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Title: Criminal Statistics and Movement of the Bond Population of Norfolk Island, to December, 1843. Author: Captain [Alexander] Maconochie, R.N. * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1401821h.html Language: English Date first posted: April 2014 Date most recently updated: April 2014 Produced by: Ned Overton. Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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The establishment and early years of the colony on Norfolk Island were treated in books by Governors Phillip—in his "The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay with an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island"—and Hunter—in his "Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island". Norfolk Island was part of New South Wales from 1787.
In 1814, the colony was abandoned for 11 years. It was re-occupied in 1825, but on the new footing of a penal settlement, without free settlers, and with increased severity of discipline and other management. The settlement began to be wound down after 1847, and the last convicts were sent to Tasmania in 1855.
The contents have been added to highlight convict categories in the text.
The Bond Population.
STATISTICAL SOCIETY OF LONDON.
[Volume VIII, Part I; pp. 1-49.]
Criminal Statistics and Movement of the Bond Population of Norfolk Island, to December, 1843. By Captain Maconochie, R.N., late Superintendent.
To give a general view of the circumstances and character of the bond population of Norfolk Island, I shall, in the following pages, bring together a number of returns and other statements illustrating the past and present condition of the island, and placing this in as many points of view as may appear in any way advantageous. I shall class these on the present occasion under the following two heads:—1. Those exhibiting the nature and capabilities of the island itself; 2. Those showing the movement of bond population on it since it became a penal settlement.
1. The group of which Norfolk Island is the principal, is situate in lat. 29° 2' S., and 168° 2' E. long., 900 miles E.N.E. of Sydney, and 1350 N.E. from Cape Pillar, in Van Dieman's Land. It is composed of two principal islets, Norfolk and Philip Islands, distant about six miles from each other, with about a dozen others, Nepean and Bird Islands, which are little more than dry rocks, distributed around the main island.
Norfolk Island is not quite five miles long, with a medium breadth of about two and a half; and its superficies is said to be 8960 acres, and greatest height, at two points close together, forming the double summit of Mount Pitt, 1050 feet. These two last numbers are the result of a rough survey made, with very defective instruments, about four years ago, by Lieutenant Lugard, R.E., and are below previous estimates; and, as I think, also somewhat below the truth; but I say this last only from surmise, and may be mistaken.
Philip Island is about a mile and quarter long, with a medium breadth not exceeding three quarters. Its height has not been ascertained, but is probably from 200 to 300 feet less than that of Norfolk Island. It is everywhere precipitous; and its sides being furrowed into deep channels or gullies, heavily wooded, though the timber is small and of little value, it does not appear susceptible of occupation to economical advantage. As a punishment station, however, from the principal settlement, or as an invalid station, where the infirm, who are frequently also ill-conducted, could be kept apart from the able and effective men, I think it might be occupied with very considerable benefit to discipline. Garden ground could be easily procured on it, and water has been found at one known spot, and probably could be obtained also elsewhere.
Both these islands are blocks of porphyry, much decomposed on the surface, and thus presenting in many places, where water-furrowed, the appearance of basalt; but nothing of the kind is found, in either, in mass, though, in both, boulders of compact greenstone are extensively distributed, which, when broken by gunpowder, form an excellent material for building. Their number on Norfolk Island is even prodigious: they pave nearly all the water-courses; and in many of the higher grounds also they lie so close together that the fields in which they are found might be worked as continuous quarries. They appear to have been originally embedded in the porphyry, and wherever that is deeply cut into, almost to whatever depth, as in well-sinking or otherwise, they are constantly found more or less thickly scattered, but always round, as though water-worn. On the high grounds their surface is generally much weathered and hollowed into cups.
Besides these and the porphyry, extensive beds of sand and limestone are superposed near the south-east extremity of Norfolk Island, where the settlement is placed, and afford further almost inexhaustible supplies of building material. Both are of inconsiderable depth, but their extent is such as to preclude all reasonable chance of working them out. Of the two, the limestone appears the older formation. It covers above 20 acres of the comparatively flat land which forms the south-east extremity, and its medium depth appears to be from 12 to 20 feet. At some remote period it has been violently upheaved, particularly in two places—the small hill on which Government House stands, which rises somewhat abruptly about 50 feet above the adjoining level, and at the cliffs skirting the sea-shore, which rise equally suddenly a few feet lower. From these two points the stone dips in all directions, and with all degrees of depression, from 10° to 90°. In many places it stands thus perpendicular, and in most it is very confused. Slabs, chimney-shafts, or other regular blocks are thus only procured at particular spots. The stone is very open and porous, insomuch that its specific gravity is only 1.135. It is cast in very thin laminę, not above 1 to 3 inches thick, and is of fine quality, with a slight admixture of sand, but yielding in the kiln fully 90 per cent, of fine lime. Below it, is everywhere found the island porphyry. The sandstone appears to have formed against, and in some places under it, subsequent to its being thrown up. The bar and projecting rocks along the whole south-east front are composed of this; but it is nowhere above 6 feet thick. Below it, is found an unctuous-looking black clay, full of vegetable remains, especially the leaves and seeds of pines and other island trees. The black colour probably proceeds from the decomposition of these, the basis being the island porphyry; but it is remarkable that it is nowhere found like this excepting under the sandstone; everywhere else, below the loose sand and boulders which form the beaches elsewhere, it is without vegetable remains, and of the same light-brown colour with the cliffs. The sandstone is not stratified at all, but may be cut with wedges in any direction and of any size. It is most compact where under the action of the salt water, below high-water mark; above this it is much more open and shaky, and it is soon lost in ascending from the beach, either running into the sands on the downs or abutting against the limestone. It is a very porous stone, a drip-stone; for which latter purpose it is much used, as well as for building. Being quarried from under salt water, it draws damp on every change of weather, and is thus best fitted for outside work. Both these building stones, indeed, being thus porous, the buildings on the settlement are rough-cast with lime, which requires renewing every second or third year: without this they would be scarcely habitable. The supply of the sandstone, like that of the limestone, appears inexhaustible; and, in fact, it is renewing from year to year. In the direction where it lies, wherever sand is deposited, and continues at rest, but is yet washed from time to time by the sea, it speedily consolidates; and the stone may be thus seen along the beach in every stage, from the particles scarcely cohering to the compact mass. This process exists elsewhere, but I think is nowhere so rapid as here. The shellfish are caught by it, being frequently found imbedded; and the boulder-stones along the beach are all more or less crusted. The beach on which it occurs is open to the prevailing south-east winds; it is thus almost incessantly beaten by a heavy surf; and it seems probable that besides any cementing power or body that may exist in the salt water, or be washed off by it from the adjoining limestone cliffs, a gluten is cast up from the black clay beneath. The presence of the sandstone solely where it occurs seems to indicate such a connexion, though it is true also that there is only sandstone near the limestone.
Directly opposite the fields thus described, and not more than 600 yards from the beach formed by them, Nepean Island rises to the height of about 50 feet, and is composed of the same, or even a purer, limestone, with also its beach of sandstone along its south-east and east fronts. It is about a quarter of a mile, or something less, long; of a horse-shoe form, open to the east; and its centre, above the action of the waves, is a bed of loose sand: water has not been found on it, and vegetation has within the last few years almost disappeared, owing, as it is said, to a colony of rabbits which destroyed everything edible. Only birds are now found on it, chiefly gannets and mutton-birds; and the only economical use that it is put to is obtaining from it from time to time stones for building the shafts of chimneys. For this purpose, its limestone, which may almost be cut into shape, is remarkably well adapted; and a few quarrymen will in a week supply more than the boats can bring across in even a dozen trips. The sandstone here has no peculiarity that I am aware of: it seems in all respects identical with that on the main island.
