Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/221

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207
FOUR OF THE FAMILY.

which prevailed under Queen Bess." A government inspector of public works describes the moral depravity as "unparalleled in any age," and one horrified historian sums the island up as "that den of thieves, that cave of robbers, that cage of unclean birds, that isthmus between earth and hell." Sales of wives, public and private, were occurrences so common as to cause not the slightest comment. Several authenticated records of such transactions are still extant in the colonial archives. One lady of some personal attractions was publicly sold in the streets of Hobart, the capital of the island, for fifty ewes; another charmer changed hands for five pounds and a gallon of rum; whilst a third accommodating lady was disposed of for twenty ewes and a gallon of rum. The present Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham, Dr. Ullathorne, who was one of the earliest missionaries to the island, in his evidence before a parliamentary committee on transportation, horrified that body with the startling picture he presented of the frightful immoralities connected with convict life in Tasmania.

But this terrible state of things has entirely passed away. The dead past has buried its dead; the island is now purified; as in the parent colony, free immigration has gradually extinguished the evils and almost the remembrance of the convict days, and a new Tasmania has arisen on the ruins of the old penal Van Diemen's Land. As the island has one of the finest climates in the world, it is a favourite resort for excursionists during the summer season. On the subject of the enchanting scenery of Tasmania, many writers have exhausted the vocabulary of praise. John Mitchel's "Jail Journal," in particular, contains some exquisite descriptions of the loveliness of the interior of this "isle of beauty." And his brother-exile, Thomas Francis