On 5th January 1819 John Thomas Bigge was appointed Commissioner to investigate concerns that transportation was no longer an effective deterrent of crime nor the means of reformation of convicts. By the time Commissioner Bigge arrived on the John Barry in September 1819 transportation of felons from the British Isles to New South Wales had been taking place for over thirty one years. More than 165 convict ships had transported thousands of convicts on what was often a perilous and harrowing voyage to a new world.
John Thomas Bigge spent 17 months in the colonies travelling around New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. He returned to England on the Dromedary in February 1821.
He presented Three Reports based on his extensive travel and observations and the examination of free settlers, ex convicts and hundreds of convicts......... 1)Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the State of the Colony of New South Wales, 1822; 2)Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the Judicial Establishments of New South Wales,1823; 3)Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the state of Agriculture and Trade in the colony of New South Wales, London, 1823.
The Reports had far-reaching effects on the development of the Colonies. Below are extracts from the Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the State of the Colony of New South Wales pertaining to Transportation, Disembarkation of Convicts and Servitude. The information below is an extract. Select HERE to read the document presented to Parliament in 1822.
The Reports refer to convicts and ships arriving prior to 1821. Select from the Links below to find various subjects.
John Thomas Bigge. Commissioner of Inquiry into the State of the Colony of New South Wales..........
MY LORD, BEFORE I proceed to lay before your Lordship a statement of the manner in which the Convicts are employed and managed in the settlements of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, I have thought it expedient to preface such a statement with a few observations upon the transportation and treatment of them during the passage, as it is now conducted; upon the manner in which their disembarkation is effected; and the general circumstances that attend their introduction to the scenes of their future servitude and punishment........
The transportation of convicts, as far as it regards their health, appears to have undergone very considerable improvement since the mortality that occurred in the ships General Hewitt, Surry, and Three Bees, in the year 1814.
The investigation that took place at Sydney, at that period, into the conduct of the masters of those vessels, and the report made to Governor Macquarie by Mr. (William) Redfern the assistant-surgeon on the colonial establishment, have furnished to His Majesty's government ample and very accurate means of providing against the recurrence of similar calamities. The recommendations that were made by Mr. Redfern, under the several heads of clothing, diet, air, and medical assistance, appear, in as far as they have been adopted, to have been amply justified, by the diminished mortality in the voyages performed by convict ships from England to New South Wales; and of those that have not yet been adopted, there appears only to be one that is of material importance
It has been truly observed by this gentleman, that in the voyages that are commenced in the later periods of the European winters, or the commencement of spring, and which terminate with the same seasons in New South Wales and in Van Dieman's Land, or the latitudes in which the latter part of the voyages are most frequently made, the convicts are exposed to great and sudden vicissitudes of climate ; the greatest and most prejudicial being found to be that which occurs in the first removal of the convicts from the hulks to the transports in cold seasons, and when dressed in much lighter clothing than that to which they have been previously accustomed. The change of climate, likewise, that occurs after passing the Cape of Good Hope, in the 40th degree of south latitude, from the months of May and June to the months of September and October, requires greater warmth of clothing than that which can be afforded by the present allowance ; and by indisposing the convicts to be as much upon deck as before, is the cause of obstructing the ventilation of the prison.
As a remedy for this evil, Mr. Redfern has suggested, that for convicts who are exposed to it, there should be provided woollen, instead of duck trowsers, together with flannel drawers and waistcoats.
Mr. Redfern has anticipated of the greater danger of contagion, and of the want of cleanliness from the use of woollen, rather than of linen clothing, that cloth or woollen trowsers and shirts are constantly worn by sailors in warm climates. With a view to secure the principal objects of additional warmth and cleanliness, two pair of flannel drawers to each convict, to be worn with duck trowsers, might be advantageously substituted for the additional woollen trowsers that he has proposed.
It seems to be generally admitted, that the allowance of food provided by the present scheme of victualling, is amply sufficient during the voyage; and the only evil, against which it is necessary now to provide, is the abstraction of any portion of the quantity allowed, or the substitution, that is not unfrequently attempted, of the good provisions found by government, for those of inferior quality, with which the transport ships, either through the avarice of their owners, or the fraud of their agents, are sometimes supplied.
An important check upon this abuse has been afforded by that article of the instructions to the surgeon superintendent, by which he is directed to attend the opening of every cask of provisions, and to note it in his journal. It would appear, however, from the evidence of the principal superintendent of convicts, William Hutchinson, that complaints are most frequent from them, respecting the short issues of provisions during the voyage, and that the captains of the transport ships, on approaching the port of destination, are in the habit of making compromises with the convicts, in money, to the amount of the quantity kept back. This appears to have taken place on board the Daphne convict ship, and was considered by the magistrates, to whom the complaint of the convicts was referred, as sufficient ground for dismissing it. The practice also observed by the captains of convict ships, and permitted by the commissariat officers, of receiving back, from the remains of provisions and stores delivered at Sydney, the allowance of eighths for issuing them, seems to have admitted great opportunity, as well as temptation, for a fraudulent abduction of the government provisions.
This practice has now been checked by a particular instruction from the Navy Board, by which the captains of transport ships are expressly prohibited from making or receiving such deduction; and the allowance of eighths is only made when they pass their accounts to the satisfaction of the Victualling Board in London. As a further check, however, upon any fraudulent change in the issue of provisions that may escape the attention of the surgeon superintendent, it will be found useful to establish a regulation, that one person from each of the messes, into which the convicts are distributed, should be required to attend in rotation at the delivery and weighing of the provisions. In some of the transports this duty has been confined to one and the same individual of the mess throughout the whole voyage ; but as it is obvious that the chances of successful corruption or imposition are less when tried with many than with few, the daily change in the delegation of individuals from the mess is much to be preferred to the other mode, and is not found to be attended with any inconvenience.
It frequently happens that various articles of store, or of wearing apparel furnished by their friends on leaving England, are put on board the ships for the convicts, and according to the evidence of William Hutchinson, the superintendent, they have not been always punctually delivered ; and in some cases they have been damaged, or their contents purloined and appropriated by the sailors.
The communication that necessarily takes place between the convicts and the sailors during the passage, and the disposition that is common to both to dissipate their resources for the sake of some temporary enjoyment, to indulge their passion for gambling, or excite it in others, will render the decision of their complaints very difficult to the magistrates at Sydney. It is not desirable, generally, that the convicts should arrive in New South Wales with money or the means of procuring it; and it is still less desirable that their possession of it should be known, except to the surgeon superintendent, the captain and mate of the ship. But in order to prevent the feeling of disappointment or exasperation that the loss of their property must occasion, and to diminish the temptations to gamble for it during the voyage, it would be advisable that a list of all packages allowed to be put on board for the convicts should be made out and attested by the captain and mate of each vessel previous to sailing ; that they should be kept in a separate and secure place during the passage; and that the captain and mate should be held responsible for their delivery on the arrival of the ship at Sydney. This arrangement would doubtless exclude access to the packages during the voyage, and interfere perhaps with the object of sending them on board ; but to this it is a sufficient answer, that the possession of property leads only to thefts, and consequently to augmented punishment; and that the encumbrance of packages in the prison deck, if left in the possession of the convicts themselves, would be a great obstruction to ventilation and cleanliness.
The instructions furnished by the Navy Board to the surgeon superintendent, regarding ventilation do not specify the frequent admission of the convicts on deck, as an important means of preserving their health ; but as the instructions furnished to the master require him to comply with the applications of the surgeon for that as well as other purposes beneficial to the convicts, it was, doubtless, intended to leave a discretion to be exercised by the surgeons, as well in regulating the frequency of their access to the deck, as to their numbers at one and the same time. The exercise of this discretion depends of course upon the state of the weather and the capacity of the deck, but it likewise depends upon the experience of the surgeon superintendent, and the degree of confidence that this experience may lead him to place in the character of the convicts. It accordingly happens, that those surgeons and masters to whom this particular service is new, will not allow more than one half of the prisoners to remain on deck at one time, and will not take off their irons till an advanced period of the voyage: others, on the contrary, allow as many of them as please to come upon deck, and encourage them to remain there as long as they do not interfere with the operations of the ship, and frequently take off their irons, or a part of them, in a fortnight after leaving England.
The advantages arising from allowing the convicts a free access to the deck, in giving effectual ventilation to the prisons, and in preserving their health, are justly and strongly described by Mr. Redfern, in his report to Governor Macquarie; and these advantages, and the feelings that accompany the enjoyment of them, are so important in preserving discipline as well as health during the voyage, that they ought not to be risked from an unwarrantable distrust of the convicts, or from an apprehension of any combined attempt to obtain possession of the ship. As the release from the incumbrance of irons is always an indulgence to the convicts, so is the return to the use of them a salutary punishment that may supersede the necessity of having recourse to flogging.
The fear of combinations amongst the convicts to take the ship is proved by experience of later years to be groundless; and it may be safely affirmed, that if the instructions of the Navy Board are carried into due effect by the surgeon superintendent and the master, and if the convicts obtain the full allowance of provisions made to them by government, as well as reasonable access to the deck, they possess neither fidelity to each other, nor courage sufficient to make any simultaneous effort that may not be disconcerted by timely information, and punished before an act of aggression is committed. A short acquaintance with the characters of the convicts, promises of recommendation to the governor on their arrival in New South Wales, and an ordinary degree of skill in the business of preventive police, will at all times afford means of procuring information ; and with a view to afford those of more complete protection against any open violence during the day, when the convicts are on deck, it is expedient that the ships that are taken up for this service, should, if possible, be provided with poops, upon which the military guard may at all times be posted. They are thus more completely separated from the convicts in the hours of duty or of exercise ; and they are sufficiently elevated above the deck to observe their motions, and if necessary, to control them.
Although, in the transportation of female convicts to New South Wales, the preservation of their health has been more easily and generally accomplished than that of the males, yet no scheme of superintendence has yet been devised by which their intercourse with the crew can be entirely prevented. From the evidence of Mr. Cordeaux, Mr. Gyles, and Mr.Walker, who were passengers on board the convict ship Friendship, prostitution appears to have prevailed in a great degree, and the captain and surgeon at last connived at excesses that they had not the means to resist, or any hope of suppressing.
The account given by Mr. Gyles, of the proceedings of the voyage, differs very materially from the testimony of Mr. Cordeaux and Mr.Walker; and the accounts of all are still more pointedly contradicted by the evidence of the superintendent Hutchinson, who states that the female convicts from the ship Friendship declared, on their arrival at Port Jackson, that they were perfectly satisfied with the conduct of the captain, a declaration that is further confirmed by the result of Mr. Secretary Campbell's muster of them, at the conclusion of which it is stated " that no complaints were made." The characters likewise given by Mr. Gyles of several of the female convicts, differ as materially from those that were given by the master and surgeon superintendent of the Friendship on their arrival at Port Jackson. Mr. Gyles has asserted that no precautions were adopted by the captain or surgeon to prevent an improper intercourse between the crew and the convicts ; and it certainly appears, by the evidence of Mr. Cordeaux, that the very simple and obvious one of depositing the keys of the prison in a place of security during the night, was not resorted to till after a complaint was made at St. Helena, by the surgeon, to Admiral Plampin. In consequence of this neglect, a very general intercourse took place between the crew and the female convicts ; and after it had been once permitted, the captain and the surgeon, though not without a sense of the advantages that they expected to derive from a strict performance of their duty, had lost that authority over their subordinate officers, that might have enabled them to have enforced some restraint upon the crew; their attempts to restore it were ineffectual, and, in making them, they were opposed by the vicious inclinations of the women themselves.
The conduct of the captain has been censured by Mr. Gyles for inhumanity, especially in the infliction of punishment; but it does not appear that in any instance it exceeded the compulsory, but injudicious, use of a wooden collar. The want of cleanliness that has been stated by the same person, in his letter to Mr. Marsden, as the effect of negligence on the part of the captain and surgeon, imputed by Mr. Cordeaux to the perverse dispositions of the women, and the reluctance of the captain to have recourse to force, by which alone he thinks their dispositions could have been controlled.
