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Chapter IV.

TRANSPORTATION—OLD AND NEW SYSTEMS—THE ANTIS AND THE PROS—THE CONVICT QUESTION—VACILLATION—RESOLUTIONS—THE “HASHEMY”—THE MOTHER COUNTRY SUPERCILIOUS—COLONIES SENSITIVE—INDIFFERENCE REPAID—PROTEST MEETINGS—AN EXPLOSION—PLATFORM ORATORS—POPULAR OUTRAGES—FRIENDLY HINTS TO RIOTERS—COLONIES FRETFUL BUT LOYAL.

THE fact Convictism, and the act Transportation, are so intimately associated with the history of this colony, and are so frequently forced on the attention of the resident and the traveller in Australia, that to reject the subject altogether would be something like performing the play of Hamlet with the part of the Dane left out. Pretending, however, to no higher art than that of a mere sketcher—a “rambler,” I do not presume to enter with my reader upon a subject so infinitely above my aim and my ability, much further than may be attained by the glimpses of its practice past and present occurring casually in the course of this my Diary.

The Whatelys, Adderlys, and others, have demolished the system speculatively, philosophically, and theoretically.


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It has actually been in extremis more than once lately; yet has arisen from its ashes in full force again, because no scheme of secondary punishment has been struck out, or is likely to be invented, by individual or collective wisdom, to supply its place. “What is to be done with our criminals?” is still the cry. It is a fair puzzle. Are we to starve, flog hang, draw and quarter them, with one school of disciplinarians, or to pet, educate, make model-prisoners of them, to ponder at once over oakum, cocoa, and contrition, with the opposite school?—or are we to provide some “soft intermediate degree” of castigation—something between the truculent and the emollient—between Carlyle and Maconochie? The amended Criminal Law forbids the rope. Philanthropists and moralists scout exilism “beyond the seas.” The system, they argue, is radically impure and unfair. Statists and jurists have propounded no satisfactory substitute. “What, then, is to be done” with our sinners against social order?

The power of deporting offenders from her shores to those of her distant dependencies, there to undergo correction, to reform, to become colonists and the ancestors of worthy citizens, seems to include one of the most valuable privileges enjoyed by any nation. But the moralist shrinks from the idea of founding new communities in crime and disgrace; while the disciplinarian doubts whether the example afforded by instances of prisoners having risen to wealth in the countries of their


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banishment may not encourage rather than daunt offenders. The old system of Assignment gave too much liberty to them. The present plan of Probation converts, it is urged, a community of men into a gang of demons. The labour accomplished by coerced labour is little better than none; the cost of supervision enormous.

Such are one or two of the arguments of objectors. Yet the experiment was a noble one; and the existence of so wealthy, so happy, and so important a colony as New South Wales, proves that in some points it has been a successful one. I am unwilling to believe that the legislative ingenuity and executive vigour of England can frame and enforce no means for cleansing from abuses—abuses, perhaps, merely those of administration—a system which it seems impossible to replace. There is one cardinal fault in the economy of the present system—that of compulsory celibacy, a practical violation of the natural affections and impulses which converts our fellow-men into monsters of ferocity and brutality. But under any shape transportation cannot be beneficially carried out—if it can be carried out at all—in any colony unwilling to receive convicts. That difficulty solved, others may surely be surmounted. The disputants upon this subject, so important to the welfare of the colony, seem to me to consist of four classes. 1st.—Those who, looking at the question in its highest aspect, would repel the outcasts of another land, because their influx would


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bring a taint upon their own. 2d, (and this includes a numerous body)—Those with whom the convicts or exiles would compete in the labour-market—thereby reducing the rate of wages. 3d.—Those who advocate the reception of convicts at all hazards—whose cry is, Let us have labour good or bad, but, at any rate, labour. 4th.—Those who are for half measures. These would not have “the convict element” largely infused into the constituency. They would keep them, therefore, away from the large towns. They would wish them sent to the distant districts, where unskilled labour is most wanted. They would rather accept these men at the hands of the Colonial Minister, with such concurrent advantages as the cordial co-operation of the colonists with the views of the Imperial Government would entitle them to expect, than receive them, indirectly and without such advantages, in the shape of emancipated or expiree prisoners from the existing penal colony of Van Diemen's Land, or from a threatened new convict plantation somewhere north of Sydney.