An old prisoner, aged 80, now on the island as a second convicted man, asserts that he was an assigned servant on it from 1793 to 1797, and that the distance between Norfolk and Nepean Island at the beginning of that period did not exceed a boat's length. In 1797 two severe shocks of earthquake were, however, experienced; by the second of which the near point of Nepean Island was submerged, and the channel made as we now see it. He supports this statement by some collateral assertions known otherwise to be true, as the existence of a fishery on Nepean Island at that time, with which the intercourse was habitual, but which now would be very difficult; and it is remarkable that the rocks which almost pave the channel between Norfolk and Philip Islands, much beyond the line of Nepean Island, are nearly all limestone, whereas elsewhere round the island they are porphyry, as though at a remote period there had been a much greater submersion of the former than is thus within recollection. But though slighter shocks of earthquake have been felt since the occupation of the island as a penal station—and one in 1834 even caused considerable alarm and inconvenience by raising the tide so high that it became necessary to release the men both from the gaol and barracks in the middle of the night—no change of coast line has within this time occurred; nor, so far as I can see or judge, is there any other sign of recent volcanic action on the island than is here afforded.
Neither sand nor lime stone are found elsewhere in the group. The Bird Islands are mere nodules of porphyry distributed along the north shore, and exactly resembling the cliffs opposite to them. In an economical sense, they are utterly valueless; but they are also tenanted extensively by birds, particularly the gannet, boatswain-bird, and sea-swallow, the two latter of which are seldom seen on the other side of the island. The tides run with great rapidity among these Bird Islands, and thus, though but a few yards from the shore, it is unsafe to swim off to them, and several lives have been lost at different times through the men's eagerness to obtain birds, or to fish from them. Both they and the cliffs opposite to them are extensively hollowed into caves and recesses by the action of the water, and in some cases also by human agency. The porphyry, not too hard to dig, yet too tenacious readily to fall in, is easily formed into a cave, and almost all the men who take the bush on the island form some such retreat, where it is sometimes very difficult to find them. Some of the mutineers who in 1826 seized the boats and escaped to Philip Island thus lived 13 months there before they were retaken; and many stories are current, most of them probably exaggerated, of the extent of cave formed under its principal peak.
With the exception of the plane already described, on which the settlement is built, the sea-front of Norfolk Island is everywhere high and precipitous. Even the gullies, which cut it as they issue to the sea, do not dip quite to the water level, but terminate in abrupt declivities of from 30 to 50 feet high, over which in winter fall many highly picturesque cascades. The landing-place on the north side takes its name from this circumstance; it is close to Great Cascade, as distinguished from others, which in like manner have each their local name. The intervening cliffs are from 200 to 250 feet high all round. The surface of the interior is extremely uneven, being deeply cut by the gullies adverted to, which radiate from Mount Pitt in all directions, many of them being also connected with each other by lateral gullies. The average height of the land between them, or what may be called the table land of the island, is 300 to 350 feet. At the highest point between Cascade and the settlement, where the east and west and north and south roads intersect, and which, with the exception of a small patch on the side of Mount Pitt 40 feet higher, is also the highest land cultivated, it is 477 feet. Spring water of excellent quality may be obtained everywhere along this tract, within 100 feet of the surface. The well at the cross roads is 97 feet deep, and in our driest weather has not fallen below 5 feet of water. The wells at Cascade Camp are 320 feet above the sea, and still more abundant. They are all fed by threads of water penetrating the upper surface, not by ground springs. No considerable head of water has been anywhere found; and the rills which in winter run in every gully, nearly all become dry in summer, to the great injury and inconvenience of the cattle at this season.
Of this form, then, the cultivation of Norfolk Island is necessarily laborious; and although nothing can exceed the vigour, the even troublesome vigour, of vegetation on it, or the consequent beauty of its scenery, the returns from its sown crops are uncertain. The following table will show those actually reaped within the last 12 years:—
The highest of these returns is below a moderate average in New South Wales, and the majority would be there considered absolute failures. The causes, I apprehend, to be these:—1. The surface soil is a rich, sharp, very fine mould, with scarcely a pebble in it, calculated to start anything, but not sufficiently heavy to carry the vegetation it thus produces to maturity unless in very favourable circumstances. The crops on it are thus liable in the open ground to be injured by the high winds, which disturb the roots, and in the gullies to run to straw. I have never seen them anywhere realize their early promise. 2. This character of the soil is much increased by the long almost exclusive use of the hoe in the agriculture of the island, which disturbs the land too much. 3. It is further increased by the too greedy system of cropping that has been pursued, maize on maize, or wheat and maize alternately, for years. 4. The colonial practice constantly pursued on the island of burning off stubble, instead of digging or ploughing it in, is further against the land. And 5. The difficulty of communicating across the gullies, with the short time that the effects of manure remain in land thus characterized, and perhaps the indifference to rule evinced in all colonial farming, especially where not stimulated by private interest, have prevented the counteraction of these causes by artificial means. The remedy, accordingly, is such counteraction, viz.:—1. The ground that has been longest in culture, and which happens to be also the most exposed to the prevailing winds, should be laid down in grass and suffered to rest. 2. New ground should be taken in, instead of this, in the central and northern part of the island, lying from the prevailing winds. (I have myself cleared above 500 acres in this direction with this view.) 3. The plough should be used on the upland and exposed grounds; the effect of the hoe is on them peculiarly injurious. And 4. A regular rotation of cropping, with occasional manure, should be adopted. By these means I think that the returns could be made more uniform and certain, but I doubt if they could by any means be raised above a low general average, as compared with New South Wales. The soil is so light, the declivities so steep, the sub-soil (degraded porphyry, almost everywhere within two feet of the surface of the consistence of stiff clay, with a strong acrid salt in it, which, on exposure, evaporates and leaves the residuum little better than dust,) is so hot in its character and so favourable to the escape of water, that I do not think any care can do more, than palliate these several inconveniences. It is remarkable that even in the gardens on the island, with every advantage of cultivation, the vegetables scarcely ever carry their seed to perfection, however otherwise excellent. They grow vigorously to root and herbage, but excepting maize, nothing can be said to corn well. All seeds must be frequently renewed.
Stock of all kinds thrive well on the island; nothing can surpass the mutton, pork, and poultry reared on it. The beef is not so good, but undoubtedly it might be made so. At present it is slaughtered from labour or grass, as it may happen; and no artificial food being provided for the cattle, they are alternately gorged or pinched according to the season. In the long droughts with which the island is almost annually visited, but especially within the last three years, they usually suffer much, far more than the sheep. In 1842 we had considerable difficulty in even carrying them through at all, and were forced on the different runs to fell trees for their support. At this time a woodman's axe in their neighbourhood brought them round in hundreds.