The circumstances that took place on board the female convict ship Janus, are detailed in the minutes of evidence that were taken by myself upon the investigation, ordered by Governor Macquarie, of the complaint of two female convicts that had been assigned to Mr. Bayley. It is to be remarked, that the advanced state of pregnancy in which these women were found to be previous to the departure of the captain and mate of the ship from Port Jackson, occasioned their complaints to be preferred through Mr. Bayley, their master, to the governor, although, at the muster that took place on board the ship, no complaint of any kind is recorded by Mr. Secretary Campbell to have been made to him, nor was any complaint addressed to any other quarter. From the evidence, however, it appears, that all the evils that unrestrained intercourse between the crew of the ship and a number of licentious women could produce, existed to their full extent in the voyage of the Janus from England, during the stay of the vessel at Rio de Janeiro, and until its arrival at New South Wales. The death of the surgeon superintendent (James Creag), on the passage from Rio de Janeiro to Port Jackson, has necessarily deprived the inquiry of satisfactory proofs of the attempts made by him to check the profligacy of the officers and crew; but it appears that the attempts of the captain were neither sincere nor effectual. With the knowledge, indeed, that the sailors could not fail to obtain of his participation, as well as the mate's, in the same intercourse in which they had so freely indulged, it was not to be expected that their admonitions, if sincere, could have been effectual. The captain has denied that his intercourse with Mary Long was of an improper or immoral kind; but the testimony of the Rev. Mr. Conolly and Mr. Therry both agree in the frequency and long duration of the visits of this woman to the captain's cabin ; and it is also to be observed, that he has not denied the allegation made by her upon oath, of his being the father of the child with which she was pregnant when the inquiry took place.
Of the degree of resistance that may be expected to be made to all attempts to impose restraint upon the crews of female convict ships, during their passage from England to New South Wales, the journal of Dr. Reed, surgeon superintendent of the ship Morley, may afford some means of forming a judgment. All the influence both in the captain, surgeon and passengers, that could be derived from good example, and all the advantages of a most patient and courageous resistance to the vicious inclinations of the crew, were not sufficient to prevent them from obtaining access to some of the women who had yielded to their persuasions. It is necessary however to observe, that in the fitting of female convict ships for transportation, a greater degree of 'attention seems to have been paid to the comfort of the prisoners than is consistent with the prevention of intercourse between them and the sailors, lucre seems to be no reason for not giving the same degree of strength to the stauncheons that surround the fore and after hatchways, that has been found so effectual in those of male convict ships; and with this precaution, there is less to be apprehended from the destruction or temporary removal of the wooden gratings that cover the hatchway, or the padlocks by which they are fastened. The most assailable points of the prison are the two small forehatchways that give light and air to the hospital; and here it is necessary that the iron gratings should be of the strongest description, for the descent from them to the hospital is easy, and the attempts to break through them are, in a great measure, removed, from the observation of the officers of the deck.
The apartment for the free women and children should always be placed between the sailors birth and the prison, and the partition should be made of exactly the same thickness and strength as that which separates the same apartments in the male convict ships. In taking a review of the circumstances that have attended the transportation of male and female convicts from England and Ireland to New South Wales, and the gradual improvement that has taken place in the system during the last six years, it appears certain that the voyage may be performed with perfect security to the health and persons of the convicts. For attaining these objects nothing more seems necessary than a strict adherence to the instructions issued by the Navy Board to the surgeons superintendent, at the commencement and during the progress of the voyage, and a determination manifested by the proper authorities in New South Wales to listen to and investigate any complaints that may be made known to them on its termination.
The course that has been adopted by Governor Macquarie, certainly affords opportunities for the convicts to make complaints; but from the evidence of the superintendent Hutchinson, they are in many cases not effectual: and it appears, that if the captain of a transport succeeds in making a pecuniary compromise with the convicts previous to their arrival in port, and in silencing them at the muster, the conduct of the master is altogether withdrawn from judicial investigation, and does not come to the knowledge of that authority in England that alone has the power of punishing him by withholding or making a deduction from the promised gratuity, or by mulcting the owners of the vessel in a portion of the freight.
The doctrine that has been held by the magistrates in Sydney upon this subject, can only apply to the complaints of the convicts before them; but it is clear, that the pecuniary satisfaction paid to them for a subduction of the proper quantity of food by the captain, constitutes no satisfaction to the government, whose instructions he has violated, and who also, in ignorance of that violation, may award remuneration instead of punishment. In the detection of attempts to diminish the quantity of food allowed by government to the convicts on the passage, the authorities in New South Wales cannot exercise too much vigilance. An important control may, however, be beneficially exercised in England, by the agents of the Navy Board, in seeing, as well as certifying, that the several articles that are covenanted to be found by the owners of the transports, are actually on board before the ships leave their port. To no article of this description does the observation apply so materially as to the quantity of water; for its scarcity or its bad quality (especially when taken in, when the tide is high, in the river Thames) furnishes the most specious pretext for stopping at Rio de Janeiro ; and as the consumption of water on board the female convict ships is greater, generally, than in the male, and more essential to the preservation of their health, a larger supply than that of 120 gallons to each person should be laid in, even if the supply of animal food should be diminished.
The supplies of medicine that are sent for the use of the convict ships, seem to comprise every article of use, or of comfort, that can be found necessary ; but from the great accumulation of lime-juice and bark that has taken place in the Sydney hospital, it would appear that larger quantities of these medicines are supplied than the experience of several years seems to require ; and that, on the other hand, it would be advisable to increase the quantities of every species of purgative medicine, this alteration embracing equally the demand that exists during the voyage, and in the hospitals in New South Wales.
The accommodation now afforded to convicts in the prisons of the transport ships, by allotting eighteen inches to each convict in every sleeping birth, is quite sufficient; and the only improvement that seems to be required in the fitting of" these vessels, is one that would contribute to enforce discipline, by affording a separation of the well-conducted convicts from the refractory and turbulent. It would, however, effect a change in the present construction of the hospitals, that seems to have been adopted upon some consideration of the advantages and disadvantages attending their position in the fore or after part of the vessel, and which, although condemned by very many of the surgeons appointed to this service, has certainly been confirmed by a successful experience of four years. The fore part of the ship that is now devoted to the hospital would indisputably form the best situation for a separate place of confinement for offenders, as all the inconveniences arising from bad or suspended ventilation, increased motion, leakage, and opening of the sides of the vessel in bad weather, are necessarily felt there, in a greater degree than in the other parts of the ship. These reasons equally concur in rendering the same place unfit for an hospital. It is asserted, however, that the introduction of the hospital into the after parts of the ship, whereby it would be placed next to the crew and guard, might augment the dangers of infection to them; and that the men, whose lives are the least valuable, ought to incur the greater risk. It is further alleged, that any arrangement by which the personal inspection of the surgeons is frequently directed to the whole of the prison (which must be the case if they have to traverse it on their visits to the hospital), ought not to be exchanged for another and more commodious position of that apartment, unless the advantages of such a change are clear and decisive. The advantages on one side consist of a greater degree of comfort and better ventilation to the hospital patients, with the means of providing a separate place of confinement for the refractory and ill disposed in a portion of the space at present occupied by the hospital; and on the other, a more constant inspection of the prison by the surgeons superintendent, economy of space in the ship, the appropriation of the best and most airy part of it to the separate use of the juvenile convicts, and that immediate control over the others that is now afforded to the military guard, which would be lost, if the hospital were interposed between their apartment and the prison.
In making the present arrangement it does not appear that any medical authority was consulted; and if the danger of infection formed one of the reasons for making it, it may well be doubted whether that danger is not augmented by confining it to that part of the ship where there must always be the least degree of ventilation and the greatest degree of damp. As a strict examination of the convicts, both male and female, by the surgeon superintendent, before admission into the ship, and a determined rejection of any that are infected with contagious disorders, has, during the last few years, prevented the introduction of them into convict ships, their occurrence during the voyage has been very rare ; but in case such a calamity should occur, the present situation of the hospitals would not only render the cure of such diseases more difficult, but must necessarily expose a greater number of persons to their influence than if they were placed in the after part of the ship between the apartment of the sailors and the guard and the prison. The control of the guard over the prison would certainly be removed; but until some medical authority has sanctioned the present situation of the hospital, it would appear, that the object of security from any sudden violence of the convicts, has been preferred to that of security from the contagion of disease.
The present plan of fitting the convict ships does not admit of any classification of the prisoners beyond that of appointing the best conducted to the situation of wardsmen ; nor can any plan be devised, that will not, in a greater or less degree, impede ventilation. The separation of the boys from the men has sometimes been attended with this consequence; and although the introduction of schools, during the voyage, should by all means be encouraged, it appears doubtful whether greater mischiefs do not arise from placing the boys by themselves during the night, than by distributing them in small numbers amongst the other convicts: a separate berth should continue to be provided for facilitating the means of their instruction during the day, and all the arrangements for separating them at night should be left to the discretion of the surgeon superintendent. The space that is allotted for the seamen and military guard, being scarcely adequate to their accommodation for so long a voyage, it is of importance that no addition should be made to the number of passengers for which the arrangements are first calculated. Instances have occurred, in which free passengers, and wives of soldiers of the guard, have been permitted to embark after the convicts, and much inconvenience and a great deal of ill-will has been created by the difficulty of providing for their accommodation. This observation applies more particularly to the female convict ships, in which a great number of free women and their children are always allowed to embark ; but more especially those that touch at Cork to complete their number; and it has moreover been observed, that the admixture of Irish female convicts with the English, and the delay that is consequent to their reception at Cork, while it prolongs the voyage, interrupts a course of discipline which, when once established, it is material to maintain, and which is .found to be much checked by any delay of the ship in a foreign harbour. The exercise of authority over the convicts during the passage, and the doubts that have arisen respecting its nature, are points that require some consideration.
The several acts of parliament that regulate the transportation of offenders to places beyond the seas, have in most cases adopted the provisions of the 4th Geo.I. c. 11, by which a property in the services of the convicts is assigned to the person who contracts to transport them. The security of the contractor, and the interest that he feels in safely conveying the convicts to their place of destination, and in discharging the obligations, of his bond, naturally pointed out him or his agent as the persons in whom the chief control over them was to be vested. By the charter-party the owner covenants that the captain of the convict ship shall obey all orders that he may receive from the Commissioners of the Navy, and that he shall attend to all such requisitions as may be made by the surgeon superintendent, to admit the convicts upon deck, and to promote cleanliness and ventilation, as much as possible consistent with safety. By the instructions of the Navy Board likewise, with which every master of a convict ship is furnished, he is directed to comply with such regulations as the surgeon superintendent may think necessary, respecting the management of the convicts, and their treatment while on board. The apparent contradiction that arises from giving a property in the services of the convicts, and the custody of their persons to the master of the ship, while his orders as well as the covenants entered into by the owner of the vessel, enjoin him to comply with the directions of the surgeon superintendent, has given rise to frequent altercations between them during the voyage; the surgeon superintendent contending, that the master is bound to comply with all directions that he may give him touching the management of the convicts, and under all circumstances that do not affect the safety of the ship.
This qualification has likewise been construed by some to be limited only to the safe navigation of the vessel, and not to comprise the possible case of a mutiny amongst the convicts. The masters, on the other hand, maintain that they have a greater share of authority over the convicts, and that the personal interest they have at stake in safely conveying them, as well as from the interest of their owners in the vessel, they are fitter judges of all circumstances that may affect their security. The two points in which such a collision of authority have most frequently occurred, are the admission of the convicts to the deck, and the taking off" their irons, at an early period after leaving England; both, it has been observed, of considerable importance to the maintenance of their health and discipline. It is the interest of the surgeon superintendent to deliver the number intrusted to him in a good state of health; it is the interest of the master to deliver them only in safety; and the heavy penalty into which he enters, for the punctual fulfilment of this part of his duty, must naturally outweigh the contingent value of the remuneration that is promised for his general good conduct and humane treatment, or the consideration of prejudice or loss that an opposite line of conduct may occasion to his owners.
It is the opinion of Mr. Judge Advocate Wylde, that to remedy these doubts and the discussions that take place between the masters and the surgeons superintendent of convict ships, the authority of the surgeon should be more defined, and that to him should also be given the property in their services, and the safe custody of their persons. It would, however, be too great a risk for the government to separate the responsibility for the custody and delivery of the persons of the convicts from the individual in command of the ship, or from those who hold a property in it. While that responsibility remains with the captain, it is difficult to take away from him all discretion whatever in support of it. The surgeon superintendent has the power of entering upon his journal the refusal of the captain to comply with his request, and of causing an investigation of this refusal to be made on the arrival of the ship in New South Wales ; and the faithful and fearless exercise of this power by the surgeon, forms the only security for a compliance with his requests that the nature of the service will admit.