The contending parties on this question are not superhuman, and, therefore, one may swear self-interest does not go for nothing in the matter. The squatters and other great employers of unskilled labour pray for renewal of convictism for the good of their trade, without reference to the benefit of the commonwealth—as the glazier prays for hail-storms, civic riots, and the revival of Tom-and-Jerryism, for his own private ends! The immigrants


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and native free labourers contemplate an influx of exiles, much as the Yorkshire day labourer at harvest-time does the arrival of a band of hungry Irishmen, with their brawny arms and bran-new sickles, ready to work on half the wages and to live on half the food required by sturdy John.

The freed convict-Colonist—putting out of the question his mere material interests—must (as a local print truly remarks) be the foremost in desiring the discontinuance of the system; because its resumption would revive with tenfold virulence the painful class-distinctions and old feelings of rancour between the Free and the Freed, which are now gradually dying away. “Mrs. Mother-Country” is of course extremely disinterested, but is naturally anxious to transplant her naughty children in a place where, she being quit of them, they may reform, and, what is more—remain. A small knot of humanitarians at home and abroad advocate the principle, that it is the duty of the colonists “to take into their bosom these poor outcasts.” I noticed, moreover, another section of the employers of labour, who, in their outward and overt declarations of hostility towards further convictism, and their well-known inward and covert inclinations and practices, reminded me of a horse shying at a truss of hay on the public road, but eating it not the less greedily in his rack!

On all sides of the question there is an immense deal of vapouring. A large proportion of the Australians


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do not care a button for it one way or the other. There are not a few “parties” who would employ the Arch-fiend himself, if he would engage at low wages,—and the imminence of whose ruin, owing to the past and present dearth of labourers, almost justifies the adoption of desperate measures to save themselves. But in a large view of the case—putting a people in the place of an individual—a fair test—one cannot help seeing that a stigma once removed can never again be welcomed by a well-conditioned mind. No one could desire the regrowth of an unsightly tumour which had once been painfully excised. He who steps backwards will tumble in the mire—and what mire blacker and fouler than the Botany Swamp! So the colony, once relieved from the odium attached to penal institutions, looks upon their voluntary resumption as a moral retrogression and therefore a degradation and disgrace. It is easy to understand that the man born in the colony, or who has adopted it with the intention of making it the home of his children and grandchildren for ever, is as anxious for its moral as for its material improvement and elevation; while it is clear enough that he who, putting a certain number of thousands of pounds into his pocket, takes his passage to the colony, retaining still a preference for his native land, and sets to work to make a fortune as fast as he can, with the laudable intention of going home again to enjoy it among his relations;—it is very clear that he may be less


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squeamish as to the instruments whereby he gains his ends—and yet be an honourable and clean-handed gentleman. He may very fairly tolerate as a temporary sojourner—“only a passenger”—what the permanent colonist would vigorously repudiate

Having said thus much, I would drop at once all further consideration of a question about which I am by no means likely to propound anything new. I am tempted, however, to admit some passages from my diary of 1850;—because they touch upon a period when local excitement had reached its height upon the problem, “Convicts or no more convicts;”—because when the events of that period shall have reached Home the great question must be “set at rest for ever;”—and because a few notes taken at the moment may as briefly and familiarly as possible give an inkling of an epoch not unimportant and not inconsequential in the history of this group of colonies.

October 2d, 1850. SYDNEY.—Yesterday the debate on Transportation in the Legislative Council resulted in a firm refusal to accept convicts again. So great the diversity of opinion, so puzzling the contrarieties of sentiment that for the last twelve months or more have divided, and, indeed, convulsed society in Sydney as well as in the provinces, on this vexed question—so apparently contradictory have been the movements of the Colonial Legislature in the progressive consideration of that question, that I have been curious to find by


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what steps, after so much violent oscillation, the needle of public opinion has at length become steady to one point. The blue books and newspaper reports put us in possession of the following leading facts, by which it would certainly appear, that, on the vital question of the renewal, or the entire cessation of transportation to New South Wales, the inhabitants—if their sentiments are truly represented by their council—do not know their own minds.

In the year 1840, at the earnest recommendation of the long sitting Committee of the House of Commons, transportation to this colony was stayed, and a system of home-discipline, punitory and reformatory, was tried. This being found ruinously expensive and inefficient, the minister, after several years of experiment, resolved to feel the pulse of New South Wales as to her voluntary resumption of prisoners.