The annexed table will show the quantity of stock on the island belonging to Government at the end of 1843. Besides what is thus shown, pigs are in all the officer's stock-yards, and at most of the bush stations. They are an extremely profitable stock, but should be slightly salted before being used extensively as food, fresh pork being considered to promote the dysenteric tendency otherwise on the island. No private individual is allowed to keep cows or sheep, and only two have private horses, one each. I think that the present flock of sheep is as large as should be kept, but that the cattle, with care to provide part artificial food for a portion, as the dairy, working, and a small fatting herd, might be increased to 1000 head. It would be out of place to give here my reasons for fixing on this number. I do not think it could be enlarged without great risk of occasional loss, or that it could be even carried thus far without much care. In the droughts, the cattle not unfrequently even fall over the cliffs, stretching after a blade of grass beyond their reach:—
The economical resources of the island may be thus, I think, summed up. In the direction that I have indicated, from 1000 to 1200 acres may be brought into cultivation, and, with care, be kept in better heart than the present farm for any time. On two-thirds of this ground, from 20 to 30 bushels per acre of maize, rye, or barley, may confidently be reckoned on, and, with very good management, the return may even somewhat exceed this; but wheat and oats will not answer so well, being always of very inferior quality. The others are available whether as rations or for the use of stock, and three crops of them at the above rate may be obtained in two years,—the maize being a summer crop, rye and barley winter ones; and by changing the ground, and sowing the different crops late and early, this return is easily effected. The remaining third of arable ground should be kept in reserve for vegetables, pasture, and other local purposes, contributing at the same time to the maintenance of stock and of a suitable agricultural rotation, and should thus not be looked to in each year as likely to turn produce into store. (It is the want of such a reserve that in past years has both injured the land and the stock, and it is my anxiety to introduce it that has appeared to lessen recently in our returns the amount of land under cultivation.) The average weight of sheep slaughtered on the island is 55 lbs., and of bullocks 600 lbs. The sheep yield a fifth of their entire number to the knife annually, and yet are rather increasing in number. The cattle, once established in sufficient numbers to kill from regularly without regarding increase, will yield about a sixth; that is to say, by not slaughtering under five years of age in any case, drafting off the old as younger and better come forward to supply their places, and making a large allowance for casualties, which will always be numerous on the island, the violent changes of quantity and quality of food, caused by the violent changes of season, being peculiarly injurious, and often extensively fatal, to the young calves. Breeding swine, kept in the best manner, will rear easily three litters of six in two years, or nine pigs annually, averaging within the year 120 lbs. each, or from 1200 lbs. to 1400 lbs. annually in all; and each sow, with its young, where a number are kept together, will within the same time consume the produce of an acre and third of ground, for which, accordingly, the above is the return. But good management is indispensable throughout. No stock depend so entirely on artificial keep as swine, or are so much injured, consequently, by undue economy, slovenliness, or neglect.
The shores of Norfolk Island abound with fish, many of considerable size, and of good quality, and are found both in shoals and single fish. Of the former the principal are king-fish, averaging from 30 to 70 lbs.; trevally, from 5 to 25 lbs.; salmon, from 1 to 10 lbs.; grouper and skip-jacks, from 1 to 5 or 6 lbs.; and mackerel, not very abundant, yet not unfrequently caught, in all respects resembling the English, and as good. Of the single fish, there are two specimens of cod, black and brown, (the first often rising above 100 lbs. weight); trumpeter 8 to 14 lbs., and many others smaller. Were there a boat harbour, which boats could leave and enter in all weathers, with a free boat's crew, or other arrangements made by which they could be reasonably secured from seizure by the prisoners with a view to escape, I have little doubt that a considerable addition would be gained to the economical resources of the island from fishing. The banks round the island extend above 20 miles from it in all directions, and fish are caught over nearly the whole extent.
One of the greatest defects of Norfolk Island is, indeed, its want of a harbour, and the consequent delay and difficulty in maintaining its sea communications. From 15 to 30, and even 40 days, are common periods of detention, when in ordinary circumstances from 4 to 6 days would be a fair average; and all beyond this may be considered as representing so much labour, anxiety, and expense thrown away. Nothing can be more vexatious; nor does it admit of a complete remedy, though it would be much palliated by adding Ball's Bay, on the east side of the island, to the other landing-places on it, cutting a road to this either over the hill from the Settlement, or, which I think much preferable, round under the cliffs, along the sea-shore, and laying down heavy moorings on a clean sand-bank, just outside the bay. This work I accordingly strongly recommend.
The following is a list of the principal woods of the island, with their economical uses. For these, the supply of them is ample for many years, with the exception, perhaps, of the cherry-tree, which cannot stand long the demand made on its bark for tanning, and wood for charcoal; and the hopwood, which is already become rare. As the cherry-tree is a peculiarly valuable wood, being the toughest and best adapted for making agricultural implements on any of the island, some protection is urgently required for it. The other is unimportant.
Description of Trees found on Norfolk Island, and the Purposes to which they are applied.
The following two tables show the prevailing winds and distribution of rain throughout the year on the island. The winds are always high. I regret that it did not occur to me in 1840, when I began to keep a meteorological journal,* to construct a rain-gauge, so as to determine also the absolute fall of rain; but even if I had, it would have given but little idea of the real supply. In the summer droughts the ground becomes so hot that slight showers rise from it in steam almost as they fall; and in the same season heavy rain runs off the steep declivities for several hours, scarcely penetrating at all, till the superficial crust is dissolved. After this, the loose nature of the soil imbibes a great deal; and thus, not unfrequently, our rills, which swell instantly on a first fall of rain, and sometimes even precede this, giving note of its coming, subside with its continuance. They run off more rapidly than they again fill.
[* An abstract of this journal was annexed to my last year's report. The most remarkable thing in it is the equality of temperature and atmospheric pressure in all seasons of the year. The variations are very small. The following still more condensed abstract will show within what limits this is to be understood.]
Abstract of Meteorological Journal kept at Norfolk Island, from May, 1840, to 31st December, 1843, inclusive.
Statement of the Number of Days in each Quarter the Wind has blown from the under-mentioned Points of the Compass at Norfolk Island from May, 1840, to December, 1843.
Table showing the Number of Days on which Rain has fallen at Norfolk Island, from May, 1840, to December, 1843.
II. Norfolk Island was first occupied as a dependency on New South Wales in 1787, and was not then meant as a station for the doubly convicted, or in any way as a place of increased punishment; but merely as affording means of distributing the prisoners sent to New South Wales, and increasing the resources for their employment and maintenance. Accordingly, free settlers were allowed to come with them; and gradually the population of these amounted, as far as I can learn, to about 120 souls, and of the prisoners to about 250. A much greater number of the latter, it is said even to the extent of 700, were at one time sent down to make a pier, and some other works deemed requisite; but they were removed in 1797, shortly after the severe earthquakes of that year, which are said to have materially altered the views of Government in relation to the island. In the whole of this statement, however, I speak chiefly on report; that also being principally founded on the now somewhat vague recollections of the old prisoner already adverted to (John Brown, per "Atlas"), who is marked on our books as having only been transported in 1800, but who states that this was a second conviction, and that he was an assigned servant on the island from 1793 to 1797. In 1810 it was deemed inexpedient to retain the settlement on these terms. The returns from it were found to be few, and very uncertain. It did not always feed even its own population. The communication with it was at the same time uncertain and expensive. The settlement had, consequently, been several times reduced to extreme distress. From its sequestered position, and other causes, its morals were represented to have become extremely depraved; and Van Dieman's Land, just then begun to be settled, and not labouring under the same local and physical disadvantages, was calculated to serve better every object contemplated in the occupation of Norfolk Island. The free settlers in the latter were accordingly offered equivalent grants of land there, which they were compelled, though reluctantly, to accept. The bond were removed, and the island was for 15 years abandoned.
It was re-occupied in 1825, but on the new footing of a penal settlement, without free settlers, and with increased severity of discipline and other management. The establishment was at first small, but rapidly increased. The following table will show the movement of its bond population from that period to the present.
Table showing the Number of Prisoners who have arrived on Norfolk Island in each Year, their Movement, and Number at the end of each Year, from 28th June, 1825, to 31st December, 1843.
The second row of figures in the four last years in this table indicates the prisoners sent direct from England in 1840, and who were proposed to be placed under my own particular plan of management. Besides other interest in the table, its columns will conveniently class my other statements on the subject; and I proceed, therefore, now to fill up details in regard to each.
1. Men arrived from Sydney. The total number of these is 3,593; distributed, as seen in the table, into 2,916, under the old system, and 677 under the new; who are further classed out in the following table, according to their countries, religion, and original sentences, so far as we can gather all these from our records, which in earlier years are meagre, and in some particulars imperfect.
Return, showing the Country, Religion, and Original Sentences of all Prisoners who have arrived at Norfolk Island, from 25th June 1825, to the 31st December, 1843.
