Australia: ° Adelaide ° Brisbane ° Darwin ° Fremantle ° Hunter Islands ° Lord Howe Island ° Melbourne ° Perth ° New South Wales (Sydney) ° Norfolk Island ° Van Dieman's Land: Tasmania (Hobart Town, Port Arthur)
Tasmania: Van Deiman's Land
Human habitation in Tasmania may date back some 68,000 years, at which time a land bridge existed between Tasmania and mainland Australia, connecting Flinders Island to Wilson's Promontory in Victoria.
The Tasmanian Aboriginals were almost entirely nomadic and at the time of invasion by European settlers, there are thought to have been four to six thousand indigenous inhabitants, forming nine tribes that were further subdivided into eight or nine bands each. Each tribe was highly adapted to the specific region they inhabited.
As did other islanders in the South Pacific, Tasmanians built rafts and catamarans to fish and travel, and had considerable skills in weaving and tool-making. Although they mainly travelled naked, the people used animal grease and ochre for adornment and to withstand the wet, cold winters, and made a variety of necklaces and sewn skins for further clothing and adornment. Each tribe had well-defined territories and a unique language, and a complex set of trade routes connected the society as a whole.
The first European explorer to sight Tasmania was the Dutch seafarer Able Tasman on his voyage of 1642. Tasman noted the islands existence but made no real investigation of its extent. He did however, coin the area's original name, "Van Diemen's Land." Tasmania was visited by several other Captains, such as Captain Cook who landed on Bruny island, and the French explorer La Perouse at Great Oyster Bay, both of whom made contact with the local aboriginal communities.
After the 1788 establishment of a British colony at the site of present-day Sydney, the English government thought to establish it's presence elsewhere on "The Great Southern Land". There were two main reasons for establishing the second settlement in "Van Diemen's Land". From a strategic point of view, the English wanted a military presence to deter further French exploration. From a social point of view, the influx of free settlers to Sydney made it desirable to found a new, more isolated settlement for the establishment of penal colonies. Starting in 1788, thousands of convicts were sent to Australia: initially to Tasmania and New South Wales. Along with the convicts were those who supervised the prison system and their families.
In 1803 Lieutenant John Bowen was sent to establish a colony at the mouth of the Derwent River, at the Southern tip of Van Diemens Land. Simultaneously, Captain David Collins was sent to establish a presence at Port Phillip Bay on the northern side of the recently discovered Strait (site of present day Melbourne). Collins disliked the site at Port Phillip, so he moved his expedition south to join Lieutenant Bowen. Upon arrival, Collins also disapproved of Bowen's chosen site at Risdon Cove on the eastern shore of the Derwent. Collins moved the settlement across the river to Sullivan's Cove, now the center of present day Hobart. Hobart is one of the oldest cities.
The colony teetered on the brink of starvation for its first few years. The settlement of the Richmond area and the cultivation of wheat there was crucial. Besides the difficulties of subsistence, the early settlement was little more than a frontier. The workforce was mostly convicts, either transported from England or relocated from other notorious parts of the colonies. Those that escaped led the life of bandits (the Australian term being bushrangers), and the government had little ability to control them. The settlement was not truly brought under control for several decades, until the sheer number of settlers and men-at-arms outnumbered and outgunned the bushrangers.
Settlement in Tasmania continued to be driven by convict labour, men and women were leased to settlers as labourers and servants, and the government organized work gangs for quarrying stone, building roads, cutting lumber, etc. The construction of Port Arthur in 1830 made Tasmania a premiere destination for English convicts, as well as the occasional political prisoner.
During the 1800s, Britain listed more than 150 capital offences, including minor offences such as petty theft. William Eden, the Home Secretary, estimated that alternative accommodation would be needed each year for about 1000 convicts. This was far more than could be crammed into the already overcrowded gaols of England. As the prison population grew, the government started sending convicts from Newgate and county prisons to overseas penal colonies.
The authorities imprisoned convicts in the hulks of old warships moored on the Thames; more than 60 ships from various nations were utilized for the discipline of unemployed and wandering labourers. The ships' internal structure was also reconfigured with various features, including jail cells, in order to accommodate convicted criminals or occasionally prisoners of war. Many prisoners served their entire sentence on the hulks.
