Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/48

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A COLONIAL AUTOCRACY.

that the men and non-commissioned officers might marry and take with them the women who had been their companions and were the mothers of their children.

The women who were not thus assigned remained in Government employment, working in a woollen factory at Paramatta. But even these found homes with the male convicts in the town, many leading lives as shameful as those they had left behind them in the dens of London.

Yet in spite of this promiscuous breeding, in spite of the prevalence of the bar-sinister, the children of these unions were of strong physique, lacked neither mental nor moral force, and sought to live soberly and decently. The family affections, too, were strong, and child murder or even neglect practically unknown. That women tried to preserve their innocent but illegitimate babies was natural enough in a country where to be a mistress and not a wife was the more usual condition.

The established forms and conventions of civilisation were difficult to establish in a little penal settlement cut off by the seas from the whole world. The ordinary decencies and comforts of life were dispensed with as carelessly as the marriage laws. Macquarie was disgusted with the rough-built houses and the badly clothed, uneducated children of even prosperous settlers. Mud and paling huts or two-roomed houses with a lean-to or skilling at the back were the ordinary country dwellings. But the climate exacted little in the way of shelter and clothing and, save in time of flood or famine, convict and settler alike lived better than they had been accustomed to do in England. Only here and there, however, had families established themselves in the country as in a permanent home. For the majority of the "gentleman-settlers" it was a place to make money in, money which was to be spent in re-establishing themselves in the old country, and which might be easily made in the liquor traffic. In the twelve years which followed Macquarie's arrival, no change was more remarkable than in this feeling that New South Wales was only the scene of a temporary exile.

Rough and plain as was the life of the settler, at least the fear of fierce native raids which pressed upon the American pioneer was absent. The aborigines took quietly the establishment of the white folk upon one of their hunting grounds.