The principle of classification adopted in this table, somewhat modified, is still further carried out in the following one, which is otherwise interesting, viz.:—
Return showing the Places and Courts where First Convicted, of all Prisoners who have arrived at Norfolk Island, from June, 1825, to December, 1843.
Return showing the Places and Courts, &c.—continued.
Return showing the Places and Courts, &c.—continued.
Return showing the Places and Courts, &c.—continued.
Return showing the Places and Courts, &c.—continued.
Third Recapitulation.—Showing the proportions in which Men have arrived from different Places and under different Sentences.
It would be rash, to consider a classification of the men who came here direct from home in 1840, as necessarily giving a correct example of the proportions in which they come to the colonies generally of different countries, and under different sentences; for, on the contrary, the several quantities may differ widely. Yet, taking the above tables and their recapitulations for just what they are worth, the following facts appear on them. 1. A larger proportion of English and Scotch, and a smaller of Irish, appears in the second convicted class than in the first. 2. The increase is in the convicts from the large towns, for, on the contrary, many of the rural districts decrease; and Dublin increases, though Ireland generally decreases. 3. Though the proportion from Edinburgh and Scotland increases, that from Glasgow will be seen to decrease, possibly owing to the number of Irish convicted from the latter, whose robust frames enable them to support hardship without inconvenience, and consequently without resistance, and who, in this respect, are more a rural than urban population. 4. The mining districts all over England are honourably low in these returns; and the densely peopled agricultural, as Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Somersetshire, and some others are high. 5. Beyond all the great towns the proportion increases most, in the second convicted class, from Yorkshire. But to make these observations, as already observed, really of value, more ample returns are required of first convicted men; and a reference to the population returns of each district at home is also indispensable, which is not at present in my power.
2. Men sent to Sydney on Indulgence.—A great addition will be observed in the numbers in this column in 1839 and 1840. These were the two first years after the Act of New South Wales Council, 2 Vict. c. 1, was passed, regulating the conditions on which colonial sentences to the island might be commuted and ultimately remitted; and when the greatest degree of benefit to the men was consequently derived from it, by facilitating the removal of nearly all the well-conducted who had served over the periods required by it. The original purpose of the Act was not thus to clear the island, nor, as has usually since been considered, to fetter or direct the exercise of mercy by his Excellency the Governor; it was merely to enable men that might be so called up to be worked in irons in the colony in commutation of the remaining portions of their several sentences. But by fixing certain periods (one, three, and five years, for men under sentences for 7 years, 14 years, and life respectively) when application might be made to obtain for them the commutations prescribed by this Act, it did in fact altogether change the prospects of the whole body, and greatly improve their condition. The worst horrors of Norfolk Island may, in truth, be thus said to have terminated with the passing of this Act. Before it, men sent here had little or no prospect before them, except what was contingent on a capricious recommendation; and according to their several tempers they either sought to earn this by treachery, hypocrisy, or other unworthy service; or, despairing of attaining it at all, they became reckless, violent, mutinous, and insubordinate. Since, this has been much changed; with good conduct on the island every one has been certain of recommendation at the allotted period of his service proportioned to his sentence. The answer has not been always favourable; on the contrary, 260 men are here now who have been refused, besides 158 others, who having been once refused, have served two years more with good conduct, and been not less than 8 years in all on the island, (the conditions prescribed,) and who, thus again recommended, have been since allowed up. But even thus, hope has been extended nearly to all, and the effect has been excellent.
Up to September last (1843), 1200 men have thus been forwarded to Sydney from the beginning of 1839, and it is extremely interesting to trace their further progress, as exhibited in the following return, laid officially before the Legislative Council of Sydney:—See Table, page 21 [below].
Return of the Number of Prisoners that have been landed in Sydney from Norfolk Island between 1st January, 1839, and 1st September, 1843; distinguishing those who have become Free, either by the expiration of their original Sentences, or by Pardon, and those who are still serving their Sentences in New South Wales; and showing the Number who have, since their return, been Re-Convicted, either in Supreme Court or by the Court of Quarter Sessions, throughout the Colony.
On this return some very important observations occur: 1. The entire number of re-convicted, considering the description of men, their going penniless from this island, the suspicion with which they are regarded in Sydney, and the associates to whom they there return, appears to me very small. 2. The proportion, however, in 1839 and the first three months of 1840, before I came here, is not so small; it is 20 out of 512 men in one year, or above 4 per cent. 3. The remaining 17 are distributed over four years of my administration, which by its laxity has been accused of encouraging crime in the colony; yet the proportion, even on this showing, is in three years and a half little more than 2 per cent, on the 688 men within this time discharged. 4. But much more striking is this fact when it is further considered that 6 of the 8 men stated in this list to have been re-convicted in September 1842, were not men who went from this on indulgence and abused it, but men sent for trial for offences committed on the island (the attack on the "Governor Philip, &c." 1842), and who thus do not bear on this question at all. 5. Deducting them, accordingly, the proportion of my men reconvicted (11 out of 688) is little more than 1½ per cent, in nearly four years, or ⅓ per cent, per annum. 6. And it will place these facts in a still more striking light to state—first, that they were the best and ablest men who went away in 1839—so many more were then eligible than could immediately be removed that only the best were sent; secondly, during the year 1839 by far the severest system of discipline was maintained on the island that appears anywhere on its records: under if, with the same population, about 1300, the number of cases tried in court rose from a previous average of 462 to 811, and of lashes inflicted from a previous average of 9000 annually to 11,420; and further, if the example of severity can deter from crime at all, these men had themselves both witnessed and experienced it in this extreme; yet in this instance, as in so many others, it failed. Lastly, my greater success with the men has not been due to my own plans of discipline, which have never been fully tried on the island, but simply to the object by which alone I have been animated, whether in trying or temporarily abstaining from them, viz., their reform. This idea had scarcely ever before been suggested to them; but they could all sympathise with it when it was proposed, and carry it as a rule of conduct with them. Would but the law adopt it, and modify its arrangements according to it, how much farther would it go! How many thousands now steeped in misery and vice would it thus save! and at the same time lessen crime, not increase it.*
[* From a communication received from Norfolk Island, dated 26th June last, I learn that an additional return of the same nature with the above had been laid before the Legislative Council in April, showing 240 more sent up, of whom not one had been then re-convicted. Four were awaiting trial.]
3. Men sent to Sydney for Trial.—The following is a list of these, with their ages when first convicted, countries, original sentences, crimes for which transmitted for trial, degree of education and general intelligence, and ultimate fate, being the principal particulars regarding them:—See Table, page 23. [below,]
Men sent to Sydney for Trial.
