Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/165

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

result of collusion between master and man, and therefore one which was difficult to stamp out.

The payment of wages in money was very generally condemned by masters on the ground that their servants spent the money as soon as they could on liquor. The settlers preferred to pay the regulation wages and any extra remuneration in what was called "property"—that is, tea, sugar and tobacco. This was profitable to the master because the price of these goods was usually from 40 to 70 per cent. above ready-money wholesale cost, and 25 to 35 per cent. above the Sydney retail price.[1] On the other hand the servant did in reality get more for his money in this way than if it went straight into the publican's pocket.

The servants of small settlers usually sat at their master's tables and shared their food. Their ordinary diet consisted of tea, sugar, bread and meat, and spirits as often as possible. The social position of the poor man's servant, who sometimes farmed a few acres of his master's land for himself and often married his master's daughter, was higher than that of the servants of wealthy settlers, but the latter were better fed. They received the Government rations with an additional 7 lb. of wheat, tea, sugar, milk and vegetables. Compared with the diet of the peasants and artisans of the United Kingdom they lived exceedingly well.[2] Their clothing, however, was bad. In the Government service, owing to delays in sending slop-clothing, the men were often very ragged. It was costly to supply them with colonial-woven garments, and the Governor would not risk such an expense. Bigge, however, stoutly condemned this economy, saying that the convicts might have been justified in revolting, forced to go about, as they were, indecently clothed in rags.[3]

The settlers' complaints of their servants were very numerous and of increasing frequency during Macquarie's governorship. In earlier days severe punishment for insubordination, and a more suitable class of field labourers, had largely accounted for

  1. See Appendix, Bigge's Report. R.O., MS.
  2. Cf., e.g., Sir F. Eden's The State of the Poor, 1797, vol. i. Meat even once a week was a luxury with many, wheaten bread a rarity, and tea and sugar scarcely used at all.
  3. Report I. It was, however, very difficult to prevent the men from selling their new clothes.