Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/12

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viii
PREFACE

in dealing with both they reproduced with many interesting modifications the administrative methods to which they had been accustomed. Thus, for example, the magistrates had to deal with the evils of the liquor trade in a peculiarly acute form, and ways had also to be found for carrying out the easier duties of public benevolence. For the latter purpose many associations came into being, and it was largely through the sense of corporate existence gained by these means that the colonists began to demand towards the end of the period a fuller share in the work of Government. During these years also the questions of taxation, the organisation of trade, internal and external, the distribution of and above all the conditions of labour passed through important stages. Finally there was ever present the unsolved problem of the reform or restraint of the criminal. New South Wales at this period ceased to be a mere penal station and became a Colony. Although the convicts still formed the majority of the population, the free settlers and the convicts' children gained steadily upon them in numbers, wealth and influence. Macquarie deliberately adopted the principle that New South Wales was for the convict and not for the free colonist, and the story of his government is largely the story of the momentary success and final defeat of this policy, a defeat followed by some years of bitter class enmity.

Yet the idea which fired Macquarie's enthusiasm was worthy of attention, and to turn the criminal into a useful, self-respecting citizen populating the empty lands of a new country, and alone building up a new state, was a fine and generous plan.

The introduction of free settlers privileged to employ convict labour, the faults and weakness of an autocratic government, and above all the mental atmosphere of the beginning of the nineteenth century with its narrow religious outlook and severe class rigidity, made its complete realisation impossible. Nevertheless the experiment of colonising-transportation was not altogether a failure. If for the most part the convict remained