4. Men who have Absconded.—At different times six boats have been carried off from the island; and, considering the anxiety with which a chance of escape is watched for, and the daring with which, if offered, it is embraced, it is surprising that there have not been more. As illustrative of the state of society here, a few details regarding each of these successful enterprises may be interesting:—1. (1830). Ten men left their huts at night and repaired to the boat-harbour. One of them, who represented himself to be the coxswain, and who, as a skilful active seaman, was occasionally trusted to steer a boat, told the sentry that they were going to Philip Island for Mr. Cunningham, the botanist, then residing there. The soldier wished to call out the guard, the usual precaution when a boat is taken out; but being kept in conversation by one of the prisoners in his native tongue (Irish), he delayed till the boat was launched. It was then too late to stop them, and they proceeded first to Philip Island, where they plundered Mr. Cunningham of his watch and all his supplies, and afterwards put to sea. After being out nearly six weeks, during the last of which they were nearly without food, they were picked up almost exhausted by the "John Bull" whaler, identified on board of her as prisoners, and placed in confinement, but otherwise well treated. As their strength returned, however, so did their spirit of enterprise. They conceived a plan of seizing the vessel, in which they were assisted by one of the crew who had previously known some of their number. They are believed to have murdered every other on board excepting him; after which they plundered and scuttled the vessel, and proceeded to Pleasant Island, whence they all, with one exception, found means of departing, and have been heard of since, some in England others in America. The one who remained at Pleasant Island was elected chief there; and in this situation is said to have committed many murders and other excesses through jealousy and rapacity. At last he was expelled, and when last heard of was working in irons at Manilla. His name, if still alive, is Coil: he is a native of Ireland, of the lowest caste.—2. (1833). Two Government vessels, a brig and schooner, were at anchor off the settlement, and a launch was working each. One of these boats was coming from the one vessel with maize, while the other was carrying water to the other; and, when they met, 16 stout hands, as previously concerted, seized the boat with the maize, took on board what water they could safely carry, double-banked their oars, and pulled away, leaving the other boat with only one oar. The brig immediately weighed anchor in pursuit, but the wind was very light, and they were soon lost from sight, the night coming on. Notwithstanding that there was an experienced navigator among them, these men are said to have been 28 weeks at sea; and when they made the land to the northward of Moreton Bay, only three of the sixteen were alive, one a native of New South Wales, the other two Englishmen, from London. They all got safely into the interior, and were for some years afterwards about the colony, but are believed to be now either dead or gone from it. A story is current that one of them was afterwards a prisoner for some time in Bathurst Gaol, where the coxswain from whom he took the boat was gaoler, and having a false name he was not detected; but such tales of narrow escapes are favourites with prisoners, and should not be very much relied on.—3. (1840). A party of officers proceeded in a whale-boat to Philip Island, about six miles distant, for the purpose of shooting. The crew consisted of six prisoners and a free coxswain. After the day's sport, the officers were about returning, and incautiously handed in their fire-arms first to the prisoners in the boat, who immediately seized them, marched them back to a hut at some distance from the beach, tied them there, and having collected whatever suited their purpose, returned to the boat and put to sea. One prisoner who was otherwise near his liberty, refused to join them. They are said to have made New Zealand in seven days, where they dispersed, and most of them are believed to be now whaling. With one exception, they were all well conducted here; the opportunity given them was irresistible.—4. (1841). The Government brig with stores was at Cascade, and being thus above five miles by water from the settlement, only one boat was working her. Nine men snatched this just at nightfall, and put to sea. Some time was necessarily lost before the alarm could be given to the brig, it was thus quite dark, and the following morning proved thick. This party also made New Zealand. Jordan, the notorious Custom-house robber, was of their number, and has been heard of since in the United States, where he is said to have again committed some successful robberies. His companion, Sullivan, has also since effected his escape from New South Wales, and they are thus probably again together. The other men have been also heard of, doing well and honestly, engaged in fishing, but I have no particulars of them.—5. (1842). A cave having been dug in an officer's garden, behind a stock-house built against a steep bank, the servants attached to it, in combination with six other prisoners, making eight in all, built a boat in this, and succeeded in a dark night in getting to sea in her. A very heavy gale, however, arose the following day, which it is not believed that the boat could outlive. The leader in this enterprise deserved a better fate. He was a Scotchman, named M'Dougall, of singularly daring and intrepid character, and with many good points about him, and good impulses, but all misdirected. He was a very old prisoner on the island, and had been one of the mutineers in 1826, when the boats were seized and taken across to Philip Island, where he, with a few others, managed to secrete himself during many months before he could be recaptured. He had been once sent to Sydney in the interval on indulgence, but being re-convicted, was returned within two years. He was a very bold, daring man, who set his face against petty theft, and would even expose and detect it, but could not resist the temptation of what was striking or hazardous. Some little time before he went away he earnestly dissuaded some of his companions from a proposed theft of sacramental plate from the quarters of the Protestant clergyman. He said that "such a theft would bring a curse with it;" and meditating, as he must then have been, his other enterprise, it is possible that a touch of early reverence for things sacred may in this instance have kept him back. But, in general, he would refuse what did not involve danger or striking enterprise, and nothing that did. Had he been a soldier, in stirring times, his career might have been very different.—6. (1843). Three soldiers on duty, one over the gaol, which is near the boat-harbour, another over the boat-sheds, and the third at the door of the harbour guard-room, deserted their posts in the middle of the night, and, in concert with six prisoners, who had previously made all necessary preparations, carried a whale-boat to the harbour, and succeeded, with the exception of one of the soldiers, now waiting a court-martial, in getting away. They were first discovered making off by a prisoner, who slept in the neighbourhood, and who was awaked by the noise made by a dog about his house. He alarmed the police-runner, who called out the guard, and so little time was thus lost that a heavy, and it was thought not ineffectual, fire was poured into the boat as the men in her were endeavouring to haul in their companion, the soldier left behind, who in the bustle had got overboard. It was thus that he was retaken. The others got away. Two boats were instantly sent after them, but, the night being dark, they were not seen; and the following morning proved also thick. They were not discovered till sunset, when they were seen from Mount Pitt, on the extreme verge of the horizon, W.N.W., and thus far beyond pursuit.
It will be observed that these casualties have been much more common of late years than formerly, and this may, perhaps, be attributed to the want of old precautions. But on considering the circumstances attentively, this will not appear so certain a solution. The navigation of the Pacific is now so well known, that enterprises of this kind are stripped of half their old terrors; and the tendency of public opinion in England has of late years been so pronounced in favour of the amelioration of prisoners' condition and prospects, that those of them who, from accidental circumstances, have no very favourable prospect before them, are much more impatient in this position than they used to be. The prospects of escaped men are also fairer now than they were. When all capital and trade were in this neighbourhood confined to the penal colonies, eventual escape appeared so difficult, that all but the very stoutest shrank from attempting it; but now New Zealand, many extensive whaling establishments, and a better knowledge of the islands and inhabitants of the Pacific, all open more extensive views, and excite to more active enterprise. I thus doubt much whether any measures will entirely prevent absconding from this island in future, unless the prospects of the prisoners confined on it are materially improved; but the most efficient means and the most likely to be successful would, I think, be the maintaining the communication with head-quarters by two small vessels, instead of one, and keeping one of them constantly about the island till relieved by the other, which should then take her turn. The constant presence of a cruizing vessel would, in some degree, deter from such attempts; and when made she could not but sometimes overtake and bring the delinquents back, which would still farther contribute to damp succeeding enterprise.
5. Men who have died from natural causes.—For use in this report I have obtained a detailed account of all diseases treated in the Civil Hospital here since 1837, with the number of deaths and medical remarks, furnished by Mr. Colonial Surgeon Graham, the senior medical officer. The records of the hospital do not go farther back. I have further, however, obtained from the other records of the island a detailed account of men (150 penal prisoners and 80 belonging to the new establishment), who have died since the beginning of 1833; and in the following tables I condense the chief information so afforded. Dr. Graham's recapitulation of hospital cases since 1837 is as follows:—See Table, page 27. [below.]
Men who have died from Natural Causes.
