Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/155

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127
LAND, LABOUR AND COMMERCE.

embraced any proposition that had a tendency to exempt them from individual exertion, and in which no other or greater degree of risk or expense was to be incurred than that of paying the salary of the superintendent and the subsistence of a certain number of convicts."[1]

The uncertain conditions of labour due to the convict system, which raised a difficulty in this case, affected every kind of colonial enterprise. Yet the existence of a supply of servile labour was considered in England to be one of the great advantages of emigration to New South Wales.[2] Convict servants were held out to intending settlers as a kind of bait, not only those servants for whose keep the Government made themselves responsible during a short period for the benefit of new settlers, but also the convict servants whom they were allowed to receive at any period under conditions laid down by the Governor.

Owing partly to these conditions, and partly to the bad qualities inherent in all forms of servile labour, convict labour was not a success. The whole tendency of this branch of Macquarie's policy was to raise the status of the assigned servant to that of a free labourer, but he could not alter the legal condition of prisoner or the moral irresponsibility of forced labour. In 1820 there were 8,864 men and 587 women who were still prisoners. Of the women there is little to be said. About 250 worked in the Government wool factory at Parramatta and the remainder either went into domestic service, married,[3] or lived with convicts or free men in Sydney or the other districts. Some of them were joined by their husbands from England and started with them in trade, usually as licensed victuallers.[4] In accordance with Government Orders female convicts were assigned as domestic servants only to married men, and the master had to enter into indentures to keep the servant three years, to clothe and feed her suitably, and pay her wages amounting to £7 a year.[5] For the most part they

  1. Bigge's Report, III.
  2. See, e.g., Westminster Review, April, 1825, Article on Emigration. Also Wentworth's Account of Australia, first published 1819, 3rd ed., 1824, p. 92.
  3. If they married they were usually given tickets-of-leave, sometimes pardons. There were 270 women with tickets-of-leave in 1820.
  4. These also usually received tickets-of-leave.
  5. The cost of clothing appears to have been deducted from the £7.