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Chapter III.

SYDNEY SOCIETY—THE “FREE” AND THE “FREED”—EMANCIPISTS AND EXPIREES—RICH ONES—REFORMED FELONS—INSOLVENCY—A HERALD-OFFICE FOR EX-CONVICTS—TRANSPORTATION—COCKATOO ISLAND.

THAT the society of Sydney is cut up into parties and cliques, the frontiers of which are not the less arbitrary because they are not very apparent, is a truism which applies quite as justly to any other community without an hereditary aristocracy; I shall say no more therefore on that head. The remark is not more applicable to Sydney than to Liverpool, New York, Montreal, Calcutta, and by this time, I dare say, to the capital of the Auckland Islands, whatever its name may be.

There is one grand feature of the social status of Sydney, however, which is almost exclusively peculiar to itself—I mean the convict infusion.

A person newly arrived here feels no little curiosity, perhaps some little uneasiness, on the subject of the degree of influence exerted on the social system by the numerous body of affluent emancipists, which the lapse of time and their own amended characters have formed in the community. It seems almost incredible that, living in the very midst of this community—in many


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cases in equal and even superior style to what may be called the aristocracy—possessing some of the handsomest residences in the city and suburbs—warehouses, counting houses, banking establishments, shipping, immense tracts of land, flocks and herds, enjoying all the political and material immunities in common with those possessing equal fortunes, of the more reputable classes—they are, nevertheless a class apart from the untainted. There is a line of moral demarcation by them peremptorily impassable. The impudent and pushing, and these are few, are repelled. The unobtrusive and retiring are not encouraged. Their place on the social scale is assigned and circumscribed. They have, humanly speaking, expiated their crime; whatever these may have been, the nature of them has, probably, never passed beyond the records of the Superintendent's office. They belong indeed to the common flock; but they are the black sheep of it. They are treated with humanity and consideration, but in a certain degree they are compelled to herd together. The merchants and men of business generally meet them on equal terms in the negotiation of affairs in which their wealth, intelligence, and commercial weight sometimes necessarily involve them. They do not presume on this partial admission to equality, but fall back into their prescribed position when the business which has called the two orders into temporary contact has been completed. Official juxtaposition does not bring with it any plea for social intimacy.

The strong common sense and right feeling of our fellow-countrymen seem to have, at once and without


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hesitation, adjusted this difficult domestic question—quietly, firmly and irrevocably; no cruelty or undue assumption of superiority on the one part, no fruitless resistance on the other. The barrier is complete.

The “conditional” or “free” pardon of their sovereign appears to entitle this unfortunate section of society to traffic on equal terms with their fellow-man, but yields them no licence to pass from the counting-house to the parlour.

As I write this there passes my window a well-known individual of this class in a smart new barouche, with a showy pair of horses caparisoned in plated harness, and a coachman and page in livery and laced hats.

If the spectacle of a wealthy ex-convict rolling by in his handsome equipage, grates unpleasantly on the feelings of those who are blessed with competence, how galling must it be for the good man suffering poverty and struggling for a precarious subsistence for himself and his family!—and yet this is a thing of every day occurrence in Sydney. The indigent and honest man has literally to “eat the dirt” thrown from the chariot wheels of the branded felon.

If the fortunes of all these persons had been made since the termination of their bondage, the contrast between their success and the penury of the more deserving would not, perhaps, appear so repugnant to poetical justice and the divine right of honesty. But the contrary is, almost without exception, the fact. The wealth of the majority of the “Old Hands” was accumulated in different manners, but chiefly by monopolies during the period of their punishment—or rather of their


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banishment, for of course it is only whilst in the comparative freedom afforded by the “Ticket-of-Leave,” or “Assignment” to private service—indulgences earned by good conduct under probation—that opportunities for acquiring property were open to them.

