Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/143

This page needs to be proofread.

ball, the punishment-cell, the prison-hulk, the chain-gang, and the " hell". " The ' whipping-houses ' of the Mississippi ", says Dilke, " had their parallel in New South Wales; a look or word would cause the hurry- ing of a servant to the post or the forge, as a pre- liminary to a month in a chain-gang on tiie roads" (Greater Britain, 8th ed., 373). For idleness, for disobedience, for drunkenness, for every trivial fault, the punishment was " the lash! — the lash! — the lash! " (Dr. Ullathorne, in Cardinal Moran's History of the Catholic Church in Australasia, 156). And the " cat " was made an instrument of torture (Dilke, Greater Britain, 8th ed., 37-1). Matters were even worse in the convict '"hells" of New Norfolk (estab- lished in 1788), and of Port Arthur and Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania. In 1835 Dr. Ullathorne went to New Norfolk to prepare thirty-nine supposed conspirators for an abrupt passage into eternity. Twenty-six of the condemned men were reprieved. They wept bitterly on receiving the news, "whilst those doomed to die, without exception, dropped on their knees and witii dry eyes thanked God they were to be delivered from so horrid a place". They "manifested extraordinary fervour and repentance", received their sentence on their knees " as the will of God", and on the morning of their execution " they fell down in the dust and, in the warmth of their gratitude, kissed the very feet that had brought them peace" (Ullathorne in Moran, op. cit., 164).

For a long period Australian otHcials and ex-officials were to all intents and purposes a great "ring" of spirit-dealers. Rum became the medium of com- merce, just as tobacco, and maize, and leaden bullets were in the early days of New England (History of New South Wales from the Records, 11, 271-273). The cost of building the first Protestant church in Aus- tralia (at Sydney) was, as the pastor's balance sheet shows, in part paid in rum (op. cit., II, 66). " Rum- selling and rum-distilling debauched the convicts and their guards" (Jos6, History of Australia, 21), and the moral depravity that grew up under the system is described by Dr. Ullathorne as " too frightful even for the imagination of other lands" (Moran, op. cit., pp. 8-11, and " Historical Records of New South Wales, II and III, passim). The Irish Catholic con- victs — "most of whom", says niathorne (in Moran, op. cit., 152-1.53), " were transported for the infringe- ment of penal laws and for agrarian offences and mi- nor delinquencies" — had generally (according to the same eyewitness) a lively dread of the depravity of the prison hells of the system. Irish Catholic female convicts were also saved to a notable extent by their robust faith from the profligacy which, almost as a, overtook their less fortunate sisters from other countries (McCarthy, History of Our Own Times, ed. 1887, I, 467; Ullat'lioriie. in .Aloran, 157- 158). Long before, similar testimony was given by John Thomas Bigge, after lie had spent three years (1819-22) in Australia as Special Commissioner from the British Government to investigate the working of the transportation system. In his final report (dated 6 May, 1822) he said: "The convicts em- barked in Ireland generally arrive in New South Wales in a very healthy state, and are found to be more obedient and more sensible of kind treatment during the passage than any other class. Tlieir separation from their native country is observed to make a stronger impression upon their minds, both on their departure and during the voyage."

II. Period of Persecution. — The influences of religion were not allowed to remedy to any great extent the hard animalism and inhumanity of the convict system. Anglicanism was de facto, although not (le jure, the established religion of the Australian penal colonies. But the Anglican chaplain, fre- quently a farmer, run-holder, and magistrate, was more conspicuously a civil than a religious function- arj'. Methodism (then a branch of the . glican Establishment) made a feeble beginning in .Australia in 1813; Presbyterianism in 1823; other Protestant denominations at later dates (Bonwick, First Twenty Years of Australia, 240). In 1836, when Dr. LTlathorne wrote his pamphlet, "The Catholic Mission in Australia ", Catholic and other dissidents were still compelled to attend the more or less perfunctory services of the Anglican Churcli (in Moran, op. cit., 153). The penalties for refusal, pro- vided at various times in Cieneral Orders, consisted in reduced rations, imprisonment, confinement in prison-hulks, the stocks, and the urgent pressure of the public ftagellator's "cat-o'-nine-tails" — twenty- five lashes for the first offence, fifty for the second, and for the third, the road-gangs, or transportation to the "living death" of the convict hells. (See the official and other evidence in Moran, op. cit., 11-19.) As late as 5 March, 1843, a convict named Bernard Trainer was sentenced to fourteen days' imprison- ment in Brighton jail for refusing to attend the Protestant service (Therry MSS., in Moran, 19). This abuse of power continued in 'Tasmania till 1844 (Hogan, The Irish in Australia, 3d ed., 257-258). Both in New South Wales and Tasmania, the children of Catholic convicts and all orphans under the care of the State were brought up in the profession of the dominant creed. In 1792 there were some three hundred Catholic convicts and fifty Catholic freemen (mancipists) in New South Wales. Nine years later, in 1801, there were 5,515 inhabitants in the penal settlement (Bonwick, First Twenty Years of .us- traha, 175-176). Alaout one-third of these were Catholics; but no regular statistics of religious belief were kept at the time (Kenny, The Catholic Church in .ustralasia to the Year 1840, 20). .mong the "little flock" there were three priests who had been unjustly transported on a charge of complicity in the Irish insurrection of 1798 — Fathers James Harold, James Dixon, and Peter O'Neill. The last-mentioned priest had been barbarously scourged on a suborned charge of having abetted murder — a crime of which he was afterwards proved to be wholly innocent. Father Harokl was the uncle of the Rev. Dr. William Vincent Harold, O.P., famous in the Hogan Schism in Philadeliihia, and en route to Ireland in 1810, from Australia, he visited Philadelphia (Moran, op. cit., 33).

These priests were strictly forbidden the exercise of their sacred ministry. After repeated representa- tions. Father Dixon was at length, by order of the Home Government, conditionally emancipated, and permitted to celebrate Mass once a montli, under galling restrictions (see Historical Records of New South Wales, V, 110). He ofi'ered the Holy Sacrifice for the first time in New South Wales, 15 May, 1803. There was no altar-stone; the chalice, the work of a convict, was of tin; the vestments were made of parti-coloured old damask curtains sacrificed for the occasion, and the whole surroundings of this mem- orable event in the history of the Church in Australia bespoke the poverty of Bethleliem and the desolation of Calvary. After little more than a year, P'ather Dixon's precious privilege was withdrawn, and the last state of the Catholic convicts became worse than the first. Father O'Neill had in the meantime (1803) been restored to Ireland, with his character completely vindicated. In 1808 Father Dixon, broken down in health, was permitted to return to his native diocese. Two years later he was followed to Ireland by Father Harold, and till 1817 a deep spiritual desolation brooded over the infant Church in Australia. In the last-mentioned year there were some 6,000 Catholics in and about Sydney alone. The representations of the returned priestly exiles resulted at length in the appointment of Father Jere- miali I'lynii, an Irish Cistercian, as Prefect .A.postolic of New Holland. Obstacles were thrown in his way