Others were housed there until a space could be found on a transport ship to Australia. If a convict was well behaved, the convict could be given a ticket of leave; at the end of the convict's sentence, seven years in most cases, the convict was issued with a Certificate of Freedom. Convicts then could become settlers or return to England. Convicts who misbehaved were often sent to a place of secondary punishment such as Port Arthur, Tasmania or Norfolk Island, where they would suffer additional punishment and solitary confinement.
August 4, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
From Van Diemen's Land
We have received a full file of the Lanuceston Examiner to May 10. The news is unimportant. We notice an account of the trip of the Samuel M. Fox, hence, and a recapitulation of her sailing time and distances. The Examiner says:
|Voyage from New York to California||1502 miles|
|Voyage from New York to California (cq)||1268 miles|
|Voyage from California to Sandwich Islands||1588 miles|
|Voyage from California to Launceston||1457 miles|
|Distance ran in 28 days||5795 miles|
The arrival of this noble schooner, the largest "fore-and-aft" afloat in our harbor, has attracted no little attention. Her sailing powers may be inferred from the following extract from her log. In one week she ran, during the:
We may add that yesterday she was registered as belonging to this port, and changed her name from the S. M. Fox to that of Seawitch. She has commenced to load again for California.
The Anti-Transportationists are fast increasing in numbers as well as enthusiasm. Advices from Melbourne complain of the great distress in the agricultural districts. From Sydney we learn that the "League" is distinguished by accessions to its cause by banners "star-spangled and white fringed," and by increasing hostility to the transportation of convicts to the Colonies. The Examiner complains of a decline in the population of Launceston District:
"Notwithstanding the accession by births, convicts' wives and families, pensioners, and prisoners, the population is declining: contrasted with neighboring settlements the retrogression is rapid indeed. This advance " backward" can only be attributed to one cause the continuance of transportation. It unsettles the working class; it degrades labor, and drives off those willing to toil, to other scenes."
The following extract will be found of peculiar interest:
A Word for the States. A correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, after vindicating the citizens of the the United States from the charge of being "disgusting ruffians," made by the people of New South Wales, thus refers to the appellation as applied to the Californians: "And with regard to California, gentlemen, all the doleful statements, extracts, etc, in your paper are effectually answered (to the common sense of the common people) by a glance at your own shipping list, where yon will see the returned adventurers by hundreds (not to say thousands taking down their families and their all. Then, as to its moral state, I would hint that yon have sent your full quota of felons from Sydney. Briefly, I know that in August last, out of sixteen awaiting trial for serious crime in San Francisco, twelve were from Sydney. At the second great fire, out of seventy in custody for thieving, forty-eight were from Sydney," etc.
Farther than this, we do not find mention of the doings of Sydneyites in this country. The intelligence of the exasperated state of the public mind towards them, had not been received by the Colonial papers.
May 1, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California
LATE FROM AUSTRALIA. INTERESTING FROM THE GOLD FIELDS.
By the schooner Osprey, Capt. Griggs, 76 days from Hobart Town, V. D. L., we yesterday morning received nearly a month's later dates from the South Sea Colonies. From Sydney we have advices to Jan. 20 ; from Melbourne Jan. 27, and our dates from Hobart Town are to Feb. 3. The news, though of but little importance, is not without interest.
The success of the miners, as our extracts from our colonial files below will show, has been very great, and the prospects in all the districts of the widely extended gold fields were at last accounts unsurpassed, though many districts are represented sickly, and, like portions of our own mines, likely to suffer from want of water this summer. New discoveries were continually making. Labor was well employed, and those districts where the failure of water supplies caused the desertion of large numbers, contributed to the farming interest by causing laborers to betake themselves to the harvesting of the crops, which was near at hand.
Victoria is represented as the most unhealthy region. The last accounts give a deplorable statement of the position of those who remain at the diggings. Dysentery, cholera, and opthalmia are rife, and committing dreadful ravages. Several persons from this colony, says the Hobart Town Advertiser. have returned to await the rains, until when neither can the miners, sustain themselves, nor the gold be washed to advantage. Meantime, small outlaying parties have been very successful. The Advertiser gives an account of the monster nugget, 27 lbs. 7 oz. weight, which is causing quite a sensation.
Gold has been discovered at the sources of the Mitta Nitta in the matrix. It is confidently stated that on this river and the Mitchell the richest mines may be expected; that the Government have been for some time in possession of this knowledge, but have suppressed it until after the harvest.
