Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Samuel Marsden - essays concerning New South Wales, 1807-18--
Essay A A few general Observations upon the Barter of Spirits in the Colony of New South Wales 1807
The Barter of Spirits has long been a very general & serious Evil in the Settlement it has been productive of jealousies, misunderstandings, and many unhappy differences amongst the Officers; & of Litigations, Bankruptcies, Robberies, Gaming & Murders amongst the lower orders of the Community The following may be stated of some of the Evils attending it
One great Evil is it finds a Maximum for every kind of Labor and greatly enhances it´s value. As Agriculture is the principal Pursuit of the Inhabitants, most of the Mechanics, such as Nailors, Smiths, Carpenters; &c &c are employed and supported, directly or indirectly by the Farmers. The very exorbitant Price these Mechanics charge for their Labor greatly very much impoverishes the Farmer and almost deprives him of the means of cultivating his Lands. The common Tools of Agriculture are estimated according to the Price of a Bottle of Spirits If a Bottle of Spirits is estimated at one Pounds, the Price of an Hoe or Axe will be in Proportion; and every kind of agricultural Labor. As the industrious Farmer has seldom any Spirits to pay for his Labor, he is often compelled to give two or three Bushels of Wheat for a single Bottle to satisfy the demands of his workmen; if he were not to do this, his Ground would lie in an uncultivated State. This has Greatly distressed many an industrious Family; and some it has entirely ruined.
Another serious Evil attending the Barter of Spirits is it destroys Industry
Spirits are bartered away a so very high a Price, that many are tempted to relinquish their useful and Honest Occupations and to become private distillers. Private Stills have been so numerous, and attended with such fatal Consequences that the executive Authority has deemed it necessary for the Safety of the Colony to issue the Most possitive orders from time to time to suppress them; and have also offered considerable pecuniary Rewards to Informers. But no distress the Colony has been in for want of Grain, no Punishments by Government, no Rewards offered for the Detection and no Vigilance of the Police have been or ever will be able to prevent the workings of private Stills and the Mischiefs attending them so long as the Barter of Spirits is allowed. The Profits arising from private distillation are too great a Temptation.
Another great Evil arising from the Barter of Spirits is It encourages every kind of Robbery
Convicts in every Situation, whether they are in the Employment of the Crown, or in that of private Individuals, are tempted to steal Sheep, Hogs, Grain, Poultry and every Article within their Reach, which they barter away for Spirits; and thro´ which many unfortunate Prisioners are is brought to the Gallows. As the industrious Farmer is continually plundered by his Servants, he is greatly injured in his Circumstances, distressed in his Mind, and much discouraged from improving his Estate. The Farmers also, who are fond of Spirits, will often in the moment of Inebriation barter away their Estates Stock and Grain and leave their Families in a State of Starvation by which means their wifes and Children become a Burthen to the Crown & themselves more noted Robbers and Gamesters then they ever were before.
Another Evil attending the Barter of Spirits is that it greatly enhances the Price of Grain.
A Quantity of Grain is more or less consumed by private Stills. The Retailers of Spirits who obtain by way of barter for one Gallon of Spirits, from seven to ten Bushels of Wheat, and sometimes more; purchase the Grain at so low a Rate that they pay little attention to it´s preservation, by which means many thousands of Bushels are lost. If the Retailer can bring but a small Quantity of what he purchases for Spirits to Market his Profits are very Great. The Grain having cost him no Labor; and little Money he does not put a value upon it.
Another Evil the Barter of Spirits produces is; it is the Cause of Many Seperations between Husbands and wives. A woman who has a Propensity fir Spirits will sometimes in the absence of her Husband barter away all he possest, by which means his Children are reduced to want, and cast upon the world, and a final Seperation takes Place between them. The woman afterwards generally lives by Prostitution; and the Man abandons himself to Idleness and every vice.
