Category:Convict Rights

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Note: The date in parentheses after the ship’s name is the year of sailing from Europe and is used to identify specific ships or voyages.


Contrary to the impression that has often been given, convicts had a number of legal and administrative avenues through which they could seek redress for wrongs, actual or perceived.

Of course, these processes were not always effective (and in some cases, they should not have been, since the prisoners were seeking to use these processes for their own ends), but there are numerous examples where complaints made their way to senior government officials, investigations were launched and wrongs were rectified.

This paper documents the processes, formal and informal, through which complaints could be made.

Informal Complaints

The former NSW commissary, John Palmer, told the 1812 Select Committee that if the convicts had complaints to make upon their arrival, ‘it was generally put down, and delivered to the Governor in writing’. He said that such complaints were very rare. ‘Sometimes their money has been intrusted to the mates, and not returned, and the business has been inquired into before the magistrates, and they have been redressed’.[1]

First Fleet (1787)

Elizabeth Barber’s Complaint About Mistreatment

9 August 1787 (at Rio) – Phillip invited Surgeon Arndell onto the Sirius, and he stayed for dinner. Returned with Major Ross, who came to inquire about Elizabeth Barber. She had written a complaint to the Commodore, which Ross investigated and found to be unfounded.[2]

[Note what this says about the system of managing the convicts – a female convict who had misbehaved since leaving Portsmouth could write a complaint to the Commodore, which would be read by him and acted upon, by sending the ranking officer of the marines to investigate.]

Henry Kable’s Complaint About Stolen Property

At either Rio de Janeiro or at the Cape, Henry Kable submitted a message to Phillip raising concerns about a missing package. At the Cape, Phillip ordered Hunter to go on board the Alexander to search for it, but they were unable to locate it.[3]

[Again, this indicates that there was a system through which the convicts could submit complaints and they would be dealt with.]

Second Fleet (1790)

Convict Complaint about their Irons

Prior to sailing from England, the convicts on the Neptune complained through the soldiers about the manner in which they were ironed:

5 December 1789 – Evan Nepean to Lieutenant John Shapcote (naval agent on the Neptune), which passed on a complaint by his brother (Nicholas Nepean, who was a military officer on the Neptune) about the manner in which the convicts were ironed.

Sir Chas Middleton is gone out of town today, but when he returns he wish[es] to say something to you upon these subjects. of my brother’s complaint and He will also instruct you to examine minutely into the manner of confining the convicts, as it has been represented that they are ironed in such a manner as must ultimately tend to their ultimate destruction. In the meantime it may not be amiss that you should consult with Mr King upon this subject, & give your advice to him upon the subject, & be ready to answer any enquiry that may be made.[4]

6 December 1789– Shapcote responded to Nepean.

I beg you will please accept my thanks for the hint you are pleased to give respecting the convicts being ironed. Some few of them who come with very bad characters are more severely ironed than others, for the present only.[5]

The Master, Donald Trail, later defended the manner in which the convicts had been treated at Stokes Bay. Had they been dealt with as described, they would have complained to Treasury, just as they had complained about being heavily ironed, which complaint was investigated.[6]

[This indicates that Nepean’s complaint had originally come from the convicts themselves, rather than it having been an independent observation by Nepean or his officers.]

Complaining to the Ship’s Officers

Following their return to England, a number of crew members of the Neptune, commenced a civil action against the owners and the Master of the ship over breach of contract and maltreatment. Their lawyer also used their statements to support a private criminal prosecution of the Master (Donald Trail) and the Mate (William Elrington) for murder. Among other things, they alleged that the convicts were not permitted to submit their complaints about mistreatment to either man direct.

George Churchill said that the convicts were forbidden to approach the quarter deck, much less complain, and if any of them presumed to do so, Elrington knocked them down, flogged them with the knowledge of Trail, or kicked them from him, saying ‘Go to hell you convicted bugger.’[7]

Thomas Smith also said that there was no opportunity for the convicts to register a complaint with Trail or Elrington. They were not allowed to approach the quarter deck and if they tried to speak to Elrington elsewhere on the ship, they were knocked down or flogged with great cruelty.[8]

Edward Hoare said that Trail treated the convicts in a cruel and inhuman manner, particularly when they complained of shortness of their allowance or badness of their provision. He used to silence them with abusive language. If they complained of each other, one of them was sure to be flogged.[9]

Lundy Gowan, the boatswain, said that there was no point the convicts complaining to Lieutenant Shapcote (the naval agent), since he would always side with the Captain and Chief Mate.[10]

[What is significant about these complaints is that they all assume that the convicts had a right to be heard by the Master, the Mate and/or the surgeon superintendent in the course of the passage.]

Third Fleet (1791)

5 April 1791 – Whilst at Cork, one of the convicts on the Queen wrote an anonymous complaint which was passed to Ensign William Cummings, the senior soldier on board that ship. The letter was addressed to Captain Alexander Hood of the Hebe. (Hood was the senior naval officer in port, and was seeking to resolve differences between the Master and the naval agent.)

Ship Queen April 5th 1791

"Honoured Sir,

"The deplorable state of the convicts on board the Queen of London now in this harbour is perhaps the most dreadful instance of cruelty you ever heard of. Each poor creature is to the allowance of ½ pound of beef & 6 potatoes in the twenty four hours, neither bread or liquors of any kind except bad water. The third of them will not survive the passage. Their letters are opened by the cruel Captain & Agent who are in favour of each other, and of course the poor wretches dare not complain. Address then worthy sir, as it is your character to be good and charitable, and heaven may for ever reward you, is the prayer of an unhappy convict."[11]

[Unfortunately, there is no evidence as to what happened as a result, but once again, a convict had submitted a complaint, which made its way to the senior responsible officer. The letter was kept with Hood’s personal papers.]

Pitt (1791)

21 June 1791 – An anonymous complainant known as ‘JW’ (a convict) wrote to Lord Grenville warning of the situation of the convicts on the Pitt:

". . . they are about 500, besides the military corps and the crew aboard. Were I to describe the section of the vessel to you, the natural horror of screwing such a number of miserable objects within so small a compass would be so evident to your Lordship that no further discussion would be necessary to obtain relief. If it is the intention to send these wretches out of the way, the purpose will be completely done, for I assert than not a third of them can reach their destination alive. The present heat below decks is already almost suffocating, and must accumulate, with many horrid additions, as the ship arrived within the Tropics. Epidemical fevers and other contagious distempers must be generated among the convicts through the mischiefs I have stated; the crew and soldiers cannot avoid the infection, and the object of a colony in the new settlement, as depending on the present ship, must be lost to government.

"I assure your Lordship that I have not exaggerated the situation of the convicts, or have anticipated in more than is likely to happen. The ship will not sail before Sunday next, before which time your Lordship may send down a person to ascertain the truth of my report; and if I might venture to hint that at least 150 may be taken from the convicts on board, and those to compromise old men above 60, of no possible use, proportioned to their expense, and others who are afflicted with disorders likely to be epidemical."[12]

22 June 1791 – 27 convicts were sent from Newgate to be conveyed on board the Pitt.[13]

23 June 1791 – George Rose (Treasury) to the Navy Board, enclosing a letter from Mr Dundas (Home Secretary) and directing them to give orders to the surgeon and master superintendent at Portsmouth Yard to repair on board the Pitt to examine the state of the convicts, the nature of their accommodation and report and add any other observations.[14]

- Dundas to the Treasury, enclosing a copy of an anonymous letter received the day before (from Lord Grenville) regarding the crowded state of the convicts on the Pitt. There were 414 convicts on the list, 367 males and 47 females. Since then, two had been pardoned and two returned to the hulks, so there were 410.

"But though the writer of this anonymous letter has over-rated the number, it appears under all the circumstances of the case to be highly necessary that the number of convicts on board that ship should be carefully examined; and that if the number now on board, in addition to the company of the New South Wales Corps, and about six of the convicts’ wives who have been allowed to accompany their husbands, are more than can properly be accommodated on board of ship of her burthen, the number should immediately be reduced. I feel it therefore my duty to suggest to your Lordships the expediency of instituting some means of enquiry as soon as possible, in order that the ship may be permitted to proceed upon her voyage; and in case the matters stated by the anonymous writer should be well founded, I shall be ready to take any steps which may depend upon me for the removal of any part of the convicts on board the hulks, for whom the necessary accommodation cannot be provided in the Pitt.

"I avail myself of this occasion to submit to your Lordships’ consideration my opinion, that in order to insure as much as possible a proper treatment of the convicts who may in future be transported during their passage, and to induce the contractors to restrain the number to be taken on board to no more than can properly be accommodated, all agreements hereafter to be made should entitle the contractor to payment for such of the said convicts only as should actually be landed at the place of destination, and not for the number originally taken on board."[15]

- Richard Nairne, the naval agent, wrote to the Navy Board from Portsmouth, reporting that a wagon load left town on Tuesday. He desired to know what number of convicts were to go on board, there being already 370 males and 50 females.

