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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/313

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THE EVOLUTION OF COLONIES.

to influential persons who hired them to others (herein repeating English serfdom) or permitted them to work for themselves, receiving a portion of their earnings (herein repeating Greek slavery). Mechanics were employed on public works, and hundreds of buildings were erected by convict masons, bricklayers, and carpenters. Day laborers were employed on roads, and hundreds of miles of solid highway are a durable monument to the memory of the convict. They were the true pioneers of the country, braving the dangers of the "bush," resisting the aborigines, clearing and cultivating the land, and developing the resources of the colonies. For themselves they did well and ill. Many reformed, and after manumission, which was at first special and at length general, became respectable citizens, dealers, and traders. Some grew to be prosperous merchants, wealthy squatters, editors, legislators, and all but ministers. Their sons are judges, legislators, solicitors, Government officials, newspaper proprietors. After lasting for sixty years the system of transportation was at length abolished in consequence of the opposition of the working class, who objected to competition, and of the respectable classes generally. The legislative body and the large landowners were rather in favor of its perpetuity, and there are still members of the old "slave-driving party" in Tasmania who regret its discontinuance.

The bond servants, who were common in New England and at first more numerous than slaves in the Southern States, repeated the status of the English serfs. Their origin was various. Crime, debt, sale by parents, voluntary surrender, and kidnapping all contributed their quota. The period of indentured service was at first from seven to ten years, and was ultimately reduced to a fixed term of four years. They were exchanged and sold like any other commodity. Their treatment seems to have been often harsh. Like the Australian convicts, many of them prospered. Leading families in the United States trace their origin to bondmen. Not a few of the Southern overseers, free laborers, and small farmers are believed to be descended from them. The vagabond element in all the States, the "white trash" of the South, and the criminal and pauper inhabitants of certain regions in the North are also affiliated on the more degraded sections of the class.[1]

The worst of modern inventions, it has been said, is the invention of the workingman. The workingman, however, has a pedigree; he is the son of the bondman or the serf, and the grandson of the slave, who would have been still more discreditable "inventions" if they had not been the outgrowth of their time and place. The servile character of the workman long survived in European countries; it


  1. Eggleston, op. cit., p. 858.