From the above Observations, it is obvious that the Barter of Spirits is productive of Jealousies Misunderstandings Differences, Litigations, Bankruptcies Robberies Gaming & Murders - It enhances the Price of Labor, destroys Industry, ruins Families, destroys immense Quantities of Grain, increases the public Expense, and precludes the Possibility of the Colony´s Happiness and Prosperity so long as it exists. These are only some of the moral and political Evils it occasions; the religious ones are far beyond Conception. Tho´ the Barter of Spirits is so ruinous and destructive, yet it has it´s warmest Advocates in the Settlement, who against every Principle of Justice, Honor and Humanity contend that it is necessary and that the Labor of the Colony could not be carried on unless this nefarious traffic was allowed. But it should be remembered that all who argue in it´s Favor are seriously interested in it´s Continuance. Those who have the Command of ready money have frequent Opportunities of purchasing considerable Quantities of Spirits, which they store up until they can sell or barter it away at their own Price, by which large Sums are accumulated without Risque or Trouble at the expense of the lower orders of the Community. It is more than probable if the same Barter is continued for any length of Time; the Settlement will be greatly distressed for dry Provisions as well as animal Food. The Farmers will be so much impoverished by it as not to be able to carry on their Cultivation, and consequently the Inhabitants of New S. Wales must be supported from foreign Countries at the Expense of the Mother Country. The Executive Authority has long be convinced of the Oppressions under which the Farmers struggle from the exorbitant Price demanded by their workmen for Labor, and other serious Evils occasioned by the Barter of Spirits; and many pointed orders and Regulations have been enacted to redress their Grievances and to relieve their distresses; but the wisest Regulations have hitherto proved and will hereafter prove of no avail unless the ground Cause is removed. No Governor has yet attempted to stop the Barter of Spirits. It is a Task in which few men acquainted with the Spirit of the Times, would wish to engage. The common People, who see and feel what they suffer would consider its Prohibition as the greatest national Benefit; but Men of Property, and their inferior Agents, who daily enrich themselves by it will not be so easily persuaded to relinquish the Object of their principal Gain. A Governor who shall ever attempt this arduous undertaking must make up his Mind to meet all the Odium Contempt & Opposition that Interest Pride and Passion can possibly invent Men of avaricious Principles, independent Fortunes, and ambitious Minds, are not easily governed in an infant Colony by the Ability of one man; where their Riches alone give them considerable Influence amongst the lower Classes of Society. Whenever a Governor in N.S. Wales shall adopt any public Measures that may Militate against the private Interest of such men their active Minds will suggest a thousand ways to make him feel the weight of their Resentment; and to embarrass him in carrying on the public Service. However, let the Consequences be what they may it is much to be wished that Government would make the Attempt, and try what Relief can be obtained to the Settlement by a rigid Prohibition. As the Barter of Spirits strikes at the very Root of Agriculture, it must in the End cut it up if not prevented. They cannot possibly long exist together. If the common necessaries of Life are not raised in the Settlement Famine with all it´s attendant evils must oppress the Inhabitants. N.S. Wales is far remote from other Countries and cannot easily obtain from them Supplies of Grain and other Provisions. For this Reason Agriculture should meet with every support and every Hinderance to its Success should be carefully guarded against.
It may further be observed, that there is in every district one or more resident Spirit Agents continually watching to take Advantage of the unwary. These Agents are well acquainted with every Farmer and his Circumstances, as well as his Failings, or Propensities. They keep a watchful Eye over every Sheep in his Fold, every Hog in his Sty; and every Bushel of wheat in his Barn; and are often but too successful in obtaining his hard earned Property from him; either by the Theft of his Servants, the Inebriation of his wife or his own unguarded Conduct in Barter for a little Spirits.
Under such Circumstances as the above, every impartial and disinterest Person may form their own Opinion what Prospect there is of any Reformation amongst the unfortunate Convicts, of any Happiness and Prosperity to the Settlement, or any diminution of the public Expenses. Tho´ these are very desirable objects, and every Friend to the Community must ardently wish to see them accomplished yet the period of their Completion must appear at a vast distance.
B A few Observations on the Toleration of the Catholic Religion in N. South Wales
It has been the opinion of some Politicians Persons that it would be a wise and prudent measure in the British Government to tolerate the Catholic Religion in N.South Wales, in Consequence of the great Numbers of Catholics transported transported from Ireland to that Settlement; that this would tend to quiet their Minds, to reconcile them to their Banishment and conciliate their Affection to the Government. But whoever is acquainted with the real National Character of the Irish Convicts, and the local Situation of the Colony, will be of a very different Opinion. It is more than probable that if the Catholic Religion was once allowed to be celebrated by Authority, that the Colony would be lost to the British Empire in less than one year. The number of Catholic convicts is very great in the Settlement; and these in general composed of the lowest Class of the Irish Nation, who are the most wild, ignorant and savage Race that were ever favoured with the Light of Civilization; Men that have been familiar with Robberies Murders and every horrid Crime from their Infancy. Their minds being destitute of every Principle of Religion & Morality render them capable of perpetrating the Most Nefarious Acts in cool Blood. As they never appear to reflect upon Consequences; but to governed entirely by the Impulse of Passion and always alive to Rebellion and mischief they are very dangerous members of Society. No Confidence whatever can be placed in them by those in Authority as their natural dispositions are impatient of all Subordination
They are extremely superstitious artful and treacherous, which renders it impossible for the most watchful & active Government to discover their real Intentions. They have no true Concern whatever for any Religion nor Fear of the Supreme Being; but are fond of Riot Drunkenness and Cabals; and was the Catholic Religion tolerated they would assemble together from every Quarter, not so much from a desire of celebrating Mass, as to recite the Miseries and Injustice of their Banishment the Hardships they suffer, and to enflame one anothers Minds with some wild scheme of Revenge. The low Irish Convicts are an extraordinary Race of Beings; their Minds are depraved beyond all Conception, and their whole Thoughts employed on mischief. Tho´ they are so designing and treacherous in their general Conduct, yet they consider their engagements to each other of whatever nature they be, as sacred; and when any are detected in the Commission of any Capital Crime, it frequently happens that they will suffer Death before they will give Information of any of their Accomplices; and when brought to the fatal Tree, will deny their Guilt with their last Breath, tho´ convicted upon the strongest and clearest Evidence. Thus many of them live and die in the most hardened and impenitent State, with as little Knowledge or Fear of the Supreme Being, as if they had been brought up amongst the most ignorant Savages.