In October 1846, the proposal of the Secretary of State was laid before the Legislative Council; a select committee was appointed to consider and report upon its details, when they came to the conclusion that “a modified and carefully regulated introduction of convict-labourers into New South Wales, or into some part of it, might, under the present circumstances, be advisable.”

In September the following year, at the next session of that body, a resolution condemnatory of the principles and recommendations of its committee aforesaid was passed, and the Governor was requested to forward to


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the Secretary of State the declaration of their opinion, that the renewal of transportation would be repugnant to the wishes of the community, &c.

In 1848, a new election of the Legislative Council having meanwhile taken place, and a new proposal having been received from the Imperial Government for the reception by the colony of an influx of “exiles,” holding tickets of leave and conditional pardons, with their wives and families, and an equal number of free emigrants, the House came to the unanimous resolution to receive the exiles on the conditions specified. Finally came on, amid a flourish of trumpets, such as was never before heard in Australia, the great transportation debate of October 1850. Great it may well be styled; for the report of the speeches occupied no fewer than eighty-seven columns of the Sydney Morning Herald!

What is called the popular element in the constitution of the council was allowed full exercise in its proceedings on the transportation debate. None of the Government officers took any part in them, with the exception of the Attorney General. Having been public prosecutor for eighteen years in the colony, his eyes were thoroughly opened to the evil of transportation—in daily contemplation of the crimes which during that period had been committed. He referred members to a published charge delivered by a judge of the colony in 1835, whereby it appeared that, during that year and the two previous years, the colony being then a penal one, the following


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capital convictions and sentences of death had occurred—In 1833, capital convictions, 135; sentences of death, 69. In 1834, capital convictions, 148; sentences of death, 83. In 1835, capital convictions, 116; with 71 sentences to death, and 33 others capitally convicted waiting for sentence! Since the 1st of August, 1843, capital punishment had been taken away from certain minor offences; so that the crimes thus punished since that date were murder, rape, robbery, burglary, maliciously stabbing, shooting, and wounding; in short, crimes of violence. During that period the whole colony contained about 140,000 inhabitants. Think, O ye people of England, what a hempen butchery would have appeared the execution of six or seven dozen criminals as the result of the yearly assizes of a third class town in England—Sheffield, for instance. What a tremendous proof of the villainy of the populace of the town and district it would have been, even if the latter contained twenty times more inhabitants,—or of the cruelty of the law! The hon. and learned gentleman added a multitude of statistical facts, referring to dates since the cessation of transportation in 1840. He divided the population into two classes, the free and the transported. According to the census of 1846, the former were 4 to 1 in relative numbers with the latter, the free class having attained a majority to that extent. Wherefore, if the moral standard were equal, out of every 100 criminals, 75 should belong to the free, 25 to the transported


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class. At the Sydney quarter sessions were tried, in 1846, 335 persons, of whom 153 were of the free class, 232 of the transported. Other sets of statistics from the returns of the Supreme Court and circuits showed a similar result. And statistics are stubborn things—when they are true!

This debate resulted in the following motions being carried without a division of the house—the Pro-transportationist members having retired when they found how small a minority they would have formed:—

1. “That a humble address be presented to Her Majesty, respectfully setting forth, with reference to the despatch of the Right Hon. the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to his Excellency Sir C. A. Fitz Roy, No. 174, dated 16th November, 1849,—that this Council adopts as its final conclusion, that no more convicts ought on any conditions to be sent to any part of this colony.

2. “That as there can be no security for the social and political tranquillity of the colony until the convict question is set at rest, this Council humbly repeats the prayer which was contained in an address to her Majesty from this Council, dated 1st June, 1849, viz.—that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to revoke the order in Council, by which this colony has again been made a place to which British offenders may be transported.

3. “That the foregoing address to her Majesty may be transmitted to his Excellency the Governor, with a respectful request that his Excellency will be pleased to


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forward the same to Her Majesty, with his recommendation that the prayer of this Council may be acceded to with the least possible delay.”

This at length decisive frumping of further convictism, was accompanied and supported by petitions from various bodies, at the head of which stood the clergymen of the United Church of England and Ireland, who prayed that transportation might cease, “because the question exasperated classes and individuals, because moral and social evil was inherent in the very establishment of a penal colony, and because of the degradation attached to it in the opinion of mankind at large.” Counter petitions were not wanting. But it is possible that the leading journal (strongly “anti,” by-the-bye,) did not much exaggerate, when he computed the numbers of the “antis” and “pros” at 100 to 1.

