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Title: Under the Broad Arrow Author: George Forbes * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1500671h.html Language: English Date first posted: June 2015 Most recent update: June 2015 This eBook was produced by: Maurie Mulcahy Project Gutenberg of 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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CHAPTER I.—THE CONVICT SHIP.
CHAPTER II.—SYDNEY IN 1824.
CHAPTER III.—CONSTABLE FITCH.
CHAPTER IV.—A GIRL'S BETRAYAL.
CHAPTER V.—JANE NEW.
CHAPTER VI.—JANE IS RECOGNISED.
CHAPTER VII.—AN INFAMOUS PLOT.
CHAPTER VIII.—AT NORFOLK ISLAND.
CHAPTER IX.—A TICKET-OF-LEAVE MAN.
CHAPTER X.—THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN BUSHRANGERS.
CHAPTER XII.—TWO NOTORIOUS BUSHRANGERS.
CHAPTER XIII.—DEAD-MAN'S HOLLOW.
CHAPTER XIV. THE ABDUCTION OF JANE NEW.
CHAPTER XV.—THE MURDER IN KENT-STREET.
CHAPTER XVI.—THE CAPTURE OF THE RAVEN'S GANG.
CHAPTER XVII.—THE CORONER'S INQUEST.
CHAPTER XVIII.—THE CASE FOR THE CROWN.
CHAPTER XIX.—THE DEFENCE.
CHAPTER XX.—SENTENCED TO DEATH.
CHAPTER XXI.—THE LAST PENALTY OF THE LAW.
APPENDIX No. 1.
THE CASE OF JANE NEW.
APPENDIX No. 2.
THE STATE OF SOCIETY IN NEW SOUTH WALES UNDER MILITARY RULE.
AS a punishment transportation was much dreaded by law-breakers in the old country during the last century, and with some reason, for confinement in the gaols and penitentiaries of England, where, by comparison, labor was light and the food good, was not at all equal to the hardships attendant upon banishment beyond the seas.
At Woolwich, John Fitch and the other prisoners from the hulks destined for Australia were put on board the convict ship Asia; every man as he descended into the hold being numbered on the back like one of a flock of sheep. The centre of the vessel was divided into compartments, each accommodating eight men, with a square table and seats of portable deal boards arranged in tiers above and below. At night they were so disposed as to form sleeping berths.
With that strange admixture of severity and freedom which characterised the prison discipline of former times, the convicts at Woolwich were allowed to say good-bye to their friends, and much latitude was given them upon these occasions. The friends, of course, brought liquor with them, and all were soon more or less under the influence of ardent spirits, which manifested itself in songs and ribald jests, and even dances, on the part of the wretched convicts, some of whom could be seen step-dancing to the tune of an obliging fiddle, with their irons held up so as to give their feet better play. These scenes, revolting as they would appear now, were common enough then, and excited no more than a passing notice amongst those who witnessed them, inured as they were to the barbarous penal code in force at the time.
The heartless indifference sometimes shown by these involuntary exiles was remarkable. On one occasion the grief displayed by a young convict when bidding good-bye to his wife appeared to be so real and genuine that the sympathy of the onlookers was aroused. He wept over her, and clung to her in a manner that excited the pity of all beholders. But when, at last, she had torn herself from his embraces and was being taken on shore, the boat put back, when the young wife once more boarded the vessel and accused her husband of having robbed her, at the time of his affecting farewell, of her wedding ring and the money she had brought with her to pay her fare back to London.
After remaining for several days at Woolwich, the Asia set sail, and the long voyage to Australia, which would probably last for more than three months, began.
Life on the Asia became a round of dull routine, coupled with harsh and unremitting discipline, which differed in no respect from that endured by prisoners under sentence of transportation upon other similar vessels at the time, and when it is considered that the crowded state of the prison ship between decks made it difficult to breathe the foetid atmosphere, and that the daily food of the convicts consisted of salt meat, so bad that only starving men would eat it, and Indian corn-cake, beside which the coarsest bread would have been a choice delicacy, it will be seen that the real suffering of the prisoners lay in the manner in which they were fed and berthed upon these floating penitentiaries.
Of vegetables there were none, and the only water available was a muddy liquid, drawn from a well in the hold of the ship and afterwards permitted to become tepid by exposure to the sun.
In order to prevent scurvy, through lack of vegetable food, when the ship had been ten or fifteen days at sea, and once a fortnight afterwards, an anti-scorbutic beverage, consisting of water, lime juice, sugar, and very strong rum, was served on the quarterdeck, the prisoners being called up one by one to pass through the door of a barricade, and, having drunk their allowance, to cross the deck and return to their prison through another doorway.
Such was life on board the Asia when John Fitch came out in her to New South Wales, but although he was probably among the worst of the convicts, his aristocratic connections—for he came of noble lineage—saved him from sharing the hard fate of those less favored, and special quarters were allowed him during the voyage.
Upon the ordinary prisoners the effects of their long confinement on these convict ships became very noticeable. Their energies seemed to be impaired, and their powers of thought, their common sense, and, above all, their memory, appeared to have almost gone. Many of them were like children, and all complained of an inability to perform any considerate or concerted action.
The voyage occupied 124 days, and, when it is remembered that one half of that time was passed in the loathsome prison between decks, in darkness and among the most debasing associations, some idea may be formed of the miseries that were attendant upon transportation in the last century.
SYDNEY, at the time when John Fitch arrived in the colony, was a small irregular township, extending from the Circular Quay towards Brickfield Hill, beyond which and all around appeared the unexplored scrub of the Australian bush.
The houses of the officials, however, were pleasantly situated, and there was scarcely a house that had not its garden or orchard attached to it. The band of one of the regiments usually played in the barrack-yard of a summer's evening, around which a well-dressed group were accustomed to gather, and to the casual observer the inhabitants appeared to be a gay and prosperous community. The convicts, at an early hour, were shut up in their barracks, and there was nothing to convey the notion that Sydney was the capital of a penal colony.
But with the morning the delusion was dispelled. At seven o'clock the gates of the convict prison were thrown open, and several hundred convicts were marched out in regimental file, and distributed among the public works in and about the town.
As they passed in slow and melancholy procession to their work, many of them with chains clanking at their heels, and all with downcast countenances, the whole appearance of the men exhibited a truly painful picture, which, as the day advanced, was not improved when bands of them could be seen yoked to waggons laden with gravel and stone, which they dragged through the streets like beasts of burden.
The Sydney Hospital, situated where it is now, was in a line with the prisoners' barracks, and at a short distance from the hospital, about three hundred yards away, was an enclosed yard, shut out from the public view by a high wall, where flogging was administered, and from which might daily be seen those who had been lashed being carried on stretchers to the hospital to have their wounds dressed before being put once more to labor.
It may well be imagined that, if it was not considered necessary to hide such scenes from the more respectable portion of the inhabitants, no attempt would be made to lessen the dismal nature of their surroundings to the convicts themselves, and even Fitch, hardened though he was, and inured to scenes of cruel discipline, felt his blood run cold when he marched to the barracks, in company with the other prisoners, and there heard read over the rules and regulations to which they were expected to conform.
As an object-lesson of what might be in store for some of them, the new arrivals were then paraded in the flogging yard, where they witnessed the flagellation of twenty-five men and boys at the triangles.
To Fitch, however, by reason of his high connections, further clemency was extended. He had been treated with great indulgence on board the Asia, and, soon after his arrival in Sydney, he was sent as a "special" to the out-station at Wellington Valley, to which the better class of those who had the misfortune to be exiled were deported.
On his arrival at Wellington Valley, in order to improve his own position, and regardless of the cruel punishment of the chain and the lash which his conduct would inevitably bring upon others, Fitch set himself to initiate a systematic course of trickery, which he carried out with a diabolical skill that almost approached perfection.
His plan was simple enough, and consisted in getting up little conspiracies among his less artful companions, and then betraying them to the overseers, in order that he might obtain the usual indulgence for exemplary conduct.
Acting on this plan, he induced more than one party of prisoners at the Valley to abscond, or to take to the bush, deluding them with hopes of success, and, after he had betrayed them, joining in their pursuit and capture.
For these services he was rewarded with a ticket-of-leave for the Bathurst district, and was sent there to serve as an ordinary constable.
It was well for Fitch, however, that these victims of his treachery did not have an opportunity for revenge, for it was known that there were some among them who had sworn to serve him in the same manner as another informer was served by a gang of bushrangers in Tasmania, who was torn limb from limb by being fastened with traces to horses, which were then driven different ways.
A GOVERNMENT billet, although a minor one, was a great improvement upon the conditions of a transported felon, and Constable Fitch might have even then retrieved his character. But Constable Fitch was not ambitious for reform.
A constable among the miserable convicts wielded almost unlimited power, and Fitch soon proved himself to be an inhuman monster in his treatment of the half-starved and manacled wretches whom he had in charge.
For the crime of being found with tobacco in their possession the penalty for these tortured criminals was a flogging of from fifty to a hundred lashes, and Constable Fitch earned for himself a reputation for smartness by secreting small pieces of this forbidden luxury about the persons of the convicts, which he would subsequently discover on searching them, and make the subject of a report upon which to have them flogged.
For this treachery to his fellow-criminals, although it must have been guessed at by those in authority, he was highly commended, and he won for himself the reputation for being a vigilant and painstaking officer.
At length, having become tired of country life, and being anxious for a spell in town, he, one day in 1829, made his way to Parramatta, where he called at a public-house and ordered a pint of rum, which he drank, as the landlord subsequently stated, "like a gentleman"; after which he interviewed his host with regard to a little business transaction.
Representing himself to be an overseer at an up-country sheep station, with some teams on their way to Sydney, he asked him to discount a pro-note for eight pounds, drawn by one James Hale, of the White Hart Hotel, at Windsor, in favor of a third person.
After some little demur the note was cashed, three pounds being deducted as a modest commission, and, with the remaining five pounds in his pocket, Constable Fitch went on his way to Sydney by the next coach.
When the note was presented to Hale, it was declared to be a forgery, and information was accordingly given to the police.
Fitch, however, was not caught for some months afterwards, when he was brought to trial before Chief Justice Forbes and a jury of seven military officers.
In his address to the jury, the prisoner pleaded with much eloquence on his own behalf, and dwelt on the improbability of a man in his position placing himself in jeopardy for the sake of so trifling a sum, when he could show that he was in the habit of receiving money, not only from the Government, but also from his friends at Home, whom he referred to, with little regard for their feelings, as being "of the first respectability."
A merchant named Marr, whom he called as a witness, stated that he was in the habit of supplying the prisoner with goods "by order of a gentleman," to the amount of thirty pounds at a time. The orders were not for money, but for goods, and were usually given half-yearly. The gentleman who gave them told him, so he said, that these supplies were paid for, partly by the prisoner's family at Home and partly by himself, and he often said "that he would do anything to get the prisoner home to his friends," whom it may well be believed would not have thanked him for such a service.
The jury, some of the officers composing it no doubt being acquainted with the prisoner's family, returned a verdict of "Not Guilty," and the Chief Justice also addressed the prisoner in words which showed that he, too, was acquainted with the facts of his past life. Indeed, he had known him at Bermuda, when Fitch was a captain in His Majesty's Navy, and he, the Chief Justice, was Attorney-General of that colony.
"I exhort you," said the Chief Justice, "to forsake those evil courses which have led you into the dreadful situation in which you are now placed. Notwithstanding the verdict of the jury, at which I feel a great relief, I think that enough has come out this day to warrant me in thus admonishing you to adopt such a line of conduct in future as in time will make you worthy to claim some acquaintance with your former friends. In the course of your defence, you have made allusion to the respectability of your family. I myself can state that fact, and I may also say from personal knowledge that I have seen you in a situation very different from that in which you now are. I do not say this to wound your feelings, but rather that it should make an impression on your mind, and have a salutary effect upon your future conduct. I repeat that I am thankful that a verdict has redeemed you from the peril in which you were this day placed. Depart, and let this escape you have had operate as a salutary warning throughout the remainder of your life."
As will be seen, however, this kindly advice had but little effect upon the future career of John Fitch.
JOHN FITCH, before his sentence and transportation to New South Wales for the robbery of a considerable sum from one of his dupes, whom he had enticed into a secluded part of Vauxhall Gardens, and there plundered him, had obtained for himself as a man about town a reputation for gallantry which brought to him an easy victim in the person of Jane Harding, a young girl who, unfortunately, had no mother to care for her, and who lived with her father in the county of Chester.
The pretended devotion of such a man as Fitch was highly gratifying to the vanity of this young and unsophisticated girl, and that an ex-post captain in His Majesty's Navy, as he represented himself to be, should pay her his addresses was regarded by her with a feeling of pride which soon developed into a more ardent passion.
It is probable that at this time Captain Fitch really had it in his mind to marry Jane; but circumstances arose which caused him to abandon any such honorable intention. A rumor, at this eventful period, first reached his ears that Mr. Harding, the father of Jane, had been a considerable loser by several speculations in which he had ventured large sums. This induced Fitch to take a temporary pause in his courtship. Marriage, unless attended with pecuniary advantages, was entirely opposed to his principles; and, as the reports of Mr. Harding's embarrassments were confirmed, his attentions to Jane became less marked, and his visits less frequent. Although he had now relinquished all idea of a matrimonial connection, yet, when the unhappy girl reproached him for his neglect, his passions were aroused, and he pressed for an immediate union, representing, at the same time, the necessity which existed that, for the present, the marriage should be kept secret, lest his friends might be angered by his forming an alliance with one of inferior birth to himself.
In an evil hour the hapless girl consented to his proposal, and left the protection of her father's house, taking with her, at the instigation of her lover, a sum of money which her father kept locked in a bureau, and of which she obtained the key. Fitch easily found among his dissolute associates one who readily entered into the conspiracy he had planned, and who, in the guise of a minister of religion, performed a mock ceremony of marriage between the betrayer and his innocent victim.
After the ceremony, Fitch and his supposed wife took up their quarters in expensive apartments in London; nor was it long before Jane discovered how cruelly she had been deceived. The visitors who came to the house were exclusively composed of men of dissipated habits of the worst type who lived in those bad old days, and Jane, who had known the protection of a father's home, now found herself exposed to the familiarities of heartless libertines, from whom her husband made no effort to shield her.
Among those who pressed upon her his unwelcome attentions was Lieutenant Parkhurst, who was destined to play an important part in the subsequent events of her career. This man, a friend of her supposed husband's, and, like him, of good family connections, made no secret of the admiration which he felt for her, and from which she shrank with all the outraged modesty of her sex.
Overwhelmed with sorrow and remorse for what she had done, Jane had almost made up her mind to return home and intercede with her father for his forgiveness, when an event happened that was destined to change the whole course of her future life.
Unable to understand the sudden disappearance of his daughter, and not suspecting her of having robbed him of his money, Mr. Harding had given information to the police, who, with little difficulty, traced the theft to Jane, whose reputed husband then brutally informed her of the deceit which had been practiced upon her with regard to her marriage, and left her to the mercy of the law.
Distracted by the unforeseen calamities which had come upon him, Mr. Harding then endeavored to withdraw the prosecution against his daughter, but without avail, and, under the harsh and cruel laws in force at the time, Jane was transported for the term of seven years to the penal settlement of Van Diemen's Land.
AT the first shock, caused by her trial and sentence, poor Jane Harding (afterwards Jane New) was overwhelmed by the thought of the cruel fate which had overtaken her, and her love for the man who had so wickedly betrayed her was exchanged for a feeling of abhorrence against him for his heartless conduct. But youth and health work wonders, and, as time went on, Jane found her situation to be not nearly so unendurable as she had thought it would be. Condemned though she was to penal servitude beyond the seas, she was nevertheless treated with such consideration as was possible, and was spared much of the humiliation which attached itself to others in like circumstances.
On the voyage to Van Diemen's Land, which had been determined upon by the authorities as her ultimate destination, Jane was appointed as personal attendant to the wife of a military officer on his way to join his regiment at Hobart Town, and her gentle demeanour and lovable disposition soon won for her the affection of her new mistress, who, on her arrival in the colony, used her influence with the Lieutenant-Governor, so that Jane was assigned to her as her servant.
It is a strange history to look back upon—the history of Australia, a country which is now the freest, the happiest, and the most prosperous in the world, but where, scarcely more than half a century ago, slavery flourished in the same manner as it did in the West Indies, and in America before the Civil War.
An assigned servant was virtually a slave, and became the absolute property of the master or mistress; the term of servitude being according to the length of the sentence, which was sometimes for life. The condition of the Australian slave, as with the American slave, depended entirely upon the temper and disposition of the owner, and the difference between the Australian and the American slave was merely one of color. True, indeed, the Australian slave-owner was not supposed to personally chastise his slave, but this disability was soon overcome, for nothing was easier than to obtain the order of a visiting magistrate in those places where these slaves were employed, for their punishment by flogging and solitary confinement, according to the will or caprice of their masters.