The few who are better informed amongst the Irish Catholic Convicts and were leading Men in their own Country, are still more dangerous to Order and good Government. Most of them are very wild and eccentric. The Advantages of a Superior Education have not been able to correct this Part of their national Character. The lower Class are very much attached to their Superiors whom they consider Glorious Martyrs to the Cause of Freedom; hence they maintain what Influence and Command over them they please. It is natural to suppose that they are all weary of Captivity; and eagerly wishing to enjoy their Freedom, whatever Risque or Danger may attend obtaining it. They are always watching for a favourable Opportunity to try their wisdom, & their Strength. Should the Catholic Religion ever be tolerated in the Settlement, that will immediately give them that Opportunity they wish for. At the Celebration of the Mass they would assemble from every part of the Colony; reveal their Intentions, and gain one another´s Confidence. Measures would be immediately concerted to overturn the present Government. The whole Irish Catholic Convicts would soon be organized; every Man would have his Post allotted him; whether it was to assassinate his Master, to attack the Military; or to set Fire to the Towns of Sydney and Parramatta. Were they permitted to meet together they would lay their Plans of private Assassination, and public Insurrection so secretly; and carry them on with so much Cunning and Faithfulness to each other; that it would not be possible for the Government to detect them; till they were up in Arms. When once the Flames of Rebellion are kindled none can tell how far and wide they may spread.
Many of the Irish Convicts are well acquainted with the Art of War; and all the secret Intrigues that can work on the Minds of the ignorant & unwary. Hence hundreds of protestant Convicts would be induced to unite with the Catholics for the Sake of obtaining their Freedom. All the Catholics want is some legal Sanction to assemble together It matters not for what purpose. So long as the Catholic Religion is not tolerated, they can never meet in sufficient Numbers without awakening the Jealousy and Suspicion of the Government; which the better informed, are aware would render any attempt too dangerous. With common Vigilance in the Police, while they continue in their present dispersed State, they can never lay any serious Plans of Insurrection without being timely detected; because any number assembling together without a well known Cause, would give an immediate Alarm.
The Toleration of the Catholic Religion would not only be dangerous to the present Inhabitants; and to the Government; but also to the rising Generation; and would lay the Foundation for future internal Wars and Commotions. The Catholics who have Children, was their Religion tolerated, would bring them up in their own Persuasion; and would instil into their Minds all the Hatred against Church and State, which they themselves possess. Most of the Catholics in the Settlement who have Children, have little Knowledge of, or Regard for any Religion. Their Children are generally brought to the established Church to be baptized; and as they grow up they attend public worship in the Church; and are totally ignorant of the Mass. If none but the Protestant Religion should continue to be established or tolerated; in a few years there will be very few Catholics, to what there are now in the Settlement. The rising Generation will be Protestants and Strangers to all other religious Opinions, if Attention is paid to their early Education and for want of the public Celebration of the Mass the common People will think little of it; and by Custom and Example be induced to attend divine worship in the established Church; and in Time become attached to the Government; and feel their Happiness and Interest connected with the Safety of the Colony.
It should be remembered, that the number of infamous Characters sent to N.S. Wales from every Part of the British Empire is very great; and far exceeds the number of the honest industrious Inhabitants. The only effectual means to prevent the increase of bad Characters is to countenance and support the Protestant Religion as by law established; that Religion tending so much to inform the Judgement, improve the morals and ameliorate the Heart.
As no religious moral or political Advantage can possibly accrue to the Settlement from the Toleration of the Catholic Religion; but on the contrary, every Evil and mischief to be apprehended; it surely would be wisdom in the British Government; should the Subject ever be agitated, to consider the danger of exposing an almost defenceless Colony to the Attack of such wild ignorant and bloodthirsty Men, as the Irish Convicts, before they make any Alteration in Matters of Religion.
In the year 1800 Toleration was granted to the Catholics by public Proclamation to celebrate the Mass; but that Indulgence had nearly proved fatal to the whole Colony. The danger had been foreseen by some who seriously considered the Subject as soon as the Proclamation was issued. However the executive Authority, considered it a prudent Measure, and that it would tend to make the Catholics more happy and less disposed to Rebellion; but the Event proved that the opinion had not been maturely weighed. They no sooner met at the Mass than they began to concert Measures for a general Insurrection; and which was most fortunately discovered a few Hours before they were up in Arms; which intimidated many many from joining them, and enabled Government to prepare for the Attack. Tho´ they were defeated in the Attempt; several being shot in the Woods by the Military; and others executed; yet the Minds of the Survivors are still inflamed against Government; and will at any favourable Moment be ready to risque their lives to be revenged; and think it the greatest Honor to fall in the Cause of Liberty. The want of the Celebration of the Mass is not the Cause of the dissatisfied turbulent rebellious Spirit, which is so strongly marked in Irish Catholic Convicts, but their Natural Ferocity, which nothing can ever eradicate.
