unscrupulous thus
became the founders of wealthy families who, even at that early day, and
with the dirt still clinging to their fingers, assumed the powers and
privileges of a 'landed aristocracy.' The leader of the class which
assumed such privileges was Mr. John Macarthur, who was captain and
paymaster of the Corps, but who after a few years service left the ranks
of honour and developed into a large landed proprietor and owner of
stock; subsequently becoming so powerful as to disturb even the seat of
Government, and plunge the whole colony into confusion. The one
redeeming feature in his career was the successful attempt he made to
improve the breed of sheep; but it is questionable whether, even in this
act, he had any higher patriotic motive than that furnished by the
possibly louder jingle of coin in his own pocket. It is but just to say,
however, that he set a virtuous example in private and social life which
put the conduct of many of his fellow-officers to the blush, his family
being one of the best-regulated in the colony.

The position occupied by the officers of the New South Wales Corps
furnished them with singular advantages in the matter of mercantile
speculations, and history supplies no record of any more unscrupulous or
successful 'ring' than that formed by them. They had absolute control of
the King's stores, which were supplies from England and contained all
that was supposed to be necessary for the comfortable sustenance of the
settlement, and from these stores they would obtain supplies of useful
articles at cost price, to retail them out at an enormous profit; and in
time they established a monopoly that was as immoral as it was vexatious
and disastrous. At first they confined their operations to the wholesale
line of business; but as time went on and they saw emancipated convicts
amassing wealth by petty dealing among their fellows, they plunged into
that business and established a monopoly in that line also, their
official command of appliances and facilities giving them great
advantages over honest, fair-dealing men. They formed a guild among
themselves, having for its object a monopoly of the profits on all
importations, by levying a sort of blackmail on all goods landed in the
colony, and particularly of such stores as were sent out by the Home
Government for disposal to the settlers. The moment a cargo of goods was
stored in the Government Warehouse these official hucksterers assembled
and divided the goods among themselves; they then placed their marks,
and the prices at which the public would be allowed to purchase, on each
packet or article; and by this plan, although no money was actually
paid, they reaped enormous profits, as all the money above the prices
fixed by the Government or the private importers went into their own
pockets. They were also in a position to compel the settlers to sell to
them, at their own prices, produce which they afterwards re-sold to the
Government at the higher rates which had been fixed through their
influence; and if a settler raised any objection to this one-sided
bargain they literally shut the door of the public store against him. To
such a pitch did these commercial weevil carry their scheme that in some
years it is said not a single bushel of grain or pound of pork found its
way into the Government stores except through their hands. What wonder,
then, that the poor settlers should grow poorer and that natural
production should fall off! This nefarious system was carried out after
the following fashion:--No private person was allowed to enter the
public store unless he produced a written order from a Government
officer, which order, owing to the officer having a 'finger in the pie,'
had to be purchased at a very high rate; so that only those able and
willing to pay the heavy premium to the privileged selling class could
procure the article they required from the store.

These epauletted dealers also traded in another way.

Rum was the article then, and for many years afterwards, in most
frequent requisition throughout the colony. Spirits were, in fact, the
currency of the colony. Almost all extra work was paid for in spirits,
and the diligence of prisoners even, in unloading a vessel laden with
Government stores, was stimulated by giving half a pint of rum to each.
Among free and bond, drunkenness was a prevailing vice--a natural result
of the system introduced under this military-cum-trading crowd, of
officially making rum the currency. How universal became the practice
was proved on oath by a gentleman who knew all about it, when giving
evidence in 1811 at the trial of Colonel Johnston for his connection
with the forcible deposition of Governor Bligh. Mr. John McArthur's
evidence was as follows:--

Question:--"Has not the barter of spirits been always practised by every
person in the colony, as a matter of necessity, from the want of

Answer:--"I know of no exception; as far as my observation went it was
universal; officers civil and military, clergy, every description of
inhabitants, were under the necessity of paying for the necessaries of
life, for every article of consumption, in that sort of commodity which
the people who had to sell were inclined to take: in many cases you
could not get labour performed without it."

Captain Kemp, another of the New South Wales Corps, on the same
occasion, under catechism, made a similar reply:--

Question:--"Was the barter of spirits prohibited by Governor Macquarie;
or were the officers of the 73rd Regiment allowed to barter spirits?"

Answer:--"The Governor, clergy, officers civil and military, all ranks
and descriptions of people, bartered spirits when I left Sydney--viz.,
in May, 1810."

A rule was established that there should be periodical issues of rum to
the officers of the Corps, in quantities according to rank. But they
supplemented this 'allowance'(self-granted, be it remembered) by first
purchase of the cargo. When a merchant ship arrived in the harbour, the
officers of the Corps got the first sight of her manifest and first
choice of her cargo; but they were kind enough to allow the free or
emancipated convict-merchants to follow in their wake. And they were as
vigorous in the retail trade as in the wholesale. Most of the
non-commissioned officers had licenses to sell spirits; and in this
manner the superfluous rum of the Regiment was disposed of.

But to narrate in detail all the actions of these men, and their
results, would fill a bulky volume. It must suffice to say that after
they had pursued their system of spoliation for some twenty years they
received a check. The injustice they were inflicting upon the free
settlers at length became so notorious as to attract the attention of
the British Parliament, and in 1812 a Committee of the House of Commons
sat to consider the matter. The following extracts from the evidence
taken before that Committee will shew the extent to which these gentry
carried their depredations:--

MAURICE MARGAROT called in and examined:--

"In what year did you sail to New South Wales? In 1794. And to what
period did you remain? Till the year 1810.

"Did you observe that in consequence of the mode in which the convicts
at Botany Bay were treated, that their morals and conduct were improved
by their treatment? No.

"What do you conceive to be the obstacle to their improvement? The
selection of the officers by Government who are sent out there, and the
arbitrary mode in which that Government is carried on, for as much as
they have no rule to go by but one Act of Parliament, which enjoins them
to keep as near to the laws of England as they can.

"Point out what you conceive to be the principal defects in the system
adopted by the officers sent out by this country.--Trade and personal
interests; for to nothing else can their behaviour be attributed; it is
barbarous and cruel in the extreme.

"Do the majority of the officers to whom the Government of the colony is
entrusted embark in trade? All, to a man.

"What is that trade? In consists, first of all, of monopoly, then of
extortion; it includes all the necessaries of life which are brought to
the colony. The trade in which the officers are engaged is, first, the
supply of the stores with wheat and pork, sometimes beef and mutton, to
the exclusion of the settlers; next, vessels arrive from different parts
of Europe, and from India, with such articles as may be deemed luxuries;
tea, sugar, rum, wine, little matters for clothing, silk handkerchiefs,
&c., and a variety of articles; the officers purchase them and retail
them at perhaps 500 per cent. profit. There is likewise another
monopoly; the Government has been very kind to the colony, and sent out
various articles for the use of the settlers and prisoners, such as
sieves, hats, clothes, linen, coarse cloth, and a thousand other
articles; when a ship of that kind has arrived, and the goods have been
landed in the King's stores, after a few days the stores are opened to
the officers, who go in, lay their hands upon every thing of value, and
have their names affixed to it as purchasers, and they leave nothing but
the refuse for the colony; having so done, by themselves or by their
agents, they retail that, as I said before, at 500 per cent. profit. I
believe that I am not out when I say that a sieve, to sift meal, which
cost them 5/9, has been sold for three guineas, and rum I have known
sold at £8 per gallon, which cost 7/6.

"Do you mean that civil officers, or military, or both, are engaged in
this trade? All of them to a man. In the year 1797 a combination bond
was entered into by them, by which they were neither to underbuy nor
undersell the one from the other.

"How was that known in the colony? Because it was offered me to sign,
and I refused it, and from thence began my persecutions; some of the
upper inhabitants had that bond tendered them to sign; it was brought to
me, I refused signing it; it went in fact to do what they have done ever
since without it; there was an esprit de corps among them, that although
they might jar between one another, if you offended one you offended the
whole; and any poor prisoner that had the misfortune to offend any one
officer would be sure to get a flogging from some other.

"Are not the settlers supplied with servants upon the first arrival of
the convicts? No, they are not; they must wait until all the officers
are served; they must wait until they can make interest with some person
in office to obtain one.

"Do you think the colony was in a more flourishing state when you came
away than when you went there first? Proportionately less. There were
about 4000 inhabitants when I went there; there were but about 11,000 or
12,000 when I left it.

"Did the respectable part of the colony appear to you to be increasing?
There was very little respectable there."

WILLIAM RICHARDSON called in, and examined:--

"In what year did you go to Botany Bay? I do not recollect the year; I
went out with Governor Phillip in the first fleet.

"Till what year did you remain there? I came home last Christmas was
twelve months--Christmas 1810.

"Were the articles you bought for yourself expensive to you? Very
expensive; shoes 20/- a pair; for a shirt 20/-; sugar 7d. per lb., and
tea a dollar an ounce; spirits, generally 20/- a bottle.

"Were those high prices owing to a temporary scarcity, or was it a
general thing? It was general for the poor; the rich could get it

"Are you able to account for these high prices? No, I cannot; but from
gentlemen having an opportunity of going aboard, and buying things of
the captain; we could not go on board because we were always paid with
copper coin, and therefore we could buy nothing; if I had got £10
soldier's pay I could not get one individual thing from a ship."

[N.B.--This man had gone out as a convict for seven years, and had
enlisted as a soldier on becoming free.]

Mr. ROBERT CAMPBELL called in and examined:--

"In what year did you go to Botany Bay? In the year 1798, from Bengal.

"To what year did you remain? I was there, with the exception of two or
three short intervals, down to the year 1810.

"For what purpose did you go? On a mercantile speculation, to procure
seal skins for the China market, and supply the colony with necessary
articles of merchandise from Bengal.

"Did you receive that encouragement from the Governor which you had
reason to expect? When I first arrived, in 1798, no class of settlers
were allowed to purchase any articles of merchandise but the officers on
the establishment, civil and military.

"Were you allowed to sell your merchandise at your own price? No.

"In what manner were the prices fixed? In 1798, the officers fixed the
price of all articles of merchandise which I had then for sale. In 1800
and from that time till my departure, in 1810, the Governor fixed the
price of spirits and wine; the other articles we were allowed to dispose
of to the best advantage.

"Had you an opportunity of seeing the manner in which the merchandise
sold to the military and civil officers was afterwards retailed in the
colony? Yes.

"At what profit were the articles retailed? Spirits sometimes at 500 per
cent., at least; on other articles generally about from 50 to 75 per

And, as these gentlemen were not honest, neither were they virtuous in
other respects. Let Dr. Lang speak:--"The officers of the New South
Wales Corps were neither all married nor all virtuous men. Some of them,
it is true, lived reputably with their families, and set a virtuous
example to the colony, even in the worst times; but the greater number
took female convicts of prepossessing appearance under their protection,
and employed them occasionally in the retail business. In so small a
community as that of New South Wales, at the period in question, a
liaison of this kind could scarcely be concealed: decency was outraged
on all hands; and the prison population laughed at their superiors for
outdoing them in open profligacy, and naturally followed their example..
.. .. A large proportion of the civil and military officers of the
settlement were unmarried men, of loose principles and dissolute habits;
who, setting at defiance the laws of God and the opinions of virtuous
men, lived in a state of open and avowed profligacy, thereby setting an
example which was but too generally followed by the convicts, and the
demoralising and debasing influence of which was long widely perceptible
throughout the territory."

Although not in proper chronological order, it may be as well to bring
this unsavory subject to a close, to prevent re-opening. Under the
pernicious system introduced by the New South Wales Corps, lands,
houses, and property of every description, real and personal, were
bought and paid for in rum. The first large and substantial hospital in
Sydney was built by three gentlemen under a contract with the Governor
which gave them a monopoly of the sale and importation of rum for a
certain time; hence its title of 'The Rum Hospital.' This happened in
Governor Macquarie's time, and the 'rummy' contractors who entered into
this agreement with him were Messrs. D'Arcy Wentworth, Blaxcell, and
Riley. The simple conditions were that in return for erecting the
building they were to receive a certain quantity of rum from the King's
store, and have granted to them the right to purchase and retail 15,000
gallons of ardent spirits annually for four years!

The workmen of the colony were as much as possible paid in rum. It is
recorded of one of the officers of the New South Wales corps that 100
acres of land having been distributed in half-acre allotments as free
grants amongst some soldiers of the regiment, he planted a hogshead of
rum upon the ground, and bought the whole hundred acres with the
contents of the hogshead. Years afterwards a moiety of this land was
sold in Sydney and realised £20,000. Judge Therry, in his
'Reminiscences,' when referring to this period, says:--"Not only was
concubinage thought no shame, but the sale of wives was not an
unfrequent practice. A present owner of broad acres and large herds in
New South Wales is the offspring of an union strangely brought about by
the purchase of a wife from her husband for four gallons of rum!"

When Governor Hunter arrived he vainly attempted to check this vicious
barter. But the evil was too deeply rooted and the official traffickers
too strong in wealth and numbers to be easily corrected. His successor.
Governor King, sought to apply the homeopathic principle of like curing
like to the evil, but instead of curing the disease by such a course he
intensified it. He saw that the military influence was dangerously
active in the colony, and he endeavoured to counterbalance it by
attempting to bring forward the emancipated convicts as competitors in
the rum market against the Corps, by granting to them licenses to sell.
"Such licenses," says Dr. Lang, "were accordingly dispensed with a
liberality and profusion above all praise; for even the chief constable
of Sydney, whose business it was to suppress irregularity, had a license
to promote it, under the Governor's hand, by the sale of rum and other
ardent liqours; and although the chief jailer was not exactly permitted
to convert the jail into a grog-shop, he had a licensed house, in which
he sold rum publicly on his own behalf, right opposite the gaol door."
Governor King's successor, however, (Captain Bligh) applied the lancet
to this social gangrene with better effect. He came armed with full
instructions from the Home authorities, and immediately on his arrival
applied himself to the work of destroying the military monopoly
existing, and especially in the article of ardent spirits. Governor
Hunter had recommended the Imperial Government to withdraw the New South
Wales Corps, but the latter were powerful in the colonial office across
the water as well as in New South Wales, and the recommendation was not
adopted, although Governor Bligh received instructions to prevent the
landing of any spirits from any vessel coming to the settlement,
'without your consent, or that of our Governor-in-Chief for the time
being, previously obtained for that purpose.'

Within six months of his advent Governor Bligh issued the following
stringent General Order:--

"His Excellency the Governor regrets to find, by his late visit through
the colony, that the most calamitous evils have been produced by persons
bartering or paying spirits for grain of all kinds, and the necessaries
of life in general, and to labourers for their hire; such proceedings
depressing the industrious, and depriving the settlers of their
comforts. In order, therefore, to remedy these grievous complaints, and
to relieve the inhabitants who have suffered by this traffic, he feels
it his duty to put a total stop to this barter in future, and to
prohibit the exchange of spirits or other liquors as payment for grain,
animal food, wearing apparel, or any other commodity whatever, to all
descriptions of persons in the colony and its dependencies. If a
prisoner is convicted before a bench of magistrates of any of the
offences above stated, he shall receive a punishment of one hundred
lashes, and be sentenced to hard labour for twelve months:--If a
settler, free by servitude, pardon, or emancipation, he is to be
deprived of all indulgences from the Crown, sentenced to three months
imprisonment, and to pay a fine of £10 to the King:--If a settler who
came free into the colony, or any other free inhabitants, masters, or
any other descriptions of persons on board of ships or vessels, they are
to lose all indulgences granted them by the Crown, and pay a fine of £50
to the King; all of which fines, on conviction, shall be levied by the
provost-marshal, one moiety to be given to the informer, and the other
to be at the disposal of the Government. His Excellency has the
strongest confidence, from the known distress of the colony in
consequence of this pernicious barter, that all officers, civil and
military, will be aiding and assisting in carrying this order into
execution, which ultimately must tend to relieve the distresses of the
people, and to give credit and stability to the settlement at large.

"By command of His Excellency,

"E. Griffin, Sec.

"Government House, Sydney,

"February 14th, 1807."

It was, undoubtedly, through his energetic efforts to suppress this
traffic that Governor Bligh was subsequently forcibly deposed. He caused
a notice to be served upon Mr. Macarthur to deliver up a large still,
which had arrived in a ship of which he was part owner, in order that it
(with another still which had come for a Captain in the Corps) might be
re-shipped to England. Macarthur at first refused to comply, but
subsequently the still was taken by the Government officer. Then
commenced a war between the Governor (who had the misfortune to be in
the hands of incompetent legal advisers) and Macarthur. The latter was
eventually charged with sedition, but several of the military officers
comprising the court ousted the Judge-Advocate, against whose presidency
Macarthur had protested, and sought to pronounce judgment favourable to
their friend. This proceeding was, however, upset by the
provost-marshal, who procured a warrant for Macarthur in order to his
being lodged in gaol; the six friendly officers shortly thereafter also
being summoned to answer a charge of inciting to rebellion. His
Excellency had in the meantime sent for Major Johnston, commander of the
New South Wales Corps, who lived about four miles out of town on his
easily-acquired estate; but that gentleman excused himself on the score
of illness. On the following day, however, he made his appearance at the
military barracks, but instead of supporting the Governor in preserving
order he allowed the officers of the corps to induce him to usurp the
Government of the colony, and place the Governor under arrest, himself
marching to the performance of the valorous deed at the head of the
Regiment. The Governor having been forcibly deposed. Major Johnston
assumed the reins of Government, to the unbounded delight of the
military and civil grog-sellers whose craft he had endangered; but to
the disgust of the respectable portion of the free populace, who were,
however, powerless to remedy matters. Subsequently Johnston was ordered
under arrest to England where he was tried and cashiered. With his fall
also fell the gallant New South Wales Corps, which was disbanded, the
73rd Regiment, the lieutenant-colonel of which was Lachlan Macquarie,
relieving them. The officers had, of course, feathered their nests in
the colony and the majority of them retired to sleep therein, or if not
to sleep to hatch a little more mischief. Their official power was gone,
but the evil wrought by money-grabbing, licentious practices still
remained, and might be seen working its way out in descendants half a
century afterwards. The fathers had eaten sour grapes and the children's
teeth were set on edge!

During the three years, 1793-4-5, which followed Governor Phillip's
departure, and for which term the settlement was virtually in the hands
of the New South Wales Corps--serving its apprenticeship in a greater
moral degradation than that imposed by the presence and incoming of
convicts--signs of material progress were not wanting. At the end of
1795 there were 5000 acres of land under cultivation; the horses had
increased from 11 to 57, the horned cattle from 23 to 229, the sheep
from 105 to 1553, the pigs from 43 to 1869, and the goats to 1427. The
work of coastal exploration had also been prosecuted in a small way; but
the period was chiefly remarkable for the breaking of all rules of
decorum and morality by the very men who should themselves have rightly
observed them and enforced their observance upon others under their



It was on the 7th September, 1795, that the new Governor-in-Chief,
Captain John Hunter, arrived, and, as may be imagined, his arrival was
hailed with joy by all the inhabitants of the settlement, excepting the
military officers and their friends. He was a man of good judgment,
benevolent character, and blameless private life, but he lacked that
firmness which was necessary to enable him to successfully cope with the
growing evils among the military, and keep the convict element free from
fresh taint. He occupied the office until September, 1800, and during
his administration agriculture made considerable progress, the prospects
of the colony consequently becoming brighter. In order to stimulate the
cultivation of the soil he allotted to each of the Government or
military officers who had agricultural establishments ten convicts as
farm-servants and three as house servants; to each free emigrant settler
five convicts; to superintendents, constables, and storekeepers, four
each; to mariners who had become settlers, two; to emancipated convicts,
one; and to sergeants of the New South Wales Corps, one each.

Most of the cattle shipped from England had died on the voyage, but a
number of horses, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry had been introduced
successfully. In 1796 the price of a cow was £80, a horse £90, a sheep
of the Cape breed £7 10s., a breeding sow £5, geese and turkeys £1 1s.
each. Goat's flesh was sold at 1/6 per lb., butter at 3/-, and two years
later as much as 22/- were paid for a common cup and saucer.

A small printing-press brought out in the First Fleet was used for the
first time by Governor Hunter, in 1795, for printing public notices and
Government orders, George Howe being the first Government Printer. This
event, together with the discovery of the lost herd of cattle, the
discovery of the Hunter River, and the establishment of a settlement at
Newcastle, the erection of the first school and church (St. Phillip's),
and further coastal exploration, formed the most noteworthy events of
this epoch. The plan adopted by Governor Phillip of granting farms to
emancipated convicts of good character, as well as to free settlers, was
followed by Governor Hunter, and there can be no doubt that the number
of good-conduct men was thus largely increased.

Maritime discovery received great impulse and encouragement from
Governor Hunter, and he personally engaged in short voyages of research
between the southern portion of Van Diemen's Land and Port Jackson.
Collins states that he had been frequently heard to say that, with a few
small vessels, perhaps three or four, if he could have obtained them, or
if his instructions would have permitted his building them, he would in
the course of a short period have gained some acquaintance with all that
part of the coast which Captain Cook had not an opportunity of examining
minutely. It was under his sanction and with his assistance that Messrs.
Bass and Flinders entered upon their adventurous work of coastal
exploration, resulting in the discovery of an inlet to the fertile
district of Illawarra, and, subsequently, of the Shoalhaven River,
Twofold Bay, and Wilson's Promontory. The first voyage of discovery was
made in a small whale boat called the Tom Thumb, only about eight feet
long, but the later voyages were made in a whale boat, manned by a crew
of volunteers from the ships in harbour, and having only six weeks'
provisions on board. But the adventurous explorers lengthened out their
provisions to eleven weeks and returned safely at the end of that time,
having covered a distance of 600 miles in an open boat. In the following
year, 1798, Governor Hunter despatched these two enterprising sailors to
follow up their discoveries, and they then completely circumnavigated
Van Diemen's Land, Bass Straits being then found and named.

The Hunter River was discovered and proved navigable during Governor
Hunter's rule, and it received its name from him, while the William and
Paterson rivers were called after the Lieutenant-Governor, and the
locality around the harbour was called Newcastle, from the abundance of
pit-coal in its vicinity. The importance of these discoveries to the
opening colony, in a commercial sense, was then but little understood.

It was only in after years that the fertility and extent of these
northern districts became the subject of thought and conversation among
the men in whose hands the work of settling the country was placed.

The population of the colony at the close of 1800, when Governor Hunter
embarked for England, was 5,574 persons, including 776 children; in
Norfolk Island (where a second settlement had been formed by Governor
Phillip) there were 961; making a total of 6,535 souls. Of this
population about one-third was located in Sydney, and the rest at
Parramatta, Toongabbie and Castlehill, the land about which was being
gradually brought under cultivation.

The following figures relate to this time also:--Horses in the colony
203, cattle 1,044, hogs 4,017, sheep, 6,124, goats 2,182, acres of land
under cultivation 7,677. From February, 1792, to September, 1800, the
extent of land granted was as follows:-- 

By Governor Phillip.................... 3,389 acres

By Lieut.-Governor Grose.......... 10,674 "

By Lieut.-Governor Patterson........ 4,965 "

By Governor Hunter....................28,650 "

Total.........................................47,678 acres.

Governor Hunter left the colony at the close of 1800, and shortly after
his arrival in England he was appointed to the command of the Venerable,
seventy-four. One event which happened while he was serving in that
capacity will shew what manner of man he was. He was cruising with his
vessel in Torbay when one of the seamen accidentally fell overboard.
Captain Hunter ordered the vessel to be put about to pick the man up,
but in executing the manoeuvre she missed stays, ran ashore, and was
wrecked. Hunter was afterwards brought before a court-martial and tried
for the loss of the vessel. During the trial, when asked what had
induced him to put the ship about in such circumstances, he replied that
"he considered the life of a British seaman of more value than any ship
in His Majesty's navy." The brave man--not less brave because
humane--was honourably acquitted, and was afterwards promoted to the
rank of rear-admiral.

Hunter died in Scotland, the land of his birth, at an advanced age.

CHAPTER IV.--GOVERNOR KING.--1800 to 1806.


Governor King followed Hunter, and he administered the Government until
August, 1806. In manner and disposition he was the opposite of his
predecessor, being rough and uncouth, and lacking in perseverance. It
was during his administration that the rum-selling business reached its
full vigour, and he was powerless to check it. Concerning this period
Dr. Lang writes:--"A general dissolution of morals and a general
relaxation of penal discipline were the result of a state of things so
outrageously preposterous. Neither marrying nor giving in marriage was
thought of in the colony; and as the arm of the civil power was withered
under the blasting influence of the miserable system that prevailed, the
police of the colony was wretchedly administered, and virtuous industry
was neither encouraged nor protected. Bands of bushrangers or runaway
convicts traversed the country in all directions, and, entering the
houses of the defenceless settlers in open day, committed fearful

Governor King, who had served under Captain Phillip on the first voyage
to the colony, had done good service in the establishment of Norfolk
Island, but during his administration all the good work he had then
accomplished was undone by the temporary abandonment of that subordinate
settlement, which had made considerable advancement, and upon which a
large sum of money and much labour had been expended.

The year 1804 was rendered remarkable by a conspiracy among the convicts
at Castlehill. They were 250 strong, but were defeated in fifteen
minutes by Major Johnston at the head of twenty-four soldiers of the New
South Wales Corps. Sixteen of the convicts were killed during the
'engagement,' twelve were wounded, and thirty were made prisoners. The
rest surrendered at discretion. Five of the ringleaders were afterwards

Under Governor King the Female Orphan School was founded, the first
issue of copper coin took place, the Sydney Gazette (the first
Australian newspaper) was published, a number of free emigrant settlers,
(chiefly from the Scottish border) arrived in the colony on free
passages and received a grant of 100 acres of land each and rations from
the King's Stores.

A glance at some of the 'General Orders' published in the Gazette is
sufficient to shew that it was simply an organ for the powerful classes.
These general orders regulated the words, the habits, the conduct, and
almost the looks of the people; they fixed the time to rise and go to
bed; enacted that 'idlers' were to be imprisoned and kept at hard
labour; that persons guilty of seditious words or actions were to
receive exemplary punishment, and their houses to be demolished; that
free persons neglecting to attend musters were to be treated as vagrants
and sent to hard labour. The profits of both importers and retailers
were also regulated by general orders. Those of the former were not to
exceed one hundred per cent., and those of the latter ten per cent.--the
difference in favour of the former class proving how tender the
officials were to themselves, they being the principal importers.

It was during Governor King's administration also that the attempt was
made to found a convict settlement at Port Phillip; two vessels--one
with stores for three years, and the other with 300 convicts, 50
marines, a few free settlers, twenty-five women, ten children, and the
proper complement of officers--being sent out by Lord Hobart, Secretary
of State for the Colonies, who desired to immortalise his name in this
way. The site of the settlement was chosen at Point Nepean, near the
heads, and the people all landed; but finding that the site was
unfavorable Lieutenant-Colonel Collins, the officer in charge,
represented to Governor King the desirability of removing the settlement
to Van Diemen's Land, and, permission being granted, the settlement was
removed accordingly. This was, perhaps, the event of greatest importance
under the rule of Governor King. Subsequently the population of Van
Diemen's Land was increased by the transportation of convicts from
Sydney, and not a few of the free Norfolk Islanders also found a home
there, when, much to their disappointment, the settlement on that island
was broken up. The records of the early days of Tasmanian colonization
resemble in their general features those of New South Wales--being
periods of hardship, privation, famine, crime, and conflicts with the

The month of March, 1806, was rendered remarkable by the occurrence of
the heaviest flood that up to that time had visited the Hawkesbury. The
rain continued for nearly a month without intermission, and flooded the
country, causing not a little loss of life and immense destruction of
property. Two hundred stacks of wheat were stated to have been carried
out to sea, many of them covered with poultry, pigs, and other animals,
which had taken refuge upon them. The total loss of property was
estimated at £35,000, and the unfortunate settlers only escaped from the
waters to find starvation staring them in the face. But the Government
came to their assistance, and by regulating the consumption of food
generally, made provision for their immediate wants, compelling those
who had saved their grain to share it with their less fortunate
neighbours. During the period of scarcity resulting from this sudden
overflowing of the waters, the price of the two-pound loaf rose to 5s.,
and wheat was hardly procurable at 80s. per bushel.

"The six years of Governor King's rule," says Bennett, "notwithstanding
the occurrence of serious civil disturbances and the prevalence of
drinking habits to a degree probably never before witnessed in any
community, were marked by a steady advancement in the development of the
material resources of the colony. The sealing trade and whale fishery
were carried on with energy and profit, the foundation of what proved a
lucrative intercourse with New Zealand and the South Sea Islands was
opened up, new settlements were formed, and a large quantity of land was
brought under cultivation, and pastoral enterprise received an impetus
which, a few years after, placed the growing of fine wool amongst the
most extensive and lucrative of colonial pursuits. The progeny of the
choice merino rams imported some years before by Mr. John Macarthur had
gradually but steadily continued to improve, and at length to supersede
the worthless breed of sheep which had been introduced, chiefly at the
public expense, from India and the Cape of Good Hope. The natural woods
of the colony were found to be useful for something more than firewood,
and brewing, salt-making, boat, ship and carriage building commenced."

There was a funny side to Governor King's character, and he occasionally
exhibited that side to those under him. A story is told illustrative of
his inclination for practical joking. He was one day standing under the
verandah of Government House, when a man, who had once been in the
marines, presented himself and petitioned for a grant of land. The
Governor recognised the petitioner, and questioned him thus: "You have
been a marine?" "Yes, please your Excellency," replied the man. "Can you
go through the manual exercise yet?" enquired the Governor, smiling.
"Yes, please your Excellency," was the reply. "Stand at ease, then,"
said the Governor, and the man obeyed with alacrity. "Shoulder arms!"
"Right about face!" were the next commands, each of which the man
performed--pleased no doubt, though perhaps a little astonished, at his
Excellency's playfulness. While standing thus he received a final
order--"March!" and the now discomforted marine stepped out on the
return journey, while the Governor turned into his apartments laughing
at his little joke. It is said, however, that the man afterwards
received his grant of land from the Governor as a reward for his
obedience to orders.

In one of the old records relating to this period I find the following
significant statement:--Governor King, just before his resignation, gave
Governor Bligh a grant of 1000 acres of land; and subsequently, Governor
Bligh gave Mrs. King a grant of 1000 acres. There was no joking about
this sort of mutual accommodation.

From the Official Returns for 1806 the following statistical notices are


Quantity of land occupied by Government or
granted to private individuals       ...                   125,476
Quantity of land cleared ... ...                              16,624
Quantity of land In wheat... ... ...                           7,118
Quantity of land In barley, maize, &c., ...                 5,279

The average produce of wheat land was 18 bushels per acre.

Number of Horned Cattle          ...                          3,264
Number of Sheep        ...         ...                         16,501
Number of Pigs          ...              ...                     14,300
Number of Horses      ...              ...                          458
Number of Goats       ...              ...                        2,900

The administration of Governor King was barren of good fruit, owing in
great measure to the strong antagonism of the military 'ring' whose
influence he was powerless to break. It is said that the baneful Corps
had something to do with shortening the period of his service in the

The population of the colony and its dependencies at the period of
Governor King's departure (August, 1806) was about 9000, of which 7,200
were in New South Wales, 528 at Hobart Town, and 1084 at Norfolk Island.

CHAPTER V.--GOVERNOR BLIGH.--1806 to 1809.


Governor Bligh succeeded Governor King, and imparted a vigour into the
conduct of public affairs which furnished a marked contrast to the
policy of hesitation pursued by King. His conduct under the mutiny of
the ship Bounty, of which vessel he was in command, fully proved that he
was a man of dauntless courage and stern determination. If he had been a
man of tact as well, his term of office would have been fruitful of more
pleasure to himself and more immediate good to the colony over which he
was sent to preside. He was full of zeal, but his zeal being accompanied
frequently by excessive bluntness and outbursts of passion, it
occasionally brought forth evil rather than good. Judging from his
conduct towards them at the start, it may be inferred that Governor
King, who had not then left the colony, had given him a fair knowledge
of the unscrupulous character of the military and official hucksters,
some of whose movements have already been recorded, and he was prepared
to play at cross purposes with them from the commencement of his rule.

He manifested a violent dislike towards Captain John Macarthur, whom he
evidently looked upon as the chief sinner, the leading spirit, in the
camp of spoliators, whose names were being daily cursed by the poor and
struggling settlers of the colony. Within a month of the Governor's
landing Macarthur proceeded to Government House in order, as he
afterwards put it, "to speak to him of my affairs." He sought to
button-hole the Governor when walking in the garden, but the Governor
gave him to understand, in language not of the mildest kind, that his
affairs were of very secondary importance indeed, and roared out at
him--"What have I to do with your sheep, sir? what have I to do with
your cattle? I have heard of your concerns, sir; you have got 5000 acres
of land in the finest situation in the country; but, by God, you shan't
keep it?"

From this out Macarthur and the Governor were sworn foes. The former
deserved some credit for his energy in the sheep-breeding line, but
there were two sides to his character, and the Governor looked at the
side which was certainly the largest--the side which revealed his
connection with a clique who have been described as 'clever, not very
scrupulous, and wealthy men, of whom John Macarthur was undoubtedly the
cleverest, the most wealthy, and perhaps in some respects the most
unscrupulous.' It was not to be supposed that such a man would submit to
a snubbing with impunity, especially as he was backed up by powerful
influence in England, which had secured for him, on representations that
he would be able in time to supply the British woollen manufacturers
with all the fine wool required, a grant of 5000 acres of land, with
shepherds and 'every other reasonable and proper means' for advancing
his object. And as Macarthur was the leader of the class who had been
bound together so closely by the promptings of self-interest, war with
him meant war with that class--the officers and ex-officers of the New
South Wales Corps. The Governor at once proceeded to deal heavy blows at
the spirit monopoly established by these men, among whom he at once
became most unpopular, although by the small settlers and the wealthy
emancipists he was held in high esteem.

The open rupture which took place between the Governor and the Macarthur
'clan,' and which resulted in an act of rebellion and the deposition of
the Governor has already been briefly sketched.

The events following Macarthur's liberation from gaol by his fellow
officers are thus described by the Governor in the evidence given by him
before the court martial at which Colonel Johnston was tried, in the
year 1811:--

"Immediately after the order for the release of Macarthur, there
followed an operation of the main guard close to the gate of Government
House, and the regiment marched down from the barracks, led on by Major
Johnson and the other officers, with colours flying and music playing as
they advanced to the house. Within a few minutes after the house was
surrounded; the soldiers quickly broke into all parts of it, and
arrested all the magistrates, Mr. Gore, the provost-marshal; Mr.
Griffin, my secretary; and Mr. Fulton, the chaplain. I had just time to
call to my orderly-sergeant to have my horses ready while I went
upstairs to put on my uniform, when on my return, as I was standing on
the staircase waiting for my servant with my sword, I saw a number of
soldiers rushing upstairs with their muskets and fixed bayonets, as I
conceived to seize my person. I retired instantly into a back room to
defeat their object, and to deliberate on the means to be adopted for
the restoration of my authority, which in such a critical situation
could only be accomplished by my getting into the interior of the
country adjacent to the Hawkesbury, where I knew the whole body of
people would flock to my standard. To this situation I was pursued by
the soldiers, and after experiencing much insult was conducted below by
Lieutenant Minchin, who told me that Major Johnston was waiting for me.
We passed together into the drawing-room, every part being crowded with
soldiers under arms, many of whom appeared to be intoxicated.

"I then received a letter brought by Lieutenant Moore, and signed by
Major Johnston, (calling himself Lieutenant-Governor), requiring me to
resign my authority, and to submit to the arrest under which he placed
me, which I had scarcely perused, when a message was delivered to me
that Major Johnston wished to speak to me in the adjoining room, at the
door of which he soon afterwards appeared, surrounded by his officers
and soldiers; and in terms much to the same effect as his letter, he
there verbally confirmed my arrest. Martial law was proclaimed, my
secretary and my friends were prevented from seeing me, and I was left
alone with my daughter and another lady.

"By Major Johnston's orders several persons seized my cabinet and
papers, with my commission, instructions, and the great seal of the
colony. These were locked up in a room guarded by two sentinels, and
several others were placed around the house to prevent my escape.

"The same evening committees were formed with a pretended view of
examining into my government, but in reality to discover all such
persons as were attached to me. In this Macarthur took an active part.
On the following day Lieut. Moore came with Major Johnston's orders and
carried away my swords and what firearms he found in the house; at noon
three volleys were fired by the soldiers and twenty-one guns from the
battery, while the royal standard was displayed; His Majesty's
Commissary, the Provost-Marshal, the Judge-Advocate, and the Chaplain
were suspended from their offices; all the magistrates were dismissed,
and others appointed in their room; the most extraordinary and mutinous
proclamations were issued, and even my broad pendant as Commodore on the
station was ordered by Major Johnston to be struck. Thus was the mutiny
complete; those who were concerned in it had got possession of the
government, had turned out all the civil officers and substituted others
in their room, and imposed on me an arrest which continued from the time
of the mutiny till the 20th February, 1809."

It may be mentioned here, as a rather curious fact that Governor Bligh's
arrest took place on the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of the
settlement--26th January,1808.

Some of Bligh's enemies have charged him with cowardice on the occasion
of his arrest, declaring that when the soldiers went to Government House
he ran to the servants' room and hid under a bed; but this was clearly
disproved by him at Major Johnson's trial in England.

After the Governor's arrest Major Johnston assumed the reins of
Government, but the very men who had made a catspaw of him in leading
the rebellion were the first to thwart his efforts to properly conduct
public affairs. Macarthur was virtually the Governor, although only
holding office as Colonial Secretary, to which position he had appointed
himself. Every officer and magistrate who was known to be favorable to
Bligh was dismissed from office, and personal friends, and members of
'the mess,' were put in their places. Even the chaplain. Rev. Henry
Fulton, was suspended, the meek-faced rascals who had usurped authority
and power having issued the following pious 'General Order':--

"The Rev. Henry Fulton, is suspended from discharging in future the
office of Chaplain in the colony."

"The officers, civil and military, are ordered to attend divine worship
on Sunday next, at the New Church; and every well-disposed inhabitant is
requested to be present to join in thanks to Almighty God, for his
merciful interposition in their favour, by relieving them without
bloodshed from the awful situation in which they stood before the
memorable 26th instant."

Referring to this case, Bennet says--"The fate of this gentleman was
singular. He had been exiled from Ireland for some participation in the
rebellion of 1798. Here, on the contrary, he was punished for his
loyalty!" He was father of one of the first settlers on the western side
of the Blue Mountains, which had not at that time been crossed, and the
name of Fulton is yet held in the highest esteem in the Bathurst and
O'Connell Plains district.

The provisional Johnston-Macarthur Government carried matters with a
rather free hand. They sent the deposed provost-marshal to gaol for a
term, and sentenced the attorney who had drawn up the indictment against
Macarthur to seven years' transportation. Thus they dealt with their
enemies; but their friends they rewarded. Rum from the King's store;
permits to land and licenses to retail ardent spirits; grants of land
and Government cattle--these were distributed largely to that part of
the free population who expressed approval of their measures; while
friends not free were freely pardoned and received lesser indulgences.
"In this way," says Dr. Lang, "a number of persons of the worst
character were turned loose upon the colony, to the great annoyance of
the free settlers, and as an idea also got abroad among the convicts
that the colony had now become free, and that it was no longer
obligatory to labour, the result was a state of anarchy that produced a
general neglect of the cultivation of the soil, and was otherwise
distressing in the extreme to the well-disposed part of the population."

Governor Bligh was kept in confinement until he was superseded by
Lieutenant-Colonel Foveaux, who had returned from England with the
appointment of Lieutenant-Governor, and who in turn was superseded by
Colonel Patterson. Bligh was then offered the command of a vessel to
proceed to England, and after delays of little historical interest he
sailed for England on 12th May, 1810, about six months after the arrival
of the next Governor proper of the colony--Macquarie.

As previously recorded, Johnston was subsequently tried before a
court-martial in England and cashiered; and Macarthur was prohibited for
eight years from returning to the colony.

And the New South Wales Corps, or the 102nd Regiment, were ordered home;
but not a few of the officers stayed behind to live upon the wealth
which they had accumulated by extortion, violence and fraud. If for
nothing else, Governor Bligh deserves to be held in everlasting
remembrance by the colonists for the part he played in breaking up this
band of wholesale plunderers.



Governor Macquarie followed Bligh, and he assumed the Government of the
colony on 28th December, 1809. Briefly put, he was a man of energetic
action, self-reliance and determination, but a poor financier; a man of
good intentions but terribly self-conceited, his chief weakness being
the delight of affixing his name to everything requiring a name in the
colony, whether public buildings, streets, rivers, or mountains. His
hobby was bricks and mortar, and he rode it most unmercifully. The
records show that during his administration, extending over twelve
years, he caused to be erected in New South Wales upwards of two hundred
buildings and in Van Diemen's Land about fifty, on the front stone of
nearly every one of which the name of 'Macquarie' was carved. Yet, not
without reason, his era has by many been looked upon as the commencement
of the prosperity and rising greatness of New South Wales; for he did
more than any other Governor to open up the yet unexplored country and
develop its natural resources.

One of Macquarie's first acts was the issue of a proclamation declaring
the King's displeasure at the mutinous proceedings which had just
previously taken place; and this was speedily followed by another
declaring null and void all the acts of the interim Government. All the
officers who had been removed when Bligh was arrested were reinstated,
and the power of the once dominant clique having been completely broken,
the Governor himself being colonel of the regiment of the line which
formed the garrison (the 73rd), the small settlers and emancipists were
encouraged to hope for a season of quiet enjoyment of rights and
privileges to which they had long been strangers. Their hope was more
than fulfilled, as will be seen further on.

Macquarie's administration was chiefly remarkable for (1) the elevation
of the emancipist class into higher positions of social, civil, and
political life; (2) the stimulus given to agricultural pursuits; and (3)
the successful exploration and settlement of new country.

He had a great partiality for the emancipated convicts, and went to
extremes in seeking to raise them to the highest level of
respectability. Within a month of his arrival he appointed to the office
of the magistracy a Scotch convict named Thompson, who had amassed not a
little wealth by dealing, and who, although possessed of considerable
natural ability, was nevertheless not a man of good reputation. This act
naturally gave great offence to the 'aristocracy,' whose pride and
position had thus been literally dragged in the dust.

They protested and threatened, but the Governor met all their objections
by the simple remark that there were but two classes in the colony to
choose from--those who had been transported, and those who ought to have
been. As a further mark of favour Thompson was admitted to the table of
the Governor, and to that of the officers of the 73rd Regiment, although
the members of the mess went as far as they dare in the direction of
resistance. Other similar appointments followed, the object of making
them evidently being to shew the convict class that good behaviour would
bring its reward. Had the Governor used wise discrimination in
distributing his favours the good results hoped for might have followed;
but he was not wise, and the opposition of the wealthy free colonists
appeared but to goad him to excess of foolishness. His whole conduct
towards the convicts may be described as foolish and dangerous
favouritism, and one writer has declared that 'the circumstance of being
notorious for a life of open and outrageous profligacy was no impediment
to promotion or employment under the government of Major-General
Macquarie,' who at times appears to have acted on the principle that
'prosperous vice ought to be rewarded and encouraged.'

One of the first collisions which Macquarie had with the officers of his
government occurred in connection with the establishment of the Supreme
Court, shortly after the arrival in the colony of the first judge, on
account of certain attorneys who had originally been transported, but
whose sentences had expired, claiming the right to practice in the
court. The Governor wrote to the judge strongly recommending the
petition of the emancipist attorneys; but the judge declared that he
would not admit as attorneys, nor administer the oath to persons, who
had been transported to the colony as felons. The business of the court
was suspended; Macquarie reported the judge to Earl Bathurst, then
Secretary of State for the Colonies; and the strait-laced judge was
recalled 'on account of conduct which could admit of no justification.'
Thus, in the highest quarters, Macquarie fought for and with those who
wished to regain the positions which they had lost in the old country.

But he did not rest with this, and here it is that his folly was made
more apparent. From the first he appears to have discouraged the influx
of free settlers, a steady though small stream of which had set in
towards the colony, the attraction doubtless being the liberal offers of
grants of land and cheap labour made by the Home Government to those who
chose to try their fortunes at 'Botany Bay,' those who came being for
the most part small capitalists; and while doing this he did everything
in his power to 'bring on' the convicts who were not in chains.

Referring to this period, Bennett says:--"The opposition which the
wealthier portion of the free settlers shewed to Macquarie's policy of
elevating some of the emancipists to the magisterial bench and to social
equality with themselves, was met on his part by
daily-increasing-manifestations of favour towards those on whose support
he was in a great measure driven to rely. He saw that his predecessor
had been deposed by a few wealthy colonists and their military friends,
and self-preservation suggested the desirability of raising up a class
on whom he could calculate with certainty; and whose numbers, rapidly
increasing wealth, and daily extending influence, would be sure to be
exerted in opposition to those who had so long been dominant. With the
view of encouraging the class of emancipists, Macquarie did not hesitate
to depart from the practice of his predecessors, which had been to give
grants of land only to free or freed persons of good character. His
opponents say that he bestowed farms on all whose sentences had expired,
without requiring the slightest evidence that they were worthy of such
favours. Many of these men--indeed, the majority of them--averse to the
practice of honest industry, soon disposed of land so easily acquired. A
few quarts of rum, or any other means of gratifying their passion for
present and sensual indulgence, offered too great a temptation to be
resisted by people of their habits and character.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .
The opposition he manifested to the introduction of a free immigrant
population and his avowed opinions in favour of the prison class, were
so strong as not only to put a complete stop to the influx of the former
during the greater part of his administration, but to create and sustain
an opinion among the latter that they alone had any right in the colony,
and that the others were intruders whose presence ought scarcely to be

Macquarie distributed his land grant favours with a most liberal hand,
and identified himself so closely with the emancipists' cause as to
incur the undying enmity of the wealthy freemen, or 'exclusives,' who
harassed him continually, and whose murmuring even found utterances in
the House of Commons. They formulated charges against him of various
kinds, and a special commissioner (Mr. Bigge) was despatched by Lord
Bathurst to inquire into the condition of the colony. That gentleman's
report was very exhaustive and voluminous, and to it may be attributed
Macquarie's recall, it being considered that three things, at least, had
been proved against him, namely:--excessive expenditure upon useless or
unnecessary buildings; the want of proper checks, and the consequent
waste in the disposal of the public stores and materials; and the
glaring disregard of cleanliness, propriety, and decency in the
management of the female convicts. The list of public works executed
under his orders fills ten closely-printed pages of a Parliamentary
Report, and includes not fewer than 250 items, the chief being barracks
for troops, stores for provisions, hospitals, public offices, churches,
school-houses, quays, wharfs, watch-houses and police offices. During
his administration 276 miles of road were constructed, with all
necessary wooden bridges, some of them being of large dimensions.

But although Macquarie's efforts to elevate the emancipists were not
directly successful, in after years the fruit appeared, and the 'tainted
herd' became merged in the general mass of the population; their
descendants, if not themselves, enjoying all the privileges and
blessings obtainable by the descendants of the 'Pure Merinos' who had
bleated so loudly during Macquarie's rule; so that as to-day one class
stands cheek by jowl with the other in private, social, and public life,
not even a policeman of the olden time (if there be one living) can tell
the difference between them.

In no direction was Macquarie's energy more vigorously exercised than in
improving the condition of the rural population. From the first he took
a deep interest in their welfare, and shortly after his arrival
personally went through most of the country districts, in order to see
for himself the condition of the people and what improvements in their
habits, mode of living, and pursuits could be effected. The result of
his observations was published in a General Order on his return to head
quarters, and the following paragraph from that Order will shew the
condition of affairs rural during the first year of his
administration:--"His Excellency cannot forbear expressing his regret
that the settlers in general have not paid that attention to domestic
comfort which they ought to do, by erecting commodious residences for
themselves, and suitable housing for the reception of their grain and
cattle; nor can he refrain from observing on the miserable clothing of
many of the people, whose means of providing decent apparel, at least,
are sufficiently obvious to leave them without any excuse for that
neglect. His Excellency therefore earnestly recommends and trusts that
they will pay more attention to those very important objects; and, by a
strict regard to economy and temperance, that they will, on his annual
tour, enable him to give a more unqualified approbation to their

And he did not simply preach to them. He acted with and for them,
working to bring them within easy reach of the only market available by
improving the roads leading thereto, and which had received but scant
attention before his arrival. He also set an example in the building
line, already referred to, and employed nearly all the skilled labour
available from the ranks of the Government; but the buildings being for
the most part in and around Sydney, those settlers who lived away from
the centre did not derive any advantage from the erections. Even when,
through his vigorous encouragement of exploration and settlement, the
operations of the settlers were carried beyond the mountains, he did not
awake to the fact that he was preserving a monopoly of the labour
requisite to the carrying out of his advice; and in this way he really
hampered the general building work, private enterprise being cramped for
want of the assistance of the mechanics who were kept by the Governor
under his own eye while carrying out his building hobby. The settlers
complained loudly, but to no purpose--all the skilled labour was kept in
Sydney and the other towns which were growing up, and an official
account shews the Governor's folly in this respect.

Of the skilled mechanics who arrived in the colony during the years 1814
to 1820, the Government retained 269 blacksmiths out of 284; out of 337
carpenters, all but 16; and out of 284 bricklayers and brickmakers, all
but five. Hence the perpetuation of bark and slab hovels, and the slow
growth of private buildings with any pretensions to decency or stability
in fact or appearance. With this exception, however, Macquarie's efforts
to improve the condition of the settlers--immigrants and emancipists
alike--were honest and earnest, and they were fruitful of good, a
stimulus being given to intelligent cultivation of the soil, which not
only benefitted the individual settler, but the now rapidly developing
colony whose history was being built up. He granted cattle, sheep and
goats from the Government herds, to be paid for in grain, with eighteen
months' credit, and offered every inducement possible to the rural
population to rise to a higher level in profitable industry and social

The work of geographical discovery in which Governor Macquarie engaged,
and which he pursued with remarkable determination and vigour, was in
itself sufficiently meritorious to place his name on the first page of
the history of Australian colonization. When he assumed the Government
the colony consisted simply of a narrow strip of land, extending about
eighty miles along the coast to the north and south of Port Jackson, and
bounded on the west by the hitherto impenetrable barrier of the Blue

Repeated attempts had been made to pierce this barrier, but without
success. The first attempt was made by Captain Paterson, the African
traveller, in 1793, but he met so many obstacles in the shape of
impassable precipices, &c., that he returned after having covered only a
dozen miles from the junction of the Grose and the Hawkesbury Rivers.
About this time other unsuccessful attempts were also made by Lieutenant
Dawes, Captain Tench, and others. In 1794 one Hacking, quarter-master of
the Sirius, essayed the task, but returned foiled after penetration
about 30 miles beyond the Hawkesbury. Two years later Mr. Bass, the
discoverer of the straits bearing his name, made the attempt, entering
upon the work with ropes, ladders, cords, iron hooks, and every other
appliance which he deemed necessary for accomplishing the task; but
after fifteen days of unparalleled fatigue and suffering from hunger and
thirst, he also returned defeated and crestfallen--the country to the
westward of the giant hills remaining still secret and mysterious. And
when the mountains were pierced a little later on the record of the fact
was too strange for acceptance, and it was cast aside by the authorities
as unworthy of credit. In 1799, during Governor Hunter's administration,
a convict named Wilson, who had lived for several years with the blacks,
undertook the work of exploration, taking with him a free servant of the
Governor and four other convicts, to carry provisions and render other

That Wilson succeeded, not only in crossing the Blue Mountains, but in
penetrating the country westward as far as the Lachlan river, does not
admit of doubt, and the writer believes that to him must the credit be
given of being the first white man to scale the heights and pierce the
gloom of that ponderous curtain of rocks and trees which for so many
years had hidden the beautiful lands of the western interior from the
eyes of the men who had assumed possession of Australian soil. On his
return he gave to the Governor an account of the distance he had
travelled, the nature of the country through which he had passed, and
the adventures he had met with--and his story, although discredited by
everyone but the Governor, in after years received ample confirmation.
He estimated the most remote place which he reached as 130 miles
south-west by west from Parramatta, and said that eighty miles west he
had found coal and limestone, and twenty miles beyond, to the north, an
open and thinly wooded country. The stream at the termination of his
journey he described as almost as wide as the Hawkesbury, and sluggish,
but running apparently from south-east to north-west. It was apparently
this fact which caused the wise men and mighty of that day to discredit
Wilson's story. They could not understand that a large river should run
backwards from the sea, and their faith was then as small a quantity as
their knowledge and experience. They afterward learned that the river
did really run inland, but it is questionable whether they even then
bethought them of Wilson's wonderful services and story. So little value
was attached to the account given by this enterprising convict that not
only was no action taken to follow up his work, but no authentic
narrative thereof was preserved. Had Governor Hunter been cast in
Macquarie's mould, who knows but that his name would have been
perpetuated in the waters of a river in the west, instead of one in the
north; that Macquarie Plains would have been Hunter's, and that the City
of the Plains--Bathurst--would have been twenty years older than it is!

Between this time and 1813, two other attempts were made to cross the
mountains, but without success, and then followed the courageous and
successful journey of Messrs. Gregory Blaxland, W. C. Wentworth and
William Lawson--three names which will live as long as the mountains
which they crossed shall stand, although the credit given to them of
being the first white men to accomplish the feat is not properly theirs.
In more senses that one the debt the colonists owe to the convicts is
greater than that they owe to the free men for whom those convicts

The effort of the three gentlemen named was rendered necessary by the
rapid increase of the live stock of the colony, which at that time
amounted to 65,121 sheep, 21,543 cattle, and 65,121 horses, and the
limited pasturage of which had been rendered more limited by reason of a
serious and long-protracted drought. The exploring party ascended the
mountain ridge that abuts upon Emu Plains on the banks of the Nepean
River; and following that ridge in all its multitudinous windings, they
at length, after encountering great difficulties and hardships, reached
its termination at Mount York, twenty-five miles due west of Emu Plains,
and which looked down upon the valley afterwards called the Vale of
Clwyd. This was the limit of their discoveries, and they returned to
Sydney to report progress to the Governor, who without loss of time
despatched Deputy-Surveyor Evans to follow up their track and explore
the unknown country to the westward. The result of this expedition was
the discovery of the famous Bathurst Plains, and the Macquarie and
Lachlan Rivers.

Three years later the Governor despatched the Surveyor-General of the
colony, Mr. John Oxley, on an exploring expedition on the Lachlan, and
he traced that river down for upwards of 400 miles to what he considered
its termination in extensive morasses; although had he continued his
journey for a few hours longer he would have discovered where it joined
the Murrumbidgee, one of the finest rivers of interior. It was on his
return journey that he crossed that fine tract of country, Wellington
Valley. During the following year Oxley followed the Macquarie until it
lost itself in the level country, spreading out, as he supposed, as the
commencement of a great inland sea.

In the meantime the country to the south was being explored and opened
up by Hume and others, and two-years before Macquarie's departure the
discoveries in that direction had been pushed as far as the
Murrumbidgee. In these journeys Goulburn plains and a great part of the
county of Argyle was opened up. By these important discoveries the area
of the colony was increased enormously, and new sources of wealth were
brought within reach of those enterprising colonists who were panting
for larger room and freer air.

Macquarie took the greatest interest in this work of exploration, and it
is more than probable that he would himself have been found pushing
through bushes, fording rivers, and scaling rocks in the search for new
country, if his presence had not been necessary at headquarters. As a
proof of the interest he took in the work, as soon as the discoveries
were made known, he saddled horse and visited the new land to the west
and to the south, going as far as Bathurst in one trip and Goulburn in
the other. The full account of these discoveries, which formed such an
important stepping-stone to the accomplishment of that colonization
which has been one of the chief events of the nineteenth century, will
be given when the subject of life in the interior is being dealt with
further on. Suffice it now to say that under Macquarie's administration
the key was found of that barrier which had shut out from the world a
land containing within itself possibilities of wealth and greatness
second to those enjoyed by no other country in the world.

It has been well said of Macquarie by one writer:--"He found New South
Wales a gaol, and he left it a colony; he found Sydney a village and he
left it a city; he found a population of idle prisoners, paupers, and
paid officials, and he left a large free community, thriving on the
produce off flocks and the labour of convicts." Yet, even then the tone
of society in the population centres was horrible. There was no educated
or honourable class, no church worthy of the name; no schools except for
the wealthy, and those taught chiefly by convicts; there were slave
masters who sold rum, and slaves who drank it; an autocrat surrounded by
parasites, whose fortunes he could make by a stroke of the pen. Virtue
and honour were as scarce as freedom, and wretchedness and prosperity
embraced in the persons of individuals and the community.

Macquarie had been in the colony about ten years when the commissioner
of inquiry, Mr. John Thomas Biggs, was sent out from England to report
fully upon the condition of life in the new possessions, the institution
of this inquiry being partly the result of representations made in a
work published by Mr. W. Wentworth, during a visit paid by him to
England for the purpose of being called to the Bar. The inquiry occupied
two years, and its publication for the use of the House of Commons had
considerable effect in directing the attention of the British public to
the resources of Australia, eventually leading to the influx of a
superior class of emigrants; and from this date there was a marvellous
outreach towards prosperity.

The first fitful throbbings indicating the death agony of the penal
system of the colony were now heard, and the first breathings of that
free national life now in full vigour were observed. When Macquarie was
recalled in the latter part of 1821, after having held the reins of
government for twelve years, the colony was undergoing a change which in
its completion was to exhibit New South Wales to the world as the
grandest instance of successful colonization ever recorded in history,
and not a few of the blessings this day enjoyed may be traced to the
vigor of Macquarie's administration. Even in his day the progress
towards freedom and greatness was well marked, and he had the
satisfaction of recording to the Home Government a few facts indicating
the material progress that had eventuated during his term of office.
Here are a few extracts from a communication which he addressed to Earl
Bathurst almost immediately after his his return to England:--

"I found the colony barely emerging from infantile imbecility, and
suffering from various privations and disabilities; the country
impenetrable beyond forty miles from Sydney; agriculture in a yet
languishing state; commerce in its early dawn; revenue unknown;
threatened with famine; distracted by faction; the public buildings in a
state of dilapidation and mouldering to decay; the few roads and bridges
formerly constructed rendered almost impassable; the population in
general depressed by poverty; no public credit, nor private confidence;
the morals of the great mass of the population in the lowest state of
debasement, and religious worship almost totally neglected. Such was the
state of New South Whales when I took charge of its administration on
1st January, 1810. I left it in February last (his communication is
dated July, 1822), reaping incalculable advantages from my extensive and
important discoveries in all directions, including the supposed
insurmountable barrier called the Blue Mountains, to the westward of
which are situated the fertile plains of Bathurst; and, in all respects,
enjoying a state of private comfort and public prosperity, which I trust
will at least equal the expectation of His Majesty's Government. The
change may indeed be ascribed in part to the natural operation of time
and events on individual enterprise: how far it may be attributed to
measures originating with myself, as hereinafter detailed, and my zeal
and judgment in giving effect to my instructions, I humbly submit to His
Majesty and his ministers.

"Statement of Population, &c., (including Van Diemen's Land):--

Population,                             March, 1810.             Oct. 1821.
  including military       ...                11,590                  38,778
Horned Cattle              ...                12,442                 102,939
Sheep                        ...                25,888                 290,158
Hogs                          ...                 9,544                   33,906
Horses                        ...                 1,134                    4,564
Acres cleared and in tillage  ...           7,615                   32,267

"On my taking the command of the colony in the year 1810, the amount of
port duties collected did not exceed £8000 per annum, and there were
only £50 or £60 of a balance in the Treasurer's hand; but now duties are
collected at Port Jackson to the amount of from £28,000 to £30,000 per
annum. In addition to this annual colonial revenue, there are port
duties collected at Hobart Town, in Van Diemen's Land, to the amount of
between £8,000 and £10,000 per annum."

Governor Macquarie may have been fussy and conceited, but he was withal
active, energetic, prudent and patriotic; and at this long distance from
the time when he administered the affairs of the colony we can look back
and share in the honest pride which he displayed when rendering an
account of his stewardship. He died in England in 1824, two years after
leaving the colony for whose material advancement he had so diligently



Governor Brisbane succeeded Macquarie, and entered upon his duties on
1st December, 1821. He was eminently unfitted for his position, for
although a soldier he was weak and vacilating, and too much given to
transferring to others the duties which he himself should have
performed. At this time the struggle for supremacy between the different
classes was at its height, and it required the vigorous brain and strong
determination of a powerful, courageous man to guide the affairs of
State, between the unscrupulous grasping of the disappointed military,
the forceful demands of the wealthy emancipists for the restitution of
legal and other rights, and the clamoring of the free settlers of the
humbler class--retired soldiers and sailors and emigrants--who, although
generally taking sides with the emancipists against the 'pure merinos,'
as the official aristocrats were called, were not unmindful of the
claims of 'Number One.' Brisbane neither had the courage nor the tact to
manage matters properly. He was tossed hither and thither between the
contending forces, and in order to escape from the clamour he made
himself a retreat at Parramatta, where he established an observatory and
devoted himself to the pursuit of scientific studies, seeking rest from
the turmoil and strife of active official life in the quiet
contemplation of the stars. Events did not stand still, however, and
during his administration several important changes took place. The old
monopolising and domineering spirit, which had been checked by
Macquarie, broke out stronger than ever, and militaryism re-asserted
itself, the Governor having practically to stand aside while officials
help themselves and each other to place and power, and divided the land
in great slices between them.

Concerning this matter one writer says:--"The little clique of
exclusives appear to have regarded themselves as the only persons whose
claims to grants of land, to convict labour, or to social recognition by
the Governor, ought to be considered for a moment. Already many of them
were possessed of enormous landed properties; their farms were
cultivated by prison labour, their houses built by prison labour, there
furniture made by prison labour, and all their servants were prisoners.
There was a constantly increasing commissariat expenditure on account of
convict management and for the supply of convict food and necessaries;
and a large part of this expenditure went into the pockets of the more
wealthy settlers, in payment for maize, wheat, beef, and other food
grown, and articles of clothing made, by the labour of the very class on
whose account the expenditure was incurred. In fact, the Government gave
the land, supplied the labour to cultivate it, and then purchased the
produce. It was barely possible for persons with such singular
advantages to escape becoming wealthy.. .. .. When again in possession
of the reins of power (during Brisbane's rule) all the influence that
they could exercise in their recovered position was fully taken
advantage of, and this, bearing in mind what has been stated respecting
the wealthy land-grasping emancipists (one well-known Sydney grog-seller
being possessed of over 20,000 acres of freehold land, purchased from
grantees for a few gallons of rum), will afford an insight into the
circumstances under which a comparatively small number of colonists were
enabled to acquire estates which, whether regarded in reference to their
wants or to their means of turning them to useful account, were enormous
in extent; and, being the pick in point of soil and situation of the
whole country, were of vast prospective value."

It must be remembered that at this time the land to the westward was
open and available; and that large slices of that territory should be
seized by these insatiable sharks was a very natural circumstance. And
it was also a very natural circumstance that the communal interests
created in years following in that territory should suffer through the
locking-up of the land so easily 'grabbed.'

Among the most important events during Governor Brisbane's term of
office were the following:--The institution of a Legislative Council;
the establishment of trial by jury; the formal acknowledgment of the
liberty of the press; important discoveries of new country; and the
steady inflow of immigration from the mother country.

The publication of Commissioner Bigg's report had, as already stated,
awakened the public of Great Britain to the fact that the far-off South
Land furnished a splendid field for enterprise, and towards the latter
part of Macquarie's administration a tide of emigration set in which was
at full flow when Brisbane arrived, and it continued with steadily
increasing volume during the whole period of his government. As it was
chiefly persons who could afford employment to convicts who were desired
by the Government, the Home authorities held out grants of land to those
only who could produce certificates of their possessing capital of at
least £500, and consequently the greater number who came were possessed
of means to enter at once upon the work of development. Concerning
these, Dr. Lang says:--"Some of them had been gentleman farmers, others
were the sons of respectable land-holders in the mother country; some of
them had been unfortunate in mercantile speculations, and others had
just saved the remains of a property which they found daily diminishing
at home, to form the nucleus of a better fortune abroad; some were
actuated by a spirit of adventure, while others had been impelled to
emigrate by the pressure of the times. These emigrants, according as
each preferred a particular locality, settled, for the most part, either
in the agricultural and pastoral country adjoining the Cowpastures, or
on the open plains of Bathurst, beyond the Blue Mountains, along the
thickly-wooded banks of the Hunter and its two tributary river, or in
what was then called the New Country, or the district of Argyle. The
general extent of their grants was from 500 to 2,000 acres. Rations from
the King's stores were at first allowed to each settler, and a certain
number of convict servants apportioned according to the extent of his
grant, for the term of six months after he had taken possession of his
land; and he was also allowed a certain number of cattle from the
Government herds, as a loan to be repaid in kind in seven years; but, in
consequence of the number of emigrants rapidly increasing, these
indulgences were afterwards discontinued." Thus it was that a superior
class of settlers--many of them with the requisite knowledge and energy
to make the new soil smile its loudest in fruitfulness--were located in
the opening districts west, south and north of the populated centre.

Four very important discoveries inland were made during Brisbane's
administration. In 1823 the Maneroo Plains were explored by Captain
Currie, R.N. In the same year Mr. Oxley, Surveyor-General, explored
Moreton Bay and discovered the Brisbane River, leading to the fine
semi-tropical country of Queensland. In the year following Hovel and
Hume made their overland journey to Port Phillip; and in 1825 Mr. Allan
Cunningham discovered Pandora's Pass, affording the only practicable
road from the Upper Hunter to the pastoral uplands of Liverpool Plains.
The full importance of these discoveries was not seen until 'after many
days,' but they were neither more nor less than the opening of the most
important doors leading from the smaller to the greater.

The Imperial Act under which civil juries were first impanelled in New
South Wales was 4th Geo. IV., cap. 96, and Mr. Francis Forbes was
appointed thereunder first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That
gentleman arrived in Sydney in March, 1824, but soon after his arrival
found that the Act and Charter contained no authority whatever for
impanelling civil juries in criminal cases, and only in civil actions
where both parties to the suit were agreed that such a course should be
adopted. The Act was to continue in force four years, and under its
authority crimes and misdemeanours were to be prosecuted by information
in the name of his Majesty's Attorney-General, and tried by the Chief
Justice and a jury of seven commissioned officers of his Majesty's sea
or land forces; while all civil cases were to be tried by the Chief
Justice and two magistrates, sitting as assessors, unless, as before
stated, both parties to the suit agreed to have a jury, in which case
the trial was to be before the Chief Justice and a jury of twelve
civilians. In the interests of all parties Chief Justice Forbes extended
the principle to the lower court, and civil jurors sat in Courts of
Quarter Sessions, although the magistrates offered strong objection--so
hard is it for mortals to renounce arbitrary power when once they have
experienced the pleasure of its exercise.

There was a long and bitter struggle, extending over a considerable
period, between the different sections of the community--the
'exclusivists' fighting for the retention of power and the judge
fighting with the people for the first instalment of constitutional
liberty. In this struggle the exclusive few, who wished to retain power
over the liberty and property of their fellows, were eventually
successful, and in 1828 there was a return to the old system of military
juries in Courts of Quarter Sessions as well as in the Supreme Court, a
system which existed until the principle of self-government began to
operate in the colony.

The year 1824 was also rendered remarkable by liberty of the press being
conceded, and the publication of the Australian, the first colonial
newspaper independent of Government aid, published by Mr. Wentworth and
Dr. Wardell. The Monitor was also shortly afterwards established, Mr. E.
S. Hall being editor and proprietor. "Both these newspapers," says
Bennet, "were conducted with far more than average ability, and their
editorial columns presented a marked contrast to the fulsome flattery of
Government officials, and the inane twaddle on other matters, which
characterised their older rival, the Sydney Gazette." Concerning the
press it may now be said 'the little one has become a thousand!'

During this period, also, the first step towards that large share of
self-government which Australia now enjoys was taken. On 11th August,
1824, there appeared in the Sydney Gazette, a proclamation announcing
that his Majesty had been pleased to institute a Legislative Council for
New South Wales. The first members of this Council consisted exclusively
of Government officers, and were only six in number, namely:--William
Stewart, Lieutenant-Governor; Francis Forbes, Chief Justice; Frederick
Goulburn, Colonial Secretary; James Bowman, Principal Colonial Surgeon;
and John Oxley, Surveyor-General. Subsequently Mr. John Macarthur, of
Camden, was added to the list. The first session of the new Council was
a very short one, and only one Act of a single clause was passed--an Act
to legalise promissory notes and bills of exchange made payable in
Spanish dollars, which were then the ordinary currency of the colony.

Governor Brisbane was peculiarly unfortunate in his financial measures,
but in this matter, as in others, he appears to have been simply the
means of giving effect to the schemes of interested parties in power. It
had been usual under previous governors to purchase the surplus grain
from farmers at the current prices of the day. The Government was almost
the only purchaser, and to the Government the agriculturists looked for
a certain share of their profits, the only cash received by the smaller
settlers during the year being from the commissariat. The Government
needed the provisions to feed the large number of 'children' born to the
heritage across the water. But Brisbane adopted the contract system and
invited tenders for the quantity required at the lowest price. The small
farmers, unused to calculate the effects of open competition, rushed
forward to the Government stores with such eagerness that the price of
wheat speedily fell from 10/- and 7/6 per bushel to 3/9 per bushel; and
the colonists, reading over-production between the lines of low prices,
proceeded to feed their pigs with the grain they had grown. But as the
season advanced it was discovered that the harvest, so far from being
plentiful, was deficient; wheat rose to as high as £1 4s per bushel, and
those who had sold cheap had to re-purchase at a high figure to secure
food, and a crisis set in. To make matters worse the Commissary-General
and the Colonial Secretary induced the Governor to suddenly change the
circulating medium from sterling to colonial currency, with the
immediate result of raising the pound sterling twenty-five per cent.
above the pound currency, and upsetting commercial relationships all
round, the small settlers, who had contracted debts upon the old lines,
being the chief sufferers. The colony was threatened with famine, and
for a time the greatest distress prevailed, the Government being put to
the greatest straits in seeking to secure a sufficiency of supplies. So
pressing was the need that a proclamation was issued prohibiting the
rooting up of cabbage-stalks!

It was no wonder, under these circumstance, that Brisbane should become
unpopular, and orders came from England for him to be 'relieved,' at the
close of the fourth year of his government, he having served from
December 1821 to December 1825. Before he left he sought to please and
benefit the emancipists by sitting down with a company of them to
dinner--an act of grace which the 'pure merinos' resented with
characteristic warmth. To eat out of the same dish with 'branded cattle'
would have been as hurtful to them as contact with an alien of the
lowest type would be to a Mussulman.



During the interregnum of nineteen days between the departure of
Brisbane and the arrival of his successor, Sir Ralph Darling, the
Government was administered by Colonel Stewart, of the Third Regiment,
or Buffs, and who afterwards became Major-General, and resided on his
large estate near Bathurst.

Of this gentleman's administration very little has been recorded. He
simply held the reins of the coach until the new driver climbed to the
seat. It was currently reported, however, that in one respect he was
remarkably active. This is what was said: Other Governors had invariably
looked forward to their return to their Mother land at the expiration of
their term of service: Colonel Stewart had decided to make his permanent
home in the penal colony. Other Governors had been liberal in making
large grants of land to residents or intending residents: Colonel
Stewart was more 'canny,' and availed himself of the privilege of doing
good to the person who in his own opinion was most deserving of good. He
therefore secured for himself an immense tract of grazing and
agricultural land near Bathurst, and lived to work and die upon it, his
remains being interred in a vault upon the highest peak thereof, and
from which peak an extensive view of the country around was to be
obtained, the major portion of which country was included within the
boundaries marking the 'original grant' secured by self-payment of
eighteen days' patriotic service! All this was generally believed, even
in the district where he settled, until the present year--1888--when a
Sydney newspaper having repeated the story was thus addressed by Mr. J.
H. Stewart, son of the Major-General, who still lives on the Mount
Pleasant Estate:--

"Sir,--In your last week's issue you give a very erroneous account of
the manner in which my late father acquired this property. Had it
referred to myself alone I would not trouble to correct it; but, as it
throws a stigma on a revered parent now deceased, and also as you are at
present writing out an history of the early days of the colony, it seems
only right that I should give you a true statement regarding this
matter. My father reached Sydney in May, 1825, in command of the 3rd
Regiment of Buffs, and with the appointment of Lieutenant-Governor. He
also brought with him an order from the Imperial Government for the
selection for 3,000 acres of land in any part of the colony he might
desire. This quantity was only 1,000 acres more than was usually given
to those settlers who could deposit £1,000 to their credit in some bank
in Sydney for the few days necessary to secure the grant. My father got
his 3,000 acres from the Duke of York as a reward for his military
services in the Peninsular War, where he commanded the Buffs in two
general actions, besides minor affairs; and he obtained a gold medal for
Albuera, in which battle his horse was killed under him by a Polish
Lancer. General Darling left the colony soon after my father's arrival,
and he acted as full Governor until Sir Thomas Brisbane reached the
port. But it was not until long afterwards, viz., in 1827, that he made
his selection near Bathurst. The Macquarie was taken up along its north
bank at a very early period, but the southside of the river was reserved
for a Government cattle station, and no one was allowed to cross the
stream without a pass from a magistrate. About the year 1826 pressure
began to be brought for opening the lands on the Bathurst side, and my
father secured a promise of first selection; but his multifarious duties
in Sydney long prevented his getting away to make it. I have in my
possession a letter to him from the Governor requesting, as a personal
favour, that he would run up to make his selection, as the number of
applicants for the new country had become so great that they could not
any longer be restrained. He then made a hurried trip across the
mountains, and selected his 3,000 acres on the west side of the parish
of Mount Pleasant, along Evans' Plains Creek, but not including the
Monument Hill, where his remains now rest. In 1828 he was sent on to
India with his regiment, but before leaving he secured a lease of the
remaining portion of the parish, containing about 12,000 acres. On
arrival at Calcutta he was appointed commandant at Meerut, where he
remained for four years; and in 1832, when he was raised to the rank of
Major-General, he left the army on half-pay, and returned to look after
his grant of land at Bathurst, intending shortly to return to Scotland
for his family, whom he had left on his paternal estate in Caithness.
While arranging his affairs we surprised him by our unexpected arrival
in Sydney, whither we had been forwarded, without any authority, by his
agent, Sheriff Home. Being now advanced in years, my father decided to
settle in the colony, and he then purchased the 9,000 acre block where
the monument on the hill and the mansion house stand adjoining his
primary grant, at the upset price of 5s per acre; and it was not until
1838 that he secured the 2,400 acre block at the southern side of the
parish, for which he paid 12s. per acre, the upset price having by that
time been raised. This is the simple story of the purchase of the Mount
Pleasant estate, and, as you have published a very different version of
it, I think I have a fair claim upon you to investigate the facts and to
give the same publicity to the result of your inquiries.

"Faithfully yours,

"J. H. Stewart."

Thus we see how long-lived some lies are. One act of the Colonel when
serving as Lieutenant-Governor will show what sort of man he was. When
Brisbane left several prisoners were under sentence of death, and in the
exercise of his gubernatorial functions the Colonel had their sentences
commuted to penal servitude. It was a bold thing to do in the days when
hanging was the height of fashion.




Governor Darling entered upon his duties on 19th December, 1825, and
continued in office until October 1831. It has been truly said of him
that he was 'a man of forms and precedents, of the true red-tape
school--neat, exact, punctual, industrious, spiteful, arbitrary,
commonplace.' The manner in which he endeavoured to reduce into order
the confusion he found in the public departments furnished proof of his
neatness and exactness. His punctuality and industry were displayed in
the fact that he personally considered every case and perused every
letter which reached head quarters. His venom and arbitrariness found
exercise in treating the convicts with great severity, and in efforts to
crush the newly-born press which dared to raise its voice against
gubernatorial cruelty. One act of tyranny committed by him was alone
sufficient to render him infamous, and although the narration properly
belongs to a separate division of this quasi-historical work, the story
may fittingly be told here, as it stands out in the history of the
colony as a sort of land mark of the termination of the Algerine system
of Government, showing how gross an outrage on law, justice and
constitutional right could be perpetrated by an Englishman reigning over
Englishmen. Here is the story:--

Sudds and Thompson were two soldiers of the 57th Regiment doing duty in
the colony in 1825. Thinking the lot of convicts preferable to their
own, by reason of the indulgence granted and the opportunities for
amassing wealth offered to that class, they committed a felony, by
stealing a piece of cloth from a shop in George-street, Sydney, for the
express purpose of getting themselves convicted, believing that after a
short sentence they should emerge into a condition that would enable
them to enjoy the privileges and opportunities enjoyed by the many
favored emancipists. Arrest, trial, conviction, and sentence followed,
as they desired, the sentence being transportation to one of the
auxiliary penal settlements for seven years. In the course of the trial,
however, the motive leading to the commission of the crime was fully
revealed, as was also the fact that there was wide-spread discontent
among the military on account of the inferior position they were
compelled to occupy. Fearing that the discipline of the troops would be
seriously endangered if a check was not put upon these low-bred
aspirations, Sir Ralph Darling, himself a military-man, determined to
take the men out of the custody of the civil power, and teach them and
their fellow soldiers a lesson they would never forget. He issued a
General Order in pursuance of which the two men were taken from the
custody of the gaoler and brought to the Barrack-square in Sydney,
where, in presence of the military, it was announced that their sentence
had been changed to seven years hard labour in irons on the roads, and
that on the expiration of their sentence they were to be returned to
their regiment. But this was not all. The Governor invented a special
form of 'ironing' to suit the regimentals. The two men were stripped of
their uniform and clothed in the convict dress; iron collars with long
projecting spikes were then rivetted round their necks and fetters and
chains rivetted on their legs. They were then drummed out of the
Regiment and marched back to gaol while the band played 'The Rogue's
March.' What followed is best told in the words of the only one of the
two who survived to tell the tale. Sudds, who was in bad health at the
time, overcome with grief, shame, and disappointment, which was not at
all relieved by the heat of the sun on the day of the exposure in the
Barrack-square, re-entered the prison only to die, and this is the
manner in which his fellow-prisoner, Thompson, described the new
experience of prison-life, when examined on board the Phoenix hulk:--

"We were taken to the parade ground and the regimentals taken off us,
and a suit of yellow cloth put on each of us, and a General Order read
to us by Brigade Mayor Gillham, by the order of his Excellency General
Darling. After the Order was read to us a set of irons was put on each
of us. The irons consisted of a collar which went round each of our
necks, and chains were fastened to the collar on each side of the
shoulder, and reached from thence to the basil, which was placed about
three inches from each ankle. There was a piece of iron which projected
from the collar before and behind, about eight inches at each place. The
projecting iron would not allow me to stretch myself at full length on
my back. I could sleep on my back by contracting my legs. I could not
lie at full length on either side without contracting my legs. I could
not stand upright with the irons on. The basil of the irons would not
slip up my legs, and the chains were too short to allow me to stand
upright. I was never measured for the irons, and Sudd's collar was too
small for his neck, and the basils for his legs, which were swollen. I
never heard him say he had the dropsy in the West Indies. Sudds was
turned out of the hospital the morning of his punishment, and taken to
the barracks about an hour afterwards. Sudds was taken from the hospital
to the Session on the 6th November. [The inquiry was held on 23rd April
following]; he appeared to be very ill, insomuch that the man who was
handcuffed with him was obliged to sit down on the grass in the court
yard in order to enable him to lie down. He continued in that way until
after the trial.

"After the yellow clothes and the irons were put on us in manner before
mentioned, we were drummed out of the Regiment, the 'Rogue's March'
being played after us by two or three drummers or fifers. We were not
drummed out in the usual way, which is, to put a rope about the neck,
cut off the facings and place a piece of paper on the back, with a
description of the offence which the party may have committed. Instead
of this we had the insbacon and the yellow clothing. On our return to
the same ward in the gaol, Sudds sat down with his back to the wall
saying that he was very ill, and wished to go to the hospital again, but
he did not go to the hospital till next morning. The basils of his irons
cut his legs during the time we were coming from the barracks to the
gaol; it was owing to the sharpness of the basil and the weight of it
that we were cut. The night of the day of punishment Sudds was so ill
that we were obliged to get a candle about eight o'clock from Wilson,
the under-jailer, in order to keep up a light during the night. I gave
him some tea which I had purchased. About ten o'clock he was very ill. I
requested a fellow prisoner to get up and look at him, thinking he was
dying. The fellow prisoner, whose name I do not know, did look at him,
and said he was not dying, but he did not think he would live long. I
then asked Sudds if he had any friends to whom he would wish to write.
He said he had a wife and child in Gloucestershire, and begged that if
he did not get better by the next night, I would read some pious book to
him, adding 'that they had put him in them irons till they had killed

The Governor and his friends endeavoured to account for Sudds' death by
stating that he had previously suffered from dropsy, and that he had
been neglected by the medical officer; but they were unable to produce
evidence in support of their allegations, and the report of the medical
officer of the gaol fully disproved the theory they had set up to ease
their consciences under the self-accusations of murder, which must have
been ever repeating themselves. Dr. McInty redeclared:--"I found him in
a state of delirium on the 26th instant, and he was removed to the
General Hospital, where he gradually became worse, and expired the
following morning. After a minute dissection of the body, no apparent
disease was found to exist to account for his immediate death." The iron
had entered this poor man's soul.

When reporting the case in a despatch to Earl Bathurst, Darling
said:--"However much the event is to be regretted, it cannot be imputed
to severity; none was practised or intended. The only deviation from the
usual course of proceeding was, that instead of the chains being put on
in jail, the act was performed in a more ceremonious manner, in presence
of the garrison, as a necessary example to the troops. With respect to
the chains, which have been designated instruments of torture, it will
be sufficient to state that they weigh only 13lbs. 12oz.; and though
made with a view of producing an effect upon those who were to witness
the ceremony, the extreme lightness of their construction prevented
their being injurious in any respect to the individual." In writing thus
Darling published his own infamy. The irons used on the road gangs did
not weigh more than from six to nine pounds, while those brought out
from England for convicts on board prison ships weighed only four lbs.
It was proved that the chains rivetted about Sudds weighed no less than
14lbs. 6oz.; yet the Governor speaks of their 'extreme lightness!' It
was proved that the rivetting on of those chains was an act nothing
short of judicial murder, yet the Governor, who was alone responsible
for the act, with characteristic cold-bloodedness describes it as a

Darling's rule of the convicts throughout was most rigorous. His rod was
iron, and it was always waving. The times of the 'first fleeters,' of
irresponsible floggers and short allowances of coarse food, were
revived. A penal settlement was formed at Moreton Bay, and the story was
fully credited that there the prisoners were so badly treated that they
committed murder in order to be sent for trial to Sydney. At the same
time the country magistrates were empowered to award any number of
lashes for insolence, idleness, or other indefinite offences, and
considering the school in which many of those magistrates had been
educated, it may easily be conceived that brutality little short of that
which did poor Sudds to death was practised with a liberal hand.

The Australian Agricultural Company was fully established during
Darling's reign, the agents selecting, taking possession and commencing
operations on their grant of a million acres in the North. The company
had been formed in England for improving and cultivating the waste lands
of Australia, of importing sheep and cattle for squatting purposes, and
of opening the mineral resources of the territory. The proceedings of
the Company, in the then financial state of the colony, created an
entire revolution. They sent out from England a numerous staff, cargoes
of implements and stock on a most costly scale, and purchased breeding
cattle so largely that the price was raised from 100 to 200 per cent. in
the colony. To such a market sellers were not slow in taking their
stock. But a reaction soon followed, and the panic that resulted
corresponded in intensity with the excitement of extravagant
expectations. For years more harm than good resulted to the colony from
the Company's operations. Their grand ideas of extensive cultivation of
the olive, opium, silkworm and orange groves all ended in smoke, and the
little advantage won to the colony in the improved breed of sheep and
cattle was very poor compensation for the sacrifice of so large a slice
of territory; and even this benefit was neutralised by the monopoly,
which not only handed over to the company the richest beds of coal in
the colony, but actually precluded the colonists from working, on any
terms, coal which might happen to be found under their estates.

It was thought by the Home Government that the company would relieve
them from the cost of maintaining a large number of convicts, for whom
at one period it had been found difficult to obtain employment, and it
was agreed that the company should be relieved of quit rent on condition
of their employing a certain number of prisoners and maintaining them.
But, from the period of this gigantic grant, the value of convict labour
rose so rapidly that the Company were never able to obtain the
stipulated number of servants; and in 1830 the editor of the Sydney
Monitor seriously proposed that convicts should be sold on arrival to
the highest bidder, anticipating that they would realize, in lots of two
hundred, as much as £100 each per year for five or ten years! The evils
of this wholesale sacrifice of the public estate to a few capitalists
'at home' have extended right down to the present day.

The system of granting land was somewhat modified under Darling's rule.
The Governor instituted a Board of Inquiry and established regulations
under which land was only to be granted in proportion to the property or
means of the applicant, and not to such applicant, unless there was
reason to believe that he was able and willing to improve it. And the
Governor had men at his elbow who turned these regulations for making
the rich richer to good account.

Dr. Lang gives an instance of the favoritism shown during those days. He
says:--"As I was travelling on one occasion in the discharge of clerical
duties in the district of Bathurst, during Sir Ralph Darling's
administration, I happened to call at the cottage of a respectable
settler, a magistrate of the territory, who I found was building a
remarkably substantial two-story house on his estate at the time. He
asked me to look at the house, which was beautifully situated on rising
ground, commanding a wide extent of campaign country; and I accordingly
did so before resuming my journey. In pointing out its various
advantages, the settler informed me that the brick-making and bricklaying
operations, the carpentry and joinery work, the plastering and
shingling, and, if I am not greatly mistaken, the cabinet-maker's and
upholstery work also, had all been done by his own assigned convict
servants. I happened to mention the circumstance in the course of
conversation with the next settler I called on a few miles off, without
suspecting, however, that there was any peculiarity in the case; when
the settler observed to me, not without a slight display of indignant
feeling, that he had been applying for a convict mechanic himself for
years, but had been unable to obtain one, although he had confessedly
done much more for the district than his more fortunate neighbour. The
first settler was the friend of a colonial functionary of some influence
at the time; and I could not fail to observe that he was particularly
active in his district whenever addresses were to be moved to Governor
Darling. The second settler, who was also a magistrate of the territory,
was merely a man of independent principles and feelings, who was
accustomed to think and act for himself."

Although adverse to immigration. Darling could not check the tide which
was steadily setting in, and large numbers of persons of moderate means
continued to arrive in the colony; but the difficulties they had to
encounter in the search for land upon which to settle may be inferred
when it is stated that a letter of advice to emigrants sent home about
this time recommended 'every settler to bring out an order from the
Secretary of State to be allowed to inspect charts and maps in the
Surveyor's office,' as from being denied such inspection 'emigrants
wander about the interior of the colony at great expense, and to little
purpose.' The secret was that the surveys of waste lands were kept out
of the 'ken' of the uninitiated, for the benefit of the favoured or
feeing few.

In 1829 the Consultative Council established in 1824 gave place to a
Legislative Council of fifteen members, with authority to make local
laws. The proceedings of this body were secret, under an oath
administered to that intent, and the Governor had an absolute veto. The
only act of service to the colony passed by this Council was that which
abolished arbitrary procedure by Government officials and substituted
the English system of trial by jury.

Governor Darling was unfortunate in falling foul of the Press, which was
fast making its voice heard in the colony in the direction of freedom
and impartial dealing. The Gazette was the Government organ, and every
sound of its voice had to be heard through the jingling of Government
coin. Its flattery of everything smacking of Darling was sickening in
its fulsomeness, and helped to make the untrammelled portion of the
fourth estate more vigorous and outspoken than it would otherwise have
been. It was the case of Sudds and Thompson that brought affairs to a
climax, and when the Gazette commenced a defence of the Governor's
action in that case, the two other papers, the Australian and the
Monitor, launched out into condemnation of the severest kind. The
extreme on either side was reached, and the Governor was kept in a state
of feverish annoyance, which sought relief in the passing of certain
Acts affecting the press, which were designated by the opposition editors
'The Gagging Acts.' But this only served to give point to the
personalities of the newspapers not in receipt of Government pay, and
the cross-firing led to actions for libel, resulting in fine and
imprisonment for the whole of the scribblers. But, although the
opposition papers carried their charges against the Governor to
extremes, they had justice on their side, and the agitation they kept up
led eventually to Darling's recall.

After his return to England a half-hearted attempt was made to have the
charges preferred against him, in the Sudds-Thompson case, investigated,
but the attempt ended in smoke, and Darling was knighted as a token of
the King's favour.

During the six years of Darling's rule further successful explorations
of the interior were made, both by private individuals and public
officials, among the former being those men who were looking out for
'fresh fields and pastures new' for their increasing flocks and herds,
and among the latter being Messrs. Mitchell, Oxley, Cunningham, and
Captain Sturt. It was the latter who followed the Murrumbidgee to its
junction with the Murray, and pushed on through difficulties and dangers
until he reached the Lake Alexandrina, and discovered the future
province of South Australia.

The population at the close of Darling's administration was 51,155; the
export of wool 1,401,284 lbs.; of oil, £95,969 in value; the total
exports were £324,168; and the imports £49,152. The ordinary revenue of
the year was £103,228. Of the expenditure there are no reliable records.



Major-General Sir Richard Bourke, perhaps the most able and popular of
the early Governors of the colony, succeeded Darling, and his
administration lasted from December 1831 to November 1837. His rule was
marked by vigor and firmness, zeal, liberality and humanity. He entered
office under most favourable circumstances, and it is not at all
wonderful, therefore, that progress ran freely. He found the system of
granting land to free immigrants working badly, the rule being to limit
those grants to men who had friends among the officials in Sydney; and
he therefore changed the arrangement, put a stop to free grants, and
ordered that all lands in the settled district should be offered at
auction, fixing the upset price at 5/- per acre. This proved a most
prolific source of revenue, and the money thus raised was used to assist
free emigration from Europe. The scramble for land in the unsettled
districts of the colony had led to quarrels between the scramblers
concerning boundaries, they having no legal tenure to their holdings,
and the term 'squatter' being first applied to them. The Governor
regulated this matter by requiring the 'squatters' to make formal
application for the land they required and pay a small rent, undertaking
to define the boundaries, and granting in return peaceable possession
until the land was needed for settlement.

The regulations issued by Bourke caused an important and fundamental
change in the whole colonial system in regard to the disposal of waste
land, and in 1836 the returns from land sales amounted to no less a sum
than £132,396. The broad and statesmanlike views he entertained on the
subject of land alienation may be gathered from a single sentence in the
despatch which he forwarded to the Colonial Office in 1838. He had
received from head quarters a caution that 'it was not desirable to
allow the population to become more scattered than it then was'--the
remark having reference to the attempts that were being made to colonize
Port Phillip; and in reply to that despatch he wrote as follows:--"The
question, I beg leave to submit, is simply this: How may Government turn
to the best advantage a state of things which it cannot wholly
interdict? It may, I would suggest, be found practicable by means of the
sale of lands in situations peculiarly advantageous, however distant
from other locations, and by establishing townships and ports, and
facilitating the intercourse between remote and more settled districts
of this vast territory, to provide centres of civilization and
government, and thus gradually extend the power of social order to the
most distant parts of the wilderness." The fund thus created by the sale
of land was, as Dr. Lang tersely puts it, "the means of infusing, to
almost an inconceivable extent, the salutary ingredient of a virtuous
and industrious population into the mass of a convict colony, and of
thereby elevating that colony, in a period of time comparatively short,
to the rank of an intelligent, respectable and religious community."

Unfortunately, however, the choice of emigrants for some time was not
wise. During the years 1832-3-4 the system was carried out exclusively
under the auspices of the Female Emigration Board, in London; "but in so
exceptional a manner," says the writer already quoted, "that in the year
1835 the streets of Sydney and the public houses of the colony were
actually swarming with free immigrant prostitutes from the cities of
London, Dublin and Cork, the expense of whose passage out had been
defrayed from the land revenue of the colony!" It was in arranging for
the introduction of numbers of his own country-men from the 'land o'
cakes' that Dr. Lang at this juncture found full exercise for his
restless energy and national clannishness. The tide of immigration set
in with steady force, and to some of the men and women who came to the
colony during the rule of Bourke, and the years presently succeeding,
the colony owes a great deal, for they did more to build up the
industrial power since attained and at the present time enjoyed than any
Governor's Order or Legislative enactment could have done. The bad
amongst them--and there were many very bad--found congenial fellows with
whom to drink and curse and die; and the good ones--and there were many
good--found a soil quite ready for the profitable exercise of their
energy, thrift, and virtue.

The six years of Governor Bourke's reign were pregnant with measures and
events of the utmost importance in shaping the destinies of the growing
and expanding colony. In addition to the regulations concerning land,
laws were passed in the interests of education and religion. The Church
and School Corporation (which had developed into a gross job) was
abolished, and religious equality was established; Government patronage
was removed from the press; the constitution of the Courts of Justice
was improved; steps were adopted which, in 1840, finally abolished
transportation to the colony; rules for regulating the number of convict
servants each settler should have, and the number of lashes which should
be inflicted upon a convict by a single magistrate, were framed and
promulgated; the colony of Victoria was discovered, and in 1836 a
regular Government was established; further explorations were carried
out, and the settlement of the land began to be conducted on a system
more advantageous to the people.

It was reasonable and right, therefore, that when His Excellency
determined to leave the colony, the people should endeavour to show
their appreciation of his sterling good qualities in some pronounced
form. In testimony of their feeling they raised some £4000, and had
cast, from a model by an eminent artist in London, the bronze statue
which still stands on an elevated and commanding situation at the
entrance of the Government domain in Sydney, overlooking the harbour of
Port Jackson.

Just previous to his departure for England, Bourke visited Port Phillip,
and during the month of his stay laid out the sites of Melbourne,
Williamstown, and Geelong, the first being named after the British Prime
Minister, Lord Melbourne, the second after the reigning monarch, His
Majesty King William IV., and the last bearing its native name. Bourke
died in 1855.



THE ninth Governor of New South Wales was Sir George Gipps, who assumed
the reins of Government on 24th February, 1838. He was a military man,
and although his superior education enabled him to hold his own in
debate with 'the old wives of the old Nominee Council,' as Dr. Lang
called them, his mind was too narrow to enable him to govern on the
broader lines so necessary to advancement in the then condition of the
colony, which was in the transition stage between serfdom and freedom.
He was an eloquent speaker, a nervous, forceful writer, and could deal
out sarcasm as cutting as a two-edged knife. But his manners were
repulsive, his disposition arbitrary, and his demeanour overbearing, so
that he made enemies of those who would have done good service for him
and with him as friends.

The news that a splendid tract of country had been discovered at Port
Philip had given a fillip to immigration, and a steady stream of
emigrants of a superior class poured in, bringing with them capital,
their object being to settle in the colony as stockholders,
agriculturists, merchants, &c. So great was this stream that the
population of the colony was actually doubled in the course of a very
short time, no fewer than 23,200 immigrants having landed during 1841,
at the end of which year the population stood at 149,669 persons. At the
end of 1846, the last year of Gipps' administration, the population
numbered 196,704 persons.

Under favourable conditions the colony would have floated on the topmost
wave of prosperity; but the conditions were not favourable. Governor
Gipps and the Colonial office at home standing in the way of anything
like progress. The returns from land revenue were beginning to swell,
and the cupidity of the Home Government was aroused. Although they had
declared when the returns were small that it was only reasonable that
such revenues should be applied wholly and exclusively for the benefit
of the colony, they now demanded that the revenues should be poured into
the parental lap, and Governor Gipps was just the man to enforce the
selfish regulation.

