History of West Australia/Chapter 16
THE CONVICT SYSTEM.
1854 TO 1860.
SYSTEMS—THE GRADATIONS OF CONVICT SYSTEM—ARREST—TRANSPORTATION—AT THE ESTABLISHMENT—DAILY ROUTINE—CLOTHES; FOOD—OFFICERS; RULES AND REGULATIONS—ESCAPES—PUNISHMENTS—PRIVILEGES—COUNTRY DEPOTS—ROAD PARTIES—SCALES OF SENTENCES—MARKS SYSTEM—CONVICT CONSTABLES—GRATUITIES—TICKET OF LEAVE; ITS RESTRICTIONS—CONDITIONAL PARDON—SUCCESS OF SYSTEM DEPENDENT ON OFFICERS—TRANSPORTATION COURTED—REFORMATION—CRIME—CLASS OF CONVICTS—CONVICT WOMEN—ATTEMPTED ESCAPES; INSUBORDINATION—RESULTS OF SYSTEM ON COLONY; EXPORT, REVENUE, IMPORTS, EXPENDITURE—DEVELOPMENT OF RESOURCES; WHEAT, WINE, HORSES, CULTIVATION GENERALLY, W00L, TIMBER, WHALING, GUANO, FOOD STUFFS IMPORTED, AND PRICES—PUBLIC WORKS; PRISON, INVALID DEPOTS, ROADS, BRIDGES, G0VERNMENT HOUSE, LIST OF WORKS—AGITATIONS—GOVERNOR FITZGERALD RETIRES AND GOVERNOR KENNEDY ARRIVES—CONCENTRATION AND HIRING DEPOTS—GAOL AND POLICE EXPENDITURE—FREE EMIGRANTS-PASSAGE MONEY—THE DRINK QUESTION; REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT AND WANT OF CONFIDENCE—CESSATION OF CONVICT INTRODUCTION FEARED—LAND LAWS ALTERED AND IMPROVED—WESTERN AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATION—SAVINGS BANKS—GRAND JURIES ABOLISHED—INSOLVENCY ACT—MIGRATION TO VICTORIA—PROSPECTING FOR GOLD—LEAD AND COPPER MINING—STEAMBOAT SERVICE ON SWAN—STEAM MAIL SERVICE—RELIGIONS—EDUCATION—NATIVES—DEATHS—OFFICIALS—EXPLORATION; AUSTIN; A.C. GREG0RY; FRANK GREGORY, AND S. TRIGG AND FRANK GREGORY AND J.S. ROE IN THE NORTH-WEST; PARKERS, DEMPSTERS, AND OTHERS IN THE EAST.
OF systems there is no end. The universe vibrates with systems; interdependent and comprehending the ruthless laws of infinite space, the cool night breeze, the morning dew on the wild flower, the horrid nest of deadly bacilli. Newton and Darwin traced schemes of nature, Draper and Spencer those of peoples. The nation is made up of systems; the religionist has his system, the father of a family his. The list could be pursued indefinitely.
But of all the nations' systems, the strangest and saddest and coldest is the convict system. There, so it is said, is the purest of all democracies; its members have found bottom, where all stand equal. The Western Australian convict system was evolved from a past, and often fatal, experience in the United Kingdom and certain colonies. From the moment that the East End man, who had committed a burglary, was arrested in London, he was clutched by a system. A congeries of laws hedged him round; complex, yet working together with a singular simplicity of effect. He was arraigned before a judge, convicted, sent to an English prison, forced into a convict ship, and passed on to a gaol in Fremantle, 16,000 miles away. The discipline was so effective that he became a mere unit in a system, a piece in an automaton.
Convictism in Western Australia did not possess the revolting features characteristic of it in Tasmania, New South Wales, and Norfolk Island. In those places the early convict system, instead of being a corrective, and stimulating a regular moral balance, was largely a school of vice, in which the prisoner often became more degraded than he was in the United Kingdom. If not a criminal at heart at home, he was too likely to become a hardened man under the influence of the system. Instances of herding together, stringent discipline on unsystematic lines, and revolting cruelty were common in those early annals. Sydney Smith cleverly puts it that "in Botany Bay, the felon, as soon as he gets out of the ship, meets with his ancient trull, with the footpad of his heart, the convict of his affections, the man whose hand he has often met in the same gentleman's pockets—the being whom he would choose from the whole world to take to the road, or to disentangle the locks of Bramah. It is impossible that vice should not become more intense in such society."
In Western Australia, while the records contain numerous stories surcharged with bestial history, while the proportion of morally reformed men was comparatively small, a system was inaugurated which encouraged the unfortunate to rise on stepping-stones, which reduced the opportunities for diabolical inhumanity. And what surprise need there be that a certain strain of hopelessness runs through these annals of the colony when we remember the exquisite ruffianism that was vomited from the nauseous crime-breeding slums of Great Britain. Convicts were parasitic on the healthier system of the nation; they were removed and erected into a separate system.
The system began, so far as Western Australia was directly concerned, in the choosing of the particular men who were to be transported. A certain number of men were to be despatched; the books were consulted, and each man—a mere arithmetical figure—was marked off. At first those alone were chosen who had been convicted for offences exhibiting the minimum of criminal instinct, and those who had served a probation in English prisons, and were distinguished for conduct. But when Western Australians began to ask for the more numerous shipment of convicts, an indiscriminate selection was made; in one or two instances discrimination was used to choose the experts in ruffianism.
After the draft was made, times were set apart for the removal of the men to the convict ship. By regulation each man could bid farewell to his family or friends; he must have but a given time for these partings. Then the ship with its heterogeneous band of colonial settlers slowly moved away from the English shore. All the men—sometimes two and three hundred—were caged in the hold of the vessel. Pensioners, or guards of regular soldiers, watched over them. Necessarily no discipline was more tense. A few free men kept in check the spontaneous passion of hundreds of sometimes desperate felons. The voyage out was trying to all concerned; what with heat, crowding, pollution, inactivity, irksome sameness, compulsory companionship with the worst grades of crime, all eagerly wished for the end of the voyage. The old time unhealthiness was obviated as far as possible. Periods of exercise, and as much liberty as was commensurate with safety, were allowed; the men were marched in squads along the decks. Hygienic rules learnt from experience were established. During the many years that transportation to Western Australia was carried on no deadly maladies attacked convict ships. A different story is told of Botany Bay. Within the first eight years one-tenth of the convicts died on the passage. From three ships 200 sick were landed; 281 persons had died on board. Cases of mutinous insubordination were almost unknown on the voyage to this colony.
A Committee appointed by Her Majesty, in 1862, discovered that transportation to Western Australia was not sufficiently dreaded by returned convicts or by criminal classes generally. Numbers of them—those not sunk to the bottom of the abyss of crime—even looked forward to transportation. Here, after undergoing their sentences, they had opportunities for recovering a lost estate. In England the characters of discharged convicts were sempiternally branded; they were exposed to insuperable disadvantages in the strong competition for employment. A few masters out of charity and a wholesome humanity engaged them, concealing their past from their fellow workmen. But such men were as difficult to find as the lost traveller on the illimitable wilderness of Central Australia. The conditions in Western Australia were different.
When the prison at Fremantle was reached the convict began his journey along the gradations of a system which at least recommended the eye of the mind to look towards the beacon of hope—a timid enough light on his dark path. He now entered a sort of brotherhood—a brotherhood or democracy, like most others, containing grades of ability; where there were men who, by strong will and dynamic power, attracted and compelled the regard and subservience of others. The brotherhood of this system was grotesque; it comprised abnormalities of humanity. Congregated at one time on a few acres of Western Australian soil were the myriad-headed hydras of crime, resting in peace and quiet. The system was a leveller of classes. Sleeping under the same roof in adjoining cells, with the selfsame class of furniture and coverings, were the son of an earl, minister, conspirator, journalist, commercial magnate, profligate, clerk, tailor, shoemaker, murderer, garrotter, thief, forger, sharper, sensualist, lunatic, footpad, alley sneak—those who prey upon their fellows in high places, and those who lurk on the dark outskirts of humanity. They were not all criminals at heart. Some were driven by adventitious circumstances to the committal of deeds which they themselves held in horror. One man was attested to have been innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. His name was cleared when, as an old and broken man, life was no longer of value to him.
As the guard handed over the Convict to the Western Australian officials his past was handed over with him. The name of each man with the crime or crimes of which he was found guilty was given. He was awarded a new arithmetical number, and an account was opened in a monumental slab-like ledger—the book of the convict's life. On the debit side were placed his name, a guide to his crime, his sentence and a description of his physique. Before going into the country districts on road parties, or being engaged in erecting public buildings out of Fremantle, he must serve an apprenticeship. In the Establishment, or "College" as it was invariably facetiously termed, he was instructed in the rules and regulations of the convict system. If at any time he committed some reprehensible act he was punished, and a further entry was made on the debit side of his account.
Convicts lived in the Establishment by system; their day was divided into so many parts; their comings-in and goings-out were as regular as the appearance of the apostles on the Strasburg clock. In the summer months, from November 1 to February 1, a bell tolled out at 5 o'clock. The prisoners rose, folded their beds, and tidied their cells. At 5.30 the bell tolled out again. All the cell doors were instantly opened, and each man stood waiting in the corridor. One instant this passage showed hardly a sign of life; the next if was thick with men. Under the eyes of warders they trailed down the iron staircases leading from their particular landing in the prison pit, hundreds of drearily attired men one after another. In the prison yard they fell into lines, from left to right, like so many soldiers; the warders were the officers. They might have been mutes for all the sound that was heard; each man stood shoulder to shoulder, with back erect and hands at the side. All that were healthy must then proceed to work; the malingerer was severely punished. At the quick loud order of the superintending warder they marched with regular tread to the particular work set apart for them. In the radiant light of the morning they constituted a picture instinctive of solemnity and pathos. Some of their features were like unto those of ordinary men, some were essentially of criminal cast. Their bodies were all clothed in those dreary garments, branded over with the bold "broad arrow." Perhaps one squad contained men whose legs were tied with heavy chains, ankle to ankle. Then, mixed with the sound of the dull, heavy tread over the macadamised road; came the painful clank and jangle of the chain gang. The early morning breeze often wafted this distressing noise to the homes of Fremantle residents, and woke them from a pleasant sleep.
At 7.25 the order was given, the men fell in and marched back to the prison for breakfast. Each stood with his back to the door of his cell and waited till the food was brought to him. He received his allowance, eat it in a few minutes, polished the utensils, placed them in an allotted place (everything had a systematic place), and was ready for the summoning to religious service. All then marched into the chapel and prostrated themselves, after which they returned again to their cells. At 8.30 the bell sounded, and again they fell in, and again they marched out to work. At noon they returned to dinner; at 2 p.m. they marched out to work; and at 5.50 they finally returned to the gaol yard. There they were carefully examined by the warders to see that no dangerous or proscribed articles were secreted about their persons. This was done at every return. When the examination was completed they filed into the building, tramped up the iron staircases, prepared for their meal, and again stood outside waiting for the food to be brought around. This took a very short time; each convict entered his cell, shut the door, and made his simple repast. In winter a light was allowed in the cell up to a given time, when it must be extinguished. The cell doors were locked and the prisoners retired to rest until another day. In winter months the time of rising was an hour later, and the routine was consequently slightly changed. At certain times an association ward was used, in which the men slept in three tiers of beds.
Each of the hundreds of convicts in the Establishment had a systematic allowance of clothes and food—one no more than another, all of like dismal complexion, cut, and brand. The food was weighed out with as certain evenness as if golden scales were used. The chef of this club must make reports; if he used more than a given quantity of condiments and commodities he had to pay the difference. He did not make mistakes. The daily rations in 1852 were:—Meat, 18 ozs.; bread, 22 ozs.; potatoes, 16 ozs.; tea, ⅓ oz.; sugar, ½ oz.; barley or rice, ½ oz. The Comptroller-General and his officials believed they discovered, in 1854-5, that the convicts were too well fed; their health was injured by overeating. The allowance was reduced; the health of the men was said to have "wonderfully improved;" the Imperial Treasury gained at the rate of £4000 per annum by the reduction. Other authorities disagreed with the officials. The allowance in 1855 was:—Meat, 14 ozs.; bread, 22 ozs.; potatoes, 12 ozs.; treacle, 2 ozs.; barley or rice, ½ oz. (twice a week); tea, ⅓ oz. In after years even this was found to be generally too liberal. The diet in 1880 was:—Meat, 10 ozs.; bread, 18 ozs.; potatoes, 16 ozs.; oatmeal, 2 ozs.; tea ⅓ oz.; sugar 1½ oz.; salt, ½ oz. Clothes were issued to the convicts twice a year; the garments and boots of each member of the club were marked with his arithmetical number so that the officers might know him easily—the bold brand of the broad arrow was affixed with satirical liberality. The annual list of clothing was:—2 pairs boots; 4 pairs socks; 4 handkerchiefs; 4 cotton shirts; 2 flannel shirts; 1 fustian jacket (winter); 1 fustian vest (winter); 1 fustian trousers (winter); 1 duck jacket (summer); 1 duck vest (summer); 2 duck trousers (summer); 1 felt hat. The convict was given a leather belt when admitted, and at the end of every six months he returned his old clothing to the store.
He was subject to a system in his bodily safety and his spiritual welfare. The medical officer must examine every convict when admitted to the prison, and have him washed; must attend "complaining sick;" examine prisoners and prison every month; be present at all corporal punishments, and keep a journal of everything within his department. The chaplain must preach two sermons on Sundays, Christmas Days, Good Fridays, and days "appointed for a general fast or thanksgiving;" read prayers selected from the Liturgy in the mornings on ordinary days; superintend the school; visit the infirmary; issue books and tracts; perform burial services; administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper "once in every quarter, or oftener, at his own discretion;" keep a journal containing the name of every prisoner, and an opinion on his "moral and religious progress;" read all letters addressed to or written by such prisoner, and converse with him when admitted, and daily with every convict undergoing special punishment or discipline. Broadly, he must endeavour to "obtain an intimate knowledge of the character and disposition of each prisoner." His reports on all these matters were used as references.
The convict was managed and superintended under certain clearly defined rules and regulations. If the officials infringed these they were fined according to a systematic scale. Their first duty was "to treat the prisoners with kindness and humanity, and to listen patiently to and report their complaints and grievances." The officials' first object must be that of reclaiming criminals—"they should strive to acquire a moral influence over the prisoners by performing their duties conscientiously, but without harshness. They should especially try to raise the prisoners' minds to a proper feeling of moral obligation, by the example of their own uniform regard to truth and integrity even in the smallest matters," thus obtaining respect and confidence. Records of each man's character must be kept, bad or good; familiarity with the convicts was disallowed; prisoners must be made to wash and shave themselves at certain intervals; officers must be temperate, possess unblemished characters, engage in no business—in fact, details of convicts' officers' lives must be on prescribed lines. The schoolmaster taught by a system. Convicts were supposed to attend school twice a week.
The runaway slave was hunted by dogs; the convict was as relentlessly tracked by blacks. Occasionally he groaned under the discipline of the Establishment, and contrived to outwit his guards and escape. He wished to reach eastern settlements or the islands of the north-west. The fugitive might make a rush for liberty while away from the prison out on public works, or he might be doing isolated duty about the prison, and detect his opportunity. A warder with a rifle stood on sentry duty; he seldom aimed to hit the escapee; it was not necessary. A gun boomed out the news of an escape, and a signal was raised on the hill. A few mounted troopers were on regular duty ready for such emergencies; black trackers waited too. A minute after the report of the gun, trooper and native dashed out of their quarters on horseback. They soon picked up the track, and he must be a very clever man who could escape the keen eye of the black tracker. Generally it took but a few minutes to effect the capture. Rewards of from £1 to £5 or more, according to the circumstances, were given for the recovery of an escapee.
Sometimes the convict obtained several hours' start. He had little hope of getting clear, for what native and trooper could not accomplish an invulnerable nature would do for them. Generally it was only newly transported convicts who sought to escape; the others understood the sullen difficulties too well. A convict once boastfully remarked to his warder in the bush that he intended to escape; the warder coolly replied that he was at liberty to try. The convict might escape from the prison; he had little chance of getting out of the "prison yard"—the impassable, inhospitable bush. Captain Henderson, in one of his reports, termed Western Australia a "vast natural gaol." On one side was a great stretch of ocean; inland, nature denied passage to eastern settlements. The scattered population, the unsurveyed desert stretches, the dangers of life among natives, the distance from South Australia, were barriers secure as Trojan walls. Viewed "simply as a gaol, the colony appeared as if nature had intended it for no other purpose," wrote Mrs. Millett. Convicts, convicts' officials, and the Colonial Office in London soon recognised that nature's scheme as worked out in Western Australia supported the convict system. According to Governor Kennedy not a single probationer escaped up to 1862, and only a few ticket-of-leave men.
No member of the convict brotherhood flouted the system with impunity. The gallows, additional imprisonment, the cat-o'-nine-tails, the dark cell, the chain-gang, a diet of bread and water, were the punishments. In a few cases extreme measures were taken—convicts were tumbled into Eternity through a trap-door. The populace could witness the hanging. Sometimes convicts were scourged; the extreme number of lashes at one time was one hundred. The culprit was tied to a triangle, by arms, legs, back, neck, so that he could not crouch or escape the dreaded whipping. The hardest man was made to plead for pity like a little child; the cat-o'-nine-tails descended with dreadful certainty. At the close the convict was laid on his stomach, his raw flesh quivering, his whole body shaking with involuntary shuddering. In a few days the back might be covered with repulsive festering wounds.