As in America, so in Australia, some of the slaves obtained comfortable and even happy homes, and among these fortunate ones was Jane Harding, who soon became more like a sister to her mistress than a servant. Three years were spent in this manner, during which time Jane received the news of her father's death, and also that he had died in poor circumstances, leaving no provision for her when, at the expiration of her sentence, she might return home.
Under these circumstances, and with the approval of her mistress, Jane determined to settle permanently in the colonies, and to forget, if possible, the trouble into which she had been led through trusting to the faith of a heartless villain.
Among the visitors to the officers' quarters of the military barracks in which she lived at Hobart Town, was a young free mechanic, to whom Jane soon became much attached. Fully acquainted as he was with her past history, James New could discover nothing in it but pity for the poor girl who had been so cruelly deceived, and, finding that his love for her was returned he offered to make her his wife.
In those days many marriages of this kind were consummated particularly among the free emigrants of the middle class, whose skilled services could always command good pay. After the marriage the convict wife was, by previous arrangement with the authorities, assigned to her husband as his servant, and remained in such relationship until the expiration of her sentence, when she became entitled to the same rights as other free women in the colony.
In most cases this plan was found to answer well. The assignment was only a matter of form, and couples married in this way lived together as man and wife in the same manner as other people in the community.
The marriage between James New and Jane Harding was quietly solemnised at Hobart Town, and for two years the wedded pair lived a happy and contented life. A child, a bright and intelligent boy, was born of the union, and Jane and her husband made many friends, and won the respect of the society of the middle class of which they became members.
At the end of two years from the date of her marriage, Jane's former master, being about to return to England with his regiment, used his influence with the Lieutenant-Governor to procure for Jane a ticket-of-leave, which would enable her to proceed with her husband to Sydney, where he had reason to believe he could follow his trade with more advantage than at Hobart Town, and, with many expressions of goodwill at the parting, the couple bade good-bye to their friends at Hobart Town, and arrived in Sydney, within six years of the date of Jane's transportation, and it only wanting a year to complete her sentence.
In a pleasant cottage, close to what is now Hyde Park, but which was then known as The Racecourse, the News took up their abode, and were soon engaged in the duties of their new sphere. Trade was brisk, and their income was consequently sufficient for all their needs; their boy was a never-ending source of pleasure to them, and life seemed to promise many blessings in the future, when there came upon them a calamity which, but for its authenticity, would scarcely be believed possible in a civilised land.
Returning from his work one evening to his pleasant home, James was surprised to miss the usual welcome given him by his wife and child, and, on entering the house, was amazed to find his wife in a swoon, from which his boy was endeavoring, with childish tears and caresses, to arouse her.
CONSTABLE FITCH, after having been acquitted by a sympathetic jury of a crime of which he was undoubtedly guilty, continued to pick up a precarious living in Sydney, during which time he managed to considerably extend his reputation for gallantry.
Among the officers in the regiments quartered in Sydney at this time there were some who had known Fitch before his conviction and sentence, and who, from a moral standpoint, were little better than he was himself, except from the fact that they had not yet been found out. One of these officers, Lieutenant Parkhurst, whom he had formerly known in the days of his prosperity, openly made a friend of Fitch, and together the pair might frequently be seen consorting with other companions of questionable character.
Parkhurst and Fitch, at this time, were concerned in many shady transactions, not the least of which were those adventures which they were pleased to term "affairs of gallantry," and upon one of his frequent perambulations through the town of Sydney, with his dissolute acquaintance, John Fitch suddenly found himself face to face with Jane Harding, from whom he had parted six years ago in London.
Jane was standing upon the verandah of the cottage in which she resided, her boy beside her, waiting to give her husband a welcome on his return from his work, when suddenly the evil genius of her life appeared before her. The recognition was mutual, and while in Fitch it aroused no more than a feeling of surprise, to poor Jane it brought such a flood of cruel and bitter memories that on hastily re-entering the house her senses forsook her.
But if Fitch was startled at the meeting with the girl he had betrayed, his companion appeared to see in it an adventure exactly to his liking, and making a note of the situation of the premises, the pair passed quietly on, each resolving in his own mind to profit by the unexpected discovery of Jane's whereabouts.
Leading the way into the parlor of an inn which they were in the habit of frequenting, and where they could talk undisturbed, Fitch confided to his companion the history of his elopement with Jane Harding, and transportation for seven years to Hobart Town.
"But how long ago is that?" inquired Parkhurst, deeply interested.
"It must be six years or thereabouts," replied Fitch.
"Then she cannot have served her sentence yet?" said Parkhurst.
"Not unless she has been pardoned," answered Fitch.
"Not likely," replied Parkhurst. "More probable she is on ticket of leave, and possibly an assigned servant. If so, I think I can get her transferred to a friend of mine."
At this they both laughed, for the friend to whom Parkhurst referred was known to Fitch to be an unscrupulous woman, who, for money, would be ready to assist him in any shameful project.
"I'll see about it now," said Parkhurst, presently, and making an appointment with Fitch to meet him later in the day, the King's officer swaggered out of the inn, followed to the door by an obsequious landlord who wished his honor good-day and a speedy return.
Arrived at the barracks, Lieutenant Parkhurst lost no time in despatching his military servant to an official with whom he he was acquainted, inviting him to lunch with him that day at the officers' mess.
After luncheon, and when the pair were seated together, with a spirit decanter between them, Parkhurst mentioned casually that a friend of his was in want of a convict servant.
The official could not repress a smile, when he heard the name of the applicant, but he answered gravely that he would see what could be done.
"I saw a likely-looking girl to-day," continued Parkhurst, mentioning the house in which Jane lived.
"I know them," replied the official—"the News. They come from Van Diemen's Land. New is a free man, and married to his wife, who is assigned to him."
"That makes no difference, does it?" said Parkhurst.
"Not in law," replied the official. "That is, if she has done anything to forfeit her ticket-of-leave. It rests with the Governor, of course."
"I will arrange all that," replied Parkhurst.
"Very well," answered the official, yawning, for the summer's day suggested an afternoon siesta. "Let me know how I can be of use to you, and we'll see what can be done."
WHEN Jane New recovered from her swoon, it was to find her husband beside her, ready to comfort and assist her with his advice and protection. To him she briefly narrated the circumstances of her unexpected meeting with Fitch and his dissolute companion, and, with tears and lamentations, she expressed her belief that trouble would surely come of it.
In his endeavor to calm her, New pointed out how unlikely it would be that Fitch would attempt to interfere with her, seeing that he would have nothing to gain by such interference, which might only bring him into disfavor with the authorities. Besides, he bade her remember that they lived in a British community, under British laws, which boasted an equal measure of justice for all. But although in the end he succeeded in partly allaying her fears, poor Jane could not shake off the conviction of impending trouble, and that her anxiety was not without foundation was soon to be placed beyond doubt.
One morning, James New being absent at his work, and when Jane was employed with her household duties, a lady, well-dressed, and apparently in affluent circumstances, called to see her with the expressed purpose of engaging New to make certain alterations in her house in Pitt-street. Jane, gratified by this recognition of her husband's skill as a tradesman, was careful to note the particulars of the work required to be done, and the lady invited Jane to accompany her to her house in order that she might the more readily be able to explain to her husband on his return the nature of the improvements contemplated.
Unsuspicious of the infamous plot that was being weaved around her, Jane accompanied her professed friend and patron to her house in Pitt-street, from which she subsequently returned to her own house, once more devoting herself to the care of her boy, and the ordering of her little establishment. Within an hour, however, the lady was back, this time accompanied by John Fitch and another policeman. At the sight of Fitch, poor Jane turned pale, and her senses seemed about to desert her. Not heeding what she did, in her endeavor to escape from her persecutor, Jane fled from the house by the back door, and this was subsequently regarded as proof positive of her guilt. She was easily captured, and brought back by the constables, who, on searching her, found the lady's purse, containing five pounds in gold and silver, concealed upon her person.
In a flood of tears, Jane besought the villain who had formerly brought disgrace and ruin upon her, to spare her further punishment. Clasping her boy to her breast, she begged that she might not be parted from her child, while, at the same time, she vehemently denied all knowledge of the theft of which she was accused. But her entreaties fell upon deaf ears. She was a convicted felon, and her statements were not to be believed.
Jane was brought to trial before Mr. Justice Dowling and a jury, and, on being found guilty, sentence of death was recorded against her under Statute 12, Ann, ch. 7 (the Statute which takes away benefit of clergy from the offence of stealing in a dwelling above the value of forty shillings). This conviction, however, it being ascertained that the Statute was not in force in New South Wales, was, on appeal to the Full Court, declared void; but the sheriff, instead of releasing Jane, by direction of the Governor, who had revoked the assignment, executed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, of the prisoner to her husband, removed her from the common gaol at Sydney, as a prisoner of the Crown, to the factory at Parramatta, where she once more became eligible for assignment to some other master or mistress, and for which new assignment the very woman who had charged her with theft, and who was none other than the friend referred to by Parkhurst, was an applicant.
The infamous nature of the plot against the unfortunate Jane New now stood plainly revealed, and James New, in his despair at the discovery, would probably have been driven to the commission of some desperate act in defence of his wife's honor, had it not been for the skill and courage in connection with this case displayed by one whose name will always be associated with what is best in Australian history.
Mr. William Charles Wentworth was, at this time, among the leaders of the Australian bar, and to him James New carried the tale of his trouble. Wentworth was one of the few men who had the courage, when his duty impelled him to such a course, to set himself in opposition to the Governor of the day, a military martinet, who succeeded, during the term of his administration, in making himself the most hated man in the colony, and, at the risk of incurring his Excellency's displeasure, he boldly questioned the Governor's right to revoke the assignment of prisoners except in the case of pardon, and, as the counsel instructed for that purpose by James New, he moved the Full Court, on application, that the prisoner, Jane New, be discharged from custody, and delivered over to her husband on the grounds, first, "that the Governor of this Territory had no power to cancel the assignment to a master of any prisoner of the Crown except for the purpose of granting a temporary or partial remission of the original sentence," and, secondly, that at all events he could not cancel the assignment of a prisoner who had been transported from England to Van Diemen's Land; that being a separate and independent colony, not within the government or jurisdiction of the Governor of New South Wales.
These points were argued before the Full Court at great length—the Attorney-General (Baxter) contending that the Governor had the absolute right, at his pleasure, to cancel the assignment to a master of a prisoner, and to re-assign such prisoner to some other master or mistress, while Mr. Wentworth maintained that the Governor had no such power, and that the property in the assigned servant remained in the master, except in the case of the misconduct of such master, until the expiration of the prisoner's sentence, or until such prisoner received a free pardon.
This case caused intense excitement in the colony at the time, for it was felt by the settlers that, if the Governor possessed the arbitrary power which he claimed, those who differed from him in his autocratic methods of government would be deprived of the services of their farm laborers, and reduced to penury.
The judges, to their credit be it recorded, although they subsequently incurred the censure of the Secretary of State for so doing, inclined to the more liberal view of the matter, and held that the Governor did not possess the power of revoking the assignment of Jane New to her husband by the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, and she was consequently ordered to be restored to him.
Chief Justice Forbes, in delivering his judgment in this case, said: "The right of private property, when once acquired, is held to be so inviolable by the laws of England that I cannot easily suppose it to have been the intention of Parliament, after having created this right in the assignee of a prisoner, in the most express and formal manner, and having carefully preserved it through the successive provisions of a chain of statutes, to take it away by a word, and that without any cause alleged, or any previous enquiry or any definite course of proceeding directed for so strong and anomalous a power—a power which would be, perhaps, without precedent in the records of Parliament."
Happy indeed was the reunion between Jane and her husband, and her boy, whom she would not see while she remained in prison, and the recall of the regiment to which Lieutenant Parkhurst belonged saved her from further persecution from that quarter; whilst, not long afterwards, John Fitch became involved in a serious offence, which it was impossible to overlook or condone.
AFTER the departure of Lieutenant Parkhurst with his regiment for England, Fitch found it more difficult to follow his dissolute courses without detection, and before long he was again apprehended, on a charge of forgery. This time, being convicted, sentence of death was recorded against him, which was afterwards commuted to seven years' transportation to Norfolk Island.
While waiting on board the hulk Phoenix, then lying in Sydney Cove, for the Government brig to convey him to Norfolk Island, an attempt was made to murder the soldiers and crew by poisoning the coppers in which their food was prepared, by means of arsenic, which had been procured and distributed amongst the prisoners, it was believed by many, through the instrumentality of Fitch. When, however, the plot was complete, and the poison actually mingled with the food, Fitch disclosed the scheme to the authorities, for which he obtained credit at the expense of a number of prisoners, some of whom were hanged for the conspiracy, whilst others were flogged, or sentenced to long terms in the chain gang.
Norfolk Island, at this time, was one of the worst of the penal settlements. The entire number of convicts there was 360, and these were divided into gangs of 60, with two overseers over each gang.
The 360 men slept in a long, narrow, low-roofed shed, called a dormitory, in which there were two rows of bunks, one over the other, the bunks being separated by laths, and each berth being the length and breadth of a man.
Many of these men bore on their bodies the terrible effects of flogging; others had contracted deformities from the constant practice of wearing heavy irons; others, again, bore marks of gunshot wounds, probably received in some attempt to escape from legal custody, for the warders had orders to fire on the first appearance of any act of insubordination.
The weight of the irons put upon the prisoners at Norfolk Island varied from 7lb to 40lb, the latter being only used for the most refractory prisoners.
"The use of these irons," said an overseer, on being interrogated on the subject before a commission of inquiry into prison discipline, "is to break the men's spirits, so that they may become more tractable. Some of them are more like wild beasts than men when they come here."
In the dormitory nothing but oaths, imprecations, and obscenity met the ear from the wretched prisoners around, and between these sounds and the darkness of the den it was a veritable earthly hell.
Nine o'clock was the hour for retiring, and four o'clock was the hour for rising. A bell was rung at four, and the prisoners were allowed five minutes in which to dress, fold up their rugs, and sweep out their bunks.
The 360 men were then marched, rank and file, two deep, to a cistern to wash, when all indiscriminately performed their ablutions in the same water.
The gang then mustered under the overseers orders, and were marched to their respective places of worship. Prayers lasted half-an-hour, and, at 5 o'clock, the gangs were again mustered, and marched, rank and file, two deep, through the outer gate of the prison, where the superintendent and muster-master stood, and called out each man's name, to which an answer was given, accompanied by the regulation salute.
The gangs were then marched to their work, each man being at his daily work at half-past 5 o'clock in the morning, where he worked until 8, and was then marched in to breakfast, which consisted of some coarse brown bread and water-gruel.
After breakfast the men were mustered again, and marched back to their work, which was continued until 12 o'clock, when they were again marched in to dinner, which frugal meal consisted of some course brown bread and broth, with a few ounces of very bad meat.
After dinner, muster again, and work until 6 o'clock, when names were called over, and some bread and water-gruel served out.
Prayers at half-past 6 until 7, then to school till 8, and, after school, to the wretched bunks once more in the dormitory.
A returned convict gives the following personal account of his daily work at Norfolk Island:—
"Most of my time," he says, "I was working in the quarries, drawing hand-carts, and at agricultural labor. It was broiling hot weather, and, to be kept 17 hours out of every 24 standing under a blazing sun was hard enough.
"I remember, one day, being marched 8 miles into the bush to cut grass, tie it up, load a bullock dray with it, and then walk 8 miles back without ever tasting food or drinking water during the day, though, by reason of the heat, I was parched with thirst.
"During the latter part of my sentence I was put to besom-making. This was considered an indulgence. While undergoing my besom-making probation, I had to go into the bush at half-past 5 in the morning, with a scythe in my hand, to cut down a load of grass, tie it up, carry it three miles on my back to a hut, then cut down New Zealand flax, split it, make twisted gads of it, then sit down and make 24 besoms, tie them up, carry them on my back, and deliver them to the storekeeper, and, if I were one short of that number, I was put in solitary confinement in a black hole for seven days at the least.
"This besom-making was also most dangerous work, for every time I put my hand among the tufts, or tussocks, of cutting grass, I was in danger of being bitten by a snake—and yet this was called an indulgence."
"Let every father and mother's child take warning by my hard fate, and shun all bad company.
"When, after I had served my time at Norfolk Island, I arrived at the Sydney Gaol, I prayed the commandant to do something for me in regard to my being signed over to a master. He asked me how many times I had been flogged on the Island. I told him the whole truth, and also said that I had received 100 lashes for no other crime than that of composing a piece of poetry about myself."
John Fitch, shortly after his arrival at the Island, owing to his treacherous conduct towards his fellow convicts on board the Phoenix hulk at Sydney, was kept apart from the rest of the prisoners, being placed in the stables. But, although his work, in comparison with the others, was trifling, he neglected it, and, anxious to find time to concoct further villainy, he feigned sickness, and for a considerable time, was to be seen on crutches, as supposed to be suffering from an attack of paralysis.
