Shanna Hagenah February 7, 2006 Research Writing Informative Paper When people think of Australia, they think of golden

sun, coral reefs, kangaroos, and happy people who say, “Good-ay mate!” Rarely do people think of broken backs, chains, sweat, blood…convicts. Australia is the neutral nation that never picks a fight, the nation of good natured people, filled with smiles and laughter. In the late 1700’s Australia existed under no such stigma. Australia went by the name of New South Wales and Tasmania went by the name of Van Diemen’s Land. Britain decided to make this relatively unknown land the site for her next experiment: Establishing the territory by cleaning out the turgid slums, expanding the empire by making use of her most debased fraction, settling Australia with Britain’s convicts. The story behind the convicts of England and the voyage they underwent as well as the convict system that set the standard for their new lives, make up the past history of the now fair Down Under. While Australia may be a place of sun and laughter today, she was settled under a different era. The settlement of Australia occurred under an era of harsh measures, shattered pride, broken homes, and of death. The 1700’s were a time of unrest and social change that lead to widespread drunkenness and poverty. The Agricultural Revolution brought the invention of new farming equipment, and better methods for growing crops and breeding animals. The Industrial Revolution established new factories and caused the cities to mushroom. Putting the two together caused turmoil. Tenants, whose ancestors had lived in the country in the same occupation, found themselves being forced to leave (Agricultural Revolution) and try to find jobs in the cities. However, jobs abounded in scarce supply

as the driving force behind criminal action. They paid in drops of sweat. New South Wales (Australia) was outfitted entirely with government monies. The convicts. Thus. “four-fifths of all transportation was for crimes against property rather than offenses against the person” (Hughes163). Primitive describes both the jails and the hulks. The first stage lasted from 1787-1830. Of those convicted and sentenced to life in another world. without a police force. Thomas . for the most part. Year in and out. One convict of the second fleet. and turmoil. The ships barely seaworthy. and no place to put them since Britain did not have an organized prison system. aboard the Surprize. Britain decided to rid herself of the nuisance by transporting the convicts to penal colonies in New South Wales. the passage a grueling 255 days. leaving broken homes and greater poverty in their wake. ships. The first stage of the transportation experiment was also the most primitive. though not innocent of their crimes. The first fleet to set sail for the 16. a convict’s life of little importance. except the convicts. Rats and diseases festered in the surroundings. After this voyage the government realized it could not afford to bear the burden of this transportation experiment. few could afford to bring their families with them. private contractors came into play. This pumped Britain full of convicts with no way to regulate. did find themselves victims of circumstance. Poverty bred from these circumstances. Everyone. Hulks were ships no longer sea worthy that had been removed of their masts.(Industrial Revolution). they began a journey unlike any other. Everyone benefited in money and time. that is. England to Botany Bay. and laws. Once circumstance had them. Crime soon followed. blood. They made due with a few jails and hulks. This showed poverty.000 mile journey from Portsmouth.

only 589 of them lived: 267 men died at sea and another 150 died after landing. never allowed to expel their excrement anywhere other than on themselves. and the contractors paid the same amount of money regardless of how many convicts made it to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land alive. Of the entire second fleet. The first three penal colonies to be established in New South Wales arose as Botany Bay. the voyages the convicts of England underwent were more appalling. 1. and Newcastle. The four tiers consisted of assignment. pardons. and many a time have I been glad to eat the poultice that was put to my leg for perfect hunger. would later write to his parents in England: [We were] chained two and two together and confined in the hold during the whole course of our voyage…[W]e were scarcely allowed a sufficient quantity of victuals to keep us alive. The government of England could not afford for the majority of the convicts to reside in jails within those penal colonies so the first component of the convict system became assignment. They received only half rations at best and perhaps two pints of water a day. life under the four-tiered convict system. unexercised.Milburn. At least slaves needed to be alive to bring in money. probation. than those undergone by people caught in the slave trade. In retrospect. Upon arrival “the starving prisoners lay chilled to the bone on soaked bedding. in order to get their allowance of provisions. . we kept it a secret as long as we could for the smell of the dead body. Therefore. For those who survived the voyage came another test of survival. nine more colonies had been established. By the end of the transportation era. I was chained to Humphrey Davies who died when were about halfway. festering with scurvy and boils” (Hughes 145). Sydney. the convicts found themselves left in their holes. and I lay beside his corpse about a week and got his allowance (quoted in Hughes 145-146). and scarcely any water…[W]hen any of our comrades that were chained to us died.006 men. shit and vomit. crusted with salt. and punishment. even. four men to six feet of space. They were never allowed to bath. There were no rules for how the convicts should be treated. the ships so old the water sluiced through them at high seas.

Convicts were assigned to free settlers. and shelter. administered with the cat-o’-nine-tails. Convicts had sentences from 50 . A conditional pardon meant. While serving out their sentences. and buildings” (Convicts 5). Over time. such as roads. toiling for farms and business and. “ ‘conditional on never returning to the British Isles’ ” (quoted in Skruba 3). An absolute pardon meant the convict became liberated of all charges and became free to return to England. And. if allotted to a cruel master. the ability to grant pardons.. convicts lay subject to the last tier of the convict system.but many more were assigned to cruel men. clothing. The administration most usually meant the guards that watched over the convicts and the guards who were at hand when the magistrate declared it’s sentence. in turn. punishment from the administration. who were only intereseted in getting as much work as possible for the least cost. These gangs lived together being transported from one task to the next in “ ‘small shells on wheels in which twenty men slept’ ” (qtd. they had little chance to complain to a judge (Convicts 4). they were at the mercy of a corrupt magistrate: . it was known as probation. An absolute pardon was normally granted when a sentence reached completion while the conditional pardons were granted with early dismissal. the English government gave the governors of New South Wales and Van Diemens land the third power the convict system. in Skruba 2). some convicts were allocated to probabtion gangs where they “were used to build public works. Instead of being assigned to free settlers. they were supplied with provisions of food. Convicts never knew who they would be assigned and if allotted a cruel master. bridges. Flogging was the most widely used form of punishment. The next tier in the convict system was introduced in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Convicts had no say in their assignment.

The convicts and the law they found themselves subjected to founded the first part of Australia’s history. Australia was not seen as the sunny nation Down Under. Time. Australia was born on the back of convicts during a time of poverty. 2. however. At that time. References . and confusion. It took endurance to become the laughing. care free nation the world sees today. It took strength to be shackled with poverty. marches on. The past always becomes shadowed as the years slip away.lashes to. despair. fall victim to the criminal life. It is a sad thing too. she was seen as the scourge of England. because Australia has so much character. The system convicts found themselves existing in had the power to break men stupid from hard toil and punishment.000 lashes. Convicts commonly had 200 lashes administered to their backs--it took about four minutes to dole out 50 lashes. and still create a new world. to live without freedom. in rare situations.

” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Hughes.. Inc.“Australia. 2006. 1986.worldbookonline. <http://www. The Fatal Shore: The epic of Australia’s founding. 2006. 26 Jan. Robert. <http://www. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Angela. 27 Jan. . “Convicts in Australia. 2006.” Online. Skruba. Online.htm>.umd. “The History of the Australian Penal Colonies.>. 26 Jan.” World Book Online Reference Center.

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