The dark cell was occasionally as much feared as the cat-o'-nine-tails. Night and day were much alike. The convict could hold as many monologues as he wished with the dim four walls of his cell. The braggart, whose life was dominated by a brutal nature, whose ordinary conduct suggested little of the coward, whimpered and prayed for a little light. The cat-o'-nine-tails and the dark cell made him as temporarily willing and obedient as a dog. The diet of bread and water usually accompanied the latter punishment.
The sight of chained men appealed to every person. The dangerous and most reprehensible were fettered. The weight of the chains was sometimes twenty-eight pounds; a blacksmith clasped them on with strong rivets. A convict wore his chains for months and months together, night and day. If he shifted his feet while asleep the links clanked. It was difficult to walk with ease; it seemed impossible to strike off the rude ironbands, but convicts occasionally did so. To the listener, the clank of fetters as the chain-gang passed by was the most distressful feature of the convict system. The approach to the Convict Establishment at Fremantle often rang with their jangle. Truly, in respect of punishments, the convict brotherhood was grotesque.
But while punishment was necessarily severe, numerous privileges were allowed in Western Australia. More liberty was permitted in communion inside and in converse with visitors. The subsequent narrative shows where the liberty lay. Lectures were delivered periodically; a library supplied reading matter. In May, 1857, Governor Kennedy and a select party of ladies and gentlemen visited the Convict Establishment at Fremantle to hear a convict lecture on music. The lecture was illustrated by the prison choir. The lecturer, who was organist of the chapel, delivered a well-worded eulogy on the Governor, who expressed his gratification. One or two convicts were artists in their way; excellent paintings hung on the prison walls; one man drew sketches of Perth and Fremantle.
After periods of apprenticeship at the Establishment, convicts were drafted off to country depots and road parties. The Comptroller-General sought to disperse them as much as possible so as to give them the better opportunity of retrieving their characters. The system at the various depots was similar to that at Fremantle. The men in the depot were engaged on public works in its vicinity.
Road parties supplied the most romantic features of the convict system. Those men who conducted themselves best, and were able-bodied, were transferred to road works. The routine was not so strict, and the privileges were more numerous. The party consisted of from twenty to fifty men, under the care of, one and never more than two warders. In 1853 the custom was initiated of making certain prisoners constables. It was a much-desired privilege given to men of conduct; it enabled them to work out their redemption with the greatest possible speed. These constables usually accompanied the road parties. One free man, assisted by a convict constable, was repeatedly required to keep in check from twenty to fifty men whose crimes it is sad to think of. He very seldom had difficulty. The dreary "natural prison" did not lend encouragement to the escapee and murderer. Road parties were exclusively engaged in making roads and bridges. Although many miles from any homestead, the warder, practically at their mercy, carried no weapon in his hand. He might have a revolver in his pocket, but the probabilities were that he had left it in his bush hut.
A married warder was usually told off for this work; his wife and family accompanied him. The female may be thought to have been in a dangerous situation, yet, except where she was distinctly to blame, she was in nowise molested. Indeed, she often supplied the greatest security for the good conduct of the men. Her kindness and patient spirit made up for any harshness in her husband. She pleaded the cause of the convicts. The unmarried warder was apt to develop a melancholy spirit. Prevented by the regulations and his own safety from becoming familiar with the convicts, he lived for weeks and months within himself. The result was, too often, unhealthy and depressing. Cases are chronicled where road parties went into the bush without a warder at all. Magistrates, doctors, ministers, and superintendents visited the road parties periodically.
When provisions and equipment were secured for the convicts they marched from the depot to an advanced position on the road. After the particular location was reached they housed themselves in brushwood huts of different shapes and sizes; but if the work was of a temporary character, they went under canvas. In some cases the warder drew a circular line around the camp beyond which the convicts must not go after certain hours. The men went out to their work daily; the rations were here more liberal, and the regulations lax. Kangaroo and emu often supplied a relished meal. Nothing disturbed the silence but cockatoos and parrots. If a wayfarer were proceeding through the bush he suddenly came upon these huts. If it be evening an array of pannikins and tins was spread on the grass; a "billy" (kettle) hung over a large fire before the camp. The convicts stood round waiting for their meal. In that remote place might be a London clerk or tailor, a forger who had lived in good society, a burglar, and a footpad. They were better off there than free in London, or immured in Portland and Parkhurst prisons. When the meal was eaten they sat around the fire, their faces radiating twixt gloom and light; may be the "cockney" clerk told a story of bygone days in London. A tame cockatoo lolled its head to one side and sleepily surveyed the group; a domestic opossum rested carelessly on a shrub, or scurried about its human friends.
If any accident occurred a convict was sent to report the circumstance. If one of them became refractory he was taken to the nearest depot by the warder or courier constable. Often he was sent alone; he knew best that it was not advisable to run away. His crime was mentioned on his papers. If provisions were required convict or officer proceeded to the depot. Sometimes apparent opportunity overcame him, and the convict planned an escape; he generally chose the winter, when the bush contained ample water. An alternative confronted him: severe punishment if captured, death by hunger or exposure in the bush. He cherished the idea that he might succeed. First he sought some lonely house to rid himself of the prison dress. He seized what he wanted, and searched closely for firearms; he might require them. Free convicts assisted him. Occasionally, but very occasionally, he murdered; oftener the gun was used merely to frighten people into giving him food or money. He was now a bushranger; settlers were in fear. Troopers and black trackers scoured the country; native tribes gave information. The fugitive had small chance; very few instances are chronicled where he got away.
The length of time a convict served under the system was to some extent determined by himself. His conduct could keep him in prison all his life or redeem his freedom within a reasonable time. His character, habits, and industry were marked down in books. Every officer who had to do with him tabulated a description of him in a book: the chaplain, medical officer, warders, instructing warders, librarian. The warder who superintended his work had the greatest power over him. The system of bookkeeping in the Convict Establishment was comprehensive and all embracing: every department kept a book; everybody (official) kept a book; nothing was likely to escape. According to the reports in these books was the duration of the prisoner's sentence.
The regular scale of gradations of a convict's history in sentences of Transportation prior to July, 1857, was:—
|7 years …||—||9||1||3||1||—||3||—|
|10 " …||—||9||2||—||1||3||4||—|
|12 " …||—||9||2||6||1||9||5||—|
|14 " …||—||9||3||—||2||3||6||—|
|15 " …||—||9||3||3||2||6||6||6|
|18 " …||—||9||4||—||2||9||7||6|
|20 " …||—||9||4||3||3||—||8||—|
|21 " …||—||9||4||6||3||3||8||6|
The scale of remissions for English convicts sentenced to Penal Servitude for some time subsequent to 1st July, 1857, was:—
|3 years …||—||9||1||—||—||9||2||6|
|4 " …||—||9||1||6||1||—||3||3|
|5 " …||—||9||2||—||1||3||4||—|
|6 " …||—||9||2||3||1||6||4||6|
|7 " …||—||9||2||6||2||—||5||3|
|8 " …||—||9||2||9||2||6||6||—|
|10 " …||—||9||3||6||3||3||7||6|
|12 " …||—||9||4||6||3||9||9||—|
|15 years and upwards …||—||9||5||—||4||3||10||—|
A third scale dealing with prisoners sentenced to penal servitude between 1st September, 1853, and 1st July, 1857, and transported to Western Australia, provided that each man must serve at least six months in prison. Over and above that term he must complete half his sentence with good conduct, when he was eligible to discharge on ticket of leave. He remained on ticket of leave for the terms laid down in Scale 2; life prisoners were eligible to ticket of leave at the end of eight years from the date of their sentences. The second scale soon became obsolete.
These scales dealt with those men whose conduct had been "very good," but in cases of "exemplary conduct" a man could win his ticket of leave at an earlier time. Before being awarded this passport he was examined by a doctor, who certified that he was able to get his own living, and his hair and beard were allowed to attain a four weeks' growth. These gradations were different from the English, and presented an opportunity for ticket of leave earlier.
Up till 1857 the old system of percentages for determining if a convict had earned by conduct a ticket of leave was followed in Western Australia. In that year Comptroller-General Henderson caused a system almost new to convict discipline to be introduced. A few years earlier Captain Knight compiled for the Penitentiaries of Ireland what was known as the Marks System. This system did not profess to aim at introducing a material change in duration of sentence; it only proposed to supply a new means of measuring a convict's eligibility to a ticket of leave. The mark system to the convict was as gold to the economist—a symbol for measuring his earnings. Another account was opened in the books. He could now earn by each day's labour a number of marks, determined by his industry, with the right of obtaining a ticket of leave when his total earnings reached an amount calculated according to the length of his sentence. He was debited with a certain number of marks which he must work off. Thus, under No. 1 scale, a prisoner sentenced to fifteen years was liable to serve four years before obtaining the ticket of leave. An ordinary day's work was described under the heading of "good conduct." The convict was debited with 4,380 marks to begin with. For good conduct he received three marks a day. On the basis that there are 1,460 days in four years, with three marks per day he would not receive his ticket of leave earlier than before. But he could do better than three marks. By exemplary industry and conduct he obtained four marks a day. For every three days of exemplary conduct he received remission of one day in his probation. A convict earning only one or two marks extended, of course, his period of probation. The scale of marks adopted was:—
|Conduct||To be represented by|
|EX. (Exemplary)||…||4 marks|
|V.G. (Very good)||…||3 "|
|G. (Good)||…||2 "|
|I. (Indifferent)||…||1 "|
In a sentence of fifteen years, where the convict under ordinary circumstances served four years, the system worked out thus:—
|V.G. …||4 …||1,460 days at||3 = 4,380|
|EX. …||3 …||1,095 "||4 = 4,380|
|G. …||6 …||2,190 "||2 = 4,380|
|I. …||12 …||4,380 "||1 = 4,380|
The number of marks the convict earned was quarterly posted in a list, which he could examine, so that he might learn how his account stood, and how many marks he had yet to earn. This was as a commercial ledger to the wayfarer through the convict system. A separate scale was issued for convict constables. Under what was termed the "intermediate system" a convict who was above suspicion was awarded this position of trust and responsibility. Under supervision always, he worked with other convicts, and was expected to show them an example of industry and probity. If he proved untrue to his trust, punishment was quick and severe. Convict constables were appointed owing to the difficulty of obtaining free men; they also effected a saving to the establishment. They were divided into three classes, and marks were awarded them accordingly:—1st class constables were allowed six marks per diem; 2nd class, five marks; and 3rd class, four marks.
So as not to give a strong convict an advantage over a weak one the men were classified; weak men worked with weak men. Only able-bodied men were sent out on road parties or to outstations. The marks were placed in a book at each day's end by the warder in charge of the convicts and an actual measurement of work done was made,
The convict was fined according to a settled scale—
|Insubordination …||20 to 200|
|Wilful Damage to Property …||20 to 200|
|Petty Theft …||20 to 200|
|Assault …||20 to 200|
|Drunkenness …||20 to 200|
|Idleness …||20 to 200|
|Malingering …||20 to 200|
|Indecency of any Description …||20 to 200|
|Insolence to Superior 0fficer …||20 to 200|
|Absence Without Leave …||20 to 200|
With the marks system was bracketed a system of giving gratuities. No convict immured in the prison had any claim to wages, but as a reward for industry and good conduct a certain gratuity was credited to him. This was determined on the scale that for six marks per diem for a period of seven days, 2d. per day was given. The convict, therefore, obtained 1⅓ farthing for each mark, which, multiplied with the total number of marks he had earned, gave the total sum to which he was entitled. In cases of misconduct the offender forfeited all claim to indulgence; the runaway prisoner was charged with the cost of capture; the prisoner receiving corporal punishment was likewise mulcted. A convict was allowed to spend half his gratuity in tobacco.
It was construed to be a happy day when the ticket of leave period arrived; the convict was now free to obtain employment. The strong prison was behind him; a limited freedom was ahead. He had a little money in his pocket, and no warder to watch him; he might breathe again. His passport, a parchment document, was a precious possession; he must not lose it. Printed on its face were stringent rules which told him that he had permission to enter any service approved by the Resident Magistrate of a district; that he must not leave his district without written authority from the Comptroller-General or Resident Magistrate; that he must report himself every half-year to the Resident Magistrate; that he must produce his ticket of leave to anyone who asked to see it; and that police could arrest him if he loitered in streets or public houses, or was unable to show that he had proper employment. It also contained his registered number, description, age, and condition. He was allowed a fortnight in which to obtain work. If at the end of that period he had been unsuccessful he must return to the establishment, whereupon he was sent to a country depot. A settler in want of a labourer sent to the depot; the convict must accept any wages offered him under penalty of severe punishment, no matter if they be as low as 5s. a month. If he obtained a position himself he must report the fact to the police or Resident Magistrate. He could not on any account pass from one district to another, even on his master's business, without an order either from his employer or the Resident Magistrate. When he entered or departed from a town he must report himself to the police, who notified the occurrence in a book. If he travelled he must keep the usual or direct road, or go by such road as was indicated on his pass. If by the sanction of the Comptroller-General, Resident or Police Magistrate, he was transferred to a new district, he must report his departure and arrival to the police. An employer could dismiss him; he could not leave the employer without an order. He might lodge a complaint against his employer; if the complaint was proved to be frivolous he was liable to have his ticket of leave revoked altogether. He could not work on ships, in harbours, or on whaling craft. The Home Government gave instructions that he was not to enter private service for a less period than twelve months, but they were disregarded as impractical. Every change of residence, district, and master, was written on the parchment.
He might acquire freehold or leasehold interest in land, and maintain an action or suit in courts; but if he at any time was guilty of misconduct his property became the possession of the Crown. He might compel his employer to perform a contract with him; might marry or obtain his wife and family from England free of expense. Though he earned his own living he remained a prisoner of the Crown. He must not be out in the streets after ten o'clock at night. The police could arrest him when they liked, and a magistrate (under Summary Jurisdiction Acts) was able without a jury to sentence him to three years' imprisonment. If he harboured a convict illegally at large he was whipped, or sentenced to hard labour, with or without irons, for a term not exceeding twelve months; if found on board ship without authority a Justice of the Peace might sentence him to twelve months' imprisonment; if he carried firearms without proper permission he was liable to twelve months' imprisonment. For every sentence of a re-convicted felon one quarter of the time must be served in separate confinement, but never less than three months nor more than twelve. Magistrates and police must be fully aware of where ticket-of-leave men were employed in their district. The convict's restrictions were necessarily many; the system had a strong hold of him.
The last stage in this lengthy system was the "Conditional Pardon" certificate. When the ticket-of-leave man successfully passed the Charybdis of restrictions and the Scylla of temptations he received this welcome document. He was eligible to it according to the length of his sentence as per the scales—the periods, supposing good conduct, varied from nine months to four years and a quarter. He was exempt from police supervision, from the Summary Jurisdiction Act; might remove to any part of the world but to the United Kingdom, or (by special legislation) to some other Australian Colonies; the home of his forefathers was shut out him until his total sentence expired. Conditional Pardons were obtainable only from the Secretary of State through the Governor. Their issue was not popular among many of the local officials, nor in the other colonies. Governor Kennedy told Earl Grey's committee, in 1863, that the behaviour of conditional pardon men was less good than that of ticket-of-leave men. There was nothing to prevent a man who had accumulated money by means of extensive forgeries by receiving goods, or by swindling in England, from enjoying his ill-gotten gains in princely style in any Continental city. The eastern colonies often found these men a nuisance. The excitement so general all over Australia caused by gold discoveries attracted large bands of conditional pardon men. There was a double incentive moving them; one was the greater opportunities in eastern colonies from wealth; the other was to remove altogether from a place where they were so well known, where they were sempiternally branded. Mr. R. F. Newland and other witnesses from the eastern colonies informed Earl Grey's committee that conditional pardon men flocked eastwards in hundreds. Their treatment on some of the goldfields, where constitutional law was not established, was often summary and drastic. Crime, the witnesses said, increased until the Governments of Victoria and South Australia were compelled to pass laws excluding them. An Act was placed on Statute Books of South Australia in 1857, and of Victoria some time earlier, restricting this immigration. These measures provided severe punishments and fines on convicts arriving in the colony who were not eligible to residence in the United Kingdom. Masters or owners of vessels were also liable to fines not exceeding, or to one month's imprisonment, for introducing these men. Governor Fitzgerald, in his evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords, in 1856, expressed the belief that had these laws not been passed, not one conditional pardon man would have remained Western Australia after the gold discoveries had been made known. It is true that previously a large proportion of them left the colony.
Such, substantially, was the convict system. The brotherhood had to tread a difficult path, and the yoke was galling. No system was more grotesque, yet it might be said to be presentment of other human systems. A sin was committed—each man had to work out his own redemption. G. W. Rusden observes of the convict system in Australia:—"To the present generation it is a stumbling-block. To the past it was a horror. To the future antiquarian it will be a study into which men will enter with the curiosity which now attends the disquisitions of Niebuhr on primitive Romans."