During this period, it is confidently asserted that he contrived the mutiny which broke out in January, 1834, when several prisoners were shot dead; 13 were subsequently hanged, and many others had long periods in irons added to their sentences.
The following is the official account given of this occurrence:
"On the 13th January, 1834, a cunningly-planned conspiracy to reduce the guard and civil officers of the settlement at Norfolk Island was attempted and defeated. The Government, having been previously apprised that something was in agitation, had been acting for some days with great circumspection.
"On the morning of the 13th, when being escorted from the barrack to their labor, a considerable body rose upon their guard, and an engagement of some minutes took place, during which one soldier, one constable, and six prisoners were killed. It was intended by the conspirators, if successful in conquering one detachment of the guard, to have disarmed them, and marched in their van, so that they would be the first victims if they received any opposition from the rest of the garrison. In the event of final triumph, they were to provision the schooner Isabella, and put to sea without delay; but the result has, fortunately, defeated their anticipations. About 170 of them are, since this occurrence, compelled to labor on a heavy chain, in addition to their former weighty shackles."
Fitch figured conspicuously in this affair. He was admitted an approver, and he is said to have given in to the authorities a long list of the mutineers who were in the secret, but whom, it afterwards transpired, were wholly ignorant of the contemplated crime.
The authorities, after this, did not consider it safe to allow the approver to remain on the Island, as there is little doubt he would have fallen a victim to the just resentment of those whom he had wrongfully accused as being concerned in the plot, and, having served only a part of his sentence, Fitch was returned to Sydney, and from there to Port Macquarie.
AT Port Macquarie, Fitch, finding that his character had preceded him, assumed for a while an outward appearance of sanctity, and, although his hypocrisy was suspected by many, he succeeded in deceiving the authorities to such an extent that he was, on the recommendation of several gentlemen and magistrates of the territory, allowed a ticket-of-leave for that district.
Two years later he again paid a visit to the metropolis, when he applied to the Governor for an alteration of his ticket to Sydney, stating as a reason that he could obtain no employment in the district of Port Macquarie, by which he could live.
His Excellency, on these representations, directed that a ticket-of-leave should be granted to Fitch to trade on the coasts in the cutter Thomas and Harriet, or the schooner Waterwitch.
It was during this period, and while he was thus at large in Sydney, that Fitch formed an acquaintance with a wealthy widow, and by the representations which he made with regard to his family and prospects, as well as by the personal affection he professed towards her, he succeeded in obtaining a promise from her to become his wife.
This widow woman possessed a farm at Campbell Town, where the work was performed by assigned servants, over whom Fitch was appointed overseer.
Here, as usual, when vested with a little brief authority, he acted in the most tyrannical manner to those under him, and soon became hated and feared.
One of the unfortunate servants at this farm subsequently gave the following statement of his treatment there under John Fitch:
"About two days after I was signed over to my new mistress at Campbell Town," he says, "I left Sydney with a bullock driver at six o'clock one evening, and travelled all that night and until ten next day, when we arrived at the farm. I then went to the men's hut, where, in about half an hour, the overseer came to me and said that my mistress wanted me. I went down and saw her, and she then ordered me to take a hoe and spade and to go into the garden with the rest of the Government men.
"I told her that I had not had anything to eat since I left Sydney.
"She said to me: 'Do you refuse to work?'
"I replied: 'No, but that I could not work that day, being too worn out by my long night's tramp from Sydney to Campbell Town.'
"She said she would get me flogged for refusing to work.
"I then went to the hut, and next morning proceeded to work with the rest of the men.
"At eight we went to breakfast, and, while at breakfast, my mistress came up to me with the overseer, and said, 'This is the man who refused to work yesterday.'
"She then told the overseer to take me to the watch-house at Campbell Town, where, next day, on the evidence of the overseer, I was given 50 lashes.
"On arriving back at the farm I was ordered to go to work immediately. I was sent to carry bags of wheat from the barn to the stores. I had carried two bags, and, on going with the third, it so hurt my back that I was obliged to let it drop, upon which I was again taken before the magistrate, and my mistress appeared against me, and swore positively that I had destroyed her property.
"She was believed, and I was once more sentenced to receive 50 lashes,
"As I was returning home with the overseer, I told him that I would not work any more for this mistress.
"On reaching the farm, I went to the hut. My mistress sent for me, and inquired if I meant to go to work, and I replied that I did not.
"She then ordered the overseer to bring me down to the house. I refused to go, and four of my fellow prisoners were ordered to assist the overseer in dragging me down to the house. They did so, and put a bullock chain round a tree, and fastened me to it, leaving me there for the night.
"When the overseer was going to bed I asked him if he intended to leave me there all night.
"He said, 'Yes,' and that was the way he intended to serve me every night until I went to work. It rained heavily during the night.
"At about ten o'clock next morning I was again taken before the magistrate at Campbell Town, and charged with refusing to work.
"I told the magistrate about the cruel treatment I had received during the previous night, which, of course, the overseer denied.
"The magistrate, however, believed me, and refused to punish me further, at the same time telling the overseer that he would recommend the Governor to order my re-assignment to a more humane master."
This is probably a fair example of the treatment given by Fitch to the other prisoners whilst he was overseer to the widow's farm. Indeed, there seemed to be no legal protection whatever for assigned servants, who were left to the mercy of their masters, and to the caprice and ignorance of up-country magistrates, who suffered their employers to give them bad and insufficient food and clothing, and, yet, if they complained, they were flogged without trial—and many of them were flogged to death.
Meanwhile, the country became one scene of devastation and plunder, and the Supreme Court sat continuously, trying and condemning to death men who had been starved into bushranging, or driven to crime by the barbarous manner of their treatment at the hands of their inhuman gaolers.
THERE was nothing romantic about the first Australian bushrangers. No schoolboy tales of Robin Hood or Rob Roy had influenced them to adopt a life of crime, and no excuses were made for them, as was often the case with latter-day bushrangers—that they had been driven to their lawless career by the interference of the police. The early-day bushrangers were absconders from a system of penal servitude which made life intolerable. They expected no quarter, and they gave none, preferring death by the bullets of the soldiers to the slow torture of their cruel captivity.
Bands of these desperadoes, sometimes numbering as many as twenty in a gang, would escape from the penal settlements and take to the bush, under the chimerical belief that they would be able to find their way to China, or some other country in which they would be permitted to live human lives.
These miserable people were soon brought to a state of deplorable wretchedness. Some of them, naked and nearly worn out with hunger, would subsist for a time on the flowering shrubs and berries of the woods, until hunger brought them in death, a merciful oblivion, or drove them once more to the discipline of the lash, the solitary cells, and the chain.
The bolder spirits among these absconders became savages, and even cannibals, when necessity demanded, and, forming gangs of lawless ruffians, they kept the whole country in a state of terror.
The assigned servants upon the farms and stations around Sydney assisted the bushrangers when the opportunity offered, although in some instances to their own detriment, so great was their hatred of all forms of constituted authority; and they robbed their masters, even with the certainty of detection, so that the outlaws might obtain food and other necessities to their existence.
The excesses committed by these bushrangers were many and varied, and were sometimes remarkable for a reckless spirit of adventure. On one occasion a party of them, having "stuck up" a station, compelled the owner, his wife, and daughters to drive with them to the township where a ball was in progress, and there they danced with the girls and enjoyed themselves among the invited guests. Later on, word being given them that an attempt would be made to effect their capture, they drew their revolvers, and, having bailed up the company present, robbed them of their money and valuables, and quietly decamped.
Nor was their field of operations confined to the country even in those early days. As late as February, 1842, the house of Mr. Gray, in Balmain, close to Sydney, was "stuck up." The bushrangers collected the watches, rings, money, and other valuables, and then compelled Mr. and Mrs. Gray and the servants to drink tumblers full of sherry wine to their success. They were very merry, and drank Mr. and Mrs. Gray's healths. When they departed they took a dozen and a half of sherry and a dozen bottles of ale with them to have a spree in the bush.
Such was the lawless state of the country when John Fitch became overseer at the widow's farm, and there is little doubt but that he himself was in league with the bushrangers, and took part with them in many of their adventures.
These gangs were continually being joined by fresh recruits, who remained for a time, and then disappeared. No questions were asked, and little heed was given to such additions to the gang, although it was well for Fitch that his identity with the informer at Norfolk Island was not known, or death by torture would assuredly have been his portion. But this possible contingency, so far from deterring Fitch from any lawless undertaking, seemed rather to whet his appetite for adventure and to add zest to the excitement of the enterprise.
One of the most notorious of the early Australian bushrangers was Edward Morrison, commonly known as the Raven. The Raven's gang varied in its composition from time to time, numbers of runaway convicts joining the gang for a spell, and then returning to their servitude so as to save their miserable lives from death upon the scaffold, within twenty-four hours after sentence, which, under the Bushranger Act then in force, would have been their fate if captured.
One of the many stories told of the Raven was that he "rounded up" the chief constable of the district, with a party of his men and volunteers who had gone out to seek for him, and, after having yarded them like a mob of cattle, took their horses and arms and whatever money they had, and rode away laughing.
Such was the company in which John Fitch delighted to find adventure, and that no little profit accrued to him by some of these nefarious projects is evidenced by the reckless extravagance in which he frequently indulged upon his now periodical visits to the metropolis.
At this time the consumption of ardent spirits in New South Wales was immense, and drunkenness and every kind of debauchery were rife and increasing.
"At the period when I arrived in the colony," writes one of the early pioneers, "it was lamentable to behold the excess to which drunkenness was carried; it was no uncommon occurrence for men to sit round a bucket of spirits, and drink it with quart pots until they were unable to stir from the spot, and frequently did the settler so involve himself in debt for drunkenness that it terminated in his ruin."
Indeed, not long before, rum had been the regular and principal article of traffic in the colony. Lands, houses, and property of every description, real and personal, were bought and paid for in rum.
It is recorded of one of the officers of the 102nd Regiment that, a hundred acres of land having been distributed in half-acre allotments as free grants among 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. A moiety of this land realised, at a sale in 1860, £20,000, and it is probably worth three times that sum now.
"It would appear," says Mr. Justice Burton, in his charge delivered to the jury at the close of the sessions of the Supreme Court of New South Wales for the year 1835, "to one who could look down upon this community, as if the main business of all were the commission of crime, and the punishment of it as if the whole colony were in motion towards the several courts of justice."
Such was Sydney, the queen city of the south, at the time of its first settlement, and up to the introduction of a more liberal administration of colonial affairs.
THE colony, in spite of its lawlessness, was at the time in a very prosperous condition, so far as the ability to make money was concerned, and James New began to cast his eye upon the rich lands in the interior, which were then for settlement. A friend with whom he had been acquainted at home arrived in Sydney among a batch of free emigrants brought out by Dr. Lang, and they determined to club their capital together, and to invest in a farm beyond Penrith and in the direction of the Blue Mountains. This farm they resolved to work themselves, without having recourse to convict labor, for both had an equal objection to this species of slavery, which was openly being carried on throughout the country; and James New, after his experience of the authorities in the matter of his wife's case before the Criminal Court, preferred not to bring himself into communication with the commissioner for the assignment of convict servants, to whom application for these white slaves was made.
As some recompense for the unjust imprisonment to which she had been subjected, Jane had now received a free pardon for all past offences, and when the News and their friend, George Stirling, took possession of their farm, they determined to shut out from their lives every association that bore the taint of convictism—that terrible system which had so debased and degraded the community.
Pleasantly situated among the fertile lands around Penrith, and watered by the Nepean River, Rosebank, the name given by Jane to their farm, formed an ideal home. George was a practical farmer of the old English school, and James, being a tradesman, was enabled to carry out the necessary buildings and improvements about the place with a thoroughness that won the admiration of the few neighbors who visited there. Rosebank soon came to be regarded as a model farm, and many of the labor-saving contrivances which James had introduced were copied and approved of by other farmers who saw them.
Jane was now supremely happy, and life seemed to promise a career of useful work, attended with profitable results to herself and her husband.
Their boy Dick was an unfailing source of interest to Jane. He had his pony to ride, and he had already begun to look upon some of the domestic animals about the house with the air of a proprietor.
From the verandah of the cottage in which they lived, Jane could see James and George in the fields beyond the home paddock, either ploughing the land or reaping the crop when in due season the fruitful earth yielded its harvest. Her own life was made up of pleasurable duties, and Providence seemed to have bestowed upon her a full measure of contented peace.
One evening, when the happy family at Rosebank were seated together upon the green sward in front of the house, the men smoking, and young Dick enjoying himself in play with a go-cart which his father had given him, George said he had been talking to a shepherd that morning from one of the outback stations, who had told him that the bushrangers were in the district, and that several places had been "stuck up."
"What's the good of making trouble, George?" remonstrated his partner. "We interfere with no one, and the bushrangers are not likely to interfere with us. Poor wretches, they are more to be pitied than blamed, I think."
"Still it can do no harm to be prepared," replied George. "I've cleaned up the gun and the pistols I brought out with me, and there's plenty of ammunition if we wanted to make a stand."
"Foolish talk, George," answered James. "If the bushrangers come they would be sure to outnumber us three to one, and to make any resistance would only be to encourage them to murder. Besides," he added, more hopefully, "I don't believe that the gang will trouble us. Why should they? We work hard ourselves. We own no assigned servants; and they would get nothing here to make it worth their while to raid the place. Bushrangers, like other people, have an object in view, even when they commit crime, and there are many places it would pay them better to stick up than Rosebank."
Poor Jane had listened to the discussion with a white face. Any allusions to prisons and law-breakers always made her tremble and she placed her hand in mute remonstrance upon her husband's arm, and looked up pleadingly into his face.
"Why, George!" cried James, "you've frightened the wife out of her wits with your silly talk. Let's have no more of it. There's no chance of bushrangers coming here, so long as we don't think about them. Talking about them is just the way to bring them upon us."
But that night, in the privacy of his own room at Rosebank, George Stirling placed the gun and pistols where they would be handy if he wanted them.
IN order to understand the character of the early Australian bushrangers, it may be interesting to refer to the true history of two of the best-known among them. The first is John Lynch, who, on the day before his execution, made the following remarkable statement before Mr. Brown, Police Magistrate of Berrima:—
"Soon after I took to the bush I met two persons (one a black boy), who were driving a cart belonging to Mr. T. Cooper, laden with bacon and other articles, for the Sydney market. I killed them with an axe as they lay asleep, hid the bodies under a heap of stones, proceeded to Sydney, and sold the articles on the dray in Sydney. On my return up-country with other goods, which I had purchased in Sydney, I fell in with the Frasers, father and son, with whom I camped for the night. During the night, a man came and asked me if I had met Cooper's dray along the road. When he had gone, I feared that the Frasers would recognise the dray I was driving as Cooper's dray, so I determined to kill them. In the morning, young Fraser went over the ridge to get in the horses, and I volunteered to go with him and assist. It was cold, and I put on a pea-jacket, not to keep me warm, however, but to conceal an axe that I held under my arm. When I got up to young Fraser, I had no difficulty in obtaining the opportunity I wanted. I gave him one crack on the head, and he just dropped like a log of wood. If people knew how easy it is to take away life, things of this kind would happen oftener. I then returned to old Fraser, who remained with the dray, and began yarning to him. After a time he began to wonder what had become of 'Wully.' I had my axe all right, but would not strike until I could make sure. At last he turned his head, and down he went. The next business was to get rid of the bodies. I dragged the old one some yards out of the way, lest persons passing through the flat might come upon it, and then returned to the body of the son. With a spade I got from the dray I dug a hole and buried him. Afterwards I buried the father in the same manner.
"Next day I got to Mulligan's. I had no notion of trusting them, or indeed anybody, so I amused them with an account of my being hired to drive up the dray for a gentleman in Sydney. The family consisted of the old man, Mulligan, Mrs. Mulligan, her son, a lad of about 13, and her daughter, a girl about 14. Mrs. Mulligan, seeing chests of tea in the dray, said she was out of tea, and proposed to buy a chest of me. I pretended to bargain with her, and asked her how much money she had in the house. She said, 'About nine pounds.' Next day, in the afternoon, I pulled out a pound note, and sent to Gray's public-house for rum to treat them. In the evening we drank together, and got very sociable, but I took care not to drink too much. Now, it was a cold, windy night, so I took up the axe, and said I would go out and cut a few barrow loads of wood for the fire, if John (meaning the young man) would wheel them in. We went out and had some talk whilst I was cutting up. When I had finished my work, I took the axe and gave it a back-handed swing against his skull and threw it down. I threw a quantity of boughs over the body, and went back to the hut. We had another glass together, and the mother inquired for her son. I hated this old woman, for she used to toss cups and balls, and could foretell things. Well, nothing would satisfy her but that she must go to the door and coo-ee. There was no quieting the old woman, and I had my eyes upon her inside, at the same time that I was standing by Mulligan outside. I saw her take up a large knife and conceal it in her clothes. There was no time to be lost. I had left the axe on the ground when I had cut the wood, but my own axe was in the dray, but how to get it without showing my intent? I pretended that a dog I had was getting troublesome, and took him to the wheel of the dray to tie him up; this gave me the opportunity of getting the axe, and placing it, unperceived, under my thick coat. By this time the old woman, who seemed bewitched, would be content with nothing short of going outside and looking for her son. She went towards the spot, and begun moving the boughs which covered the body.
