Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 2-320 (Raw)

2-320 (Raw)

Item metadata
author,male,Maconochie, Alexander,60 addressee
Word Count :
Plaint Text :
Public Written
Clark, 1977
Document metadata

2-320-raw.txt — 2 KB

File contents

1400 doubly-convicted prisoners, the refuse of both penal colonies, (for the worst offenders were sent here from Van Diemen's Land as well as New South Wales), were rigorously coerced all day, and cooped up at night in barracks which could not decently accommodate half the number. In every way their feelings were habitually outraged, and their self-respect destroyed. They were required to cap each private soldier whom they met, and even each empty sentry-box that they passed. [143] If they met a superior they were to take their caps off altogether, and stand aside, bareheaded, in a ditch if necessary, and whatever the weather, till he passed, in most cases without taking the smallest notice of them. For the merest trifles they were flogged, ironed or confined in gaol for successive days on bread and water. The offences most severely visited in them were at the same time chiefly conventional, those against morals being but little regarded, compared with those against an unreasonable discipline. Thus the most horrid devices, with acts of brutal violence, or of dexterity in theft and robbery, were detailed to me by the officers as being exhibited among them, with little direct censure, and rather as anecdotes calculated to astonish and amuse a new-comer, - while the possession of a pipe, a newspaper, a little tea, some article of clothing not furnished by the Government, or the omission of some mark of respect, or a saucy look, or word, or even an imputation of sullenness, were deemed unpardonable crimes. They were also fed more like hogs than men. Neither knives, nor forks, nor hardly any other conveniences were allowed at their tables. They tore their food with their fingers and teeth, and drank for the most part out of water-buckets. Not more than about two-thirds of them could even enter their mess-shed at a time; and the rest, whatever the weather, were required to eat as they could in an open shed beside a large privy. The Island had been fifteen years a penal settlement when I landed, yet not a single place of worship was erected on it. It had been seven years a settlement before even a clergyman was sent. There were no schools, no books; and the men's countenances reflected faithfully this description of treatment. A more demoniacal looking assemblage could not be imagined, and nearly the most formidable sight I ever beheld was the sea of faces up-turned to me when I first addressed them.
In the strong language cited by the Rev. Dr. Ullathorne, as having been addressed to him by an unhappy victim of the system of the Island itself, "When a prisoner was sent to Norfolk Island he lost the heart of a man, and got that of a beast instead."