We have described the system in its broad and general aspect. That it was based more or less on sound and philosophic principles is evident even from our general summary of it. Comptroller-General Henderson, who had the experience of other countries to work on, and was at first assisted by a Secretary for the Colonies who took strong interest in convict life, organised the Establishment with extraordinary success. He encountered in Western Australia a totally unprepared field for the dispersion of so dangerous a class of immigrants, but by tact, perseverance, and a constant judicial consideration of the rights of settlers and bondmen, he instituted a system which worked with amazing simplicity and comparative absence of friction and injurious effects. Our subsequent narrative will show from time to time subjective and objective difficulties. Were it possible to organise any system among men which worked with absolute impartiality of favour or animus less difficulties would arise in administration. If the officers of a State or system governed with the regularity and immutability of the laws of Nature, then would discipline be absolute, friction diminished, complaint indefensible—every member of the system would bend to a supreme and determinate power.
The system necessarily depended on the officers—there was the chief difficulty. In dozens of ways errors could be and were committed. One object of the system was to obtain a just understanding of the felon's character; upon that his rewards or punishments were awarded. Chaplains, medical men, and warders were each supposed to study the subject's character—the most remarkable escapes were made by those convicts in whom the officials placed implicit trust. It was often found difficult to get good officials; some were in every way incompetent; some not sufficiently dignified; some too individually strict, and some not strict enough; some favoured particular convicts and were biased against others. Perhaps until officials are specially trained to unswerving equitable discipline it could not be otherwise. Many stories of bias are told where convicts suffered or enjoyed unduly.
The marks system was excellent in itself; it symbolised character and industry, and enabled the convict (and the official) to understand how his account stood. Here the official had his greatest power; where he entertained dislike he could easily award a lesser number of marks than was merited. The Comptroller-General sought to obviate this by strictly ordering that each man's work must be measured daily, and by other observances. Her Majesty's Committee in 1863 suggested improvements in the class of officers engaged. Governor Kennedy testified that the convict system entirely depended on the character and manner of the officers. The Committee advised that the marks system be continued. More recently convict disciplinarians have abolished the system because of the power of officers.
Compared with other penal settlements, however, the system in Western Australia was on the whole good. The convict enjoyed more consideration; his government was more humane. He was not deliberately placed under a brutal master, as was occasionally done in New South Wales; punishment was not so vindictive as in Norfolk Island. Cases are chronicled where a ticket-of-leave man laboured under a hard inhuman taskmaster. Sometimes he left this employer without authority and was severely punished.
Beyond the necessarily strict discipline in the Convict Establishment and the restrictions on ticket-of-leave men the system was hardly penal. Compulsory detention and obedience and limitations were the chief punishments to the well-behaved; to the refined in mind—and there were a few of them—the companionship with ruffianism and vulgarity was a heavy punishment. The malcontents were surely and rigidly punished. But let the ticket-of-leave men be obedient, industrious, and circumspect, and they found scope for pleasure and for obtaining wealth. Indeed, as it sometimes resulted with this class, no more fortunate circumstance could ever have happened to them, from a material point of view, than transportation to Western Australia. At home they may have pursued a career in bitter indigence; here some of them attained great wealth. On arrival in the colony their past was buried; to taunt convicts with their previous offences was punishable. They went through a moral college, and began anew. Mr. G. F. Moore stated before the Committee of the House of Lords, in 1856, that the life of convicts in the depots was perhaps better than that of free labourers.
Convict officials, literary critics, and Royal Commissions agreed that transportation to Western Australia was courted by criminals. Early in the century Commissions and Reports decided that prison life was courted by certain "submerged" classes; in prison they were better housed, clothed, and fed than out in the cold streets or when vainly seeking for employment in the rural districts. Except for the man branded with crime, yet anxious to obtain an honest standing, he would be a peculiarly ambitious person who desired to get into the clutches of the Western Australian Convict System.
The system was not reformatory. Deep-rooted habits, passions that dominate the whole nature, moral inability to discriminate for themselves, were growths which an ordinary system could not eradicate. Rules and regulations ordered the official to always hold an example of probity, truthfulness, and industry before the convict's mind. They demanded two sermons on Sundays and holidays, and prayers and communion on other days. It was as difficult to convert him as to winnow corn in a hurricane. A system might inculcate a certain amount of artificial restraint.
The Dean of Perth, the Rev. G. Pownall, said in his evidence before the Committee of 1863, that for reformation among convicts, three causes were necessary:—(1) Absence of temptation; (2) wide dispersion of the men so that they do not abet and corrupt one another; (3) climate, to take the fierceness and pugnacity out of savage men. It was more or less impossible to prevent communion while convicts were engaged on public works, on road parties, or out on ticket of leave. Free people shrank so sternly from the tainted colonist that he was compelled to seek for companionship among his own class. He met his "ancient trull," the one after his heart, and so the men of the lower classes were likely to fall back again on evil habits. The conditional pardon men were too often sunk in drunkenness and vice. The frantic revels of the worst of them in Western Australia did justice to the traditions of the London pot-house. The sight of it was repulsive. In some dark places vice festered.
Comparatively speaking, serious crimes were not numerous. In Western Australia opportunities and circumstances were not present. A man might thieve, but he had nowhere to dispose of his gains; he might murder, but he was almost certain to be found out. In the country districts there was still a paucity of specie; business was conducted by cheques and barter. Few settlers kept money in the house; even roadside bills were paid in cheques or orders. A man's order might circulate for months before specie was paid for it. If his credit was known to be good, his IOU. was deemed as useful an exchange as a pound note. The absence of crime did not altogether prove reformation; to some extent it denoted the absence of opportunities.
In the committal of crime a man's ancient habits and predilections told against him. Ticket-of-leave men seeking employment invariably returned to the avocations they followed at home; the same applied to their crimes. The police learnt the science of crime; inductive and deductive reasonings were unnecessary. The convict returned to his special branch of crime; if he had been a burglar at home, he was a burglar in the colony, and so forth. When the report reached the policeman that a burglary had been committed, he consulted his book to discover which convicts were out on ticket of leave or conditional pardon in that particular district. Then he saw which were transported for burglary. He had his clue, and quickly arrested the burglar. In the vast number of cases this was a reliable indicator. But though there was not much crime, there was a deal of brutish and sottish drinking. Governor Kennedy attested before Earl Grey's Committee that the number of persons convicted from 1855 to 1860 before the Court of Quarter Sessions were:—In 1855, 56; 1856, 29; 1857, 15; 1858, 11; 1859, 17; and 1860, 23. This embraces convicts holding the conditional pardon certificate, but not those tried in the lower courts. Were the number of men re-convicted under the Summary Jurisdiction Act included, the figures would be greatly larger.
But many convicts were reformed. Some were so slightly steeped in crime that they required no collegiate training under a moral system. These men, by thrift, industry, and honest living attained good positions, and the respect of their fellow colonists. Even before 1860 several of them possessed stations of freehold and leasehold land, shops, and other businesses. In sorrow and contrition and severe labour they condoned for their offences against the systems of the nation.
It might be thought that the worst class of criminals was not introduced. Comptroller-General Henderson informed the House of Lords Committee, in 1856, that latterly the English officials had sent to Western Australia "the men they do not hang." The most depraved men were being transported, and he represented to the Government that if such a course be continued the system of transportation would soon end. The Committee appointed in 1862, under the chairmanship of Earl Grey, and comprising such men as Lord Naas, Lord Cranworth, E. B. Bouverie, Sir J. S. Pakington, S. H. Walpole, J. W. Henley, Sir A. J. E. Cockburn, Horatio Waddington, Russell Gurney, O'Connor Don, and H. C. E. Childers, affirmed that there was reason to fear that men who were an encumbrance in England were sometimes sent to the colony. More than that:—"It has been shown that in one case the Governor of Chatham Prison was specially instructed to select for embarkation the convicts least fit to be discharged at home." Other testimony proved beyond dispute that men as bad as those sent to Norfolk Island were transported to Western Australia.
With the wholesale introduction of convict men, the disparity of sexes became serious. To obviate danger, what turned out to be dangerous women were introduced from London workhouses, particularly from St. Giles' and St. George's, Bloomsbury. Mr. T. N. Yule asserted before the Committee of the House of Lords that from 1851 to 1856 181 female immigrants had married convicts. The moral deterioration of many was dreadful and baneful. A proportion of those who did not marry did worse, and brothels became fairly numerous. Judging from records of different writers, these women were a most undesirable class. Dread social conditions were introduced which took many years to eradicate. Serious charges were even made against officials for encouraging a nefarious trade. But from the better stamp of immigrant girls the colony gained many benefits.
In 1853 the Duke of Newcastle suggested that convict women should be sent to Western Australia. Those who had heard of the horrors of female convictism in Tasmania and New South Wales recoiled. No state of society could well be more revolting than where female felons were transported. The Western Australian census of 1854 gave the proportion of female to male population as 35 to 100; in 1857 the proportion was 11 to 100. The disparity probably led certain people to favour the introduction of convict women. In May, 1855, Mr. Clifton proposed at a public meeting in Perth that an experimental band of them be tried. Mr. Shenton carried an amendment expressing the meeting's repugnance at introducing so immoral a class. Other meetings were held with similar results. The Imperial authorities temporarily let the matter drop. In 1857, however, the Secretary of State wrote a despatch condemning the advisability of transporting an experimental band of convict women. In May, 1857, a small meeting was held in Fremantle, when resolutions were carried by a bare majority favouring their introduction. A newspaper report said that men drawing public pay carried the resolutions. In June, similar resolutions were carried in the Legislative Council. Six members voted for, and four against female convicts; the Surveyor-General, the Colonial Treasurer, and Messrs. Phillips and Hamersley comprised the minority. Meetings against female convicts were held at York and Bunbury, and a memorial was circulated with a like object. The Colonial Secretary, Mr. Barlee, stated on another occasion in the House that up to 1857 201 marriages between female immigrants and convicts had taken place. The results, he said, were unhappy; the women were indignantly twitted by their shipmates. He considered that because of the disparity of sexes, Western Australia would yet be a "perfect hell on earth." The Home Government wisely determined in 1858 not to transport women.
The narrative demands that publication be given to cases of insubordination and crime. The first danger to the system lay in an act of insubordination in 1854. The Comptroller-General necessarily had supreme power over his prisoners and the administration of his officers. Occasionally the ideal of the system was shattered by the want of wisdom and the carelessness of officers. Attached to the establishment was a Roman Catholic chaplain as well as a representative of the Church of England. The indiscretion of the former precipitated the first trouble.
Early in January, 1854, the Rev. O'Neil, the Roman chaplain, preached a sermon to the convicts which Captain Henderson considered obnoxious. He immediately suspended the Rev. O'Neil. The expressions were calculated to "subvert discipline and overthrow authority." Roman Catholic prisoners took umbrage at the treatment of their chaplain, and a few of them made use of expressions of so mutinous a character that they were ordered to their cells. Before they could be seized their co-religionists rushed to their assistance; and their yells were described as fearful. Even the townspeople heard the dreadful din and, fearing a general outbreak, some armed themselves and barricaded their doors. Within twenty minutes seventy armed pensioners from the barracks were within the prison walls and quickly quelled the anger of the factionists. The ringleaders were seized and flogged with one hundred lashes each. Dr. Salvado, who, in the absence of Bishop Serra, was administrator of the diocese, disapproved of Mr. O'Neil's conduct, and withdrew him from the establishment, appointing the Rev. T. Donovan in his place.
A difficulty of some moment arose in 1856. In February Bishop Serra complained that Roman Catholic felons were compelled to attend a school kept by a Protestant. He augured serious results if it became known among the convicts that such attendance was against the rules of their church. Dr. Serra wrote to Governor Kennedy asking him to put an end to the practice. The Comptroller-General, in reply, said that no objection could reasonably be made to Roman Catholics being schooled by Protestant schoolmasters any more than they could object to learning trades from a Protestant mechanic. The door was opened to interference with prison discipline. He objected to incurring the expense of a second schoolmaster, and also regretted that Bishop Serra should in any way threaten the authorities. The Bishop then wrote the Colonial Secretary disclaiming any intention to threaten, and begging that the subject be submitted to the Secretary of State. He felt assured that Her Majesty's Government would not compel Roman Catholic prisoners to disobey the rules of their church. On 31st March Dr. Serra announced that the resignation of the Roman Catholic chaplain, the Rev. Donovan, was peremptory. The Colonial Secretary on 2nd April informed the Bishop that his complaint had been transmitted to the English Government. In respect to the Rev. Donovan, that gentleman had not intimated his desire to resign, nor had he complained that he was compelled to perform duties incompatible with his office as a Roman Catholic clergyman. Moreover, it would be a dereliction of duty on Rev. Donovan's part if he did resign without giving due notice. In conclusion, on behalf of Governor Kennedy, the Colonial Secretary cautioned Dr. Serra that his action in continuing the agitation might be productive of insubordination and the punishment of prisoners. Bishop Serra now retorted that Mr. Donovan was not appointed by a civil authority, and that he did not desire His Excellency's sanction to the appointment of a second Roman Catholic chaplain. On 2nd April the irate Bishop wrote the Rev. Donovan that it was necessary to take away the title and power as chaplain conferred upon him by himself (Dr. Serra), and none other. He forbad his entrance to the prison. The Colonial Secretary, addressing Dr. Serra, informed him that the Governor could not recognise his authority to compel the resignation of an officer appointed by Her Majesty's Government. Governor Kennedy recommended Mr. Donovan to resume his duties in the establishment, and that gentlemen wrote Captain Wray, the Acting Comptroller-General, a letter designed to pacify all parties. He reminded His Excellency that he would be placed in an awkward position if he disobeyed the order of his superior. While not acknowledging Bishop Serra's authority to interdict him from the establishment, or any other place in Her Majesty's dominions, he begged to be allowed to cease duty for few days so that "His Lordship may calm in his proceedings." Mr. Donovan then retired from the prison for some time. In 1857 news arrived from England that the Imperial Government approved of Governor Kennedy's action and Mr. Donovan was immediately reinstated. No further public objection was taken by Dr. Serra.
Two robberies were reported in 1854, and in August a convict named Edward Bishop was arrested on a charge of murdering a Chinaman at York. The body was thrown into the Avon. On 4th October Bishop was sentenced to be hung for the offence. He protested amid many tears that he was innocent, but on 12th. October he was hung at a point about one mile and a half along the road from Perth to Fremantle. Years afterwards a man named Voss confessed that it was he who murdered the Chinaman. It is said that the evidence against Bishop seemed very clear.
Several robberies were effected in 1855, especially from carts and drays. Owners of these vehicles began to carry firearms in order to protect themselves. In March a ticket-of-leave man murdered an immigrant girl on the York Road and was hung. On 26th September, George Williams, a convict, made a brutal attack on his warder with a spade. The warder was wounded in the leg, and the convict was sentenced to be hung. A murder was committed at the Vasse in April. A convict named Dodd conspired with a woman to murder her husband. The deed was committed under abominable circumstances; the murdered man was found dead in bed. Dodd and the woman were hung in front of the Perth Gaol, in October. A crowd of citizens witnessed the spectacle, and among them were women and children. In these times the populace could gather, as in England, to witness executions. A place over the causeway on the road to Guildford was previously used as the gallows; then the site was removed to the Fremantle Road. When the new gaol was erected (near present museum) all hangings took place in a prominent position before the building. Under the old system a bell was tolled shortly before the carrying out of the penalty. While the sounds yet rang in the listeners' ears, a procession filed out from the gaol. First came a cart containing the coffin; then another cart with the victim, upon whom all who wished might gaze; then followed the sheriff in his robes.
In March seven re-convicted convicts, while engaged on public works near the prison at Fremantle, made a rush for liberty. Two were soon captured; the remaining five were hounded down by black trackers about ten miles from Fremantle on the Mandurah Road. All the men were sentenced to three years' imprisonment and one hundred lashes. In September, 1857, two natives observed a convict near the Murray River. They rightly suspected him to be illegally at large, and, amid visions of ample rewards, drove him before them at the spear's point to Fremantle. In May, 1858, an inmate of the Fremantle Prison informed an officer that an insurrection was to take place at a certain time on a certain day. Precautions were taken; but the report was either a hoax, or the convicts became aware that their conspiracy was known to the authorities; no outbreak took place.
The most desperate attempt at escape within this period was made on 25th January, 1859. Five convicts, while out on public works, eluded a warder at Fremantle. They hurried into the bush, and proceeded to the Canning, and thence to Melville Water. At Point Walter they seized a four-oared boat, and, evading the vigilant eyes of their pursuers, who, led by black trackers, were following their trail in the bush, pulled along the Swan in the shelter of the banks and trees. By remarkable adroitness they managed to run the gauntlet of the look-out at Fremantle, and early in the following morning arrived at Garden Island. Entering the solitary cottage of Mr. Reed, they bound him and his family, and robbed them of £150, provisions, firearms, ammunition, and a compass. Then, taking the whaleboat, they went out to sea. Hardly had their boat disappeared from view when the water police, in pursuit, reached Garden Island and unbound the Reed family. Nothing more was heard of the men—all desperate characters—until 1st February, when they were seen at Champion Bay. The whaleboat stood off land to northward, and was believed to have been swamped in a heavy gale which lasted for several days thereafter. A vessel proceeded in pursuit, however, and later in the month sighted the fugitives in Sharks Bay. The ship, Les Trois Amis, with the men on another boat, the Preston, effected the capture, but not before it was necessary to fire upon the convicts in retaliation for a volley levelled at the Preston. Only four convicts were in the boat; they reported that the fifth had died of dysentery. This man's body was subsequently found, and presented evidence to the perpetration of a diabolical murder. It would seem that he was first shot through the head, and then had his brains dashed out with the butt end of a musket. One of the party was hung for the murder; the rest were found guilty of robbery under arms.