The following summary of mining news is from the gold circular of the Sydney Herald, Jan. 20:
"The news from our mines is of a more cheering character than it has been for several weeks. The Turon is becoming populated again, and a few parties with great exertions have been able to work their bed claims with much success. Several nuggets have been turned up about Oakey Creek sufficiently large to excite considerable interest and some envy. If the rain holds off for a few days, these bed claims will no doubt prove immensely rich; and then some of our friends, who have gone further for a field, will find that they would have fared better if they had remained where they were. At "Louisa Creek" some little difficulty had arisen in consequence of the Quartz Crushing Companies wishing to claim the creek as part of their grant, but the Commissioners have decided that they are only entitled to the quartz ridges, and that the miners may retain full possession of their claims on the creek. In many instances these are turning out very profitable, such as two men clearing 20 per day, and water-holes yielding 130 ounces or more. At the Braidwood mines it is difficult to engage labor, inasmuch as success is so general that few need work for others.
We know of cases in which the days yield of small parties has been 10, 15, and 20 ounces. It is, however, astonishing what migratory beings miners become. One would suppose that success would prevent them from traveling farther. But no! It is only necessary to intimate that a field exists where they could get 40 ounces per day, and they will leave the certainty for the uncertainty. Some 400 have thus left for new diggings, which nobody appears to know but themselves; but it is generally supposed that "Wenaroo" is the spot. It is currently reported that a rich field has been discovered in this district by the Rev. W. B. Clarke, who it is said has forwarded samples of the gold to his Excellency the Governor. A notice has been issued in the Government Gazette, announcing that bank notes may be conveyed to Bathurst or Goulbarn by return escorts, at a charge of 1/4 percent, and specie at 1 per cent."
The accounts of gold brought into Sydney by the escorts and mails, for the week ending Tuesday, the 13th March, did not reach 9,000 worth. The Kate sailed on the 9th for England, with 48,294 ounces, upwards of two tons. On this subject the Sydney Herald says: "This gold is the produce of the mines at the Turon, Ophir, the Meroo, and the Arsluen, New South Wales, and Mount Alexander and Ballarat, Victoria."
The same paper says of the receipts at the port of Sydney for the week ending March 20 (our latest date): "And we know of upwards of 500 ounces that came in by private hands, making in all 7,850 ounces, worth about 25,322 5s."
"The price has remained about the same as last week, viz., 635., although we have heard of 63s. 6d. being given for a few parcels; but as a very large quantity is expected by the Shamrock steamer from Melbourne, to arrive say the end of next week, it is anticipated that these prices cannot be maintained."
The total amount of gold shipped from Sydney up to March 20, was 626,708 12s. 4d. Exchange on London, drafts against gold, 7 per cent; freights. 1/2 per cent.
August 23, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California
The English barque Black Friar, Capt. J. Greeves, arrived at Hobarttown, from Ireland, on the 28th of May last, having on board two hundred and sixty female convicts! The day before, the ship Lady Kennaway had arrived from London, with a large number of convicts also. Much excitement was occasioned among the citizens by these arrivals; and the "Council of the League" have drawn up and published the annexed concise and able "Protest," addressed to Earl Grey, the Secretary of the State of the Colonies:
Hobart Town, May 29, 1831.
My Lord You will have learnt, ere this, that the disregard of the moral, religious and social welfare of this colony evinced by you in continuing to inundate it with the crime of the British empire, has spread alarm and indignation throughout the Australian Colonies Despotic rulers have often invaded the temporal interests of their subjects; but it remained for your lordship and the ministry, of which you are a member, to present the first example of a Constitutional Government invading and destroying the moral interests of a community. But you have not only done this; you have violated a solemn promise, and have thus disregarded the honor of our Sovereign. Our petitions and prayers have been treated with contempt; misrepresentation of our wishes has been added to insult, and through you the name of Tasmania has become a bye-word among all nations. But Englishmen by emigrating have neither forgotten their rights, nor have they become indifferent to the honor of their Sovereign and their country. The Australian Colonies have therefore formed a League and they are pledged to each other by their mutual interests their future destinies their fellowship of weal and woe and now by their solemn engagement, not to rest until transportation to their shores be abandoned forever.
As the Council of a branch of this great confederation, the undersigned have just witnessed with feelings of indignation the arrival in the harbor of Hobarttown of the Lady Kennaway, from England, and the Black Friar, from Ireland the former with 249 male, and the latter with 260 female convicts; and they herewith solemnly protest, in the name of Tasmania and of all the Australian Colonies, against the introduction of these criminals into this community, as a violation of the pledge given by her Majesty's Government in 1847, that transportation to these shores should cease;
And have the honor to be, my Lord,
Your most obedient servants,
T. D. Chapman, A. McNughtan, J. Allport, W. Crooke, W. Rout, R. Officer, J. Dunn, F. Haller.
To the Right Hon. Earl Grey, Secretary of State of the Colonies.