The case really stood thus: The colonists were expected to defray the
cost of their own government, with all the addition of police and gaol
expenses incident to a 'periodical inoculation of British-grown
felonry,' and with the sham of a Legislative Council and financial
discussions, all sources of revenue, except additional taxation, being
removed from their control. The price and management of Crown or waste
lands, and the expenditure of funds arising from them in emigration,
were settled by English commissioners; the Crown appropriating the
surplus. The custom-house tariff and the rules for levying it were
settled by the English custom-house authorities, who also appointed its
officers. As to the funds raised by local taxation, the Colonial
Secretary, in the name of the Crown, created offices, fixed fines and
salaries, and appointed officers, without the slightest regard to the
wants and wishes of the colonists. And under such a condition of
things--than which that of the ancient people when condemned to make
bricks without straw was not much worse--the marvel is that a rebellion
was not bred amongst the colonists, who, as a people, were just
beginning to 'feel their feet.'

Animated evidently by a desire to please the Colonial office, Gipps
adopted a policy as shortsighted and ruinous as it was heartless, in
regard to the waste land and town allotments, only allowing a small
quantity of the former to come into the market when the demand was at
its highest, and placing a very high upset price upon the latter. The
settlement of the lands by the very class who would have turned them to
the best account was thus prevented; an unhealthy and even ruinous
spirit of speculation was provoked; and although the British Treasury
received large sums of money the colony sucked in injury rather than
benefit from the transactions, and the result was a general 'smash,' in
which individuals, syndicates and monetary institutions alike suffered
loss--in some cases absolute ruin being the result. The upshot of the
unhealthy speculation is thus described by Dr. Lang:--

"The purchase of Government land and town allotments declined apace, and
then ceased entirely. The obligations to the banks and the other leading
companies, as well as to private individuals, fell due; and land and
stock, and other property of all kinds, were forced upon a falling
market to meet them. These articles of property consequently declined
rapidly in value, falling as far below the average of former years as
they had been unnaturally raised above it; and all but universal
bankruptcy ensued. A flock of sheep was actually sold by the sheriff at
this period, in satisfaction of a comparatively small debt, for sixpence
per head; while another flock the property of one of the oldest
merchants in the colony, was purchased at so low a price (one shilling
and sixpence per head) that within two months after the sale, which took
place in the month of September, just before shearing time, the
fortunate purchaser realized upwards of £250 more than the whole amount
of his purchase-money from the wool alone, the flock being worth in
ordinary seasons, from £9,000 to £10,000. In another similar case,
cattle which had been bought at six guineas ahead were sold at seven
shillings and sixpence; and horses that cost sixty guineas, the produce
of Persian and Arab steeds, brought only seventeen or eighteen
shillings; while a house in Sydney, for which £5000 had been offered and
refused very shortly before, was sold for £1,200; and sugar, which had
been shipped at Manilla at £15 per ton, sold in Sydney for £10.
Carriages of all kinds which had previously been numerous both in town
and country, beyond all European proportion to the population,
experienced a still more remarkable reduction. A first-rate curricle,
quite new, which had cost £140, sold for £3, and numerous costly
equipages, which it was found were now no longer needed, fell into the
hands of the respective coachmen and grooms, who forthwith started them
as hackney coaches in the city of Sydney, and managed to earn an honest
livelihood for themselves; occasionally taking up their 'old masters,'
when they were able to pay them a fare.'"

It was during Gipps' administration (in 1842) that a representative
character was given to the Legislative Council by introducing into it
twenty-four elective members. By what was commonly called 'The
Constitutional Act,' passed by the Imperial Parliament, a Legislature of
one House was constituted, to consist of thirty-six members; of whom six
were to be Government officers, other six Crown nominees, and
twenty-four to be elected by the people, viz., eighteen for New South
Wales proper and six for Port Phillip. Concerning this body Dr. Lang
says--and even the scant reports of the proceedings published strongly
support his statement--"For general ability; for extent and variety of
information, available for the business of legislation; for manly
eloquence; for genuine patriotism; and for energetic effort and
dignified action, I question whether the first Legislative Council of
New South Wales, under the constitution of 1842, has ever been surpassed
by any Legislature out of England in the British Empire."

And if the colony to-day is in need of one thing more than another it is
of that ability, eloquence, and patriotism which characterized such men
as William Charles Wentworth, Robert Lowe, Charles Cowper, Richard
Windeyer, Dr. Lang, and others whose names appear on the roll among the
first members constitutionally elected by the people nearly half a
century ago. There was fighting to do in those days and there were
giants to wield the weapons in the people's cause. The strife between
the Governor and the elected members waxed hotter at each succeeding
encounter, but the 'elementary rights of Englishmen' for which the
latter fought could not be borne down even by the double despotism which
operated through a grasping Colonial Office in London and a
narrow-minded Governor on the spot. Even in those early days there was
forcefulness in the sentiment uttered by Southey:--

Easier were it
To hurl the rooted mountain from its base,
Than force the yoke of slavery upon men
Determined to be free!

And inch by inch the Imperial authorities and their willing servant were
forced to yield the rights for which these patriotic colonial
legislators fought. Colonial grievances were ventilated and
redressed--grievances relating to the revenues; the price of Crown
lands; the assessment on pastoral proprietors; the abuses in connection
with Crown patronage; the expense in police, gaols, &c.; the
responsibility of judges of the Supreme Court; and a host of other
matters which seriously affected the well-being of the rising colony.
And if these early heroes were not directly successful in winning the
freedom for which they fought, they certainly succeeded in laying the
foundation of that liberal form of Government which to-day is accounted
as the freest and most enlightened of any known in Christendom.

The administration of Sir George Gipps--an administration extending over
eight years--will always be considered one of the most important epochs
in the history of New South Wales, associated as it was--to use the
words of Samuel Sidney--"with the permanent infliction of the £1 an acre
monopoly, the consequent triumph of the great pastoral over the freehold
interest, the development of the wonderful pastoral resources of
Australia, the abolition of assignment and transportation of criminals,
the rise of a free population, the introduction of the elective element
into the Legislature, the commencement of a legitimate parliamentary
struggle for the establishment of a responsible government, and a crowd
of events of great local but minor national importance. All these date
back to the period when Sir George Gipps reigned and governed too, and
contested every possible question with the Legislative Council, with the
judges, with the Crown land Commissioners, with the clergy of all
denominations, with squatters, with settlers, with every one who dared
to have any other opinion than the opinion of the Governor, except the
Secretary of State for the Colonies."

But while the strife thus briefly outlined proceeded, the seasons
continued favorable, the grass grew, flocks and herds increased, new
pastures were being explored and taken up, and communal wealth was
steadily growing under the influence of individual frugality and
industry; so that when Governor Gipps left the colony, on 11th July,
1846, he was able to announce that the revenue exceeded the expenditure,
and the exports the imports, while the demands upon the labour market
were greater than ever before known, and most difficult of supply. And
this was not the only period in the history of the colony during which
steady advancement towards solid prosperity was made--spite of
administration that can only fittingly be described by the term

Sir George Gipps died a few months after his return home in 1847.



Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy was the tenth Governor of New South Wales,
and he held office for nine years. Personally he did not commend himself
to the men who were earnestly struggling to shape the destinies of the
growing colony. He had no opinions of his own, and simply acted as a
mouthpiece of those who still held the reins, and whose vassal he was.
As one writer during his time tersely puts it, he was content to drive
his own four-in-hand while his official advisers managed the colonists.
Official aptitude he had none; his intellectual attainments were on a
par with his morals--of a low order--and he was as bare of common sense
as of refined tastes. In his case the only signs existing of the
'gentleman' were a large income, fashionable dress, and a polished
exterior. Dr. Lang, who was in full vigour during his administration, was
particularly severe on him, using his facile pen as the weapon of
offence, and suffering through the use of it by having his liberty
curtailed in Darlinghurst prison. Not every man has the privilege of
libelling a Governor with such effect, and of knowing that the suffering
endured in consequence thereof was in a righteous cause.

On his Excellency's arrival in the colony he was accompanied by his
wife, Lady Mary Fitzroy, and his two sons, who had both reached man's
estate. Shortly after his arrival Lady Mary was killed by a fall from
the vice-royal carriage in Parramatta Park, the horses having taken
fright while Fitzroy was driving; and Dr. Lang evidently thought that
the sad calamity was received by the Governor as a pleasant release from
burdensome marital ties. Quoting Junius' description of Lord Irnham he
broadly states that the term 'hoary letcher' was applicable to Fitzroy.
Here is one of the Dr.'s peppery illustrations:--

"As Her Majesty makes a royal progress at home every year, it is natural
that her Representative in the Colonies should do the same. Whether they
imitate the good example of their Royal Mistress in other respects, is
not quite so evident. At all events, Sir Charles Fitzroy was engaged in
one of his vice regal progresses in New South Wales, when he reached the
inland town of Berrima, about eighty miles from Sydney, and took up his
abode at a respectable 'hostelrie' in the town. In the domestic
establishment of the innkeeper, there happened to be a young woman, the
daughter of a settler in the neighbourhood, of the name of C., who, I
believe, was a native of the colony, and had formerly been the champion
of New South Wales. Miss C., it seems, was by no means destitute of
personal attractions, and appears to have fixed the regards of the
Governor-General himself. What occurred at the time, I neither know nor
care; but in due time, Miss C. proving enciente, the fact was inhumanely
laid at the door of Her Most Gracious Majesty's representative, the
Governor-General of Australia! C. acted on the occasion as any honest
man would be likely to do, whether a pugilist or not; and he came at
length to Sydney for redress; but meeting with some such cold reception
as humble people like himself are likely to do when asking for redress
of any kind in the mansions of Governors General, he placed his case in
the hands of an able solicitor in Sydney--William Thurlow, Esq--the
Right Worshipful the Mayor of that city for the past and present years.
Mr. Thurlow accordingly stated his case, and preferred his claim upon
his Excellency in the usual style, demanding compensation for the loss
of the services of his client's child. As there were other members of
'the household' at Berrima on the occasion in question it would
doubtless have been very difficult for Mr. Thurlow--shrewd lawyer though
he is--to ascertain (as it was alleged he should have done beforehand)
to which member of the exemplary family the paternity in the case was to
be assigned; but as this was no part of his client's case, he stuck to
the Governor-General, and the result was that a sum of two hundred
pounds, as was reported, was paid to C., to prevent exposure and

The Empire newspaper was also very outspoken concerning the Governor's
doings. Here is a paragraph from a condemnatory article, which appeared
in that journal on May 7th, 1852:--

"It does not accord with our notions, that fetes and shows given to a
colonial Governor (Sir Charles was junketting in the Western interior
about this time), under the ostentation of loyalty, while the moral
character of such a Governor is under a dark cloud of general
imputation, are a true mark of respect to the sovereign whose authority
he bears and whose person he represents. If the Queen be not
sufficiently careful in the characters of her servants, she cannot
possible escape the censure herself in some quarter or another of being
indifferent to the high claims of morality. If she be ignorant, she
ought to know, for she has sworn to govern her vast empire faithfully.
If she be told she ought to be willing to investigate. We have no
conception how the cherishing of an immoral servant can fail to reflect
some dishonour upon the employer. We are aware that the rule of
expediency is enough to establish our point. It is expedient that the
Queen's moral character--and she is highly moral and virtuous by all
report--should not be misrepresented by immorality. The security of her
Government demands this; for it is by the affections and confidence of
her people alone that Victoria can be a true Queen, and the times in
immediate prospect will leave her sway unbroken."

Following this up we hear Dr. Lang's voice again. "The ancient inform us
(said he) that when the frogs petitioned Jupiter for a King, he threw
them down a log; but the modern Jupiter of the Colonial office has far
surpassed this memorable feat of his ancient prototype; for, with one
powerful fling, worthy of Ajax himself, and reaching to the very ends of
the earth, he has thrown to the green frogs of Australia not only a log,
but a he-goat! There were nine clean--so much for the tenth!"

Little more need be said concerning the personal history of a Governor,
who, although descended from a King, was nothing more that a machine,
and simply served to carry out instructions which any man with even less
brains could have done twice as well. He left the colony in 1855 and
died in London in 1858.

Several most important events transpired during Fitzroy's automatic
administration, the most remarkable being--the attempt to re-introduce
convicts into Australia, and which resulted in a vigorous and successful
anti-transportation agitation; the discovery of gold; the separation of
Victoria from New South Wales; and the passing of a bill sanctioning the
establishment of two deliberative chambers--a Legislative Assembly and a
Legislative Council. The two first important events named will be fully
treated in their proper place; but a word or two must here be said
concerning the occurrence last mentioned, seeing that it was fraught
with issues of the greatest moment to the colony--was in fact the
opening of the door to that freedom which as a people the colonists at
the present time enjoy.

In the year 1851 an Elective Act had been passed, establishing the basis
on which members should be returned to the Legislative Council--the
mixed Council then existing. A new Council came into existence towards
the close of the same year, and one of its principal functions was to
consider the alteration and improvement of the constitution. The draft
of the present Constitution was here prepared: a Committee was
appointed, and the work was done con amore. The Committee reported in
favour of a two-Chamber Legislature on the English model. The number of
members for the Lower House was fixed at fifty-four, to be chosen by
electors possessing a moderate property qualification. As to the
composition of the Upper House, Wentworth at first proposed the
establishment of a colonial hereditary peerage, to form a House of
Lords, but the notion excited the strongest hostility and the keenest
derision, and he abandoned it. One party was in favour of making the
Upper House elective, but after much discussion, a decision was reached
that the House should be constituted by nomination, and contain not less
than twenty-four members. This constitution embodied responsible
government, and was passed as a schedule to the Imperial Act of
Parliament which is called the Constitution Act. It was also agreed that
the first members should be appointed for five years, after which life
appointments were to be made, unless the law was altered in the
meantime. The bill underwent some slight alteration in England, but its
main principles remained unchanged, and the Imperial Act, with the
Constitution appended as a schedule, reached the colony in 1855, shortly
after Fitzroy's departure, and on the 24th of November the new order of
things was formally inaugurated by Governor Sir W. T. Denison, who
succeeded Fitzroy, the old Council having been dissolved in the
meantime. The first Parliament under responsible government met on 22nd
May, 1856, and no greater proof of the wisdom and statesmanship of the
men who brought in the era of responsible Government could be found than
is found in the fact that very few alterations in the Constitution have
been needed through the years succeeding, although the colony has made
progress in every direction to an extent never before known in a similar
period in the history of any colony or nation.

With the inauguration of responsible Government, the autocratic,
arbitrary rule of Governors came to an end. Henceforth the people were
to govern themselves through Parliaments of their own choice. From being
'a Crown colony of the severest type,' New South Wales at once became,
in the fullest sense of the term, a self-governing community. Sir
Charles Fitzroy was the last of the old school--a school never to be
re-formed in any place where British instincts exist or British freedom
finds exercise. The Governors who have held office since Fitzroy's
administration terminated have had their duties well defined, and have
simply served as representatives of the Sovereign in a colony which is
still a dependency of the British Crown.

The story of the Governors is therefore ended. There were ten from the
time of the foundation of the colony to the establishment of responsible
government--a period of sixty-eight years. There have been six since
then--Denison, Young, Belmore, Robinson, Loftus, and Carrington--and the
last-named representative of Her Majesty holds office in this the
Centenary year of the colony. How long a time will elapse before
Government House becomes the residence of a locally elected President,
instead of a Sovereign's nominee, it is impossible to say; but the signs
of the times will have proved deceptive if when the end of the second
century of its existence arrives the colony is found recognizing any
such thing as Imperial supremacy.



As already stated, the progress made by the colony in every direction
since just before the institution of responsible government has been
phenomenal, and although the writer has no intention of dealing with
that portion of Australian history, he feels that the present chapters
would be incomplete without some reference thereto. Hence the following
statistical epitome, which will shew in some faint degree what leaps and
bounds have been made since the people, whose foundation was laid in
felonry first began to breathe the air of freedom.

When the census of the inhabitants of the colony was taken in 1836, it
amounted to 77,096. In the following year the estimated population of
the colony was 85,267. In 1846 it had increased to 187,413. In 1851 the
population (not counting that of Victoria, which had just then become a
separate and distinct colony, and which was estimated to contain about
100,000 souls) amounted to 187,243. At the end of 1854 the number had
mounted up to 251,315. In 1859 the population numbered 336,572,
Queensland at this time also having been severed from the colony. In
1871 a census of the whole of the Australasian colonies was taken, and
Victoria stood at the head with 731,528; New South Wales came next with
503,981; New Zealand next with 256,393; South Australia next with
185,626; Queensland next with 120,104; Tasmania next with 101,785; and
Western Australia last with 25,353:--the grand total of white population
in the whole of Australasia being thus 1,924,770. Mr. Coghlan, the
present Government Statistician of the colony, estimates the population
of the Australasian colonies on the 31st December, 1887, to have been as
follows:--New South Wales, 1,044,000 (approximately); Victoria,
1,035,943; New Zealand, 603,787 (exclusive of 41,828 Maories);
Queensland, 359,059; South Australia, 315,000; Tasmania, 140,711; and
Western Australia, 44,532,; making a grand total of 3,543,032 souls.

The density of the population of Australia, compared with its area, is
computed at 1 person to every square mile. America has 6 persons to the
square mile; Africa has 17; Asia has 46; and Europe 87. It has been
computed by Mr. Hayter (the Victorian Statistician) that the area of
increase of the population of Australia is 42 per cent. in every decade.
At this rate the population in 1901 should equal 5,678,029; 50 years
afterwards it should be 32,782,290; and in the year 2001 it should be no
less than 189,269,663. Did ever country show greater growth, or give
fairer promise for the future?

It is unfortunate that the full statistics are not available at the time
this is being written, shewing the advancement made up to the end of
1887--the closing year of the Centenary; but a fair idea of the
marvellous progress made by New South Wales, after the separation of
Queensland, the youngest of the Australian offshoots, and which event
took place in 1859, may be obtained from a comparison of the statistics
for 1860 and those published for 1886--the last quarter of the century.

Births, deaths, and marriages in 1860 were severally 14,233, 6,562 and
2,945. In 1886 they were 36,284, 14,587 and 7,811.

In 1860 the arrivals by sea were 23,031, and in 1886 70,388, while the
departures by sea were in the first year 6,847 and 41,896 in 1886.

There were 798 schools in 1861, with 34,767 pupils. In 1886 they had
increased to 2,833, with 226,860 pupils.

In 1860 there were only 70 miles of railway open for traffic, the
capital invested on the open lines being £1,422,672, and the net
earnings £11,841. In 1886 there were 1,971 miles open for traffic, the
expended capital thereon being £24,079,555, and the net earnings being

There were 1616 miles of telegraph in 1861, and the number of messages
sent during that year was 74,204. In 1886 there were 20,797 miles of
wire, along which 2,661,126 messages were sent and received.

In 1860 there were 287 post offices in the colony, through which there
passed 4,230,761 letters, 3,668,783 newspapers, and 83,736 packets. In
1886 there were 1157 offices and the letters, newspapers and packets to
pass through them numbered respectively 42,849,500, 29,532,400 and

The number of manufactories and works given for 1860 was 567, but no
mention is made of the hands employed. In 1886 there were 3,694
manufactories and 45,783 hands employed therein.

The land under crop in 1860 was 260,798 acres; in 1886 there were
972,496 acres under cultivation.

The return of live stock in 1860 was:--Horses, 251,947; horned cattle,
2,408,586; sheep, 6,119,163; pigs, 180,662. In 1886 the figures
were:--Horses, 361,663; cattle, 1,367,844; sheep, 39,169,304; pigs,

368,862 tons of coal, of the value of £226,493 were raised in 1860. In
1886 the quantity raised was 2,830,175 tons, valued at £1,363,164.

In 1860 there were 12,809,362 lbs of wool exported, of the value of
£1,123,699. The quantity exported in 1886 was 173,985,640 lbs. of the
value of £7,028,596.

Land was sold to the extent of 34,000,000 acres between 1862 and 1886,
conditionally or otherwise, and £38,000,000 came into the Treasury as
the result, while at the end of 1886 £12,000,000 remained due on
conditional purchases. In 1886 there were 142,927,360 acres under
pastoral occupation, yielding as rent £304,344.

The results of the cultivation of the land, as ascertained up to March,
1887, were;--Wheat, 5,868,844 bushels, £953,688 value; maize, 3,825,146
bushels, £525,958 value; barley, 132,949 bushels, £18,836 value; oats,
600,892 bushels, £5,578 value; other grain, 22,907 bushels, £1,151
value; wheaten hay, 109,851 tons, £357,016 value; oaten hay, 182,921
tons, £777,414 value; barley hay, 4,388 tons, £14,261 value; lucerne and
grass hay, 52,738 tons, £131,845 value; green food for cattle, £84,200
in value; potatoes, 45,803 tons, £103,057 value; sugar cane, 167,959
tons, £98,676 value; tobacco, 13,642 cwt., £51,157 value; grapes for
wine, 602,660 gallons, £120,761 value; grapes for table use, 1,945 tons,
£45,221 value; oranges, 6,376,868 dozens, £66,426 value; other fruits
and garden produce, £372,100 in value; minor crops, £153,300 in value.
The total value was £3,943,645.

In 1861 the number of vessels and their tonnage was--inwards 1,424
ships, 427,835 tons; outwards 1,438 ships, 431,484 tons. In 1886 the
figures were--inwards 2,684 vessels, 2,114,618 tons; outwards, 2,755
vessels, 2,143,986 tons.

In 1860 the total value of imports and exports was £7,519,285 and
£5,072,020. The figures for 1886 are as follow: Imports, £20,973,548;
exports, £15,556,213.

The public debt in 1860 was £3,830,230. It had mounted to £41,034,249 in

The revenue in 1860 was £1,308,925, and the expenditure £1,321,724. In
1886 the revenue was £7,594,301, and the outlay £9,078,869.

Coin in circulation in 1860 amounted to £2,946,613, and the deposits in
banks to £5,721,690. The figures for 1886 are £7,801,646, and
£31,933,056 respectively.

At the close of 1886, the public and private wealth of the colony was
estimated at £521,000,000; the public wealth, consisting of railways,
public works, unsold Crown lands, municipal property and works, at
£175,128,000; and the private wealth, embracing land, houses, permanent
improvements, stock, personal property, machinery, coin, merchandise,
shipping, etc., at £346,250,000.

Again the question comes--Did ever country show greater growth, or give
fairer promise for the future? Looking out to that future from the dawn
of the second century, what grander prospect could any one wish to gaze
upon? A free people, under free laws upon productive land, with all the
religious, social, commercial, and industrial advantages that any nation
of far riper years could possibly desire, who can define the boundaries
of the possibilities which lie before this 'Greater Britain' whose one
hundredth birthday has just been celebrated? Was there not inspiration
in the words uttered by Governor Phillip, when, on the 7th February,
1788, he made his memorable speech, and said "How grand is the prospect
which lies before the youthful nation!" A century of years has elapsed
since those words were uttered, and the nation is yet a youth, although
the growth to its present stage has been so exceptionally strong and
vigorous and rapid--a growth unparalleled in the history of the world.
Its ripeness and fullness of vigour will have been attained when
Federated Australia tells out its unity in name, and effort, and
purpose, to the other and older, but not more important nations of the




A Series of Historical Sketches, bearing upon Australian Colonization
and Convict Life in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.

PART II.----The Story of the Convicts.




Transportation is commonly understood to have been first introduced into
the English system of punishments in the year 1718, by the Act of the
4th George I cap. 11; and afterwards enlarged by the Act 6th of George
I. c. 23; which allowed the court a discretionary power to order felons
who were by law 'entitled to their clergy' to be transported to the
American plantations for seven or fourteen years, according to
circumstances. It is said in one old work that exile was first
introduced as a punishment by the Legislature in the 39th year of Queen
Elizabeth, when a statute enacted that such rogues as were dangerous to
the inferior people should be banished the realm; and that the first
statute in which the word 'Transportation' is used is the 18th of
Charles II. c. 3, which gives power to judges at their discretion to
execute or transport to America for life the Moss-Troopers of Cumberland
and Northumberland; a law which was made perpetual by the Act 31 George
II. c. 42.

The system of transportation to the American plantations existed for
fifty-six years, during which period, and until the commencement of the
American War, in 1775, great numbers of felons were sent from England,
chiefly to the Province of Maryland. It was a benefit to England to get
rid of her accumulating criminals; it proved, on the whole, beneficial
to the criminals to get out of England; and, strange though it may seem,
great benefit resulted to the land to which the criminals were
transported, the new and apparently undesirable element thus introduced
creating a vigour and life that was marvellously expansive and

Says one of the writers of the old school, in a 'Treatise on the Police
of the Metropolis,' published in the year 1800:--

"The rigid discipline which the colonial laws authorised the masters to
exercise over servants, joined to the prospects which agricultural
pursuits, after some experience was acquired, afforded to these
outcasts, tended to reform the chief part; and after the expiration of
their servitude they mingled in the society of the country, under
circumstances highly beneficial to themselves and even to the colony,
possessed in general (as every adroit thief must be) of good natural
abilities, they availed themselves of the habits of industry they
acquired in the years of their servitude--became farmers and planters on
their own account; and many of them, succeeding in these pursuits, not
only acquired that degree of respectability which is attached to
property and industry; but also in their turn became masters, and
purchased the servitude of future transports sent out for sale."

It will be remembered that the writer was speaking of the system as it
worked when America was the place of servitude. By the Acts 4th and 6th
of George I, previously cited, the persons contracting for the
transportation of convicts to those colonies had an interest in the
service of each, for seven or fourteen years, according to the term of
transportation. For some years previous to the commencement of the
American War of Independence the adjudged services of convicts became so
valuable in Maryland, that contracts were made to convey them without
any expense whatever to Government, who had formerly allowed £5 per
head. And the Home authorities were not slow to avail themselves of the
opportunity of making money in place of spending it. Planters in the
later years of the operation of the system readily gave £20 per head to
the Government for these outcast human beasts of burden, and one writer
declares that England derived at this time as much as £40,000 per year
from this species of trade.

The following brief sketch will shew to what extent the system of white
slavery was carried on in England in the days preceding these:--Although
it was one of the requisitions of Magna Charta that the subject should
be protected from imprisonment otherwise than in due course of law,
history records that arbitrary and illegal punishments were frequently
perpetrated with impunity for a period of three or four hundred years,
and that the liberty of the subject was not materially secured until the
passing of the Habeas Corpus Act in the reign of Charles the Second, by
which it is illegal to detain in prison any person who claims to be
tried. During the reign of James II. tumultuous meetings disturbed the
peace of England. Protestants plotted to declare the Duke of Monmouth
heir to the throne, while the Papists plotted to secure the succession
of the Duke of York, who had been banished. Monmouth, with 6,000
followers, was defeated on July 5th, 1685, at Sedgemore. Ten days
afterwards Monmouth was beheaded, and the atrocities perpetrated on his
followers were such as England never before witnessed. Colonel 'Kirke's
Lambs,' as the Feversham troops were called, pillaged and committed
every species of debauchery in the western counties, while Chief Justice
'Jeffries' Campaign,' as James II. loved to call it, exceeded the
military atrocities. Jeffries executed 240 of the political offenders in
one sessions at Somerset, and it was his boast that he hanged more
traitors than all his predecessors since the Conquest. General orders
were given Jeffries and the judges to convict as many as they could, in
order that the convicts might be bestowed as rewards on the courtiers.
One of the orders directed that Sir Phillip Howard was to have 200, Sir
Richard White 200, Sir W. Booth 100, Mr. Kendall 100, Mr. Nipps 100, Sir
W. Stappleton 100, Sir C. Musgrave 100, and----, a merchant, 100.
Jeffries estimated the worth of each convict, after paying all charges,
from £10 to £20, consequently there was an angry competition for grants
among the courtiers, the aldermen and the magistrates. The courtiers
proved victorious, and 841 of Monmouth's followers (who were generally
regarded as martyrs who sealed with their blood the truth of the
Protestant religion) were handed over to 'the rapacious bloodsuckers,'
who were required to give security that the convicts should be sold as
slaves to work in the King's plantations at Jamaica, Barbadoes, or any
of the Leeward islands in America for the term of 10 years. About the
same time the followers of the Duke of Argyle (who was beheaded in
Scotland for heading a rebellion in that country) were, by order of the
Privy Council, transported as slaves to Jamaica. Owing to the brutal
disposition of the judges, and the arbitrary power they were armed with,
few of those indicated escaped terrible punishment. Those transported
were crowded together in the holds of small vessels, where all was
starvation, lamentation, disease, and death. More than one-fifth were
flung to the sharks before the voyage terminated, and the survivors,
when landed, were mere skeletons, necessitating their being fattened by
the merchants to whom they were consigned before they could be sold in
the slave market.

It is not necessary to deal more fully with this part of the subject;
and I have simply used it as an introduction to the larger and more
comprehensive portions. America having shut the doors on that side, the
authorities in England were compelled to look out for some other place
that could be used as a moral rubbish heap. Convicts were accumulating
rapidly, and it became indispensably necessary to adopt fresh expedients
for their disposal; and in the choice of difficulties the system of the
Hulks was suggested, and first adopted in 1776, under the authority of
an Act of Parliament. Close following this another Act was passed (16
Geo. III. cap. 43) by the Legislature, empowering the justices of every
county in England to prepare Houses of Correction for the reception of
convicts under sentence of death, to whom His Majesty should extend his
Royal Mercy, to be kept at hard labour for a term not exceeding ten
years. Three years afterwards another Act was passed, providing for the
erection of two large Penitentiaries, one to hold 600 male and the other
300 female convicts. Power was given to the Court before whom any person
was convicted of a transportable offence to order the prisoner, in lieu
thereof, to be confined in any of these penitentiary houses, there to be
kept to hard labour in the proportion of five years instead of seven
years' transportation, and not exceeding seven years in lieu of fourteen
years' transportation. The Act also provided for the continuation of the
system of the Hulks; and declared that 'for the more effectual
punishment of atrocious male offenders liable to be transported, the
Court may order such convicts as are of proper age, and free from bodily
infirmity, to be punished by being kept on board ships or vessels, and
employed in raising sand, soil and gravel, and cleansing the river
Thames, or any other river or port approved by the Privy Council; or in
any other works upon the shores or banks of the same, for a term not
less than one year nor more than five; except an offender be liable to
transportation for 14 years, in which case his punishment may be
commuted to seven years on board the Hulks. Neither of these Acts were,
however, carried fully into execution, and the authorities again began
to consider how best to get the criminals out of the Kingdom.

In the year 1784 the system of transportation was again revived by Act
24th Geo. III. Stat. 2, Cap. 26, which empowered the Court before whom a
male felon should be convicted, to order the prisoner 'to be transported
beyond the seas, either within his Majesty's dominions, or elsewhere;
and his services to be assigned to the contractor who shall undertake
such transportation.' The same Act continued the Hulks for a further
length of time, by directing the removal of convicts under sentence of
death, and reprieved by His Majesty, and also such as were under
sentence of transportation (being free from infectious disorders) to
other places of confinement, either inland, or on board of any ship or
vessel in the River Thames, or any other navigable river; and to
continue them so confined until transported according to law, or until
the expiration of the term of the sentence should otherwise entitle them
to their liberty. This plan of transportation, however, does not seem to
have answered, from the great difficulty of finding any place where the
service of convicts could be rendered reproductive or profitable to
merchants who would undertake to transport them. Some few were sent to
Africa, but the scheme did not work well, and it was abandoned--not,
however, before the Government had incurred considerable expense, as is
proved by the following extract from one of the reports of the Select
Committee on Finance:--

                                                                    £      s.  d.
In 1785, George Moore, Esq., received
             for transporting convicts   ......         1,512   7   6
             John Kirby, for expenses     ...             540 19   4

In 1786, John Kirby, further expenses   ...          578  10  1
             Anthony Calvert, for
             transportation   ...          ...                 285  14  0
             Thomas Cotton, Esq., clothing, &c., ...  303    2  7

                                                                  £3,721 13 6

Then it was that the authorities turned their eyes to the land which
Cook had discovered in the South. They formed the idea of 'making an
Establishment' for the outcasts in New South Wales; and that idea was
followed up by determination, which found force in the year 1787, when
an Act was passed (27 Geo. III. Cap. 2) authorising the establishment of
a Court of Judicature for the trial of offenders who should be
transported to the then unknown land. Another Act of the following year
(28 Geo. III. Cap. 24), empowered His Majesty, under his Royal Sign
Manual, to authorise any person to make contracts for the transportation
of offenders, and to direct to whom security should be given for the due
performance of the contract. Thus it was that the system of
transportation to New South Wales was authorised and carried into

The idea that Australia was the best country to succeed the American
colonies and Africa as the receptacle of convicts from the overcrowded
gaols of England originated with Thomas Lord Sydney, who was Secretary
of State for the colonies from 1784 to 1789. The objects of the project
were:--(1). To rid the mother country of the prisoners whose rapidly
increasing numbers in the gaols rendered penal discipline so difficult;
(2). to afford a proper place for the safe custody and punishment of the
criminals, as well as for their reformation; (3). to form a free colony
out of the materials which the prisoners thus reformed would supply,
together with the free immigrants who might settle in the country after
the work of settlement had been completed. The project was a wise one,
but it did not meet with the approval of a few of the leading
philanthropists of England, who stoutly opposed it by tongue and pen,
and this opposition was only borne down by the Government gagging the
press, imprisoning one of the foremost objectors, and carrying on their
work in secret. When their scheme was complete, in August, 1786, the
Commissioners of the King's navy, having been furnished with a statement
shewing all the criminals sentenced to transportation, published
advertisements in the official Gazette and the London Observer
intimating that the Government intended to charter seven vessels to
convey between 700 and 800 felons to Botany Bay. They also posted
placards conveying the same intimation at the most popular coffee-houses
in London. The result was that the Treasury Board shortly thereafter
concluded a contract with the owners of six vessels to convey the
criminals to the new country. Three storeships were also engaged to
accompany the fleet, and H.M.S. 'Sirius,' mounted with 20 guns, and an
armed brig, the 'Supply,' were placed in commission. As it was expected
that the voyage would last nearly a year, the work of fitting and
equipping the vessels therefor was one of considerable magnitude, and
several months elapsed before it was complete.

At different times the transports were loaded with their living freight,
until the whole of the convicts had been 'housed' in safety, being
placed in irons (the females excepted) in the holds of the vessels,
which were divided into compartments. When the squadron was ready to
sail the total number of persons on board was 1036, and comprised 11
officials of the civil establishment, 18 officers forming the military
staff, 184 marines from which the garrison was formed, 28 women, wives
of the marines, with 17 of their children; and 586 male and 192 female

As it is with the prisoners that I have to chiefly deal, it is necessary
that a few particulars concerning their characters should here be given.
Many persons have taken it for granted that the men and women who were
honoured with the title of 'first fleeters' were necessarily first
ruffians--villains of the deepest dye--the worst of all the bad convicts
of all England, Scotland, and Ireland. But nothing could be farther from
the truth. They were in fact the picked men and women of the gaols, the
major part being (to use the words of Captain Tench, who commanded one
of the transports) "mechanics and husbandmen, selected on purpose by
order of the Government." It must not be forgotten that in those days
sentences of death were as frequently passed by the judges as
magistrates' orders to inebriates to pay a fine of five shillings are
made now-a-days, and the 'crimes' to which the capital sentence was
attached were, some of them, not so bad as the offence of drunkenness.
Hence transportation was inflicted on hundreds--it may not be beyond the
mark to say thousands--who were guilty of offences which in the present
age are accounted most trifling, and which are now punished with a small
fine, or at most a few weeks' imprisonment. It is on record that in 1789
a wealthy gentleman named Eyre was transported to Botany Bay for
stealing a few quires of notepaper, and hundreds were sent across the
seas for offences not in any degree greater than that. As late as 1818 a
reverend doctor, who was tutor to the Earl of Chesterfield was
transported hither for forging a tenpenny postage stamp to a letter.
That gentleman--for he was a gentleman in every sense of the
word--afterwards became famous in the land to which he was sent as a

As previously stated, the number of convicts brought out in the first
fleet was 778. It is stated that only those whose health was robust were
chosen as the first Australian exiles, and this no doubt explains how it
was that so few of the 'first fleeters' died on the voyage out, and how
it was that so many of them lived to become very old colonists. From the
returns furnished by the officials I find that of the 778, no less than
265 were convicted in London, 55 in Exeter, 25 in Bristol, 18 in
Gloucester, 18 in Launceston, 16 in Kingston, 14 in Maidstone, 13 in
Reading, 12 in Winchester, 12 in Shrewsbury, 12 in Manchester, 10 in
Worcester, 9 in Warwick, 9 in Dorchester, and several in each of the
towns of Liverpool, York, Croydon, Oxford, and other places. Out of the
778 exiles nearly 700 were sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment, and the
sentences of 5 of them commenced in 1782, 41 in 1783, 190 in 1784, 209
in 1785, 168 in 1786, and 51 in 1787. There were 4 of the exiles who had
in 1786 been sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment, and only 24 sentenced
to 14 years in 1785 and 1786. Only 39 were sentenced to penal servitude
for life, and 17 of this number were convicted in 1785. So that before
the colony had been established five years no less than 650 of the 778
had served their sentences and become free.

Having thus briefly traced the initial steps of the transportation
movement, to the point when everything was in readiness for the order to
be given for the ships to hoist sail and start on their adventurous
journey, it will be interesting to more fully dwell upon the penal laws
in operation in England at that time; and this cannot properly be done
unless a full chapter is devoted to the subject.



It was Draco who boasted that he punished all crimes with death, because
small crimes deserved it, and he could find no higher punishment for the
greatest; and the spirit of that bloodthirsty ruler appears to have
breathed in the Criminal Code of England more than 2000 years after he
had passed beyond the power of punishing others. The severity of that
criminal law, as it stood and operated as late as the year 1800--to come
no nearer the present enlightened age--was even then an object of
horror, and the disproportion of the punishments was such as would have
put any savage nation to the blush. The extraordinary severity with
which the smaller offences were punished had the effect of inuring men
to baseness, and of plunging them into the sink of infamy and despair,
out of which they invariably arose capital criminals. What wonder that
the gaols should overflow and that the hangmen should be kept
incessantly at work!

It was considered by the Law a greater crime to coin a sixpence than to
kill father or mother. For committing a personal assault of the most
cruel, aggravated, and violent nature the offender was simply fined or
imprisoned; but if he were proved guilty of stealing from his neighbour
more than the value of twelve-pence the Law doomed him to death. It was
death to rob a man of more than a shilling; it was only death to murder
a whole family; but the seduction of a married woman, involving the
destruction of the peace and happiness of families, was not an offence
punishable by the criminal law at all. Is it not a fact that there is
still a little of the old leaven left?

The Legislature drew a broad line of distinction between personal and
public offences, and inflicted greater punishments upon offenders who
committed what were termed political crimes, and crimes upon property,
than on those who grossly violated the clearest principles of virtue. By
the Laws of England there were above one hundred and sixty different
offences which subjected the parties who were found guilty thereof to
"death, without benefit of Clergy." Well might Dr. Colquhoun ask, when
seeking to effect a reform in the Law in 1800:--"Can that be thought a
correct System of Jurisprudence which inflicts the penalty of Death for
breaking down the mound of a fish-pond, whereby the fish may escape; or
cutting down a fruit tree in a garden or orchard; or stealing a
handkerchief, or any trifle, privately from a person's pocket, above the
value of 12d.; while a number of other crimes of much greater enormity,
are only punishable with Transportation and Imprisonment; and while the
punishment of murder itself is, and can be, only Death, with a few
circumstances of additional ignominy?"

As the term 'Benefit of Clergy' will be found attached to many
sentences, an explanation thereof will be proper here:--Benefit of
Clergy, privilegium clericale arose in the regard paid by Christian
Princes to the church, and consisted of: 1st, an exemption of places
consecrated to religious duties from criminal arrests, which was the
foundation of 'sanctuaries;' 2nd, exemption of the persons of Clergymen
from criminal process before the secular judge, in particular cases,
which was the original meaning of the privilegium clericale. The
'benefit of clergy' was afterwards extended to everyone who could read;
and it was enacted that there should be a prerogative allowed to the
clergy, that if any man who could read were to be condemned to death,
the bishop of the diocese might, if he would, claim him as a clerk, and
dispose of him in some places of the clergy, as he might deem meet. The
ordinary gave the prisoner at the bar a Latin book, in a black Gothic
character, from which to read a verse or two; and if the ordinary said
"legit ut clericus" ("He reads like a clerk"), the offender was only
burnt in the hand; otherwise, he suffered death. This was in the time of
Edward I (1274). In 1849 the privilege was restricted by Henry VII; and
abolished, with respect to murderers and other great criminals, by Henry
VIII, in 1512. The reading was discontinued in 1706 (5 Anne, c. 6); and
Benefit of Clergy was wholly repealed in 1827, by 7 and 8 George IV, c.

The highest civil crime which could be committed by any person was High
Treason, which was divided into seven different heads, namely:--

1. Compassing or imagining the death of the King, Queen, or Heir

2. Levying war against the King in his realm.

3. Adhering to the King's enemies, and giving them aid, in the realm or

4. Slaying the King's Chancellor or Judge in the execution of their

5. Violating the Queen, the eldest daughter of the King, or the wife of
the Heir Apparent, or eldest Son.

6. Counterfeiting the King's Great Seal, or Privy Seal.

7. Counterfeiting the King's Money, or bringing false Money into the

There is something supremely ridiculous in this blending of crimes, the
dignity and security of the King's person being confounded with his
effigies imprest on his coin. It was as great a crime to forge the
impress on the one as to strike the head from the other. The punishment
for High Treason was death--and death under circumstances most
horrifying in their brutality, the judgment being:--"That the offender
be drawn to the gallows, on the ground or pavement: That he be hanged by
the neck, and then cut down alive: That his entrails be taken out and
burned while he is yet alive: That his head be cut off: That his body be
divided into four parts: And that his head and quarters be at the King's
disposal." Women, however, were only to be drawn and hanged, although
previous to this period they were sentenced to be burned. One marvels
that judges could be found to pass such a sentence as this, and that any
community, however much borne down by militaryism, could suffer it to be
carried out. Surely there were some who shuddered at the thought of
imbruing their hands in blood, and mangling the smoking entrails of
their fellow-creatures! In its severity the law of China was not more
rigorous, for traitors under it were only ordained to be cut into a
thousand pieces.

Petty Treason--defined as the offence of 'a servant killing his master,
a wife killing her husband, or a Secular or Religious killing his
Prelate'--was also punishable with death.

The offences denominated Felonies ranked next in enormity to Treason,
and the capital punishment attached to nearly all of them. Felonies were
of two kinds--public and private. Public felonies were those which had
peculiar relation to the State--those relative (1). to the coin of the
realm; (2). to the King and his Counsellors; (3). to soldiers and
marines; (4). to embezzling public property; (5). to riot and sedition;
(6). to escape from prison; and (7). to revenue and trade. Amongst
private felonies the following offences were classed:--murder,
manslaughter, sodomy, rape, forcible marriage, polygamy, maiming, simply
larceny, 'mixed larceny,' piracy, arson, and burglary. After the
murderer had suffered death his body was handed over for dissection, and
(as also in the case of the suicide) his property was confiscated to the
State. The punishment for manslaughter was burning in the offender's
hand and having his goods forfeited. Unnatural crime and rape were
punishable with death, as also was the offence called 'Forcible
Marriage, or Defilement of Women;' but in the latter case the security
of property was deemed to be more important than the preservation of
chastity--thus: It was made felony without the benefit of clergy to take
away, for lucre, any woman having lands or goods, or being an heir
apparent to an estate, by force or against her will, and to marry or to
defile her; but the forcible marriage or defilement of a woman without
an estate was not made punishable at all. Like some of the Knights of
old, the Law was very chivalrous towards ladies who possessed the high
virtue of wealth! Thank God, the chivalry of our day is more
far-reaching than was that of the eighteenth century.

Polygamy was first declared felony by the statute of James the First,
Cap. II., but not excluded from benefit of clergy, and offenders were
not, therefore, subject to the death penalty. Transportation was the
punishment, but no record has been found to shew that any of the
convicts who came to New South Wales had a plurality of wives before
they left the 'old country'--although not a few of them committed bigamy
after their arrival here, the 'first love' being separated by a wide
expanse of ocean from the second.

Mayhem was defined to be 'maiming, cutting the tongue, or putting out
the eyes of any of the King's liege people, slitting the nose, cutting
off a nose or lip, or cutting off or disabling any limb or member, by
malice forethought and by lying in wait with an intention to maim or
disfigure.' The offence was punishable with death.

Simple Larceny was divided into two parts, viz.--Grand Larceny and Petit
Larceny. The first was defined to be 'the felonious taking and carry
away the mere personal property or goods of another, above the value of
twelve-pence,' and was punished with death and the forfeiture of
property. Petit larceny was where the goods were under the value of
twelve-pence, and in this case the punishment was (according to the
character of the offence) imprisonment, whipping, or transportation,
with forfeiture of goods and chattels.

The taking from a man or from his house was called Mixed Larceny; if a
person was previously put in fear or assaulted the crime was denominated
Robbery. The following 'domestic aggravations' of Larceny were
punishable with death, without benefit of clergy:--First, larcenies
above the value of twelve-pence, committed--1st, in a church or chapel,
with or without violence or breaking the same; 2nd, in a booth or tent,
a market or fair, in the daytime or in the night, by violence or
breaking the same, the owner or some of his family being therein; 3rd,
by robbing a dwelling in the daytime, any person being therein; in a
dwelling-house by day or by night, without breaking, any person being
therein, and put in fear. (This amounted to robbery, and in both the
last cases the accessory before the fact was also excluded from benefit
of clergy.) Secondly, larcenies to the value of five shillings,
committed:--1st, by breaking any dwelling house, outhouse, shop, or
warehouse thereunto belonging in the daytime; 2nd, by privately stealing
goods, wares, or merchandise in any shop, warehouse, coach-house, or
stable, by day or night, though the same was not broken open, and though
no person was therein. Thirdly, larcenies to the value of forty
shillings, from a dwelling house or its outhouses, although the same be
not broken, and whether any person be therein or not, unless committed
upon their masters by apprentices under the age of fifteen years.

Arson was a capital offence, although if a man burned his own house,
without injuring any other, it was only counted a misdemeanour, and was
punished by fine, imprisonment, or the pillory. The capital part of the
offence was extended to persons burning barns or stacks of corn or
setting fire to stacks of straw, hay or wood, or rescuing any such
offender; setting fire to a coal mine, windmill, watermill or other
mill, or pulling down the same; burning any ship; burning the King's
ships of war, afloat or building, the Dock-yards, or any of the
buildings, arsenals, or stores therein: or threatening by anonymous or
fictitious letters to burn houses, barns, &c. All these offences were
made felony without benefit of clergy. Burglary was also punishable by
death, and accessories before the fact were also brought under the
capital sentence.

The other principal crimes punishable by the deprivation of life, or
where, upon the conviction of the offender, the judge had to pronounce
sentence of death, were:--

Stealing an heiress; Forgery of deeds, bonds, &c.
Bankrupts not surrendering, or concealing their effects.
Highway robbery; Stealing bank notes, bonds, &c.
Stealing linen from bleaching grounds, or destroying the same.
Maiming or killing cattle maliciously.
Stealing horses, cattle, or sheep.
Shooting at a revenue officer, or at any other person.
Breaking down the head of a fish-pond, whereby fish may be lost.
Cutting down trees in an avenue, garden, &c.
Cutting down river or sea banks, or hop binds.
Taking reward for helping another to stolen goods.
Returning from Transportation, or being at large in the
              Kingdom after sentence.
Stabbing a person unarmed, or not having a weapon
             drawn, if he die within 6 months.
Concealing the birth of a bastard child.
Sending threatening letters.
Riots by twelve or more, and not dispersing in an hour
             after proclamation.
Stealing woollen cloth from Tenter ground.
Stealing from a ship in distress.
Challenging jurors above 20 in capital felonies, or
             standing mute.
Selling cottons with forged stamps.
Deer-stealing, second offence.
Uttering counterfeit money.
Prisoners under Insolvent Act guilty of perjury.
Destroying silk or velvet in the loom; or the tools for
             manufacturing same; or destroying woollen goods,
             racks, or tools, or entering a house for that purpose.
Servants purloining their master's goods, value 40/-.
Personating bail, or acknowledging fines or judgments
             in another's name.
Escape by breaking prison; Sacrilege.
Attempts to kill Privy Counsellors, &c.
Smuggling by persons armed, or assembling armed for
             that purpose.
Robbery of mail.
Destroying turnpikes or bridges, gates, weighing engines,
              locks, sluices, engines for draining marshes, &c.
Mutiny; Desertion;
Soldiers or sailors enlisting into Foreign Service.

The following crimes, denominated 'Single Felonies.' were punishable by
Transportation, Whipping, Imprisonment, the Pillory, and hard labour in
Houses of Correction, according to the nature of the offence:--

Grand Larceny, which comprehended every species of
         theft above the value of one shilling not otherwise
Receiving or buying stolen goods, jewels, and plate.
Ripping or stealing lead, iron, copper, &c., or buying or
         receiving same.
Stealing or receiving ore from black lead mines.
Stealing from furnished lodgings.
Setting fire to underwood.
Stealing letters, or destroying a letter or packet,
         advancing the postage, and secreting the money.
Embezzling naval stores.
Petty larcenies, or thefts under one shilling.
Assaulting with intent to rob.
Aliens returning, after being ordered out of the Kingdom.
Stealing fish from a pond or river, fishing in enclosed
         ponds, or buying stolen fish.
Stealing roots, trees, or plants, of the value of 5/- or
         destroying them.
Stealing children, with their apparel.
Bigamy, or marrying more wives or husbands than one.
Assaulting or cutting, or burning clothes.
Counterfeiting the copper coin.
Solemnizing marriage clandestinely.
Manslaughter; Cutting or stealing timber trees.
Stealing a shroud out of a grave.
Watermen carrying too many passengers in the Thames,
         if any drowned.
Perjury; Frauds, by cheating or swindling.
Conspiring to injure others.
Stealing dead bodies.
Stealing growing cabbages, turnips, &c..
Cutting and stealing wood.
Robbing orchards and gardens.
Stealing deer from forests.
Stealing dogs.
Making and selling fireworks and squibs.
Throwing the same when on fire about the streets.
Uttering base money.
Embezzlements in the woollen, silk or other manufactures.
Combinations and conspiracies for raising the price of
Keeping bawdy and disorderly houses.
Escaping out of House of Correction.
Committing the same offence, after being once punished
         as rogues and vagabonds.

The attachment of such heavy punishment to offences of the most trivial
kind created a wide-spread feeling against prosecuting offenders in the
minds of the pubic; and the consequence was that a large amount of petty
crime was allowed to go unpunished. And even when sentence was passed it
was in many cases not carried out. A few sentences from Dr. Colquhoun's
'Treaties on the Police of the Metropolis,'--1780, will shew the reader
how this happened. He says:--

"It generally happens in the metropolis that out of from 2,000 to 2,500
prisoners who are tried for different crimes in the various Courts of
Justice, above five-sixth parts are for larcenies, acts of vagrancy and
smaller offences, where the Benefit of Clergy either attaches, or does
not apply at all. The major part are, of course, returned upon Society,
after a short imprisonment, or some corporal punishment, so frequently
to renew their depredations on the public. But a vast proportion are
always acquitted. (He shews by statistics that out of 1894 prisoners
tried at the Old Bailey and the different assizes in the country, in the
years 1795, exclusive of a greater number at the smaller Courts, no less
than 845 were acquitted, chiefly for want of prosecutors).

"According to the present system, out of about two hundred and upwards
who are, upon an average every year, doomed to suffer the punishment of
death, four-fifths, or more are generally pardoned, either on condition
of being transported or of going into his Majesty's service, and not
seldom without any condition at all. Hence it is that, calculating on
all the different chances, encouragement to commit crimes actually arise
out of the system intended for their prevention--first, from the hope of
avoiding detection and apprehension; secondly, of escaping conviction,
from the means used to vitiate and suborn the evidence; thirdly, from
the mercy of the jury, in considering the punishment too severe; and
fourthly, from the interest of persons of rank or consideration applying
for the interference of Royal mercy, by pardons.

"Thus we see that the laws of England at the time Transportation to
Australia was instituted had a most pernicious effect. On the one hand
cruelty in punishment for slight offences often induced, or drove, the
offenders to pass on from the trifling to the more atrocious crimes on
the principle that they might just as well be hanged for a sheep as for
a lamb; on the other hand, it tended to multiply offences, men generally
having a disinclination to prosecute, and the viciously-inclined taking
advantage thereof in order to indulge their inclinations.

"This was the condition of affairs when the ships under Governor Phillip
left their anchorage to bear across the seas the seeds of the 'Greater
Britain in the Southern World'--and for many years thereafter. Yet there
be people who sigh for the 'good old times!' The good Lord deliver us
from ever falling back upon such times as those!

"The punishment, then, considered in point of law next to that of
deprivation of life was Transportation, and when this new field across
the seas was opened up sentences of transportation in many cases were
substituted for sentences of death, and many a poor wretch owed his life
to the occupancy of the 'new land' by the British; although, as will be
seen during the progress of this story, not a few of them escaped the
gallows in the old country to find it in the new, or to enter upon a
course of suffering a thousand times worse than death."



A voyage from England to the Antipodes in 1787 was not such a
pleasurable thing to contemplate or experience as it is in the day and
generation now existing. The century has worked it changes, and in
nothing have the changes been more marked than in that of the 'art' of
navigation. The thirty days' pleasure trip of 1887 was the nine-months'
hazardous voyage of 1787, and it was upon this voyage that the First
Fleet started on the 7th May in the year last mentioned. It will be
interesting to note a few of the details of the voyage, as they have
come down to us through various sources.

The first difficulty which presented itself was one connected with the
seamen, who, when the fleet had been got under weigh, refused to proceed
to sea unless their wages were paid up to date. The fleet was brought to
an anchor and the ringleaders in the disturbance having been ordered on
board H. M. frigate Hyaena, 24 guns, (which had been told off to see the
fleet safely down the channel and one hundred leagues to sea), and an
advance of two months' wages having been paid to the crews of the
transports, the difficulty was removed, another start was made. At
daybreak on May 16th, the English Channel was cleared.

One of the earlier convicts, who afterwards became somewhat famous in
New South Wales, thus describes the embarkation and initial movements of
the floating 'Black Marias' employed to convey exiles to the new land,
and his narrative may be taken as fairly descriptive of the first voyage

"My fellow prisoners, to the amount of upwards of 200, were all ordered
into the hold, which was rendered as convenient as circumstances would
admit, battens being fixed fore and aft for hammocks, which were hung 17
inches apart from each other; but being encumbered with their irons,
together with the want of fresh air, soon rendered their situation truly
deplorable. To alleviate their condition, as much as was consistent with
the safety of the ship, they were permitted to walk the deck in turns,
ten at a time; the women, of whom we had six, had a snug berth made for
them, and were kept by themselves.

"My messmate, the boatswain (the writer had purchased certain privileges
above his fellows, having a little money and some influential friends)
had provided me with a neat slung hammock, and gave me a berth next his
own; at the same time addressing some of his shipmates who were present,
with,--'Lookee, my hearties, as I know you are all above distressing a
gentleman under misfortune, I'm sure you will consent to his having this
here berth; but if so be as how any of you don't like it, why, you may
have mine--it isn't the first time I have prick'd for the softest
plank.'" Whether from the oratory of my new friend, or the insinuating
appearance of a large can of flip, produced from an ample liquor case,
which promised a succession of the same arguments, the iron muscles of
his auditors were softened down to a significant smile, and universal
nod of assent. The settling of this important business afforded me great
satisfaction, as it not only assured me a comfortable berth for my
hammock, but a place also for my little property, which I should have
immediately under my eye.

"We lay about a week at Long Reach, when we dropt down to Gravesend;
here the captain came on board, and some soldiers of the New South Wales
Corps; we got under weigh the next morning, and proceeded to the Downs;
it blowing strong to the westward, we came to an anchor. The wind
veering about we were at daybreak again under sail, and arrived at the
Mother Bank, where lay several other transports for the same

"It was about ten days before we were ready to sail from hence, the
interval being employed in getting fresh stock and replenishing our
water. On the report of our being ready for sea being made to the
admiral, a lieutenant of the navy came on board, as agent for
transports, and immediately made the signal for the masters of the other
ships to come on board, to whom he delivered their sailing instructions,
and on the following morning made the signal to weigh. By a quarter past
9 we were under easy sail, and it blowing a stiff easterly breeze, we
ran through the Needles. It was delightful weather, and the prospect on
each hand must have afforded the most agreeable sensation to every
beholder, being, perhaps, as rich and luxuriant as is anywhere to be met
with; but, alas! it only brought a fresh pang to the bosom of one who in
all probability was bidding it adieu forever.

"The weather continuing moderate, and the wind fair, we imperceptibly
glided down the Channel, and had lost sight of Old England, before I
turned out the next morning. My frequent trips from Ireland to England
had in some measure inured me to salt water, nor did I want my sea-legs
in a most violent gale which took place the third day after we lost
sight of the land and which for near ten hours baffled the skill of all
hands. Two men were blown from the maintop-sail yard and the sail split
to ribbons; all our endeavours to save the men proved ineffectual. Soon
after our fore-topmast went over the side, and carried four men and two
boys with it; but they were providentially taken up, having kept fast by
the wreck."

It would serve no good purpose to speculate concerning the sorrowful and
melancholy emotions that must have filled the breasts of the exiles as
the shores of their native land were gradually lost to their sight, and
they fully realized that they were bound for an unknown country in the
far distance. Concerning this matter, one of the officials, Captain
Tench says:--"The general marks of distress were more perceptible among
the men than the women, for I recollect to have seen but one of these
affected on the occasion, 'some natural tears she dropped, but wiped
them soon.' After this the accent of sorrow was no longer heard, more
genial skies and change of scene banished repining, and regret and
discontent, and introduced in their stead cheerfulness and acquiescence
in a lot now not to be altered."

Governor Phillip having received from the commanding officers of the
transports favorable reports concerning the conduct of the convicts,
before the fleet had been at sea many days humanely issued instructions
for the masters of the ships to release the male convicts from their
irons, so that they could strip their clothes off at night, and during
the day wash and keep themselves clean. This order extended to the whole
of the exiles, without exception, no danger of an uprising being
apprehended, and the number of marines on board the vessels carrying the
males being considered sufficiently large to quell any disturbance,
should any arise. But this partial freedom had only been in operation
for three days when a scheme was concocted by some of the wilder spirits
on board, which, if it had been successful, would have resulted in more
trouble than one could easily imagine. Here is the story, as told by the
privileged convict from whose history a few sentences have already been

"The captain, with great humanity, had released the convicts, many of
whom were in a weakly state, from their irons; and, as I have before
observed, they were allowed alternately, ten at a time, to walk on deck.
Two of them--Americans, who had some knowledge of navigation, prevailed
upon a majority of their comrades to attempt seizing the ship impressing
them with the idea that it would be easily effected, and that they would
carry her to America, where every man would not only attain his liberty,
but receive a tract of land from Congress, besides a share of the money
arising from the sale of the ship and cargo. These arguments had the
desired effect, and it was determined the first opportunity that a part
of those on the deck, should, while the officers were at dinner, force
the arm-chest, which was kept on the quarter-deck, at the same time make
a signal to two of them, who should be keeping the sentinels in
discourse, to attack them, get possession of their arms, and pass the
word for those below to rush upon deck.

"This conspiracy was conducted with the greatest secrecy, and put in
execution with equal spirit and audacity. A favorable opportunity
presenting itself, the captain and most of the officers being below
examining the storage of some wine, a cask having leaked out in the
spirit room, I was the only person on the deck excepting the man at the
helm. Hearing a scuffle on the main deck, I was going forward but was
stopped by one of the Americans, followed by another convict, who made a
stroke at me with a sword he had wrested from one of the sentinels,
which was put aside by a pistol which the other had just snapped at me.
I snatched a handspike luckily in my reach, and brought the foremost to
the ground. The man at the helm had quitted the wheel and called up the
captain. I still kept my situation, guarding the passage of the
quarter-deck, my antagonists having retreated a few paces, but being
joined by many others, were rushing on me, when the discharge of a
blunderbuss from behind me amongst them wounding several, they
retreated, and I was immediately joined by the captain and the rest of
the officers, who, in a few minutes, drove them all into the hold. An
attempt of this kind required the most exemplary punishment, and
accordingly two of the ring-leaders were instantly hung at the yard-arm,
and several others severely flogged at the gangway. As soon as the
conspirators were re-ironed, and the tranquillity of the ship restored,
the captain paid me many compliments in having, as he was pleased to
say, saved the ship, and assured me that when we arrived at the Cape he
should, on the part of his owners, think it his duty to reward the
services I had by my courage and presence of mind rendered them; at the
same time he gave the steward orders to supply me with anything I might
have occasion for from his storeroom during the voyage."

I have preferred to take this account from one who actually witnessed
the incipient insurrection, rather than that supplied by an historian of
our own times, whose brief narrative runs thus:--"The indulgence
(freedom from irons) had only been enjoyed three days when an exile on
board the Scarborough revealed to Captain Shea a scheme which many of
the exiles had proposed to make themselves masters of the ship and sail
away as pirates. When Governor Phillip heard of the intended
insurrection he ordered the two ringleaders to be brought on board the
Sirius, and interrogated. The men steadfastly denied the existence of
the design imputed to them, and being adjudged guilty they each received
two dozen lashes at the hands of the boatswain's mate, were heavily
ironed, and sent on board the Prince of Wales. The two informers
received pardons, and were landed (where?), while the whole of the
exiles, for the wrong-doing of a few, were ordered to be confined with
additional security." The first story is the simplest. It bears the
impress of truth upon the face of it; and having been published in the
year 1803, when many of the officials and convicts must still have been
living, the story would most certainly have been contradicted if the
facts mentioned in it had been only 'truth inverted.'

No other attempt at insurrection was made during the voyage, but an
unsuccessful attempt to escape from one of the transports was made by a
convict, named Power, on the night of June 7th, when the fleet was
anchored in the road of Santa Cruz. Power slid down a rope at the ship's
bows into a boat, and in it reached a Dutch East Indiaman, but the
captain refused to receive him as a seaman, and he then pulled ashore. A
search was instituted for the missing man, and he was found on the
following day secreted in the cavity of a rock, the face of which he had
been unable to climb. He was offered the choice between surrendering and
being shot, and having surrendered was first severely punished and then
heavily ironed as a relief.

It was daylight on June 3rd that the Island of Teneriffe was sighted,
and when the ships had anchored in the bay of Santa Cruz the Sirius was
boarded by the port officer and some Spanish noblemen, and fraternal
greetings were exchanged. The Governor of Teneriffe extended the
greatest hospitality to the representative of the British Government,
and entertained Captain Phillip and his officers right loyally rendering
great service in supplying the fleet with necessary refreshments. In
acknowledging the thanks conveyed to him just prior to the departure of
the fleet, the Governor said he felt an interest in the new settlement,
the extent and situation of which had been shewn him on a chart of the
world, and expressed a hope that it would answer "the anticipations of
those who had entered as volunteers on so novel and very uncertain a
service." No persons could have a better opportunity of deciding whether
those anticipations have been realized than the people who now swarm
over the land to which the faces of the voyagers were then turned.

On the 18th some of the transports had a narrow escape of running on the
Bonavista rocks, which endangered Captain Cook's ship on his last
voyage, the weather being remarkably hazy; and when approaching the
equator, after having encountered the trade winds, and experienced delay
through heavy squalls, the weather was so insufferably hot and
oppressive that many of the female convicts, as also not a few of the
men, fainted away and were afflicted with fits. But in the midst of all
their trouble the seamen on board the transports gave themselves up to
the performances attendant upon 'crossing the line.'

These performances have been thus minutely described by the convict
Barrington in his account of the voyage across the water:--

"The ceremony of ducking and shaving was punctually observed. At noon a
hoarse voice hailed the ship, as from the sea, with 'Ho! the ship, ho!'
which was answered by one stationed for that purpose with 'Hallo! what
ship's that?' 'The Albemarle.' 'I don't recollect her passing this way
before--I shall come on board and examine her.' Upon which half a dozen
most grotesque figures entered the ship, as if from the bosom of the
deep, having previously slung a grating under each bow as a stage to
ascend from. With great solemnity they proceeded to the quarter-deck.
The principal persons were Neptune and Amphitrite, attended by their
nymphs and neriads, personated by the oldest seamen in the ship, but so
disfigured with red ochre, robes, and wigs made of ravelled spun yarn,
that it was a difficult matter to recognise their persons. After
receiving a double toll from the captain, it being the first time of the
ship's crossing the line, consisting of half a gallon of liquor and two
pounds of sugar, they in turn questioned every person on deck. When
anyone said he had crossed before, and had not, his watery majesty, with
great dignity, turning to one of his attendants, who held a large book,
said, 'Look if you have this gentleman down in my log book?' which being
answered in the negative, the rum and sugar were instantly demanded.
Having finished with the quarter-deck, they proceeded to the examination
of their own comrades, after having prepared for the ceremony of
treating those who could not pay with a view of Neptune's collar. For
this purpose they had made a tackle fast to the main-yard arm, through
which they rove a rope, with an iron crow made fast to the end for a
seat, The only exhibition was on the person of the cook, who, not being
of the most conciliatory disposition, most of the ship's company owed
him a grudge; and as he peremptorily refused to pay, though in his
power, they placed him on the crow and brought the yard-rope between his
legs, making another fast round him, to prevent the possibility of his
falling. They then swung him off, and running him close up to the yard,
soused the poor devil from the height of near fifty feet into the water.
This they performed thrice. When they took him on board he was so
exhausted that his life was thought in danger, which put an end to this
part of the ceremony, and the other defaulters were let off with only a
shaving, performed by Neptune and his assistants. The party was seated
on a piece of board placed across a large tub; the razor, part of an
iron hoop, and the soap, not the finest Windsor, but a composition of
tar, tallow, and every filth they could collect. The disagreeableness of
this operation, exclusive of the smart, the hand of the shaver not being
of the lightest, occasions a struggle to get from under it, in which the
board whereon he is seated gives way, and the poor pilgarlick is
unexpectedly emerged over head and ears in bilge water. Those destined
for this operation are kept close prisoners, so that they are totally
ignorant of what they are to go through, and when the ordeal is once
passed they think no more of it, but shake their ears and assist in
carrying on the joke. The forfeits made them all as merry as grigs, and
the day closed with dancing and songs on the forecastle, and everybody
(the cook excepted) forgot their temporary mortifications, and joined in
the evening's conviviality."

During this part of the voyage, a most disgraceful promiscuous
intercourse took place between the marines and seamen and the women
convicts when the hatches were off at night time, and it was only
checked by the liberal use of the 'cat-o'-nine-tails,' several of the
delinquent sailors being treated to as many as three hundred lashes
apiece. When in this locality, also, it became necessary to restrict the
service of water, the adverse winds preventing progress. Three pints of
water per day, exclusive of one quart for boiling peas and oatmeal, was
the quantity measured out to each person--not a large allowance under
even favourable circumstances, and far from sufficient under such heat
and a diet of salt provisions. Fresh provisions had been liberally
served during a stay of the fleet at Teneriffe, and but for this break
in the scurvy-promoting feeding there would undoubtedly have been much
sickness and many deaths. All things considered, the sickness and
mortality tables shewed a not unsatisfactory record. Just before the
fleet left the Mother Bank, a sporadic disease, like the mumps, broke
out among the marines and exiles, but by frequent explosions of
gunpowder, lighting fires between decks, a liberal use of oil of tar,
and keeping the bedding and clothing dry, the outbreak was combatted;
and when at Teneriffe the surgeon's sick list shewed only nine marines
and 72 exiles under medical treatment, while only 21 of the convicts and
three of their children had died. The voyage from Teneriffe to Rio de
Janiero lasted eight weeks, and at the latter place Dr. White reported
95 persons of all descriptions on the sick-list, 30 having symptoms of
scurvy and four being down with fever. But this was not at all
remarkable, for the ships were found to be in a most unwholesome state.
At one time the sick-list was very heavy, and the lives of the exiles
were endangered by the carelessness of the masters of some of the
transports to daily pump the bilge water out of their vessels.

Numbers of them became very ill, the water having risen so much and
become so offensive that the panels in the cabins, and even the buttons
on the uniform of the officers, were blackened by the disease--breeding
exhalations. When Dr. White inspected the ships on 18th July he reported
that the stench from the holds, when the hatches were removed, was
almost unbearable. The fleet was detained a month at Rio Janiero by
calms, and during this time oranges and other tropical fruits were
liberally distributed amongst the convicts. Two fatal accidents happened
between Teneriffe and the Brazils--a seaman on one of the transports
fell overboard, and a female convict was crushed to death by a boat
falling on top of her from off the booms.

Several events of interest transpired during the stay of the fleet in
this harbour. An exchange of visits took place between the Viceroy and
Governor Phillip, the former shewing marked civility to the English
captain and his officers, and extending great hospitality to them.
Divine service was held twice on each Sunday on two of the transports by
Rev. R. Johnson, the chaplain who accompanied the voyagers to Botany
Bay, and who was the only clergyman in the settlement for several years.
An observatory was erected by Lieutenant Dawes on the Island of
Enchadus; and Captain Phillip sent despatches home by a whaler which was
returning to England and had put into Rio for repairs, many of those on
the fleet also seizing the opportunity to send letters 'home' to their
friends and relatives. But the most interesting event that transpired
was the shipment of plants and seeds from the port for the new
settlement, the following being taken on board:--Coffee, plant and seed;
cocoa seed, in the nut; cotton seeds, jalap, three sorts of ipecacuhana,
tamarind, banana plants, oranges of various kinds, both seeds and
plants; lime and lemon seeds and plants, guava seeds, prickly pears,
with the cochineal seeds upon it; grape vines, tobacco plants, rice for
seed, and pommerose or eugonia, a plant bearing an apple-like fruit and
having the flavour and odour of a rose. Besides fresh provisions there
were purchased 100 casks of cassada or caffava jatropha, the root of a
shrub which, after being deprived of its noxious qualities, forms
palateable and nutritious food like bread. There was not much wine to be
got at that season, but 100 pipes of a spirit called aquadente, drawn by
the Portuguese from their sugar canes, was purchased at a low figure for
the garrison. This liquor was the earlier 'colonial rum,' which played
so conspicuous a part in the commerce of the new colony, as detailed in
'The Story of the Ten Governors.' The deficiency in the military stores
was also made good from the Portuguese arsenal.

Resuming their voyage the exiles and their custodians made for Table
Bay, at the Southern extremity of Africa, which was to be the final
place of refreshment. The fleet was saluted by 21 guns from Fort Santa
Cruz, and the Sirius returned the compliment. A return was here made to
a more liberal allowance of water, the order being passed from the
Sirius to the other vessels that everyone should have an allowance of
three quarts per day.

The first birth on the voyage took place when the fleet was near Rio
Sugar Loaf, a female convict named Mary Broard giving birth to a fine
girl. This was on the 8th September. Nine days afterwards (the weather
having been very wet and unpleasant during the interim) a shark six feet
long was caught, and served to break the monotony in the mess on board
the transports. On October 4th 30 of the convicts were reported as
afflicted with scurvy, and on the sixth four seamen were punished for
having conspired to release some of the exiles when the fleet reached
the Cape. On the night of the 13th the fleet came to anchor in Table
Bay, and Captain Phillip and the Commissary at once went ashore, and
made a formal request of the Governor of the settlement to purchase
provisions, especially flour and corn, of which the fleet stood greatly
in need. The Governor replied that he feared the request could not be
complied with, as the Colony had recently suffered from a severe
drought, resulting in distress bordering upon famine, and that
consequently such provisions were scarce; he promised, however, to refer
the matter to the Cape Council, and this he did, but it was only through
persistently urging the extremity of the voyagers that Captain Phillip
could induce the Councillors to grant permission to contractors to
furnish the much-needed supplies. A contract was then entered into with
Messrs. De Witt and Caston to supply the fleet with the live stock,
corn, and other necessities, and after a little delay the provisions
were embarked. During the stay of the fleet in port one and a half
pounds of soft bread and a similar quantity of beef or mutton were
served to the voyagers for their daily ration, wine being served also in
lieu of spirits.

The live stock here secured formed the foundation of that pastoral
industry which to-day forms the pride and profit of the Australasian
colonies. Captain Phillip had received orders from the Admiralty to
select as much stock at the Cape as could conveniently be stored on the
ships, and he carried out his instructions as far as permitted by the
scarcity caused by the preceding drought and the holding capacity of the
vessels under his command. During the month of the fleets' stay in port
he transfered from the land to the ships 500 birds and animals, stalls
having been erected for their accommodation. The stock embarked on the
public account comprised:--three mares, each having a three-months' old
colt at foot, one stallion, six cows with a calf, two bulls, 44 sheep,
four goats, 32 hogs, and a very large quantity of poultry of various
breeds. Most of these were placed on board the Sirius, and the remainder
on board the storeships; but in addition to the public stock, the
officers on board the transports speculated on their own account, and
purchased live poultry and other stock for food on the voyage and for
farming purposes when they reached the end of their journey. Cape
fruits, seeds and plants were also received on board the fleet, and thus
there were introduced to New South Wales with the convicts the quince,
apple, pear, mulberry, bamboo, fig, oak, and myrtle trees, besides vines
of various kinds, Spanish reeds, sugar cane, and strawberry plants. From
the Commander of the Dutch troops and the King's botanist, the intending
settlers received full instructions concerning the propagation and
culture of these useful articles.

On November 13th the fleet weighed anchor and made sail direct for
Botany Bay. Two hours after starting on the last lap of the voyage the
fleet fell in with a large Dutch ship, with troops on board for the
Cape, and the same evening a whaler, four months out from London, was
spoken, and by her Captain Phillip forwarded dispatches to England.
Shortly after clearing the Cape the fleet encountered severe gales, and
the live stock suffered greatly from the heavy sea, seven of the sheep
being killed.

With the intent of running ahead of the rest of the fleet and selecting
and preparing a good position for the foundation of the new colony,
Captain Phillip shifted his pennant from the Sirius to the Supply. On
the 25th of November he changed his quarters, being accompanied by
Lieutenant King and Dawes, and several carpenters, blacksmiths, sawyers,
and other mechanics also embarked on board the Supply, the object being
to erect some storehouses at Botany Bay for the temporary convenience of
the new settlers. At the time of separation the fleet had still 5,582
miles of ocean to cross before reaching Australia. On January 3rd, 1788,
after a stormy run, the advance ship sighted Van Diemen's Land, and at 2
p.m. on the 18th the Supply anchored in Botany Bay, close to the spot
where anchored Captain Cook's ship, the Endeavour, eighteen years
before. Three other ships of the fleet sailed into the Bay at about the
same hour next day, and the remainder followed the day after.

Thus ended the voyage of the first fleet, concerning which Captain
Collins says, that before it was entered upon "the mind hardly dared
venture to contemplate, and on which it was impossible to reflect
without some apprehension as to its termination." That the whole of the
fleet should cross so large an expanse of comparatively unknown water
without accident is in itself a marvellous thing, the time occupied in
the voyage being a little over eight months; but more marvellous still
is the fact that so few of the voyagers died during the journey, and
that the number on the sick list was so small, for we are told that many
of the convicts were in bad health when they embarked, and long and
close confinement, bad diet, scant clothing, and the absence of absolute
necessaries on a voyage of that kind, were not calculated to promote
health either in the individual or the mass. Speaking of the remarkable
success of the voyage, Captain Tench says:--"To what cause are we to
attribute this unhoped-for success? I wish I could answer to the liberal
manner in which the Government supplied the expedition. But when the
reader is told that some of the necessary articles allowed to ships on a
common passage to the West Indies were withheld from us--that portable
soup, wheat and pickled vegetables, were not allowed, and that an
inadequate quantity of essence of salt was the only anti-scorbutic
supplied, his surprise will redouble at the result of the voyage."

Proceedings were at once commenced for landing the stores and the
people, and men were set to work to clear a piece of land on the south
side of the bay, within a mile of the entrance, and near the spot where
Captain Cook had first landed. But Captain Phillip did not like the
place, which was very different from the beauteous spot described by
Cook, and no time was lost in making an examination of the surrounding
country in search of a more suitable site for settlement. The first
place to which attention was directed was the harbour which Cook had
described as existing a few miles northwards of Botany Bay, and which he
had called Port Jackson, it is thought after the seaman who had first
sighted it from the masthead of the good ship Endeavour. Four days after
entering the Bay Captain Phillip proceeded to examine this harbour, and
he was so taken with its appearance that he at once decided to remove
the settlement. The official history which he published contains the
following sentences bearing upon the discovery and the decision
attendant thereupon:--"Here all regret arising from the former
disappointments was at once obliterated; and Governor Phillip had the
satisfaction to find one of the finest harbours in the world, in which a
thousand sail of the line might ride in perfect security. The different
coves of this harbour were examined with all possible expedition, and
the preference was given to one which had the finest spring of water,
and in which ships can anchor so close to the shore that at a very small
expense quays may be constructed where the largest vessels may unload.
This cove is about half a mile in length and a quarter of a mile across
at the entrance. In honour of Lord Sydney, the Governor distinguished it
by the name of 'Sydney Cove.'. .. On the 24th of January Governor
Phillip having sufficiently explored Port Jackson, and found it in all
respects highly calculated to receive such a settlement as he was
appointed to establish, returned to Botany Bay. On his arrival there,
the reports made to him, both of the ground which the people were
clearing, and of the upper parts of the Bay, which in this interval had
been more particularly examined, were in the greatest degree
unfavorable. It was impossible after this to hesitate concerning the
choice of a situation, and orders were accordingly issued for the
removal of the whole fleet to Port Jackson. That Botany Bay should have
appeared to Captain Cook in a more advantageous light than to Governor
Phillip, is not by any means extraordinary.. .. .. The appearance of the
place is picturesque and pleasing, and the ample harvest it afforded of
botanical acquisitions made it interesting to the philosophical
gentleman engaged in that expedition; but something more than beauty of
appearance, and more necessary than philosophical riches, must be sought
in a place where the permanent residence of multitudes is to be

The magnificent city of Sydney, with its coast surroundings, its
splendid harbour, and its strong defences--forming as it does the heart
of the populous colony's commercial, political, and social life--stands
as a monument of the far-sightedness of the man who was chosen to lay
the foundation of that Greater Britain which now flourishes in this
Southern world. The early occupancy of Port Jackson was one of the best
actions of Governor Phillip and even at this distant day the colonists
can profitably contemplate the advantages that have resulted from his
choice of situations.

I cannot do better than give the account of events close following those
already narrated, as found in one of the earlier editions of the history
of Governor Phillip's voyage to Botany Bay, published in 1790:--

"Preparations for a general removal were now made with all convenient
expedition.. .. On the 25th January, therefore, seven days after the
arrival of the Supply, Governor Phillip quitted Botany Bay in the same
ship, and sailed to Port Jackson. The rest of the fleet, under convoy of
the Sirius, was ordered to follow as soon as the abatement of the wind,
which then blew a strong gale, should facilitate its working out of the
Bay.... On the 26th January, 1788, the transports and storeships
attended by the Sirius finally evacuated Botany Bay; and in a very short
time they were all assembled in Sydney Cove, the place now destined for
their port, and for the reception of the new settlement.

"The debarkation was now made at Sydney Cove, and the work of clearing
the ground for the encampment, as well as for the storehouses and other
buildings, was begun without loss of time. But the labour which attended
this necessary operation was greater than can easily be imagined by
those who were not spectators of it. The coast, as well as the
neighbouring country in general, is covered with wood; and though in
this spot the trees stood more apart, and were less encumbered with
underwood than in many other places, yet their magnitude was such as to
render not only the felling, but the removal of them afterwards, a task
of no small difficulty. By the habitual indolence of the convicts, and
the want of proper overseers to keep them to their duty, their labour
was rendered less efficient than it might have been. In the evening of
the 26th the colours were displayed onshore, and the Governor; with
several of his principal officers and others, assembled round the
flag-staff, drank the King's health, and success to the settlement, with
all that display of form which on such occasions is esteemed propitious,
because it enlivens the spirits, and fills the imagination with pleasing

"From this time to the end of the first week in February all was hurry
and exertion. They who gave orders and they who received them were
equally occupied; nor is it easy to conceive a busier scene than this
part of the coast exhibited during the continuance of these first
efforts towards establishment. The plan of the encampment was quickly
formed, and places were marked out for every different purpose, so as to
introduce as much as possible, strict order and regularity. The
materials and framework to construct a slight temporary habitation for
the Governor had been brought out from England ready formed; these were
landed and put together with as much expedition as circumstances would
allow. Hospital tents were also without delay erected, for which there
was soon but too much occasion. In the passage from the Cape there had
been but little sickness, nor had many died even among the convicts; but
soon after landing, dysentery prevailed, which in several instances
proved fatal, and the scurvy began to rage with a virulence which kept
the hospital generally supplied with patients. For those afflicted with
this disorder the advantage of fish or other fresh provisions could but
rarely be procured, nor were esculent vegetables obtained in sufficient
plenty to produce any material alleviation of the complaint. In the
dysentery, the red gum of the tree which principally abounds on this
coast was found a very powerful remedy. The yellow gum has been
discovered to possess the same property, but in an inferior degree.

"The month of February was ushered in by a very violent storm of thunder
and rain. The lightning struck and shivered a tree, under which a shed
had been erected for some sheep, and five of those animals were at the
same time unfortunately destroyed by it. The encampment still went on
with great alacrity, so that in the beginning of this month the work of
building public storehouses was undertaken; and unremitting diligence
began, though very gradually, to triumph over the obstacles which the
nature of the place presented.

"The 7th February, 1788, was the memorable day which established a
regular form of Government on the coast of New South Wales. For obvious
reasons, all possible solemnity was given to the proceedings necessary
on this occasion. On a space previously cleared the whole colony was
assembled; the military drawn up, and under arms; the convicts stationed
apart; and near the person of the Governor those who were to hold the
principal offices under him. The Royal Commission was then read.. .. The
Act of Parliament establishing the courts of judicature was next read;
and lastly, the patents under the great seal, empowering the proper
persons to convene and hold those courts whenever the exigency should
require. A triple discharge of musketry concluded this part of the
ceremony; after which Governor Phillip advanced, and addressing first
the private soldiers thanked them for their steady good conduct on every
occasion--an honour which was repeated to them in the next general
orders. He then turned to the convicts and distinctly explained to them
the nature of their present situation. The greater part, he bade them
recollect, had already forfeited their lives to the justice of their
country; yet, by the levity of its laws, they were now so placed that,
by industry and good behaviour, they might regain the advantages and
estimation in society of which they had deprived themselves. They not
only had every encouragement to make that effort, but were removed
almost entirely from every temptation to guilt. There was but little in
this infant community which one man could plunder from another, and any
dishonest attempts in so small a society would almost infallibly be
discovered. To persons detected in such crimes he could not promise any
mercy; nor, indeed, to any who, under their circumstances, should
presume to offend against the peace and good order of the settlement.
What mercy could do for them they had already experienced; nor could any
good be now expected from those whom neither past warnings, nor the
peculiarities of their present situation could preserve from guilt.
Against offenders, therefore, the rigour of the law would certainly be
put in force; while they whose behaviour should in any degree promise
reformation, might always depend upon encouragement fully proportioned
to their deserts. He particularly noticed the illegal intercourse
between the sexes as an offence which encouraged a general profligacy of
manners, and was in several ways injurious to society. To prevent this
he strongly recommended marriage, and promised every kind of countenance
and assistance to those who, by entering into that state, should
manifest their willingness to conform to the laws of morality and
religion. Governor Phillip concluded his address by declaring his
earnest desire to promote the happiness of all who were under his
government, and to render the settlement in New South Wales advantageous
and honourable to his country."

As far as the convicts were concerned, the writer assures us that this
first gubernatorial speech on Australian soil was not altogether without
its proper effect, as within the course of a week from its deliverance
no less than fourteen marriages took place among the convicts.



THE following is a correct list of the convicts who were sent out in the
first fleet, shewing the periods for which they were transported:--


George Barsby, Robert Bails, Thomas Barrett,
William Blatherhorn, James Cox, William Davis, Joseph Donnage, Thomas
Eccles, Thomas Gearing, John Harris, Joseph Hall, James Heading, John
Hill, William Hilt, John Kellan alias Keeling, David Kilpack, George
List, Thomas Limpus, Mary Long, Mary Marshall, Hannah Mullins, Richard
Partridge, Sarah Parry, Charles Peet, John Pontie, Ann Read, Thomas
Risdale alias Crowder, John Ruglass, John Ruffler, James Sheirs, Joseph
Tuso, John Welch, Edward Whitton, Charles Wilson, Samuel Woodham, and
John Woolcott.


Samuel Day, Frances Davis, William Hogg,
Margaret Jones, John Jones, Thomas Jones, Jeremiah Leahy, Joseph Long,
Ann Lynch, Joseph Marshall, Betty Mason, Lydia Munro, Joseph Owen, Isaac
Rogers, Daniel Spencer, John Stogdell, James Underwood, Mary Wade alias
Cacklane and Mary Wickham.


Robert Abel, Henry Abrams, Esther Abrahams,
Mary Abell alias Tilley, Thomas Acres, John Adams, Mary Adams, Richard
Agley, John Allen, William Allen, Charles Allen, Susannah Allen, Mary
Allen, Jamasin Allen alias Boddington, Mary Allen, alias Conner, John
Anderson, Eliza Anderson, John Anderson, Fanny Anderson, John Archer,
John Arscott, George Alkinson, Sarah Ault, John Ayners alias Agnew, John

James Bartlett, Henry Barnett alias Barnard alias Burton, Stephen
Barnes, George Banister, John Berserd, George Barland, James Balding
alias William, Elizabeth Bason, James Bayley, John Bazley, Thomas Baker,
Caten Batley, Samuel Barsby, John Ball, John Barry, Daniel Barrett,
Elizabeth Barber, Ruth Baldwin alias Bowyer, Martha Baker, William Bell,
Samuel Benear, Jacob Bellet, Ann Beardsley, John Best, Elizabeth
Beckford, Thomas Bellamy, James Bird, Samuel Bird, Joseph Bishop, John
Bingham alias Banghan, Eliza Bingham alias Mooring, Eliza Bird alias
Winifred, William Blackall, William Blunt, Francis Blake, James
Bloedworth, Susannah Blanchett, Peter Bond, John Boyle, William Boggis,
William Bond, Mary Bond, Rebecca Boulton, Jane Bonner, Mary Bolton,
James Brown, William Brown, John Brindley, Richard Brown, William
Brough, James Bradley, James Bradley, Thomas Brown, William Bradbury,
Thomas Bryant, William Bryant, Thomas Brown, John Bradford, James
Brannegan, Robert Bruce, William Brown, John Bryant, William Brewer,
William Brice, Curtis Brand, Michael Bryant, Lucy Brand alias Wood, Mary
Branham, Elizabeth Bruce, James Burleigh, Peter Burn, Patrick Burn,
Simon Burn, John Busley, Margaret Burn, Mary Burkitt, Sarah Burdo.

Joseph Carver, James Castle, James Campbell alias George, James
Campbell, John Carney, Francis Carty, Ann Carey, Richard Carter alias
Michael Cartwright, Henry Cable, Mary Corroll, John Cesar, William
Cheilds, Thomas Chaddick, William Church, William Chaaf, Samuel Chinery,
Edward Chanin, Richard Clough, Thomas Clements, John Clark alias Hosier,
William Clark, John Clark, Mary Cleaver, George Clear, Elizabeth Clark,
William Connelly, Edward McCormick, James Corden, Joseph Colling,
William Cole, John Matthew Cox, Richard Collier, William Connolly,
Cornelius Conelly, Ishmael Colman, John Coffin, Elizabeth Cole, James
Copp, Ann Coombes, Elizabeth Cole, Elizabeth Colley, Charlotte Cooke,
Mary Cooper, Ann Colpitts, John Cross, John Cropper, William Cross, John
Creamer, Jane Creek, Edward Cunningham, James Bryen Cullen, John
Cullyhorn, Jacob Cudlip alias Norris, John Cuss alias Hanaboy William

Aaron Davis, Richard Day, Edward Davies, Samuel Davis, William Davis,
James Davis, Daniel Daniells, James Daley, John Davidson, Richard Davis,
Ann Daley, alias Ann Warbuton, Margaret Darnell, Ann Davis, Elizabeth
Dalton, Rebecca Davidson, Margaret Davidson, Sarah Davies, Mary Davies,
Michael Dennison, Barnaby Dennison, Patrick Delany, Thomas Dickson alias
Ralph Kaw, Timothy Discall, Mary Dixon, Mary Dickinson, William Douglas,
Ferdinand Dowland, James Dodding alias Doring, William Dring, Elizabeth
Dudgens, Jane Dundas, Ann Button, Leonard Deyer, Mary Dykes.

William Earl, William Eagleton alias Bones, Mary Eaton alias Shephard,
Rachel Early, Martha Eaton, William Edmunds, William Edwards, George
Eggleston, Peter Ellam, William Elliot, Joseph Elliot, Deborah Ellam,
Nicholas English, John Everett, Mathew Everingham, William Evans,
Elizabeth Evans.

Phillip Farrel, William Farley, Ann Farmer, Benjamin Fentum, John
Ferguson, Thomas Fillesey, Jane Fitzgerald alias Phillips, William
Field, John Finlow alias Hervey, Jane Field, Elizabeth Fitzgerald,
Edward Flynn, Phebe Flarty, Frances Fowkes, Robert Forrester, William
Foyle, Ann Fowles, Margaret Fownes, Ann Forbes, James Freeman, Robert
Freeman, William Francis, George Francisco, George Fry, Catherine Frier
alias Prior, William Fraser, Ellen Fraser, John Fuller.

Francis Gardner, Edward Garth, Francis Garland, Susannah Garth, Mary
Gable, Olive Gascoigne, George Gess, Annie George, Thomas Glenton,
Daniel Gordon, Edward Goodwin, Andrew Goodwin, John Gould, Charles Gray,
Samuel Griffiths alias Briscow alias Butcher, Nicholas Greenwell, John
Green, Thomas Griffiths, Charles Granger, James Grace, Hannah Green,
Mary Gloves, Mary Green, Ann Green, Mary Greenwood, William Gunter.

John Handford, John Hatcher, William Halfield, Richard Hawkes, William
Harris, John Hatch, John Hartley, John Hart, Joseph Haines, Henry
Hathaway, Dennis Hayes, Samuel Hall, Joseph Harbine, Joshua Harper,
George Hayton alias Clayton, Joseph Harrison, John Hart, John Hayes,
Joseph Hattom, Joseph Harrison, William Hamlin, John Hall, John Hadon,
William Hares, Cooper Handy, William Haynes, Elizabeth Hervey, Margaret
Hall, Francis Hart, Mary Harrison, Thomas Headington, John Herbert,
Catherine Hart, John Herbert, Dorothy Hanland alias Gray, Sarah Hall,
Maria Hamilton, Mary Harrison, Esther Harwood alias Howard, Elizabeth
Hayward, Elizabeth Hall, Jane Herbert alias Rose alias Jenny Russell,
Catherine Henry, William Hindley alias Platt, Ottiwell Hindle, John
Hill, Thomas Hill (2), Elizabeth Hipsley, Mary Hill, Job Hollister,
Thomas Hawell, William Holmes, James Holloway, Thomas Howard, John
Howard, James Hortop, William Holland, Susannah Holmes, Elizabeth
Hollowgin, Hugh Hughes, Edward Humphrey, William Husband, John Hughes,
Jeremiah Hurley, William Hubbard, Henry Humphries, Thomas Hughes, James
Hussey, John Hudson, Frances Ann Hughes, Susannah Huffwell, Mary
Humphreys, Thomas Hylids.

James Ingam, John Irvine, Ann Inett.

William Jackson, David Jacobs, John Jacobs, Hannah Jackson, James
Jameson, Jane Jackson, alias Esther Roberts, Mary Jackson, Robert
Jefferies, John Jefferies, Robert Jenkins alias Brown, John Jepp,
William Jenkins, Francis Joseph, Thomas Jones, Charles Johnson, Edward
Jones, Thomas Joseph, William Johnson, Stephen Johns, Edward Johnson,
Richard Jones, William Jones, Catherine Johnson, Mary Johnson.

Thomas Kelly, Martha Kennedy, Thomas Kidney, William Kilby, John King,
Edward Kimberly, John Knowler, Andrew Knowland.

David Lankey, Richard Lane, John Lawrell, William Lane, James Larne,
John Lambeth, Henry Lavell, Flora, Lara, Caroline Laycock, John Leary,
Stephen Legrove, George Legg, Elizabeth Lee, Isaac Lemon, Elizabeth
Leonard, Joseph Levy, Amelia Levy, Sophia Lewis, Samuel Lightfoot, John
Limeburner, Elizabeth Lock, John Lockley, Joseph Longstreet, Mary Love,
Nathaniel Lucas, Humphrey Lynch, John Lyde, John Law.

James Mackrie, John Macintire, John Mansfield, Stephen Martin, John
Martin, Abraham Martin, Thomas Martin, Ann Martin, James Martyn, Will
Marney, William Mariner, John Marrott, Jane Marriott, Mary Marshall,
Joseph Marshall, Susannah Mason, Ann Mather, Thomas Maton, Richard May,
Sarah McCormick, Mary McCormick, Eleanor McCabe, Richard McDeed,
Alexander McDonald, James McDonnaugh, Redman McGrath, Francis McLean,
Thomas McLean, Edward McLean, Charles McLaughlin, William McNamar, Jane
Meech, William Meech, Jacob Messiah, John Meynell, Samuel Midgley,
Richard Middleton, Charles Milton, Matthew Mills, Mary Mitchcraft,
Nathaniel Mitchell, Mary Mitchell, Samuel Mobbs, John Mollands, Charles
Mood, John Mooden, William Moore, William Morgan, Robert Morgan, Richard
Morgan, John Morley, Joseph Morley, John Morrisby, John Morris, Mary
Morton, John Mortimore, John Mowbray, Edward Moyle, Jesse Mullock,
Stephen Mullis, John Munroe, James Murphy, William Murphy.

John Neal, James Neal, Elizabeth Needham, Robert Nettleton, John
Newland, John Nicholls, Phoebe Norton, Robert Nunn.

John O'Craft, James Ogden, William Okey, Thomas Oldfield, Isabella
Oldfield, Peter Opley, Thomas Orford, Elizabeth Osborne, Thomas Osborne,
John Owen, John Owles.

Paul Page, Joseph Paget, John Henry Palmer, William Pane, Elizabeth
Parker, Mary Parker, John Parker, William Parr, Edward Parry, William
Parish, Peter Parris, Jane Parkinson, Ann Parsley, Sarah Partridge, John
Pearce, James Peaulet, Joshua Peck, John Penny, Edward Perkins, Richard
Percival, Edward Bearcroft Perrott, John Petrie, John Pettit, John
Petherick, William Phillimore, Mary Phillips, Richard Phillips, Roger
Phyfield, Mary Phyn, Samuel Pigott, Mary Piles, Mary Pinder, Elizabeth
Pipkin, William Platt, Jane Poole, David Pope, John Power, William
Power, Ann Powell, Elizabeth Powley, John Price, James Price, Thomas
Price, Thomas Pritchard.