No man, perhaps, can better appreciate the value of uprightness of character than he whose person has suffered deeply by a lapse from it. It is possible that reformation may as often result from policy and expediency as from a heartfelt conviction of the sinfulness of sin; but certain it is that in many instances as much industry and probity have been exercised by persons who have been prisoners of the Crown, as by any order of men labouring for wealth in the colony. When such amendment becomes apparent, a charitable spirit is, as I have said, universally evinced towards the individual; and, whatever mortification he may occasionally receive by chance shots, no intentional or deliberate reproach on the subject of “old stories” is ever aimed at him by his fellow-men. Indeed, the forbearance practised on this point amounts even to delicacy. A convict, co nomine, is seldom mentioned in New South Wales. He is “a prisoner of the Crown,” an “old hand,” a “government man,” or, he was “sent out.” This tenderness of expression, it will readily be believed, is practised not so much for the benefit of the actual offenders as for that of their innocent descendants,—sufferers for the sins of their fathers, moral bastards, whose position is certainly deserving of all consideration from those more happily born. “In all mixed society,” says Bulwer, “certain topics are proscribed.” It is


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needless to particularize the forbidden topics of New South Wales general society.

The great preponderance of “conditional” over “free” pardons tends to perpetuate the stigma: for although, sometimes, the conditions go no further than to prohibit return to the United Kingdom, others are more stringent in their provisos; and the opulent family, who in some distant community might hide their single blemish and display a hundred counterbalancing virtues, are constrained to remain in the country where their disgrace is patent, until the brand wears out through the lapse of time.

Among the many emancipated prisoners whose circumstances enable them to live on terms of financial equality with the more wealthy of the free classes, as well as among the store and shopkeepers of the same order with whom I have come in contact, I must say that I have never witnessed any instance of prominently offensive conduct, except in the case of one notorious individual, who, alone among an ostracised class, seems to defy public opinion, and to push his vulgar assumption of importance into public notice. I will assist him in his object by giving here a slight sketch of his biography.

This very “swell” member of the swell mob was transported for robbing his Majesty's mail of a large sum of money; but, before his apprehension, he found means to transfer the cash to his wife. She followed him to Sydney under a feigned name. And here arose one of the most glaring instances of the abuse of the system of the “assignment” of convicts ever known.


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He was assigned as a government servant to his faithful partner! It is not my object to follow the upward progress of this worthy couple; but opulence they, and freedom he, at length obtained. I do not vouch for the fact, but I have heard that since his manumission he visited England, drove a dashing four-in-hand phaeton in the parks, and contrived even to give personal offence to the most exalted personage of the realm in one of the royal demesnes.

Of this I know nothing beyond report; but I have often noted with disgust this man's shameless love of notoriety. Cock of the walk in gambling-houses, prize fights, publican's races, &c. &c., it seemed to be his ambition to attract the attention and offend the prejudices of the higher and more respectable classes in public places, where of course he had freedom of entry. Robber, bully, and blackleg, he still continued to maintain an unabashed front—such is the power of money and impudence. Yet this person is not a drunkard, dresses well, has a good house and handsome equipage; moreover, he has brought up his children carefully and creditably, and has married them respectably.

The assignment of a husband to the service of his wife, placed them in a singular and awkward mutual relation. If he offended, she, by application to the nearest magistrate, could have him well flogged; and, for a more serious act of insubordination, sent to work in chains on the roads!

I have never had, never desired access to the records of the Convict Department; but, for the lovers of New-gate-Calendar marvels, there are to be found there, it is said, mines of rich materials which might be worked


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with great effect,—and with profit,—by the romancer. But such cases as the following, of convicts' attainment of wealth and consequent power and station, are constantly before one's eyes in Sydney.

The first is a rich capitalist, and a landowner to the extent of a principality. He was a smuggler, a “fence,”note aided in the escape of French prisoners during the war; made some money in these pursuits, and was “transported beyond the seas.” His money, following him, quickly accumulated, as it always did in the good days of the colony. He is not respected, but he has a good head for business and plenty of money, and commands therefore a place in a commercial community.

Another case.—A Jew, professing a desire for conversion to Christianity, gains access to the plate-chest, &c. of a proselytizing family. The plate is indeed quickly converted——into cash. He desired no better than a trip to Australia. He is carried there at the expense of the taxpayers of England; dies in the odour of sanctity; and his next descendant attains high civic honours, becomes a justice of the peace, and no doubt well merits his success.