The remaining escape of any importance had a humorous aspect. Late in 1860 a convict named James Lilly, of known housebreaking proclivities, managed to baffle arrest for some time. He had two revolvers in his possession, and threatened and intimidated residents in the York district. He stole a horse, and with this animal roamed the bush freely, occasionally descending on lonely settlers when in want of food. To obtain the revolvers he sold his horse to a shepherd, and with the money proceeded to a store, where he was unknown, and purchased the firearms. Returning with them to the shepherd he made him saddle the horse just sold and rode it away. In October or November he wrote a letter to the Inquirer:—"I, James Lilly, wish to inform the settlers of my going into the bush, through Henry Mead asserting at the Police Station, on the Canning, and brought accusations against me for stealing his horse and calling me a d——— convict in the presence of the policeman's wife and family and several more besides in the district, which I could not bear, and forced me to the bush and to take up arms, and I do not intend doing any harm at present, if His Excellency be pleased to allow me to go to my friends in another colony, and what I have done I will restore to everyone uninjured, and, if not, would sooner die than come in out of the bush, and do intend making Mead and a few others remember me. I hope His Excellency will take me into his clemency, which will prevent me committing any more crime." On 14th November Lilly was captured while asleep at night at Horton's Roadside Inn, near York. Early that day he confronted on horseback Mr. S. S. Parker, who was driving from Perth to York, and from the manner of his handling his revolver Mr. Parker assumed that it was useless. Finally Lilly jocularly asked Mr. Parker to inform the police that he had seen him; which was done, with results that the convict did not reckon on.
Convict officers were not exempt from crime and insubordination, and some serious charges were brought against them. In July, 1856, a court martial, the first in the colony, was held on Captain Foss, staff officer of pensioners, for selling the same property twice, and for embezzlement. In May, 1857, a soldier of the 12th Regiment was found guilty by court martial of stealing from a comrade; he received fifty lashes, was drummed out of his regiment, and handed over to the civil authorities to undergo twelve months imprisonment. The surgeon at the Establishment in Fremantle was placed under arrest in August, 1859, for disobeying the rules and regulations. At the prisoner's request a court martial was countermanded, and he was ordered to England to abide the pleasure of the Commander-in-Chief. The Superintendent of the Convict Establishment was suspended in April, 1859, and committed for trial for fraudulent insolvency; a nolle prosequi was entered. In June or July, 1859, several sappers and other officials were arrested and charged with stealing the property of the Establishment.
From 1854 to 1860 the number of convicts in the colony was doubled. Year after year ships dumped their tainted passengers on Western Australian soil, until, in 1860, England had relieved herself of 5,509 of her sinning children. The number of free men in the colony in 1850 was but 5,734, exclusive of military; in 1860 settlers, soldiers, and pensioners numbered about 16,000. The convict ships arrived in the following order:—
|General Godwin ...||15||… 30th March, 1854|
|Sea Park ...||304||… 5th April, 1854|
|Ramillies ...||277||… 7th August, 1854|
|Guide ...||9||… 9th January, 1855|
|Stag ...||225||… 24th May, 1855|
|Adelaide ...||269||… 18th July, 1855|
|Wm. Hammond ...||250||… 29th March, 1856|
|Runnymede ...||248||… 1st September, 1856|
|Clara (1) ...||262||… 3rd July, 1857|
|City of Palaces ...||4||… 8th August, 1857|
|Nile ...||270||… 1st January, 1858|
|Caducius ...||1||… 5th February, 1858|
|Lord Raglan ...||270||… 1st June, 1858|
|Albuera ...||11||… 26th October, 1858|
|Edwin Fox ...||280||… 20th November, 1858|
|Sultana ...||224||… 19th August, 1859|
|Francis ...||1||… 11th November, 1859|
Those vessels with one prisoner each, or other small numbers, came from India, conveying men court-martialled at the naval station, or convicts from Bermuda.
The expectations of advantages to be derived from convict money and convict labour were warranted. Colonists were attaining their objects. Revenue and export grew abundantly; labour was plentiful and cheap; a market was almost at the settler's doors; estates were being developed and new country opened up. Scores of thousands of pounds of British capital entered the colony annually, and an increase was taking place in the population of free men. After the first few years of doing nothing the growth was tremendous.
With ships regularly arriving at and leaving Western Australian ports, and with ample labour and more capital, people could produce and export with monetary advantage. In 1854 the total exports exceeded those of 1853 by only a few thousand pounds; but from that year, with only two exceptions, the figures mounted by tens and twenties of thousands. Wool and timber were the primary mediums; next came horses and whale oil. From 1850, when convicts were first introduced, to 1860, the value of exports was quadrupled; the difference in amount was £67,112. In 1850 the exports were valued at £22,134; in 1854 at £34,109; in 1855 at £46,314; in 1856 at £43,907; in 1857 at £59,946; in 1858 at £78,648; in 1859 at £93,037; and in 1860 at £89,246. Thus, with £89,246 received in 1860 from foreign buyers, and nearly an equal amount as the Imperial share of convict expenditure, the colony was enriched by considerable outside capital. The value of imports in 1860 was £169,074; but while this amount does not suggest an altogether healthy position as a colony, and while part of it absorbed convict expenditure in provisioning convicts, individuals were gaining rapidly. What with an increased colonial expenditure, export, Imperial expenditure, and revenue from lands, storekeepers, officials, and producers were reaping an encouraging harvest. Storekeepers gained the first share of convict expenditure, and a large amount of the direct export trade—people held that storekeepers got too much. Farmers and gardeners had a better local market for their perishable products, and pastoralists for their stock. It was a prosperity which gladdened many a heart inured to disappointment.
The revenue was a source of congratulation and its increase a suggestion of how the convict system benefited the colony. In 1850 the revenue was £11,722; in 1860 it was £43,399. The revenue in 1840 was only £7,592! The annual revenue returns from 1854 to 1860 were:—1854, £27,898; 1855, £26,742; 1856, £34,879; 1857, £25,234; 1858, £35,674; 1859, £38,751; and in 1860, £43,399. The expenditure, including the receipts in aid from the Imperial Treasury within the same period, was:—In 1854, £45,171; 1855, £49,240; 1856, £41,257; 1857, £45,002; 1858, £47,714; 1859, £54,918; and 1860, £61,744. The imports give an indication of the business of the storekeeper:—1854, £128,259; 1855, £105,319; 1856, £122,938; 1857, £94,531; 1858, £144,931; 1859, £125,315; and 1860, £169,074.
The annual Imperial expenditure on the convict system was comparatively enormous. For the twenty-one years prior to the introduction of convicts, says an official record, the total Imperial expenditure was £375,264; for the ten years after the arrival of the first band the total was £905,971—an average of £90,597 per annum, or an increase of over 400 per cent. Of this amount £450,000 went for pay and allowances, and £250,000 for provisions produced in the colony.
Signs of the altered conditions were plainly presented throughout the colony. New and substantial buildings, roads, bridges, jetties, farmhouses, with wider fields under crop, and more sheep, cattle, and horses, were to be observed in all the settled parts; while people, buildings, and stock were pushed out beyond the older settlements. In 1854 the number of acres under crop was 11,979, and in 1860, 24,705. In 1854 stock was represented by 173,243 sheep, 20,277 cattle, and 4,676 horses, and in 1860 by 260,136 sheep, 32,476 cattle, and 9,555 horses. From time to time congratulations were published from every side, and complaints diminished in volume and intensity. Prices were maintained, and even rose on occasion abnormally high. The crop of wheat in 1853-4 was small owing to insufficient rain in 1853. Several farmers were so short that they applied to the Government for seed. In June, 1854, wheat was quoted at 12s. a bushel and barley at 7s 6d. In the same year, also, the Northam and Toodyay Agricultural and Horticultural Society suggested that the Government should employ ticket-of-leave men in clearing agricultural land to grow breadstuffs sufficient for local consumption without having recourse to importation of wheat and flour. No doubt if the Government had taken the step an angry cry would have arisen from every farmer against the State competing with private enterprise. The society further suggested that a bonus be given to those pensioners and ticket-of-leave men who cleared and brought under cultivation the largest area of land, and that annual fairs and shows be held. They hoped that producers throughout the eastern districts would unite in promoting agricultural interests. The York Agricultural Society chronicled that cultivated fields in the York district had been broadened by 1,575 acres during the year 1854. Vasse people announced with gladness that potatoes were being produced there with splendid results and that the direct export of those vegetables to eastern colonies was increasing. Potatoes had been annually exported since 1843, and during the years succeeding 1854 good news of the suitability of local soil for their culture was constantly coming to hand. Up to 1860 the value of potatoes and other vegetables (mostly potatoes) exported was £11,858. The export in 1859 amounted to £2,756. In addition, large quantities were now being consumed locally, the Convict Establishment taking the main proportion.
Colonial wine was coming into favour, and newspapers and societies frequently adverted to its excellent qualities. The acreage under vines was slightly increased, but no wine was exported from 1854 to 1860. A Horticultural Society was formed in Perth in 1855, and a Show was held in that and following years. At the Show of 1856 Mr. Clifton, who delivered the opening oration, said that the fruits and vegetables exhibited were equal to any shown in Covent Garden. York residents formed a Horticultural Society in 1855-6, and held annual shows for some time. The Chamber of Commerce in Perth and the Agricultural Society of Northam and Toodyay offered prizes for the best essay on vine-growing.
The Northam and Toodyay Agricultural and Horticultural Society had become a very active and useful body. In 1855 it comprised 76 members, among whom were Victoria Plains residents. In that year the name was altered to the Northam, Toodyay, and Victoria Plains Agricultural and Horticultural Society. Through the agency of this institution the districts mentioned were vastly improved and their interests in the colony were upheld with all the ardour of an animated political body. The York Agricultural Society acquired new vitality by reason of the better times, and as representative of the chief producing district its views were heard with consideration, and its deliberations were deemed important. Like its contemporary of Northam, Toodyay, and Victoria Plains, it presented a large prize list at annual shows. The amount in 1855 was £120; the principal prize in that year was £50 for the best stallion cart-horse imported from England. The exportation of horses was proving a large source of revenue, and shipments were sent to India almost every year. From 1844 to 1853 horses valued at £4,478 were exported. Nothing was done in this trade in 1854, but in 1855 and following years large returns were received. In 1858 some 401 horses, valued at £14,035, were exported. The total export from 1855 to 1860 was 708 animals, representing £22,993. The York Society had excellent grounds, therefore, for encouraging the introduction of the best strains of horses. Mr. Phillips, of Culham, was obtaining a splendid race, and Mr. Princep, at Dardanup, was also devoting considerable capital to the industry. The Western Australian witnesses before the Committee of the House of Lords on Convicts in 1856 all referred to this trade with jubilation, and ex-Governor Fitzgerald glowingly described the merits of Western Australian animals.
Mr. Drummond, at Toodyay, and Mr. J. H. Monger, at York, with foresight and worthy enterprise, subdivided portions of their land, and in 1853-4 let them to ticket-of-leave and conditional pardon men and free immigrants. The men, pleased with the opportunity afforded them, vigorously proceeded to cut down timber and bush, and break the land. In 1855 they had little plots planted. Mr. Monger reported to the York Agricultural Society in 1856 that the convicts had done splendid work. One man had thirty acres in wheat and barley, a small vegetable garden, pigs, and poultry. Mr. Clarkson, at Toodyay, and Mr. Padbury, at Greenough, also subdivided agricultural land on the same principle. The action of these and other gentlemen in encouraging thrift among convicts was commendable; it was not only valuable in helping bondmen, but caused more land to be brought under cultivation.
But of industries which expanded most during the convict era, wool and timber stood first. Circulating capital with labour and better roads inspired confidence and enterprise. The pastoralist allowed the caldron to corrode with rust; the woodcutter sharpened his axe and bared his arm. Pastoralists languished no more, and were only too anxious for their increase. Leasing regulations were liberalised; there was more encouragement to purchase land; and so capital was invested in sheep, and the spring-time usually brought a good harvest. The Champion Bay or Victoria district now ran large flocks over its pastures, and east of Northam, York, and Beverley flocks went until they approached the boundaries of the desert country. At York pastoralists said the grass was improving where stock was run. At Kojonup, and on the Williams, Hotham, Vasse, Capal, Bunbury, and Murray Rivers larger areas were utilised, which previously waited in vain for stock. The annual export of wool tells the result. In 1840 the export was £3,125; in 1850 it was £15,482; and in 1860 in was £49,261. Each year shows an encouraging progress:—In 1854 wool was exported valued at £22,341; in 1855, £24,723; in 1856, £25,672; in 1857, £35,886; in 1858, £33,969; in 1859, £44,599; and in 1860, at £49,261. The wool was no sooner clipped than it was carted to port, where pastoralists were certain to obtain a cargo ship within a reasonable time. The sheep in the colony in 1860 were divided as follows:—York, 87,115; Toodyay, 65,247; Victoria, 48,786; Plantagenet, 36,186; Swan, 11,762; Wellington, 4,821; Murray, 2,987; Sussex, 2,400; and Perthshire, 850. The Victoria district, including Champion Bay, Greenough, and the Murchison was thus drawing into the front ranks. Captain Sanford was one of the chief employers of labour there. He cleared a large breadth of country, and on his land, and on that of others throughout the district, grain of fine quality was being raised: In fact, in 1860 it was confidently stated that enough wheat was grown in those districts to annually supply Perth and Fremantle with bread. The erection of a flour mill in Champion Bay was contemplated by Mr. E. Whitfield in 1858. The town of Geraldton was growing, and in January, 1859, four building lots were sold above the upset price—£15. In February, fifty acres were sold for £254, and ten acres for £90.
Timber was becoming an increasing source of wealth. Convict ships served an excellent purpose in the timber and other trades—they provided a regular means of transport. They carried from England her tainted outpourings; they carried to her, minerals, wool, timber, oil, &c. Numerous ticket-of-leave men were engaged felling timber, and some conditional pardon men embarked in this industry on their own account, where necessary employing ticket-of-leave men to help them. Exciting tales are told of these woodcutters; of their sometimes depraved life amid the woods, or at a country inn; of their quarrels between themselves. Bullock waggons conveyed the timber to port, and the sight of them, and the road parties and lonely woodcutters, cheered many a melancholy traveller on his way to country farms and stations. As already mentioned, specie was still scarce, and a large barter trade was carried on between storekeepers and woodcutters. The storekeeper received and shipped the timber, and gave in return goods, provisions, or "orders." Here again, it is said that the storekeeper made the bigger profits. The life of the woodcutter had some rugged romance in it.
Toodyay, York, Bunbury, the Murray and Clarence were the busiest places in the timber and sandalwood trade. Some large shipments of hardwoods were sent to the Admiralty in England, to India, and to eastern colonies. In 1855 the largest quantity was exported, viz., 1,538 loads, valued at £12,076. From a few hundred pounds worth in previous years, the export had grown into thousands. The amount from 1854 to 1860 was £51,541, divided as follows:—In 1854, £7,022; in 1855, £12,076; in 1856, £9,671; in 1857, £9,449; in 1858, £2,340; in 1859, £6,051; and in 1860, £4,932.
Prices in sandalwood did not brighten until 1856 and 1857, when colonists again determined to take full advantage of the rise. The foreign money obtained for this article greatly added to the value of exports for many succeeding years. No sandalwood was exported from 1854 to 1856 inclusive. In 1857 the export was £2,524, in 1858 £7,455, in 1859 £17,259, and in 1860 £16,360. It was no unusual occurrence to see several vessels in Fremantle Port at one time taking in Western Australian products for foreign markets. The "blackboy" was being put to use. Captain Wray suggested that gas could be extracted from it, and in 1855 a shop was lighted in Perth with gas thus obtained.
Before turning from the subject of advance in colonial wealth we must mention whaling as still contributing its share to the exports. At Albany, in particular, whaling was carried on with renewed activity. With increased capital local people could branch out on a more extensive scale in this as well as in other industries. The gleaning of whale oil at Albany received momentum when the convict system was well established. Local whalers and Americans supplied a ready market for the producer, and at all the centres along the coast at Albany, Vasse, Bunbury, and Fremantle, people considered this industry a reliable source of wealth to them. The gardener and the pastoralist were not alone in obtaining benefits; the innkeeper and the storekeeper secured their share. A whaling station was opened at Port Gregory in 1854 by Captain Sanford, and good catches were soon announced. The value of whale oil and bone was:—In 1854, £830; in 1855, £2,880; in 1856, £3,458; in 1857, £3,491; in 1858, £5,321; in 1859, £2,180; and in 1860, £2,277. An effort was made in 1860 to prevent whaling by foreign ships in Western Australian waters. Beyond £522 received in 1854, and £452 received in 1855, the Government obtained no benefits from the guano deposits for many years. In February, 1856, the Thane of Fife returned from a voyage to Sharks Bay and reported that the guano beds were exhausted. This report was not correct.