The necessity of resorting to corporal punishment of the convicts during the passage, and the assumption of authority for this purpose by the surgeon in some cases, and in others by the master, have likewise furnished ground for disputes between them. The power of inflicting it (corporal punishment) is not at present given to either by any law or instruction; and those who have had recourse to it, have been content to rest their justification upon the circumstances of each particular case. Complaints of undue severity of corporal punishment during the passage have been very rare of late ; and, as a resort to it on some occasions is necessary, where the use of handcuffs and double irons are found to be ineffectual, it appears that some legislative sanction should be given to the infliction of moderate corporal punishment, and that the power of ordering it should be vested in the surgeon superintendent, rather than in the captain of the transport. To the same officer should likewise be confided all discretion in the application of the military force ; and to prevent misunderstandings, to which the want of instructions on this head have given rise, the officer commanding it should be ordered to comply with such requisitions for assistance as the surgeon superintendent may think necessary. The want of authority to inflict punishment on the soldiers of the guard in case of repeated drunkenness or misconduct, has been felt on several occasions ; and as the detachments that are sent on this duty generally consist of young recruits, it is expedient that all temptation to excess should be as much as possible avoided or diminished. With this view, the regulation that prevails in the issue of spirits to troops on service, of diluting them with a proportion of two thirds of water, should be strictly enjoined, except on the occurrence of any cold or wet weather.
Considering the difficulties that always attend the adjustment of authority on board vessels employed in the transport of troops as well as of convicts, it does not appear to be expedient or practicable to vary the measure or the principle upon which the present distribution of it proceeds, further than by giving a power of ordering moderate punishment to the surgeon superintendent, and impressing upon the minds of the captains of transports the penal consequences, to themselves and their owners, of an unwarrantable opposition to the surgeon's requests.
A subject of no less difficulty occurs in providing means of employment to the male convicts; and it does not appear that any have been recommended that would not in a great degree endanger the safety of the vessel, or interfere with the space required for stores and provisions. The establishment of schools under the authority of the surgeon, and especially amongst the boys, has always been attended with good effects ; and although there has been no want experienced latterly in the supply of religious books, and of bibles and testaments, yet it does not appear that they are accompanied by any of the common elementary school books: a supply of both should be sent to the surgeon for distribution and use on the voyage ; and he should be instructed to deliver them to one of the resident chaplains at Sydney, and held to produce his receipt for them. The employment of the convicts in such parts of the navigation of the vessels as are not performed aloft, may safely and advantageously be resorted to. They are generally willing to take part in it, and the mechanics find it their interest to make themselves useful in return for occasional indulgences of food, and freer admission to the deck. The greater proportion, however, during the passage, are sunk in indolence, to which the ordinary duties of washing and cleansing the prisons, though highly salutary in themselves, and performed with great regularity, afford but slight interruption. The practices of thieving from each other, quarrelling and gambling for their allowances of wine and lime-juice, are the common offences that occur during the voyage; and they are most easily restrained and punished by depriving the convicts of money and keeping it in deposit for them; and by strictly observing that the allowance of wine and lime juice is taken by every convict in the presence of an officer, at the place of distribution. The issue of these two articles is rightly left to the discretion of the surgeon superintendent; and a temporary deduction of the allowance of wine is not unfrequently resorted to as a salutary punishment, and is rendered more effectual, by obliging the offending individuals to attend and administer the allowance they have forfeited to those who conduct themselves well.
It is generally observed, that the convicts from London are found to be more seriously affected by scurvy, debility and pneumonic diseases than those of more robust habits, and who have been accustomed to agricultural pursuits ; and it is equally observable, that the moral habits of the first of these classes of convicts are more depraved, and that they are consequently less easily controlled than those from the country.
The convicts embarked in Ireland generally arrive in New South Wales in a very healthy state ; and are found to be more obedient and more sensible of kind treatment during the passage than any other class. Their separation from their native country is observed to make a stronger impression upon their minds, both on their departure and during the voyage; and the ignorance in which most of them are respecting their future fate, tends to preserve those salutary impressions until its termination. The aged and the infirm convicts frequently suffer so much from debility and the use of salt provisions, that the surgeons find it necessary to support them with a constant diet of preserved meat and other medical comforts; and unless such convicts have received sentences of transportation for life, it seems to be a great aggravation of their bodily sufferings, as well as great augmentation of expense, to send them to New South Wales for any shorter periods. Mental suffering forms but a small part of the punishment of the voyage. Instances have occurred in which it has both produced disease and aggravated it; and this has unfortunately occurred in cases where it would have been more desirable to have diminished punishment than to have augmented it. The pressure of the voyage, where it is felt at all, weighs most heavily upon those feelings that are most respectable, and which are perhaps the last that the worst men lose. Such instances are rare, and as the voyage is now conducted, it produces no greater degree of bodily inconvenience to ordinary men than many are exposed to who are not in a state of punishment, and certainly it is not found to be productive of injury to their constitutions. The uninterrupted association, however, amongst the convicts, to which it gives rise, and the habitual indolence that it encourages, are strong reasons for abridging its continuance.
The experience of many years has now established the safety, as well as ease, with which the voyage to New South Wales may be performed. No ships have arrived in a disabled state in consequence of disasters at sea, and none have occurred in that part of the voyage where they are most to be apprehended, viz. in Bass's Straits. The principal causes of delay have arisen in cases where ships have attempted to keep too near the west coast of Africa before they have passed the Equator, or when they have arrived on the western coast of New South Wales in the months of December, January and February. In the first of these events they have generally repaired to the island of St. Helena for a fresh supply of water; and in the latter, some inconvenience has been sustained from its exhaustion, and from the delay in making a passage through Bass's Straits against easterly winds, or in rounding the south-west cape of Van Dieman's Land. With a view to meet these difficulties, an accurate calculation of the supply of water should be made soon after passing the Equator, as it is during that period of the voyage that the consumption is the greatest, and that disease most generally begins to show itself. It is from a consideration of both these circumstances, that the expediency of resorting to Rio de Janeiro, or to the Cape of .Good Hope, or the possibility of making the voyage direct, should be regulated; and the supply of water should be required to be stated on the log-book of the captain, and the journal of the surgeon, as the principal justification of stopping at either of these ports. The detentions at Rio de Janeiro, and the difficulties experienced in obtaining water there, together with the introduction of spirits among the convicts, are evils of serious importance. The attention of the captain and surgeon, instead of being devoted to the care of the ship and convicts, is much interrupted by commercial speculations of their own. The convicts, for the sake of security, are ordered to resume their irons; and it may well be doubted whether these circumstances, combined with the effect of a very warm temperature, do not counterbalance the advantages of a temporary change in their diet, and a more abundant supply of water is practicable for the future. The difficulty that is most embarrassing, arises from the want of means of punishing the women and the sailors during the voyage, for the improper intercourse that takes place between them. The Cape of Good Hope is a better place of resort for convict ships, except in the three winter months of June, July and August; and it may be remarked, that the detention of vessels at that place has not been so protracted as at Rio de Janeiro.
Circumstances may arise in the passage from England to the Line, and so much delay, and consequently such an exhaustion of the stock of water may take place, that a resort to one or other of those places may become unavoidable ; but the captains and surgeons superintendent should be enjoined to make the voyage direct if possible, and should be held to give a very clear proof of the necessity of any deviation. A reference to a return of voyages performed by different convict ships from England and Ireland to New South Wales, from the year 1810 to the end of the year 1820, with which I was favoured by the Commissioners of the Navy Board, and the abstract that I have since made from it, will show the comparative advantages attending the three different courses. The average length of 44 direct voyages made during the above periods, is found to be 127 days. The number of convicts so conveyed was 7,657, and out of these, 71 died on the passage, and 97 were landed sick. The average length of 38 voyages, touching at Rio de Janeiro in the passage, is found to be 156 days; and out of 6,470 convicts conveyed, 132 died, and 123 were landed sick. The average length of 11 voyages, and touching at the Cape of Good Hope, is found to be 146 days ; and out of 1,912 convicts conveyed, nine died on the passage, and 57 were landed sick.
The advantages, therefore, of the direct passage from England to New South Wales are very apparent, both in the point of economy of the lives, as well as the subsistence of the convicts. The temptations to the masters, and to the surgeons superintendent to touch at Rio de Janeiro, and to purchase sugar and tobacco there, have at all times been great. The profits upon the sale of these adventures in New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land, will always tempt them to create pretexts for the circuitous passages, as long as it is understood that they will be allowed to land their goods on their arrival. The circumstances under which that permission has been given and continued, will more properly be discussed when the subject of the trade of New South Wales is considered. I will at present only remark, that a great temptation to a violation of the rules prescribed to them by the Navy Board, has been held out to such of the surgeons superintendent as were proceeding to New South Wales on appointments from England, by a practice that has long prevailed in the colony of allowing such persons the liberty of importing both spirits and tobacco free of duty. The last instance in which it occurred, was that of Dr. Bromley, surgeon of the female convict ship Lord Wellington ; who, it appears, was allowed to land 150 gallons of spirits, one hogshead and six dozen bottles of wine, and 10 baskets of tobacco at Port Jackson. Dr. Bromley likewise availed himself of the very unusual and protracted stay of the ship Wellington at Rio de Janeiro, to put on board several articles that he conceived would be useful to him in the colony, limiting their extent only to the tonnage that had been allowed to him in England.
The transportation of female convicts to New South Wales, is a subject that presents more difficulty than any that occurs in the subjects now under consideration. In consequence of the freer admission to the deck that is allowed to the female convicts during the passage, their health is rarely affected by the same causes that are prejudicial to that of the male convicts; and the proportionate loss occasioned during a period of ten years, appears to be considerably less. The allowance of provisions and medical comforts to the female convicts is ample ; and it appears that change of climate and regularity of diet have operated very favourably on the constitutions of many that had been debilitated by previous habits of licentiousness and vice. The same complaints respecting the conduct of the masters of the transports, in withholding the due allowance of provisions, are found to occur amongst the female convicts as amongst the males, and the same compromises of that offence take place on their approach to the port of destination.
The moral effects of separation from their native country are less sensibly felt by the female convicts; and when the first sensations of the sea voyage are 'subdued, their minds are more elevated by the prospects before them, than depressed by the recollection of those they have just quitted. It has been found, that the establishment of schools, and the continuance, as far as circumstances will permit, of that salutary system of instruction and discipline that has been introduced into the female wards of Newgate, has tended materially to preserve good order and decent conduct. The want of means of employment for the women, is one of the great difficulties with which the most zealous promoters of this system have had to contend. Of the means that have yet been devised, those are obviously the best that are the most simple, and that are likely to afford a regulated profit at the end, rather than in the middle of the voyage. Of these, the most practicable appear to me to be the employment of weaving and making straw hats for the use of the male convicts in New South Wales; and that of making up the striped linen shirts that are issued to them there, as part of their allowance of clothing.
A portion of the profits of their labour might be allowed to be received on landing, and the remainder might be held in deposit, and liable to be forfeited by misconduct. All employments that have a tendency to encourage a passion for dress should be studiously avoided ; and the female convicts should be compelled to consider, that the dress that is provided by the government is that which is most suitable to their condition : nothing, indeed, can be more unsuitable to it than the appearance that they have been allowed to make on their arrival in New South Wales, and nothing that ought to be more speedily checked, whenever a proper place of reception is completed, for those who are not assigned to individuals on their first arrival.
For the superintendence of the labour of the female convicts during the voyage, it would be very desirable to employ one of the numerous free women that are allowed to take their passage in the female convict ships. The selection of one female convict for the superintendence of all the rest, produces jealousy of her power without obedience to it; whereas a delegation of a small portion of authority to a married female of good character, who has opportunities that the surgeon cannot, and personally ought not to have, of watching and detecting misconduct both during the night and day, will enable him to punish with more certainty and effect, and to avoid that suspicion of guilty connivance, which, if once established amongst the convicts or crew, becomes a prelude and pretext for their disorders. The performance of this duty on board a female convict ship, must be subject to the direction and authority of the surgeon, who should also have the power of recommending a remuneration to be given by the governor of New South Wales, regulated by the merits of the individual, and not exceeding ten pounds.