"Now or never, I thought. Mulligan, who was close behind me, turned his head. One blow, and down he went. I then hastened towards the old woman. She was in the act of returning, having found her son's body, but, playing cunning, she said, 'Lord, what brings the police here? There are three of them getting over the fence.' I was not to be gulled that way, so I gave her my foot, which staggered her, and then brought her down. Now remained but the little girl. Poor little thing; she had never done me any injury, and I was really sorry for her. I went into the hut, where she remained, and said to her, 'Now, my little girl, I will do for you what I would not do for others, for you're a good girl. You shall have ten minutes to say your prayers.' As she would do nothing but cry, however, and attempt to run out of the hut, I was obliged to kill her at once. I now began to consult with myself as to the best mode of disposing of the bodies, and finally I burned them upon a heap of logs close to the house. I then burned the greater part of Mulligan's clothes, and made such alterations in the house as I deemed necessary, for I still had a difficult card to play, and must satisfy neighbors that I had rightly become possessed of Mulligan's farm, horses and cattle. This, with little difficulty, I succeeded in doing, and I now comfortably settled at the farm, intending to live honestly, and do everything fair and square.
"Returning home on one occasion from Sydney, I encamped on the north side of Razorback. In the morning, while on the point of starting, I was met and accosted by a strange man, who seemed very free and open in his conversation. I spoke him fair, and, after some more talk, I hired him for six months for £15. When we got to Crisp's he hid himself, and on my asking him all about it as we got on the road, he gave me an account of having accused Mr. Crisp, before the magistrates, of stealing a bundle that he had left at the house. From his account I perceived he was a kind of lawyer, and fond of court, and, on getting better acquainted with him, I found he was by no means so simple as I at first supposed, but had a deal of cunning about him. We encamped on the spot well known to you, sir, and I then began to think what I should do, I was greatly agitated, and could not close my eyes, while the other fellow slept like a pig. What was I to do? If I took this fellow, with his law, to the farm with me, it would certainly be my ruin. We had been seen together by so many people on the road that there would be great risk in killing him; but, everything considered, it seemed the safest and best plan after all. Next morning, after putting in the horse, I set my eye upon him. He was a powerful-made man—I, small as you see I am; and he had boasted to me that, since he was 15 or 16 years old, he had never met the man who could throw him. Well, my man, I thought, I fancy I shall be able to settle you, notwithstanding your fine limbs. He had just laid down the tomahawk with which he had been cutting a little wood to make up the fire. I took it up without his perceiving me. He sat astride on the log, close to where our fire was, smoking his pipe, thinking of nothing. His head was a little turned from me. I gave him one blow; and he fell; and then another when he was down, but the first settled him. I then hid the body under some bushes, where it was found next day. I intended to have returned, as soon as I conveniently could, and buried the body; but my time was come. I remember taking off his belt, the discovery of which at my house was the strongest evidence against me at my trial, and throwing it into a small waterhole, but afterwards perceiving the end of it above the water, and fearing to leave it there, I pitched it into the cart, and never thought of it since. This was Sunday. I returned home, and on Tuesday I was apprehended by your orders. You know sir, how, by degrees, everything came out.
William Westwood, better known as Jackey Jackey, was an errand boy in England, and was transported for some trifling offence when he was only sixteen years of age. He landed in Sydney in 1837, and was assigned to Mr. Philip Gidley King, at Gidley, in the Goulburn district. He stayed at the station three years, and then, in company with a notorious bushranger named Paddy Curran, stuck up and robbed his employer's house. Jackey Jackey then took to the bush, and made some pretence at what may be called the "heroics" of bushranging. He declared that even if a man was a bushranger, he might be a gentleman, and predicted that he would never see a woman insulted. More legends are collected round the name of Jackey Jackey than round that of any other bushranger. He is said to have bailed up the carriage of the Commissary, and when he discovered the Commissary's wife was inside, he dismounted, opened the door, and, sweeping the ground with his cabbage-tree hat, invited her to favor him with a step on the green. He rode incredible distances in incredibly short periods of time, bailing up a man near Goulburn, and telling him to note the time by his watch, and then racing away and bailing up another man at Braidwood, a hundred miles away, and asking that person to note the time. In order to accomplish these remarkable journeys he was always well mounted. He scorned to steal an inferior horse, and would travel miles to secure a racer. He stole racehorses from Mr. Murray, Mr. Julian, and many other gentlemen in the district over which he ranged.
One day a man ran into the township of Bungendore, and said that Jackey Jackey had followed and fired at him. A few minutes later Jackey Jackey himself, mounted on a splendid horse, which he had stolen from Mr. Macarthur, hove in sight on the plains. He was dressed in a fine suit of clothes, which he had obtained when he stuck up and robbed the store at Boro a few days before. In a spirit of reckless bravado he rode into the town, where he was surrounded and eventually captured. Being handed over to Lieutenant Christie, he was taken to Goulburn and lodged in the lock-up, from which he eventually escaped, taking with him the watch-house keeper's arms and ammunition. Next day he procured a horse, and on the following day stuck up Francis Macarthur on the Goulburn Plains. He robbed Mr. Macarthur of his watch, money, and other valuables, and took one of his carriage horses because it was better than the animal he was riding.
Jackey Jackey did not long maintain his freedom, however. He one day went into Gray's Black Horse Inn, on the Berrima-road, called for some refreshments, went into a sitting-room, and threw himself on the sofa. He was served by Miss Gray, and while he was drinking she pounced upon him and screamed. Her father and mother came to her assistance; but Jackey Jackey fought with so much determination that he would no doubt have got away had not a carpenter named Waters, who was working near, rushed in and struck him on the head with his shingle hammer. Knocked senseless, the noted bushranger was easily secured. It will be remembered that Gray's Black Horse Inn was about three miles from Mulligan's farm, and was the place where Lynch had bought the rum to treat Mr. and Mrs. Mulligan just before he murdered them.
Jackey Jackey was tried and convicted, and was sentenced to penal servitude for life, being first confined in Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney, but, being detected in an attempt to escape, he was transferred to Cockatoo Island, at the mouth of the Parramatta River. While there he organised a band of twenty-five prisoners, and made a desperate attempt to escape. The gang overcame and tied up a warder, and then jumped into the harbor, with the intention of swimming to Balmain. The water police, however, were apprised of the mutiny, and captured the whole gang. The gang were tried for this attempted escape, and were sent to Port Arthur, Van Diemen's Land. Being such a desperate lot of scoundrels, they were chained down in the hold of the brig in which they were forwarded for safety; but, in spite of this precaution, they contrived to get loose, and were only prevented from capturing the brig by the hatches being put on and battened down. They reached Port Arthur in an almost suffocated condition, and were nearly starved, as they had had no food for several days; the captain of the brig not daring to remove the hatches, either to let in air or to pass food to the prisoners. Jackey Jackey succeeded in escaping from Port Arthur, and immediately resumed his bushranging career. He was captured, however, and sent to Norfolk Island, where he headed a mutiny, which was overcome. He was again captured, and sentenced to death. In his letter to the chaplain from the condemned cell he expresses himself with a good deal of intelligence upon the convict system in the following terms:—
"I started in life with a good feeling for my fellow man. Before I well knew the responsibility of my station in life I had forfeited my freedom. I became a slave, and was sent far from my country, my parents, my brothers and sisters—torn from all that was dear to me—and that for a trifling offence. Since then I have been treated more like a beast than a man, until nature could bear no more. I was, like many others, driven to despair by the oppressive and tyrannical conduct of those whose duty it was to prevent us from being treated in this Way. The crime for which I am to suffer is murder. Reverend sir, you will shudder at my cruelty, but I only took life—those whom I deprived of life, though they did not in a moment send a man to his last account, inflicted on many a lingering death. For years they have tortured men's minds, as well as their bodies, and, after years of mental and bodily suffering, sent them to an early grave. This is what I call refined cruelty, and it is carried on by Englishmen, and under British laws. Will it be believed hereafter that this was allowed to be carried on in the nineteenth century?"
DEAD-MAN'S HOLLOW was the name given to a valley near to the Blue Mountains, enclosed on all sides by precipitous cliffs, there being only one natural entrance to it, which, in early times, was easily closed with a short span of brushwood, so that stock turned into the valley could not escape. This was known among the old hands as "The Camp," "The Shelter," or "The Pound." Later on the valley came to be known, from the horrible tales told of the convicts who made use of it, as "Dead-man's Hollow."
One of the causes from which "Dead-man's Hollow" derived its name was the following dreadful narrative, afterwards vouched for, as was often the case, by condemned convicts on the eve of execution:—
A settler near the valley was reported to have received a large sum of money from Sydney, and this becoming known to the bushrangers, they determined to rob him of it. They bailed up his place, tied his assigned servants, and made a search for the money, but could not find it. The settler declared that he had not received any money, but this statement was not believed, and he was threatened with instant death if he did not disclose its hiding-place. He persisted in his previous assertion that he had no money, and a consultation was held by the bushrangers to decide what should be done with him. Finally it was resolved to take him to Dead-man's Hollow, and there force him to say where the money was hidden. When they got their victim to the place, they tied him to a tree, and built a circle of brushwood round him, at some distance away, set fire to it, and slowly roasted him to death. His screams, so it was stated in the confession, were frightful, but none heard him in that desolate place, except the wretches who were torturing him, and they had been rendered so callous to human suffering by their own ill-usage at the hands of the authorities that they only laughed at his agonised cries.
In Dead-man's Hollow were camped the leading members of the Raven's gang—Edward Morrison (the Raven), John Everall, John Shea, Robert Chilty, James Bryant, and John Marshall, where they had taken shelter after having robbed Captain Horsley's farm of some valuable stock and a large sum of money, under the following circumstances:—
Captain Horsley was awakened by the continued barking of his dogs. He rose, and went out on to the verandah, when three men suddenly rushed at him, and compelled him to surrender. They then took him back to his bedroom, where they made him lie down upon the bed and cover his face with a pillow.
The Captain and Mrs. Horsley were then informed that if either of them moved they would be shot instantly.
The bushrangers next demanded the keys, with which they opened drawers, cabinets, and cupboards, and helped themselves to jewellery, money, and plate, when they decamped, taking with them also several valuable horses, besides sheep and cattle.
As this raid was likely to cause some stir in the district, the Raven's gang had retired with their plunder to Dead-man's Hollow, the whereabouts of which was at that time unknown to the police, and here they were joined by John Fitch, who was none other than the man who had represented himself to George Stirling as the shepherd from the outback station, and who had spoken to him about the bushrangers.
Morrison and Fitch were, in fact, partners in the proceeds of the robberies which they from time to time committed, and Fitch, having viewed the booty obtained from Captain Horsley's, made the following proposition, to the Raven's no little astonishment.
"I'll give my share and more," he said, "for a job that'll cost you nothing, and is an easy one besides."
The Raven pricked up his ears at this, and an evil smile came over his face as Fitch continued.
"There's a girl at a farm not far from here," whispered Fitch, "that I used to know in England. She's got married now, or thinks she is, to a man named James New, and the name of their place is Rosebank. Well, I want her, d'ye see, for I reckon she's more mine than any man's, seein' that she was my wife first."
But the Raven was not to be taken in after this fashion.
"If she's yer wife, why don't yer take her then?" he said. "The law'd give her to you, wouldn't it!"
"Well," answered Fitch, "it's this way. There might be some difficulty in proving the marriage, and some might say it wasn't legal. Anyhow, I want her fetched here, and then I'll soon let her know if I'm her master or not. It's an easy job; there's no one at the place except two softies, who'll make no resistance if they're taken on the hop, for they suspect nothing. Come, what do you say! There's my share of the swag, and fifty pounds in gold if you bring her here and hand her over to me by this day week."
"It's a deal," said the Raven; and so the bargain was concluded.
LIFE at Rosebank had resumed its ordinary course, and, since the night of the conversation about the bushrangers, no further allusion (at James' particular request) had been made to the subject.
"It only frightens the wife," he said to George, "to talk about such things. Better let sleeping dogs lie, and not look for trouble before it comes."
But George, although, in deference to his partner's wish, he kept his fears to himself, could not help feeling uneasy.
One morning, when James and his partner George were in the cultivation paddock, at some little distance from the house, they were surprised to see four men riding in the direction of the homestead, and, as it flashed upon them that a party of this sort could only mean a raid, they started to run for the house, which they reached breathless, just as the visitors had reined in their horses in front of the verandah, upon which Jane stood, with her boy clinging to her in terror, while she gazed with startled eyes at the intruders.
"Well, mates," began James, boldly, for he thought it best to put a brave face on the matter, "is there anything I can do for you?"
"Not much that we can't do for ourselves," replied one, who appeared to be the leader of the gang.
"It's a bit rough to come up to a man's place like this," continued James, still pretending to ignore what he felt must be the reason of their visit.
"It'll be a bit rougher before you get through with it, I guess," replied the bushranger, for such James knew him to be. "Come—hands up!" he added, drawing his pistol, and presenting it within a few inches of James' breast, while his mates covered George and Jane with their firearms. "Take it quiet, and you'll come to no harm; resist, and yeu've looked your last upon this world, whatever may be your chances in the next."
George thought regretfully of his pistols in the bedroom, for he would dearly have liked to have made a fight for it; but, as it was, there was nothing for it but to submit, and very soon both he and James were securely bound, each to a verandah post, where they stood helpless, and at the mercy of the robbers.
"If it's money you want," said James, "there ain't much of it in the house, but what there is you may take. There's £9 in my desk in that little room off the verandah, and the key is in my coat-pocket hanging up behind the door. I won't say you're welcome to it, for I can ill spare it; but take it, and I promise that no word shall be given of this robbery to the police. I am a quiet man. I interfere with none, and all I ask is to be left in peace."
"It ain't money we're after," answered the bushranger, meaningly, "though I'll take that £9, for money is always useful."
"Not money?" replied James. "Horses I have none, except the draught horses and the boy's pony, which would be no good to you, I fancy," he added, trying to smile.
"It ain't horses neither," replied the bushranger.
"What then?" asked James, a chilling fear suddenly coming upon him.
"It's this young woman we want," answered the bushranger, pointing to Jane, who sank cowering at her husband's feet. "Her who has run away from the man who owns her, so it seems, who has sent us to fetch her back to him!"
"Why, man, what are you saying!" cried James, scarcely able to believe his ears, while George tugged at his bonds in a manner which threatened to carry away the post to which he was tied. "Jane is my true and lawful wife, and this is our boy. We have never harmed you. Why should you come here to interfere with us?"
"We ain't no call to say why we're here," said the bushranger, scowling. "But, what we've got to do is to take that young woman back to the man who claims her—and we're come to do it!"
But at this Jane clung to her husband, who, bound and helpless as he was, endeavored to console her, and it was not until the ruffians tore her from him that she realised she was indeed to be separated from her home and her child.
In a flood of tears, that would have moved less stony hearts, the wife and mother begged her captors to have some pity on her; but they only laughed, and told her she would enjoy a merry time with the gang at Dead-man's Hollow.
At the mention of this ill-omened place, James shuddered, for, in common with most of the colonists of that time, although he did not know its location, he had heard of the place, and of the outrages said to have been committed there; and he vowed that, if life was spared him, he would not rest until he had traced the gang to their lair, and revenged himself for the wrong they had done him.
"Farewell, dear husband!" cried Jane, as they bore her away, "death shall find me before I yield to those who would part us."
It was more than an hour before James and George obtained their release at the hands of a neighbor, who, riding by, happened to hear their cries for help, and by that time the bushrangers had obtained such a start as to make all chance of overtaking them hopeless. But the police were informed, and an expedition was arranged to follow the outlaws, and, if possible, effect a capture.
IT was said of John Fitch, at this time, that he began to show in his demeanour certain signs which it was afterwards urged on his behalf were proofs of his insanity.
His behaviour, indeed, became so strange that none were surprised when he suddenly left the farm at Campbell Town and came to Sydney. While in Sydney, at the house of Charles Hallewell, he left to keep an appointment he had made. This appointment, as subsequent events proved, appears to have been with Mrs. Jamieson.
