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soul, Colonel Kirke, in drinking, he stopped at Bristol. Now, the mayor, aldermen, and justices of Bristol had been used to transport convicted criminals to the American plantations, and sell them by way of trade ; and, finding the commodity turn to good account, they contrived a way to make it more plentiful. Their legal convicts were but few, and the exportation inconsiderable: when, therefore, any petty rogues and pilferers were brought before them in a judicial capacity they were sure to be terribly threatened with hanging, and they had some diligent officers attending who could advise the ignorant, intimidated creatures to pray for transportation, as the only way to save their lives; and in general, by some means or other, the advice was followed: then, without any more form, each alderman in turn took one, and sold him for his own benefit; and sometimes there arose warm disputes among them about the next turn. This trade had been carried on unnoticed many years, when it came to the knowledge of the Lord Chief Justice, who, finding upon inquiry that the mayor was equally involved with the rest of his brethren in this outrageous practice, made him descend from the bench where he was sitting, and stand at the bar in his scarlet and furs, and plead like any common criminal.”
This system and the demand for labour led to frequent cases of kidnapping of the poor and friendless, and of parties who had made themselves obnoxious to any powerful and unscrupulous individuals. Thus debtors disencumbered themselves of their creditors, wives of their husbands, and guardians of their wards. Even in vengeance the commercial spirit of Britain was displayed; and, while the clumsy Italian stabbed or poisoned his enemy, the Englishman sold him for a soldier, a sailor, or a slave.
Before the commencement of the American war of independence, the introduction of the more docile and laborious negro had rendered the American planters hostile to the importation of white convicts. That war put a stop to the traffic in white flesh, and crowded our gaols. At the same period the prison labours of Howard commenced. In his vocation he personally examined every place of imprisonment. He found the convicted prisoner with money in his purse revelling in debauchery, while the untried poor man was half starved, lodged on damp stones, exposed, through unglazed windows, to every blast, or crowded promiscuously with the vilest of mankind in deep dungeons, where fever and every kind of foul pestilence were ever smouldering. Sometimes a black assize swept away prisoners, gaolers, and even judges. The barbarity of the system may be appreciated from the circum
PROPOSITION FOR SHOVELLING OUT CRIMINALS.
stance that Howard counted as a great triumph having obtained an order for a daily allowance of a penny loaf and small piece of cheese for each untried prisoner.
Howard was anxious to establish reformatory prisons or penitentiaries, but his humane schemes met with little favour. With the experience we have since had, we cannot imagine that he would have had any success, except in establishing a clean and wholesome system of management.
The country was no more prepared then, than it is at present, to permit desperate ruffians to be unloosed to renew their crimes on the expiration of their terms of imprisonment. But no one then contemplated prisons as costly as palaces, and almost as comfortable, in which the hard-labour test would consist in composing moral essays, and collating texts of Scripture.*
The annual accumulation of roguery was to be got rid of!—That was the problem ; and, so long as it was solved, few cared how. Hanging had been stretched to its utmost limits; transportation had been checked by the revolt of a country which had decided to employ no slaves who had not at least 25 per cent. of black blood in their veins, and to receive no rogues, except those who had escaped unconvicted.
Under these difficult circumstances, a proposition for "shovelling out our criminals on the shores of the antipodes, recently re-discovered by Cook, was eagerly entertained. There it was presumed, on very insufficient grounds, the place of punishment could be rendered selfsupporting; at any rate, the prisoners would cease to be a nuisance to the life and property of this country.
Howard opposed the project, but his opposition was fortunately unheeded, although founded on very sufficient grounds.
When we now examine the population, the wealth, the commerce, the sources of annually increasing power and prosperity in the Australian colonies, the undeniable elements of empire which they enjoy, it is scarcely possible to believe that the first settlement was formed with the overflowings of our gaols, and the sweepings of our streets ; that, for a long series of years, its very existence was dependent on supplies of food, which the famine, occasioned by a month's delay of a store-ship, would have rendered useless, and on grants of money voted at a time when votes, except on the grand field-days of contending parties, were passed un-discussed in Parliament, and unreported in newspapers. At this day, when care for the health, education, and religious
* Reading Gaol, Berks.
instruction of criminals is carried to an extent which shows, in painful relief, the neglect our peasantry endure, it is with amazement and horror that we look back on the cool, careless indifference with which the ministers of George the Third, in 1797, set about founding a penal settlement at the opposite side of the world.
The nearest approach to it may be found in the proceedings of the New Zealand Company in 1839, when they sold land, and sent out credulous colonists to take possession of barren forest-covered hills of an unknown island, in the occupation of fierce aborigines.
