Special Sub-Topic: Send 'Em to New South Wales!
|You are a convicted criminal in Britain who has just been notified that you will serve your sentence in the colony of New South Wales. What crime did you most likely commit?|
theft. According to Robert Hughes, about 8 out of 10 criminals had been convicted of theft, including the poaching of game. Other crimes, like murder and political crimes, were seldom represented. Because the sentence of exile was so severe, occasionally the person whose property had been stolen would ask for clemency for the convicted thief.
|Why did the British government decide to send convicted criminals to a British colony about 10,000 miles away?|
All of these (Sending criminals to the American colonies was not an option, Britain did not have a penitentiary system, Many of the British were afraid of the "criminal classes"). All of these factors contributed to Britain's policy of sending convicts away to New South Wales, a remote colony that Britain was also keen to populate. At the same time, different factors such as urbanization, poverty and unemployment led to an increase in crime.
|If you were a prisoner sentenced to exile in New South Wales, on what type of ship would you be first placed?|
hulk. Prisoners were first placed on hulks, described as decrepit three-masted ships which served as intermediate prison ships. While these ships could float, they were not able to sail. From there, a prisoner would be transferred to an Australia-bound ship. While on the hulks, many prisoners were shackled and kept in irons.
|As a convict arriving in New South Wales, you might have been placed with a settler to do farm labor. What was this system called?|
assignment system. The assignment system placed convicts with settlers, providing them with essentially free labor for a period of time. According to Hughes, some settlers with strong political connections were able to get the most skilled workers for themselves. In addition, a British official might "punish" an awkward settler by taking away his assigned convicts.
|How many women were sent to Australia as convicts?|
about 25,000. From a total number of 160,000 or so convicts, about 25,000 were women, and some children were also included. In addition, some wives from England followed their convict husbands to Australia, but they had to pay their own way for the long voyage. (Sending some women to New South Wales was of course essential in order to populate the colony).
|You are a convict who is paid with both small amounts of money and with goods. One of these "goods" causes a lot of problems with the convicts in New South Wales. What is it?|
rum. For a period of about twenty years, convicts were paid partly in rum for their labor, causing lots of problems with alcohol addiction. Much of the rum was imported from Bangor in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land).
|Some of the convicts escaped, either into the bush or to the sea. Who made a famous escape from Sydney to Timor, only to be caught again? |
Bryant party. Mary Bryant, her husband, two children and several other convicts escaped on an open boat and sailed north to Timor, where they convinced the Dutch governor that they were castaways. After living there several months, William Bryant supposedly told the governor the truth, and all of the escapees were arrested. An Australian film about Mary Bryant was released in 2005.
|You are a convict in New South Wales who is being sent to "Hell's Gate", a fearful work prison. Where are you going?|
Macquarie Harbour. Hell's Gate was the entrance to this remote prison compound in Tasmania (formerly Van Diemen's Land). A barren island in Macquarie Harbor, Sarah Island, housed the inmates. The convicts worked 16-hour days hauling pine trees in treacherous conditions. Food and warmth were particularly scarce.
|What finally put an end to the British government's policy of transporting its convicts to New South Wales?|
all of these (reformers called for an end to the system, a gold rush in 1850, the government paid a bounty for people to emigrate to New South Wales). All of these finally put an end to the exiling of prisoners. Reformers in Australia joined with those in England, calling for an end to the penal colony. Moreover, Britain had by the late 1840s built several new prisons. In addition, the government starting paying free people to emigrate to Australia, which helped with a labor shortage there. Finally, a gold rush made people very eager to come to Australia. Though transportation remained on the statute book till 1868, it was rarely used after about 1850.
|What other historical event does the exile of British prisoners most resemble, according to "The Fatal Shore"?|
Gulag in the Soviet Union. Since the convicts were usually paid, had a definite term of service, and had some rights, they were not slaves. Their situation, according to Robert Hughes, was like the Russian prisoners who were sent into exile to the Gulag by the Soviet System. There, they worked at manual labor under harsh conditions, and many never returned home.
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