Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/140

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AUSTRALIA


114


AUSTRALIA


smaller than Europe, one-sixth larger than the United States (excluding Alaska), over once and a half the size of the Indian Empire, more than fourteen times larger than Germany or France, and about twenty-five times larger than the British Isles. At the cen.sus of 1901 the population of the six States was as follows: New South Wales. 1,359,943; Western Australia, 182,553; Victoria, 1,201,3-11; Queensland, 503.266; South Austraha, 362.604; Tasmania. 172,475. This gave the Commonwealth in 1901 a total popu- lation of 3.782,182. The official estimate of the total population for December, 1905, was 4,002,893.

I. The Convict System. — The north and west coasts of Australia figure in the maps of Spanish and Portuguese navigators as far back as about the year 1530. But it was the War of American Independ- ence that led to the settling of the white man on the shores of the great lone continent. At that time, and until the nineteenth century was well advanced, the maxim of Paley and of others of his school, that crime is most effectually prevented by a dread of capital punishment, held almost complete control of the legislative mind in Great Britain. " By 1809 ", says a legal authority in the " National History of England" (IV. 309), "'more than six hundred dilTerent offences had been matle capital — a state of law unexampled in the worst periods of Roman or Oriental despotism". Transportation was the ordi- narj' commutation of, or substitute for, the slip-knot of the hangman. From 1718 to 1776 British con- victs had been sent in considerable numbers annually, under contractors, into servitude on the American mainland. The traffic was stopped by the War of Independence. At the close of the struggle the British prisons and. later on, the prison-hulks overflowed. The colony of New South Wales (till 1826 synonymous with the whole Australian main- land) was established as a con\ict settlement by an Order in Council dated 6 December, 1785. On 13 May, 1787, " the first fleet ", provisioned for two j'ears, left England, with 1.030 souls on board, of whom 696 were convicts. They reached Botany Bay on 20 January. 1788. They abandoned it after a few days because of its shallow waters, and laid the founda- tions of Sydney on the shores of the noble and spacious harbour to which they gave the name of Port Jackson. The men who founded Sydney and the Commonwealth of Australia " may have been convicts", says Davitt, "but they were not neces- sarily 'criminals', such as we are familiar with to-day. Some account must be taken of what con- stituted a crime in those transportation days, and of the hideously unjust sentences which were in- flicted for comparatively trivial offences" (Life and Progress in Australasia, 193-194).

Within the next decade, the ranks of the original convict population were swelled by a goodly percent- age of the 1,300 imoffending Catholic peasants from the North and West of Ireland who were seized and deported by "Satanides" Carhampton and the Ulster magistrates during the Orange reign of terror in 1795- 96, " without sentence ", as Lccky says, " without trial, without even the colour of legality" (Ireland in the Eighteenth Centurj-, III, 419 ; England in the Eight- eenth Centurj-, VIII, 250). After the insurrection of 1798. "a stream of Irish political prisoners was poured into the penal settlement of Botany Bay, and they played some part in the early history of the .Australian colonies, and especially of Australian Catholicism" (Lecky, England in the Eighteenth Century, VIII, 250). In his "CathoHc Mission in Australia" (1836), Dr. Illathorne says of those early Irish political convicts: "Ignorance or violation of religious principle, the knowledge or habits of a criminal life, were scarcely to any extent recognizable features in this unhappy class of Irish political pris- oi.-:o. t>n the contrary, the deepest and purest


sentiments of piety, a thorough comprehension of religious responsibility, and an almost impregnable simplicity of manner, were their distinctive virtues on their first consignment to the guardianship of the law. In many illustrious cases, a long and dan- gerous residence in the most depraved penal settle- ments was unable to extinguish these noble char- acteristics." During the first three decades of the nineteenth century the convict population was notably increased by the addition of many who had taken part in the agitations in comie.xion with tithes, the Charter and Reform movements, the Combination Laws, and the Corn Laws. During the first fifty years and more of the Australian penal settlements, convictions and sentences of deporta- tion were matters of fearful facility. For no provi- sion was made for the defence of prisoners unable to procure it for themselves; the right of defence throughout the entire trial was not recognized till 1837; jurors were allowed to act as witnesses; and, belonging, as they generally did, to "the classes", they were too prone to convict, and judges to trans- port, especially during periods of popular ferment, on weak or worthless evidence, or on the mere pre- sumption of guilt (See National History of England, IV, 310).

Convictism endured in New South Wales from its first foundation in 1788 till 1840. Tasmania re- mained a penal colony till 1S53. Transportation to Norfolk Island ceased in 1855. Moreton Bay (in the present State of Queensland) became a convict station in 1,824 and remained one till 1839. Western Aus- tralia began as a penal settlement in 1826. It con- tinued as such for only a very brief space. Owin^ to the dearth of free labour, convicts (among whom was the gifted John Boyle O'Reilly, a political prisoner) were reintroduced from 1849 till 1868, when the last shadow of "the system" was lifted from Australia. Two noted Catholic ecclesiastics (Dr. UUathorne and Dr. Willson. first Bishop of Hobart) took a prominent and honoured part in the long, slow movement which led to the aboli- tion of the convict system in New South Wales, Tasmania, and Norfolk Island. Almost from the dawn of the colonization of New South Wales and Tasmania, voluntary settlers went thither, at first as stragglers, but in a steady stream when the ad- vantages of the country became known, when irre- sponsible military rule ceased (in 1824) and when free selection and assisted immigration were planks in the policy of the young Australian colonies. The first free settlers came to Queensland (known till its separation in 1859 as the Moreton Bay District of New South Wales) in 1824. just in advance of the convicts; to Victoria (known till its separation in 1851 as the Port Phillip District of New South Wales) in 1835, and to South Australia in 1836. The gold discoveries of the fifties brought a great inrush of population, chiefly to Victoria and New South Wales. Events have moved rapidly since then. The widened influences of religion, the influx of new blood, the development of resources, pros- perity, education, and the jilay of free institutions have combined to rid the southern lands of the traces of a penal system which, within living memory, threatened so much permanent evil to the moral, social, and political progress of Austraha. The dead past has buried its dead.

The reformation of the criminal formed no part of the convict system in Australia. "The body", says Bonwick, "rather than the soul, absorbed the atten- tion of the governors" (First Twenty Years of Austra- lia, 218). " Vengeance and cruelty ", says Erskine May, "were its only principles; charity and reforma- tion formed no part of its scheme" (Constitutional History of England. III. 401 ). For the convict, it was a beast-of-burden life, embittered by the lash, the iron