On the 11th of June, the bangle Cornwall arrived at Hobarttown, from Portsmouth, having on board two hundred and nine-nine convicts.
October 23, 1880, Colonies and India, London, United Kingdom
Port Arthur developed a fearsome reputation, owing to its vantage point on the precipitous Tasmania Peninsula, surrounded by dense woodland, and with the only land bridge to the main island a narrow strip at Eagle Hawk Neck, which was guarded by men and dogs. All the same, life at Port Arthur was nowhere as bad as the settlement established at Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast. This site, reserved for the most hardened criminals, was by all accounts as close to hell as the English Judicial System could devise.
July 9, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California
Later From Australia
Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land). 1851. John Tallis.
By the arrival yesterday of the barque Envelope, we received, through the politeness of Capt. Smith, files of Sydney papers to April 6th, fourteen days later than previous advices. The news is not important.
The Empire denounced in severe terms the deceptions practiced in England to induce emigration to the colonies. With regard to the misrepresentations of the value of the stock of the Australian Company, it says:
It is stated that the Australian Agricultural Company's purchase of 300,000 acres is an immense gold field, and that the leasing of this land to diggers is even better than digging. On the faith of this representation it appears that the shares of the Company have suddenly taken a most extraordinary leap. These shares rose in two or three days from a nominal 65 pounds to a real 250 pounds, sine which it has been said they have reached 300 pounds. A short time ago they were in effect worthless. Now it is not the legitimate purpose of the Company's establishment -- if it ever had legitimate purposes -- which have caused this immense rise, but a notion which will not bear the test of Australian scrutiny. How many persons may be ruined by these absurdities we can scarcely conjecture, but we protest against the true character of the colony bearing the penalty of fictions of this sort.
In view of these and similar misrepresentations, the Empire calls upon government to interpose in behalf of deluded emigrants as well as of the Colonies.
An escort arrived at Sydney from the "Owens" on the 29th of March, bringing down 8,564 ounces of gold dust and 7,564 pounds in cash.
The papers are filled in a measure with accounts of assaults, thefts, robberies, and other crimes.
During the week ending on the 1st of April 12, 770 ounces of gold dust arrived at Sydney, supposed to be about the amount of the products of the month.
Eighteen Mormon missionaries had arrived in Australia.
An official estimate gives the following as the mining population of Australia: 15,000 at Mount Alexander, 15,000 at Bendigo, 1,500 at Korong, 1,500 at Daisy Hill, 1,000 at Ballarat, and 3,000 at the Ovens, making 46,000 in the aggregate.
February 2, 1864, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Adelaide, October 22, 1863.
The aspect of matters is completely chanced since our last week's report. No business whatever is new doing. The arrival of the Panama to Sydney from California with breadstuffs, and the news that several other vessels are loading for the Australian colonies, have had a very depressing influence. Holders of wheat and flour are now anxious to ret rid of their stocks, and are endeavoring to obtain offers for the same, but at present without effect. The arrival of this vessel with only 300 tons of wheat and flower has had more effect than if ten times the quantity had been shipped from hence. Stocks on hand in all the colonies are, however, known to be small, and prices cannot in consequence go very much lower.
Flour Although stocks on hands are light, yet many holders are anxious to realize. A small sale or two for home consumption has been made at 13. but parcels could be purchased considerably under this figure.
-- Adelaide Observer
A despatch to the Observer, from Sydney, dated October 21, says the Panama had been ordered to Melbourne, with her entire cargo.
October 29, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
LETTERS ON AUSTRALIA.
Early in the fall of '51, sharing the general excitement caused by the glowing accounts of the gold discoveries in Australia, I resolved upon a trip to those regions. Not that I had any particular presentiment that I should make a "pile" there with any greater degree of certainty than in California this was with me a secondary consideration. Until I quitted home for California I had traveled but little, never having been more than 200 miles out of my native State (Massachusetts). Here was a New World open to me a land of milk and honey, with "fields of gold," "sunny skies and beautiful girls." I had worked in the mines with some few "Colonists," and to hear them discourse on the attractions of their favored Australia, it was enough to turn the brain of any man. I was bound to go! The expense of a trip there was a mere trifle, a slug would do it, and even at the worst should I get disappointed in my expectation, it would be no hard matter for me to retrace my steps to California. What if a little time and money should be lost by the operation, I perhaps would be a gainer some other way, I should at least see a great many things new to me, and probably return a wiser if not a richer man. It was under these views and considerations that I left the gold field of California and took the stage for San Francisco in order to set out on my travels without further delay.