John Ramsey, William Radford, John Randall, William Read, Bartholomew
Reardon, Charles Repeat, George Reymond, John Rice, James Richard, James
Richard, David Richard, Hardwicke Richardson, John Richardson, James
Richardson, Samuel Richardson, William Richardson, John Richards,
William Rickson, Edward Risby, Henry Roach, John Robert, William
Roberts, William Roberts, William Robinson, George Robinson, George
Robinson, Thomas Robinson, John Robins, Daniel Rogers, Mary Rolt, John
Romain, Anthony Rope, Isabella Rosson, Walton Rous, John Rowe, William
Rowe, James Ruse or Ruce, John Russel, Robert Ruth, Jenny Rose or
Russel, John Ryan.

William Saltmash, Peter Sampson, William Sands, Thomas Sanderson, Ann
Sandlin, Robert Scattergood, Elizabeth Scott, Samuel Selfhire, John
Seymour, George Sharp, Joseph Shaw, William Shearman, Robert Sheperd,
William Shore, John Shore, Robert Sideway, John Silverthorn, Sarah
Slater, John Small, Richard Smart, Daniel Smart, Ann Smith, Ann Smith,
Ann Smith, Catherine Smith, Catherine Smith, Edward Smith, Edward Smith,
Hannah Smith, James Smith, John Smith, John Smith, Mary Smith, Thomas
Smith, Thomas Smith, William Smith, William Smith, William Smith,
William Smith, William Snaleham, Henry Sparks, John Spencer, Mary
Spence, Charlotte Sprigmore, Mary Springham, James Squires, William
Stanley, Thomas Stanton, John Morris Stephens, Robert Stephens, Margaret
Stewart, John Stokee, Martin Stone, Charles Stone, Henry Stone, James
Stow, Thomas Strech, James Strong, John Summers.

Joshua Taylor, Henry Taylor, Sarah Taylor, Cornelieus Teague, Thomas
Hilton Tenant, James Tenchall, Elizabeth Thackery, John Thomas, John
Thomas, James Thomas, Elizabeth Thomas, William Thompson, William
Thomson, James Thompson, Ann Thornton, James Thoudy, Thomas Till, Thomas
Tilley, Nicholas Todd, John Trace, Susannah Trippett, Joseph Trotter,
Moses Tucker, Thomas Tummins, John Turner, John Turner, Ralph Turner,
Mary Turner, Thomas Turner, Ann Twyfield, William Twyneham,
William Tyrrell.

John Usher.

Edward Vandell, William Vickery, Henry Vincent.

Richard Waddicomb, Mary Wade, Benjamin Wager, Ellen Wainwright, James
Walbourne, John Walker, William Wall, William Walsh, John Ward, Ann
Ward, Charlotte Ware, William Waterhouse, Mary Watkins, John Watson,
Thomas Watson, John Welch, John Welch, John Welch, Benjamin West, John
Westwood, Edward Westlale, Samuel Wheeler, George Whitaker, William
Whiting, John Wifehammer, Samuel Wilcocks, John Wilding, Charles
Williams, John Williams, John Williams, James Williams, Peter Williams,
Robert Williams, Daniel Williams, Francis Williams, Mary Williams, Peter
Wilson, William Wilton, George Wood, Mark Wood, Peter Woodcock, Francis
Woodcock, William Worsdell, Ann Wright, Benjamin Wright, James Wright,
Joseph Wright, Thomas Wright, William Wright, Lucy Wood.

Thomas Yardsley, Nancy Yates, John Young, Simon Young, Elizabeth
Youngson, George Youngson.

This list is given, not for the purpose of gratifying any morbid
curiosity, but simply to preserve the names of those who were the real
pioneers of the colony. To many of these men, with others who were not
marked with the felon's brand, belonged the credit of making the initial
movements in that work of colonization which has spread so widely and
with such marvellous rapidity through this vast continent. They toiled
and suffered to an extent which the mind fails to compass, and from
their toil and suffering there sprang the first shoots of that
industrial and commercial life which to-day is throbbing with a vigour
not exceeded by any nation upon the face of the earth. It was under
prophetic inspiration that Darwin, the author of "The Botanic Garden,"
penned the following lines, some ten years after Governor Phillip first
landed on Australian soil:--

Where Sydney cove her lucid bosom swells,

Courts her young navies, and the storm repels;

High on a rock amid the troubled air

Hope stood sublime, and wav'd her golden hair;

Calm'd with her rosy smile the tossing deep,

And with sweet accents charmed the winds to sleep;

To each wild plain she stretched her snowy hand,

High-waving wood and sea encircled strand.

"Hear me," she cried, "ye rising Realms! record

Times opening scenes, and Truth's unerring word.--

There shall broad streets, their stately walls extend.

The circus widen, and the crescent bend;

There, ray'd from cities o'er the cultured land,

Shall bright canals, and solid roads expand.--

There the proud arch, Colossus-like, bestride

Yon glittering streams, and bound the chasing tide;

Embellished villas crown the landscape-scene,

Farms wave with gold, and orchards blush between.--

There shall tall spires, and dome-cap towers ascend.

And piers and quays their massy structures blend;

While with each breeze approaching vessels glide,

And northern treasures dance on every tide!"

Then ceas'd the Nymph--tumultuous echoes roar,

And Joys loud voice was heard from shore to shore--

Her graceful steps descending press'd the plain.

And PEACE, and ART, and LABOUR, joined her train!

From this distance of time every city, town and stocked or cultivated
country-side sends back the echo; and from the light of the past we now
may see more clearly what may be the future of this Sunny Land.

This part of the subject--and perhaps the brightest, for it is with the
darkest side of the colony's life that we are now dealing--cannot be
brought to a more fitting conclusion than by the repetition of the story
told by Bennett of the last survivor of the "First Fleet:--

"Of more than a thousand persons who arrived by the 'First Fleet,' and
who were present at the formal inauguration of the Government, on the
7th February, 1788, the writer has reason to believe that at present
(May, 1865) not more than one survives, if, indeed, the person to whom
he refers is still living. Nearly two years ago, that is, in May, 1863,
a very old man named Michael Norton, was produced as a witness in the
Supreme Court, Sydney, in an ejectment case (Campbell v. Binks). Having
then deposed to a circumstance which took place a great many years ago,
Sir Alfred Stephen, who was on the Bench, inquired how old he was. In
reply, the old man said he believed his age was one hundred and three
years. Some other questions were then put by his Honor to which old
Norton gave very satisfactory answers. The writer, on the following day,
had a long conversation with the old man, and found him remarkably
intelligent and communicative. He was, he said, born on board a
government store-ship called the Tiger, while that vessel was lying in
the harbour of St. Helena. His father was a soldier in a cavalry
regiment then on its way to India. He remained with his parents in India
for several years, and ultimately returned with them to England. Some
time afterwards, with his mother's consent, his father being in another
part of England with his regiment, he was drafted to join a company of
marines, who were to go out as guard with Captain Arthur Phillip to
Botany Bay. He was never formally enrolled, being but a boy at the time,
and on the voyage out never stood sentry, for although regularly drilled
with the marines, he was generally employed as cook's assistant. On his
arrival here he went to live as servant with Major Johnston, and
continued with him until 1791, when he went with some sawyers to the
River Hawkesbury. There he remained for more than seventy years, being
generally employed as a sawyer, and never until January, 1863 left the
district of Colo, where he had taken up his residence. He then
determined to visit Sydney, principally for the purpose of gratifying
his curiosity by the sight of a railway train and steam vessels. He had
often read and heard of these wonderful inventions, but having never
seen them, it occurred to him that if he wished to do so, he had not
much time to lose. He had never in his life, he said, been in a court of
law, even as a witness, before he was called upon on the previous day to
give evidence in the above-mentioned case, and had never before taken an
oath. He had never been married, nor had he any relatives in the colony.
He had, when he left England, two brothers, and both soldiers, the last
time he heard from them was just after the capture of Candy, in Ceylon,
at which they were present. Never having left the secluded district of
the Colo, for more than seventy years, he was, he said, known to very
few persons. His occupation as a sawyer, usually carried on in remote
parts of the bush, seldom brought him into contact with strangers; and
accounted for the fact of a person of his great age, and who had come to
the colony by the first fleet, not being more generally known. He
stated, in corroboration of the fact of his longevity, that the oldest
residents on the Hawkesbury, men who could remember him for sixty years
or more, always called him 'Old Mick,' even when they were children, so
that he must have been an elderly man more than half a century ago. He
was still strong and hearty, and sometimes engaged in farming work, but
was generally employed at his own trade as a sawyer. He was extremely
active, with sight and hearing almost unimpaired, and had the appearance
of a man about seventy years of age. He was very sharp and intelligent
in conversation, often making use of words and phrases, which he could
only have acquired by reading, and expressed himself readily, and for
one of his station, very correctly. Occasionally there was evident a
momentary loss of recollection or lapse of consciousness of the subject
on which he was speaking; and he was often unable to follow out the most
simple train of reasoning, but his lapse of recollection was only for an
instant and then his eye flashed and kindled as if he felt gratified at
the quick return of his faculties. Contrary to what is said to be
usually the case with very old people, his memory appeared exceedingly
good and retentive for details of matters of very recent occurrence, and
not for things which happened many years ago. Of the most important
occurrences of his early life he recollected but a few leading events.
On this account it was difficult to ascertain how far his impressions as
to certain facts, or what he evidently believed to be facts, were
reliable, and his belief as to his great age seemed founded on no very
distinct data--at least, when cross-questioned, he appeared unable to
reconcile discrepancies, or even to see that they were discrepancies.
For instance, he said he thought he was 103 years old, but when it was
pointed out to him that if he was a boy or a youth when he arrived in
1788, he could then be little more than 90, he was unable to see the
inconsistency of his statements. His faculty for numbers appeared to be
almost wholly obliterated. There is no doubt that he was a very old man,
and considering his strength and activity, and the wonderful
preservation of his physical faculties, the singularity of the case is
not much lessened, even on the supposition that he was but 93 instead of
103 years old. From an consideration of all the above circumstances, and
of many other matters which incidentally arose in the course of a
lengthy conversation, it is probable that the real age of Michael Norton
was somewhere between 90 and 95 years. That he firmly believed his age
to be 103 years, there is no doubt, but his belief did not appear to
rest on any sufficient data; on the contrary, the facts which he
mentioned in support of it all pointed to 93 instead of 103 as his real



WE have seen how the convicts were transported across the seas, how they
were landed on Australian soil, and what advice was given to them by the
man whose every word they were supposed to obey, and who literally held
their lives in his hands. Little was it then imagined that this band of
transported felons and their gaolers would lay the foundations of a
State, which before a century had passed would hold a prominent place
amongst the civilized nations of the world; but we who live to-day see
what marvellous results have followed the occupancy of the land by the
untimely company of Britons whose characters and work the writer has
undertaken to describe.

After the formal establishment of the Government, as already narrated,
active steps were taken in the direction of erecting store-houses, and
other buildings required for habitation and for preserving the
provisions, seed, animals, &c., that had been brought in the
store-ships. The heavy rain which fell during the first two or three
weeks prevented much work from being done; and as there were only a few
skilled mechanics among the convicts, when the weather did clear the
progress made was but slow. The officers and soldiers had to rest
content with temporary dwellings, built of cabbage-tree, which grew in
abundance in several parts of the harbour; while the convicts had to put
up with even less pretentious buildings, made of a few branches and
twigs plastered up with clay. The military huts were placed on the west
side of what was afterwards called the Tank Stream. The Governor's house
was erected a few yards from the spot where Pitt and Hunter streets now
intersect each other. The store-house was erected on what is now called
the Queen's Wharf, and although a site for a large town was laid out,
with streets 200 feet wide, the design was spoiled by the encroachments
found necessary by the pressing need of huts for the residence of the
colonists, and as these in time were replaced by more substantial
buildings, the original plan could not be carried out. This temporary
provision for shelter having been made, the main body of the convicts
were employed in clearing the trees and scrub near the settlement, and
in making attempts to cultivate the ground so cleared; but as the soil
was found unsuitable for agriculture most of the men were set to work
clearing land for cultivation about fifteen miles distant, the new farm
being called at first the Crescent, and afterwards Rose Hill, later
still reverting to the native name Parramatta, which name is still
retained. For a long time the labour of the convicts was concentrated at
the Camp, as the settlement at Sydney Cove was called, and at the farm
at Parramatta, the work of cultivation being relieved by fishing and
shooting, parties of men being specially told off for the latter work.

Captain Tench gives a very good description of the first movements of
the new arrivals after their landing, and the narrative is well-worth
perusal. Here is the story as told by him:--

"The landing of a part of the marines and convicts took place the next
day, and on the following, the remainder was disembarked. Business now
sat on every brow; and the scene to an indifferent spectator, at leisure
to contemplate it, would have been highly picturesque and amusing. In
one place a party cutting down the woods; a second, setting up a
blacksmith's forge; a third, dragging along a load of stones or
provisions; here an officer pitching his marquee, with a detachment of
troops parading on one side of him, and a cook's fire blazing up on the
other. Through the unwearied diligence of those at the head of the
different departments, regularity was, however, soon introduced, and, as
far as the unsettled state of matters would allow, confusion gave place
to system.

"Into the head of the cove on which our establishment is fixed, runs a
small stream of fresh water, which serves to divide the adjacent country
to a little distance, in the direction of north and south. On the
eastern side of this rivulet the governor fixed his place of residence,
with a large body of convicts encamped near him; and on the western side
was disposed the remaining part of these people, near the marine
encampment. From this last two guards, consisting of two subalterns, as
many sergeants, four corporals, two drummers, and forty-two private men,
under the orders of a captain of the day, to whom all reports were made,
daily mounted for the public security, with such directions to use force
in case of necessity, as left no room for those who were the object of
the order, but to remain peaceable, or perish by the bayonet.

"As the straggling of the convicts was not only a desertion from the
public labour, but might be attended with ill consequences to the
settlement, in case of their meeting the natives, every care was taken
to prevent it. The provost martial, with his men, was ordered to patrole
the country around, and the convicts informed, that the severest
punishment would be inflicted on transgressors. In spite, however, of
all our precautions, they soon found the road to Botany Bay, in visits
to the French, who would gladly have dispensed with their company.

"While the convicts were on board ship, the two sexes had been kept most
rigorously apart; but when landed, their separation became
impracticable, and would have been, perhaps, wrong. Licentiousness was
the unavoidable consequence, and their old habits of depravity were
beginning to recur. What was to be attempted? To prevent their
intercourse was impossible; and to palliate its evils only remained.
Marriage was recommended, and such advantages held out to those who
aimed at reformation, as have greatly contributed to the tranquility of
the settlement.

"On the Sunday after our landing, divine service was performed under a
great tree, by the Rev. Mr. Johnston, chaplain of the settlement, in the
presence of the troops and convicts, whose behaviour on the occasion was
equally regular and attentive. In the course of our passage this had
been repeated every Sunday, while the ships were in port; and in
addition to it, Mr. Johnson had furnished them with books, at once
tending to promote instruction and piety.

"February, 1788.

"Owing to the multiplicity of pressing business necessary to be
performed immediately after landing, it was found impossible to read the
public commissions, and take possession of the colony in form, until 7th
of February. On that day all the officers of guard took post in the
marine battalion, which was drawn up, and marched off the parade with
music playing, and colours flying, to an adjoining ground, which had
been cleared for the occasion, whereon the convicts were assembled to
hear his Majesty's commission read, appointing his Excellency Arthur
Phillip, Esq., Governor and Captain General in and over the territory of
New South Wales, and its dependencies; together with the act of
parliament for the establishing trials by law within the same; and the
patents under the Great Seal of Great Britain, for holding the civil and
criminal courts of judicature, by which all cases of life and death, as
well as matters of property, were to be decided. When the judge advocate
had finished reading, his Excellency addressed himself to the convicts
in a pointed and judicious speech, informing them of his future
intentions, which were, invariably to cherish and render happy those who
showed a disposition to amendment; and to let the rigour of the law take
its course against such as might dare to transgress the bounds
prescribed. At the close, three volleys were fired in honour of the
occasion, and the battalion marched back to their parade.

"In the governor's commission, the extent of this authority is defined
to reach from the latitude of 43 deg. 49 min. south, to the latitude of
10 deg. 37 min. south, being the northern and southern extremities of
the continent of New Holland. It commences again at 135th degree of
longitude east of Greenwich, and proceeding in an easterly direction,
includes all islands within the limits of the above specified latitudes
in the Pacific Ocean.

"As the constitution of this court is altogether new in the British
annals, I hope my readers will not think me prolix in the description I
am about to give of it. The number of members, including the judge
advocate, is limited, by act of parliament, to seven, who are expressly
ordered to be officers, either of his Majesty's sea or land forces. The
court being met, completely arrayed and armed as at a military tribunal,
the judge advocate proceeds to administer the usual oath taken by
jurymen in England to each member; one of whom afterwards swears him in
a like manner. The ceremony being adjusted, the crime laid to the
prisoner's charge is read to him, and the question of Guilty, or Not
Guilty, put. No law officer on the side of the crown being appointed
(for I presume the head of the court ought hardly to consider himself in
that light, notwithstanding the title he bears) to prosecute, the
criminal is left entirely to the party at whose suit he is tried. All
the witnesses are examined on oath, and the decision is directed to be
given according to the laws of England, 'or as nearly as may be,
allowing for the circumstances and situation of the settlement,' by a
majority of votes, beginning with the youngest member and ending with
the president of the court. In cases, however, of a capital nature, no
verdict can be given, unless five, at least, of the seven members
present concur therein. The evidence on both sides being finished, and
the prisoner's defence heard, the court is cleared, and on the judgment
being settled, is thrown open again, and sentence pronounced. During the
time the court sits, the place in which it is assembled is directed to
be surrounded by a guard under arms, and admission to every one who may
chose to enter it, granted.

"Hitherto, however, (February) nothing of a very atrocious nature had
appeared. But the day was at hand, on which violation of public security
could no longer be restrained, by the infliction of temporary
punishment. A set of desperate and hardened villains, leagued themselves
for the purposes of depredation, and, as it generally happens, had art
enough to persuade some others less deeply versed in iniquity, to be the
instruments of carrying it on. Fortunately the progress of these
miscreants was not of long duration. They were detected in stealing a
large quantity of provisions at the time of issuing them; and, on being
apprehended, one of the tools of the superiors impeached the rest, and
disclosed the scheme. The trial came on the 28th of the month, and of
four who were arraigned for the offence, three were condemned to die,
and the fourth to receive a very severe corporal punishment. In hopes
that his lenity would not be abused, his Excellency was, however,
pleased to order one only for execution, which took place a little
before sun-set, the same day. The name of the unhappy wretch was Thomas
Barrett, an old and desperate offender, who died with that hardy spirit,
which too often is found in the worst and most abandoned class of men.
During the execution the battalion of marines was under arms, and the
whole of the convicts obliged to be present. The two associates of the
sufferer were ordered to be kept close prisoners, until an eligible
place to banish them to could be fixed on; as were also two more, who on
the following day were condemned to die for a similar offence."

The hardships resulting from the failure of provisions shortly after the
landing have already been dwelt upon in the "Story of the Ten
Governors," and need not be repeated here. The knowledge that the
provisions were running short and that there was but a poor prospect of
obtaining a further supply immediately, appears to have exercised a very
demoralizing effect upon the minds of the convicts, and their
disaffection speedily made itself manifest by acts of insubordination
and breaches of order. Some of them broke into and plundered the
temporary store--a work of not much difficulty--and betrayed a
restlessness and recklessness that called forth prompt and effective
repressive measures. The first batch of plunderers caught were dealt
with off hand. A court was assembled; the men, six in number, were
tried, and convicted, and sentenced to death, and their ringleader, a
youth named Barrett, only seventeen years of age, who, however, is
described by Tench as "an old and desperate offender," was executed on
the spot. The others were reprieved and sent to the little island in the
middle of the harbour afterwards called Pinchgut, but now Fort Denison,
and there kept on small allowance of bread and water. Here they were
kept for a little over three months, when they were liberated in honour
of the King's birthday.

"He who suffered," says Stockdale, "and two others, had been detected in
stealing from the stores on the very day that they had received a week's
provisions; at a time when their allowance, as settled by the Navy
Board, was the same as that of the soldiers, spirituous liquors
excepted. So inveterate were their habits of dishonesty, that even the
apparent want of a motive could not repress them." Allowance must be made
for this laboured wording, for the sentences were written in 1798. In
later years a story was current that the five men died from starvation
on the island, but it had no foundation in fact, and in all probability
was circulated by one of the Governor's enemies, from a desire to make
it appear that he was strict even to cruelty so gross. The hanging of the
youth does, certainly, carry the appearance of undue severity; but,
judging from his conduct throughout the periods of distress that
prevailed, when he placed his own household upon the same short
allowance as the convicts, Governor Phillips was not a hard-hearted man,
and he must have considered that the necessities of the case demanded
the sternest repressive measures. It is probable, however, that the
sentence in this boy's case would not have been carried out, had he not
persisted in the notion that the Governor could not have him hanged
without first obtaining the sanction of the King--a notion which
appeared to prevail generally among the convicts. From this time out,
however, they did not question the Governor's power or contend that he
did not exercise it legally. On this subject one writer says:--"This
prompt but necessary severity on the part of the Governor, a man, under
ordinary circumstances, of the most humane and gentle disposition,
produced a powerful effect for a time on the conduct of the other
prisoners, and probably saved the whole settlement from starvation. The
means of securing the provisions and stores were very inadequate at
first, and the temptation for those who were disposed to help themselves
so great, that nothing less than death could deter them from plundering
the public property." Bad as this case appears to be, the light of its
horror is not nearly so lurid as that which attended hundreds of cases
later on, where official severity developed into fiendish cruelty. But
this was not in Phillip's time.

Five months after the formation of the settlement a return was made out
of the number of persons who had died since their embarkation in
England, and it was found that there had been eighty-nine deaths--eight
of free persons and eighty-one of convicts. Out of this number several
had died on board ship, while in harbour, before the fleet left England.
When this return was made the health of the people at the settlement was
good. The season of the distress through short rations had not yet set
in, but although the prisoners were on the same footing as the soldiers
and sailors as regards provisions, the general health of the former was
not so good as that of the free persons. Many of them sunk into a state
of apathy and only longed for the time to come when they could make
their way back to England. So great was this "home sickness," especially
among those whose terms of service were near completion, that we are
told they almost starved themselves and hoarded their rations hoping to
raise sufficient money by the sale of the hoarded food to pay their
passage back to the "old country." One convict, a youth, was found dead
in his hut, and a post mortem examination proved that he had died
from sheer want of nourishment. His companions stated that he had
scarcely tasted food for a week, but upon his box being searched a large
quantity of provisions, which he had stored for sale, was found therein.

Owing to the difficulty of procuring trustworthy overseers, the convicts
at first were not as a body kept regularly at work; and idleness created
vice, the greatest trouble being caused through the frequent thefts of
food. Nevertheless, we are told, the conduct of the prisoners was on the
whole fairly good.

Excellent clay had been found at a spot about a mile from the
settlement, and a large gang of men were there set to the work of making
bricks, while other gangs were employed in collecting shells for making
lime. The place where the clay was found is still called Brickfield
Hill, and is in the very heart of Sydney. With the bricks here made the
erection of the first substantial buildings was commenced, a hospital, a
barrack, an observatory, and houses for the Governor and the
Lieutenant-Governor being started by the beginning of August.

In the same month a sensational incident occurred, which was calculated
to create not a little trouble. Many of the convicts had got hold of the
idea that gold existed in the new land to which they had come, and for
some time after their arrival they employed themselves in searching. At
last one of their number, named Daley, declared that he had found some
of the precious metal, and produced a "specimen" in proof of the
correctness of his assertion. He refused to tell where he had found it,
however, unless the Governor would guarantee to him a certain sum of
money, and set him free, together with a convict woman to whom he was
attached. The Governor was then absent from the settlement, and Major
Ross, the Lieutenant-Governor, not only refused to comply with Daley's
demand, but commanded him to shew in what part of the country he had
found the gold, on pain of severe punishment. Of course, a convict could
have no right to anything, and Daley found that he had got himself into
trouble, for he could not point out the spot. Under threats of the lash,
however, he at length said he would point out the place where the
precious metal could be discovered, and an officer and several soldiers
were sent with him. But Daley gave them the slip after leading them some
distance into the bush, and returned to camp, saying that he had left
the officer in full charge of the gold mine, and again disappeared. He
was captured soon afterwards, and as he still persisted that his story
was true, he was severely flogged. When the Governor returned, Daley was
sent with another officer to the place where he alleged he found the
gold, and the officer, determined that Daley should not fool him as he
had fooled his colleague, made him walk in front, and threatened him
with instant death if he should attempt to run away or deceive him.
Daley then confessed that the whole affair was a lie; that he had filed
down part of a yellow metal buckle, mixed it with some particles of gold
filed off a guinea, and blended the whole with clay, which he had then
made very hard. Upon this he was again flogged with greater severity
than before. Shortly after this he was convicted of some petty offence
and was hanged. But many persons believed that Daley did really find
gold, and that rather than reveal the spot without reward he said that
he had manufactured it, and took the floggings for practising deception.
Whether he did find gold or not, it is confidently asserted that in the
very early times small quantities of the precious metal were sold in
Sydney by convicts and others, and as it is certain that many of the
convicts crossed the Blue Mountains long before any practicable route
over them was discovered by the settlers, the story is not altogether

It was about this time that the necessity of shortening the ration
allowed to the convicts and soldiers arose, for it was seen that the
stores would otherwise give out before fresh supplies could reach the
settlement. The decrease in the ration of provisions created a
corresponding increase of crime, and having committed themselves, many
of the prisoners took to the woods to avoid punishment. One of the
absconders who was taken was hanged as a warning to other evil-doers,
and the punishment meted out to both soldiers and convicts was of the
severest kind. As a proof of the extraordinary severity with which
offenders were treated, it may be mentioned that two men, one a soldier
and the other a prisoner, were sentenced to receive seven hundred lashes
each. The prisoner was not strong enough to bear the full sentence,
and in order that he might not die under the lash, the flogger was
ordered to desist when half the number of strokes only had been given;
but the soldier suffered the full penalty. His offence consisted in
having been found absent from his post.

The latter part of the year and the first four months of 1789 is stated
to have been one of the darkest periods in the history of the
settlement. It was a season of dire forebodings, darkest gloom,
intensest sufferings and frequent deaths. As far as the convicts were
concerned, as natural food failed they were more liberally fed with the
lash, and the result was that they recklessly plunged into acts of
disobedience and crime, or sank into despair. The only edibles yet grown
on the island were a few vegetables; the few cattle brought out in the
ships had mysteriously disappeared, and many of the sheep and goats had
fallen victims to the rapacity of the native dogs; the supply of
provisions in the stores was rapidly being exhausted, and there was no
telling when the ships sent for additional supplies would return from
their long voyage. Under such circumstances, what wonder is it that the
poor suffering wretches who had been brought to a country so barren and
inhospitable should break bounds in the hope of bettering their
condition in the bush; heedless of the dangers that lurked therein--the
probability of being lost and starved, or the greater probability of
being killed by the natives, who were already realizing that the white
invaders were depriving them of the food upon which they had chiefly
relied for sustenance--the sea and shell-fish of the harbour. Reckless
of consequences, and against the positive orders of the Governor, many
of the convicts went from the settlement into the bush in search of
herbs and roots, and as several of them did not return, for the simple
reason that they had been killed by the aborigines, an attempt was made
to check wandering by an order that everyone detected beyond certain
assigned bounds should receive one hundred and fifty lashes, while those
who returned wounded by the natives were placed in the hospital, and
flogged when their wounds were healed. It was a season full of horrors,
and the soldiers were treated with almost as much rigour as those whom
they had in charge.

About the end of January, 1789, a conspiracy was discovered among the
soldiers to plunder the public store. This conspiracy, which was
regularly organised, had existed for several months, and those who were
party to it had succeeded in abstracting a quantity of the carefully
hoarded provisions before the plot was found out, so that the stock on
hand had been considerably reduced, and the condition of affairs was
much worse than the Governor and officers had thought. Seven of the
soldiers were detected in the act of plundering the store, and they were
all hanged without any ceremony, despite the efforts of their officers
to have them reprieved. At this distance of time, many persons will
doubtless condemn Governor Phillip for what they may think was an act of
undue severity; but those who take the whole of the circumstances into
consideration must acknowledge that the greatest sternness and
promptitude were demanded, if anything like discipline and order were to
be maintained in a community so hard-driven and desperate. Bennett well
says, when referring to this time:--"The position of the settlement
under a man of less firmness and self-reliance would have been desperate
in the extreme. Starvation stared the people in the face, and the
slightest relaxation of discipline would probably have been followed by
a state of anarchy and crime frightful to contemplate and impossible to
control." But if Governor Phillip was firm and self-reliant even to
sternness in dealing with offences, he was kind-hearted and
disinterested to a degree. At the very time that this robbery by the
soldiers from the common store was made, the Governor was living on the
same daily ration as the meanest person in the settlement, the weekly
quantity of food issued indiscriminately to all, and drawn by himself
for his own consumption, being 2½ lbs. flour, 2 lbs. rice and 2 lbs.
pork. Says Collins, who was one of the sufferers, "The Governor, from a
motive that did him immortal honour, in this season of general distress,
gave up three hundredweight of flour which was his Excellency's private
property; declaring, that he wished not to see any more at his table
than the ration which was received in common from the public store,
without any distinction of person, and to this resolution he rigidly
adhered, wishing that, if a convict complained, he might see that want
was not unfelt even at Government House." Let those who feel disposed to
condemn the Governor weigh well the evidence both for and against him
before pronouncing judgment.

The state of things thus feebly depicted continued until the middle of
May, when the Sirius returned from the Cape with a four months' supply
of provisions for the settlement. Her arrival was hailed with great joy,
and those convicts who had almost given themselves up to despair and the
recklessness attendant upon such a condition of mind and feeling, at
once became orderly, industrious, and well-behaved. Full rations
produced contentment and even hilarity, and the convicts went so far in
this direction as even to indulge in dramatic entertainments, permission
to do so having first been obtained from his Excellency. The 4th of June
was the King's birthday, and free and bond joined in its celebration,
rendering the occasion remarkable as the data of the first performance
of a play in Australia. The play produced was Farquhar's comedy of "The
Recruiting Officer," and the theatre was a hut fitted up for the
occasion, the actors being all convicts. Concerning the merits of this
early performance no information has been handed down to us; but Collins
says, "they (the players) professed no higher aim than 'humbly to excite
a smile,' and their efforts to please were not unattended with

The chief work upon which the prisoners had up to this time been
employed was in procuring building materials, erecting houses and
stores, building boats and wharves, and in farming operations, 250 of
them being engaged, mostly at Parramatta, in clearing the ground and
cultivating the soil. The discovery of the Hawkesbury River by the
Governor, who spent a large portion of his time in exploring the country
in this direction in search of better land for cultivation, furnished a
wider scope for operations, and parties of convicts were soon sent
further afield to work. The fine deep soil on the banks of the river was
admirably adapted for raising grain, and shortly after its discovery
portions of it were allotted to settlers.

But another season of distress being feared, in November the people were
again placed on short allowance, for although the first crop had been
garnered at Parramatta, amounting to upwards of 200 bushels of wheat,
with small portions of maize, barley and oats, it was deemed advisable
to save the whole for seed for the ensuing year; and the rats had
committed great havoc among the provisions in the public store at the
settlement. The rations now served out were barely sufficient to
preserve life, the weekly allowance for adults being 2½ lbs. flour, 2
lbs. pork, 1 pint peas, and 1lb. rice, the Governor and the officers
again receiving equal measure with the convicts. And right in the midst
of this trouble there came intelligence which intensified the gloom. The
Sirius frigate, which had been sent to Norfolk Island, had been wrecked
there, and although two years had elapsed since the foundation of the
colony, no intelligence had been received from England, and for all the
people knew no fresh supplies had yet started from headquarters. And
again want bred discontent and disorder; again were issued and enforced
stringent regulations against waste; again there followed
insubordination, floggings and executions. The tender Supply was
despatched to Batavia, the commander carrying instructions to charter a
vessel there and load her as well as the Supply with a full cargo of
provisions. Two months of deepest misery intervened, and then one
morning early in June a sail was sighted from the South Head. The vessel
proved to be the Lady Juliana, from London, which had been eleven months
on her passage, having started in July of the previous year. The ship
Guardian had been dispatched from England about the same time, with a
large quantity of live stock and other supplies, but having struck on a
rock she was compelled to put into the Cape of Good Hope, almost in a
sinking state; and the Lady Juliana, a much smaller vessel, had come on
with a part of her cargo and passengers. The provisions which thus came
to hand at such an opportune time enabled the Governor to increase, but
only to a small extent, the scale of provisions, it being thought that
the stock would last until the return of the Supply from Batavia. Then
other surprises quickly followed. Three ships from London, transports,
put in their appearance, bringing out a large number of convicts, and
detachments of the New South Wales Corps. More mouths to feed and very
little to feed them!--the outlook was indeed dark and gruesome.

The character of the New South Wales Corps--afterwards embodied in the
102nd Regiment--has already been dwelt upon in Part I of this history
("The Story of the Ten Governors"), but the subject was not then
exhausted, and it is necessary that something more should be said
concerning a set of men whose actions proved them to have been cast in
the coarsest mould of genteel viciousness. Concerning the formation of
the Corps: A Major Grose had made a proposal to the Secretary of State
to enlist a force for service in the penal settlement of Botany Bay, on
condition that he received certain emoluments and honours, and his offer
being accepted he set his recruiting officers to work, and soon
succeeded in raising the requisite number to form the first detachments.
Not from the ranks of tried soldiers did he raise his force, and not
from the ranks of reputable men. They were to do duty in a land of
convicts; who better for such service than convicts themselves? An Irish
political prisoner named Holt, who was transported to the colony some
years later than the period here referred to, and whose peculiar
experiences will be narrated in a subsequent chapter, describes the
officers of this Corps as "old tailors and shoemakers, stay-makers,
man-milliners, tobacconists and pedlars, that were called captains and
lieutenants." Likely men for the service were sought in the hulks of the
prisons of the old land; soldiers under punishment were taken from the
navy hulk; and those who had been condemned to service in India were
reprieved on enlisting in the New South Wales Corps. Says Governor
Hunter, who found them more troublesome than the convicts, "Characters
who have been disgraced in every other regiment in his Majesty's service
have been thought fit and proper recruits for the New South Wales Corps.
. . . . We find among these, men capable of corrupting the hearts of the
best disposed, and often superior in every species of infamy to the most
expert in wickedness among the convicts!" And these are only fine lines
in the picture. Those who have read what has already been written of
these men, and who read what follows--and after all is said the whole
truth will not have been told--will share in the astonishment of the
writer of this story that every element of goodness in the young colony
was not swallowed up in this sink of corruption called a Corps.

The vessels which brought to the colony the first contingent of Major
Grose's "army" also brought about 2,000 male and 250 female convicts.
The voyage out was full of horrors to the unfortunate prisoners. The
vessels were not regular transports, but private ships, whose owners had
contracted with the Government to embark prisoners at £17/7/6 per head,
without any agreement being made for sufficient accommodation or proper
control; nor were they even liable for any deduction for those who died
on the voyage--hence, the greater number of deaths, the more profit to
the contractors. Will the reader be astonished to learn that the sharks
were well fed on human flesh during the passage? Nearly 300 of the
wretched creatures on board in chains perished before the vessels
reached Port Jackson, in consequence of the close and improper way in
which they had been confined. Driven to desperation by the treatment
they were receiving, some of the convicts made an attempt to overpower
the guards and get possession of the ships. They failed, and failure
brought increased suffering. The convicts were after this attempt all
heavily ironed: and the bodies of those who died under the hatches were
permitted to remain there and putrefy for weeks! Is there in all the
records of the time when slave-ships sailed the sea, a story more
horrible and horrifying than this? Some of those who survived the voyage
died when being conveyed to the land in boats, and many of the others
landed only to die. No record has been preserved of the number that died
after they were landed, but Colonel Collins makes this grim
report:--"All possible expedition was used in getting the sick on shore,
for even while they remained on board many died. The total number of
sick on the last day of June was three hundred and forty-nine. The
melancholy which closed the month of June appeared unchanged in the
beginning of July. The morning generally opened with depositing in the
burying ground the miserable victims of the night!"

But the officers and men of the New South Wales Corps lived through it
all, and on their arrival they began to shew their superiority as
soldiers wearing the King of England's uniform. Let Governor Phillip
speak. He says:--"They were observed to be very intimate with the
convicts, living in their huts, eating, drinking and gambling with them,
and perpetually enticing the women to leave the men." The whole
detachment, we are told, with the exception of the non-commissioned
officers and five or six of the privates, took an oath to stand by each
other, and not to suffer a soldier to be punished for whatever crime he
might commit against an inhabitant; and so we hear Governor Hunter
complaining that they had destroyed the dwelling house of one resident,
for sport, no doubt, and that the greatest part of the detachment on one
occasion left their barracks with their bayonets "to attack an unarmed
people," continuing for four days in "open and avowed mutiny." The
officers did not, certainly, transgress so openly after the fashion of
their inferiors, but they committed outrages of another character, as
fully detailed in Part I; and they gave the sanction of silence to the
"innocent pranks" of the privates in the Regiment. Governor Hunter it
was who wrote to one of the commanding officers (Lieut. Colonel
Paterson) in the following strain, his anger somewhat interfering with
his grammar:--"I must declare to you, sir, that the conduct of this part
of the New South Wales Corps has been, in my opinion, the most violent
and outrageous that was ever heard of by any British Regiment whatever!"
Major Grose and Captain Paterson each served as Lieutenant-Governor
during the interregnum, between the departure of Governor Phillip in
December, 1792, and the arrival of Governor Hunter in September,
1795--the former acting two years, and the latter for about nine months.
And here let us drop the New South Wales Corps. I do not care to handle
vice too long.

Again taking up the thread of the narrative proper, we learn that in
October (just six months after leaving on her foraging mission) the
Supply returned to the colony from Batavia, with a full cargo of
provisions, and the captain reported that he had chartered a Dutch ship,
which was following, also laden with provisions. This was joyful news,
and the whole settlement was immediately put on full allowance. The
action of the Governor in limiting the ration of himself and the
officers to that served out to the soldiers and convicts, while it
prevented any expression of discontent, gave the latter the clearest
proof that could be offered of Phillip's desire to deal fairly with
them; and when the fresh provisions arrived there was general rejoicing.
The frequent recurrence of times of scarcity, however, and the slow
growth of internal production, made the convicts very unsettled, and
there was a wide-spread desire to escape from a condition where
starvation appeared to be a contingency not very remote at any time.
Early in 1791, several daring and successful attempts were made by
prisoners to escape from the colony, by means of boats stolen from the
settlers on the banks of the Parramatta and Hawkesbury Rivers, and with
a view of preventing this an order was issued by the Governor limiting
all boats to be built in future to a size so small that none but the
most foolhardy would think of escaping in them. Nevertheless, the
attempts continued to be made, but in the majority of cases the boats
were so small and weak that they were swamped almost before they had
cleared the Heads.

It was in August of this year that the convicts whose sentences had
expired, and who desired to remain in the colony, were allowed to select
small parcels of land to clear and cultivate for their own use. The
first party, twelve in number, made selections of land about four miles
from Parramatta, at the foot of Prospect Hill. From this time forward
grants of land to emancipatists continued to be made with more or less
liberality, and some of the large estates in the colony at the present
day, if traced back for little over half a century, will be found to
have had their beginning under the rule which extended the system of
land grants to convicts whose sentences had expired and whose conduct
had been good. And many of the prisoners had earned all that was given
to them, for their services to the colony, apart altogether from the
"labour" which the Government extracted from them as a penalty attaching
to crime, were really very valuable--which is more than can be said of
the services rendered by the crowds of non-commissioned officers to whom
the public estate was served out in such large slices at this and at
subsequent periods. The real pioneers of the country were not the
retired officers or free settlers, but their assigned servants; for
these were the men who braved the dangers of the bush, withstood the
assaults of the justly incensed aborigines, cleared the land, cultivated
it and made it habitable, and developed the resources of the
country--while their masters, during the greater portion of the time,
took their ease in what was then the only centre of civilization in the
colony. It does not detract at all from the merit of the work in which
these men engaged that their labours were not voluntary. It is to their
credit that they performed their duties faithfully and well under
circumstances of the most discouraging kind; and they deserved all the
reward that came to them. As this story proceeds it will be seen that,
as a rule, the men who laid the foundation upon which the industrial
prosperity of the colony has been raised more often received kicks than
half-pence as a reward for their labours.

Many of the more successful of the First Fleeters dwelt on the
Hawkesbury and its tributaries, where the first agricultural settlers
were planted, and from them, even to a date near the fifties, could be
obtained reliable reminiscences of the olden time. One of these
settlers, a Mr. S----, who was in well-to-do circumstances, and who had
been freed shortly after arriving in the colony, told the following
thrilling story in the year 1845:--

"I arrived in the colony fifty-six years since; it was Governor
Phillip's time and I was fourteen years old; there were only eight
houses in the colony then. I know that myself and eighteen others laid
in a hollow tree for seventeen weeks, and cooked out of a kettle with a
wooden bottom; we used to stick it in a hole in the ground and make a
fire round it. I was seven years in service (bond) and then started
working for a living wherever I could get it. There was plenty of
hardship then. I have often taken grass and pounded it, and made soup
from a native dog. I would eat anything then. For seventeen weeks I had
only five ounces of flour a day. We never got a full ration except when
the ship was in harbour. The motto was 'kill them or work them; their
provision will be in store.' Many a time have I been yoked like a
bullock with twenty or thirty others to drag along timber. About eight
hundred died in about six months at a place called Toongabbie, or
Constitution Hill. I knew a man so weak he was thrown into the grave;
when he said 'Don't cover me up; I'm not dead; for God's sake don't
cover me up!' The overseer answered 'D----your eyes, you'll die to
night, and we shall have the trouble to come back again!' The man
recovered; his name is James----and he is now alive at Richmond. They
used to have a large hole for the dead. Once a day men were sent down to
collect the corpses of prisoners, and throw them in without any ceremony
or service. The native dogs used to come down at night and fight and
howl in packs, gnawing the poor dead bodies.

"The Governor would order the lash at the rate of 500, 600, or 800; and
if the men could have stood it they would have had more. I knew a man
hung there and then for having stolen a few biscuits, and another for
stealing a duck frock. A man was condemned--no time--take him to a tree,
and hang him. The overseers were allowed to flog the men in the fields.
Often have the men been taken from the gangs, had fifty, and been sent
back to work. Any man would have committed murder for a month's
provisions; I would have committed three (murders) for a week's
provision! I was chained seven weeks on my back for being out getting
greens, wild herbs. The Rev.----used to come it tightly to force some
confession. Men were obliged to tell lies to prevent their bowels being
cut out with the lash!

"Old----(an overseer) killed three men at the saw in a fortnight by
overwork. We used to be taken in large parties to raise a tree; when the
body of the tree was raised he (old----) would call some of the men
away--then more; the men were bent double--they could not bear it--they
fell--the tree on one or two, killed on the spot. 'Take him away; put
him in the ground!' There was no more about it.

"After seven years I got my liberty and then started about working for a
living where I could get it. I stowed myself away on board the
Harrington, bound for Norfolk Island, with eighteen others; it was not a
penal settlement then. Governor King was there. I had food in plenty. I
was overseer of the Governor's garden. Afterwards I went to live with
old D'Arcy Wentworth and a better master never lived in the world.
Little Billy, the great lawyer, has often been carried in my arms. Old
D'Arcy wanted me to take charge of Homebush station, but I took to the
river (Hawkesbury), worked up and down till I saved enough money to buy
old B----'s farm at Pitt Town. No man worked harder than I have done. I
have by me about £1,000 ready cash. I have given that farm of forty
acres to my son Joseph, and three other farms and about 500 head of
cattle; and about the same to my other son. I have also got 80 acres
besides my house, and some fine cattle. We are never without a chest of
tea in the house; we use two in the year. I have paid £40 for a chest of
tea in this colony. Tea is a great comfort."

This old man was described as large-featured, handsome, military sort of
face, of a red-brown complexion, clean shaved, and his dress a flannel
shirt with black bandanna, tied sailor fashion, exposing his strong
neck, and a pair of fustian trousers. A coat to him was like a prison,
and he kept religiously away from that article of dress. He was as
rough-mannered as he was honest, and a story is told of his meeting with
Dr.----, who had the reputation among the prison population of never
having spared any man in his anger or any woman in his lust. It was
during the flogging days, and the Dr. met him in Sydney coming out of
the bank. Holding out his hand the medico said "Come Mr. S----, shake
hands, let bygones be bygones; I am glad to see you looking so well."
The old man put his hands behind him, and bawled out "I suppose because
I have got a velvet waistcoat, and money in the bank, you want to shake
hands; but no! Dr----, it would take a second resurrection to save such
as thee!" The Dr. did not wait to hear any more.

The old man's wife was blind, but had a good memory, and she told the
following story with tears:--

"I have seen Dr.----take a woman who was in the family way, with a rope
round her, and duck her in the water at Queen's Wharf. The laws were bad
then. If a gentleman wanted a man's wife he would send the husband to
Norfolk Island. I have seen a man flogged for pulling six turnips
instead of five. One----was overseer, the biggest villain that ever
lived--delighted in torment. He used to walk up and down and rub his
hands when the blood ran. When he walked out the flogger walked behind
him. He died a miserable death; maggots ate him up, and not a man could
be found to bury him. I have seen six men executed for stealing 21 lbs
of flour. I have seen a man struck when at work with a handspike, and
killed on the spot. I have seen men in tears round Governor----,
begging for food. He would mock them with 'Yes, yes, gentlemen; I'll
make you comfortable; give you a nightcap and a pair of stockings!'"

Another man in the same year gave this account:--

"I arrived in the third fleet on the 16th October, 1791; it was on a
Sunday we landed. The ship's name was Barrington, Captain March. I was
sent to Toongabbie. For nine months there I was on five ounces of
flour--when weighed out barely four; served daily. In those days we were
yoked to draw timber, twenty-five in gang. The sticks were six feet
long, six men abreast. We held the stick behind us, and dragged with our
hands. One man came ashore in the Pitt; his name was Dixon; he was a
gentleman. He was put to the drag, but it soon done for him. He began on
a Thursday and died on a Saturday, as he was dragging a load down
Constitution Hill. There were thirteen hundred died there in six months.
Men used to carry trees on their shoulders. How they used to die! The
men were weak--dreadfully weak--through want of food. A man named
Gibraltar was hung for stealing a loaf out of the Governor's kitchen. He
got down the chimney, stole the loaf, had a trial, and was hung the next
day at sunrise. At this time a full ration was allowed to the Governor's
dog. I have seen seventy men flogged at night, twenty-five lashes each.
On Sunday evening they used to read the laws. If any man was found out
of the camp he got 25. The women used to be punished with iron collars.
In Governor King's time they used to douse them overboard. They killed
one. Dr.----was a great tyrant. Mine is a life-grant from Governor
Bourke--fourteen acres. I grow tobacco, wheat, and corn; just enough to
make a living."

A story was current to the following effect, shewing the arbitrary rule
of 1816:--Governor Bligh "having heard from his cow-keeper that the
servant of an officer of the staff had made some impertinent remarks
because disappointed of the customary supply of milk for his master, on
the following morning sent for the disappointed delinquent. Wondering
and trembling he was ushered into the presence of His Excellency, who
received him with a condescending smile, and told him that as the chief
constable's house was on his way home, he (the Governor) had simply sent
for him to save a dragoon the trouble of going there with a letter. The
letter was handed to the somewhat bewildered servant, who straightway
delivered it to the chief constable, and as a reward was immediately
tied to the triangles and treated to 25 lashes--the letter having
contained the Governor's warrant for the payment of the reward."



REFERENCE has already been made to the attempts made by the convicts to
escape from bondage and starvation, and the measures that were taken to
prevent them from succeeding. To fully narrate the flights by sea and
land which the poor wretches essayed would fill a volume, and the reader
must be content with bare outline here.

Men in extremity will seek refuge in any port, and will occasionally
attempt to run with their eyes closed. In the latter part of 1791
several absurd attempts to reach China overland were made by runaway
convicts. They believed that far to the north New South Wales joined
China, and that they would be able to reach that country without any
larger stock of provisions than had been served out for their weekly
supply. Twenty started with this idea on the first occasion, among them
being several females; but, seven of them died in the bush, and the
remainder, who were almost naked and dying of hunger, were brought back
to the settlement by search parties who had been sent in pursuit of
them. But still the fancy grew, and with no further knowledge and no
better provisions that those possessed by the first ill-fated party,
numbers of others made similar attempts. The Commissary's Report for
1792 states that of the numbers who had left the settlement in the hope
of finding their way to China, no less than forty-four men and nine
women had not since been heard of, and they were supposed either to have
perished or to be still wandering about the bush.

Referring to this matter Bennett says:--

"The idea of the contiguity of China to Australia was possibly derived
from an indistinct notion possessed by some of these ignorant people of
the theory entertained by the old geographers that the great South Land
was connected with Asia. The illiterate classes of the last century
possessed, notwithstanding their want of book learning, a vast fund of
tradition, in which fact and fiction were wonderfully intermingled. This
kind of unwritten knowledge has now nearly died out in Great Britain,
and is perhaps only to be found among some of the old folks of the
remoter part of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. It still exists, however,
in all its strength in countries where book learning has not made much
progress. In India and most Eastern countries oral tradition continues
to be the principal medium for the transmission of such knowledge as the
natives possess. The notion about the junction of Australia with China,
if derived from the source indicated, was, like the belief in the
existence of the Great South Land and its golden treasures, an instance
of traditionary knowledge transmitted from times of very great
antiquity, and was a part of that folk-lore of which it is now, in most
cases, difficult, if not impossible, to trace their origin. The Chinese,
it should be remembered, had been accustomed to visit the northern
coasts of Australia for ages, and they had numerous settlements in the
Indian Archipelago in very remote times."

The rage concerning China appeared to reach its climax in 1798.
Barrington, under date May of that year, says:--"Some of the Irishmen
who had for some time been searching for a road to China, were brought
in by the settlers near George's River. They had wandered through the
woods till nearly perished for want of food, when they were discovered
in an unexpected way. Some people going from Botany Bay up George's
River, had lost themselves by following an arm of that river never
before looked into. During this mistake they met these people, whose
want of knowledge of the country led them down on a point of land placed
between two waters, where they remained nine days, unable to return, and
must have perished, had not an accidental mistake led the people in the
boat to them. The narrative given of their travels and sufferings was
the same as of other similar adventurers, and added one more to the many
already-recounted to prove that daring folly and extreme ignorance must
be acting in strong conjunction over the minds of those who made such

Collins, in his history, says:--"Occasional desertions of one or two
people at a time had occurred from the first establishment of the
colony; but the first Irish convicts that arrived from Ireland in the
year 1791 went off in numerous bodies, few of whom ever returned.. .. It
was not then to be wondered at that Wilson, who had returned from living
in the woods, should, among other articles of information, mention his
finding of more than fifty skeletons, which the natives assured him had
been white men, who had lost their way and perished. This account was
corroborated by different European articles which were found, such as
knives, old shoes, and other things which were known not to belong to
the natives." The locality where Wilson says he saw the skeletons was on
the lower ranges of the Blue Mountains which had up to that time been
penetrated by no white man save Wilson--who was himself a runaway

In January, 1788, a large number of prisoners, misled by
misinterpretations of stories by the blacks, conceived the idea that
there was a colony of white people about 500 miles to the South West,
and at once formed a plan to escape to that place; but the plot was
discovered and sixteen of the prisoners were brought back to Sydney and
punished. In order, however, to convince the convicts of their error,
the Governor decided to dispatch four of the strongest malcontents, with
four soldiers and guides, on a journey in the direction of the supposed
colony. After an absence of ten days three of them returned, but the
fourth man being determined to proceed was left with the guides to
further prosecute the unsuccessful and hazardous journey. They returned,
however, after being out twenty-six days, and for a time there was no
further disposition manifested to hunt for any new colony.

Numerous attempts were made by the convicts to seize large boats and
ships, and in several cases with success, although the results were not
in any case recorded as favorable to the convicts as they desired. In
1797 some convicts seized the "Cumberland;" in 1799 another party seized
the "Venus;" in 1799 a strong party seized the "Harrington" and got
clear away with her, but she was subsequently captured in the Indian
Seas by H.M.S. Phoenix on the way back, and the vessel was wrecked, and
all the convicts escaped or perished. In 1813 the "Unity" was taken out
of the harbour by convicts, and three years later the "Trial;" but the
latter was wrecked, and it is supposed that the convicts on board were
either drowned or killed by natives on the island near which the vessel
foundered. The place where the wrecked boat was subsequently found by
Mr. Oxley, the explorer, was called "Trial Bay." In 1817 the "William
Caesar" was taken, and in 1823 the "Isabella." The Government boat
"William Caesar" was afterwards found north of Port Stephens. In 1853
the "Lady Franklyn" was seized by 22 convicts who were being conveyed in
her from Norfolk Island to Van Diemen's Land, they kept possession of
the vessel for eleven days and then abandoned her and took to the boats,
having first loaded the boats with provisions. Several other cases will
be given when the histories of notorious convicts are being dealt with
in subsequent chapters.

In 1823, a small craft was seized at Port Macquarie and was not
afterwards heard of.

On October 4th, 1828, an assigned servant and five other prisoners
absconded from the station of Mr. McQueen, and attempted to reach Timor
or New Guinea overland. After penetrating the country for 200 or 300
miles and enduring the most frightful sufferings, by which all his
companions died, McQueen's servant returned and gave himself up to a
Justice of the Peace.

In 1842 the "Governor Phillip," a vessel employed by Government to carry
provisions to and from Norfolk Island, was piratically seized by the
prisoners of the island. The boats crew of twelve prisoners, who were
employed between the vessel and the island, by a preconcerted signal,
disarmed the sentry on board, compelled such of the crew who were on
deck to jump overboard, and secured the captain, mate, and soldiers
below deck. The Captain and mate by breaking through a partition,
communicated with the soldiers, and an attack upon the convicts was
commenced by firing through the crevices. The shots took effect; the
soldiers rushed on deck, and after a brief struggle, recaptured the
vessel. One soldier was killed and five others were wounded; and of the
convicts five were killed and two wounded. The others were tried and
convicted, and four of them were executed.

One very peculiar story of attempted escape is told, the period being
1792. A convict named Bryant, who was engaged in fishing for the supply
of the settlement, with his wife and a number of other convicts
determined to make an attempt to escape in a small fishing boat. They
stole the boat, and entered upon a most hazardous journey. Nothing being
heard of them for a considerable time, it was thought that the escapees
had perished, but it afterwards appeared that some of them had succeeded
in reaching Batavia, after almost incredible sufferings, and that here
Bryant, one of his children and two of his companions died from the
effects of the hardships they had undergone. Bryant's wife and child and
four of the convicts were then taken on board an English ship, and the
latter were delivered up to the authorities. On their arrival in England
the story of their sufferings excited so much compassion that on being
brought up at the bar of the Old Bailey, they were merely ordered by the
Court to remain in Newgate prison until their original sentences of
transportation had expired.

Some remarkable stories are told concerning runaway convicts who became
pirates, after having either overpowered their custodians or cut the
vessels out at night while they lay quietly at anchor in Sydney harbour.
Some of these pirates were captured; but many were never afterwards
heard of, and the probability is that in many cases shipwreck followed
escape, and death by drowning or in the maws of the ravenous sharks
followed the shipwreck. But in the memoirs of John Williams, the pioneer
missionary of the South Seas, there is evidence that many of these
piratical convicts, being skilful with the compass, made the South Sea
Islands, and for a time ruled as bloodthirsty Kings. Here is an account
of the doings of a few of the monsters whose infamies brought them to
fearful deaths. Says the writer:--"Many of the runaway sailors who came
to the islands were convicts from New South Wales who had stolen vessels
and had thus made their escape. I was informed that soon after the first
missionaries visited the islands, a gang of these pirates came there in
a fine schooner, which, after stripping off her sails and every article
of value, they scuttled and sunk a few hundred yards from the shore.
Shortly before this another gang of these desperadoes arrived in a
stolen vessel at the Society Islands; and although treated with the
greatest kindness by the chief, Huaihine, they contrived, after
plundering his house of all his property, among which was a blunderbuss
and a small cask of powder, to decamp at night in a whaleboat. Two
native crews were sent after them, and unfortunately one of the canoes
fell in with them. They were saluted with the contents of the
blunderbuss which blew the head of one of them to pieces. Two more were
killed by the same weapon, and a fourth severely wounded. The only other
person present was a little boy, who jumped into the sea, and hid
himself behind the canoe, when the wretches supposing that they had
completed their work of destruction, hoisted their sail and departed.
The boy then climbed into the canoe, and assisted by the wounded man,
rowed to the shore. On my return from one of my voyages, I found several
of these men at Raiatea. They immediately came to me and represented
themselves as shipwrecked mariners. In reply to my inquiries, they said
they were wrecked in 73deg. north, and were only three weeks in reaching
the Society Islands. I replied immediately that the tale was a foolish
fabrication; that I was convinced they were convicts; and that I should
write by the first opportunity to inform the Governor of Sydney of their
arrival. They left Raiatea the day after, or perhaps some of our people
would have been murdered as those of Huaihine were. Subsequently these
ungrateful wretches reached the Navigators' Islands, where they entered
with savage delight into the wars of the natives, and having firearms
and powder, they made fearful havoc among them. However, vengeance
suffered them not to live, for the leader of this murderous gang very
soon fell a victim to his temerity. On one occasion, seeing a number of
the opposite party clustered together, he fired his blunderbuss, heavily
loaded with bullets, and killed nine upon the spot, beside wounding
others. The natives, however, did not give him time to reload his
murderous weapon, but rushed upon him and killed him with their clubs.
The chief for whom he was fighting entertained so high an opinion of his
bravery that he cut off his head and carefully sewed the fractured parts
of the skull together with fine civet. The chief and his family worship
this convict's head as containing the spirit of war. A second of these
wretched men was drowned in endeavouring to make his escape. A third
pirate convict fell in battle shortly afterwards, but to the monster of
iniquity, whom the natives put to death, a longer time was allowed. Of
this individual I received most fearful accounts. It was stated that
this convict had killed upwards of 200 natives with his own hands. Being
an excellent marksman, no one could escape who came within the reach of
his musket. The natives fled as soon as they perceived him; and to avoid
detection with fiendish ingenuity he smeared himself with charcoal and
oil. He seldom left the fort of the party for whom he was fighting
without killing a number of the enemy whose heads were invariably cut
off, and ranged before him during his meals. He often seated himself
upon a kind of stage, smeared with blood, and surrounded with the heads
of his victims. In this state his followers would convey him on their
shoulders, with songs of savage triumph, to his own residence. The party
for whom he fought was, however, conquered, and he saved his life by
fleeing to the mountains, where he lived three months upon roots, or
whatever else he could obtain. At length he came to Manono, and threw
himself upon the mercy of the chiefs, who spared him upon the condition
that he should never again engage in their wars. But a few months after
this, having received authentic information of his secret intrigues with
the opposite party, the chiefs held a consultation, at which it was
determined to put him to death. One of their number, a powerful young
warrior, was charged with this commission, and selecting a few faithful
followers he proceeded at midnight to the murderer's house, and, by a
single blow, severed his head from his body."

But the runaways by sea were far less numerous than the runaways by
land. Until the country to the westward and southward had been explored
and settled, extraordinary rumours concerning the unknown country in
that direction gained currency among the convicts. We have seen how the
idea that China could be reached overland operated in the case of a
number of the Irish prisoners. Many others entertained notions equally
foolish--of a nation of white men living on beautiful plains beyond the
then impassable chain of Blue Mountains, of a race of copper-coloured
people living in plenty far away in the bush, and other fanciful and
erroneous ideas; and in seeking to escape from their chains and the lash
to these imaginary places of refuge at a distance, hundreds of the
convicts met their death, their skeletons being found years afterwards
bleaching in the gullies or on the mountain side. If they chanced to be
discovered before the blacks had speared them or they had died from
starvation, they were taken back to the settlement and carefully nursed
until they had recovered sufficient strength to endure the correction of
blood-letting under the lash.

Here is one miserable story of an exploring expedition made by a party
of convicts without authority:--

In 1815 the recently-discovered passage over the Blue Mountains was
looked upon by some sanguine-minded convicts as the road to liberty, and
eight of them escaped from their guardians at Windsor and set off with
the intention of reaching the western coast by crossing the ranges and
then building a vessel, by the aid of which they hoped to escape to the
island of Timor. But it very nearly proved the road to death. They left
Windsor on October 14th, the commencement of the hot weather, taking
with them a small quantity of provisions, a few blankets, some cooking
utensils, an axe, a musket, a pistol, some ammunition, a few articles of
wearing apparel and four dogs. Fearing pursuit they avoided the mountain
road and travelled on the summit of the ranges, going alternately on
each side of the only beaten route. The hardships which they encountered
in this inhospitable country may be imagined. They suffered great
fatigue, being under the necessity of frequently lowering each other
down the steep precipices which barred their way, and having very little
to eat. At the end of six days their provisions had failed, and for
three days they were without food, their hope of finding fish in a
stream upon which they came being broken by the absence of the fish. At
the end of the ninth day, when at the point of starvation, they passed
the mountains and fell in with a herd of cattle which had just
previously been sent into the "new country." They hunted and killed some
of the calves and had a feast, which encouraged them to pursue their
journey. Passing on they came to the new settlement at Bathurst, but
they were careful to keep out of view, and coming upon some more calves
on the plains they killed them and fondly buoyed themselves up with the
false hope that the flesh would last them until they reached the sea,
into which they no doubt imagined the Macquarie emptied itself. But the
supply of provisions thus obtained failed soon after they had passed the
settlement, and being unsuccessful in their attempts to bag the only
game within view--the emu and kangaroo,--they resorted to fishing. But
they had no tackle, and a few of their number returned to the
settlement, which they entered under cover of darkness, and carried off
the halyards of the first flagstaff that had been erected on the western
side of the Blue Mountains. From these they made fishing lines, and thus
furnished they continued their journey, following the course of the
Macquarie River. But hunger and fatigue had taken the spirit, as well as
the physical strength, out of one man, and he deserted his companions,
returned to the plains, and surrendered himself to the settlement. The
remainder of the party continued their journey beyond Bathurst for a
period of twenty-four days, but their sufferings must have been
terrible, as failing to procure game or fish, they had to kill and eat
their dogs in order to allay their hunger and supply bait for fishing.
Subsequently they were confined in their diet by force of circumstances
to a very little fish and what nettles and wild mint they could find
growing near the river. When reduced to the utmost straits they fell in
with a party of natives, and to them they intimated by signs that they
were famished and wished to be guided to Bathurst, where they would
gladly give themselves up to the authorities. The blacks brought some
fish and turtle, but would not part with any except in exchange for some
of the articles of clothing belonging to the fugitives. They then
started on their return with as much expedition as their fast failing
strength would allow, subsisting almost entirely on herbs, with a little
fish and game supplied by the blacks in exchange for articles of
clothing. After two days one of their number fell sick and he was left
behind in care of the strongest of the party, while the other five
proceeded towards the plains, until, becoming quite exhausted, they gave
themselves up for lost, being unable to proceed any further. Their joy
may be imagined when at this juncture they saw two white men
approaching. The new comers gave them bread, but they were scarcely able
to eat it. A cart was subsequently brought from the settlement, and the
absconders were shortly afterwards rejoiced to find themselves once more
surrounded by their own countrymen in a place where food was obtainable.
The man who had been left in charge of his sick companion left his
patient to die where he lay as soon as the main party had disappeared,
and reached the settlement in full vigour shortly after them. The whole
of the survivors were sent on to Windsor, where for a length of time
they lay in so weak a condition that their recovery was considered
hopeless. But recovering strength, their narrative was turned to good
account, as all information concerning the grand western country was
gladly accepted, from whatever source it came. The three ringleaders of
the party were flogged and worked in irons as soon as they recovered, as
a warning to others who might wish to seek new country without
permission and official guidance.

So frequent did these attempts to escape become that periodical musters
were established, and in 1801 an order was issued to the effect that any
free person not appearing at the general musters would be taken up as a
vagrant, and punished with the utmost rigour of the law, while if the
absentee were a convict he would be sentenced to one month's confinement
in the "Battery Gang."

In 1795, a vessel which was driven by contrary winds to seek shelter at
Port Stephens found there four white men who were at first supposed to
be shipwrecked seamen, but who turned out to be runaway convicts who had
been missing for nearly five years, and were supposed to have perished.
Here is the account which was published shortly after the
occurrence:--"The ship Providence, of twenty-eight guns, commanded by
Captain Broughton, from England, met with very bad weather on her
passage from the Brazil coast, and was driven past the harbour of Port
Jackson as far to the northward as Port Stephens, in which she anchored;
and where, to the great surprise of Captain Broughton, he found and
received on board four white people (if four miserable, naked, dirty,
and smoke-dried men could be called white), runaways from Parramatta in
the month of September, 1790, by name John Tarwood, George Lee, Connoway
and John Watson. Their fifth companion (Joseph Sutton) had died. They
told a melancholy tale of their sufferings in the boat; and for many
days after their arrival they passed their time in detailing to the
crowds, both of black and white people which attended, their adventures
in Port Stephens, the first harbour that they made. Having lived like
the savages among whom they dwelt, the change of food soon disagreed
with them, and they were all taken ill, appearing to be principally
affected with abdominal swellings. They spoke in high terms of the
pacific disposition and gentle manners of the natives. Each of these had
had a name given him, and given with several ceremonies. Wives also were
allotted them, and one or two had children. They were never required to
go out on any occasion of hostility, and were in general supplied by the
natives with fish or other food, being considered by them (for so their
situation could only be construed) as unfortunate strangers thrown upon
their shore from the mouth of the yawning deep, and therefore entitled
to their protection. They told a ridiculous story, that the natives
appeared to worship them, often assuring them, when they began to
understand each other, that they were undoubtedly the ancestors of some
of them that had fallen in battle, and had returned from the sea to
visit them again; and one native appeared firmly to believe that his
father was come back in the person of either Lee or Connoway, and took
them to the spot where his body had been burnt. On being told that
immense numbers of people existed far beyond their little knowledge,
they instantly pronounced them to be the spirits of their countrymen,
which, after death, had migrated into other regions."

Writing of events which transpired during this same year (1795) Captain
Collins says:--"There were at this time several convicts in the woods
subsisting by theft; and it having been reported that three of them had
been met armed, it became necessary to secure them as soon as possible.
People were sent out immediately, and one of the wretched runaways was
soon met with in the act of robbing a garden, and, refusing to
surrender, was shot. The knowledge of his fate drove the others to a
greater distance from the settlement."

Hundreds of other runaway stories similar to those cited could be given,
but I have chosen from the host a few of those which I have considered
most suitable for shewing the horrors attendant upon any attempt to
escape from the regulated miseries in the discipline of the barracks or
the gangs. The sufferings in the bush, however great, were simply taken
by the runaways as a relief, and in many cases if these sufferings were
unto death, the relief was counted all the greater. The lingering
agonies of starvation in the bush were considered by many of these poor
wretches infinitely preferable to the oft-recurring tortures of the lash
or the ankle-chains. How many died from starvation in the fastnesses of
the unexplored mountains, or beneath the waters outside the harbour, or
from spear or club wounds inflicted by the natives, will never be known,
for a full record was never kept, a score or two convicts less being
considered of but little moment in a community where they were so



THE description already given of the treatment and condition of the
"First Fleeters" on board the transports during the voyage from England
to Australia will not serve as an illustration of the ordinary voyages
of the vessels chartered to convey convicts to these shores, and it is
necessary that I should deal with the subject in a more exhaustive
manner. The whole story of life on board these convict ships is a dark
and terrible one, yet the system of felonry cannot fully be described
without its narration, and the reader will bear in mind that some of the
darkest details are not and cannot be given.

After sentence of transportation was passed in the old country convicts
were sent to the hulks or gaols, where they remained until the period of
their departure arrived. On board the vessels they were under the sole
control of the surgeon-superintendent, who was furnished with
instructions as to his conduct from the Admiralty. Mortality amongst the
prisoners prevailed to a fearful extent in the earlier days of
transportation, the physical evils of the long voyage proving most
disastrous, while, owing to faulty discipline, and close contact between
so many of the criminals, moral evils reeked and festered in abomination
during the passage out.

The manner in which Transportation was conducted was thus described in a
report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1812:--"When
the hulks are full up to their establishment, and the convicted
offenders in the different counties are beginning to accumulate, a
vessel is taken up for the purpose of conveying a part of them to New
South Wales. A selection is in the first instance made of all the male
convicts under the age of 50, who are sentenced to transportation for
life and for fourteen years; and the number is filled up with such from
amongst those sentenced to transportation for 7 years as are the most
unruly in the hulks, or are convicted of the most atrocious crimes: with
respect to female convicts it has been customary to send, without any
exception, all whose state of health will admit of it, and whose age
does not exceed 45 years."

Tenders were invited when a ship was required, and the lowest tender was
accepted. It was then fitted up with provisions, medicine, clothes, &c.,
for the number of convicts it would carry. The surgeon in whose charge
the convicts were placed was instructed to keep a diary not only of the
illness on board but of the number of convicts admitted on deck, of the
scraping the decks, cleaning the berths, and the general treatment of
the transports. The sick were to be visited twice a day and the healthy
once, and he received a gratuity of 10/6 for every convict landed in New
South Wales from that vessel. The master of the ship was expected to
perform certain duties, and if his conduct proved satisfactory, the
log-book being his judge, he received a gratuity of £50 from the
Governor; but if the contrary turned out to be the case he was liable to
prosecution. About 200 men or women were generally embarked on board one
ship, with a guard of thirty men and an officer.

These remarks apply to the custom prevailing after 1801, for prior to
that time matters were conducted very loosely, and not a few of the
transport ships were simply floating hells. As a proof that there had
been some improvement the mortality tables shew that while from the year
1795 to 1801 of 3,833 convicts embarked, 385 died during the voyage,
being nearly 1 in 10, of the first 2,398 embarked after 1801 only 52
died on the passage, being 1 in 46. No arrangement whatever was made for
the performance of Divine service on the transports, and the Select
Committee in 1812 spoke very strongly on that point, with the result
that some little improvement was made in after years. Up to this time
the list of convicts sent with the Government despatches was deficient,
inasmuch as it did not particularise the offences of which the convicts
had been convicted, and in distributing them upon their arrival the
Governor had no clue to guide him in giving to them more or less
advantageous situations, according to their characters and crimes.

That forty of the convicts out of the 750 brought in the first
transports that accompanied Governor Phillip should die on the voyage,
was not considered a very remarkable circumstance, considering that the
ships were nearly twelve months on the water, and that the provision for
their accommodation on board was not of the best kind. But these
convicts were better treated than were thousands of their fellows who
were subsequently sent out, as has already been shewn. It is almost
impossible to preserve decency in writing when describing the manner in
which these unfortunate wretches were treated on board--the females
especially; but everything I have here set down is borne out by State
documents, in which the blood-curdling details are given without remark,
as though the events were as natural as they were common. The convict
vessels might well be described "Floating Hells."

The work of carrying convicts was, as I have said, entrusted to
contractors whose greed only equalled their unscrupulousness. They
received sixpence per day in the earlier times for the food allowance of
each prisoner, besides a tonnage rate, and as the sixpences accumulated
in proportion to the length of the voyage, it will be understood that to
make speed was not considered by the ship owners or their captains the
most important part of their duty. Then there was no deduction made for
deaths on the voyage, and we may be sure that the knowledge of this fact
did not make the lives of the manacled wretches under their care of
greater value in the eyes of the captains. The reports of Dr. White, the
surgeon who came out with the First Fleet, and who for years after his
arrival acted in his official capacity, give some idea of the mortality
on board some of these "Floating Hells." He says in one place:--"Of the
939 males sent out by the last ships--the Surprise, Scarborough, and
Neptune--261 died on board, and 50 have died since landing; the number
of sick this day is 450, and many who are reckoned as not sick have
barely strength to attend to themselves; when the last ships arrived we
had not 60 people sick in the colony." This was in the year 1790, and
the vessels formed part of what was known as the Second Fleet. On the
last-named vessel the number that succumbed was 164. No less than
sixty-six died on another vessel in 1802 between Cape Town and Sydney,
and during the eight years following the establishment of the settlement
the total number of those who died on the voyage was computed at
one-tenth of the whole number sent out.

Dr. White further reports that when visiting the vessels on their
arrival in Port, such inspection forming part of his duty, he sometimes
found amongst the living convicts below, the bodies of those who had
died in their chains, the chains being still upon them. Here is a
picture drawn by him of what he saw and experienced during another
official visit of inspection:--"A great number of them (the convicts)
were lying, some half and others nearly quite naked, without either bed
or bedding, unable to turn or help themselves. The smell was so offensive
that I could hardly bear it. Some of these unhappy people died after the
ship came into the harbour, before they could be taken on shore. Part of
these had been thrown into the harbour, and their dead bodies cast upon
the shore, and were seen lying naked on the rocks. The misery I saw
amongst them is inexpressible." And one ceases to marvel that this
should be so when he learns that the prisoners were crowded in the holds
of the vessels without any regard to air space or convenience, the
vessels being mere tubs. Slave ships, when the slave trade was at its
worst, never carried human cargoes such as were carried by these
transports, condemned to suffer agonies which no groaning could relieve
and no appeals for mercy could soften. A recent writer, referring to the
condition of the convicts in the vessels, very tersely sums up the case,
thus:--"Herded like pigs, but not half so well-fed; half-clothed, and
robbed on board of any comforts a kind hand might have provided for the
voyage; chained to a dead body, sometimes, or to a dying man, and
flogged into mutiny and out of it at the caprice of a drunken skipper,
these unhappy convicts, in their despair, often preferred the gaping maw
of a hungry shark to the horrors of the prison-ship. The shark, at
least, would use no more violence than was necessary. But the records
show that these drunken skippers tortured their victims because they
liked it."

The account which has already been given in one of the previous
chapters, shewing how the convicts were treated on the vessels which
brought out the first contingent of the New South Wales Corps, does not
stand as a singular record of the ill-usage and brutality to which they
were subjected--it forms but one of many which could be given, all
equally horrifying. From the officer in command to the rawest of the
recruits, and from the skipper to the lowest among the sailors on
board--all treated the prisoners as though they had been handed over to
them, body and soul, to be made sport of; and the simplest form of sport
indulged in was the indiscriminate use of the "cat-o'-nine-tails." The
men would take it in turns to ply the lash, and there is one record of
forty-two male and eight female convicts having been flogged at the
gangway by the soldiers and sailors on the "Marquis of Cornwallis" in
1796, one of the convicts having disclosed an intended mutiny to the
captain, who thus sought to break the rebellious spirits of his charge.
Another record tells how the whole cargo of convicts was kept in irons
during the entire voyage, "in consequence," as Governor Hunter puts it,
"of some conjecture that they meant to seize the ship and murder the
officers." In 1798 a vessel left England for Sydney with recruits for
the New South Wales Corps, there being put on board with them sixty
female prisoners, and provisions for the settlement. The reader must
imagine the scenes of debauchery that were enacted during that voyage.
There was soon mutiny onboard. The soldiers murdered the master and
chief-mate and seized the ship, and after carousing to their hearts'
content for a time, they made for Rio Janeiro and handed the vessel over
to the Portuguese governor.

Chains and handcuffs did duty with the scourge and the rifle. We are
told that one vessel carried 36 handcuffs and 200 basils with chains for
use on the voyage, and that on more than one occasion the captain of a
convict ship fired into the hold amongst the prisoners to check a
disturbance among them. Is it at all wonderful that one-tenth of the
prisoners sent out in the early days should have "died" on the
voyage?--is it not wonderful, rather, that more than one-tenth survived
the horrors of the long residence in these Infernos on the sea?

Under the better regulations subsequently introduced, however, and with
humane men in command, the horrors of the voyage were to a great degree
mitigated. Surgeon Cunningham, R.N., who on several occasions served as
surgeon-superintendent on board a transport ship, thus describes the
voyage and the method of treating the convicts during its continuance,
his experiences extending over years preceding 1826:--

"Before leaving the Hulk, the male convicts are roughly clothed in new
suits, and ironed; and it is curious to observe with what nonchalance
some of these fellows will turn the jingling of their chains into music
whereto they dance and sing. Two rows of sleeping-berths, one above the
other, extend on each side of the between-decks of the convicts ship,
each berth being six feet square, and calculated to hold four convicts,
everyone thus possessing eighteen inches of space to sleep in--and
ample space, too! The hospital is in the forepart of the ship, with a
bulk-head across separating it from the prison, having two doors with
locks to keep out intruders; while a separate prison is built for the
boys, to cut off all intercourse between them and the men. Strong wooden
stanchions thickly studded with nails are fixed round the fore and main
hatchways, between decks, in each of which is a door with three
padlocks, to let the convicts out and in, and secure them at night. The
convicts by these means have no access through the hole to the prison, a
ladder being placed in each hatchway for them to go up and down by,
which is pulled on deck at night. Scuttle-holes, to open and shut for
the admission of air, are cut out along the ship's sides; a large stove
and funnel placed between decks, for warmth and ventilation; swing
stoves and charcoal put on board, to carry about into the damp
corners;--and, in fact, everything that can be thought of provided to
secure health and proper comfort to the convicts during their voyage.
Each is allowed a pair of shoes, three shirts, two pairs of trousers,
and other warm clothing on his embarkation, besides a bed, pillow, and
blanket--while Bibles, Testaments, prayer-books, and psalters, are
distributed among the messes.

"The rations are both good and abundant, three-quarters of a pound of
biscuits being the daily allowance of bread, whilst each day the convict
sits down to dinner off either beef, pork, or plum pudding, having
pea-soup four times a week, and a pot of gruel every morning, with sugar
or butter in it. Vinegar is issued to the messes weekly; and as soon as
the ship has been three weeks at sea, each man is served with one ounce
of lime-juice and the same of sugar daily, to guard against scurvy;
while two gallons of good Spanish red wine, and one hundred and forty
gallons of water are put on board for issuing to each likewise--three to
four gills of wine weekly, and three quarts of water daily, being the
general allowance. The sick are in like manner provided with all
requisite medicines and comforts, as well as with warm dresses, spare
bedding, sheets, and every description of hospital furniture.

"The common diet of the convicts is certainly more than is requisite to
keep them in health, as they have no work to do; but it is not more than
is politic to allow them; because, if you stint them on the voyage
you must keep them under greater restraint, and their healths will
suffer in consequence. Two delegates, chosen in succession from the
several messes, daily see the provisions weighed out, and justice done
to the whole body in that particular. . . . .

"Previous to the convicts embarking I have the whole prison thoroughly
secured and ventilated, all the mess-berths and mess articles numbered
according to their corresponding messes, and the beds, blankets and
pillows marked with consecutive numeral figures in black paint, from No.
1 up to the highest number of convicts embarked. The beds are all marked
at the same corner, and the pillows being sewed to the head of them
(with a stout cord appended to tie them up by) the blankets are now
placed inside, and all rolled together with the number of the bed on the
outside (to admit its being referred to) and the whole placed according
to their consecutive numbers in the sleeping berths, ready for
distribution. The convicts are allowed to choose their own messmates; and
on the mess-list being arranged upon deck, they are put below and placed
according to muster in their respective messes and sleeping-berths; each
mess being supplied with its necessary utensils, and each individual
furnished with the bed corresponding to his name--all thus messing and
sleeping along the prison-deck in regular numeral progression.

"Every article of clothing belonging to each individual is next
uniformly marked in a conspicuous manner with a number corresponding to
the bed he has been supplied with, which prevents the thieving each
other's articles, enables every man to know his own from his
neighbour's, enables the surgeon to distinguish them in litigated cases,
and enables also any individual in the ship to single out an ill-doer by
simply taking a note of his number, without reference either to his name
or personal appearance. Before I adopted this plan of numbering the
clothing, the lazy incorrigibles would toss their dirty garments
overboard, and coolly help themselves to a clean suit from their simpler

"The next consideration is, to cull out a portion of the most fitting
among them to make a sort of petty officers of, for seeing orders
executed and keeping the others in subjection. These individuals are
called 'Captains of the deck,' four officiating in the prison and two
upon deck; all the convicts being obliged to obey their orders equally
with the surgeons; while a captain is appointed to each mess, who sees
his place kept tidy, attends for the rations, and is responsible for the
orderly demeanour of the other five members. Two individuals are also
employed to fill the cisterns, &c., every day; two to take charge of the
hospital, and four to attend to the schools.

"The captains of the deck have double allowance of wine each day it is
served, and a glass of rum during the other days of the week. The rest
of the individuals in office have only double allowance of wine for
their trouble, but all official characters are permitted to carry their
wine away and drink it, the remainder being obliged to drink theirs at
the tub. I also allow each captain of the deck and hospital man two
pounds of tobacco for use on the voyage, served out to them in portions
monthly, besides giving them the choice of the clothes, and, in fact,
every little encouragement possible, to insure the correct performance
of their duty. Six or eight pounds expended in this way by the surgeon,
out of his own pocket, will be amply repaid him in the greater ease with
which he can carry on his duty, and the satisfaction he will reap in the
good order resulting. The main objects to be looked to, with regard to
the management of the convicts, are--seeing strict justice done them in
issuing the rations from the ship's stores; promoting cleanliness,
comfort, and hilarity among them; admitting them freely upon deck to
take the air; and striking off their irons as early on the voyage as due
caution may warrant.

"The upper and lower decks are daily cleaned under the superintendence
of the captains of the deck, being scrubbed, swabbed, scraped, or dry
holy-stoned, according to the state of the weather; the whole of the
prisoners being constantly kept on deck till the prison is thoroughly

"Dancing is encouraged also every afternoon, and they may sing all
day long if they please. As they have but little to amuse themselves
with, endeavours must be made to find amusement for them, and this can
be no ways better accomplished than by giving them something to work at.

"Three separate written codes are pasted upon boards and hung up
between-decks, for individual perusal, after being first read over and
commented on. One contains the duties of the captains of the deck,
captains of the messes, delegates for attending the issuing of
provisions, &c.; another, regulations regarding divine service, the
cleaning of the deck, cutting up and cooking the meat rations,
washing-days, musters, schools, &c.; the third being a sort of criminal
code, in which every offence that can be committed and the punishment
awarded, are plainly expressed.

"It is also essential to point out explicitly to every man what you
expect from him, as he then clearly understands the duties he has to
perform, as well as the consequence of his failure therein; and by
impressing upon the minds of the culprits that it is for their good, as
well as for the good of their associates, that you punish them, they in
general quietly submit. Gambling is a prevailing vice, and requires
great exertion to keep it under; dice, cards, pitch-and-toss, and
various other speculations, soon become general, unless checked; and to
such a height of infatuation will this vice be carried, that I have
known a country simpleton go three whole days without food, having
gambled away all his rations for that period. Until gambling is stopped,
thieving will be carried on; because the fellow who loses his own dinner
will always insure one out of some other person's mess, unless he is a
very sorry thief indeed, which was the failing of the three-day's Lent
keeper before spoken of. I do not object to their bartering and selling
their rations among each other, never seeing any harm accrue from it.
Indeed, I could not stop it if I would. They seldom eat promiscuously at
a meal, but the mess allowance is divided into six equal parts, and
awarded by lot (being as suspicious of each other's honesty in eating as
in everything else). The provisions are cooked by two of their own body,
who have the fat as a perquisite, which they readily sell in New South
Wales for £10, thus clearing £5 each on the voyage.

"The convicts have changes of garments weekly, one shirt and a pair of
trowsers being marked with the letter A above the numeral, and the
others with the letter B, the individual wearing A shirt and trowsers
one week and B shirt and trowsers the next. They are all mustered in the
prison every fine evening, with their shoes and stockings off and
trousers rolled over their knees, to see that their persons are
clean--as many of them would not wash during the voyage if not
compelled. During the warm weather the half of them bathe every morning,
and on Sunday they are all mustered to hear the church-service read on
the quarter-deck--the guard being kept under arms during the time.

"Thirty-three soldiers compose the guard (under command of a
commissioned officer), who do duty in three alternate watches upon the
poop or quarter-deck--a sentry with a drawn cutlass guarding the small
doors in the barricade across the upper deck dividing them from the

"No instance has been known of a convict-ship being captured by the
convicts, nor indeed is such a thing possible with anything like
ordinary precaution; as, being so treacherous to each other, abundance
of them are always ready enough to inform. The Jane Shore was taken by
the soldiers and sailors conjointly--women convicts only being onboard,
by whom they were instigated. (The mutineers shot the captain and
chief-mate, and carried the ship into Monte Video). The establishment of
an effective police amongst themselves will always check any attempts at
combination. The petty officers must be composed of thieves of the
highest repute for the number and nature of their offences, inasmuch as
these are most likely to keep down the others. The veteran thief assumes
the same sort of lofty port and high-toned consequence over the juniors
of the profession that the veteran warrior of fifty campaigns does
over the raw bumpkin of yesterday; and what he cannot force those tyros
to do by bullying, he will exact from them that sort of willing
obedience which the more unsophisticated in every calling are ready to
pay to those distinguished therein.

"The old thieves are besides actually more trustworthy than the
young, as, seeing the die is cast with them, and that it is only by
adhering to those who have power, they can hope to improve their
condition, they deem it best to adopt at last the hackneyed motto,
'Honesty is the best policy;' and while making the best overseers and
constables, they also usually make the most trusty servants; for
although they may rob you themselves they take special care that nobody
else shall; whereas the young thieves are constantly made the dupes of
their elders. They have a sort of spurious law among themselves, the
most important article of which is 'never steal yourself when you can
persuade another to steal for you;' the young thieves are as generally
found to be the perpetrators as the old thieves are to be the
planners of robbery. It is a good booty alone that will make a
cunning old rogue crook his finger; whereas the sprightly young
bantam will peck at every barleycorn which his senior points out.

"A man being estimated in this kind of society according to the amount
and adroitness of his villanies, it is no wonder that the yet 'mute
inglorious' Barringtons of the day should crown themselves occasionally
with the bays appertaining to other brows, or boast of robberies
committed only in their imagination, in order to elevate themselves to
something like a par with more dignified culprits. Almost all their
conversation is of the larcenous kind--consisting of details of their
various robberies, and the singular adventures they have passed through;
but generally one half of these are either sheer invention, or dressed
up in such a way as to show off in the most flattering point of view
before the eyes of their associates. A raw yokel (countryman) was once
complained of to me by one of his messmates for robbing him of a dollar,
which a rogue in an adjoining berth saw him purloin, it being stated at
the time that this aspirant had been making his boast among his
associates of being such an expert thief that he would be able to live
like a gentleman when he reached Botany Bay, by his dexterity in the
cross-trade. On taking the boaster to task he stoutly denied the
robbery, protesting he had never committed a crime but the one he was
convicted of, and that he was determined never to commit another. When I
reminded him of his bravadoes, 'Oh, Sir,' said he, 'we boast of many
robberies that we never committed, for if we could not say we had
committed as many as those townies (Londoners) they would look upon
us with contempt.' The cat-o'-nine-tail scars upon the backs of some of
these doughty heroes are often vaunted of with the same sort of pride
that an old campaigner will display when pointing to his Waterloo medal;
while, being dignified with the titles borne by other 'great captains of
the age,' no wonder they are proud. I had the honour of conducting out
Blucher on my first voyage, and Bonaparte on my second--the one being as
expert a burglar as ever handled a jemmy, while the other in the science
of pocket-picking might have vied even with Barrington himself.

"Many by picking up a little information foist themselves upon the
others as men of some note, but sooner or later they are found out,
stripped of their Jackdaw plumage, and singled for the remainder of the
voyage as the butts of the satirical society around them.

"A pretender of this description had during half the passage imposed
himself upon his associates as a true man, till one who suspected the
fellow stole his bag from under his head one night by way of a
test--when his loud shouts for the sentry to secure the marauder
raised such a peal of laughter against him, that the shallow rogue soon
perceived the trap he had fallen into! In one of the slang journals of
the period, which I afterwards perused, the writer, in relating the
above circumstance, ended with this significant remark--'We were all
deceived in Toby!' nothing, in fact, being a surer sign of true game,
than raising a squeak about any theft whatever. Another false
magician, who had long imposed upon the gang, forfeited his reputation
by pilfering nearly the whole of the tea belonging to the sick, and
wearing evident signs of guilt in his countenance next morning.

"The fellow that attempts to humbug the rest by pretensions to honesty
had better hang himself at once. He is esteemed if he can impose thus
upon the officers of the ship; but to attempt to foist himself off upon
his comrades is an offence never passed over by them. The best way, in
fact, for a fellow of small note in the larcenous line to maintain a
sort of respectable footing, is to keep strictly his own counsel, when
he may acquire the reputation of being a 'deep file' without having the
smallest pretensions thereto."

Mr. Cunningham then proceeds further to illustrate the characters and
describe the conduct of the men on board. He says:--The perfect command
of countenance and profound tact which the higher graduates display when
accused of offences baffle description. They have at times almost
persuaded him that he was mistaken in things which he had actually seen
them doing. They would manifest the deepest sorrow or the utmost
astonishment at being accused, and yet would laugh to their comrades
over the ease with which they had 'gammoned' the overseer. If they
suspected any one of 'mosing' (informing) they would conceal some of
their own things in his bag, complain of their loss and tell their
suspicions, and upon successful search being made would hold up their
comrade as unworthy of credit in the future. But the most common method
of treating a suspected informer was to visit him with every petty
annoyance--spitting when passing to windward of him; taking advantage of
a roll of the ship to stamp, as if by accident, on his feet; or tumbling
against him to give him a break-neck fall upon the deck: and, if all
these were not sufficient, muffling him in a blanket and beating him,
when it could be conveniently done without detection. A gang of such
desperadoes once attempted to bite off the nose and ears of one poor
fellow who had merely complained of their annoyances. As it was after
dark that most of the mischief ensued a check upon assaults and
plundering was devised in the shape of a lamp kept burning in the prison
during the night, with sentries over it, and ordering that not a word
should be uttered after 10 o'clock. It was Mr. Cunningham's plan to
select all the influential rogues among the host on board, tell them
what sort of character he had with them, and that he had determined to
keep them in double irons during the voyage, but was willing to give
them a trial, although if any outrage occurred on board he would hold
them responsible until the real delinquent was discovered. This rule he
found to operate beneficially. He encouraged all sorts of frolic among
the convicts, holding that it was better that a little devilry should be
allowed to spout out of them now and then than that they should nurse it
until it burst forth en masse at the end of the voyage. Thus some of
the literary characters wrote slang journals of proceedings during
the passage; while sometimes plays were enacted, with a screen of
blankets for a drop scene, remnants of stolen toggery as wardrobes, and
soot, chalk, red paint, and flake white being used to polish off the
complexion. 'Sometimes, too,' says he, 'they hold regular old Bailey
sessions, and try individuals in exquisite mock-heroic style. A friend
of mine, who had the heavy charge of 372, happening to be a little
short-sighted, glided disrespectfully one day into the very middle of
the court, with his hat on; and no doubt felt most awkward on finding
himself in such offensive trim in the awful presence of the Chief
Justice of England, perched upon a three-legged stool, with a bed under
him for a cushion, a patch-work quilt around him for a robe, and a huge
swab combed over his dignified head and shoulders in lieu of a wig.
Barristers, with blankets around them for gowns, pleaded eloquently the
causes they were engaged in, brow-beating and cross-questioning the
witnesses according to the best-laid-down rules, and chicanery of law;
while the culprit stood quaking in the dock surrounded by the traps of
office, awed by the terrific frowns which the indignant judge every now
and then cast upon him, when the evidence bore hard upon the case.

"Towards the conclusion of my first voyage I desired one of the scribes
on board to make out an alphabetical list of the names, trades, and
various particulars of the other convicts; when he came to me afterwards
in a doubtful mood scratching his head, and observing, 'When I asked
what their trades are all the answer I can get from three-fourths of
them is, 'A thief, a thief;' shall I put these down as labourers, sir?'"

As an evidence of the care taken to conceal the name of their family,
and the excuses they sometimes made to their friends for their sudden
departure from the country, Mr. Cunningham says that his hospital-man
wrote thus to his mother--"You will be rejoiced to hear that I am in a
good position at last, after all the pain my misconduct has given you,
which shall never be the case again, I have been appointed to the
lucrative position of doctor's mate of the Recovery East Indiaman, now
bound on a voyage to that country; and as it is my intention to settle
in one of the distant colonies, you need not expect me in England for
many years to come!" He says that the Irish convicts were more happy and
contented than the English, and sent most amusing letters to their
friends declaring that they were never better off in their lives, and
laying particular stress on the important fact that each of them had a
blanket and bed "to his own self entirely." On account of the glowing
descriptions sent home by some of these men to their criminal friends
not a few of the latter courted transportation to a country where
prosperity was so easily won. "The only real signs of religion among
convicts I ever saw," he continues, "were amongst a portion of the
Catholics on board; for as soon as they had mustered down, both
hatchways were crowded round with them counting their beads and
fervently crossing themselves and repeating their prayers from the

The English convicts divided themselves into the two great classes of
townies and yokels, while the Irish divided themselves into three--the
"Cork boys," the "Dublin boys," and the "North boys," the latter being
commonly called Scotchmen by the others, and many speaking the Scotch
dialect so broadly as to almost puzzle even a Scotchmen to unravel it.
The hypocricy of the more advanced criminals, who sought by devoutness
under the eye of the officials to win favour, was most marked, and the
keenest men have been "taken in" by them until an internal quarrel led
to a disclosure of the interested mockery indulged in. On his first
voyage he could only find one rogue at first in the batch of a hundred
and eighty-eight, all but that one declaring their innocence of the
crime for which they had been convicted; but as the voyage progressed
they began to open upon each other, and he confessed that before the end
of the voyage he had discovered that no juries had ever made fewer
mistakes. Designations of individual character had among the convict on
board a very different meaning to that attached thereto in lowest
society. A good fellow was one who divided fairly with his companion
whatever he thieved in partnership, and who never confessed a theft or
gave evidence against an associate. A clever fellow was a bang-up, bold,
thorough-going knave, an able "actor of all work;" while a great
scoundrel was one who acknowledged his crime or informed upon his
partner. One of the convicts on board was a yokel in the last stages of
consumption, and when the vessel was anchored at Sydney no time was lost
in conveying him ashore, he being so weak that he could not sit up
without fainting: yet in this pitiable state, supporting himself round
the hospital-man's neck, while the latter was drawing on his trousers
for him, the expiring wretch mustered strength enough to stretch out his
pale trembling hand towards the other's waistcoat pocket, and pick it of
a pocket-comb and penknife. The ruling passion was strong in death, for
next morning the man was a corpse.