Considering these advanced figures in various items of export, there is good reason for deciding that the convict system was materially beneficial to Western Australia. Truly, if it was neither reformatory nor penal so far as the convict was concerned it gave prosperity to the colonist—the cost was quite another matter. Governor Fitzgerald told the House of Lords Committee that convicts had saved the colony. There was one eyesore in the picture; it stood in the foreground. Certain foodstuffs had to be imported for the convict, and, as in previous years, farmers protested that such a course was unfair. It was announced in 1854 that several hundred tons of flour would be imported during the year; farmers resented the purpose of the authorities and cried shame. Owing to a shortage in the harvest prices rose in that year. The quotations in July, 1854, were:—Flour, £42 a ton, 5½d. a lb.; wheat, 18s. a bushel; barley, 10s. a bushel; eggs, 3s. a dozen; butter, 3s. a lb; beef, 8d. a lb.; and mutton, 7d. a lb. The commissariat had no alternative but to import and import they did. With an increasing acreage under wheat in each year, and a return which was estimated to average from sixteen to twenty-five bushels an acre, farmers sought to produce sufficient wheat to supply the demand. In 1855 numerous mills were busily engaged at Perth and in country districts, but even yet the supply was short. Flour was imported from South Australia and from over the ocean in that and the following year. The harvest of 1856-7 was a large one, but before it was all gleaned the commissariat ordered a quantity of flour from Adelaide. Farmers were annoyed, and determined to assert their rights. Meetings were held at Northam and York, denouncing the purchase of flour from a "foreign source." They asserted that Western Australia produced sufficient for the consumption. York residents sent a memorial to Governor Kennedy, and through him to Her Majesty's Government. His Excellency, in reply, said he was glad to learn that the colony now produced wheat enough for local consumption, regretted that tenders from South Australia had been accepted before the harvest was garnered, confessed that the Government should give "preference" to local produce, and promised to transmit the memorial to England. Practical critics informed farmers that they must not expect consideration until they agreed to sell their product as cheap as or cheaper than the outside producer; they said, in short, that farmers asked too much for grain.
The Chamber of Commerce in February, 1857, drew up a memorial to the Home Government requesting that supplies should be purchased in the colony, and expressing the conviction that all "foreign" articles for the commissariat should be subject to he ad valorem duty. The Government, in compliance with their own views and those of the Secretary for the Colonies, thenceforward, as far as possible, procured flour in the local market. The farming community was at last able and willing to sell at as low a rate as the outsider. The prices of foodstuffs in December, 1860, were:—Flour, 40s. to 50s. a sack; wheat, 9s. a bushel; beef and mutton, 6d. a lb.; and butter, 2s. 6d. a lb.
While Western Australia was thus gaining, there were growing up in her midst numerous monuments of the labour of convicts. From Albany to York to Toodyay, from Busselton to Fremantle to Port Gregory, public works of varied descriptions were reared. England erected these merely for the privilege of being allowed to disgorge, through a conduit pipe, the mire of her over-populated cities, the slime of her rural inhabitants. There was a pleasure in watching the construction of work after work; it was like a rich relative coming on to one's land to open it up, to improve and develop it, so that one might make more money. He spent money to feed his workmen, he bought supplies for the buildings he put up, and he even sent officers to superintend operations and to protect the recipients of these good things. It was very nice if the workmen left no contamination behind; but the settlers would see to that. There was but one regret—the relative was too dilatory on these improvements; he did not construct them as quickly as was desired.
In 1850-3 numerous complaints were made that roads and bridges, jetties and buildings, took so long in coming. There was a justness in these cries. Most of the convicts were eligible to tickets of leave a few months after their arrival; hence the numbers actually engaged on public works were comparatively small, and they were employed at Fremantle in raising a permanent prison for themselves and quarters for their officers. Only a small number could be sent out to country depots or on road parties. The other side of the subject was equally as worthy. Settlers asked for only the very best class of felons and for cheap labour; the convict authorities transported men who had short sentences, and who had served periods in English prisons. If Western Australia did not want the dangerous criminal she must not expect convicts to be held in the clutches of the system for a long period. Then those who were dangerous must be kept at the central depot, where the discipline was most strict and where the men were under the closest surveillance. It was necessary to erect a strong and durable prison for them; it was not safe to send them into the country. About 1855-6 a worse class was sent out; they were kept at Fremantle longer, but when they were set at liberty colonists rued it. To put it plainly, people wanted—first, British capital, and then, public works. They would manage the rest with the free emigrants.
The largest building erected by convicts was their prison—there is a touch of irony in their being compelled to construct an almost impregnable cage where they and their companions must be shut in from the world. A great deal of quarrying had to be done to level the ground; the stone thus obtained was used in the walls. The remaining stone was conveyed from quarries at North Fremantle. It was years of labour for hundreds of men to raise this monument. Most of the desperate characters were engaged on it; the chain gang was a conspicuous feature. For a few years progress was slow; the convicts had good quarters at Captain Scott's premises, and there was no need to hurry. Attention was first devoted to the pensioners' barracks. When completed, this row of buildings presented an uninteresting, gloomy picture. In later years it possessed the attraction of being a monument of doubtful times. It was not until 1853 that much activity was shown at the prison. Building was more or less brisk in 1854-5, and in 1855 convicts moved from the beach to take up their residence in the permanent gaol. The structure was then only half its present size. The sappers attached to the Establishment did some of the finer building work. At one time there were about 500 men engaged—on an area of 13 acres—some on the building itself, others in erecting the high stone wall. Before the structure was completed a phenomenal whirlwind greatly damaged it. In January, 1856, nearly 150 yards of the boundary wall, 20 feet high, and in places 2 feet 6 inches thick, were laid perfectly flat. The wind was of such terrific force that the wall was turned on its side from the foundation to the apex the stones apparently not separating until the ground was struck. Scaffolding planks weighing 170 lbs. were said to have been lifted 50 or 60 feet in the air; roofs, walls, sentry boxes, and lighter materials were torn down or carried away. No sooner was the first wing of the building completed than energy was concentrated on extending the premises and in erecting officers' quarters. In 1854 a public meeting was held in Fremantle, and proposed that the seat of government should be removed from Perth to the port. Lord John Russell positively disapproved of the scheme. Then in 1854 residents of Guildford, as if in retaliation, proposed that the Convict Establishment be removed from Fremantle to Guildford. Captain Scott's premises were re-engaged in 1855.
Governor Fitzgerald, just before leaving the colony in 1855, advised the Secretary of State to erect an invalid depot without loss of time. He forwarded a return of 40 probationers, re-convicted men, and ticket-of-leave men who were physically incapable of earning their own livelihood, and held that the colonial revenue could not be expected to maintain them. He suggested
that connected with the depot should be 100 acres of land on which the inmates might spend a few hours daily in raising vegetables. Three invalid depots were erected in subsequent years: at Freshwater Bay, North Fremantle, and the Knoll, Fremantle.
Anger was repeatedly aroused in the minds of settlers that more labour was not placed on the roads. The work on roads in 1850-3 was mostly of a temporary character. The worst patches on each road were macadamised; bush, trees, and stumps were cleared, and a little levelling was done. Here, as in other works, difficulty was experienced in obtaining sufficient men to form permanent roads. The road parties were necessarily small, and they were given the most urgent work to do. At one time, however, in 1853, there were about 250 men engaged on the road between Fremantle and Perth, but it was not until after years that main thoroughfares through the country districts were macadamised to any extent. In Perth, Fremantle, and country towns, streets were made, and other important improvements negotiated. In 1856-7 producers at York, Northam, Toodyay, and Bunbury announced, without cause, that their main roads were no better than in pre-convict days. It cost, they said, just as much to cart timber and wool to the seaboard. Governor Kennedy promised in 1856 to keep flying parties on the roads, so as to have them, at least, passable for teams at all seasons of the year. While addressing the Northam, Toodyay, and Victoria Plains Agricultural Society, at Toodyay, in October, 1856, he admitted that there was cause for complaint, but ironically remarked that for a population of 11,000 people, 11,000 miles of road were required to be constructed. Settlers were so scattered.
Several bridges were constructed from 1854-60, notably those at Guildford, Northam, King River, and Serpentine. A lake at the rear of Perth was drained in 1854 for £2,000, and rich garden land in its bed was immediately thrown open to purchase. In 1858 it was decided to build a more commodious residence for the Governor. It was previously stated in the Legislative Council that such a building would only cost about £5,000; this estimate was raised to £7,000, but the actual cost when the structure was finished in 1864 was £17,625. The foundation-stone of Government House was laid on the 17th of March, 1859, with slight demonstration. But settlers were not satisfied that the convicts were doing their best. This list (Blue Book) of public works will convey an idea of the estimated expenditure (the actual cost was sometimes more):—
|1854.—||House for Colonial Surgeon||£900|
|Pilot's House, Albany||150|
|Enclosing wall, Government House||1,156|
|Draining Lake, Perth||2,000|
|1855.—||New Prison, Court House, Perth||3,220|
|Court House and Gaol, Bunbury||284|
|Clearing Swan River||257|
|1856.—||Police Stable, Perth||171|
|1857.—||Jetty, Champion Bay||260|
|1858.—||Police Station, Champion Bay||1,500|
|New Government House, Perth||7,000|
|1859.—||Court House, York||590|
|1860.—||Court House, Busselton||500|
A lighthouse was in course of construction at Albany. In April, 1860, there were thirty men employed on the Perth to Guildford road, seventy-eight on the Guildford, Green Mount, and York road, thirty-four on York, forty on Toodyay, and twenty on Bunbury roads.
Even among a community of Englishmen so small as that in Western Australia, dissatisfaction was bound to arise with a government in which it had no direct representation. One strong tenet in the political religion of the Englishman is that he is quite competent to govern himself. He objects to be governed by a body in which he has no practical vote. When he talks he likes his opinions to be listened to with respect. He cannot sit by quietly and be dependent on a cumbersome administration appointed by statesmen thousands of miles away, who have no personal, and little practical, knowledge of the conditions of his estate. It is quite in opposition to his training, and the traditions of his ancestry. Anything approaching autocratic government or an oligarchy is as wormwood to him. He agitates, and complains, and dogmatises. If no heed is paid to his views, he waits a little, as is but in unison with a phlegmatic nature, and agitates again.
Since their first trials after original mistake in settlement, the spirit of agitation and complaint had been constantly fomenting among Western Australians. Imperial monetary assistance, land laws, and more effective representation in the Legislative Council were the main burdens of their murmurings. From 1854 to 1860 they believed they had numerous subjects for demonstration, and their diatribes went forth with no uncertain sound. It is not necessary to add that they were not always just or well-advised in their requests and strictures. Dissatisfaction with certain branches of convict administration, ineffective political institutions, and alterations in land laws were the subjects of agitation during this period. We have already adverted to meetings regarding female convicts, supplying the establishment with provisions, and employment of convicts on public works.
In June, 1855, Captain Fitzgerald vacated office after nearly seven years' service. When he arrived in the colony his administration was anticipated with hope. He was deluged with addresses of welcome and memorials to redress grievances. He received the addresses with sailor-like equanimity; he treated the memorials with some degree of caution. Some he redressed; others he put to one side and quietly and sedulously spoke at every good opportunity of the benefits to be derived from convict labour. To Governor Fitzgerald was mainly due the introduction of convicts; at one bold stroke he hoped to dissipate stagnation and complaint and grievance. His duties as "chief gaoler" were not pleasant; his estimates of convict expenditure were repeatedly cut down by the Imperial Government. His administration was enthusiastically popular at first; but, as is not uncommon, after a few years there was a reflux in the tide. The Inquirer importantly informed its readers that Governor Fitzgerald was very nice as a Governor in 1849-50; but in 1852-53, when the colony had so grown, he was not competent to conduct public business. Demonstrations one way or other had little effect on Captain Fitzgerald; he may have fumed and spoken bluntly, but he did not swerve from the track he had marked out. Towards the end the tide flowed in again; his old popularity returned, and the Inquirer was sure that he was one of the most popular and active Governors the colony ever possessed; that if ever he returned he would be warmly welcomed. For nearly seven years Governor Fitzgerald ruled; on 22nd June, 1855, he sailed for England in the Rapid. Addresses of gratitude and good wishes were presented. In England, where a piece of plate was given him on behalf of residents, he was as earnest an advocate and appraiser of local affairs as the colonists could desire.
Mr. Arthur E. Kennedy succeeded him. On 20th July he arrived in the ship Avalanche at Fremantle. The usual addresses of welcome and congratulation were tendered. Governor Fitzgerald had the heartiness of the sailor; Governor Kennedy had the courtesy and immovable dignity of the aristocrat. Governor Fitzgerald was a man after the heart of the rough countryman; Governor Kennedy ruled on stricter lines.
While Governor Fitzgerald was in the colony the Secretary of State, with doubtful wisdom and in a somewhat parsimonious spirit, advised the concentration of convicts about Fremantle. It was part of the policy of Captain Henderson to distribute them as evenly as possible over the settled districts so as to at once obviate that contaminating influence so inseparable from communing together, and to allow every district to reap equal benefits from their labour. He recognised that by dispersing convicts there was less likelihood of their reverting to old habits; that one of the first principles of reformation was removal from temptation and corruption. He also sought to satisfy the demands of settlers. Governor Fitzgerald quite agreed with this principle from a moral, economical, and disciplinarian point of view. In a despatch dated 19th March, 1855, he tells the Secretary of State that "the system has hitherto worked satisfactorily," and adds that he was obliged to state, in justice to his successor, that "if the rural depot system be abandoned his difficulties will not be few in having to contend with the complaints of a discontented community occasioned by the abandonment of a system which has worked so well for the interests of all, for the adoption of one that will tend to stay any further attempt at a development of the resources of the colony, and in a total cessation of improvement in the general lines of communication throughout the colony."
Governor Kennedy did not at first deem it wise to alter the policy of his predecessor. Of the depot which had been established at Port Gregory, he wrote in October, 1855:—"A premature withdrawal would inflict much private hardship and possibly create public embarrassment by closing the door to future extensive convict employment."
The Albany depot was closed in 1855. During six months in that year only two men were hired out, twelve got employment on their own account, and six were returned from private service. In 1856 Captain Henderson visited England and gave evidence before the Committee of the Lords on convicts. Captain Wray was Acting Comptroller General in his absence, and finally, after several despatches from England, he and Governor Kennedy concurred that to reduce convict expenditure and to secure efficient surveillance of convicts their numbers should be centralised at Perth and Fremantle. At this time scores of ticket-of-leave men were being sent to country depots whence they were hired out to settlers. In the depot the Convict Establishment bore their keep; it did not maintain them in idleness, for, while awaiting employment, they were engaged on public works or road parties.
In 1856 when it was made known that it was proposed to close hiring depots complaints arose from settlers in the York and other eastern districts. The Governor was memorialised by York residents and in January, 1857, he replied that the expense of superintendence in depots was larger than the advantages obtained from them warranted. He hoped that those settlers who would suffer from removals would recognise that rather than maintain these ticket-of-leave men in comparative idleness in hiring depots it would be better to remove them to Guildford, where they would be employed in useful and necessary works. The hiring depots were almost closed, greatly to the chagrin of residents in country districts. They could not see the wisdom of closing them after excellent buildings, such as depots, commissariat stores, and officers' quarters, had been erected at a heavy expenditure to the English Government; in short, they considered that such a policy would entail a loss instead of a gain. When Captain Henderson returned the old system was largely reverted to.
A disagreement took place in 1855 as to gaol and police expenditure for reconvicted ticket-of-leave and conditional-pardon men. Under the agreement come to in earlier years the Imperial Government was to pay two-thirds of this charge. The Secretary of Sate considered that the local expenditure was too high and quite unjustifiable comparable with the small population. The Colonial Government in 1855 placed the sum at nearly £10,000; the Imperial Government said £9,000 was quite enough, and refused to pay more than £6,000 as their proportion. Colonists were annoyed, and held meetings at Perth, Fremantle, York, and other centres in September. They drew up a memorial to the Imperial Government on the matter, and included in it other grievances. The memorialists set forth that they understood the proportion of these expenses to be borne by the Imperial Treasury was not a fixed sum, but two-thirds of the whole expenditure incurred. They pointed out that the Imperial Government had profited by the erection of an extensive prison, and depots, storehouses, and officers' dwellings in various parts of the colony to the value, perhaps, of £200,000, and that colonists looked in vain for roads, bridges, and other public works which they so fondly expected. They objected to ships landing, almost exclusively, ticket-of-leave men, and cited the case of the Sea Park in April, 1854, which conveyed but one "bona fide convict" in a passenger list of 304 felons. They asserted that they never begged for shiploads of ticket-of-leave men, but for convicts to be employed on public works and for free emigrants as a counterpoise.
In transmitting this memorial Governor Kennedy expressed, in his despatch, the belief that the contribution of the Imperial Government towards the support of the police was most liberal. He thought, also, that the local finances should be charged with the cost of building a hospital "twice the size needed for the requirements of the colony." He agreed, however, that convict labour had not been employed to the best advantage. He had, he said, discovered evidence of mismanagement and undue expenditure in the Police Department.