The instructions issued by the Navy Board to the surgeons superintendent and the masters of female convict ships, impose strict injunctions upon them to afford good example to their officers and crew, and to use their utmost endeavours to prevent improper intercourse between them and the female convicts. The repeated instances in which these injunctions have been violated, prove the difficulty, and perhaps, the impossibility of entirely preventing it; and the best security against that violation is to be found in the characters of the surgeons and masters to whom this difficult task is assigned. The instance of the ship Morley, commanded by Captain Brown, and superintended by Dr. Reed, and the occurrences that took place upon the voyage, together with the behaviour and appearance of the females upon their arrival in New South Wales, strongly attest the benefits that are derivable from good example, employment and attention to religious duties during the voyage. That these advantages were neither wholly attained, nor permanent in this instance, are facts that take away nothing from the merit or the importance of the service : under other circumstances, its value to the colony of New South Wales is capable of being realized, and at the present moment is well worth estimating, either in comparison with every instance that preceded it.
The confinement of the women to the prison-deck is not an effectual punishment, and it frequently causes a greater degree of annoyance to the well-conducted prisoners than to the parties themselves. Deprivation of the ordinary comforts, the use of a wooden collar and shaving the head, are the only practicable punishments that can be resorted to, and they are in some degree effectual, though their operation is unequal, and depends upon the character and the greater or less degree of sensibility to shame in the party that suffers them. The use of violent and indecent language is one of the worst consequences of the intercourse between the women and the crew, and the efforts made to correct it by the master and the officers of the ship, only lead to fresh insults and to greater provocation. The punishment and correction of the women, therefore, should be left, as much as possible, to the direction of the surgeon superintendent. The punishment of the crew for holding improper intercourse with them, in the voyages from England to New South Wales, is, according to the present state of the law, not provided for; and as no master of a ship, however well disposed, will incur the risk of a mutiny of his crew for the sole purpose of preventing it, or the great degree of personal responsibility that would accrue from the infliction even of a moderate degree of corporal punishment, it would be advisable that the provisions which at present are confined to ships trading to His Majesty's colonies and plantations in the West Indies, should be extended to those employed in conveying male and female convicts to New South Wales. The punishment provided by that act, consists of a forfeiture of the wages and property of any seaman guilty of disobedience of such lawful commands as the master may think necessary to issue, for the effectual government of the vessel, and for suppressing vice and immorality of all kinds. To give the master a power of inflicting corporal punishment for such an offence, would be dangerous; but as the forfeiture of wages may afford some check, though not an effectual one, over the licentious conduct of the sailors, it would be expedient to give it; and the power of awarding the forfeiture should be given to two or more magistrates of New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land, subject to an appeal to the Vice-admiralty court at Sydney.
A great improvement has undoubtedly arisen in the transportation of convicts, from the appointment of naval surgeons to the superintendence of the ships taken up for this service. Much attention has been paid by them to the instructions of the Navy Board, that enjoin an attention to the performance of religious duties; and their efforts in preserving health have been no less conspicuous and successful. In promoting these, it does not often happen that they meet with direct opposition from the masters of convict ships; but as there are points in their conduct respecting which no other individual than the surgeon can be expected to hold a control, or afford information, it is of no small importance to make the surgeons as independent as possible of the favour of the master and the bounty of the owners. During the continuance of peace, it is not likely that any difficulty will be experienced in obtaining the services of the naval surgeons, in the transportation of convicts ; but as the knowledge that they acquire by one voyage in the management of the convicts, gives them a confidence that is eminently advantageous on the second, it seems desirable, that such as return to England, with as much expedition as possible, and bring certificates of their good conduct, should have the preference of a second appointment . This arrangement, when established, will have the twofold advantage of stimulating them to a faithful performance of their duty, and of detaching them from those considerations of personal advantage, which they not unfrequently have sought, by stipulating with the owners for a continuance of their medical services in the ships that proceed from New South Wales to India. This stipulation is also very generally connected with that of extending them to the officers and crew of the convict ships in the passage from England, in return for a table allowance found either by the captain or the owners; and an instance occurred lately, in which a surgeon of a convict ship recovered from the captain, in an action brought in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the estimated amount of medical advice and services performed by him for the captain and the crew, during this period. It does not appear very clearly from the printed instructions of the Navy Board that are given to the surgeons, whether the medical attendance of the ship's officers and crew is included in the duty to which they are appointed; and as it is of importance to remove from the minds of the surgeons all expectation of reward from any other quarter than that from whence they derive their appointment, in the first instance, or may hereafter hope to receive another, it is expedient that all further doubt upon this point should be removed. On the other hand, it is only reasonable, that the surgeons should receive the full amount of the sum that they have to pay for their passage from New South Wales to England, which cannot be estimated at less than £95 /. when it is made direct, as well as an allowance for lodging money during their residence in Sydney. The augmentation of expense occasioned by these allowances will be amply compensated by the inducement that they will hold out to men of respectability to engage, and to continue in the service; and it will leave no excuse for want of vigilance in observing, and of fidelity in exposing the corrupt application of the liberal provision that is made by government for the use of the convicts.
The interval that elapses between the arrival of a convict ship in New South Wales, and the debarkation of the convicts, is one that affords the fullest exercise for their ingenuity in the arts of imposition and concealment, and also in devising the means of their future indulgence. The selection of mechanics for the government works is so well known, and so much dreaded, for the reasons that will be stated hereafter, that it was deemed necessary to award a punishment to all those who should be guilty of concealing their trades. The vigilance of the chief engineer at Sydney is particularly directed to this object; and if he fails in accomplishing it, when the convicts are yet on board, the superintendent Hutchinson is not slow in acquiring information, by which the concealed mechanic is taken from the employment of the individual who may have secured him, and is made to join one of the government gangs. It will likewise happen, that from a hope of being employed in Sydney, several will declare themselves to be mechanics who have little or no knowledge of the trade they profess. Those who have brought money or goods with them, are actively employed in placing or selling them advantageously; in acquainting their friends with their arrival, or in soliciting those to whom they may be recommended, or those whom they can afford to pay, to apply for them as assigned servants.
The position that the convict ships take in the harbour, during the interval between arrival and debarkation, is not such as to insure a proper degree of vigilance in preventing communication with the shore; all are anchored and sometimes crowded in Sydney Cove; whereas it would not be attended with any real inconvenience if they were made to anchor in front of Dawes's battery, where they would lie between the guns and the observation of that work and those of the new fort on Bennelong's Point, and would be compelled to remain there until the morning appointed for the debarkation. The sentries on board are ordered to prevent persons from visiting the ships without a permission of the naval officer ; but this duty is feebly performed ; and until the establishment of the police guard boat, there were no effectual means of preventing communication between the ships and the shore. Even at present, the government and other boats manned with convicts are frequently seen hovering round the convict ships ; and the naval officer's boat, in which they are first visited, is manned by convict sailors, and steered by a coxswain, who is an emancipated convict.
In the period that I am now describing, the governor's secretary, Mr. John Thomas Campbell, and the superintendent of convicts, William Hutchinson, repair on board for the purpose of mustering the convicts. This muster is of a very detailed nature, and is taken by Mr. J. T. Campbell on the quarter deck of the vessel, in the presence of the surgeon superintendent, the captain and ship's company. Each convict is asked his name, the time and place of his trial, his sentence, native place, age, trade and occupation ; and the answers are compared and corrected (if necessary) by the description in the indents and in the lists transmitted transmitted from the hulks. After ascertaining the height of each convict by actual admeasurement, and registering it in several columns, as well as the colour of the hair, eyes, the complexion or any particular mark that may tend to establish the identity of each convict, an inquiry is made respecting the treatment that each has received during the passage ; whether he has received his full ration of provisions ; whether he has any complaint to make against the captain, his officers and crew; and lastly, whether he has any bodily ailment or infirmity. A further inquiry is made of the surgeon, respecting the conduct of each convict during the passage, and whether he has any bodily infirmity that may prevent him from being actively employed. The muster of 150 convicts conducted in this manner, occupies the secretary from five to seven hours ; and if the complaints are numerous, it is protracted to the following day. The correctness and particularity of this muster is of great importance ; for when signed by the secretary, it forms a check upon any error that may have crept into the indents and assignments of the convicts that are transmitted from the Secretary of State's office to the governor of New South Wales, and connects the date of trial and description of their offences with a complete identification, of their persons, highly useful for purposes of police, as well as for the regulations respecting tickets of leave and certificates of exemptions from penal servitude. From the period of his appointment to the office of secretary to the governor, in February 1810, until the latest period of holding it, the musters of the convicts have been taken and conducted by Mr. J. T. Campbell in person, with the single exception of those that arrived in the ship Indefatigable in the year 1815.
In his absence from Sydney, on the arrival of that vessel, the muster was taken by Captain Gill, the chief engineer. It is in his handwriting, and in the usual form, but not signed by him; and from some circumstance, that Mr. Campbell was not able to explain, the original lists or indents of the convicts embarked in that vessel did not arrive, nor has any application been made for them till a very late period.
Complains of the efficacy of the inquiry made by the governor's secretary into the complaints of the convicts, respecting their treatment during the passage, is not so apparent as the other advantages that it secures; for, at the conclusion of the musters of two ships, the Daphne and the Janus,, where serious complaints were made against the captains of the vessels, for subduction of the proper allowance of food, or the substitution of the bad provisions of the ship, for the good provisions found by government, as well as for highly improper conduct, it had been recorded by Mr. Campbell, that the prisoners declared (without one exception) that they " had been well and kindly treated by the captain, his officers, and the surgeon superintendent, and that they had got their rations, and every allowance regularly, and to their perfect satisfaction.
This memorandum was correct, in point of fact, and as far as Mr. Campbell's inquiries on board the ship were concerned, no complaint having been made on those occasions to him ; but it afterwards appeared, that a compromise had taken place between the captain and certain of the convicts in the " Daphne, and a verbal promise between the captain and two female convicts on board the Janus; and as the performance of one was delayed until after they were disembarked, the silence of all the parties when on board, and when asked if they had any complaint to make, was adopted by Mr. Campbell as negativing the existence of any. Some delay or reluctance in the performance of the conditions of the compromise having taken place on the part of the captains, the complaints were brought to the notice of the governor, and by him referred to the investigation of a bench of magistrates, who found, that although in the case of the Daphne the regular rations of provisions had not been issued to the convicts, yet that previous to their arrival at Port Jackson, they had agreed to accept, and had, in in fact, accepted an equivalent in money from the captain, of which they afterwards repented, and therefore were not entitled to redress; and in the case of the Janus, the magistrates found ample reason for reporting very strongly against the conduct of the captain.
DISEMBARKATION - When the muster has been completed on board the convict ships, the governor appoints a day for their disembarkation. At an early hour on that day the convicts are dressed in their new clothing, and are marched into the yard of the gaol at Sydney, where they are arranged in two lines for the inspection of the governor ; they are permitted to bring with them the bedding that they have used on board the transport ship, and such articles of clothing and effects as they may have brought with them. The captain of the transport, the surgeon superintendent, the chief engineer, and the superintendent of convicts, accompany the governor in his inspection ; and the superintendent, as he proceeds, repeats aloud from a distribution list, previously prepared, the destination that has been given to the several convicts, either by the chief engineer for the use of government, or by the applications qf individuals signified to the magistrates of the different districts, or to the superintendent himself. In this part of the inspection, the governor receives the report of the captain and superintendent respecting the good or bad conduct of any individuals during the passage, and promises to attend to their recommendations; he rarely alters the destination of the convicts, made by the superintendent, but he sometimes desires that particular descriptions of men may be assigned to individuals, whose applications more immediately occur to him. "These orders are signified to the superintendent and chief engineer; and when the governor has finished the inspection, he addresses the convicts in an audible tone, commencing his address with an inquiry, whether they have any Address of the complaints to make, whether their treatment during the passage has been humane and kind, and whether they have had their proper allowance of provisions. If any complaint is signified, the name of the individual is taken down, and the inquiry is referred to the police magistrates; but, if the convicts are silent, or if they declare generally that they are satisfied, the governor proceeds in his address. He expresses his hope that the change which has been effected in their situation, will lead to a change in their conduct; that they will become new men ; and he explicitly informs them that as no reference will be had to the past, their future conduct in their respective situations will alone entitle them to reward or indulgence. It frequently happens, that the convicts brought by two vessels are inspected at the same time; but no variation is made in the mode of conducting it; and when concluded, the convicts destined for distribution by the magistrates, are sent either by water to Parramatta, under the care of a constable, or marched to Liverpool with their baggage; they are lodged in the gaols of the different towns as they pass, and are assigned to the settlers in the districts according to the application that has been made for them, regulated however by the discretion and will of the magistrates who assign them.