"I have come to this place to see what number of convicts are expected from London. I am informed by the Master of the Inn that a waggon full left town on Tuesday. I beg to know your Honors’ pleasure what number of convicts are to go in the ship Pitt. There are on board 370 males & 50 females. Your answer directed to Cowes would be esteemed a favour."[16]

24 June 1791 – Treasury considered the anonymous letter concerning the Pitt, although the minutes report it as having been sent by Nepean on behalf of Lord Grenville. They sent a copy to the Navy Board, directing them to send the Surgeon and the Master Attendant at Portsmouth Yard on board the Pitt immediately, to report on the state of the convicts and ‘to add any observations which may occur to them to be at all important on the subject of the communication from Mr Dundas, and the ship to be detained until this matter has been fully investigated.’[17]

- The Navy Board forwarded the extract of Nairne’s letter to the Treasury concerning the number of convicts on board.[18]

25 June 1791 – Rose to Evan Nepean (permanent secretary of the Home Office). Has received a letter from the Navy Board, enclosing an extract of a letter from Nairne respecting the number of convicts on board. Transmitted to him for consideration by Mr Secretary Dundas.[19]

- First report of the Master Attendant and Surgeon’s Assistant on the Pitt. There were 360 males and 47 females, making 411 in total, ‘which is as great a number as the ship should have on board’.[20] Exclusive of the convicts, the number was 180, making a total of 591.

But there were 27 males and 7 females on the road, making a total of 391 male convicts, which was too many for the following reasons:

"In the prison room we find that the space of a cube of 6 feet is all that is allowed to 8 men; and should the 391 male convicts be put into the prison, every berth of space of 18 inches would be occupied; of course, if a sickness should happen, as is most likely to do, a sick and a person in health must touch each other; and were the numbers not to be increased above 411, the space for the 27 men might have been left for the sick or diseased.

"We were also very particular in our enquiry, whether they suffered any great inconveniency for want of air? To this they all replied, They did not; nor had they any complaint but of the short allowance of bread; of this we were assured by the officers and steward, they had their full weight. They have a ventilator for the fore hatchway, of Mr White’s construction, but from the narrowness of the holes in the gratings, the tubes cannot be put down. The officers assured us smaller ones were to be made. The one used at the main hatchway we saw worked, was in good order, and by one of the sergeants were told it was worked frequently.

"The women’s apartments are three in number before the Great Cabin, on the Gun Deck; two of them are 6 feet 7 inches in length and 7 feet 10 inches in width, to contain ten women each; the third is 13 feet 7 inches by 8 feet 4 inches, to contain 27 women, which with the other tow contains 47, and from the lumbered state of the ship, no more berths can be made. On both sides she is full of casks and cases between the opening of the deck (to give air to the prisoners) and the ship’s side, that nothing more can be put. The ship, in our opinion, is as full as she can be stowed; even the officers are obliged to keep their baggage in the Great Cabin, over which they can scarcely have room to hang their cots. When we enquired the cause, we were told the ship was filled with government stores, and the necessary stores and provisions for the ship."[21]

27 June 1791 – Navy Board to Rose, enclosing the report of the Master Attendant and the Surgeon’s Assistant (the Surgeon being lame).[22]

- The Navy Board minutes record that it was on this day that they wrote to Commissioner Saxton to direct the Surgeon of Portsmouth Yard and the Master Attendant to go on board to examine the accommodation, in response to Mr Rose’s letter of the 23rd.[23]

- Rose to Nepean. He gave an account of the events leading to the inquiry that had conducted by the officers. He had just received a letter from the Navy Board, enclosing a report from the Surgeon and Master Attendant, in which they stated that at the time they made the survey, there were 411 convicts on board, which was as many as she could conveniently carry consistent with the convicts’ health and reasonable accommodation. But they understood that 34 more were on the road – 27 males and 7 females. The Navy Board had directed him to ask Nepean to move Mr Dundas to give orders for the said 34 convicts to be disposed of in some other way until another opportunity for conveying them to NSW should arise.[24]

- Rose to Navy Board. Orders that the 34 convicts stated to be on the road are not to be put on board and disposed of in the best manner as circumstances will admit. Mr Dundas will give the necessary orders for the ship to sail without delay.[25]

28 June 1791 – Rose to Navy Board relative to the accommodation of the convicts. They wanted the officers to state clearly whether, with the numbers already on board, there was reasonable accommodation for the convicts so as not to endanger their lives from sickness, considering the climate they would sail through, the number of troops and the space occupied by government stores.[26]

- In response to this, the Board wrote again to Commissioner Saxton directing the officers at Portsmouth Yard to go on board the Pitt to report if there was reasonable accommodation for the convicts.[27]

- The Navy Board wrote to Nairne in response to his letter of the 26th, owning the receipts and advising that he would be informed when it was determined what number of convicts were to be sent on the Pitt. In the meantime he was to observe his existing instructions.[28]

- Dundas to Mr Bradley (the hulks contractor), directing him to deliver 32 male convicts on board the Fortunée (which he had just taken over two weeks before) to the Pitt. And a similar letter to George Macaulay (the owner of the Pitt), instructing him to receive them.[29]

29 June 1791 – The Officer in Charge of the Portsmouth Dockyard directed three of his officers to visit the Pitt again and report as requested.

- Nairne wrote to the Navy Board advising that one of the convicts’ children on board the Pitt had smallpox. (ADM106/2638, 2 July)

30 June 1791 – The officers reported on the state of the Pitt:

". . . the number of male and female convicts on board amounts to 443 (and two children belonging to them), which is more in our opinion than the ship can take. Four hundred and ten may be accommodated; and was the thirty-three, which is the excess of the two numbers, removed out of her by taking away the sick and diseased men from the prison, we are of opinion that it would not only contribute to the health of the convicts in the different climates they are to pass through, but to that of the troops and ship’s company also."[30]

3 July 1791 – Rose to Nepean, enclosing the copy of the further report from the Navy Board. They requested the removal of 33 persons from the Pitt.[31]

7 July 1791 – Rose to Navy Board. In answer to their letter of the previous day, he advised that the Treasury had desired Mr Secretary Dundas to give orders for the removal of 33 of the convicts, being the number greater than that which could be properly accommodated on the ship and for permitting her to proceed on her voyage without further loss of time.[32]

Ganges (1796)

A convict on the Ganges wrote a complaint from Ireland, which made its way to the Home Secretary, who reacted immediately, directing that inquiries be made. It is interesting that this complaint was made, apparently to the Secretary of State himself, that it got through, that it was treated seriously and acted upon, and that the convict seemed to understand what good contract management should look like.

19 November 1796 – ZY, a convict on board the Ganges at Spike Island, Cove of Cork, wrote claiming that the provisions were much diminished since they left England, although he could not say who was embezzling them, but suspected the steward. He did not provide his name for fear of punishment.

The flour was one-third the allowance for six men being now but 2½lbs, when it ought to be 4lbs, agreeable to the ratio put up between the decks by one of the Transport Board’s clerks. (The Transport Board was now responsible for commissioning Botany Bay ships.)

In Cork Harbour they were put on fresh provisions two days a week, but the deductions were twice as much as the allowance.

The irregularity in serving out the provisions was so great that 28 hours have passed, even while on board, without the prisoners receiving a morsel.

They were landed on the island on the 15th, supposedly for their health, but he believed it was in reality with the intention of starving them, because the only provisions served from then until the following Friday was:

Wednesday – suet, plumbs, 4lb of biscuit to each mess.

Thursday – 12 ounces of cheese to each man.

Friday – in the morning, 4lbs of biscuit to each mess. (This had been brought late on the Thursday night but since they were not allowed candles, they could not eat until the next morning.)

He suggested that the person responsible for the provision be directed to serve it out regularly according to the ratio that he been put up on the notice and that it be done in the presence of four prisoners, two from each place, with different persons each day.

They are allowed on deck no more than once a week and that for the purpose of being shaved. The doctor paid little attention to them on board and had not once attended the sick whilst on shore. The commanding officer at Spike Island would confirm his statement.[33]

30 November 1796 – The Duke of Portland (Home Secretary) to the Transport Board, forwarded a petition regarding the inhumanity of the ship’s officers and the embezzlement of convict provisions. The petitioners asked his Grace to rescue them from a watery grave by the dismissal of the surgeon who was inattentive to the duties of his office. They also asked that he would save them from falling victim to hunger and despair by appointing an Agent who might superintend them during the voyage. The Duke desired that immediate inquiry should be made.[34]

- The Board provided Lieutenant Sainthill (the resident naval agent in Cork) with a copy of ZY’s letter and charged with making the fullest inquiry. He was to do everything in his power, by proper representations to the Master to remedy whatever he should discover as a just cause for complaint and to assure the Master that the Board would take due notice of his conduct.[35]

- A copy of ZY’s letter was also sent to Mr James Duncan (the ship broker and convict contractor for the Ganges).[36]

1 December 1796 – Lt. Sainthill was supplied with a copy of the Duke’s letter and the petition and directed to report immediately.[37]

11 December 1796 – Lt. Sainthill to the Transport Board, containing his report into the complaint made by the convicts.

The delay in supplying the provisions on Thursday was occasioned by the badness of the weather. On the Saturday, instead of flour, pork, pease, oatmeal and rice, they had 12lb of potatoes, 1 large cabbage, onions and 3.5lbs of beef. When he was there, the convicts asked him to examine their pieces of beef, not thinking them sufficient for six men and he had directed the Master to provide 4.5lbs in future, and also another pound of potatoes to be added to the 4lbs already provided, amounting to 14lbs that was given to six men three days of the week.

The complaint concerning the flour was well-founded. Unknown to the Master, the steward had used weights designed for cheese, on the advice on someone who had previously acted as a steward on transports, claiming it was customary. The Master had severely reprimanded the steward and all the deficiency of both flour and rice was made up to each mess.

Although he had gone frequently through the prison on Spike Island, no complaint was made to him, except about the cold. The only exception was that complaint regarding the beef (mentioned above).

