It was only natural that, at a time when in all countries the boundaries of class were well-marked, the ranks of a population so strangely recruited as that of New South Wales should be crossed and recrossed by lines of social distinctions. The broadest division was that between convict and free, which marked a man from the moment at which he first set foot in the territory. No matter what position he afterwards attained, whether he rose from prisoner to landed proprietor or fell from freedom to the ranks of the colonial gaol-gang, the important thing was not what he had come to be but how he had come to be there. Among the convicts themselves new divisions came into existence—the chief of them that between the men who were and the men who were no longer prisoners. From the vocabulary of slavery this class gained its name, and a body of freed but not freemen was formed within the convict ranks. The distinction between "freed" and "free" cut deep into the social, economic and judicial structure of the Colony. By completing his sentence or by means of a free pardon or a conditional pardon or "emancipation," which gave him freedom so long as he remained within the colonial boundaries, a prisoner might join the ranks of the freed, but the taint of servitude kept him from the full rights of citizenship. It was, however, only as the Colony began under Macquarie to emerge from infancy,
garrison accounted for 1,416 and the civil staff for 30. Many of the women were the wives of the soldiers and men on the civil staff. Certainly not more than 900 men and 300 women belonged to the class of free settlers. Some of these, it is impossible to say how many, were the first of the Australian-born, the offspring of the earliest settlers and convicts, then just reaching the borders of adult life. There cannot under any circumstances have been in 1810 more than 600 or 700 voluntary adventurers.
- Probably 300 would be an outside limit.
- The estimate of the male convict population is probably too low. This should very possibly be larger and the free element smaller, for in 1820 the free settlers (excluding the Australian-born) were reckoned at as low a figure as 794. See Chapter V.
- The social, and to some extent the legal, consequences of imprisonment in a colonial gaol differed according to the nature of the crime, and also according to whether the offence was a crime by English or by Governor-made law only.