Mr. Labouchere was now Secretary of State, and in his reply to the memorial he adduces arguments to justify the course taken by his Government. In a colony of only 10,000 people, he wrote, £9,000 ought to be ample for police purposes. He considered £6,000 sufficient for the English proportion, and threateningly added that, "if you vote more it will be at the cost of the colony." In Western Australia the cost of police per head of convicts had been £3; in Tasmania it was not more than £1. Turning to that clause of the memorial referring to free emigrants, he said that up to 31st December, 1855, the Commissioners of Emigration had despatched 2,310 emigrants, which, with pensioners, their wives and families, to the number of 1476, made a total of 3,786 free people sent out by British funds. The whole number of convicts transported within the same period was 3,661, so that free emigration exceeded convict. But he believed that colonists could justly ask that convicts should serve a portion of their sentences on public works in the colony, yet it was almost impossible to get sufficient of this class to satisfy the demand. Since the commencement of the service in 1850 to December, 1855, the grants of Parliament (exclusive of transport and guards during the voyage, and free emigrants) amounted to £322,500, or nearly £90 for every convict transported. It was, therefore, "the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to discountenance any needless outlay, and to enforce the observance of every economy compatible with the efficiency of the establishment and of the just claims of the colony."
The Imperial Treasury only paid £6,000 as their share, and the subject was dropped for some years. The people were not yet satisfied that they were getting a fair proportion of free emigrants. In March, 1854, the barque Victory arrived with 65 males and 103 females, and, excepting pensioners and their families, colonists waited long before another batch arrived. So concerned were they that late in 1855 overtures were made to South Australia for 120 Irish girls who were maintained there in idleness. Voluntary free immigration of capitalists or labourers was almost unknown. Governor Fitzgerald explained to the Lords Committee that this was due to prejudice against the colony from its presumed natural disadvantages and its character as a penal settlement. Representations were made to the British Government, and on 25th January, 1856, Sir George Grey assented to the view that the Imperial Government ought to send out free emigrants in proportion to the convicts so long as the colony could provide for them. He reminded Governor Kennedy that many of this class were unable to obtain a living in the colony and became a charge on English funds, but whenever the Governor reported that free emigrants would have a prospect of thriving, the Imperial Government would equip another ship. A few more hands were sent out, and among them the emigrant girls.
Another subject for complaint was removed. Employers held that in order to carry out the original intention to deduct from the wages of ticket-of-leave men sufficient to pay their passage money to Western Australia, the prices of labour were greatly increased. The provision was not a success, and up to 1857 only £400 was received out of £7,000 due. The convict did not relish having to pay money for a sea voyage which he was literally forced to make. The employer did not enjoy having to pay the convict higher wages in order to enable him to refund his passage-money. The employer aired his grievance. Mr. G. F. Moore and others pointed out to the Lords Committee that the expense ultimately fell upon the settlers, and the committee in its report advised the reconsideration of the subject. Captain Wray, when Acting Comptroller-General, recommended that the amounts due be wholly or partly remitted, asserting that the abolition of this payment would "remove a widespread and very natural discontent among the ticket-of-leave men, and relieve the colonists from a heavy tax by enabling them to reduce wages." Governor Kennedy supported this view, and the Secretary of State approved of the suggestion. Probably to convince the convicts that the Government was not unmindful of their interests, the £400 was returned to those who had paid in full or part.
Governor Kennedy apparently held strong views on the drink question, and lamented that the vice of drunkenness should exist in Western Australia. He proceeded to put his views into practice with such boldness that complicated difficulties arose which led colonists to once more appeal for Representative Government. In January, 1856, he was openly accused of interfering with the Licensing Board, an act which called forth censure and severe comment from a section of the community. A few months previously he reprimanded magistrates at Guildford for discharging an accused person. The Inquirer considered he was taking undue advantage of his position. On 23rd May, 1856, at the opening of the Legislative Council, Governor Kennedy expressed the opinion that hotels were increasing out of all proportion to the population. He spoke strongly, and with justification. In 1850, he said, there were thirty publichouses in the colony; in 1855 there were fifty-two. For every 73 adult males in Perth there was a publichouse; in Fremantle the average was higher. In the latter town licensed houses approached almost to the gates of the Convict Establishment; in Albany there were six licensed publichouses and grog shops within 700 yards of the gates of the Convict Hiring Depot. He believed that such conditions were dangerous and impolitic. The houses encouraged drunkenness among ticket-of-leave men—persons whose original crimes or offences against society originated or were consummated in 99 cases out of 100 in drunkenness.
Since the opening of the Legislative Council numerous measures had been before it dealing with licensing and drink matters. A bill was introduced and passed in 1855 enforcing stringent regulations. It provided that conditional-pardon men could not obtain a license; that no licensed house should have ingress or egress except from and to a street. Mr. Samson and other gentlemen strongly opposed the measure, and a numerous body of people considered that the restrictions on conditional-pardon men were unjust, and out of spirit with the convict system. Several of these men held licenses, and it was deemed unfair to attack vested interests. The detractors stated that the provisions were against the views of Earl Grey and Mr. Labouchere, who distinctly affirmed that when convicts obtained conditional pardons they were placed on an equal footing with the rest of their fellow subjects. These opponents counselled the Government in respect of convicts to let by-gones be by-gones.
Excitement was worked up, and advocates for Representative Government took advantage of the agitation to further their views. Several meetings were held; one at Toodyay proposed a memorial embodying the view that free Englishmen should have the power of electing their representatives. The other colonies were now possessed of some form of Representative Government, and Western Australians claimed equal rights with them. The Sheriff was asked to convene a meeting by Messrs. L. Samson, R. M. Habgood, G. W. Leake, F. Lochee, E. Stirling, C. A. Manning, T. Helms, L. S. Leake, R. J. Sholl, G. Shenton, A. Shenton, G. Skinner, O. Lodge, H. Saw, C. J. Clinch, and many others. On 6th August, 1856, over 400 persons assembled in the Perth Court House. Mr. F. D. Wittenoom, the new sheriff, was in the chair. The meeting was the largest ever held in the colony up to that time.
The constitution of the Legislative Council was attacked, and it was affirmed that the number of non-official members should be increased, and be elected by the free settlers. One resolution impugned the "ability, experience, and discretion" of the Government, and was tantamount to a want of confidence motion. Others severely criticised the Publichouse Licensing Act because it introduced class legislation; because it attacked the reformatory system of convictism; because it would be inoperative in that legislation never would be able to put down drunkenness; because it interfered with vested rights; and because it gave too much personal power to the Governor, and tended to create and legalise a monopoly. Then the action of the Governor in interfering with magistrates was censured, and finally, other "objectionable proceedings of the Government" were reviewed and condemned.
It was desired that the resolutions should be forwarded to the Secretary for the Colonies. A committee was appointed to form a deputation to the Governor, and consisted of Messrs E. Hamersley, R. Habgood, M Dyett, S.S. Parker, J. H. Monger, G. W. Leake, S. E. Burges, and C. Wittenoom. The special object of the deputation was to request Governor Kennedy to suspend the operations of the Publicans' Ordinance until Her Majesty's pleasure was known. When the interview was obtained, a long discussion took place, but one effort of the deputation was abortive.
The resolutions were forwarded to the Secretary for the Colonies, and a despatch thereon was received in 1857. Mr. Labouchere promised that the provisions affecting conditional-pardon men in the Publichouse Licensing Act "may be reconsidered." In other respects he, almost without exception, approved of the ordinance. As to Representative Government, Her Majesty's Government was not prepared to advise the introduction of elective members into the Legislative Council. The other subjects embodied in the resolutions had, said Mr. Labouchere, been disposed of in former correspondence, or were such as he considered should be left to the discretion of the local Government to deal with.
That Governor Kennedy was not without supporters had been proved in the interim. Shortly after the meeting a letter was received from Messrs. S. P. Phillips, J. M. Dempster, W. Chidlow, and thirteen other gentlemen at Toodyay, tentatively disapproving of the public meeting and other criticisms upon the Governor. In reply, Mr. F. P. Barlee, on behalf of His Excellency, confessed that differences of opinion were bound to occur, and that he was anxious to obtain the views of the people when expressed in temperate language.
Evidently to testify his conviction that the presence of non-official members in the Legislative Council was powerless for good, Mr. L. Samson resigned his position in October, 1856; in September, 1858, Mr. M. W. Clifton followed his example. In March, 1859, Mr. Samson was reappointed. Mr. J. W. Hardey was appointed a non-official member in March, 1855, and Mr. S. P. Phillips and Mr. E. Hamersley in March, 1857. A further reference was made in December, 1858, to Representative Government. In October, 1860, Messrs. Hamersley, Hardey, and Samson spoke on the same matter in the Legislative Council. Mr. Samson held that the absence of non-official members in that body would be for all practical purposes "as beneficial as their presence." No alteration was made in the Licensing Act for some time. The Registrar-General estimated in 1859 the annual consumption of liquids to be:—Spirits, 21,096 gallons; wine, 6,552 gallons; and beer and cider, 96,860 gallons. Independent of these he averred that large quantities of colonial wine and colonial beer were consumed. By his statistics, the individual consumption was enormous.
The last subject of direct reference to convicts lay in repeated requests that they should be more numerously introduced. Colonists had tasted of the sweets of convictism, and they did not yet desire to stop the influx. Rather were they unnecessarily solicitous and anxious on the matter. Governor Fitzgerald said, in giving evidence in 1856, that when colonists got very rich they might object to receive convicts. That was not likely to be for twenty years, he thought. In June, 1857, Governor Kennedy told Legislative Councillors that an increased number of convicts would give an additional impetus to progress, and officials were constantly speaking on the same theme.
The House of Lords Committee, in their report, recommended the establishment of a convict settlement in North Australia, especially at the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria and in adjacent islands. Of all the colonies the report affirmed that Western Australia seemed to offer the only field for the continuance of transportation, where it had been carried on with advantage both to colonists and convicts until within the preceding few months, when a change was made in the selection of convicts from home—incorrigibles were transported who should have been kept in England. It was essential to revert without delay to the former system in this respect.
This decision was not sufficiently conclusive for colonists. At a meeting held in Perth in February, 1858, it was proposed to request "Lord Canning to transport to Western Australia the mutinous Sepoys, together with a sufficient guard." Such a morbid love of men shunned by most people was calculated to become unhealthy, and happily for the credit of the meeting the motion was lost. The Inquirer spoke plainly:—"In this instance the naked truth, that it is money alone that we desire, is made patent to all." Apparently the greed of money was so great that these supporters would, like Faust, sell their souls so that they might get their desire.
From August, 1859, until February, 1861, only one convict was introduced. This fact tended to heighten the concern of the people that transportation was soon to cease. The subject was discussed with interest throughout the colony, and a fear seized colonists. In May, 1860, a memorial was circulated praying for more convicts. The newspapers observed with dismay that the "introduction of forced labour has ceased," and pointed to the apathy in public works, and the lack of labour for private employ, as the unfortunate symptoms thereof. Several resolutions were submitted to the Legislative Council in December and passed. They affirmed the desire of colonists for a renewed influx of convicts. During the debate Mr. Samson alleged that a member of the House of Commons was paid several hundred pounds a year to try and stop transportation to Western Australia. The Colonial Secretary complained that there were not sufficient convicts on public works to absorb the appropriation. Governor Kennedy assured members that he would dilate on the importance of the resolutions when communicating thereon with Her Majesty's Government.
The long debate on the land laws was also continued. More publicity was now given in England to the need for alterations in the Western Australian Land laws. The various witnesses before the Committee of the House of Lords suggested that the minimum price of Crown lands should be reduced, and in the colony landowners renewed their old agitation. With the opening up of the new country in the north the question of leasing regulations had come to be of much importance.
Mr. M. W. Clifton became a leader of the agitation. In 1854 he proposed the imposition of a land tax of ½d. per acre, which should be remitted when the land was cleared and brought under cultivation. His proposal received little consideration. In the Champion Bay district immense areas of land were taken up on lease, and a few of the wealthiest men were acquiring nearly the whole area. The land was surveyed in large blocks so that a rich man could select where a poorer could not go. Mr. Clifton spoke effectively on this point in the Legislative Council in October, 1856. He said people were afraid to seek to purchase land situated on squatting runs because the leaseholders were sure to bid against them. The blocks in the northern district were so large that every one was shut out; one leaseholder alone had over 100,000 acres. That person confessed that this area was out of proportion to his stock, but that he selected the land to prevent other people from getting it. Similar stories were told of leaseholds in the Blackwood country. Mr. Clifton proposed that the minimum price of Crown lands at auction be fixed at £1 per acre for 50 acres and under, 10s. for 100 acres, and 5s. for areas above 100 acres. Governor Kennedy sympathetically replied in equally strong terms. From Port Gregory to the Greenough, and south of that district, he said, there was hardly any available land, yet the proportion of stock was ridiculously small. Such a system might be profitable to the individual, but the district could never prosper while it produced only wool. He considered that a new system should be introduced, for at present there was no encouragement for agriculturists; they were not able to purchase land. Mr. Clifton asked that the Executive Council should devise a better plan.
Governor Kennedy, while addressing the Agricultural Society at Toodyay in the same month, confirmed his anxiety to effect an alteration by calling for expressions of opinion regarding the disposal of waste lands. At the same time he stated that for £100 received from land sources in 1850 there was £1000 in 1856. Mr. T. N. Yule told the Lords Committee on convicts that it was useless to charge more than 10s per acre for public lands; he believed 5s. was much more advisable. Other witnesses agreed, and the committee in its report recommended the Imperial Government to make a large reduction in the price of land in Western Australia.
In 1857 the local authorities, in pursuance of the prevailing sentiment, made important suggestions to the Imperial Government. In addition to appointing a committee to draw up new regulations, the Governor circulated a printed list of seventy-nine queries, so as to obtain the views of landholders. The committee, which reported in June, 1857, was composed of Messrs. J. S. Roe, F. P. Barlee, and A. O'Grady Lefroy, who advised that the regulations dealing with town allotments remain unaltered. But they suggested amendments in the regulations for the alienation of Crown lands to the satisfaction of the most adverse critics. Thus, they proposed that the price of waste lands be reduced to 5s. per acre, cash, or 6s. credit; that sales by auction be abolished in favour of a fixed price; that the minimum block be forty acres; that credit sales extend over a term of three years; that grants of twenty acres be made to every adult paying a cabin fare from the United Kingdom who is prepared to purchase Crown lands to double that amount (two children between the ages of ten and fourteen years to be considered as one adult), such land to be selected within twelve months of arrival, and such applicant to reside for three years on the grant before the issue of the title deeds. For pastoral leases the rate should remain at 20s. per 1,000 acres in Class A, and 10s. per 1000 acres in Class B lands. Several alterations were, however, devised in the division of these lands. The maximum quantity of land to be taken up by one individual in Class B was set down at 10,000 acres, and the conditions of renewal at 50 per cent. increase on first, and 50 per cent. on second renewals. The lessee was to be given the sole right of purchase during the first year of lease. Forfeited leases were to be put up at auction at such upset price, in addition to rent, as improvements effected might warrant; all improvements were to revert to the Crown.
In the sale of lands covered by a B lease, it was proposed that the lessee should have the right to claim compensation for lawful improvements made on the land selected out of his lease, but he should only claim the actual amount expended. Tillage leases should be abolished; and mineral lands purchased at 20s. per acre, in blocks of not less than forty acres. Mineral leases should terminate at the end of one year, with right of renewal from year to year—the rental to be 1s. per acre per annum. The lessee might give up land at any time during the year without compensation, but he must fill up all holes prior to surrendering his lease.
All these proposals meant a radical change in the land laws, and substantially embraced the majority of requests made by the public in the preceding twenty years. It is unnecessary to describe the general rapture. The Legislative Council was as pleased as the majority of landholders, and on 24th June received, and unanimously adopted, the report as embodied in a bill. Mr. Clifton and Governor Kennedy eulogistically complimented the committee. The proposals were forwarded to the Secretary for the Colonies for the assent of the Imperial Government. The despatch, in reply, was considered by the Legislative Council in September, 1858.
The Secretary for the Colonies, while agreeing with most of the proposals, would not consent to a very important part of them. He was not convinced of the wisdom of reducing the minimum price for waste lands to 5s., and fixed it instead at 10s. per acre. He was much concerned on learning the enormous size of some selections, and coincided with the view that the colony could not prosper under such conditions. He suggested the imposition of a land tax, and also of a poll tax on cattle and sheep. The Legislative Council received this despatch by resolution with "mingled feelings of satisfaction and concern," and dissented from the recommended poll tax. In May, 1859, Lord E. B. Lytton, Secretary of State, replied to resolutions passed by the Council regarding this despatch, and counselled the Governor, while giving a right of pre-emption to pastoral lessees, to be careful not to exclude new settlers. He enclosed an exhaustive communication from the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners on the land regulations of Western Australia. The commissioners contended that it was not advisable to make colonial lands too cheap, for then every colonist would be a landowner, and not one a labourer. The requirement of the colony was not actually labour and cheap land; capitalists were "not tempted to a country by the mere cheapness of land, but by the return which can be obtained from it." The commissioners supported the land tax, and a fixed price for country lands, and advised that leases under Class B should be restricted to the narrowest limits consistent with good faith.
