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2-274 (Original)

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addressee author,male,Backhouse, James,49
Narrative Discourse
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Public Written
Ward, 1969
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After making a hearty breakfast, we set out to inspect the settlement, which is called Brisbane Town: it consists of the houses of the Commandant, and other officers, the barracks for the military, and those for the male prisoners, a penitentiary for the female prisoners, a treadmill, stores, &c. [284] It is prettily situated, on she rising, north bank of the Brisbane River, which is navigable fifty miles further up, for small sloops, and has some fine cleared, and cultivated land, on the south bank, opposite the town. Adjacent to the Government-house, are the Commandant's garden, and twenty.two acres of Government-garden, for the growth of Sweet-potatoes, Pumpkins, Cabbages, and other vegetables, for the prisoners. Bananas, Grapes, Guavas, Pine-apples, Citrons, Lemons, Shaddocks, etc. thrive luxuriantly in the open ground, the climate being nearly tropical. Sugar-cane is grown for fencing, and there are a few thriving Coffee-plants, not old enough to bear fruit. The Bamboo, and Spanish Reed have been introduced. The former, attains to about seventy feet in height, and bears numerous branches, with short, grassy leaves, the upper twenty feet bending down with a graceful curve. It is one of the most elegant objects, in the vegetable world. Coffee and sugar, will probably at some period, be cultivated here, as crops. The surrounding country is undulating, and covered with trees. To the west, there is a range of high, woody hills, distant, in a direct line, five miles.
The tread-mill, is generally worked by twenty-five prisoners at a time; but when it is used as a special punishment, sixteen are kept upon it, for fourteen hours, with only the interval of release, afforded, by four being off at a time, in succession. They feel this extremely irksome, at first; but notwithstanding the warmth of the climate, they become so far accustomed to the labour, by long practice, as to leave the tread-mill, with comparatively little disgust, after working upon it, for a considerable number of days. Many of the prisoners were occupied in landing cargoes of Maize, or Indian-corn, from a field down the river; and others, in divesting it of the husk. To our regret, we heard an officer swearing at the men, and using other improper, and exasperating language. This practice is forbidden by the Commandant; but it is not uncommon, and in its effects, is perhaps equally hardening to those, who are guilty of it, and to those who are under them.
Whilst walking a few miles down the river, toward a brook, called Breakfast Creek, the waters of which are generally brackish, at high tide, we saw a number of remarkable plants, &c. On the margins of the brook, Acrosticum fraxinifolium, a large, ash-leaved fern, was growing, along with Crinum pedunculaturn, a great bulbous-rooted plant, with white, tubular, lily-like flowers. Hellenia caemlea. a reedy-looking plant, with broad leaves, and blue berries, and a species of Phytolacca, with pretty, pink blossoms, were among the brushwood. By the sides of fresh-water ditches there were a Jussieua, resembling an Evening Primrose, with small yellow blossoms, and a blue-flowered plant, in figure like a Pentstemon. On the grassy slope of the hills, near the river, Hibiscus Fraseri, with yellow blossoms, like those of the Hollyhock, but having a deep purple eye, was in flower. Among the mangroves, the Moschettos were so numerous, that we could not proceed many yards for them, notwithstanding we wiped them continually, off our hands and faces. Several striking butterflies were fluttering from flower to flower; some of them having considerable portions of the wings transparent. [285] In returning, we fell in with half-a-dozen native youths, who, like the rest of their countrymen, in places uninfluenced by civilized society, were quite naked. As we could not converse with them, we shook hands with them, and they seemed pleased with this token of good-will. Having dressed their ebony skins afresh, with charcoal and grease, they communicated to us a little of their colour. Circumstances of this kind, we never regarded as important, compared with securing their friendship. We also met some older Natives, who afterwards came to the Settlement, having their hair filled with small white and yellow feathers, and their bodies tastefully decorated, with broad lines of the same, stuck on with gum.
We visited the Prisoners' Barracks, a large stone building, calculated to accommodate 1,000 men; but now occupied by 311. We also visited the Penitentiary for Female prisoners, 71 of whom are here. Most of these, as well as of the men, have been re-transported for crimes that have been nurtured by strong drink. The women were employed in washing, needle-work, picking oakum, and nursing. A few of them were very young. Many of them seemed far from being properly sensible of their miserable condition. We had, however, to convey to them, the message of mercy, through a crucified Redeemer.