Fifty Years Under the Lash
(By Charles White.)
Author of “Australian Bushranging,” “The Story of the Blacks,” etc
(AlfL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
The storm of indignation, with which this despatch was received threatened to culminate in open rehellion. Again anti-convict demonstrations were held, at which the conduct of the British Government in thus breaking faith with the coionsts was denounced in unmeasured terms, and strongly-worded petitions were signed in every population centre, including Port Phillip, which was still a part of New South Bales. The matter was fought out also in the Legislative' Council, and a protest against the revival of Transportation in any form was passed ; and the i rri tal ion of the colonists was still at fever beat when the .ship “H’arbaway” arrived in Sydney Harbour wdth 211; convicts on board. At once Sydney was in a turmoil. Business was suspended, and the citizens flocked to Circular Quay, where a monster meeting was held in pouring rain. Stirring speeches wrerc delivered by many prominent politicians, clergymen, and business men, and the 5000 citizens present with one voice assented to the protest submitted, the grounds of which were thus succinctly set forth ; —“Firstly, because it (the revival of transportation) is a violation of the will of the majority of the colonists, as clearly evidenced by their expressed opinions on the question at all times : secondly, because numbers of us have immigrated on the faith of the British Government that transportation to this colony had ceased for ever ; thirdly, because it is incompatible with the existence of a free colony desiring self-government, to be made the receptacle of another country s felons ; fourthly, because it is in the highest degree unjust to sacrifice the great social and political interests of the colony at barge to the pecuniary profit of a fraction 0 f the inhabitants : fifthly, being firmly and devotedly attached to the British Crown, wo greatly fear that the perpetration of so stupendous an act of injustice by her Majesty's Government will go far towards alienating the affections of the people of this colony from the mother country.’ “For these," said the people. “ and for many kindred reasons, in the exercise of our duty to our country, for the love we bear our families, in the strength of our loyolty to Great Britain, and from the depth of our reverence to Almighty God. we protest against the landing again of British convicts on these shores." Before the meeting’ closed it was resolved to urge the local Government to send the newly-arrived prisoners back to England, men if it had to be done at the colony’s expense ; and a deputation was there and then formed to wait upon Governor Fitzroy with a request that the protest and resolution should lie forwarded without delay to the Queen. But Government House gates were, closed against them, and only six of the ■deputation were, after much -parleying, admitted. Fitzroy promised to forward the protest and resolution but said it was impossible for him to send the “Harkaway” back to England. It was afterwards discovered that the Governor had been so fearful of an outbreak of open violence by the enraged populace that he had ordered the guns of a ship of war to bo “trained" on the place of meeting, and the guard at Government house to be doubled. Two weeks afterwards another convict vessel, the “Randolf" was ordered away from Melbourne, and throe months after that the •• colonists at the Cape of Good Hope refused to allow a shipload of prisoners t ( > land from the ship “Hep tune.” In face of these pronounced acts of determined resistance the authorities in England could not longer continue the attempt to unload convicts in, Hew South Wales, and thus it was that (Van Diemen's Land became the chief dumping ground of British felons. Two years later (1851) the- agitationtion was renewed with the object of securing the final cessation of transportation, and a League was formed in which New South Wales I ,Van Diemen’s Land, and Victoria joined together for that purpose. Mass meetings were held in Sydney, Hobart, and Melbourne, and the people of each colony pledged the people of the other not to era-
ploy any person thereafter arriving under sentence of transportation for crime committed in Europe, and to support by their advice, their money, and their countenance all who might sutler in the promotion of the cause they had so deeply at heart. At the same time munificent sums were subscribed for the purposes of the League. In December, 1851, Fitzroy forwarded to the Council a copy of a despatch which he had received from the Secretary of State, enclosing the revocation, so far as Hew South Wales was concerned, of the Order-in-Council of 14th September, 1848, appointing places to which felons and other offenders might be conveyed. The message was received by the House with cheers, which was reechoed by the colonists as soon as the news was made public. And the victory thus won inspired the League to renewed efforts on behalf of Van Diemen’s Land, where the bettor class of people were panting with agonised longing for the release from the chains which still held them bound to an accursed system. (To be continued).
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Southern Cross, Southern Cross, Volume 15, Issue 9, 15 June 1907
Fifty Years Under the Lash Southern Cross, Volume 15, Issue 9, 15 June 1907
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