He had questioned the convicts on deck as to the bad usage stated in the memorial and many had said that their usage was more indulgent than they could expect. Two men who had sick mess mates said they had medicines twice a day and knew of no neglect by the surgeon.

He had been on board the Ganges yesterday before she sailed and had some on deck from every part of the ship. Mr Knight, who was there from the Navy Board, accompanied him. The convicts stated:

 They now receive their provisions regularly,
 They are satisfied with the weight,
 They have received the flour and rice which had been stopped,
 Two from each part of the ship attend daily to the serving out of provisions,
 The memorial sent to the Duke of Portland was known but to few & was not the sense of much the greater part.

The Master of the ship appeared from his general conduct to be ‘a respectable man and is sorry there should have been the least cause occasion for complaint’.[38]

13 December 1796 – Sainthill to the Transport Board enclosing a letter from Surgeon Mileham (the superintending surgeon on the ship) defending himself against claims he had neglected the convicts and a testimonial on board signed by all the respectable persons on board. Also a letter from nine of the convicts in a small prison, praising the Master and officers, and singling out ‘the worthy and amiable surgeon, Mr Mileham, whose assiduous care merits every praise we can give him’.[39]

19 December 1796 – Transport Board to John King (Home Office). In obedience to the direction of His Grace, the Duke of Portland, signified by Kings letter of 30th November, they transmitted a copy of the Memorial from certain convicts on the Ganges to Lieutenant Sainthill, with orders to inquire minutely into the grounds of the complaint alleged and to report the result to them. They enclosed a copy of his report, dated 11 December, for His Grace’s consideration.[40]

Barwell (1797)

5 February 1798 – Richard Dore (passenger on the Barwell, who was travelling out to become the Deputy Judge Advocate) wrote to Sir Michael Le Fleming. He made representations on behalf of a convict, William Lindsay, whom he felt had suffered an injustice. The gaoler at Appleby, Westmoreland, had stolen his property. He had conducted himself well on board, so that he had been given the liberty of the ship and had been entrusted with care of the livestock and was considered as one of the Captain’s servants.[41]

Hillsborough (1798)

On the Hillsborough there is evidence of collective protests by the convicts, which resulted in the man organising the protests being removed before the ship sailed. However, the protests continued through the voyage, and in most cases, the Master made concessions to the prisoners.

31 October 1798 – The convicts refused the bread given under the government allowance.[42]

11 November 1798 – Convicts refused their meat because they did not think it was the allowance.[43]

12 November 1798 – The convicts’ grievances were placed before the ship’s husband, who promised them redress. A convict, William Noah wrote in his journal: ‘So early did they begin to rob us of what government had so wisely allowed us, which in the end, with other hard usage, proved too fatal to many fine healthy young men’.[44]

13 November 1798 – The convicts received the beef they had refused. They also seem to have refused the bread, and were served rice.[45]

17 November 1798 – The prisoners were allowed no new provisions, so they shared what they had among themselves. A convict named (Thomas) McCann was called on deck. He stated their grievances, and after redress was promised, they were served with food that afternoon. At nine o’clock in the evening they were served with beef and pease ‘which was well accepted’. Noah wrote that this ‘saved [a] very disagreeable consequence, as [an] other method was in contemplation among the Hole prisoners’.[46]

16 December 1798 – Three more convicts from the Fortunee (a prison hulk) came on board, and two of the sick were sent ashore. A convict named McCann was also sent ashore. He and another man had been sentenced to death for mutiny at the Nore. The seaman had complained about McCann, claiming that he was a dangerous man. They said he would not sail if he was on board. He was always demanding redress to the prisoners’ grievances, and they feared he would lead a mutiny. McCann did not want to go back to the hulks and wished his fellow convicts every happiness on their voyage.[47]

9 February 1799 – The convicts petitioned the Captain:

Petitioned the Captain for something to be allowed in lieu of our beef, finding it impossible to eat it being so salty that our water would not quench [he wrote ‘squence’] the thirst it occasioned.

They were told they might have 6lb of flour per mess in lieu, made into a pudding, which was accepted. They had parted with their burgoo and pease in lieu of beef when they needed more water. Tuesday was a grand day, he wrote – boiled rice for breakfast and pork for dinner.[48]

7 April 1799 – The ship got under weigh, with seamen from a man of war helping. The wind came in foul and continued all night. No water was served that day but after a ‘general noise, some was served late at night.[49]

Minerva (1799)

The Irish rebel leader, Joseph Holt, complained about the conditions on the Lively, a brig employed to transport prisoners to the Minerva at Cork.

"Serjeant Wiggan went on shore, and by him I wrote to General Myers, stating the horrible plight we were in, and praying he would send some one to inspect our deplorable situation. In a short time there came on board four officers, who instantly ordered every man upon deck, and their wretched appearance fully justified the statement I had made in my letter. . .

"One of the officers now produced my letter, and called on Dobson [the master of the Lively] to exhibit the weights he made use of for weighing out the allowance to the prisoners, on which he produced honest weights. The officer then called for the person employed in weighing the provisions, who was a man named Tom Byrne, a plasterer, better known in Dublin by the name of Boxing Byrne, who was examined by Dobson.

"Dobson. ‘Did you not weigh out the prisoners’ provisions?’

"Byrne. ‘I did, but not with them weights; I was directed by Captain Dobson to use other weights, which are here, gentlemen.’

"He then showed false weights, which being examined and compared with the true weights, were found to be exactly as my letter had specified.

"Dobson endeavoured to make excuses, but several of the prisoners were examined, who brought home to him the most abominable acts of cruelty and oppression. He said it was a conspiracy of all the prisoners against him. My letter was now produced, and I immediately came forward and avowed the writing, and declared myself ready to verify it on oath, adding as I turned to Dobson, ‘Can you deny any statement in that letter?’ Serjeant Wiggan had before this stated the horrid treatment we had received at this wretch’s hands; the appearance of the prisoners and the ship, and the exhibition of the false weights, were quite conclusive. One of the officers said to him, ‘You are certainly a greater criminal than any under your charge, and your crimes deserve summary punishment; you ought to be hanged forthwith at the yard-arm. Every charge in this letter has been brought home to you and proved. Leave the ship, sir, immediately.’ The villain went over the side amidst the hooting and execrations of all on board.

"The officer then asked me a few questions, and said he should be glad to have a little conversation with me at another opportunity. He would take care that Dobson should be punished if possible, but at all events, he never should be employed again under his Majesty’s government. Thus we got redress. . ." (T. Crofton Croker (ed.), Memoirs of Joseph Holt, Vol. 2, London: Henry Colburn, 1838, pp.19-21)

Earl Cornwallis (1800)

8 October 1800 – Lieutenant Parke (a naval lieutenant at Portsmouth) reported on the complaint sent to Captain Rains (the naval agent at Portsmouth). As concerned the planned escape of the convicts, he said that there was more to be feared from the guard. The corporal had already been sent on shore for court martial. He reported on the allegation that a woman had been whipped and the convicts short-rationed. The details are not contained in the Minute Book, but we can conclude from what is there that he confirmed that a female convict had been whipped and that there had been some merit to the complaint over the provisions. He also enclosed a copy of the Regulations nailed up in the prison room and a list of sick men and women on board.[50]

9 October 1800 – Transport Board to Captain Patton. The female convicts were to be punished only by confinement in future. Due attention was to be paid to the scales and weights. Lieutenant Marshall was to see each convict had his ration and to rectify all complaints. And he was to sign all orders for the management of the convicts.[51]

Baring (1819)

Laurence Halloran, a gentleman convict transported for forgery, wrote to the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, complaining that he was forced to sleep in an apartment 12 feet square with 21 other convicts. They slept six to a berth that was six and a half feet across and five and a half feet long, so that they were unable to turn around. And on 11 December 1818, he had witnessed ‘one of those disgusting and abominable scenes, the increasing prevalence of which was so degrading to the country’. Lord Sidmouth sent down Mr John Henry Capper, the superintendent of convicts (and thus responsible for the hulks), and Sir Nathaniel Conant, the principal Police Magistrate, who had identified the offenders. But after a month, no punishment had followed, and Halloran had been reproached by the captain of the ship, Mr John Lamb.[52]

Halloran subsequently sent a petition to a Member of Parliament, which was submitted to the House of Commons and debated on a motion by Mr Henry Grey Bennet. Bennet himself was able to visit the ship and reported that there were between 200 and 300 individuals crammed into about 50 cribs. It was around three o’clock in the afternoon, but was necessary to use candles in the prison. The ship had shortly before his visit been caught in a gale of winds, causing sea-sickness ‘and those who were at bottom, were almost suffocated by the results of that sickness. Good God! was it possible to contemplate such physical torture without horror?’ The men were locked down in the prison for 15 hours out of 24. ‘Who could contemplate the horrors of these white slave ships, without indignation at the government by which their existence was permitted?’ Bennet referred to the plan of the slave ship the Brooks (famously published some years before), and said that on his measurement, the convicts only had a space 1’6” by 6’. He could not swear to the veracity of the claims made in Halloran’s petition, but he did criticise the government for sending the ship at the most dangerous time of the year.[53]

In reply, Mr Bathurst pointed out the problems of relying on the claims of a convicted forger, and noted that Bennet’s criticisms were, in effect, an attack on the practice of transportation itself. Lord Sidmouth had immediately responded to Halloran’s complaint by sending down the superintendent of convicts, who

". . . found many of the allegations contained in the statements of Dr Halloran unfounded. The situation of that person turned out to be different from what he had represented it to be. As to the horrible circumstance which had been alluded to, it turned out to be utterly impossible for the crime described to have been committed at the time, and in the situation pointed out in the petition."