One day, whilst riding with the Governor, I drew his attention to a carriage of peculiar form and colour, evidently an exact copy of one brought by his Excellency from England. His Excellency, although not easily moved, appeared far from flattered at finding that for the future he must be content to share the peculiarity of his equipage with emancipist Mr.——. There were


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the graceful bends of the vice-regal phaëton, even the very shade of the aristocratic yellow closely imitated. There was a crest, coat of arms, &c. &c.; and, for aught I know to the contrary, the worthy proprietor may have adopted, in profound ignorance of its import, the bar sinister of royal descent, borne on the shield of the ducal family whose scion now rules the colony. The same armorial bearings, I understand, are blazoned on the wire window-blinds of this ambitious gentleman's residence. I am glad to add that he has the character of a good man and a charitable, and has given land and money for the building of a church.

I was expressing to an old colonist one day my surprise that a notorious ex-convict, now however a tradesman in affluent circumstances, should often be accompanied in his carriage by a respectable looking gentleman, who I knew came a free man to the colony. “He is the worse of the two, ten times over,” replied my companion. “The other was indeed a prisoner of the crown, but acquired his property by steady industry. This person, although a free man, had no qualm about becoming the partner of the rich criminal. They failed for a large sum; gave thousands of pounds for houses and lands, while paying twopence-halfpenny in the pound to their creditors, and are both now more wealthy than ever.”

The career, from a state of pauper crime to wealth and independence, of an emancipated prisoner, is, in a few words, as follows:—

He offends against his country's laws, is “sent out,” is assigned to service, gets his ticket-of-leave, finally his


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conditional or free pardon; or becomes free by servitude of his sentence. He takes a public house, dabbling meanwhile in various other money-making pursuits. He buys up cattle when the market is down, when their value might be reckoned by shillings, and sells them when ten or twelve pounds may be their price. He lends money on good security, and at usurious interest. He builds, buys, and sells houses. In the height of his prosperity, his house-rental alone brings him in 120l. a-week; for, liking quick returns, he counts his income hebdomadally. He purchases shares in a great banking establishment, well known although not openly designated as the Emancipists' Bank, a most safe and respectable house, (the writer banked there himself.) He possesses huge storehouses in the city, a beautiful villa in a fashionable suburb. “Gorgeous is the only term I can apply to his furniture,” remarked to me one day a high functionary who had rented the house of an “old hand” for a period, but whom the wealthy owner had turned out at the close of the lease. He drives a splendid equipage, flashing with silver harness and new varnished panels, and a fast trotting pair of bays, with which he takes pleasure in passing and dusting the government officers and other less opulent respectables on their way to church. The above is no fanciful portrait. It is from nature.

In one of my journeys in the interior of the colony, I inquired of my companion the history of a beautiful place about half a mile from the road-side. The moment he told me the name of the proprietor, I recognised it as one inscribed a hundred times over in the charts of New


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South Wales (and New Zealand, if I mistake not) as a possessor of allotments. Transported as a lad, he served apprentice to a bricklayer, who employed a number of other prisoners. The sober and penniless boy saved up his daily ration of rum, then a scarce article in the colony, and, selling it to the other prisoners, laid the foundation of a fortune which enabled him a few years subsequently to eclipse the richest merchants of Sydney. Yet, when possessed of wealth sufficient for every luxury, he never indulged in personal expenses. Living on “damper,”note beef, and ration tea, in a brick-floored room, his highest luxury was getting drunk on East India rum at home, or at the neighbouring road-side tavern on colonial beer. He always, however, had an acute head and a vigilant eye for business; and mercantile, pastoral, and agricultural affairs flourished under his management.

Exactly opposite, across the public road, lies the property of a gentleman of high station and character, whose avocations compel him to reside in the capital. He must keep up a degree of style, and exercise a degree of hospitality, commensurate with his position. His distant estate is neglected or mismanaged. At present a few horses and horned stock run wild and almost unreclaimed on the still uncleared land; the fences have fallen into disrepair; the property is a loss rather than a gain to the owner. The “old hand” is making money, in short; the old soldier spending it. The one is debarred society and its incidental expenses; the other is compelled by his duties to society to live expensively.