In the disembarkation and distribution of the female convicts, a part only of these regulations is observed. The governor's secretary and the superintendent of convicts, take the muster of the females on board the ship ; the same inquiries are made as in the males; but the female convicts are rarely seen by the governor afterwards, and they are allowed to land in their own dresses, and not in those provided for them by the Navy Board. Such of them as are not assigned to individuals in Sydney, or permitted to join their husbands, are sent by water to the Factory at Paramatta
JOHN THOMAS BIGGE'S OBSERVATIONS ON THE DEFECTS OF THE MANAGEMENT OF CONVICTS.....
By the prevention of intercourse between the convicts and the inhabitants of the colony, in the interval that takes place between their arrival and landing, a salutary apprehension and uncertainty respecting their future fate may be created; and instead of indulging in speculations of profitable employment, either of their property or interest, or securing advantageous situations in the service of their friends, which an early communication with the shore never fails to open, their minds might at this moment, more than at any other, be impressed with one of the worst characters of their condition, the hardships they have to endure in the service of an unknown master.
A very meritorious attempt was made at Sydney, on the suggestion of Mr. Justice Field, to afford opportunities to convicts on their arrival to deposit the sums of money that they might have brought with them from England, in the hands of certain individuals, who had associated for the purpose of forming a saving bank in New South Wales, upon the principles and plan of those so generally adopted in England. Mr. Justice Field was the author and the promoter of this measure; and under the patronage of Governor Macquarie, who presided at the meeting; it was agreed, that it should be carried into effect by a committee consisting of some very respectable individuals in Sydney. The rules of the society were published and printed, together with a plain and sensible address from Mr. Justice Field to the convicts on their arrival, showing them the advantages to be derived from the establishment of the savings bank, and inviting them to deposit their money in it. This publication has been distributed amongst the convicts on their arrival, and before their disembarkation, but its success has been inconsiderable. Indeed, when the advantageous modes of investment of money are made known to the convicts by their friends on shore, it is not to be supposed that they will be satisfied with the moderate though certain profit of the savings bank.
The property and money of those convicts who have not the means of investing or depositing it on their arrival, points them out as objects of plunder to many of their brethren in Sydney; and numerous complaints have been made to me of losses and robberies committed in their way from the place of debarkation to the gaol yard, in returning from thence, and afterwards to embark for Parramatta, or to the places in which they are assigned at Sydney. Those who are ill-disposed and careless, become the victims of the many temptations that surround them, and a great deal of intoxication is observed amongst the newly arrived convicts on the evening of the day on which they land. Constables are appointed to attend the convicts on their landing to the gaol, and on their embarkation for Parramatta; but whether from interest, or from inactivity, they do not succeed in restraining them from communication with people in the streets, or in preventing them from leaving their ranks or exchanging their clothes for food.
In the noisy and joyous recognition of their friends and acquaintance, in the tumult of hasty and unequal bargains, or in disappointments for the loss of their property and bedding, they proceed from the boats to the gaol. In the presence of the governor these feelings are suppressed; and in the countenances and demeanour of a few, especially of those who have been in the higher ranks of life, some indications of shame and of sorrow may be discovered. The official inquiries, respecting the convicts, that are instituted before they are brought into the governor's presence, at the muster in the gaol, are made with the sole view of ascertaining their competence for employment in the works of government. The difference of their crimes, or terms of punishment, and their previous character in England, are points that are altogether overlooked,' as much by the nature of the governor's address to the convicts, as by the selection of the superintendent or the inhabitants of the colony. It has been customary indeed for the surgeons superintendent to enumerate and recommend to the governor the individuals who have conducted themselves well on board the ships during the passage, as a title to some indulgence on their arrival, and Governor Macquarie has in a few instances acceded to these recommendations ; but it is stated by the superintendent Hutchinson, that they are little to be relied on, and that he has found the men to differ greatly from the characters so given to them, on trial. It was found moreover, that the surgeons not unfrequently availed themselves of this opportunity to communicate to their friends in New South Wales, the qualifications of such convicts as had become known to them during the passage, and were likely to render them valuable servants; but as the practice, though highly beneficial to the settlers, as well as to the convicts, was found to interfere with the demand of government for the best labourers, of almost every description, the recommendations of the surgeons have not latterly been much attended to, and in some instances have been entirely disregarded. Applications are not unfrequently made for convicts newly arrived, by persons related to, or connected with them, or in consequence of recommendations that they bring with them from England; and such applications are attended to, unless the party applied for happens to be a mechanic, or to possess any qualification useful to government. In such, as indeed in every other case, this principle of reservation prevails, and the convict is sent to join one of the government gangs. Tradesmen whose services are not required by government, such as tailors, shoemakers and others, and those who possess money, or property capable of being converted into money, are most frequently selected by the overseers and the clerks, in the different offices at Sydney, on the condition of paying them a certain weekly sum, generally amounting to ten shillings, which is reduced to five, if the convict gives up his government ration. In return for this payment, and as long as it is regularly made, the convict is allowed to be at large at Sydney, and elsewhere, and to be at his own disposal. The condition of a convict under this indulgence therefore, becomes at once superior to that of his comrades, whom he has so lately left, and if his conduct be such as to avoid the notice of the police or the superintendent Hutchinson, he has an opportunity of maintaining himself with comfort.
The practical evils of this system will be noticed hereafter; at present it is only mentioned as one instance among many of the inequalities in the condition of the convicts on their first entrance into servitude. Individuals, however, who have succeeded in obtaining a knowledge of the pecuniary means of the convicts, and who reside in Sydney, will also apply for them; and in return for that application, obtain a remuneration in money from the convict, dispensing with their services, and only preserving a nominal control over them. The convicts who are known to possess money to a considerable amount, or who have been clerks in the counting-houses of merchants in England, have, in most cases, received tickets of leave on their arrival, or are allowed to be assigned in the manner above mentioned. Under this indulgence, they either embark in trade and become retail dealers, or are employed as clerks in the commissariat department, or in the offices of the attorneys and merchants.
At the early period of Governor Macquarie's administration, the applications for convicts, which were then more pressing than they have latterly been, were directed to be addressed to Mr. Secretary Campbell, by such persons as were resident in Sydney, and to the magistrates of the different districts, by those who resided there ; and as a guide for distribution, it was required by the latter that they should state the number of acres that they had in cultivation. Of late years, as applications from the settlers became more numerous, they have fallen entirely into the hands of William Hutchinson, the superintendent of convicts; for although the magistrates in the different districts distribute such convicts as are sent to them, regulated in point of number by the applications that are made, and transmitted in the first instance to Governor Macquarie, and through him to the superintendent Hutchinson, yet applications are made to him by individuals at a distance, for a particular description of labourers, and are assigned by him at Sydney ; and he possesses altogether the power of making a selection there of the best or the worst convicts, or a due proportion of each, for the service of the different districts. The list of applications for convicts is also kept in his office at Sydney, and every person who applies, causes his name and residence to be taken down, together with a description of the class of convict that he wishes to have. The distribution was formerly made by lot, according to a scheme explained by Mr. Secretary Campbell to the magistrates, and adverted to in a government public notice, bearing date the 6th July 1811, and published in the Sydney Gazette. This measure was resorted to at a period when there was a pressing demand for labourers of any description ; but those settlers only were allowed to send in their names who were " considered as most in want and best entitled to receive them." The order does not indeed specify who the person was that should have the power of determining this preliminary and important question ; but as the lottery was to take place under the direction of the magistrates, and the distribution also, it is fair to presume that they exercised a discretion upon that as well as other points. Indeed it is distinctly stated by the Reverend Mr. Marsden, that " as he considered it to be a degradation to the honest part of the society to be put on the same level with the class that had been convicts, he allowed the former to select, in the first place, such men as would answer their purpose, and then the settlers, who had been convicts, were allowed to draw lots for the remainder. As the number of convicts increased in the colony, the mode of distribution by lottery fell into disuse, and the exercise of this great patronage has fallen into the hands of the superintendent Hutchinson at Sydney, and has occasionally been divided between him and Major Druitt the chief engineer, while the distribution in the districts has been altogether in the hands of the magistrates.
It appears by the instructions that have been transmitted from time to time by Governor Macquarie upon this subject to the chief engineer and the principal superintendent, as well as by the evidence of Mr. John and Mr. Hannibal McArthur, that the applications of individuals to the governor for mechanics and for agricultural labourers, have been sometimes successful; but the assignment of a mechanic has always been considered the greatest favour that could be bestowed by the governor, and it has been granted only to individuals whom he wished to distinguish or oblige, or who could plead the execution of some important undertaking. The numerous refusals however that have been given to applications of this kind, and grounded always upon the important works that government was carrying on, have latterly rendered them less frequent, and have augmented the general dissatisfaction that the monopoly of the best mechanical and agricultural labour by government has at all times created, but more particularly during the government of Major-general Macquarie.
Such are the principles upon which the distribution of the numerous convicts that have arrived in New South Wales has generally been made ; I think it necessary to notice the want of attention that has prevailed, until a very late period, at Sydney, to the circumstances of those convicts who have been transported a second and a third time. Although the knowledge of these facts is transmitted in the hulk lists, or acquired without difficulty during the passage, it never has occurred to Governor Macquarie, or to the superintendent of convicts, to make any difference in the condition of these men, not even to disappoint the views that they may be supposed to have indulged by the success of a criminal enterprize in England, and by transferring the fruits of it to New South Wales. To accomplish this very simple but important object, nothing more was necessary than to consign these men to any situation rather than that which their friends had selected for them, and distinctly to declare, in the presence of their comrades at the first muster on their arrival, that no consideration or favour would be shown to those who had violated the law a second time, and that the mitigation of their sentences must be indefinitely postponed.
Application for distribution of the female convicts is regulated by different principles. Great difficulty is found in preventing boats from hovering round the ships; but no person is permitted to go on board without a pass from the superintendent. This privilege is granted only to inquire for servants; and the applications having been previously made to the superintendent, the women are sent to their respective places of destination as soon as the muster is completed. The governor has not been in the habit of inspecting the female convicts on their arrival, but a list of them and the persons to whom they are assigned is constantly sent to him. Each person who receives a female convict signs an indenture in which he obliges himself under a penalty of £20. to retain her in his service for the space of three years, providing sufficient subsistence, clothing, washing, and lodging, and not to part with her either directly or indirectly during the term, without the approbation or authority of a magistrate, or in case of misconduct proved and determined before him.
Married female convicts are assigned without such indenture to their husbands, whether free or convict; and, in many cases, both receive tickets of leave, as affording greater facilities of support. The females likewise who bring property with them, or are recommended by the captains or surgeons superintendent of the ships, receive tickets of leave on their arrival. The consequences of this indulgence are described by the principal superintendent to give encouragement to improper intercourse between the officers of the ships and the women, and to lead to their cohabitation with individuals in Sydney, that not unfrequently terminates in marriage. Those who are accompanied by children, are rarely taken by settlers, and are sent to the Factory at Parramatta. Indeed of late it would appear by the evidence of the superintendent Hutchinson, that a greater number of female convicts of every description have arrived, than were required by the settlers of New South Wales; and consequently those who were not sent to Van Dieman's Land, were consigned to the factory at Parramatta. In their passage thither from Sydney, which, according to the evidence of Mr. Oakes, lasts from the morning till the evening, if the wind be fair, and during the night if it be adverse, great irregularities take place; and the women frequently arrive at Parramatta in a state of intoxication, after being plundered of such property as they may have brought from the ships with them, during the time they stop at a public house on the shore of the Parramatta river. They are accompanied by a constable in each boat, who, in case of negligence, would be liable to be broke; but this precaution does not prevent the existence of the irregularities that it is meant to check.
I SHALL now proceed to describe the manner in which the convicts are lodged and employed when retained in the service of government. The construction of buildings in the towns of Sydney, Parramatta, Windsor, and Liverpool, has afforded constant employment to a very large body of convicts, since the period of Governor Macquarie's command; and latterly, as the number of buildings and the demand for materials has increased, establishments have been formed near Sydney, where timber has been procured and cut, and lime has been burnt from the oyster shells with which the rocks and shores of the Parramatta river abound. Large quantities of both these materials have also been imported from the settlement at Hunter's River, but as they were not found sufficient for the consumption of the principal settlement, other and nearer establishments were formed at Pennant Hills and Lane Cove. To these occupations have lately been added two others, the making of roads and bridges, and the clearing and cultivation of land.