The upshot of the debate of 1850 carries with it a lesson for the conducting of State questions between the Mother Country and her dependencies. I am inclined to concur with the opinion of the oldest and best orator in the Colonial Council, that “the double system of exilism and emigration would now be in full operation, and that the colonists would at present be deriving the benefits which would have sprung from it, perfectly satisfied with the practical operation of the measure,” had the bargain been rigidly stuck to by the former. The proposal that the wives and families of married exiles should accompany them into banishment promised


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well. The duties and amenities of domestic life, the influence of woman, the endearing relation of parent and offspring, might purify and reform any but the incurably hardened. The new arrivals would have been passed on to the rural districts, and not suffered to locate in Sydney and other large towns, where aggregation breeds moral as sure as it does bodily disease. An equal number of free and virtuous immigrants was an additional sweetener to the proposed réchauffée of the old dish—transportation. It was a sort of sandwich—one half fresh, the other of somewhat tainted materials. The company invited to partake thereof was hungry, and relished the idea of the experimental entrée! What was their disappointment, when on the dish being served up—the “Hash-emy”note dish—it was found to contain only the staler half of the stipulated components! There was no fresh meat in the market; it was too late in the day to procure any; it was too dear. In short, it has been found necessary to send it to table precisely as it was cooked in former days—no garniture, no sauce, no sippets—no nothing! To use a vulgar phrase, “the fat was in the fire!” at this discovery! and the blaze extended far and wide over the land;—so quickly, indeed, that in less than a fortnight “anti” meetings generative of petitions, resolutions, and memorials against the measure, accompanied by speeches and publications full of invective and defiance, took place in every corner of the colony. The New South Wales


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press having at that moment only one daily organ, and that one decidedly and fiercely anti-penal, the public mind—which, to save itself the trouble of thinking, is often willing to be blindly guided for good or evil—imbibed, more readily and more deeply perhaps than it was aware of, the uncompromising opinions of its literary leader. In a word, the last opportunity for procuring the willing reception of English convicts by this colony was lost. Wounded dignity was unquestionably the mainspring of this determined resistance of Imperial overtures. “What is so implacable,” says Bulwer, “as the rage of vanity? Take from a man his fortune, his house, his reputation, but flatter his vanity in each and he will forgive you. Heap upon him benefits, fill him with blessings, but irritate his self-love, and you have made the best man an ingrat.”

A colony appreciates concessions however small, consideration however trifling, at the hands of the Parent Country, much as an individual in comparatively humble circumstances values the courtesy and kindness of the rich and the great. Both, if they possess commendable spirit, will resent imperious treatment. One must have lived in colonies to know how sensitive they are on the subject of their appreciation by the Old Country. Nothing touched Australia more nearly than the apathy shown, until lately, by the Houses of Parliament in matters merely colonial. And indeed she did not flinch without cause. The very word “Colonies” was


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the immediate signal for a “count out.” There was “no house” for the consideration of such dull subjects as the political and financial relations of the parent country and her dependencies! Sir William Molesworth's plan of highly spicing his speeches was indeed sometimes successful in procuring and retaining to himself a tolerable audience on colonial matters. Few succeeded so well. Mr. Scott, in an able speech upon the “squatting question” and the peculiarities of bush life in Australia, is said to have had eight pair of ears only to listen to it. The colonial prints take a morbid delight in republishing from the Home Journals extracts proving this indifference.

When the question of a single or a double chamber for the local government of the Australian colonies was debated in the Lords, a noble Peer, who was expected to take the profoundest interest and most active part in the question, preferred seeing his horse lose at Ascot. This was a charming text for the sensitive Sydneyites to work upon. English statesmen were, as the Morning Chronicle expressed it, “more anxious about the success of a two-year old than about the fate of the southern continent.” Noble Lords and Hon. Members would hardly neglect their duties in their respective “places” for a day at Epsom, a fête at Chiswick, or for a white-bêtise at Greenwich or Blackwall, if they knew how closely their truantries are watched by their Colonial constituents. Heartless, cruel, unjust, impolitic, are the epithets which the Colonial


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press and the spretœ injuria Sydnœ bestow on the contemptuous nonchalance of England and the English towards their transmarine brethren and children;—and certainly, until quite lately, they were not undeserved. Per contra, the colony flaps its wings and crows for joy and pride, when it finds itself distinguished by a complimentary passage in the speech of a Noble Lord or Honourable Gentleman, still more when it is the subject of a flattering leader in a London newspaper; better than all, when, as once happened, Australia formed one of the leading topics in the Sovereign's opening speech from the throne,—“an incident,” remarks the Sydney Morning Herald, “we believe, without a parallel in the history of British colonies; plainly showing that, in the estimation of the advisers of the Crown, Australia had acquired an importance which ought to be recognised in the face of the empire, and had the highest possible claims on the attention of the Imperial Legislature.”