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In 1849 or 1850, a friend of mine, desirous of returning permanently to England, and of parting with his property in the colony, advertised it for sale in the public prints,—an excellent country squire's house and offices, with a beautiful farm around it, close to a large town. Considering the depreciation of landed property, many tolerably handsome offers were made; but the highest bidder and eventual purchaser was a man who had been a convict, one of about a hundred prisoners employed by the father of the heiress of the estate. By steady behaviour this person became the overseer of the assigned men, gradually acquired money, freedom, and independence; and, still in the vigour of life, purchases the house and property of his late master as a dower for his only daughter. However completely reformed, however respectable in life and character, he cannot be a very agreeable neighbour for the numerous branches of the clan * * * still resident in the country, amongst whom he has thus settled himself.

I could enumerate not a few similar instances of convict prosperity. Some rose to wealth by honest industry, some by industry unfettered by probity, and others by downright roguery, defrauding their creditors by dint of the Insolvent Court, after having made over the bulk of their property to their wives or other trusty relatives. Those unfortunates whom they had cozened were compelled, and still continue, to go a-foot, while successful and brazen-faced rascality “rides in coaches.” In mentioning the Insolvent Court, it is only fair to say that enriched convicts were by no means the only class of persons who fled to that city of refuge.




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Some eight or ten years back, intoxicated with previous success, (a success so unprecedented as to be in itself a warning to the wise,) the highest as well as the lowest of the colonists had launched forth into every species of extravagance and wild speculation; a state of affairs which the convict system, with its cheap labour and enormous government expenditure, served to feed and encourage. In the heyday of this success, the sudden demolition of the system and its material advantages, together with the fall in price of the staple exports of the colony, swooped with all the fierce violence of the monsoon upon the swelling sails of the thoughtless community. Some foundered at once, to rise no more: others, driven on a lee shore, fell into the hands of wreckers; while a few, with damaged rigging, split canvas, and crazy hulls, managed to continue their voyage in sorry plight, but hoping for brighter skies and fairer gales.

Mischance fell alike on the bad and on the good. “Out of the every twelve men of fortune and position, at that time in the colony,”—said an eloquent member of the Legislative Council, in sketching the past history of New South Wales,—“at least seven or eight had sunk into the grave, overwhelmed with the difficulties that had rolled upon them, or had evaded destruction only in the sanctuary of the Insolvent Court.”

Out of this sanctuary, some of the refugees issued most shabbily—a thing not quite peculiar to New South Wales! But, for the honour of human nature in general, and this colony in particular, there were a few who bared their own breasts to the brunt of misfortune, instead of directing it upon the heads of others.




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I will adduce one satisfactory instance in connexion with the subject of wealthy emancipated prisoners of the crown.

—— —— was not only transported for a heinous offence, but, while under probation, had the character of the most unruly and incorrigible of the chain-gang he belonged to. Every kind of severity and indignity was heaped upon his obdurate spirit. He was sent to join a distant lime-burning gang, where he was both worked and thrashed like a donkey, for his back was scored with frequent and severe applications of the “cat.” He was whipped at the cart's tail through the streets of Sydney. Cockatoo Island, the convict black-hole of New South Wales, was only too good for him, and he was drafted as irreclaimable to that Pandemonium of the Pacific, Norfolk Island.

Yet he reformed — who shall say through what agency? Perhaps the devil was whipped out of him. Perhaps reflection cast the foul fiend out — for the reprobate had a long head on those same fustigated shoulders.

At any rate, in process of time, and by a mixture of good conduct, good luck and address, the branded and scourged felon, the manacled slave, became a wealthy capitalist.

At the time of the general money-quake he fell like the rest—failing for an immense sum; I do not know the amount, but certainly not less than — (probably twice as much as)—50,000l. Unlike his compeers in mischance, bond and free, who sheltered themselves in the Court, by a strong effort he succeeded in paying up


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twenty shillings in the pound; and, having thus reduced himself almost to beggary, he recommenced life undismayed and with that resolute energy which, ill directed, had formerly made him foremost among the bad.