On which the following observations occur:—1. By referring to the population return, p. 11, it will be seen that the collective population within the period here embraced, viz., from the beginning of 1837, is 10,476; the cases have accordingly been 1 in 2½, and deaths 1 in 56⅚. 2. The rate of sickness and mortality, it will be observed, however, has been very different among the penal and new prisoners, 2429 cases having occurred among 8059 arrivals, or 1 in 3⅓, with 109 deaths, or 1 in 74 among the former; and 1622 cases among 2417 arrivals, or 1 in 1½, with 80 deaths, or 1 in 30½, among the latter. 3. This great difference I apprehend to have been caused mainly by the penal prisoners having been seasoned to the climate before coming on the island, and seasoned also in favourable circumstances, viz., on a full ration of food, consisting of fresh meat, wheaten flour, tea, and other luxuries, in private service in New South Wales; while the latter have here had only the Government ration of salt meat and maize meal, in itself not adequate to support the constitution under a change of climate, with labour, after a long sea voyage, and further rendered insufficient by the great repugnance felt by the men at first to the maize meal. 4. I consider this point, then, of great importance in the future appropriation of this island. I doubt if men should be sent to it direct from England at all, but at any rate they should not exceed in number what can be supplied from the resources of the island with two or three meals of fresh meat (beef and mutton) weekly; and for the first six or eight months they should have a proportion of wheaten bread with their maize. 5. In the peculiar circumstances, the mortality among the penal prisoners appears to me low. (The peculiar circumstances to which I allude may be thus summed up:—On the one hand there are no young lives here, and the proportion of old is small. The climate is fine, and the temperature, in particular, is very equable. Exposure to sudden changes of any kind is thus rare. Vegetable food is good and abundant. Medical attendance is constantly at hand; and from circumstances connected with their penal condition, the men are disposed to complain soon and thus to give it fair play. On the other hand, having mostly passed a vicious youth, and many of them being the offspring of vicious parents, there is a strong scrofulous and scorbutic tendency in the constitutions of most of them. This is fostered by the salt-meat ration, to which they are confined. Excluding the bone, this is generally deficient in quantity for the support of labouring men, and it is not unfrequently of inferior quality also; and some of the most prevalent habits among prisoners, as smoking and concocting trashy messes to eat and drink, as well as some of their too frequent vices, and the depression and despondency which cannot but weigh at times on all their minds, must be prejudicial. The balance is undoubtedly against them.) 6. The prevailing ailments have been fevers, inflammation of the bowels and other intestines, dysentery, and consumption. 7. Cases are generally numerous in proportion to population. Among the new prisoners they are one-half more numerous even than the population. 8. With the exception of consumption generally, and dysentery among the new prisoners, cures are also numerous in proportion to cases. The previously detailed circumstances appear sufficiently to explain both facts.
Of the 150 penal prisoners who have died since 1833, and the 80 new prisoners who have died since 1840, the following is a distribution according to their countries, age when first convicted, and at death, and length of time that they respectively survived their original convictions. I add, also, the proportion of deaths in the several classes to arrivals in the same classes. Some of the facts so brought out appear to me interesting:—
1. Among the penal prisoners the total deaths are by this table about 5 per cent, of the total arrivals. The deaths among the English proper in the same class are to their arrivals in the same proportion. The Irish are above it, being rather more than 6 per cent., and the Scotch below, being under 4 per cent. 2. Among the new prisoners these proportions differ widely. The total deaths in this class are above 13 per cent, of the total arrivals. The English deaths are 16 per cent, of their arrivals, the Irish not more than 9 per cent., and the Scotch 10. 3. From this comparison may it not be inferred that the English constitution does not stand a violent change of climate and diet so well as the Irish? In other words, it is likely to suffer more in all cases in seasoning than the other; but when seasoned, as originally the better fed, it is hardier and longer lived. The inference seems fair, but the premises are narrow. 4. Among the penal prisoners, above a third (53) of the whole number of deaths is of men convicted under 20 years. Diseased parentage, with early vice and irregularity in themselves, and early experience of the hardships and initiation into the vices and practices of a prison life, abundantly explain this. Yet the proportion of this class is under a sixth among the new prisoners, and is not quite a half, even including men convicted between 20 and 25. 5. On the other hand, a list of aged prisoners now here, or who have died here, which I have now before me, shows that nearly all were convicted late in life. Only one of them was convicted under 33; he was 22: and the average of the whole is 47⅙. 6. The average value of life in a penal condition here (38½ years) is low; that was to be expected: but there is a remarkable agreement in the average periods that those convicted under 35 years of age have survived their conviction, that deserves notice. These are precisely the individuals who suffer most under the existing principles of prison management,—who are considered strongest to bear the inflictions directed by them,—whose wills are strongest and consequently most strongly pressed on by them,—and whose animal spirits are likely to carry them to the greatest lengths in resisting, evading, or solacing themselves under them by vicious indulgence. Does this combination of circumstances, then, constitute such an external pressure as to make the chance of life after conviction the same from 16 to 35 years of age, and reduce it to 11 years? I think it not improbable that something like this is the real effect; yet the facts here cited are too few entirely to confirm the inference.
In general the men here die very quietly and composedly, resigning themselves with little apparent reluctance to their fate, and receiving and applying, even the worst of them, to their own cases the consolations of religion with little apparent doubt or hesitation. There are exceptions,—men who die utterly obdurate and impenitent, and men who show great uneasiness about their future prospects; but the reverse is the rule: and it is, I think, much to be lamented. A more painful death in the case of very wicked men would be salutary to survivors, and probably more beneficial to themselves. The circumstance proceeds, I think, from two causes:—First, the ties of a prisoner to life are not strong, and his habits of enterprise reconcile him readily to any change; and secondly, the moral guilt of their several offences is very little felt by the body at large. They have for such a length of time looked to them as their only sources of indulgence and subsistence, that they have almost ceased to consider them as involving moral guilt at all. The degree in which I can trace this in the minds even of my best men is wonderful, and it proceeds, in a great degree, from the system of measuring sentences by time instead of by conduct. Conduct has thus no prominent value attached to it in their every-day life, and misconduct no directly injurious effect; while other circumstances also conspire. Men long kept without personal property, have little sympathy with the moral reasoning which would protect property; and where submissiveness is the only virtue directly rewarded, the others speedily lose value by comparison. The precepts of religion in vain struggle with circumstances so unhappily combined. They are respectfully and attentively listened to. The demeanour of the men here in church would contrast advantageously with that of most free congregations, and their minds are thus prepared at the last to receive the consolations of religion with intelligence and faith. But meanwhile the moral maxims of religion are unheeded. The wheat is sown among so many tares, that it is unable to yield a crop; nor is there any view of prison management more interesting than this, or which exhibits existing evil more clearly, or points so unerringly to its remedy.
6. Men killed accidentally.—There have been in all 30 of these, of whom 2 have been new prisoners drowned fishing. The following Table gives all principal particulars regarding them:—
7. Men murdered.—There have been five of these, as under:—
Everything considered, this number appears to me very small.