The indifference of Old England towards the affairs of her children is not unrepaid. The great events which periodically agitate the public mind in the Mother Country receive little attention here. Not only do the inferior classes ignore them altogether, but even the more thinking orders contemplate them with the most sublime unconcern. An insurrection in Ireland, a revolution in France, all Europe at loggerheads, are nothing to New South Wales,—except in so far as they may affect the price of wool and tallow, “bones, hides, horns, and


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hoofs!” A person like myself, really interested in Home affairs, and thirsting for the latest news on the arrival of a vessel after a long dearth of intelligence, must search for himself in the English files. From the colonial quidnuncs whom he meets, big with English budgets, he will merely learn that “the wool-market is active, and business doing at improved rates,” or that “town tallow and rough fat are heavy at drooping prices.” The countenances of those concerned in such matters—(and in New South Wales nearly all are so)—afford literal translations of the quotations from the Home Circular. Their spirits rise with the rise of wool, and when wool is down they are down in the mouth!

Once and once only were the events passing in the Old Country made the subject of comment to me by one of the humbler order of Sydney's citizens. I had just received a supplement of the daily paper, with “Later intelligence from Europe,” in large letters, by way of heading, and was running my eye over it, when, as I passed a group of men repairing the road, one of them turning to me said, civilly but abruptly, “I axe your pardon, Sir, what may the news be?” “Oh!” replied I, “the French ——” “Bother the Frinch,” interrupted my colloquist—“what do we care about the Frinch? Did we get the Repale yet? that's what we want to know. By the hookey! I'd go home and join the Peep-o'day-boys, if there was any one to take care of the ould woman and the children for me!” “You


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would only get your head broken,” said I. “Faith, it wouldn't be the first time,” replied he, with a broad good-humoured grin and a stifled “whoop!”—his mind reverting, doubtless, to many a faction fight, and many “a wig on the green,” proofs of the prowess of a stout arm and a tough “bit of a twig.” Then with a muttered “Och, but the times is changed!” he drove his pick half a foot into the hard macadam, and continued his work. If I have more than once noted my talks with sprigs of the Emerald Isle, it is that they are rife in this colony, and that they are infinitely more conversible and communicative than their brethren of England and Scotland.

A fortnight or so after the above little dialogue, we heard of the miserable affair of Slievenaman and the cabbage-garden campaign; and, not many months later, I met their hero, Mr. Smith O'Brien, in Van Diemen's Land. About the same period I did hear a rumour that a certain compatriot of my road-mending friend above mentioned, but moving in a greatly higher sphere of Sydney society, had engaged the services of a drill sergeant of the garrison, with a view to his efficiency as a patriot leader in his native land, whither he was about to return. The bumping of the firelock at the “order arms” on the floor of his dining-room, betrayed his studies to a friend, who found the joke too good to let it be lost to the world. This fervour evaporated, I hope, on the voyage home; for he was a clever, pleasant, good


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looking, and good fellow, and I should have heard with regret that any Crown law consequences had followed the harmless “entuzzimuzzy” (as Byron somewhere calls it) of “tam cari capitis!”—such a “regular brick.”

But these are isolated instances. As a general rule, Australia repays with interest—or rather with no interest at all—the frigid indifference of her parent. The old settlers with whom I have conversed about England almost invariably recur solely to the persons, places, and events of the Old Country “in their time.” Their sympathies, diluted by distance and the lapse of years, cannot embrace both their original and their adopted homes. Not that the hearts of the colonists are closed against the misfortunes which may befal their countrymen on the other side of the globe; for when the accounts reached Australia of the late fearful famine in Ireland, all ranks joined heartily in a handsome subscription.