Mrs. Jamieson, an elderly woman, residing at the corner of Kent-street and Margaret-place, had known Jane and her husband when they were resident in Sydney, and she had formed a liking for Jane, whose cruel fate had won her sympathy. It is also probable that she was acquainted with Fitch, and had some knowledge concerning him that would have been sufficient to cause his arrest. It is certain that when the news of Jane's abduction reached her, Mrs. Jamieson sent for Fitch, and that he came to Sydney for the purpose of seeing her, but all that happened at the interview will never be known.
Fitch was observed by Mr. Shalless, a builder, who resided in the neighbourhood, to be lurking about the door of Mrs. Jamieson's house, in a suspicious manner, for upwards of an hour and a half, as though undecided whether or not to go in, and he was finally seen by the same party to enter the house, when, suspecting the evil nature of his designs, Mr. Shalless ran up to the door and listened.
Presently he heard, as he afterwards described it, a noise like that of someone breaking a cocoanut with a hammer. Suspecting foul play, he procured the assistance of Mr. Jaques and others, by whom the house was surrounded, and the alarm given.
From an upstairs window, Fitch was observed to push aside the blind and look down on those below for a moment, when, on seeing that the house was watched, he hastily withdrew.
Now thoroughly alarmed for the safety of Mrs. Jamieson, those without, headed by Mr. Shalless and Jacques, forced an entrance into the house, where they were horrified to find Mrs. Jamieson lying with her head dreadfully cut, and her features battered almost beyond recognition.
Fitch, who was discovered on the premises, was taken to the lock-up, and on searching him a pocket-book was found on him containing money and bank notes. But—and here comes the most singular part of this strange and terrible affair—there were also found upon him six bank bills for fifty pounds each, drawn in his favor by his friends in England, and not yet presented for payment.
Robbery, therefore could not have been the motive for the deed, and the only conclusion to be arrived at was that Mrs. Jamieson must have threatened her murderer with disclosures of some kind if he did not reveal the whereabouts of Jane New, and take the necessary steps to restore her to her husband.
The feeling of indignation and horror which the news of the murder of Mrs. Jamieson aroused among the Sydney people was succeeded by a universal expression of surprise when it became known that Fitch had so large a sum of money upon him at the time, and to which he appeared to be honestly entitled.
The murder itself would probably not have excited much comment, for murder was, unfortunately, only too common in those days, and for a man such as Fitch to become a murderer seemed but a natural corollary to his career. But that he should risk his neck in such an apparently objectless crime, whilst possessing ample means wherewith to gratify his evil propensities, became a mystery which awakened an interest never before conceded to a criminal in New South Wales.
As might have been expected, in such a community, the moral aspect of the crime became absorbed in the more material money consideration attaching to it.
With almost Satanic ingenuity, Fitch had hitherto succeeded in avoiding the punishment due to his offences, for at no time had be been treated like the other convicts, and it seemed almost incredible that he should have placed himself beneath the shadow of the scaffold for no apparently adequate reason.
In the ordinary course of events, as the judge who subsequently tried him pointed out, Fitch would have been entitled to a pardon for his past misdeeds, and he might have ended his days in comfort, and even in comparative affluence. But all such considerations were thrown to the winds when opposition was offered to the plans he had formed, and when the desire to kill came upon him. What wonder then that men should stand aghast at such a crime? What marvel that popular belief should gain ground that Fitch had been instigated to the murder by the Evil One, who had led him to the brink of the precipice over which he had hurled him to his doom.
Amidst the excitement which prevailed, Fitch preserved a calm and unruffled exterior. He expressed no sorrow for what he had done, nor would he give the reason which prompted him to the deed.
Of his own situation he appeared to be wholly insensible, and this fact was regarded, as remarkable even among those who were accustomed to the study of criminology in its many varied forms, at the time of those dark days which are now happily forgotten, or at most have become but memories of the past.
AMONG the papers found upon Fitch was a rough tracing of the path to Dead-man's Hollow, the secret of which had been so jealously guarded by the bushrangers who made use of it. Whether it was the intention of Fitch to betray the gang to the police, and so obtain the Government reward offered for their capture, can only be surmised, but, possessed of this important clue, the constables, assisted by soldiers and volunteers, among whom were James New and George Stirling, lost no time in setting out to find the place which had hitherto evaded their most careful search.
Unaware of what had happened, the Raven's gang, believing themselves secure in their retreat, made no attempt to guard against surprise. They had for so long escaped capture that, with the recklessness of their class, they took no thought of the time when discovery would be inevitable, and at Dead-man's Hollow they indulged themselves in a manner which, on their bushranging excursions, they were careful to avoid.
It was among this boisterous crew that poor Jane was introduced after her abduction from Rosebank, but the Raven, being determined to carry out his part of the bargain with Fitch fairly, let it be known that Jane was not to be molested, and she was placed in a hut by herself, until the man to whom she owed every misfortune in her life should come to claim her.
A prey to the most dismal forebodings, Jane paced the circumscribed limits of her prison in a vain endeavor to form some plan of escape, and she vowed, more than once, that she would die by her own hand sooner than submit herself to the evil genius at whose instigation, she made no doubt, she had been brought to her present plight. That her husband and George would leave nothing undone to save her, she well knew, but what chance had they of finding this secret place, which had eluded the watchfulness of the police for so long?
Meanwhile the gang continued their revels, and occasionally the sound of laughter, or the verse of some ribald song, would reach the ears of the prisoner, who every moment dreaded the appearance of her abductor, which she had resolved would be the signal for her own death.
During the day of her capture, however, no one came to molest her, nor did she see any of the gang, save the one who brought her food, and whose behaviour, though surly, was civil enough, and when night came exhausted nature brought her some relief in sleep.
For same days the hours dragged wearily on, until late one afternoon she was startled by the noise of firearms.
John Everall was the first of the gang who noticed the approach of those who had come to take them, and he immediately ran with his intelligence to the hut in which the Raven had his quarters, and where he passed his time more soberly than his companions, by reason of which he had become their leader.
Rushing out of the hut and calling his men together, the Raven was confronted with the carbines of the soldiers, while a police officer called upon him, in the King's name, to surrender.
The answer was a volley, fired from the pistols and muskets with which the bushrangers were armed, and the fight then became general.
The attacking party, composed of twenty soldiers, the police, and the volunteers who accompanied them, far outnumbered the gang, who mustered but twelve all told; but they were desperate and determined men, without hope if captured, and therefore prepared to sell their lives dearly in their last stand. Had they not been taken unawares, it is doubtful if any would have been captured, but when the Raven, and some of the more prominent members of the band, had been shot dead, the others, finding themselves surrounded and outnumbered, surrendered, and were quickly secured.
Jane, locked in the hut, was unable to understand the firing, although she fervently prayed that it might mean a rescue. Presently she heard footsteps approaching the hut, and then the sound of blows upon the hut door warned her that an entrance would soon be effected.
Very pale, but unswerving in her resolve, Jane drew the knife, which, unknown to her captors, she had secreted about her person when she first caught sight of the men riding towards the homestead at Rosebank, and had guessed their purpose. A few moments and the door yielded, and then, with a cry of recognition, she felt herself caught in the welcome embrace of her husband's protecting arms.
Of the gang were captured James Bryant, John Marshall, and three recruits who had lately joined the bushrangers, Morrison (the Raven), John Everall, Robert Chitty, and four others being shot dead. Owing to the superior position occupied by the attacking party, the casualties on their side were confined to the wounding of two police constables.
It was in this manner that the valley, once known as Dead-man's Hollow, fell into the hands of the authorities, who, as time went on, constructed a fine road across it for the benefit of the settlers.
BETWEEN seven and eight o'clock on the morning of Thursday, January 18th, 1844, Mrs. Jamieson died from the effects of the murderous assault which had been made upon her, and, on the same day, an inquest was held at McKenzie's public-house, at the corner of Clarence-street and Margaret-place.
The excitement with which the news of this cruel murder had inspired the public mind was so intense as to make it necessary to provide special police protection for the accused during his conveyance from the gaol to the hotel at which the inquest was held. He had been the author of so many atrocious crimes, for the commission of which he had hitherto escaped such punishment as was commensurate with his guilt, that he appeared to consider himself immune from correction, and he bore himself with a callous indifference which was calculated to augment rather than allay the popular feeling against him.
After the Coroner's Court had been opened on the day of the inquest, the following jury was empanelled:—Alfred Sandeman (foreman), James Harden, Henry Vaughan, Clement Peate, John Hayes, Charles Sweedie, Michael Brignell, William Clarke, Jas. Briars, John White, John Lakin Drew, William Robertson, John Walsh, and Charles Williams.
The Coroner having briefly addressed the jury on the nature of the case they were about to investigate, and reminding them that they were to be guided entirely by the evidence, directed them to view the body.
After viewing the body, the jury returned to the court-room, when the following evidence was taken:—
John Shalless, builder, Margaret-place, deposed:—
I recollect the night of the 6th instant. I had been very unwell all day, and about 10 p.m. had taken some medicine and was about to go to bed. Mrs. Shalless took the keys out of the room doors, and, on inquiring the reason, I was informed that was was done by way of precaution, as the boy had stated there was a suspicious-looking man lurking about.
On looking out of the door I saw the prisoner standing on the bank opposite the door. I told Mrs. Shalless he was, in my opinion, after no good, and I would watch him.
I then went out on to the verandah, and saw him walking up and down. He occasionally stood still, but always moved when anyone passed.
I observed to my wife that the deceased seemed to have a good run of business. About ten minutes to twelve I saw her at the door, and I saw the prisoner go up and say something to her, when she went in, and he followed, and pushed the door about three parts close, so that I could not see him.
I then saw deceased round the corner with something like a pot or measure in her hand. A woman then entered and came out again; after which a man went in, and the prisoner came out and began walking up and down as before. He sat down on the curb-stone near the house, and I saw him pelt off a white dog belonging to deceased.
The people who had been in the shop having come out, Mrs. Jamieson came to the door again, and was in the act of wiping her hands, when the prisoner again went up and spoke to her, and followed her in, pushing the door to as before.
I remarked to Mrs. Shalless, "There is that fellow going in again to that old woman's shop. I hope he does not mean to rob her." Soon after this I saw the door slammed to, and heard a noise of something falling, as it were, on the floor. I told my wife I feared he was murdering her; ran over and found the door locked, and heard some strokes given as of someone breaking a cocoanut with a hammer.
I heard no further noise after this, but, in looking up, I saw a light moving upstairs, and the prisoner at the window. He drew aside the blind and looked out. I then gave an alarm to the old watchman who was passing that there was a man in the house who had murdered a woman, and who was upstairs rifling the house, and asked him to give me assistance; but he declined doing so, saying, "Well, what is that to me?" He stood by all the rest of the time, but I did not see him render any assistance.
I then ran up to this house, having got assistance, and saw the light put out upstairs. We agreed to break open the back-door, at the same time keeping a watch in front. After an entrance had been effected by the back-door, the prisoner was found standing inside, behind the front door, when he was secured.
On entering the house I found the deceased lying insensible, covered with blood, which was flowing profusely from some wounds in her head. There was no other person in the shop besides the prisoner and the deceased, but there were two children in bed upstairs.
Richard C. Smethurst deposed:—
I was passing down Margaret-place about twelve o'clock, when, hearing an alarm given that there was a man murdering Mrs. Jamieson, I ran home, got a stick, and returned.
An axe was obtained from outside the house with which the watchman broke in one of the panels of the back door. We forced open the back door, and found Mrs. Jamieson lying bleeding and insensible. A light was obtained, and the prisoner was found standing behind the front door. On being secured, he called out twice, "Oh, don't strike me!" The police then came and handcuffed the prisoner, and took him away.
On going upstairs I found no one in the house but the two children of the deceased, who were in bed crying. A doctor was sent for, and I then left, having searched the house for the weapon with which the injuries to Mrs. Jamieson had been inflicted, but found only a stick.
Alfred Jaques, a grocer, Barrack-lane, deposed:—
Being alarmed by a cry of "Murder!" about midnight, I repaired to the premises occupied by deceased, accompanied by the watchman. We went to the side door, which we struck with our sticks, demanding who was within, but got no answer. The watchman, Mr. McKenzie, and myself then forced an entrance by the door leading into the yard.
After the first stroke on the door I heard a groan, and also the step of a man's foot, it being too heavy for that of a woman. I passed through the back of the front door, where I found the prisoner standing. On seizing him, he made no resistance, but asked me twice not to strike him.
On lifting up Mrs. Jamieson, I saw her skull was fractured, and a part of the brain protruding. I afterwards picked up a portion of her skull. I and others then searched about an hour for the instrument which had inflicted the wound, but found nothing likely to have inflicted it.
About two hours after this I saw a tomahawk handed downstairs with fresh marks of blood on it. The blood was quite fresh and damp on it. The tomahawk now produced is the one I saw. There are marks of blood on the side and on the handle, but the hairs are gone; they were on the edge of it. My wife found the tomahawk under the bed of the deceased, between the battens and the mattress.
Mrs. Jaques, wife of Alfred Jaques, deposed:—
About two hours after Mrs. Jamieson had been removed upstairs, while searching for the instrument which had inflicted the wounds upon her, it occurred to me to look under the bed, when, on looking at the foot of it, and lifting up the mattress, I found the tomahawk produced, one side of which was splashed with blood.
I was next-door neighbor but one to deceased.
Charles Hallowell, of Clarence-lane, deposed:—
The prisoner had lodged with me for about five weeks up to the night of his apprehension. This tomahawk is my property. It has been mine for some years. It lay in my backyard, to which the prisoner had access.
Hearing the alarm of murder, I went to the house of the deceased, and was there when the tomahawk was found. I knew it immediately. When I last saw it in my yard, it had no marks of blood such as these now on it. It had not been used for months.
When the prisoner last left my house, it was about seven o'clock on the morning of the day when Mrs. Jamieson was murdered. He was introduced to me by Mrs. Craig, to whom he was to be married, as a free man. He told me he was the owner of the Harriet coaster, and said he was merely waiting till he got the vessel sold to pay me for his five weeks' lodging. While he lodged with me, his conduct was always regular. Mr. Lewis, of the Harriet, has since told me that the prisoner was a ticket-of-leave holder once employed by him.
Mrs. Elizabeth Brown, residing at Kent-street, deposed:—
I went into the shop of deceased about twenty minutes to twelve on the night of the murder. On entering I saw the prisoner behind the door. I said to Mrs. Jamieson, "You have got a man behind the door." She replied by a short laugh. The prisoner was that man. He got a bottle of vinegar, bade her and me good night, and went away.
I used to mangle and mend for deceased. This is her pocket-book. I know it by the mending on this corner. I know deceased used to have money. She has frequently changed notes for me.
I have been one of those who attended on the deceased. I saw her expire at half-past seven this morning, and had been with her previously at half-past five. The body viewed by the jury is that of Mrs. Jamieson.
Other evidence having been given to the same effect, the prisoner was called upon for his defence. He asked the jury not to be led away by anything they had heard out of doors. As a jury of free-born Englishmen, he trusted they would give him a fair trial, which it was the right of everyone, circumstanced as he was, to demand at their hands; for if they were guided by anything they had heard, or which they had read in the newspapers about him, he would not be receiving that justice he had a right to expect.
The jury, after a minute's consultation, returned a verdict of "wilful murder" against the prisoner, John Fitch, who was committed to take his trial.
After the warrant of committal had been made out, a constable informed the coroner that the inspector, fearing that the crowd about the place would lay violent hands on the prisoner for the purpose of showing their detestation of his conduct, had sent a hackney coach to convey him to gaol.
The Coroner said that he could not assent to any such arrangement, as there were circumstances in the previous history of the prisoner which might lead some persons to suppose that he was favored on that account. From what he could judge of the public feeling on the subject, if there had been no constables to remove him, the people themselves would escort him to gaol. He then directed him to be removed through the streets in custody of two or more constables, like any other prisoner.
A second message on the same subject was afterwards communicated to the coroner, in consequence of the crowd without, numbering some five hundred persons, continuing to manifest feelings of hostility against the prisoner, upon which the coroner left it to the police to use their own discretion.
A few minutes later a coach drove up, and the prisoner was hurried into it amidst the hootings, hissings, and other marks of disapprobation from those who had assembled to hear the result of the inquest.
THE case came on for trial in the Supreme Court—criminal side, on Wednesday, January 24th, 1844, before his Honor Mr. Justice Burton, and the following jury: John Tringcombe, foreman; William Woolscott, James Lethbridge, Templar James Upton, George Talbott, George Venables, Frederick Thompson, James Urquhart, W. J. H. Thorne, Peter Henry Valentine, John Brown Viles, and George Tabor.
John Fitch was placed at the bar indicted for the wilful murder of one Ellen Jamieson, by striking her on the head with a tomahawk, on the sixth of January instant, thereby inflicting divers mortal wounds, of which the said Ellen Jamieson expired on the eighteenth of the said month.
