Report on Female Factory

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
27 December 1836

Vox Populi — Vox Dei.

WE have no means of making an estimate approaching to correctness of the present numerical amount of the Stock of various descriptions which form, with the exception of the Whale Fishery, our sole means of wealth. But let the curious take merely one large Stock-holder—one man of the many who scarcely require to be pointed out, whose possessions in this respect are large; and the absolute necessity of providing labor in Proportion will be at once apparent. A man for instance that has from ten to twenty-thousand sheep; he requires every year many additional hands—not only for their nurture and care—not only for the means of turning them to profitable account—but for their actual preservation. His Shepherds and his Watchmen must keep pace with the encrease, or his losses will be equal to the fair promise of gain which this would under other circumstances afford him. There is not only the necessity of fresh hands in this particular, but, this being obtained, there is found to be fresh necessity for more labor in consequence; for agriculture must keep pace with the accession of mouths to feed, or the additional population will starve—unless indeed they can live on mutton. Thus is there arising every year an urgent demand for fresh hands—a demand greater than may at first sight appear to the casual observer, but which begins to be felt in a serious degree by every possessor of property, great or small, in the Colony.

Australia has been called a land of paradoxes; and it is one to which the experience of the present and the prospect of the future times bear testimony that here of all places in the world encrease of possessions is encrease of that difficulty and embarrassment which in other places belong to their absence. We stand, in fact, in a different position from any other people whom either authentic history or uncertain tradition have made known to the enquirers of this century—and while we perceive that the nature of things points out our destiny to be that of growers of Stock, we discover that ours can scarcely be the pastoral life of antiquity, and that we cannot hope to subside into a happy and prosperous, if a rude and semi-barbarous nation of Shepherds. A little reflection will shew that we are cut off even from this low step of the ladder of ambition, and that we must become something more or dwindle down into nothing.

For what was the nature of those pastoral times to which it would appear that at this comparatively late hour of the life of man we are recurring? In all those instances which sacred and profane history afford us, there was as far as we can discover a sufficient population. The Sheep holders of those times had not our simple means of providing hards for their establishments; they had no Hyde Park Barracks to look to for their Shepherds, — nor has they a Factory for their Females; the natural order of things was not in their cases interrupted; there was no “check,” natural or artificial, to population—to encrease and multiply in themselves as well as in their flocks and herds was a part of their “system” religiously observed. They neither had nor wanted a market for their wool, nor did they require foreign supplies, whether in the shape of slop clothing or any others of what are to us necessaries. Theirs was the narrow circle of home-manufacture—and all that was required by their simple wants was to be had on the spot. In fact, looking at the human race as capable of filling, and being destined to fill, no more exalted rank in creation than other animals—neither possessing superior intelligence, nor bound to “put out their talents to usury”—viewing mankind in this light, we can conceive no happier or more desirable existence than that of JOB feasting his unlettered and content dependents, with no remittances to make, no bills to meet, no teams to load for the purposes of exchange, and no assigned servants to trust them to. We doubt even if that great “unpaid” had cause to lament the absence either of a Supreme Court or of a Police Office.

Alas! That the human mind must “keep moving!” In those days that glorious check to population, the “Transportation System,” was not in being; the Shepherds were “Family men,” and their Hutkeepers had children to rear. They wanted the light of these latter times, and “worse than death” systems were not popular—probably because there were no Tories. Had this been the case—had they even been able to boast of a few “independents” among them—a few “respectables”—the labouring male population would have died without issue, the females would have been debarred from the social relations of life, would have alternated between the single blessedness of domestic service and the third class, till they were in more senses than one “past bearing”—and then only have been let loose upon society to add to its vices and misery, instead of co-operating in its advancement and well-being. Really in this stage of the case we drop “bald irony” and seriously ask whether any thing can be conceived by indifferent and sensible observers more outrageous than the “system” here described and upheld as the chef d’avre [sic: chef d’oeuvre] of reformatory legislation by the jolter-headed disciplinarians of this Colony?

We beg our readers to bear in mind this peculiar difference between the Pastoral times of antiquity and of the present day. There was no Emigration Committee in the former—for then ship-load after ship-load of males and females were not distributed over the land, to grow, live, and die in monastic separation, looking only to the same doomed characters to “fill their vacant places” when the short hour of action had in the course of nature concluded. No—they sailed in the same ship—or, once more to drop metaphor, they followed instead of opposing the end of their existence; they were of the “productive classes,” and they produced that which is far more essential to the existence and well-being of a community than more bales of wool than would fill the wide ocean between Sydney and the Thames—namely, sons and daughters—the rude untutored minds of those simple children of the plains, not conceiving the proposition so favorably received in these days of science, that any good or advantageous end could be secured by a system opposed to common sense, to humanity, and to every-day experience, as well as to the course and rules of nature.

We beg them further to recollect that we have heretofore insisted upon the atrocity and folly of this part of the System in various matters of discussion concerning the Female Factory—an establishment with which our contemporaries find weekly fault, but to which the only remedy they would apply is the old story (and not more “respectable” for being old) of “coercion” — “discipline” — &c. &c. The vagabonds of the Tory School of Botany Bay, who are contented with raising an outcry without learning a lesson from experience, dropping a prejudice, or forgetting the purposes of faction—these persons may babble as they please about the unpromising and degraded progreny that would spring from the polluted source of persons who have been actually convicted, and who are not free by servitude or even ticket-of-leave holders. But the contempt with which the eye of enlarged and rational philosophy would naturally look upon sentiments so irrational, the mere claptrap of faction, begins to be carried back to the party from which they originate; the public mind is, in this Colony at least waking to a juster sense of the merits of the case; the Agricultural portion of the community has discovered that they have been working with materials advantageous for the time, and capable of continuing to be of that character, but which by the “check” system here exposed have proved to be the reverse. They are one and all, we believe, anxious for a change in this respect—and were the opportunity afforded them, would co-operate cheerfully with the Government should some attempt be made to turn our materials for encrease of population to some active purpose.

See Original:Vox Populi—Vox Dei.” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 27 December 1836, p.2