This man, like some others of his class gave to his children the highest education England could furnish. He is the landlord of many of the aristocracy of Sydney, who find him both liberal and correct in his dealings. The calling he has adopted brings him into contact with persons of every grade. He is extensively employed by the Government, as well as by companies and individuals, and has always been cited as a punctual, respectable, and upright man of business—as well as a singularly clever one, although, even in his old age, he can scarcely write his name.

In the only transaction I had in the colony, involving several hundred pounds' worth of property, I deliberately selected this meritorious person from among several of the same profession possessing the highest qualifications of character and capacity.

Since I made the above note, its subject has paid the debt of nature.

In proof of the high estimation in which “the long course of honourable and successful pursuits” of this person was held by the public, a Colonial Journal distinguished by its strict principles, in thus alluding to his career, mentions that the “cortège” attending his funeral consisted of nearly a hundred carriages — perhaps the most numerous procession ever seen in Sydney on similar occasions. The deceased left a large and unencumbered property.




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This is a singular anecdote connected with a country where it is not uncommon to meet men, of previously unblemished character, who have dodged through the Insolvent Courts more than once, and are still amongst the wealthiest of the land.

I know nothing of the operations of this lawful loop-hole for lavish livers and reckless speculators; and I can very well comprehend that little good can come of squeezing the dry sponge, or screwing a pauper—still less from shutting him up between four walls, so as to deprive him of any chance of recovering himself by future exertions; but surely there must be “something rotten,” when a rascal, who had ruined a dozen reputable families, is permitted to pass this court (I allude to a special case), although it was proved that a great amount of money and other property had just been removed, with his knowledge, from his residence. But, forsooth, it could not be proved that he was an active agent in its removal.

The most interesting of the class compulsorily expatriated—to use a delicate expression suited to the sex—has been made the heroine of a well-known popular novel in England. This lady has lived a model of virtue and propriety, and her children and grandchildren are well received, and deserve to be so, in the best society of the colony.

I know of but one person, who came out to this country as a prisoner of the crown, admitted, without any reservation, into equal communion with the society in general. Whilst serving in an active profession he had the misfortune, some thirty-five or forty years ago,


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to kill a man in a duel, and, falling into the hands of a judge determined to make an example of such a case, was transported for a term of years, or for life, I know not which. Practising with eminent skill as a physician for a longer period than any of the profession in the colony, he signalised himself by his benevolent attentions to the poor and sick. He was a distinguished member of the First Legislative Council of New South Wales—being indeed one of the elected members for the city of Sydney; and, after the dissolution of this body, was a successful candidate for a seat in the second Council, convened in 1849—only resigning this honourable post for private reasons—perhaps on account of his advanced age.

Yet did not this talented and worthy gentleman wholly escape the bitter consequences of his former position. During a debate on the proposed Endowment of a Colonial University—so late as 1849—certain gentlemen were nominated to compose a senate for the management of the institution. Strong exception was taken by an hon. member against one of the gentlemen named, on the principle that a person who had been transported ought not to be eligible for such a post. What respect could the colonists expect from home if they could not elect twelve men free from the taint which had degraded the Colony in the eyes of the world? “It was not against the individual but against the principle he protested.” And he wound up his speech by raising “his warning voice against an University Bill which would exclude clergymen and admit convicts.”

It is necessary to note here that the mover of the Bill introduced the startling clause that clergymen of all


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denominations ought to be excluded from the management of the institution. Not only the manager and trustees were to be laymen, but all the teachers should be laymen. Secular education only was wanted, no sectarian influence could be permitted!

A learned member, replying to the first speaker, would not consent to exclude the gentleman alluded to on the ground that he belonged to a class to which infamy attached. He urged that Dr. —— had sat in the first Legislative Council, and had associated with the highest grades of society; that he had been placed in the position he had formerly occupied, because, being an officer in the navy at a time when it was impossible to avoid giving what was termed gentlemanly satisfaction when it was demanded, he had had the misfortune to kill his antagonist in a duel. The spirit of the times had changed, but formerly some of the most distinguished men had exposed themselves to the risk of similar punishment. He instanced the Duke of Wellington, and Lord Winchelsea, Lord Cardigan, and the duel between the Duke of York and the Duke of Richmond. It was well known that among the professors of Cambridge was one who had been unfortunate enough to kill an opponent in a duel.