"Transportation," says Mr. Cunningham, "was formerly no punishment to
those who had friends in the colony, or money to procure them, such
individuals being soon applied for by their gratuitous or purchased
acquaintances, who, though nominally their masters, left them in a
manner at liberty to do as they liked. Several who went with me were so
metamorphosed in a few days after they landed that in their white top
boots and fancy vestments, I had some difficulty in recognising my old
shipmates. While walking in the vicinity of Sydney in 1822, I
encountered a genteel-dressed man leading a pretty child in one hand and
swinging about a handsome cane in the other, with a bunch of massy seals
dangling at his fob, who stared as hard at me as I did at him--each
having some recollection of the other; till at last I remembered his
working his passage home as a sailor only the year previous in the ship
wherein I had returned to England, with the view, as he had told me, of
'lifting a legacy.' He had, in fact, 'lifted the legacy;' been tried,
convicted, and transported for it; and arrived thus in the colony again,
nearly as soon as I (although only twenty months away) with some sixty
golden guineas in his pocket, to boast of as the reward of his short

"Some who had friends in New South Wales doing well would in olden times
procure themselves to be transported by way of having a free passage, in
order to join them. Several went out with me on these very terms, and
among them one merry youth of two-and twenty, whose father had been
transported while he was a child in arms, and a brother at a later
period. This brother had followed the fortunes of the father by special
invitation, to assist him in the cultivation of the farm; and the
youngster I speak of was therefore the second son induced to entitle
himself to a seven-year's trip to Botany. On our arrival the elder
brother came alongside, and introduced the younger brother and the
father (who were of course utter strangers) to each other! 'When may we
expect Jim?' was the question put immediately after the preliminary
congratulations; Jim being a cousin who had long promised the colony a
speedy visit, as I learnt from the younger brother."

It must not be forgotten that many of these living cargoes were made up
of women, and many boys and girls, mere children, were included. And the
fearful orgies which took place on some of the vessels bearing female
convicts cannot possibly be described. A few extracts from
contemporaneous writers will best serve to faintly outline the ghastly
transactions. "The captain and each officer," says Captain Bertram,
writing in 1806, "enjoy the right of selection. Thus they continue the
habit of concubinage until the convicts arrive at Sydney town. Each
sailor and soldier is allowed to attach himself to one of the females."
The same writer tells us that should any of the women refuse to be
"selected," consent was won by scourging, and the lash was applied
without unnecessary ceremony. One of the vessels brought out as many as
226 women, and the voyage extended over fifteen months! The record does
not say whether the delay was caused by foul weather or by still more
foul proceedings on the part of the soldiers and sailors who were
supposed to work the ship.

"Every convict ship." writes one early historian, "carries out a herd of
females of all ages, and of every gradation in vice, from the veriest
troll to the fine madam who displayed her attractions in the theatres.
All who can, carry with them the whole paraphernalia of the toilet, with
trunks and boxes stuffed with every kind of female dress and decoration
that they can come at." The women had freedom at fixed periods of the
day on deck, and mixed indiscriminately in their "boxes" during the rest
of the time, the more accomplished in vice bending their whole energies
to the work of destroying whatever remains of modesty and womanliness
their younger and more innocent companions may have possessed. Of the
more abandoned portion of the women, this writer says:--"Their language,
disgusting even when heard by profligate men, would pollute the eyes
cast upon it in writing. Their open and shameless vices must not be
told. Their fierce and untameable audacity would not be believed.. ..
Were the veil raised, and the appalling spectacle exhibited as it really
is, the picture would be too horrid for affrighted humanity to look
upon." These were not the women who felt the shame and the horror of the
situation to which they had been doomed; but the poor creatures whose
offences had been slight, who had been torn away from respectable
surroundings, and who could lay claim to greater sensitiveness than some
high-born ladies. There were many of these amongst the female
convicts--poor girls, whose poverty may have driven them to commit some
petty theft; and upon these the voyage out served either as a means to
absolute moral degradation or as an instrument of death.

Some of the female convicts on the voyage out were subjected to most
brutal treatment. Here is an extract concerning one of the transport
vessels, "The Friendship" which came out in 1818, having 101 female
convicts on board, 19 free passengers, and 65 children. "On the 22nd
September at night the ship anchored on the coast of Africa, and the
next morning the cable parted from the anchor, and the ship was in great
danger of being driven upon the breakers, which were very nigh. On the
15th October the "Friendship" arrived at St. Helena, where she remained
for one week. From the 12th July to 15th October, there had been no
means used by the master and surgeon to prevent an improper intercourse
between the sailors and the female convicts; all were at full liberty to
act in this respect as their inclinations led them; this caused
universal insubordination and confusion in the ship. On the 14th January
after along, tedious, and painful passage, the Friendship arrived at
Port Jackson. The conduct of the surgeon and master during the whole
passage was very bad; they seldom spoke to any of the convicts without
oaths, their treatment of the convicts and others was truly distressing;
little or no attention was paid to cleanliness, no vice restrained,
excepting in the latter part of the voyage. On our arrival at St. Helena
the names of the female convicts were called over, and from that time
they were locked down at night between decks. The passengers and
convicts suffered much from want of water, though there was plenty on
board. The quantity allowed to a grown person was about three pints for
the 24 hours, for all purposes of cooking, &c., and half that quantity
for a child under 13 years old. This quantity was not more than half
enough in the hot weather, and the children suffered very much on this
account. The canisters of fresh meat, of veal, mutton and beef, were
eaten principally at the captain's table, and the offals sent to the
sick prisoners in lieu. From the whole the prisoners and passengers
suffered greatly from the unfeeling conduct of the master and surgeon,
who are both very profane men, possessed of little humanity."

This was the report of a passenger, John Gyles, Missionary to the South
Seas. One of the women on this ship, named Jane Brown, met an untimely
death through the severity of the captain. She had a quarrel with one of
her fellow-prisoners, and was selected by the Captain for punishment,
the other offender being let off. She told the captain and surgeon that
if she was punished she would throw herself into the sea. A wooden
collar was put about her neck, which she wore the whole of that day; but
in the night she got the collar off. Next day the captain observed this,
and after tearing her bonnet and shawl off, with many oaths, said he
would put another collar on. The woman repeated that she would throw
herself overboard if he did. He ordered the collar and advanced towards
her, when she at once jumped over and was drowned. This happened off the
Cape of Good Hope.

A resident of the colony in 1818 furnishes the following account:--"Two
or three years ago a ship arrived with female convicts, and many of
them, according to custom, were sent up to Parramatta, where I reside.
On my first interview with them they informed me how they had been
treated on board. I selected two of the women as domestic servants for
my own family. Both of these women had received a superior education.
The offence for which one of them had been transported was small in a
moral, though great in a political sense; she assisted a prisoner of
war, an officer of rank in the French navy, to make his escape, though
he was apprehended afterwards. This woman lived in my family until she
was married, and has now a good name of her own. She was strictly honest
and well behaved at all times. The other woman is married also. These
women informed me, as well as others of their shipmates, that they were
subject to every insult from the master of the ship, and the sailors;
that the master stript several of them and publicly whipped them; that
the master beat one of the women that lived with me with a rope with his
own hands till she was bruised in her arms, breasts, and other parts of
her body. I am certain, from her general good conduct since she arrived
to the present day, she could not have merited any cruelty from him.
They further stated that they were almost famished for want of water. In
addition to the insults they were subject to on board, the youngest and
handsomest of the women were selected from the other convicts and sent
on board, by order of the master, the King's ships which were at that
time in the fleet, for the vilest purpose; both of my servants were of
that number. One of them told me that when in bed she received an order
from the captain to come on deck, which order she was obliged to obey,
when she was put into a boat with others and sent off to the King's
ships. This was not the only time they were sent during the passage.
They further informed me that they were promised £30, but none of which
was received; and it was also said that rope and canvas had been given
as the wages of iniquity.

The ship for the women convicts was fitted up in the same way as for the
men, excepting the addition of tables and shelves upon which to iron
their clothes and stow away their tea-ware. No guard of soldiers was
required, and consequently there was no bulk-head across the upper deck
in midships. Their rations were the same as those served to the men,
with the addition of tea and sugar, for the service of which a kettle
was supplied to each mess and a tin-pot to each female, tea being
usually made each night and morning. Cunningham used to allow them to
draw their oatmeal as they required it, and they would take their gruel
for supper with the utmost relish, while they would turn up their
genteel noses at the same mess, formerly cooked for them under the
vulgar sea-epithet of bargou--so much was there in the magic of a name.
More accommodation was generally allowed for the women than for the men,
the usual number of convict-women proceeding out in one vessel seldom
exceeding ninety. A separate compartment was usually fitted up in the
ship in the later voyages for the accommodation of the free women (with
their children), coming out to join their husbands who were convicts in
the colony--a certain number being annually forwarded in this way by the
Government to those husbands who behaved well and could support them. A
similar mode of management was adopted with the women as with the men, a
certain number of respectable old matrons from Magdalen Asylums and
venerable pave peripatetics being appointed to superintend the
manners and morals of their sisters during the voyage, and to see the
prison kept in tidy trim, none except influentials of this description
being capable of managing the unruly throng.

The women were more quarrelsome and more difficult to control than the
men, their tempers being more excitable, and a good deal being
calculated on by them in respect to the usual leniency shewn their sex.
They were more abandoned in their expressions, too, when excited; but
this, adds Cunningham, probably arose not so much from greater
profligacy of disposition as from their having less control over their
passions and their tongues. In the earlier voyages they lived
promiscuously with the seamen on the passage out, and the voyage was
certainly then brought to a close much more harmoniously than later, for
the outward rules of decency were not grossly outraged in the
intercourse. Speaking of this matter Cunningham says:--

"All reformations to be lasting must be gradual, for whatever is
suddenly done is liable to be as suddenly undone; and by bridling in
their long-indulged inclinations by sheer brute force, you produce no
moral regeneration, but rather engender an accumulation of vice which
will break out with overwhelming impetus when restraint is taken off. By
being suffered to live in concubinage with the sailors during the
voyage, they became initiated in the moral principle of moral
attachment, unknown to them before. The great evil of such an
arrangement was, that the sailors often married them at the end of the
voyage; when Jack, as soon as tired of the 'happy state,' would take to
ship again, and leave his spouse to the exercise of her own free will
and meditations, while the number of females transported being so few,
in comparison to the men, the former ought certainly to be made
preserves of, to furnish wives for the latter. The truly pitiable
surgeon who has hitherto endeavoured strictly to enforce the orders of
the navy board on this head during the voyage (to keep the females
separate) has certainly most justly entitled himself to the full honour
of Catholic canonization on his landing. And as regards the crew
themselves, really poor Jack is planted in a perfect garden of
temptation, when among probably a hundred of such fair seducers, and is
more an object of pity than wrath. To see twenty wicked fingers
beckoning to him, and twenty wicked eyes winking at him, at one and the
same time, no wonder his virtue should sometimes experience a fall. A
very ingenious plan, however, (persevered in from the commencement of
the interdictory system until reported to the navy board) afforded free
scope to these amorous flirtations. The swains first gained over the
Arguses in charge of the hospital; forced up the piece of board nailed
over the coal-hatch, which being under a bed-place was completely hidden
from view; then, entering the prison, 'puffed out the rush light,' and
continued their tete-a-tete with the 'fair penitents' until the
inquisitive eye of day began to blink in upon them."

The female convicts were generally on the best of terms with each other,
and in speaking of each other they invariably made use of the term
ladies, which they did more in sober earnest than in jest; and
whenever the 'frail body' was summoned to attend for their rations, the
call was "Ladies, come up for your biscuit; ladies, come up for your
pork; ladies, the puddings are ready," and so forth; yet, while
affecting this gentility as a body, when particularising each other it
was plain Poll, Kate, or Sall. Dancing was allowed several times a week
in the evenings throughout the voyage and singing was kept up every
night for an hour or two before bedtime, while occasionally concerts and
masquerades were allowed, at which latter, dressed out in their gayest
plumage, they would prolong the frolic till bedtime. Some of the cabin
passengers would now and again go down into the prison to listen to the
singing, which was charming in its variety if in nothing else.

Among the ancient dames sent out was one described by Cunningham as a
most trustworthy creature, who abominated a lie so thoroughly that all
the others were afraid to commit any misdeed in her presence, knowing
old Nanny would disclose instantly the "whole truth and nothing but the
truth" if questioned. She was 70 years of age, and had spent forty years
of her life in houses of correction and prison. The man with whom she
had lived, and whose name she bore, was the last hung in chains on
Pennenden Heath, for highway robbery. She was a noted London thief and
delighted in narrating how successfully she had "done" an hospital
physician in London. Being ill with a cough and wheezing, she proceeded
with a letter of admission to the hospital, when the examining
physician, having looked at her tongue and felt her pulse, was called
momentarily away, leaving the gold watch he had been counting the pulse
with upon the table. The sight of such a gem ticking at a tempting
distance before her, made Nanny's very finger ends tingle, and operated
upon her wheezing like a dose of the 'Gilead'--so, hastily snatching it
up, she glided with light and nimble foot out of the door, and had a
thimble of ruin on credit of her prize in ten minutes after the
"trump had turned up."

As a body, the women were not given to pretensions to devoutness, like
the men. The Bibles with which the females were supplied were taken good
care of during the voyage; but as they knew that these would be mustered
at the end of the voyage, this consciousness might have had some effect,
for the greater portion of the religious tracts which were promiscuously
distributed disappeared; and in what way, was satisfactorily
demonstrated by shreds of them being picked up after a coterie of
these nymphs had been unpapering their curls.

Under the best regulations and the most favoured circumstances, each
voyage had its horrors, the passage from start to finish being
associated with misery and wretchedness, if not attended with death. How
many of those who left the shores of England for the new land during the
fifty years the voyages continued will never be known. Only the sharks
who fattened on the spoils kept count, and they have never yet revealed
the secret.

The greatest mortality amongst the convicts occurred on the voyage of
the Second Fleet, which was formed of ten transports. On board these ten
vessels there had been embarked in England 1,695 male and 68 female
prisoners, of whom no fewer than 194 males and four females died on the
passage out; and such was the state of debility in which the survivors
landed in the colony, that 114 males and two females died in the
colonial Hospital within six months of their landing. Of 122 male
convicts also, who had arrived per "The Queen," from Ireland, in the
year 1791, there were only fifty alive in the month of May, 1793, and
their death was looked upon as a positive blessing to the colony, which
was then in a state of absolute starvation. Referring to this matter,
Colonel Collins wrote:--"Had not such numbers died, both on the passage
and since the landing of those who survived the voyage, we should not at
this moment have had anything to receive from the public stores; thus
strangely did we derive a benefit from the miseries of our fellow

It is a relief to learn that the mortality in the earlier years was
great beyond all comparison with that of the later years of
transportation. For some time previous to the discontinuance of
transportation to the colony the average mortality was not greater that
two or three deaths for each vessel during the passage out; and there
were instances of vessels arriving from England without having had a
single death during the voyage. I have already stated that the mortality
in great measure was due to the greed of the ship-owners who had
contracted with the British Government to carry out the convicts at so
much per head; and great abuses were practised as long as this system of
transportation was continued. It was clearly shewn at an inquiry
instituted in the colony at the suggestion of Captain Parker, of H.M.S.
Gorgon, that many of the convicts had been literally starved to death in
the holds of the transports, the captains having cut short the allowance
stipulated by Government for their sustenance, in order to save expense,
the accumulation of a few sixpences being of far greater importance in
their eyes than the lives of a great many convicts. At this period the
shipowners received £17/7/6 for each convict embarked, and the greater
the number that died the greater the profits made by them out of the
voyage. In 1816 a Parliamentary return was printed by order of the House
of Commons, containing an "Account of the Number of Convicts who have
died on their passage to New South Wales since the year 1810." From this
return it appeared that of 19 ships, on board of which 3,379 convicts
had been embarked, there was one ship only in which no death had
occurred during the voyage; four in which the deaths were one in each;
five in which the deaths were two in each; two in which there were in
each three deaths: three in which there had been four deaths; one in
which there had been five; one in which there had been ten; one in which
there had been thirty-four deaths out of three hundred convicts; and
one, The Surrey, in which there had been as many as thirty-six deaths
out of two hundred convicts. In the last-named vessel a malignant fever
had prevailed during the passage, and the captain, first and second
officers, and several of the crew found a common grave in the sea with
the convicts who had fallen victims to the bad treatment of their



AS soon as the convict vessel reached its place of destination, a report
was made by the surgeon-superintendent to the Governor, who appointed a
day for the Colonial Secretary, or his deputy, to go on board to muster
the convicts and hear their complaints, if they had any to make. Each of
the men was then asked his name, the time and place of his trial, his
sentence, native place, and trade or occupation. His exact height was
then taken and carefully registered, with a general description for
identification at any future time--the colour of his eyes,
hair, complexion, and any marks upon his body being carefully set down.
Inquiries were next made concerning his conduct during the voyage, and
other information sought in order that the nature of the employment for
which he was best fitted could be determined. A day was then appointed
for the debarkation of the convicts, and at the time fixed they were all
supplied with new clothing, landed, and marched to the gaol yard, where
they were drawn up in line for the Governor's inspection, his Excellency
being attended on such occasions by the captain of the transports, the
surgeon-superintendent, the chief-engineer, and the superintendent of
convicts. The latter, when all was ready, read out from a list
previously prepared the destination of each man--if to the use of the
Government, to which department; and if to private assignment, to whose
service. Cases have been known of prisoners being allowed to go at large
immediately upon arrival, the influence of friends in England having
operated upon the officers of Justice at the Antipodes. It was in the
gaol yard that the convicts went through the process of "branding," all
their clothes being daubed over with P.B.'s and broad arrows, in black
and red paint.

The work of inspection being finished, the Governor usually addressed
the prisoners, urging them to embrace the opportunities for reform
placed within their reach in this new country. Governors Macquarie and
Bourke, next to Phillip, appear to have taken more interest in this work
than any of the others, and they were careful to impress upon the minds
of the convicts the fact that in their new sphere the past would be
forgotten, and that they had their future in their own hands; but they
were also plainly told that only by good behaviour could they win
indulgence or secure any mitigation of their sentences. The prisoners
were then marched off, in charge of constables, to enter upon the duties
which were either to make them or spoil them for the remainder of their
lives. Those who were destined for service in the interior were usually
sent by water to Parramatta, and thence sent on to the districts in
which resided the masters who had applied for their services, being
temporarily lodged in the gaols of the settlements through which they
had to pass enroute. The remainder were either retained by the
Government or sent to the penal settlements.

In the earlier day the supply of convicts so much exceeded the demand in
the colony for their services by the few settlers, that the Government
used to grant certain indulgences to those settlers who were willing to
maintain convicts. Subsequently the demand exceeded the supply, and the
obtaining convict laborers became a matter of favours, abuses in the
distribution causing not a few complaints from those who were less
influential "at court" than their fellows.

Upon the arrival of a transport general orders were issued for returns
of the number of men wanted, with the land held in cultivation by each
settler applying for convicts to be assigned to them; but there was
nothing like fairness in the distribution at any time. The artificers
were in general reserved for the service of the Government, with as many
of the others as might be wanted. Persons who had been in a higher
situation in life had tickets-of-leave granted to them at once, by which
they were at liberty to provide for themselves, and were exempt from all
compulsory labour. Similar tickets were given to men unused to active
employment, such as goldsmiths and others; the remainder were
distributed amongst the settlers as servants and labourers.

The convicts retained in the service of the Government were divided into
gangs. Every gang had an overseer, and every two or three gangs a
superintendent, these being generally chosen from the best conducted of
the convicts themselves. The regulations were that they should work from
6 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon, the remainder of the day being
allowed to them for amusement or profitable labour for themselves; but
there was greater breach than observance of this rule on the outer
gangs. Great suffering was caused on two or three occasions through the
absence of food and clothing, the authorities having neglected to send a
full supply, and the poor wretches had to put up with empty stomachs and
bare backs, feeling content if but allowed to keep a whole skin on the

If they misconducted themselves at work the convicts were supposed to be
taken before a magistrate, no superintendent having power to personally
inflict punishment. The sitting magistrate for the week in Sydney could
order a punishment of 25 lashes, but a regular Bench, which consisted of
at least three, could order as many as 300. In the outer settlements
during the "teens" of the colony a single magistrate had the same power
as the full Bench at Sydney; but the Governor was always supposed to
know and approve before any extra heavy punishment was inflicted.

The gaol gangs had to work in irons on some public work, their hours
being from 6 in the morning till 6 at night, and the rest of the time
locked up.

The convicts distributed amongst the settlers were clothed, supported
and lodged by them, and their manner and hours of work were diversified.
The master had no power of corporal punishment over his assigned
servant: even though he were a magistrate he was forced to apply to some
other magistrate to order punishment. But in those days magistrates were
very accommodating. It wasn't a case of "You scratch my back and I'll
scratch yours;" but "You order 100 for my servant's back and I'll order
100 for yours." The Select Committee in 1812 recommended a large
extension of the assignment system, rightly judging that life on a farm,
or with a family, was far more likely to lead to reformation than life
in the gangs of Sydney. But life under the rule of a private master did
not always turn out to be all "beer and skittles," as will be seen
further on. Some of the benefits of the "family" system, which the
Committee were disposed to think resulted from assignment were, however,
lost in cases of men of large influence with large farms, obtained as
grants, for one man has been known to have had as many as eighty
convicts assigned to him, and thus under his control. And the reader
will not forget that for many years the Government supplied, not only
the land and labour without cost to the recipient, but the means of
working the one and clothing the other, also free of cost. But this part
of the subject will be more fully treated when the Assignment system is
being dealt with in subsequent chapters.

The female convicts, in the earlier days, were marched from the ship to
the penitentiaries, but, later on, arrangements were made by which they
could proceed at once from the ship to private service. As early as 1819
it was the custom for an advertisement to be inserted in the Sydney
Gazette, the only paper published at that time, intimating that a
certain ship with female convicts had arrived, and that married men or
householders requiring domestic servants could attend on a certain day
and "take their choice."

In the later batches the women, after being mustered on board, at the
termination of the voyage, were sent up by water to the Parramatta
factory and assigned to service by the Council, every encouragement
being given to marriage. Writing on this subject Cunningham
says:--"Mewing these veterans in vice up in a factory when such a
disparity of sexes exists among us (this was in 1824, when the female
did not amount to one eighth of the male population) not only tends to
materially affect the advancement of population in our young community,
but gives rise to the most abominable crimes, while manifestly tending
to the seduction and prostitution of our young colonial females, who may
be justly said to be sacrificed to the fanciful speculation of
preserving an ideal morality among our depraved English importations..
.. .. The love-matches among this portion of our population certainly
often savour not a little of the romance of olden time. Not a few of our
factory fair have been wooed and won by a sort of telegraphic courtship,
carried on by means of hand and handkerchief signals from a commanding
eminence over-looking the domicile of these nymphs, the most puzzling
point for the love-born swain being that of finding out the name of his
pledged bride, in order to obtain her release from the police bench for
the consummation of their nuptials. Not a few happy matches have
resulted, too, from the tender attachments formed within the
love-inspiring walls of the lock-up house; nay, it is even asserted that
such have taken place when the sentimental couple were in course of
initiating 'revolutionary principles' at Cubit's peripatetic seminary
(tread-mill). A twelve-month scarce has passed, indeed, since a rich and
amorous Sydney youth, with the bloom of fifty-six summers on his checks,
was linked in love's dear bands with one of our pretty penitents, from
whose eyes he first drank in the sweet infection while his 'fairest of
the fair' was performing penance in the public stocks on a market-day
(with her gown-tail drawn over her head), for dabbling too deeply in
strong waters on the previous evening."

At this time, owing to the dearth of women, there was always an eager
competition among lowly swains for every vacant hand that presented
itself. It is said that widows were scarcely permitted to give their
mourning weeds a second day's sunning before they were again entangled
in another matrimonial web. There is a record bearing on this point. A
buxom washerwoman hurriedly begged audience of her master one evening
and solicited an advance of two dollars to enable her to get married in
the morning. "Married!" exclaimed the master; "why, you told me only
three days ago that you had a husband in England." "So I did, sir,"
sighed the fair, "but I have received a letter since acquainting me that
he has suffered." "Suffered!" re-echoed the master, dropping his
voice in tenderness, "dear me, what has he suffered?" "He has been
hanged, sir," whimpered the petitioner; and clinking the dollars into
her pocket, she tripped out of doors to solace her widowed heart with
the joys of a second husband.

In the distribution of the female convicts great abuses prevailed for
many years. The women were indiscriminately given to such of the
inhabitants as demanded them, and were received rather as prostitutes
than as servants; and so far from being induced to reform themselves,
the disgraceful manner in which they were disposed of operated as an
encouragement to general depravity of manners.

Upon the arrival of Governor Bligh it was shewn that two-thirds of the
children annually born within the colony were illegitimate; but after
the first twenty years the report was that marriages were becoming more
frequent, and prostitution less prevalent. Governor Macquarie received
orders from the Home Government "to keep the female convicts separate
till they can be properly distributed among the inhabitants, in such
manner as they may best derive the advantages of industry and good

In 1810 Governor Macquarie recommended that as many male convicts should
be sent out as possible, as the prosperity of the country largely
depended on their numbers; while, on the contrary, female convicts were
as great a draw-back as the others were beneficial. But the Select
Committee of the House of Commons could not see this, and reported as
follows:--"They are aware that the women sent out are of the most
abandoned description, and that in many instances they are likely to
whet and encourage the vices of the men, whilst but a small proportion
will make any step towards reformation; but yet, with all their vices,
such women as these were the mothers of a great part of the
inhabitants now existing in the colony, and from this stock only can a
reasonable hope be held out of rapid increase to the population; upon
which increase, here, as in all infant colonies, its growing prosperity
in great measure depends. Let it be remembered, too, how much misery and
vice are likely to prevail in a society in which the women bear no
proportion to the men. In the colony at present the number of men
compared to that of women is as 2 to 1; to this, in great measure, the
prevalence of prostitution is reasonably to be attributed; but increase
that proportion, and the temptation to abandoned vices will also be
increased, and the hopes of establishing feelings of decency and
morality amongst the lower classes will be still further removed. The
supply of women to the colony must, however, be naturally diminished by
the proposed system of employing convicts in Penitentiary Houses; and
your Committee think this an additional reason for affording increased
facilities to the wives of male convicts, who may wish to accompany or
follow their husbands to New South Wales. This permission is now seldom
granted, and that only to the wives of men transported for life or for
14 years. It is, however, the most eligible way of providing the colony
with women, and one which may with very great advantage be extended."

In this last particular the committee took a wise view of the situation,
and not a few substantial families--substantial in more than one
sense--were afterwards built up from the re-union of man and wife, the
latter as a free woman being "sent for," and having come, secured the
husband as an "assigned servant." Queer conditions of family life,
certainly; but better that, for both husband and wife and children, than
no family life at all! I must refrain from even a passing remark upon
the idea of the Committee of building up prosperity by the "rapid
increase of population," the mothers being "women of the most abandoned
description," sent out from England as irreclaimable. In the present day
the idea appears so outrageous in its novelty that the bare thought of
it almost takes one's breath away, and he is afraid to search for
illustrations shewing the operation of the scheme. England's loss in
this case was certainly not gain to New South Wales.



THE assignment system, under which convicts were distributed amongst the
free or freed population, was established at an early date, during
Governor Hunter's administration, and it was not long before the
prisoners generally understood that assignment to private persons was a
much preferable fate to being retained by Government or sent to public

The system was brought to its highest point of development during
Governor Macquarie's reign, that gentleman having bent his energies to
the wide distribution of the population, bond as well as free, through
the country which was then so rapidly being opened up for settlement.
The newly-arrived prisoners had not been many hours within the Sydney
Heads before they knew that there was a choice open for them, and they
shaped their conduct accordingly. A sort of freemasonry appeared to
exist between convicts of a certain "school," and the new arrivals from
the parent establishment sixteen thousand miles away were soon
discovered by former graduates who had crossed the sea before them and
become "located" in the new land. The general means of communication
between the shore and the convict ships was through the Government
boat's crews, who were themselves servants assigned to one or other of
the harbour officials; and these men acted the part of "telegraphs"
between new arrivals and any acquaintances they might have on shore, so
that wives who had just come out could communicate with their husbands,
or those who should have been their husbands, and old associates were
brought together. Boats manned by convicts, either in private or public
employment, hovered about a prison ship from the time of her arrival
until she had discharged the last of her living cargo. Every effort was
made to avoid being sent to public labour, for which there was a great
demand during Macquarie's time, when stonemasons, bricklayers,
carpenters, and other mechanics were religiously "kept in government"
and employed upon the public buildings which Macquarie had such a craze
for erecting. These "telegraphs" were not slow in acquainting new
arrivals with the true state of affairs, and the result was that they
all professed ignorance of any handicraft connected with the building
art. The Government at last ordered that any prisoner who was discovered
to have concealed his trade should be severely punished, and as the
chief engineer in Sydney and the superintendent of convicts kept a close
watch upon the prisoners in private assignment, for the purpose of
discovering if they possessed any knowledge or skill in the desired
direction, many of the mechanics were sooner or later discovered and at
once removed from the service of the master to whom they had been
assigned, and sent to swell the number of the Government gangs.

One writer on this subject says:--"There can be no doubt that the want
of skilled labour for private enterprise was such that most of the free
settlers and emancipist employers willingly afforded assistance to
prisoners to evade the regulations. The great demand for skilled labour
and its almost entire absorption by the Government, were indeed
productive of the worst results; favoritism, bribery, and petty scheming
were fostered; the most bare-faced falsehood on the part of both master
and servant was frequently resorted to; and at the same time private
enterprise was checked and hampered in a most deplorable manner. It
likewise often happened that convicts who had relatives or friends in
Sydney procured themselves to be assigned to them by professing a
knowledge of the particular trade or pursuit (if not connected with
building) in which they were engaged, and in some cases even
considerable sums of money--the fruits probably of former crimes--were
paid by prisoners to influential parties to induce them to apply for
them as assigned servants. The assignment was, of course, in such cases
merely nominal; and if the application was successful, as in fact it
generally was, the convict was thenceforth almost as free from
interference and control as if he had landed in the colony a free man.

"This inequality of punishment--these premiums held out to craft and
cunning--were amongst the worst features of the transportation system.
The country mechanic or labourer, transported perhaps for some share in
a poaching affray, but comparatively innocent in heart, unsophisticated
in character and unknown to the criminal class, was generally doomed to
the heaviest toil; while the successful city swindler, forger, or
pickpocket managed, with the help of money or the assistance of former
friends or associates who had preceded him in his enforced exile, not
only to escape the just penalty of his offences, but to enter upon a new
stage of existence, where labour was better paid and life much more
easily supported than in the country from which he had been banished.
Whatever its benefits to particular convicts, or even to the colony at
large in developing its resources, the system of private assignment was
fertile in the production of plans of petty scheming, craft, and
evasion; as well as frightfully unequal in its operation on the
prisoners." The frightful inequalities here referred to will receive
full illustration before this part of the subject has been exhausted.

Whether the "place" obtained by a convict was favorable to good living
or the reverse depended entirely upon the character of the person to
whom he was assigned. In distributing the prisoners among private
employers no account was taken of their rank as criminals; a "lifer,"
who had been guilty of murder stood an equal chance of an easy life with
the poor wretch who had got seven years for stealing a loaf of bread for
his starving children, or the man convicted of some political offence.
Those who were acquainted with light in-door trades, such as tailoring
or shoe-making, generally fell into comfortable quarters; they could not
be employed on public works or as farm labourers, and were as a rule
applied for by the "understrappers" in the Government service, such as
overseers, clerks, and other of the fry who assumed gentility if they
had it not. These men had no use for tailors or shoemakers in their
offices or homes, but they made money out of them, nevertheless. They
would permit the men to undertake work for others on their own account,
conditional upon the payment of a sum ranging from 5/- upwards per week.
The men either hired themselves for wages or set up in business on their
own account being always careful, of course, to give their master the
weekly sum agreed upon; and they would gladly have paid much larger
amounts for the privilege of enjoying the freedom thus purchased. It has
been stated that in some cases convicts who were possessed of money on
their arrival, and who managed to get some suitable person to apply for
them as assigned servants, bought up the masters' interest in their
labours at once, the masters agreeing to forego all future claims and
merely exercise a nominal control over them in order to keep up
appearances. The men here referred to were looked upon with a very
jealous eye by their fellow convicts who were condemned to heavy manual
labour under Government or masters who had lands to cultivate or
buildings to erect.

One very bad feature of the assignment system was that established
during the days when the military were all powerful--namely, the
practice of assigning servants to magistrates and other officers under
Government in part payment of their salaries. One magistrate would
sometimes have as many as eight convicts assigned to him in virtue of
his office, quite irrespective of the number to which he was entitled as
a settler under the regulations; and these servants were rationed
exclusively from the public store, as though they were in Government
employ, and as the magistrates or other officials were permitted to let
these "Government servants" out on hire, they were able to add to their
income to no inconsiderable extent. The ration of a single individual
was estimated at about £15 per year, and as it was not required to feed
the man, who was working for wages elsewhere, it was either sold by the
master or devoted to the purpose of feeding the other servants who had
been assigned to him as a private settler; and the money thus made or
saved, added to that which the convict paid for the privilege of hiring
himself out, amounted to about £40 a year. This amount multiplied by 6
or 8, will give the reader a pretty correct idea of the sort of salary
which these masters were enabled to draw annually. Referring to this
practice, and the incentives to crime which it furnished, one writer
says:--"The direct interest which a master had under such circumstances
in shielding his men from punishment for their offences acted as a
strong encouragement to crime. The prisoners knew that if detected they
had little to fear, because it was their masters' interest that they
should escape. They knew that if flogged or imprisoned he would be the
loser, and therefore felt assured that he would exert himself to prevent
it. They were also aware that as long as they regularly brought him the
weekly amount agreed upon he would not be inclined to look too narrowly
into the means by which it was obtained." The reader will not be
surprised to learn that during the period when this practice prevailed
magistrates were amongst the largest employers of the labour furnished
by the Government.

But the evil was not concentrated in the magisterial office, for the
under-superintendents, overseers, and clerks in charge of Government
gangs, seventy per cent. of whom had been, or were at the time, convicts
themselves, were "salaried" in the same way. They regularly drew the
rations of the men assigned to them, which they sold to the settlers,
and allowed the men to hire themselves out or "do for themselves,"
provided they handed over a fair proportion of the money they earned or
"made." This phase of the assignment system formed the subject of high
Departmental inquiry in 1821, and a Parliamentary paper was issued
containing the following statements:--

"The manner in which the overseers are remunerated has appeared to every
one capable of forming a judgement of its effects to be highly
objectionable; it consists in the allowance of a ration and a half, and
the assignment of one or more convicts, who are in most cases victualled
by Government, and who in return for the exemption that is allowed to
them from all control, and the pursuit of any occupation, engage to pay
their overseer a sum amounting to five shillings per week, if they
allowed the overseer to draw their ration, and ten shillings per week in
case they draw it themselves. The effects produced by this arrangement
on the convicts at their first distribution has already been observed,
and its continuance is no less injurious to the system of discipline
than to the parties whom it is intended to remunerate. The assigned
convict becomes in many instances responsible to a person who is in no
higher condition than himself, many of the overseers being themselves
convicts. The selection of the assigned convicts being left principally
to the overseer, it is made with reference to the means of payment
possessed by them, and not to their character or conduct; hence it has
happened that the most guilty individuals have enjoyed all the
privileges that were declared to belong exclusively to good conduct, and
that they have purchased them with money instead of gaining them by long

"The majority of the assigned convicts consists of mechanics, who are
enabled by their industry to fulfil their engagement to their overseer
as long as their labour is in demand; and they are protected from arrest
by being furnished with passes signed by the superintendent, as a
special protection in the districts to which they may resort; but if the
demand for their labour or industry should fail, or what more frequently
occurs, if the profits they may derive from it be spent in luxury and
excess, the weekly payment to the overseer falls into arrear, and he is
compelled to apply either to the magistrate for punishment, or to the
principal superintendent for the assignment of another convict; again,
if the employer of the assigned convict fails in paying his wages, the
overseer is not only a loser, but the convict is returned to the service
of Government, by which a certain amount of punishment is inflicted upon
him for the default of another."

In not a few cases, and especially at posts some distance from the seat
of authority, the overseers and their walking "salaries" have been known
to plot and execute foraging expeditions, under which the moveable
possessions of settlers in the bush have been made to suddenly
disappear, and bushrangers have received the credit of the acts of
plunder. The system brought forth its natural fruit. The overseers lost
both inclination and power to make the gangs under their control do a
reasonable amount of work, and it was declared that the labour of one
free man would equal that of three of the prisoners employed on public
works. Hence arose the colonialism, "Government stroke."

When the assignment system was introduced the colony was in a state
bordering upon stagnation, Private enterprise was only just beginning to
manifest itself in fitful throbbings, and the number of convicts on the
hands of the Government was far greater than the few public works then
being carried on could absorb; and as the prisoners were a source of
constantly increasing trouble and expense to the Government weighty
inducements were held out to the settlers and others to enlarge their
borders and extend their operations, the services of the convicts being
placed at their disposal without payment. The few settlers who had
brought a little capital to the colony made such rapid headway by means
of the liberal grants of land and stock made by the Government, and the
cheap labour placed at their command, that others of the same class soon
found their way over the water from England and India, and after a time
the demand for the services of the convicts began to exceed the supply,
and the order of things was reversed. The Government had no longer to
hold out inducements to the settlers to take the convicts "off the
store," but were in a position to dictate terms and enforce regulations
concerning the food, clothing and work of the human cattle handed over
to them. This was good for the convicts, if not for the Government, for
up to this time they had been treated with the utmost harshness by the
masters to whom they had been assigned as unskilled labourers, and who
used the lash indiscriminately as the best means of extracting a larger
amount of work from those who had been handed over to them. In January,
1804, a general order was issued by Governor King requiring all persons
who applied for convicts to sign an indenture to clothe and maintain
those who might be assigned to them for a period of twelve months, the
quantity and kind of food and clothing being specified. In return for
this they were empowered to extract from each convict assigned to them a
certain amount of work, the hours of daily labour being fixed at ten,
although if a man could perform a specified daily task in less than ten
hours he was allowed to hire himself out for the remainder of the time,
the master having a preferential right to his extra services, if he
thought fit to pay therefor, at a rate per hour fixed by the Government.

The condition of the convicts who were assigned to masters living in
remote parts of the country was in many cases little better than that of
slaves, and if the employer happened to possess a large "estate," under
the superintendence of overseers who were themselves convicts, their
position was hard in the extreme, for these overseers were sometimes as
brutal as they were unprincipled, and being far removed from any Court
of Justice they indulged their cruel inclinations to the full, the
unfortunate victims having no means of redress or relief. Hundreds of
the men who "took to the bush," as the phrase went, did so from no other
motive than to escape from the tortures to which they were subjected at
the hands of these brutal under-masters.

The men who were assigned to masters of the less wealthy class were
infinitely the best off, for the master acted as his own superintendent
and lived on the farm with his family and his two or three, or perhaps
six servants. Regard for the members of his own household impelled him
to preserve among his servants something like decency, and there was an
atmosphere of decency about the smaller farms which had no existence on
the larger ones, where the men were herded together like pigs to
luxuriate in their own filth. Under kind treatment and fairly good
living many of the convicts assigned to this middle class of settlers
became reformed and useful members of society; while, on the other hand
ill-treatment called into play all the worst passions of the men whose
lives were made a misery to them, and if they could not revenge
themselves directly upon the master they did so indirectly by
instructing his children in every kind of vice, sowing seeds in the
youthful mind which soon sprang up to bear most bitter fruit.

Some of the settlers who had been convicts themselves, and who had been
placed upon the land by Governor Macquarie after their sentences had
expired, proved masters of the very worst type. Many of them were
criminals of the lowest rank, and had neither means nor inclination to
work the land given to them. Being anxious to give them full opportunity
of reform the Governor lent them cattle from the public herds, kept them
in rations from the public store, and allowed them to have one or more
assigned servants as labourers. As may be imagined, there was no
improvement on the establishments formed after such fashion. Master and
servant, being kindred spirits, fraternised in evil--living in the same
hut, eating together, and together drinking from the same rum bottle.
The rations from the store were soon exhausted, the farm was sold, and
the erstwhile "farmer" became a roving vagabond, a curse to the district
in which he lived.

The following extract from Commissioner Bigg's report will shew how this
sort of thing operated. He says:--"The employment of convicts in the
service of the lower classes of settlers who cannot afford to pay them
anything beyond their rations, or to stimulate or reward their industry
by paying for the extra labour, is very pernicious. The convict is thus
allowed to leave his home in pursuit of labour that he cannot find
there, and he is out of reach even of the imperfect control of his
necessitous master. Governor Macquarie has endeavoured to restrain this
practice by several orders; and in some of the districts, chiefly
occupied by the lower class of settlers, the magistrates have lately
found it necessary to enforce their execution, both by exacting the fine
imposed by those orders, and by removing the convict labourers from the
control of those settlers who could not furnish them with employment.
The great inconvenience and interruption that complaints against these
servants occasion to the settlers, and the risk to which they are
exposed in leaving their property to seek redress from the magistrates,
is severely felt by all the inhabitants of the colony: some of them,
especially those who had themselves been convicts, feel a degree of
commendable reluctance in making a complaint against a convict labourer
for mere incapacity, and would rather submit to the unrequited expense
of his maintenance than be the cause of the infliction of unmerited
punishment. This feeling is in some degree attributable to a sympathy
with that condition which was once their own, and is not corrected until
they acquire property, and a disposition to improve and augment it.
Others, influenced by less humane considerations, or by a dislike of the
trouble of complaining, allow the convict to seek employment where he
can find it, or leave him in the towns, where he is apprehended. He is
in these cases sent to gaol, where he receives an allowance of one pound
of bread a day, until he is taken by another settler; and if he should
be sent to Sydney or Parramatta, he is placed in one of the Government
gangs. By this means his incapacity for agricultural labour is not
removed, and his disposition and habits of indolence are in most cases

In one sense the most difficult class of convicts to deal with were
those who had occupied superior positions of life in the old
country--the men with no trade, and who were as devoid of the rough
physical strength necessary to ordinary bush work as they were devoid of
mechanical skill. None of the settlers were agreeable to feed and clothe
such "long-coated gentry," as they were called, knowing that the work
they could get out of them in return would not compensate them. They
were also useless for employment upon Government works, and large as was
the staff of clerks in the Government service, it was not nearly large
enough to allow of the absorption of the full stream of "better class"
criminals that was constantly pouring into the colony--for be it known
that not a few of the "swell mob" of old England were among the
"patriots" who crossed the sea. Especially was this the case in
Macquarie's time, and that kind-hearted, though vain, Governor
experienced great difficulty in disposing of them. Those of them who had
means--and not a few brought with them considerable capital--became
ticket-of-leave men very shortly after their arrival, the Governor no
doubt thinking that the Government stores should not be placed under
contribution for the keep of men who could not work, and who were in a
position to support themselves. As dealers and traders these men
flourished, and some of them rose to considerable affluence, although
they were always looked upon with disfavour by the other convicts, who
were compelled to labour hard on Government works or under private
masters before they could secure a ticket that would enable them to "do
for themselves."

Mr. Biggs thus refers to these men and Macquarie's method of dealing
with them;--"The system of granting tickets-of-leave to these convicts
on their arrival too quickly and abruptly, elevates them from a
condition of punishment to a state of comparative enjoyment. There are
many instances in Sydney of the successful exertion of these people as
retail traders; but their success feeds their vanity as well as their
vices, and they speedily lose that sense of humility and contrition
which is essential to a state of punishment and reform. Another evil
arising from it is the state of comparative equality in which it places
them with that part of the population which came free into the colony;
and with those who, having been sent as convicts at a period when
similar indulgences were not so freely granted, feel surprise, and some
degree of mortification, when they see them bestowed upon persons who,
in their opinions, have done nothing to deserve them. But it must be
acknowledged that there is some difficulty is disposing of those
convicts who have been in the higher situations of life, and to whose
attainments some respect is naturally paid even in a state of
punishment." But it was not in the "twenties" only that leniency was
shewn to soft-handed criminals. The sentences of the Criminal courts of
the present enlightened age are sometimes made to shape to a point of
lightness in the case of criminals of "superior position" not at all
consistent with justice.

It is almost impossible to generalize the conditions of the convicts
under the assignment system and the relation they bore to their masters,
for the regulations were as varied as the method of their observance was
irregular, and no single description could be made to answer for the
whole. The reader will, therefore, pardon the unavoidable disjointedness
of this portion of the narrative, and overlook apparent discrepancies
and repetitions.

The favoritism shewn to the "pure merinos" who were well-affected
towards the existing Government in the matter of the assignment of
convicts, was a notorious circumstance of the reigns of the Governors
between Phillip and Bourke. The Governor, by Act of Parliament, had the
sole disposal and control of the convicts, and in a community where
likes and hatreds were peculiarly strong, it is not surprising that the
friends of those in power should have the choice of servants and secure
the best articles in the Gubernatorial market. Those in the town would
have assigned to them the only good cooks or gardeners available, while
the country friends would have a miniature manufacturing township on
their estates, getting hold of the shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters,
masons, and mechanics of any class; while those without influence would
have to put up with such servants as they could get out of the unskilled
crowd. Sir. R. Bourke reduced assignment to a simple and fairly just
system, and, abandoning his prerogative, gave to a board of
commissioners the power to distribute convict labour, regulations being
formed for their guidance, and which in their faithful observance gave
something like equality to the apportionment, priority of application
and the requirements of the applicants receiving attention. Of course,
the favoured few of the old regime could not see any justice in such a
method: monopolists never did and never will recognise the rights of
others to a share of that which they have come by long habit to look
upon as peculiarly and exclusively their own. To these men Governor
Bourke appeared as a meddlesome fellow, who did not fully understand the
true principles of nepotism. And this Governor further offended some of
the more powerful masters by the readiness with which he set about
correcting some of the abuses under which the convicts suffered. Until
his time assigned servants could not reckon as one of their belongings
the right of petition, but they soon learned that any petition sent to
him would receive his personal attention. An unscrupulous master could,
by magnifying some trifling fault, prevent a good servant from obtaining
his ticket, and thus prolong the poor fellow's servitude. Governor
Bourke saw the evil, and at once applied corrective measures. He
investigated these cases, and the knowledge that he did so was a great
protection to the servants and a check upon the masters. The notorious
white slave-driver of Patrick's Plains (Mudie) wrote to his Excellency
seeking to deter him from receiving petitions from convicts; but Bourke,
adverting to this letter, in writing to Judge Therry, shewed his
firmness in the right by saying: "To this I need hardly tell you I will
never consent. I should indeed be an unworthy representative of majesty
if I refused to receive a petition from a man in bonds."

The full portrait of this Legree the Second will be given further on,
and after glancing at it, the reader will not feel in the least degree
surprised that he should seek to debar the convicts from any privilege,
however slight.

The regulations for rations, clothing, &c., for assigned servants, were
subject to occasional alteration, but the following, which operated
between 1830 and 1840, may be taken as a fair sample of the supply in
the best regulation days.

Rations.--The weekly ration consisted of--12lbs. wheat or 9lbs. seconds
flour; or, in lieu thereof, at the discretion of the master, 3½lbs.
maize meal and 9lbs. wheat, or 7lbs. seconds flour and 7lbs. beef or
mutton, or 4½lbs. salt pork, 2ozs. salt, 2ozs. soap. Any articles
which the master might supply beyond those specified were considered as
indulgencies, and likely to be discontinued at any time.

Clothing.--The clothing to which assigned servants were entitled
annually consisted of two frocks or jackets, three shirts, two pairs of
trousers, three pairs of shoes, one hat or cap, and these were to be
issued as follows:--On 1st May in each year--One woollen jacket, of
Parramatta or strong English cloth; one pair woollen trousers, ditto;
one shirt, one pair shoes, one hat or cap. On 1st August--One shirt, one
pair shoes. On 1st November--One woollen or duck jacket, one pair
woollen or duck trousers, as best suited the age or state of health of
the man during the summer season; one shirt, one pair shoes. The shirts
were supposed to be of strong linen or cotton, and the shoes of stout
and durable leather. Each man had also to be kept constantly supplied
with at least one good blanket and palliasse or wool matrass, which were
considered to be the property of the master.

When Governor Macquarie arrived the weekly ration allowed by law to each
assigned prisoner was 7lbs. beef or 4lbs. pork, and 8lbs. of wheat; but
this was generally regarded as insufficient, and Macquarie issued an
order in 1820 in which this ration was spoken of as "inadequate to the
support of a man." But many of the employers allowed more than the
quantity stipulated in the regulations, and some of them served out tea
and sugar, or milk and vegetables to their servants as luxuries. The
allowance of wheat had to be ground into flour by the prisoners
themselves and this was generally performed by the assigned convicts in
their own time by means of portable steel hand-mills, with which the
houses of the settlers were supplied. On some of the older stations the
remains of these "old grinders" may still be seen amongst the lumber in
the yards.

Male assigned convicts were classed under the various heads of field
laborers, domestic servants, and mechanics; and the services of the
last-named class being of more value than those of the former, two were
estimated in assignment as equal to those of two or more field laborers.
In the assignment of convicts scarcely any distinction was made either
on account of the period of the sentence, or on account of the age, the
character, or the nature of the offence; and the previous occupation of
a convict generally determined his condition in the colony.

If a convict were a domestic servant before transportation he found
ready employment under the assignment system, for if well conducted he
was well fed, well clothed, and received wages from £10 to £15 per year
under the most favorable conditions with good masters. But it must not
be supposed that all the good ones were treated alike; for some of them
were treated little better than slaves by those whom they served, and
who aspired to rank with the "aristocracy" of the land.

Convicts who were mechanics were also well treated as assigned servants;
but they suffered from the hardship of being too much in favour with the
authorities, and were generally kept under the thumb of the Government,
to do government work. The better the tradesman the less likelihood was
there of his obtaining employment under a private master. This was
specially the case in Governor Macquarie's time, and mechanics would not
confess to being such for fear of the consequences. A blacksmith,
carpenter, mason, cooper, or wheelwright was a very valuable servant in
a country where skilled labour was scarce, and was eagerly sought after.
This was the report of the Select Committee after hearing all the
evidence about this class of assigned servants:--"As the mechanic can
scarcely be compelled by punishment to exert his skill, it is for the
interest of the master to conciliate his convict mechanic in order to
induce him to work well; in too many cases this is effected by granting
to the skilled convict various indulgences, by paying him wages, by
allotting to him task-work, and by permitting him after the performance
of his task to work on his own account; and, lastly, by conniving at and
overlooking disorderly conduct; for the most skilled mechanics are
generally the worst behaved and most drunken."

Dr. Ullathorne's testimony was very much to the point. He says:--"There
is another evil resulting from the assignment of mechanics to masters,
which is this, that they generally have Monday as a holiday; and indeed
the mechanics have their masters very much in their power, and I have
seen the masters put to very great perplexity in consequence of the
manner in which they have been subject to the power of their men; for
instance, the printers are very much in the power of their assigned
servants. When I have had myself printing work to do, and have been
anxious to have it done, where an engagement has been made, and it has
been understood that the printing should be done at a certain period, I
have found that the masters are so much in the power of their men, that
they will work when they like or take a great deal of time to
themselves. I may observe the same thing with regard to the coach-maker;
he is complaining that he cannot get his work done as he would wish to
have it done. Another evil is that these men generally take a leisure
day to spend that which they receive as wages; and in consequence, on
the Monday, particularly in Sydney, there was a great deal of
drunkenness amongst the assigned servants. And one thing I particularly
remarked: There was of course a great deal of quarrelling amongst those
men, and they used invariably to come upon Hyde Park, the place of
recreation, to decide those quarrels, and until the year 1835 there used
to be three or four cases of this kind in the day; those men used to
come to decide their quarrels on Hyde Park every Monday, where brutal
fights ensued, and where it was a long time before anybody appeared to
disperse them, unless the Catholic clergyman went to disperse them,
which was very frequently the case." But some of the mechanics were as
good men as they were tradesmen, and not a few of them succeeded in
building up for themselves by honest labour both reputation and fortune.

The greater number of assigned convicts were, however, employed as
agricultural labourers, shepherds, &c, no fewer than 8,000 of them being
thus employed in 1835, when the herds and flocks were scattering over
the plains in the interior, and the waste places, hitherto unknown, were
being made to yield the fruits of husbandry. Their condition was in the
main one of considerable hardship, and they were inferior as a class to
either male domestics or mechanics; but they received abundance of food,
and many of them drew wages, or tea, sugar, tobacco, spirits, and other
indulgences. The measure of their comfort, however, depended upon the
character of their masters and the number employed; and whether they had
an overseer over them, as in large farms, or were directly under their
master, as on small ones. The overseers generally were either
ticket-of-leave men or emancipists. They were for the most part men who
could not succeed in other occupations, and were as a rule quite
unfitted to be charged with the task of regulating others, who were
really on a level with them.

The shepherds had a very solitary life of it, and were exposed to more
dangers than any other class. Away from the centre and even the boundary
of settlement, they literally carried their lives in their hands, and
hundreds have fallen prey to the vengeance or murderous propensities of
the aborigines. These were the real pioneers of the country. These were
the men who reclaimed waste places, and settled the land, while their
masters, who received the credit, rested in safety amidst the comforts
of whatever civilization existed. The shepherd, like all men who lead
solitary lives, was either a very good or a very bad man. Dr. Ullathorne
speaks of some of them in the highest terms of praise. Stock-men fared
as did the shepherds, but had a somewhat freer life--though by no means
less dangerous--and were said to be "the most vicious of all the
assigned servants."

As a class the convicts who were assigned were neither better nor worse
than might have been expected. In many cases assignment was the stepping
stone to thorough reform; in other cases it was a steep road downwards,
leading to the very lowest depth of degradation. Sir. George Arthur,
Governor of Van Diemen's Land, likened the convict to a slave, and
described him "as deprived of liberty, exposed to all the caprice of the
family to whose service he may happen to be assigned, and subject to the
most summary laws. His condition in no respect differs from that of the
slave, except that his master cannot apply corporal punishment by his
own hands, or those of his overseer, and has a property in him only for
a limited period. Idleness and insolence of expression or of looks,
anything betraying the insurgent spirit, subject him to the chain-gang
or the triangle, or hard labour on the roads."

Governor Bourke designated as a slave code the law which enabled a
magistrate, invariably himself a master of convicts, to inflict 50
lashes on a convict for "drunkenness, disobedience of orders, neglect to
work, absconding, abusive language to his master or overseer, or any
other disorderly or dishonest conduct." For the offences quoted the
convict could likewise be punished by imprisonment, solitary
confinement, and labour in irons on the roads.

The lash was kept going with great regularity upon the solid soil of the
assigned servant backs, as witness the following statistics picked out
at random from many:--In 1835 the number of summary convictions in New
South Wales amounted to 22,000, although the number of convicts in the
colony did not then exceed 28,000. In one month in 1833, no less
than 247 convicts were flogged and nine thousand seven hundred and
eighty-four lashes inflicted, which would give for the year 2,964
floggings, and above 108,000 lashes inflicted, chiefly for insolence,
insubordination, and neglect of work. In Van Diemen's Land, where the
law was even more severe, in 1834 there were 15,000 convicts; the
summary convictions amounted to 15,000, and the number of lashes
inflicted to 50,000. Concerning flogging, Rev. Dr. Ullathorne said--"The
effect of the scourge is exceedingly bad on the men; the man after that
becomes altogether worthless, and there is a feeling of degradation
about him that, even among the prisoners themselves, he has lost cast;
and generally in such cases the degradation will be felt much more by a
better man than it would by a worse man; the punishment is much more
severe upon the better convict than upon the worse; and, again, it is
far more severe upon the first infliction than it is afterwards; for
after the first infliction the feeling of degradation begins to be lost,
a man's pride gets up, and he hardens himself to the infliction, whilst
he makes his boast among his comrades as to the amount of infliction he
can endure; and, I believe, though you will find many men amongst them
that have not been flogged, you will be astonished at the number that
have been flogged once, and have been flogged twice. When a man goes
through a scourging once, he generally goes through several scourgings.
I recollect hearing of a man who had been but three years in the colony,
and who had received 1600 lashes."

It was true that if a convict were ill-treated he could complain of his
master, and if he substantiated his charge, the master was deprived of
his services; but in order to do this, the convict must go before a
bench, first obtaining a pass from his master, and this bench might be
100 miles distant, and was composed of magistrates, themselves owners of
convict labour; so it may be imagined that legal redress was rarely
sought for, and still more rarely obtained by the slave servant against
the master, who himself perhaps had been a convict in the earlier days.

How could it be expected, under circumstances such as these, that the
moral tone of the assigned servants should be highly refined? The wonder
is that it was not worse than it really was, and in all conscience it
was bad enough. Some horrible stories have been told concerning
them--stories which the writer would not dare to repeat, even if he had
the inclination.

Occasionally instances occurred of remarkable devotion on the part of
convicts to their masters, but in every case those masters were humane,
fair-dealing men. At the time this is being written there is living in
the Bathurst district a man who crossed the mountains as an assigned
servant in 1822. His master treated him kindly from the first, and
received in return most faithful service; and when that master died, no
mourner more sincere followed his remains to the grave than this man
was. Sixty-six years have passed since he first crossed the mountains,
and the old man may still be seen in his place upon the estate--spending
his last days in ease and contentment with the son of the master whom he
so faithfully served.

Another illustration of the good fortune which sometimes attended the
better class of masters in the assignment of servants is related by
Judge Therry:--"The case of good fortune was that of a settler whose
name for the nonce shall be Fox. To him was assigned a servant named
Edward Cane, transported from Ireland for an agrarian disturbance. He
had been a snug farmer at home, and abroad became invaluable as a
superintendent of his master's estate. From his skill in agriculture,
and his good temper in the management of men, Cane, after having served
his seven years' sentence in Fox's employment, became manager of his
whole property, receiving a liberal salary, which was paid, not in
money, but in cattle and horse stock. After twenty years of service he
thus became a wealthy man. He died in the same service into which he
first entered as an assigned servant. Shortly before his death his
master had born unto him a son. Cane was complimented by being appointed
godfather to the boy. The old man made a will bequeathing the whole of
his property, the accumulated earnings of twenty years and upwards of
arduous toil, to the lucky little bantling, who is now the leading
gentleman in his district. The stock bequeathed to him greatly increased
during his long minority, and on coming of age the fortunate grandson
found himself one of the most extensive stock-owners in New South

Sir Richard Bourke won the highest admiration from those whose hearts
were not beyond feeling, by his humane and prudent policy towards the
convicts generally. At the period of his arrival there were four
separate Acts of Council relating to summary process and punishment of
convicts, which Acts were full of errors and contradictions, leaving an
open door for the passing of illegal sentences. Bourke saw the necessity
for amendment of the existing law, and set to work in earnest to stop
the legalised injustice which it encouraged. He prepared a new Act,
which repealed the other four, and consolidated and simplified the law
so as to make it serve the wisest purpose--securing labour under
equitable conditions, and the progressive reformation of the convicts.
As previously stated, the Act prepared by him defined the law; abolished
magisterial parlour courts, and established petty sessions under public
observation; encouraged convicts to amend their ways, and restricted the
excessive and capricious use of the lash.

Such instances of kindness on the part of masters, however, were very
rare indeed; and they only serve to shew out more clearly by contrast
the general harshness and oppression in which the masters indulged
during the whole time the assignment system had life. It operated in all
its hideousness until between 1838 and 1840, when orders for its
discontinuance were received from the home authorities, the cessation of
transportation and the inpouring of free immigrants rendering a change
necessary. Under its operation New South Wales became one of the largest
slave plantations the world has ever seen, the form of slavery being
more degrading than that existing anywhere the wide world over in times
either ancient or modern. I have only lightly touched some of the worst
features of the system; they will not bear probing in public--the
rottenness and corruption that would be revealed would be too offensive
to look upon. "It would have been far more merciful," says one writer
who moved amongst the scenes which he described, "to have hanged all who
violated the laws of their country, than to have sent them out to New
South Wales, subject to the unmerciful treatment of human tigers, who
tortured or killed those within their power according to the caprice of
the moment. I saw many a fine man die in misery, inch by inch, from the
oppression he experienced--the most cruel of all deaths." For over fifty
years New South Wales was one vast charnel house!

The following extract from regulations issued by the Governor in 1829,
and to which document were attached the signatures "William Dumaresq,
James Busby, E. Deas Thompson," will serve to shew how the increasing
business was transacted:--

"As an aversion to honest industry and labour has been the chief cause
of most of the convicts incurring the penalties of the law, they shall
be employed at some species of labour of an uniform kind, which they
cannot evade, and by which they will have an opportunity of becoming
habituated to regular employment.

"With this view, all labour of a complex nature, the quantity of which
cannot be easily determined, is to be studiously avoided, and the
convicts are to be employed exclusively in agricultural operations, when
the public buildings or other works of the settlement do not absolutely
require their labour.

"In these operations the use of the hoe and spade shall be as much as
possible adopted; and where the number of men who can be employed in
agriculture is sufficient to raise food for the settlement with these
implements, the use of the plough shall be given up; and no working
cattle are to be employed in operations which can be effected by men and

"No Sugar or Tobacco or other article which might be used by the
Convicts as a luxury, and which might offer an inducement to plunder, is
to be cultivated at the penal Settlements. The principal articles to be
cultivated are Wheat and Maize, to such an extent as to allow of
exportation if necessary.

"A monthly medical inspection is to be made of the whole of the Convicts
on the Settlement by the medical officer in charge, who will make a
report to the Commandant of their general state of health.

"The Commandant is vested with the control of every department on the
Settlement; every person, whether free or bond, being subject to his

"All trafficking and trading between free and bond on the Settlement
shall be strictly prohibited and severely punished.

"The convicts under colonial sentence shall be steadily and constantly
employed at hard labour from sunrise to sunset, one hour being allowed
for breakfast and one hour for dinner during the winter six months, but
two hours will be allotted for dinner during the summer.

"The convicts shall be worked in field labour with the hoe and spade in
gangs, not fewer than fifteen, nor more than twenty. No task work shall
be allowed. There shall be an overseer attached to each gang, and to
every five gangs a constable, who shall assist the overseers in the
superintendence of the men.

"The constables and overseers are not to strike or push the convicts,
and no punishment is to be inflicted but by the express order of the

"As a reward of and encouragement to good conduct, the prisoners shall
be divided into two classes, to be called the first and second classes
respectively. No prisoner shall be admitted into the second class who
shall not have served on the settlement for two years, if a prisoner for
seven years; for four years, if for fourteen years; and for six years,
if for life. But convicts who have been respited from a capital
sentence, shall in no case be admitted into this class until, upon the
representation of the commandant, their sentences shall have been
mitigated by the Governor.

"The prisoners in the first class receive in addition to the ordinary
ration, one ounce of tobacco. They are to be employed on the lighter and
least laborious operations, and from this class exclusively are men to
be drawn for constables and overseers, clerks, or servants to the
officers, &c.

"No convict shall be employed as a clerk in the Commandant's office, or
have access to any of the records kept there.

"No prisoner transported for life, or for any heinous or atrocious
crime, shall be employed in any other way than as a common labourer.
Those prisoners of the first class selected as constables and overseers
are allowed the usual distinctive dress, and in addition to their
rations 2lbs. flour and 1oz. tobacco per week; but in no case shall any
convict in a penal Settlement be allowed to receive pecuniary reward.
Two years service as a constable or overseer shall be considered equal
to three years' servitude on the Settlement.

"The wife of a convict shall in no case be allowed to join her husband
until he shall have been placed in the first class, and the Commandant
shall have recommended him for this indulgence.

"The wives and children of convicts shall be allowed rations and slop
clothing from the public stores.

"The wives and children of convicts are not to be allowed to convey
money or property of any kind to the settlement, nor to possess any live
stock or poultry, and they are strictly to be prohibited from carrying
on any trade or traffic in the Settlement; but they will be furnished
with employment in spinning flax, making straw hats or bonnets, making
up slops, and such other work as they may be capable of performing, the
materials for which will be supplied from the Government store. They
will receive credit in the books of the Settlement, at the market or
factory prices, on such work being returned to the stores; and the
amount of their earnings shall be annually placed in the Saving Bank at
Sydney, to be received by them on their return from the Settlement, as a
means of support on their arrival.

"Married convicts whose families have been permitted to join them shall
be allowed to live in separate huts.

"If any money or property shall be found in the possession of a convict
or the family of a convict it shall be seized and forfeited to the
Benevolent Asylum.

"The labour of the convicts, excepting only those assigned to the
officers, shall be wholly and exclusively applied to the service of the
Settlement generally, and the indulgence of working on their own account
after the usual hours of public labour shall be strictly prohibited.

"No convict shall be allowed to wear any other clothing than that which
is issued to him by the Government, and the number of each convict shall
be painted on each article of dress, before and behind.

"A separate barrack is to be provided for female convicts; and if
employed in field labour they are to be kept separate from the men.

"A washing gang from among the female convicts shall be appointed, to
wash and mend the clothes and air the blankets and palliasses of the

"The convicts are not to be allowed to possess knives, or any sharp
instruments; the knives, forks and spoons are to be under the charge of
the Barrack Overseer, and he will be held responsible that they are duly
collected from each convict before he is allowed to quit his seat at the
mess table. This, however, is not to apply to those married convicts or
overseers who shall have been allowed to live in separate huts.

"The whole of the convicts will be mustered on Sunday morning, arranged
in their several gangs, and attended by their respective overseers and
constables, when they will be inspected by the Commandant. The wives and
families of the convicts will also be required to attend the Sunday
morning musters.

"The prisoners will be mustered daily by the Superintendent of Convicts,
at sunrise before they proceed to labour, when they return to meals, and
again when the work for the day is closed.

"No convict shall be allowed to receive or transmit any letter,
excepting through the Commandant, who is to exercise his discretion in
opening such letters, and perusing their contents."



A TICKET-OF-LEAVE was simply a permission to the individual to whom it
was granted to employ himself for his own benefit, and to acquire
property; on condition of residing within the district therein
specified, and of presenting himself and producing his ticket before the
magistrate at the periods prescribed by the regulations. The holder was
not allowed to move into another district without the express sanction
of the Governor entered on the face of the ticket; and the ticket was
liable to be resumed at any time at the pleasure of the Governor, in
which case the holder reverted to the situation of a prisoner of the
Crown in every respect.

As the ticket-of-leave system may be said to have found its fullest
exercise during Governor Bourke's administration, in 1835, the
regulations relating to their issue and holding at that time will serve
to shew how that system operated generally.

The first and indespensable qualification for a ticket was the
completion of a probationary term of servitude, viz.:--

Four years of a sentence for 7 years.

Six years of a sentence for 14 years.

Eight years of a sentence for life,

reckoned from the date of employment by Government, or of assignment to
private service. In addition to that probation one year was added for
every change of service of any male convict appearing to have been
occasioned by misconduct. One year was also added for every punishment
inflicted on a male convict by colonial sentence, except that to an
ironed-gang, or penal settlement, in which case the probation
recommended from the expiration of the sentence. Notwithstand this rule,
however, magistrates entertaining an application for a ticket-of-leave
were not precluded from recommending, at the instance of the master, a
remission of the additional probation required, either for change of
service or punishment, if they were of opinion that the subsequent good
conduct of the applicant had merited the remission.

No strict rules were laid down with regard to the granting of tickets to
female convicts, other than those laid down for the males under the
original regulation. Magistrates were, however, enjoined to make
particular inquiry concerning the eligibility from term of service and
good conduct of the applicant, but particularly the manner in which they
proposed to maintain themselves while holding the desired indulgence.

Applications for tickets had to be presented personally by the applicant
(on a form supplied for that purpose) to the Petty Sessions of the
district in which he was employed, on such day or days in every month as
the Justices might appoint. One magistrate had power to deal with
applications in conformity with the regulations; but no application
could be received which was not on the prescribed form and signed by the
master or overseer. Blank forms were supplied to the masters, upon
demand, and they were required to be constantly provided with forms for
the use of their convict servants. Should the master consider the
applicant for a ticket undeserving the indulgence, he was required to
state his opinion in writing to the bench, with the grounds of it, and
if he declined to do this the magistrates did not entertain the
objection. The application could be made three months before the term of
probation had expired, and the master was bound to furnish the applicant
with a printed form of application and a pass to the court of Petty
Sessions, and further to answer all questions of the court concerning
the conduct and claims of the applicant, attending personally for such
purpose if required.

If any convict was proved to have knowingly presented an application for
a ticket before the time prescribed, or made any false entry of service,
either with respect to dates or omitting to enter the several services
in which he had been employed, the bench immediately reported the case
through the Principal Superintendent of Convicts, and he was punished by
one year or more of additional servitude.

The court entertaining the application entered on the form all such
particulars relating to the conduct of the applicant, as could be
obtained from his present or former masters, and transmitted the
document with others prepared during the month to the Superintendent of
Convicts, for the Governor's information, the applications being first
copied into a book for that purpose by the clerk, a column being left to
enter the decision when obtained. The principal superintendent, on
receipt of the application, examined the records of his office for any
facts necessary to complete the evidence in favour of or against the
claim, and then forwarded the documents, with his report, to be
submitted to the Governor. If the application was rejected, additional
probation being required, the court of Petty Sessions concerned was
immediately apprised of the fact, and through the magistrates the master
was informed, and a notice posted inside and outside the court-house.

Any convict whose ticket-of-leave had been cancelled by the Governor,
for misconduct, might apply for its restoration, through the master to
whom he had been assigned, who forwarded his reasons to the magistrates,
and they and the Superintendent reported thereon and sent the documents
on to the Governor. Unless in this manner no application could be made
for the restoration of a ticket until the convict had served a probation
of four years from the date of his ticket being cancelled, when the
original regulation could be carried out.

Male convicts holding tickets for the district of Sydney and residing
within the town were mustered in the parishes in which they resided,
under the inspection of a police-magistrate, on the first day of every
month (or the second if the first fell on Sunday), at such place and
hour as the magistrate might appoint; and every ticket holder in the
town of Sydney leaving his residence for another in the same parish was
compelled to notify the fact in writing to the wardsman within
twenty-four hours of quitting, and also give a similar notice to the
wardsman of the parish in which he had taken up his residence--neglect
of this regulation entailing immediate cancellation of the ticket. Those
living without the town, but in the district for which Sydney was the
place of Petty Sessions, were mustered quarterly. Holders of tickets in
the country districts were also mustered quarterly at the court house,
before a police-magistrate if there were one in that district, or
otherwise the Clerk of Petty Sessions under the inspection of a justice
of the peace. Immediately after each muster the magistrates, under whose
superintendence it was held, or the clerk of the bench, had to report
the names of all absentees to the Principal Superintendent of Convicts
for the Governor's information.

Magistrates superintending the muster had liberty to interrogate the
ticket-holder respecting his means of subsistence and manner of life,
and if not satisfied that he was getting an honest living, he made a
special report of the case. If a ticket-holder failed to attend the
musters and did not show good cause for non-attendance he was deprived
of his ticket; also if he were found at any time beyond the limits of
the district for which the ticket had been granted, and without a pass
or other authority.

Women holding tickets-of-leave were not required to muster in person,
but had to forward a report to the magistrate superintending the muster
stating that they held tickets and where they resided. Any omission in
the delivery of these reports, or any false statement, rendered the
ticket liable to cancellation. Magistrates had power to dispense with
these reports, however, in the case of married women whose characters
and habits justified a relaxation of this rule.

Holders of tickets shewing reasonable cause could obtain from the
nearest justice of the peace a pass for absenting themselves from the
district for a period of not more than 14 days; but a pass for a longer
time had to be granted by the Principal Superintendent of Convicts.
Application had also to be made to the Principal Superintendent for the
transfer of a ticket from one district to another.

On 19th April, 1849, the last ticket-of-leave regulations were
published. They read as follows:--

"All tickets-of-leave are issued for particular districts, named in the
ticket-of-leave; or passports, to enable the holder to remain in the
service of masters beyond the boundaries of location.

"Every ticket-of-leave holder is required, within 14 days after his
arrival in his district, to report, either personally or in writing, to
the Clerk of Petty Sessions of his district, his name and ship,
residence, the name of his master or employer, his trade or calling, or
his mode of maintaining himself; and also to do so between the 1st and
14th January in every year. Any ticket-of-leave holder failing to comply
with this order will be reported to the Principal Superintendent of
Convicts with a view to having his indulgence cancelled.

"If he is on passport he is to make his report to the Commissioner of
Crown Lands of the district in which he is employed, instead of the

"He is required to report every change of service or residence in the
district within 14 days of its taking place; and if beyond the
boundaries, such change of service can only be made with the authority
of the Commissioner first obtained for that purpose.

"Immediately after each muster, the magistrate under whose
superintendence it is made will report the names of all absentees to the
Principal Superintendent of Convicts, for the Governor's information,
and with a view to the cancellation of the prisoner's ticket.

"The district in which a ticket-of-leave is considered to have effect is
the police district named in such ticket, according to the boundaries
fixed by the Government.

"The bench of magistrates or the police magistrate of the district,
will, whenever they think it necessary interrogate the holder of a
ticket-of-leave, respecting his means of subsistence and manner of life,
and if he shall not be satisfied that the ticket-of-leave holder
subsists honestly, he will render a special report of the case to the
Principal Superintendent of Convicts for the Governor's information.

"No ticket-of-leave holder is to be out of his district without a pass,
except in the execution of his duty as a constable.

"Passes to leave the district are to be given only by the the police
magistrate, or by two magistrates of the district acting in Petty
Sessions, and every such pass must be countersigned by the clerk of the

"Such passes can only be granted for periods not exceeding fourteen
days, and no passes can be renewed, nor any new pass granted to the same
person until after the expiration of two months from the date of the
former one.

"Forms of the passes are obtainable at the police office, upon payment
of 2/6 fee.

"Passes for a longer period than 14 days can only be granted by the
Principal Superintendent of Convicts, on the application of the
ticket-of-leave holder, or his master, through the bench of magistrates
in his district.

"The Principal Superintendent of Convicts is the only person who can
grant permission to any holder of a ticket-of-leave to change his
district; and all applications to him for that purpose, or for
permission to reside beyond the boundaries on passports, must be made
through the bench of magistrates of the district in which the
ticket-of-leave holder resides, accompanied by a fee of 2/6, and the
bench is required to forward such applications, with their remarks
thereon, to the Principal Superintendent of Convicts.

"The breach of any of these regulations will subject a ticket-of-leave
holder to be deprived of his indulgence, and to be returned to the
service of the Government.

"No ticket-of-leave holder for a country district is allowed to be in
Sydney without a pass; and any such person found there without authority
will have his ticket cancelled, and be immediately removed to Cockatoo

"A ticket-of-leave holder who forfeits his indulgence, from a breach of
the regulations, or any other cause, returns to the position of an
ordinary prisoner of the Crown, and forfeits all the privileges he
possessed while holding his ticket-of-leave, and can be called upon to
serve a probation of three years before his indulgence is restored to

"The holder of a ticket is liable to be punished summarily by
magistrates in petty sessions for the following offences, namely,
misdemeanours, pilfering, simple larcenies under £5.
Punishment--sentence to irons for six or twelve months. Drunkenness,
absconding from district, or when beyond the boundaries from the service
for which he holds his passport, or other disorderly or dishonest
conduct--the forfeiture of his ticket. In addition to this, as an
ordinary prisoner of the Crown, he may be punished for neglect of work,
disobedience of orders, or absconding, by 50 lashes, two months to the
treadmill, or imprisonment with hard labour, or 14 days' solitary

"That any convict absconding from district, or the service of his
employer, during the subsistence of his sentence of transportation,
shall be liable to be tried in a summary way by the tribunal authorised
to take cognizance of such offences, although at the date of his
apprehension his original and additional sentences may have expired by
effluxion of time, and he will be liable to be punished in the same way
as if the period of his original term had not expired.

"All sentences to irons, to the roads, to imprisonment or the treadmill,
are cumulative on a prisoner's original sentence, and have to be served
in addition to such original term: for example, if a prisoner's sentence
is 14 years, and he receives a sentence of 6 months in irons, he will
not be free until he has served 14 years and six months from the date of
original conviction.

"A ticket-of-leave holder is also subject to the provisions of the
Masters' and Servants' Act, by which he may be punished by imprisonment,
or forfeiture of wages, for absence from his employer's service, for
disobedience, or neglect of orders, or other misconduct in service. Or
if he obtains money in advance from an employer and fails to enter his
service, or fails to perform his agreement in any way; for all these
offences he is liable to punishment under the above Act, irrespective of
any other punishment, as a prisoner, where the offence is of a criminal
nature. But under the same Act a ticket-of-leave holder can also compel
his employer to perform his part of the contract, in all respects as
effectually as if he (the prisoner) were a free man.

"Any ticket-of-leave holder who has held his indulgence with good
conduct for three years, certified to by three magistrates, or persons
of respectability known to the Government, may apply by petition to the
Governor, through the Principal Superintendent of Convicts, for a
conditional pardon; this indulgence enables the holder to exercise all
the rights of a free subject, and to proceed to any part of the world,
save Great Britain and Ireland, or if tried out of the United Kingdom,
excepting also the place where he was convicted.

"By Act of Parliament it is provided that a convict holding a
ticket-of-leave is allowed to acquire and hold personal property, and to
maintain an action or suit for the recovery of any personal property, or
for any debt due to him, or for any damage or injury sustained by him;
but if he should at any time forfeit his ticket-of-leave, from
misconduct, the property acquired by him will become absolutely vested
in Her Majesty, and shall be disposed of at the discretion of the
Governor of the colony.

"Addenda.--Every ticket-of-leave holder is required to hold his
indulgence for three consecutive years with good conduct, and to pay
into the hands of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts the sum of
£15, by yearly instalments of £5 each (on account of the expense of his
passage to the colony) before a conditional pardon can be issued to him.

"Any ticket-of-leave holder who has held his ticket for two years with
good conduct (which must be certified by three magistrates or persons of
respectability known to the Government), and who has paid the sum of £10
on account of his passage money, may apply by petition to the Governor
through the principal Superintendent of Convicts for a conditional
pardon, and will be recommended home for that indulgence; but his pardon
will not be issued until he has completed three years from the date of
his ticket, and has paid into the hands of the Principal Superintendent
of Convicts the remaining £5 due for his passage. It being, however,
understood that any offence committed by a ticket holder after he has
been recommended to the Secretary of State for a pardon, will render him
liable to have that indulgence withheld (on its arrival) for such a time
as His Excellency the Governor may see fit."

Form of Application for Ticket.

"Statement of the service of John------ by Ship---------

"Applicant for a Ticket of Leave for the District of-------

Applicant's Standing No........| 1 With E---F---, from ... to ...

Date of Arrival.....................| 2 With F--- A---, from ... to ...

Place of Conviction...............| 3 With J--- K---, from ... to ...

Time..................................| 4 With L--- M---, from ... to ...

Original Sentence.................| 5 With N--- 0---, from ... to ...

Trade or Calling...................|

"Additional claims for particular services performed, viz:--

"I certify that............., of Ship............., has been

in my service from........... to..........., and that

his conduct during that period has been......................."

"To the Bench of Magistrates at......................."


"Permit A....... B......., of ship C...... holding a ticket-of-leave

No..... for the district of D ...... (or a ticket of exemption, or

my assigned servant, as the case may be) whose description

and personal signature are on the other side, to pass from

hence to E...... for the purpose of (here errand described), and

to return direct to this place. This pass to be in force for

...........days and no longer.

"Given at........... of.............1831.

F.G.(Signature of Magistrate."

"To all whom it may concern."

The description of the bearer was endorsed on the back of the pass,
giving name, ship, year of arrival, native place, trade or calling, age,
height, complexion, hair, eyes, and general remarks, and bearing the
convicts signature.

The system of granting indulgences to the convicts found its highest
exercise during Governor Macquarie's administration. As I have already
shewn in "The Story of the Ten Governors," Macquarie was a vain man, and
ambitious as he was vain. He discountenanced immigration, contending
that the colony was intended for convicts, and by granting indulgences
to the good conduct prisoners he sought to promote reformation and
preserve something like good order. But his mistaken zeal carried him
too far, and in large numbers of cases crime was increased instead of
lessened, and evil habits were encouraged rather than corrected by undue
leniency. That which is acquired very easily is frequently estimated
lightly, and the liberality with which he dispensed tickets-of-leave,
conditional pardons, free pardons, and certificates of freedom to all
and sundry of the convicts who cared to take the trouble to apply (and
it may be taken for granted that very few hesitated to make the request
under such circumstances) wrought more evil than good frequently. Every
convict who had been fortunate enough to escape a second conviction came
to look upon the granting of one or other of the indulgences named as a
duty which the Governor owed to him individually, and hence applications
poured in by the hundred, until at last the Governor himself grew weary
of dispensing the favours.

A ticket-of-leave, as already stated, enabled the holder to go anywhere
he chose within a certain district, and to employ himself in whatever
way he thought fit to his own advantage. Those persons who had been
transported for life were granted conditional pardons if they maintained
a good character for ten years; but they could not leave the colony. If
they continued of good character for an additional five years they were
entitled to apply for an absolute pardon. Those whose sentences were
determined by years--the seven or fourteen years' men--were allowed to
apply for conditional pardons when they had served three-fourths of
their time. At this time--1818 and 1820--an absolute pardon, when
granted, was registered in the Governor's secretary's office, on payment
of a fee of 5/- to the principal clerk. It contained a declaration under
the hand of the Governor that the unexpired term of transportation was
absolutely remitted to the holder, and it was sealed with the seal of
the territory. A conditional pardon contained a declaration that the
sentence of the holder had been conditionally remitted, the condition
being that he should reside within the limits of the colony during the
full term of his original sentence, and the breach of this condition
exposed the holder to servitude for the remainder of the term of his
original sentence. A ticket-of-leave simply contained a declaration of
the Governor's pleasure to dispense with the attendance at Government
work of the convict holding it, and permission to employ himself in any
lawful occupation within a given district for his own advantage. But its
continuance depended upon the holder's good behaviour, and the
Governor's pleasure. Certificates of freedom attested that the party
holding it had served the full term of his sentence and had again become
entitled to all the rights of a free subject.

But they were not hard and fast rules upon which Macquarie acted, albeit
they were of his own making. He could suspend and set aside as well as
create, and he was not slow to do either or both when he saw that the
observance of those regulations was likely to interfere with the
carrying out of his "bricks and mortar" hobby. Hence he kept many
convicts at hard labour making a road or erecting a public building long
after they should have had their liberty; and as a result discontent and
insubordination arose among the men. But they could gain nothing by
opposition and were compelled to suffer the deprivation as best they
could. On three occasions within four years Macquarie suspended the
general convict regulations framed by himself in order that large public
work which he had planned should be carried out, the best men being kept
at works longer than their less skilful and industrious companions,
because their services were more valuable.

During Macquarie's rule he granted no less than two thousand five
hundred tickets-of-leave, one thousand five hundred conditional pardons,
and four hundred free pardons; although he was compelled at one time in
self-defence to restrict the issue of the indulgences within very narrow
limits. Writing on this subject, Bennett, after mentioning that the
Governor during the first year or two of his rule received and granted
applications for these indulgences almost daily, says;--"Constant
indulgence, however, soon blunted the pleasure of exercising his
vice-regal functions; and what had at first been a source of
gratification, at length became an almost intolerable nuisance.
Macquarie himself was not only prevented by the constant appeals of
prisoners from attending to other business, but the settlers were placed
at great inconvenience by the frequently recurring absence of their
assigned men in journeys to Sydney to present their petitions and
applications for his favours. The days on which these requests could be
received from prisoners were after a short time limited to once a month,
but even this soon became so tiresome and inconvenient, that in 1813
regulations were issued containing new and stringent requirements, and
restricting all such applications to one day in the year, viz., the
first Monday in December. This was going from one extreme to the other,
and occasioned very serious inconvenience by bringing large numbers of
prisoners to Sydney from all parts of the colony at the same time; and
was particularly annoying to the farmers, as it often took almost all
their men away just at the commencement of the harvest. The practice,
nevertheless, was persisted in for several years, and was the occasion
of some very remarkable and disorderly scenes taking place in Sydney,
and even at Government House itself. An eye-witness gives the following
account of what he saw there in 1819:--'In the year 1813 a regulation
took place respecting the application of convicts that they should
thenceforth only be made one day in the year, viz., the first Monday in
each succeeding month of December. I was once present at Government
House on the day on which the petitions were presented. The crowd upon
the occasion was very great, and observing their impatience the Governor
addressed them and informed them that he would grant no tickets-of-leave
to those who had not been three years in the country, nor any other
indulgence except in terms of his proclamation of the year 1813. This
address produced no effect; and there was great difficulty in preserving
order in the presentation of the petitions that were delivered to the
Governor; who, on perusing the statements and looking at the
certificates, either wrote in pencil on the margin the initial letters
of the indulgence that was to be given, or rejected the petitions
altogether. The petitions presented on this occasion exceeded 700 in
number. They were collected by the major of brigade and two clerks, who,
with the superintendent of convicts, were the only other persons

Vain men are generally erratic, and Governor Macquarie formed no
exception to the rule. He was most liberal to prisoners whose crimes had
been committed across the sea, no matter how black those crimes had
been, but he was severe, sometimes to extremes, in dealing with men who
continued criminal in the new country, and who were convicted of
offences on this side the water. The doubly convicted prisoners were
first flogged and then further punished by being sent to the Coal River,
the name then given to the Hunter, on account of the coal mines at its
entrance, where they were kept at labour in chains under very stringent
rule, in the mines hewing coal, or in the bush burning lime or wood
cutting, the rations served out to them being of inferior quality.

Every Governor in his turn dealt out these indulgences with more or less
liberality, and in the early days printed pieces of rough parchment
bearing the vice-regal signature and the colony's seal were far more
numerous than bank notes, or even sheets of ordinary writing paper. What
has become of them all? Have the descendants of the holders preserved
them as heir-looms; or, viewing them as loathsome reminders of the
chains which bound their fathers and mothers--perhaps both--have they
cast them in the fire, and put from them all memory of the act? If this
last has been the case, who so fond of ghouls as to rake the ashes? Let
the dead past lie still, so far as individuals are concerned. Many of
the men and women of to-day, whose parents or grand-parents held these
indulgences during portions of their life are better citizens than some
of the descendents of the men who granted them. He who would cast up to
the face of another a father's shame is something infinitely worse than
a fool, and should be scorned and spurned by every honest, upright man.
I am dealing with the system simply--not for the sake of satisfying
morbid taste or gluttonous curiosity, but in order that the Australian
of to-day may see from what horrors he has escaped, and thank God that
this fair land has been freed from a thraldom worse than that which ever
cursed a heathen people.

There may be something morbid in the taste (who can tell?) of some of
those who have lived through portion of the evil time, and who still
retain the "parchment of freedom" that relieved them from the terrors of
the lash and the chain. I know of one ancient and respectable dame in
the city of Bathurst who has hidden away amongst her little collection
of "valuables" a diminutive tin box, in which there lies a small,
smoke-coloured piece of parchment, almost worn through at the creases,
but which is more precious to her than many brand-new bank notes, and
with which she would not part for all that you could offer her. No
unkindly eye has ever looked upon that parchment since the day it was
first folded to be preserved, for it was her "old man's" passport to
freedom in the days when freedom was counted the greatest blessing under
heaven--a passport which protected him until he crossed the border of
this land of slaves into, let us hope, the pure bliss of that better
land, where neither knout, nor irons, nor shame, nor tears, are known.



A CONDITIONAL pardon, when approved by Her Majesty through the Secretary
of State, but not before, restored the rights of freedom from the date
of the instrument within the colony; but bestowed no power of leaving
the colony, and no right whatever beyond its limits. When once confirmed
according to law it could not be revoked, and the holder was equally
empowered to pursue his lawful occupation in any part of the country, as
if he had never been convicted.

The following are copies of two conditional pardons which came into my
possession, the one nearly fifty years and the other forty years after
the Governor's signature and the seal of the Territory had been affixed
thereto. The words are printed on a sheet of parchment, about 15in. x
12in., and are surmounted by a garish looking British coat of arms. The
first reads thus--words printed in italics having been written, the
other portion being printed in large type:--

WHEREAS his Late Most Excellent Majesty King George the Third, by a
Commission under the Great Seal of Great Britain, bearing Date the Eight
Day of November, in the Thirty-first year of His Majesty's reign, was
graciously pleased to give and grant full power and authority to the
Governor (or in case of his Death or Absence, the Lieutenant-Governor)
for the time being of His Majesty's Territory of the Eastern Coast of
New South Wales and the Islands thereunto adjacent, by an Instrument or
Instruments in Writing, under the Seal of the Government of the said
Territory, or as He or They respectively shall think fit or convenient
for His Majesty's Service to Remit, either Absolutely or Conditionally,
the whole or any part of the Term or Time for which persons convicted of
Felony, Misdemeanour, or other Offences amenable to the Laws of Great
Britain, should have been, or should thereafter be respectively Conveyed
or Transported to New South Wales, or the Islands thereunto adjacent.

By Virtue of such Power and authority so vested as aforesaid, I Sir
George Gipps, Knight, Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of Her
Majesty's Territory of New South Wales and its Dependencies, and
Vice-Admiral of the same, taking into consideration the good conduct of
Michael C......y, who arrived in this colony in the ship Medina,
Brown Master, in the year One Thousand Eight Hundred and
Twenty-three, under sentence of Transportation for Life, and whose
description is on the back thereof, Do hereby Remit the Remainder of the
Term or Time which is yet to come and unexpired of the Original Sentence
or Order of Transportation passed on the aforesaid Michael C......y,
at the Spring Assizes Limerick County, on the ..... day of, One Thousand
Eight Hundred and Twenty-three.

Provided Always, and on condition, that the said Michael C.....y,
continue to reside within the limits of this Government for and during
the space of his Original Sentence or Order of
Transportation:--Otherwise the said Michael C.....y, shall be subject
to all the Pains and Penalties of Re-appearing in Great Britain and
Ireland, for and during the term of his Original Sentence or Order of
Transportation or, as if this Remission had never been granted.

Given under my hand and Seal of the Territory at Government House,
Sydney, in New South Wales, this first Day of November, in the
Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-eight.

George Gipps.

By His Excellency's Command--Deas Thompson.


I certify that Her Majesty's Gracious approbation and Allowance of the
Above Conditional Pardon, granted to Michael C.....y, has been
signified to me by the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the
Colonies in his Despatch No. 101, dated 26th July, 1839.

Given under my Hand at Government House, Sydney, this Seventeenth Day
of December, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-nine.


Entered upon Record, at Page 149 and 150 No. 7 Register, this First
Day of January, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty.

Deas Thompson. George Gipps.

On the back of this Document was the following Description:"--

Name--Micheal C......y.




Native Place--Limerick.

Trade or Calling--Laborer.



Year of Birth--1789

Height--Five Feet Eleven Inches.


Hair--Dark, Turning to Grey.


The progress of National education in those days was seen even in the
wording of judicial documents. The one given above was drawn in 1839;
but this form was subsequently abandoned, and the Governor following
Gipps had the satisfaction of attaching his autograph to a better drawn


Conditional Pardon.

By His Excellency Sir Charles Agustus FitzRoy, Knight Companion of the
Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief
in and over Her Majesty's Territory of New South Wales and its
Dependencies, and Vice-Admiral of the same, &c., &c., &c.

WHEREAS, by an Act of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and
Ireland, passed in the Sixth Year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen
Victoria, entituled, "An Act to Amend the Law affecting Transported
Convicts, with respect to Pardons and Tickets-of-Leave," it was,
amongst other things enacted, that, after the taking effect of the said
recited Act, in any place to which Felons or Offenders had been or might
be transported by Law, the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor should, from
time to time by an Instrument in Writing, under his Hand, recommend such
Felons or other Offenders as he should think fit to be recommended to
Her Majesty, for an Absolute or Conditional Pardon; and in case Her
Majesty, through one of Her Principal Secretaries of State, signify Her
approval of any such recommendation, it should be lawful for the
Governor or Lieutenant-Governor to grant an Absolute or Conditional
Pardon, pursuant to such instructions as should be sent to him by the
Secretary of State, by an Instrument in Writing, under the seal of his
Government, which should be deemed from the Day of the Date thereof, to
have, within such Place or Places as should be specified in such Pardon,
but not elsewhere, the same effect in the Law, to all intents and
purposes, as if a General, Absolute, or Conditional Pardon, had passed
on that Day, under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom: And Whereas the
said recited Act has taken effect in the said Colony of New South Wales:
And Whereas Richard T......r, whose description is hereunto annexed
having been indicted and convicted at Lincoln Assizes on the
fourteenth Day of March, One thousand eight hundred and
twenty-nine, of the crime of Highway Robbery, was, in pursuance of
the said conviction, sentenced to Transportation, and was accordingly
transported to the said Colony for the period of his natural life:
And Whereas, in consideration of the good conduct of the said Richard
T......r, since his arrival in the Colony, I, Sir Charles Augustus
FitzRoy, as such Governor of New South Wales, recommend the said Richard
T......r, to Her Majesty for a Pardon, to take effect in all parts of
the world, except the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland: And
Whereas Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to signify Her approval
of such recommendation, through Her Principal Secretary of State for the
Colonies: Now Know Ye, that I, Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, in
pursuance of the Power and Authority so in me vested by the said recited
Act, and of Her Majesty's gracious approval so signified, and of the
instructions of the said Secretary of State in this behalf, do hereby
grant unto the said Richard T......r, a Pardon for the Offence in
respect of which Sentence of Transportation was passed as aforesaid,
which shall take effect in all parts of the world, except the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland: Provided Always, and it is hereby
expressly declared to be a Condition of this Pardon, that if the said
Richard T......r, shall at any time during the continuance of the
term of his said Sentence, go to, or be in, any part of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, then this Pardon shall thenceforth
be and become wholly void, as by Her Majesty's commands expressly
limited and directed: And all Her Majesty's Officers and Ministers of
Justice, and all other, Her Majesty's Subjects, are hereby required to
take notice accordingly.

In Testimony Whereof, I have caused these Letters to be made Patent, and
to be sealed with the Seal of the said Territory.

Given under my Hand at Government House, Sydney, this twentieth day
of September, in the Thirteenth year of the Reign of Her Majesty,
and in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and

Charles A. FitzRoy.


Entered upon Record at pages 465 and 466 Registered No. 38 this first
day of October One Thousand Eight Hundred and forty-nine.

In the case of the first-named Convict, Michael C......y, a higher
Authority than Her Majesty the Queen or Sir George Gipps had authorised
his departure from New South Wales, and when the Conditional pardon
reached Bathurst he had gone. He died at Kelso, where he had been
serving as lock-up Keeper with ease to himself and satisfaction to his
superior officers for some time prior to his decease, and the
conditional pardon could not follow him. The second convict named, for
some reason or other, best known to the authorities, or the man's
employer, never saw the document, and lived in servitude for some years
after it was in existence, not knowing that his application for a
conditional pardon had been granted. He could neither read nor write,
and his master valued his services too highly to risk the loss of them
by telling his slave that he was practically free. He died as he had
lived, in ignorance of a fact which would have made glad his heart.



THE women convicts gave the authorities more trouble than did the male
convicts, for from first to last there were great difficulties
surrounding their control and disposal. In regard to numbers the
proportion of females to males was as one to four, and, strange though
it may seem, the greatest trouble could be traced to the smallness of
their numbers. Their sex proved at once their strength and their
weakness. The settlers sought them as house servants; the
ticket-of-leave holders and other prisoners sought them as wives; and
the knowledge that they were so eagerly sought after, added to the
knowledge that they could not be punished like the male prisoners,
rendered many of them saucy, independent, and reckless. The majority of
them as servants proved a curse to the households in which they were
engaged, especially in those homes where there were children, and simply
help-meets in vicious work to the men who had chosen them for partners.
Yet not a few of them, under favorable conditions, proved valuable
domestics, faithful wives, and good mothers--bright contrasts to the
many who like "raging waves of the sea" foamed out their own shame.