On my arrival at the Bay City. I found several vessels laid on for the "New Diggins," and took a passage in one to sail the following day. So imperfect was my knowledge respecting the geographical position of the Australian Colonies, that I had been five days at sea ere I discovered that the port of our destination, "Hobart Town," was no part of New South Wales, as I had hitherto erroneously supposed, and that it would cost me as much to get from Hobart Town to Sydney as I had paid for a passage to the former place from San Francisco. I also learned with horror that Van Diemans Land was the grand emporium of British felons, and I already wished myself again in California.
Ten of the gold seekers took this route to the diggins, and our passengers, as may be supposed, were inconsiderable in point of number. Amongst them was a Mr. G--y, a watchmaker, who had been carrying on his business at Sonora. I had been acquainted with the individual before, and he always represented himself in California as a Canadian, a place he had never seen. I renewed my acquaintance with him on board, and set myself earnestly to work in acquiring imperceptibly what ever information I could draw out respecting the manners, customs and habits of the colonists, so that on my arrival I should not be taken for a flat the colonial phrase for a greenhorn. I soon discovered that not only Mr. G--y, but all the rest of the passengers, with one exception, were originally from the colonies, and that they were now going to rejoin their families in Van Dieman's Land. They were terribly down on Americans, vowing eternal vengeance on every d d Yankee who should come across their path in Australia. With Yankee foresight, I hailed from Quebec, as did also, by my advice, Henry Edwards, from New York, who was working his passage out before the mast. By this dodge, we had an opportunity of bearing unreservedly their opinions and sentiments on a thousand subjects, which they would never have disclosed had they supposed for a moment Americans were amongst their auditory. We also escaped a vast amount of insult, which, no doubt, would have been levelled at us, had they believed us to have been Americans.
On our arrival at the port of Hobart Town, I perceived at a glance that what I had heard respecting the quality of the inhabitants of the city before us was perfectly correct. A two-edged sword hung over them to keep them in subjection to the powers they had offended.
On an eminence overlooking the city and the harbor, could be seen the military barracks. At least a thousand infantry in their scarlet uniforms were parading in the square adjoining their quarters; their beautiful and highly disciplined movements showed their training to be of the highest order, and that the convicts, in the event of an insurrection, would stand but little chance of success, with such a soldiery to oppose them. Below them again, like a snake in the grass, and defended by a military detachment, was discernible one of the most formidable batteries I had ever seen. In short, in whatever direction I cast my eyes, I could see at every point soldiery and sentinels on duty. On our starboard lay at anchor an English man-of-war; and within gunshot of the frigate was moored a large convict ship, just arrived from England with a fresh importation of living rascality, in the shape of three or four hundred convicts. What with the marching of the soldiers, the music of the splendid band, and the rattle of the drums on board the Queen's two ships, the city appeared as if in the hands of an invading army in the night, too, at every quarter of an hour, could be distinctly heard the cries of the watchful sentinels as they passed the word from one to the other at the top of their voices No 1, all's well!" This was taken up by No. 2, and conveyed by him to No. 3 ; and so on throughout the night.
Until within a few months past the Government of Van Dieman's Land has been administered with as much despotism as any province in Turkey or in Russia; indeed, even now there is not much difference between the countries. Everything connected with the interest of the colony is left to the Governors of the territory, men, generally, of broken fortunes, whose only aim whilst in power is their own personal aggrandizement. His councillors are twelve in number, half of whom are of his own appointing, and the other half hold their seats by virtue of their offices, and are, for the most part, quite subservient to his Excellency's will. They are never supposed to vote against any measure brought forward by the Government, however inimical it may be to the interests of the colony at large. To do so is to get suspended from office, a predicament they take very good care not to get into. No independent, free-thinking or free-speaking man could ever expect a seat in that council. This has been the system in which the local Government has been administered for the last thirty or forty years, and no wonder it has been denounced by freemen. Their voice has at length reached Downing street, and a new state of things has already began to dawn upon the colony. Still there are many defects and grievances to be remedied in the Government of Van Dieman's Land; but time will cure and perfect all, I suppose, and they must await with patience the good lime coming.