The transportation question awakened the only movement at all resembling a popular émeute that it was my fortune to witness in New South Wales. The usually drowsy, well-fed, and politically apathetic Sydney broke into a perfect fever of excitement at the arrival of the fatal Hashemy with a cargo of bondsmen unaccompanied by the stipulated proportion of freemen; and the demagogues and mob orators took care to whip up the syllabub and keep it frothing. The Hashemy, I find, arrived with 212 convicts on board, on the 8th June,


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1849. On the 12th and 18th public protest meetings were held in the open air, close to the gates of the present Government House, and on the very site of the old Government House, where Governor Macquarie, whose policy it was to create an upper class from among a population nearly exclusively convict, entertained at his table guests from this order. Under the splendid old Scotch firs planted by Captain Phillip, the first importer of convicts to these shores,—on the very spot where the first convict camp was pitched,—their descendants, their compeers, and a few of the free class who had grown rich upon the system, now assembled to launch and listen to anathemas against it.

These convocations were self-styled Great Protest Meetings, although the numbers assembled were little greater than those attracted on fine Sunday afternoons by itinerant preachers in St. James's or the Regent's Park. The protest adopted at the first meeting concluded with the following solemn sentence—“For these, and for many kindred reasons;—in the exercise of our duty to our country;—for the love we bear our families; —in the strength of our loyalty to Great Britain;—and from the depth of our reverence for Almighty God —we protest against the landing again of British convicts on our shores.” A resolution was passed to request “that the local government do send the prisoners arrived in the Hashemy back to England, if necessary at the expense of the colony.” The petition and resolutions


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adopted at the meeting of the 18th embodied a prayer for the removal of the Secretary for the Colonies from her Majesty's councils, with a request that responsible government should be extended to the colony.

On the 14th a deputation waited on the Governor to present the protest and resolutions of the first meeting; and having—when one of their number attempted to press the question of sending back the prisoners—been bowed out with much ceremony and some speed by his Excellency, an individual of the deputation, well known as an humourist, is said to have remarked to his fellows, as they retired from the presence, that he did not know what their feelings might be on the occasion, but that as for himself he felt very much as if he had been “symbolically kicked.” The joke was a very good joke; but the subsequent attempt by the anti-transportation press and others to fix a charge of discourtesy upon the Governor was no joke, and was moreover very unjust and unwarrantable; and the injustice caused, as it was sure to do, a reaction in the shape of loyal addresses to his Excellency, denouncing the spirit of personal animosity exercised towards him.

Although, as I have said, the numbers attending these meetings were small, the ferment throughout the city was doubtless very great; and had the prisoners been landed in Sydney, they would have been severely handled by the populace. The platform spouters, indeed, did their best to wind up the passions of their hearers to


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that result. No such landing, in a body at least, was necessary, nor indeed contemplated.

The convict vessel arrived, as has been noted, on the 8th June. The protest meetings occurred on the 11th and 18th. There is a practical satire on human inconsistency in the following facts, reported by the principal Superintendent of Convicts to the Governor. He begs to report, that on the 14th inst., after the completion of the muster of the prisoners on board the Hashemy, “the men were permitted to make engagements with persons, who were allowed to go on board for the purpose by an order from me; and it seems worthy of remark, that, although at the time of the Hashemy's arrival there were four emigrant ships in the harbour, containing about 1,000 souls, all these men, with the exception of fifty-nine, who were removed to Moreton Bay and Clarence River, where labour was urgently required, were hired to respectable householders and sheep farmers within six days of their being ready to engage, at wages varying from 12l. to 16l. a-year, and some mechanics at 28l. per annum, the boys receiving from 8l. to 11l. per annum. Besides which, there are now applications at my office, from private individuals and others in different parts of the colony, for a larger number of this class of labourers than can be supplied by the arrival of several convict ships.”note

With such facts as these before them, it might be very


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excusable in a Home Government, or even in a local executive more behind the scenes, to doubt whether the desire to repel the “Floating Hell,”—(thus was this unlucky ship with its human freight characterised by one of the platform orators,)—with “her cargo of moral poison” from the shores of Port Jackson, was either very earnest or very general. The Governor, taking a dispassionate view of affairs as they stood, sat down and sketched them very faithfully in a despatch to the Colonial office—which despatch, finding its way into the blue-books, and describing, in due course, a parabola round the globe, fell like a bomb-shell among the combustibly disposed public.

The explosion took place early in August, 1850. The despatch was looked at, talked of, and written about, by the agitating party as if it had been an “infernal machine,” deliberately put together for the destruction of the colony. As the deputies had previously considered themselves symbolically kicked, so their constituents now considered themselves figuratively “blown up.” The truth is, they were only coolly and accurately described.