His claims that threats had been made against were unfounded, and to the contrary, he had threatened the captain with retribution (with alleged support from a Member of Parliament) if he did not improve Halloran’s position.

The ship was of the usual size. No comparison could be made with the slave ships, since they were chained to their berths throughout the voyage.

"Any system of transportation must subject the convicts to certain privations. If it was contended that these ought not to be experienced by a gentleman, who had not been used to any thing of the kind, it would follow, that the punishment of transportation ought only to be reserved for offenders of the lower classes, and that persons in a better position of life, whatever their crimes, ought not to be punished in that way. At present no prime facie case of hardship was made out."[54]

Mr Buxton noted that to say that Mr Halloran had a bad character could not be a bar against an inquiry into his claims.[55]

Sir T.B. Martin, who was responsible for the Transport Board, responded the following day. He documented the small number of convict deaths that had occurred on board the convict ships since 1 January 1816 – 53 out of 6,409, a rate of one in 112.

"If, as the hon. Gentleman had stated, the convicts were stowed and crowded together in the most obnoxious and unwholesome manner, was it likely that such a state of health would have been preserved. . .?"

The space allotted to each convict was the same as that assigned to sailors or soldiers on board the same vessel – ‘It was, in fact, larger than that allowed to men in his majesty’s service’. He had been to sea in such conditions and was not uncomfortable, and he had two sons at sea who made no complaint. ‘There were men who had been forty-five years at sea, who never had a greater space to lie in, and who yet enjoyed excellent health.’[56]

Bennet replied that when he had spoken to the master of the Baring about the state of the convict quarters following the seasickness, he had replied that he would attend to it once he had got to sea. And he had implored Bennet not to leave the ship under the impression that the convicts were unduly crowded. ‘Go into my cabin and see how we are crowded – go to where the passengers are placed, and see how they fare – go among the sailors, and see if they are not as bad off as the rest.’ He asked whether the sailors and soldiers were not better off, since they could go on deck when they wished in the warmer latitudes.[57] Martin replied that half a ton more was usually allowed to the convicts than the soldiers and sailors, and particular attention was paid to the ventilation.[58]

On the 18th of February, Bennet launched a more wide-ranging attack on the hulks, the transportation system and the management of the convicts at New South Wales, without adding anything more significant about transportation. Lord Castlereagh responded for the government:

"It must undoubtedly be confessed that a passage by sea, whether in a large or in a small vessel, whether in a ship of war, or in a packet, with convicts, with soldiers, or even with ladies, was not very desirable at any time. But unless it could be contrived to make a journey to New South Wales over land, he was at a loss to see how the inconvenience could be avoided. . ."[59]

Sir T.B. Martin again spoke, and quoted Sir John Gore, the admiral on the Medway Station, who had visited the Baring:

". . . his indignation was raised when he saw the space set aside for him, so different was it from what he had stated in his petition to the house. It was larger than the writer, or the hon. baronet himself, had enjoyed when lieutenant of a frigate, and, in short, all the convicts were well accommodated, and by no means crowded."[60]

Canton (1839)

By 1839, the convicts on the hulks (and presumably the transports) were legally entitled to submit complaints to the Home Office.

Linus Miller was one of a number of North American political prisoners shipped on the Canton in 1839. Contrary to assurances that he claimed had been given, he and his associates were ironed and forced to undertake manual labour on the York hulk, prior to sailing.

"In the mean time, I demanded writing materials of Captain Nicholson, for the purpose of complaining of our treatment to Lord John Russell [the Home Secretary]. He complied with a very ill grace; but the regulations to which he was subject, as well as myself, allowed me that privilege, although it was his also to inspect all letters, and send any counter statements with reference to complaints which he might deem proper. My letter was not couched in the most humble and moderate language, but reflected severely upon the government for all the injustice I had lately suffered. I also wrote to Messrs Hume and Roebuck, and in a communication to Reverend Mr Carver, who had requested me to write him occasionally, I inconsiderately took to the liberty to animadvert in strong terms upon British justice. This letter, after being inspected by the captain, was sent unsealed, first, to the great ‘powers that be,’ in London, and by them forwarded to my friend, who was greatly alarmed lest the government should suspect him of similar sentiments, and wrote me a severe reprimand, which he also sent unsealed through the same channel. I did not blame him for this, for I knew, that although he was one of my warmest friends, he was as jealous of his character for loyalty to his sovereign, as I was of my own for the cause of Canadian liberty. . .

"The overseer informed me that his orders from the captain were to allow Grant and myself to work or not, at our own descretion; of which gracious permission we were not reluctant to avail ourselves." (Linus W. Miller, Notes of an Exile to Van Diemen’s Land, Fredonia, N.Y.: W. McKinstry & Co., 1846, pp.229-230, 231)

Miller took advantage of the greater freedom they enjoyed, and the belief that as state prisoners, they would not be flogged, to attempt an escape.

Organised Protests and Petitions

There were a number of occasions on which the convicts collectively petitioned the Governor in the colony. The first example relates to the situation in the colony, rather than the voyage itself, but the issue – the right of the convicts to be liberated once their sentences expired – went to the heart of the transportation system.

The second refers to a collective protest by the convicts on the Queen (1791) upon their arrival in the colony.

The third relates to an instruction, introduced by the inspector of convicts ships, Sir Jeremiah Fitzpatrick, in 1796, where government arranged to provide the prisoners with information about their rations for the purpose of empowering them to protest.

Expiration of Sentences (1790)

From 1789, a number of convicts were agitated because, they argued, their sentences were complete, and they were entitled to be liberated. Governor Phillip had not yet been provided with formal documentation for the early convicts that would enable him to make a decision. Over time, some of the convicts began to agitate, which caused understandable concern among the local authorities.

15 April 1790 – Phillip to Nepean:

I have to request that the necessary instructions may be sent out respecting those convicts who say their terms of transportation are expired, of which we already have a great number, very few of whom are desirous of becoming settlers in this country.[61]

10 July 1790 – Phillip to Nepean:

"I have in my former letters requested the necessary information respecting the time for which the convicts sent out by the first ships were sentenced, and the intentions of Government respecting those convicts who, when that time is expired, may refuse to become settlers, and demand liberty to return to Europe. We have now near thirty under the circumstances, and their numbers will increase, as well as their discontents.

"Ships stopping at this port in their way to China will always be ready to receive a certain number of healthy able-bodied men, and those are the men we shall be the most desirous of retaining. . ."[62]

In late July, a female convict from the Lady Juliana described the incident thus:

"I don’t think I shall ever get away from this place to come again to see you, without an order from England; for some of the men’s times were out, and they went and spoke to the Governor of it, and told him that they would not work; he told them he could not send them home without orders from London, and if they would not work they should have nothing to eat, so they almost all went to work except ten, who were saucy, and the Governor ordered them a good flogging. . . I hope you will get an order for me, that I may once more see you all."[63]

John Callaghan was one of six convicts who petitioned the Governor, insisting that their sentences had expired, and was prosecuted for insolence.[64]

Queen (1791)

October 1791 – A collective complaint about their rations was made by the convicts on the Queen as soon as they arrived in the colony. The Judge Advocate, David Collins, wrote in his journal:

On the 26th the Active from England, and the Queen from Ireland, with convicts of that country arrived and anchored in the cove. . .

". . . The convicts from the Queen, however, accusing the master of having withheld their provisions, an inquiry took place before the magistrates, and it appeared beyond a doubt, that great abuses had been practised in the issuing of the provisions; but as to the quantity withheld, it was not possible to ascertain it so clearly, as to admit of directing the deficiency to be made good, or of punishing the parties with that retributive justice for which the heinousness of their offence so loudly called; the proceedings of the magistrates were therefore submitted to the governor, who determined to transmit them to the secretary of state.

"Nothing could have excited more general indignation than the treatment which these people appeared to have met with; for, what crime could be more offensive to every sentiment of humanity, than the endeavour, by curtailing a ration already not too ample, to derive a temporary advantage from the miseries of our fellow-creatures!"[65]

A formal inquiry was launched, which resulted in a finding in favour of the convicts.

Posting the Tables of Rations (1796)

The requirement that the ships’ officers post the convicts’ official table of rations in the prison was a signal on the part of government that it expected the convicts to play a role in keeping the ships’ officers honest. The practice may have originated on some of the hulks employed for holding prisoners of war, and from 1778, the prison reformer, John Howard, recommended that it be adopted on the hulks. It does not seem that the same attention was given to its adoption in the prisons, since at that time, the prisoners in state prisons and county gaols were largely responsible for feeding themselves.

William Richards, the contractor for the First Fleet and several later convict transports, proposed that the dietary table be published in the hulks when he submitted a proposal to government in 1790, but we have no evidence that this practice was adopted on the two ships for which he was responsible, which sailed after this date:

"The ration that they shall be fed on shall be printed and pasted up in various parts of the vessells that the convicts may know if they have had their allowance regular."[66]

The requirement that a table of rations be posted seems to have been introduced onto the convict ships in 1796 by Sir Jeremiah Fitzpatrick, the inspector of convict ships, who had been inspector of prisons in Ireland and was a follower of John Howard.