A second count of the indictment charged the prisoner with having committed the assault, which caused the death of the said Ellen Jamieson, by forceably casting her on the ground, and beating her with his hands and feet.
Mr. Lowe, who appeared as counsel for prisoner, endeavoured to oppose some technical objections, which were overruled by the Bench. He then endeavoured to procure a postponement of the trial on the affidavit of the prisoner setting forth the absence of one essential witness, but, the affidavit being defective, his Honor would not entertain the proposal, and the trial was consequently proceeded with.
The Attorney-General then opened the case on behalf of the Crown, remarking that when they had heard the information read, and found the prisoner at the bar was indicted for so serious a charge as that of murder, a charge which, if proved, would entail the forfeiture of his life—be presumed that he need scarcely caution the jury against allowing themselves to be influenced by any reports which they might have heard out of Court.
They had heard an affidavit read in support of an application for a postponement, one of the reasons for which was the excitement alleged to exist in the public mind, at the present time, to such an extent as probably to prevent the prisoner from having a fair and impartial trial.
This statement, perhaps, alluded to the publication in the newspapers of the evidence and proceedings at the Coroner's inquest, which had been held upon the body of the unfortunate deceased; and, although it must be admitted that the publication of proceedings of this description did much good, it could not be denied, on the other hand, that they were calculated to produce much evil; and the greatest evil probably of all was its possessing the public mind with a chain of evidence and circumstances which might not be made evident in the trial, and then perhaps create a prejudice against the prisoner.
If any of the jury had read the reports alluded to, they must dismiss them wholly from their minds, and form their opinion solely upon the evidence which he, the Attorney-General, might bring under their notice, by which evidence alone the case must stand or fall.
He presented the case to them, not as one of peculiar interest, but as an ordinary case of murder; a crime, he was sorry to say, too common in this colony; for although the prisoner might have acquired a sufficient notoriety to occasion a crowd of persons to come to the Court for the purpose of hearing his trial, there was no reason why any distinction should be made upon that ground between this and any other case of a similar description.
The Attorney-General then went into a detail of the circumstances of the case, and concluded by saying that, if the instructions with which he had been furnished were to be depended upon, he would be able to fix the guilt of the prisoner beyond the possibility of doubt.
On the part of the prosecution several witnesses were then examined, and the same facts were brought out as those disclosed at the Coroner's inquest up to the time of his arrest.
After the arrest, and on getting to the watch-house and searching him, a woman's pocket book was found upon him, containing ten shillings, and eighteen sixpences. The searchers also found upon the prisoner a bag containing £4/2/8 in silver, one pound in gold, six one-pound notes, and one five-pound note, the whole of which money had been concealed on various parts of his person. Besides this money, they found on the prisoner six bank bills for £50 each, drawn in the prisoner's favor, and, as yet, unpresented.
The tomahawk was sworn to by Mr. and Mrs. Jaques, as the one which was found on the premises, and the pocket-book was likewise sworn to by Mrs. Brown as having belonged to the deceased.
To prove that the deceased had lost her life from the injuries she had received, Mr. Jones, of Jamieson-street, the surgeon who had been first called to the unfortunate woman, was examined, and, after describing the nature of the wounds, and the probability of their having been inflicted by such an instrument as the tomahawk produced, gave it as his decided opinion that her death had been produced by those wounds.
This closed the case for the Crown.
AFTER the case for the Crown had been closed, Mr. Robert Lowe rose to address the jury on the prisoner's behalf. The learned counsel was at this time one of the leaders at the Bar in New South Wales, and afterwards, as Lord Sherbrook, he obtained a high place in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain.
It happened also that he had been a schoolfellow of the prisoner's at Winchester, and surely no greater object-lesson could be presented than the contrast in the position of these two men at the time of the trial. The one, by industry and intelligence, honored and prosperous, and destined to become a peer of the realm; the other, by self-indulgence and dissipation, an oft-time convicted felon, now pleading for his life at the bar of his country.
Mr. Lowe, in addressing the jury, said that after the shocking details which had been laid before them by the witnesses called on behalf of the Crown, it was not his intention to recapitulate those harrowing circumstances.
It was the duty of the Judge to lay the evidence impartially before them, and to comment upon its various bearings, and he would leave the evidence, accompanied by the prisoner's denial of his guilt, in the hands of his Honor, confident that, in addressing them upon it, he would not fail to lay the case before them in as merciful a light towards the unfortunate prisoner as, consistently with his duty, he could do. His Honor would tell them that if the slightest doubt should arise in their minds as to the prisoner's guilt, they would be bound to throw all the benefit of that doubt into the scale of mercy. But, as he had said before, it was not his intention to enter into a circumstantial denial, for the duty which devolved upon him that day was of a very different kind; and he would endeavor to show that, even supposing, for the sake of argument, the statement of all the preceding witnesses had been true, the prisoner was still one of those persons for whom laws had not been made, and who, although, for the peace and welfare of society, he ought to be placed under severe restraint, ought not to be held responsible for his actions.
It was not for the good of society that the life of any man, who could not be held legally responsible for his actions, should be taken; and he must most earnestly impress it on the minds of the jury that they did not sit there merely as the avengers of blood. It was not because a murder had been committed, accompanied by the terrible particulars with which the evidence of the Crown had rendered them so familiar, that they were necessarily called upon to avenge that murder by delivering a verdict which should deprive another fellow-creature of life; for, if any circumstances should have arisen which might reasonably lead them to the conclusion that the prisoner, provided he committed the crime at all, had labored at the time under a condition of mind which rendered him unable to control his own actions, or had acted under an invincible and unavoidable necessity, they would be doing their duty to their country by at once acquitting him of the crime laid to his charge.
He would briefly state his own views as to the state of the prisoner's mind, and would leave it to the jury to determine whether, being so circumstanced, he ought to be held accountable for his actions.
The human mind was so divided in its various faculties that it was not necessary to constitute insanity for the person laboring under that misfortune to betray a loss of all his intellect; for one faculty might become impaired, vitiated, or, indeed, totally destroyed, without affecting the strength of the others, and it was very common to find that a person who was perfectly insane on some points, was, in most others, fully possessed of his mental powers.
It had been the declared opinion of the most competent enquirers into the nature of the human mind, that the mind could only be affected by disease in the brain, and if disease existed in that portion of the brain wherein the human will held its seat, while the other portion of the brain in which the intellect of the patient was contained was free from any such disease, it would follow that the person so circumstanced might, with a full knowledge of what he was doing, feel compelled—irresistibly compelled—to crimes which, if a perfectly free agent, he would be the last to commit.
The prisoner was of a noble family, and began life with such fair prospects that he was promoted to the rank of Commander in the British Navy, for his gallantry in the service of his country, and it could scarcely be believed, that, with these fair prospects, with the high Parliamentary influence which the prisoner undoubtedly possessed, with every motive in short to induce an integrity and probity of action, he would have plunged into such self-created vicissitudes unless laboring under some mental infirmity which paralysed his better nature.
The impulse under which the prisoner had acted, if really guilty of the crime laid to his charge, might be almost designated as one of a childish nature, for no man in the possession of his faculties would have perpetrated such an offence as this, with almost the certainty of immediate detection; which certainly it was clear, from the nature of the evidence adduced on behalf of the Crown, the prisoner must have been fully aware of. It was clear that a man who acted in this way must have been under the influence of an uncontrollable desire to do the deed for which he was now called upon to answer, for it was easy to conceive that if any determined and experienced ruffian had been bent upon a similar crime, he would have taken much better care to secure himself from being found out.
After reviewing the evidence, and dwelling upon the fact that, since the accused was possessed of a large sum, in money, of his own, robbery could not have been the motive for the crime, the learned advocate went on to say that he was aware of the narrow imagination of our forefathers, which would confine the attention of the jury to the simple fact of whether a person charged did or did not commit a crime of which he was accused; but he could only hope for the dawning of a brighter day, when their attention would be extended also to a full inquiry into the motive which had led to that crime.
In conclusion, he might tell them that, while holding in their hands two of the attributes of God—the power of giving life, or of awarding death, they should take upon themselves two others of those heavenly attributes—justice and mercy; and, tempering the one with the other, should determine whether, after a careful investigation, they could believe that a man, with the great advantages originally possessed by the prisoner, could have fallen, step by step, into the lowest depths of disgrace, unless urged on by some restless demon of insanity.
He would, with these remarks, leave the case in the hands of the jury, confident that they would divest themselves of any impressions which they might have received out of doors, and would return a fair and impartial verdict. If they found the prisoner guilty of the fact, and yet believed him to be impelled to the crime he had committed by an irresistible impulse of the mind, they would be running counter to the decisions of the juries in England in similar cases, if they did not give him the benefit of that opinion. He trusted, however, that a jury of the colony would be fully capable of coming to an impartial judgment upon the intention of a person so circumstanced as the prisoner, and would not award to him that severe punishment which the law still retained for persons who had committed the crime of murder in the full knowledge of its nature, and not from impulse or necessity.
This closed the ease for the defence.
AT the conclusion of the address, which Mr. Lowe delivered with much impassioned earnestness on behalf of the prisoner, his Honor, Mr. Justice Burton, began his charge to the jury, in which he told them that they would have to determine, in the first instance, whether the deceased actually came to her end by the injuries described in the information. Secondly, whether the prisoner at the bar was the person who had inflicted those injuries; and, thirdly, whether, if such was the case, he was, at the time of committing the act, in such a state of mind as to be accountable to the law for his actions. As this last question was beyond doubt the most material one in the present case, he felt it to be his duty to offer a few observations upon that point.
It had been suggested in the prisoner's defence that he was of a character likely to commit crime through the influence of an overpowering inward impulse, and that, on this ground, he was not to be held accountable for his actions, but it was the first time that he had ever heard a doctrine of this kind broached in a Court of Justice. It was indeed a material ingredient to constitute a crime in the eye of the law that the person who committed that crime should be in possession of his mental faculties, for, if he had no mind, he was without responsibility.
To place a person in this position, however, it was not merely necessary that he should be a lunatic, but that he should have been a lunatic at the time when he committed the crime, for, even if he was without his senses at times, and had committed the crime of which he stood charged during a lucid interval, he would be liable to such punishment as the crime might be deemed to merit.
The protection, however, which the law thus extended to lunatics, or persons who were not in possession of their powers of reasoning between right and wrong, did not extend itself to those whose will was so depraved as to lead them to the commission of crimes for which no other excuse than that of a depraved will could be found.
The only excuse for crime was that of an actually unsound mind at the time of its perpetration; and whatever attention so abtruse a question as the formation of the human mind might have created among the philosophers of Europe, he apprehended that a simple question of facts, propounded to twelve sensible men, might be very easily determined upon without resorting to any such abstract reasoning.
The fact for them to determine was, whether the prisoner, if he committed the murder, was, at the time he did so, of sound mind, and, if the slightest doubt upon this subject existed, they would, of course, lean to the side of mercy, and give the prisoner the benefit of that doubt. They must, however, be careful to throw far from their consideration any question of justification on the ground that the prisoner was impelled to the commission of the crime by the insistence of an inate desire, or, as it was argued, a necessity for doing so; for if it was held that there was to be a palliation for crimes of the most dreadful nature; that all men who had suffered themselves to be led away by the temptations of the Evil One, were to find an excuse in the fact of their having yielded to those temptations—a man would only have to be bad enough to listen to every suggestion thus prompted to commit offences of the gravest nature with perfect impunity.
The very terms of the information which they had heard read were that the prisoner, "not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigations of the Devil," had committed the crime laid to his charge, and it could not therefore be contended that the offender was to be exonerated from the consequences of his offence by the very reasons which were alleged to have actuated him in committing it.
He could scarcely suppose that the jury would suffer themselves to be led away by a doctrine like that, so monstrously injurious in its tendency; the only question for them to determine, in the event of their believing the prisoner guilty of the attack upon the deceased, being whether he was or was not insane, in the true sense of the term, at the time he did so, and they would have to draw their conclusions upon this point from the facts stated in the evidence.
His Honor then read over the notes of the evidence, and commented briefly upon the leading points in the testimony of each witness.
When his Honor had concluded his summing-up, the jury, without leaving the box, returned a verdict of "Guilty," and, the Attorney-General having prayed the judgment of the Court, the prisoner was asked if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him.
Fitch having made a short rambling statement on his own behalf, in which, as usual, he referred to the respectability of his family, as though that was an excuse for any crime of which he might have been found guilty, the proclamation for silence was made by order of the Judge, who proceeded, in the most solemn and impressive manner, to pronounce upon the prisoner sentence of death.
His Honor said that, from the prisoner's inate knowledge of his own guilt, he must from the very first have contemplated the probability of receiving the sentence he was about to pass upon him as a well-merited reward for so heinous an offence as that which he had committed. He must own he had been somewhat astonished at hearing an application to postpone the trial on the ground that a witness was absent who could prove an alibi, for it must be quite plain to all who had heard the evidence which had been given that day, that there could be no such witness, and that the fault of the prisoner had been established beyond a doubt.
The counsel for the defence, in his zeal for the course he had undertaken, endeavoured to secure the prisoner from the consequences of his crime upon the ground that he had been, at the time, labouring under an impulse, so powerful as to leave him no resource but to follow its vicious dictates; but let it not be imagined that any such excuse as that could be admissible. It was indeed a direct impeachment upon the wisdom and goodness of Providence, by declaring that the Almighty Power had created beings whom He exposed wilfully to temptations without giving them power of self-control.
If wickedly disposed men would yield step by step to the approaches of the Evil One, they must expect to be led, at last, by the Tempter to that precipice down which it was his desire to cast them, but, in order to avoid this, they must resist the temptation in its infancy, and they would resist it successfully.
It had been his lot to know the prisoner on Norfolk Island, at which time he was applying for permission to occupy a solitary cell, in order to guard himself from the resentment of the other prisoners on the Island, who accused him of betraying a conspiracy in which they said he had previously joined. He was sent there upon a charge of forgery, an offence, at that time, capital; but, since then, he had been brought to Sydney, under the operation of some of the local acts, and had received indulgences.
The time was probably not far distant when he might have been pardoned altogether, when he might have spent the remainder of his days in freedom and comfort; but by his adherence to evil courses, and his total disregard to all the warnings he had received, he had cut himself off from all hope, and brought dishonour upon an illustrious name.
The prisoner complained that he had not been allowed sufficient time to prepare for his earthly trial, but, with the full knowledge of what he was about, he had given the unfortunate deceased far less time to prepare for the more awful arraignment before the bar of her Maker; and he must make good use of the time still left him, as his days were now numbered. It was not for him to stop the source of mercy, but he could see no possible reason for extending it to so aggravated a case as that of the prisoner; His Honor then proceeded to pass upon the prisoner sentence of death.
Throughout the trial, Fitch had maintained the same indifferent and defiant manner which he had adopted since his arrest, and he left the Court with a firm step.
This trial, which excited great public interest, lasted from ten in the morning until half-past four o'clock in the afternoon; during the whole of which time the Court was crowded.
WITH that spirit of obstinacy which had been characteristic of his peculiar temperament during the whole of his eventful career, Fitch, although sentenced to death, and with no hope of reprieve, still stubbornly refused to believe that the death penalty would be carried out upon him. His state of mind, with regard to this apparently fixed and settled delusion, was so remarkable that it excited the curiosity of the medical fraternity as a new phase in the study of criminology, and a number of visitors came to the prisoner's cell, in the Woolloomooloo Gaol, where he lay heavily ironed, as is the custom with condemned prisoners after sentence.
The clergy also were unremitting in their attendance upon him, in the hope that they might bring him to a due appreciation of his position. But to all such kindly-meant endeavors he was obdurate, nor would he listen to any except those who had undertaken his defence, and who were even now engaged in working up an appeal against his conviction.
Mr. Lowe, perhaps in remembrance of his school days, when Fitch and he took part in the same work and play together, threw himself heart and soul into an effort to save his former schoolfellow from the gallows, and even went the length of incurring what almost amounted to a reprimand from the Court in his over-zealous endeavor to defeat the ends of justice.
Fitch was tried and sentenced on the 24th January, 1844, and on the 30th of the same month an appeal was made to the three judges sitting in Banco upon certain points of law, which appeal, however, was not upheld, and the conviction was accordingly confirmed.
From this time, and when the result of the appeal was made known to him, the prisoner's demeanour exhibited a strange admixture of despair and hope. Even after the Executive Council had determined that no mercy could be extended to him, he still believed that he would be allowed to live, and it was not until the Governor of the gaol informed him that he had received the official instructions for his execution that he gave up hope.
On the Sunday morning preceding his execution he was taken, ironed as he was, from the condemned cell, and placed in the condemned pew to hear the condemned sermon preached by the Rev. Mr. Elder, and this appeared to have a most extraordinary effect upon him.