The worthy doctor thus unmistakeably pointed at, though not named, finding the cap to fit, put it on. He published an insulting letter to his opponent. The latter took the law instead of personal vengeance, and “the affair came off” in the Supreme Court.

The Solicitor General, for the defendant, said that he had known him many years. He had known him only


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to be charitable and good, and always ready to promote the interests of the colony generally.

The Chief Justice said that he was of opinion that Dr. —— had no just cause of complaint. The debate in the Council had turned upon a question of vital importance to the colony and to the proposed University, viz. whether persons who had been transported to the colony were eligible to be on the senate. Dr. ——'s name was not mentioned. It was to be regretted, however, that the word convict was used in the last sentence of Mr. L——'s speech. His Honour added that from the bench he could only recognise Dr. ——, for the purpose of debate, as one of those who came to the colony as a convict. Off the bench he had the highest esteem for him, and for his very good qualities. His subsequent career in the colony entitled him to perfect oblivion and forgiveness of the past.

The judges ultimately “discharged the rule,” which, I suppose, means that the case was dismissed without costs.

The merits of the case between the two litigants seemed to rest on the question whether public principle or private pique prompted the objection.

At the period of colonial history when the emancipist class, patronised and drawn from social obscurity by the governor of the day, had attained the highest point of prosperity; when the eminent and opulent firms of Lagg, Scragg, Hempson & Co., and other houses and individuals, possessed branch businesses in London, Liverpool, and in the neighbouring colonies, and owned at least one half of the monied and landed


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property in the colony—it is a ludicrous fact that an ingenious individual, in quest of an opening for employment, hit upon the bright idea of establishing an “office of armorial research.” He had no difficulty in finding namesakes for most of his Botany Bay constituents among the nobility and landed gentry of England, and in adapting to them suitable coats of arms, heraldic emblems and mottoes. I happen to know that on one occasion this colonial garter-king-at-arms having allotted to an ex-convict customer the following imposing motto:— “Ictus non victus” — “Stricken not vanquished;”—and having with some complacency submitted it for approval to a gentleman of his acquaintance, the latter, with all due deference to the accomplished herald, proposed this trifling amendment — “Ictus ter convictus”—“Scourged, and thrice convicted!”—a legend more veracious than most epitaphs!

One Sunday, in passing through a country town of this colony, and taking my seat amongst others in one of the ordinary pews in the aisle of the parish church, I noticed a large dais-like pew, crimson-curtained and brass rodded, on one side of the altar, with a costly marble tablet attached to the wall. In England it would have been the ancestral seat of the squire and lord of the manor. The person to which this pew belonged occupied precisely this station with regard to the colonial town. So likewise did his father, who had been a convict, and to whose memory that testimonial of filial respect was sacred.

Such are a few instances illustrative of an element of society peculiar to this colony and to one other only.


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They are every-day instances continually under the notice of the Sydney public, not now dragged from obscurity in order to adorn a tale. Whether they are calculated to “point a moral” depends much on the way in which they are taken. On the one hand, the spectacle of wealthy crime constantly before the eyes of a young community, in which a modest competence is all that the hard-working and honest man may hope for, cannot but be hurtful as a subject of contemplation, comment, and comparison by the inexperienced and unreflecting. Is it not calculated to make a weak and rash mind doubt the justice not only of fallible man, but of infallible Omniscience? On the other hand it may be argued that an offence is fairly expiated by a commensurate punishment, and that the prosperity of the penitent offender should not only be a subject of rejoicing, but afford a profitable and salutary example.

But there are other questions. Are the great ends—the prevention of crime, and the punishment and reformation of criminals—really attained by the secondary punishment called Transportation? And are the present advantages enjoyed by some whose past career has been stained with recorded wickedness, calculated to inspire the terror that a preventive punishment ought to inspire, or to deter those wavering in their principles, or having none, from following the same courses? True, the hardened reprobate, the twice or thrice-convicted felon, whom severity and indulgence have alike failed to reclaim, will pass his life in little better than slavery,—the chain, the scourge, and compulsory labour his daily fate. But if the most desperate and depraved ruffian