The proceedings at the reception and distribution of female convicts
upon their arrival differed somewhat from those attendant upon the
arrival of male convicts, and which have already been described. After
being mustered on board the ship they were allowed to land in their own
dresses, and not in those provided by the Government--a concession much
appreciated by the majority of them, although it is doubtful whether the
feelings of self-respect which it was thought would be encouraged by
such a course were at all promoted. Those who had husbands in the colony
were allowed to join them, provided the husbands were in a position to
support them and gave evidence of a desire to reform. The remainder were
either assigned to private service or sent to the Factory at
Parramatta--which was supposed to serve as a house of correction for the
incorrigible and as a sort of refuge for the sick or those who had young
children. Those to whom women were assigned as servants had to sign an
agreement, each binding himself to retain the woman in his service for
three years, providing her with good and sufficient food, clothing and
lodging; and in no case to allow her beyond his control, unless with the
approbation of a magistrate or in case of misconduct legally proved. The
penalty for breach of this agreement was £20, but there is no record of
that penalty ever having been enforced, although the agreement was
openly broken in hundreds of cases, especially in the interior of the

The assigned servants who misconducted themselves were ordered to the
Factory, where they were kept employed in spinning and weaving a very
coarse grey woollen cloth for the settlers, and as clothing for the
prisoners. It was the practice for settlers to send in their own wool to
the factory, and receive a yard of cloth for every 5lbs. of wool sent
in, the authorities thus obtaining one pound of wool for the labour
expended in manufacturing the cloth, four pounds of the raw material
being sufficient to make a yard of cloth; and the wool thus taken in
payment was used to make clothes for the prisoners, this work also being
performed by the women in the Factory. The fleeces of the coarse-woolled
sheep were used for this purpose until 1819, when the introduction of
fine-woolled sheep checked the work, and the coarse wool required for
the manufacture of the prisoners' clothing had to be imported by the
Government. A full account of life within the Factory walls will be
given in a subsequent chapter; at present I purpose dealing only with
the assignment system as it applied to the female convicts.

Assignment was considered punishment for female, as well as for male
convicts. In respectable families the condition of convict women, as
concerned their food, clothing, and indulgences, was much the same as
ordinary free servant-women in the old country. Their general conduct
was bad. They were all of them, with very few exceptions, drunken and
abandoned prostitutes; and even were any of them inclined to be
well-conducted the disproportion of sexes in the colony was so great
that they were exposed to irresistible temptations. For instance, in a
private family in the interior a convict woman, perhaps the only one in
the service, or even in the neighbourhood, was surrounded by a number of
depraved characters, to whom she became an object of constant pursuit
and solicitation, and she was generally obliged to select one man as a
paramour, to defend her against the importunities of the rest. The women
seldom remained in one place long, however. They generally committed
some offence for which they were returned to Government, or became
pregnant and had to be sent to the Female Factory to be confined, at the
Government expense, of course. At the expiration of their term in the
Factory they would be re-assigned, and go through the same course.

"It can be easily imagined," the Commissioners reported to the House of
Commons, "what a pernicious effect must be produced upon the character
of the rising generation of the Australian Colonies in consequence of
the children of the settlers being, too frequently, in their tenderest
years under the charge of such persons. Many respectable settlers are,
however, unwilling to receive convict women as assigned servants, when
they can possibly dispense with the service of females; and in many
instances convict men-servants are preferred for those domestic
operations which are performed in this country (England) by women only.
A considerable portion, therefore, of the female convicts are retained
in the service of the lower description of settlers, by whom, it is
notorious that they are not uncommonly employed as public prostitutes."

Rev. Dr. Ullathorne declared before the Committee that the misconduct of
their assigned servants were as common a topic of conversation with the
ladies in Australia as the weather in England. He also said that
generally speaking, very soon after their arrival at their assigned
place they began to be negligent, and from negligence they turned to
pilfering, and from pilfering generally followed drunkenness, and from
drunkenness generally debauchery; and it was very rare indeed that a
woman remained above a few months in service before she was sent back to
the Factory for punishment. "I now speak," said he "of assignment in
towns. There are, I believe, cases in which they remain longer in the
service in the country, where perhaps only one or two are in service at
the same place, and where they have fewer temptations."

Female convicts were allowed to marry free men, but they remained under
the surveillance of the police, and were liable to be sent back to the
Factory in case of misconduct. Marriages between them and men who had
been convicts were encouraged, and the Government even permitted them to
marry when in service, provided the permission of the master were
obtained, and a security given by him to the Government that the
offspring of such union should not become chargeable to the State. Most
of the convicts who were permitted to marry obtained their wives from
the Factory; but such marriages rarely turned out well, for the woman
not infrequently became the common property of the convict servants on
the establishment, creating innumerable quarrels among the men, who
purchased her favours generally by petty larcenies upon their master.

Speaking of the behaviour of the female convict servants Mr. John
Russell says:--"They behave very badly indeed frequently. They do, as
well as the men, much mischief to the rising generation, being generally
most mischievous in attempting to seduce or contaminate the daughters of
the settlers. I have known them make use of the daughters as spies to
assist them with their paramours. I know a melancholy instance where
three girls, about 13 or 14, were left in the society of a convict
servant maid by their mother--in fact, the mother was more culpable than
any one else. These children were used as spies for her paramour and
were often witnesses of her intrigues...................I have heard
since that the three girls have been got with child by a connexion of
their own, which was just the result of being left by the mother to the
tuition of a convict servant-maid."

The same gentleman (who was at one time commandant of Port Arthur penal
establishment), further says:--"I think that the male convicts being in
families of free settlers did a great deal of mischief, particularly to
the rising generation, in corrupting them, both boys and girls. It is
natural for them (the children) to associate with the convict servants
about any houses, and I think they have been frequently very much
corrupted by them; and, with the free settlers, the effect has been to
make the lower order of free men just as bad as the convicts. Instances
of contamination came under my own particular knowledge. Three men were
hanged for a rape on a little girl, about five years old, the daughter
of one of the most respectable men in the colony. The men were the
servants of the family, and there were many aggravating circumstances
attending the case. I was on the jury. This child and her sister of
greater age, associated with the convicts, male and female; they were
very much in the society of a female convict there, and it came out on
the trial that this woman was privy to what had been going on among the
men with the two children; in fact, while one child was being ruined,
the other watched at the door and gave information if any one was
approaching. And on the trial that child (and she was a most beautiful
child) called every part of man and woman by the most beastly names,
which she had heard from the convicts. I am sorry to mention the case,
but they were the children of one of the most respectable settlers in
the colony--not in the town, but in the country. One of the girls was
aged five, and the other thirteen; and I believe nearly the whole of the
convict men were equally culpable with those convicted. And within a
week from about the time these men were tried a police magistrate sent
two children to me, under similar circumstances to be examined."

The same official says again:--"Ladies prefer the domestic service of
men to those women. They are very much in the habit, when corrected by
their mistresses, of making use of the most grossly indecent language,
because they know their mistresses cannot repeat such gross language in
evidence before a magistrate. This is the general state of the case, but
I must say that there are many women who turn out exceedingly well when
they fall into the hands of good mistresses; but there are masters who
bring ruin on the women. One man, for instance, I knew, (and I believe
he is not singular) who is in the habit of locking out his female
servants with his men at night in the outhouses, and letting them do as
they like."

A gentleman who was Superintendent of Convicts at the Government
establishment at Emu Plains, for three years, 1821-24, Mr. Murdock, and
who afterwards became a large landed proprietor, bore the following
testimony concerning the women:--"There was only another free man at Emu
Plains besides myself, and no free women belonging to the establishment.
The last year and a half I was there 25 women were sent up from the
Factory, to be employed in hoeing the corn, and in things of that
nature. I was requested by Sir Thomas Brisbane to go to Sydney to attend
at an investigation that took place relative to the women that he had
sent up to Emu Plains. It had been reported to the Secretary of State
for the Colonies that the women had been sent there for the purposes of
prostitution, and that they were there for no other purpose; and to
refute that statement I was called upon to go to Sydney. It was proved
at that investigation that everything had been done to prevent
prostitution, and that it had been by no means common among the women.

"The women were permitted to marry the convicts, and they all married
with the exception of two or three. I think the whole system of
punishment of females an utter abomination. I think, under the system,
to reform the unfortunate females themselves is impossible; I think they
contaminated all around them, and that they were the most complete
nuisance we had in the colony. Between the year 1831 (when in Van
Diemen's Land) and the arrival of the first ship with free females,
called the Princess Royal, I believe I had eleven female convicts in my
house, and I quite shudder now when I contemplate their conduct, and
consider that my children were under their charge. I may mention the
first woman we received. When we landed I went to the Female Factory and
asked the superintendent if he could recommend Mrs. Murdock, just come
to the colony, in delicate health, a decent female to attend her. He
said he would send a woman down, and accordingly a woman did come; and I
think when I asked her she said she was either a nailer or a
button-maker. Mrs. Murdock saw her and almost wished herself at home
again; however, nothing could be done and she got a little room made up
for her and put her in it; and she went in one day and found her lying
on the bed with what she called a yard of clay in her mouth, and
drinking a pot of porter and blowing a cloud; that was her own
expression to Mrs. Murdock when she went in. I think I sent her back to
the Factory that night. The next was a remarkably clever woman, but I
understood afterwards that she had attempted to poison herself three or
four times. She at last ran away from us, got married on a false
certificate, and a year or two ago was found dead in her bed through
drink; and I suppose, if I could follow the history of them up, they
would, no doubt, be all much the same. In gentlemen's houses if the
convict women-servants are well disposed, their condition would be
tolerably good; but really as far as my observation goes, generally
speaking, their condition is very bad, and a modest woman could hardly
remain so, if she chose. She is despised and insulted by her mistress
very often, and her only protection sometimes is in forming a liason
with some of the convicts about the house; she is not allowed to marry
under twelve months' good behaviour, a period few of them could manage
to accomplish. The generality of the female servants are rather hardly
treated by the common settlers, but I may explain that they are
generally so bad, that the settlers have no heart to treat them well. It
is their general fate, mostly, to become prostitutes to the convict
servants in order to obtain a protector. As punishment they were taken
to the nearest police magistrate, who, if he has cells at the station,
perhaps put them into the cells a given number of day's on bread and
water; but if he thinks they are not likely to do well in their places,
he returns them to the Female Factory under a sentence of so many
months, as the crime appears to deserve. They were assigned to others
after their sentence in the Factory had expired. I think punishment in
the Factory would have deterred them if anything would. I do not believe
that one woman in a thousand has the moral energy to resist the
temptations she was exposed to in the places she went to. I have known a
respectable lady remark that she did not attempt to prevent prostitution
with her female servants, because it was not possible. I cannot possibly
conceive anything more injurious to the character of the rising
generation than to be under the charge of such people."

Further testimony of the corrupting influences of the convict servants
upon the children of those to whom they were assigned is given by
Surgeon Barnes. Here is what he says:--"The moral effects of convicts
being employed as domestic servants in the families of free settlers
were, in most instances, of a very demoralizing character. It sometimes
happened that a convict was employed as a schoolmaster in a family, to
teach both the male and female branches; and it often happened that very
improper intercourse took place between a prisoner and the female
branches of a family. Many instances of that kind have occurred. In one
of the districts near my residence a convict was employed as a kind of a
clerk, and also as a schoolmaster, who seduced the daughter of his
employer. The matter, however, was not made public; it was hushed up. In
another instance the daughters of a respectable individual, also
residing in the neighbourhood in which I was living, had become so
linked with the male convict servants of the establishment, two of them,
that it was generally known throughout the district that those girls
were almost in the same position as prostitutes, not to one servant, but
to all the servants of the establishment; and the report went so far as
to say, that they were in the habit of associating with a road-party of
men. I speak this as matter of fact, because it came under my own
observation; and on one occasion I spoke to the father, thinking it my
duty, as a friend, and as I was professionally employed; I cautioned him
against letting them have so much license; but, however, the father
either disbelieved what I had stated, or he did not choose to consider
that his daughters' conduct was at all improper; but the report I
believe is very correct, and there were many observations and ocular
demonstration to prove that their intercourse with the servants was a
very improper one. Several other cases might be recorded, in which the
female branches of families have suffered from having a man in the
establishment, or acting as a confidential servant; and in several
instances consequences of that kind have taken place, not from such
individuals acting as schoolmasters or clerks, or in any capacity of
that description, but where intercourse has taken place between the
common farm servants and the children. The two girls mentioned were
supposed to have been corrupted by a female convict servant; she was
made a kind of companion for them, to wait upon them and walk about with
them. The conduct of the female servants generally is very depraved;
they are seldom to be trusted, are generally extremely insolent and
idle, and neglect their duty on every possible occasion."

Judge Therry, writing on this subject, says:--"The female convicts were
a far worse infliction on the free portion of the community than the
male convicts. Many of the latter were transported for slight offences;
but females were seldom sent out whilst any reasonable hope remained of
reforming them at home. The mingling of an abandoned set of women with
men of kindred stamp in the colony may be easily imagined. Like the male
convicts, they were assigned to private service, but very rarely indeed
was a sober and well conducted servant to be got amongst them. Some of
them, however, on getting married to steady husbands, became reformed;
but if the cessation of transportation brought no greater blessing with
it to New South Wales than the discontinuance of sending out all the
profligate women of England to Australia, the discontinuance was
unquestionably a great boon. There was the same inattention to
classification and to the placing them in suitable situations, and to
the provision for them of religious instruction, as has already been
adverted to in the case of male criminals."

I would gladly have passed all this part of the horrible story over, and
have covered up the sickening details from public gaze; but the story
must be told, and I have preferred to let those tell it who were
surrounded by its living characters, and who gave their evidence on oath
before the English Commissioners appointed by the House of Commons to
discover the truth. And the reader may judge what a frightful state of
things existed when he learns that I have suppressed the worst part of
the evidence given before the Commissioners, bearing upon this phase of
the convict system. If all were given, it would form, not a chapter
merely, but a whole book of horrors.



THE reader will gather from what has already been written that the
Female Factory at Parramatta formed a central figure in the convict
system. It was intended as a penitentiary--a place of punishment where,
according to the nature of their offences, the women could be either
placed in solitary confinement, with bread and water, or employed in
picking wool or breaking stones. Some of the women were sent to
Moreton Bay, but the Parramatta Factory was the chief penitentiary for
them, although the labour imposed there being generally very slight,
many of the women preferred being sent there to being assigned to
private service.

Those who were with child were generally sent from their service to the
Factory when near the period of their confinement, and they were placed
in a separate class, intermediate between those who were confined for
punishment and those who were waiting to be assigned. This class was a
very numerous one, as may be seen from the statement that in 1839 out of
590 females in the factory 108 were nursing children, and a large
portion of the remainder were about to become mothers; at the same time
there were in the factory 136 children between the ages of one and three
years, the illegitimate offspring of convicts. The factory was,
therefore, more a lying-in hospital than a penitentiary.

There were also penitentiaries in Hobart Town and Launceston (Van
Diemen's Land), but there were conducted on a more rigorous scale than
the one at Parramatta. The punishment was more severe, and the females
were kept busy spinning, picking wool, and at needlework.

The conduct of the women at the Parramatta Factory was grossly indecent
and disorderly. Organized riots were frequent, and the place was
described as a perfect pandemonium. The management up to the year 1830
was very defective, but after that date changes in the administration
took place which had the effect of remedying existing evils to a
considerable extent. Rev. Dr. Ullathorne stated that when he was engaged
in imparting religious instruction to one class he had sometimes been
interrupted in the midst of his exhortations by such yelling and obscene
language and quarrelling in the neighboring ward that he had been
compelled to stop; and on one occasion he was interrupted for twenty
minutes before he could find anyone to quell the disorder. So great did
the disorder become at times that the military had to be called in to
quell it, and even they came in for some rough handling. On one occasion
when they appeared they were pelted with stones by the women, and not
caring to fire upon their assailants the soldiers hit upon the happy
expedient of returning the fire of the women after its kind, hurling
stones at them so effectively as to drive them back to their own
apartments. One story is told of a soldier who attempted to restore
order being seized by the viragos and carried into their own apartment,
where they tied his hands and feet, stripped every particle of clothing
off him, and then beat him all over with bunches of stinging nettles.

Like every other convict establishment, the Factory was a progressive
institution. Founded in the first instance as a sort of temporary "home"
for the wretched creatures who were legally ostracised from the
respectable portion of their sex, it rapidly became the breeding place
of every imaginable abomination--a very seed-plot of immorality and
crime. The following extracts from a letter written by the Rev. Samuel
Marsden to Governor Macquarie in 1815 will give the reader some idea of
the character of the place and of the condition of affairs in the town
of Parramatta at that time:--

"I feel it my duty as principal chaplain and resident magistrate in this
district, to submit to your Excellency's serious consideration the
present state of Parramatta and its neighbourhood, so far as it relates
to its public morals and police. During more than twenty years'
residence in this town, I do not remember any former given period when
so many offences were committed against the peace as there have been for
some time past. Housebreaking, highway robberies and other daring crimes
have increased to a very alarming degree. Nearly the whole of my time,
from morning till evening, has been occupied for some weeks in examining
the different complaints preferred before me.

"The first observation I shall make relates to the male convicts, a
number of whom are employed by the Crown at Parramatta as mechanics, and
in various other public situation. These men have no barracks or huts
provided for them by the Crown, as formerly, where they can dress their
provisions and sleep at night, and be placed under the immediate eye of
the police. On this account numbers of them are scattered all over the
town and neighbourhood, and procure lodgings where and as they can
amongst the lower order of free people who live upon their vices and
become their protectors on all occasions. It generally happens that
these free people, when any theft is committed, will, either through
fear or interest, cautiously conceal every circumstance within their
knowledge that would criminate the guilty who lodge in their houses, and
by whose frauds, impositions and thefts they are maintained. The
convicts in the employment of the Crown being at full liberty in the
night to commit any depredations with impunity, in consequence of having
no settled residence, thereby form such plans to prevent detection as no
act or cunning of man can unravel. Hence the magistrate is daily
compelled to discharge persons accused before him of various offences
for want of evidence, though the most satisfactory conviction of their
guilt arises in his mind. There are 75 convicts employed at the public
works at Parramatta, under the superintendence of Mr. Rouse, very few of
whom have any place whatever to lodge in; and they that have not, being
more than 60 in number, pay for their lodging and fire, which at a
moderate estimate, cannot amount to less than from £10 to £15 per week.
This sum they have little means to obtain, but by theft, as few persons
in Parramatta have any work for them to do, when they have performed the
work assigned them by the Government.

"A second cause of the moral and political state of Parramatta and its
neighbourhood is the miserable situation of the female convicts in the
service of the Crown and employed at the Government Factory. Numbers of
these women are of the most infamous and abandoned character, composed
of the very dregs of the whole colony, being principally collected from
the gaol at head quarters, and all the different districts throughout
the whole settlement. Many of them are a terror to the better part of
society. I need not state to your Excellency that these female convicts
have no more accommodation provided for them than the male convicts.
During the night these women spread themselves through all the town and
neighbourhood of Parramatta, and some of them are glad to cohabit with
any poor wretched man who can give them shelter for the night. From the
best information I can obtain many of these females pay four shilling a
week for their lodging and fire. Few of them have any means excepting
prostitution to obtain this sum, and hence the male convicts weekly rob
and plunder either Government or private individuals to supply the
urgent want of the females who are devoted to their pleasure. If this
were not the case the females would be left entirely destitute, for the
lower order of free settlers neither could nor would supply them with
lodgings, and other conveniences to dress their food, unless they could
remunerate them to their satisfaction. The extreme illicit commerce
carried on under these circumstances between the male and the female
convicts is destructive of all religion, morality, and good order, and
destroying at once the most distant hope of any reformation being
produced in either. Nothing can be more distressing to the seriously
reflecting mind than to see the vices and miseries of these abandoned

"I have further to remark, that these women having no settled residence
provided for them, they have no proper means of taking care of their
weekly ration, and on this account their provisions are frequently
stolen from them, so that many have nothing to eat for two or three days
towards the latter end of the week; therefore they are urged by the
calls of hunger to steal or do things worse.

"When I was in England in the year 1808, I represented to her Majesty's
Government the profligate state of the female convicts at the time I
left the colony, which was owing at that time in a great measure to the
want of a barrack for their reception, where the good could be separated
from the bad, and an opportunity afforded to all those who wished to
redeem their characters and return to the paths of virtue. I was assured
by those in authority that this serious evil should be remedied by
barracks being provided for them ... .. Seven years have now elapsed
since that period, and your Excellency is well aware that no provision
has yet been made for the female convicts to this very day, and that
they are still exposed to the same ruinous temptations and hardships as
formerly, with this difference only, that the evils have increased to
the public in proportion to the increased number of females sent out
from Europe.. ..

"There is another serious evil I wish to state to your Excellency, in
consequence of the female convicts being at large in the night to
indulge their vicious habits and passions. There is scarcely one female
convict that will go quietly into the service of the most respectable
family in the colony.

"It generally happens that when female convicts are ordered into the
service of private individuals by the magistrate they will in the most
positive and open manner refuse to obey his orders, and will sooner live
upon bread and water in a solitary cell than leave Parramatta, the scene
of their sensual gratifications, till they weary out, by length of time,
the patience of the magistrate, and he knows not what measures to adopt
to support his judicial authority, and to carry his necessary orders
into execution. Hence, instead of the Government Factory being a House
of Correction for the abandoned females and a benefit to the colonists
and other inhabitants, as a check upon public vices, it becomes the
grand source of all moral corruption, insubordination, and disease, and
spreads its pestilential influence throughout the most remote part of
the colony. On this account there is not a bushel of maize or wheat in
the farmer's barn, nor a sheep in his fold, nor a hog in his stye, nor
even a potatoe, turnip or cabbage in his garden, but what he is liable
to be robbed of every night he lies down in his bed, either by his own
or his neighbour's servants, to supply the wants of these abandoned
women, to whom the men can gain access at all times in the night, and
nothing can prevent them while the women are at large.

"The number of women employed at the factory under Mr. Oakes, the
superintendent, is 150. They have 70 children, and there is not any room
in the factory that can be called a bedroom for the women and children.
There are only two rooms and these are both occupied as workshops; they
are over the gaol, and are about 80 feet long and 20 wide. In these
rooms there are 46 women daily employed--twenty spinning wool upon the
common wheel, and twenty-six carding; there are also in them the warping
machine, &c., belonging to the Factory. These rooms are crowded all day,
and at night such women sleep in them as are confined for recent
offences, amongst the wheels, wool and cards, and a few others who have
no means whatever of procuring a better abode. The average number of
women who sleep in the Factory is about 30 on the whole. Many of these
women have little and some no bedding; they all sleep on the floor;
there is not a cradle or bedstead belonging to the Factory. I do not
deem it either safe or prudent that even 30 women should sleep in the
Factory which has been crowded all day with working people, could this
be avoided, as the air must be bad and contagious. Were the magistrate
to compel even half the number of women with their children to sleep in
the Factory which belong to it, they could not exist. Not less than 120
women are at large at night to sleep where they can. Many of them have
to pay 4/- per week for lodgings and fire; they have no means but theft
and prostitution to obtain this sum, and these vices are become so
common and habitual that the women will tell the magistrate that they
have no other means to supply their necessities.

"There are 150 women and 33 men employed at the Factory under Mr. Oakes
and 75 men under Mr. Rouse, at the lumber yard, as mechanics, &c. I have
not included in this statement the constables, the convicts employed in
his Majesty's stores, nor the men and women servants at the general
hospital, who are equally unprovided for.

"I might further notice that many of the male and female convicts are
much addicted to inebriety, and that the great number of licensed houses
to sell spirituous liquors considerably increases the number of crimes.
There are on the whole, under the two principal superintendents, Messrs.
Oakes and Rouse, one hundred and eight men, one hundred and fifty women,
and seventy children, and nearly the whole of them have to find lodgings
for themselves, when they have performed their government task."

The Governor replied to this letter, stating that three years previously
he had written to England, asking permission to have the necessary
buildings erected, but had not up to that time received a reply.

It may be fitting here to mention that the relationship between the
Governor and Rev. Samuel Marsden was not of the most cordial character.
The parson wanted to override the Governor, and there was consequently
not infrequently undignified collision. Mr. Marsden wrote to head
quarters and made a series of complaints against the Governor's
administration. In one communication to the Home Government the Governor
pointed out that Rev. S. Marsden had refused to put into force in his
district an order which he had issued concerning the muster of convicts
every Sunday morning, with the result that much more profligacy and
depravity existed amongst the convicts there than in any of the other
districts. The clergyman-magistrate was supported by three gentlemen
who, said the Governor, "are notorious throughout the colony for being
very severe, arbitrary masters, and embroiled constantly in quarrels
with their servants, whom they are frequently dismissing on the most
frivolous pretences." And His Excellency summed up thus:--"Some years
ago, for the express purpose of preventing severe punishments from being
inflicted in the interior districts by the magistrates, I directed them
to send me quarterly returns of all persons confined, tried and punished
by their authority. These returns are now regularly made, and on
comparing one with the other, in those received from Rev. Mr. Marsden,
as senior magistrate at Parramatta, I have invariably found that the
punishments inflicted by his authority are much more severe than those
of any other magistrate in the colony. In proof of this extraordinary
severity I take the liberty of transmitting herewith, for your
Lordship's notice, an extract from his return for the last quarter."

The end of it was that the following Government and General Order
appeared in the Sydney Gazette:--

"Government House Sydney,

"28th March, 1818.


"His Excellency the Governor is pleased to dispense with the services of
the Rev. Samuel Marsden, as Justice of the Peace and Magistrate at
Parramatta and its adjoining district.

"By his Excellency's Command,

"J. T. Campbell, Secretary."

This reverend gentleman was known amongst the convicts throughout the
colony, and especially those who resided within the district over which
he had jurisdiction as a magistrate, as "The Flogging Parson." As the
reader may wish to know more about him, I may as well give here a short
piece of history from Bennett. Here is what that writer says about

"The Church of England Establishment, before the termination of
Macquarie's rule, consisted of no less than nine ministers. Some of
them, like Mr. Cowper and Mr. Cartwright, were gentlemen eminently
qualified for the position which they occupied, and laboured zealously
in the cause of religion; while others were so much engrossed in worldly
pursuits that their sacred duties occupied very little of their time or
attention. New South Wales was at that period nominally part of the
Indian diocese, of which the celebrated Heber was then bishop, but
practically the Rev. Samuel Marsden was head of the Church in the
colony, and was usually called Bishop Marsden. This gentleman occupied a
very conspicuous place for many years as a magistrate, a settler, and a
trader, as well as a minister of religion, and probably the character of
few men, in any age of the world, has been pourtrayed in such various
and contradictory colours as his. He arrived in New South Wales in 1794;
was a man of most active and energetic character, but unpopular in the
highest degree with the emancipists and those who espoused their cause.
Mr. Wentworth, in his work on the colony characterises him as a reverend
hypocrite; a crafty, turbulent, and ambitious priest; a man of the most
rancorous and vindictive spirit, whose character as a magistrate was
stamped with severity, whose sentences exceed, both in length and
rigour, those of any two magistrates in the colony; and who had
uniformly set his face against every philanthropic object; who had
opposed the education and civilization of the aborigines, and who,
during a period of six years, had never once visited the institution
established for their benefit, although it was next door to his own
residence; and who had opposed the institution of Sunday Schools, and of
every means proposed for the education and amelioration of the condition
of the poor. On the other hand, Mr. Marsden was spoken of by his friends
and admirers as one of the most admirable and sainted characters the
world had ever seen; he was, said one of them, 'in humility a child, in
vigour of mind and benevolence an angel; full of enterprise for the good
of mankind, and full of faith and reliance on the Divine promises;
unborn empires are dependent on his exertions, and his name will be the
theme of the new world, so long as there is a heart to feel reverence or
a tongue to utter praise.' Another eulogist (Mr. Wilberforce), in his
place in the British Parliament, said Mr. Marsden was 'a man who had
acquired the admiration of all who knew his merits--a man who shone as a
bright example in the moral world; who deserved the title of a moral
hero, who had overcome difficulties for the amelioration of his species
in the most unfavourable circumstances, which would always endear his
name to the friends of virtue and humanity.' It will be a sufficient
explanation of these widely-ranging estimates on Mr. Marsden's character
to state that he was regarded in the colony as the representative of one
section of the community--the dominating class, afterwards
contemptuously called the 'pure merinos.' The more the virtues of such a
man were trumpeted by his friends--the more they held him up to
reverence and admiration--the more he became a mark for the arrows of
his opponents; and it is fair to conclude that he was neither such a
saint as his friends painted him, nor such a sinner as his enemies
professed to believe. As a representative of his class--the official
oligarchy--and as a man who meddled in everything, he necessarily made
many and bitter enemies. He took a strong stand against Governor
Macquarie's policy in favour of the emancipists, and after two or three
persons of that class had been raised to the magistracy, he took
occasion on the Governor's interfering with his magisterial proceedings
by releasing, before the expiration of their sentences, some prisoners
whom he had tried and sentenced--to tender his resignation of his office
as a Justice of the Peace. Macquarie however refused to accept it, but
at once issued a general order dispensing with his services. Henceforth,
of course, there was war between Macquarie and Marsden--the latter
declaring that 'as he had been driven by the Governor into a corner, he
had thrown away the scabbard, and would never give in till he had gained
redress.' Mr. Commissioner Bigge, who takes Mr. Marsden's part in this
matter, suggests that Macquarie, in addition to the irreconcilable
difference between them on the subject of raising certain persons, who
had been convicts, to places of rank and confidence, acted on a
suspicion that while Mr. Marsden was receiving his hospitality and
attentions, and living upon terms of cordiality and friendship with him,
he was secretly and by indirect means and annonymous letters, denouncing
his administration to Lord Bathurst.'

"Mr. Marsden, in addition to being a partizan of the dominant clique,
rendered himself liable to have the purity of his motives as a minister
of religion impeached on account of the zeal with which he followed his
farming and trading pursuits, and the persistency of his efforts to
acquire wealth. One of the circumstances, however, which most
contributed to render him unpopular, reflected the highest credit upon
his character as a clergyman. This was his fearless denunciation at all
times, and under almost all circumstances, not only of everything like
open or unblushing vice, but even of a disregard for the proprieties of
society on the part of those whose position in life should have taught
them the necessity of setting a good example to those below them. The
following extract from his life by Rev. J. B. Marsden will illustrate
his course of action on such matters:--"He has been known to rebuke sin
at a dinner-table in such a manner as to electrify the whole company.
Once, arriving late, he sat down in haste, and did not for a few moments
perceive the presence of one who should have been the wife of the host,
but who stood in a very different relation to him. Mr. Marsden always
turned a deaf ear to scandal, and in the excess of his charity was
sometimes blind to facts which were evident enough to others. The truth
now flashed upon him, and though such things were little thought of in
the colony, he rose instantly from the table, calling to the servant in
a decided tone to bring his hat, and without further ceremony, or
another word, retired.' His integrity as a man of business was
unimpeachable, but his secular pursuits were clearly incompatible with
the duties of a minister of religion. The most serious charge against
him--that he trafficked in spirituous liquors--he answered in terms
which will probably be considered satisfactory or the reverse, according
to the reader's view of his character: "In the infancy of the colony,
previous to my arrival, barter was established among all classes, from
the Governor downwards. As there was neither beer nor milk, tea nor
sugar, to be purchased at any price, wine and spirits became the medium
of exchange. As the colony progressively advanced in agriculture,
commerce, and wealth, barter gradually decreased, and money transactions
became more general. I can affirm that for the last eighteen years I
have not had in my possession as much spirits as would allow my servants
half a pint a head per week. And at no period of my residence did I ever
purchase spirits for sale.'"

So much for one of the leading colonists and clergymen of Australia of
the early days. In making his name my theme I cannot say that I feel at
all disposed to offer either reverence or praise. He died in 1838 a very
wealthy man.

Returning to the Parramatta Female Factory, from which Parson Marsden
has caused us for a moment to turn aside, let us see what character it
bore in later years. A magistrate of the territory, when before the
Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1837--some twenty-two years
after the descriptive letter I have quoted was written--gave the
following evidence:--

"When a convict ship arrives with females they are assigned to as many
settlers or emigrants as apply. It is generally announced in the
Gazette, and they apply, and then the women who are not applied for
are forwarded to the Factory. The factory is a very large building,
something like the poor houses here (England) an excellent building,
with a large garden attached to it, and court-yard; and there the women
remain until applied for as assigned servants or wives. I have known
some of the sailors who have come out in the ship with a convict woman
and taken a fancy to her, get married immediately: there is no time
required. Of those convict women who are employed by the settlers and
others, if any behave ill, they are brought before a bench of
magistrates, and punished according to the offence; but they have no
other mode of punishing them than sending them to what they call the
third class of the Factory, and they send them from one month to 12
months; I have never known twelve months exceeded. In the third class
they are more strictly kept; they are not allowed to be sent out or
assigned again until their sentences have expired, and they have
different food; but after the time is out they are then removed to the
second class, and remain there a short time, when they come back to the
first class. No women are allowed to be assigned or marry except those
in the first class. In August, 1836, there were 234 women if the third
class; 108 women nursing children, they having been returned to the
Factory by their masters just before the birth of the children. It is a
common joke in Sydney that it is not a Factory, but a lying-in-hospital.
There were 600 in the Factory in the month named, and only 93 of them
were assigned and waiting to be withdrawn, and 79 assignable. Female
servants do not dread being sent to the Factory--the very reverse, they
court it! It is a common practice, if a convict woman is assigned to a
master she does not like, and particularly in the country, that she does
everything she possibly can to annoy the master and the mistress: and
she makes use of the most horrid language, and generally finishes by
saying; 'Why do you not send me to the Factory? You know how to get rid
of me; I do not like your place,' and other language that I should not
like to repeat. The master is frequently compelled to take the woman to
the bench of magistrates and charge her with insolence, or that she will
not do any work, and then the magistrate passes sentence, that she is to
be confined on bread and water for a certain number of days; and they
are very insolent when the magistrate passes sentence. I have been
obliged to threaten to gag them (but have never done it) they have made
use of such horrid language, and some of them very young indeed. The
magistrates ask the master 'Do you wish to have this woman returned, or
to get rid of her?' and some say 'I wish to have her returned;' and
after being confined so many days in a cell she is returned, much
against her will; but if the master does not wish to have her, again she
is sent to a cell where she is kept for a certain time in solitary
confinement, and then returned to the Government. I remember
particularly one very young woman indeed. I had sentenced her to 10
day's solitary confinement on bread and water, and said to her, 'You
appear a very young woman and I shall therefore be very lenient with
you.' I was sitting in this sort of way, with my hand over my eyes; and
I suppose she did not fancy that I saw her; she turned round and
actually spat upon her master. I then said 'You appear to be, though
young, a very abandoned woman, and I shall give you 30 days instead of
10 on bread and water.' She then said 'Oh, thank you, I am much obliged
to your Worship; 30 days! I am very fond of an odd number, would you be
kind enough to indulge me, and make it 31 days? Do, your worship! I
should like to have thirty-one.' I could not give her more than 30 and
she knew that well; this was done merely to insult me."

When Judge Therry was Attorney-General he had frequent opportunities of
studying the character of the Factory "girls," and this is the testimony
he gives concerning them:--

"Their violence at times was excessive. They destroyed often the
furniture of their cells, broke plates and dishes, and threw everything
provided even for their own convenience over the prison-yard. This is
not a matter for surprise, when one considers that between 400 and 500
of the most abandoned women of the empire were huddled together, like
felons in a gaol, but from regard to their sex under less rigorous
restraint. Occasionally their outrageous conduct assumed the character
of a rebellion on a small scale. The sort of miscellaneous work that
devolves upon an Attorney-General in the colony may be imagined from the
following Memorandum, on which, during my tenure of that office, I was
called upon to decide:--

Memorandum for the Attorney-General.

The women in the Factory continue in a disorderly state and those in the
cells break everything that is given to them for their convenience. The
police magistrate (who will probably apply to you) wishes to know how
far he will be authorised in putting them in handcuffs or irons. He also
wishes to know how far he may be justified in using violence against the
women when they themselves are violent, or making attempts to

The Local Act for the punishment of female felons did not authorise
their being put in irons; and though it did, I certainly should have
been loath to advise the putting of manacles on the ankles of these bold
Amazons. I ventured to suggest that the keeping of the ladies on bread
and water for three days, which the Local Act sanctioned, would probably
be the best mode of starving the garrison into a surrender. The case,
however, soon became very urgent. There was threatening of 'Bella,
horrida bella.' The besieged warriors menaced the demolition of the
Factory, and threatened to use up the matron and her small band of
assistants as materials for a bonfire. In this dilemma, without waiting
for the application of the Sangrado remedy I had suggested, recourse was
had to an ingenious though not successful method of frightening them.
Accordingly a sergeant's guard from the Grenadier company of the
regiment in town were marched into the gaol yard of the Factory. It was
supposed that the sight of formidable fur caps, loaded muskets, with
mounted bayonets, would frighten the besiegers half out of their wits.
No such thing!--the party of soldiers engaged in this strange service
were told (instructions which the brave fellows little needed) that,
though they might carry muskets, they were to use none. As soon as they
entered the gaol-yard of the Factory, the insurgents, undaunted by their
presence, and pretty confident, no doubt, that the military party would
not touch a hair of their heads, commenced a volly of stones and staves
from their broken-up furniture. In a few minutes the 'Battle of the
Amazons' was fought (the only fighting being on their side), and won by
the women. The soldiers fled laughing and scampering back to their
barracks, and left the conquerors in possession of the field. The
retreat of the Federal Army at Bull's Run was not more rapid. Other
measures, however, were resorted to; a strong body of police, without
using unnecessary violence, got possession of the place; the ringleaders
were picked out and punished; a reduction in the supply of the little
comforts allowed them, in a few days, broke the strength and spirit of
the combination; and all again was peace."

The severest form of punishment to which the unruly members of this
wretched sisterhood were subjected was solitary confinement in the
cells, with only bread and water diet, and having their heads shaved. In
some of the old court records which have passed through my hands the
leaves are plentiful which carry the account of women convicted, and the
laconic sentence at the foot of the record "Seven days cells, bread and
water, and to have head shaved." And there was more, in this shaving
than appears at first sight. Building operations were being carried on
with vigour to meet the demands of the growing population. Mortar was
needed to connect the bricks or stones, and hair was needed to make the
mortar "strong." Horses and cattle and goats were too scarce to furnish
the requisite supply, and the hair from the heads of the Factory girls
became a marketable commodity. The Government officials found a ready
sale for it by the pound, the builders and plasterers being the
purchasers; and there are buildings still standing in Parramatta and
Sydney, the mortar and plaster of which was made "strong" by human hair.

In 1839 the Factory was remodelled, extensive alterations and additions
being made, under the order of Governor Gipps. The number of cells was
increased to 72, and they were built on the plan of the American
separate system. The total cost was £3,767, and the Governor reported
that under a new Act that was passed for the better regulation of the
female prisons, order, cleanliness, perfect obedience, and silence
prevailed in the establishment to a degree scarcely surpassed in any
prison in England. His Excellency also endeavoured to find profitable
employment for the women, first introducing the dressing and manufacture
of New Zealand flax, and net making there from, but the venture did not
pay, and the manufacture was given up. He also tried the manufacture of
articles of needlework for sale, and Lady Gipps and her housekeeper
personally superintended the work; but as the sales did not realize more
than £30 in three months, that also was given up. He then caused a
return to the old plan of taking in needlework for the public, and
reported that the result was very satisfactory, although not more than
sufficient work to keep one-third of the women employed could be
procured. The average receipts were about £700 per annum. As an
encouragement to the women the Governor allowed one-sixth part of all
the money earned by them to be retained by them; but it was only the
well-conducted prisoners who received this, as the others were not
allowed to work for the public in this way, being kept at other work,
for which no payment was made. Two classes of needlewomen were thus
created, and they were rewarded or degraded by being passed from one
class to the other. The first class consisted of about 129 women,
divided into parties of nine, ten, or eleven, each woman in a party
being responsible for the good conduct of the whole. The washing also
for the military barracks and hospital at Parramatta was done at the
Factory, and washing was also taken in for the public. His Excellency
also introduced the manufacture of straw hats and bonnets, but at the
time he made his report it had not proved profitable. The only other
employment for the women in the Factory was the picking of oakum, which
was not bad work for those who were either unskilful or sullen; but
owing to the difficulty of procuring a sufficient supply the whole of
the profit was absorbed.

The number of female convicts in the Factory on 1st October, 1840, was
847, and the number of children 364. The number of women in the Factory
on 1st October, 1839, was 970, and referring to this, Sir George Gipps
in his despatch writes:--

"The rapid increase in 1838 and 1839 is principally to be attributed to
the long-continued drought, and consequent dearness of provisions which
prevailed in the colony during the greater part of those years; but it
is in part also to be accounted for by the progress of the immigration
of free women into the colony, and the diminished demand for female
convict servants consequent thereon. An increase of from 50 to 60 may
also be accounted for by the breaking up of the female establishment at
Moreton Bay; and some further increases may be ascribed to the greater
caution with which women are now assigned to private service, and
especially in Sydney. After October, 1839, the number began sensibly to
decrease, and in June last was reduced to 713; the arrival, however, of
two female convict ships in July and August caused it again to increase;
and I feel bound to state, that unless the transportation of women to
New South Wales be discontinued, the number in the Factory are, in my
opinion, likely further to increase rather than diminish.

"Your Lordship will probably be surprised at the number of children in
the Factory, but I regret to say that I have it not in my power to
reduce it. Formerly, children on attaining the age of three years were
removed from the Factory to the Orphan Schools, and thence forward
maintained at the expense of the colony, but our orphans schools have
recently been so filled with the children of immigrants, that it is no
longer in my power to dispose of the children of convicts in that way.
In my despatch of 13th February last I reported to your Lordship that
out of one emigrant ship alone (the North Britain) 27 children had been
sent to our orphan schools. All the children above one year old in the
Factory are made to attend an infant school within the establishment, an
arrangement which is producing good effects.

"The arrival of a female convict ship does not always cause an immediate
increase in the number of women in the Factory, as there is generally a
demand for them for private service, it being preferred to take a woman
(according to the local expression) from the ship, rather than from the
Factory. But many people in Sydney take women in this way only on trial,
with the intention of sending them to the Factory if not useful, or if
found useful, of keeping them instead of others already in their
service, and of returning these others to the Factory. Women who bring
children with them to the colony are the only ones who go direct to the
Factory; in the course, however, of less than a year, most of them find
their way thither, and not a few of them in a state of pregnancy. For
these reasons, as well as for other obvious ones, I have been anxious to
abolish the assignment of women in Sydney; but the apprehension of
overcrowding the Factory has hitherto prevented me from doing so."

On 27th April, 1841, Sir George Gipps received a reply from
Downing-street, which contained this closing sentence:--"As
transportation to New South Wales has now ceased, the number of female
convicts in the Factory will, of course, be considerably diminished."

If a male convict did not marry a convict woman on the estate to which
he belonged--and only very few of them had an opportunity of doing
this--the usual mode was for him to be allowed to get a wife from the
factory at Parramatta. If a master had a convict whom he was anxious to
keep, and whom he believed to be well-behaved, it was considered a great
indulgence if he gave him permission to get a wife from the Factory; but
the master had to enter into an agreement first obtaining permission
from the Government, to feed and support the woman, and, in fact, the
offspring, to prevent their being a burden upon the Government. This
being done the man received an order to the matron of the Factory to
supply him with a wife. There were a certain number of women not allowed
to marry, but with respect to those not under punishment the matron
would say "Turn out the women of----class." The women were then turned
out, standing forward in ranks like soldiers, or, more properly
speaking, like animals at a fair. This was the modus operandi: The
convict goes up and looks at the women and if he sees a lady that takes
his fancy, he makes a motion to her and she steps on one side.
Occasionally a woman has been known to refuse to stand out, having no
wish for the married state, but that was a very rare occurrence. Then
they have some conversation together, and if the lady is not agreeable,
or if the convict does not like the tone of her conversation, she steps
back, and the same ceremony goes on with two or three more until the
applicant is suited with a "mate." Cases have been known where a convict
has gone through between 100 and 200 "ladies" without finding one to
please him. Being suited, however, with one of the fair creatures placed
at his disposal he straightway takes her off and gets married. Returned
to his master the pair knock up a hut for themselves, where they live
together when the man is at work. The master generally allowed what was
called half a ration for the wife, in addition to the man's ration. It
was no uncommon thing for free men in the early days to go to the
Factory and choose wives after the same fashion as that followed by the

The married life on the master's estate was not always one of felicity,
especially if the husband were of a jealous temperament; for when he was
at work his wife would seek "company," and was not above bestowing her
favours upon others. In many cases the husbands have been known to allow
the thing as a regular trade, and they have been known to boast that
they kept two bags behind the door, one for tea and the other for sugar,
and these they expected their wives to keep filled. Full bags appeased
their jealousy and generally purchased peace!

On the subject of convict marriages, Judge Therry says:--"It was not
until the convict element was expelled that marriage became universally
to be regarded as an honourable estate. During the early period of the
settlement, and even up to the time of my arrival (1829), this ceremony
was not regarded as an indespensable preliminary to the union of man and
woman. The indifference with which convicts often, on becoming free,
chose their partners for life, 'for better or worse,' (it rarely was for
better), was frequently shewn by their taking a wife as it were 'on
view.' They resorted to the Female Factory, where two or three hundred
female convicts belonging to the first and second classes then were
imprisoned, and on no more formal courtship than bare inspection the
marriage contract was concluded. Passes were sometimes given by
magistrates to ticket-of-leave holders 'to go to the Female Factory to
choose a wife.' The business was sometimes transacted in three days; one
day for the journey to the Factory to make a choice; the second for the
courtship and ceremony; the third back again to the station with the
bride. Forgeries and ingenious frauds were often resorted to in order
to induce unsuspecting ministers of religion to marry parties whose
wives or husbands were still living at home. Take for instance the case
of a married man who had been transported and left a wife and two
children in the city of Cork. On becoming free he wished to take a wife
unto himself in the colony. He was aware that the zealous minister to
whose flock he belonged knew of his social position; so, in order to
overcome this difficulty, the fellow produced a letter--the Cork
postmark being well imitated in red ink on the corner of the envelope.
The letter and postmark were both forged in Sydney. The letter,
purporting to be from his brother in Ireland, amongst other plausible
statements to induce the worthy clergyman to believe that the wife at
home was dead, concluded with the assurance that the 'dear wife,' of the
party to whom the letter was addressed 'died in the bosom of the Holy
Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church!' The caitiff in this last sentence
struck the keynote that he knew would sound most agreeably on the ear,
and reach the heart of the worthy minister, whom that well-acted piece
of hypocricy induced to tie the marital knot."

The Colonial slave-driver Mudie, with that fine Scotch humour which
characterises his writings, narrates the following story, in which he
played a part:--

"A young fellow who had just become free, and had got himself
established on 30 acres of land, with a few pigs, &c., set off to the
Factory (female convict barracks) in search of a wife. On the way he had
to pass the estate of Mudie. In conversation with the wife of the
porter, he mentioned the object of his journey. The porter's wife
advised him to pay his addresses to one of her master's female convict
servants, who she recommended as being both sober and industrious,
whereby he would at once gain a good wife, and spare himself an
additional journey of 140 miles. The young woman was sent for, and
consented at once. When ensued the following dialogue between the master
and the maid:--

"Marianne--'I hope your honour will allow me to get married?'

"His Honour--'Married! To whom?'

"Marianne--(rather embarrassed)--'To a young man, your Honour.'

"His Honour--'To a young man? What is he?'

"Marianne--(her embarrassment, increasing)--'I really don't know.'

"His Honour--'What is his name? Where does he live?'

"Marianne--'I don't know. To tell your honour the truth, I never saw him
until just now. Mrs. Parsons sent for me to speak to him; we agreed to
be married if your honour will give us leave. It is a good chance for

"His Honour--'Send the young man here.'

"(Enter Coelebs).

"His Honour--'Well, young man, I am told you wish to marry Marianne, one
of my convict servants. Have you observed the condition the young woman
is in? (Marianne being 'in the way that ladies' &c).

"Coelebs--(grinning)--'Why, your honour, as to that, in a county like
this, where women are scarce, a man shouldn't be too greedy. I'm told
the woman is very sober, and that's the main chance with me. If I go to
the factory, why, I might get one in the same way without knowing, and
that might be the cause of words hereafter; and she might be a drunken
vagabond besides. As to the picanninny, if it should happen to be a boy,
it would soon be useful and do to look after the pigs!'"

As a matrimonial bureau it is questionable if any establishment that had
existence in any part of the world ever succeeded in drawing to itself
so large a number of customers. The reader can imagine for himself, if
he pleases, the business-like appearance of this marital mart in its
most flourishing days--the line of unmarried beauties, young,
middle-aged, and old, before which the love-sick swains stood to make
their choice--the features of those swains as they critically examined
the "points" of the blushing damsels forming the regiment--the haggling
between the seekers and the sought before the final bargain was
struck--the envious glances of the least comely-looking of the line as
they saw one after another of their more fortunate companions led from
the "sampling room" to be joined in the bonds of "holy matrimony" to the
men of their choice. The picture will be light or dark, humourous or
tragical, according to the position from which it is viewed; but to the
majority I think it will present itself as a thing of horror, the face
of which should as soon as possible be turned to the wall. Hence, to the
wall I turn its face.

Nearly all the female convicts who came to the colony were, for a longer
or shorter term, inmates of the Parramatta Factory. It has been stated
as a fact that of the four or five hundred women with which the Factory
was always peopled from one to two hundred were always mothers of
illegitimate children. Who is brave enough to endeavour to work out this
problem:--What became of all the children born in the Factory year after
year during its continuance--a period of about half a century? Many of
them, we know, were fortunately separated from their mothers at a very
early age and brought up in the Orphan Schools; but I, for one, do not
care to attempt to follow them, or the hundreds (shall I say thousands?)
who left the Factory holding the hands or clinging to the skirts of the
ill-fated creatures who had brought them into the world.

The Factory was kept up as a Government establishment for years after
transportation ceased.



THE horrors associated with the life of the male convicts in the
barracks cannot possibly be depicted. The few records that have been
kept are "official," and it would be contrary to the natural order of
things for officials to narrate facts which would have revealed the
inhuman tyranny and brutal savagery of which they were the willing
instruments, if not the actual originators.

For the first few years the convicts were herded in huts, under the
immediate supervision and constant guardianship of the military, the leg
irons and chains serving all the purposes of stone walls and
doubly-bolted doors. One of the first buildings erected in the
settlement was a wooden barracks for the soldiers, but its erection was
a work of time and difficulty, for, says Barrington, "all building was
retarded by the bad quality of the wood, which was both shaky and
rotten." After the barracks a guard house was erected, but it was not
until after Governor Phillip's departure that cells were erected for
solitary confinement, and a log prison built. The huts in which the
prisoners were confined at night were rough log buildings, each
containing one room, with half a dozen recesses on each side, which
recesses answered the purpose of cells, and in each of which a prisoner
was secured at night. An armed soldier was always on duty inside each
hut during its occupancy by the prisoners, his duty being to walk back
and forth the whole night through, while the chained convicts courted
sleep on either side of him. Another soldier did duty as outside
sentinel, not for the purpose of guarding the hut from attack from
without, but as a kind of reserve force in case the convicts within the
hut became troublesome. This lonely watch formed one of the most
distasteful duties of the soldiers, and they hailed occasional
disorderliness on the part of their chained charges as an enjoyable
relief from the deep silence which generally reigned--a silence broken
only by the occasional clanking of the leg irons, the heavy breathing of
the weary sleepers, or the deep oaths from those whose leg-weariness and
heart-soreness prevented sleep.

The first prison that was built was 80 feet long, and was composed
entirely of logs--sides, ends, partitions, floor and roof being of
uniform thickness, and formed of varied kinds of wood, the best
available, but which best was bad. Over the logs on the floor and the
roof there was a thick layer of clay, well worked by the hands and feet
of the convicts, and a strong high fence of logs encircled the whole
building. Old men living sixty years after the completion of this
important public building invariably spoke of a person being "put in the
logs" when sent to prison. There were twenty-two cells in this primitive
establishment, and the free inhabitants of Sydney were assessed to
supply the thatch wherewith to cover it. Attached to the gaol was a
pillory, and during the first part of Governor Hunter's rule three
witnesses who had perjured themselves when giving evidence in the
Criminal Court were sentenced to stand therein, with their ears nailed
to the rostrum, and when thus nailed they were greeted, as Barrington
puts it, "with the true English accompaniments of dirt and rotten eggs."
Doubtless, there were then no dead cats available for such use in the
colony, or these would also have been called into requisition. At
midnight on the 11th February, 1799, this gaol was burnt down, and the
authorities were convinced that the fire had been raised by
incendiaries. At the time the fire occurred there were twenty prisoners
within the log building, and as they were all heavily ironed they were
only released with considerable difficulty.

Arrangements were immediately made for the erection of a large stone
gaol to supply the place of the building which had been destroyed, and
as the majority of the convicts at Sydney were at this time employed by
the inhabitants, orders were issued that the inhabitants of each
division of the town must furnish five men each day to work on the
building, with a watchman to attend them. In the same year the only
other prison in the colony, that at Parramatta, which was likewise built
of logs, was also consumed by fire, and one of the prisoners confined
therein was roasted in the flames, his irons effectually preventing
escape or rescue. Rewards for the discovery of the incendiaries in both
cases were offered, but no satisfactory information could be obtained
from either convicts or free persons, although some of the latter were
supposed to know who had done the deed. Concerning the erection of the
stone gaol at Sydney, Darrington says that as it still "wanted much of
being completed from the smallness of the sums raised to carry it on;
and as it appeared that the officers had paid £40 each as an individual
share of the expense, it became requisite that some means should be
adopted to finish the building; and as the price of wheat had, at the
urgent request of the settlers, been for this season continued at ten
shillings per bushel, it was thought proper to raise a sum for that
purpose, by each leaving with the commissary sixpence for every bushel
of wheat taken to the store." This special levy was continued until the
work of erection had been completed, but as many of the settlers
declined to come forward with their contributions another novel form of
taxation was adopted by the committee appointed to carry on the
building. An order was issued that any persons seeking a permit to land
spirits, wine, beer or other strong drink from ships having those
articles on board, must apply to the committee and give security for the
payment of 1s. per gallon on the purchase of spirits, 6d. per gallon on
the purchase of wine, and 3d. per gallon on the purchase of porter or
beer, which sums were religiously collected by the committee from the
persons giving the guarantee. Eventually the last stone of the building
was raised, and it was computed that it had cost £3,954, the greater
part of which sum had been raised by the assessments named.

The gaols were used chiefly as places of confinement for those of the
convicts who misbehaved themselves after reaching the colony. The "good
conduct" convicts retained in the service of the Government were allowed
to provide themselves with private lodgings, if they could manage to
earn sufficient in their own time to pay for the luxury, and they were
thus freed from the corrupting influence of the more vicious convicts,
and were seldom interfered with by the authorities if they continued to
conduct themselves properly and duly attended "muster." Such was the
state of things until Governor Macquarie arrived and began to ride his
bricks-and-mortar hobby-horse. He was born for the stone age and had no
right to live in any other. Under his rule the colony became a huge
quarry, and those who were not stone-masons by trade were speedily made
so by necessity. Let us see how the convicts were affected by the
building craze of this energetic Governor.

I have already shewn how the system of payment to overseers by the
assignment to them of convicts worked. These overseers were careful
always to secure for their own use the convicts who could earn the
highest wages when hired out, and most of those assigned to them were
therefore mechanics. Having become partners with them in money-making,
the overseers were compelled to humour the men and to relax discipline
during the hours they were employed upon public works, the result being,
as stated in a previous chapter, a considerable falling off in the
amount of skilled labour performed in the public service.

With the object of remedying the want of of efficient control over the
gangs employed on public works, Governor Macquarie, in 1817, introduced
a system of weekly tasks, the regulation being that when these weekly
tasks were finished the men should be at liberty to work for private
persons for the remainder of the week. The change from day labour to
task work was at first hailed with pleasure--first by the convict
mechanics who had hitherto been prevented from obtaining
tickets-of-leave, because they were skilled workmen, and, secondly, by
the settlers, who had suffered much inconvenience through the almost
complete absorption of skilled labour by the Government. Bennett, when
referring to the hardships which the most efficient mechanics had to
endure from continued service under Government, clearly shews that they
were punished for their skill rather than for their offences. He
says:--"Unskilled labourers, and other convicts of trades not connected
with buildings, had for many years previous to this been allowed to
employ themselves for their own benefit, after serving three years of
their sentence. This was even the case with those who had been assigned
to private persons; while the skilled mechanics in the employ of the
Government were kept from all hope of liberty because their services
were considered essential to the progress of the public works, and could
not be dispensed with. Even after the expiration of the full term for
which they were transported there is reason to believe that many of
these persons were detained at forced labour because they could not
prove, without the assistance of records to which they had no means of
access, that their sentences had terminated. These circumstances bred in
the minds of persons so situated not only a strong distaste for work,
but a most unwholesome feeling of antagonism against those who were
instrumental in keeping them in such an inferior and unfavourable
position. There existed indeed amongst them what may be termed a passive
conspiracy against work. It was regarded as disgraceful on the part of
any man amongst them to do any more than he was absolutely compelled. It
was made a point of honour to do as little as possible at all times, and
under all circumstances, and to such an extent was this carried that
there was a regular system of signs and manoeuvres by which the approach
of any officer, or other person before whom it was considered desirable
that some show of activity should be maintained, was rapidly
communicated from one part of a building or public work to another."

A Parliamentary paper bearing upon the same subject contains the
following paragraph:--"The labour required by the Chief Engineer from
the government convicts is in its nature purely coercive; they derive no
advantage from it, and have no interest in improving or augmenting it;
they have not even the ordinary incentive held out to other convicts,
from the hope, or rather the expectation, of a remission of their
punishment at the period at which they are granted to others; and they
are well aware that any skill they may acquire or display in the service
of government will be the cause of their further detention in it. From
the nature of the superintendence under which it is carried on, and the
difficulty of procuring better, no accurate information is afforded of
the progress that is made........ The distribution of the convicts in
the first instance, the resumption of their services at subsequent
periods, the extension of them beyond the term assigned to others, have
contributed to create an universal impression upon the minds of the
convicts that skilfulness in work, rather than immoral conduct, was the
cause of their first enthralment, and the measure of its continuance.
This feeling produces discouragement, carelessness, and not infrequently
malicious and wanton destruction of the property of government."

Under these circumstances we may well conceive that the men in
Government employ received the new regulations for task work instead of
day labour with manifestations of joy. Governor Macquarie was strongly
opposed to the change, but the amount of work cheerfully performed under
the new system was so much larger than that wrung out from the men under
the old, that he had to give way and quietly assent to its adoption.

The amount of work fixed for the prisoners under the task-work system
was not by any means large. A sawyer had to cut 700 feet of timber in
the week; a labourer clearing land had to fell the timber on one acre in
the week, or to burn off sixty rods in the same period; road gangs had
to make or repair a certain length of road in a month; stonemasons had
to work up a given quantity of stone: and every worker was similarly put
on "piece-work." The number of prisoners working "in Government" when
the new system was introduced was upwards of 2,600, those in Sydney
amounting to 1,400, most of them being employed in the lumber yard and
the dockyard, in Lower George-street, and the remainder in various
localities about the city quarrying, brick-making, lime-burning, and in
other pursuits connected with building operations. The whole of these
prisoners were allowed to work under the new system, and it was found
that in most cases the men would complete their tasks by Wednesday
night, after which time they were eagerly hired by the settlers and
others at good wages. Half their time was thus at their own disposal,
and those of them who chose to work regularly and keep steady had no
cause to complain of their lot, being frequently better off,
financially, than some of their brethren who were altogether free. But
this system had not long been in operation before multifarious evils
began to flow from it. The reader will remember that these were the
day's of King Rum, and with the liberty to earn money came the liberty
to spend it. Then followed scenes of drunkenness and rioting which night
was not asked to cover.

And the evil did not stop there. Another phase of the trouble wrought by
the sudden relaxation of discipline is thus described by Bennett:--"The
change in the condition of the prisoners in the Government gangs and in
the public works was so great, that the order of things which before
prevailed was soon completely reversed. Instead of desiring to be
assigned to private persons, as had previously been the case, it became
the almost universal desire of the convicts to be 'in Government,' as
they termed it. The effect, so far as private employers were concerned,
was most disastrous. The dread of being 'returned to Government' if they
misbehaved themselves had up to this time exercised a most salutary
influence on the conduct of the prisoners in private assignment. Most of
them had always regarded a threat of that kind from their masters with
far more apprehension than the lash itself. But the change in the system
of government employment made what had long been an object of dread, an
object of desire. This altered disposition on the part of the prisoners
could only be overcome by the granting of improper and unreasonable
indulgences on the part of the masters.

"Many employers, to prevent the inconvenience, and perhaps ruin, which
would follow the loss of the services of their assigned men, were
obliged to wink at their crimes, and some agreed to pay them the same
rate of wages and to allow them the same rations as their free servants.
By the convict regulations, which, of course, under the circumstances,
had the force of law, the commission of any offence, however
trifling--not merely against law but against discipline--ensured the
return of prisoners in private assignment to gaol or to labour on the
public works. The very stringency of the regulations enabled prisoners,
if so inclined, to take advantage of them, and to such an extent was
this carried, by those who wished to be 'returned to Government,' that
all discipline was at an end, and efficient control no longer possible."

Under this task-work system the mechanics in the Government employ soon
learned to "slum" their work, in order to get through it as quickly as
possible and have the more time at their own disposal; a proceeding at
which the convict overseers themselves connived, as it enabled them to
carry on private works of their own by means of the skilled labour thus
temporarily released from public service. All attempts to cure the evil
were futile. It grew worse and worse, and at last Governor Macquarie
decided to bring the men under the barrack system, hoping by
concentrating them in one spot to bring them under more strict control
and efficient inspection. A huge building was therefore erected at the
east end of King street, Sydney, and was known for years after as Hyde
Park Barracks, even when it was turned into an Immigration Depot and
Benevolent Asylum. This building formed the "home" of about a thousand
convicts for many years, the places vacated by those who died, or those
who were assigned to private employers or who were transported to
Norfolk Island, being re-filled from the ranks of new arrivals from
England or bad conduct men who had been "returned to Government" by the
masters to whom they had been assigned. The better behaved convicts
under government suffered most under this Barrack system, for they were
compelled to herd with the most vicious and depraved, instead of being
allowed to live in private lodgings, as formerly. The prisoners were
marched to the barracks every night and portioned off to the twelve
"dormitories" within the walls to sleep or plot mischief as they felt
inclined, being mustered in the morning and again marched off to their
work in different portions of the town.

The scenes that were enacted within the walls of the Barracks will not
bear description. There was a certain amount of military regularity and
discipline while the men were directly under the eye of their
custodians, but once within the sleeping apartments they were free to
indulge in every imaginable vice, provided they did so without creating
too much disturbance. Here are a few extracts from Mr. Bigge's report,
which will serve not only to throw light upon the life of the convicts
in the Barracks, but to shew the state of affairs in the streets of
Sydney. The Commissioner says:--

"The association of so many depraved and desperate characters in one
place is an evil that is complained of even by the convicts themselves,
and although it might not have been entirely, yet it might have been
partially remedied on the opening of the convict barracks, by placing
the well conducted men in one or more of the twelve sleeping rooms into
which it is distributed. Robberies amongst the convicts in the barracks
of their clothes and bedding, and concealment of it are very frequent;
and they are encouraged in these practices by the facilities with which
they cast them over the barrack wall to person who are ready to receive
them on the other side. To remedy these evils several expedients have
been resorted to by the chief engineer, such as searching of their
persons at the gate, and the painting of large letters and broad arrows
on different parts of the dress; and these precautions have in some
measure diminished the great losses sustained in the clothing. It was
likewise the intention of Governor Macquarie to have surmounted the
barrack wall with an iron paling, but the erection of it was deferred on
account of the high price of that commodity, and the delay of its
arrival from England.

"It is somewhat extraordinary that instances of violence, or of attempts
to force the gate of the barrack, should not have occurred more
frequently, considering the temptations that exist in the town of Sydney
and the general disposition to indulge in them that is shewn by the
convicts whenever they have opportunities. Absences from it on the
nights of Saturday and Sunday are frequent, and are punished by
confinement in the barrack on those days for certain periods. With these
absences are likewise combined offences committed in the town of Sydney,
of which a greater number is always brought before the police on Mondays
than on any other days in the week.

"Major Druitt does not conceive that any danger to the (peace of the)
colony has arisen, or is likely to arise, from the confinement of so
many criminals in the same place. Conspiracies to cut out vessels from
the harbour, or to effect escape, are frequently made there; but the
accummulation of numbers seems rather to have afforded means of timely
detection than of the perpetration of outrage; and the chief engineer
and the superintendent have always depended upon the treachery of
accomplices for information respecting it, and have not been deceived in
that expectation. The security, indeed, arising from the treachery of
the convicts towards each other, is common to all establishments in
which they are collected together. It is not, however, against the
perpetration of offences committed in the barrack alone that precaution
is necessary; for on marching them to and from thence, either to work or
to church, it is found very difficult to prevent them, especially the
boys, from entering houses as they go along, and from snatching at
property and secreting it. The employment of a number of seafaring men
in the navigation of the boats has also led to the engagement of
themselves and others in enterprises of escape, and latterly in some
very desperate attempts to surprise and cut out boats and vessels in the
harbours both of Port Jackson and Hobart Town."

At the time this report was written there were fully 3000 convicts
retained by the Government "on the roads and other public works of the
colony," and the majority of these served a longer or shorter
apprenticeship in this great seed plot of vice, not a few giving out
there last breath therein.

The convicts were shut up in the barracks at an early hour in the
evening, and for a little while the streets of Sydney were free from
sounds of clanking chains and shuffling convict feet. But with the dawn
of day the element of felonry in manacles was allowed its fullest play.
Early morning saw the gates of the prison thrown open, and the convicts
were marched out in regimental file and distributed amongst the several
public works in and about the town. With downcast countenances many of
them, and "hang-dog" looks not a few, they passed along, their patchwork
dress of grey and yellow cloth branded with the Government broad arrow
and numerals forming a picture painful in its monotony, while the
clanking of the chains at their heels as they painfully shuffled forward
made a most mournful kind of music. Passing from the streets as a body
they disappeared only to appear again in other grouping--one gang
picking and shovelling, another cutting and lifting, another (and this
the saddest sight of all) yoked as a team of twenty human beasts of
burden to a waggon laden with gravel and stone, which they dragged
through the streets to spots chosen as the emptying places. Do the
thousands of free-born and independent men and women who pass through
the streets of the metropolis of New South Wales to-day ever think that
the foundations of some of the thoroughfares over which they daily walk
were liberally sprinkled with the tears and sweat and blood of their
fellow-men--in some cases, perhaps, their forefathers? Oh! the
monotonous horror of it all! For over fifty years sights and sounds
similar to those described were of daily occurrence, but with
ever-varying changes:--for the mournful felon music was as varied as any
music of ancient or modern times, while the sights presented were ever
changing also; but neither ever ran outside the boundaries of the
mournful. In every position, in every sound, there were sorrow and
darkness and tears.

It was fitting that there should be a hospital in a line with the
prisoners' barracks, and only a short distance (some 300 yards) from
them; for in an enclosed yard of these barracks, shut out from the
public view by a very high brick wall, flogging was administered. At one
period the daily average number of men marched into this yard to be
flogged ranged from ten to twenty. "As I passed along the road about
eleven o'clock in the morning," says one writer--he was speaking of the
year 1830--"there issued out of the prisoners' barracks a party
consisting of four men, who bore on their shoulders (two supporting the
head and two the feet) a miserable convict, writhing in an agony of
pain--his voice piercing the air with terrific screams. Astonished at
the sight (the writer was a recent arrival in the colony), I asked what
this meant, and was told 'it was only a prisoner who had been
flogged, and who was on his way to the hospital!' It often took the
sufferer a week or ten days after one of these lacerations before he was
sufficiently recovered to resume his work, and I soon learned that what
I had seen was at that period an ordinary occurrence."

What wonder that good men were made bad, and bad men made worse! What
wonder that many who might have been reclaimed by gentler means were
maddened by such severity into defiance of the law! And what took place
in Sydney under well-established supervision, bad as it was, could not
compare in severity with the corrective punishments inflicted at the
stockades and settlements away from the central seat of authority--where
brutal men had unlimited power. "If I have been bad, your Honour, what
has been done to make me better?" was the pathetic exclamation of a man
at Norfolk Island who was on his trial for a cold-blooded murder. The
indiscriminate use of the lash--it was "laid on" for every offence, and
often for no offence--was prolific of fearful evils. "I was once
present," says Judge Therry, "in the police-office in Sydney, when a
convict was sentenced to fifty lashes for not taking off his hat to a
magistrate as he met him on the road." With the "swish" of the cat ever
falling on his ear as it was swung through the air the stranger in the
colony may well have imagined that the object of the British Government
in establishing the penal settlement was not to reform criminals, but to
create them. The flogging yards of the colony were in very truth
flourishing manufactories of bushrangers and murderers.

For many years in Sydney, after the tattoo had beat, it was supposed
that all persons had retired to their habitations and everything was to
be at rest. Persons who in the night-time went out from one house to
another were obliged to carry a light, and if hailed by the sentinels,
if they were officers or qualified people, they were to answer by the
word "Officer," and they were allowed to pass without molestation, but a
parole and countersign were every day given out to be used in case of
emergency. The sentinels were soldiers and under constables--appointed
from good-conduct prisoners--and these paraded the streets very
frequently, the town itself having the appearance of one huge prison.

As shewing the punishments inflicted on prisoners "in Government," the
following statements, culled from an official record headed "New South
serve good purpose. At the Court of Quarter Sessions, Parramatta, the
Grand Jury on 15th August, 1825, made their report. That Grand Jury
consisted of H. H. McArthur, G. Acres, Allan Cunningham, G. Druitt,
James Macdougall, Thomas Macdougall, George Suttor, J. Blaxland, Robert
Lethbridge, G. Blackett, Matthew Pearce, James Williamson. The report
set forth that they had performed their duties in visiting the gaol and
public buildings, and inspected the books and records of punishment.
They reported that they found warrants or orders for punishments of a
nature which called for inquiry. These were 33 in number, and
the following are taken indiscriminately from the list:--

"Henry Bayne, attached to the Domain party, sentenced to receive 25
lashes every morning until he tells where the money and property is,
stolen from the house of William Jaynes, at Parramatta, by him."--Bayne
was flogged five mornings in succession, and on the sixth day was again
brought before the magistrates and ordered to be flogged again. A month
afterwards, he, still persisting in his innocence, was again brought
before the magistrates (Dr. Douglas, Dr. Macleod, and Mr. W. Lawson) and
was further punished by transportation to Port Macquarie for 12 months.
Only one witness had appeared against the man, and it was purely a case
of suspicion.

2. "Richard Johnson, attached to the Government diary, sentenced to
receive 25 lashes every morning until he tells where he got a pair of
blue trousers from, being part of a robbery committed at the garden
house, Government Domain, Parramatta."--This was signed by Magistrates
Douglas, Lawson and Macleod. After receiving his stripes Johnson accused
a man named Wright, concerning whom the following appeared on the

3. "John Wright, attached to Mr. Kenny's party, sentenced to receive 25
lashes every second morning until he tells where he got a pair of blue
trowsers, &c."--This was signed by Dr. Macleod, J.P. Wright received his
lashes to make him confess where the other stolen property was hidden
and was then transported to Port Macquarie for five years, the warrant
being signed by H. C. Douglas, J.P.

4. "John McClutchy, attached to Mr. Wentworth's clearing party,
sentenced to receive 25 lashes every morning until he tells who has
harboured him during the fourteen days he has been absent from the
gang."--signed D. Macleod, J.P. After one flogging McClutchy accused two
men at Windsor, who were brought up, when he then admitted that he had
accused them for the purpose of saving his own flesh.

The Grand Jury further reported that they could not find any record of
the extent to which these punishments had been carried, and they
presented the cases as acts of magisterial authority beyond the law,
"opposed to the principles of reformation and the welfare of society."
The dates of the 30 warrants ran from December, 1822, to December, 1824,
and were signed by one or other of the magistrates named. Captain
Barlow's name also appearing on some of them.

Subsequently a prosecution was entered against the law-making
magistrates, for "passing indefinite and irregular sentences and causing
punishments to be inflicted contrary to law;" and a Council enquiry was
held to discover whether such practices were confined to the triumvirate
named. The inquiry proved that the "Torture" proceedings had been in
vogue from earlier than 1815 to the end of 1823, warrants having been
produced bearing the signatures of the following magistrates:--John
Harris, William Lawson, Rev. S. Marsden, H. McArthur, John Palmer, Henry
G. Douglas, G. J. Palmer, John Blaxland, Rev. M. Fulton, Rev. J. Reddal,
Edward Reley, Morris Barlow and others.

The Council quoted several of the warrants, among them being the

"The Prisoner is sentenced to receive 25 lashes, and if he does not lead
to a discovery of the shirts by Saturday next, he is to receive a
further punishment of 50 lashes."

Seven days later the following entry was made:--"Not having made the
least effort to recover the shirts for the rightful owner, and having
endeavoured to implicate an innocent man, and causing him to be
apprehended and brought before a magistrate, when it appeared he was
innocent, which is since corroborated by the prisoner's own confession,
he (the prisoner) is sentenced to receive fifty lashes, and work in
double irons, till the magistrates may think proper to release

It is a little consoling to read the following sentences in the
Council's report:--"The Council deem it necessary also to state, that it
was made to appear very satisfactory to them from the examination of the
chief constable at Parramatta (John Thorn), that although the number of
lashes awarded by the court was not expressed in the warrant, the chief
constable, as the person entrusted with the execution, was ordered by
the presiding magistrates, in no case, to inflict more than one hundred
and fifty lashes in the total.. .. It is also proper to state that it
appears from the examination of the chief constable, the reason for not
specifying the exact amount of punishment was to hold it in suspense
over the prisoner, and thereby induce him to make the disclosures sought
to be obtained."

The female convicts also suffered under this rigorous and unlawful
magisterial rule, as will be seen from the following single record from
a return made to the House of Commons in 1826, under the head of "Papers
relating to the conduct of Magistrates in New South Wales in directing
the Infliction of Punishments upon Prisoners in the Colony:"--

"Bridget Rook and Margaret Murphy, prisoners, brought forward in
October, 1815, for making away with a gown belonging to Mary Carney,
Bridget Rook acknowledged to have had the gown from Margaret Murphy, and
suspected that it was stolen, and that she gave it to Kitty White, of
Sydney, for some spirits." Sentence: "Bridget Rook ordered to be
chained to Margaret Murphy, and to remain so chained until the gown is
restored to its proper owner!"

Was ever sentence more unique? Yet it is only one of many similar
recorded by the Grand Jury. Bridget and Margaret must still be roaming
somewhere linked together with a chain, for the gown was never
recovered, and sentences passed in those days were always faithfully
carried out.



THE convicts under the immediate charge of the Government in the Colony
were divided into those who were retained in the service of the
Government merely because they were required as laborers; those who were
returned by their masters as unfit for service; those who, having
suffered for some offence committed in the colony, were retained for a
certain period of probation in the employment of the Government; and
those who, for crimes committed in the colonies, were worked on the
roads generally in irons, or were sent to the penal settlements.

Convicts in the employ of the Government were generally worse off than
those assigned as servants. They were employed chiefly on the public
works of the colony; some of them, however, in situations of comparative
ease, such as clerks, messengers, constables, and so forth. In the
evidence taken before the Select Committee of the House of Commons in
1838 the employment of convicts in the latter capacity was spoken of as
a necessary evil. Many of them employed as police were described as of
the worst possible character--willing to take bribes, conniving at the
offence of the convict population, when employed as scourgers defeating
the sentence of the law, sometimes falsely accusing innocent persons of
crime and at other times screening the guilty from justice, committing
outrages on female prisoners under their charge, and frequently
defeating all the efforts of the Government to prevent crime.

Large parties of the convicts, called road parties, were employed in the
formation of new roads in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. They
consisted for the most part of those who had been returned by their
masters as being unfit for service, and of those who, having been
convicted in the colony of some offence, had been sent, on the
expiration of their sentences, to work for a certain period on the roads
before they were re-assigned. The conduct of this class of convicts was
thus described by Judge Burton:--He said that "He had been induced, by
what had been proved before him in court, gravely to consider the
subject of convicts working in gangs out of irons; it was, he felt
convinced, one of the most fruitful sources of crime in the colony. He
had before him a return from which it appeared that the number of
convicts at this time employed upon the road is 2,240, of whom 1,104 are
out of irons; and when the jury considered who these latter men were and
what they had been--placed under the guardianship of a convict overseer;
that they left their huts in any number, armed or unarmed, as they
pleased; in short, from the evidence he had upon his notes respecting
the conduct of the road parties of the colony, it would appear that
these establishments were like beehives, the inhabitants busily pouring
in and out, but with this difference, the one works by day, the other by
night; the one goes forth to industry, the other to plunder. To the
carelessness or worse conduct of overseers he did attribute a vast
proportion of the burglaries and robberies that were committed in
country districts."

Disorders, crimes and demoralization were attributed to these
road-parties. Composed entirely of criminals, some of them of the very
worst character, they were dispersed over a wide extent of country,
under a most incomplete and inefficient system of superintendence. Most
of the overseers and deputy overseers had been convicts, and these had
sole charge of the parties, sometimes for many days. The road men would
get in league with the convict servants of the neighbouring settlers,
upon whose property they committed every species of depredation, and
consumed the fruits thereof in intoxication and other debauchery.
Although their condition was a more disagreeable one than that of
assigned servants, being subjected to a greater degree of restraint, and
having to break stones under a hot sun, the idle and worthless sometimes
preferred service in a party to that of assignment. After 1837 road
parties out of irons were greatly lessened, and stringent regulations
were passed with the view of checking, if possible, the demoralizing
influence they exerted upon other portions of the convict class. But
there were no other means of forming roads. Free labour was not
available and as there was an ever increasing demand for good roads the
system was continued until the end, although the system of working out
of chains gradually dwindled away.

Mr. Macarthur proposed a plan for the better conduct of road parties in
the colony, which, if carried out, would certainly have made the lot of
the workers harder, if it did not contribute to the improvement of their
morals. His proposal was that a somewhat similar system to that pursued
at Sing-Sing, in the state of New York, should be adopted here. At
Sing-Sing, the convicts laboured in the open country without chains
either on hands or feet. They were not allowed to speak to each other,
and were compelled to work with downcast eyes; and if in any case a
prisoner was detected looking off his work, or attempting to communicate
with his fellow prisoners, he was flogged by the overseer with a
cow-hide whip in the presence of his associates--the flogging being as
severe and long-continued as the overseer might wish, there being no
appeal against his acts. At night the men were shut up in their separate
cells. Attempts at escape were prevented by armed sentinels, and the
framers of the system considered it less objectionable to shoot a
convict than to resort to the ordinary means by which escape could be
prevented. The scheme was quite Macarthurish.

Speaking of these road parties, Very Rev. Dr. Ullathorne, who as Roman
Catholic clergyman had abundant opportunities of studying the working of
the whole convict system, said:--"Their mutual converse creates mutual
corruption, until the best are levelled down to the worst indisposition
and corruption."

Military officers employed upon the roads and public works as assistant
engineers and superintendents of ironed gangs moved under stringent
regulations. In the discharge of his duty the officer in charge was held
strictly responsible for any act of omission by which the escape of a
convict might be rendered practicable. He divided the men fit for duty
in his detachment into three parties, of which one, under the command of
a non-commissioned officer, proceeded with the convicts to work and
furnished sentries over them while at work and while going to and
returning from it. This duty ceased on the return of the convicts at
night. A second party took all the duties of the stockade for 24 hours,
furnishing the day and night sentries required. The third was off duty,
excepting cooks, men required to clean the barracks, and other duties of
the kind; thus giving the men two nights in bed in turn.

When the convicts were brought in for meals the stockade guard furnished
sentries over them, to allow the working guard time for meals and rest.
The guard mounted with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, each man
having ten rounds of ball cartridge in his pouch.

The convicts as they went out were counted over by the sergeant of the
stockade to the non-commissioned officer in charge, who gave a receipt
for the number before he quitted the place. The men were counted again
on returning. If right the receipt was cancelled; but if any were
missing steps were immediately taken to find them. Patroles were sent
out in all directions, information was given to any justice of the peace
or settler in the neighbourhood, that a hue and cry might be raised, and
reports were made on the first opportunity to the major of brigade and
commanding royal engineer. The officer also closely investigated the
manner of escape and all the circumstances connected with it, either by
himself or a court of inquiry, if such court could be formed, and
reported to the major of brigade.

It was the officer's duty to see that the convicts were sufficiently
guarded when at work or on the road to and from it, not allowing them to
loiter on the road under any pretence whatever. When the convicts in
irons were fastened together by a chain to be marched from one place to
another, or when worked on the chain, one soldier was considered
sufficient guard for a detached party of eight; but the officer was
instructed to see in such case that the irons were perfect and that they
were securely fastened to the chain. In marching simply without being
intended to work the convicts were only handcuffed when fastened to the

When the men were in the stockade sentries were posted at the wooden
houses, the whole being kept under view. The convicts were compelled to
keep silence within the houses both day and night, and a report was made
and the guard turned out if any noise was heard, repressive measures
being at once adopted. Strict silence was also enjoined during meal
times, and the sentries reported immediately if the regulation were

On Saturdays the men were allowed to have a general wash, and at this
time extra precautions were taken against escape. All cases of
neglecting work, and disorderly or improper conduct, were reported.

The arms of the military were kept at a safe distance, and a sentry was
always mounted guard over them, the officer in charge having strict
orders to take every precaution to prevent a rush on the guard. The
officer in charge of a guard over an ironed gang was prohibited from
absenting himself under any circumstances, and from allowing any
stranger or unauthorised person to live at or loiter near his post under
any pretence whatever.

In 1837 the construction and repair of roads and bridges were placed
under the charge of the commanding royal engineer. The officer appointed
assistant engineer superintended the ironed gangs, and had the power of
having convicts in such gangs or road parties brought before him tried
and punished by the infliction of not more than 50 lashes for
drunkenness, disobedience of orders, neglect of work, absconding,
abusive language to the overseer, or for other disorderly or dishonest
conduct--keeping a record of all such summary trials. If any more
serious crime were committed, however, the offender was taken before the
nearest justice, but this was only resorted to in the last extremity.

Convicts in irons were divided into gangs of about 80 prisoners each,
and this number occupied four wooden houses, which, with the officers'
and soldiers' barracks, guard room, store, and convicts' mess shed,
formed what was called "the stockade." Formerly the buildings were
surrounded by a staked fence, but this was discontinued, as it was found
that the convicts were more securely guarded by placing sentries at the
angles of the wooden houses, and leaving a space all round open to their

As escapes were most frequently effected by convicts first getting off
their irons, the officer was ordered to frequently inspect and carefully
examine the irons on each prisoner every morning before the gang left
for work, and again before they were locked up in their huts for the
night. The convicts were also frequently searched, and everything made
of iron or metal taken from them, also any money or any article of food
and clothing not appointed by the regulations.

Any convict who had made an attempt to escape or who shewed a
disposition to do so had additional irons put on him when at work and at

During wet weather and on Sundays, when off work, the men were
frequently mustered by the officer, and also at uncertain times in the
night, noting the fact in his journal as an evidence that he was doing
his duty.

The convicts rose every morning during the summer months at 5 o'clock
and during the winter months at daybreak, and were then regularly
mustered by name. They were required to wash their faces, hands and feet
every evening before they were mustered into their berths, water being
provided in wooden tubs for the purpose. Each man was shaved twice a
week, and the hair was kept at all times closely cut, short hair not
only contributing to cleanliness, but to discovery and apprehension in
the event of escape.

On working days when not at labour or meals, the prisoners were kept
locked up in their huts. On Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday they
were brought out under guard to hear prayers read and for meals, and any
well-behaved men, not exceeding one-third of the whole gang, were
permitted to take the air just outside the huts for one hour, under a
sufficient guard.

The sick had medical attendance--sometimes. One of the regulations read
as follows; "When a medical practitioner (being a convict) is
appointed to the gang, the officer will take care that he attends duly
on the sick. Should he appear negligent or disorderly the officer will
have him brought up for summary trial and punishment. If a free
practitioner is appointed to visit the gang the officer will require him
to be regular in his attendance, and if he fails will report him to the
commanding royal engineer for the Governor's information."

When convicts were forwarded to the gang by the commanding engineer the
officer receiving them at once entered their names and description,
noting all scars, marks and blue tattooing, in the registers. The new
arrival was then stripped of his clothes, which were fumigated and
cleaned, tied up, labelled with his name and ship, and put into the
store. The gang clothes were then put on him, and in these he laboured
until the expiry of his "gang" sentence, when he resumed his former
garments. In like manner when one of the unfortunate wretches was taken
to the hospital from the gang the stockade clothing was removed and the
other clothing put on him, the stockade parti-coloured dress being
resumed on his discharge cured or relieved, and another sort of cloth
being put round him if he chanced to be carried out dead. One of the
regulations was very emphatic on this point. It read "His irons are
not to be taken off on removal to the hospital!" They were not alway
taken off on his removal to the grave!

When the sentence of a convict to labour in irons had expired, the irons
were struck off, but the gang clothing was kept on him, and he remained
working with the gang until otherwise disposed of by regulation.

One wardsman was allowed to every two wooden houses, containing each 40
convicts in irons, and his duty was to keep the houses, within and
without, and the utensils and bedding used therein, as clean as
possible, and to air and shake the blankets daily; to provide wood and
water for the cooking, and water for the drinking and washing of the
convicts, and otherwise assist in the custody and management of the
prisoners. One cook and one messman (convicts) were also allowed to each

One scourger was appointed to each stockade, whose duty it was to
inflict all corporal punishments ordered by the officer. The cooks,
warders, mess-men and scourgers were not appointed from the men under
sentence to work in irons, but were supplied by requisition. The
scourger was allowed 1/9 per day and rations, to be raised to 2/9 after
one year's faithful service. Each cook, wardsman, and messman
received, in addition to the regulation clothing, one blue jacket, two
shirts and two pairs of shoes, with an allowance of tea, sugar and
tobacco, and after one year's approved service a gratuity of 1/- per
week. Bullock drivers to the gangs also received extra tea, sugar and
tobacco, but no extra clothing or gratuity; but if well conducted they
had the privilege of being assigned to private service after one year's
work with the gangs.

No pigs or poultry were allowed to be kept near the convicts' huts, or
soldiers' barracks, the whole space between the buildings being kept
dry, level and clean. One knife and fork, one pannikin, and one mess
"kid" were allowed to every six convicts, and one spoon to each, these
being issued at mealtimes and given up again before the men left the
mess shed.

The officers were instructed to adopt all such measures as seemed to
them likely to effect the reformation of the criminals under their
charge--to prevent those who were ferocious from tyrannizing over the
more obedient and well-disposed--to repress all indecency of manner and
language--to prohibit loud talking or noise, gambling or trafficking in
provisions or clothing, and to manifest "a kind anxiety to procure for
the convicts as much comfort as is consistent with their condition under
the regulation of Government."

The Bible, books of prayer, and works of a moral and religious
character, were placed with the officers for distribution among the men
during leisure times, the convicts being held responsible that they were
not lost or defaced while in their possession. If a chaplain or
catechist attended the stockade on Sunday the officer gave him every
countenance and assistance in instructing the convicts; but if none
attended then the officer was supposed to cause prayers to be read to
the prisoners, at least once on the Sunday. This regulation was,
however, quite a dead letter. The "cat" was the chief instructor, and
many a stern lesson in morality was read from out that book, which was
bound in thicker hide than that of calf. The regulations also provided
for the establishment of a Sunday school, for those convicts who were
ignorant of letters, and and non-commissioned officer or soldier acting
as teacher was to receive 2/6 per week for the work.

Where the stockade would admit of it, the gang was divided into three
classes, the first being considered the lowest, and in which all
prisoners were placed on first reaching the stockade. If upon the
completion of one-third of his sentence, the officer considered the
prisoner's conduct to have been exemplary, he could name him for the
second class, and allow him extra time for airing on Sundays and days of
broken labour, and other slight indulgences. Upon continued good service
extending over another term he was entitled to be placed by the officer
in the third class, and from thence recommended to the Governor for a
remission of a portion of his sentence. In order to distinguish the
three classes a piece of red cloth cut into the shape of a heart, 6
inches long by 4 inches wide, was sewed on the back of the jacket of
each convict in the second class of merit, and a similar distinction in
yellow cloth was used in the third class; the convicts in the lower or
first class being without a badge. Bad conduct while in the first class
prevented entry into the second, and bad conduct in the second was
punished by a return to the first class. All communication between the
convicts in the different classes was ordered to be prevented, as far as
circumstances would allow; and if one bad one exercised greater
demoralizing influence than usual he was recommended for removal to
another gang.

The convicts out of irons who worked on the public roads wore
parti-colored clothing, and were kept in gangs and under treatment
similar to the ironed gangs; but the period of their labour was
different. If under sentence for seven years they worked two years; if
under sentence for 14 years they worked three; and if for life they
worked four; after which periods respectively, if their conduct had been
good, they were recommended for assignment. These men at work were in
charge of military overseers, not under guard of sentries, and these
overseers carried their side-arms and pistols in a waist belt, and were
required to keep strict watch to prevent escape. Convicts in the road
and bridge parties who were laborers could be assigned to private
service after six months' labour, if their conduct was good; but
mechanics in bridge parties were not assigned, although they received an
extra allowance of tea, sugar and tobacco, were permitted to wear a blue
jacket, and were returned for a ticket-of-leave as soon as it became
due. The scourger in these gangs received the same privileges and
payment as the scourger in the ironed gangs.

The officers appointed assistant engineers received the extra pay of 6/-
per day while employed, and forage for one horse each. Wooden huts were
erected for them at the stockade, but they had to furnish it at their
own cost. One non-commissioned officer was employed as constable and
turnkey at each stockade with the extra pay of 1/- per day, while the
overseers were allowed an extra pay of 1/- per day, and a private 6d.
The assistant engineer was allowed to employ a non-commissioned officer
or soldier as clerk at 6d. per day.

One month at least before the expiration of the "iron" sentence of any
convict in a gang the assistant engineer had to report the fact to the
Principal Superintendent of Convicts, and the same in the ordinary road
or bridge party; lists of all eligible for assignment being also sent on
the 1st and 15th of every month. In cases where the warrant under which
the convict worked in irons directed that he be returned to his master
at the expiration of his sentence, one month's notice had to be sent to
the master, and if the master did not claim the convict within ten clear
days from the expiry of his sentence, the convict was placed on the list
for fresh assignment, and the name of the non-claiming master was
entered in the book, as a record against him when applying for other
servants on any future occasion.

The bare outline which I have given of the regulations under which the
road parties and chained gangs worked, conveys but a very feint idea of
the life which these poor wretches were condemned to lead. Many of them
were, undoubtedly, great villains--as depraved as it was possible for
men to be; and these could only be kept from doing injury to others by
the close supervision and restraint afforded by the chained gangs. But
large numbers were really inoffensive men, whose offences or
dispositions did not merit the terrible punishment inflicted. The
treatment which served to keep the worse characters in proper
subjection, simply broke the hearts of numbers of the better class, and
not a few of them sobbed out their wretched lives upon the roads,
hailing death as the sweet messenger of rest.

The punishment of labour in the chain gang was very severe. Sir G.
Arthur declared that it was "as severe a one as could be inflicted on
man." Governor Bourke said that "the condition of the convicts in the
chain gangs was one of great privation and unhappiness." The writer has
seen old men, who knew by experience what the punishment was, shudder as
they described it in words not fit to be published. In 1834, when the
system was operating fully, there were 1000 convicts in the chain-gangs
of New South Wales.

Mr. Surveyor Mitchell, who had an intimate knowledge of the gangs and
their working in the newer portions of the country, and especially on
the Blue Mountains, when giving evidence before the Select Committee of
the House of Commons, said that the working in irons did not destroy the
utility of the labour, because the men were kept on those portions of
the road where the force had to be concentrated, cutting through rocks
and mountains, &c. Generally there was one overseer to about every
fifteen men. There was a rule under an Act of Parliament empowering an
overseer to punish a refractory convict to the extent of 20 lashes, but
usually they were supposed to report to the nearest magistrate, who
ordered the flogging.

The gangs were kept to work under a strict military guard during the
day, and were liable to flogging for the slightest offence, silence
being interpreted obstinacy and a look insolence, according to the state
of the gastric juices of the overseer. In some of the stockades the
prisoners were locked up at night in caravans or boxes good enough only
for savage dogs, in which they could neither stand upright nor sit down
except with their legs at right angles to their bodies. In some
instances there was not more than a space of 18 inches in width for each
man to lie down upon, bare boards being his bed. Hear what Rev. Dr.
Ullathorne says about these kennels:--

"The evil result (numbers being confined together) is much greater in
chain gangs, for particular reasons, than in road gangs. One reason is,
the degradation arising from their being in chains, and from the
distinguishing dress of degradation; but another very serious evil is
their being packed very closely together at night after their work is
over. I remember once visiting a chain gang near Parramatta, on a
Sunday, for the purpose of administering religious consolation, and when
I came to the gang I found a series of boxes, and when the men were
turned out I was astonished to find the numbers that were turned out of
these boxes; I could not have supposed that these boxes could have held
such a number; I found that they were locked up there during the whole
of the Sunday; likewise during the whole of the time from sunset to
sunrise. On looking into those boxes I found that there was a ledge on
each side, and that the men were piled upon the ledges and others
below upon the floor, and I believe from the bringing together of such
numbers of men, heated as they are and excited, the consequences are of
a very immoral kind. As I left the colony in haste, I put a question to
a clergyman, who has had much experience there, as to the space allowed
to each convict in those boxes; the answer given was, that the average
was about 18 inches each man, but they varied considerably. He stated to
me at the same time that in the hulks he believed it was not more than
19 inches, and that they were so closely piled, some 10 or 14 being put
in a small cell, that they had not room to lie on their backs and were
obliged to lie sideways."

It cannot be said that the chain gangs, like the road parties,
"demoralized the servants of the settlers around," for they had very
poor chances of contaminating them, seeing that they could only get near
them by running away, at the risk of being shot down by the sentry. But,
strange though it may appear, they contaminated their guards, the
soldiers. Colonel Breton, who commanded a regiment of soldiers in the
colony, declared that the nature of the duty imposed upon the military
in guarding the chain gangs had the worst effect upon the character and
discipline of the soldiers. The demoralization arose, he said, partly
from drunkenness, of which there was much amongst the troops in the
colony. He had no less than sixteen soldiers transported to Norfolk
Island, all of them for being drunk on sentry. "Demoralization was also
produced amongst the troops," he declared, "by their intercourse with
the prison population, which could not be prevented, because many of the
men found their fathers, brothers and other relations, amongst the

Until within a very recent period visitors to the Criminal Courts of the
colony might hear the presiding judge occasionally sentencing a prisoner
to be "kept to hard labour on the roads or other public works of the
colony" for a certain number of years. It was not until some time after
the abolition of transportation that the chain gangs died out.



THE principal penal settlement of New South Wales was Norfolk Island,
and the class of convicts sent there was of the worst kind generally. In
Van Dieman's Land the settlements were Port Arthur and Macquarie
Harbour. While a few convicts were sent there direct from Great Britain
by the Secretary of State, the majority were those who, having arrived
in the colony under sentence of transportation, were again sentenced to
transportation by the colonial courts for subsequent offences.