The bill passed in 1857 was altered so far as to fix the minimum price at 10s. an acre. Under its provisions, in the leasing regulations, large areas of land were almost immediately selected. These figures, taken from an address to the Legislative Council by Governor Kennedy, in October, 1859, indicate the revival in land speculation and extension:—In 1852 the land leased from the Crown consisted of 277 leases, representing 2,356,239 acres; in 1858 there were 653 leases, representing 4,965,046 acres; in July, 1859, 687 leases, representing 5,003,336 acres. In April, 1860, the first applications for the purchase of land under the new Act were received, and on the first day land to the amount of £3,050 was sold. The Blue Book gives the amount received from 1850 to 1860 inclusive from the sale and rental of Crown Lands as £74,717; the receipts in 1850 were £718; in 1860, £17,342.
Still another society was formed in Western Australia to "further the aims of the colony" in London. In 1860 the Western Australian Association was established, with a committee comprising Messrs. Lochee, G. W. Leake, J. Fermaner, E. W. Lander, G. Shenton, J. G. C. Carr, A. Shenton, R. J. Sholl, L. Samson, and W. Padbury. The numerous other similar associations formed from time to time had lived but for a short day. In 1855 an ordinance was passed providing for the formation of a Government Savings Bank, an institution which was opened on 22nd June of that year. The rate of interest was fixed at 5 per cent.
Two other ordinances of some importance were passed. In 1855 Grand Juries were abolished, and their power was vested in the Advocate-General. In 1857 an Insolvency Act came into force. Numerous other measures of more or less importance were also considered, but did not excite public interest. The first issue of stamps was made in 1854—the black penny stamp.
The emigration, which seemed so serious after the gold discoveries in Victoria, continued in following years. At first large numbers of conditional-pardon men migrated to the new fields, but their presence was not appreciated. Bands of freemen intermittently left the colony, greatly to the regret of those left behind. In June, 1855, the Chamber of Commerce recorded that the advance of the colony was seriously retarded by the drain upon the population of some of its best elements—colonists of experience and means, who withdrew considerable capital. The loss thus sustained would have been almost irreparable had it not been for the inauguration of convictism.
Prospecting for gold was continued for some time, and exciting rumours were occasionally disseminated of fabulous discoveries. In January, 1854, a meeting was held in Fremantle, when £357 was promised in subscriptions towards offering a premium for the discovery of gold in Western Australia. One rumour of gold discovery in the settled eastern districts was particularly exciting. Excellent specimens were shown, but the locality could not be found again. Mr. Austin, after his explorations through the Murchison country in 1854, expressed the opinion that gold would be found in those regions. The correctness of his report was comparatively recently proved. When giving evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords in 1856, Captain Henderson informed its members that it was "more than possible" that gold would be found in Western Australia. But though considerable prospecting was done, no definite discoveries were made up to 1860.
Development work was, however, proving that there were deposits of lead and copper of great intrinsic value in the northern districts. Considering the small amount of capital at the disposal of the people, the enterprise concentrated on these mines was laudable. The smelting furnace erected at the Geraldine mine was turning out, early in 1855, six and seven tons of lead per week. In March, fifty tons of lead were shipped to Singapore, selling as high as £33 a ton. Captain Fitzgerald was convinced that, given sufficient capital to work it, the mine would be productive to any amount. In order to get the ore to the seaboard, the Government was asked to build a railway or tramway, a work which the promoters estimated to cost £2,500. Captain Fitzgerald considered a railway to be desirable, but he refused to give convict labour to construct it, as other private speculators would demand equal rights. The directors could not carry out the work without Government guarantees.
In November, 1855, another mine was discovered on a squatting lease on the Bowes River. Mr. Jas. Drummond purchased the property, which comprised 90 acres. He formed a company named the Wanerenooka Mining Company (subsequently changed to the Western Australian Mining Company). In 1856 about 40 tons of copper ore were taken from the mine, and in 1857 about 375 tons. The first shipment realised £27 13s. 4d. per ton. In March, 1858, the balance-sheet of the company had £1,356 to its credit; the property was estimated to be worth £9,400. Other copper mines were soon worked in the district, principal of which was the Wheel of Fortune. The percentages of copper were high, as is indicated by the prices obtained in the English market. A report received in Perth in April, 1860, of sales of ore at Swansea gave the percentages as follow:—51 tons, 35½ per cent.; 18 tons, 21⅝ per cent.; and 11 tons, 19⅞ per cent. From the Wheel of Fortune mine 60 tons of 25⅜ per cent. ore sold at £26 14s. 6d., and 18 tons of 33½ per cent. at £35 14s. One return gives the export of copper ore in 1858 as 1,150 tons, valued at £25 per ton; another states that 1,395 tons were exported to the United Kingdom in 1859.
The Geraldine mine was considered so important that in 1859 shareholders resident in England shipped a traction or road engine for use between the mine and the seaboard. The soft state of the roads was not sufficiently considered. The trial trip was successful until a stoppage was made in soft sand, where the engine sank with its own weight, and the more it tried to pull out of the sand the deeper it sank. The engine was practically useless except on the hard portions of road. Dismal reports were then circulated as to the future of the mines, the want of good roads and capital being esteemed very serious. At the same time it was reported that rich ore was being taken from the Wanerenooka mine, but the expense of raising it was rapidly increasing owing to the greater depth. A fall had also taken place in copper.
In 1859 the Imperial Government was memorialised to assist in the construction of a railway from the coast to the copper and lead mines. The Secretary for the Colonies emphatically refused a guarantee, and advised the local Government not to support the scheme until their revenue was greatly in excess of the expenditure. Different lots of mineral lands were sold in 1854-60.
A steamboat service was established on the Swan River in 1855. In March of that year the steamer Les Trois Amis arrived from Melbourne and began to ply between Perth and Fremantle. A colonial-built steamer was previously used in this trade, but proved a failure. In order to safeguard the running of these boats different schemes were still being proposed to deepen the Swan. In 1855 the official intentions were to deepen the channel from the sea to Rocky Bay by 12 feet to a width of 90 feet. The cost was estimated at £6,600, of which £1,800 was for blasting the bar at the mouth of the river. Another proposal was made concurrent with this to erect a breakwater off Arthur Head to secure an area of 38 acres from all storms, with 13 acres sheltered from all sea breezes. The length of the breakwater was to be 880 yards, the depth of anchorage 15 to 20 feet; the cost of material was estimated at £15,000.
In November, 1856, another steamer—the Shanghai—was placed on the river trade; then in January, 1857, the Pioneer, a steamer built of colonial wood, ran to Guildford. In February the Lady Stirling (steamer) was launched at Fremantle. The steam mail service between the United Kingdom and Australia and Singapore was abandoned for a time in 1855-6. In 1856 the P. and O. Company offered to convey mails to Australia from Ceylon. The postal revenue of the colonies was computed to total £36,000, of which only £24,000 could be applied to sea service. Terms were eventually agreed upon for a direct service, and in October, 1856, the first steamer left England, the number of days allowed between Southampton and Melbourne being about 50. The contract was for five years. The steamers Oneida, European, Columbian, and Australian were, among others, engaged in the service. A meeting was held in Perth in February, 1858, to propose that Sulphur Bay or Careening Bay, Garden Island, be used by steamers as a coaling station. Further difficulties arose in the mail service, but were satisfactorily arranged in 1859. The Western Australian subsidy to this service in 1859 was £1,151.
The various religious denominations were gradually becoming stronger and more important. In 1850 the Church of England in Western Australia was erected into a separate archdeaconry; in 1856 it was constituted by letters patent a bishopric, and Perth a cathedral town, "thereafter to be called the City of Perth." The first Bishop of Perth, Archdeacon Hale, M.A., arrived in the colony in July, 1856. He was nominated by Bishop Short, of South Australia, whose archdeacon he had been from the foundation of the South Australian bishopric. Bishop Hale had visited Western Australia on more than one occasion, and had married the daughter of Colonel Molloy, well known at Augusta and the Vasse. Some time previously Bishop Hale founded a station at Poonindie, South Australia, where he conducted a mission among the natives. After visiting different parts of Western Australia he proceeded to England, where he was consecrated in March, 1857, and returned in January, 1858, having engaged five additional clergymen and a schoolmaster. On 28th June, 1858, the Bishop's School, Perth, was opened with twenty-three scholars, the Rev. Mr. Lynch acting as head master. The Rev. George Pownall, B.A., who had spent six years in ministerial work in the colony, was appointed Dean of Perth; the Rev. Jas. Brown, M.A., a Government chaplain, was appointed archdeacon. The bishop erected a comfortable abode on a site given by the Government, and side by side clergy lodgings for clergy visiting Perth who could ill afford the expenses of an inn. Later on Bishop Hale established on the same block a mission home for native and half-caste children.
Other denominations were quietly extending their sphere of influence. In May, 1859, Perth town lot Y37, consisting of 3 roods 20 perches, was granted to the Congregational Church. In March of the same year the foundation-stone of the Roman Catholic Church at York was laid by Bishop Serra.
Some difficulty was experienced with the Education Board in 1855. The Government disagreed with the system of instruction pursued, and the members of the board resigned. A new board was appointed early in 1856. In February, 1854, Mr. L. Courthope was appointed Secretary of Education.
The natives in Victoria district did not at once discontinue their opposition to settlement. It was announced in November, 1855, that Police-Constable Melson had been killed and eaten by natives on the Murchison. While travelling through the bush Melson is said to have wandered off the beaten track. He was set upon by the blacks with clubs and spears. Another man, named Robson, was missed under similar circumstances some time previously. In 1856 natives proved troublesome to the isolated settlers east of York, and at Cubbin an attempt was made to spear a shepherd. Then in 1858-9 numerous cattle and a few horses were speared in the Champion Bay district, and in 1859 a shepherd, employed by Mr. W. Burges, on the Murchison, was speared for taking away the wife of a black man. The Registrar-General, in his report for 1859, announces that the aboriginal race "is gradually disappearing." The blacks acquire "many of the white man's bad habits and but few of his good ones; the immorality of their women is habitual, and to this latter fact is mainly attributable the decrease in numbers."
In 1855 Rottnest Island was again used as a penal establishment for native offenders. The average number incarcerated there in 1855-6 was thirty. In February, 1856, a stack of hay, the gaol, and other buildings at Rottnest were burnt. Some natives had escaped from the prison and hidden in the bush. The superintendent, to dislodge them, set fire to the dry growth, and a change in the wind carried the flames to the buildings. The loss was estimated to be about £500. Farming and other industries were again established on the island; in 1857 the produce from the farm was sold for £429. The Wesleyan native school, which had been removed from Wanneroo (near Perth) to York, was closed; the total-cost of this institution had been about £12,000.
Death was busy among the older colonists. The ranks of the pioneers were constantly being thinned, and men familiar to public regard were one by one disappearing. First was Mr. B. W. Vigors, a young lawyer of promise, who died in March, 1854. The Rev. J. B. Wittenoom, colonial chaplain, died on 23rd January, 1855. Since 1829 he had been constantly to the front, not only in Church affairs, but in public and in the work-a-day life. In his own way he rendered valuable assistance to the pioneers, and even on occasion toiled among them. Weld Club stands in the place where his residence was situated. On the 27th of the February following died H. C. Sutherland, a pioneer of the Parmelia. During the first few years Mr. Sutherland was engaged in the Survey Department, but some time before his death he took office as Colonial Treasurer and Collector of Revenue. He was associated with the Government during its first twenty-six years' history, and latterly held a seat in the Executive and Legislative Councils. Archdeacon Wollaston died in 1856.
On the 13th May, 1858, died A.J.P. Menzies, a prominent landholder on the Upper Greenough, and he was followed by R. McBryde Broun (or Brown) on 10th November of the same year. Mr. Broun was associated with the Government almost from the arrival of the Parmelia, of which vessel he was a passenger, and took a prominent part in different demonstrations. Then on 15th May, 1859, Mr. H. Burges died of injuries received from the explosion of a steam pipe at his flour mill. Mr. Burges, as the historical narrative indicates, was of the practical stamp of pioneers. Among men totally untitled to become foundation builders, he stood out in pleasing relief. In public life and in agricultural and pastoral pursuits he was known all over the colony. A week earlier a pioneer of 1830 in the person of Mr. John Barnard succumbed.
Mr. Joseph V. Bussell, of Busselton and Augusta, died on 3rd September, 1860. Like Mr. Burges, he was a pioneer of the best kind. He was but forty-seven years old. Of him was written in the announcement of his death: "Isolated in the remotest district with a small community, an army severed from its base, he experienced in exaggeration all the difficulties and dangers which attend the first settler. By penury and famine through defective communication, by losses through fire and wreck, by peril from hostile tribes, by crushed hopes and aspirations," he suffered much, but his genial spirit throughout made him the favourite of every settler. His family name is perpetuated at Busselton.
Judge Mackie completed the list up to 1860. He died at Henley Park on 24th November, 1860. In May, 1857, he retired from office on a pension of £400 a year. He was then the recipient of numerous addresses lauding his impartiality as a judge and his general contributions to colonial welfare. He was the first legal official under the Western Australian Government, and as Advocate-General and Commissioner of the Civil Court supplied a worthy example to those who came afterwards. He was among the few members of the Legislative Council who escaped the bitter strictures of an irritated and free-spoken people. Writes a newspaper:—"A sound lawyer, a thoroughly upright man, calm, equable, and impartial, he left as an example nothing for his successors to excel and much for them to equal. Everyone felt that his characteristics were those of the noblest of men—a thorough, uncorrupt, learned, impartial, and just English judge." He was buried in the Upper Swan Church grounds.
By these deaths vacancies were caused in the Civil Establishment. Judge McFarland was appointed from England in place of Judge Mackie. He arrived in the colony early in 1858, but had a comparatively short term of office. In February, 1861, he resigned, and went to Sydney to practise as a barrister. His popularity fell far short of that of his predecessor. Early in February, 1861, Judge A. P. Burt was sworn in as Commissioner of the Civil Court, and began a long local career. Shortly after his arrival he was appointed Chief Justice of Western Australia. Mr. R. McB. Broun temporarily filled the office vacated by Mr. H. C. Sutherland, but in January, 1856, Mr. A. O'Grady Lefroy was appointed Colonial Treasurer. Mr. F. P. Barlee was appointed Colonial Secretary in July, 1855. In December, 1855, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Bruce was commissioned Commandant of the military forces. In April, 1854, Mr. G. F. Stone resigned the Registrar-Generalship, and subsequently became Advocate-General, and was replaced by Mr. C. Sholl; in December, 1856, Mr. A. Durlacher succeeded Mr. Sholl as Registrar-General. Mr. Thos. Brown succeeded Mr. P. McB. Broun as Collector of Customs.
In January, 1860, Surveyor-General Roe left for England on leave of absence. Perhaps on no occasion during the history of the colony were so many addresses and letters of esteem showered on a departing colonist. Lieutenant Roe during his long service had placed the colony in his debt to an incalculable extent; he returned to Western Australia in the following year and resumed his duties. Mr. A. Hillman became Acting Surveyor-General. The members of the Executive Council in 1860 were Governor Kennedy, Commandant Bruce, Colonial Secretary Barlee, Comptroller-General Henderson, Acting Surveyor-General Hillman, Advocate-General Stone, and Collector of Revenue Lefroy. In addition to these, the members (non-official) of the Legislative Council were J. W. Hardey, S. P. Phillips, E. Hamersley, and L. Samson.
The opening up of the new country north of Perth encouraged exploration work. Vigorous attempts were made to discover more land suitable for enterprise, and several expeditions were equipped. The first was that of Assistant-Surveyor R. Austin, who had already exploited tracts north-east and east of Champion Bay. The Government was memorialised to equip this party, and settlers contributed towards the outfit. The principal object laid before Austin was to report upon extensive tracts of fertile land supposed to exist near a large sheet of water known as "Cow-Cow-ing." The party was fated to undergo extreme difficulties and risks; it comprised eight white men, besides Mr. Austin, two natives, and 27 horses.
Leaving Perth on 21st June, 1854, Mr. Austin and his band proceeded to Bucklands, near Northam, whence on 7th July they went into the interior unknown country. A north-east by easterly direction was taken from Mombekine, over open undulating sandy plains, and through a gum forest growing upon ironstone and quartz. They emerged into a scrubby plain of yellow ironstone gravel, and encountered a dense thicket of cyprus and casuarina scrub, in which was crossed the dry bed of the Salt River, or Mortlock, trending south-east. A large herd of wild cattle was disturbed at a spring called Youlanging. From the summit of a hill Mr. Austin saw, to the north-west, a broad expanse of undulating sand plains studded with clumps of gum forest and thicket; the eastward contained wooded granite hills and several patches of grassy land. To the north of this hill, running in a north-east by easterly direction were two immense walls of quartz. A number of natives joined them. These people, among whom were Daren men from the interior, had been hunting in the vicinity of the camp, and brought with them several kangaroos and grey opossums. The latter animals had a most wretched appearance, being devoid of hair which the blacks had pulled out and spun into string the size of whipcord, worn round their waists in a band an inch thick and two inches wide. The natives celebrated the meeting with the whites by a grand corroboree. The further track first lay through a belt of hilly, grassy country of granite formation, extending about six miles to a hill called Twattergunning, abreast of which lay a narrow valley or watershed terminating at the summit of an extensive table-land of red conglomerate rock. The neighbouring country produced several streams shedding into a large brook, which discharged the accumulated waters into the Salt River. This in its course proceeded through a narrow defile between two rugged hills, from which huge granite rocks had slipped and nearly blocked up the intermediate space. The largest rock buried a blackfellow who was passing when it fell. The adjacent country was fairly good second-rate grazing land for an area of about 2,000 acres, whilst far away to the north stretched gum forests and sand plains swarming with kangaroos. The party kept away on a course north 76° east over sand plains to a spring on the north side of a salt lake called Koombekine, 1,025 feet above the level of the sea. The country was so densely wooded beyond this that the cart was left in charge of some friendly Toodyay natives, and the party with pack-horses made a detour on a course north 94° east along sand hills, on the north side of some marshy thickets trending to the southward. Four miles from the side of a spring called Hejanding the shore of the Cow-Cow-ing Lake was reached. This depression was skirted by dense eucalyptus and acacia thickets, and as the bed was dry a course was steered across the south end. From the summit of a neighbouring hill was viewed an extensive sheet of water at the north-west end of the lake. On no account could the natives be induced to make a closer inspection, owing to the supposed existence of a large snake which swallowed several blackfellows whole some years previously.