Immediately on being conducted back to his cell, he wrote to the Governor of the gaol in the following terms:—
10th February, 1844.
In the presence of Almighty God, Amen, I am guilty of the horrid deed for which I am to suffer death; and may the Lord have mercy upon my soul, Amen.
That this confession, tardy though it was, must have brought some consolation to the unhappy man is evidenced by the eagerness which he now displayed to make further admissions of other crimes which he had committed, and which he now professed to have repented of.
Not content with making verbal disclosures to the ministers of religion who visited him, he left behind him a collection of notes, letters, and manuscript from which it has been found possible to compile the foregoing story of his life, and, secretive as he had always been through the whole of his criminal career, he now seemed anxious to lay bare every passage in his downward course. Thus the weary days passed until the last day, when, having seen those friends who had attended him for the last time in his cell, he was brought from the cell to the scaffold.
The scaffold had been erected, as was the custom at the time, outside the gaol wall, around which a vast concourse of people, including many women and children, had assembled from an early hour in the morning.
A considerable detachment of military, aided by mounted police, were on the spot to preserve order, for it had been rumoured that it was the intention of the condemned man to make a full confession of his guilt in public, which was the reason for the numerous assemblage.
At nine o'clock precisely, the gaol bell commenced to toll, and its funereal sound appeared to inspire with awed silence the waiting crowd.
At about two minutes past nine, the melancholy procession appeared, the wretched culprit seemingly overwhelmed with a sense of his situation. Horror and dismay were depicted on his pale and emaciated countenance, as, with difficulty, he dragged his attenuated frame towards the last scene of his eventful and guilty life. On either side of him were the Rev. Mr. Elder, and the Rev. Mr. Sharp; and following him, the Rev. Dr. Ross, and other religious friends who had attended him in his last days.
The condemned man walked slowly, apparently insensible to all around him. At the foot of the scaffold he knelt with the clergymen, and prayers were offered up. He then attempted to address the assemblage, but the state of terror and inanimation to which he was reduced, made the effort unavailing, and, after shaking hands with the reverend gentlemen who had attended him, he slowly mounted the scaffold and prepared to meet his fate.
Thus ended the career of John Fitch, who may well be described as Australia's most remarkable criminal, for he was the author of so many atrocious crimes, that a detailed history of them would fill no inconsiderable volume.
His life, which had begun with honor, and with every prospect of earthly advancement and happiness, had ended in infamy on the scaffold, a melancholy example of how the best gifts of nature and the brightest promises which might be looked for from gentle birth, and the possession of courage and talent, may be rendered fruitless and unavailing when uncontrolled passion is permitted to overrule the promptings of reason and moderation.
LOWE'S line of defence, in his unavailing attempt to save Fitch from the scaffold, subsequently involved him in a controversy with the press, which charged him with "promulgating, in the Supreme Court, doctrines opposed to the first principles of Christianity."
"If Mr. Lowe's speech to the jury," wrote the leader-writer in the Sydney Gazette, "meant anything, it meant this: that when a man commits a crime of peculiar atrocity, and under circumstances which good men deem inadequate provocation, he must, on that very account, have been 'unable to control his own actions.' This is a doctrine which we hold to be opposed to the first principles of Christianity—the moral responsibility of man. It is opposed likewise to the whole tenor of that sacred history which is designed to exemplify and demonstrate the depths of human depravity. If this doctrine be true—Cain was no murderer, Judas no traitor. The very enormity of their crimes was their sufficient vindication."
To this Lowe replied: "The argument I used was simply this: I wished to show that the man was insane. The judge refused a postponement of the trial. I was, therefore, unprepared with witnesses, which you seem to think, in some way or other, was my fault. I, therefore, had no resource but to argue from circumstances well known to everybody—the taint which prevailed in the prisoner's family, his own extraordinary downward career, and the peculiar atrocity of the case. Of these three arguments you have only questioned the last. You have represented the case as if I had said the prisoner committed a crime, and therefore he was mad; whereas, what I did say was, the prisoner belonged to a tainted family; nursed, as he himself said, in the lap of affluence, and brought up in the fear of God, he had plunged into one crime after another, till he had terminated his career by this last and darkest atrocity. I attributed this to insanity, and I stated, what is borne out by every writer on medical jurisprudence, that insanity was not necessarily attended by delusion; that there might be a moral insanity, whose seat was in the will, and which urged man to the commission of crime by an irresistible impulse. I have heard this doctrine repeatedly laid down by the most eminent physicians in London, on the most solemn occasions; and if you deny it, I can prove it by a cloud of medical authorities."
As the colony prospered, brighter days dawned for New South Wales. The infamous convict system was swept away, and a free people, governed by free institutions, began to work out the destiny of Australia that was to lead her to national glory.
James New and George, his partner, prospered exceedingly after the gold discovery, and the increase in population which it brought considerably enhanced the value of land and stock. In time both amassed wealth, and Jane became the head of a family which proved themselves among the most useful and respected of Australian colonists.
AS a sequel to the history of Jane New, the publication for the first time of extracts from the original despatches, letters, and documents relating to the application for a writ of habeas corpus made on her behalf to the Full Court in New South Wales, will doubtless prove of interest to those who have read the narrative, and are thus able to contrast the conditions of life under a military despotism with those which prevail in Australia at the present time.
After the trial and sentence to death of Jane New upon a false charge, and the subsequent quashing of that conviction by the Full Court. It was found that Governor Darling still claimed to exercise authority over this unfortunate woman, inasmuch as, having cancelled her assignment as servant to her husband, he asserted that she had once more become eligible for assignment to some other person, in accordance with the Governor's pleasure. The case of Jane New was made a test case upon this important point; important, not so much as regards the individuals concerned, although, as has been seen, it was the means of causing cruel injustice, but by reason of the power which the exercise of such authority would place in the hands of the Governor to ruin those settlers who might be opposed to his autocratic methods of government. At this time nearly all farm labor was performed by assigned servants, and if it was in the power of the Governor to cancel their assignments at will, and to re-assign them at his own pleasure, it will be seen at once that, for a settler to oppose the high-handed policy of the Government would have meant the withdrawal of that labor upon which he depended for the working of his land. The case of Jane New caused intense excitement among the colonists of that day, and the decision of the Full Court as to the Governor's power to cancel the assignment of servants, and to re-assign them at his pleasure, was watched with the keenest interest.
The following is a certified copy of the proceedings in this remarkable case, which have not before been available for publication:—
The Remarkable Case of Jane New, on a motion for a Habeas Corpus, before the Full Court.
Certified Copy of Proceedings.
In the Matter of Jane New.
Minute of the proceedings in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, on a motion for a Habeas Corpus to discharge the body of Jane New, a prisoner of the Crown, from the Factory at Parramatta. Extracted from the contemporaneous Notebook of James Dowling, Esq., one of the Assistant Judges of the Court. Vol. 15, fol. 93.
First Term, 10th Geo. 4 th.
Present: Forbes, C.J.: Stephen, J.; Dowling, J.
Ex parte, Jane New.
Mr Sydney Stephen had on a former day in this term, obtained a writ of Habeas Corpus to bring up the body of Jane, the wife of James New, from the female factory at Parramatta, where it was alleged she was unlawfully detained.
The prisoner, Jane New, was this day brought into Court, and the writ of Habeas Corpus, and return thereto, read.
Other documents and papers were read.
The principal circumstances of the case, admitted on both sides, were these: The prisoner had been tried and convicted before Dowling, J., at the last criminal sessions, of a capital felony. It appearing afterwards that her conviction had proceeded upon a statute not in force in this Colony at the time the offence was committed, the Judges were of opinion that her conviction was void. The prisoner had originally been convicted of felony at the Chester Sessions, and ordered to be transported from England for seven years, and was accordingly transported to Van Diemen's Land. After her conviction in this Colony was declared void, the Sheriff, by the direction of the Governor, removed her from the common gaol at Sydney, as a prisoner of the Crown, to the factory at Parramatta. Whilst the prisoner was a transported felon at Van Diemen's Land, the Lieutenant-Governor of that Settlement assigned her to James New, a free subject there residing, and allowed her to marry him. The prisoner was afterwards permitted to accompany her husband to Sydney, and, whilst residing there, she committed the offence of which she was afterwards erroneously convicted. Before she was removed to the factory at Parramatta, his Excellency the Governor of New South Wales revoked the assignment executed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land of the prisoner to her husband, under the 9th sec. of the statute 9th Geo. 4th. c. 83. Under these circumstances.
Mr. Wentworth and Mr. S. Stephen now moved, on the part of the husband. James New, that the prisoner Jane New be discharged, and delivered over to her husband and master, on the ground—first, that the Governor of this Territory had no power under the 9th sec. of the statute to cancel the assignment to a master of any prisoner of the Crown, except for the purpose of granting a temporary or partial remission of the original sentence; and, secondly, that at all events he could not cancel the assignment of a prisoner who had been transported from England to Van Diemen's Land, that being a separate and independent colony, not within the government or Jurisdiction of the Governor of New South Wales. These points were argued at some length.
Mr. Attorney-General (Baxter) and Mr. Solicitor-General (Sampson) appeared on the part of the Crown, and contended that the Governor of New South Wales had the absolute right, at his pleasure, to cancel the assignment to a master of a prisoner of the Crown, without reference to the remission of the original sentence. It is admitted that the prisoner now before the Court is a transported felon, whose sentence is unexpired, and therefore she cannot be discharged, if the Governor may revoke her assignment under the 9th Section of the New South Wales Act.
After pressing this point at some length, "I am Instructed" (said the Attorney-General) "to pray the decision of the Court upon this point not so much for this particular case as to guide the discretion of the Executive Government in other cases new under consideration."
Forbes, CJ.: May not this case be disposed of on another point? Is it necessary that we should give any opinion upon the effect and meaning of that important section. Involving as it does so many consequences? It is a question of considerable delicacy, and we wish to avoid the discussion of it unless in a case where no other question arises.
Mr. Attorney-General: I apprehend the question is necessarily involved in this case, and although your Honor suggests that there is another point on which the case may be disposed of, yet I must respectfully press for the decision of the Court upon the general question in order to guide the discretion of the Executive Government. It has been considered a doubtful point, and for the guidance of the Government it is most desirable that the matter should be set at rest.
Forbes, C.J.: Then, in that point of view, and understanding that our decision is for the purpose of informing the Government of our views of the clause and guiding its discretion in other cases, we shall take the matter into consideration, and give our opinion upon it, on an early date, although we think, as at present advised, that the case may be disposed of on another point.
At a later day the Court delivered its opinion, which has been forwarded to the Right Honorable the Secretary of State.
I certify that the above is a correct minute, in substance, of what took place in Court when the case of Jane New was brought under consideration.
(Signed) JAMES DOWLING.
An Assistant Judge.
The opinion of the Court briefly was that the Governor had not the power to revoke the assignment of a servant except for the purpose of granting a free pardon.
After the judgment of the Court had been given His Excellency Governor Darling addressed the following letter to the Judges:—
Copy letter from Governor Darling to the Judges of the Supreme Court,
Understanding that the view taken by your Honors of the 9th Section of the 9 Geo. 4, C 83, is contrary to the intentions of Parliament as signified to me in a despatch addressed to me by the Right Honorable the Secretary of State on the subject of the Allen Act, I request you will be pleased to furnish me with a report of the opinions which you severally expressed in the case of Jane New, as far as relates to the powers of the Governor of this colony to grant tickets-of-leave to convicts, or to withdraw assigned servants from their masters, it being my intention to submit your report to the Secretary of State, in order, if the Act be inconsistent with the intentions of Parliament, that the subject may again be brought under its consideration.
I have the honor to be, gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant
His Honor, The Chief Justice, and the Judges of the Supreme Court.
Extracts from Reply prepared by the Judges to the Governor's letter.
"We had the honor to receive your Excellency's letter desiring to be furnished with a report of the opinions severally delivered by us, in the case of Jane New, in order to the same being transmitted to the Secretary of State, and we have availed ourselves of the earliest respite afforded us from the pressure of our unusually heavy term to arrange our notes, and comply with your Excellency's request.
Referring to the extract from the despatch enclosed in your Excellency's communication to us, it appears that we have taken a different view of the New South Wales Act so far as relates to the Governor's power of revoking the assignment of servants from that entertained by the Right Honorable the Secretary of State.
For opinions emanating from so high a quarter, we shall always feel, as we have invariably shown, the greatest consideration and deference. Removed as we are from all means of communication with the advisers of Acts of Parliament, it will at all times afford us satisfaction to receive the opinion of His Majesty's Government, and we do not feel that any irreconcilable difficulty would be opposed to such communications from the nature of our oaths. We assume, however, that the obligations of our office, and the honor of his Majesty's Government, are inseparably united, and that his Majesty's Minister, in imparting his own views of the policy of any particular Act, would be the last to desire that his opinion should influence the judgment of the Bench, or interfere with the most important administration of the law.
The construction of Acts of Parliament is not a matter of mere discretion in the judges; there are certain rules by which the Court are guided in the interpretation of all new statutes, which are presumed to enter into the contemplation of the Legislature, and to form an implied part of their enactments; so that when such statutes come to be applied, they must be taken with reference to the pre-established rules of exposition. These rules are a part of the law of the land, and are binding upon our judgments, and after a renewed and anxious consideration of the Act in question we cannot arrive at any other satisfactory conclusion than that which we have already expressed in the case alluded to. If our interpretation of the Act be unfortunately at variance with the intention of Parliament, and it be deemed expedient that the Governor should possess the power of divesting the right of property which the inhabitants had previously acquired in their assigned servants, it will, we apprehend, become necessary to resort to the Legislature, in order that a power, which may involve in its exercise such important consequences to the inhabitants, should be expressly defined, and placed beyond all possibility of doubt. Had it been clear to us that Parliament intended to confer such a power upon the Governor, we should not have felt ourselves at liberty to question it, however different our views might have been of its policy. But entertaining the opinion that we do, and founded as our opinion is, in some measure, upon a consideration of the injurious consequences to which a different conclusion would lead, we trust that it will not be deemed out of place if we enter a little more at length into this branch of the subject.
The Judges then set out, at great length, their reasons for the conclusion at which they had arrived, and the letter concludes as follows:—
Such are the reasons which, together with those we have already assigned in delivering our judgment, have induced us to determine against the particular power claimed on behalf of the Governor. We repeat that had the Act been clear, we must have expounded it according to its plain intent, without entering into the reasons on which it might be founded. But as it is undoubtedly capable of different constructions, we are bound, by the rules of law, to give it that interpretation which, in our judgment, will best consist with the analogies of law, and conduce to the interests of the public.
The power of construing statutes is in the Judges, who have authority over all laws, and more especially over statutes, to mould them according to reason and convenience to the best and truest use. Judges have sometimes expounded the words of an Act of Parliament contrary to the text, to make them agree with equity and reason. The best rule of construing Acts of Parliament is by the common law, and by the course which that observes in other cases.
In conclusion, we would most respectfully suggest to your Excellency that every power which, in our opinion, it can be expedient to retain over the rights of masters with reference to their assigned servants, can be provided for by the Legislature of the colony without the necessity of resorting to Parliament.
Should your Excellency, however, still deem it necessary to submit the matter to the Secretary of State, we have to request that your Excellency will cause a copy of this letter to be transmitted, together with the reports which we have the honor to enclose.
Governor Darling, however, notwithstanding the explanations of the Judges with regard to the case of Jane New, was still determined upon referring the matter to the Home authorities, and in due course of time the following letter was received by the Chief Justice:—
I have the honor to transmit for your information, and that of the Assistant Judges of the Supreme Court, as directed by the Right Honorable the Secretary of State, the accompanying copy of a despatch, and its enclosure, which I have received by the ship Roslyn Castle.—I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient and humble servant.
His Honor the Chief Justice.
Copy despatch enclosed in Governor Darling's letter:—
I have received your despatch enclosing a report of the proceedings in the Supreme Court of New South Wales to the case of Jane New, with a copy of the judgment pronounced in that case by the Chief Justice, and two Assistant Judges.
His Majesty's Government having framed the enactment of the 9th Geo. 4, c. 83, sec. 9, and recommended it to Parliament, with the distinct intention of conferring on the Governors of the Australian Colonies an unlimited discretion to revoke the assignments of convicts, I did not receive without surprise the information conveyed by your despatch of the construction which the Judges of New South Wales had given to this part of the statute. On adverting to the reasons adduced in support of their opinion, my distrust of its accuracy was much increased, and I therefore desired my Under-Secretary, Mr. Horace Twiss, to investigate the subject more fully. The result of his inquiries was entirely to confirm my first impressions, and I now enclose, for your information, a copy of the paper drawn up by Mr. Twiss, which explains at length the grounds of my non-acquiescence in the opinion given by the Judges of New South Wales.