Ganges (1796)

There was a table of rations posted on board the Ganges, and given that Jeremiah Fitzpatrick had issued a detail set of instructions for convict ships that was applied to the Ganges (no copy of which survives), it seems highly likely that he was the author of this policy, no doubt borrowed from Howard.

19 November 1796 – ZY, a convict on board the Ganges at Spike Island, Cove of Cork, wrote claiming that the provisions were much diminished since they left England, although he could not say who was embezzling them, but suspected the steward. He did not provide his name for fear of punishment.

The flour was one-third the allowance for six men being now but 2½lbs, when it ought to be 4lbs, agreeable to the ratio put up between the decks by one of the Transport Board’s clerks.[67]

Hillsborough (1798)

31 October 1798 – William Noah, a convict noted that the convicts had refused the bread given under the government allowance. He added that the weekly ration for a mess of six men was: 20lb of bread, 16lb of beef, 6lb of pork, 12lb of flour, 1.5lb of suet, 3lb of plums, 9pts of pease, 9pts of oatmeal, 1.5lb of butter, 1.5lb of stockfish. Plus 2 gallons of wine for each man for the voyage, and 3pts of rice every Tuesday morning.[68]

9 November 1798 – Strangely, the broker and agent, Mr James Duncan requested from the Board a schedule of the ration of provisions to be issued to the convicts – for the Master. This was furnished. (ADM108/57/160)

Why was this necessary when the convicts already knew what their rations were? One possible explanation might be that they had a separate source of knowledge. Noah may have copied this from the table of rations that was available to the prisoners.

11 November 1798 – Convicts continued going on deck. They refused their meat because they did not think it was the allowance. Each mess was served with a six-gallon keg of water.[69]

- Captain Patton to the Transport Board, advising that the scale of rations would be nailed to the mast of the Hillsborough as directed.[70]

Earl Cornwallis (1800)

8 October 1800 – Lieut. Parke (at Portsmouth) reported to the Transport Board on a complaint sent to Captain Rains. There had been some merit to the complaint over the provisions and he enclosed a copy of the Regulations nailed up in the prison room.[71]

Indefatigable (1812)

The instructions for the Indefatigable did include a direction that the table of rations was to be posted between decks for the information of the convicts.

The Convicts are to be victualled agreeably to the scheme inclosed, and the Passengers, at two-thirds of all species.

To the Master of the Convict Ship

Ration of Provisions which has been established for each Mess of six Male Convicts, for seven days successively, on the passage to New South Wales.

Days of the Week Bread lbs Flour lbs Beef lbs Pork Peas pts Butter lbs Rice lbs Suet lbs Raisins lbs Oatmeal pts Sugar ounces

And the period for which it has been usual to put the same on board the ship transporting the convicts, has been eight months; besides which, each convict is allowed 120 gallons of water and two gallons of wine during the voyage.

One of these Copies is to be stuck up between decks, for the information of the convicts.[72]

Musters upon Arrival

From 1796, and possibly from as early as 1793, the Governor or one of his senior officials would go on board the ships as they arrived in Sydney Cove and muster the convicts, so that, among other things, they could ascertain whether they had any complaints about their treatment. This enabled the Governor to assess whether the captain and the surgeon should be issued with a certificate that would enable them to claim their financial bonus on their return to England.

Boddington (1793)

The following passage from Collins suggests that there was some form of muster and interrogation of the convicts on the arrival of the ship:

The convicts received by the Boddingtons were disembarked a day or two after her arrival, and sent up to Toongabbie. On quitting the ship they with one voice bore testimony to the humane treatment they had received from Captain Chalmers, declaring that they had not any complaints to prefer, and cheering him when the boats which carried them put off from her side. . .[73]

Ganges (1796)

There is no mention of an inspection with the Ganges, but the practice already seems to have been implemented:

20 August 1796 – Transport Board to the Master, Thomas Patrickson (at Blackwall). Whenever he touches at a foreign port he may purchase fresh beef and serve it two days a week to the guard and convicts at the rate of 1lb per man and ¾lb for each woman or child. He will be repaid his expenditure on producing a certificate signed by Governor Hunter, expressing that he had inquired of the persons said to be victualled and is satisfied that they were provisioned according to this rule.[74]

Britannia (1796)

The journal of the Britannia contains the first formal mention of a muster:

28 May 1797 – Arrived in Port Jackson at 6.15 am and released several of the male convicts from irons and all of the females.[75] Mr Williamson and the Governor’s Aide de Camp came on board at 7.30am. Released all the female convicts from irons and several of the men.[76]

30 May 1797 – Pilot and Governor’s Aide de Camp on board. Mustered the convicts. People employed in washing the decks and getting the Captain’s things on shore.[77]

It is evident that immediately upon arrival, there were complaints by the convicts at the way in which they had been treated during the passage. Six convicts had died en route from complications associated with their punishment, and a number of the others suffering from scurvy, the flux and debilitation upon arrival. The chief complaints appear to have been:

 * The Britannia was a leaky vessel, and the convicts’ quarters had often been wet, so that bedding and clothing were destroyed and some of the prisoners were obliged to sit up at night. At first attempts were made to keep it dry but towards the end, the ship had run out of swabs.[78]
 * The convicts were extremely dirty, which the Third Mate would put down to the lack of brooms and swabs.[79]
 * The convicts had only been allowed on deck for short periods of time, and at times, they were not allowed up at all. In particular, some of the older men had not been permitted on deck under the orders of the Captain.[80]
 * The Captain had refused to permit the removal of half of the grating in order to ventilate the convicts’ quarters.[81]
 * The ventilators and water filtration system provided by the government had not been used.[82]
 * The ship’s steward had sold the convicts bags of bread, cheese, spirits on the ship, and butter, pease and pork while on the island in Rio de Janeiro, and exchanged rotten bread for soap.

There was a formal inquiry into these matters.

Barwell (1797)

The inspection on this ship seems to have been undertaken by the Colony’s Surgeon (and possibly the Acting Commissary who also issued a certificate):

18 May 1798 – The ship arrived in Sydney Cove.[83] At noon, Captain Cameron went ashore and showed his charter party to the Governor.[84]

21 May 1798 – Landed the convicts. Sent 86 to Parramatta in the long boat.[85]

6 September 1798 – William Balmain, Surgeon for the settlement, provided a certificate:

"I do hereby certify that the convict prisoners brought hither in the Barwell transport appeared to be healthy and in general in good condition, and that eighteen only were landed sick at the hospital, and eleven died on their passage."[86]

Hillsborough (1798)

27 & 28 July 1798 – William Noah wrote that they were visited by the gentlemen of the camp. Convicts and free people gave them a hearty welcome ‘to this long and wished for country’ and many invited them to their habitations.[87]

After landing at Sydney Cove, some of the convicts complained that their goods had been stolen by some of the sailors when the contents of their chests had been emptied overboard in January. The matter was taken before some legal authority (since Noah referred to a ruling of ‘the judge’), and the sailors were sent to gaol until they provided satisfaction to the injured parties.[88]

28 July 1798 – James Williamson, the Acting Commissary, issued a certificate:

"These are to certify to the Comm’s for the Transport Service, and for the Care and Custody of Prisoners of War, that I mustered the ship’s company of the Hillsborough, Wm Hingston Master, on her arrival at this port, and found the crew and guard complete according to the charter party."[89]

Minerva (1799)

11 January 1800 – The ship arrived at Port Jackson.[90]

Soon after their arrival, a number of gentlemen came on board, including Colonel Patterson, the Lieutenant Governor; Lieutenant Shortland of the Reliance and Reverend Johnson.[91]

13 January 1800 – The convicts were mustered. A few were taken ashore as servants and the rest were to go to Norfolk Island. The guard were taken ashore.

The ship was now visited by Captain Johnstone, Nicholas Divine, and a naval officer, with several spectators. The prisoners were brought on deck, their irons taken off, and placed in three rows on the deck. Captain Johnstone held the indent in his hand, on which is inserted the name of every prisoner, their place of trial, length of sentence, and the cause of conviction. Every man’s trade or profession was now inquired into, by which the authorities were able to select such as they wanted for government employ, and then the gentlemen officers had their choice. The remainder were taken by residents, according to their station or influence. But this ship’s company had such a name for criminality, that a part was sent at once to Norfolk Island, a place of transportation for those who are too bad for Botany Bay.[92]

14 January 1800 – The ship’s journal reported that Captain Johnson and Mr Williamson came on board to examine and muster the prisoners. A number of them were taken ashore. The remainder were kept on board to be taken to Norfolk Island in the ship.[93]

Friendship (1799)

17 February 1800 – The account of Mary Ann Reid, the Master’s wife, reported them landing on this date. They anchored in Sydney Cove about 7 in the morning. The Captain paid a visit to the Governor.[94]

18 February 1800 – Mrs Reid also went ashore and dined at Government House. She commented that their accommodation on board was more comfortable and safer than that on shore.[95]

21 February 1800 – The convicts were disembarked. Mary Anne Reid wrote:

"Many of them left the ship with tears, and each boat-load cheered as they put off, which was rather a novel sight to many on shore, who had received harsh treatment on their passage out. The captain received a letter from the Governor, expressing his thanks and approbation for the kind treatment and good management during the passage, saying that such conduct should not be forgot in the dispatches to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

"The captain spoke particularly to the Governor in respect of those prisoners who had seen better days, and who had conducted themselves so well on the voyage; he also made known the conduct of Mr MacCullam, who had assisted the surgeon; from which favourable report, he was immediately appointed to officiate as an assistant in a medical department at an out-settlement called Town Gabby, with a salary of fifty pounds per annum and a free house."[96]

Royal Admiral (1800)

21 November 1800 – Captain William Wilson wrote to Governor King reporting the safe arrival of the Royal Admiral at New South Wales.