When men become Convicts, a difference in religious Opinions is hardily discoverable amongst them. By living together in Prisons, and during a long voyage to N.S. Wales, the different religious Sentiments which they imbibed from their Education or Parents, are generally obliterated; and they acquire similar habits of acting and thinking, independent of their former various opinions Education. The Catholic and the Quaker, the protestant Dissenter, and Churchman; the Baptist and the Jew can scarcely be distinguished one from another in a religious and moral Sense.
As far as Religion can operate upon the Safety Happiness and Prosperity of the Settlement that of the established Church appears best calculated for the Instruction of the Convicts; and Inhabitants in general, and for the Maintenance of his Majesty´s Government. This will be the Case so long as the Number of bad Characters so far exceeds the good.
It would be the highest wisdom in the British Government to pay every Attention to the Morals and Education of all the Convicts Children in the Settlement, and to enjoin the free Inhabitants to do the same; because it is in the rising Generation the Foundation of the future Kingdom is to be laid. If the Children of the Irish Catholic Convicts are equally educated with the English Protestant Children; and brought up in the same moral and religious Principle there will be found no difference in their future Conduct but the former will make equally as good Members of the Community as the latter, and as they grow up to Men and women they will intermarry; and become one People, and feel a lively interest in the Prosperity of the Colony, it being their native Country, and unite to promote it´s Happiness and to Maintain it´s Government.
On the other Hand should the Morals and Education of the Children of the Irish Catholic Convicts be neglected, many of them will walk in the Footsteps of their wretched Parents, the Boys will be idle and rebellious, and the Girls infamous the former living by plundering the industrious, and the latter by Prostitution.
This measure would also tend greatly to lessen the public Expense. The mischief that bad men do, and the Trouble they give in a State causes a great Expenditure of the public money. There are no means either of Coercion or Persuasion can prevail upon them to earn their own Support. The industrious are always necessitated to contribute towards the maintenance of the idle and worthless. This has been one of the greatest Sources of the Expenses of N.S.Wales to the Mother Country; and the only way to reduce the public Expense arising from this Cause, will be to lessen the number of bad Characters in the Settlement. It seldom happens that a man of bad Character is satisfied with living in idleness merely; he will also live in Luxury, Drunkenness, and every Scene of Riot and Debaucheries; and if he has no other means, will make the industrious public pay for his Intemperance and Prodigality till he is over taken by the Hand of Justice.
It may also be observed that N.S.Wales is also very distant from the Mother Country in Case of any public Disturbance.
The Military Force is likewise very small, and some of them not of the best Characters, many of the Privates being formerly Convicts; and on that Account much Confidence can not be placed in them. If they were all well disposed their Body is so small; and numbers detached to distant Settlements from Head Quarters, that they are by no means equal to maintain the Government should there be a general Insurrection amongst the Convicts.
From what has been stated, it will be obvious to every impartial reflecting mind; that N.S.Wales is not in a Situation to tolerate the Catholic Religion, without the utmost Risque and Danger to the Settlement; and that it would be a wise and prudent measure to bring up the rising Generation in the protestant Religion, in order to remove that extreme Ignorance and Barbarism, which constitute the natural Character of all the lowest Class of Irish Catholic Convicts.
Public Complaints have been made of the very Heavy Expense the Settlement has been to the Mother Country: it is probable that secondary Causes have been alledged for this Expense, while the first and grand Cause has been overlooked Viz. the number of bad Characters who live in Idleness and Drunkenness and every Vice. So long as these continue the Expenses will remain. It is from the immoral State of the Colony they originate, and until the Morals of the Inhabitants are improved, not Regulations whatever formed by the executive Authority can effectually reduce the public Expense; as time will but too clearly demonstrate. If a dissipated Convict spend fifty Pounds per Annum, and his annual Labor not produce more than five, which is the Case with Numbers, the remaining forty five Pounds will become an Expense to the Public, and must be liquidated by one means or another. To quiet the Spirit of Rebellion, by carefully avoiding every thing that would tend to excite it; to remove imperceptibly from the minds of the Irish Convicts superstitious darkness and Ignorance, and to correct their immoral and profane Conduct by endeavouring to give them becoming Ideas of the Supreme Being would greatly tend to lessen the public Expense, to secure the Peace and Prosperity of the Settlement and to the maintenance of his majesty´s Government.
This desirable object in a certain degree might be accomplished by the diligent and prudent Labors of the Clergy protestant Clergy, supported by the executive Authority. The Prisoners with out Exception from the time of their Arrival in the Colony should be enjoined to attend divine worship on the Sabbath Day. If this Regulation was enforced and became general the Prisoners would think it no greater Hardship to go to the established Church than they do to labour in the Field. They would consider the public order for attending divine Service on the Sabbath not given in opposition to the religious opinions, which any of them might possess with a view of converting them to the protestant Religion, but as a general and necessary Regulation of the Colony.