At these penal settlements, the men were occupied for ten hours daily at
field labour, in the quarries, on the roads, or in any way that their
custodians required. No settlers were allowed there; hence there was no
assigning to private service, and the only distinction made was between
those who laboured and those who were permitted, on account of good
behaviour, to serve the officers. The prisoners were worked in gangs
during the day, were locked up in barracks at night, and were liable to
be punished corporally at the discretion of the commandant, not
exceeding 300 lashes. The condition of the convicts at these settlements
was one of unmitigated wretchedness. The work appointed for them was of
the most incessant and galling description, and any disobedience of
orders, turbulence or other misconduct, was instantaneously punished
with the lash.

Sir Francis Forbes, Chief Justice, informed the Committee of the House
of Commons that "The experience furnished by these penal settlements has
proved that transportation is capable of being carried to an extent of
suffering such as to render death desirable, and to induce many
prisoners to seek it under its most appalling aspects." He also declared
that he had known many cases in which it appeared that convicts at
Norfolk Island had committed crimes which subjected them to execution,
for the mere purpose of being sent up to Sydney for trial; and the cause
of their desiring to be so sent was to avoid the state of endurance
under which they were placed on the Island; that from the expressions
they employed he thought they contemplated the certainty of execution;
that he believed they deliberately preferred death, because there was no
chance of escape, saying they were weary of life and would rather go to
Sydney and be hanged. The same gentleman also declared that if it were
put to himself he should not hesitate to prefer death, under any form
that it could he presented to him, rather than endure the life of a
convict at the Island.

How well grounded were these statements of the learned judge concerning
the conditions of convict life at these Penal Settlements, the reader
will be able to decide as the evidence which I am about to bring forward
is placed before him,--and which evidence, I can assure him, is not by
any means the strongest that can be found in the musty pages of the old
criminal records from which I have gathered my information.

Within three weeks after the formal establishment of the Government in
Australia, Lieutenant King, who had come out in the "Sirius," and who
was a personal friend of Governor Phillip, was dispatched with a small
party to colonize Norfolk Island, which had been recommended by Captain
Cook as a suitable place for a settlement. The party consisted of a
surgeon, a subaltern officer, six marines, two men who understood the
cultivation of flax (which grew luxuriantly on the Island) and fifteen
convicts--nine men and six women. When the vessel which conveyed the
party to the Island returned, the commander gave such a gloomy account
of its fitness as a settlement, that the Governor shortly afterwards
sent over a much larger party of convicts to assist in the work of
clearing and cultivation.

Among the instructions given to Lieutenant King, with the commission
appointing him Superintendent and Commandant of the Island, were the

"After having taken the necessary measures for securing yourself and
people, and for the preservation of the stores and provisions, you are
immediately to proceed to the cultivation of the flax plant, which you
will find growing spontaneously on the island; as likewise to the
cultivation of cotton, corn, and other plants, with the seeds of which
you are furnished, and which you are to regard as public stock, and of
the increase of which you are to send me an account, that I may know
what quantity may be drawn from the island for public use, or what
supplies it may be necessary to send hereafter. It is left to your
discretion to use such part of the corn that is raised as may be deemed
necessary; but this you are to do with the greatest economy; and as the
corn, flax, cotton, and other grains are the property of the Crown, and
as such are to be accounted for, you are to keep an exact account of the
increase, and you will in future receive directions for the disposal
thereof.. .. .

"You will be furnished with a four-oared boat, and you are not on any
consideration to build or to permit the building of any vessel or boat
whatever that is decked, whose length of keel exceeds twenty feet; and
if by any accident any vessel or boat that exceeds twenty feet keel
should be driven on the island, you are immediately to cause such boat
or vessel to be scuttled, or otherwise rendered unserviceable, letting
her remain in that situation until you receive further directions from

"The convicts being the servants of the Crown, till the time for which
they are sentenced is expired, their labour is to be for the public; and
you are to take particular notice of their good or bad behaviour, that
they may hereafter be employed or rewarded according to their different

"You are to cause the prayers of the Church of England to be read with
all due solemnity every Sunday, and you are to enforce a due observance
of religion and good order, transmitting to me, as often as opportunity
offers, a full account of your particular situation and transactions.

"You are not to permit any intercourse with any ships or vessels that
may stop at the island, whether English or of any other nation, unless
such ships or vessels should be in distress, in which case you are to
afford them such assistance as may be in your power."

The Island is situated about eleven hundred miles from Sydney, to the
north-west of New Zealand. It has been described as "a solitary rock in
the tropical ocean"--a fit place for banishment. The Island is about
seven miles long and four miles broad. A long low reef fronted the bay
and obstructed the entrance of vessels, which had to stand on and off
within signalling distance, the convicts and other passengers being
landed in boats through an opening in the reef. A military roadway led
from the water to the prisoners' barracks, which were subsequently
erected on an area of about three acres, surrounded by a lofty wall.
These barracks were three storeys high, and contained twenty-two wards,
into which nearly 1,000 prisoners were crowded during the more
"flourishing" days of the settlement, the largest ward being made to
hold 100 men, and the smallest fifteen. The prisoners slept in hammocks,
slung to each other as on board ship, with a passage down the centre. In
addition to these barracks there were two gaols, a hospital, and a
lumber yard within the enclosure.

It was here that a portion of the plot of Marcus Clarke's realistic
convict story was laid, and no better description in brief of the place
can be given than that furnished by him, in the diary of the
drink-enslaved Chaplain of the prison. After describing the wards in the
barracks, he says:--

"There is a wardsman to each ward. He is selected by the prisoners, and
is generally a man of the worst character. He is supposed to keep order,
but of course he never attempts to do so; indeed, as he is locked up in
the ward every night from six o'clock in the evening until sunrise,
without light, it is possible that he might get maltreated did he
make himself obnoxious. The barracks look upon the Barrack Square, which
is filled with lounging prisoners. The windows of the hospital ward also
look upon Barrack Square, and the prisoners are in constant
communication with the patients. The hospital is a low stone building,
capable of containing about twenty men, and faces the beach. I placed my
hand on the wall and found it damp. An ulcerous prisoner said the
dampness was owing to the heavy surf constantly rolling so close beneath
the building. There are two gaols, the old and the new. The old gaol
stands near the sea, close to the landing place. Outside it, at the
door, is the Gallows. I touched it as I passed in. This engine is the
first thing that greets the eye of a newly-arrived prisoner. The new
gaol is barely completed, is of a pentagonal shape, and has eighteen
radiating cells of a pattern approved by some wise-acre in England, who
thinks that to prevent a man from seeing his fellow men is not the way
to drive him mad. In the old gaol are twenty-four prisoners, all heavily
ironed, awaiting trial by the visiting Commission from Hobart Town. Some
of these poor ruffians, having committed their offences just after the
last sitting of the Commission, have already been in gaol upwards of
eleven months.

"At six o'clock we saw the men mustered. I read prayers before the
muster, and was surprised to find that some of the prisoners attended,
while some strolled about the yard whistling, singing, and joking. The
muster is a farce. The prisoners are not mustered outside and then
marched to their wards, but they rush into the barracks
indiscriminately, and placed themselves, dressed or undressed, in their
hammocks. A convict overseer then calls out the names, and somebody
replies. If an answer is returned to each name all is considered right.
The lights are taken away, and save for a few minutes at eight o'clock,
when the good-conduct men are let in, the ruffians are left to their own
devices until morning. Knowing what I know of the customs of convicts,
my heart sickens when I in imagination put myself in the place of a
newly-transported man, plunged from six at night until daybreak into
that foeted den of worse than wild beasts.

"There is a place enclosed between high walls adjoining the convict
barracks, called the Lumber Yard. This is where the prisoners mess. It
is roofed on two sides, and contains tables and benches. Six hundred men
can mess here perhaps, but as seven hundred are always driven into it,
it follows that the weakest men are compelled to sit on the ground. A
more disorderly sight than this yard at meal times I never beheld. The
cook-houses are adjoining it, and the men bake their meal bread there.
Outside the cook-house door the firewood is piled, and fires are made in
all directions on the ground round which sit the prisoners, frying there
rations of fresh pork, baking their hominy cakes, chatting, and even
smoking. The lumber yard is a sort of Alsatia, to which the hunted
prisoner retires. I don't think the boldest constable on the island
would venture into that place to pick out a man from the seven hundred.
If he did go in I don't think he would come out again alive.

"A sub-overseer, a man named Haukey, has been talking to me. He says
that there are some forty of the oldest and worst prisoners who forms
what he calls the 'Ring,' and that the members of this Ring are bound by
an oath to support each other, and to avenge the punishment of any of
their number. In proof of his assertions he instanced two cases of
English prisoners who had refused to join in some crime, and had
informed the Commandant of the proceedings of the Ring. The were found
in the morning strangled in their hammocks. An inquiry was held, but not
a man out of the ninety in the ward would speak a word.

"The newly-arrived English prisoners--and some of their histories are
most touching--are insulted by the language and demeanour of the
hardened miscreants who are the refuse of Port Arthur and Cockatoo
Island. The vilest crimes are perpetrated as jests. There are creatures
who openly defy authority, whose language and conduct is such as was
never before seen or heard out of Bedlam. There are men who are known to
have murdered their companions, and who boast of it. With these the
English farm labourer, the riotous and ignorant mechanic, the victim of
perjury or mistake, are indiscriminately herded. With them are mixed
Chinamen from Hong Kong, the aborigines of New Holland, West Indian
blacks, Greeks, Caffres and Malays, soldiers for desertion, idiots,
madmen, pig-stealers, and pick-pockets. The dreadful place seems set
apart for all that is hideous and vile in our common nature. In its
recklessness, its insubordination, its filth, and its despair, it
realizes to my mind the popular notion of hell."

Such was the place which formed one of the lower depths of that system
which at its best was a maelstrom of viciousness. Many of its gaolers
were savage beasts in uniform. Nearly all the prisoners were savage
beasts in chains. There was but little to choose between them. The
writer who would attempt to put into words the full story of that Island
of iniquity would expose himself to a moral danger not small. He would
be handling pitch having unbounded capacity of defilement.

The first days of Norfolk Island under Lieutenant King, and subsequently
under Major Ross, were not the darkest in its history, although acts of
revolting brutality on the one hand and appalling crime on the other are
on record, as belonging to the period between March, 1788, and June,
1800, when Major Foveaux, of the New South Wales Corps, assumed the
office of Lieutenant Governor there. Some queer stories are told of
Foveux's social and domestic life, not at all to his credit, even in
those days of loose morals. One of those stories brings the
Lieutenant-Governor under a charge of robbery of a peculiar kind, the
article stolen being--not a sheep, or a horse, or any such like chattel,
but the wife of one of his non-commissioned officers; and it is said the
lady lived to exercise a great influence over him, even interfering to
prevent the too free use of the lash upon prisoners who had fallen under
the displeasure of her master. This man had a keen appetite for human
suffering; and it is said that other instruments of torture besides the
lash were actively employed under his rule, and that the condition of
the caged prisoners was most deplorable.

It is interesting to note that one of Australia's earliest and greatest
statesmen was born on the island--William Charles Wentworth, whose
father, Mr. D'Arcy Wentworth was appointed surgeon there in 1803, a few
years before the Island was abandoned, for there was a break in the
occupancy after the lapse of twenty-five years from the time when
Lieutenant King and his small band of felon "pioneers" first set foot
upon it. The worst of the dark deeds recorded belonged to the period
following 1825, when the island was re-occupied.

Governor Hunter, who ruled New South Wales between 1795 and 1800,
invariably looked upon Norfolk Island with an unfavorable eye--its want
of harbour accommodation, remoteness from Sydney, and contracted area
forming, in his mind, insuperable obstacles to its retention as a penal
settlement; and being enamoured of Van Diemen's Land, through the
glowing accounts of the place supplied by Flinders, when the Governor
returned to England he reported against the old place, and in favour of
the new, the result being that in 1803 an order was received in the
colony from England to evacuate the Island. But the fresh inhabitants
were loath to leave the homes which they had built up, and as Lieutenant
King, who had given up his command of the Island to fill the place of
Governor of New South Wales, vacated by Hunter, inwardly rebelled
against the order for evacuation, five years and more elapsed before the
order was fully carried out. Most of the settlers were emancipists, and
owned freeholds of from 30 to 40 acres, and in exchange for these they
had freeholds allotted to them in Van Dieman's Land, whither they were
removed at the public expense. These settlers named the localities which
they subsequently occupied in Van Dieman's Land "New Norfolk" and
"Norfolk Plains," in commemoration of the home from which they had been

For nearly twenty years after its evacuation the Island was a place of
desolation. Seasons of great scarcity and privation had set in before
the settlers and prisoners were removed, and it really seemed as though
nature were in league with the British Government to secure the
abandonment. The crops of maize, wheat, &c., repeatedly failed; the few
goats, pigs and fowls on the Island escaped to the cliffs and gullies,
and it was only with difficulty that any of the stock could be
recaptured. Settlers, soldiers and prisoners alike were brought to the
verge of starvation, and the sufferings of the latter having been
intensified by the tyranny, called by the authorities "strict
discipline," to which they were subjected daily by the officers, they
engaged in systematic and desperate robberies, which, as one resident of
the place puts it, "destroyed anything like society." The efforts at
self-preservation resulted in the setting at defiance all authority.
Some of the settlers joined the prisoners in mutinous uprisings, and
there was a season prolific of hanging, shooting, and condemnation to
wear heavy irons for life. And in the midst of all this, one writer
declares, "among the settlers and prisoners promiscuous intercourse of
the most shameful and nameless description was engaged in." So scarce
were provisions that all classes joined in a scramble to secure the tops
of the wild mustard plant and other scattered herbs which were found
growing in the bush. When the order for abandonment was put into
execution, all the buildings, either public or private, were as far as
possible destroyed, and nothing was left save the few goats, pigs and
fowls which had run wild and evaded capture; but these proved eventually
of great use to those who were subsequently sent to re-occupy the

Some years afterwards the British Government determined to establish a
penal settlement there for the reception of offenders convicted in New
South Wales while undergoing sentence of transportation.

Accordingly on the 6th June, 1825, "The Mermaid" cutter arrived there,
with eight prisoners of the Crown to be employed as a boat's crew for
the Island, and on the afternoon of the same day the "Brutus" brig
arrived, having on board Captain Turton, Lieutenant Richardson and
Doctor Colman of the 48th Regiment, with a detatchment of 50 troops, 9
civil officers and 50 prisoners. Captain Turton with the whole of the
officers landed the same day at the Cascade, on the northside of the
Island, and hoisted the Royal standard of England, gave three cheers,
and proceeded to bivouac for the night. Next day the troops and
prisoners were landed, after which Captain Turton in presence of all
read his commission as Commandant of the Island. The new comers, by the
assistance of a guide who had formerly lived on the Island, marched
towards Kingstown, or more properly speaking, the remains of it, which
lies at the south side of Norfolk Island. Kingstown was so named by
Lieutenant King, not as a compliment to himself, but in honor of His
Majesty George III, and is situated in a bay between the Nepean and
Phillip Islands, neither of which are mentioned in Captain Cook's
discoveries. The Nepean is about half-a-mile in length and narrow in
proportion, and it was, with the exception of a few caps of grass, a
bare rock rising nearly 100 feet out of the water, its distance from
Norfolk Island being three quarters of a mile to the westward. The
passage between the two islands was very dangerous except to those who
were well acquainted with the soundings. Phillip Island, with its peak
2,245 feet high (measured by Captain Sturt), is about two miles long and
one mile in breadth, its distance from the Nepean being about two and a
half miles. This Island also stretched to the westward and the passage
between it and the Nepean was found safe and the water deep. It was
slightly wooded on the higher parts, and some very deep gullies were
found there, inhabited by the wild goats, pigs, rabbits, and a few fowls
left by the first settlers on Norfolk Island. The distance between
Phillip and Norfolk was about four miles, and thus formed the bay, with
its open roadstead to the westward, in which was situated the old and
new headquarters of Norfolk Island, called Kingstown.

The landing place was most difficult, being between two rocks not more
than a boat's length in width, to miss which was almost certain
destruction, excepting in very fine weather, and even then safety could
not be insured, two instances having occurred in one fine day of the
boats belonging to the settlement being upset, and several of the crew

After a march of near five miles, through bushes and long grass which
had overrun the old roads, Captain Turton and party arrived at the ruins
of Kingstown, not a vestige of which could for some time be seen, so
completely had the grass (from 6 to 8 feet high) and underwood covered
them. At length stumbling over one, and tracing out others, they
discovered what did remain. The ruins were nothing more than a few
chimneys of rude construction, the houses to which they formerly
belonged having been thatched, but these had been, as well as other
buildings destroyed. The principal buildings of stone which had been
erected upon an eminence were not discovered until some of the party,
creeping through the grass, found themselves among the ruins of stone
walls. Grass huts were immediately ordered by Captain Turton to be
constructed for the officers and soldiers, the prisoners for the present
sheltering themselves at night in the long grass. Two or three tents had
been sent down for the Commandant, in which he and some of the officers
were accomodated. For the first few months the prisoners were occupied
clearing the ground round the places of habitation and doing necessary
things immediately at hand, Captain Turton in the meantime looking about
for the most eligible spot to commence cultivating wheat, maize, &c.

On the 7th December following there arrived the brig "Amitz" with 31
prisoners, some provisions, 20 sheep, and a large copper-bottomed boat.

January 1st, 1826--On this day 20 working hands and an overseer were
sent to a place called Longridge, one mile from the settlement, to
commence clearing the ground for cultivation. On the 16th of the same
month two of the prisoners, Samuel Tambyn and Bryan Smith, absented
themselves in the bush, where they remained eleven months before they
were retaken, owing to there being no person sufficiently acquainted
with the island to make proper search for them. The first stone building
erected on the Island since its re-occupation was completed on the 23rd
of this month, for the use of the Commissariat as a store.

March 17th, 1826--The schooner "Isabella" arrived with Captain
Donaldson, Lieut. Donaldson and a detachment of troops of the 57th
Regiment to relieve Major Turton, Lieut. Richardson, and a part of the
troops of the 48th Regt. On the morning of Major Turton's departure,
Captain Donaldson read his commission as Commandant of Norfolk Island,
in presence of the officers and troops of the establishment, issuing an
order that all women, free and bond, on the Island, were to hold
themselves in readiness to leave by the next vessel, it being the
Governor's order that no woman was to be allowed to remain on the
settlement. At this time thirty of the prisoners had their wives and
families on the Island, and the whole of these were forced, after
receiving orders, to leave their husbands, who were to remain on the
settlement. One of the women hid herself with her three children in the
woods and remained concealed until the departure of the vessel which had
taken the others away, when she came forward and implored the Commandant
to suffer her to remain with her husband and share his fate. This being
more than Captain Donaldson had in his power to do, she was eventually
obliged to follow the other banished females. It being of primary
importance to facilitate as far as possible the cultivation of grain.
Captain Donaldson used every exertion to further this desirable object,
and such men as could be spared from other labour were accordingly sent
to work at Longridge, the seat of agriculture. The knowledge of the
privations endured by the earlier inhabitants of the Island rendered it
imperative that every nerve should be strained to secure a sufficient
supply of provisions, as the arrival of a vessel might be prevented by
shipwreck or other unavoidable cause, and only by their own endeavours
could the inhabitants depend upon obtaining food. This Captain Donaldson
strongly impressed on the minds of every one on the island.

June 9th, 1826--The brig "Amitz" returned with Dr. Busby, the first
Civil Surgeon that had been sent to the Island, who was sent to relieve
Dr. Coleman; Mr. Brown, Commissariat Department, to relieve Dr. Mr.
Dempsey, and Mr. Erskine to relieve Mr. Campbell as Superintendent of
Convicts; also a relief of troops, 42 prisoners, provisions, etc. The
vessel returned for Sydney on the 18th taking the last of the 48th
Regiment and one woman. On Sunday, 24th September following two of the
prisoners, Robert Storey and Patrick Clench, absented themselves and
took to the bush. For some weeks previously more than usual discontent
had been observed on the countenances of the whole of the prisoners. The
work was hard, and the living, from various causes, not the best. Wild
pigs and goats were plentiful on the Island and had hitherto greatly
augmented the food supplies, but now they were forbidden to be caught,
and other restrictions were also imposed in consequence of the increase
of prisoners and other persons. At this time the hours of labour were
from 7 o'clock in the morning until half past 4 o'clock in the
afternoon, no breakfast or dinner hour being allowed. Task work was the
order, six rods of new ground to be broken up, eighteen inches deep,
with the hoe.

The ration was served out every afternoon when the men came "home," and
consisted of 1 lb. flour, 1 lb. salt beef or 10 oz. salt pork, 1 oz.
sugar, 1 oz. salt, ½ oz. soap--all issued raw, the men having to cook it
as best they could. They were living at this time in thatched huts, as
were nearly all the camp. Two eighty-gallon boilers were set up under a
covering of thatch, an overseer being put in charge to have them boiling
and ready when the men returned from work; but many of the men declined
to cook their rations in these coppers, because as each man's pound of
beef was separate and other things were boiled at the same time, it
often happened that on the victuals being served out after being boiled
many of the men had to go without, not being able to recognise their
own. After the pigs and goats were forbidden to be caught, times were
much harder. Men frequently worked 48 hours without tasting anything
like meat or bread, and they frequently eat the salt beef or pork raw,
first washing it in a stream of fresh water which ran through the camp,
and then softening it by pounding it with a piece of round wood; this
they did to prevent it being lost among the numerous other pieces in the
common pot. Their flour they mixed up and baked in the ashes under the
boilers, if they were lucky enough to be in time, and this completed the
cooking of three-fourths of the men, one meal being thus produced, and
very few of the prisoners had a second during the 24 hours. These things
could not well be avoided, and patience to wait for better times without
making things worse was one of the daily injunctions, but the
hard-worked convicts found the practice of this virtue not easy. It had
been found necessary to erect a large stockade, with rows of thatched
huts inside, forming a garrison for the military, and the work as a
matter of necessity had to be carried out as quickly as possible. The
overseers consequently were obliged to be strict over the men, which
strictness the men called tyranny, and a spirit of mutiny soon
manifested itself.

September 25th, 1826--Early in the morning the prisoners in a body
openly revolted, secured their overseers, robbed the Civil officers'
quarters, broke open and robbed the Commissariat stores of provisions
and other articles, forced the gates of the boat sheds, and carried off
three boats, in which a number of the mutineers escaped to Phillip
Island. The guard endeavoured to prevent the boats being carried away,
but to no purpose, the Corporal being murdered and two privates slightly
wounded in the affray. There were 150 prisoners on the Island at this
time. After the escape of the boats, the soldiers under Captain
Donaldson secured the remainder of the prisoners and, tranquility having
been restored and precautions taken against further attempts by the
prisoners to escape, a pursuit party of twenty soldiers was arranged and
at once proceeded to Phillip Island to recapture and punish the
escapees. The soldiers succeeded in regaining possession of the boats,
with all the plunder carried off, and in retaking three of the
prisoners, one of them being shot dead in attempting to escape. The
remainder had fled to the Peak where for the present they could not be
followed. On the 29th Captain Donaldson again went to Philip Island with
a military party and secured four more of the deserters, the others
taking shelter on the Peak, where the captain did not think it prudent
to follow them. An investigation in the presence of the whole of the
officers of the establishment on the Island took place on the 4th of
October following, to ascertain the cause of this mutiny, when it was
made clear that the revolt had been planned by a convict known by the
name of Black Goff and a few other kindred spirits who possessed
influence over their companions. Goff himself had murdered Corporal
Wilson and wounded the two soldiers, and he was still at the head of the
party at large on Phillip Island. Goff had persuaded his deluded
companions that if they could get possession of the boats and some
provisions he could ensure them reaching a large tract of land situated
not more than 100 miles to the northward of Norfolk Island, and from
thence they might easily make their escape in passing vessels, as he had
been on the land and had often seen vessels, especially American, send
their boats on shore there. This plausible story was believed and acted
upon in the manner described, but Goff's real intentions were to run for
New Zealand with a chosen few in the best of the boats from Phillip
Island, taking all the provisions and leaving his betrayed companions to
their fate. But this design was frustrated by the speedy pursuit and
recapture of the boats by the military.

To capture and secure this daring leader and bring him to justice was
the determination of the Commandant, and on the 28th November, 1826,
Captain Donaldson with a strong party landed on Phillip Island before
daybreak, and having found the path which led to the Peak, commenced a
vigilant search for the mutineers yet at large. After several hours
search they were discovered and pursued. They had seen the boats coming,
and finding their old retreat to the Peak cut off they now took to the
cliffs, in which situation they could not be successfully attacked, as
from the knowledge they had gained of the localities of such places they
could reach retreats to which it would not be safe for their pursuers to
follow them. Towards evening Captain Donaldson succeeded in driving a
few of the convicts from the cliffs to the interior, when, after a
desperate resistance, Black Goff was recaptured, badly wounded, and his
accomplices were also secured. Having effected their object, the
Commandant and his party returned to the Island. A few days afterwards
Goff and four other principals in the mutiny were fully committed to
take their trials at headquarters (Sydney) for revolt and murder, and
upwards of 30 of the others were, by a summary sentence of the
Commandant, ordered to work in the heaviest irons on the Island as a gaol
gang. Thus ended the first well organized attempt on the part of the
prisoners to break away from their prison home.

March, 1827--Affairs having returned to their normal condition, the
labors of the prisoners proceeded regularly. Fears had been entertained
for some time of great scarcity of provisions on the Island, the time
fixed for the arrival of the provision ship having long passed. These
fears were verified and great privations were endured by the
inhabitants. On March 10th, however, the "Amitz" brig arrived bringing a
supply of provisions and prisoners, and also explaining the reason of
the delay. The "Wellington" brig had been captured by the convicts on
their passage to the Island, thus leaving it nearly ten months without a
proper supply of provisions. On the return of the "Amitz" to Sydney,
Black Goff, who had formerly been a pirate, and his accomplices were
forwarded to head-quarters for the purpose of taking their trials.

The capture of the "Wellington" by the convicts on board is thus
described by an eye witness:--"The vessel sailed from Sydney on the 12th
December, 1826, having on board Lieutenant Brown, who was going as
engineer to Norfolk Island, Captain Glass as Superintendent of Convicts,
83 prisoners, Sergeant Brown and a detachment of the Regiment,
provisions, &c., for the settlement. Nothing extraordinary occurred for
the first eight or nine days of the passage. The prisoners being in
appearance orderly and subordinate, were allowed to walk about on deck,
one at a time, no indulgence (such as plenty of water, cooking, &c.)
being denied them. The weather had continued fine and all things seemed
to conspire towards a speedy and pleasant voyage. Being on the 22nd
instant within 24 hours' sailing of Norfolk Island, precisely at 12
o'clock, at the moment the division of prisoners who had been on deck in
the morning was being relieved by the afternoon division coming up the
hatchway, the preconcerted signal of "Land O!" was given by convict
Douglas, one of the principals, and an instantaneous attack on the
military commenced with hand spikes and such other weapons as could be
procured. The soldiers obstinately defended themselves, 'fighting like
devils,' to use the words of the prisoners, but they were eventually
overpowered and forced below. A few shots were fired by the military,
but at great disadvantage. One prisoner was wounded, and several of the
military and prisoners received many heavy blows. It had been so
contrived that the soldiers could not get at their arms till some
minutes after the attack commenced, and the hatches were then closed.
Captain Harewood, the master of the 'Wellington,' was confined, as also
was his chief mate, to their cabins and their pistols and other arms
taken from them. The arms of the soldiers were also taken from them. On
getting possession of the vessel, the conspirators immediately held a
council on the quarter-deck, in which the following prisoners were
conspicuous; John Walton, appointed Captain; William Douglas, Chief
Mate; Charles Clay, Steward, William Hicks, boatswain, the others who
joined in the attack being employed as occasion required. All the
prisoners on board did not join in the mutiny, and some were confined
below with the soldiers, as being doubtful characters and not to be
trusted by the conspirators. It was settled by the principals that they
should make all possible despatch, and bend their course for South
America, landing the soldiers and others not wanted at the first and
most convenient land they should come to. The next day the wind shifted
right ahead, and a long passage now being calculated upon a thorough
investigation of all the provisions on board was made, when it was
discovered that the water would not last the number on board a week
longer, while other things, such as biscuits, rice, &c., were equally
short. To get rid of the undesirable portion of the passengers was now
the determination of the conspirators, and New Zealand being the most
suitable land to make, they shaped their course thither for that
purpose. Having reached it on the 30th they steered for some hours along
the coast to discover a place likely to produce water and where they
might disembark the soldiers. One attempt was made to find water but
failed, and being now close to the Bay of Islands, they came to the
conclusion it would be best to run in and get what they wanted and get
rid of what they did not want; accordingly, the 'Wellington' was steered
into the Bay. It is customary on whaling stations (the Bay of Islands
was one) for captains of vessels to board all vessels they met with for
news; therefore, as soon as the Wellington was brought up the Captains
of two of the whalers came on board. They were the captains of the
'Sisters' and the 'Harriet,' the two nearest vessels to where the
'Wellington' was anchored. They were received on deck by Walton and
Douglas, who stated in answer to the question 'What news?' that their
vessel was bound for South America and being short of water they judged
the Bay to be the most convenient place to obtain it. Meanwhile a note
was surreptitiously conveyed to the hands of Captain Duke, of the
'Sisters,' informing him of the real state of the case. Taking no notice
of it to those on deck, he invited Walton to go and dine on board the
'Sisters' with himself and the Captain of the 'Harriet.' After some
persuasion Walton, by consent of some of his accomplices, and not
suspecting any information had been given, assented, and accompanied
Captain Duke to his vessel, where he was in a few minutes informed that
the real situation of the 'Wellington' was no secret. He was, however,
treated with every civility, but was given to understand that he must
consider himself a prisoner. Night coming on, about 10 o'clock, and
Douglas thinking Walton a long time away, it being past the hour of his
promised return, he manned two boats and rowed along-side the 'Sisters,'
enquiring for Captain Walton. Captain Duke in answer ordered Douglas
off, telling him that Walton was a prisoner and that their whole
proceedings were known."

After again demanding Walton and being refused, Douglas pulled off,
telling Captain Duke that he had not come exactly prepared for what had
happened, but before morning he would find him again alongside, paying
him a visit of another kind. Douglas having reached the 'Wellington,'
selected thirty of the most daring among his men and armed them with
pistols and boarding pikes, determined to take possession of the
'Sisters' and liberate Walton. Captain Duke, after the returning of
Douglas, consulted with the Captain of the 'Harriet,' and after a little
consideration they deemed it most prudent to sent Walton away, which
they did in one of their own boats, and he arrived on board the
'Wellington' just as Douglas was preparing to leave her with his party
to attack the 'Sisters.'

"The conspirators now thought it high time to be off, only waiting for
daylight to enable them to get out of the Bay, the passage being narrow.
Daylight however brought the wind 'right in' the Bay, and to 'beat out'
was impossible, the tide being against them. Betrayed and exposed, they
could not tell what to do. There were too many vessels in the Bay to
attempt the capture of them all, and the New Zealanders were too
numerous and powerful to trust themselves on shore; they therefore
resolved upon waiting the shifting of the wind, which they hoped would
be in the course of the day. Disappointment, however, met them at this
point, and in the evening the whalers demanded the surrender of the
'Wellington,' or she would be fired into and sunk with all on board.
Captain Duke and the captain of the 'Harriet' had each on board their
vessels twelve nine-pounders stowed away in the holds of the vessels
when the 'Wellington' arrived, but which had during the day been got on
deck and mounted. Captain Duke had also promised some muskets to two
powerful New Zealand Chiefs if they would endeavour to board the
'Wellington' in their canoes, which they agreed to do. In answer to the
flag of truce Walton declared he would never surrender the 'Wellington,'
and expecting to be attacked had made all necessary preparations for
defence, among other means, keeping the coppers full of boiling water,
should any attempt be made to board them. They had four nine-pounders,
plenty of fire arms, boarding pikes and ammunition, and after securing
all below fast and strong, they even contemplated destroying the
'Sisters' and 'Harriet' in the night. At daylight on the morning of the
3rd of January, 1827, the conspirators found themselves surrounded by
about eight war canoes of the New Zealanders, having on board upwards of
300 warriors armed with spears and evidently intending to board the
'Wellington.' Walton had also observed the whalers getting a purchase on
their cables, which evidently meant something unusual. This was
explained in a very short time by a sharp fire being opened from the
'Sisters' and 'Harriet' on the 'Wellington's' rigging; at the same
moment the New Zealanders gave their 'war whoop,' as a signal to board,
approaching the 'Wellington' in a body. Douglas, who superintended the
guns, immediately gave them a discharge of grape, and 40 men well-posted
received them with a volley of muskets. Two or three rounds of this kind
soon satisfied the New Zealanders. About thirty were killed alongside, a
great number were dreadfully scalded with water from the coppers, and it
is supposed nearly 100 were shot, several canoes sinking with all on
board too far from the shore ever to reach it. Not one reached the deck
of the 'Wellington,' although six or seven canoes full got alongside,
where they found the water too hot for them. Having got rid of the New
Zealanders, the remainder of whom made for the shore, the conspirators
found the rigging of the 'Wellington' cut to pieces and her masts
disabled. As yet the fire of the whalers had been directed only aloft;
this the conspirators observed from the first, which enabled them
fearlessly to repel the New Zealanders. They now found the balls begin
to pass close to the vessel's hull, and Walton commanded his men to lie
flat on the deck, as they could not return the fire of the whalers from
the way the 'Wellington' swung. It was now pretty evident destruction
was meant, the vessel making a great deal of water from the shots which
penetrated her sides, and the people below called out that the vessel
was sinking. The firing now ceased and a flag of truce was again sent to
the 'Wellington' to demand her surrender, as it was evident that a few
more shots would sink her. The conspirators had seen further resistance
useless and consented to give the vessel up provided they were allowed
to land on such part of the bay as they chose. To save further shedding
of blood, Captain Duke, who commanded on the part of the whalers,
consented, and at night as many of the conspirators as chose went on
shore. No one on board the 'Wellington' had been killed or wounded
during the conflict owing to the humanity of Captain Duke, who directed
the fire against her. A few shots had passed close over the deck, but
the men were lying down and thereby avoided the danger. Having obtained
possession of the 'Wellington' and released the soldiers from their
uncomfortable situation, the damages the 'Wellington' had received were,
as well as circumstances would permit, speedily repaired so as to enable
her to return to Sydney. The tact of Captain Duke now discovered a way
to get possession of the principal conspirators, who, he had
ascertained, were scattered about in small parties on the land. Seeking
out a few intelligent New Zealanders, he promised them an old musket
each for as many of the strangers as they could catch. This had the
desired effect, and in a few days the whole of the conspirators, with
the exception of six, were brought on board the 'Sisters' in small
parties of two, three, four, and six each, Walton, Douglas, Clay and
Hicks being amongst the number. Three out of the six not captured
escaped in an American vessel shortly afterwards; the other three were
taken at New Zealand two years afterwards and sent to Norfolk Island,
where they now are. Captain Duke gave up his whaling voyage and
accompanied the 'Wellington' to Sydney, where he witnessed the trial of
the conspirators, nine of whom were hanged and 24 sent for life in
chains to Norfolk Island. Among the latter were Walton, Douglas, Clay
and Hicks, whose lives Captain Duke was principally interested in
saving. Thus ended a most desperate act of piracy and mutiny, the
perpetrators of which met the fate they deserved, and too much praise
cannot be awarded to Captain Duke and his coadjutors for the tact and
courage displayed in recovering the 'Wellington' and bringing the
conspirators to justice."

March 25th; 1827--The brig "Amitz" arrived, having on board Lieutenant
Cox, of the 39th Regiment, to relieve Lieutenant Douglas of the 57th
Regiment, a relief of troop sand a draft of prisoners, amongst whom were
the 'Wellington' conspirators. The agricultural produce of the Island
had up to this period been insufficient to maintain the residents
without occasional supplies from headquarters, notwithstanding every
exertion had been made and most of the men kept at field labour. Two
frames of wooden houses for the Commandant and officers had been
forwarded from Sydney and were erected, one at the military stockade,
the other opposite the Boat Harbour. A second stone building as an
additional Commissariat store was in a forward state, and in general
affairs were going on smoothly and satisfactorily.

August 19th, 1827--The brig "Governor Phillip" arrived with Captain
Wright of the 39th Regiment to relieve Captain Donaldson as Commandant,
also a party of the 39th to relieve others of the 57th, a draft of
prisoners, provisions, &c. On landing Captain Wright harangued the
prisoners who accompanied him, pointing out the gaol gang who were
working near the landing place in heavy irons and explaining the
consequence of disobedience and disorder. The "Wellington" men were
particularly noticed and alluded to. On the departure of Captain
Donaldson, Captain Wright released the whole of the gaol gang from their
heavy irons, replacing them with the usual working irons, and berating
the men from gaol, telling them he meant to commence his command by
giving any prisoner on the Island an opportunity of recovering himself.
He said he would never mention to their disadvantage what had passed
except he found from personal knowledge their conduct undeserving, and
that should those who had so deeply transgressed be brought before him
for any repeated or serious charge, he would convince them that mercy
should be no more thrown away upon them, for he would then exercise to
its utmost limit the power with which he was invested. Thus cautioned he
dismissed them. Captain Wright, having fully acquainted himself with the
state of each kind of work in which the prisoners were employed, and
seeing the necessity of supporting the Agricultural Department,
determined to pay particular attention to it. For this purpose he
personally and particularly surveyed and examined the ground under
cultivation and selected other portions, in the whole to the amount of
300 acres, to be immediately worked on improved principles, declaring
his intentions of superintending the labour of the men himself, and
seeing the ground broken up in a proper and efficient manner, the
complaint very general in circulation being that the ground had not been
cultivated deep enough. Captain Wright made enquiries and carefully
examined several places prepared to receive crops. He then mustered the
whole of the prisoners of the Island, to the number of 220, and
selecting 200 of them, divided them into gangs, and sent them to field
labour, daily superintending one or the other. All the land was now
broken up by the hoe to the full depth of 18 inches, and it was woe to
the prisoner who was found not to have done his work properly, 50 or 100
lashes being his certain punishment. The land under cultivation this
year was better known by the names "The 100 Acres," "Wright's
Farm," "Bennett's Flat," and the whole of Longridge. Having seen this
ground properly cultivated and the crops of wheat and maize put in the
ground, the Commandant examined the interior of the Island, discovering
the remains of many of the old settlers' gardens, the borders of
strawberries plainly pointing out the paths, while roses, bulbs, and
sweet-briar abounded. In the old vineyards there were grapes of
excellent quality, large clusters of fig trees, several Orange trees,
some English Oak trees, and a number of excellent tobacco plants. With
these latter Captain Wright planted two acres of ground, from which a
large crop was obtained, the tobacco at nine months from its being cut
being equal to any Negrohead. A second crop was planted, but government
forbidding its being brought to perfection, it was immediately cut down.
The Commandant also noticed many beautiful creepers or vines reaching to
the tops of trees 60 feet high, forming themselves into festoons and
draperies of the most fanciful and beautiful description, bespangled
with flowers of every hue. They ascended single trees, which being short
distances apart presented the appearance of the most splendid columns,
bedecked with every colour of the rainbow. The vines also formed around
groups of low trees, and made bowers beautifully ornamented and
impervious to the rays of the sun. The evergreens of Norfolk Island, one
early writer declared, were not surpassed in richness of foliage by any
in the world. Captain Wright in his perambulations discovered some
coffee trees, citron and pomegranate trees and pines of immense size.

October, 1827--Twenty-five men were put in gaol for security, as there
were rumours of an intended mutiny, and several of the convicts had been
guilty of obstinacy and open grumbling; but the disturbance was not
general enough to cause any alarm for the safety of the Settlement. On
the 24th a notorious convict named Patrick Clench absconded for the
second time and took to the bush. He found means to arm himself with a
long iron spear such as had been used to spear the wild pigs with.
Having secreted himself in the long grass by the side of the Longridge
Road, close to where the Commandant passed daily in his visits to the
fields and other places of labour, on Captain Wright's return in the
afternoon, Clench sprang out and endeavoured to spear him. The captain,
however, was an active man, and avoided the thrust with his stick, but
being unarmed was obliged to retreat, which he did safely to the
settlement. Clench pursued him for a considerable distance, but finding
that he could not overtake him, made off among the trees. On Captain
Wright reaching the settlement, a number of the military and constables
were sent out in search of Clench, but they could not find him. The next
day Clench went into the ground where a large gang was at work, attacked
the overseer with his spear and robbed him of his watch. None of the
other convicts would join Clench, although he called to them, neither
did any of the gang afford any assistance to the overseer, on account of
the general dislike to him. Clench again made off among the trees, and
nothing more was seen or heard of him until about 10 o'clock on the
night of the 28th, when the cry of "Murder!" and "Clench is here!" was
heard to proceed from the Civil Hospital, a thatched hut standing at a
distance from any other building. The alarm instantly spread. Constables
and soldiers surrounded the place, and Clench was shot dead in
endeavouring to make his escape. His body was then dragged to the gaol
and thrown on the scourger's stage, and on the following day the whole
of the prisoners were marched past to see and take warning by his fate.
To deepen whatever impression had been made upon the prisoners by this
gruesome sight, the body was then thrown into a hole at the cross roads,
near the corner of the bakehouse, and left there exposed. It afterwards
appeared that Clench had been told that the man who had given the
information against him had been placed for safety in the Hospital. He
had sworn to take that man's life, and in endeavouring to do so had lost
his own.

The year 1828 was not remarkable for any extraordinary event. The
"discipline" proceeded with regularity; the officers and military went
their daily rounds, seeking to make their own lives as happy and the
lives of the prisoners as miserable as possible; there was the average
number of arrivals by sea and departures by death among the convicts,
with all the intermediate work and suffering and sin. Capt. Wright was
relieved as Commandant by Captain Hunt; Dr. Hartwell relieved Dr. Busby,
and changes were also made in all the civil and military departments.
The first stone of the prisoners' large barracks was laid, and the most
successful crop of wheat the Island had yet produced was gathered, there
being 45 bushels to the acre on 130 acres.

February, 1829--The schooner "Isabella" arrived with Captain Wakefield
of the 39th Regiment to relieve Captain Hunt as Commandant; Lieutenant
Burrows to relieve Lieutenant Kidd; troops of the 39th Regiment to
relieve the whole of the 57th; Assistant Surgeon Steven to fill the
vacancy occasioned by the death of Dr. Hartwell, which had taken place
nine months after his arrival. Two of the military who arrived by this
vessel were married men and brought their wives--the first women to set
foot on the Island for upwards of three years. A draft of prisoners and
a supply of provisions also arrived. Captain Wakefield's command, like
that of his predecessors, was but short, yet the records say affairs
went on smoothly and cheerfully; the coming crops of wheat and maize
looked well; the public buildings proceeded apace; few complaints were
heard amongst the prisoners, and the times of Captains Hunt and
Wakefield are remembered as the "peaceable times."

May, 1829--The "Governor Philip" brig arrived with Lieutenant Colonel
Morrissett and family, the Colonel to relieve Captain Wakefield as
Commandant, Assistant Surgeon Ross to relieve Dr. Steven; Archibald
McLeod, J.P., and family, Mr. Bennett, Superintendent of Agriculture,
being relieved by Mr. McLeod. Captain Wakefield remained on the Island
in command of the troops, and on the day following the arrival the
prisoners received a half-holiday in commemoration of Colonel
Morrissett's taking command.

August, 1829--The schooner "Isabella" arrived with Lieutenant Spencer,
he having returned to relieve Captain Wakefield in command of the
troops; a relief for a few of the military; prisoners, provisions, &c.
On her return, one of the prisoners was sent to Sydney to be tried for
an attempt at murder. His name was Peter Fitzgerald, the charge against
him being stabbing another prisoner named John Hughes on the 6th June
previous, "by striking him in the belly with a knife while asleep in his
berth." In November Peter Fitzgerald was sent back to the Island, having
been acquitted. He subsequently became deranged and was kept in
confinement. On Colonel Morrissett taking command of Norfolk Island,
great expectations were cherished by the prisoners that he would bring
some new regulations with him. Up to his arrival only one instance had
occurred of a prisoner for life obtaining a commutation of sentence and
no time was mentioned in which the well-conducted convicts could apply
for such or any other indulgence. The formation of something like a
"first class" had been announced 12 months previously, bestowing an
eighth of an ounce of tobacco daily on such prisoners as were admitted,
but those only in favour could obtain this indulgence. Colonel
Morrissett gave the prisoners to understand that he was authorised to
recommend any men of deserving character for commutation of sentences
and that he would select from the records those who deserved it. This
infused some hope, and several prisoners were by the next arrival
commuted; yet there was no proper regulation, and no time was mentioned
as a probationery period, while the concessions made were unreliable.
Some English prisoners sent to the Island for life were admitted to head
quarters after serving some 15 months, others 20 months, and several at
three years. Many could not obtain this indulgence who were equally
entitled, and continued on the Island for years afterwards. Then the
cessation of two hours for dinner, which had been allowed by Captain
Wright in the hot weather, was discontinued and one hour only allowed
all the year round. Hominy made of maize was first allowed in Captain
Wright's time for breakfast; it was now allowed morning and evening. The
rations allowed for the working hands was as follows:--10 oz. flour, 10
oz. maize meal, 1 lb. beef or 10 oz. salt pork, 1 oz. sugar, 1 oz salt
and ¼ oz. soap daily; the "first class" men and the overseers being
allowed ¼ oz. of tobacco. The difference between the overseer's rations
and the working hands was that the former were allowed 16 oz. of flour
but no maize meal. Two suits of slop clothing per year were allowed to
prisoners, the overseers being allowed a blue cloth jacket and an extra
pair of shoes during the winter half-year. The half-yearly issues were
1st May and 1st November. The power of punishment enjoyed by the
Commandant was extensive. He could for very serious offences sentence a
prisoner to 300 lashes, give him any number of days in the cells on
bread and water, the prisoner to be visited every day by the surgeon; he
could sentence him to two years in the gaol gang in heavy irons, and
give an addition of sentences on the Island of three years. All the
above punishments were put in force at different times.

May 10th, 1830--The barque "Lucy Anne" arrived with Mr. Cunningham,
botanist in the service of government, a draft of prisoners, and
provisions. On the morning of the 21st, Mr. Cunningham proceeded to
Phillip Island in a whale boat, intending to stay a few days and collect
such natural curiosities as were indigenous to the Island, taking with
him an overseer and two men. The whale boat after landing the party
returned to the settlement. At a late hour the same night eleven of the
prisoners found means to elude the watchmen and escape from the camp.
They then went and broke open the Commissariat stores, taking therefrom
a quantity of provisions and wine; forced open the doors of the boat
shed and launched a new whale boat and got her safe into the water,
without their plunder, before they were discovered. They were then
hailed by the sentinel at the settlement. In answer to his challenge one
of them came forward and said that they had orders to go to Phillip
Island to fetch Mr. Cunningham, and they then hastened back to the boat,
in which they immediately pushed off. Seeing no officer with them the
sentinel fired, but before the guard could turn out the prisoners had
got over the bar and away. They then pulled to Phillip Island and robbed
Mr. Cunningham of his provisions and valuables, not leaving him even a
drop of water. Among other things they took a brace of pistols, a boat
cloak, a canvas tent and the overseer's blue jacket. They then left the
Island and pulled away to the southward. The next day it came on to blow
hard with a very heavy sea, and there is very little doubt that they all
perished. Mr. Cunningham was brought from Phillip Island a few hours
after the runaways had left, extremely mortified at the loss of his
watch and excellent chronometer.

September 8th, 1830--Twenty-five of the prisoners were confined on an
information for conspiring to take the boats whilst unloading the
vessel. After a few days they were released to work in the gaol gang,
from which four of them made their escape and took to the bush, then
making to Longridge, where they robbed Mr. McLeod's cottage of a
fowling-piece. They then went in search of the chief constable, whom
they found with a man named John Daisley, who had given the information
against them and who was then going to show the chief constable where
they had secreted some plunder. As soon as they came up to the chief
constable, one of them (William Hanson) presented the piece, and would
have shot him but it fortunately missed fire. The chief constable made
his escape with difficulty, but Daisley, the informer, was severely
beaten and left for dead. The men gave themselves up the next night to
the authorities. They were tried for the offence a few days afterwards,
received 150 lashes for the attempt on the chief constable and for
beating the informer, and, with 25 of their companions conspiring to
take the boats, they each received sentence of six months in the gaol
gang. The same month John Cook, William Bull and James Murphy murdered
their overseer, Adam Oliver, as he was taking them from gaol to their
work after dinner, just opposite the Lumber Yard gate. They killed him
with the spades they were carrying on their shoulders to work with. John
Cook first knocked him down and the others beat him till dead. They
immediately gave themselves up to the gaoler. Oliver was not the man
they first intended to murder, but another overseer named Jakeman, who
in general had charge of the gaol gang and who was much disliked by
them. It happened that on the day in question Jakeman was relieving on
some other duty in the afternoon and Oliver was sent in his place. This
man was also much disliked by the gaol gang, and it was supposed that as
they had bent their minds on murder they seized the opportunity of
killing one of the two. On the 16th another murder was attempted by a
prisoner named John Walsh creeping from the berth were he slept and
going over to the berth of another prisoner and plunging a knife into
the pit of his stomach. Fortunately the man did not die and knew the
would-be assassin, who was clearly identified and, with the murderers of
Oliver, fully committed to take their trials at head quarters. They were
forwarded to Sydney in November. These murders were committed by the
men, with the sole object of being sent on to Sydney.

December 23rd, 1830--The "Isabella" schooner arrived with Assistant
Surgeon Gamack to relieve Dr. Ross, J.P., also a notorious overseer
named Isaac Shaw, he being then a free man. A few volunteer overseers
arrived by this vessel, which sailed again on the 25th, being the
quickest return ever known at the Island. The left wing of the prisoners
Barrack having been completed, 150 prisoners were placed there this
night to sleep, each man having a hammock and blanket. The men were in
double tiers or rows in each room, one over the other, the breadth
allowed for each hammock being 20 inches, and the distance between the
top and bottom hammocks being three feet. Each room had windows on both
sides, by which means it was always well ventilated. Two watchmen were
placed over this wing at night to give alarm should any attempt be made
to break out, or other occasion require it. Shortly afterwards the
centre half was completed and the remainder of the prisoners were placed
in Barracks to sleep.

January 3rd, 1831--Seven of the prisoners contrived to remain out of
Barracks this evening by getting some of their companions to answer
"here" when their names were called, the system of muster being then to
stand at the door of each room and call the men's names, so that it was
easy for any man to answer "here" for another. The men who thus
contrived to remain out, when it grew dark went to Longridge, where they
were joined by another by the name of Laurence Cleary. They then secured
the constables and two men who had charge of the tools, broke open the
tool house, and took away 59 reaping hooks and nine pitchforks, which
they brought to the back of the barracks. They then made an attempt to
secure the watchman, but he, having seen something move just before they
sprang on him, escaped and gave an alarm. The Commandant and a party of
troops immediately proceeded to the barrack and mustered the men, but
owing to the imperfect way in which the Roll was called, no one was
found to be absent. The Commandant ordered the watchman to gaol for
giving a false alarm and returned to Government House, dismissing the
troops to their quarters. Scarcely, however, had the Commandant reached
Government House, when the Chief Constable crawled up to the door,
severely wounded and bleeding, and stated that he had been attacked by
70 or 80 men all armed with pitchforks and other weapons. A second alarm
was then given, the Commandant returning with the troops to the barrack
and despatching a party of constables to Longridge.

He then ordered the barrack to be again mustered by Mr. Nicholson, the
Superintendent of Convicts, and Sergeant McClusky. After a second and
still imperfect muster, three men were missed. The Commandant then
ordered the watchman to be released. By this time the constables had
returned from Longridge and reported that the tool-house had been broken
open and robbed of all the tools, and that they found the constable and
two men that had charge bound, their hands behind them, and who declared
that they had seen eight men. Two sentinels were now placed on the
barrack for the remainder of the night, and at daylight Captain Sturt
came with a party of soldiers and mustered the prisoners, causing a
Sergeant to look every man in the face as his name was called. By this
means the seven men who had absented themselves were discovered, and on
searching round the back of the Barrack the whole of the tools stolen
from Longridge were found. Thirty of the absentees were also discovered
in the long grass. Search parties were at once sent in all directions to
look for the other five who were still missing, but these gave
themselves up to Mr. McLeod and were immediately sent to gaol. Upon an
examination into the circumstances connected with this affair, it turned
out, upon the confession of one of the parties, that their intentions
were to have liberated the prisoners from the Barrack and then attacked
and set fire to the military stockaded garrison, destroying everyone
that opposed them. It was arranged that a man was to go to each of the
soldier's huts and set fire to it by some tinder, and it being a dark
night, no light would have been seen until the huts were in flames and
the stockade surrounded by men armed with reaping hooks and pitchforks.
The slaughter of men, women and children would have been dreadful if
this diabolical scheme had succeeded. The watchman who first gave the
alarm and was imprisoned, subsequently received a ticket-of-leave for
his alertness. It appeared that after the alarm was given by the
watchman, the absentees ascertained that no suspicion existed, as the
Barrack had been mustered and no one missed. It was about that time they
fell in with the Chief Constable and endeavoured to murder him to
prevent a second alarm being given. They also knew that the watchman had
been sent to gaol; and this raised their hopes of getting the Barrack
open. The escape of the Chief Constable, whom the darkness of the night
and the long grass befriended, prevented their plans succeeding. The
Commandant had observed the absence of the Chief Constable when the
Barrack was mustered, but as his duty led him to all parts of the
settlement at uncertain hours in the night, his absence excited no
suspicion. An investigation into the circumstances was formally held,
when the seven prisoners who had been absent were fully committed to
take their trials for the attempted murder of the Chief Constable.

February, 1831--Isaac Shaw was made Chief Constable in place of George
Grover, who still continued very ill from the wounds he had received.
Early in the month, the Commandant received several informations that
the prisoners were in a state of great excitement, almost amounting to
open rebellion. Other informations reached him to the effect that the
tyranny of the overseers was driving the prisoners to mutiny. The
Commandant in consequence ordered pen, ink and paper to be furnished to
the prisoners to depute some among themselves, who were able from
personal experience and ability to instance and describe the oppression
complained of. Accordingly a letter was composed by some of the
prisoners who said they represented the whole of the malcontents. This
letter accused the Commandant, Colonel Morrissett, of having deprived
the prisoners of their gardens, which they prized above everything. It
also contained charges of tyranny against the overseers who were
supported by their superior officers, and formally demanded that the
tyrants, who were generally "indulgence" convicts, should be dismissed.
It was a bold thing for these prisoners to do, especially as they knew
that their judges would be the very men against whom they lodged
complaint. When the Commandant received the letter he called the
officers and staff together and asked them if they did not think it was
simply "the disconsolate composition of a few badly-disposed and
dangerous men," and not a formulation of the complaints of the prisoners
generally. It goes without saying that the court was unanimous in saying
"Yes" to the proposition of their chairman, and after consultation it
was agreed to try and catch the malcontents in their own trap. The
Commandant declared that the order to deprive the prisoners of their
little gardens came from head quarters, in consequence of the many
unfavorable reports he was compelled to make of the general conduct of
the men, and that he would never have thought of punishing the prisoners
in such fashion. We can imagine the officers putting their hands to
their regulation caps and crying in chorus "Right! Colonel, yer Honour!"
The Colonel then ordered that as many of the prisoners as chose should
attend at the Police Office the following morning to hear the letter
read and declare whether they were the authors of or subscribers to it.
The Commandant was a joker of the very first water. It was simply asking
the men to put their heads into the hangman's noose, or to bare their
backs for the scourger! About 200 of the convicts attended in front of
the hall of justice at the hour named, "well-guarded," as the official
account runs, "by the military and constables." Captain Sturt then came
forward and in an audible voice read the letter, desiring those who had
witnessed the writing and assented to it to step forward. Let an
official pen give the reader an account of what followed:--"At first no
one would come forward; everyone seemed anxious not to be seen. At
length about 12 came, or were rather pushed out, and in a stammering,
confused way declared themselves the writers and authors. They were, as
expected, some of the worst characters on the Island. Captain Sturt,
with a frown of disdain, ordered them among the others and in a suitable
and forcible manner pointed out the degraded state of the men who had
acknowledged themselves as the compilers of the letter--sunk almost
below hope, they wished to make all others as hopeless as themselves;
but the Captain could plainly see, as well as the Commandant, who was
present, that the prisoners with very few exceptions were very ignorant
of such a letter having been written. The Captain explained the matter
of the gardens being taken away and expressed an opinion that they would
be restored. As to the tyranny of the overseers, no such thing was
tolerated. Well-grounded complaints of such facts would be attended to,
but the prisoners would at the same time understand that the necessary
and local discipline of the Island should be supported and enforced by
all lawful means that might be found necessary. With this suitable
admonition to all, and desiring those who had come forward as the
authors of the letter to be very cautious of their future conduct, the
Commandant ordered them to be dismissed and sent to their usual labor."
Comment upon this peculiar transaction is not necessary. It was on a par
with all other official proceedings at Norfolk Island.

May 23rd, 1831--- The "Queen Charlotte" brig arrived with provisions.
When this vessel was lying off the Island a most unfortunate accident
occurred. A musket belonging to one of the soldiers exploded and "went
off unawares," mortally wounding the Captain, whose name was Anthony
Rolandson. The wounded man was immediately brought on shore and taken to
Government House, where every care and attention was bestowed upon him.
But he expired ten days after the accident, and was interred very
respectably in the burial ground of the settlement, a handsome tombstone
being placed over his grave describing the lamentable occurrence.

October 15th, 1831--The ship "Louisa" arrived with Dr. Davies of the
39th, and Lieutenant Burrows accompanying the escort. This vessel
brought back the eight men who had remained out of barracks and
attempted to murder the Chief Constable on the 3rd of January to be
dealt with in a summary way by the Commandant. The men were tried and
received the sentence of 300 lashes each, and to be confined in gaol for
the remainder of their lives.

January, 1832--The first stone-built garrison opposite Government House
was inhabited by the detachments of the 4th and 39th Regiments.

April 9th, 1832--The brig "Governor Phillip" arrived with Mr. Webb as
Superintendent of Convicts, to replace Mr. Nicholson. Doolan, the man
who attempted to murder Thomas Smith, was sent down to be executed on
the Island. This was the first man hanged on the Island since its
re-establishment. A military guard was this month sent out with the gaol
gang and continued.

May 29th, 1832--About 5 o'clock, a violent internal motion resembling
the shock of an earthquake took place. Several huts were thrown down and
many of the officers and others declared their houses were shaken so
violently that they thought they would be overthrown. Several buildings,
especially the military barracks, trembled so that the inmates were
expecting they would fall. The dry quarry, a huge mass of rock, was
observed to move; the bells at Government House rang violently for
several minutes, the house shaking so much that all the occupants ran
out, and Mrs. Morrissett fainted at the door; the large bell which
called the prisoners to quarters, sounded several times, and everyone on
the Island was alarmed. The shock lasted six or seven minutes. The
officers interpreted the visitation as a mark of Heaven's displeasure at
the conduct of the prisoners. The convicts said it was Heaven's
condemnation of the tyranny of their officers!

During the succeeding months of this year several vessels arrived,
bringing prisoners and stores, at the rate of about one vessel per

May 29th, 1833--This day 17 men made their escape in one of the large
boats employed in unloading the two vessels then in the Bay. The large
boat had left the "Isabella" for the evening, it being then 4 o'clock,
meeting on her return the small boat going to the "Governor Phillip,"
her last trip that day. The large boat had on board 50 or 60 bags of
maize, which she had called alongside the "Phillip" and taken in. The
men in the small boat rowed alongside the large one, jumped out of their
boat into the other, taking all the oars except one and every other
portable thing, leaving the two coxswains and one prisoner to get on
shore as best they could. It was quite a calm at the time and the two
vessels were not more than a mile distant when the affair happened, but
they could not pursue or prevent them. The prisoners gave three cheers
and pulled away to the north-east. Towards night a slight breeze sprang
up, and both vessels made sail after them in different directions; but
after spending three days in useless search on the ocean they were
forced to return. A period of squally weather for several days succeeded
the departure of the boat, and it is thought that she must have
foundered, although a rumour was afterwards circulated that the
prisoners reached the Society Islands and had been seen and recognised
in both places by men who had been prisoners on the Island.

September 11th, 1833--Arrived the private ship "Esther" with His Honor
Mr. Judge Dowling and a special commission to try three men for the
murder of a prisoner named John Dinsley who had been nearly killed on a
former occasion (September 12th, 1830) for giving information. The
perpetrators of this murder were found guilty and hanged on the 13th.
This vessel also brought prisoners and stores.

January 15th, 1834--This day was rendered remarkable by a rebellion on
an extensive scale. Various "informations" had from time to time been
given, and it had been evident for several weeks that an outbreak would
take place, although the day fixed for it could not be ascertained. The
military had been on the alert night and day, sleeping, or rather lying
down, with their arms beside them for a month before it burst out. Small
parties of prisoners were everywhere seen, when opportunity offered,
whispering and consulting together, the constables and overseers not
liking to disperse them for fear of the consequences to themselves. They
paid very little attention to their work, and a general stupor seemed to
hang over the place. Several lists containing 200 and 300 names were
forwarded to the Commandant as being the men who were known to have
sworn to join in endeavouring to take the Island. The gaol was already
full of men sentenced to the gaol gang and to different periods of
imprisonment. For about a week previous to the attempt being made there
seemed to be a better feeling among the men, many appearing to work more
cheerfully, while those who could not or would not work went to the
hospital in the morning and endeavoured to get exempt for the day. In
this way the hospital gang increased in size daily, but no suspicion was
excited. On the morning of the 15th, the gangs were mustered and left
the Barrack yard as usual, going in an orderly manner to their work,
although about seventy went to the hospital, where they were safely
received, and the gates were shut by the constable in charge.
Immediately on the gates being shut the prisoners secured the place
inside and shut up all the attendants, taking the overseer's blue jacket
off and putting it on one of themselves. Those who had irons on secured
the axe belonging to the place and knocked them off. In about
half-an-hour, as the guard was coming down the road to take the goal
gang to their work from the gaol, the party from the hospital marched
out, with one who had the appearance of an overseer at their head.
Arrived at the corner of the gaol, as the guard proceeded to the
entrance of the place to receive the gaol gang, the hospital party
attacked them and succeeded in getting possession of two muskets. The
intrepidity of the Corporal in charge, however, soon turned the scale.
The hospital party expected that the gaol gang would rush out to their
assistance as soon as the attack was commenced, but some unforeseen
circumstance delayed them some minutes longer than usual, and the
gallant Corporal, seeing where their chief dependence lay, shot the
first of the gaol gang that came out of the door and immediately charged
the others back, wounding two of them. This caused the hospital party to
falter and renewed the courage of the guard, and as several others of
the mutineers fell the cry was raised, "The military from the garrison
are coming!" This put the assailants completely to the rout. Many were
shot at different parts of the settlement, the majority of the prisoners
making for the Barrack yard as a place of refuge. In the meantime the
Longridge gangs having reached that place and received their tools
preparatory to going to work, with these tools broke open the tool
house, and armed themselves with pitchforks, reaping-hooks, &c., and
about 100 of them, with the cry of "Death or Liberty," made all haste
towards the Settlement, thinking to be in time to assist the hospital
party. But they were too late. The rebellion had been crushed before the
Longridge men reached the top of the hill which overlooked the
Settlement. On arriving at this hill they gave three cheers, expecting
to be exultantly answered by the settlement men; but no answer was
returned, and the first thing that attracted their attention was a party
of the military from the garrison coming hastily up the hill in pursuit
of them; they therefore took to flight immediately, some running into
the bush and hiding themselves in the grass. About 20 were taken within
an hour, and the greater part of the others before night. On mustering
the men that night, 40 were found absent, including 8 killed and 10
wounded. Next day all but six were secured of those who were missing. On
the 18th a most unfortunate circumstance occurred. A party of the
military and constables were sent out in search of the six absentees,
and when passing through some standing maize, the musket of one of the
party went off and killed a constable named Constantine and a soldier,
the ball passing through the bodies of both, the two falling dead
simultaneously. The men were walking one behind the other when the
accidental shot was fired, and the soldier whose piece went off was
about two yards before them. The six runaways were subsequently taken,
one being shot at the time in endeavouring to make his escape. The whole
of the prisoners being now securely lodged in the barrack and gaol all
work was suspended for some weeks, in order that a searching examination
into the circumstances might be made. Captain Fyans, acting for Colonel
Morrissett, who was then indisposed, conducted the inquiry. It appeared
clear from the evidence that the rebellion had been carefully arranged
long before it broke out. The prisoners had determined sooner or later
to make the attempt, and fully expected that it would prove successful.
About 50 of the men were fully committed to take their trials for the
capital offence, and 150 others were heavily ironed and kept together on
a chain cable, to be summarily dealt with. These latter were daily
marched out, dragging the chain cable along with them, and made to go
through a variety of irksome positions--extending their arms, dressing
and undressing themselves, &c.--for several hours at a stretch, "as a
punishment, and to occupy their time as much as possible from entering
into fresh plots." In this manner they were disposed of until the
arrival of the judge who tried them.

April 17th, 1834--The schooner "Isabella" arrived bringing Major
Anderson, K.M., 50th Regiment, as Commandant to relieve Captain Fyans
and succeed Colonel Morrissett, Major Anderson's first act was to
reconsider and examine all the evidence and witnesses connected with the
recent mutiny and transmit the documents to head quarters.

July 9th, 1834--The "Alligator," sloop of war, arrived with His Honor
Judge Burton and a special jury to try the mutineers. Thirteen of the
prisoners were found guilty and subsequently executed, seventeen others
being "capitally respited in irons," while a great many of the remainder
were dealt with in a summary way by the Commandant. Whether the playful
exercises on the large cable formed part of their employment after the
trial is not recorded.

Between July, 1834, and May, 1835, no event of extraordinary interest
occurred, but during the early part of the last mentioned month a rather
sensational incident took place, furnishing food for conversation
amongst both bond and free residents of the Island for many days

On the 14th the private schooner "Friendship" arrived with provisions,
&c., for the Island, and made fast to the Government moorings off the
settlement. The vessel had been lying thus for two days when it came on
to blow fresh from the S.W., with a heavy swell, the wind and sea "dead
on the land." On the previous evening she was noticed to ride well, but
as the wind increased towards dusk it was found dangerous to get under
weigh. On the following morning (being Sunday) at daybreak the vessel
was seen at the buoy, having "rode out" the night in safety. It was
still blowing hard and those on shore saw that the moorings had given
way in some part, as the schooner was dragging them to leeward and fast
approaching the shore. Still it was considered there was no danger, if
the vessel were at once got under weigh, for she could have passed with
safety between Norfolk Island and the Nepean with the wind; but to the
astonishment of the watchers, no one was to be seen on deck and every
moment rendering the chances of saving the vessel less. At last, but not
until the heavy swells rolling in before the breakers had caused an
unusual motion on board, the crew appeared on deck, and their surprise
and consternation may be more easily imagined than described, for
instead of being safely at anchor with the moorings, they found their
vessel close to the reef, dragging the buoy of the moorings after her.
To make sail windward and get off land was now impossible, for the
outward surf was seen curling outside the ill-fated ship. Nothing less
than the loss of all hands when she struck was anticipated. Fortunately,
however, the reef opposite the settlement was a flat surface of rock,
and it being high water the hope was raised that the sea would throw the
vessel on the reefs and not dash her to pieces outside. It was seen that
the fore and aft main-sail, close reefed, and fore stay-sail had with
difficulty been hoisted to press the vessel on her broadside in order
that she might not draw so much water when she struck, and thus afford a
better chance of being hove up on the reef. She now came into the
breakers, which swept completely over her, burying her and all on board
in a mass of angry water. A second and third wave went over her, and
then she struck the reef, the mainmast being carried away. The next sea
"hove" her high upon the reef in about six feet of water. Still the surf
rolled dreadfully around and broke over her, although the position in
which she was thrown on the reef was of itself extremely fortunate, for
she lay broadside to the surf, thus causing a good "lea" on the inshore
side. Although every sea reached her, yet the waves could not move her
from the position. A number of the prisoners ran to the beach opposite
the point where the vessel had struck, and these dashing into the water
the moment she was on the reef, succeeded in getting along the reef to
within 60 or 70 yards of her. But they were here met by the surf, which
rolled heavily on the outer ridge and curled round the vessel like a
whirlpool. Every succeeding wave would for a few moment leave a
temporary smooth round the vessel's lea side, and the mast having fallen
so as to reach half way to the spot where the most daring prisoners had
ventured five of them plunged into the "drawback" at the risk of being
carried outside the reef, and succeeded in catching hold of the mast,
which hung by the shrouds to the vessel, and by this means got on board.
There they found all on board in deepest distress and despair. Some of
the females and children were below, standing up to their waists in
water and screaming for assistance, one lady, Mrs. White, the wife of
one of the passengers, having a young babe in her arms. The crew were
afraid to bring these women and children on deck on account of the surf,
which still broke heavily over it and would have washed them overboard,
and they seemed too intent on their own preservation to render any
assistance to the helpless passengers. The prisoners from the shore,
however, as soon as they learned where they were, went below and brought
them on deck, holding them fast by the rigging, and intending if no
assistance could reach them in the shape of a whale boat, to seize the
first favourable opportunity offered by a receding wave and swim with
them to the shore. One man had actually stripped himself and was
preparing to tie two children to his back when a whale boat was seen
coming over the reef. Two of the prisoners now got the topsail halyards,
and seeing the boat could get no further without a rope to haul her
through the curling surf, crawled along the mast to the whale boat,
which was then, by the aid of the rope, hauled alongside, and by this
means, although at the expense of many severe bruises to the rescuers,
all on board were saved, as well as most of the property the vessel
contained. The vessel's hull being extremely well built, she held
together till low water, which left her "high and dry" on the reef. She
was eventually broken up on the beach where she was hauled after being
lightened. In recognition of their bravery and valuable services, some
of the prisoners had two years of their respective sentences remitted,
while others received some trifling rewards, such as being put in the
first class, which entitled them to seven-eighths of an ounce of leaf
tobacco per day!

August 1st, 1835--An accident happened to one of the whale boats working
at unloading the "Isabella," which had arrived with a general cargo, the
sea being very rough, some heavy rollers occasionally coming over the
bar. As the first boat was returning from the vessel, a heavy surf upset
her just as she got to the bar, and one man was drowned. The Commandant
then ordered the boats to be hauled up, considering it unsafe to allow
them to go out any more that day. Towards the afternoon, however, the
sea being smooth and there being little wind, the boats were again
launched; but the first boat on her return was swamped outside and one
soldier and a prisoner were drowned before assistance could reach them.
The sea for some hours had been as smooth as a mill-pond and no danger
whatever was apprehended, and everyone was astonished and grieved at
this untoward event.

December, 1835--The "Governor Phillip" arrived with His Honor Judge
Plunkett and a special jury to try two men, one for murder and the other
for an attempt at murder. They were both found guilty and executed on
the 25th inst. December 17th arrived the "Isabella" with prisoners and

January 9th, 1838--A desperate party of the prisoners, three in number,
named William Storey, Michael Byrne, and Hugh Hughes, absconded from
their work at Red Bank to the bush. They were immediately pursued by a
party of constables and overtaken at Drummond's Farm, about two miles
from the settlement, where a desperate fight took place, in which
several of the constables were wounded and one of the runaways, Storey,
was killed; the other two were secured and lodged in gaol. Byrne and
Hughes received 300 lashes each and were sentenced to 12 months in

For the space of two years from this time no event of great importance
occurred. There were frequent arrivals of fresh provisions, frequent
changes of military, and a few changes in Government; but the old
monotony of crime and suffering continued. One marriage is
recorded--that of Mr. Perry, Police Office Clerk and grandson of Lord
Limerick, and Miss Sheafe, sister of one of the military officers. Revs.
McEncroe and Gregory, Roman Catholic priests, visited the Island, and
were followed by the "Lord Bishop of Australia." Major Bunbury succeeded
Major Anderson as Commandant, and matters proceeded as smoothly as could
be expected in such a place until an attempt was made to introduce an
entirely new system of management, which will be fully described in
subsequent pages.

During the winter months the prisoners were called out from their
crowded wards long before daylight, each one to carry his bed into the
yard to be aired--no regard being paid to the character of the weather.
They were then fed and marched out in gangs under overseers, whose
characters were generally a reflex of the superior animal under whom
they served. Under the rule of men who knew no mercy the life of the
convicts on the Island was one unceasing round of suffering, and not a
few sought relief from the horrors of their situation by taking their
own lives.

The evidence taken before the Select Committee of the House of Commons
in 1838 lets the light fully into this dark chambers of horrors, and to
it we may turn with certainty of finding that which, though it shocks
and sickens, cannot fail to interest us:--

Major Thomas Wright, who was Commandant at Norfolk Island for nearly two
years, told the following story:--"When I was there (1828) there were
from 200 to 300 prisoners under my command. We had 60 or 70 soldiers.
The convicts sent to the Island were what are termed 'out-and-outers,'
that is, those who have either been condemned in England as capital
felons and pardoned, and are capital transports, convicted and sentenced
to be transported for life; and also persons who had been a second time
convicted capitally in New South Wales and transported from thence,
together with other criminals who had smaller sentences, but whose
crimes were considered very bad. The greater number were what were
termed 'transports for life.' For rations they were allowed 1 lb. bread
and 1 lb. meat, and a little soap for cleansing themselves, but they
could grow vegetables, as they had each a garden. I should think that at
least half of them were worked in irons. They were put into gangs, which
gangs were perpetually varied as the labour required; sometimes 30 or 40
would be on one spot. The Island is the most beautiful spot in the
world, remote from any other land, and inaccessible all round excepting
two points. Just before I went there the prisoners rose and took the
Island from the preceding commandant, broke down the stockades, murdered
the guard, captured the boats, and the whole body made over to an island
about seven miles off. The officer patched up his boats with tin after
they had absconded, and he and his men pulled over to the island and
carried it by assault. When I was commandant they attempted to murder me
and take the island. When I went down I attended personally to the
labour of every department and stopped many days superintending the
works from morning till night of every party concerned. I took out my
watch on the spot and allowed the men to work for a certain time, and
then gave them 10 or 12 minutes rest every hour until I had ascertained
what quantity of labour every man could perform without tyranny; because
my duty was to punish them for idleness, and I conceived it impossible
to punish a man for idleness unless I had some scale by which I could
judge what they were capable of effecting. During the first month there
was no end to the artifices which they had recourse to avoid labour and
impose on me; and at the end of the month I told them that what had been
done had been done by design, for the sake of making myself
conscientiously acquainted with what they could do, and what they ought
to do, and from that time henceforth I would make them do it. The
consequence of this proceeding of mine (together with the absence of the
superintendent of agriculture, who was in Sydney on a charge of murder)
was, that I was constantly observing their labours in the field, and
once, while returning from so watching them, a man waylaid me and
endeavoured to murder me on the road with a club which he had. He was a
man who I had never seen or punished before; I escaped, however, and he
took to the bush. Several persons then came forward and gave information
that there was a conspiracy breeding to take the island and murder us
all, and to escape in the next ship which should bring prisoners down
from Sydney. I arrested the parties concerned, and the two ringleaders
were the men who had been leaders in the previous mutiny, but pardoned.
None of the men were punished corporally, that I recollect, for their
concern in this mutiny. The man who had attacked me with the club was
shot three days afterwards. He came down in the dead of the night from
the bush into the settlement; I was just going to bed; two shots were
fired by the sentinels in the stockade, and the alarm was given that the
prisoners were mutinying and going to attack the garrison. The whole
detachment was turned out and I put on my things as fast as I could and
ran out; we could not tell whence the disturbance proceeded, it was so
excessively dark, but I told the lieutenant to remain in the garrison
with the main body of men, while I would take 20 men with me and a
bugle, and I should make my way to the guard at the settlement, about
half a mile off, to support them, because they were the guard over the
stores and everything we had to live upon, for there was nothing in the
world on the island and we lived entirely upon the supplies from Sydney,
except the maize corn which we reared. When I arrived I found everything
tranquil at the settlement. I went round the prisoners' encampment and
found a general disturbance, the men singing out 'There he goes; there
he goes; stop him! now he is going for the wheat.' I said 'Who is going?
what do you mean?' A voice called out 'It is Clinch, sir,' (the name of
the man who had attempted to murder me); 'he has come from the bush and
has been attempting to murder the superintendent of the hospital, and is
stowed away among the bulrushes.' These bulrushes were in a large bog
which surrounded the camp, I called to a sergeant and half a dozen men
to go in and secure him. Clinch was armed with a pole, the tail of a
hoe, about five feet long, and at the end of it he had a carving knife,
about a foot long, stuck into it for a bayonet. He nearly murdered the
corporal of the picket who fell in with him; the corporal cut at him
with the sabre, and the men seeing as they thought the corporal in
danger fired at Clinch and shot him. When I came to Sydney a year and a
half afterwards I was prosecuted by the editor of the Sydney Monitor
on a charge of murder trumped up by the prisoners or others and
transmitted to him. They tried to make it appear that I had ordered the
man to be shot. I was tried, and without being called upon for my
defence was acquitted. The convicts were very ready to betray each
other. They are the most treacherous beings on the face of the earth. No
tickets-of-leave are ever given at Norfolk Island. The convicts
committed every species of offence among themselves, and upon the
stores, and under all circumstances; there was nothing to be got at to
rob that they would not steal. The punishment was summary when brought
up; I used to give them 50 lashes and send them away about their
business. We had only three solitary cells there, but I do not think
solitary confinement has much effect upon them; one-third of them,
provided they did not work and were well fed, would just as readily lie
like dogs all the year round. The cells were not much larger than dog
kennels--so small that I did not practice solitary confinement; I put
them in for one or two months, but for no longer periods. The solitude
was absolute, and it must have been tolerably dark in the cells with
bars over the front of the small window. It made no improvement; a man
came out, and in half an hour he would commit a robbery if he had a
chance. The prisoners' creed was never to throw away a chance of
committing a robbery without being detected. I adopted the plan of never
pardoning when there was a conviction. I said 'I shall make one rule;
you shall have the fairest and clearest trial; you shall get out by
every quibble you can; but if you are once convicted, on my soul the
punishment shall follow.' Some boys were sent to the Island; they
conducted themselves pretty well, not being so desperate and reckless as
the old hands. There were no means of religious instruction while I was
there. I was the clergyman; I read service and preached them a
sermon every morning. I assembled them together and had them cleanly
dressed, brought them into the gaol yard and had them in clothes and
their persons thoroughly cleaned. I opened their ranks and went down the
front rank and rear rank, and sometimes, as it had been my habit to do
as an officer, made them bare their shirts and necks, so that I could
see if their bodies were clean; sometimes I used to make them pull up
their trousers above their knees to see that they had washed their legs.
After this I marched in the military under arms and then I had a table
put in front, and I used to read the prayers, and generally one of
Blair's sermons, or any other that I had. I do not think the punishment
at Norfolk Island produces the least reformation; the horror they may
have of going down there may make them more cautious of committing
crimes, but I do not call that reformation. I never saw anything like
penitence or religious feeling. When Captain Donaldson went down to
Norfolk Island, he wrote to General Darling stating that he had observed
a great spirit of amendment among the prisoners, and a great proneness
to religious exercises, and that he thought it would be a useful thing
to send down a number of Testaments, Bibles, Prayer Books and religious
tracts, and accordingly the very next ship brought a chest full of
Bibles, a chest full of tracts, and a chest full of Prayer Books. The
convicts are excessively quick in what they call 'twigging a man'--that
is finding out his propensity, and immediately accommodating themselves
to it, and becoming religious. Captain Donaldson gave them the books,
and they used of a Sunday to get out and put themselves in a conspicuous
situation, that he might see them from the garrison reading; and he
concluded the books were a relief to their solitude, and had done them
good; yet at this very time these men were concocting the mutiny which
subsequently took place under him. The prisoners are great hypocrites;
they will affect any character that suits their views or their ends."

Rev. Dr. Ullathorne gave this testimony:--"I twice visited Norfolk
Island--once in 1834 and again in the end of 1835; I went to administer
religious consolation to the condemned in the conspiracy of 1834. It was
a conspiracy to take the Island from the military and to obtain their
freedom. That conspiracy was planned with considerable ingenuity; it was
planned that a greater number of prisoners than usual should report
themselves sick, and those were separated from the rest and were placed
in a room of the hospital for examination by the surgeon; others were to
arm themselves with implements of husbandry and to proceed down, while
the third party, who were then proceeding to their labour, should turn
upon the guard. The party suddenly assailed the guard, those who were in
the hospital broke out, having broken off their chains, and the third
party was proceeding down, but did not arrive in time. A skirmish
ensued, one or two persons were slain upon the spot, and I believe 11 or
12 were dangerously wounded, six or seven dying of their wounds
afterwards. The consequence was that a great number of them were
implicated in the conspiracy, and a commission was sent from Sydney to
try them. In this case 31 were condemned to death. Some six months
afterwards I proceeded from Sydney for the purpose of attending those
who were to be executed, and on board the same ship was a Protestant
clergyman likewise. On my arrival I immediately proceeded, although it
was very late at night, to the gaol, the Commandant having intimated to
me that only five days could be allowed for preparation, and he
furnished me with a list of the names of the 13 who were to die, the
rest having been reprieved. I proceeded therefore to the gaol, and upon
entering I witnessed a scene such as I certainly never witnessed in my
life before. The 31 men were confined in three cells. They were then
mixed together, and were not aware that any of them had been reprieved.
I found so little had they expected the assistance of a clergyman that
when they saw me they at once gave up a plot to escape which they had
very ingeniously planned, and which might, I think, have succeeded, so
far as their getting into the bush. I said a few words to induce them to
resignation, and then stated the names of those who were to die; and it
is a remarkable fact that as I mentioned the names of these men who were
to die they, one after another, as their names were pronounced,
dropped on their knees and thanked God that they were to be delivered
from that horrible place, whilst the others remained standing mute
and weeping. It was the most horrible scene I have ever witnessed. It
had been a very common thing with us to find prisoners on their way to
the scaffold thanking God that they were not going to Norfolk Island.
The Rev. Mr. McEncroe attended 74 executions in the course of four
years, and during that time he remarks that the greater number on their
way to the scaffold, and upon the scaffold, thanked God that they were
not going to Norfolk Island. The cells where these 31 men were confined
were exceedingly small, so much so that I found, even at night, when I
came there, the men had flung off their upper garments for the sake of
coolness. Crime in Norfolk Island is proverbial; there are designations,
which show at one its enormity, in the mouths of the prisoners. I was
very much struck, indeed, with the peculiar language used by prisoners.
When a person had been conversing with me respecting another individual,
he had designated him as a good man; I suspected that he did not mean
what he said, and on asking an explanation he apologised and said that
it was the habitual language of the place--that a bad man was called a
good man, and that a man who was ready to do his duty was generally
called a bad man. There is quite a vocabulary of terms of that kind,
which seem to have been invented to adapt themselves to the complete
subversion of the human heart, which I found subsisting. The outward
appearance of the great body of convicts was very shocking. When I have
gone down in the morning, at 6 o'clock, to my duties to the convict
barracks, and have seen from 1,100 to 1,200 of them filing out to work I
have been very much struck indeed with the shocking appearance of the
prisoners--the general haggardness of their features, and the hard and
fixed traces of crime upon their countenances. Crimes of violence were
frequently committed on the Island. A very considerable improvement has
taken place of late, the causes being the efforts made by religion and
the indefatigable exertions of the Commandant, Major Anderson. Whilst he
was severe upon those who persevered in their crimes, he was always
ready to reward and encourage those who exhibited any improvement. When
a prisoner had distinguished himself by good conduct for a certain time,
generally one chain was taken from one leg; if he continued for a
certain period longer, say 12 months, a lighter chain was given; after
that the chain was removed altogether. In cases where prisoners
conducted themselves remarkably well they were altogether removed from
the rest, and assigned as servants to officers, or employed as
shepherds, or in some situation separate from the great body. I
appointed a course of prayer for the men on my first visit, and a course
of instruction, and established a school and left books, that those who
could not read might, in the hours between labour, instruct themselves;
and the consequence was that upon my second visit I found that between
60 or 70 persons had learnt to read, and such was the anxiety which some
of those men evinced to instruct themselves, that they were actually
repeatedly observed, when dragging their carts, spelling their letters
at their work."

In a work which was written by the same gentleman, and in which he deals
with the crimes committed in penal colonies, occurs this
passage:--"There is another class of crime too frightful even for the
imagination of other lands, which St. Paul, in detailing the vices of
the heathen, has not contemplated; which were unknown to the savage
until taught by the convict--crimes which are notorious--crimes that,
dare I describe them, would make your blood to freeze and your hair to
rise in horror upon the pale flesh." Before the Committee he said:--"I
have gone through a great deal of pain and torture of mind in
consequence of the horrors which I have witnessed in the colonies and
particularly in the penal settlements, and I have such an intense
conscientious feeling upon that subject, and of the result of those
evils, in the thorough breaking up of the moral man, which ensues from
the crime, that I would do anything that is lawful--I would even
deliberately give my life if I could in any manner lawfully contribute
to the removal of that evil. I allude to unnatural crime. I am convinced
that wherever a number of bad men are brought together and continue
together for any length of time, and are crowded together there is a
great deal of that crime. I believe it exists in the Barracks at Sydney.
The effect of permitting the boys to mix with the men in the day is very
bad--the moral contamination upon the boys is very great indeed. I
observe that generally there are from 16 to 20 boys arrive in a ship
with the men. I used to caution particularly young boys, on the very day
of their arrival, of the temptations to which they would be subject in
the Barracks; and I remember in one instance being told by a boy, a very
young boy, he could not be more than 10 or 12 at the most, that that
very morning he had been attacked by a man at the Barracks. The boys
were frequently designated by female names in the Barracks. It is
impossible that these crimes should cease so long as they are crowded
together. When I returned from Norfolk Island (where two men who were
sentenced to death declared that two-thirds of the island were
implicated in the crime) I suggested what I thought would be a means of
preventing it to a considerable extent. I proposed that the prisoners
should each be separated from the other by a sort of boarded partition;
that there should be two lamps, one suspended at each end of the
apartment; and that there should be likewise two watchman in each
apartment--one at each end, and that no communication whatever should be
allowed between the convicts, and no words spoken during the night."

Many other testimonies might be given to shew the depth of depravity
existing in Norfolk Island, all bearing in the same
direction--indicating that the unfortunate beings who were condemned to
servitude there gave up all hope, and with the giving up abandoned
themselves to abominations unmentionable. The convicts themselves
declared: "When a man comes to this island he loses the heart of a man
and gets the heart of a beast."

The Rev. H. T. Stiles, who visited the Island, said:--"If I were called
on to characterise briefly the moral state of the mass of prisoners at
the settlement, I should say it is marked by recklessness, despair, and
a readiness, arising from the latter feeling, to perpetrate any atrocity
which would afford them a fair chance of escaping from their present
misery. Of the nature of this despair, the state of mind of Burrows, who
was executed for murder in December, 1835, affords an illustration. He
assured me when in the condemned cell that he had resolved to commit the
crime which led to his execution long before its actual perpetration;
that his object was not revenge or hatred to the individual whom he
chose as his victim, but a general feeling of intense wretchedness, from
which, by some means or other, he must rid himself, even though it were
to be by his own death. In this state of mind as he was one day walking
in the gang, he suddenly raised the spade with which he was going to
work, and with it cleft in two the skull of the man who happened to be
walking before him."

I could multiply such testimony ad infinitum, but as I wish simply to
convey a general idea of the condition of convict life in this veritable
charnel house of souls degraded, I have contended myself with giving the
testimony of men who "testified that they had seen!" The evidence given
by that humane priest, Dr. Ullathorne (who afterwards became Bishop of
Birmingham, and who only died the year this story was being written--in
1889) is thoroughly reliable. The deep depravity and frightful
sufferings of the wretched felons at Norfolk Island had become a proverb
amongst their fellows in New South Wales, anyone of whom would sooner
stand upon the gallows than face the horrors of that hell upon earth.

Convicts murdered their fellows, casting lots for the privilege of being
the victim and the slayer, the latter courting the death penalty which
he knew would be passed upon him, and the comrades of the two chief
actors in the tragedy volunteering evidence in order that they might as
witnesses obtain a temporary respite during the journey to and from
Sydney, where the trials were held, although they knew that their return
to the Island would follow the execution of their comrade. So notorious
had this fact become that it was made the subject of special legislative
enactment, providing for the trial of such criminals by special
commission on the island; and this led to a reduction in the number of
such atrocities.

Speaking of the prosecution of six of the convicts for the murder in
connection with the piracy of the brig "Governor Phillip," Judge Therry
(who was then Attorney-General) says:--"At their trial the prisoners
subpoenaed some witnesses from the island who really could have known
nothing of the outrage, for the whole scene was transacted at sea, two
miles from the shore, and the only real object in summoning these
witnesses was to give them a spell from the island. Never can the
dismal appearance of these witnesses be erased from the memory of those
who saw them in the witness-box. Some of them had been two or three
years upon the island. Their sunken glazed eyes, deadly-pale faces,
hollow fleshless cheeks, and once manly limbs, shrivelled and withered
up as if by premature old age, created a thrill of horror among the
bystanders. They were all under thirty-five years of age. They swore
what they knew not of, and cared not what they swore. Of these six or
seven witnesses there was not one who had not from time to time
undergone the punishment of 1,000 lashes each and upwards. They
were as little reclaimable by the lash as if so many drops of water had
been poured upon their backs. They looked less like human beings than
the shadow of gnomes that had risen from their sepulchral abode. What
man ever was or ever could be reclaimed under such a system as this? Who
can say in reference to such a system that the language pronounced with
fearful energy by Cavenagh, one of that class, upon his trial, is devoid
of truth?--'When I landed here I had the heart of a man in me, but you
have plucked it out and planted the heart of a brute in its stead!'
Happily for humanity, that abomination upon earth, Norfolk Island, as it
then existed, is no more. (The Judge wrote in 1863). From its disastrous
and dread example the English nation and the nations of the world should
take warning never to incur again the fearful responsibility of hoarding
together a band exclusively of men the worst outcasts of society, and
allowing them to live under a system from which the charities of life
were excluded, and under which the lash, the dungeon, and the scaffold
were the only instruments used to reform and reclaim fallen man. Who can
deny that under such a system, not only is 'transportation worse than
death,' but that the infliction of death itself is in comparison the
extension and exercise of a mighty mercy?"

The same writer cites an instance, which came under his own observation,
of death being preferred by a convict to imprisonment on the Island. In
1830 he had acted as counsel for two men charged with burglary, and the
men were convicted and sentenced to death, but the sentence was
afterwards commuted to transportation for life at Norfolk Island. They
had been there about a year when a notorious bushranger named Webber was
apprehended, tried and sentenced to death. The day before his execution
Webber sent for Judge Therry and he visited him in the condemned cell,
when the condemned man informed him that the two men whom he had
defended in the burglary case were innocent, he having alone committed
the act for which they had been transported. In proof of the truth of
his statement he told where certain of the stolen articles had been
"planted" by him, and search being made, the stolen goods were found in
the place indicated. The men were thereupon released from Norfolk
Island. The rest of the story is best told in Judge Therry's own

"But now," he writes, "comes the most affecting scene of the eventful
drama. Moved by an impression that a man who had thus rescued two
fellow-creatures from an undeserved sentence of transportation--it had
well-high been one of death--might be put to a better account than that
of being hanged, I visited Webber again and told him that, though I
could hold out no hope of pardon on my own authority, yet I would be
glad to be instrumental, at least, in endeavouring to save his life;
that, with that view, I would represent to Government his meritorious
conduct in the case of the Atkinson burglary; and that, if he would
follow up that conduct in making reparation to society by disclosing how
he had disposed of the proceeds of the many robberies he had for several
years been engaged in committing, I would apprize the Government of this
disposition on his part, and it was probable his life would be spared.
Now, mark! This suggestion was made after his death warrant had been
read to him, at a time, too, when he knew he had only twenty-four hours
to live. Never shall I forget his reply to the proposal. 'No, sir, I
thank you; but I will disclose nothing. All I could gain by it would be
to be sent to Norfolk Island, and I would rather he hanged than go
there. Don't trouble yourself about me; leave me to my fate.' At the
hour mentioned in the death warrant Webber was executed."

As shewing the condition of things on the Island for the four years
preceding 1839, it will not be out of place for me here to quote from an
old document, which fell into my hands nearly half a century after it
was written. It was then in the possession of the son of the writer, who
had served on the Island for many years as Government Chaplain, and who
possessed intimate knowledge of the inner working of the establishment.
Here is what the writer says:--

"In taking a general view of the affairs of Norfolk Island since its
establishment as a penal settlement, it will be found that the most
efficient improvements have been made within the last five years, both
as regards the condition of the settlement and the prisoners; not merely
because a greater facility has offered latterly than formerly, but a
more effectual system has been worked to bring it about. To any one
acquainted with the settlement, its appearance now from what it was five
years ago will silently speak that something has been done. The recovery
of the swamp in front of Government House, converting a useless and
often flooded piece of ground into a very tastefully laid-out
plantation, deserves to be mentioned; and in place of a ditch through
the settlement and centre of it (the water coming from the hills,
afterwards running into the sea), a handsome canal has been cut, giving
the place an attractive appearance. The cutting away of Red Bank as a
site for the new Military Barracks was indeed a gigantic undertaking
both in theory and practice. A short description will better explain it.
It being necessary to erect another barracks for the military, the first
one erected having been found to be too small, it necessarily became a
matter of importance where it should be built. The land about the
settlement is not fit to raise heavy buildings on, from its swampy
nature; besides, it was of consequence that the position of the new
barracks should be a commanding one. To obtain this effectually no
alternative offered except cutting down part of a hill 300 feet in depth
and nearly 80 feet in height, which was required to be removed by
well-regulated gangs, with a front of 700 feet in length; this was
accomplished and the barrack erected in a much shorter time than could
have been at first supposed. In a line with the new barrack, on part of
the same ground, was also built the new Commissariat Stores, the
handsomest and largest building (except the prisoners' barrack) on the
Island. The two above splendid buildings, with many others for civil
officers, such as cottages for the clergy, &c., prove that something had
been done in the way of building. A new gaol was commenced in a line
with the prisoners' barrack, which doubtless would have been completed
long since had not the foundation given way from the cause before
mentioned, the swampy state of the ground, judgment on the part of the
Clerk of Works in charge on the Island at the time being at fault in
this case. The Agricultural Department has been more successful since
1834 than at any time previous. At length the Island is enabled to
support its population with grain and vegetables of all kind; the
prisoners having nevertheless increased more in number on the settlement
during the last five years than were on it altogether before; their
condition is also much better. Since Major Anderson's command there has
been no mutiny, no carrying off the boats, and comparatively few heinous
offences--such as attempts at murder, &c. Several, it is true, have
'taken to the bush,' but a few days have been the limit of their
absence. There was for a long time a classification evidently requisite.
The prisoners did not know on what parallel of hope they stood. They
were indiscriminately mixed at work and in barrack; the best behaved
could not tell for certain that he was noticed beyond the greatest
'out-and-outer' on the Island. Commutation of sentences had previously
been granted to some 'lucky ones,' while others who had served longer
and been fewer times at Court for offences could not obtain this
privilege. Major Anderson in his subsequent recommendations for
commutation and remission of sentences invariably examined the police
record himself, and consequently rescued some well-behaved men from
misery. Concessions of all kinds were only granted to those who had
served certain probationary periods, clear of crime. A first class was
established by order from Head Quarters several years ago, allowing
those admitted some few small indulgences which will be explained more
fully hereafter; yet everyone that deserved it could not get admitted
till late years, for it was not that kind of classification that was
requisite and has since been established. It is named by the Commandant,
Major Anderson, 'The Local Classification,' and its detail is as

1st. That all prisoners on the Island who are two years clear of any
recorded offences in the police registers shall form the first local
class; these are allowed the best rooms and accommodation in barracks to
sleep in; first class rooms containing not more than 38 men and some
only 22; the men are worked in gangs called first class gangs by
themselves, with any indulgences that can be consistently allowed them;
are in messes by themselves and eligible to be employed in any lighter
work their superintendents may direct.

