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2-228 (Original)

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author,male,Lilburn, Edward,un addressee
Newspaper Article
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Public Written
Newspapers & Broadsides
Ingleton, 1988
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Containing An Extract from a Letter from the Hulks at Woolwich, written BY EDWARD LILBURN, Pipe-Maker, late of Lincoln.
The alarming progress of crime in every part of the Empire, is a sufficient reason for calling the attention of Parents and Guardians, and the young and inexperienced to the certainty and excessive severity of legal punishment.
The case of Lilburn is well known to the world, the writer knew him many years, and suffered great pain of mind from those unhappy circumstances which have placed him in his present unenviable situation. His opinion is, and it is the belief of thousands, that more than one half of what has been said of Lilburn, is entirely false; and yet he hopes that petitions from Lincoln, and his good behaviour will abridge the term of his captivity.
When he was removed from Lincoln, he was taken to the Hulks at Woolwich, from which he writes - 
"I was led to think there was something dreadful in the punishment I had to undergo, but my heart sank within me on my arrival here, for almost the first thing I saw was a gang of my fellow unfortunates, chained together working like horses. I was completely horror-struck, but every hour serves now to increase my misery; I was taken to the Blacksmith and had my irons, the badge of infamy and degradation rivetted upon me, my name being registered and my person described in the books of the ship; I was taken to my berth, and here new sufferings presented themselves, as the great arrival of convicts had crowded the ship so much, that three of us have but one bed, and this the oldest prisoner claims as his own; our berth is so small, we have no room to lie at length, thus I passed a wretched, a half sleepless night, at the dawn of day we have a wretched breakfast of skilley, in which I cannot partake, and though suffering dreadfully from hunger I subsist wholly on my dinner, at present live on one meal a day!!"
"I have complained, but am told I was brought here for punishment and that I must submit to my fate. Whether I speak of my present situation in reference to daily labour, daily food, or the rigorous severity of the system under which I suffer, I can say, if there is a Hell on earth, it is a convict-ship. Let every inhabitant of the City and County of Lincoln know the Horrors of Transportation, that they may keep in the path of virtue, and happily avoid a life like mine of indescribable misery."
In compliance with this desire, the statement of a returned Missionary is here subjoined, which shews the state of convicts in the colonies. They are drafted from the Hulks and conveyed in numbers of from 2 to 300, to their destination; on the voyage, they are closed down under hatches, each rolled in his blanket, 3, 4, or more, placed in one wooden crib, the 7 years' prisoner couched with the convict for life - the thief with the murderer - the simple countryman with the jail polluted felon and the monster from the hulk.
Having landed, he endures new tortures at the Barracks; and wherever he goes, he carries tied to his person, his small canvas bag, containing his little necessaries, or they would be stolen in a moment. The feelings of the convict are petrified by the hardness of everything about him; he never feels the warmth of kindness. They are generally hurried up the country carrying suspended from their shoulders, their only consolation, a rug and a blanket, to be worked like oxen, from daylight until dusk, under the burning sun and an heartless overseer, with no better encouragement than the threat of the lash. [213]
At every step of this dreadful system there springs up a new source of corruption. They are assigned to masters for reformation, but the master's object is profit. His contention is to produce as much labour out of his slaves as possible; when this one is worked out, there is another ready; the incentive to good conduct and industry is the lash. When the master in England finds fault, the master in Australia threatens the lash; where the master here grows angry, the master there swears and invokes the lash; where he talks of turning away, there he procures the infliction of the lash. Ever on the master's tongue, and ever in the prisoner's ear, sounds the lash, the lash.
The Overseer, himself perhaps a convict, exhibits but little feeling towards those under him; his study is to keep them in subjection; at his mere will the prisoner is taken before a magistrate on a charge of insubordination; authority must be maintained, and the case is summarily decided - the hideous triangle is displayed with its gory associations and the scourger comes forth, he displays his brawny strength, grasps his scourge, draws his clotted fingers through the tangles of its many knots, the nine detested thongs descend, and after a fiftieth repetition, each more swift and cutting, he is taken down.
After frequent complaints against a prisoner, he is removed to the chain-gang, or sent to Norfolk Island.
To this place convicts are re-transported from New South Wales. It is 1,000 miles from Sydney, and is small, only about 21 miles in circumference. The cemetry is closed in on three sides by thick melancholy groves of tear-dropping manchineel, while the fourth is open to the restless sea. The graves are numerous and recent, most of the tenants having reached by an untimely end, the abode to which they now contribute their hapless remains and hapless story. I have witnessed 16 descents into these houses of mortality, and in every one lies a hand stained in blood.
Such is the horror the convicts in New South Wales entertain for this colony, that the condemned on the gallows thank God they are going to die rather than live on Norfolk Island. The number of convicts in 1840 was 1,200, since then, it has been increased 200 a year. [214] Here they are worked in heavy irons under a military guard. When they are employed in the interior, they are at night and on Sundays locked up in square boxes, 16 being crowded together in a space less than 2 square feet for each person. Their countenances are shocking to behold. Until lately, religion was completely excluded from these miserable men - their deep depravity was proverbial even in New South Wales. Here the human heart seemed inverted and the conscience reversed. So indifferent had even life become, that murders were committed in cold blood; the murderer afterwards declaring he had no ill-feeling towards his victim, but that his object was to obtain his own release. Lots were even cast, the man on whom it fell committed the deed, his comrades being witnesses, with the sole view of being taken for a time from the scenes of their daily miseries to appear in the Court at Sydney, although after the execution of their comrade, they knew they should be remanded to their former haunts of wretchedness.
So notorious was this fact, that it was made the ground of a legislative enactment, by which criminals are now tried by special commission on the island. The life of these men was one of despair; their passions severed from their usual object centred in one intense thirst for liberty. Their faces are like demons.
The reader will form some opinion of the state of society among these wretched persons when informed that the number of capital convictions in one year, and in one colony, amounted to 110 ; and, that during the same period, in this one colony TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND persons were convicted of petty felony. May our rising generation read this, ponder well what they read, and shun bad company.