The Clergy at any time should studiously avoid introducing any political Subject whatever into their public discourses; and all controverted religious opinions. The Gospel should be preached in simple plain and scripture Language, and the duties of practical Religion pressed strongly upon the Consciences of their Hearers. The minister should consider his Congregation as one nation; and one People that he may be guarded against national Prejudices in all his public Addresses. For however much he may condemn in his own Judgment that Spirit of Rebellion which stimulated many of the Irish Convicts to commit those acts of Violence for which they now suffer, yet New S. Wales is not the place to discuss publickly from the Pulpit these political Evils. Many of those deluded men thought they acted right and are still of the same opinion. To touch in the slightest manner upon these subjects would awaken in their minds the keenest Remorse not for these Events but for their unhappy Country and Friends, and would rekindle the Flame of Rebellion in their Breasts. A Clergyman in N.S.Wales from his local Knowledge and the extensive Information he may obtain thro´ other Channels, may be acquainted with the private Principles and moral Character of almost every Prisoner in the Colony. This Knowledge is very essential for him to possess as it will furnish him with many useful Hints. He can then view his Congregation; know their individual Crimes Temptations and distresses. His wisdom will teach him how to speak a word in Season; to reprove sin without giving Personal Offense, and to point out its nature and fatal Tendency in a cogent and convincing Language, yet in general terms, leaving the guilty to make the Application to their own Consciences: or to use the Apostle´s own words a minister from this Knowledge will be able to warn the unruly to comfort the feeble-minded and to support the weak. It will require minute Attention and much Address in a Clergyman where there are so many men of different Characters, Eduction and religious Persuasions to gain their Confidence and to convince them, that his only wish is to do them good; that his Anxiety is not to persuade them to embrace this or the other religious opinion, but to depart from Iniquity. When their Confidence is gained, much good may be done by the divine Blessing. In order to do this he must visit them frequently in their Houses, inquire after their temporal Concerns, and as far as he can assist them in their distresses with his advice Authority or Influence; and in any other manner their necessities may require. By wise and prudent Attention to their real wants, he will remove their Prejudices, conciliate their Esteem and prepare their minds for receiving such Instructions as he may deem best calculated for their Edification. If there were a sufficient number of protestant Clergy in the Settlement well informed men who would feel a Pleasure in reclaiming these unhappy Exiles much might be accomplished by their joint Labors, towards their Reformation. The Endeavours of the Clergy should be seconded by the Assistance of a few School masters, men of tolerable Education and good Morals, who would willing devote their time and Study to instruct the rising Generation.
Both the Clergy and Schoolmasters would require the Countenance and support of the executive Authority, without this necessary Aid their best Exertions would avail little.
The Power to enforce a due Respect for the Sabbath Day, and the regular Attendance of the Prisoners upon public worship, and also to require Parents to send their Children to School is vested in the supreme magistrate. If he seriously demand these things to be done; they must be done. His positive orders in this respect as well as in others must be obeyed. Were the necessary measures adopted and followed for the moral and religious Instruction of the Convicts and their Children; and the toleration of the Catholic Religion strictly prohibited, N.S.Wales would soon become a protestant Country. Ignorance and Superstition would lose their baneful Influence upon the minds of the lower Class; and the Inhabitants in general would become attached to our ecclesiastical and civil Government. A pacific disposition would then subdue the present Spirit of Rebellion and discontent, Industry would succeed Idleness Honesty, Theft, and sobriety drunkennes & Licentiousness. The Colony would prosper; the industrious enjoy the fruits of their Labor, and live in Peace and Safety; and not under the constant painful Apprehension of being plundered at their Property, or murdered in their Beds by a Banditti of ignorant lawless and deluded Ruffians. On the other Hand if the Catholic Religion is in the least tolerated; the Influence of the Priests, the depraved turbulent dispositions of the Catholics who are in the Colony, together with their extreme Superstition will keep the Settlement in perpetual Alarm; prevent all Reformation check the operations of Agriculture and endanger his Majesty´s Government.
C A few Observations on the Situation of the Female Convict in New South Wales
It will be readily admitted by every impartial observer, acquainted with the real state of the Colony, that there is no Class of the Community calls more earnestly for the Attention of the State than these unhappy objects; who have from various Causes and Temptations, departed from the Paths of Virtue and forfeighted their civil Liberty.
It is the merciful Intention of the Law, when it passes Sentence of Banishment upon the Delinquent; that the Punishment should beget Repentance and Reformation and reclaim the unfortunate Criminal from the Paths of Vice. But it much to be regretted, that the Settlement in New S.Wales has been established almost twenty years; yet no serious Attempts for the Reformation of the Female Convicts, sent out from time to time, have hitherto been made. This will clearly appear from a few observations upon their Situation; from the moment of their Arrival in the Colony.
One great Inconvenience they suffer, is for the want of a public Building for their Reception out of the transport Ships; where they may be decently accommodated, and provided for, until their respective Characters and Qualifications were ascertained and suitable Situations and Employments found for them. On their first arrival for the want of a public Place of Accommodation, many of them are much distressed, and from that distress are urged to form such Connections; as preclude all human Probability of their future Reformation.
