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CONDITION OF CONVICTS.
witnesses examined by the Select Committee on Transportation, respecting the condition of labourers and shepherds. That the Irish labourer found his temporal condition greatly improved, as faras food, clothing, and cabin were concerned, there can be no manner of doubt. The letters of Irish convicts generally contain circumstantial accounts of these things. One of them, speaking of the part of the ship in which he was located, says, “Mr. Reedy's parlour was never half so clane.” Another says, “Many a Mac in your town, if he only knew what the situation of a convict was, would not be long in following my example. Thank God for the same, I was never better off in my life.”
But this Irishman was looking at the bright side of things. Many a slave in South America could say the same. Captain Maconochie says, “ The practice of assigning convicts to masters is cruel, uncertain, prodigal; ineffectual either for reform or example, and can only be maintained in some degree of vigour by extreme severity.”
The magistrates of New South Wales-generally holders of convicts—were invested with great power of inflicting punishment.
There were 28,000 convicts in the colony in 1835, and in the same year there were 22,000 summary convictions. There were 247 convicts flogged in one month, which would give 2964 floggings, and 108,000 lashes, in the year; and a large portion of these were inflicted for “insolence," "insubordination," or " neglect of work.”
The number of assigned convicts in Van Diemen's Land in 1836 was 6475, and in New South Wales 20,207. At one time the supply so exceeded the demand that the Government granted certain indulgences to settlers who received convicts.
CURIOUS tricks have sometimes been played on the authorities, by parties to whom convicts were assigned. The wives and other relations of prisoners have been known to follow convict husbands, sons, or brothers, into the colony, andwith perhaps the proceeds of their offences—as
a position which justified the Government in making them an assignment of convict
I have stated in a former chapter, that convicts were employed as “field police,” in Van Die
CONVICT CLERKS AND EDITORS.
men's Land. There were also convict clerks in government offices. At one time, the clerk of the Attorney-General—through whose hands the legal papers for the prosecution of convicts passed
a convict. Convicts were at the head of public seminaries.
and no doubt there are still-convicts, or ex-convicts, at the head of the press, as editors and proprietors. John Mitchel, on his arrival at Hobart Town, writes :
“To my utter amazement, I had a letter today from Patrick O'Donohoe — who has been permitted to live in the city of Hobart Towninforming me that he has established a newspaper called the Irish Exile, enclosing me a copy of the last number, and proposing that I should join in the concern."
We conclude that the writer of the article in the Western Australian Magazine, from which we extract the following paragraph, was one of
men of first-rate talent” and “character "
referred to :
THE CONVICT WATT.
“ Has not the advent of convicts to this
colony introduced amongst us, and added to the highest, as well as the middle classes of society, men of first-rate talent, whose character contributes as much to the reputation of the colony as their expenditure does to its general means of prosperity ?”
Watt was an English convict, though a Scotchman by birth. He was sentenced to fourteen years' transportation, for embezzling large sums of money belonging to his employers, to whom he was clerk. He was sent to Wellington Valley, a penal settlement for educated convicts, where he obtained his ticket-of-leave, and was employed as clerk in the Corporation Office, under the Archdeacon of the colony. When the Corporation Office was dissolved, he was solicited by Mr. O'Shaughnessy, an Irishman, and a State prisoner, and the editor of a newspaper, called the Sydney Gazette, to become his “Sub." Nothing could have suited Watt's “ ticket” better; and as Mr. O'Shaughnessy