I am sorry to state to your Excellency that in consequence of a fever, which showed its malignant effects at a very early period of the voyage, forty-three of the convicts have died on the passage, also one convict’s wife. . . I am, however, happy in that I think I can confidently say that such a degree of convalasency [sic] has taken place within this last month that I do not apprehend any bad effects can follow their mixture with the healthy colonists.[97]

Governor King and several gentlemen came on board and mustered the convicts. They sent on shore 31 sick convicts with their effects, to Green Island. 51 convalescents were also sent on shore with their effects. The soldiers were also sent on shore with their wives and children.[98]

Minorca, Nile and Coromandel (1801)

James Hardy Vaux (who had already communicated with the Commissary John Palmer through another prisoner):

"The second day after our arrival, several gentlemen came on board, to muster and inspect the prisoners: among the number was Mr Palmer himself, who, having received my letter, was pleased to tell me, in the kindest manner, that he had mentioned me to the Governor, and that I might accordingly expect a favourable appointment on my landing. The majority of the prisoners were sent up the country the day after the muster, to various kinds of labour, but myself and a few others were detained on board until the 19th, on which day we landed at Sydney, and were immediately conducted to Government House, in order to be severally examined and disposed of by Governor King. We were called in succession for our audience; and, when it came to my turn, I entered the room with a respectful bow to the gentlemen assembled; for there were seated at a table, several officers of the colony, besides his Excellency."[99]

30 October 1802 – Governor King to Home Secretary. Many of the Royal Admiral convicts remained in a state of debility and King did not believe that they would ever fully recover.

Justice to the commanders and surgeons of the five last arrived ships [the Canada, Minorca, Nile, Coromandel and Perseus] requires my mentioning the terms of the highest satisfaction, the excellent state of health and strength of body of both settlers and convicts who arrived by those ships.

"On the arrival of ships with convicts they are visited by the Naval Officer and Surgeon, who report if there is any contagious disease in the ship. If their report is favourable, I go on board and enquire into the behaviour of the prisoners and passengers during the voyage, interrogating them respecting their treatment, if they have received the ration and other comforts allowed by government, and finally whether they have any cause of complaint against any person in the ship, which is not only enquired into, but satisfaction made if requisite. After my inspection, the convicts are removed to the Supply, hulk, where they remain two days, in which time they are well washed and new clothed, and are then drafted to the different settlements, placing each ship’s convicts as much as possible by themselves. I have judged it necessary to enter into this detail to possess your Lordship of the manner in which the convicts have been received here.

Copies of the returns your Lordship mentions, to guide my conduct in instituting enquiries respecting any bad treatment the convicts and passengers may meet with on the voyage, I have not yet received [Note in the margin: ‘Received by the Buffalo since this was wrote’]; otherwise I should have acted on them on two occasions, rendered necessary by the conduct of the masters of the Hercules and Atlas, which arrived here after a passage of seven months, with the whole of their convicts either dead or in a dying state. If justice to the masters of the ships who brought their convicts in such a state of good health requires approbation, my duty requires I should transmit to the Commissioners of the Transport Board the log books and surgeons’ diaries of those ships by which, and my letter to that Board, and its enclosures, left open to your Lordship’s perusal, you will observe the dreadful disease that raged on board those ships, and the consequent great mortality, exclusive of the numbers killed on board the Hercules in a mutiny. The miserable state of the survivors on board these ships, the filthy state they were in on their arrival, the great quantity of spirits and other private trade belonging to the master of the Atlas (which evidently deprived the convicts of air, and the means of being kept clean), joined to the complaints made against both masters, rendered an investigations necessary, the result of which is enclosed with my letter to the Transport Board, to which department I presume these reports should be made through your Lordship.[100]

1817 Procedure

By 1817, there was a set of ‘usual questions’ that were put to the convicts upon arrival – apparently to ‘every individual’ separately:

1. How have you been treated during the passage?

2. Have you regularly received your rations and other government allowances?

3. Have you any complaints to make of the Surgeon Superintendent, the Master of the ship, his officers, or the ship’s company?[101]

This practice was in place under Macquarie by 1817. He reported that the convicts were regularly mustered by his secretary on board the ship and the ‘usual questions’ were put to them about their treatment on the voyage.[102]

In 1822, Surgeon Superintendent Thomas Reid wrote concerning the Neptune which sailed in 1817:

"Shortly after the arrival of the ship, Mr Secretary Campbell came on board and mustered the whole of the prisoners. He interrogated them individually respecting their health and their usage on board, to which their answers were most satisfactory and gratifying."[103]

In 1835, Surgeon Superintendent T.B. Wilson described the procedure in his time:

"On the ship’s arrival at Hobart Town or Sydney, the prisoners are mustered on board and their descriptions, trades and occupations taken by the police, when every circumstance relating to themselves, their connections, and former course of life is elicited, with a degree of tact, which the most skilful and experienced rogues cannot elude.

"After the muster-rolls are taken on shore, the prisoners are assigned to the various applicants by the Board of Assignment, the members of which perform this important but invidious duty without emolument.

"The assignments being made and approved of by the Governor, the prisoners are landed early in the morning and conducted under the care of constables to the prisoners’ barracks where they are drawn up in order for the inspection of the Governor, who in the forenoon of the same day, minutely examines each individual, inquires if he has any complaint to made as to his treatment during the voyage – if he has had all his rations properly cooked, &c. – and if he has had a sufficient allowance of water – also whether his money and other property (a list of which is read aloud to him) be correct.

"His Excellency then makes an address to the prisoners relative to their past lives and future prospects. . .

"This address being finished, the master of the ship and officer of the guard are then asked if they have any complaint to make. If no complaints are made, the surgeon is complimented by His Excellency for having performed his duty in a satisfactory manner."[104]

Formal Inquiries

When allegations of neglect or abuse were made by the convicts, it was usual for the authorities in New South Wales to establish a formal inquiry, usually involving the magistrates. This meant that the convicts did not need to go to the trouble of launching a prosecution themselves.

Queen (1791)

26 September 1791 – The Queen arrived from Ireland with convicts and soldiers.[105]

David Collins wrote:

". . . The convicts from the Queen, however, accusing the master of having withheld their provisions, an inquiry took place before the magistrates, and it appeared beyond a doubt, that great abuses had been practised in the issuing of the provisions; but as to the quantity withheld, it was not possible to ascertain it so clearly, as to admit of directing the deficiency to be made good, or of punishing the parties with that retributive justice for which the heinousness of their offence so loudly called; the proceedings of the magistrates were therefore submitted to the governor, who determined to transmit them to the secretary of state.

"Nothing could have excited more general indignation than the treatment which these people appeared to have met with; for, what crime could be more offensive to every sentiment of humanity, than the endeavour, by curtailing a ration already not too ample, to derive a temporary advantage from the miseries of our fellow-creatures![106]

The Panel

Governor Phillip appointed a panel to inquire into the convicts’ complaint, which included Captain John Parker of HMS Gorgon, Lieutenant Ball, commander of HM Armed Tender Supply, and 1st Lieutenant John Gardner of the Gorgon, Ensign Cummings, who commanded the soldiers on the Queen and John Palmer, the commissary. They went on board to inquire into the facts.

Parker later wrote of the physical appearance of the convicts: ‘many of them were skeletons, apparently with a human skin drawn over the bones, no particular disease, but dying for want of sustenance’.[107]

The Minutes of the Panel’s Inquiries:

"Minutes of the Complaint made by the Convicts on board the Queen Transport in the presence of Capt Parker, Commr of His Majs Ship Gorgon, , Lieut H.L. Ball, Commr of His Majs Armed Tender Supply; First Lieutenant Jno Gardner of the Gorgon, Ensign Wm Cummings, who commanded the Detachment of Soldiers on board the Queen, & Jno Palmer Esqr Commissary of this Territory.

"Andw Burne, Convict, declared that he was present by permission of Lt Blow, Agent of Transports, & by the desire of the Convicts at the weighing of their Provisions; that on the Third day after he was so employed he was beat by the Master of the said Ship, & told, he would learn him in future to be an Overseer, & never after was permitted to attend.

"There was also a Complaint made by the Convicts in general of their not having received the Provisions which was allowed them til within these last seven weeks, & after every enquiry that could be made it appeared, from what the Convicts stated, that they had not received their Allowance of Bread by One Fourth, & that out of every Five Pounds of Flour issued, til within these last seven weeks, there was One Pound & a Quarter deficient of what they should have had. They likewise made a Complaint of not having their Allowance of Rice, which on enquiry appeared to be groundless.

"A Seaman Shipped by the Chief Mate on board the said Ship at the Cape of Good Hope made a Complaint wherein he stated, that a few days after leaving that Place, he was taken ill, from which time til her arrival here he has not been allowed any Provisions, or has he received any from the Master of the said Ship, & had he not been supplied with some nourishment from the Soldiers & Female Convicts he would have perished for want, all which the Master did not appear to deny, & the Surgeon & Mate appear to have acted by the Master’s Authority.

"Mr Cummins the commanding Officer of the Troops had heard the Master desire every justice to be done to the Convicts, but on a quarrel between the Master & Mate the Mate said he acted against his conscience yet still could not give satisfaction.