The Police force of Van Dieman's Land is a lasting disgrace to the government which employs it: it being composed for the most part of convicts and expiries; their pay is merely nominal, but to compensate for this deficiency they have a moiety of all fines exacted at the Police Courts. Hobart Town is a wretched place to live in, but the Island itself is nothing but a jail, so there is not much to expect. Every public house, inn, or hotel, immediately on the clock striking the hour of ten at night, have to close their doors; no one is permitted to remain open after that hour, nor none permitted to enter, however ardently he may desire. Any violation of this law is met with a heavy fine or imprisonment for three, six, or nine months. Everything here is a century behind the age. Their hotels are fitted up in the meanest style imaginable not a superfluous shilling is expended on anything. There are a thousand other matters I could enumerate, in which they are entirely behind the times.
Van Dieman's Land is a very mountainous island. Its dimensions are 170 miles in length, and about 138 in breadth. The colony was founded in 1803. The climate is one of the most salubrious on the face of the earth. The town is built on a cluster of hills, about 29 miles, I should suppose from the entrance of the headlands on the left bank of the river Derwent, one of the tiniest streams in Australia. There are some fine buildings in Hobart Town, amongst which the new English Cathedral with its peal of bells, the Scotch Kirk and the different banking establishment stand pre-eminent. In this particular art they are not much behind us. In the very heart of the city is situated the "Mammoth Emporium" of the British Felony of the three kingdoms the principal convict depot in Australia nay, in the world. Hundreds of miserable beings are drafted out here daily for other convict stations in the interior of the island, to work out in chains their respective terms of punishment. Whilst on the other hand, as many are daily pouring in from other points of this "ocean jail,' whose term of slavery has expired for the time being. This is what the Government term probationary punishment.
In walking by this huge prison, which is surrounded by a wall of immense dimensions, the everlasting rattle of the iron fetters of its inmates makes one recoil with horror, and impresses him with the belief that he is standing on the threshold of the infernal regions. At early morn, the cries of some miserable wretch greet your ears as the cat, in the hands of the "Convict Flagellation," lacerates the flesh of its victim. Ye
When a convict ship arrives from England, the prisoners are immediately, under a strong guard, marched into the penitentiary. And here let me remark, that one of the defects of dealing with these men is that they are all huddled together without any discrimination or reserve, into one vast phalanx, on their arrival. The boy, for stealing apples or pocket handkerchiefs, and men sent out for little or no crime at all and whose reformation might be expected if dealt with properly, have not that chance allowed them. They are shut up with men of the blackest dye, with robbers and highwaymen of every stamp, with murderers and men guilty of every crime under heaven. These generally go in bad enough, but come out a thousand times worse.
But to proceed. Immediately on being taken from the ship, they are conducted, to the penitentiary; from this place they are immediately sent away in companies to different stations in the colony, to work in chains, for a stated period, which entirely depends on the term original sentence in England.Americans, who make so great an outcry at Slavery in your own country, go look at the condition of your own race in Van Diemans Land, at the servitude, chains and brutality administered to Englishmen, and you would cease your prating for ever.
Passengers on the emigrant ship Artemisa
Many passengers on emigrant ships were gold seekers; others were prisoners being moved from England and Ireland to Australia and New Zealand.
Some are sent out for five years, others for seven, fourteen, and twenty-one; and many for life. This latter class are termed Bellowsers. Should those on probation misconduct themselves whilst in chains, they are severely dealt with, and have to perform a longer term of probationary punishment: but in case of good conduct, they are, at the expiration of their time, marched down to head-quarters, and permitted now to go to service in the towns and villages. For instance, should the convict be a tradesman, he goes to work at his trade, if he can find a master to take him; and for this purpose he is permitted at certain hours to search the town in quest of one. He is now bound to do a regular day's work, the only remuneration be receives is his food, and about $45 per year, just sufficient to keep the poor devil in tobacco.
Australia and Tasmania. Rathbun, 1893.
