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Fifty Years Under the Lash


(By Charles White.)

Author of “ Australian Bashranging ” “ The Story of the Blacks,” etc

[All Rights Reserved.l

The vessels which brought to the colonv the first contingent of Maioi Grose’s "army’' also brought about 2 000 male and 250 female The voyage out was full o* hoil to the unfortunate prisoners. The vessels were not regular transports, but private ships, whose owners had contracted with the Government to embark prisoners at £l7 <s 6d pei head, without any agreement being made for sufficient accommodation or proper control, nor were they even liable for any deduction for those who died on the voyage ; hence, the “•renter number of deaths the moie profit to the contractors. ’Will the reader be astonished to learn that the sharks were well fed on human flesh during the passage ? Neal It 300 of the wretched creatures on board in chains perished before the vessels reached Port Jackson, in consequence of the close and improper way in which they had been confined. Driven to desperation by the treatment they were receiving, some of the convicts made an attempt to overpower the guards and get possession of the ships. Thc*t failed, and failure brought increasing suffering'. The convicts were, after this attempt. all heavily ironed, and the bodies of those who died under the hatches were permitted to remain there and putrefy for weeks ! Is there in all the records of the time when slave-ships sailed the sea a story more horrible and horrifying than this ? Numbers of those who survived the voyage died when beingconveyed to the land in boats, and many* of the others landed only to die. No record has been preserved of the number' that died after they were landed, but Colonel Collins makes this grim report : —“All possible expedition was used in getting the sick ashore, for even while they remained on board they digicd. The total number of sick on the last day of June was thi-ee hundred and fortynine. The melancholy which closed the month of June appeared unchanged in the beginning of July. The morning- generally opened with depositing in the burying ground the' miserable victims of the night !’’

But the officers and men of the New South Wales Corps lived -through it all. and on their arrival they began to show their superiority as soldiers, wearing the King of Englands’ uniform. Ect Governor Phillip speak. He says ‘-'They were observed to be very intimate with the convicts, living in their huts, eating, drinking, and gambling with them, and perpetually enticing the women to leave the men.” The whole detachment, we are told, with the exception ox the non-commissioned officers, and five or six of the privates, took an oath to stand by each other and not to suffer a soldier to be punished, for whatever crime he might commit against a n inhabitant ; and so we hear Governor Hunter complaining later that they had destroyed the dwelling - house of Gone resident, for sport, no doubt, and that the greatest part of the detachment on one occasion left their barracks with their bayonets “to attack an unarmed people,” continuing' for four days in “open and avowed mutiny. ” All the officers did not, certainly, transgress so openly after the fashion of their inferiors, but they committed outrages of another character, and they gave the sanction ol silence to the innocent pranks of the privates under them ; so that Governor Hunter wrote thus plainly concerning - them to Eieut.-Colonel Paterson, who divided command with Grose ; —‘T must declaim to you, sir, that the conduct of this part of the New South Wales Corps has been, in my opinion, the most violent and outrageous that was ever heard of by any British regiment whatever.” That the Governor’s anger should somewhat interfere with his grammar '■ was perfectly natural under the circumstances, Soon after his arrival, when, owing to scarcity, everyone in the colony had been put on short allowance, Grose complained to Governor Phillip that an indignity was put upon the military by having the same rations served to them as was served to the convicts, Phillip replied that the soldiers had nothing to complain of, seeing that his own household was strictly brought under the siame regulation, and the same provisions were served at his own table.

The first use Grose made of his po- . wer when acting" as Lieutenant Gov|ernor, after Phillip’s departure from J the colony, was to make a distinc- • tion, giving his favoured corps a j larger ration than was served to the “felons,”, and issuing an order merging the civil in the military authority. From this time forth the officers of the corps held the reins of power, and they were not slow to avail themselves of the opportunities thus offered for sclf-aggrandiisement ; and so firmly did they batten themselves on the life of the colony— social, civil, and political—that for nearly a quarter of a century after the issue of Grose’s first order they literally wedded the helm of State against Governors and people alike. It was qiiiie in the natural order of things that Grose should look well after the officers and men under him, but very few persons in the present day could be found to justify many of the things he did in pampering the corps, for whose personnel he was largely responsible. Here arc a few of his wrongful administrative acts ; 1. He increased the allowance of provisions to the Corps, while the rest of the colony, free men and convicts alike, were restricted to fare scantier and poorer than which would not have sustained life, 2.-. Ho purchatsod a cargo of spirits, and established for the benefit of bis officers that traffic in rum, which became one of the greatest of the colony’s curses. 3. He appointed Macarthur inspector of works. 4. Ho made grants of land to both officers and privates—2s acres to 100 acres respectively, one of the larger grants being to his favourite lieutenant and newly-appointed inspector of works. Macarthur. He gave the officers ten convicts each to cultivate the land which hadn’t cost them anything—this in direct violation of his instructions^—fed and clothed the scrvantSs thus given ; and ■ when the grain was ripe he purchased it at the highest price for the Government stores. The first division of the spoils con-

sisted in land appropriation. Although Governor Phillip had only alienated about 3000. acres of the public land to private individuals, these military robbers appropriated more than 15,000 acres to themselves within a very short time, their own immediate friends coming in for a share of the plunder. And for longafter their messmate had vacated the gubernatorial seat his small but powerful class continued to "grab” the public estate with greedy fingers, and those of them who were steady as well as unscrupulous thus became the founders of • wealthy families, who, even at that early day, and with the dirt still clinging to their fingers, assumed the powers and privileges of a "landed aristocracy.” The leader of the class which assumed such privileges was Mr John Macarthur, the captain and paymaster of the corps, but who after a few year’s service left the ranks of "honour” and developed into a large landed proprietor and owner of stock ; subsequently becoming so powerful as to 'disturb even the seat of government and plunge the whole colony into confusion. The one redeeming feature in his career was the successful attempt he made to improve the breed of sheep ; but it is questionable whether even in this act he had any higher patriotic motive than that furnished by the possibly louder jingle of coin in his own pocket. It is but just to say .however, that he set a virtuous example in private and social life which put the conduct of many of his fellow'-officers to the blush, his family being one of the best regulated in the colonju (To be continued).

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Bibliographic details

Fifty Years Under the Lash, Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 44, 29 December 1906

Word Count

Fifty Years Under the Lash Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 44, 29 December 1906

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