An account of the English colony in New South Wales/Preface
THE Author of the History of the English Colony in New South Wales, having been flattered by the idea that a Second Edition of that work would not prove unacceptable to the Public, and feeling it incumbent on him to shew the grateful sense which he entertained of the favourable reception of the first, had for some time deliberated on the propriety of giving the new Edition in a form which, without lessening the interest of the work, might render it less expensive to the purchaser. A careful Abridgment appeared most likely to answer the end desired; as much of the matter contained in the first publication was now no longer of importance; though at that period curiosity was awake to the most trivial circumstance occurring in a new world, where the actions of two distinct sets of people were to appear in contrast; the one, the children of rude uncultivated nature, just entering upon the stage; the other, the disciples of vice in its most refined state, driven from more polished scenes.
The Publishers having concurred with the Author in this opinion, he was proceeding in the execution of his plan; when an appointment from his Sovereign called him to fulfil its duties in a distant country.
Thus situated, he prevailed on me to undertake a task for which I felt myself but ill calculated; a task that I have performed with reluctance, and which nothing but the desire of complying with his wish could have induced me to perform at all. An early suspicion, that the deep interest which I had in the Narrator would, if it did not impede my progress, at least render it painful, was fully verified. Scarcely a page was examined, which did not give birth to some uneasy sensation; and my mind was by turns a prey to terror and disgust. It cannot be matter of wonder, that, beholding my fellow-creatures so lost to every sense of feeling, so sunk in hopeless depravity, as to prefer their former evil courses, when even temptation had ceased to hold out a lure, and when comfort and competence were the probable, if not certain rewards of a different conduct, created in my bosom a degrading idea of the human heart, and led me to tremble at the recollection that the Historian, whose faithful records had given birth to those sensations, might at that very hour be exposed to the same evils and the same perils which he had but too recently experienced. That this should be possible, did, indeed, fill me with astonishment, and compelled me to condemn the temerity which could a second time forego every earthly enjoyment, a second time to encounter each species of hardship, and all the various dangers so certainly attendant upon those who explore new and distant climes: a sacrifice for which no reward however liberal, no praise however loud, could offer any adequate recompence.
From the performance of my laborious task I can claim no other praise than that to which a perseverance in what was irksome may be thought to entitle me; though to the best of my judgment I have rendered the abridgment as perfect as it could be; having been careful to insert all that could interest the general class of readers, and to omit only such parts as must, by a repetition of crimes and their punishment, with the oft-repeated regulations and laws consequent thereto, become distressing or tedious. Yet enough of the former still remains, to convince every reflecting mind of the wisdom which dictated the relieving their country from a set of people so hostile to the interests and safety of its more worthy inhabitants. Nor can the specimens here given of incurable depravity fail to convince the most violent opposers of the colonising system of its necessity; or at least to fill them with gratitude to that government which has, by removing such numbers of unprincipled people, endeavoured to protect them from depredation and violence.
Were the unhappy culprits but for one moment to reflect, they would themselves acknowledge, that in the administration of justice mercy has not been forgotten; many of their lives had paid the forfeit of their crimes, but for this timely interference of the lenity of that country whose laws they had defied, of that country whose disgrace and scourge they had been; and which, in their extremity, had stretched forth an arm to save them by a banishment at once salutary to their fellow-citizens and to themselves. To have permitted them to live, and to remain amid their former haunts, would have been compelling them to live in guilt; for in what other manner, however well disposed, could they preserve that life which, in this case, it would have been inhumanity to have granted? No ear would listen to, no mind would credit, the tale of their repentance: with every heart and every door closed against them, whither could they turn, but to the self-same enormities which had subjected them to this mockery of mercy? From exile, if they have any thing to lose, they have much to hope; they are removed from temptation; and with the necessaries of life they are provided, until such time as they shall prove that they are deserving of further favour; when no encouragement is withheld that can contribute to their present comfort, or confirm them in the path of rectitude. They are pointed out as examples for others; in the lapse of time their former degradation is forgotten, and they become respectable members of society. Alas! how deeply does the abridger of the present narrative regret that so very few instances have occurred of this return to peace, to honour; to the praise of man, or the pardon of their offended God!