He is not permitted to quit his master's house for a moment, without a written permission to that effect from his employer, and on no consideration is he allowed to be absent after eight o'clock, P. M. If he should at any time be guilty of insolence or intoxication, he is forthwith handed to a policeman, who conducts him to the Police Court; here he is very summarily dealt with; if he is not flogged, he is sent back again to the mountains to work in chains another term of probation, or perhaps he gets treated to a three to six months step on the treadmill. But, on the other hand, should he conduct himself properly at his masters house for a period of years, depending again on the length of his original sentence, he receives for his good conduct a "Ticket of Leave;" this now enables him to choose his own master, and to keep his evenings to his own use. However, he is still under the surveillance of the police, and has to register all his proceedings at the office for that purpose.
There are thousands of this class, both male and female, employed in the manner I have described. Scarcely a family in the Island who are in the habit or keeping servants can be found who do not employ or who have not employed the class referred to. It would be quite superfluous in me, even had I the ability, to dwell at length upon the evil influences which this accursed amalgamating principle of bond and free has on society generally. A little leaven learneth the whole lump. But the only care of the Government seems to be to get these people off their hands as fast as possible, and another method has now been hit upon in finding a ready market for thousands of the convicts, and thereby relieving the exchequer or the expense of maintaining them; and I presume the man that first devised it was made at least a baronet by the British Government. It works to admiration. It is neither more nor less than encouraging, between the convicts and the free portion of the inhabitants, "matrimonial alliances." In these, young ladies affiance themselves to old men, and young men marry old women. I will explain. A female convict, by becoming the spouse of a freeman, is entitled to all the rights and privileges of a free woman. As long as she keeps with her husband, the bonds of matrimony are the only bonds to which she is subject.
The same with a male convict. By marrying a free woman, he becomes, by virtue of his office as "husband," as free as the Governor himself, as long as he conducts himself to the satisfaction of his better half. The consequence of this clever stroke of policy is, that marriages of this description are continually coming off with wonderful rapidity.
Any old man can get, in this accommodating country, as young a lady for a wife as he pleases: that is, it he is not over scrupulous as to her past character, which is never in Van Dieman's Land, by the bye, taken into consideration. He has many hundreds to choose from, not one of whom will spurn his offer. So anxious are they to escape from Government, that I question whether one of them could be found who would refuse her hand even to Old Nick himself.
And on the other side, any Australian lady verging on fifty, can be supplied, if she require it, with as youthful a husband as her heart can desire. There are before her men of every age and condition to select a partner from parsons, doctors, clerks, tradesmen, and laborers; few will hesitate a moment when she broaches the subject.
The vast majority, to get out of Government, would marry the Witch of Endor herself, if that would accomplish it.
An Archaeology of Australia Since 1788
(Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology)
This overview of Australian post-contact history uses material objects such as artefacts, buildings, and landscapes. The book offers broad geographic and temporal coverage, and social themes such as gender, status, ethnicity and identity inform every chapter.
Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788
Richard Broome is Associate Professor of History at La Trobe University. One of Australia's most respected scholars of Aboriginal history, he is also author of the prize-winning Aboriginal Victorians.
"...The vast sweeping story of Aboriginal Australia from 1788 is told in his typical lucid and imaginative style . . . an important work of great scholarship, passion and imagination." — Professor Lynette Russell, Center for Australian Indigenous Studies, Monash University.
John Devoy's Catalpa Expedition
Philip Fennell, Marie King, Terry Golway.
The story of John Devoy's 1876 Catalpa rescue is a tale of heroism, creativity, and the triumph of independent spirit in pursuit of freedom. The daily log on board the whaling ship Catalpa begins with the typical recount of a crew intact and a spirit unfettered, but such quiet words deceive the truth of the audacious enterprise that came to be known as one of the most important rescues in Irish American history. John Devoy's men rescued six Irish political prisoners from the Australian coast, allowing millions of fellow Irishmen and American-Fenians, many of whom secretly financed the dangerous plot, to draw courage from the newly exiled prisoners.
Shipwrecks - Australia's Greatest Maritime Disasters
From the first wreck in 1622 off Western Australia to the tragedy of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race Evan McHugh captures all the drama of Australia's maritime history. There are swashbuckling mutineers violent storms uncharted reefs enemy warships as well as ripping yarns about Dutchmen and lascars Aborigines and escaped convicts. McHugh has made extensive use of first-hand accounts and contemporary records. With characteristic flair he also delves into the mysteries and controversies that still surround so many of the wrecks. Shipwrecks is a white-knuckle voyage through chaos and tragedy which proclaims the courage and strength of the human spirit. It is a powerful reminder that even in the twenty-first century the sea remains a great unconquered frontier.