Transportation and colonization/Chapter 7



The extraordinary facilities for acquiring property, which emancipated convicts have hitherto enjoyed in New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land, may be regarded as a fourth cause of the comparative failure of the transportation system. The ticket of leave holder, or emancipist, generally commences his career as a colonial freeman in one or other of the three following ways: viz.

1. By retailing small wares in the Sydney market, or as a petty dealer in one or other of the towns of the colony; rising gradually to the rank of a wholesale dealer or merchant, a proprietor of Bank shares, and an owner of valuable property in land, cattle, houses, and ships.

2. By retailing ardent spirits as a licensed publican;—a course which, although, in consequence of increased competition, it no longer presents such a highway to fortune as it once did in New South Wales, is still sufficiently alluring to attract numerous candidates for the patronage of colonial drunkards, and to afford various ways and means of amassing wealth much more rapidly than can generally be done by honest industry.

3. By retiring with a few sheep and cattle to the interior; where, from the natural increase of these descriptions of stock, especially if assisted by occasional additions in the way of sheep and cattle stealing, or by the purchase of stolen sheep and cattle, numerous flocks and herds are often acquired by ticket of leave men and emancipated convicts, and a large property realized in the course of a few years. There are doubtless instances of persons of the class of emancipists rising into the possession of wealth and consideration in society, by commencing as small settlers, or as mechanics, through sheer industry and perseverance; but these instances are not numerous, in comparison with those in which wealth has been amassed by persons of this description by other and less laborious, though more questionable means.

The acquisition of large fortunes by such persons and by such means, has, doubtless, had a powerful and direct influence in frustrating one of the great ends of transportation—the prevention of crime in the mother country—by holding out the colony as the paradise of criminals to the whole class in England; it being consistent with the nature of man to look only to the prizes in the grand lottery of crime, and to disregard the blanks. It has had an equally pernicious influence, however, on the whole class of transported felons; the acquisition of wealth by individuals of that class being so much more frequently the result of successful criminality, or of those practices of extortion and chicanery that are nearly akin to it, than of honest industry and steady perseverance. Besides, it has established an esprit de corps among the whole class of emancipated convicts—a spirit fostered by ill-gotten wealth, and maintained and supported by yearly increasing numbers—which has manifested itself in a degree of arrogance and presumption, sufficient, on the one hand, to demonstrate that wealth in the hands of such individuals is no evidence of a thorough reformation; and directly calculated, on the other, to obliterate from the minds of convicts in the colony all sense of criminality.

These pernicious effects of the system of convict discipline, so long prevalent in New South Wales, have undoubtedly been greatly aggravated by the injudicious and unwarrantable procedure of Governor Macquarie, in virtually forcing individuals of the class of emancipated convicts into society, and in placing them in situations of authority, of influence, and of emolument, to which they had no just claim.