"The Measures appeared remarkably dirty within side, & the Weights on trying them with the Standard Weights on shore proved to be 6ozs short on the Four Pound Weight & 3ozs short on the Two Pound Weight. The Pound, Half Pound & Quarter Pound Weights were just.

(signed)John Parker

HL Ball

J Gardner

W Cummings

Jno Palmer" [108]

The Inquiry

17 October 1791 – An inquiry was commenced before the Bench of Magistrates, David Collins, Reverend Richard Johnson, Augustus Alt, John Creswell.

"At a meeting of four of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace. . .

"Richard Owen, Master of the Queen Transport

"Robert Stott, Second Mate of the Queen Transport

"were summoned to attend on a complaint made by the Convicts who came out in the said Transport of not having received the ration of provisions that was directed by Contract to be furnished them during the Passage.

"And the said Richard Owen and Robert Stott attending accordingly,

"Minutes of the Complaints made by the Convicts on board of the Queen Transport were read.

"William Cummings, Ensign of the New South Wales Corps being sworn, deposed that about a Fortnight or three Weeks, before they made this Harbour, on a dispute arising between the Master and the Second Mate, the Second Mate came up to this Deponent & openly on the Deck, told him that he had defrauded the Convicts against his conscience, but had he taken the whole, he could not give Captain Owen satisfaction, at the same time he abused Lieutenant Blow the Naval Agent on board, and said he would not believe but what he was privy to it, and he was an old Rascal & he would tell him so. This deponent further says, that his Birth was adjoining to the Stewards Room and through a crevice he saw the second Mate when serving provisions to a Convict, instead of a five pound weight which he should have used, put in a four pounds weight, and after weighing the Flour, he further saw him put his hand into the scale and take out one or two handfuls of flour, he then emptied the remainder into the Convicts Bag. A Convict of the name of Martin was attending at this time, to assist the Mate in weighing the Provisions.

"On a complaint from the Convicts on the shortness of their Flour, Lieutenant Blow ordered the bags of Flour which they had received to be brought up & weighed, these bags had been delivered by the Mate to the People & had been taken down below, all but one bag which on being weighed instead of five pounds (exclusive of the bag) did not weigh more than four; all the other bags did not weigh more than four pounds some not more than three pounds & an half, all which Bags should have contained five pounds of Flour.

"This deponent further says, that the Declaration stated by him to have been made by the second Mate just before they came in, was repeated by him a few days afterwards and that he thinks the business he observed in the Stewards Room was a Day or two after this declaration.

"He further deposes that he did not mention what he saw [in the] Stewards Room to any person. The Convicts frequently made complaints to him of the shortness of their provisions, that he always told them to go to the Naval Agent & complain & their answer generally was that it was of no use, they got no redress. That he one Evening in particular went to Lieutenant Blow and told him that the Convicts complained to him of the shortness of their Provisions & received for answer, My dear fellow, what can I do? or words to that effect. Mr Blow was at this time ill & had been confined to his Bed. This was before the declaration made by the Mate. He once proposed to Lieutent Blow, as the Convicts grumbled, to send a Soldier that he could confide in, to see the provisions weighed, but it was not consented to, this was while the Transport was lying in the Cove of Cork.

"Question from the Mate: Do you know of any quarrel between me & Capt Owen?

"Answer: I heard you say that there had been a dispute between you.

"Andrew Burn (labourer) being sworn, deposed, that he came out in the Queen Transport, & that the Convicts having complained of the shortness of their Provisions, Lieut. Blow directed them to select one or two from amongst ourselves, to attend at the Scale & that he was one. That accordingly he attended from the Sunday until the Wednesday following. On Wednesday morning he went up with the Bags to see the provisions weighed, & while he waited for the second Mate’s coming to the Stewards Room, Captain Owen came up & calling for a horsewhip, gave him a severe whipping, & told him he would teach him to be an Overseer again, it was a pretty thing for a thief and a Robber to watch honest men, during the time he did attend at the Steward Room, he noticed that the Scale was suspended by a Cord from the Deck & that the Mate would on the bread being put into the Scale was suspended by a Cord from the Deck & that the Mate would on the bread being put into the Scale, hold the beam in his hand & prevent the scale from swinging. That he told this to his Comrades below & that if they would complain to the Agent he would tell the truth. That John Martin assisted the Mate at this time & that he did not live with the Prisoners, but amongst the Seamen, that in speaking to Martin, he told him not to come there again, but to get someone else, or else he would be sorry for it.

"Lieutenant Blow, Naval Agent, being sworn, deposes, that being applied to by Capt Owen for assistance at the time of serving out the provisions, he told the Convicts to choose a man from amongst themselves, as the Soldiers had one of their Class to attend for them, accordingly they fixed on John Martin, & he ordered him to attend Mr Stott, to see the provisions weighed, & to see Justice done. A Memorandum of the Rations to be issued was given him & another was stuck up amongst the People.

"John Martin (Labourer), being sworn, deposes that he came out from Ireland in the Queen Transport, that soon after they sailed from Cork he was ordered by Lieut. Blow to assist the Steward in serving out the Provisions; does not recollect being told to see Justice done to them. He was told what was the Ration to be issued & knew it; that Bread was issued five days in the week. Flour at first was served twice a week, but latterly on the Butter being suspended it was served three times. The Convicts used to collect their Bags for their Flour & Bread, & deliver them at the Steward Room. In general Mr Stott issued the Provisions by themselves. A four pound wt and a two pound wt were produced, & deposed to by this witness as the weights by which the provisions were weighed. That he well knew the ration of provisions which ought to have been issued, & upon the oath he has taken, is certain the full ration was not issued. That on the days they were allowed four pounds of Flour, there were scarcely three weighed out, & on the days they were allowed five, they scarcely received four. That the Mate told him instead of the five pounds weight to put in the four pounds weight & when he should have weighed with the four pounds weight he told him to put in a two pounds and a one pound weight. He never remonstrated on this with the Mate for fear of losing his place. The Mate used to let him have what flour he wanted without fixing him at a Ration. That the beam of the scales always had fair play when he held it, but he has seen bread put in, & the beam stopped, & some of the bread taken out, so much that had the beam been left to play, the scale with the weight would have been the heaviest. That within a day or two of their arrival a better Ration was issued. He has seen the Mate himself [often?] when the flour was weighed, four pounds instead of five or three pounds instead of four, put his hand into the Scale & take some out, & he has been told by the Mate to do it. That he has conversed with the Cook about the shortness of the Salt Provisions, & has known only six or eight & thirty pounds to be weighed instead of nearly four score. He further deposes that the day they left False bay, he was locked up by Mr Stott in the Steward Room, for the purpose of scraping the leaden weight, that he did scrape them & told him there was too much off, but he made him scrape them again. That Mr Stott always kept the weights clean, & never suffered any grease or dirt to be about them. That the Mate when he proposed this to him, told him that he could not afford to give the Allowance, that he was giving to some people, & he must find some way to bring it up, & told him to scrape the weights.

"John Turner (Labourer), being sworn, deposes, that he came out in the Queen Transport, that he acted as Cook’s mate on board, that he attended the weighing of Provisions, & frequently saw the Bread & flour weighed, that he has seen Mr Stott take some of the bread off & throw it back again. That the Cook has told him the Beef & Pork were not full weight; He has often taken his Mess upon Deck & shewed it to the Chief Mate & has been told it should be better the next day. That having the liberty of the Deck, he once went into the Steward Room for his allowance of Flour & saw Martin weighing him four pounds instead of six, which he pointed out; and Martin put the two pounds weight in & he got his six pounds. But all the other bags had only four pounds. Mr Stott was present. They frequently complained to Mr Cummings, but were afraid of punishment if they complained to any one else; they often spoke to Martin, but he always denied knowing any thing of any wrong.

"Adjourned Until Tomorrow morning – 10 o’clock.

"Tuesday Morning 18th October 1791

"10 o’Clock

"The Justices being met pursuant to Adjournment, Richard Owen, the Master of the Queen Transport & Robert Stott, the Mate of the said Ship attending.

"Hugh McGinnis (Labourer) being sworn, deposes, that he came out in the Queen Transport, that he well knew what was the Ration directed to be issued to the Convicts on board, as a written Paper containing it was fixed up below in the Ship. That he two or three times perceived that the Ration which he received was much short of what it ought to have been. That he has been sent down by the Cook to hand up the Beef, as it was weighed out by the Mate Stott, & that he handed up only Sixty weight of Beef, instead of one hundred & thirty two Pounds, no more Beef was served up that day & the Cook has frequently been at a loss to know how to divide the Meat into the different Messes. That in general the Beef was issued in this manner. That he has been in the Steward Room when the Mate has served out the Bread, & has seen him when the Scale has been even, take two handfulls away & put the rest into the bag. That on looking at him one day while doing this, he, the Mate, damned his Eyes & abused him for looking at him. That he complained to his Fellow Prisoners about these deficiencies, that soon after leaving Cork, some Fish was served out, Sixty Pounds instead of one hundred & twenty Pounds.

"John Martin. Being again called in & sworn, deposed that Mr Stott used to serve a pint of Rice for two Pounds, which was directed as the weekly Ration of Rice for seven days. Some Rice & a Pint (Ale Measure) being produced, this Witness measured out the quantity which he & the Mate used to weigh for two Pounds, & it proved to be only one Pound.

"Mr Clark, Deputy Commissary attended with the Standard Weights & the four Pounds weight belonging to the Ship wanted six Ounces, & the two Pounds Weight wanted not quite three Ounces.