Since the establishment of the convict barrack at Sydney, in the month of June 1819, a considerable number of convicts, varying, and gradually increasing from 600 to 1,000, have been lodged there. Previous to this period, there existed no place either of lodging or temporary confinement for any of them ; and after the inspection of those that had newly arrived was concluded, they were told by the principal superintendent to go and provide lodging where they could for the remainder of the day, and to come to their work in the morning. All the government labourers and convicts, at this period, were allowed to leave their work at three o'clock every day, and were enabled by their own labour to pay for their weekly lodgings and washing. Those who are now permitted to remain out of barrack, are compelled to work the whole of the day, but are allowed to employ themselves after the hours of government work, and on the whole of Saturdays, for their own benefit. The number of this description amounted, on the llth December 1819, to 594, and the indulgence is granted to the best conducted men, to those who are married and have families, and to those who cohabit with female convicts and have children to support. As the number of convicts increased in the year 1820 beyond the capacity of the convict barrack to contain them, the indulgence has been necessarily much extended, and without the discrimination of which it was formerly susceptible. The chief engineer and the principal superintendent of convicts, both exercise the power of ordering a convict into the barrack by way of punishment ; and the same power is likewise exercised by the magistrates at Sydney.
HYDE PARK BARRACKS - The convict barrack is built at the north-east end of a large open space of ground called Hyde Park, and is inclosed by a wall of 100 feet high, that separates it on the north from the hospital ground and the pleasure grounds attached to the government house, and towards the south and west from Hyde Park. On each side of the entrance, that is towards the west, are two small lodges 12 feet square, occupied by a clerk and constable ; and in the centre of an area, not sufficiently large for the numerous buildings and offices that range along the interior of the walls, is the principal barrack. It is a handsome brick structure, 130 feet in length and 50 in breadth, and contains three stories, that are each divided by a lofty passage, separating one range of sleeping rooms from the other. There are four rooms on each floor, and of these six are 85 feet by 19, and the six others are 65 feet by 19. In each room, rows of hammocks are slung to strong wooden rails, supported by upright stanchions fixed to the floor and roofs. Twenty inches, or two feet in breadth and seven feet in length, are allowed for each hammock ; and the two rows are separated from each other by a small passage of three feet. Seventy men sleep in each of the long rooms, and thirty-five in the small ones. Access to each floor is afforded by two staircases, placed in the centre of the building ; and the ventilation even in the warmest seasons is well maintained. The doors of the sleeping rooms, and those communicating with the court yard, are not locked during the night. One wardsman is appointed to each room, who is responsible for the conduct of the others. Two watchmen and a constable are charged with the care of the yard gate. Each room of the dormitory contains fire-places, but they have not hitherto been used, except in the rooms of the ground floor. A lamp is allowed to be burnt in each gallery during the night.
Another dormitory is provided in one of the long buildings, on the north side of the yard, 80 feet in length by 17, in which the convicts lately arrived, and those returned into barrack by order of the magistrates are lodged. They sleep on the matrasses that are brought from the convict ships, and spread them upon raised and sloping platforms of wood similar to those used in military guard rooms. The convicts employed in the kitchens and bakehouse are allowed to hang their hammocks there.
The house of the superintendent of the barrack is on the ground floor, and in the centre of the range of buildings attached to the northern wall. Below his house, and in a line with it, are the baking and store rooms ; and at each end of the same wall, there are two apartments measuring 19 feet by 21, and containing five cells measuring seven feet by four, for the solitary confinement of refractory prisoners. In the range of building attached to the opposite and south wall, are two long mess rooms, containing tables and forms, at each of which six men may be seated, and between these rooms are the kitchens. In addition to these accommodations three large open and spacious sheds have been erected, on the east and western ends of the wall, where the men assemble before they go to rest, and where they can make fires during the winter. Since the barrack was first established, the drainage of the yard, and the situation of the privies, that were at first defective, have been improved ; and a well has been sunk, and wash-houses and a drying shed have been erected in a yard below the area of the barrack. The style of architecture, in which the body of this building has been designed, is simple and handsome, and the execution of the work is solid, and promises to be durable. The roof is covered with shingles, which, from want of selection and care in working up, and from the slight inclination given to them, are found to admit the rain during the prevalence of bad weather, and of Storms of wind from the south and south-west.
A barrack was constructed in the latter part of the year 1819, at a place called the Brick Fields, on the entrance to the town of Sydney from Parramatta, capable of containing 180 convicts. The principal object proposed in this building, was to fix those who were employed in taking care of the horses, carts, and bullocks, near the place were they were kept, and it is called the carters barrack. Attached to this building, are stables for 90 horses, and offices of every description ; and latterly have been added separate barracks for boys, and a small yard for coarse carpenters, smiths, and wheelwrights work.
The Carter's Barracks is situated on the road that leads from Hyde Park, through the Brick Fields, to the Parramatta road, and forms at present one of the suburbs of the town of Sydney on the south-west. The principal building, which is of brick, and of two stories, fronts the road, and is separated from it by an ornamental railing and wall, only four feet in height from the ground : the windows of all the rooms have the same aspect, and are secured with iron bars on the inside. The principal entrance is from a yard, in which sheds have been constructed for the men to remain in before they go to rest, and two cells for solitary confinement: this yard is separated by a high wall from the stables on one side, and from a yard on the other, in which barracks have lately been erected for the accommodation of the boys. The ground floor of the principal building contains, on one side of the entrance, a large mess-room, at which men are seated in messes of six; and on the other, a room for the separate use of the horse keepers, who are 18 in number. Two ranges of bed-places, with mattresses, are raised on one side of this room; and on the opposite are mess-tables, to which the men are allowed to have access whenever their labour is finished: beyond this apartment is a store-room and wash-house. The upper story contains two sleeping-rooms of equal dimensions; in one of which 85 hammocks are hung, and in the other 70 : they are disposed in the same manner as in the convict barrack in Hyde Park ; but in one of the rooms, that contained 85 hammocks, 15 were hung upon the upper row. Between these two apartments is one allotted to the overseers, three of whom sleep in it. On the upper side of the second yard are three rooms, which are constructed purposely for the separate accommodation of the convict boys, and in which an attempt has been made to class them ; one room is allotted for those who misconduct themselves, and both their diet and their bedding are inferior to that of the first class. The fitting of the rooms is the same in all: mess-tables and forms are placed in front, and near the windows ; and along the back wall is a double tier of cribs, with sloping floors. In the two rooms of the first class 64 boys were lodged and fed in messes, composed of eight: they are allowed mattresses and blankets, have tea for breakfast, and, in addition to their pound of bread and meat, are allowed soup for dinner. The boys of the second class receive a single ration only, consisting of one pound of meat and bread per day, and sleep on boards, with a thin India blanket. In the same yard is the kitchen, in which the food of all the convicts of the carters barrack is cooked ; a house for two overseers; eight solitary cells, for the confinement of the boys, that are badly ventilated ; a shed, and fire-place, and privies. At one end of these privies, and aligning with the road, are the stables, that contain eighty-two stalls, an hospital stable, a room for constables and overseers, a saddle and harness room, and a corn room, with a machine for bruising it; to these are attached a yard, with long sheds for the bullocks, a paddock of three acres, and four acres of garden ground ; at the opposite end is a yard, containing workshops for carpenters, wheelwrights, harness makers, joiners, blacksmiths, and nailers.
The object proposed in the construction of the carters barrack was, in the first instance, to bring that particular class of convicts nearer to the place of their employment, and the care of their horses and carts; and, latterly, to provide a separate place of lodging and messing for the convict boys. The building was expeditiously finished, under the direction of the present chief engineer ; and although it is defective in means of ventilation, and that the want of elevation in the walls of the principal building has rendered the staircase inconvenient, it at present sufficiently answers the purposes for which it was intended. The whole of the establishment is placed under the superintendence of an overseer named William Orrell, an emancipated convict, who resides in a house detached from the building, and in the centre of the garden. The offices, palings, and gateway entrances are more ornamental and expensive than the purposes of the establishment required, but the greatest order and cleanliness prevails in every part of it; and from the number of convicts not having yet exceeded the means of superintendence or accommodation, and from the particular attention bestowed upon it by the chief engineer and the superintendent Orrell, the carters barrack may be considered as the best conducted of all the convict establishments in New South Wales.
DOCKYARD - A small house near the dock yard affords lodging to a few of the convicts employed in the navigation of the government boats ; and these three buildings comprise the whole of the accommodation that is at present afforded by government to the convicts in its employ at Sydney.
The convict barrack at Parramatta is constructed very nearly upon the same plan and dimensions as that of the carters barrack just described, except that the kitchen is in one of the rooms on the ground floor, and diffuses a great degree of heat and vapour through the body of the building. The convicts in the employ of government at Parramatta, are either lodged in the new convict barrack, or in houses of their own in the town. The former building is capable of containing 130 men when the hammocks are slung in single tiers only, and is built after the plan of the carters barrack at Sydney, except that it is inclosed by a high wall towards the street, that also surrounds a yard for the employment of the mechanics, immediately behind.
The convict barrack at Windsor is nearly on the same plan ; but the lodging rooms will have greater elevation than those of the Parramatta and carters barrack, and the kitchen will be detached from the body of the house.
Independent of the public labour that is carried on at the towns of Sydney, Parramatta, Windsor, and Bathurst, there are three agricultural establishments in New South Wales in which the convicts are employed namely, Grose Farm, Longbottom, and Emu Plains.
The first of these consists of 280 acres of land that were granted by Governor King to trustees for the benefit of the female orphans, and that have been since surrendered by them to government, upon an understanding that the trustees were to receive, in exchange, an equal quantity in any other part of the colony that they might select. The land is bounded on the north by the high road to Parramatta, and is situated about two miles from Sydney. The use to which it was first applied was that of affording pasturage for the horses and draught cattle employed in the works at Sydney ; latterly, and since the early part of 1819, the land, which is of a very inferior description, has been gradually cleared of trees and stumps, farm buildings have been erected, and the old dwelling-houses enlarged. Sleeping-rooms for 160 men and boys, with airing sheds of brick, have been constructed; and much pains have been taken to form a series of tanks, by deepening and widening the course of a small rivulet that traverses a portion of the farm, and in making a reservoir of water in the lowest part, where it adjoins the public road.
Gardens, for the use of the convicts, have been laid out on the banks, and have been made very productive, in the common kinds of vegetables ; the old fence that surrounded the farm has been nearly removed, and, in its place, a very strong and well-made four-railed fence has been nearly completed. Within the last two years attempts have been made to exhibit, in this farm, several of the processes of English husbandry, and no means have been spared, either by the selection of the best labourers, or by the most abundant supply of implements, materials and manure, to insure their success. The farm is placed under the immediate superintendence of a convict named Ebenezer Knox, who acquired his knowledge of agriculture in one of the southern counties of Scotland; but the direction of the operations has been wholly in the hands of Major Druitt, the chief engineer, The produce of the farm has been chiefly consumed as green food for the draught cattle that are employed at Sydney ; and although in this respect the farm has been of use, and has exhibited as well as taught more approved modes of agriculture than have hitherto been practised by the settlers in New South Wales, more especially that very useful one of eradicating the stumps and roots of trees, by covering them with green sods of earth and setting fire to them, yet the intrinsic value of the operations has been diminished by the injudicious precipitation with which they have been conducted. For the purpose of affording a larger range of pasturage, and better food to the draught cattle, a small farm, called Canterbury, comprising 50 acres that were cleared some time ago, and in which some white clover had been mixed with the natural grasses of the country, was hired of Mr. Campbell, and the rent, amounting to 50/. per annum, paid from the police fund. At this place 11 convicts were, till lately, lodged and employed in attending the cattle, and in driving them to and from Sydney. Nearly 40 tons of very good hay were made on the cleared part of the land last year; and considering the number of cattle and horses employed at Sydney, and the difficulty of feeding them at certain periods of the year, the establishment at Canterbury was useful. The occupation of it, on account of government, was to cease in the Month of May 1821.
