Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/103

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75
THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROBLEM.

and Sir John Jamison agreed with them. Anything which brought the convicts together in large numbers was open to serious objections, and these were all the stronger if after the muster there was no church within three miles for them to go to. Often, too, when they were being marched to church they took the opportunity of stealing all kinds of portable articles from the houses they passed. At the same time the muster gave undoubted assistance in securing a reliable register of the prisoners' whereabouts, and was a means of tracing escaped convicts. Unfortunately the constables were for the most part too illiterate to do the work properly, and the registers were very badly kept. With the exception of Marsden the chaplains seemed to approve of the musters, but they were naturally prejudiced in favour of any regulations which secured them a good congregation. Bigge had little to say for the attention which the convicts gave to the service. They had no bibles or prayer-books, and though quiet on the whole they were occasionally guilty of irregularities of conduct which caused the preacher to interrupt his discourse for the purpose of rebuking them.[1]

The only remuneration received by the magistrates consisted of four convict servants each, clothed and "on the store". Their appointment and dismissal was in the hands of the Governor, and was not until 1820 in any way controlled by the Ministers at home.[2] The whole duty of selection belonged to Macquarie alone, and the task was no easy one. Marsden rightly considered that "the happiness and prosperity of this country depend very much upon the selection of proper men as magistrates".[3] Governor Hunter had felt this so strongly that he had urged the Government to obtain suitable men from England.[4] This had not been done, and he had therefore been forced to appoint the only available persons, members of the civil and military staff. Bent thought "the procedure of the Bench of Magistrates had been much affected by the number of military

  1. For whole of this subject see Macquarie's Despatches, passim, and letters of Bayly to Marsden. See also Bigge's Report, I., and Evidence in Appendix, R.O., MS., passim, 8th December, 1817, Letter to Sir Henry Bunbury.
  2. In 1820 the appointment of Dr. Redfern was objected to by the Secretary of State. See Chapter IX.
  3. Marsden to Wilberforce. Correspondence of Wilberforce, published 1840, vol. ii., p. 183, 27th July, 1810.
  4. C. on T., 1812.