death was as callously surveyed as that of the sheep slaughtered for the table. The colonists' rich relative had awarded presents and emoluments, and, like many another beneficiary, they gave no thanks. They evidently conceived that they could now get on well enough without outside assistance. Opinion was apparently equally divided on the question (as at the origination of the system), and there were some who supported continued convictism, and some who were heartily tired of its risks and unpleasantnesses. The Inquirer thus summed up:—" We have made roads and bridges, and constructed many public works which, without the aid of the convict system, we could not have performed. A large Imperial expenditure in the colony has maintained a trade, and strengthened the hands of the settlers. It has supplied the country with cheap labour—not the most suitable kind, certainly, but yet not the least desirable. And, while it has thus helped us forward, it has brought us but little to detract from the good. Black has not shown itself to be very black, after all. We have learned that the criminal is not all evil; that the angel within is not forever expelled by the verdict of a jury; that it may, and does, survive many deviations from the path of rectitude, and leaves us at times to marvel at the good that lingers around the hearts of even the hardest offenders, needing but little kindness from one to another to bring it out."
This generous appraisement of the branded men in the colony was not without justice, and is the more welcome because of the enduring beneficent memorials which resulted from convict labour, forced though it was. Perhaps in some places even a slave trade may not be wholly bad, and such eulogy as that of the Inquirer would not come inappropriately from the southern planter. Convictism seems after all to have been a modified slave trade. In this connection an extract from the report for 1865 of the Superintendent of the Establishment at Fremantle will not be out of place:—"Sooner or later the industrial employment of prisoners will be abandoned in all civilised countries, and for it will be substituted a system of comparatively short sentences to be passed in the strictest solitary confinement, on a reduced diet, without books other than the Bible and a few of the best religious works, without the possibility of communication with fellow-prisoners or friends, without any of those reliefs and consolations, whether physical, moral, or mental, which constitute the external mechanism of enjoyment, cheerfulness, and happiness to mortal man."
There were several important phases of the financial side of transportation which had yet to be arranged between the Imperial and local authorities. The terms took years to finally determine. Very little was heard during recent years of the free emigrants which it was understood the Home Government would send out as a counterpoise to the forced. The Legislative Council appointed a committee to report on the whole convict question. The committee estimated the total of convicts introduced as 9,680, and the total of assisted emigrants within the same period (1st June, 1850, to 9th January, 1868), including males, females, and the wives and children of pensioners, as 6,122. But the committee computed on the basis that two children were equal to one adult; while reckoning in the usual way the total would have been considerably increased. These figures gave the number of 3,558 assisted emigrants as yet to be introduced by the Imperial Government. The report claimed that the colony was entitled to this number, asserted that at the time of making the report (21st July, 1868) there was a dearth of farm labourers, shepherds and domestic servants, and asked that two emigrant ships be equipped by the Imperial Government at once. The Governor promised to recommend the matter to the Secretary of State. The fact that so many of this class left the colony almost as soon as they arrived was not mentioned.
The Secretary of State replied under date, 26th July, 1869, practically refusing the request. He wrote:—" The claim put forward on the part of the colony exceeds in amount what Her Majesty's Government could in any case recognise, partly because certain immigrants who ought to be included in the calculation of immigrants are omitted, and partly because the computation is not, as it ought to be, of the number of persons sent out, but of the number of statute adults. But apart from considerations of detail, Her Majesty's Government feel serious doubt as to the obligation of this country to continue the emigration now in question. It has already been laid down as a condition of that continuance that the immigration should be wanted, and such as the colony can provide for; but it is clear, from the census returns, that the large majority of those persons who reach Western Australia do not remain in it. There is, therefore, the strongest prima facie evidence that the immigration is not wanted." This document called forth a storm of abuse from the newspapers, and the Secretary of State was roundly accused of "grossly bad faith," "ignorance," and of being a "disgrace to his country."
The convicts on the Merchantman of 16th February, 1863, came from Bermuda; those on the Hougoumont included thirty-eight Fenians. Strong precaution was taken with the political offenders, and it was feared that serious attempts would be made to rescue them. The Hougoumont was escorted some distance from England by a man-of-war, because "it was well known," says a newspaper record, "that Fenian cruisers were prowling about the coast of England." Colonists consequently dreaded that a systematic and bold attempt would be made to rescue these men. Victorians and South Australians were also anxious. Messrs. Brockman and Phillips consulted Governor Hampton, who promised that if he at any time apprehended danger he would send to Sydney for a man-of-war. He almost immediately did so, and H.M.S. Brisk (seventeen guns and 175 men) arrived from Sydney on 4th February, and remained at Fremantle for several months. The conduct of the Fenians in prison was said to be excellent; rescue ultimately came in a most unexpected manner.
The population of men who could still be termed convicts in 1868 was:—
|Probation and Re-convicted Ticket-of-Leave Men on Public Works ...||1,519|
|Ticket-of-Leave Men out of employ on Public Works ...||31|
|Ticket-of-Leave Men and Probationers in Hospital ...||89|
|Ticket-of-Leave Men in Private Service ...||1,409|
|Conditional Release Holders ...||85|
|In Lunatic Asylum ...||25|
As closely as can be gathered, nearly 4,600 conditional pardon certificates were issued in the colony up to 1868, and about 150 conditional-release certificates. The figures are irregular, and not at all clear, so that it is impossible to account for the 9,721 men introduced. The manner and matter of the annual reports left much to be desired. When Great Britain withdrew from direct connection with the Establishment, large quantities of papers, principally dealing with official orders, were destroyed. Then in June, 1862, the Comptroller-General's, registrar's, and clerks' offices at the Fremantle Establishment