The importance of the subject induced me likewise to transmit your despatch with a copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, to His Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor-General, desiring them to report to me their opinion whether, under the 9th Geo. 4, c. 83, sec. 9, the Governor can revoke the assignment of servants of whose sentence it is not intended to grant any remission, general or partial.
In answer to this reference, I have received from the Attorney and Solicitor-General a Report, expressed in the following terms:—
"We are clearly of opinion that, under the 9th section of the 9th Geo. 4, c. 83, a Governor can revoke the assignment of a convict servant of whose sentence it is not intended to grant any remission, and we think that there is nothing, either in the context or the apparent policy of the Act, which militates against this construction."
When I advert, not only to the official situation, but at the same time also to the very high professional authority of the learned persons from whom this opinion proceeds, I cannot but regard it as conclusive upon the question under consideration.
It is important, also, to remark, that the opinions delivered by the Judges of New South Wales in the case of Jane New are destitute of the authority which would ordinarily attach to the judgments of the Supreme Court, because, as is distinctly admitted by Chief Justice Forbes and Mr. Justice Dowling, the extent of your power to revoke assignments was not necessarily brought under their consideration in that case.
Notwithstanding, therefore, the judgment which the Court has pronounced, you will proceed to carry the Act of Parliament into execution, according to the construction of its terms which the Attorney and Solicitor-General have sanctioned. Should the lawfulness of any measure which you may adopt, in the exercise of this authority, be brought into discussion in the Supreme Court, you will instruct the Colonial Law Officers of the Crown to sustain before that tribunal the rights of the Colonial Government, and for their assistance, you will place in their hands the paper prepared by Mr. Twiss on this subject. It may be hoped that when the Question shall be brought before the Court in a distinct and substantive form, they will alter an opinion, which, as hitherto given by them, can be considered only as extra-judicial. If so, the evil will have been repaired, and, I hope, without any lasting inconvenience. If, on the contrary, they adhere to their first impression, by deciding, under circumstances where the question shall clearly and distinctly arise for decision, that the Governor does not possess the power of revoking an assignment, except for the purpose of remitting the sentence, you will of course abstain from the further exercise of that authority until either the Judgment shall have been reviewed by His Majesty in Council, or the Law placed beyond doubt by the authority of Parliament.
You will transmit to the Chief Justice, for the information of himself and his colleagues, a copy of this despatch.
I have, etc.,
His Excellency Lieut-General Darling.
A true Copy.
The Judges of New South Wales, however, still adhered to their opinion that the Governor did not possess the arbitrary power over assigned servants which he claimed, and not long afterwards, to the great relief of the more liberal-minded among the colonists, Governor Darling was recalled.
As will be seen by the following opinion, expressed by well-known residents of the time, the state of society in New South Wales, described in the history of Jane New and her evil genius, John Fitch, is by no means exaggerated. Captain Robison, of the Royal Veterans, writes as follows:—
"In a short time I discovered such an organised system of public plunder going forward by various Government officers, as well as the employment of soldiers of the Buffs, upon Lieutenant-Governor Stewart's immense grants of several thousand acres of land close to the settlement of Bathurst for his own private emolument, that I reported the whole proceedings to Lieutenant-General Darling, as Governor and Commander of the Forces of the Colony."
It is probable that if Captain Robison had been better acquainted with the autocratic methods adopted by General Darling he would have hesitated before reporting what he conceived to be a dereliction of duty on the part of his superior officers; but, be that as it may, the only answer which his remonstrance received from the General was the following curt reply:—
April 3, 1827.
Captain Robison, of the Royal Veterans, will return to headquarters. Bathurst being discontinued as a separate district.
On his return from Bathurst to Sydney, Captain Robison halted for a night at the Government station at Emu Plains, and here he was shown certain irons, and chains, which he had seen applied by Governor Darlings orders, as instruments of punishment on the persons of two soldiers of the 57th Regiment by name Sudds and Thompson, and one of whom (Sudds) died five days after these irons had been placed on him.
"I tried them on," says Captain Robison in his statement, "and finding them to be of intolerable weight, peculiarly severe, and of unusual construction. I expressed to an officer, who was with me at the time, Lieutenant Christie of the Buffs, my strong disapprobation of the use of such oppressive instruments of torture, in which expression he, at that time, as strongly concurred.
"It may be proper here to explain that these chains consisted of a broad iron collar, which had been riveted round the neck, with two projecting spikes of seven or eight inches extending therefrom, both before and behind, and connected with chains from each side of the iron collar to heavy iron basils and rods on each leg.
"It is true that on the occasion referred to I tried those irons myself, and that Lieutenant Christie afterwards tried the same irons on himself. It is also true that I then expressed, in strong terms, my disgust at the use of these instruments of torture, which were so refined in cruelty as to prevent the suffering victim from finding relief or rest in any position, and which, from the projecting spikes from the iron collar, rendered a recumbent position almost impossible. I never did, and never will, shrink from the avowal that my feelings of indignation on this occasion were expressed in the strongest language of disgust; and when I recollected the unfortunate man before whom I was compelled to stand on parade, a silent witness, whilst he was bending under his iron load, which, on the fifth day, weighed him down into his grave, I ask is there a British heart so iron hard and cold as to have been unmoved at the sight of these inhuman instruments, which brought up such a picture to the mind? Or is there a British spirit so debased as to have shrunk from the avowal of those feelings which I have admitted were by me expressed?"
These two soldiers—Sudds and Thompson—some time previous to their regiment being ordered to proceed, in the usual course, from New South Wales to the East Indies, had determined, by committing petty larceny, to become convicts rather than encounter the unhealthy climate of the East.
For this avowed purpose they went into a shop in the town of Sydney, and desired the shopman to measure them off a few yards of calico or cloth, the price of which amounted to four or five shillings. One of these soldiers took the cloth, and, walking out of the shop, told his comrade to pay for it, the other soldier stating he had no money about him. The shopman followed them both into the street, and had them placed, without any resistance, in custody.
They were accordingly tried by the Court of Quarter Sessions, found guilty and sentenced to seven years' transportation. Not satisfied with this punishment however, his Excellency Governor Darling ordered a set of irons to be manufactured, such as was never before heard of in the colony. They consisted of an iron collar, like a stock, round the neck, with spikes about half a foot in length, projecting therefrom before and behind; chains also communicated from each side of the iron collar to heavy leg irons fitted with rings round the ankles, while the iron collar was riveted round the throat.
These implements of torture, when prepared, were conveyed to Government House for his Excellency's approval, and, by his order, Sudds and Thompson were taken out of the hands of the civil power, and, having been stripped, they were clothed in a yellow felon's dress, drummed out of the regiment and finally the irons, above described, were riveted on their bodies.
The man Sudds was in such a deplorable state of ill-health on the day he was brought from the gaol to have this ceremony performed in the presence of the troops, that he was obliged to be supported by a man holding him up under each arm, and during the ceremony he was compelled to be seated on the ground, as he had not the strength to stand. In five days after the infliction of this torture (the irons being still kept upon him in the gaol) he died.
This inhuman treatment was the cause of some printed verses being distributed in Sydney, accompanied by a picture. The verses are here reproduced:
(Extracted from the Colonial Paper.)
Farewell, hapless Mary!—Your husband no more
To his Home shall return from this barbarous shore.
By Tyranny goaded.
With Slave-Irons loaded.
His soul, tho' still yearning with fondness for thee.
From oppression, indignantly pants to be free.
Oh, cursed be the day, when my freedom I sold,
Nor deem'd British Soldiers as Helots enrolled;
In want, unassisted,
I rashly enlisted,
To give bread to my Mary and boy I was led,
But ah! freedom and life I then barter'd for bread.
For wrongs upon wrongs I was forced to endure,
With which pow'r and wealth goad the weak, and the poor;
While my proud spirit rising,
Tho' hardships despising,
Spurn'd blows, and abuse; and reflecting on Thee,
Resolved—or to die, or from slavery be free!
But alas! vain the attempt, which I hoped would succeed,
My Mary, I fear, you will blush for the deed,
A deed my heart scorning,
Hope blindly suborning;
Hope delusive, that prompt'd an act I abhorr'd,
Yet feign'd I should then be to Mary restored.
Oh! no—tho' my name was ne'er sullied by theft;
Yet of Freedom, of Peace, and my Mary bereft;
A martyr to feeling,
A feint of base stealing
I fatally made,—my escape to effect
From a Service, in which all my bliss had been wreck'd!
But frustrate that hope! tho' my motives were known,
Tho' acknowledged of crime 'twas the semblance alone,
As a felon convicted,
To a dungeon restricted,
While Slave-Irons my limbs in dire torture control,
O Mary! "the Iron enters into my soul."
Could my agonised body, and feelings allow,
No means of repose my vile fetters bestow;
Sharp spikes the prevention,
No power of extension,
The links which my neck with my legs firmly bind,
Permit my poor limbs, cramp'd in torture, to find!
Oh, my Country! for mercy, and valor renown'd,
Shall thus your defenders with Slave-Irons be bound?
Shall your laws, framed by Justice,
When tyranny's lust is,
By lawless inflictions add torment to pains,
Nor your Sons, but by death, evade cruelty's chains?
Oh no! In that Land, where true freedom resides,
When Justice, but temper'd with mercy, presides;
When my sufferings are stated,
My sad fate related,
Her pitying voice will atonement demand,
For a son, thus destroyed in a barbarous land!
Yes; my spirit from prison that longs to be freed,
In futurity's page, retribution can read;
When the Senate of Britain,
In Judgment shall sit on,
The merciless sentence that sinks me to death,
And condemn the oppressor, "for Britain is Just."
Yes! the time shall arrive (the dread flat is given),
When from "power abused," he with shame shall be driven;
My spirit shall view him,
Remorse shall pursue him,
While his wife, and his children, such woes shall assail,
As my fate, on my widow and boy must entail.
Farewell! hapless Mary! your husband is lying,
In a dungeon, in chains, in a far country dying;
Yet while his pulse flutters,
He one behest utters,
"O ne'er for a soldier encourage our boy,
Or like mine, future Darlings his life may destroy."
Sydney Gaol, New South Wales.
Mr. E. S. Hall, the editor of the Sydney "Monitor," writes of these bad old times in the following scathing terms:—
"The female factory at Parramatta is now principally used as a nursery for the illegitimate offspring of our free settlers—civil officers and magistrates. Thence the children are transferred to the Orphan School at a proper age, and thus are concubinage and prostitution supported by the State. In a country full of employment, and full of food, and full of clothing, there ought to be no orphan institutions. Every father ought to be compelled, by law, to support his own offspring. And no parents who can work ought to have their children supported out of the industry of others. Yet our orphan schools are filled with such children, legitimate and illegitimate. The very name of 'orphan school' should be unknown in a colony like this. If the charitable choose to support the children of debauched parents, let them do so out of their own fund, and not compel those who take a different view of true charity to join them in their humane vagaries."
Of the military officers in the colony at that time, Mr. Hall says:—
"Captain G——, while Commandant, first at Newcastle, and then at Port Macquarie, though accompanied by his wife (one of the most amiable and accomplished women in the colony), carried on his amours in open day. One night his wife insisted on opening the window to call for the watch, in consequence of finding a female concealed in the room. Captain G—— impeded her by threatening to break her arm by shutting the casement on it, and the lady persisting, he did so, and fractured the bone. Among other of his seductions was that of two girls, very young and well behaved, the daughters of a prisoner of the Crown, one of whom complained to her father of violations by Captain G——. The father went up to Captain G——, and used violent language. He was ordered to the triangles, and the scourger had just lifted the scourge to punish the grey-headed parent, when a friend of the captain ran down, and, taking him aside, implored him to reflect on what he was doing."
About the same time appeared the history of the trial and acquittal of Captain Wright, and although the captain was acquitted by a military jury, the report of this case will serve to show the manner in which prisoners of the Crown were treated in Crown colony days.
Report of proceedings at the trial of Captain Wright:—
At 11 o'clock this morning, W. H. Moore, Esq., acting for the Attorney-General, presented an information against Thomas Edward Wright, Esq., captain in his Majesty's 39th Regiment of Foot, charging him, as accessory before the fact, with the wilful murder of one Patrick Clinch, at Norfolk Island.
To this information Captain Wright, in a firm and indignant tone of voice, pleaded "Not guilty."
Mr. Wentworth then stated the case for the prosecution to the following effect:—
Gentlemen of the Jury.—I can with great truth say that the conduct of this prosecution is the most painful duty that has devolved on me since the commencement of my professional career. The prisoner at the bar, who is charged with an offence of the gravest nature known to our laws, is of the same service with yourselves, if not of the same corps with many of you, a circumstance which cannot fail to excite a secret bias in your minds. Gentlemen, in the technical language of the information, the prisoner is charged with being present, aiding, assisting, and counselling the murder alleged to have been committed. The evidence I shall adduce in support of the prosecution is this: That a few minutes before Clinch was shot it was reported to the prisoner that he was in custody, when he immediately ordered two soldiers to go and do their duty; that they, thereupon, went to the place where Clinch was in the custody of some constables, and, desiring them to stand aside, shot him on the spot.
Gentlemen, I will now proceed to detail the circumstances of the case. It appears that some days previous to Clinch's death, he ran from the settlement, of which the prisoner was Commandant, and, during the time he was at large, made some desperate attempts on several persons, and on one occasion on the prisoner himself, the object of which, no doubt, was to take his life. The prisoner, however, escaped, and, on his return to camp in great alarm, was heard to say to Lieutenant Cox and others, in allusion to this attempt, that "blood would have blood, and he would have it." Gentlemen, this is an important circumstance in the case, as it goes to show the feeling of the prisoner, and, coupled with his acts, indicates express malice. A few days elapsed after this circumstance when, about 8 o'clock at night, an alarm was heard in the settlement, and Clinch was taken into custody. I shall prove by the testimony of one of his captors that he ran to report the capture of Clinch to Captain Wright, who immediately gave the following order to Sergeant Tunny and a private soldier named Reeks: "You know your duty—see that you execute it." Upon this, on arriving at the spot where Clinch was, one of the soldiers desired the persons who were about him to stand aside, and immediately one shot was fired, and shortly after, another. The prisoner then came up and applauded the men for their conduct and ordered the body to be conveyed to the hospital, where, in a taunting and jocular manner, he asked the doctor if he could do anything for the dead man, that is, if he could resuscitate him. Gentlemen, after the deed was committed in the manner I have described, without adverting to many minor circumstances, I shall prove by the evidence of Lieutenant Cox that the prisoner returned to the garrison in high spirits, very much elated at the death of Clinch, and observed: "We have settled him in the swamps."
Lieutenant Charles Cox then gave the following statement:—
"I was a magistrate at Norfolk Island and assistant engineer, at the time of the occurrence. I heard some shots fired and saw flashes. About half an hour after Captain Wright came up with some soldiers, and told me that 'they had settled Clinch, and that he had had him wheeled off to the hospital.' Captain Wright seemed rather pleased that the follow had been killed. After this we had some punch together, and talked the matter over. Captain Wright said Clinch had been making resistance. Next morning I saw the body of Patrick Clinch on a platform in an area used for church service; there were four gunshot wounds on him. His head was battered much, one of his hands nearly cut off, and there were several other wounds on his body as if with a cutlass. Two of the shot wounds were in the breast and one in the head. This was on Sunday. The prisoners were assembled for church service, and Captain Wright made a speech to this effect:—'Prisoners,—you see the body of Clinch, and what his conduct has brought him to. Even if you were to take the Island, the only advantage you would get by it would be two or three months of an idle life; a ship would come from Sydney, the necessary signal would not be answered; it would go back and return with a force, and you would all be hanged.'"
A great deal of evidence was subsequently taken, and, as before stated, the captain was acquitted.
The following is an enumeration of some of those who were deprived of their appointments during the period of General Darling's government of New South Wales:—
Captain Piper, Naval Officer.
Mr. S. Bannister, Attorney-General.
Mr. Mackaness, Sheriff of the Colony.
Mr. W. H. More, Crown Solicitor (afterwards reinstated).
Colonel Mills, Registrar of the Supreme Court, driven to commit suicide.
Doctor Douglass, Commissioner of the Court of Requests.
Mr. John Stephen, Commissioner for Crown Lands.
Mr. Baxter, Attorney-General, and afterwards Puisne Judge in Van Diemen's Land.
Bell and Smith, storekeepers.
Messrs. Sellwood, Shelly, and Weller, and various others who emigrated from England as settlers, besides the editors of the Sydney "Monitor" and "Australian", independent papers.
The following military officers were also deprived of their commissions:—
Captain Robison, of the Veterans.
Lieutenant Macdonald, of the 3rd Regiment of Buffs.
Lieutenant Cox, 39th Foot, afterwards reinstated.
These officers were all brought to courts martial by order of General Darling, who was Military Commander of the Forces, as well as Civil Governor of the Colony.
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