Besides the agricultural establishment at Grose Farm, there are two others of the same nature that were formed in the course of the year 1819; one at Longbottom bottom, on the Parramatta road, and ten miles from Sydney; the other on a tract of alluvial land, called Emu Plains, situate on the western bank of the river Nepean, and at the base of the first ascent to the Blue Mountains. The former of these comprises nearly 700 acres of land, consisting of a portion that was ungranted, and another that has been since added by an exchange with the original grantee. It contains some valuable timber, which is cut and sawn upon the spot, and conveyed to Sydney in boats by the Parramatta river, on the southern shore of which part of the farm of Longbottom is situated. Charcoal for the forges and foundries is likewise prepared here, and as the land is gradually cleared of wood, the cultivation is extended under the direction of an overseer, who was a convict, and has received his emancipation. The number of men employed at Longbottom amounted, in January 1821, to 110. This establishment is under the inspection of Major Druitt, the chief engineer, who occasionally visits it. The buildings consist of a house for the overseer, a barrack for the men, an open shed, and a fire-place, a mess-room, and stabling for five horses. They are all constructed of wood, and covered with shingles. With the exception of an ornamental lodge and gateway that has been built at the entrance from the road, the buildings at this establishment have been erected with a due regard to economy, and the comfortable lodging of the convicts.
The agricultural establishment at Longbottom, possesses some local advantages in the speedy and easy conveyance of its produce to Sydney, but from its contiguity to the high road, it affords great temptations to the convicts to escape at night; and in the early part of the evenings to stroll along the road and stop carts and passengers. Frequent instances of these acts of plunder occurred in the latter end of the year 1820, and are attributable in some degree to the want of vigilance and activity in the superintendent, and partly to the difficulty that he experienced in confining the convicts between the hour in which their labour terminated, and the hour of confinement for the night.
The establishment at Emu Plains is under the management of Mr. Richard Fitzgerald, and was undertaken for the purpose of giving employment to the numerous convicts that arrived in the year 1819, and that were not taken up by the settlers. Their numbers have gradually increased from 120 to 269, and they are employed in building their own huts, or those required by the establishment ; in cutting or burning off timber, clearing the land, and in cultivating it with wheat and maize. The river Nepean, which is in some places very deep, divides the tract called Emu Plains from the estate of Sir John Jamieson, and from other cultivated lands on the opposite bank of the river ; but the road to Bathurst from Emu Ford and the Ferry, traverses the plains in an oblique and inconvenient direction. The buildings at Emu Plains consist of a small house for Mr. Fitzgerald and the overseer, a store for the provisions, a quarter for the commissariat clerk, and a barrack for the detachment of soldiers. The convicts are lodged in cottages built of wood, or the bark of the eucalyptus, and one cottage of larger dimensions than the rest is set apart for the sick. The numbers in each cottage vary from two to eight or ten, and every convict is allowed to have a separate cottage and garden attached to it, if he chooses to erect one. They sleep on wooden trellisses, raised nearly two feet from the ground, and generally spread the mattresses that they bring with them from the convict ships on large pieces of bark of the eucalyptus, which are very easily and quickly detached from the tree. ** Some of the cottages are substantially built, but they have been allowed to be placed much too near each other.
From the superior quality of the land, the produce both of maize and wheat, in the year 1820, was very abundant at Emu Plains. The situation is healthy, and being separated, though not effectually, by the course of the river Nepean, from the neighbouring settlements, the convicts have fewer opportunities of obtaining spirituous liquors, or communicating with other convicts in their hours of leisure.
At Pennant Hills, on the northern shore of the Paramatta river, and distant about seven miles from the town of Paramatta, an establishment has been made for the purpose of supplying the different works at Sydney with sawn timber and shingles for roofing. The land from which the wood is cut belongs to Mr. John and Mr. Hannibal McArthur, who have not objected to the temporary occupation of it, or to the appropriation of the timber. Seventy-three men are employed at this station-; and they are chiefly sawyers, shingle-splitters, and basket-makers. They work under cover, and are lodged in cottages or barracks of different dimensions, which are simply but substantially constructed of wood; but the floors ought to have been elevated above the surface of the ground, instead of being depressed somewhat below it. Some of the cottages are boarded, but all are substantial, and provided with chimneys, built either of large logs and rough stone, with an iron bar and hooks laid across for culinary purposes. An overseer, by the name of Kelly, who is now free by expiration of his term of service, superintends the establishment ; and the wood and shingles are conveyed in bullock carts, from the station to the shore of the Parramatta river, a distance of five miles, and from thence by water to Sydney. A very decent chapel, capable capable of containing 150 persons, has likewise been erected at Pennant Hills, by the overseer Kelly, and a labouring carpenter, during their leisure hours. Divine service is performed in it by a convict named Home, who was first employed at Parramatta as a schoolmaster.
The erection of this chapel cost government nothing more than the cutting of the timber and the nails ; and it was finished in the space of six weeks. There is also, at Pennant Hills, a place of temporary confinement for refractory convicts, constructed of the same materials as the other buildings.
At Iron Cove, on the southern shore of the Parramatta river, and about three miles from Sydney, there is an establishment of 27 convicts for gathering shells for lime. They are tasked to procure a certain quantity every week, and the shells are sent down by water in the government boats to Sydney. The convicts at this establishment are lodged in wood huts on the bank of the river, under the superintendence of an overseer.
The nature of the work in which a party called the shell gang is employed, is described in the evidence of William Hutchinson, the principal superintendent. The men dig for the oyster shells in the bed of the river when the tide is retiring ; and as the period of their work is limited, and thev are tasked to finish a certain quantity in the week, the labour is severe in itself and it is frequently performed when they are up to their waists in water. This species of labour is generally reserved for the men of the worst character; and an instance occurred in the latter end of the year 1819, of the evil effects of giving task work, when it is not accompanied by strict confinement and control. A convict named (Robert) Parsons, who had been tried in London for an offence committed in the month of February 1819, was transported in May following to New South Wales. He was by disposition turbulent and refractory, and for some misconduct at the barrack at Sydney, he was ordered to be placed in the shell gang at Iron Cove. He had been there only three weeks, when having completed his weekly task on a Thursday, he escaped to Sydney, when the other convicts were at work, and concerted, with another man of the same gang, a highway robbery, for which he was tried, sentenced, and executed in the month of December of the same year.
Since the improvement of the roads and bridges was undertaken by Major Druitt, the chief engineer, in the year 1819, several gangs of convicts, amounting in the month of November 1819 to 362, under the superintendence of overseers, have been employed in this service. The gangs vary from 30 to 60 each ; and as their work proceeds, they remove their huts, which are always constructed of the branches and bark of the eucalyptus, from one station to another. This operation is attended with very little difficulty and no expense. The circumstances that rendered this labour necessary so soon after the formation of the roads and bridges, will be mentioned hereafter; at present, it consists sometimes in giving a new direction to the whole line of roads, clearing away the stumps that had been left by the former contractors, seeking for and conveying materials from the adjoining land, and cutting and carrying heavy timber and logs for the bridges and swampy places.
The able-bodied men, who are lodged in the convict barrack and carters barrack at Sydney, are divided into gangs, and are employed in the lumber yard there, or in quarries, and in different works that are going on in and near the town. They are mustered by the overseers in the barracks at half past four in summer, and at daylight in winter, and are marched to their place of employment. William Hutchinson, the principal superintendent, attends at the first muster of the gangs in the convict barrack, and gives orders for any alterations in the number or disposition of them that he may have concerted previously with Major Druitt, the chief engineer. The sick and lame are sent to the hospital to be examined, and if the cases are only suspicious, the convicts are confined in a wooden building, within the walls of the hospital, till the middle of the day, and if they require inspection and medicine, without confinement, they are sent to rejoin their gangs; a list of the convicts exempted from labour being sent daily, at eight o'clock, by the assistant-surgeon on duty, to the principal superintendent's office in the lumber yard.
The convict boys are now marched from the carters barrack to the several places of employment, in the lumber yard and dock yard, and except in the hours of labour, are separated from the men. The convicts that are aged and infirm, are employed in light work about the barrack, or in the government grounds and garden. At nine o'clock in summer, the whole are marched back to their barracks for breakfast, for which they are allowed one hour, and the same time at dinner ; and in the evening they return to the barrack at sunset, when they are again mustered by their overseers. During the winter the convicts are made to breakfast before they proceed to their work in the morning.
The principal place of convict labour in Sydney, is the lumber yard, a large space of ground now walled in, and extending from George-street to the edge of a small stream that discharges itself into Sydney Cove. The trades carried on in this place, are those of blacksmiths, locksmiths, nailers, iron and brass founders, bellows makers, coopers, sawyers, painters, lead casters, harness and collar makers, tailors and shoemakers, carpenters, joiners, and cabinet makers. All the different sheds in which the workmen are employed, front towards the yard that they enclose, and in the centre is deposited the wood that is brought from Pennant Hills and Newcastle, separated according to its size and dimensions. An overseer superintends each class of labourers, and when they are employed out of the lumber yard, and in large gangs, additional overseers are appointed to assist them in that duty.
The dock yard likewise furnishes employment to a considerable number of workmen, either in the construction of the quays, or in the building and naval equipment of boats and small vessels. The gaol gang are generally employed at this place, in unloading the cargoes of the colonial vessels, and in delivering them on the quays of the dock yard, and they are made to work in chains. Considerable additions have lately been made in the dock yard, by the erection of two blacksmiths and nailers forges, a sail room and boat house underneath, two saw pits, and a high stone wall that now entirely separates the yard from the street, and from the commissariat stores.
The stone-cutters gangs are very numerous, and are distributed in five or six different places in and about Sydney, for the purpose of raising and quarrying stone as near as it can be procured to the buildings. There is one principal overseer of these gangs, and others are allowed for more immediate and constant superintendence. The carriage of materials from the dock yards and quarries to the different buildings, occasions the employment of not less than 69 men, including attendants and horse-keepers; and three mounted overseers are constantly employed in carrying directions to the cart-men for that purpose; latterly, the carts employed in Sydney, amounting to 29, have returned to the carters barrack at four or five o'clock in the evening, and the drivers are afterwards made to work in the garden adjoining the barrack.
Within the last year, several gangs of convicts have been employed in levelling the streets of Sydney and Parramatta, and in making brick drains at the intersections of the streets. Twelve boats, navigated and worked by 52 men, are in constant employment on the Parramatta river and the adjoining inlets, in procuring and conveying lime and wood from Pennant Hills to Sydney, or stores to Parramatta.
Eight boats carrying six coxswains and 38 men, are daily employed in cutting grass for the Government horses and draught cattle, and for the use of the governor's horses during his residence at Sydney. They are under the direction of Barnard Williams, coxswain of the governor's barge, who lives in a house that belongs to Government on the shore of Sydney Cove, and adjoining the dock yard. The grass-cutters and boats crews are mustered by him on their return from their work, and from the nature of it are obliged to leave Sydney at irregular hours, varied and governed by the state of the tides and wind. Those of the grass-cutters that are well conducted, are allowed to lodge in the town, and when they have procured the quantity that is given as a task to each man, they are allowed to dispose of the surplus for themselves; those likewise who have been able to furnish on the Fridays the quantity required for that day and the Saturday, are allowed the use of the government boats to procure it for themselves on the Saturday, and to sell it in the town. The daily task of the grass cutters has been raised lately from 40 to 60 bundles of grass for each man, and it is procured on the banks of the Parramatta river, or the tracts of unoccupied land adjoining. Out of the number of grass-cutters above-mentioned, there are six that are allowed to procure grass for such of the officers of the regiment in garrison as keep horses. They are borne on the regimental books as civil servants, and receive rations as such. With two exceptions, the men who are selected for this service, on account of their good behaviour, do not live in the barracks, they are merely employed for supplying grass for the horses of the officer to whom they are assigned, and after delivering it they are entirely at their own disposal for the remainder of the day. In addition to the number of boats crews already mentioned, four men are allowed for the use of the chief engineer's boat in Sydney Cove, six for the use of the naval officer, eight for the row-guard, and three small boats are in constant employment about the dock yard and harbour, making a total of 120 men.
The chief engineer at Sydney has the direction of all the public works carried on in the settlements of New South Wales, and receives the orders of the governor to commence and execute them. The office of chief engineer has existed for a considerable period, but it was not till the time of Captain Gill, an officer of the 46th regiment, that the importance of the situation began to be perceived, by the enlarged extent of duties that he was called upon to perform. None of the persons who filled this office having possessed any knowledge of architecture or mechanics, their duties, in the first instance, were limited to the collection and preparation of materials, the distribution of stores and tools, and the care of all the government property employed in the public works.