It has been a common Custom (a Custom that reflects the highest Disgrace upon the British Government in that Colony) that shortly after a Ship has anchored in the Cove with female Convicts; Settlers, Soldiers, and Prisoners, have been permitted to go on Board; and make their respective Selection amongst them, and to induce these unfortunate women, some by Threats and some by Promises, to accompany them to their Habitations & to become their Mistresses; and to make Room for them a former Wife or Mistress with their Children are not unfrequently turned out into the Street in the utmost want and distress. These women having never set Foot in N.S.Wales and being totally ignorant of the Circumstances, Characters and Dispositions of the Admirers; are not likely to derive any Happiness from their new Connections; but almost certain accumulated misery, and wretchedness. These abandoned men will keep them as long as it is agreeable or convenient or until some other female object strikes their Fancy when they are immediately turned off with perhaps one or more natural Children to struggle with. In this miserable Situation, oppressed with Hunger, and in want of every necessary; the unfortunate woman is happy to form a second Connection, with the meanest wretch, who will receive her into his Hut; and give her and her starving Children a Loaf of Bread.
Many distressed objects of this Kind, who have seen far better days; and whose Father´s Servants have bread enough and to spare, are to be met with in N.S.Wales.
These unhappy Exiles, by suffering every Hardship that nature can bear; and by living in habitual Vice to procure a precarious Subsistence; lose every Idea of Propriety, Morality, and Religion; and exist merely to increase their own wretchedness, and to corrupt Society by their vicious Examples. Being so unhappily situated, and their past and present Conduct being such, as not to bear a moment´s Reflection; hence they banish from their Minds all Thought of a future State; neglect every moral, social, and religious duty and live and die the most miserable of the human Race. Was there a public Place of Accommodation provided for the Reception of the Female Convicts, on their first arrival; where they might be usefully employed, till they had learned the local Situation of the Settlement; this would give them an opportunity of consulting their own Interest and Happiness; and of forming such lawful Connections; as might not only tend to their future Welfare; but also to that of their Children. It may be alledged; that the female Convicts are very depraved previous to their Arrival in N.S.Wales; but all are not equally so; all have not run to the same Excesses of Iniquity; some occasionally are found better disposed, and perhaps their number would be much increased if they were not, on their first Arrival, promiscuously thrown into such difficulties and Temptations.
If the British Government have a wish to restore these wretched Exiles to Society, and to render them useful and their Situation tolerable some measure should be adopted for that Purpose. There are few Parents or Husbands, but what would feel much more Pleasure to follow their unfortunate Daughters and Wives to their Grave; than to see them sent out to N.S.Wales; could they foresee the Hardships and Insults they are doomed to suffer there; and the Sacrifices they are constrained to make to the most daring Ruffians. Should Government prohibit the single men whether Settler, Soldier or Prisoner from taking the female Convicts to live with them publickly, as their Mistresses; this would greatly tend to better their Situation; as it would encourage Matrimony. Matrimony would give the woman and her Children a legal Claim to the Protection and Support of her Husband; but at present they have none. When a Settler, Soldier or Prisoner has the Sanction of Government (a Sanction the most injurious to the public welfare and the most disgraceful to the Executive Authority) to take a female Convict as his Mistress, he is under no obligation to maintain her longer than she suits his inclination. There arises a very heavy national Expense, as these women with their Children are constantly likely to be turned out of doors poor, friendless and forsaken
by the men with whom they were allowed to cohabit. These poor cast off women who thro´ Disease, Age or Infirmity are rendered incapable of supporting themselves, become with their Children a Burthen to the Crown; and those who are young and in Health are generally driven by Jealousy Vexation and want to live in every Scene of Iniquity on the Thefts and Robberies of the Male Prisoners; whom they frequently excite to commit capital offences by which many an unfortunate wretch is in the very Prime of Life brought to the public Gallows. In Consequence of these wicked and lawless women who become so very abandoned and infamous from the Hardships which they suffer, and the Scenes of Vice in which they live, no property in the Settlement is safe either public or private. The Cloaths and Provisions in the Majesty´s Stores; or in the rich Man´s Cellar; or in the poor Man´s Cottage; are all under the Influence of these women; and are easily obtained by them. They have always some infatuated Admirers at Command, who will risque their Lives to gratify their wishes. Their Influence makes Sentinels on their Posts neglect their Duty; Constables steal the Property they are appointed to guard; and domestic Servants betray their Trust and rob their Masters.
It may be urged, that if the Female Convicts were not allowed to be distributed amongst the Settlers, Soldiers, and Prisoners; their whole maintenance would become an Expense upon the Government. In answer to this, it may be said that no objection whatever is made or intended against the female Convicts uniting themselves with the men of the Colony. The objection lies lays against them men taking these women by public Sanction to live with them publickly as their Mistresses; a Custom diametrically opposed to every Principle of sound Policy, Morality, and Religion; and pregnant with the most serious Evils to the present and future welfare of the Settlement.