Captain Cook and his companions had passed a few days on the intended site of the proposed penal colony, and had found a small river, a profusion of curious plants, and an indifferent harbour. They had not seen any plains of pasture fit to feed live stock.
They had not found any large edible animals, such as deer, or buffaloes, or pigs. They had no means of ascertaining whether the soil was capable of carrying crops for the support of a considerable population; and the nearest land at which live stock and dry stores could be procured was the Cape of Good Hope, a colony in the possession of the Dutch.
As little judgment, as little forethought, as little common humanity was displayed in selecting the colonists as the colony. The first detachment consisted of the first governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, R.N., with a guard of marines, viz., a major-commandant, twelve subalterns, and twenty-four non-commissioned officers, one hundred and sixty-eight rank and file, with forty women, their wives. These were the unconvicted section of the intended colony. The prisoners were six hundred men, and two hundred and fifty women, the latter being not only the most abandoned of their sex, but many of them aged, infirm, and even idiotic.
This fearful disproportion of sexes was maintained, and even increased, until the proportion of men to women was as six to one, and the results became too horrible to be recorded.
This “goodly company was embarked in a frigate, the Sirius, an armed tender, three store-ships, and six transports, under the command of Captain Hunter. At the last moment, by an afterthought, one chaplain was sent on board. There was no schoolmaster, no superintendent, or gaolers, or overseers, except marines with muskets loaded in case of revolt. No agriculturist was sent to teach the highwaymen and pickpockets to plough, and delve, and sow. No system of discipline was planned, nothing beyond mere coercion was attempted. Even the supply of mechanics required for erecting the needful houses
DISCOVERY OF PORT JACKSON.
and stores was left a matter of chance, dependent on the trades of the six hundred felons; and, as it turned out, there were not half a dozen carpenters, only one bricklayer, and not one mechanic in the whole settlement capable of erecting a corn-mill.
The “first fleet” sailed on the 13th May, 1787, and, after a voyage of eight months, during which they touched at the Cape de Verd Islands, Rio de Janeiro, and the Cape of Good Hope, everywhere received with the greatest attention and courtesy, on the 20th January, 1788, anchored in Botany Bay.
Within four and twenty hours after landing, Governor Phillip ascertained that Botany Bay was quite unsuitable for the site of a colony, that a sufficient quantity of cultivable agricultural land, and of fresh water, were wanting, and that the harbour was unsafe for ships of burden.
Without disembarking his charge, he set out with a party of three boats, to explore the coast to the northward, and particularly Broken Bay, an inlet favourably mentioned by Captain Cook, distant about eighteen miles from Botany Bay; but, as he sailed along the barrier of cliffs which line the shores, he decided to examine a narrow cleft which Cook, passing by as a mere boat harbour, had named after the look-out man who viewed it, Port Jackson.
The day was mild and serene. The expedition sailed along the coast near enough to see, and hear the wild cries of, the astonished natives, who followed them as far as the rugged nature of the land would permit. As they approached Port Jackson, the coast wore such an appearance that Captain Phillip fully expected to find Captain Cook's unfavourable impressions realized; but he was destined to be most agreeably disappointed.
The first tack carried the expedition out of the long heavy swell of the Pacific Ocean into the smooth water of a canal protected by two projecting “ heads,” and soon they came within sight of a vast landlocked lake, stretching as far as the eye could reach, dotted with small islands, whose shores sloped, forest-covered, down to the water's edge. Black swans and other rare water-birds fluttered up as the white strangers sailed on, charmed with a scene in which every feature beautiful, yet strange: they had discovered one of the finest harbours in the world. Coasting round the shores of this great natural basin, Governor Phillip determined to plant his colony on a promontory where a small clear stream trickled into the salt water. After three days spent in exploration, he returned to Botany Bay.
On the morning of the 25th January, as they were working out,
the English fleet were astonished by seeing two strange ships of war sailing into the bay. These were the Boussole and Astrolabe, the French expedition of discovery under the command of M. de la Pérouse, which had left France in 1785. La Pérouse “had sailed into Botany Bay by Captain Cook's chart, which lay before him on the binnacle. Having heard at Kamtschatka of the intended settlement, he had expected to have found a town built and market established.” Thus it was probably but by a few days that the honour of discovering Port Jackson fell to England. The French squadron remained until the 10th March to refresh and refit, and, then departing, were never heard of more until, in 1826, Mr. Dillon discovered at the Manicola Islands traces of arms and ornaments which proved their mournful fate—shipwrecked and murdered by savages.
A monument has been erected to the memory of La Pérouse and his crew in Botany Bay.