The buildings in Sydney that were erected by government previous to the time of Captain Gill, were, with the exception of the official residence of the governor's secretary, of very simple construction ; and it was not until the arrival of Mr. Francis Greenway, that any successful attempt was made to extend their scale and character. Since his appointment to the situation of colonial architect, in the year 1815, designs have been furnished by him for several of the public buildings, and he has superintended their progress, signifying to the chief engineer, from time to time, the materials that were required. Governor Macquarie has however availed himself of the voluntary assistance of Lieutenant Watts of the 46th regiment, his aid-de-camp, who furnishes designs for the new military barracks, and the hospital at Parramatta ; two steeples to the church at Parramatta, and for the military hospital at Sydney. He also undertook the superintendence of the first repairs of the road to Parramatta, and the bridges upon it, and the construction of a large dam in the Parramatta river, for the purpose of preserving a supply of fresh water for the use of the inhabitants, and preventing any admixture of saltwater from the rising of the tide.
The association of so many depraved and desperate characters in one place is an evil that is complained of even by the convicts themselves; and although it might not have been entirely, yet it might have been partially remedied on the opening of the convict barrack, by placing the best conducted men in one or more of the twelve sleeping rooms into which it is distributed. Robberies amongst the convicts in the barracks of their clothes and bedding, and concealment of it, are very frequent; and they are encouraged in these practices by the facility with which they cast them over the barrack wall to persons who are ready to receive them on the other side. To remedy these evils, several expedients have been resorted to by the chief engineer, such as searches of their persons at the gate, and the painting of large letters and broad arrows on different parts of the dress ; and these precautions have in some measure diminished the great losses sustained in the clothing. It was likewise the intention of Governor Macquarie to have surmounted the barrack wall with an iron paling, but the erection of it was deferred on account of the high price of that commodity, and the delay of its arrival from England. It is somewhat extraordinary that instances of violence, or of attempts to force the gate of the barrack, should not have occurred more frequently, considering the temptations that exist in the town of Sydney, and the general disposition to indulge in them that is shown by the convicts whenever they have opportunities. Absence from it on the nights of Saturday and Sunday are frequent, and are punished by confinement to the barrack on those days for certain periods. With these absences are likewise combined offences committed in the town of Sydney, of which a greater number is always brought before the police on Mondays than on any other days in the week.
Major Druitt does not conceive that any danger to the colony has arisen, or is likely to arise, from the confinement of so many criminals in the same place. Conspiracies to cut out vessels from the harbour, or to effect escape, are frequently made there; but the accumulation of numbers seems rather to have afforded means of timely detection, than of the perpetration of outrage ; and the chief engineer, and the superintendent, have always depended upon the treachery of accomplices for information respecting it, and have not been deceived in that expectation. The security, indeed, arising from the treachery of the convicts towards each other, is common to all establishments in which they are collected together. It is not, however, against the perpetration of offences committed in the barrack alone that precaution is necessary; for on marching them to and from thence, either to work or to church, it is found very difficult to prevent them, especially the boys, from entering houses as they go along, and from snatching at property and secreting it. The employment of a number of seafaring men in the navigation of the boats has also led to the engagement of themselves and others in enterprises of escape ; and latterly, in some very desperate attempts to surprise and cut out boats and vessels in the harbour both of Port Jackson and Hobart Town.
The punishments inflicted upon the convicts employed by government, consist of confining those who lodge there to the convict barrack on Saturdays and Sundays, or obliging them to work on the former day; of work in the gaol gang, of confinement in solitary cells, flogging, and transportation to the Coal River.
The chief engineer and the superintendent possess the power of confining convicts to the barrack, imposing additional or heavier labour upon them ; and although the punishment of the ordinary offences is committed to the magistrate of police, or a bench of magistrates, yet it appears that in cases that seemed to him to require very prompt interference, Governor Macquarie has proceeded to order and to authorize punishments by his warrant, and upon the verbal report alone of the chief engineer; such was the case in the mutiny of the sawyers at Pennant Hills, who were punished with one hundred lashes each; and on the discovery of a conspiracy amongst a great many of the prisoners in the convict barrack, to escape by the surprise of some vessels in the harbour.
In all other cases the offences of the government convicts are brought before the magistrate of police, who sits daily in one of the lower rooms of the convict barrack. The examinations upon these occasions proceed upon sworn testimony, and entries of the examinations are made in the police book : serious offences committed by the government convicts are reserved for the consideration of a bench of magistrates, who meet once a week, or as occasion may require. By reference to the returns of the offences and punishments that have been brought before the magistrates, it will be found that a very considerable majority are committed by convicts in the service of government. In the year commencing June 1819, and ending June 1820, 139 men were punished for absence from barrack, 35 for stealing clothes and other articles out of it, and eight for escaping over the wall. These punishments are exclusive of those inflicted by the chief engineer and superintendent, in the shape of confinement and extra labour, and which are very numerous; indeed, so great was their increase in consequence of the indulgence of Saturday and Sunday, that it has been usual latterly to confine the worst characters to the barrack on those days. The punishment ordered in such cases by the governor's regulations, for working the absentee convicts in the garden had not been in operation, as the wall that was to inclose it was not begun till June 1820, and was not quite completed in the month of February 1821.
The corporal punishments of the government convicts were formerly inflicted at the lumber yard; they are now inflicted at the convict barrack, in the presence generally of the chief engineer and the principal superintendent, and an assistant surgeon, with more severity than at the period when the government works were less extensively conducted, and the convicts less numerous. The instruments of punishment are not so heavy as those that are made use of in the army and navy; and as the convicts found means, either by bribes or threats to the flogger, to diminish their severity, a convict has been specially appointed to the service, who lives constantly in the barrack, and in a room adjoining the deputy superintendent's house. The effect of these different kinds of punishments is stated by the chief engineer to vary with the feelings and bodily habits and strength of the convicts ; and the punishment of the chain gang is rightly described by him to be the least efficient, and most prejudicial. The confinement of offenders to severe kinds of labour would be effectual, but it could only be rendered so by the superintendence of trust-worthy overseers (whom it is most difficult to find) as well as by a temporary sacrifice of mere labour to the purposes of correction and punishment; objects, as has been observed before, that do not prevail in the system upon which the government works at Sydney have been conducted.
The attendance of the convicts at places of worship has been enforced to as great an extent as the accommodation in them would allow. At Sydney the convicts living out of barrack are mustered by the chief engineer and principal superintendent on Sunday mornings at the door of the church, and occupy the whole length of the side gallery, which contains nearly 500. At eight o'clock also on the Sunday mornings prayers are read, and a sermon is preached by one of the chaplains at Sydney to the convicts in the barrack, and in the evening the ticket-of-leave men and the convicts at Sydney, not in the service of government, are required to attend at church.
In the evening of every Wednesday also, prayers and a sermon are read to such of the convicts as choose to attend, in one of the lower rooms of the convict barrack. From its dimensions, the attendance here is necessarily small, not exceeding 150; but it is stated by the Rev. Mr. Hill, that the convicts who do attend are very orderly in their conduct and deportment.
The government convicts at Parramatta and Windsor are regularly mustered on Sundays. and attend- church once a day, and since the arrival of two Catholic clergymen in the colony, the convicts professing that religion have been conducted by their their overseers from the barrack to the court house to attend mass, and a sermon has been preached to them in the convict barrack. A similar arrangement is. made for them at the other stations when one of the clergymen can make it convenient to attend. When the church is completed that is now building in Hyde Park, the attendance of all the convicts at a place of public worship may be easily provided both on Sundays and on two or three more evenings of the week.
Those who now attend church on Sunday mornings are decently dressed in their own clothes, and are punished if they are not so ; they are not provided with bibles or prayer books during the service, and though they do not openly disturb it, they manifest no attention to it. The principal superintendent, from the place he occupies in the church, immediately below the gallery of the convicts, can keep no observation on them ; and the duties of the preacher have sometimes been interrupted for the purpose of checking irregularities in their conduct, which the presence or the eye of the superintendent would have been sufficient to control. The service at the convict barrack is performed in the open yard, in the presence of all the convicts who can obtain access to it; some of them take part in singing the psalms, and generally their conduct is decent and orderly. From want of any sufficient deposit for their clothes or their property, the distribution of bibles and books of prayer amongst these men would be unavailing. A room in the barrack adjoining to the house of the deputy superintendent is allotted for their clothes, but is much too small for their present establishment, and is not conducted with any regularity, partly in consequence of the habits of the men, and partly from want of method and strictness in the deputy superintendent.
Several of the newly arrived convicts have received presents of bibles and prayer books from the surgeons of the different convict ships ; and to those who are well disposed, and have been in the habit of reading the scriptures in their many hours of leisure during the passage, such gifts are both acceptable and useful. I have observed, however, that in the first marches to the different stations in the country, they lose, and sometimes sell them for the purchase of bread and liquor, and in general, it would be better that all such gifts should be retained in deposit at Sydney, by the chaplain, or given in charge to the constables who conduct the convicts on their first arrival in the colony, with orders to deposit them in the hands of the chaplain of the district to which the convicts are sent.
The labour of the road parties, and the shell gangs, exposes the convicts to the evil effects of slight control and great temptation. On Saturdays the road parties do not work, as the overseer is necessarily absent in drawing the rations from the nearest station ; and some of the convicts pass the day in idleness, others in washing their clothes, and in straying to the farms of neighbouring settlers. The only means of controlling them during the night, is afforded by mustering them at uncertain hours; but the effect of this regulation entirely depends upon the vigilance of the overseers. The temptation to plunder afforded to the road parties, by the passage of settlers in their carts going to and from Sydney and Parramatta, many of whom are in a state of intoxication, has led to the commission of highway robberies, to robberies of orchards and poultry-yards, in the vicinity of the several stations.
With a view to obviate this evil, the chief engineer has been directed by the governor to select the men of best characters from the convict ships for the road parties; and he has also been guided by their previous habits of life, and by their bodily strength. The great advantages that are derived to the colony from the effectual improvement and repair of the roads communicating with the town of Sydney, counterbalanced in some degree the evils to which this mode of employing the convicts undoubtedly have given rise, and for which there is no remedy ; but while this advantage has been gained to the colony, considerable loss has also been sustained by government, in the quantities of slop, clothing, and bedding that the convicts in the road parties were perpetually detected in selling to the lower classes of settlers in exchange for spirits: sufficient care was not taken, at the first distribution of the convicts at Sydney for this service, to inform the overseer of these parties of the quantities of slop, clothing, and bedding that the convicts brought with them, or to furnish them with a list; it was therefore impossible, but from recollection, to contradict or to satisfy the numerous complaints that were urged by all of them, of the want of these necessary articles, or to distinguish between the complaints that were real and those that were pretended ; neither was there sufficient care observed by the overseers in mustering them from time to time, or in examining into and reporting the causes of their deficiency; a regulation by which the frequent offence of stealing from each other would have been more easily detected and punished. Except when the road parties are placed near the towns of Parramatta, Liverpool, and Windsor, they have no means of attending any religious duty : the punishment of offences committed by them is referred to the cognizance of the magistrates at those towns, the overseer having no power to inflict it without their order, and the time that this reference necessarily occupies interferes with the discharge of his local duties.
The health of the road parties does not appear to have been affected by the nature of the labour they undergo, and in one instance only have I found that it was affected by their habits of me: this occurrence is described by Mr. West to have taken place amongst a party employed on the western road, leading from Parramatta to Emu Ford, and to have originated from the dampness of the situations in which the huts were placed, on account of their contiguity to water, and the bad construction of the roofs at the commencement of the rainy season. The disease, which was a species of typhus fever, affected a great many men, and some of them died of it in the hospital at Parramatta. On the removal of the party to more elevated and dry situations, the progress of the disease was immediately stopped. The nature of the labour of the road parties has been already described. The selection of many well-conducted and robust men for this service has certainly deprived the settlers of some very valuable labourers ; but the late improvement of the roads has afforded them an easy and speedy conveyance of their produce to market, which they never enjoyed before, and which they were not in a condition to have procured for themselves ; and they have been the means of instructing several convicts who had been accustomed to the sea-service, or to employment on canals and rivers, in the labour of clearing land of trees and roots, and thereby rendering them useful to the settlers hereafter.