On the 12th of August (there being no grouse shooting in New South Wales), the meetings of the Circular Quay—the Champ de Mars of Sydney—were renewed. The same 800 or 1,000 idlers and others attended —men, hobble-dehoys, currency cubs, pickpockets, gossips, nursery-maids and their followers and children.


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Nearly the same speakers as before addressed the assembly. It was, perhaps, somewhat better attended than the meetings of the year before. The weather was charming—I was there myself—whereas in 1849 this congregation, sub Jove, found Jupiter Pluvius in the ascendant; and there is no greater disperser of mobs, no surer cooler of patriotism, than a good hearty shower of rain. Whereas in the former Protest meetings the public had the advantage of the presence of its favourite orator—whose versatile genius rendered palatable to “the unthinking mob”note the dryest, most insipid, and most threadbare theme—but who had since gone to England; the latter one, to make up for the loss, possessed a spicy ingredient in the person of the politico, empirico, clerico, Dr. L——, who arriving from England, red-hot with rage at his treatment by what he called “the remote, ill-informed, and irresponsible Colonial office;” being received with no warm welcome by the local powers; and being positively maltreated by the Legislative Council, into whose body he had been elected by the people; and further, having some cause for being dissatisfied with himself,—was precisely in the frame of mind to give effect to his undoubted powers of lung and tongue as well as of talent. The speeches of this gentleman and his colleagues—one of whom, by-the-bye, was a retailer of rocking-horses and radicalism in prose and verse,


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according to the requirements of the market—teemed with vulgar personalities against the Governor and his advisers; for they were quick-sighted enough to see that there was no hearty sympathy with the soul of the business—convictism or no convictism—among the populace; and they found it necessary therefore to throw some extraneous seasoning into the sop—for in the meetings of the year before scurrilous and insolent abuse of the constituted authorities had been found to be a dainty dish to set before the Cabbageites. One of the speakers—a dull one, dull as the rusted chisels and adzes of his discarded trade—indulged so largely, although unintelligibly, in coarse vituperation of the Governor and his sons, that one of them called the brawler to account; but he, not relishing this military interference, which, whatever shape it might take, would certainly redound to his personal discomfort, took refuge in the Police Court—thereby, as one of his acquaintances pertinently remarked, losing the only opportunity ever likely to be offered to him of becoming a gentleman—namely, by exchanging shots with one bred and born.

I must mention that, at this last meeting, during the heat of speechifaction, the Governor and his daughter, on horseback, rode out of the Government-house gates at his usual hour of exercise; whereupon, it is said, the reverend and truly peace-making occupier of the platform at the moment, directed the attention of the mob to him who was just then the object of his wordy virulence.


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Upon this hint, some forty or fifty men and lads, the scum and outskirts of the assemblage, rushed from the crowd, hooting and otherwise exerting their “most sweet voices.” My wife and myself, who were among the numerous curious spectators, became involved in the current of Cornstalk mobility, and close witnesses of what would have been a paltry ebullition, but for one unmanly and un-English feature in it—namely, a set of men persisting in shouting, and doing it the more, when they saw they had succeeded in terrifying a horse carrying a lady.

If this was a displeasing sight, another consequence of this popular outbreak was locally characteristic and agreeable. The first well-dressed and well-mounted person who rode forward to assist the Mayor and the Superintendent of the Police in repelling the yelping rabble from their pursuit of her Majesty's representative and his fair daughter, was an emancipated prisoner of the Crown; perhaps one of the most notorious that ever “left his country for his country's good,”—one who has not always enjoyed a very elevated character in this colony, but who was, nevertheless ready—for he is a manly fellow—to repress cowardly outrage.

I say little about the offensive and unmerited movements of the anti-transportationists towards the Governor personally, because I know they affect him but little. Fortunately for his Excellency, he possesses a pachydermatous nature, which appears to me one of the most


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valuable attributes in a ruler, and without which, I fancy, no great man ever existed. I believe it is not too much to say that his predecessor—honourable, high-minded, talented, and zealous as he was for the public good—was stung to death by the “slings and arrows” of a long course of malignant opposition. As well attempt to subdue a rhinoceros by dint of the “sumpiter,”note as hope to conquer his successor by personal invective!