2nd. That all other prisoners, those of known bad character and
malingerers, (those who continually go to Hospital under pretence of
sickness, maiming themselves in different ways, some even applying lime
and other injurious things to blind themselves) excepted, shall form the
second class; these also are worked in gangs by themselves, mess by
themselves, and are allowed the second best rooms and accommodation in
barrack to sleep in; they remain in this class until completing two
years clear of recorded crime, they are then admitted into the first

3rd. That all known bad characters and malingerers shall form the third
class and be allowed the worst rooms and accommodation in barrack to
sleep in; shall be exclusively worked in gangs by themselves, and not
eligible for any indulgence whatever. Whilst in the third class, not
even allowed to go into another prisoners' garden in the meal hours, or
allowed out of the Lumber Yard during that time, except at stated
periods to wash their clothes; they must complete one year of
uninterrupted good conduct in the third class before they can be
admitted to the second class, and progress as before stated.

The numbers were, on the establishment of the system, 28th December,
1838, as follows:--1st class, 648; 2nd class, 691; 3rd class, 107. The
prisoners now see in what comparison they stand one to the other. No
instance of a first class man having degraded himself to the loss of his
class has as yet occurred, and so well have they been selected that out
of 100 cases tried before the Police Court this present first month of
the system working, 86 were 3rd class men. The benefit of this system of
class is more and more evinced every day. A great deal of bad practice
and crime was put a stop to by removing the bad characters from the
others--those who had often stolen, or were found fighting, confined for
not taking proper care of their clothes, &c. The prisoners were also
known by the mark 1, 2 or 3 on each article of clothing, showing to
which class they belonged. This particular circumstance is strictly
attended to, being at once an 'exposee' of every prisoner that offends.

"The system is certainly a wise one, and will, if narrowly watched in
its regulations, be of essential service, as some benefit may arise to
the men not yet developed. This is hoped for by many, and tends in a
great measure to make them hold fast their stations. The old regulations
of 1831 are still in operation and are acted upon as prisoners become
due under their different clauses, namely:--Capital respites for life
not allowed to be recommended for a commutation of sentence until they
have completed ten years of uninterrupted good conduct at the
settlement; then when recommended they are commuted to 14 or 7 years
from the date of such commutation, and thereafter commence such commuted
sentence the same as if just arrived. And as hereunder: The 14 years men
to be eligible for the first (not local) class after 4 years good
conduct at the settlement, and after 8 years in the first class to be
eligible for the remainder of Colonial sentence being remitted upon the
recommendation of the Commandant. Seven years men (not having been
capitally respited) to be eligible for the first class (not local) after
two years' good conduct on the settlement, and after four years in the
first class are eligible, upon recommendation of the Commandant, to have
the remainder of their colonial sentence remitted. Under 7 years to be
eligible for the 1st (not local) class after one year's good behaviour
on the settlement. Constables and overseers to be selected from the
first class (not local); two years as a constable or overseer to be
reckoned in all cases as three years of other service. In the event of
misbehaviour all claims previously earned to be forfeited. Prisoners
sentenced to wear irons for life or for 14 years not allowed to have one
iron removed until completing 12 months uninterrupted good conduct on
the Island; prisoners sentenced to any shorter period than 7 years in
irons not to apply to have one iron removed until having completed 8
months good conduct on the Island; prisoners not eligible to apply to be
recommended to the Governor for the indulgence of having their irons
wholly taken off until they have completed the undermentioned
probationary periods--prisoners sentenced to wear irons, if for life or
14 years, after three years: if for 7 years, after 2 years; under 7
years, after one year.

"From and after the commencement of 1838, the Governor and Commandant
endeavoured to ameliorate the condition of the prisoners and offer
encouragement to such of them as were inclined to get away from Norfolk
Island, and passed an Act to the following effect:--(1). That such of
them sentenced to 7 years at that penal settlement who had conducted
themselves in a satisfactory manner for 12 months should be eligible to
be commended to His Excellency for a removal to Head Quarters to be
worked in irons on the roads or such other places as may be directed for
a period not exceeding three years. (2). Prisoners sentenced to 14 years
at Norfolk Island to be in a like manner eligible to be recommended
after completing 3 years of good conduct at the settlement. (3).
Prisoners sentenced for life at Norfolk Island to be in like manner
eligible to be recommended after completing 5 years of good conduct at
that settlement. The first draft of prisoners, 60 in number, who
received this indulgence left the Island on the 30th of January, 1839.

"The following was the scale of rations on the Island at the close of
1838:--No 1 rations allowed to free overseers and those not under
sentence to the Island, per diem:--1 lb. wheaten meal, ½ lb. maize meal,
1 oz. sugar, ¼ oz. soap, ½ oz. salt, 1lb. beef or 10 oz. salt pork.
Confirmed overseers, prisoners on the Island, per diem:--1 lb. maize
meal, 10 oz. wheaten meal, 1 oz. sugar, ¼ oz. soap, ½ oz. salt, 1 lb.
beef or 10 oz. salt pork, 1/8 oz. tobacco. Acting overseers who had to
serve a probationary period of three months before they were confirmed,
per diem:--1½lbs. maize meal, 6oz. wheaten meal, 1 oz. sugar, ¼ oz.
soap, ½ oz. salt, 1 lb. beef or 10 oz. salt pork, and 1/8 oz. tobacco,
if in 1st class, but not otherwise. First class men (not local) 1/8 oz.
tobacco, per diem. Two suits of slops were allowed to each prisoner in
the year, the issues being on 1st November and 1st May; the confirmed
overseers being allowed a blue jacket in place of a grey jacket or duck
frock, and an extra pair of shoes for the winter half year, issued to
them on the 1st August."

In 1841 Cockatoo Island, near the entrance of the Parramatta River, was
established, many of the doubly convicted prisoners from Norfolk Island
being brought there, and others of them being sent to Van Diemen's Land.
Instructions were sent to the colony for the removal of all the
doubly-convicted prisoners from the island, as the British authorities
wished to make it exclusively a place for the reception of convicts
direct from Great Britain, transportation to New South Wales having then
virtually ceased. But these orders could not be carried out, and
although some of the doubly-convicted prisoners were removed to the
places named, a large number still remained at Norfolk Island.

A new system of treatment was then tried under a fresh commandant,
Captain Machonochie, the convicts remaining and the fresh ones
transported direct from England being treated under it. But the
experiment proved worse than a failure. Under the old regime the
convicts were mustered from their dormitories outside the barrack gate,
in gangs, by the muster roll, each man falling into his gang as his name
was called, and the whole being then marched to labour. The men were
rationed in messes, no cooking utensils being allowed them, and the
bread being baked in the bakehouse. On Captain Maconochie's arrival,
however, the whole system was changed. He proposed to secure good
conduct by a display of extra kindness, but the material upon which he
had to work was too well seasoned in vice to care for anything good, and
under the new rules, for the purpose of getting good marks and luxuries,
they added to their other vices that of hypocricy. He issued a week's
rations to the new hands in a raw state, and had cooking utensils served
out to them. Then the better disposed of the old hands were allowed the
same privileges, and after a while the greater part of them possessed
cooking utensils of some kind. Their labours were also relaxed, and they
were allowed to trade among themselves, to keep pigs and poultry at
their pleasure, and to dispose of them, purchasing sugar, eggs, bacon,
poultry, sausages, corn, &c. with the proceeds, several stalls and shops
being set up in the settlement. During this time there were nearly 2000
convicts on the Island and the system was continued until found to be
valueless as a corrective.

Captain Machonochie had come out as private secretary to Sir John
Franklin, the celebrated Arctic Navigator, who succeeded Governor
Arthur, in Tasmania, in 1837. The Captain had a benevolent theory of his
own concerning the treatment of convicts, concerning which there was
considerable discussion in England at the time, the fact that there had
been 442 capital convictions in the space of three years having caused
men to question whether hanging or flogging were the best uses to which
they could put their erring fellow-men. Machonochie set himself to
collect facts when he arrived in the colony, and he embodied the results
of his investigation in a report, which he sent home to the Colonial
Office, without having fully explained the contents of the report to
Governor Franklin. On the publication of that report he was dismissed by
the Governor; and it having been decided to try what a little kindness
could do for the convicts, Machonochie was charged by Governor Gipps
with the commission of making the experiment at Norfolk Island,
receiving the appointment of Commandant for that purpose. He entered
with great zeal upon his labours, and the eyes of the convicts were made
to open wide with astonishment at the extraordinary change in the method
of treating them which had taken place. Machonochie at once removed all
traces of the severest discipline. The gaol doors were thrown open and
the prisoners were allowed great freedom. The "mark" or reward system by
which they could obtain freedom by good behaviour was explained to them
and they were exhorted and entreated to avail themselves of the
blessings within their reach. In May, 1840, 1800 prisoners on the Island
were for one day (Queen's Birthday) set absolutely free to join in a
general "spree," at which sports and a theatrical performance took
place. The men sang and danced, chewed tobacco and drank rum (those
luxuries being served out to them by the officers), and cheered Her
Majesty the Queen and His Honor the Commandant, as though they were
loyal and dutiful subjects--law-abiding and respectable citizens of a
rising state. For that day they certainly were all this. They were
surprised into virtue, and no disorder marred the festivities. One
writer says:--"Its novelty gave to Machonochie's system the air of
delirium; the disciplinarians of the ancient regime raised their
hands in astonishment."

But as already intimated, the system failed. The reaction was brought
about by the daring attempt of twelve unarmed convicts, who were engaged
in discharging the cargo, to capture the brig "Governor Phillip," with
twelve soldiers and eighteen seamen on board--after the manner already
described in a previous chapter.

Captain Machonochie was re-called in 1844, and a new Commandant, Major
Childs, was sent to the Island. The new Commandant by degrees sought to
re-introduce the old order of things, but with most disastrous results.
As it was found that the men were in the habit of stealing and killing
the Government sheep and cooking the mutton for themselves, doing the
same with the officers' poultry, it was resolved that their cooking
utensils should be taken away from them, and this resolve was carried
out when the men were in their berths at night. Next morning, when they
discovered what had been done, there were mutterings and black looks in
the ranks, and the authorities feared an outbreak; yet they did not take
even ordinary precautions. The storm burst suddenly. The men, in a mob
of 500 rushed the stores and recaptured their cooking utensils. The
nearest military guard was 250 yards off and out of sight, and there
were only a few constables without arms on the spot. Proceeding to the
central station police hut they sacked the place and hunted the
constables, then rushing upon their custodians. The military then
arrived and drove the prisoners into the barrack yard, securing every
man whose dress was disordered or who had blood upon his hands, for
blood had been spilt, they having killed two constables, one of the
overseers, and the gatekeeper, besides having wounded half a dozen
others. For this outrage twenty-nine convicts were brought up and tried,
and fourteen of them were hanged on 23rd September, 1846.

In his report upon this outbreak the gentleman chosen for the purpose
wrote the two following significant paragraphs:--

"In the removal of the cooking utensils from the prisoners I cannot see
a sufficient reason for the murderous outbreak of July last, except in
what I gathered from some of the murderers prior to their deaths.
Horrible though it be, I consider that I am bound to make known to you
what I learnt from them shortly before their execution. Many of these
wretched beings acknowledged to me that for years, indeed, almost from
their first conviction, they had been given to unnatural practices,
declaring that the crime prevailed to a great extent, both in Van
Diemen's Land and this Island; and from one I learnt that those who
pandered to their passions were paid in tobacco, extra provisions, fancy
articles made for them, and any indulgences they could obtain to induce
them to yield to their brutal desires. That being deprived of their
cooking utensils they would have been unable to prepare the food they
might surreptitiously obtain for the objects of their lust; and that
this aroused their savage and ferocious passions to a pitch of madness.
This is the tale of a man about to die. The relation of these abominable
practices came from men who in a few days knew they must be numbered
with the dead; and I have no reason to doubt the horrible confession.

"The address of another to myself on entering his cell was to this
effect: 'Sir, as you value your soul, separate both here and at Van
Diemen's Land, as much as possible, my class of people. We are nearly
all given to unnatural practices. I have witnessed scenes which you
would not believe were I to recount them, and which are not fit to be
related. The flash men you see with made over-clothes and fancy articles
are given to these practices. No check can be given to it but by
separating the men as much as possible, and I beseech you to use you
best endeavours to let the men sleep in cells."

In the year in which these occurrences took place there were still
between 1,500 and 2,000 convicts on the Island. What a mass of seething
corruption it must have been! And we may well marvel that the offended
Being in whose sight this huge company of "fellows of the baser sort"
carried on their vile practices, did not cause the whole corrupted and
corrupting mass to sink out of sight and knowledge in the sea.

After the failure of Machonochie's system, and the "probation" system,
subsequently tried, it dawned upon the minds of the authorities that the
evil of convictism as there exemplified was too gross for cure by the
application of simple correctives, and that nothing short of total
uprooting would avail. By degrees the convicts were all removed to
Tasmania, where they were distributed upon the public works of the
colony, and amongst the settlers as labourers and shepherds, the more
humane treatment adopted having its result in something like general

In 1856 the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island, the decendants of John Adams
and the other surviving mutineers of the "Bounty," were transshipped
thither, the Island having been bestowed upon them by the English
Government, as their own Island had grown too strait for the swelling
numbers of this peculiar "family colony." The vessel which brought them
carried off to Tasmania the last remnants of the convict establishment
so long and so terribly identified with the place. All the buildings
erected by the convicts were appropriated to the use of the new
inhabitants, with a large number of sheep, cattle, pigs, drays and tools
requisite for agricultural pursuits. In 1857 Sir W. Denison, Governor of
New South Wales, visited the Island, and framed regulations suited to
the requirements of its new occupants.

The last of the New South Wales Governors to visit the Island was His
Excellency Lord Carrington, the visit being made in 1887, for the
purpose of settling some trifling difficulties connected with the land.
From the reports then published it is clear that the remaining
descendents of the Islanders have lost a good deal of that indolence
which characterised their forefathers, and that the present occupants of
the once home of human devils and their keepers fully appreciate the
advantages and comforts which have been secured to them.



AS already stated, it was during the administration of Governor King
that Van Diemen's Land was taken possession of and occupied as a
dependency of New South Wales. It was deemed necessary to relieve the
parent settlement at Port Jackson of some of the more dangerous and
riotous convicts of the 7,000 who up to that time had been transported
thither. "Thus," says West, "Van Diemen's Land was colonized; first as a
place of exile for the more felonious of felons--the Botany Bay of
Botany Bay."

The first occupants, under the command of Lieut. Bowen, entered the
river Derwent early in 1803. In January of the following year, the small
armed force and party of convicts who had been sent out in charge of
Governor Collins to form a settlement on the shores of Port Phillip,
were also removed to Van Diemen's Land, the attempt to form the
settlement having failed. Collins landed with his party on the spot
where Hobart now stands, and we are told that the party under Bowen who
had preceded them were "found in a most wretched state, almost
approaching starvation." While Collins was engaged in the preliminaries
of settlement at Hobart Town, Governor King despatched a small party of
prisoners under Colonel Patterson to Port Dalrymple, where the latter
established York Town. Two years afterwards, however, that settlement
was removed to the spot where Launceston now stands, the place receiving
its name from Patterson. For some time there was no communication
between the settlement on the Derwent and that on the Tamar, and it was
not until the year 1812 that both sides of the island were united under
the one government.

The settlers who were removed from Norfolk Island to Van Diemen's Land
formed the nucleus of that free population which grew up there side by
side with the convicts. The new colony for many years experienced
difficulties similar in every respect to those which beset the older
settlement in New South Wales, and the story of its rise and progress
furnish incidents quite as remarkable as any of those recorded of the
parent colony; but I must pass by all this and confine my attention to
the convicts and their treatment.

Soon after the settlement had been established convicts, male and
female, were sent thither direct from England, and the voyage across the
water of the transports was similar in every respect, as regards the
conduct and treatment of the prisoners, to that of the convicts ships
which terminated at Port Jackson. We are told that although wooden
barriers to the women's quarters were erected at starting, they were
soon removed, and the women were free to frequent every part of the ship
under certain conditions. "Both male and female prisoners," says Rev.
John West, "were frequently forwarded together; the officers and
soldiers selected companions for the voyage, and a sentence of
transportation included prostitution. It is not incredible that modest
women rejected life on such terms, and preferred a public execution to
the ignominy of a floating brothel. These practices were first
tolerated, and afterwards justified as politic." The captain of one of
the ships, referring to this subject, says: "The unhappy male convicts
are denied, save occasionally, these profligate liberties (the right of
selection enjoyed by the officers). Occasionally, however, they range
into the quarters assigned to the women. The males, accustomed in London
to indiscriminate license, discover the greatest regret at the restraint
of their passions, in the greatest oaths and in the coarsest language.
The females, who rather resemble the brutes than rational creatures in
their excesses, answer their reproaches and rage with equal effrontery
and unbounded impudence. It is a scene like Pandemonium--a second Hell."
In later years, however, owing chiefly to the publication of the facts
by a Captain who viewed with loathing the abominable transactions, the
authorities provided suitable ships and selected suitable officers for
the voyage, while a committee of Christian ladies in London watched the
departure of their fallen and condemned sisters, and provided them with
comforts and strengthened them with advice to which the earlier voyagers
were strangers. By this means much of the evil was removed; but even
under the best regulations it was impossible to prevent abuses on the
voyage, seeing that in many cases the women were themselves the chief
offenders, and not only readily encouraged debauch on board, but made
existence almost unbearable to those of their prison mates whose modesty
or desire for a better life caused them to hold aloof from the evil
practices in which the ringleaders were indulging.

On first landing the position of the female convicts was, perhaps, even
worse than it had been on board the ship. As I have said, no lodgings
were provided for them, and they were almost compelled to seek the
"protection" of one or other of the officers or male ex-convicts who
offered to give them shelter. Those who possessed the charm of good
looks, experienced no difficulty in finding lodgings, but some of their
less favored sisters fared very badly. Even in the prison, which was
always well supplied with female inmates, the career of vice was
continued, male warders, themselves convicts, being the only attendants,
and the higher authorities being indifferent to anything transpiring
within the walls, provided it fell short of open rebellion. The females
did not work in prison at that time, but according to one writer the
refractory among them were exposed to punishment at once undignified and
severe. Previous to Governor Arthur's time a frequent punishment
inflicted on females was "the placing of an iron collar round their
necks, on each side of which was a long prong, which gave them the
appearance of horned cattle; and with this head-dress they were exposed
in church during service." Mr. Commissioner Bigge in his report to the
House of Commons makes the following statement: "The female convicts,
for want of any separate room in the prison, were placed in a small
wooden hut, near the blacksmith's forge, now converted into a church,
and a constable was placed over them to prevent their escape. This mode
of punishment was found so inefficient that latterly the female convicts
were sent to George Town, where they cohabited with the Government
convicts." Subsequently a female factory was established, from which the
women could be hired for service in private families, but the conduct of
this establishment was no better than that of its twin sister in
Parramatta, which has already been fully described. In his work "Curious
facts of Old Colonial Days," Bonwick says of this nest of unclean birds:
"Even within the author's experience of the colony, the female factory
had some bidding aspects. It was the seat of idleness, the resort of the
vicious. The atmosphere was polluted with the fumes of tobacco smoked by
the women; and the walls echoed with the shrieks of passion, the peals
of foolish laughter, and the oaths of common converse. The beginners in
the walks of vice associated with the abandoned veterans of vice." How
marvellous is it that the evil flowing from this nest of beings
polluted, so long continued and so fully occupied, is not now to be
traced in that fairest of all Australia's fair Islands--Tasmania!

The chief penal settlements of Van Diemen's Land--the places to which
the worst of the male convicts were sent for greater safety and severer
punishment--were Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur.

Of Macquarie Harbour, West, in his "History of Tasmania," says:--"The
name is associated exclusively with remembrance of inexpressible
depravity, degradation, and woe. Sacred to the genius of torture, nature
concurred with the objects of its separation from the rest of the world;
to exhibit some notion of a perfect misery. There, man lost the aspect,
and the heart of man."

That the punishment inflicted there by the overseers was somewhat
rigorous, is borne out by the following facts, taken haphazard from the
records:--Of eighty-five deaths only thirty were from natural causes.
Two thirds of the convicts in three years had received 6,280 lashes, and
out of 182 men, in 1822, there were punished 169, no less than 7000
lashes being distributed between them. During the ten years of its
occupancy 112 prisoners tried to escape, and 62 of them perished. What
wonder that the creatures so driven should turn upon each other and
gamble, with death as the stakes! The toss of a flat piece of wood would
decide which of the company should be murdered, who should commit the
murder, or who should be the witnesses. A blow would be struck and two
sufferers would be released from the horrors of the earthly prison--one
by violence at the hands of his mate, and the other by hanging at the
hands of the authorities; while the remainder of the company would have
a trip as far as Hobart Town and back again.

Concerning the state of society at the Harbour only one fact need be
mentioned here by way of illustration. When the first appointed chaplain
reached the settlement he found the chief officers living in open and
shameless concubinage with the convict women. They refused to listen to
his remonstrances--refused even to assume the shadow of propriety, and
the minister was compelled to abandon his post.

What Norfolk Island was to New South Wales, Macquarie Harbour and Port
Arthur were to Van Diemen's Land--the drainage pools of a heap of
festering moral filth. The very worst convicts were congregated there
and the very worst phases of convictism were there exhibited. The
variety of the evil was infinite, but through each of the classes into
which it might be divided there ran a vein of viciousness that is
indescribable. The worst of the cases mentioned by Marcus Clarke in his
novel "For the Term of His Natural Life" do not by any means disclose
the full extent of the distress and degradation, the suffering and
shame, that there existed. The most repulsive pictures in his story were
drawn from life, and yet they fall very far short of the reality.
Macquarie Harbour is thus graphically described by him:

"'Hell's Gates,' formed by a rocky point, which runs abruptly northward,
almost touches on its eastern side projecting arm of land which guards
the entrance to King's River. In the middle of the gates is a natural
bolt--that is to say, an island--which, lying on a sand bar in the very
jaws of the current, creates a double whirlpool, impossible to pass in
the smoothest weather. Once through the gates, the convict, chained on
the deck of the inward-bound vessel, sees in front of him the bald cone
of the Frenchman's Cap, piercing the moist air at a height of five
thousand feet; while, gloomed by overhanging rocks, and shadowed by
gigantic forests, the black sides of the basin narrow to the mouth of
the Gordon. The turbulent stream is the colour of Indigo, and, being fed
by numerous rivulets, which ooze through masses of decaying vegetable
matter, is of so poisonous a nature that it is not only undrinkable, but
absolutely kills the fish, which in stormy weather are driven in from
the sea.... . The head-quarters of the settlement were placed on an
island not far from the mouth of this inhospitable river, called Sarah
Island. Though now the whole place is desolate, and a few rotting posts
and logs alone remain--mute witnesses of scenes of agony never to be
revived, in the year 1833 the buildings were numerous and extensive. On
Phillip's Island, on the north side of the Harbour, was a small farm,
where vegetables were grown for the use of the officers of the
establishment; and, on Sarah Island were saw-pits, forges, dockyard,
gaol, guard-house, barracks, and jetty. The military force numbered
about sixty men, who, with convict warders and constables, took charge
of more than three hundred and fifty prisoners. These miserable
wretches, deprived of every hope, were employed in the most degrading
labour. No beast of burden was allowed on the settlement; all the
pulling and dragging was done by human beings. About one hundred
'good-conduct' men were allowed the lighter toil of dragging timber to
the wharf, to assist in ship-building; the others cut down the trees
that fringed the mainland, and carried them on their shoulders to the
water's edge. The denseness of the scrub and bush rendered it necessary
for a 'roadway,' perhaps a quarter of a mile in length, to be first
constructed; and the trunks of trees, stripped of their branches, were
rolled together in this roadway until a 'slide' was made, down which the
heavier logs could be shunted towards the harbour. The timber thus
obtained was made into rafts and floated into sheds, or arranged for
transportation to Hobart Town. The convicts were lodged on Sarah Island,
in barracks flanked by a two-storied prison, whose 'cells' were the
terror of the most hardened. Each morning they received their breakfast
of porridge, water, and salt, and then rowed, under the protection of
their guard, to the wood-cutting stations, where they worked without
food, until night. The launching and the hewing of the timber compelled
them to work up to their waists in water. Many of them were heavily
ironed. Those who died were buried on a little plot of ground, called
Halliday's Island (from the name of the first man buried there), and a
plank sunk into the earth, and carved with the initials of the deceased,
was the only monument vouchsafed him. Sarah Island, situated at the
south-east corner of the harbour is long and low. The commandant's house
was built in the centre, having the chaplain's house and barracks
between it and the gaol. The hospital was on the west shore and in a
line with it lay the two penitentiaries. Lines of lofty palisades ran
round the settlement, giving it the appearance of a fortified town.
These palisades were built for the purpose of warding off the terrific
blasts of wind, which, shrieking through the long and narrow bay as
through the key-hole of a door, had in former times tore off roofs and
levelled boat-sheds. The little town was set, as it were, in defiance of
Nature, at the very extreme of civilization, and its inhabitants
maintained perpetual warfare with the wind and waves."

As the convicts were treated with even more severity at these penal
settlements than at Norfolk Island, they were rendered correspondingly
more reckless. In the words of Sir George Arthur, some of them committed
murder "in order to enjoy the excitement of being sent up to Hobart Town
for trial, although aware that in the ordinary course they must be
executed within a fortnight after arrival."

The diet of the prisoners was different according to the nature of their
offence, which determined the class of gang they worked in. The convicts
who had just arrived each received 1 lb. meat daily, 1¼lb. bread, with
4oz. oatmeal for breakfast, and 7 drachms of sugar; salt not being
required, as the food was salt. These formed the first class. The second
class of prisoners were those who had been there some time and had
committed offences--these were called the chain gang, and they received
1¼ lb. of bread, 4oz. oatmeal, and 7 drachms of sugar, but no meat; no
tea was allowed, but they could drink as much water from the bay as they

The chief part of the convict population resided upon the same island as
the military and officers, but about half-a-mile off there was a small
rock, which rock was used as a place of punishment for the refractory
convicts to be sent to at night, in order that they might be separated
as much as possible from the others. This was considered the minor
degree of punishment, but it was very severe. Men who misconducted
themselves were sent to sleep on the island, and it seldom happened that
they could land on the rock without getting wet, probably up to the
waist or neck, and the result was that they must either sleep in their
wet clothes or sleep without clothing. The greater part of them slept in
their clothes, and particularly those who had chains on, and nine-tenths
of the poor wretches were in heavy irons. Fires were not allowed after
eight o'clock at night. The prisoners were chiefly employed cutting
timber for export to Hobart Town. The second kind of punishment was
stopping the meat; the third kind placing them in the chain gang to work
in irons, and the most laborious part of the work, that which they
dreaded the most--working in water and assisting in building small piers
about the island, carrying stones and even diving for them.

Flogging was the next punishment, and this was inflicted very frequently
and freely. Official returns shew that on the average of five years
(1822-6 inclusive) there were 245 prisoners of whom 167 were annually
punished by flogging, and that the total number of lashes inflicted was
33,723, and the annual average 6,744. The cat-o'-nine-tails in use was a
much heavier instrument and larger than the one ordinarily used, which
was called a single cat, this one being a "thief's cat," or double cat.
It did not comprise more than the usual number of tails, but each tail
was a double twist of whipcord, and each contained nine knots. The
effect of the floggings is thus described by the surgeon of the
establishment; "I never, during the 18 months I was there witnessed any
severe illness follow flagellation. I have occasionally had them in the
hospital, and remain for a month or two, but the back generally healed
very well, and no unfortunate consequences followed; no illness took
place. Occasionally, in some men of full habit of body, it would be
necessary to bleed them, and to apply other remedies in order to keep
down inflammatory action, but generally the part contained a large
quantity of coagulated blood, which sloughed and healed up. Sometimes
fever came on and abscesses formed, but these were rare occurrences."

The same official also tells the following story, illustrative of the
life at the Harbour:--

"The convicts appeared to be very much degraded by the floggings. I
could relate many instances in which convicts who had never been
punished with the cat before their arrival at Macquarie Harbour, who,
after their punishment there, became so very much degraded by their
punishment that they sometimes told me they should never be satisfied
till they had been executed for some further offence. They considered it
a most unmanly kind of punishment. I remember one instance of a man
being punished a few days after his arrival for attempting to steal a
boat with another party; that individual received 100 lashes, which was
the maximum of punishment with the cat-o'-nine-tails. After he was taken
down from the halberds he immediately turned round to me and said; 'It
is the first time I have been punished by the cat, and it shall be the
last; the first opportunity I have of committing a crime which will send
me before the Criminal Court shall be one which shall hang me.' And the
man's words were verified, for he was executed for an offence committed
at Macquarie Harbour, and that offence was the murder of his constable;
and I believe three or four out of the same party who were punished that
day for the same offence were executed for the same murder."

The constant desire of the convicts was to escape, and whenever they had
an opportunity they took advantage of it. From 3rd January, 1822, to
16th May, 1827, a return shews that out of 116 who absconded, 75 were
supposed to have perished in the woods, one was hanged for murdering and
eating his companion, two were shot by the military, eight are known to
have been murdered by their companions, six of whom were eaten; 24
escaped, 13 were hanged for bushranging, and two for murder; making a
total of 101 out of the 116 who met with an untimely fate. The authority
for supposing that 75 perished in the woods was that they were never
heard of, and the skeletons of some were found upon the shore, the shore
being the only place where they could get food. Sometimes within a mile
of the settlement bodies were found of convicts, who, in all
probability, were coming to deliver themselves up, and who died from
want before they reached "home." They could not possibly get through the
woods, although one case is on record where an escaped prisoner, named
Pierce, got through and reached the settled part of the country by
sacrificing six of his companions, upon whose flesh he lived. The full
confession of this cannibal convict will be given in a subsequent

Among those who absconded from Macquarie Harbour were fourteen men in a
body. This was in 1824. The convicts, known as "Brady's Gang," seized a
whaleboat and got to the Derwent, when they were compelled to abandon
her. After committing several murders and plundering the inhabitants in
various parts of the country they were all apprehended, tried,
convicted, and hanged. They committed great atrocities, laying the
country under contribution, and setting the military authorities at
defiance for nearly two years. The two leaders, Brady and McCabe,
quarrelled and McCabe was the first man taken. Some of the others were
shot by the military, some were captured and hanged, but other convicts
joined them at intervals from other parts of the colony and the gang was
kept up. On one occasion they captured the surgeon of the settlement,
who was on the road with a letter from the governor to a magistrate
giving information as to the whereabouts of the gang; but they treated
him kindly, owing to his having on one occasion reduced the punishment
to which some of their number were being subjected at the Harbour. They
took his watch and money, but with grim humour returned him his lancet,
saying that it might at some future time prove of service to them in his
hands. From 1824 to 1827 Van Diemen's Land was invested with bands of
bushrangers, but Brady's gang was the most formidable and desperate that
ever roamed at large.

As already stated, the convicts at Macquarie Harbour frequently
committed crime in order to be removed from the settlement. It was no
uncommon occurrence for a man, while he was in bed asleep, to receive a
wound from one of his fellow prisoners, whose sole object was to be sent
down to Hobart Town to be tried by the Criminal Court. Outrage was
generally planned by a party with this object in view. One of them
inflicted the injury, and the others were to come forward for the
purpose of swearing before the commanding officer that they saw the
offence committed, the result being that they were sent to Hobart Town
as witnesses. On their arrival, and when the prisoner was put on his
trial, these men prevaricated so much that the case was almost
immediately dismissed. The Governor feared that if these men were sent
back to Macquarie Harbour they would be chastised and perhaps murdered
by their fellow prisoners; the consequence was that they were very
rarely returned. I will give two cases only in illustration chosen from
many. A constable was murdered at the Harbour by a prisoner named
Edwards, who acknowledged to the Superintendent the same day that he had
committed the murder, striking the constable on the head with a stick,
and afterwards pushing the body into a deep pool of water. The pool was
dragged and the body found. The murderer was sent to Hobart Town, but on
the way some fellow prisoners on the boat persuaded him to state that
the confession had been extorted from him by the superintendent under
fear of punishment. He did this at the trial and was acquitted. In the
other case a constable was murdered by a convict, one of a party of
nine, and five or six convicts came forward as witnesses; but when the
case was called on at Hobart Town they prevaricated so much that the men
would have escaped had not the surgeon happened to be in town at the
time, and he gave evidence which led to their conviction. The men had
seized the constable and put his head into a pool of water, one of them
keeping the head under water with his foot until the man was drowned.

On one occasion the principal authorities sought to serve out a warning
to the convicts of Macquarie Harbour by sending up from Hobart Town two
condemned criminals to be publicly hanged there, thinking that the sight
would act as a preventive of crime. But the experiment failed. The
convicts were drawn up round the gallows to witness the execution, but
the occurrence was turned into an awful, horrifying farce. So buoyant
were the feelings of the men who were about to be hanged, and so little
did they seem to care, that they absolutely kicked their shoes off among
the crowd, in order, as they termed it, "that they might die game,"
while the men in the crowd kept up a jocular fire of exclamations, such
as "Good-bye, Bob!" and "Good-bye, Jack!" until the fatal bolt was

The soldiers only on that settlement were allowed a small modicum of
spirits and tobacco, and the latter article they used to sell to the
convicts at an enormous price. On one occasion it was reported to the
commandant that a soldier had sold a small fig of Negrohead tobacco to a
convict for two dollars. The prisoners considered tobacco the greatest
luxury obtainable, and they have frequently given a shilling for the
purpose of burning out an old wooden pipe, the inside lined with tin,
probably used for smoking many months, and which had become clogged with
the oil of tobacco. They would put a piece of ignited charcoal in the
bowl of the pipe and suck away until the oil was exhausted.

At Macquarie Harbour at one time all the constables--the superintendent,
the chief constable and the overseers--were convicts, and some of them
were most brutal. One of them was noted for reporting those under his
charge, and five or six men were flogged every day for idleness, on his
information. The prisoners were completely at the mercy of these
constables, and if any act of insubordination were not reported the
constable himself would certainly be flogged upon the same being

The voyage from Hobart Town to Macquarie Harbour was a very difficult
and tedious one, occupying frequently a month or six weeks. The convicts
were frequently sent from Hobart Town Gaol to Macquarie Harbour
half-clothed. On this point Surgeon Barnes says:--"Sometimes they had
trousers on, but sometimes they were without them; sometimes they had a
jacket, but more frequently they were without it, particularly if they
had been long in gaol in Hobart Town, when it would have been sold for
tobacco or something of that kind. There were 35 in the vessel in which
I went to Macquarie Harbour, a small schooner of 70 tons, and that was
divided into compartments. The middle part of the ship was the place for
prisoners. There were no beds fitted up, nor was there a deck, but the
convicts occupied the hold of the ship. If the ship happened to be in
ballast they lay on the ballast, but if it happened to be loaded they
had the luxury to lie upon a cask, instead of upon stones. If they had a
blanket it was all very well; but I think out of the number that went
down they mustered only four blankets. I recollect on one occasion the
captain ordered their bedding to be brought on deck, to know what
furniture there was, and to whom it belonged, that it might not be
purloined by the other convicts, and on board that vessel there was one
prisoner who had neither jacket nor trousers; he had only his shirt when
he was sent out of gaol. The commanding officer gave him a bit of
canvas, which was manufactured into a pair of trousers. I have
frequently when at Macquarie Harbour seen men, 30 or 40, in that state,
who have been on board the vessel for five or six weeks, and in the
months of June, July and August, the weather was extremely cold,
particularly upon the western coast of the island."

In 1833 it was arranged that the Harbour should be abandoned, owing to
the difficulty of maintaining connection with the place; and it was when
this purpose was being put into execution that the convicts seized the
ship "Frederick" and escaped--a circumstance which Marcus Clarke in his
novel made to serve a very useful purpose.

Writing in the "Fifties," Bonwick says;--"One who visited Macquarie
Harbour after an interval of twenty years went in pilgrimage over the
scenes, formerly so fearfully active with life. He saw the old roofless
Barracks, and walked over the prisoners' tombs, and the deserted garden
of the commandant. The stone walls of the gaol gave forth a damp and
noxious smell. The cells' floors were strewn with bones and rubbish, and
upon their pine doors were several well-executed drawings. The very
planks were studded with initials and devices, which told of sorrows
past. Thank God! the miseries of Macquarie Harbour are over and gone.
They belong to an age of comparative barbarism in the treatment of
criminals. A better day has dawned, in which the bodily comfort of the
prisoner is regarded and the wants of his moral nature are supplied."

Port Arthur settlement was formed in Van Diemen's Land in September,
1830. It was built on the edge of a large bay or harbour which runs into
the centre of Tasman's Peninsular. The place was a second Norfolk
Island, but if anything worse in its herding of vicious, hopeless
wretches, the severity of the punishment inflicted, and the abominations

The convicts sent there were also those who had been twice convicted,
and the worst characters sent out from England, such as desperate
housebreakers and murderers; a class known as "gentleman convicts" was
also sent there. These gentleman convicts--men of education--received
certain privileges and if they conducted themselves tolerably well were
after a short space sent back to Hobart Town, where they could obtain
situations as clerks or schoolmasters in private families--with what
result has been previously described in the chapters dealing with New
South Wales. To give an idea of the strange mixture on the settlement,
there were, mixed with the general class of housebreakers, pickpockets
and felons, Ikey Solomons, the famous London thief; Collins, the old
sailor, who had thrown a stone at King George; men who had been
condemned for firing haystacks; a clergyman from Scotland; an attorney
from Ireland; and a number of boys, London pickpockets, who had been
sent to learn trades from the convicts who were mechanics. The rations
served out were invariably salt, and as a result scurvy was a common
disease. The chief occupation of the convicts was felling the large
timber and sawing it up for the use of public works in the colony,
carrying it down to the settlement, and loading ships with it. In later
years the convicts were employed in the coal mines, which caused them
much suffering.

The work of classification was very limited in extent. The majority of
the convicts worked in gangs, and were congregated during meals and
hours of leisure, and at sleeping times; the worst working in irons, and
the others out of irons. The punishments inflicted for misconduct were
flogging, the chain gang, and solitary confinement, although this latter
could not be effectively carried out owing to the few cells available.

It was useless for the prisoners to attempt to escape, for the only
means of getting out--a narrow neck of land about 450 yards across was
guarded by soldiers and dogs chained to the lamp posts. These dogs were
very fierce and were always kept fed with raw meat to keep them savage.
Like the convicts at Macquarie Harbour, the prisoners sometimes
committed outrages for the purpose of being sent away from the
settlement, and cases of reform were remarkably rare. Those who were not
brutes were made brutes, and then were made more brutish, by the
treatment they received. Port Arthur was rather a school for eliciting
and perfecting immoral propensities and depraved habits than a
reformatory; and the same thing may be said concerning the whole of the
penal settlements. The reader will not, I am sure, require any further
or fuller illustrations of this saddening truth, although many might be

In one of his dispatches the Governor broadly stated the design of the
establishment at Port Arthur to be "the severe punishment of the vicious
part of the community, as the means of deterring others from the
commission of crime, as well as the reformation of the criminals
themselves." And that design was faithfully carried out in every
particular, for until the penal settlement was broken up there was one
monotonous, unceasing round of strokes and sobs and blood and tears.

To enter upon anything like an elaborate description of general convict
life in Van Diemen's Land would be simply to traverse ground already
covered, for it ran upon all fours with convict life in New South Wales.
In appearance and fact the second edition of the Antipodean penal system
was similar to the first, although Van Diemen's Land was made the
settling ground of many of the convicts who were considered worse than
their fellows in New South Wales. I have confined myself, therefore, to
the brief narration of the working of the system at the penal
settlements. The reader may, however, be interested in a sketch of the
second prison-colony, drawn by a visitor in the year 1850, and I have
culled from that sketch such portions as deal with the subject I have
been treating.

Speaking of Hobart Town the writer (Lieut. Colonel Mundy) says:--"In the
streets the stranger sees less of the penal features of the place than
might be expected. Possibly every other person he meets on the wharves
and thoroughfares may have been transported; for the population of the
island has been thus centesimally divided:--free immigrants and born in
the colony, 46 per cent.; bond and emerged into freedom 51 per cent;
military, aborigines, &c., 3 per cent. But there is of course, no
outward distinction of the classes except in the prisoners under
probation, who are clothed in the degraded grey or grey and yellow,
according to their crimes and character. And these men, being confined
either within walls or in distant stockades, or being marched early in
the morning to their place of work and back again at sunset, fall but
little under the observation of the public. Now and then may be seen,
indeed, the painful spectacle of a band of silent, soured and scowling
ruffians--some harnessed to, others pushing at, and another driving a
handcart, with clanking chains, toiling and sweating in their thick and
dusty woollens along the streets--each marked with his number and the
name of his station in large letters on his back and on his cap. Here a
gang may be seen labouring with shovel and pick on the roadside, or
sitting apart breaking up the road metal; but there is no earnestness or
cheerfulness in this compulsory labour; and accordingly, however active
and ruthless these fellows may have shewn themselves in the commission
of violence against their fellowmen, they are most merciful to the
macadam, only throwing a little temporary energy into their action when
the appearance of a carriage or a horseman suggests the possible advent
of some person whose duty or pleasure it may be to keep them up to their
work. As for the convict sub-overseer, who, one of themselves, is
appointed without pay to coerce the rest--no very active control can be
expected from him."

After referring to the earlier settlement of Van Diemen's Land by
convicts from New South Wales (1803), the writer continues:--"Thus Van
Diemen's Land is a child of Botany Bay, born when the latter was still
in her teens. The babe of grace continued to thrive, although very
nearly starved to death in its earlier days while still at nurse under
the elder colony--kangaroo flesh being then greedily bought at 1/6 per
pound, and seaweed becoming a fashionable vegetable for want of better
food. After about three years, however, cattle and sheep were introduced
into the island in considerable numbers, and were found to flourish
exceedingly wherever the most moderate amount of care was bestowed upon
them. The ports being closed against any but king's ships, the colony
received but few recruits except by successive drafts of
doubly-distilled rogues from New South Wales. After a few years, however,
the interdict against commerce was removed; many military officers
serving there settled down on grants of land; a considerable band of
emigrants was brought by the Government from Norfolk Island, when that
place was selected for a penal settlement; freed prisoners increased and
multiplied, and spread themselves over the interior; but no direct
emigration from the British Isles occurred before 1821, when a census
being taken, the white population was found to amount to 7000 souls. In
1824 a supreme court of judicature was established from Home--Judges
having hitherto been sent from Sydney to hold occasional sessions at
Hobart Town. In the same year having obtained her majority, she
petitioned for release from the filial ties connecting her with Sydney;
and in 1825 she was by imperial fiat erected into an independent colony.
The progress of the island has been surprisingly rapid; although, like
New South Wales, its prosperity as a colony has been chequered by
occasional reverses.. .. .. Money must have been plentiful in 1835, when
a piece of land at Hobart Town was sold for £3,600 per acre.... In the
census of 1847 the population had reached a total of 70,164. Among the
actual convict-class the disparity between the sexes was very great as
shewn by the following official returns:--'Of the ticket-of-leave
holders the males are five to one; of the prisoners in Government employ
eight to one; and of pass-holders in service also eight to one. In other
words, the males are 29½ per cent, and the females only 5 per cent.;
making a difference between the sexes of 24½ per cent, in this class of
the population. On the 31st December, 1858, the convict population was
25,459, of whom 40 per cent. held tickets-of-leave, 48 per cent, were
pass-holders, and 12 per cent were under probation of sentence.'. ..
Tasmania is a more musical alias adopted by the island. It has been
given in titular distinction to the first bishop."

During his visit Mundy was accompanied by an officer whose duty it was
to make periodical inspections of the several hospitals, probation
stations, and the female convict factory at the Cascades, and he thus
describes some of the sights that opened before him:--

"The Cascades factory is seated at the foot of Mount Wellington, wedged
in a gully between hills. The buildings are enclosed within a high wall,
with barred gates and vigilant turnkeys; it is, in short, a gaol in
every respect, according to the respective deserts of its inmates. We
were received at the entrance by the matron, a dignified lady who looked
quite capable of maintaining strict discipline whether in a public or in
a merely domestic establishment. From her hands we received in due
military form 'the morning state' of her garrison--which, as it
appeared, amounted to 730 women and 130 infants. In turn we visited the
several courts, solitary cells, the hospital, refectories, dormitories,
and lavatories. In one yard was formed up for our inspection in hollow
square, seventy or eighty women--open to be hired as servants. These, as
we were informed, were the better conducted, and the pregnant women. In
another court were a strong division of more troublesome and notorious
characters, who were under restraint, and not permitted to go into
service. The uniform, a very unbecoming one to the person, however
becoming to the station of the wearer, is a white mob cap and a dress of
grey duffle. As we passed down the ranks the poor creatures saluted us
with a running fire of curtseys, and a dead silence was everywhere
observed. In a large exercise yard, with an open shed in the centre
affording shelter from the sun, we found some sixty women with as many
babies from two years to two days old--women and children were all
silent! One would have thought them all deaf and dumb;--never was I
before in so numerous a nursery--I hope I never may again! The children
were mostly healthy and pretty. As for their mothers--there must, I
suppose be a good deal in dress as an element of beauty, for I scarcely
saw a tolerably pretty woman in seven hundred. Some of the females, I
found, were the hired nurses of the establishment--not the mothers of
the children. Of these latter many, it appears, merely enter the factory
to deposit their 'kid-forlorn,' and, when sufficiently recovered, return
to service in the town or country in the district to which their ticket
or pass extends, and not a few re-enter its walls as soon as it is
possible for them to require again obstetric assistance. It is nothing
to say that many of these poor brats will never know their own
fathers;--their mothers, perhaps, know them no better; and many of the
wretched little ones, in the hands of the nurses, will never know either
parent. The public consoles itself with the dry fact that they will all
come into the labour market. A large ward was allotted to the midday
sleep of the poor little babes. It was rather a pretty sight for a
father (of none of them) to contemplate. There were a score or so of
wooden cribs, in each or which lay two, three, or four innocents, stowed
away head and tail, like sardines a l'huile; while others were
curling about like a litter of kittens in a basket of straw. All were
wonderfully good--chiefly, I suspect, because there was no anxious mamma
nor fussy nurse constantly soliciting them to do so.

"The visiting-surgeon of the establishment, whom I accompanied, had
found it necessary to prescribe half rations and gentle medical
treatment to a certain turbulent few of the prisoners; and as it was
whispered to him that his fair but fierce patients meditated a
remonstrance when it came to their turn to be visited; and as there was
little doubt this appeal would have taken a Billingsgate form, the
prudent medico postponed hearing it, which, I confess, was to me a great
relief. This was on his part a merciful as well as a discreet step,
because the half-rations of the insurgents would assuredly have been
further reduced to bread and water discussed in silence and solitude--a
thing no woman loveth. Forty-eight hours of this kind of
single-blessedness, with the above meagre diet and a prescription
slightly productive of nausea, occasions, it is said, a prodigiously
soothing effect upon ladies afflicted with gross health and fiery
temperaments. Going along the avenues of solitary cells, there was a
great unlocking of massive doors, and a questioning of 'Have you any
complaints?' I only looked into two or three. One woman was carding,
another combing wool. A third cell, on being opened, I found to be
completely darkened;--it seemed empty, so I passed within the door to
examine its construction. It looked like the den of a wolf, and I almost
started back when from the extreme end of the floor I found a pair of
bright, flashing eyes fixed on mine. Their owner arose and took a step
or two forward; it was a small, slight, and quite young girl--very
beautiful in feature and complexion--but it was the fierce beauty of the
wild cat! I am a steady married man, of a certain age--but at no period
of my life would I, for a trifle, have shared for half an hour the cell
of that sleek little savage; for when she purred loudest I should have
been most afraid of her claws! As the heavy door slammed in her face,
and the strong bolts shot into the grooves, the turnkey informed me that
this was one of the most refractory and unmanageable characters in the
prison.. ... I had no more stomach for solitary cells that day.

"One of the great yards of the factory was devoted to laundress work.
Squads of women were up to their shoulders in suds--carrying on the
cruel process of wringing--or displaying their thick ankles as they
spread the linen over the drying lines. The townsfolk may have their
washing done here at 1/6 per dozen, the money going towards the expenses
of the institution. I was pained to see so many very youthful creatures
in this yard--delinquents in their earliest teens; debauched 'ere the
pith had hardened in their little bones. We had a glimpse of a room full
of seamstresses, most of them employed on fine work. It was not
impossible, the matron said, that some of the elaborate shirt-fronts we
should see at the Government House ball this evening had been worked in
this, and washed and 'got up' in the last ward. A rougher fabric, done
by the less-skilled prisoners, is a coarse kind of woollen tweed, only
used for prison-dresses ... .. The cleanliness of the prison was almost
dazzling, and the order and discipline appeared faultless."

There were other factories besides that described by Mundy, and a
newspaper report on 10th January, 1851, gave the following statement of
the number of female pass-holders awaiting hire:--Hobart Town
Brickfields Depot, 276; Cascades Factory, 176; New Town Farm, 71;
Launceston, Factory, 38; Ross Hiring Depot, 49.--Total 610.

Mundy gives a graphic description of the country through which he passed
on his way to Eagle Hawk Neck. "This post," says he, "by reason of its
somewhat unique feature--a line of canine sentries--is one of the lions
of Van Diemen's Land. On either shore of the inlet running up to the
station there is a chain of huts, each containing a constable and his
dog, to prevent the escape of runaways by swimming this arm of the
sea--a desperate measure, since the fugitive fortunate enough to evade
the tipstaff and the mastiff would have to battle the watch with an
outlying picquet of sharks abounding in these waters. It was related to
me that, on one occasion, four prisoners, good swimmers, led by a
notorious black named Jacky, attempted to cross from a headland called
Sympathy Point to Woody Island, and thence to Forester's Peninsular. The
Englishmen--perhaps because their fair skin acted as whitebait for the
sharks--were one and all seized and devoured by these tigers of the
deep; the native made good his landing, but was afterwards retaken. No
sooner came we in sight of the low, sandy, scrub-grown isthmus which
cuts across the head of the inlet, than our ears were saluted by the bay
of the deep-mouthed dogs, and as we walked up the pier towards the guard
room at the end of it, they all joined in a grand chorus, including
three or four videttes stationed on little platforms laid on piles in
the water. Two armed sentries are posted on the narrowest part of the
neck, the one on the ocean side of it--in Pirate's Cove--the other on
the inlet side of it. The dogs, each chained to a post, with a barrel
for a kennel, and a lamp to illuminate his night watch, connect their
two biped fellow-sentinels, and complete the cordon. The dogs were
generally of a large rough breed, mongrels of the most promiscuous
derivation, but powerful and ferocious. One of the family, who was
permitted to roam at large, amused himself sometimes, and kept his teeth
and temper in practice by running into the shallow and fighting with the
sharks: and he not unfrequently succeeded in dragging them ashore. There
are fourteen dogs 'on the chain' at present.

"Passing Woody Island and Sympathy Point--the scene of the fatal swim
before mentioned--we came to an anchorage for the night just after dusk,
off a small station-nameless as far as I know--at the head of Norfolk
Bay, where, there being no accommodation, we slept on board. A
commissary officer, who resides here in all the solitude permitted him
by a wife and six children, came off and kindly undertook to arrange for
our passage to Port Arthur in the morning, by railway. 'By railway!'
exclaims the reader, 'a railway at the Antipodes?' Yes, by railway--not
propelled by steam power, however, but by human thews and sinews, and in
the sweat of the human brow! At 7 p.m. we landed on a rough pier of
timber, upon which the rail, or rather the wooden tram-way, abuts; and
in the middle of the dreary little settlement, which consists of the
commissary's quarters and a few huts, we found a couple of low trucks on
four wheels with two benches in each, and, standing near these not
elegant vehicles, eight convicts dressed in the grey and yellow garb;
another, in grey unvariegated, being in attendance as head man of the
gang. These were to be our teams. Dividing ourselves into two parties,
Dr. and Mrs.------, and I, got into one, and two tolerably weighty
gentlemen into the other. Upon this, the prisoners seized certain bars
crossing the front and back of the carriages, and after pushing them
with great toil up a considerable plane, reached the top of a long
descent, where, getting up steam, they rattled down at a tremendous
speed--tremendous, indeed, to lady-like nerves--the chains round their
ankles clinking and clanking as they trotted along; and as soon as the
carriages in their headlong race down the hill exceeded the possible
speed of that slowest of all animals, man, at a word from their leader
the runners, jumped upon the sides of the trucks in rather unpleasant
proximity with the passengers, and away we all went, bondsmen and
freemen, jolting and swaying in a manner that smacked somewhat too much
of 'the d---l take the hindmost'--although a man sitting behind
contrived, more and less, to lock a wheel with a wooden crow-bar when
the descent became so rapid as to call for remonstrance. Accidents have
not unfrequently occurred when travellers by this rail have encouraged,
or not forbidden, the men to abandon the trucks to their own momentum
down the hills; for there are several sharpish turns in the line, and
the tramway is of the roughest construction. Occasionally, perhaps,
these capsizes have not been purely accidental when travellers obnoxious
to the motive powers have fallen into their hands. One of the highest
public officers of the colony met, as I was told, with a tremendous
upset on this railway. Rolling, without much damage, into the ditch, he
was picked up, 'teres atque rotundus,' by the 'canary birds,' who
placed him upon his legs, and amid a thousand expressions of contrition
set to work to brush the dirt off his clothes, and so officious were
they, that, on his first reference to his pockets neither watch nor
purse were to be found!

"Half-way we halted at a police-station--not to take in water for the
engines, but to grease the wheels and breathe the men--and then
proceeded with renewed vigour. The distance from our starting point in
Norfolk Bay to Long Bay, an arm of Port Arthur, by the railway, may be
five or six miles. It is sometimes performed in half-an-hour; but to-day
having a nervous passenger, the men did not put forth their best speed.
The tramway, alongside of which there is a bridle-road, lays through a
forest-tract of the most splendid timber wholly wild and uncleared, the
largest trees being the blue gum for which the island is famous. Our
mode of travelling through this fine forest was not precisely such as to
add to our enjoyment of the scene--indeed, it jarred most distressingly
on my feelings; for our poor beasts of burden at the end of the traject
seemed terribly jaded, and I saw one of them continually trying to shift
the irons from a galled spot on his ankle. Returning by this same route
in the afternoon, we were requested by the head man to halt a few
minutes for the men to get something to eat. The overseer told us that
these men had breakfasted at four in the morning at Norfolk Bay, had run
up the trucks with half a ton of rations to Long Bay, and had returned
to Norfolk Bay for our party by half past six.. .. .. The men employed
on this tramway, which is more used for the transport of stores and
provisions than of passengers, are under sentence of hard labour, and
those who are young and active enough to go the pace prefer it to other
task-work--chiefly, I suspect, because many passengers, in flagrant
breach of the convict rules, bestow some small reward on the wretched
drags-men, whereby they are enable to procure tobacco--the grand
desideratum of all prisoners, and other trifling luxuries the value of
which a man never fully knows until they are unattainable.

"The penal township of Port Arthur is the headquarters, both military
and convict, of the peninsular. There are at present about 350
prisoners, and the garrison consists of a captain and seventy grenadiers
of the 99th. I had made up my mind to find in Port Arthur all the gloomy
attributes of a huge donjon. I expected, and I believe wished, to see
the features of nature and the institutions of man frowning in grim and
dreary concert on the spot expressly selected for the punishment of
Britain's blackest malefactors--one half of whom, perhaps, ere the
criminal law of England was amended (or diluted) would have paid the
penalty of their misdeeds on the scaffold. There is, however, in fact,
nothing of the Bastile in the aspect of the town of Port Arthur--nothing
of the desert waste where the felons of other nations are condemned to
linger out their hopeless lives. We saw the cooking and baking for the
prisoners: and better bread and meat and more savoury broth were never
served up at an English yeoman's table; half as good never to that of
the English labourer on Sunday, nor to the Irish cotter twice a year. We
walked through the prisoners' refectory at their dinner-hour. They were
sitting quietly at their tables, while one of each dozen divided the
food into shares. I was told---whether in joke or an earnest way he
doubted--that, if I waited until the meal was over, I should see a
waiter going round with pipes and tobacco for such of the guests who
desired a whiff of Virginia.. .. .. We next visited an admirable edifice
nearly finished at vast expense for the prosecution of the silent and
solitary system. There are long galleries of 'separate apartments,' as
they are delicately termed; courtyards where the prisoners are brought
out one by one to take their exercise under the eye of a constable; and
a chapel so fitted up that each man will--like a prebend or a horse,
have a stall to himself, and so constructed that he can see no one but
the parsons and the constables. The prisoners not in solitary
confinement are marched to church, and have large pews or rather pens
for their accommodation.. .. .. . The present or probation scheme has
for its main features the blending correction with instruction moral and
religious, a careful classification of the prisoners, rigorously
enforced hard labour, and solitary confinement under unblinking
surveillance, for the hardened and refractory; with the lash, Norfolk
Island and the gibbet for the utterly irreclaimable. On the other hand,
milder treatment for mitigated criminals, and for the well-conducted the
certain prospect of the pass, the ticket, and the still larger boon of
conditional pardon, after periods of servitude graduated according to
the sentences and conduct under sentence. According to the present
scheme the prisoner at no period is compelled to work without payment,
except while his own bad conduct past or present restricts him to the
government establishments. On the first relaxation of his bonds he comes
into the labour-market on pretty nearly equal terms with the free

"Getting coal (at the mines) is considered the most irksome and arduous
branch of convict labour. The station here, like most others in Van
Diemen's Land, was, until lately, kept in subjection by a military
guard. A married officer was in command for some time, and such was the
character of the populus vivovum around him, that the females of his
family could not move out without an escort of armed men. Pan-Demons'
Land would be almost too mild a name for a region where such a state of
things existed!"

Speaking of the Male Penitentiary, which he visited one Sunday
afternoon, Mundy says:--"The edifice is built of solid stone, with a
formidable wall surrounding it, and is situated within the city. My
friend and myself were most civilly received by the governor of the
gaol, who straightway conducted us to the mess-room, where the prisoners
were attending an evening lecture by the catechist of the prison. This
officer, standing in a high reading-desk, and selecting a subject from
Scripture (the life of our Saviour was that under present consideration)
mingled his discourse with questions addressed generally to his hearers;
nor did he fail to meet a prompt and intelligent reply, sometimes from
two or more respondents. All were quiet and apparently attentive, but
the answers came from but few. A hymn was sung also in good time and
tune, but the performers were, likewise, a select few. The worst class
of men, in their piebald dress, were separated from those in
pepper-and-salt, (who are for hire by private individuals), and these
again were separated from a more juvenile class, the Parkhurst lads.
There are usually from 700 to 1000 men in this prison. A fine range of
solitary cells has just been erected. The greatest care is observed in
the classification of the offenders, in order to prevent the
contamination of the bad by the worse. The labour, too, is apportioned
by a scale elaborately kept, whereby the age, physical powers, and
health of each person as computed by the medical attendant, are taken
into account. At the conclusion of the lecture the prisoners marched
through a line of constables to their sleeping-rooms which are built to
accommodate about 30 men, in two tiers of berths--a better arrangement
than the old dormitories of 300 or 400 persons, but still I think not
sufficiently divided. There are lamps burning all night in each room,
and a watchman with list slippers, having charge of a certain set of
rooms, creeps about the landing places, maintaining order and decency
under heavy penalties. The wretched gaol birds had all gone to roost in
their respective nests when I looked into some of the rooms. Under
former and more lax systems, I was informed, the short period between
turning in and falling asleep was employed, and perhaps lengthened, by
the most villainous, disgusting, and blasphemous conversation. No
dormitory of nuns--placid votaries of celibacy and religion--could have
been more silent and tranquil than the night-cells of these branded
outcasts; and how is this managed? I really hardly knew whether to burst
into a fit of laughter, or to view with admiration and approval the
scene which was enacting in each sleeping-room. A large tin oil lamp
supplied the chamber with light; and seated on the top of the ladder
under the lamp was a man, one of the prisoners, book in hand, reading
aloud--reading, in short, those very luxurious rogues, whose heads on
their pillows were turned towards the lector, to sleep! The
prison-readers are of course selected from among the best educated men;
the lecture continues from eight to nine o'clock, and is credited to the
performers as so much hard labour; on Sundays serious books are allotted
for these noctural lectures; on weekdays subjects of general information
and amusement afford a lighter lullaby, probably less rapid in its
operation. During the hour or two I passed in this penitentiary, such
was the perfect order and silence observed, that I did not hear a word
spoken except by the officers and attendants. It may fairly be styled a
model prison."

In the few extracts I have given from Mundy's "Antipodes," some light is
thrown upon the social life of the metropolis of Van Diemen's Land. A
great deal has been written of life on the island, and exhaustive
description thereof here would doubtless be considered out of place; but
I may be pardoned for making some reference to the habits and customs of
those who represented respectability and were not responsible to gaolers
for every word spoken and every deed done. For twenty years after the
sailing of the first fleet to form the settlement, the place was almost
destitute of any of those agencies which "make for righteousness," and
if there were any teachers of morality in the land their voices were not
heard. The Rev. Robert Knopwood was the first chaplain, but he does not
appear to have devoted much time to ministerial functions. One not
unfriendly writer, speaking from personal knowledge, thus refers to him
and his work:--"As he never married, his exuberant spirits, his
partiality for lively company, his reputation for jollity, and his
preference for ladies' society, exposed him, in those days of lax
morality, to some free, but not ill-natured criticism. No one accused
him of a want of benevolence, and all commended his gentlemanly
demeanour. He was fond of his pipe; and for a number of years he was
accustomed to dine at the hotel, with his bachelor friends, after church
on Sunday. When much displeased he might employ the language of the
period. Though a clergyman he despised hypocrisy, and his reputed saying
was 'Do as I say, not as I do.' His manner of reading the higher numbers
of the Commandments furnished a joke for the profane. He was decidedly
popular, as Charles the Second was, with the lower classes. As a
magistrate he was not harsh in judgment nor cruel in sentence. To one
who complained, however, of the injustice of some penalty, he is
reported to have mildly said 'Never mind; take your dozen; it will do
for another time.'"

Mr. Knopwood resigned his incumbency in 1823, and retired with a pension
from the colonial fund, his place being filled by Mr. Bedford, who had
been an active worker in the London prisons, and who reached his sphere
of labours at a time when drunkenness and licentiousness in high places
were so vigorous as to threaten the complete disorganization of society,
more than one of the Governors of Van Diemen's Land having encouraged
viciousness by themselves to a great extent indulging therein. Here is
what the writer from whom I have already quoted says on this
subject:--"That which peremptorily called for the reprobation of
authority, but which was sanctioned by the usage of the highest
officials, was the vice of lasciviousness. Thanks to the despotism of
penal discipline, there was little hindrance to the freedom of sin. The
males were greatly in excess of the females. Both parties were, of
course, with very few exceptions, of the prisoner class; and neither sex
was characterized by refinement, honour, or virtue. The women were
certainly abandoned enough without the degrading associations of their
present existence, and the threats as well as allurements which
precipitated their further decline. The consequence of all this was the
practice of concubinage, and an illicit intercourse approaching the
promiscuous. The feelings of the newly-arrived chaplain may well be
conceived. He wept, he raged, he prayed. Instances are on record of good
men being so dismayed at the scenes of vice before them, that they were
constrained to retire before it. The pastor of Hobart Town was made of
sterner stuff. Indignation got the better of his sympathy. His righteous
excitement was kindled, not against the poor outcast prisoner, but
against the authorities in office. These were seen to live shamelessly
in sin. Against these he thundered with a Knox-like zeal in the church
which they were forced in etiquette to attend. He denounced their guilt
in the language of the old seers, and uttered warnings and judgments
with the energy of an Elijah. He rested not here. To purify the land, he
appealed to the executive. If a change of heart could not be secured, at
least the outward shame of sin might be removed. It would be idle for
him to enforce the Seventh command upon the convicts, when they saw its
open violation by their superiors. He found an able seconder of his
schemes of reformation in Governor Arthur, then recently appointed. A
Government order was issued, Commanding all officers, on pain of
dismissal from public Service, to amend their lives, and to be united in
matrimony with those with whom they had been publicly living in shame,
and by whom, in many cases, they had a family. This struck terror into
the community of officials. They wished to retain their position, but
not to be fettered by the marriage tie. They conjured and they
blustered; they presented memorials, and they condemned the tyranny, but
all in vain; the law was intended for obedience. Then the malcontents
turned upon the real author of this invasion of the rights of their
domestic institutions. They sought to cajole him in private; they
insulted him in public. They appealed to his generosity at one time, to
his fears at another. Prayers, bribes, and threats were all in vain. The
Fighting Chaplain was not to be driven from his entrenchments, nor
seduced from his duty. Gradually and sulkily the discomfited chiefs gave
in. Their mistresses were made wives, and their children were
legitimated in the eyes of the law. Then, and not till then, did the
champion of virtue attack those of lesser name, and bring his influence
to bear upon their conduct." The writer closes his reference to this
good man's work by saying that the lovers of colonial virtue will never
cease to recognise with gratitude the labours of the Rev. Dr. Bedford,
the venerable chaplain of Hobart Town.

Concerning the prevalence of drunkenness in Hobart Town many testimonies
are given. It is said that at one sitting in a tavern six emancipists
drank seven bottles of sherry and forty-one bottles of porter; that two
women, "Fat Katherine" and "Carrotty Kit" undertook in a drunken frolic
to swim the river Derwent for a wager of rum; that the public
executioner drank himself to death in 1818; that one of the first
Governors was styled, for his drunken habits, "Mad Davey;" that the
whole colony for weeks under one of the early Governors was drunk
together. The editor of one of the early papers declared, "One half of
those that die in the colony at the present time--perish directly or
indirectly through drink." Women sold grog for the officers, following
the example set in Sydney, and instead of money the constables received
rum for their services, an allowance being served out every quarter at
the rate of a quart for each week, subsequently reduced to a pint per
week, as it was found that the constables became grog-sellers and thus
interfered with legitimate trade. One early resident has placed the
following pregnant sentence on record:--"I remember when I arrived here
first, the public houses were filled with convicts, night and day,
tippling, gambling and concocting robberies. It was often dangerous to
walk the streets in day-time."

From some unaccountable official neglect, until Governor Sorell's time,
no secure night asylum was provided for the convicts in Government
employ, and they were thus at liberty to prey upon the well-disposed
after working hours. It is on record that the night after one of the
leading merchants of Hobart Town had been buried the silver plate was
stolen from the coffin. Tradesmen were in the habit of keeping loaded
firearms at hand while serving in their shops, fearing robbery even in
the daytime; and so low was the state of public morals that the
Inspector of Public Works spoke of the existing depravity as being
fearful, "unparalleled in any age." This was in 1822, and an English
clergyman described the island as "that den of thieves, that cave of
robbers, that cage of unclean birds, that isthmus between earth and
hell!" In the earlier days the authorities literally "strained at a gnat
and swallowed a camel," for while they themselves lived abominably
corrupt lives they issued most stringent orders concerning the sanctity
of the Sabbath, prohibiting all movement in the town during the hours of
Divine service; making carriers and drovers unyoke their bullocks,
bakers put out their fires, butchers stop killing, and milkmen cease
their perambulations and cries--all the practices forbidden being
described as "profanations of the Lord's Day, vulgarly and improperly
called Sabbath-breaking." Read apart from other records these public
orders would lead persons to think the Van Demonians were a godly
people, yet at the very time these Government orders were promulgated
and being enforced, grog was sold openly by prostitutes for the benefit
of the officers, scarcely a single official attended public worship, and
not one in ten of the law administrators was living with his own wife.

Sales of wives, both public and private, we are told, were common. One
woman was sold for fifty sheep, another for £5 and a gallon of rum, and
another for twenty sheep and a gallon of rum; yet while these thing were
allowed, no couple could be joined in "holy wedlock" without first
obtaining a Government stamped order. The female convicts at one time
were common property. As in the case of the male convicts, the females
had no place of night shelter provided for them upon their arrival,
although rations of food were provided, and they had to find shelter
where and how they best could. Bonwick, whose voluminous and reliable
sketches of life in Van Diemen's Land are most valuable as records of
the early days, referring to the state of morals existing at the time of
which I am writing, says:--"That which was so fertile a source of vice
was the numerical disproportion of the sexes. Very few women came out as
prisoners in the early times. After a time some good people in England
sought to rectify the evil by the shipment of free but destitute, young
women. The selection could not have been happy. A dozen, sent out by a
religious society, were christened by the sailors 'The Twelve Apostles;'
and Dr. Cunningham informs us of 'a goodly proportion of that chosen
band being found in a matronly way by the reverend inspector, who
visited them on arrival.' One of the female immigrants wrote thus to a
friend in England: 'Out of two hundred and sixty-eight that came out
with me, I verily believe that there were not more than twenty who have
any claim to a good name, being driven to the most wretched and
loathsome debauchery.' When the Government continued to pour convicts
upon the devoted island, in spite of the protestations of the free and
emancipated inhabitants, who wished for some more moral atmosphere for
their children, the social evils increased and the hope of the colonists
declined. Petitions were presented, in 1835, against this terrible'
scourge. The Anti-Transportation League was subsequently organized; and
an active opposition was presented to the impolitic, unchristian, and
inhuman acts of the British Government. Petitions to Parliament, and
memorials from Tasmanian mothers to the Queen were alike disregarded;
the fairest of isles was to be, apparently, doomed as the dust-hole of
Britain for ever. Nothing but the inexorable logic of events in the
Australian gold discovery stayed the hand of the moral destroyer of
Tasmania.. ..The disproportion of sexes varied in years, and greatly
differed according to condition and locality. Thus we find that, in
1834, the relation of males to females in Hobart Town and Launceston was
as 7 to 5 among the free and 3 5/8 to 1 among the bond. But in the
sparsely populated agricultural districts, where male labour only was
required, the proportion was remarkably different, being as 5 to 3 with
the free, and 17 to 1 with the bond. In the whole island, of 40,283
persons, 11,482 were females. One sad consequence of this disproportion
was the exposure of women to unwonted temptation and to atrocious
violence. Free women, and girls of colonial families, were often
severely tried, and their moral sense was blunted by the tone of
society. When female emigrants were shipped off from England by the
philanthropic efforts of Mrs. Fry and her friends, in the hope of
correcting the evils of the island, and finding homes for destitute and
ill-supported girls, the only immediate perceptible effect was a vast
increase of prostitution in the streets of Hobart Town. But the darkest
shade has yet to be revealed. It would not be honest in the historian to
be silent about one evil that pre-eminently cursed the penal settlements
of Australia and Van Diemen's Land, and resulting less from the paucity
of females than the brutal sensuality of men of crime, herded in masses
together, still further to corrupt each other. By no means unfrequent in
the older colonial days the vice of the sunken cities of the plains
prevailed more under the congregated Probation System than in the times
of the general assignment of convicts."

It must be as pleasing to the reader unacquainted with the island, as
the knowledge that the statement is absolutely true is gratifying to the
colonists, to know that in 1870 Bonwick could write: "Yet Tasmania has
now a larger proportion of church-going people than England, a much
larger number of Sabbath school attendants, and a degree of active
benevolence, social prosperity and even moral development, that
surprises even thoughtful colonists themselves."

As in the case of New South Wales, the scars of the old convict sore
have entirely disappeared, and vigorous national life in its very best
phases now flourishes on the soil once cursed by criminality of the
darkest hue.


THE following confession of the convict Pierce, murderer and cannibal of
Van Diemen's Land, is taken from papers which were laid before the
Committee of the House of Commons in 1838:--

Alexandra Pierce, Deponent:

"Sayeth, that he was working with a gang at Kelly's Basin, with overseer
Logans. Deponent, Bob Greenhill, Mathew Travers, Thomas Bodenham, James
Brown, Bill Cornelius alias Kennedy, John Mathers, and Alexander Dalton
made it up for to take a boat and proceed (from Macquarie Harbour) to
Hobart Town; Greenhill being at the mines we had to call for him, he
being a good navigator. As soon as he saw the boat he put on his jacket
to know what we were up to; six of us went ashore and one stopped in the
boat; Greenhill took hold of an axe and went to the hut, and broke open
the miners' chest and took all their provisions. We then took two
buckets of water to put the fire out so that they should not make a
signal; we then thought we had all the fire extinguished, but when we
had got about a quarter of a mile distant we found we had not put it
completely out, for we saw the miners making fires all along the beach;
we then considered that there would be a boat despatched after us, which
prevented us going by water; we proceeded on a little further and drew
up the boat; we then consulted what was best to do with the boat;
Mathews Travers and Greenhill said it was best to break her up, as we
had two good axes, which we did. This prevented us from going to Mr.
Lucas and taking all his provisions, as he was going up to the
settlement that day with oil from a whale he had killed. This we had in
contemplation sometime before. Everyone took a little something, either
provisions or an axe; we then proceeded on that, it being fine, to the
side of the large mountain, right opposite the settlement; we were
afraid that Dr. Spencer or the Commandant would see us with the spy
glass, the settlement appeared so very plain to us, so we agreed to lie
down till the sun would get a little round that we might not be seen; we
advanced up to the top and kindled a fire, where we stopped all night.
The next morning, as soon as day appeared, we started and travelled on
to dark night. The next morning we rose early and travelled towards the
east; we kept off Gordon River for fear the soldiers would be after us;
we travelled through a very rough part of the country to dark night. We
came to the side of a large hill, where we kindled a fire, and there
remained until morning; we then proceeded on through a very rough
country for eight days, till we came to the side of a large mountain; we
then kindled a fire; we were in a very weak state for provision, as we
had been out for two days before our arrival here. Little Brown, who
came back and died in the hospital, was the worst walker of any; he
always fell behind and then kept cooeying, so that we said we would
leave him behind if he did not keep up better; we kindled the fires this
night above all nights; as we were all very weak and were disputing who
would get wood, so everyone got some for themselves and made their fire.
Bill Cornelius made some tinder this night and left it by, as he had
some intention to turn back; three days before the other tinder got wet;
we were very cold and hungry. Bill Cornelius says "I am so weak that I
could eat a piece of a man." The morning after this there were four of
us for a feast. Bob Greenhill was the first who introduced it, and said
that he had seen the like done before and that it eat much like a little
pork. Mathers spoke out and said it would be a murder to do it, and then
perhaps they could not eat it. "I will warrant you," said Greenhill, "I
will well do it first myself, and eat the first of it; but you must all
lend a hand, so that you may be equal in the crime." We then consulted
who should fall. Greenhill said "Dalton, as he volunteered to be
flogger, we will kill him." Dalton, Brown and Cornelius had a few bushes
and made a little break-wind. About three o'clock in the morning Dalton
was asleep; then Greenhill ran and took an axe and struck him on the
head, and he never spoke a word after; he called------. Mathew Travers
with a knife also came and cut his throat, and bled him; we then dragged
him to a distance, and cut off his clothes, and tore out his inside and
cut off his head; then Mathew Travers and Greenhill put his heart and
liver on the fire, and eat it before it was right warm; they asked the
rest would they have any, but they would not eat any that night; the
next morning it was cut up and divided, and each one got an equal share.
We then got on our way a little after sunrise; there was a man appointed
each day to go in front; this man had to carry nothing, but was only to
make the road. Bill Cornelius and Brown said they would carry the tin
pots and a little tomahawk; we had not gone more than a quarter of a
mile from the fires when Brown and Cornelius were missing, we turned
round and looked, but could not see any signs of them; we then said
amongst ourselves that they had turned back, as they had seen the Gordon
River, and that they would hang us all; we returned back and stopped for
a quarter of an hour, but could not see any signs of them; we then
thought it was no use to go any further in pursuit of them, as we
thought they could not make their way back. We then proceeded on for
four days through a bad country till we came to a large river which we
thought to be Gordon River; we stopped there one day and two nights
looking for a place to cross; we fell two trees, but the stream was so
rapid it swept them away instantly; we then came to a place where there
was a rock extending from the opposite side to about the middle of the
water; there were two of us could not swim, Mathew Travers and Bodenham;
three of us swam over and cut a long pole, 30 or 40 feet long, and got
on the rock and reached over and dragged the other two over by this
means; we then kindled a fire on the opposite side and stopped there all
night; John Mathers took a purging and begged that we would remain a
little longer; so we did stop another night; we then got up the hill on
the opposite side with great difficulty, it being so steep; it was
barren ground for miles on the other side of this hill. John Mathers had
the tinder in his breast, and by some means it dropped down into his
trousers, and Mathew Travers ran and lifted up the axe and said he would
kill him if he did not give it to him immediately; we then lay this
night in the cleft of a rock and the next morning were scarcely able to
move, for we were so cold and wet. We then proceeded on for four days
through barren and very scrubby ground, we then came to a very nice
plain and agreed to stop there all night; we were all in a most weak
state. Mathews Travers, Greenhill and Mathers went to aside and
consulted who should be killed next. Bodenham did not know anything
about it; then Travers, Mathers and Greenhill came down to the fire and
bade me and Mathers go and get some wood, while Bodenham would wake
easy; Travers says "You will hear it immediately;" so, in about two
minutes I heard a blow given, and Mathers said "He is done, Greenhill
hit him with the axe and Travers cut his throat." They laid him out and
Bob Greenhill took his shoes and put them on himself, as his own was
bad. The heart and liver was all that was made use of that night. We
then thought we would take a day's rest as we had provisions, so we
stopped another day in the plains; we then dried the dead body and
proceeded on our way, through a marshy ground, for three days, bearing
to our right. We then crossed the first western tier; we could see a
great distance from off the top of the mountain. On the opposite side
there was marshy ground, with a large river in the middle, and there was
very fine trees growing on the banks. We then stopped at the river for
one night, we then went up the river side, bearing more to the left for
three days, and we saw many kangaroos and emus, and game of all kinds;
then our provisions were all out. We then said to ourselves that we
would all die together before anything else should happen. John Mathers
and deponent went to one side, and Mathers said, "Pierce, let us go by
ourselves; you see what kind of a cove Greenhill is; he would kill his
father before he would fast one day." We then went on for two or three
days after this, through a very fine country, and you could see 70 miles
without any bush. We then took and boiled some of Bodenham; Mathers
boiled the first and it made him so sick that he began to vomit;
Greenhill started up and took the axe and hit him on the forehead; he
shouted "Murder! Pierce, will you see me killed?" He cut him, but being
stronger than Greenhill he took the axe and threw it to me to keep. We
then went on a little further, to another little creek of fresh water,
where we took up our lodgings that night, I went to a little distance,
and, looking round, I saw Travers and Greenhill collaring him, and they
told him they would give him half an hour to pray for himself, which was
agreed to; he then gave the Prayer-book to me and laid down his head,
and Greenhill took up the axe and killed him. We then stopped two days
in this place; we then proceeded on our journey, each man getting an
equal share; we then got forward to the second tier of mountains where
we had to remain four days from a sting that Mathew Travers received in
his foot; his foot got a little better and we proceeded on until we got
over the second tier of mountains, on the fifth day after the death of
Mathers. On the opposite side of the second tier we came to a very large
river, where we made a fire and stayed for two nights and one day.
Greenhill and I went up and down the side of the river looking for a
place that was narrow as Travers could not swim. Greenhill and I swam
across; he carried the axe and I took a little of the provisions that
remained; we then cut a long wattle and put it across to Travers and
pulled him over; we then stopped on the other side that night; we then
proceeded on for two days after this through very fine country. Travers'
foot began to inflame and turned black, and he said we had better go on
and leave him there. Bob Greenhill and I went to get a little wood; he
said "Pierce, it is of no use to be detained any longer, and we will
serve him as the rest," Deponent said "I will not have any hand in his
death." When we came back Travers lay flat on the ground from the pain
in his foot, he was in all appearance asleep; this was about two o'clock
in the day. Greenhill lifted the axe and hit him Travers, on the head
and cut his throat. We then stopped two days at this place, we then took
all we could with us and got on, inclining to the left, through a very
fine country; the weather was beginning to get better. We then got over
the third tier of western mountains and came to another large river at
the foot of the third tier, and we stopped there all night; the next
morning we got across the river, part of it we swam and part waded; we
came to a most delightful part of the country, where there was very long
grass. Greenhill began to fret, and said we would never get to any port
with his life. I kept up my spirits all along, and thought we must
shortly come to some inhabited part of the country, from the very great
length we had travelled. I watched Greenhill for two nights, for I
thought he eyed me much more than usual. He always kept the axe under
his head when lying down, and carried it on his back in the daytime. One
night we came to a little creek between two hills, where we kindled a
fire. I thought he had a bad disposition as to me this night. Near the
break of day I found he was asleep; I run up, took the axe from under
his head, and struck him with it, and killed him; I then took part of
his thigh and his arm, and went on for several days after this till all
was completely done. I went on for two days without anything to eat; I
then took a piece of a leather belt and was going to hang myself, but I
took another notion not to do it. I went on a little further and saw a
fire, and at this fire were pieces of kangaroo and opossums. I picked up
these and eat what I could, and carried the remainder with me. I then
went on for several days, until I came to a little marsh, where I saw a
duck and ten young ones. I made a leap into the water; the old one flew
and the young ones dived; I stood in the water up to my middle, and up
starts two of the young ones at my feet. I made a grasp at them and
caught them both. After this I put up at a little fresh-water creek,
about two hours before dark. The next day after this I got on the top of
a hill, and looking all round me I saw a large mountain, which I took to
be the Table Mountain. I could not be convinced as to the certainty of
it, so I went on a little further; I then came to a big river at the
high plains, and travelled along it for two days. I came to a flock of
sheep, which belonged to Tom Triffett, at the Falls. I drove them all
forward to a scrub and made a hold at a large one, but it carried me off
and I was forced to let it go, so after that I drove them up again and
caught a lamb, and eat it raw. The hut-keeper came forward and said he
would shoot me if I would not stop immediately. He then put some
questions to me, and then he knew me. He carried the remains of the
lamb, and took me with him to the hut, and made meat ready for me, where
I stopped three days, and he gave me all attention. He then said that
his master was coming up, and I could not stay there any longer. He
brought me down the river on the fourth morning, and took me across the
river to Mr. Lord's hut, where I stopped a week; he got me rum and
anything that he thought I could take. I made to another hut, which
belonged to Tom Farrell. I then stopped there three weeks, sometimes in
the hut and sometimes out of it. I went then to the Shannon, to Mr.
Risely's hut, nine miles from the other; the hut-keeper was not in; I
then made a fire when in came Davis and Cheetham; they had been in the
bush for some time before for stealing Caserty's sheep; they then took
me to Maquire's hut, which is three miles and a half off, when Paddy
Farrell and Maquire were there and a little boy. We stopped there till
morning and drunk tea and milk. We then came to the Shannon hut again,
and got our breakfast, Cheetham called me out and asked me what I was
going to do. He said if I would come with him he would do well for me.
He brought me to a hill, where they had a hut and 126 sheep newly
marked. They went up the country to bring more, and I stopped six days
with the sheep without anyone being with me. We then started with the
sheep, to take them to the Lovely Banks, when we came on a Corporal's
guard of soldiers. The soldiers came out of their hut; we then ran away,
and came to Bill Davis' place. The soldiers took the sheep to Captain
Wood's. We stopped at Davis' three days, where I was provided with a
musket and pistol, and kangaroo knapsack. We then went to Green Point,
where we left our dogs at Cox's hut. We stopped there that night, and
came to Stanfield's garden; each of us filled our knapsacks with fruit;
Cox's man was with us; I first went from the Shannon hut to Mr. Lammas
hut, at the little Sugar Loaf, as there was an old man there I knew. As
soon as I went in Mrs. Mortimer was there, and immediately knew me. As
soon as she saw me she said "Pierce, I thought you were sent to the new
settlement." I said "No, the Governor has forgiven me." This was the
woman that first made it known that I got up. I then went to my old hut,
at Rodger Gavin's hut, where he had different things planted. I stopped
there six days without much provisions, I then went back to the Shannon
hut, where I promised that I would be back at Christmas. I then went to
catch some sheep belonging to Rodger Gavin, but the herdsman saw me; he
then went and gave the alarm to Bill Corney, and they pursued me, but
could not get me. I went then to Captain Bligh's and got into a cave,
and I got a sheep and skinned it; but I was very near being caught. I
stopped there four days and then made to the Shannon hut, where Cox's
man and George Marr and deponent broke the fruit trees, and each of us
took a three-bushel bag of apples away. We then stopped at the Cove
House all that night; we then went to a hut at Bagdad, where we stopped
another night. We then went to a man named Big Sam, and got a quarter of
mutton. We then came to the Lovely Banks, where we sent in word to Bill
Davis' woman, and we stopped there three days. We then went to Davis at
the Lagoon, after a black gin, who was to get four bushels of flour from
Johnson, the stock-keeper at the first western tier; the black girl was
in the hut and we could not get her out. We dallied there that night,
but was unsuccessful. We then came to Mr. Fryett's hut; we then awaked
next morning and saw a corporal's guard coming upon us. Bill Davis
snatched his piece and run; Corporal Kelly run after Bill Davis, and the
others stayed with us; Kelly fired and missed, and Bill Davis turned and
said "I have you in my power now." Kelly then run, and cried murder, and
the other soldiers run up, and shot Davis through the thigh and arm. The
same trousers deponent still wears that Davis had on between the Shannon
hut and the Big Lake; there were 250 good sheep, and different other
articles planted; two good watches. No person has been there; deponent
says they are still there; deponent says that James Mortimer, at the Big
Lagoon, has got Mr. Risely's two silver watches and one gold watch; he
further sayeth that at the Relief Creek, at the bottom of the first
western tier of mountains, and in this one mountain, there are many
things planted. When we went to the bush it was all our intentions to go
to the Falls and take a big launch of Mr Lacells; we were then to rob
Tom Triffett and Mr Abel and another person, and take all their firearms,
and cross to Brown's River to take the schooner, and to proceed home;
from that Benjamin Jackson, William Jarrett, and many others were to go;
we also had it in contemplation to go outside of the Heads and stop
until some vessel should come in sight, and go as if we were the pilot
boat, and surprise them all."

When this depraved criminal, Pearce, was taken by the military, there
being no proof against him but his own confession, which was not relied
upon, he was returned again to the penal settlement of Macquarie
Harbour. When he was ill in the hospital expecting to die he made this
statement, and it was taken down in his own words. He absconded a second
time from the settlement, in 1823, with a prisoner named Cox, a farmer's
labourer. A few days afterwards he surrendered himself to the
authorities, but in the meantime he had murdered Cox and lived upon his
body for three days, although at the time he gave himself up he had some
pork and bread in his pocket, and he could not consequently have done
the dark deed from pressure of the hunger pangs. He also had some fish
which he had not tasted, saying that human flesh was far preferable. He
told Lieutenant Cuthbertson all the particulars of the murder and that
he would point out the unfortunate remains. A boat was accordingly
dispatched with Pearce early next morning for King's River, well
guarded. After the party had landed and walked about 400 yards by
Pearce's directions, the body was found and brought to the settlement in
a fearfully mangled state, being cut in two at the middle; the head off;
all the flesh off the calves of the legs, back of the thighs and loins;
also off the thick part of the arms, which the inhuman wretch declared
was most delicious food. None of the intestines were found, and Pearce
said that he threw them behind a tree after having roasted and devoured
the heart and part of the liver. One of the hands was also missing.

On being questioned why he murdered Cox he said they had quarrelled
about the route they were to pursue, and Cox being the strongest man he
was obliged to take up an axe, with which he knocked him down and killed
him. His reason for giving himself up was, that he had no hope of
ultimately escaping, and that he was so horror-struck at his own inhuman
conduct that he did not know what he was about when he made the signal
upon the beach, and which led to his being taken off the island. He had
on the murdered man's clothes when brought back to the settlement.

On November 21st, 1823, Pearce was taken to Hobart Town, tried at the
criminal court for the murder and executed.


AS several references have been made in these stories to a man named
Mudie, noted for his cruelty to the convicts, a short historical sketch
of that individual's colonial career will not here be out of place. It
will serve to show the sort of men who fattened on the sweat and blood
of their more unfortunate brethren. Mudie was originally a
sub-lieutenant of Marines, but had been graciously "permitted to retire"
under circumstances which required the exercise of indulgence from his
superiors. Entering into a medal-manufacturing speculation
(commemorative of the Peninsular war) he became involved in financial
difficulties and as a certificated insolvent sought to better his
fortunes by crossing the water to New South Wales, being assisted
thereto by a wealthy acquaintance in England. On his arrival he secured
a grant of land at Patrick's Plains, on the Hunter River, in New South
Wales, and in the course of a few years was able to run an extensive
establishment, having on his "plantation" between forty and fifty
assigned servants. The position of the convicts assigned to "The Major,"
as he was called, was an unenviable one. They had better have been on
the chain gang, for their master looked upon them as slaves, only
created to do his bidding, and to labour continuously at the highest
tension on poor food and abundant lashes. According to his theory,
convicts could not be treated to the slightest indulgence without
endangering their usefulness as beasts of burden, and the best of them
could never be reformed. Perpetual motion and perpetual punishment were
the only things favoured by him, and many a poor wretch had to serve him
and suffer under him for long after the original sentence of
transportation in his case had expired. The lash was Mudie's little god,
and he worshipped it as a savage only can worship a thing of evil,
keeping it always in motion, and never permitting the blood to get dry.
And he boasted of his harshness, as though it were something whereof any
man might be proud. In a book called "The Felonry" which he had printed
(but which he found it necessary to suppress on account of its many
libels) he drew his own portrait. Speaking of the convicts as a whole he
said "Nothing could wash their guilt or obliterate its brand,.. .
Regarding their punishment as a means of deterring other persons in
England from the commission of similar crimes, the prolongation of
the punishment is justified even in cases in which the reformation may
have already been accomplished."

It was right, of course, that a man of such pronounced ideas concerning
transportation and penal discipline should be allowed fair opportunity
of proving the truth of his theories by practical experiment, and hence
Governor Darling appointed him to the magistracy. As a magistrate and a
master Mudie practiced all he preached--and more. He called his
establishment "Castle Forbes," in honour of the man who had assisted him
to emigrate, and here it was that the bloody work was done which made
him notorious in an age of bloody deeds. The scenes which were enacted
under his personal superintendence have never been fully described, for
they were indescribable; but the result of his brutal treatment was soon
made manifest in outrages and acts of desperation by the poor wretches
who were the victims of his brutality. At last a climax was reached.
Five of the convicts at "Castle Forbes," driven to desperation and
despair, seized firearms at the station, broke away and took to the
bush, first attempting to shoot the overseer. The men were pursued by
the police, captured, and eventually hanged; but the story they told in
court led to an inquiry being held, and eventually Mudie was removed
from the Commission of the Peace. Here is what Judge Therry says
concerning the trial of the men:--

"Convicts on their trials for capital offences were usually unprovided
with counsel; they had seldom (except cattle-stealers, who were a
wealthy tribe of robbers) means to defray the cost of a defence. In such
cases, on the trial of aboriginal natives, Government defrayed the
expense of counsel for the prisoners; but this provision did not extend
to convicts. There was at this time, however, a benevolent person in
Sydney, possessed of ample means, who, on condition only that his name
should not be disclosed, defrayed the cost of counsel on several trials
of convicts on capital charges; and on this occasion it happened to me
to be thus employed as counsel for Mudie's men. The trial presented a
truly painful exhibition. The men took their places in the dock, as I
took mine at the bar, in utter hopelessness of their escape from
conviction. They had repeatedly declared before their trial, and
afterwards, that they would prefer death to being returned to the
service of their late employer. Evidence of their guilt was too
transparent to admit of doubt, and the only line of defence that I
conceived in any way available for them was to shew that their treatment
had been such as to present some mitigatory features which might lead to
the infliction of a punishment short of death. By this course I, no
doubt, greatly displeased Mudie, and all who identify the duties of
counsel with his private opinions, and look upon him as the approver of
crime, and not the mere defender of the criminal. The men were tried
under a local ordinance, called 'The Bushrangers' Act,' which rendered
them liable to execution twenty-four hours after sentence. They were
found guilty; and then ensued a scene in court such as is not likely
again to be enacted in New South Wales, or it may be hoped anywhere. On
being called upon in the usual solemnity of form to say why sentence of
death should not be pronounced upon them, Hitchcock, the most
intelligent of the five men, said he had no ground to offer, but he
implored the Government to institute an inquiry into their past
treatment; the floggings they had undergone; the frivolous excuses
resorted to for the purpose of depriving them of their liberty after
they had served a period that entitled them to its partial enjoyment, by
being granted tickets-of-leave; the bad and insufficient food they had
received; the system of merciless infliction of the lash throughout the
district of the Hunter River. On behalf of the convict population he
implored this act of justice and of mercy. He proceeded to denounce by
name the proprietors on whose establishment he alleged these floggings
were incessant. Hitchcock was stopped by the Court, and he concluded by
requesting permission that he and his fellow prisoners might be
permitted to exhibit their lacerated backs to the public gaze in
Court, to show what tortures they had endured. This request, of
course, could not be complied with; the fatal sentence was passed, and
they were executed. The Solicitor-General (Mr. Plunkett) humanely
forebore to insist on their execution in twenty-four hours after the
sentence, and assented to their having a reasonable time to prepare for
death. These prisoners were all young men, in the prime of life, varying
from twenty to thirty-two. Poole, one of them, was an excellent
carpenter; and two others were mechanics. The whole scene caused a
shudder that thrilled, not only through the Court, but through the heart
of the colony. They died with the same expression of complaint on their
lips as those to which they gave utterance on the trial."

Men shudder as they read of the tortures inflicted upon captives in the
old days of darkness; and they feel the hot blood of anger rush through
their veins as they read of the horrible cruelties practiced in Siberia.
But where can the reader find a more horrible tale, or a more affecting,
of magisterial brutality on the one hand and passive suffering on the
other? There be wretches surely who have lived in New South Wales,
sitting in high seats of honour, and wielding a power almost unlimited,
whose backs shall be whipped by scorpions of fire as fiercely as they in
their insensate love of blood did lash the poor mortals in this sunny
land when the days of its life were young. If it be impious, it is but
human, to feel a sort of satisfaction in the thought that there is a day
of reckoning in their future, and that the blood of the poor,
hard-driven, helpless, forsaken manacled ones does not cry unheeded to
heaven from this earth. What a strong tide of wrath shall pour upon
these merciless wretches when the flood-gates of Divine Justice are let

The complaints of the five men did not fall upon ears altogether deaf to
the cry of the sufferers. An inquiry was instituted by the Government,
and the result of the investigations, to use the temperate words of Mr.
Flanagan, "was a condemnation of the mode in which assigned servants
were dealt with at Castle Forbes." Mudie was struck off the commission
of the peace, and left for England in 1835. He gave evidence before the
Transportation committee in that year, but told so many fabulous tales
of the convicts as to destroy his case entirely. Portions of his
evidence were ordered to be struck out by the Committee, and other parts
were proved quite untrustworthy; Sir R. Peel, one of the Committee,
absenting himself from the inquiry with the remark that "the witness
(Mudie) under examination had told such improbable tales he could place
no reliance on such evidence." Subsequently Mudie came back to the
colony, but the respectable classes of the community shunned him, and
his power of indulgence in his favorite pastime having been broken, he
returned to England, carrying away on his back the marks of a severe
horsewhipping which he had received at the hands of the son of the
Attorney-General in the principal street of Sydney, as punishment for a
libel upon the young man's aged father. In common with the memories of
other notoriously bad men, the memory of Mudie cannot die. It must live
for execration.