This Customs tends to encourage Idleness, Drunkenness, Robberies, Gaming and every kind of Sin & Immorality. The total number of Women in the Colony are about one thousand four hundred and thirty, including Officers and free Settlers wives; the number of married amongst them, is three hundred and ninety five and unmarried one thousand and thirty five. These in general are living in open Prostitution. The total number of legitimate Children is eight hundred and seven, and the number of natural Children is one thousand and twenty five; five hundred and twenty five of the latter are females.
These Children, the offspring of unlawful Connections; and in general from the most vicious Parents will unavoidably become a constant Source of Trouble, Vexation, and Expense to the State; their Fathers frequently forsake them; and leave the Colony to return no more; and their mothers have neither Inclination nor ability to bring them up in Habits of Modesty and Morality. Hence the females as they grow up become Prostitutes; and the Boys live in Idleness and Theft.
If marriage was encouraged; and no man publickly sanctioned to keep his mistress, this would remedy many Evils. The Marriage Bond would oblige a man to provide for his wife and Children according to his Ability; and naturally call forth the joint Exertions of Husband and wife to maintain their Children. If the same immoral Custom continues, public Crimes and public Calamities will increase, in proportion to the number of Inhabitants; and also the public Expense. One Prodigal some times brings ruin upon a Family, and many Prodigals will bring Ruin upon a State. If it was demanded from what Cause originated the heavy Expense of N.S.Wales to the Mother Country the true answer would be, from the great Licentiousness of the Inhabitants: and one principal Cause of that Licentiousness has been the Sanction given to Fornication. Matrimony is an ordinance of divine appointment; it is necessary for the political and temporal Happiness & Welfare of Society independent of all Consideration of a future State. The liberal benevolent, and christian Spirit of the British nation is always alive even to the distresses of her Enemies; and is anxious to impart the inestimable Blessings of Liberty Morality and Religion to the oppressed African; and to the South Sea Islander. If the miseries and crimes of her own Children in N.S.Wales were known to her; would she not be equally or more anxious to relieve them from the one and to reclaim them from the other? Most of the Prisoners in N.S.Wales are British Subjects. Many of their Friends and relatives have the honor to fill important Situations in Church and State.
There are many unfortunate men and women sent out under fictitious names, in order to conceal their Crimes Punishment ; and Disgrace; from the Knowledge of their Parents and Kindred; where they live a wretched Life unknown and unpitied; and die unregretted. Should the Moral Situation of the Colony ever become a object of public Inquiry; it will be found that nothing would meliorate the Situation of the female Prisoner so much as Matrimony. This would even preserve many men from Hunger and Nakedness from Chains and Prisons and from capital corporal Punishments and the Gallows.
A woman who lives with a man as his Mistress, is aware that all she receives from him depends upon his whim and Caprice; and that he can dismiss her from his Service at Pleasure. Hence she has no motive to Industry and Frugality, because she has no permanent Interest in the Property which their first Exertions might acquire; but on the contrary is under the strongest Temptation to Extravagance Idleness and unfaithfulness.
Most women thus situated, form other Connections, which they support at the Expense of their present Masters, with a view to providing for themselves an Asylum against the day when necessity or Inclination shall compell them to relinquish their present precarious abode. These Thefts and Intrigues are some times discovered and generally produce Quarrels, Jealousies, and Murder. Matrimony would lessen these Evils, by giving the women and her Children a common Interest in the Property of the Man. She would then know that she had a legal Claim to share in the Fruits of their mutual Labor, and that Consideration would stimulate her Industry, excite her to Frugality; and attach her to her Husband as well as guard her against the Insinuations of the Seducer.
From Matrimony would be derived another great Advantage to the Settlement, as well as to the Mother Country. At present when the Male Prisoners have either served all the Term of their Transportation, or obtained a Pardon from the Governor, the young and healthy who are fit for the Labor of the Field, and have learned the nature of carrying on the operations of Agriculture as practised in the Colony, generally enter on Board the different Ships that touch at Port Jackson, leaving the women and their natural Children behind. By this means the Strength of the Colony is daily decreasing; and the number of those who are unable to maintain themselves (women and Children) is augmented. The able bodied Male Prisoners are always restless, and anxious to depart from the Settlement whenever opportunity occurs. Matrimony would give them an Interest in the Colony, and conciliate their Minds. The Executive Authority would be sanctioned in prohibiting a Married Man from leaving his Family a Burthen upon the public. Hence a Man could not quit the Country unless he took his Wife and Children with him.
It would be wisdom in the British Government, when Circumstances would permit, to allow the Husband to accompany his unfortunate wife who may be transported and the wife to attend her Husband in a similar Situation. This would be attended with great Benefit to the Colony. There are instances where this has been done, and amongst these People are to be found some of the most industrious Settlers in N.South Wales.