8. Men executed.—The following is a list of these, with particulars:—
No fewer than 13 of these men having been executed for the mutiny here in January, 1834, while in a preceding table, of men sent to Sydney for trial, 4 were for murder of a soldier in that of 1826, some details regarding these acts seem here appropriate.—1. (1826.) The men at this time lived in huts, nor were barracks yet constructed for either them or the military. The latter were stockaded at two points—by the commissariat store close to the boat-harbour, and the commandant's house, about a quarter of a mile distant. Early in the morning of the 25th September the former of these stockades was surprised and carried with the loss of one corporal killed and two soldiers wounded; and the abler and more resolute prisoners then proposed to proceed to attack the other with the arms so obtained. But while they were urging this, the commissariat store was broken open, and rum being thus obtained, it soon appeared impossible to organize the men for such a purpose; while, on the other hand, the alarm being given, the commandant's detachment was seen turning out, and preparing to attack them. It was resolved, therefore, to take the boats and proceed to Philip Island, there to remain, and seize any vessel from it that might come in; and, had all the boats been so taken, the plan might have succeeded; but one was under repair at the time and unfit for immediate use, and the mutineers, instead of floating her off and sinking her in deep water, or otherwise completely destroying her, contented themselves with merely further damaging her; and in this boat, accordingly, patched up as was at the moment possible, they were pursued the following day by the commandant, Captain Donaldson, 57th regiment, in person. They made no effective resistance. They had intoxicated themselves over-night, and the charges in their pieces having got wet did not go off when they attempted to fire them. The boats were thus immediately recaptured, and 21 of the 50 men who had absconded in them were brought back. Two days afterwards more were got; and within a few weeks all were recovered excepting 18, who remained out several months. The last and longest out was a man named Story, who proved afterwards a quiet, orderly man, and as such has since returned to Sydney under the Act of Council.—2. (1834.) This mutiny was more deliberately planned than the other; and had it proved equally successful at the outset, the consequences might have been very serious. The commandant, Colonel Morisset, 3rd regiment, was ill in bed; an inferior officer temporarily commanded. The harbour guard was again to have been rushed; and it was arranged that the farm labourers, so soon as the tools were issued to them at Longridge, should hasten back to the settlement to aid in the contemplated attack. The whole attempt, however, failed in the beginning. The harbour guard successfully resisted the attack made on it. The officer temporarily in charge, Captain Foster Fyans, 4th regiment, promptly turned out his men, and directed a heavy fire on every body of prisoners he saw anywhere collected. The ring-leaders were thus speedily either wounded or killed; and in a few hours all was again quiet. Besides those sent to Sydney for trial there, 27 ring-leaders had heavy sentences in irons added to their other sentences on the island for the mutiny of 1826; and besides the 13 executed, 17 sentenced to death were respited, and had other sentences on the island for their share of that of 1834. The following table gives the chief particulars regarding both:—
9. Men killed resisting lawful authority.—In one sense, these may be considered as in the same predicament with men executed. Their offence was as complete, though, had it come to a judicial trial, it might not have terminated so fatally to them. There have been 11 of them, as follows:—
10. Suicides.—Considering the history of this place, and frequent attempts at self-destruction made in all similar establishments, it is somewhat remarkable that there are here only two successful instances of it on the records. Even the most desperate in early times appear to have shrunk from it; and when weary of their lives, rather took another to be hanged than hanged themselves. Instances of this, or of its appearance at least, have been given in the reports concerning all penal stations; and expressions threatening it rise readily to the lips of irritated prisoners, partly, I have little doubt, in momentary purpose; but it is not in general to be feared where thus threatened.
The two unhappy men who accomplished the act here were in very different circumstances. One was an absconder to Philip Island in 1826, who, being pursued by the military to a cliff overhanging the sea, and having no means of escape, deliberately drew his frock, over his head, and, plunging down, was dashed to pieces. Neither the body nor any fragment of it was ever found. The other was a man named Lockage, who had been transported in 1819 for forgery, and lived some years afterwards in Sydney with his wife, a very pretty woman, to whom he was much attached. Being of good education (it is said, previously a lawyer), he had many other indulgences also, as was usual in that day; but, abusing these (as he alleged under the influence of jealousy), he was very grossly disrespectful to some of the officers placed over him, and was sent here in 1828 under a three years' sentence. He was, however, only three months on the island, always in a state of the deepest dejection, and succeeded at last in hanging himself. He was much regretted among the men, and the sympathy expressed for him even yet among the older prisoners who knew him is remarkable.
11. Bond population on the island on the 31st December in each year.—Under this head I propose to give some more minute information regarding the men now or very recently on the island than could be furnished regarding all the arrivals. The general composition of the whole may be inferred from that of this portion.
On the 1st September last (when I began to collect these returns) the composition of 796 penal prisoners on the island is shown in the following tables:—
In Table I. the most interesting column is that showing the age at which the men were severally first convicted. A large proportion appear to have been then very young, and the following details showing the age at which the men have incurred their several original sentences throughout may be found interesting:—
The following are particulars regarding the 15 men in the first of these columns, showing their original and colonial sentences, and ages at first and second conviction:—
A melancholy precocity of crime and early experience of its fruits, which will be set more clearly in view by the following tabular analysis of the second column also, viz., of men convicted from 15 to 20. Their age at second conviction and second sentences are here given:—
Almost two-thirds re-convicted under 22 years of age, and with such sentences additional in all cases to those under which they were sent to New South Wales recorded against them. "Facilis descensus Averno!" May not the small number shown in this table, however, re-convicted between the ages of 21 and 24 be held to indicate a hesitation on first attaining the years of manhood and discretion to plunge into a life of confirmed vice and crime, which, if watched in individual cases, might be turned to profit? One would fain catch at even the slightest hint in the difficult art of recovering young offenders.
In Table II. it is worth observing that almost two-thirds of the entire number (796) have been above 10 years prisoners, and between a third and fourth have been above 5 years on Norfolk Island. The proportion of married, and consequently of suffering families, is above a fifth. The number of educated may appear remarkable; but from the facts before me on this island, I am not inclined to consider prisoners generally ignorant of the first elements of education. The degree in which they possess them is low. Among all the men here who can read and write, not above a dozen could really act as clerks, and we are often inconvenienced in consequence. But sufficient writing to discharge the ordinary duties of an overseer, or in some way to take an account of work, is common; and this power, as also that of reading a newspaper or amusing book, where not originally possessed, is generally eagerly sought. It is not power, but principle, that is really wanted among them.
The following tables give a nearly similar return of 586 new prisoners on the island at the same time. Fewer particulars, however, require to be included in these. The men are all about five years convicted, and nearly four on this island; 29 of them are known to be old prisoners re-convicted, but are not so stated in our books, and thus only their last offences and sentences appear against them; 46 are soldiers from India and other colonies:—
The following observations occur on these tables:—1. The number of young convicts is again very great; 2 are under 16, having been convicted at 14 and 15 respectively, while 112 more are under 20. 2. If it be, as above surmised, that when an early conviction has taken place, a hesitation is felt, after attaining years of discretion, before plunging still deeper into crime and misfortune, no such hesitation appears where there has been no such warning; for, on the contrary, the greatest number of all, 226, appears here to have been convicted between 20 and 25; and on a further analysis I find the proportion to stand thus—48 convicted at 20, 52 at 21, 59 at 22, 39 at 23, and 28 at 24. 3. The number of married and of families thus left destitute appears among this body of men excessive; out of a total of 586, 163 husbands have left 428 children (73 per cent, of the entire number of men at this time transported) to deplore, probably through life, the influence of their parents' vices on their after destinies. 4. I have a nominal list of, these married men, with their wishes in regard to their families, as taken from their own mouths, and observations in regard to them which seem to me worthy attention; but here I place only the numerical results, 75 are English, 84 Irish, and 4 Scotch. Of the first, 52 wish to return to their families at home at the expiration of their several sentences, 20 desire to have their families sent out to them, and 4, the wisest, prefer to see what is likely to be their fortune in Van Dieman's Land before deciding. Of the second, the Irish, 51 desire to return, 30 to have their families sent to them, and 3 to wait before deciding. Of the last, the Scotch, 3 desire to return home and 1 only to settle in the colonies. These numbers do not speak highly of the pleasures of even the most genial climate and mildest form of transportation to which these men have as yet alone been subjected. 5. The married men have been generally well conducted, and, in particular, have only in very rare instances been suspected of unnatural offence; yet nearly the worst two of the whole number (though not in this latter way) have been of this class. 6. It is remarkable that amidst all the mortality among these English prisoners (80 deaths in four years), only 3 married have died, who are thus not included in this list. "Many circumstances which have come under my observation here, and this among the number, make me think that warm affections, extended to distant objects, thus drawing off the mind from present hardships, and probably at times filling it with pleasing thoughts, contribute to sustain life; and if this observation, otherwise extremely probable, be correct, it is gratifying to think that the feelings most impartially distributed in life, and which most beautify and adorn it, contribute also to its preservation, while a provision is thus also made, by which in cases of epidemic the most valuable lives are preserved. 7. The proportion of educated in these tables is smaller than that among the older prisoners, which may be partly accounted for by the great mortality among them, 72 of those who died having been able to read, and 56 to write also. In a separate report on the epidemics that have twice prevailed among us (transmitted last year), I considered this fact as, among others, showing that deficient nourishment, which would first affect the originally best fed, was a principal cause of the disease; and I still retain this opinion. 8. The degree of education among these English prisoners is, however, higher than among the old ones. When they read or write at all, they do both better than the others. Their minds are also generally more active and educable; they covet a better class of books, and more readily acquire general, though superficial, information from them. It would appear as though the spirit of advancing intelligence in the age has touched, even where it has not directly seized on particular individuals. I have never known a voluntary adult school so generally, and at the same time, for the most part, so profitably attended, as was ours at Longridge, till the formation of the establishment at Cascade, and the distribution of the men holding tickets of leave into farms, unavoidably broke it up. The desultory information now afloat among the lower classes in England seems thus to prepare the minds of the young for the reception of more correct information, and thus to improve them, even when the latter is not imparted; and perhaps this is the most interesting point of view in which this information can be regarded.