AMONG the many thousands of convicts sent to New South Wales there were,
as I have said, many very good men and many very bad men. It would not
be by any means a difficult task for a vigorous writer, having the old
records before him, to fill a bulky volume with personal histories of
remarkable convicts--histories full of incidents and experiences more
sensational than have ever appeared in any work of fiction. I will
endeavour to gather up a few of these personal histories and present
them in as concise a form as possible, taking one or two from the better
class first.


In the month of September, 1794, shortly before the advent of Governor
Hunter, there arrived in the colony as convicts four gentlemen, known
generally as the Scotch Martyrs--Messrs. Muir, Palmer, Skirving and
Margaret; and a few months after their arrival another, a Mr. Gerald,
was sent to keep them company. Mr. Palmer--who had been a clergyman--was
under sentence of seven years, and the others under sentence of fourteen
years. They had been convicted of what was called sedition, having
"stimulated the people of Great Britain to effect a reform of
Parliament." Students of Scottish law have always declared that the
sentence passed upon these men was illegal, and its harshness and
severity therefore stand out in bolder relief. They were all men of
peaceable lives and estimable characters, but no merit could weigh with
statesmen and judges of a nation whose governing classes were mad with
excitement and terror consequent upon the French revolution. The man
to-day who can effect a reform of Parliament is highly honoured of his
fellows; but in those days the slightest breath of censure upon
established institutions was condemned as treason, and the man who dared
to breath it was dealt with as a traitor, only a shade in crime below
the man who plotted to take the monarch's life. These well-meaning,
honest, outspoken, philanthropic men, whose misfortune it was to be born
in an age of ignorance and tyranny (these two things always go together
when the party moved by them possesses power)--these truly unfortunate
men were sent from England to herd with the rogues and thieves and
murderers who were accounted too vile to live on British soil. It would
have been a merciful act on the part of the English Government to have
hanged them straight off, for the fate of four out of the five of these
Scotch Martyrs was very melancholy. Mr. Gerald, who was a man of
delicate susceptibility and refined manners, robbed the Government of
thirteen years service by dying within a year of his landing in the
colony. The iron had entered his soul when sentence of transportation
had been pronounced. Three days afterwards Mr. Skirving followed him
into the land of the Unknown. He died of a broken heart, but the
Government doctor called it dysentery--a convict was not supposed to
possess a heart. Mr. Palmer lived to serve his sentence and started for
"home," but died before the vessel reached England. Mr. Muir, who had
made a reputation at the bar in Scotland, made his escape from the
colony in an American vessel, called the "Otter," which had been hired
by certain gentlemen in New York to touch at Port Jackson for the
express purpose of carrying him off, they having known and admired him
previously. On leaving, Mr. Muir sent a letter to the Governor, stating
that he did not intend to infringe the laws of his country by returning
to Great Britain, but that he would endeavour to reach America, where he
would practice as a barrister till the expiration of his sentence should
allow of his returning to Scotland. But the scheme which promised so
fair ended most disastrously. The "Otter" was wrecked on the west coast
of America, and Mr. Muir suffered great hardships in endeavouring to
reach Mexico, travelling along the coast. From Mexico he obtained a
passage to Europe in a Spanish frigate, but his evil star was still in
the ascendancy. A British man-of-war fell in with the frigate when off
Cadiz; an engagement followed; the frigate was captured; and Mr Muir was
injured during the engagement, part of his brain being actually shot
away. In this condition, and when lying apparently dead upon the deck of
the frigate, he was seen and recognized by a Scotch officer, who had
previously known him, from a small pocket Bible which had been given him
by his mother, and which he held in his hand with the grasp of death.
The officer humanely kept the discovery to himself, and had Muir
conveyed to an hospital on the Spanish coast, where he recovered
sufficiently to enable him to proceed to Paris. Here, however, he again
fell ill, and shortly afterwards crossed the dark river to join the
companions who had been set free before him. Thus died four out of the
five--victims to a law which would disgrace a country of heathen. Mr.
Margarot was the only one of the five who lived to return to his native
country, which he did in 1813, after the expiration of his sentence; and
he rendered good service by exposing before the Committee of the House
of Commons some of the abominations and atrocities which were practical
in the colony by the men who had been sent there in soldiers' uniform to
administer justice and preserve the law. It is only due to Governor
Hunter to mention that he did all in his power to make the burden of
these unfortunate gentlemen as light as possible. He was a good friend
to them in their distress, and the inhabitants generally looked upon
them as hardly-used men, worthy of the deepest sympathy, which they
unstintingly accorded to them. Sterling worth was recognized in the
colony even in those days.


A large number of persons who had taken part in the Irish rebellion of
"Ninety-eight" were transported to New South Wales, and not a few of
them were clergymen, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and members of other
professions, whose genteel calling and inexperience in the exercises of
labour rendered them altogether unfit for ordinary service under
Government, or as ordinary assigned servants. Several of them were,
however, utilized in Government offices, while others made themselves
valuable to wealthy free settlers or emancipists who required clerical
assistance. The employers of convict labour complained very bitterly
that the British authorities should send men to the colony who were
incapable of labour; but while these growlers only looked with favour
upon men who could be used as working bullocks, there were others who
hailed the advent of men of good morals and considerable intellectual
attainments as a great communal blessing. The political offences for
which the "Ninety-Eighters" were transported were not considered to be
very serious on this side the water, where it was easy to mark the
degrees of crime. Amongst the most remarkable of these exiled rebels
were Rev. H. Fulton, a clergyman of the Church of England; Rev. Father
Harold, who had been parish priest of Reculla, county Dublin; William H.
Alcock, who had been a captain in a regiment of the line; Dr. O'Connor,
who was Alcock's brother-in-law; and Joseph Holt, who had been the
principal leader of the Irish rebel army, and who was universally known
as General Holt. The first of these five gentlemen did active service as
Government chaplain in the colony, and was acting in that capacity when
Governor Bligh was deposed, being at the time at Government House, and
proving how much of a rebel he was by sacrificing his personal interests
in endeavouring to shelter the Governor from the cowardly attack which
the mob of the New South Wales Corps made upon him. The last-named of
the five rebels was in many respects a remarkable man, and although he
did not enter very prominently into the life of the colony, he left at
his death (which took place in Dublin in 1826) a singularly interesting
biography, which shews more clearly than can be gathered from official
documents the peculiar conditions of the life in the colony, during the
period of his exile.

The story of Holt's life has been thus summarised in Bennett's
Australian Discovery and Colonization:--"He was an Irish Protestant of
English extraction, a native of Ballydaniel, in the county of Wicklow.
His father was a small farmer, and Holt himself was brought up to the
same occupation. He afterwards, in addition to his agricultural
pursuits, became road contractor and overseer of public works for the
Barony of Ballynecore. At the time of the breaking out of the rebellion,
in 1798, he was a thriving yeoman, upwards of forty years of age, a
loyal subject, and a staunch Protestant. He knew little or nothing of
politics, and looked upon the rebels as people deserving the most severe
punishment that could possibly be inflicted for daring to raise their
hands against the government. It is an extraordinary fact that,
notwithstanding the position of rebel general in which circumstances
afterwards placed him, he continued to hold the most loyal opinions as
long as he lived. Probably few instances can be found in which a man was
carried by the stream of events in a course so directly opposite to that
in which his habits, religion, character, and convictions would have led
him. For some years previous to 1798 he had made himself many enemies by
his energetic and courageous capture of many desperate offenders against
the laws; and in addition to this he had incurred, on account of some
pecuniary quarrel, in which he says he was greatly wronged, the
rancorous enmity of a wealthy and powerful but unprincipled neighbour.
This man, who afterwards occupied a very conspicuous place in Irish
Society, was, or professed to be, a rabid royalist, and lost no
opportunity of ingratiating himself with the Government by denouncing
and prosecuting obnoxious neighbours. When martial law was proclaimed,
this man's position as a magistrate enabled him to ravage the district
in which Holt lived with fire and sword. He burnt to the ground the
houses and homesteads of many Catholic families, driving the men to join
the rebels in the Wicklow mountains, while the women and children were
reduced to a state of starvation. Holt, notwithstanding that he was a
Protestant, and an unswerving upholder of English rule, had always been
a great favorite with his Catholic neighbours, and was ever ready to
take their part when he thought they were oppressed. Being a bold,
outspoken man, he did not hesitate to denounce the conduct of the
magistrate referred to, and endeavoured to interfere in behalf of his
poorer and less loyal neighbours. He knew that the persecutions which
they suffered proceeded much more from private malice, and the officious
zeal of bad men in the advancement of their own personal and selfish
interests, than from any wish or intention of the British Government to
oppress his Catholic fellow subjects. Holt's interference, although it
does not appear to have taken any more tangible form than that of
uttering strong words against the oppressor, and the extending of
sympathy and assistance to the oppressed, was fatal to his interests. He
was denounced by his powerful neighbour and personal enemy as a rebel,
or as an aider and abettor of rebels, his house and property were burned
and destroyed, his wife and children thrown upon the world, and to save
his life he was obliged to fly to the mountains to seek the assistance
of others similarly situated. Even under these circumstances his loyalty
was never shaken for a moment. He looked upon the rebels and their cause
as utterly contemptible. He knew nothing of republican theories, and
cared nothing about political parties. He had been grossly wronged, but
did not blame the Government; for all his aspirations began and ended in
a wish to redress local grievances and to punish the petty tyrants who
had burnt his house, rendered his family homeless, and driven his
neighbours to desperate courses. In his autobiography he never neglects
an opportunity of giving expression to his contempt for those who had
engaged in the rebellion from political motives, and he is the more
especially severe upon those who, having occupied respectable positions,
had sacrificed life, liberty, or property for the sake of what he
thought Quixotic theories and sentimental notions of liberty. He appears
to have been a courageous, outspoken, ready-witted, but somewhat vain
and hot-tempered man, of very limited education, but with a good
address, commanding presence, and a very determined expression of
countenance. The poor misguided, ignorant peasants whom he found in arms
in the Wicklow mountains had been deserted, as soon as real danger
appeared, by many unprincipled cowards who had helped to fan the spark
of rebellion into a flame, and their numbers were daily augmented by
ruffians who sought only an opportunity for plunder. The rabble rout of
rebels hailed the accession of Holt to their ranks with the greatest
joy. They knew he was a man of honesty of purpose, courage, and
capacity, and they insisted on his being their leader. He had no choice.
He could not return to his ruined home, for a price was set upon his
head, and to refuse the position to which the rebels wished to elevate
him was to court the suspicion and ensure the enmity of the most
desperate gang of ruffians that ever robbed and plundered in the name of
liberty. He endeavoured to gather round him as a body-guard men who like
himself had private wrongs to redress, or who were sincere in their
desire for the political regeneration of their country; but during the
many months that he acted as rebel leader he was never free from the
fear of being assassinated or betrayed by his followers for the sake of
the reward offered by the Government. Having led his men through many
successful conflicts, he at length ventured to assert his authority,
although often in vain, to prevent outrage and plunder. At one period
his army--if an almost undisciplined mob could properly be called an
army--numbered about thirteen thousand men. He says they were for the
most part the most despicable set of cowards, fools, and knaves that
ever disgraced humanity. His reliable men, those who actually fought for
aught but plunder, do not seem to have numbered more than a few hundreds
at any time, and as there never was the slightest political sympathy
between him and even his best followers, it is no wonder that they soon
dwindled to a few scores. He got rid of the thousands of plunderers who
followed his effective force as best he could, and at one time was so
disgusted with their atrocities that he sent information of their
whereabouts to a party of the royal troops, with the hope that they
would attack and disperse or cut them to pieces. He saw the utter
hopelessness and absurdity of the rebellion from the first, and resolved
to make terms for himself if he could possibly do so without betraying
his companions. He was at last enabled to effect this object by giving
himself up to Lord Powerscourt, with the implied condition that his life
should be spared. He was never brought to trial, but banished for life,
and by the kindness and munificence of a lady who felt a deep interest
in the welfare of his wife and family, Mrs. Holt and his son Joshua were
provided with passages on board the ship despatched by the Government to
convey him and other rebels to New South Wales. Joshua Holt, although a
boy of but twelve or fourteen years of age at the time of the rebellion,
went through some very remarkable scenes in that memorable outbreak.
When his father, about fourteen years afterwards obtained a full pardon
and returned to Ireland, Joshua remained in the colony, where he
married, brought up a large family, and lived, much respected, to about
the age of four-score years. He died, a short time since, in Elizabeth
street, Sydney. He was fond of recalling the recollections of his boyish
life, and recounting the strange scenes he had witnessed in his early

A good deal in Holt's life (published in London in 1838) which refers to
the character and conduct of colonial authorities is couched in terms of
great bitterness, and abusive epithets are very freely indulged in. His
troubles commenced almost immediately after he landed. His position was
a peculiar one--for although he had never been tried and convicted he
had come to the colony in a prison ship, and it was therefore considered
at first by the colonial authorities that he was entirely at their
disposal; and as he was known to be a man of great energy and
intelligence, and well acquainted with agricultural pursuits, more than
one of the wealthy settlers attempted to get him handed over to them as
an assigned servant. With this view they wished to convince him that he
would be much better off in such a position than if he remained under
the direct control of the government. This selfish plan Mr. Holt met in
such a manner as to make those who proposed it almost regret having done
so. They soon saw that he was not a likely man to allow himself to be
made a useful tool in their hands. As a specimen of how "government men"
were worked and treated in those days he gives the following account of
what he was shewn as a warning or taste what he might expect if he was
determined to resist being assigned to a private master. The Rev. Mr.
Marsden, the gentleman who particularly wished to obtain his services,
took him a few days after his arrival to see a government gang at work.
Here is the narrative in his own words:--

"He requested me to accompany them, and we proceeded to a government
settlement, where they were tilling the ground on the public account. At
a distance I saw about fifty men at work, as I thought, dressed in
nankeen jackets, but, on nearer approach, I found them naked, except a
pair of loose trousers. Their skin was tanned by the sun and climate to
that colour. I felt much pity for the poor wretches: they had each a
kind of large hoe, about nine inches deep and eight wide, and the handle
as thick as that of a shovel, with which they turned up, as with a
spade, the ground, which was left to rot in the winter. They cannot bear
any clothes when at work in the heat of the day.

"Captain Johnstone addressed me, saying 'Mr Holt, you are a good farmer,
I suppose?'

"'I do well enough with horses and oxen, but not with men,' said I.

"Dr. Thompson then said, 'Do you think those men would understand you
better than horses or oxen?'

"'Yes, sir,' I replied, 'but it appears great brutality to work men in
this manner.'

"'Well,' said he, 'it matters not what you think about it, you will soon
come into it.'"

Shortly after this Mr. Holt became agricultural superintendent for Mr.
W. Cox, one of the largest cultivators and stock owners in the colony at
that period. He had returned from a visit to Europe in the same ship
that brought out Holt and the other Irish rebels, and thus became
acquainted with him. Holt's account of his management of the many
convicts under his control, and the particulars he gives concerning
farming operations, &c., are full of interest. Respecting the management
of convicts, he says:--

"As to the convicts, there was a certain quantity of work which, by the
government regulations, they must do in a given time, and this may be
given to them by the day, week, or month, as you pleased, and they must
be paid a certain price for all the work they did beyond the stipulated
quantity. If they were idle, and did not do the required quantity of
work, it was only necessary to take them before a magistrate, and he
would order them twenty-five lashes of the cat on their backs, for the
first offence, fifty for the second, and so on; and if that would not
do, they were at last put into a gaol gang, and made to work in irons
from morning to night.

"In order to keep them honest, I paid them fully and fairly for all they
did beyond their stipulated task at the same rate as I paid the free
men, and, if I thought the rations not sufficient for their comfortable
support, I issued to each man six pounds of wheat, fourteen of potatoes,
and one of pork, in addition. By this means the men were well fed; for
the old saying is true that 'Hunger will break through stone walls,' and
it is all nonsense to make laws for starving men. When any article was
stolen from me I instantly paraded all hands and told them that 'if it
was not restored in a given time, I would stop all extra allowances and
indulgences; the thief,' said I, 'is a disgrace to the establishment and
all employed in it; let the honest men find him out, and punish him
among yourselves; do not let it be said that the flogger ever polluted
this place by his presence. You all know the advantages you enjoy above
gangs on any other estate in the colony, do not then throw them away. Do
not let me know who the thief is, but punish him by your own verdict.' I
then dismissed them. The transports would say amongst themselves that
what I had told them was all right. 'We won't,' they would reason, 'be
punished because there happens to be an ungrateful thief amongst us.'
They then called a jury and entered into an investigation, and, on all
occasions, succeeded in detecting and punishing the offender. I was by
this line of conduct secure from plunder; and the disgusting operation
of flaying a man alive, with a cat-o'-nine-tails did not disgrace the
farms under my superintendence. Mr. Cox one day said to me 'Pray,
Joseph, how is it that you never have to bring your men to punishment.
You have more men under you than, I believe, any man in the colony, and
to the surprise of all you have never had one flogged, or indeed have
made a complaint against one; they look well, and appear contented, and
even happy.' 'Sir,' said I, 'I have studied human nature more than
books. I had the management of many more men in my country, and I was
always rigidly just to them. I never oppressed them or suffered them to
cheat their employers or each other. They knew if they did their duty
they would be well treated, and if not, sent to the right-about. I
follow the same course with men here. I have taught them the advantages
they derive from good conduct, and I make them punish an offender
themselves: therefore, if any depredation be committed upon your
property, they are told that all allowances and indulgences will be
stopped, until whatever is missing be restored. The crime, therefore,
becomes one against them-selves, and they have better means of detecting
it than I have. They call a jury and convict and punish the offender. I
should myself be very ill qualified to act as your agent and overseer,
were I to have a man or two flogged every week. Besides the horrible
inhumanity of this practice, the loss of a man's week or fortnight's
work will not be a trifle in a year, at twelve and sixpence per week;
for the man who gets the cat is incapable of work till his back is well;
so in prudence, as well as in Christian charity, it is best to treat our
fellow-creatures like men, although they be degraded to the state of
convict slaves. They will, moreover, when properly treated, be sensible
of kindness, and find that they better themselves by behaving well. But,
as you ask me, I will shew you my private flogger.' I then went to an
outhouse and brought Mr. Cox two hoes, one of which weighed three pounds
and a half, the other seven. He took the lightest in his hand, and said
it was a very good one. I then handed him the seven pound hoe, which he
took into his hand, and after a time said, 'This is a terrible tool.'
'Well, sir,' said I, 'there is my punishment; the man who misbehaves
knows he will get the seven pounder, and I have great satisfaction in
saying it has been used but once, and then only for a short time.'

"'The greater number of overseers in the colony,' I continued, 'have
been criminals themselves, and have neither prudence, honour, or
humanity; they are ruffians, who are actuated and influenced by the
worst passions, and frequently flog an unfortunate wretch for
complaining of their oppressions. No man could insult me by saying, "I
am as good as you, for you were a thief, and I am no worse!" Believe me,
sir, thieves never make good masters, or use power with moderation or

It would have been a blessed thing for the colony if there had been more
overseers and more masters of the stamp of Mr. Holt and Mr. Cox. Of the
latter gentleman (some of whose descendants still live in the colony,
rich in the possession of this world's goods, and rich also in the
enjoyment of the esteem and respect of the community), Holt
says:--"There never was a man who desired to serve another more than he
did, or to do a kind act. When the purchaser of a horse or mare came to
make his first payment, Mr. Cox would often indulge him with six months'
longer credit. He was truly a good friend to every honest man he met
with. His good treatment of the convicts in his service had the happiest
effect upon many of those who were so lucky as to get into his service;
most of them by finding out that honesty was the best policy, became
sincerely honest and well-conducted, and were purged and purified from
their former detestable propensities, and lived and died valuable
members of society. So much does gentle and mild treatment win upon the
minds of men, while harsh severity and coercion hardens their hearts,
and brutalizes their character."

Holt uses very warm language in his denunciation of the conduct of the
military officers, who were as selfish and unprincipled in their dealing
with the settlers and the soldiers as they were cruel to the convicts.
Here is what he says:--

"The practice was to draw from the stores all the goods, in large
quantities, and to pay the soldiers only in goods; for every ten
shilling's worth of which, according to the value they were delivered at
out of the store, the soldiers paid twenty, and if they objected to this
mode of payment they were most probably sent to the guard-house, tried
by a court-martial for mutiny, and sentenced to imprisonment.

"Captain Anthony Fenn Kemp, when a soldier came to him for his month's
pay, would usually accost him with 'Well, what do you want?'

"'I want to be paid, Sir,' the soldier would say.

"'What will you have?' was always Captain Kemp's answer. 'I have very
good tobacco, ten shillings the pound, and very good tea at twenty
shillings the pound, prints at eight shillings a yard,' and so on.

"If the poor soldier answered, 'Sir, I do not want any of your goods,'
the Captain's comment was, 'You don't! You are a d--d saucy rascal.'
Perhaps then the soldier would say, 'Sir, if you please, give me half
money and half goods.' But this proposal was equally objectionable to
Captain Kemp, and generally led to his thundering out, 'Begone, you d--d
mutinous scoundrel, or I'll send you to the guard-house, and have you
flogged for your impertinence to your officer.' The soldier, having no
redress, would take his monthly pay in property which he did not want,
and then he would endeavour to dispose of what he had received to some
person who had money; generally selling it for half the price he was
charged by his captain. This system of monopoly and extortion compelled
the soldier to serve his Majesty for half his nominal pay; I can prove
what I assert, as I have often bought goods from the soldiers myself,
upon these terms. It was, I must confess, very provoking to see the
officers draw the goods from the public store, to traffic in them for
their own private gain, which goods were sent out for the advantage of
the settlers, who were compelled to deal with those huckter officers for
such articles as they might require, giving them from fifty to five
hundred per cent. profit, and paying in grain.

"It thus would happen, that one of these monopolisers, who never grew a
grain, would sometimes have a thousand bushels of wheat to put in the
store; and this was the manner in which all those old tailors, and
shoemakers, stay-makers, man-milliners, tobacconists, and pedlars, that
were called captains and lieutenants, made their fortunes; by the
extortion and the oppression of the soldier, the settler, and the poor.
Anyone who doubts what I assert, may inquire of any soldier who ever
belonged to the 102nd regiment of foot, concerning my statements, and he
will find what I say to be correct."

There were two officers of the New South Wales Corps, however, of whom
Holt spoke in the highest terms of praise--Captain Piper and Captain
Abbott, whom he described as "men of honour and resolution," and said of
them:--"They conducted themselves, in all respect, as officers and
gentlemen. They served the poor and they upheld the oppressed, by which
they kept themselves poor; but they would have been rich indeed if
prayers and good wishes could have made them wealthy, and they retained
their own self-respect. They were too noble-minded to desire to make a
fortune from the labour of the settler, the plunder of the soldier, or
from the sweat of the convict labourer."

Mr. Holt's name was brought into great prominence in connection with the
unsuccessful insurrection of convicts at Castle Hill in 1804, but, as
the sequel will shew, he was wrongfully charged with complicity in the
insurrection. When it became known that there was a rising on the part
of the convicts, the officials and the military at once fixed upon Holt
as the man who was to lead them, his former connection with the rebels
in Ireland, doubtless, first causing suspicion to fall upon him. It was
also known that he was extremely popular with the convicts, by reason of
the practical sympathy manifested by him towards those who suffered
ill-treatment at the hands of harsh masters. Mr. Cox, his employer,
however, placed the highest confidence in his integrity and loyalty, and
the reader will hereafter see that that confidence was not misplaced.
Here, is the statement given by Holt in his Memoirs:--

"I now approach a period of my life which I consider the most
unfortunate in the whole of my existence. In February, 1804, the devil
was as busy in New South Wales as ever he had been in Ireland, and
exerted all his evil influence. The lower people, convicts and others,
both English and Irish, seeing their torment increasing in this most
ill-managed colony, conceived an opinion that they could overpower the
army, possess themselves of the settlement, and eventually make their
escape from it. Where they were to go did not enter into the
contemplation of these poor fellows, who fancied, at all events, that
they could not be worse off than they were already. Some of them hinted
to me that they thought such a thing might be done. I thought so, too,
and that it might come to a head; and therefore pointed out, in the
strongest language I was master of, the folly of such an attempt. 'You
saw,' said I, 'in Ireland, that even there you could not depend on each
other, and I am sure it would be worse here. An insurrection will only
add to your misery, or bring you to the gallows.'

"Their numbers were contemptible, and their means still more so;
therefore they must accordingly fail, and be hanged. I told them I would
have nothing to do with the business, and if such a scheme should be put
into execution, I would act on the side of the Government and the laws.

"I did hope this advice would have had the desired effect, but the
foolish people had set their minds upon it, and were determined to
proceed, cost what it might. The English were as much involved in the
business as the Irish. Of course, after declaring my sentiments so
fully, I was not kept in their confidence; and I had almost forgotten
that such an idea had ever been hinted at.

"On 4th March, 1804, when returning home through Parramatta, I saw
several men standing about in little gangs, and recollecting what had
been told me, I suspected something was going on, but said nothing.
Having dined at Parramatta, I walked out, and met Timothy Holister,
task-master of the Government men. He and I seldom met but we drank
together, when time permitted, and on the present occasion we called for
a decanter of rum. He was an Englishman, and while we were drinking he
said to me 'Mr. Holt, take my advice and do not be out late to-night, as
I should be sorry to hear anything against you.' I asked him what he
meant, and he then told me that the Irishmen were to break out that
night, but that the Government were in possession of their plans. I
immediately proceeded to Mr. Cox and brought my wife and child to his
house, and told him what I had heard. He asked me my opinion of the
business; to which I answered that I knew nothing more than what I had
heard and told him, but that I should be ready to defend his house, and
keep off any assailants. He gave Sergeant King, who was his clerk,
orders to prepare some cartridges, and we were all on the alert. Mr. Cox
said it was very likely that the insurgents would endeavour to force me
to head them, and, if I refused, would put me to death. My answer was 'I
can die but once, and from this spot nothing shall induce me to move
until the morning.'

"I then proceeded to secure the doors, gates and all the defences I
could think of. I got the timber-carriage chains and lapped them round
the gates and posts. There were three gates to be passed before the
court-yard could be entered, and I made all fast. Having thus got all
things as secure as possible, I proceeded to examine the state of our
fire-arms, and having loaded our muskets with buck shot, I asked Mr. Cox
if he would take the command. He gave it to me, saying I was more
accustomed to such matters than he was, and he had no doubt would make a
good fight of it, I therefore proceeded to make arrangements, in case we
should be attacked.

"I placed Mr. Cox on my right, opposite a large gate post, fourteen
inches square, and Sergeant King on my left, telling him that it was not
fair that he should receive his Majesty's money for doing nothing. John
Joyce was placed at the upper gate, and Darby Murphy at the lower gate
for a watchman. I then told every man what he had to do, and that the
first man who stirred from his post, without my orders, should receive
the contents of my musket in his body. I took the centre myself, being
flanked by Mr. Cox and King. The road or path leading to the house was
only sixteen feet wide, and it was paled in with a six-foot paling, so
that a party would be obliged to keep very close together. We heard the
insurgents at the distance of about half a mile, but they came no nearer
to us.

"About twelve at night, however, they went to my farm, and took away a
musket and a blunderbus from my son, who was but fourteen years old; and
a young man, named James Dobbs, an Englishman, they forced to join them.
My shepherd was so small that they did not consider him worth their
attention; but they swore they would soon have me. When they were gone,
Joshua, my son, came through the bush and told us what had happened at
the Brush Farm; we put him into the house, with Mrs. Cox, my wife, and
the children, and stood to our post till morning, when Mr. Cox rode over
to inquire the cause of the proceedings of the night."

The rebellion, of which Holt here speaks was the only serious organized
uprising that took place among the convicts within the colony. The
spirit of insubordination had been growing for months, and the
Government, fearing some such outbreak, prudently drafted some of the
leading "suspects" from the general body, and sent them to form a new
settlement at Van Diemen's Land--a step most wise and prudent. But about
midnight on Sunday, March 4th, a message was received in Sydney from
Parramatta, by Governor King, to the effect that the prisoners employed
on the farms in that locality had joined the Government gangs engaged on
the roads and public buildings at Toongabbie and Castle Hill, and having
plundered the settlers of their arms and ammunition, were then marching
in a body upon Parramatta, committing serious depredations and plunders.
The Governor immediately set out for the scene of the disturbance, and
reached Parramatta before daylight next morning. Major Johnston, with
fifty men of the New South Wales Corps, joining him there soon
afterwards. This small force was at once divided into two parties, and
sallied out in different directions, in the hope of falling in with the
insurgents and surprising them; and at about noon that day the party
commanded by Major Johnston, which had been joined by some of the
respectable settlers of the district, fell in with the insurgents at a
place called the Ponds, midway between Parramatta and Windsor. The body
of convicts was found to be between 200 and 300 strong, and well armed;
and when they perceived that their pursuers were comparatively so small
in numbers they decided to give them battle, and took up a position on
the slope of a hill, as being good vantage ground. Two of the
ringleaders, with a boldness born of a mistaken sense of superior
strength, advanced towards Major Johnston, who was leading the pursuing
soldiers, their object being apparently to parley or dictate terms; but
as soon as they were sufficiently near the Major seized one of them and
placed a pistol at his head, while a quarter-master in the Corps, named
Laycock, ran forward and killed the second ruffian with a single blow.
The other insurgents at once opened fire upon the attacking party, but
their shots did not tell, and the military and the settlers returned the
fire with such effect that many of the insurgents fell, and the
remainder turned and fled. A chase ensued and was continued for three or
four hours, resulting in the capture of a number of the prisoners, who
were brought into Windsor, as also was the body of the slain leader,
which was the same night hung up in front of the public store in the
town as a warning to others. Within the next few days many of the
insurgents who had escaped death or capture gave themselves up to the
authorities; those who had been captured with arms in their hands were
summarily tried, convicted, and hanged; while others of the insurgents
received minor punishments, some of them even being let off with a
reprimand upon professing penitence and promising to return quietly to
their work. It is said that between fifty and sixty of the insurgents
were killed in the affray, or afterwards executed, and that 136 muskets,
besides a number of pistols, swords, and other weapons, were taken from
the army of a day. It is to be feared, however, that the gallows did
more execution than the bullets of the soldiery. Holt declares that many
of the insurgents who were arrested after the one-sided struggle at the
Ponds were brought before an impromptu court-martial, where it was
arranged that lots should be drawn from a hat and that every third man
whose name was drawn should be hanged. Many fine young men, he says,
were strung up like dogs, and it was only when the Governor arrived on
the scene that the butchery was stayed.

As we have seen, the suspicions entertained by the authorities
concerning Holt's connection with the uprising were all at fault. Some
of the prisoners had said that Holt was to lead them, they having been
doubtless so informed by the authors of the outbreak, and Holt was
called before the Governor to make his defence. His Excellency evidently
did not place much reliance in the story of the accused, for after
hearing his statement he dismissed him with the words:--"Go home, sir,
and take care of yourself, or I will hang you!" He went home, but
shortly afterwards the Governor caused his removal to Norfolk Island.

As previously stated. Holt remained in exile for about fourteen years,
when he received a full pardon and returned to his native land.



One of the most remarkable cases to be found on the records relates to a
well-to-do English attorney and solicitor, named William Henry Barber,
who was transported for life for an offence of which he was afterwards
proved to be entirely innocent. The story of his conviction, his
sufferings on the voyage and at the penal settlement of Norfolk Island
to which he was sent, and of the subsequent success of his efforts to
establish his innocence, reads like a romance. It is a long story, and I
have experienced some difficulty in arranging the events in proper
chronological order, but the reader will not require to stretch
imagination to fill up any gaps that may appear.

In the year 1843 a series of gigantic frauds in connection with the
estates of deceased persons were discovered in London, and a criminal
prosecution was instituted against Joshua Fletcher, who was a retired
surgeon and a man of property worth from £10,000 to £20,000; William
Henry Barber, an attorney and solicitor in business; Mrs. Dorey, Mr.
Sanders and Mrs. Sanders, parties who had acted as personators in the
cases. Another man, named Griffin was originally indicted, but he was
admitted as Queen's evidence, and escaped punishment. The frauds had
extended over four years, and the charges brought against the accused
were forging and uttering three wills and a bond connected with letters
of administration.

The Crown proceeded with only two of these cases, and in each one
secured a conviction against the parties named, with the exception of
Barber, who was acquitted on the first, but convicted on the second. The
sentences passed upon the prisoners were as follows:--Fletcher,
transportation for life; Barber, transportation for life; Sanders,
transportation for seven years; Mrs. Dorey, two years' imprisonment;
Mrs. Sanders, two years' imprisonment.

From the evidence elicited at the trial, it appeared that Fletcher was
acquainted with an officer in the Bank of England who, for a
consideration, supplied him with information concerning the stock held
for persons who had not claimed the dividends payable thereon for a
number of years. The law was that after the expiry of ten years from the
date of the payment of the last dividend if no claim was made for
payment the stock was invested with the Commissioners for the National
Debt, and became public money, and this friendly official appears to
have kept Fletcher posted concerning the moneys which were likely to be
thus handed over to the Commissioners, and Fletcher, who forged wills
and other documents, would seek to obtain possession of the money. In
several cases he succeeded, but his frauds were at last discovered. The
case for connection with which Barber was convicted and transported, may
be gathered from a confession made by Sanders to his solicitor, but
which was not used, as the Crown refused to accept him as Queen's
evidence. This man said:--

"It must have been about June, 1842, or perhaps a little later in that
year, I received a letter from Fletcher, informing me that he had
received intelligence from his friend at the Bank of England of
something very good and requesting me to see him as early as possible.
Accordingly, I proceeded to London and went to his house, where he
informed me his friend had given him the particulars of a case which had
not gone to the commissioners; that it stood in the name of Ann Slack,
Smith-street, Chelsea; that he, Fletcher, had made a great many
enquiries all about that neighbourhood, and could find no trace whatever
of any such person; that he had seen an old postman who had delivered
letters there a number of years, and had given him money to gain all
information he could, but had obtained none whatever; as the sum was
considerable he thought I might get my wife to take the case in hand; I
said I would endeavour to prevail on her to do so. A short time after
this Fletcher came to Bristol; he said he came to make inquiries about
the case of Slack, and as I had informed him at our interview at his
house there were persons of the name in Bath, he thought to try there. I
proceeded there, but could not find one that answered the description
given by Fletcher. On my return Fletcher informed me that his
information was to the following effect:--Ann Slack appears to have had
a sister; at this time it was intended, if the right owner could be
discovered, that information should be given to the owner upon receipt
of a bonus, to be divided between me and Fletcher. While these inquiries
were in progress information reached Fletcher from his friend at the
Bank that the stock had been transferred to the Commissioners for the
Reduction of the National Debt; and after a long consultation it was
determined to try and obtain the money from the Commissioners by means
of personation. Fletcher told me that it appeared Miss Ann Slack, in
whose name the stock had stood, was one of two sisters who had stock
invested in the same account; that there had been a power of attorney
granted by the two sisters to a Mr. Hulme, whom Fletcher had ascertained
was a partner, but who turns out to have been a clerk in the house of
Jones, Loyd & Co.; that the sister had married a Captain Joseph Foskett,
who soon after his marriage had sold out; that Hulme had received the
dividends to 1832, about which period he appears to have died. We
therefore procured the Army List and found the name of Captain Foskett;
but there being no address given, he being on half pay, Fletcher said he
had a person in the Army Pay Office from whom he could perhaps obtain
Foskett's address. Fletcher returned to town, and some short time
afterwards writes to me, his friend at Somerset House giving him the
name of Captain Foskett's agent, from whom he had been enabled to find
that he resided at King's Langley, which is on the line of the
Birmingham Railway. I should have previously mentioned that Fletcher had
obtained with other information of his friend at the Bank, on a small
slip of paper, a facsimile of the handwriting of Ann Slack, taken from
the power of attorney granted by her and her sister to Mr. Hulme.
Fletcher and myself went to Langley Station, and there on inquiry we
found that Captain Foskett's residence was not very far off. We got a
railway policeman to go into the village; by giving him a shilling to
spend, he might be enabled to meet with some person to give him
information required, viz., if Captain Foskett's wife had a sister, and
if so, her name and residence. Fletcher and I took tea prepared for us
at the railway station. Our messenger soon returned with the
intelligence that he had met with the coachman of Captain Foskett; that
he had taken him to a public house, and had partaken of some beer with
him, and from whom he learned that Mrs. Foskett had a sister, who was
living in the family, and was generally known to them as Miss Nancy.
With this information I returned with Fletcher to town. We had no doubt
but this lady was the person we had been so long in pursuit of; the next
difficulty now was, how to get an introduction so as to be able to turn
our knowledge of what the lady was entitled to to the best account (for
now that we had made the discovery that she was living, all means of
proceeding by personation were given up). At length it was settled that
Fletcher should apply through Barber, for that purpose, and with this
understanding I left London. Fletcher came again to Bristol and told me
the result of Barber's inquiries, and also that it was Barber's opinion
that it did not relate to her, but to some other Ann Slack. Fletcher
said there could now be no obstacle in the way of my wife taking the
case in hand. Fletcher then produced some paper without water-mark, and
I wrote a will of Ann Slack, from a copy produced by Fletcher; and
before Fletcher left Bristol, which he did in about a week after, he
took an advertisement to Verriers, the news-vendor, in High-street, to
be inserted in the Bath and Cheltenham Gazette, a copy of which paper
I forwarded to Fletcher, by his desire, in London; and, as agreed on, my
wife took lodgings in Westgate-buildings, Bath, where she answered the
advertisement by letter, from a copy given to her by Fletcher as Jane
Slack. Barber returned an answer that he should be glad to conduct her
business, as it was probable that he could be of assistance to her. My
wife proceeded to London, saying she was about to pay a visit to her
sister. On Mrs. Sander's arrival in town she took up her residence with
her sister, Fletcher of course calling to see her. Fletcher went to the
General Register Office in Somerset House, and discovered that there had
been a mistake in the register which I caused to be made in Bath, for
the name appeared to have been Stack instead of Slack. Fletcher stated
to me that he saw the Registrar-General, who informed him of the error,
and advised its correction, for which purpose Mrs. Dorey and my wife
went to Bath, had an interview with the Registrar and Superintendent,
who would not alter the register unless they saw the person who had made
the entry, I then received a letter from Fletcher, stating the error,
and requesting to see me in town, where I immediately proceeded and met
Fletcher by appointment on Waterloo Bridge, where we talked the subject
over, he wishing me to go to Bath and have it put right, I refused to do
so, and said I would rather abandon all further proceedings. It was at
length arranged that we should take fresh proceedings by a fresh
register, which was settled should be either in Chelsea or Pimlico.
Fletcher and myself went to Pimlico, and after some research fixed on
the place, and I was to make the registry, which I did, after calling
several times at the Registrar's, he being from home; it was nearly ten
o'clock at night before I could get, as I was anxious to return to
Bristol, and wished it to be done that night. Fletcher afterwards called
at the Registrar's and procured a certificate of the registry of Ann
Slack's death as registered by me. Mrs. Dorey took lodgings for my wife.
She disguised herself with a light-colored ringlet front, covering the
greater part of her face, a close bonnet, spectacles and a veil--a
disguise which she always wore when she went to Barber's office,
Doctor's Commons, or the Bank. The fictitious will which was first made
having devised the stock to Jane Slack, of Bath, it now became necessary
that a fresh will should be prepared, and it was intended to apply to me
for that purpose; but after the discovery of the error in the register
at Bath and the abandonment of the proceedings there, I wrote a letter
to Barber and Bircham (attorneys in partnership) on the part of Jane
Slack, stating that Jane Slack did not think the Ann Slack, as
advertised, had reference to her, and that I was instructed to say that
she had consulted her solicitor, and therefore declined calling on them,
or taking any further proceedings in the matter, to which letter I
attached a feigned name. In consequence of that letter, Fletcher would
not allow me to write the new fictitious will, fearing that Barber
should discover a similarity in the writing; he therefore wished my wife
would get Mrs. Dorey to write the will, which she did. Mrs. Dorey
frequently called to see her at her lodgings, generally in the evening;
Fletcher also frequently calling, but no other person visited her."

Up to this point Barber had not been brought into the affair, but the
time had now arrived for him to innocently perform a task which resulted
in his being convicted with Fletcher and his willing tools. The sum in
the bank which was thus being villainously subverted amounted to £3,500,
and Fletcher having gone to Barber and informed him that he had
succeeded after long search in discovering the owner, at the same time
requesting him to act in having the will proved, the latter signified
his willingness. Mrs. Sanders was introduced by Fletcher, who brought
forward the forged will, and exhibited it to Barber. A copy of the will
was made by one of the clerks in the office, and when that was done
Barber went with Mrs. Sanders, who was in deep mourning, and appeared a
very respectable personage, to his proctor. The will was then proved in
the usual way, not a doubt appearing to cross the minds of any of those
through whose hands the document had to pass. After about the usual time
for proving the will, the probate was forwarded to Barber, and lodged in
the Bank of England, where the usual time taken in case of unclaimed
dividends elapsed--about a fortnight--during which the Bank scrutinized
the documents and examined into the claim; after which they notified
that they were perfectly satisfied, and the claimant was at liberty to
deal with the stock whenever she thought proper. Barber then handed the
documents over to Mrs. Sanders, who went to the Bank and drew out the
whole of the money. Sanders, in his confession, narrates succinctly the
subsequent proceedings. He says;--"My wife returned to her lodgings in
Francis-street, Tottenham Court Road, after getting the money at the
Bank, where she procured some refreshment for Fletcher, he being, he
said, quite fatigued from long anxiety and fasting throughout the day;
after he finished his repast, my wife divided the money in the same
manner in which it had been divided in Hunt's case. In the course of
October or November last, (many months after the division of the spoils)
my wife received two letters from Fletcher, giving me to understand that
inquiries were going on in the Bank about this affair; this information
he procured from his friend, Mr. Christmas, the clerk in the Bank of
England. The first time I saw any account of what took place in the
Mansion House was a very short paragraph in the Bristol Mercury. I read
it to my wife, who became very much affected, and at last become so ill
that I feared her life to be in danger. After the case of Mary Hunt came
out before the magistrates, Mr. and Mrs. Dorey visited me in Bristol and
persuaded me to go forward and make a full confession of all I knew."

The money obtained from the Bank by means of the forged documents
amounted to between £3,000 and £4,000, and in another statement of
Sanders', in which he gives the history of the concoction of the fraud,
the money was shewn to have been thus distributed:--"The amount
appearing as Barber's charges did not exceed £23, and Sanders thinks
that included the proctor's charges; then Sanders paid the broker and
proceeded to get the notes which he had received from him changed into
gold; and then he took a cab, and went to Miss Richard's lodging in
Dean-street, Soho, where, in the course of the evening, Fletcher came,
accompanied by his daughter. After tea Fletcher and Sanders adjourned
into another room, where, after deducting for charges each party had
incurred, Fletcher took £5 per cent, on the gross amount for his friend
in the Bank of England, and Sanders took £20 which he afterwards gave to
Miss Hawks for her trouble, and all other claims being taken, Fletcher
and Sanders equally divided the remaining two portions, Fletcher taking
one, and Sanders the other, and they divided about £1,200 between them."

How the forgeries came to be discovered is not revealed in the papers
before me, but it was doubtless through the proper person putting in her
claim to the money. The Bank authorities appeared to have acted with
remarkable looseness as custodians of the moneys which had been
entrusted to them. It was proved that they had years previously paid the
dividends in Miss Slack's case to Mr. Hulme, to whom she had given a
power of attorney; but, although they had this power of attorney in
their possession, bearing the signature of Miss Slack, they did not
compare that signature with the signature on the will produced by Mrs.
Sanders, in which case they would have been able at once to detect the
forgery. Further than this, there were two amounts invested in the same
name--one of £3,500 and the other of £6,600--and although only the
lesser sum was mentioned in the will and claimed by Mrs. Sanders (it
appears that Fletcher was under the impression that the larger sum
belonged to a second Miss Slack) their suspicion was not aroused; yet
they actually must have known at the time that the owner of the stock
was entitled to £10,000, as was proved by their marking "dead" opposite
the entries in the Bank books when acting upon the probate. As Barber
very tersely put it before the Select Committee of the House of Commons
many years afterwards, "notwithstanding they had so seen that the owner
was possessed of £10,000, and they saw that the property had been sworn
under £5,000 and although they saw by the will that the £3,500 was the
only sum mentioned in the will, and that the other sum of £6,600 had
apparently been forgotten, yet the Bank expressed themselves satisfied
with the claim, and paid over the £3,500, leaving the £6,600 in their
own hands." It was not until some time after that the Bank authorities
opened their eyes to the fact that there was anything strange in the
pretended legatee of Ann Slack, entitled under will to all her property,
claiming only the £3,500 standing in the books of the Bank, when she
should have asked for £6,600 more. And this looseness appears all the
more strange when it is considered that in the case of the Hunt
forgeries, they did at first refuse to pay the money, as they suspected
the genuineness of the claim; but here the audacity of Fletcher was
brought into full play. He actually filed a Bill in Chancery for the
false claimant, and the affidavits, which were all concocted
fraudulently, were referred to the Attorney-General of the day
(afterwards Lord Campbell), and the Attorney-General was perfectly
satisfied with the affidavits so concocted, and consented to the money
being paid to the claimant, the Court of Chancery making an order upon
the Bank to pay the amount, which was paid accordingly.

When the forgeries were discovered in Ann Slack's case, however, the
Bank set vigorously to work to discover the perpetrators, and they were,
no doubt, ably assisted by Mr. Christmas, whose assistance to Fletcher
had proved so valuable. It is only on this hypothesis that the
subsequent action of the authorities with regard to their clerk can be
understood. The Bank denied that he was an accomplice, and put him
forward as a credible witness at the trial, and one not to be suspected,
although he was compelled to admit that he received from Fletcher
several hundred pounds for information he had supplied, and without
which information it would have been impossible for Fletcher to operate
so successfully upon the stock invested.

Fletcher and Barber were arrested, the former being charged with forging
wills and a bond, and the latter with uttering them in connection with
letters of administration. Mrs. Dorey and the man Griffin, (whose
connection with the affair is not clearly shewn in the only papers
available to me) were also arrested. Mr. and Mrs. Sanders sought to keep
out of the way until the others were tried, but although they managed to
elude the officers of justice for two months, they were eventually
captured, and the whole of the parties named were brought to trial.
Griffin, as already stated, preserved his liberty by turning Queen's
evidence; but the others were convicted and sentenced, as already

Concerning Fletcher's guilt there could not be the shadow of a doubt,
but the conviction of Barber may be cited as one of the grossest cases
of miscarriage of justice that has ever taken place. British indignation
against the real perpetrators of the wrong was so intense that British
vision was warped, and those concerned in administering British justice
could not recognize the difference between a skilful, designing knave
and the innocent attorney whom he had employed to carry out his
nefarious designs. To make matters worse for poor Barber, his partner in
business, who could have given valuable evidence to prove that Barber's
actions were bona-fide throughout, suddenly disappeared, and could not
be found to be brought as a witness, he having been frightened beyond
measure for his own safety, thinking that he might he brought into
trouble with his partner if he did not hide. The Crown also treated him
unfairly. There were four indictments preferred against him, but those
relating to two of the cases of fraud were not brought forward, although
he pleaded hard to have them proceeded with, asserting that if those
cases were investigated they would throw great light upon the case upon
which he was convicted. He also pleaded hard to be tried apart from
Fletcher, but this request was also disregarded; the shadow of
Fletcher's criminality rested upon him and he was condemned to share
Fletcher's punishment.

As to what followed the conviction I will allow Barber to tell in his
own words. Here is his unvarnished tale:--

"After the trial (1844) I remained about a week at Newgate. I was then
sent to Millbank; I was chained by the leg to a doubly-convicted felon,
and in that state I was sent to Millbank. On my arrival there I was kept
in a solitary cell for two months. At the end of that time I was removed
on board a convict ship, and I was passed down by a boat from Millbank
to Woolwich; there I was handcuffed and chained to half a dozen other
men, and in that condition I was taken on board the convict ship at
Woolwich. After a day or two the chains were taken off; then, after
another day or two they were put on again, and after about six days
lying at Woolwich the voyage commenced. We went a considerable distance
out to sea chained by the leg, and keeping on those chains night and day
my leg became excoriated by the pressure on the ankles; and from the
awkwardness of getting into the hammock with those chains on, they hurt
me at that time very much. The voyage lasted about four months. I do not
say that I was treated with unusual severity on the voyage; I suffered
severely, but not more than could be avoided; I had to clean the deck
and to do many duties which were not very pleasant, but I had nothing to
complain of on the part of the officers on board. The chains did not
remain on during the whole of the voyage, but were taken off the whole
of the convicts after we got well out to sea--I think after the fourth
day. There was a guard of 50 men on board. I was treated precisely as
the other convicts were. There were 200 convicts on board. I slept in
the same place with them; we were divided into messes, according as we
happened to go down into the hold; as we happened to go down we were
chalked on the back and divided into messes of eight, and those eight
men formed one mess, sitting round a sort of table for the rest of the
voyage. At the termination of the voyage we were landed at Norfolk
Island. On my being landed upon the Island, I was put into a barrack
where there were 220 other prisoners, and in consequence of the great
heat of the climate, and the sudden change in the diet, I, with about 50
others of the ship's company, was invalided. We had to be examined by
the medical officer, and the medical officer ordered myself and others
not to go to work for that day; we were desired to go into what was
called the lumber yard, and Major Childs, the Commandant (that was my
first interview with him), on his coming down to the station, inquired
about the men who had arrived by our ship, the 'Agincourt,' and on
hearing that there were a great many who had not gone to work, he
desired to see them, and as he stood by the principal office near the
gateway of the barrack yard, about 40 or 50 of us had to pass by him in
single file. About ten of the men had passed by him unnoticed. When I
came up, I of course lifted my cap off my head respectfully to him, and
he immediately said, 'Let this man's hair be cut.' Now, my hair had been
cut the very day before, as all the men's had when they arrived on the
island. Then he asked 'How is it that you have not gone to work? I said
'I was ordered not to go to work, sir.' 'Hold your tongue, sir; go in,
sir (there was a gateway standing open, and he had a cane in his hand);
I will see to you, Mister Barber--I will see after you.' I mention this
in order to show, from my first arrival in Norfolk Island, the kind of
feeling which was uniformly shewn towards me by the Commandant.
Applications were made on behalf of other convicts of the better
educated class for appointments as clerks, or their services to be
employed as clerks. I was so applied for by persons who would have taken
me as clerk. Lieutenant Lloyd was on board the ship I went out in and
had seen me throughout the voyage; I had been of use on board--in fact,
I had prevented a mutiny on board, and the surgeon-superintendent
reported very favourably of me. I merely mention that to shew that I
arrived on the island with very favourable testimony, but,
notwithstanding that, I was treated in the peculiar way I was. I was
applied for by Lieutenant Lloyd as clerk, and immediately afterwards by
two other gentlemen; but the applications were in every instance refused
by the Commandant. The authority I have for stating that is this--the
gentlemen who had applied for me reported it to me. 'I have applied for
you, Barber, but the Commandant will not allow it.' Mr.
Commissary-General Smith applied for me as clerk and also as hut keeper,
but that also was refused, and then he applied for me to perform the
duties of a bag-mender at his own place, which was refused. In the
Commissariat department they have a great many sacks or bags which were
always requiring repairs, and great many men are employed in mending
them, and he applied that I should be appointed a bag-mender, which was
refused. Mr. Rogers, the chaplain, and a magistrate of the island,
applied for me to be his servant, but that was refused, and another man
who came out in the ship with me, and who had been doubly convicted, was
allowed to be his servant. The duty of a servant to a gentleman is to
clean his house, black his boots, clean his knives, cook his provisions,
and wash for him, for there were very few female servants on the island
at that time; and all the duties which are required of a servant would
have been an immense relief to me, when contrasted to the duty which was
assigned to me. I was ordered to be a wardsman. There are three stations
on Norfolk Island--one called 'The Settlement,' another called the
'Cascades,' and another called 'Longridge; they are equidistant, about
three miles; in the Settlement is a barrack, which will receive about
200 inmates. The prisoners are locked in that dormitory from about dusk
at night until daylight in the morning; there is no outlet whatever, and
therefore for their occasions, tubs are placed in the avenues between
the tiers of sleeping berths, for their use; the duty of a wardsman is
to keep these men in order at night, to prevent battles taking place
between them if he can, and other misconduct; and if it take place he is
held responsible for it; it is considered that he ought to have
prevented it, so that he is placed in peculiar jeopardy; if he allow it
to take place he may be punished by being flogged; if he interfere he
may very likely be killed (which often took place), or have an eye
knocked out, or suffer some other personal violence from the savages
(for they are no less) who are located there: many are murderers, many
are there for unnatural crimes, and a great many for burglaries, and
other offences of the deepest dye. They were some of the very worst of
the Norfolk Islanders; some who had been transported for murder and
manslaughter, and heavy crimes from England, and some
colonially-convicted men--men who had committed new crimes after their
sentences and after their arrival in the colony. I had to keep watch and
ward all night entirely by myself. In the morning my duty was to take
those tubs which were on the first floor, as it might be called, down
stairs through the barrack yard, before all the men, and before several
of the prisoners who had come out in the ship with me, who were
comfortably dressed, perfectly clean, having nothing whatever to do but
just to marshal the men and write in the office. I had to take those
tubs down before the officers and prison clerks, who stood at the door,
and I, almost naked, passed to and fro and take them down to the sea,
empty them there, thoroughly clean them out, take them back, and then I
had to scour the ward on my hands and knees, arrange all the hammocks of
the men, and if all that was not done to their satisfaction, I was
liable, and very frequently did receive violent abuse and threats for
not having adjusted a man's hammock just according to his taste, or I
had not dealt with the tubs as he fancied they ought to be dealt with. I
do not qualify the expression with regard to murderers; there were a
great number of murderers on the island. It seems rather an anomaly, but
some of the most dreadful murders I ever heard of had been committed by
men in Norfolk Island. The men had been convicted of either murder or
manslaughter, and their sentences had been commuted. Sometimes a man had
only got off upon a point of law. I may perhaps mention one case, that
of Augustus Dalmas, who cut the throat of a lady he was courting; he was
convicted, and sentenced to death, but after his sentence it was
pretended by his friends that he was insane at the time the crime was
committed. I was the sole attendant over these men, and remained in
charge of the 220, having to wait upon them as well as prevent crimes. I
had to make the hammocks and clean the rooms for these 220 men without
any assistance whatever. I believe there had been an inquiry in the case
of Augustus Dalmas, and there was a medical report that he was not
insane, but there was a further report made by some officials, which
resulted in the sentence being commuted to transportation for life; and
Augustus Dalmas, after he came on the island, was indulged and petted,
and placed in a position of exceeding luxury in comparison with mine.
After I had done my work in the course of the day I was able to get a
little sleep; perhaps my work began at 5 in the morning, and perhaps I
could get through all the cleaning and preparing for the men against the
evening, by two or three o'clock in the day; then between that and five
and six o'clock in the evening I got some sleep; that was all the sleep
I could get. This went on for twelve months and rather more--not always
in the same ward, but sometimes at Longridge, and sometimes at the other
station, the Cascades. I was sixteen months in the wards, and four
months at field labour, except when I was carried to the hospital, which
I frequently was, in consequence of the foul nature of the work, which
affected my health so much. I daresay I may have been in the hospital
altogether six or seven weeks at different times. The work I had to do
in the fields was to break up the ground with a very heavy hoe; each man
in a gang had the same task. The gang I was placed in was the heavy
gang, in which the strongest men were placed, and each man had to do a
specified quantity. I had to do the same as very strong and powerful
men. I was frequently in a broiling sun, and at other times during a
tropical rain. I was exposed to these altenations in the course of one
day; I would sometimes be as wet as if I had come through a river, and
in an hour after that I would be dried up to a cinder. I was not chained
at work--the men were not chained on the island unless they committed
some offence upon it, which of course I never did. I had an overseer
named Lane, who had been twice convicted; his business was to do nothing
but see that we worked; he did nothing else all the time he was on the
island; he was well known to be a most cruel man, and inasmuch as the
Commandant was known to have what was called a down upon me, all the
subordinate officers under whom I came treated me accordingly; they had
their cue, and when I was at field work in a gang they had an eye upon
me; if I stood up for a moment to relieve myself, he immediately called
out 'no straight backs;' if we did not go on with the work to the
overseer's satisfaction we were liable to be flogged. I was at field
labour about four months. Fletcher was not put to the same labour--on
the contrary, he was employed as medical dispenser; when I was ill he
had to make up and serve me with the medicine, although it was well
known there was the greatest hostility between us, and we never spoke.
He was medical dispenser on the Cascade station, and had a hut to
himself, with superior bedding and rations; and what was a most important
thing, he had a separate sleeping apartment at the time when I had every
morning to empty 40 tubs, and to clean out every one of those tubs. Upon
one occasion when leaving the hospital, being barely convalescent, I had
been ordered by Dr. Graham to stone-breaking, as a task less severe and
unwholesome than my ordinary employment; I was sitting by the roadside
breaking stones, and Major Childs came up to me and said 'What do you do
here?' I said 'Sir, I am ordered by the medical superintendent to break
stones.' He said 'I will not have that,' and went up to the station and
gave his orders that I should immediately go back to the ward. He came
in and said 'What is your objection to cleaning the ward?' I said 'I
have made no objection; it is destroying my health, but I have made no
objection; I do it, I get ill, I go to the hospital and come back again;
I have made no objection.' He said 'How does it injure your health?' I
observed that it was the most loathsome and disgusting thing that could
possibly be, and even harder work would be cheerfully performed in place
of a task so nauseous and humiliating. He laughed and asked, 'How does
it injure your health?' I said 'Independent of the exhalations, from the
commencement I have got wet feet every morning, from going out in the
heavy dew.' He said 'Then put your shoes on.' I said, 'That is of no
use; they soon get filled with water.' 'Then take them off!' and with
that he made a loud laugh and strode away. On another occasion I was at
Cascades under Lieutenant Butler, the superintendent of the station, and
on going there he applied for me to fill the office and perform the
duties of chapel clerk and schoolmaster, there being one or two such
persons at all the stations, who had nothing else to do but that.
Lieutenant Butler informed me he had applied, that Major Childs had
refused, and that he assigned as a reason 'that Barber was a public
character, who had been talked of in the newspapers.' Lieutenant Butler
pointed out to him (as he told me) that my conduct had been
unexceptionable, that I should be very useful, and that there were many
persons employed in the island in that way; but it was all of no avail,
the Major ordered me back to Longridge station.

"On my mentioning that circumstance to the magistrate at Cascades, and
the chaplain of the station, Mr. Rogers, he said 'They will kill you,
Barber, if you go back to Longridge.' I said 'I hope not.' He replied,
'Your life ought not to be wantonly exposed in that way.' I should
perhaps explain that there had been a murder of unusual atrocity
committed on the island; there was great difficulty in obtaining light
sufficient to show who had been the perpetrators of that offence; some
facts had come under my own observation, while I was a wardsman, which
appeared to me to be material to a certain extent, but not at all
conclusive; I heard from time to time the progress that was made in the
inquiry, and finding that the prosecution of it was likely to be given
up from the want of evidence, I then communicated to Mr. Naylor, the
senior magistrate of the island (who was engaged with the
Attorney-general of Van Diemen's Land in investigating the matter) the
facts which I have referred to, requesting, unless it were absolutely
necessary for the ends of justice, that I should not be called upon to
give evidence; but some time afterwards Mr. Naylor came to me and said,
'Well, Barber, the facts you communicated to me some time ago I find
will be important. I am not going to ask you whether you will attend as
a witness; it is my duty to instruct you to do so; you will be sent for
when the trial comes on, and you must come up to Government House,'
which was the residence of Major Childs at this time. Accordingly I was
directed to meet the Attorney-General of Van Diemen's Land; the trial
took place; I was called as a witness, and the parties were convicted
and executed. Now the offence which had been committed, though most men
in the island regarded murder with a certain amount of terror, was
supposed to be extenuated, as the murder had been committed on a man who
had interfered with the prisoners in sheep-stealing, a thing which the
prisoners, or a great many, sympathised with, because they said they
were deprived of their allotted rations, which was the fact--the rations
which were stated to be due to them they did not get, and those men
therefore thought it was only fair retaliation if they could get a
sheep, and cut it up and divide it amongst them. The policeman on duty
had interfered with these men, and they murdered him under circumstances
of great brutality. In consequence of the conviction of those men, who
were executed, their immediate friends were vindictive, and threatened
the lives of the witnesses. I, therefore, under the advice of Mr.
Rogers, drew up a representation to Major Childs of the fact that I was
a marked man among the friends of the two persons who had been hanged,
and as a great many of their most intimate associates were at Longridge,
I considered my life would be in danger if I was sent there. But
notwithstanding that representation I was sent there. To show that the
idea of danger was not a mere chimera, I may state that one of the
witnesses was murdered, and two of them were most violently assaulted
and ill-treated. One of the witnesses was taken special care of by Major
Childs, lest he should be hurt; he was employed in the garden of his
private residence, slept on the premises, and was taken the greatest
possible care of. The result of Lieutenant Butler's application for me
as chaplain's clerk and school-master was, that I was sent to Longridge
station, and placed in the heavy gang, to work under the cruel overseer,
Lane. From the beginning Fletcher was exempted from the severe treatment
to which I was subjected: he was employed nearly the whole of the time
as medical dispenser. For a very short time, I think, he went out as
overseer of what is called the light gang; he never was in the heavy
gang at all. For nine-tenths of the time he was there he was medical
dispenser. He was between 50 and 60 years of age, but a very strong,
hearty man. The result of my being sent back by Major Childs to the ward
from breaking stones was that I became ill again in two or three days,
and had to go back to the hospital. Finding I had been sent back to the
ward, on his arrival at the station next day, Dr. Graham entered in the
visitor's book a most indignant protest against it, stating that he
would not answer for my life (or some words to that effect) if that
treatment was persisted in. Nevertheless, I had to continue in the ward
until sent back to the hospital. There was an end of this, however,
before I left. At the end of sixteen months I was put into an office in
the agricultural department. It occurred in this way: I was in hospital;
Major Childs was passing, and the chaplain said to him 'There is Barber
in hospital again.' 'Oh,' said the Major, 'He is always in hospital,' 'He
will not be in much longer,' replied Mr. Rogers; 'you will find he will
be in the grave; and I will tell you who I shall hold responsible for
it.' The governor seemed rather alarmed at that, and the interview
resulted in my being removed to Cascades, which was considered a more
healthy part of the island. After a week I got considerably better, and
then I was employed to clean the wards there. I continued there until
Lieutenant Butler applied for me as clerk and schoolmaster, and I was
then sent back to Longridge. I was subsequently taken out of the fields
to go into the office of the superintendent of agriculture, on this
account: The duties were considered very difficult and important; there
were statistical papers and financial statements to be prepared for the
government, and things of that kind; the person who had done that had
been removed from the island; they were in considerable difficulty to
know who they could get to do it, and at last Major Childs considered
that I should do it. I employed part of my time in endeavouring to get
proofs of my innocence, and that came to the knowledge of Major Childs,
who immediately ordered the constable of the island to come and seize
all my papers. The papers were taken and kept from me, and were not
returned during all the time I was on the island; it was only when I
received my conditional pardon, and I arrived at Hobart Town, I went and
applied for them to the Colonial Secretary. I was forbidden the use of
writing materials. After my labour in the field I went to the school,
and spent about three hours in teaching the men; whilst I was there,
when I took up my pen and was about to explain some diagram, the master
of the school came up and said 'You must not have a pen, Barber,' that
was the first intimation I had that I was not to be allowed the use of
writing materials. I said 'What is the meaning of this? I am merely
sketching out a diagram for the use of the men in my class.' 'Well,' he
said, 'you are not to be allowed writing materials;' and I ascertained a
strict order had been given, that if writing materials were found in my
possession, they were to be taken away. I had been allowed the use of
writing materials until Major Childs found out I was collecting proofs
of my innocence. I had made representations for the Home Government, and
wrote letters to Sir Robert Peel and other members of Parliament. Mr.
Naylor, the chaplain of the island, also wrote letters on my behalf, but
they did not reach their destination, being suppressed, I presume, by
the Comptroller-general at Hobart Town. I addressed many letters to
public men in England--several to Lord Brougham, whom I had the honour
of knowing and acting in concert with in matters of education, and to
members of Parliament and other persons of distinction and influence,
entreating them to inquire into my case; but I do not know of any of the
letters written by me or for me having ever reached their destination. I
was at Norfolk Island two years and four months altogether, and when the
order came to remove the whole of what they called the new prisoners
sent from England to Van Diemen's Land, I was sent with them in the
'Pestonjee Bomanjee,' of which Dr. Browning had charge as medical
superintendent. I was landed at a small bay in Van Diemen's Land, called
Impression Bay, and after I had been there two days, the superintendent
of the station intimated to me that a conditional pardon had been
received for me. On leaving Norfolk Island I received a certificate from
the civil commandant who had succeeded Major Childs that I had committed
no offence; no charge of insubordination or of improper conduct had ever
been brought against me there. Major Childs had left the island about
seven months before this; he was dismissed by Sir Eardley Wilmot,
Governor of Van Diemen's Land, and Mr. John Price succeeded him. I had
no complaint whatever to make concerning Mr. Price's treatment; I had
only to complain of Major Childs and those who acted under his
directions, who tormented me in every way, I believe, because they
thought it would be agreeable to Major Childs. All the letters which I
complain were stopped were forwarded through the regular channels. On
receiving information that a conditional pardon had arrived at Hobart
Town, I was told 'You are now at liberty.' The superintendent of the
station said, 'You must give in your prison clothing.' I said 'What
clothes am I to travel in? Are no instructions given by the government
as to my getting away? I have not a single article of clothing.' He
said, 'There are no orders about that; you will have to give in your
prison clothing; there are no orders about other clothing.' 'How am I to
travel? I cannot leave without some clothes?' I was obliged to beg
amongst the prisoners, and one or two free persons who were on the
island, for little articles of clothing, and the superintendent gave me
one or two articles of old clothing. I got covered in the best way I
could; it was rather a motley attire; I then got to Hobart Town, and I
first went and applied for the conditional pardon which was delivered to
me. On my arrival there I also applied for the papers that had been
taken from me at Norfolk Island, and then certain papers were returned
to me; but many papers of considerable importance were not amongst them.
I inquired with reference to some letters that had not been sent, and
after some delay, and a good deal of demur, it was admitted that there
were letters in the office, and they were ultimately handed over to me.
I put the question in this way, whether a letter which had been received
at the office at Norfolk Island had been forwarded to Hobart Town, and
if so, whether it had been transmitted to England? If not, whether it
would be delivered up to me? And after a delay of some days it was
delivered up to me, and I have it now. The seal was broken, however. I
was, of course, entirely destitute at Hobart Town; I did not know a
person in the place, except one or two who had known me at Norfolk
Island. One happened to be the chaplain to the magistrate (Mr. Rogers),
who had been in the island. He shewed me great kindness; and I
introduced myself to the Lieutenant-Governor (Sir William Denison), who
had succeeded Sir Eardley Wilmot; he headed a subscription at Hobart
Town, and by that means I got to Sydney. I there introduced myself to
the Chief Justice, and other principal persons of the place; stated my
case; an inquiry was instituted by the judges and lawyers of Sydney;
they had before them all the evidence upon which I was tried, every word
of it: and the confessions which had been made since, and the report of
the examinations of Fletcher, which had taken place at Norfolk Island
and elsewhere, and that resulted in a report quite favourable to me, and
stating that it was beyond a doubt that if I had had a separate trial I
must have been acquitted. That report was published by the Secretary of
the Law Society of Sydney. After that report was published, there was a
subscription entered into in Sydney, which enabled me to proceed on my
way home-ward. I had only a conditional pardon, and therefore I could
not take a ship that was coming to England, and I could not find any
ship that would undertake to land me at Boulogne, as they would lose the
insurance; so that I was obliged to take a very circuitous route to go
to France; I got a passage in a ship to Hong Kong, and from thence I got
a passage in a ship to Madras. At Madras I availed myself of letters of
introduction I had from the first people in Sydney to the judge and the
military secretary to the governor there, Colonel Browne. Colonel Browne
kindly received me in his house and I stayed with him during the time I
have mentioned, about a month. During that time a subscription was made
for me, and I was able to pursue my voyage homewards. I came overland,
and at length got to Paris. On arriving in Paris I introduced myself to
Lord Normanby, and after the lapse of a few weeks his Lordship sent for
me; said he had read my papers, and added, that he had had a good deal
of experience of the criminal law as Secretary of State in England, and
as Secretary for Ireland, but he had never met with a case which he
thought so remarkable or so hard as mine: and he said he would certainly
communicate with the Home Government with regard to it. His Lordship
kept his word. As soon as the session was over, he managed to secure the
attention of the Government to my case, and in November, 1848, while I
was in Paris, I received a free pardon. I then came straight home. At
the time Lord Normanby was in communication with Sir George Grey, I made
an application to the Home Secretary for a free pardon, and it was
granted on the facts which had transpired since the trial. Those facts
were the confessions which had been made, chiefly by Fletcher; but there
were also important confessions made by Sanders, who was his principal
confederate. I was not on good terms with Fletcher while on Norfolk
Island; on the contrary, from the moment that Fletcher had concluded his
examination at the Mansion House, when I was first apprehended, and I
saw his guilt, up to the present time, I have never spoken to him,
except in the presence of officers when under examination. I did not,
directly or indirectly either by myself or anybody else, endeavour to
induce Fletcher to make any confession or statement in my favour; I
always held myself entirely aloof from him."

This is the story which Barber narrated before the Select Committee of
the House of Commons appointed to report upon the petition which he had
sent in praying for redress; and in every particular his testimony was
corroborated by official records or the sworn evidence of others, even
the vindictive and cruel Major Childs, who was in England at the time,
being compelled reluctantly to support Barber's story, although he
coolly denied that he had subjected the convict to unduly harsh
treatment while under his control on the island.

Immediately on his return to England Barber applied for his professional
certificate, with the view of resuming the practice of his profession,
but his application was opposed by the Incorporated Law Society, who
contended that the granting of a free pardon did not necessarily
establish innocence, as it was simply "an act of grace and mercy."
Barber was, in fact, called upon to prove his innocence, and as the
judges required certain explanations on a variety of points which he was
not then in a position to give, the opposition succeeded and the judges
refused to grant his certificate. Five years elapsed, and Barber still
remained outside the pale of the profession from which he had been so
unjustly cast, although sufficient proof of his innocence had been
furnished the higher authorities to induce them to extend to him "an act
of grace and mercy," when a most fortunate discovery was made. The
written narrative which Sanders had supplied to his solicitor at the
time of the first trial was unearthed. When the judges refused Barber's
application, stating the certain matters upon which they required fuller
information, several prominent gentlemen, moved by a common impulse of
humanity, and believing thoroughly in Barber's innocence, formed
themselves into a committee to assist him in prosecuting his object, and
they hit upon the idea that the solicitor who had been engaged in the
defence of Sanders might be the means of affording them information.
That gentleman was dead, however, and his successor, a Mr. Crosby, was
appealed to, to know if there were any papers connected with Sanders'
case among the documents in the office. A mass of papers was examined,
and among the papers were found the confession made by Sanders under the
heading of "Instructions for my solicitor," and which I have already
given. In this confession, it will be remembered, Sanders fully
explained how Barber had been paid to take out letters of administration
in the case of Ann Slack, without any suspicion that the will presented
to him was forged. Mr. Crosby made an affidavit of the circumstances
under which the papers had been found, and stated also that he had had
frequent conversations with Sander's solicitor, who always said "Poor
Barber was quite innocent, I am sure." These papers were at once brought
before the court of Queen's Bench, and the judges allowed Barber to have
his certificate. This was in 1853, five years after Barber's return from
Australia, and nine years after his conviction and sentence of
transportation, but it was not until 1855 that the certificate actually
came into his possession. Upon his conviction as a felon, Barber had
forfeited all his property, and not having a shilling of his own when he
returned, he was obliged to throw himself upon the consideration of
benevolent persons who had faith in his innocence, and who cheerfully
sent him subscriptions. His former partner, Bircham, proved as dishonest
as he was heartless, for he could never be induced to render an account
of the moneys collected by him in connection with the partnership, and
never paid to his partner one penny of the amount which should have come
to him. When Barber resumed practice as a solicitor he found that,
notwithstanding the complete vindication of his innocence, his former
trial and conviction proved a bar to successful business. On one
occassion his clerk had to attend before a judge in Chambers, and
although he succeeded in the application he made, the opposing attorney
in the case, angry at being defeated, threw into the teeth of the clerk
that "the defendant was represented by a convicted felon." On another
occasion a party had come to his office intending to make a loan of
money on mortgage, and he was to have prepared the securities; but on
his name being mentioned by the borrower to a friend, he exclaimed "Good
God, that is the returned convict, Barber," and he was not allowed to do
the business. The client said "It is very true Mr. Barber was convicted
and has returned," and he explained the circumstances, but the man of
money said, "I have not time to go into that; upon my life I will not
have my papers prepared by such a person; it is very fortunate if the
fact be so, but I will not have anything to do with him."

After struggling for some time against the evils which had been
inflicted upon him in the name of justice, Barber petitioned the
Parliament of England in April, 1857, and as previously intimated a
Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the allegations contained
in that petition, and to consider and report "whether any and what steps
should be taken in reference thereto." That Committee met in June, 1858,
and after hearing the evidence of Barber, Major Childs, Rev. T. G.
Rogers, and Commissary-General J. W. Smith, and having placed before them
all the documents referring to the case, they reported as follows:--

"Your Committee have inquired carefully into the allegations of the
petition, and find them to have been substantially proved.

"Your Committee have not entered upon the consideration of the question
whether, in the present or like cases, pecuniary compensation should be
granted, the rules and practice of the House precluding them from
recommending any grant of public money. Your Committee cannot, however,
forbear to state, that the facts presented to their notice in respect to
the conviction of Mr. Barber, to the sufferings he endured during the
time his sentence was being carried out at Norfolk Island, and to his
subsequent exculpation from the charge on which he was convicted, are so
peculiar as to render his case exceptional; and your Committee desire to
express their opinion that Mr. Barber has strong claims on the favorable
consideration of the Crown."

The report was "duly considered" by the Government, but they could not
see fit to recommend a vote to Barber, fearing to establish a "dangerous
precedent." In 1859, however, a sum was placed on the Estimates, but was
withdrawn, the Government giving the assurance that they would see if
something could not be done by way of influencing the Bank of England.
But it is needless to say that nothing resulted herefrom, for Banks like
not "dangerous precedents" any more than Governments. After long delay,
a sum of £5000 was granted, but poor Barber did not live long to enjoy
the price of his liberty and sufferings. The precise year and place of
his death are not known, but as his name cannot be traced in the Law
List after the early "Sixties," it is to be presumed that he died about
that time.

Reference has been made to the confession made by Fletcher himself, who,
as the reader has seen, displayed a remarkable antagonism towards
Barber, whom he might have cleared at the outset, had he been so
disposed; and it is necessary that the means by which that confession
was obtained should be explained. Shortly after the arrival of Barber
and Fletcher at Norfolk Island, Rev. Mr. Naylor, the chaplain of the
island, became impressed with the peculiarity of the circumstances
attendant upon Barber's conviction, and began to inquire more closely
into the case, being led by that inquiry to believe firmly that Barber
had been wrongfully convicted. He obtained from Barber a full account of
his connection with Fletcher and his confreres, and joined heartily in
assisting Barber in collecting proofs necessary to form the groundwork
of an appeal to the Home authorities. Barber had preserved a file of the
Times newspaper, containing an account of the trial, some letters which
had passed between him and his counsel at the time of the trial, and
other documents, and these Mr. Naylor took charge of. As chaplain of the
hospital he was brought into very close contact with the convict
Fletcher on one occasion, when the latter was lying very ill in
hospital, Mr. Smith, Commissary-General, being with him at the time, and
at that interview Fletcher made a voluntary statement to him which
convinced him that Barber knew nothing of the frauds at the time they
were committed. From this beginning the two gentlemen named began to
inquire further, and closely questioned Fletcher, and the forger,
apparently with great reluctance, made a confession clearly exculpating
his unfortunate fellow convict. In his confession Fletcher said "If the
application made by Barber to be tried separately (so that he might have
elicited the whole truth by calling myself and the other parties
accused) had not been resisted by the prosecution, he must have been not
only acquitted, but exonerated from the slightest culpability. As I
understand that it has been stated I have refused to admit Mr. Barber's
innocence, I feel called upon to contradict this, and to state that I
have only objected to sign or declare that which might have a tendency
to prejudice myself.. .. ..If we had not both been tried together Barber
must, as a matter of course, have been acquitted.. .. .. .. . Now that
all hope on my part has vanished, I will tell you that, whether guilty
or not myself, a clever counsel who might have had me under close
examination as a witness, must have wrung out of me such a mass of facts
as would have entirely exculpated Barber from the charge of being an
accessory to the forgery." After closely interrogating Fletcher the
gentlemen named had an interview with Barber, and subsequently they
brought the two convicts together, the result being that Mr. Naylor and
Mr. Smith joined in a representation on Barber's behalf, made in the
form of a certificate, and this, together with a memorial prepared by
Barber, was handed to Major Childs, who forwarded the report to the Home
Government, through the Governor of Van Diemen's Land.

One fact was brought to light before the Select Committee which shewed
most clearly that Barber's innocence had been declared by at least one
of the guilty parties even before the unfortunate victim had reached
Norfolk Island. The very day after Barber had sailed in the "Agincourt"
with the other convicts, Sanders, who was on board another vessel lying
in the Thames, made this confession, which was handed to Barber by the
doctor when the vessel reached the Cape of Good Hope:--"I, William
Sanders, now under sentence of transportation for seven years, and about
to leave my country, am desirous of reiterating all my former statements
of my belief and conviction of the complete innocence of William Henry
Barber of any participation or guilty knowledge whatever of the late
transactions in which I or my wife Lydia Sanders were concerned, or that
he received one farthing more than professional remuneration. William
Henry Barber was an utter stranger to me until introduced to him by
Fletcher, as Thomas Hunt, nor did I after see him or have any subsequent
communication with him until my first examination at the Mansion House.
I make this declaration from an unfeigned desire of doing all the
justice that in my power lies to a person whom I have been instrumental
in placing in a situation, of the horrors of which I am now so painfully
acquainted." It was also elicited that Sanders, on his first
apprehension, said "I am guilty; but there is one here who is as
innocent as a child unborn," referring to Barber. A further statement of
Sanders, entered in the Hobart Town Indent book, was also produced,
Sanders having made it on his arrival there, it being customary for
every prisoner on arrival to make a statement, which was taken down and
witnessed by the registrar:--"I represented Thomas Hunt to get £1,200
Three per Cent. Consols; tried with Barber and Fletcher; they went to
Norfolk Island; I was concerned in two other similar cases; I knew that
Fletcher had been concerned in these matters for several years before I
consented to take a part in it; it was discovered in consequence of a
correspondence with a Miss Slack; they were all unclaimed dividends, and
we represented fictitious persons, who were supposed to be relatives to
the parties leaving the money; Fletcher has been concerned in it for
upwards of fifteen years; prosecuted by the Government; Barber knew
nothing about the matter."

While acting as Judge of the Criminal Court at Norfolk Island, Mr.
Fielding Browne had Barber's case brought before him. He perused the
evidence taken at the trial, also Barber's memorial, the report of Mr.
Naylor and Mr. Smith, and the several confessions of Fletcher, Sanders
and his wife, and Mrs. Dorey (the two women also having testified to
Barber's innocence); and this is what the Judge reported:--"Could the
jury have had the advantage of such an investigation as that to which I
have alluded I cannot doubt for a moment that they would have been of
opinion that Mr. Barber must have been as unconscious of the fraudulent
character of the business in which he was professionally engaged, as the
proctor, or the stock-broker, or any of the other gentlemen through
whose hands the matter successively passed."

On leaving Norfolk Island, 3rd September, 1845, Rev. T. B. Naylor, wrote
to a friend in Sydney, while Barber's case was being inquired into
there, as follows:--" On leaving the island, of which I have now been
for some years the chaplain, I owe to public justice the duty of
recording my full conviction of the perfect innocence of William Henry
Barber, now suffering on it as a prisoner under sentence of
transportation. I have, with increasing interest, followed up a series
of inquiries into circumstances connected with his case, inaccessible to
the court by which he was tried, and many of which have subsequently
occurred. In addition, I have heard the reluctant acknowledgments of
Fletcher, the guilty originator of the frauds, establishing, beyond the
possibility of doubt, the innocence of Barber. My efforts shall continue
for his extrication; I deeply lament his truly wretched condition here,
and would gladly have seen it ameliorated. I have never known a prisoner
of the Crown who has been subjected to greater wretchedness; I rejoice
to be able to add, I have never seen an instance of more dignified
suffering, accompanied by invariably consistent conduct. It will afford
me real pleasure to continue his acquaintance under happier
circumstances.. .. .. . I shall never remember without shame and horror
the wantonness of the insults and the refinements of cruelty practised
towards him at Norfolk Island, from the worst possible motives. I must
add, that his manly endurance of these enormities excited my admiration
and esteem for him. Never did any man appeal with more justice to the
community for assistance."

In the face of all these facts, is it at all wonderful that the jury who
returned the verdict of guilty against Barber, and sent him to herd with
felons of the worst description, should, having the confessions brought
before them, sign a declaration like the following?--"If the evidence
contained in the confessions of the said Joshua Fletcher, William
Sanders, Georgiana Dorey and Lydia Sanders, and the other facts which
have transpired since the conviction of the said William Henry Barber,
had been presented to us at the trial, and if the explanation of
apparently suspicious circumstances could have been given before our
verdict was returned, which has since been afforded, we have no doubt
whatever that we should have acquitted Mr. Barber; the failure of
justice, so far as concerns him, arose in our judgment mainly from the
fact of his not having had a separate trial, and having been thereby
precluded from availing himself of the testimony of the other
prisoners." Yet there was a man in England, one of these jurymen, who
could not be prevailed upon to sign the document, although he admitted
that the evidence, if produced at the trial, would have had material
weight with him. "No," said he, as he buttoned up his coat over the
breast which is generally supposed to contain a human heart, but which
in this case was filled with stuff of the blue metal species--"No! I
have done with the matter; I will not trouble myself further about it."
Well was it for poor Barber, that there were Naylors and Smiths in the
world to protect him from the cruel selfishness and wretched inhumanity
of a being such as this.


Judge Therry, in his "Reminiscences," refers to several remarkable
convicts, and I make no apology for drawing rather extensively from his
interesting sketches. In speaking of the Cato-street conspirators, three
of whom became known to him during his thirty years' residence in
Australia, he says:--

"The wicked design of the conspirators, it will be remembered, was to
massacre his Majesty's Ministers, as they sat at a cabinet dinner at
Lord Harrowby's on 23rd February, 1820. Thistlewood, once a subaltern
officer in the army, and about thirty other miscreants, composed this
band. The capture of these avowed assassins in a stable-loft in
Cato-street, and the story of their atrocious designs, are too well
known to require being re-told. The ringleaders--Thistlewood, Ings, and
another--expiated their guilt on the scaffold, but the sentences of the
other prisoners brought to trial were commuted to transportation for
life. The three transported to New South Wales, whom I met on my first
visit to Bathurst in 1830, were S------, W------, and H------, then
holding tickets-of-leave there. To them the clemency of the Crown was
extended from a belief that they were minor participants in the plot,
and had been led into it by wicked-minded leaders. Some of them must
have been weak-minded to have listened to the inducements held out to
them by the ringleaders to join the conspiracy. Thistlewood, I have been
assured, told H------, who had been a Life Guardsman, that he would make
him Lord Chancellor under his provisional Government. On a calm perusal
of the trial at this distance of time, one cannot fail in being strongly
impressed with a belief, prevalent at the time of the trial, that
Edwards, the "spy" as he was designated, and who reported the
proceedings of the conspirators to the agents of Government immediately
after their several meetings--might well dispute with Thistlewood the
infamy of having originated the idea of the intended massacre. It was
the bad policy of those days to encourage spies--vile hucksterers in
blood--who, for the money they expected to make by their villany, made
men first their dupes and then their victims. Grievous as was their
crime, the three Cato-street conspirators I met with became reformed and
useful men in New South Wales. S------, still survives; he was for many
years chief constable of the Bathurst district, and was then the terror
of bushrangers. His career in the colony shewed that the sparing of his
life was a humane and well-bestowed act of clemency by the Crown. He was
rewarded by the Colonial Government for having captured several of those
daring disturbers of the peace, often after a severe personal conflict
with them. The reckless disregard of danger, that in a bad cause made
him an apt instrument for the deed that doomed him to transportation,
when engaged in a good and righteous one made him an invaluable
constable. S------, obtained a ticket-of-leave soon after his arrival
from Sir T. Brisbane, for capturing in a single-handed struggle Robert
Storey, the notorious bush-ranger of his time, and many other marauders
of less note. If it were known that 'the Cato-street chief' (the name by
which as chief constable he was known) was in search of the plunderers
who then prowled along the roads, they fled from the district, and his
name was a 'tower of strength' to the peaceable portion of the
community. At the present time he is the head of a patriarchal home on
the banks of the Fish River, at Bathurst, surrounded by children and
grandchildren, all industrious persons, in the enjoyment of a
comfortable competence. W----- was also for some time an active and
brave constable under S-----. On obtaining the indulgence of a
ticket-of-leave he married, and became the fashionable tailor of the
district. The sign-board over his shop contained a correct description
in announcing him 'W-----, tailor, from London.' Of course, the name of
Cato-street, the last place of his abode, was suppressed.

"With H-----, the Life Guardsman, I came into frequent contact
afterwards at the Court of Requests. He was a gaunt, muscular man,
upwards of six feet high, with large black eyes starting from his head,
and thick jet black hair hanging in profusion over a pale and rather
forbidding visage. In appearance he was the very impersonation of a
conspirator, fit to have been enrolled under Cataline. He was the
principal baker in the town of Bathurst at the time I visited it, and in
his conduct there gave no symptoms of the ferocity his countenance and
the part assigned him in the massacre indicated. He loved to litigate
before me in cases against his customers, who complained that his bills
shewed great skill in addition, but that they also shewed he had been
but very imperfectly acquainted with the rule of reduction. He was a
man of feeble intellect, to which he was indebted, as expressly
intimated in the commutation of his sentence, for his life being spared.
A prominent and perilous post was to have been his in the perpetration
of the massacre, and the rising of the citizens which Thistlewood
expected would follow from it. A part of the wicked work assigned to him
was to go with W-----, after the massacre, to Knightsbridge Barracks,
with which as a Life Guardsman he was well acquainted, and to fling a
fireball into the straw-shed. He became, nevertheless, abroad, a
well-conducted man and an industrious baker."


Judge Therry also gives a sketch of Richard Hunt, another favorable
specimen of a reformed character, who was the accomplice of Thurtell in
the murder of Weare, which attracted much attention in England in 1824
for its deliberate atrocity. "I was present," says the Judge, "at his
trial at Hertford in 1824, and heard sentence of death passed upon him,
commuted afterwards to transportation for life, as the magistrates held
out a hope to him that if he informed where the body of the murdered man
lay, it would operate favorably for him. It had been weighed down by a
heavy stone to the bottom of a pond, and without his disclosure might
probably never have been found. Sir R. Peel, then Secretary for the Home
Department, reproved the justices for holding out this hope; but deemed
it advisable that magisterial faith should be kept inviolate, and the
sentence of death was accordingly commuted to transportation for life.
Eight years after his trial I fell in with Hunt at the antipodes. He was
there a trusted, and, I believe, a trustworthy storekeeper, assigned to
the service of a Government contractor on the Blue Mountain Road. I
recognised him at once, as the mail-coach stopped at the contractor's
store, at an early hour on a winter's morning. It may be easily imagined
what a contrast was presented in his cheerful and healthy countenance to
the woe-begone visage he wore in the dock at Hertford. His conduct in
the colony was correct, and even meritorious. So unobtrusive and humble
was his demeanour, as if every moment he was abashed and sensible of the
great crime he had committed, that he was not even once annoyed or
taunted with a reference to it. For the last twenty years he held the
office of Court-Keeper of the Assize Court at Bathurst, and by his
respectful demeanour and general good conduct enjoyed the favourable
opinion of all who came in contact with him. Shortly previous to my
departure from the colony, he married the respectable widow of a medical
practitioner in Bathurst, and by attention to his several duties became
quite an exemplary person. Though a participator in the foul deed of
murder he was not the perpetrator of it nor present at its commission.
The deed was done by Thurtell alone, who had quite a death-struggle with
his victim Weare before he accomplished it. As far as upwards of
thirty-years of a well-spent life could atone for the crime it has been
atoned for by Hunt--at least, he has approved himself not unworthy of
the clemency of the Crown by which his life was spared. He was living in
1859, at the date of my departure from New South Wales."

During his residence in Bathurst Hunt was the "character" of the place.
As Judge Therry intimates, he was a quiet, unpretentious man, and
diligent in the discharge of his duties. Before his marriage he lived in
Barrack-Lane, which connected Durham-street with Howick-street, and
which for many years was a rather celebrated thoroughfare and the place
of residence of some noted characters, male and female. For many years a
sister kept house for him, she having come out from the old country for
that purpose, but the tie between them was broken when he brought a wife
into the home, and the sister disappeared from public view. Hunt had a
weakness for velvet waistcoats, and the writer has a clear recollection
of his portly walk and bearing when on his way to and from his official
quarters. He possessed a magnificent baritone voice, and was a splendid
singer; indeed, it is said that his ability as a singer was indirectly
the cause of his being mixed up in the crime which led to his
transportation. But it was only very seldom that he could be induced to
sing, and only his personal friends (who were very few in number) had
the privilege of hearing the full power of his wonderful voice.


The "Reminiscences" also contain the following sketches of notorious

KNATCHBULL.--"Knatchbull's case was one that excited much interest in
1844, arising partly from the honourable position the man once occupied,
and the great respectability of his connections. He was half-brother of
the late Sir Edward Knatchbull, and had himself been a commander in the
navy, and in that capacity served as captain of a gun-brig. The career
of this desperate person must, no doubt, have given pain to his most
respected family; but it could reflect no discredit upon them. The
disgrace was all his own. Knatchbull had been originally transported for
picking a pocket in Vauxhall Gardens, but at the time he had exhausted
the generosity and kindness of his friends by his profligate course of
life. In the colony his career was one of low vice and habitual crime.
The first time I saw him was in the dock in the Supreme Court in Sydney,
when he was convicted of forgery and sentenced to be transported to
Norfolk Island. On his way to this penal settlement, a conspiracy (of
which Knatchbull was the leader) was formed by the convicts to capture
the vessel, not with the wicked daring of pirates, but with the low
cunning of the basest of criminals. The design was to poison the captain
and crew with arsenic, four pounds of which were concealed in a
pillow-case and stealthily put on board. This was to have been thrown
secretly into the cook's galley. It was pre-arranged that, with the
exception of the conspirators, the rest of the crew and passengers
should be compelled to walk the plank, and that the vessel should then
be steered for an American port. The scheme was detected and defeated.
Afterwards Knatchbull came back to Sydney, got a ticket-of-leave (which
after the commission of such crimes ought not to have been given to
him), and obtained the command from a Sydney merchant of a small
coasting vessel of about one hundred tons, on board of which the
captain, mate and sailors, many of them ex-convicts, messed and lived
together on terms of equality. What a falling-off, indeed, for a man who
had once trod the deck as Captain of a British man-of-war! His guilt in
the case of murder for which he was subsequently executed was
established on the clearest evidence, in fact, he might be said to have
been caught in flagrante delicto. The facts were shortly these:--An
industrious widow--a Mrs. Jamison--with her two children about from 3 to
5 years of age, kept a small shop in Margaret-place, Sydney. Mrs.
Jamison was reputed to be possessed of money, which she was saving for
the education of her two children. Knatchbull, in some way, found this
out. On the evening of the 6th January, 1844, he was observed to be
lurking an hour about Mrs. Jamison's house; this attracted the attention
of a Mr. Shallis, who watched his movements. He was induced to do so
from having some knowledge of Knatchbull, and a suspicion that he was
loitering there for no good purpose. Observing that Knatchbull had
entered the house he ran up to the door and listened. He soon heard a
noise which he described to be 'like that of breaking a cocoanut with a
hammer.' The house, the door of which Knatchbull had fastened on the
inside, was forcibly entered soon afterwards by the police-officers. The
poor widow was found insensible, her head dreadfully cut, and blood
copiously-flowing. Knatchbull was apprehended inside the house, and
numerous circumstances combined to leave no shadow of doubt of his
guilt. Mrs. Jamison lingered in great agony for several days after the
infliction of several severe wounds, which the surgeon testified he
believed to be such as probably to be inflicted by the tomahawk found
under her bed. Efforts were made to save Knatchbull's life, but the case
was too flagrant to admit of a respite, and he expiated his guilt at the
usual place of execution in Sydney. On his person, when apprehended,
were found six bills for £50 each, three in blank and three filled up
and drawn, in his own handwriting on Sir Edward Knatchbull. These, of
course, he could not negotiate, for it was well known that the worthy
baronet had long ceased to take any interest in his degraded relative."

JOHN TAWELL.--"John Tawell's case attracted much attention in
England a few years ago, partly from its cruelty in poisoning a woman
who was dependent upon him for support, and partly from the remarkable
mode of its detection. A few minutes after he had done the deed he
started from Slough to London by the railway train; but the train was
outstripped by the electric telegraph, and on his arrival in London
police-officers were in attendance at the railway station, from which he
was tracked to his lodgings and arrested. Previous to his
transportation, upwards of forty years ago, his occupation in England
was that of a commercial traveller.. .. .. . He had been originally
transported on a conviction for forgery. The first count of the
indictment charged him with forging a bill for £1,000; the second count,
with uttering it, knowing it to be forged; and the third with having a
forged bill to that amount in his possession. The two first counts, on
conviction, would have made him liable to a capital punishment; the last
to transportation for life. The prosecution was so compromised that on
his consenting to plead 'guilty' to the last charge, (which he did) the
Crown entered a nolle prosequi on the two first counts. Consequently,
he came out to the colony a convict for this offence. Besides being a
commercial traveller for some time he had been in an apothecary's shop
in England. On obtaining partial exemption from convict discipline he
became the principal druggist, and had the showiest shop of that kind in
Sydney when I arrived there. After a prosperous career he sold his
business to a respectable chemist (the late Mr. Foss) it has been
stated, for £14,000. This sum he judiciously invested in buildings and
other pursuits of profit.. .. .. . He had been once a member of the
Society of Friends, he wore the broad-brimmed hat, appeared always in a
neat and carefully-adjusted costume, and his whole appearance and manner
impressed one with the notion of his being a very saintly personage. He
always sought the society in public of persons of reputed piety. I have
often met him in the street accompanied by a secretary or collector to a
charitable institution, whom he assisted in obtaining collections for
benevolent purposes. At one time he took up the cause of temperance in
such an intemperate and silly spirit that he ordered a puncheon of rum
he had imported to be stav