previous
next

II.

Look at his record.

His original conviction was on the 8th September,


  ― 4 ―
1831, at a London gaol delivery. His crime was burglary, and his sentence, transportation for life.

His sojourn in the hulk obtained for him the distinction of “a bad report,” and the voyage out to Sydney gave him still higher rank in the aristocracy of vice. “He was doomed,” the Surgeon-Superintendent of the John (third trip) told him one day in mid-ocean, “to become a Black Norfolker as sure as Fate.”

And Fate is unerring, as every one knows. Two years after landing in Sydney, he was sentenced by the Supreme Court for highway robbery and housebreaking. Once more his time was life, with the added distinction of irons—irons always—sleeping, waking, at work and at his meals—irons to be knocked off only if he mounted the scaffold, or on freedom coming to him otherway—say, through some kindly shot or kindlier blow. Freedom by process of servitude would never come to him. He was destined by Nature as a Retrograde.

Chaplain Taylor spoke of his “Retrogrades” to Governor Gipps.

“Your ‘Retrogrades’? What are they?”

“Men who are further away from freedom each succeeding day they are on the Island—who are never nearer freedom than when they set foot here!”




  ― 5 ―

“But, Mr. Taylor, in the nature of the case such characters must be few?” rejoined his Excellency.

“Few, your Excellency? Sixty out of each hundred!”

Now, at the precise moment the Superintendent's clerk at the Island gave a receipt to the master of the Governor Phillip, from Sydney, for the body of Tobias Tracey, No. 33-149, per John (3), that hardened villain might have expected release in twenty-five years, if the devil and the System would only allow him to keep his hands from picking and stealing, and breaking-in stores and warders' heads. Being predestined, however, to the ranks of the Retrogrades, within twenty-four hours of his arrival he was no nearer than thirty years to his freedom. He had knocked a gaol-turnkey down.

In 1835 his “police history” was extended by five offences of the serious order. “Light offences” were invariably at this period, and till the arrival of Maconochie, sentenced “on view.” “On view” punishments—that is, without trial—are supposed to have numbered, during 1833-4-5-6-7-8, between 8000 and 9000. They were never recorded; formal trials only were recorded; and these last during the years specified totalled 2483, and the awful mutiny year


  ― 6 ―
calendar was embraced in this sum. Of these trials Tracey was responsible, in 1835, for five.

In 1836 he was credited with four. The circumstance that he was ironed in gaol for the major part of this year accounted for the diminution of 20 per cent. in the number of his heavy offences. When a felon was double-ironed in a 6 × 4 cell, when his right hand was manacled to a staple in the wall, when he saw a human face four times daily for ten seconds each time, it cannot be said that his opportunities for outraging the peace of the realm were numerous. Still, he enlarged his record by four entries.

In 1837 they varied his gaol privileges by flogging him, and the scourging-ground was the best place possible for adorning a man's record. He had only to swear at the superintending officer to be credited with another crime; and if, also, he struck the honourable scourger with his fist or head, or bestowed upon that official a sadly-needed kick, well, there was a second offence on the same day. Consequently, Mr. Tracey, who was in gaol from January to 7th March, was in gaol again from 3rd April “till further orders.” In June and July he was in gaol, but in September he must have been out of gaol, for he absconded. He was arrested three-quarters of an hour afterwards at the gate of the Superintendent's


  ― 7 ―
quarters—said he had never been out of the gaol precincts—nevertheless, was presented with 300 lashes in one dose. And from 14th October onwards to the end of the year he was in gaol again, his record for the year being seven crimes.

In 1838 a variation in policy took place once more. He added no more than five offences to his history, but one of these earned him 100 lashes, and another four months in the sweet seclusion of his iron-cells— and the others? Each won for him a long term of “solitary.”

The second Earl of Limerick, then plain Mr. Pery, and a humble “Superintendent of Agriculture” on the Island, spent a brief space in one of the same solitary cells. He stayed till it was a question of his going mad, or going out. He went out, and found that he had been secluded 17 minutes! Tracey had three terms—14, 14, and 20. Minutes? No—days!

previous
next