The continual blistering of the public mind kept up by the haranguers and writers against existing things had got it into a state of irritation favourable for an outbreak; and the lowest orders seized upon the occasion of a grand fancy ball given by the Mayor at the theatre a few days after the meetings in 1850, to indulge their hostile feelings towards their superiors in station. The darkness of night, the helplessness of persons in carriages, and the insufficiency of the police, were encouraging circumstances for some of the most cowardly street ruffians. A stone or two were thrown at the Governor's party, and fell among the ladies as they entered the theatre. The chief officer of police was knocked off his horse, and some attempts were made to force the ranks—faced inwards to form a lane—of the guard of honour at the entrance. When the officer, however, gave the word to “face about,” the rabble obeyed the order as


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promptly as the soldiers, and no more trouble was given to the red-coats. Worse things, however, happened afterwards; for, taking advantage of the slow pace of the carriages coming up in a string to set down the guests, a body of blackguards amused themselves by forcing open the doors of the vehicles, and assailing those occupying them with every kind of brutal comment and disgusting words and actions.

The weakness, in this instance, of the civil power contrasted with the impunity of that very uncivil power, the Sydney mob, will, if I mistake not, be productive of much future mischief. Broken heads and bread and water—which would have been the meed of these disorders had ever so small a party of the London police been on the spot—might have afforded the ringleaders a lesson and a warning which it still remains for them to receive, and which they will surely some day receive to their greater cost:—witness the manner in which the citizen army decimated the citizen mob in New York a year or two ago, when the latter wanted to maltreat a popular English actor who had made himself somehow unpopular for the nonce.

In Sydney there are no cuirassed and casqued cavalry—almost brickbat-proof—whose gigantic black horses will disperse a mob—especially a well-dressed one in wet weather—by a whisk of their long muddy tails at the touch of the “spur insidiously applied.”


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An infantry force in aid of the civil power has no means of trifling with a troublesome assemblage of persons outnumbering itself. It possesses only its serried array, its deadly bullet, and still more deadly bayonet. It is well, therefore, for a mischievously disposed populace to know, that of late years there have been two very important changes made in the mode of action of foot-soldiers in cases of collision with the people. The one is that the volley is delivered at the word “Present,” which therefore it would be the height of imprudence to await in the belief of its innocuous import;—the other consists of the prohibition of the old practice of firing over the heads of rioters—a practice to which many an innocent although perhaps meddlesome old woman has fallen a victim, while the ringleaders escaped scot-free.note “Fire low!” is now the order. New South Wales is not the country where the rabble can be safely permitted much headway. They should be checked betimes; more promptly than is requisite where the lower ranks of the population have a less questionable origin. The forçâts libres of France and other nations of the European continent have been constant and ready instruments in the hands of anarchy.

The cabbage-tree mob, as I have said before, are always ready for a “spree;” and some of their pastimes are of


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so rough an order as to deserve to be repaid with bloody coxcombs. The Sydney populace, nevertheless, as a body, are by no means inclined to tumult. Regarding politics, they are peculiarly apathetic. The abstract rights of man trouble their heads but very little. It requires active whipping and spurring by some half-dozen agitators and pillory-orators to kindle them into even a temporary glow of mock patriotism. When men are individually and collectively comfortable, it is difficult to inspire them with that sort of public virtue whose real names are discontent, disquiet, and dissolution of social bonds,—and whose end is revolution and ruin. The Anglo-Saxon is generally a placable beast when his belly is well filled; a child might play with him after his dinner. God be praised, there is no such thing as hunger in this colony!

Colonies, in general, from their social constitution, have but little sympathy with patrician—scarcely even with conservative—notions. They are naturally apostles of Progress; and that Progress has republican institutions for its ultimate bourne. New South Wales may be occasionally fretful, discontented, even restive in contesting for what she considers her rights. An empty spouter may bluster about “dragging the British standard through the dust of the Sydney streets;” but he is instantly and severely rebuked by persons present, who came to advocate the same doctrine as himself. My Sydney grocer, in canvassing my vote for the


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city council, may include in his printed circular, “the following sentiments of the man who solicits your suffrage,” borrowed from Brother Jonathan,—“That by the immutable laws of nature and the principles of the English constitution, we are entitled to life, liberty, and property, and we have never ceded to any sovereign power whatsoever a right to dispose of the same without our consent!” but he may be a good subject and sell good tea and sugar for all that. A fiery old statesman may boil over in the Legislative Chamber, and make the cedar rafters ring to his declaration that “we must assert our rights by force of arms!” but these are only periodical ebullitions; there is more of dyspepsia than disloyalty in their origin.

One thing I may assert without any reservation, that in no instance in these colonies did I ever hear the name of our gracious Queen spoken of or received without the most cordial demonstrations of homage and affection.

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