Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
12 December 1842
To the Editor of the Australian.
SIR,—Some few weeks since the admirers and advocates of common humanity were rejoiced at the appearance of an article alluding to the Female Factory, and in which you promised to return to the subject. Great has been the disappointment at not finding this kept. Is the cause want of information? For I cannot bring myself to believe that a journal taking the high ground of independence you have ever maintained, would be prevailed upon by any considerations, to use a parliamentary phrase, to blink the question. Much good has been effected already in that establishment, must has however yet to be done; and it is by the agency of the press that it is to be attained.
Perhaps the most delightful pursuit man can be engaged in is in reforming his fellow creatures from habits of vice and knavery, and I believe it is the most acceptable offering man can make to his Creator. It has been avowedly the object of transportation, but some how or other, whether that the views have changed in a 16,000 miles’ voyage, or that, being on the other side of the world to St. Stephen’s chapel, and everything consequently topsy turvy, the object that has been in view here has not been to obtain the reformation of the prisoner, but to carry out the system of perfect degradation, both of mind, and consequently of body.
The penal character of this country has been annulled by Ministers; a few years will render the Principal Superintendent of Convicts’ indents a nullity, and it therefore becomes more than ever expedient that, though late, some system should be adopted, that the thousands we shall have presently to receive as fellow colonists, should not be at any rate worse men than the day they arrived on our shores. The greater part of our prisoners are now in service of Government, the very worst place, as things are now carried on, to obtain the object in view; yet it might be the best. This fact, as regards women at the Factory, has been pretty well exposed; and as regards the men, I think, when I describe the scene at the head quarters of the colony, Hyde Park Barracks, I witnessed only a day or two since, I will prove that that establishment requires some of Sir GEORGE GIPPS’ notice, in the way of placing a Superintendent less given to acts of the brutal ruffianism I am about to describe.
Business called me to this establishment a day or two ago, and in crossing the yard I heard a voice of thunder calling on all hands to proceed up the yard. A most woeful dozen or so of men hobbled up. They were men evidently suffering from disease; in their countenances you might read death. But this spared them not. They were all denounced as vagabonds. The appellative of “You sir,” which each was honored with, being prefixed by vagabond, scoundrel, &c., and the pleasing recollection of “Oh, don’t I know you,”—”Out to work,”—”I’ll give you the mill,”—”By the blessing of——I’ll get fifty tipped into you,” and all this, though I heard no offence given by these men. Poor creatures, they seemed to have lost even the common feeling of the worm that turns when trodden upon. I shuddered when I saw to what men could be degraded. Two things which peculiarly excited the wrath of the worthy Superintendent (for it is of him I am speaking,) were some two or three poor men, with bad eyes, daring to presume to shelter them by wearing a broad brimmed common cabbage tree hat, instead of the grey cap, which afforded no shade, although the sun was intensely hot. Another man had an extra shirt under his arm. “Where got you that, you vagabond; stole it?” “No; it is my own, it is branded, I wish to keep myself clean,” was the inoffensive answer. “Sha’n’t have it; one, that is enough, you have on your back;” and away went the shirt, with a promise, that the next time he was found with an extra shirt he should be introduced to the Police Bench. Cleanliness, therefore, is a crime in the eyes of this compound of pistol and bobadil. I made several enquiries after leaving the place of others who have been longer in the colony than myself, for I could not imagine that, with the professed views of humanity which the English Government wish to carry out, such a man as this tyrannical wretch should have any control over prisoners. I thought the man was labouring under some temporary insanity, caused by intoxication or illness, but I was assured that such was his usual practice. I cannot but believe that this is unknown to the head authorities, or surely they never would allow it to exist. The working of such superintendence is calculated to drive more men to the bush in one week than all the Tartars of masters in the colony in a year. Prisoners may be of the lowest class, but they still have feelings. If they had not, we could never hope to reform them. A love of good must be excited by example. If we cannot wake up the better feelings of the heart, we only drive me to destruction by such usage as above stated.
I have here merely described, currente calamo, what I witnessed, and I ask of you, if reformation is to be attained, is this the proper mode to attain it? And I call upon you, as the advocate of humanity, to allow the sufferings of your fellow creatures (for they are still our brethren, though degraded, and prisoners) to claim some little notice in their behalf. You will gain their blessing, and the praise and esteem of every good man.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Sydney, Dec. 4, 1842.
[This is infamous, and ought to be instantly looking to. We have not forgotten the Factory affair alluded to by our Correspondent. The delay has arisen from the great difficulty of getting authentic information as to facts. We shall keep our eyes on this Establishment.—ED. AUST.]
See Original: “ORIGINAL CORRESPONDENCE. To the Editor of the Australian,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Monday 12 December 1842, p.3