On the other hand, I am sorry to add, that these same young English prisoners, who are thus distinguished among us for superior education and educability, are not less remarkable for indifference to their religious duties and careless reception of religious instruction. In both particulars it is curious to say that they not unfrequently even give offence to the older hands. Whatever the cause, the older prisoners, without being always the better men for it, are peculiarly accessible to religious exhortation and impression, and show much respect to religious addresses. They thus come readily to church, they listen with extreme attention to any sermon in the least suited to them, and they are frequently even deeply moved by one bearing on their individual circumstances. Is it that religious exhortation, being the only form in which persuasion is familiarly addressed to them, is, in proportion, grateful to their feelings? Or because in this form only they are considered as equals of their fellow-men? Or because their intellects otherwise crave occupation, and this supplies it? Or are their minds thus cast back on their young days, and made agreeably to recognise accents familiar to them when young, and comparatively innocent and happy? Or does conscience love to be stimulated, even when its dictates are systematically disobeyed? Or does a secret hope always exist, that while the voice of admonition is heard and attended to, it may some day prove efficient, and that there is thus safety in listening to it? I do not pretend to analyze the whole modus operandi, but the effect is certain; and I have frequently seen even very bad men exhibit considerable religious sensibility, not hypocritically or ostentatiously, but striving to conceal it, and perhaps the first afterwards to laugh at it, to escape the jeers of, at the moment, their less sensitive companions. But as a class, the young English prisoners exhibit here appearances almost the reverse of these. They come unwillingly to church; they not unfrequently misconduct themselves there. I have had occasion to sentence many to sit for different periods on the front benches, immediately in my own view; and several even have been brought before me by their better-minded companions for arguing that religion was a hoax, supported by the better classes in order to control the lower.
The following list shows the offences, original and colonial, for which both classes are here. The second row of figures against each offence, as in former tables, exhibits the English prisoners. There are 13 more offenders in the column of colonial prisoners than there are first convictions in the same class. This arises from 13 men under colonial convictions having come out free, notwithstanding which, having arrived before I came, and before there was any specific class of first-convicted men on the island, they have always here been considered and treated as penal prisoners:—
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1. The first point of note in this table is the great proportion and aggravated character of offences against the person among the new, as compared with the old prisoners. This may be accidental, but it coincides with an opinion which I have other grounds for entertaining, viz., that in existing circumstances men transported for slight offences have a worse chance of behaving well in the penal colonies, and thus escaping further conviction, than the men who have committed greater original crimes. This may be explained in two or three ways, and is intelligible in them all. A man who has committed a great offence in his youth may be partly shocked, partly penitent on account of it, and may thus resolve earnestly to behave better in future; and, which is of still greater importance, he can afford to do so without losing caste among his companions. In the present unhappy tendency among prisoners to proceed from bad to worse, not to have committed some great offence is often considered to indicate a want of spirit. An original' minor offender is thus under a temptation (the strength of which no one can estimate who does not know his class well) to hazard gross misconduct to avoid being looked down upon; and hence the penal settlements have a disproportionate number in them of this class, and the original sentences of men under second convictions to them are comparatively light. There can be no doubt that these circumstances are connected with very many acts of continued, and thus progressive, wickedness among young transports, and their influence is aggravated by the presumption of youth and inexperience, and by the liability of both to be duped and thrust forward into danger and detection by the older and craftier prisoners who may league with them. 2. The next point of interest in the table is the youth of very many convicts in both classes for the offences of burglary, housebreaking, and even highway robbery. The first two are intelligible, but not the last. 3. The great preponderance of English over Irish in these same offences is also remarkable. 4. In crimes of personal violence, on the contrary, unconnected with property, the Irish predominate; 15 cases of manslaughter, 6 of rape, 15 of aggravated assault, and 7 of murder, are from that country, to only 6 in all guilty of these offences among the English. 5. The Scotch are low in these, and in crimes against property with violence; but their proportion is high in crimes against property without violence. Other observations will occur on a minute consideration of the tables; but these are, I think, the most important.
At three several times, viz., December, 1841, December, 1842, and September of this present year, 1843, I have taken a detailed account of the united age of the two classes, and of the average of years thus assignable to each; and though the result of this is not of much value as regards a community of this description, which fluctuates both in number and age irrespective of death, and through circumstances entirely foreign to itself, yet as giving a general idea of the relative standing of the two classes, it may be interesting. At the first of these periods, then, the united ages of 1113 old prisoners amounted to 40,427 years, which, taking the average in every 10 years separately, gave as a common average 34½. At the second period, the ages of 966 of the same class amounted to 32,989 years, which, similarly distributed, gave a common average of 34⅓ years; and at the third period, the joint ages of the 796 men now on the island amounted to 30,061 years, which gave an average of 37¾. This remarkable rise was owing to a number of young men having just before been forwarded to Sydney on indulgence. The average ages of the new prisoners at the same periods were 27¼, 29⅓, and 30⅙. This rapid rise with them is attributable to the disproportionate loss of young life in the last epidemic.
But though the old prisoners are thus the older men, and in a considerably greater degree older looking, they are yet for present purposes the more efficient body. They owe this partly to their better state of health, partly to their better acquaintance with colonial labour, which makes their strength, as it were, go further. According to a medical report made to me for insertion here, 645 of their number (796) are considered by the surgeon effective, 110 more are moderately effective, and only 41 are quite inefficient. Of 576 new prisoners, on the contrary, only 374 are effective, 146 moderately effective, and no fewer than 56 are considered altogether useless. On the other hand, there can be little doubt that for ulterior purposes the new are the superior body. With a change of climate, and still more of diet, many will, probably, recover their health, while the older prisoners, on the contrary, being already well used up and long accustomed to a warm climate, will more probably sink under a change to Van Dieman's Land. Among the new, moreover, there is a larger proportion of useful tradesmen (carpenters, bricklayers, sawyers, blacksmiths, butchers, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, &c.,) than among the old. From the general educability of the body the original number of these has much increased even here, and with a stronger stimulus it will probably increase still more in Van Dieman's Land. They are generally much more prudent and calculating than the older prisoners. Imperfect as the application of the mark and ticket-of-leave system has been to them, yet the qualified possession of what has been, within its limits, money and property to them, has had its natural effects on them. They do not, in general, surrender everything to a passing impulse, as is too common among the older prisoners.
Of the two classes, as may naturally be supposed, the English prisoners are the better looking. The lines of care, sorrow, and hardened guilt, are less deeply carved on them, and in some of the younger men there is even a peculiar springiness of gait, indicating, as I think, combined intelligence and hopefulness, such as I have not seen elsewhere in any prisoners. On the other hand, the whole body are comparatively slovenly and careless in their dress, and in this respect are much excelled by the older prisoners. I think that the climate has much to do with this. The old prisoners, accustomed to the heats of New South Wales, do not find the temperature here excessive, while the English prisoners are universally relaxed by it; and the severity and character of the disease (dysentery) under which they have almost universally laboured, have probably further tended to impair their attention to personal neatness and cleanliness. They are deficient also in economy in regard to their clothing, which thus does not last them nearly so long as it should do. There are exceptions; but the majority have given much trouble in these respects.
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