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We learn from Sir William Molesworth's
Report of the Select Committee on Transportation, that they were locked up from sunrise to sunset, in caravans or boxes, which held from twenty to twenty-eight men each; but which were not high enough to allow of the men standing. They slept on bare boards, eighteen inches wide. They worked in chains, throughout the day, under a military guard, and were liable to "flagellation for trifling offences."
The condition of the prisoners at the penal settlement of Norfolk was, if possible, more wretched than this. Indeed, it was such as, the Report says, "to render death desirable, and to induce many prisoners to seek it, under the most appalling aspect."
As might be expected, mutiny was no uncommon thing. On one occasion, part of the guard was killed. In the mutiny of 1834, nine of the convicts were killed, and twentynine convicted of capital offences, eleven of whom were executed.
History scarcely furnishes us with a picture to equal
equal the scene which occurred when Doctor Ullathorne, the Roman Catholic Vicar of New South Wales-for most of the offenders were Irish-went from Sydney, for the purpose of administering to the condemned, the last rites of their church.
We shall give Doctor Ullathorne's words somewhat condensed:
"On my arrival at Norfolk Island, I proceeded, although it was late at night, to the gaol. The commandant intimated to me that only five days could be allowed for preparation. He furnished me with a list of the eleven that were to die.
"The [twenty-nine] men were confined in
HORRORS OF NORFOLK ISLAND.
three cells. They were subsequently assembled together. They were not aware that any of them were reprieved. When they saw me, they relinquished a plot for escape, which they had very ingeniously planned, and which might have succeeded in enabling them to get into the bush. I said a few words to induce them to resignation, and then stated the names of those that were to die.
"It is a remarkable fact, that as I mentioned those names, they, one after another, as their names were pronounced, dropped on their knees, and thanked God that they were to be delivered from that horrible place. It was the most horrible scene I ever witnessed."
We learn from the same authority, and the same parliamentary report, that the cruelty practised at Norfolk Island had the effect of making demons of these unfortunate men. "The deep depravity of convicts in Norfolk Island is proverbial, and is constantly referred to in the papers."
VOCABULARY OF CRIME.
There are designations in the mouth of prisoners which show its enormity. One prisoner, speaking of another, called him a "good man.' Dr. Ullathorne found he meant a bad
man. "There is," he adds, "quite a Vocabulary of terms of that kind, which seem to have been invented to adapt themselves to the complete subversion of the human heart, which I found subsisting."
One of these men observed-and in such a way as to draw tears from the eyes of the judge "Let a man be what he will when he comes
in here, he is soon as bad as the rest; a man's heart is taken from him, and the heart of a beast is given to him."
Let the modern advocates of increased severity in the treatment of convicts, ponder over these things, and be ashamed, and ask the God of Mercy, who governs the world by love, to pardon the cruel thoughts of their hearts, respecting their fallen and unfortunate brethren.
Mr. Therry gives an instance of a young man
WEBBER THE BUSHRANGER.
who chose death rather than to be sent to Norfolk Island. In 1831, a bush-rough, named William Webber, was tried and sentenced to death in New South Wales. The day before the one fixed for his execution he sent for Mr. Therry, who found the prisoner to be about twenty-five years of age, and in the full vigour of manhood. He confessed to a burglary, for which two innocent men were suffering. Therry felt he could not be thoroughly depraved, and promised to use his influence to procure a commutation of the sentence of death, and to have him sent to Norfolk Island. He hoped the prisoner would make some reparation to society, by disclosing how he had disposed of the proceeds of his numerous robberies.
"Webber's reply was, 'No, sir, I thank you; I will disclose nothing. All I could gain by it would be to be sent to Norfolk Island, and I would rather be hanged than to go there. Don't trouble yourself about me. Leave me to my fate.' He was left to his fate, and was hanged."