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have but the strength and resolution to feign and maintain an orderly, willing, and respectful demeanour, a few years will obtain for him some of the indulgences incident to the system,—his pass to work for hire in the town; his ticket-of-leave, enabling him to compete with the honest labourer in any part of a given district,—his conditional pardon, permitting him to go anywhere but to the United Kingdom or the place from whence he was originally transported; and even his free pardon, by which he is completely reinstated in liberty. And who shall be able to judge, whether this amendment of conduct may have arisen from the promptings of conscience and real moral amelioration, or merely from a keen appreciation of personal ease and material improvement? When the latter is the case, it is a pity that the false hypocrite and the true penitent should be “whitewashed” together.note Still more to be lamented is it, that the virtuous operative of the Old Country is too often ill-fed, ill-lodged, ill-clothed, and at his wits' end to save himself and family from the workhouse; while his fellow-villager, who has been transported for repeated offences, finds himself, after a short probation, allowed to work for his own livelihood, in a cheap country, with a splendid climate, and at a rate of wages unheard of in England.




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The system of transportation will always find plenty of advocates at home; for a public that pays grudgingly and grumblingly for the necessities of its indigent members, will pay willingly enough for the ridding its ranks of rogues. Society is less actively harassed by pauperism than by rascality!

Very many transported persons have thoroughly reformed. Very many were never radically vicious, but owed their fall to bad example and bad counsel. The wheel of fortune (that of Brixton, perhaps!) may have played them an ugly turn or two in the youth of some; but they have seen their errors, felt the consequences of them, and learnt, moreover, the value of character and conduct. But the blemish is irradicable. Like a broken-kneed horse, they may continue to work, and work as well as their more spotless fellow-men; but they never meet again with that implicit trust which those who have never “been down” have a right to expect.

Society, however, must be protected from too close contact with the once-tainted. She protects herself, accordingly, as I have mentioned heretofore; and the social economy of this colony is in general sufficiently secured from what is called the convict influence.

So little is what may be styled active convictism now apparent in Sydney, that a stranger might be unaware that any remains of the system still exist. The prisoners under custody and punishment are all confined to Cockatoo Island. This natural hulk is situated about two miles above Sydney, just where Port Jackson narrows into the creek called the Paramatta River, and about a quarter of a mile from either shore. Here is


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all that remains of that stupendous machinery which from first to last has introduced into and diffused through these colonies not less than 60,000note of Great Britain's offenders, and by whose agency it may be said this great fifth portion of the globe has been redeemed from the savage, and appropriated to the European family.

The isle is a triangle in form, about 400 yards long by 280 in width. It contains at present about 300 prisoners under conviction for offences committed in the colony, or expirees from Norfolk Island. Many of these are regular incurables, doubly and trebly convicted. Cockatoo, like the last-named island, may be considered as a college for rogues, of which New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land are merely preparatory schools. The members must have matriculated, graduated, and become professors, in order to be entered on the books. A “little go” in vice will scarcely entitle to residence!

The prisoners are employed in quarrying stone, in laying down a clear and spacious wharf round this rugged isle, so that a few sentries can command the entire circumference. They are moreover engaged on the useful work of excavating a dry dock—a convenience which does not at present exist in these colonies.

The establishment is admirably adapted both by nature and art to its purpose. Nevertheless, many desperate attempts at escape were made in my time.


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One wretched man flung himself into the water, loaded with chains, and, being a powerful swimmer, had got nearly a hundred yards from the pier before the sentry perceived him. Disregarding the soldier's shouts and threats the man swam steadily onwards, upon which the sentry fired, and the wretch instantly sunk; nor was his body ever found. Sharks in search of offal from the slaughter-houses haunt this part of the harbour, and act as an efficient “cordon.”

The great curiosity of Cockatoo Island is the Siloes—excavations in the solid rock, shaped like a huge bottle, 15 or 20 feet deep by 10 wide, with a narrow neck, closed by a stone capsule luted with plaster. About a dozen and a half of these siloes, filled in times of plenty with grain, were intended as a reserve of food for seasons of famine, which have more than once befallen the colony. It was a monopoly for the public benefit; but the plan was discountenanced and disallowed by the home authorities—I suppose, because it might interfere with the agricultural interests.

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