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I.

THE most remarkable experiment, all things considered, ever made with the noble purpose of reforming criminals was Captain Maconochie's attempt to adapt his “mark” system to the monstrous conditions of penal life at Norfolk Island. And being in principle humane, and in method an arraignment of all notions current in British and Colonial officialdom, it met with precisely that degree of success which was prophesied for it by Mr.—not then “Sir”—E. Deas-Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales.

“Speaking, your Excellency,” said that venerable if somewhat pragmatical gentleman to Governor Sir George Gipps, “from a lengthened experience of—


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h'm!—convict disciplinary methods, I have—ah!— no hope that Captain Maconochie's system will achieve the least good. It must fail, sir!”

And fail it did. To the undisguised delight of the Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney, and the Deputy Commissariat-General's Departments of Sydney and Norfolk Island, it failed. You see, the first maxim of the Captain was the reformation of the criminal, while almost every other person connected with the System, from Lord John Russell to the meanest scourger on the Island or at Port Arthur, thought the criminal was a mere thing to be locked up, and fettered, and flogged into purity of life and integrity of conduct.

Now, Maconochie's success would have meant the System's condemnation. And his failure meant that the System was right and its administrators were wise. Therefore the failure was only to be expected. Men do not care about being proved wrong, even if it could be shown that a few dozen souls were saved in the process of correction.

For instance, Mr. Assistant-Deputy-Commissary-General Shanks would have had to confess himself egregiously in error had Convict Tobias Tracey, per ship John, third trip, kept continuously on the path of rectitude which Captain Maconochie marked out


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for him. And that was not to be thought of. Convict Tracey had to fall once more in the slough of ill-doing in order to prove A. D. C. G. Shanks right.

To enable you to understand how terrible was that fall we must measure the height which he had attained. Step by step, climbing upwards, now taking firm foothold on a dead sin, now clutching such aid as came from the opportunity to do a kindly service to a brother-felon; again slipping back into the pit of corruption because a mess-mate jeered at him; yet again striving against the tremendous alliance of the forces of evil, till he gained a new standing-place on the up-track—this was the history of Tracey during 1840, and the early part of 1841. In the later part of '41 he fell—thanks to A. D. C. G. Shanks—irretrievably. In the early months of '41, he had first come under the notice of the Captain-Superintendent, and had begun to aspire towards a manlier existence. During the interval between those first tentative strugglings to mount, and that last dreadful fall, his life was epic in its storms and its battles, its victories and its defeats.

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