It would benefit the Colony also, if no young men were sent out, but those who are sentenced for the Term of the natural Life; and also prevent the return of some of the most desperate Characters to their Native Country. There are many Convicts in N.S.Wales whose Sentence is only for seven or fourteen years who look forward with secret Exultation to the time when the Term of their Transportation will expire. These men generally breathe a Spirit of revenge, not only against their individuals who formerly prosecuted them, but against the whole Community; and boast even while in the Chains of Captivity; of the Crimes, which anticipation promises them an Opportunity of committing; at the long wished for period, when they shall tread once more their native Soil. Nay consider the danger of a second Transportation or even of Death comparatively small to the secret Satisfaction to be derived from the Commission of the most daring Crimes in so large a Field as the British Empire; which may give them the means of revenge, and a few fleeting Hours of Dissipation. Were no male Convicts sent out but those who are under Sentence for Life, the Hope of ever returning to their native Land would die, unless they merit a Mitigation or Remission of their Sentence by years of good Conduct.
The Convict who returns free from N.S.Wales with a full Determination to give the Rein to his evil Propensities will be found to be no common Highwayman, Housebreaker or Thief, but a complete Master of his Profession. He will during his seven or fourteen years Servitude have learned in the School of Vice, under the most accomplished Teachers; every thing that human wickedness can invent or suggest; and will be much more dangerous to Society, both by corrupting the thoughtless and unwary, who many have the misfortune to come within his Influence; and by his own bold and daring Acts of Villainy, than if he had never quitted an English Jail.
It is of little Consequence to the Colony, what Sentence is past upon the female Convicts, whether the Term of their Transportation is for seven, fourteen years or for Life, as they can seldom return; their Children and their uselessness on Board a Ship prevents the Masters from receiving them, but it is of great Consequence to their Happiness and usefulness that they should be married; because if they are not, they will have no regular Residence, but must spend a vagrant wandering idle vicious Life to the End of their Days.
Matrimony would likewise lay the surest Foundation for Industry and Morality to the rising Generation as most married Parents feel an Anxiety for the Welfare of their Children, and commonly study the best means within their Knowledge and Ability to secure their future Happiness.
The Instruction and Morals of the rising Generation are of the utmost Consequence to the common Peace Safety and Prosperity of the whole Settlement: and these can never be effectually attended to till Matrimony is countenanced, and its Adoption becomes more general. Humanity many operate upon Government, and upon Individuals also, to feed some of the most hungry and to cloath some of the most naked natural Children; they may even carry their benevolent Intentions further; and may attempt to give them a little Education; but all Expenses Pains and Labor bestowed upon them can avail nothing, so long as their Mothers are living in every Scene of Iniquity. The bad Example and Influence of the Parents will render abortive the best consented measures and the most honest Endeavours to benefit the Children. A Child will naturally look up to its Mother; and at an early period feel observe her Conduct; weep when she weeps, and receive Impression from her words and Actions. If the Mother lives in Iniquity the Child will soon learn to approve her ways, and with great difficulty be reclaimed if ever, from the Paths of Vice.
What Evil is so much to be dreaded in Society as the mischief which a disappointed, enraged and vicious woman can spread? Most of the unmarried women in N.S.Wales are of this Description. Their Minds are wound up to the highest Pitch of Jealousy Desperation and wickedness by the neglect & cruel Treatment of the men. Without Matrimony no Instruction given by the Schoolmasters; no Labors of the Schoolmas Clergy, not Power of the executive Authority can render any moral and religious Advantage to the rising Generation. From this Source might be traced almost all the serious evils that have and do exist in the Settlement from it first Establishment to the present day; and these have neither been few in number nor small in magnitude, if the general Licentiousness and Immorality of the Inhabitants; the unhappy differences amongst the Officers; the loud Complaints of Injustice and Oppression amongst the lower Class and the immense Sums of Money drawn from and expended by the Mother Country in supporting the Colony are taken into the Estimate. So long as the Cause of these Evils remains, all the Evils will exist and increase in proportion to the increase of the Inhabitants, either by the Importation of Prisoners from Europe, or by the Children born and brought up in the Settlement. If the British Government should not see the pressing necessity of attending to the unhappy Situation of the female Convicts and their Children in N.S.Wales; they must be prepared to hear many unpleasant Reports from that Country; and to meet every Expense that Idleness Dissipation, and Extravagance can occasion. While Matrimony is neglected the rising Generation will be brought up in Idleness and Vice: the destitute women who have been Convicts whether bond or free will look up to Government for Support as they have no opportunity of leaving the Settlement, and the men in general as fast as the Term of their Transportation expires, will quit the Country: Cultivation will be at a stand, for want of helpers and the civil and military Establishment, with many of the women and Children, must be maintained by supplies from foreign Countries at the Expense of the British Government.
The Situation of these unfortunate women may never seriously have occupied the Attention of the executive Authority; and therefore could not have been represented to the Legislature, or it is probable that before this Period it´s Wisdom and Humanity would have suggested some Remedy to alleviate the Misfortunes and Calamities of these Female Exiles. However it is a painful Reflection, to every virtuous and benevolent Mind, and no less painful than true to consider that these unfortunate Females from the day of their Arrival in N.S.Wales thro´ all the future Stages of their Life generally grow worse and worse till at Length they sink beneath the Pressure of accumulated Vice and it´s concomitant Miseries, and breathe their last expiring Breath either in a wretched Hut, or public Hospital in Botany Bay, entailing upon to their spurious unprotected Offspring nothing by Disease Poverty and Disgrace.