Thus early on the journey the scarcity of water considerably hampered the movements of the explorers, who had to waste time sinking wells. The road to the northward being blocked by thickets and salt marshes, Mr. Austin turned due east from the lake, and travelled through seven miles of dense scrub and gum trees on bare loamy soil without a vestige of any grass, though the country had evidently not been burnt for many years. The surroundings of the Waddouring Hills consisted of isolated granite rocks, affording feed and water only at certain seasons. This was the country the settlers had been so anxious to avail themselves of, relying on the favourable interpretation that resulted from enquiries among the blacks, who formed a high opinion and gave glowing descriptions, of any place that afforded them a rat and a draught of water. There being no inducement to continue the journey to the east, a course was struck to the northeast from Gregory's track. On 11th August Mr. Woodward, who was instructed to accompany the party to Cow-cow-ing, left on the return journey with despatches.
After two days' hard travelling N.N.E., Mr. Austin's party came to a rocky table-land falling gently to the westward covered with shrub and bare patches of honeycombed sandstone, terminating abruptly to the eastward in a perpendicular escarpment 140 feet high. Through a vista in the thicket Mr. Kenneth Brown, a member of the party, caught a glimpse of an elevated range similar in appearance and contour to the Champion Bay country. The highest table-land was named Mount Kenneth after him, and, cheered by the prospect of better land, the explorers pushed bravely on. They went through dense thickets and descending country, destitute of water, in which all the bushes were dead or dying. On reaching and ascending the mount a commanding view was obtained. Over the whole landscape to the north and east were sandstone flat-topped ridges, trending north-east, presenting façades of white hue, capped by overhanging rocks of red colour, and clothed with acacia scrub. Here and there peaked white hills of stratified quartz rocks, inclining to the westward, and resting on greenstone, jutted out in association with several amorphous masses of brecchia composed of sienitic granite and felspar. A north-easterly course was maintained for several days through rough country with hardly any water.
The party camped on 20th August in 28° 43' 23" south, and 118° 38' east. During the night the horses strayed and eat a species of gastrolobium, with a small, bright orange coloured pea blossom like birdseyes. This plant, which is very poisonous, was growing about everywhere, and several horses became seriously affected and had to be bled. Eleven horses were so bad that they could not proceed, and Mr. Austin divided the party, leaving half with Mr. Whitfield and the sick horses, whilst he proceeded in search of better country. The weather was temporarily wet, and four more of the animals were soon down with the poison. Fifty miles to the north of the camp he came across fairly good country, which he named Recruit Flats, situated some thirteen miles from the foot of a range, the base of which was 1,569 feet above the level of the sea. The range presented several conical summits, grouped five or six miles on each side in the form of a crescent, facing north-east. Upon it he observed delicate layers of a crystalline substance resembling quartz. The rocks had great local magnetic attraction. Each piece of stone had two poles like the loadstone, powerfully attracting and repelling the same point of the magnetic needle. On this account one hill was christened by Mr. Austin "Mount Magnet." The country surrounding the mount, which was in latitude 27° 58' south and 118° 37' east, gave an unpromising prospect, and the leader determined to camp at Recruit Flats. On reaching the camp he found seven of the strongest horses dead, and five in a very precarious state. Under these circumstances it was necessary to leave 4 cwt. of the equipment behind. The horses were, however, too weak to travel far, and three light parties were sent out on a radius of fifteen miles, ranging from north-west to east, in search of grass. Green grass and water were discovered ten miles to the eastward in a thicket, and Mr. Whitfield was sent there with the horses to give them a chance to recover.
Mr. Austin, accompanied by a blackfellow named Narryer, proceeded in an E.N.E. direction reconnoitering. On reaching he foot of a hill the tracks of a native were seen, and a few yards further on, a scoop, or drinking cup, and two clubs. Narryer picked these up, and ascended the hill with Mr. Austin. Half way up the ascent was a quartz vein, and on Mr. Austin stooping to examine it he heard a native's voice. On jumping over a wall of quartz he and Narryer came face to face with a native who was stealthily approaching. Narryer spoke to him in the Irwin-Irwin language. The savage appeared to get into a terrible rage, and shaking his spear at the explorers, and calling out in an unknown language, he rushed at Narryer, who fired and shot him in the back. The gun was loaded with shot, and the man escaped. Water was discovered ten miles north, and on the following morning the party removed to it. Owing to poison and bad food there were only thirteen horses left, three of which were unable to carry more than their saddles. It was therefore decided to steer for the point in Sharks Bay where a vessel with supplies was to meet the party. For several days the men were almost without water. The horses were hardly able to move. The prospect was most dreary. Water was eventually found in a cave under a great quartz grit cliff, situatef in 27° 43' 13" south and 118° east. The joy derived from this discovery was minimised by a fearful accident to a member of the expedition named Charles Farmer, who accidentally shot himself. The unfortunate fellow, who was little more than a boy, had his right arm shattered by a gunshot wound. He was attended to as well as was possible under the circumstances, but lockjaw supervened, and he died a few days afterwards. A grave was selected under a beautiful wattle tree, where he was laid with his head resting on his saddle. Misfortunes followed quickly, and as the days passed horse after horse died from the poisonous weed and exposure. As the remaining horses were unable to carry the baggage, much of it had to be abandoned. The party still pressed on through miserable country, and named the Sanford River after the then Colonial Secretary. On the 10th October Austin struck the Murchison River, the bed of which was dry. Five miles beyond the river a white plain was reached, covered with quartz stones and studded with red and white hills, having small peaks of felspar and red sandstone. Mount Narryer was christened, and on the 12th October, in latitude 26° 7' south and 115° 58' east, a cliff, composed of white sandstone, with white quartz pebbles embedded, surrounded by a broad belt of gneiss stones, was reached. But there was no water, and as the horses had been three days without a drink, the men were compelled to retreat to a native well twelve miles back. The march was resumed on the 14th, and after a terrible journey, during which several of the horses succumbed to fatigue and want of water, the struggling explorers arrived at Mount Welcome, named on account of the welcome supply of water and feed found there. They rested until the 24th, and a course was then steered towards the Gascoyne. On 29th October the explorers were only fifty miles from Sharks Bay and 100 miles from the Gascoyne River, where the relief vessel was awaiting them. But the return journey was a terrible experience. All baggage except the arms and ammunition had to be abandoned, and the men mounted the horses. The Geraldine mine was reached in an exhausted state on 20th November. Only four of the twenty-seven horses which left with the expedition survived the hardships and returned.
The result of this expedition was the discovery of extensive marshes in 118° east, between 27° and 28° south, flowing northwest; and four large rivers, or flood channels, in 117° east, between 27° 20' and 26° 40' south, of a fresh character, coming from the north-east, and shedding into the Murchison. Mr. Austin, in the concluding paragraph of his report, drew attention to the geological formation of the country to the eastward of the Murchison River, which, he said, had every appearance of being one of the finest goldfields in the world, thus foreshadowing the Murchison Goldfields. Made at the cost of great suffering, this may be considered an expedition of historical importance.
In 1854, Mr. A. C. Gregory received flattering proof of the esteem held out of the colony for his qualities as an explorer. It was desired by the English Government that a well-equipped expedition should thoroughly examine the northern part of the continent, and, from among Australian explorers, Mr. Gregory was offered the command. During the year he had compiled a valuable report on the northern mineral district, and also on the likelihood of gold being found in the Canning district. After hesitation, on account of ill-health, he decided to accept the proffered position. Mr. Drummond also received equal testimony in being offered the office of botanist, a position which he declined on the ground of advanced age. The party was to start out from the eastern coast, and late in 1854 Mr. A. C. Gregory, with his brother, left for Sydney. The expedition was voted a large sum by the English Government, and it was under their directorship and that of the Royal Geographical Society that the journey was made.
Mr. Gregory had eighteen companions, and among them H. C. Gregory (second in command), Dr. Von Mueller (botanist), J. S. Wilson (geologist), J. Rains (artist), J. R. Elsey (surgeon), and J. Flood (collector). On 12th August, 1855, he left Moreton Bay with two vessels, and went through Torres Straits to Treachery Bay, where with nine men he landed. One boat returned to Moreton Bay, and the other sailed to Victoria River, the proposed rendezvous. Gregory explored to the river without great difficulty, but was discomfited to find the vessel ashore in a most dangerous condition. She was, however, got off in safety. On 3rd January, 1856, the chief work of the explorers—known as the North Australian Expedition—was begun. Gregory traced the Victoria to its source in two forks, but was stopped in a southerly route by a sahara. He followed the northerly limit of this waste, and entered Western Australian territory. By pursuing a south-west course he discovered and named on 22nd February the Sturt Creek. Thence he went over low rocky hills, through forests of acacia, and across sandy deserts, to a hill, which he named Mount Wilson. The view therefrom discouraged him from seeking to further penetrate Western Australia—there was one unbounded waste of sand ridges and low rocky hills. He turned northwards, and among other interesting discoveries, found an old camp of the lost Leichardt. The ashes of a fire and the bones of goats were still visible. A large tree was marked L, with the letters D I G, but he found on scooping out the depression in the ground that whatever was placed there had been removed. Valuable explorations were afterwards made in the north of South Australia, and the great explorer led his party back to eastern settlement without mishap. Manifold advantages accrued to geographical and other sciences from this expedition, which paved the way for more extensive explorations through the burning interior of the continent.
Mr. Frank T. Gregory and Mr. S. Trigg were the next explorers to go out in Western Australia. Starting in March, 1857, from the mining settlement in the Murchison, they proceeded eastwards, and discovered promising tracts of pastoral and agricultural country. Their expedition proved the difficulty of forming a reliable opinion on inland country by one journey in a given direction. If the season be a wet one, much of this land is covered with splendid grasses; if it be a time of drought, the explorers view immense arid tracts.
Messrs. Gregory and Trigg explored about 180 miles of the Murchison River country. During their journey they passed over areas covered by Austin in 1854, which that gentleman described as desolate and almost devoid of pasturage. In 1857 the same country was grassed equal to the average in the Champion Bay district, and in some places the pasture was most luxuriant. For the first sixty miles on the south bank of the Murchison the soil was found to be indifferent, yet containing patches which produced grass at least sufficient for travelling flocks and herds. Then it seemed to improve, and was continuously grassy for a general width of half a mile. At Austin's Mount Welcome the verdure was luxuriant, being from two to three feet high, and from there to Mount Murchison the country was said to be "very beautiful," and the soil "superior" to any in the colony. Mount Murchison itself was described as an immense mass of quartz, with granite round the base. The country east and north appeared indifferent.
Messrs. Gregory and Trigg on the homeward journey kept on the north side of the river. Fine grassy country was found to extend to the base of hills four or five miles from the Murchison, and reaching west to the bend about forty miles from the Geraldine mines. The good land was flat, and the soil a red loam, which, when dry, was very open. Myriads of white ants infested these parts; every tree, living or dead, seemed to have its colony. This expedition was said to have conferred the greatest benefits on the colony since Mr. A. C. Gregory opened up the northern districts. Mr. Trigg regarded the country about Mount Murchison as auriferous.
Further important explorations were made in 1858 by Mr. F. T. Gregory. Under him were Mr. James B. Roe (second in command), and Messrs. W. Moore, C. Nairn, — Dugel, and an aboriginal policeman. The Government contributed the services of Mr. Gregory and his chainman, besides three horses, instruments, tents, and pack saddles; settlers (chiefly Messrs. W. and L. Burges, Padbury, Wellard, and D. McPherson), supplied funds and horses. The party succeeded in drawing attention to considerable areas of land north of the Murchison, and on the Gascoyne River. From Mount Murchison, which was left on the 26th April, the explorers traversed country not before visited by Europeans. A "very beautiful convolvulus" was found beyond the mount, bearing roots like the sweet potato, often a pound in weight, and well flavoured. These roots formed a useful article of diet to the natives. After following the course of the river some distance, Gregory took a more northerly course over open plains of saltbush, samphire, and acacia. This particular country trended to the Murchison, several tributaries of which, separated by gravelly ridges, were crossed. Vegetation was scarce, although ample feed was found for the horses along the small streams. A few miles from a Murchison tributary, he struck the Gascoyne River on 4th May. The men followed its course north-west, and the further they went the wider the river became. On the south bank was abundance of grass and flooded gum trees, which, however, did not seem to run far back. Rich flats, three or four miles wide, were occasionally surveyed, but towards the coast the quality of land deteriorated. After examining the mouth, they returned inland again, this time on the northern levels, and when eighty miles from the ocean (on 24th May) discovered and named a tributary river—the Lyons. Then going northerly over well-grassed patches on the banks, with poor country on either side, they reached and christened the Alma River, in the Ashburton district, and Mount Augustus, 3,300 feet high. The view from the summit of this hill disclosed what appeared an excellent description of country.
From Mount Augustus the explorers went south-east until they regained the Gascoyne. The intervening country was stony, and only sparsely grassed. Then S.S.E. they reached a tributary of the Murchison, passed Mount Gould and Mount Hale, and a succession of rich grassy flats. In the westward they named Mount Nairn, whence they followed the Murchison to Geraldine. They reported that the country was well watered, and contained "a network of rivers," emptying into the Murchison or the Gascoyne. They estimated the quantity of good land surveyed at 1,000,000 acres, the best of which was about 300 miles from the settled districts, with sufficient feed for stock in the intervening tracts. On the Gascoyne natives were numerous, and slightly troublesome. Once they were dispersed with a load of bird-shot fired among them; once the explorers chased them on horseback. This particular tribe followed them some distance, apparently to warn other blacks not to approach the explorers. The remains of a cannibal feast were examined at Mount Augustus. Fish resembling a trumpeter, and weighing 1½ lb. each, were found in the Lyons River. Perth was reached on the 10th July, after a journey of nearly 2,000 miles, accomplished in 107 days. The total cash expenditure did not exceed £40. Mr. Gregory advised in his report that this country should be examined, at another period of the year, when the conditions might not be so favourable. Numbers of features in the Gascoyne division were named. The Legislative Council recorded a vote of thanks to Mr. Gregory and his companions.
Exploration in the north-west districts was then discontinued for a time, and private parties began to go out into the east. The country was known to about eighty miles east of Northam. The agricultural societies encouraged these trips, and farmers and pastoralists were anxious to discover new country where they might send their stock. Several journeys were made in 1860. During the previous few years settlement had been pushed further out. Mr. Wm. M. Parker had removed to Mount Stirling, and Mr. Ed. Reed Parker to Danjin, about twenty miles south-west of the same point. Each gentleman had been enterprising. Mr. J. Taylor was also near them on these outposts of settlement. It was believed that eastwards impenetrable thickets refused passage to explorers, principally because Lieutenant Roe had been turned out of his course to Cape Riche, and others to the northern "interior," by such barriers. The desire to acquire possible rich runs was, however, not easily dismissed.
Messrs. E. and A. Dempster, A. W. Chitty, and two natives left Northam on 26th June, 1860, and made, says the report, "a quick run of 118 miles into the interior" to Wittock Hill. The country was composed of sand plains studded with thickets, and forests mostly of dead wood. It was often difficult to get water, but by ingenuity they succeeded in finding native wells and rock reservoirs. At Codgecoding were some 500 acres of good pasture set prettily in the desolation around. Intermixed with the grass was the poison plant. On 2nd July they passed over the beds of dry lakes, some containing gypsum in large quantities, others with a fine white powder in the bottom. From the top of a high hill they described a low marshy country, destitute of feed, meeting the horizon in the east. On the return journey they saw some good feeding ground at Nalyering.
Mr. E. Lennard and others proceeded in the same direction a few weeks later. At Nalyering, supposed to be about 90 miles E.N.E. of Beverley, Mr. Lennard reported finding what was termed a "splendid run" of 10,000 acres, where the grass was in places three feet high. Messrs. Chas. and Wm. Smith, of Beverley, also exploited the eastern bush, and chose a run some 100 miles from York. This spot bore signs of having been overrun with horses at some previous time, and natives confessed to having speared animals there. The same blacks led the Messrs. Smith to believe that there was splendid country 200 miles in the interior.