"James Burn, Sail Maker, being sworn, deposes, that he came out in the Queen Transport & that he remembers being told by Martin, the day the Ship had left False Bay, that he had been doing a job for Mr Stott in the Steward Room, & does not remember to have heard, or spoken any thing about scraping weights.

"Captain Owen – being called on, said, that when the Ship left Cork, by his & Mr Blow’s direction, a Copy of the Ration was given to Mr Stott, & Orders to serve out the Provisions by that Ration. That his wishes were, the provisions should be properly issued & justice done to both the Convict & the Soldiers. That he flogged A. Burn, because he repeatedly told him, he had no business down below, that he has often declared publickly it was his wish, the Ration should be issued according to Contract; That he does not know of any quarrel with Mr Stott, but remembers checking his severely about a Cask of Wine.

"Mr Stott – Mate of the Queen Transport being called on, said, that he received Orders from Captain Owen to do justice, & to the best of his knowledge he has done justice to every one. That he always studied to live quietly & was liked by every one on board & never had a word with either Soldier or Convict.

"James Juda (Labourer) being sworn, deposes, that he came out in the Queen Transport, That he knew while on board what was the Ration that should have been served, that he has noticed that the Ration used at times be larger than at other, that he has at times been in the Steward Room, when Provisions was issuing, that he has seen Mr Stott when the bread has been serving take one or two handfuls from the Scale & then put the remainder into the Bag, without seeing whether it was Weight.

"Mr Stott – Further says, that he used to serve a Pint heaped up, for two pounds of Rice & used to throw in some afterwards.

"James Kelly, Cook of the Queen Transport called by Mr Stott, being sworn. deposed, That he was Cook of the Queen Transport, & that he has at times perceived a great deficiency in the shortness of the Salt Provisions, & has found a difficulty in dividing what he received for each Mess.

"On a full consideration of the Evidence that had been laid before us, We are of Opinion that the Ration of Provisions directed by the Contract entered into between the Principal Officers and Commissioners of His Majesty’s Navy and Messieurs Camden, Calvert & King of London, Merchants, to be furnished to the Convicts embarked on board the Queen Transport, has not been supplied them; That it does not appear that the proper steps were taken by those who had the means to see that the full Ration of Provisions was served to them, on Complaints being made of Deficiencies.

"That from the particular circumstances of the fraud, it is impossible for us to determine with any precision, what those deficiencies were, so as to enable us either to redress the Complainants or punish the Defendants. We therefore humbly beg to be permitted to submit the whole to His Excellency, the Governor’s Consideration, with our request that he will be pleased to take such steps as he shall think necessary.

David Collins

Richard Johnson

Augustus Alt

Jno Creswell"


5 November 1791 – Phillip to Grenville, passing on the report:

"The Examination of the Master and Mate of the Queen Transport having been referred to me by the Magistrates who took it, I have the honour of transmitting an attested Copy to your Lordship, for I doubt if I have the power of inflicting a punishment adequate to the crime. . .[110]

Response in England

15 May 1792 – Dundas (Home Secretary) to Phillip (NSW Governor):

"Of these, the treatment of the convicts on board the Queen, and the conduct of the transports in carrying out copper, iron, and such other articles as you have mentioned, are the most material. As to the first, I approve of the examinations you have taken and transmitted to me.

"I shall, in consequence, take care, whenever the persons concerned return home, that justice be done.

"I have, on the same principle, thoroughly investigated, and have taken the necessary steps to bring forward the conduct of the parties concerned in the treatment of the convicts on board the Neptune, Scarborough, and Surprize. . ."[111]

2 July 1792 – On arrival in England, Captain Parker of HMS Gorgon, wrote to Philip Stephens (Under Secretary of the Admiralty) about the complaints made by the convicts:

"You will be pleased to inform the Rt Honble my Lords Commrs of the Admiralty that when at Port Jackson with His Majys Ship under my command, Complaints were made by the Convicts brought out in the Queen Transport from Ireland of their having been defrauded of [a] great part of their Provisions, and from the appearance of the unhappy wretches when landed gave great cause for suspicion, for many of them were mere Skeletons, apparently with a human Skin drawn over the Bones, no particular Disease but dying for want of sustenance; Govr Phillip, in consequence of what is above recited, requested of me, and the Gentlemen whose Signatures is to the enclosed Paper, to go on board the Transport, and examine into the truth of Complaint, I thought it proper to enclose the Report of the Enquiry into the Case which you will be pleased to represent to their Lordships. . ." [112]

[Enclosed was a copy of the minutes of the panel as above.]

6 July 1792 – Stephens to Parker:

"Having laid before my Lords Commrs of the Adm’ty your Letter of the 2d Inst. transmitting the Report of yourself & other Officers appointed by the Governor of New So Wales to enquire into the Complaints made by the Convicts who arriv’d at Port Jackson in the Queen Transport of their having been defrauded of great part of their provisions, I am commanded by their Lordships to acquaint you that they have sent Copies of the abovementioned Letter & Report to Mr Nepean for Mr Secry Dundas’s Information."[113]

7 July 1792 – Stephens to Nepean:

"Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty a Letter which I received from Captain Parker, of His Majesty’s Ship Gorgon, representing that when he was at Port Jackson, Complaints being made by the Convicts carried out in the Queen Transport from Ireland of their having been defrauded of great part of their Provisions, he with Lieutenant Ball and some other Officers did, at the request of Governor Phillip, enquire what foundation there was for such Complaints, and enclosing in his said Letter a Report of the Result of the Enquiry; I am commanded by their Lordships to send you herewith Copies of the said Letter and Report for the information of Mr Secretary Dundas. . ."[114]

7 February 1793 – John King (Home Office) to Charles Long (Treasury):

"Governor Phillip having transmitted to the Secretary of State a Complaint made against Richard Owen, Master, and Robert Stott, second Mate of the Queen Transport, that the Convicts who were sent out on board that Vessell to New South Wales did not receive the Ration of Provisions that was directed by Contract to be furnished to them during their Passage; also a Complaint that a very considerable quantity of Copper, Lead, Iron & Cordage were taken out on board the Admiral Barrington, Albemarle, Active and Queen Transports, whereby great inconvenience was occasioned to the Settlement, as those Vessels might otherwise have been laden here with a greater proportion of Articles necessary for the Settlement; - I am directed by Mr Secretary Dundas to transmit to you in support of the former Complaint Extract of a Letter from Govr Phillip dated the 5 Novr 1791 together with a Copy of the Examination of the Master and second Mate of the Queen Transport, which is now returned to England, and in support of the latter Complaint, you will receive enclosed Extract of a Letter from the Governor dated the 8th Novr 1791 and Copy of one from him dated the 25th Novr 1791, also Copy of an Account of Copper &c received on board the Admiral Barrington, Active & Albemarle, and Copy of the Attestation of the Attestation the Masters of those Vessels, and I am to desire you will lay the said several Papers before the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury, with Mr Dundas’s Opinion, that it will be proper for their Lordships to give orders that a particular Enquiry may be made into the beforementioned Complaints, in order that, (if the Evidence in support of them shall prove to be Sufficient) proper Steps may be taken for bringing the offending Parties to Justice, and for the purpose of preventing the like offences in future."

On the reverse, there is a note: ‘Transmit papers to Comms Navy’.[115]

16 February 1793 – Treasury read King’s letter:

"Read Letter from Mr King dated the 7th Inst. transmitting by Direction of Mr Secretary Dundas Extracts of Letters from Governor Philip with sundry other papers on the subject of a Complaint against the Master & Second Mate of the Queen Transport, that the Convicts who were sent out on board that Vessel to New South Wales did not receive the Ration of Provisions directed by Contract to be furnished to them during their passage; and also relative to a complaint that a very considerable Quantity of Copper, Lead, Iron & Cordage were taken out on board the Admiral Barrington, Albemarle, Active and Queen. . .

"Transmit Copies of these Papers to the Commissioners of the Navy & direct them to make strict & speedy Enquiries into the Complaints made by Govr Phillip, and to report the Result thereof to this Board."[116]

2 March 1793 – Charles Long (Treasury) to Navy Board.

"Mr Secretary Dundas having laid before the Lords Commrs of His Majesty’s Treasury Extracts of Letters from Governor Phillip with sundry other Papers on the Subject of a Complaint against the Master and Second Mate of the Queen Transport that the convicts who were sent on board the said Vessel to New South Wales did not receive ration of Provisions directed by Contract to be furnished to them during their Passage. . . I am commanded by their Lordships to transmit Copies of the said Papers to you & to direct you to make strict & speedy Inquiries into the Complaint made by Governor Phillip & to report the result thereof to this Board."[117]

9 March 1793 – The Navy Board Minutes addressed the question of illicit metal being shipped but not the failure to supply adequate provisions.[118]

The Britannia (1796)

28 May 1797 – Arrived in Port Jackson at 6.15 am and released several of the male convicts from irons and all of the females.[119] Mr Williamson and the Governor’s Aide de Camp came on board at 7.30am. Released all the female convicts from irons and several of the men.[120]

30 May 1797 – Pilot and Governor’s Aide de Camp on board. Mustered the convicts. People employed in washing the decks and getting the Captain’s things on shore.[121]

1 June 1797 – The colonial surgeon William Balmain wrote to the ship’s ‘superintending surgeon’, Augustus Beyer, advising that, it having come to the Governor’s attention that several of the convicts had died because of the severe punishment inflicted on them, his Excellency had commanded him to inquire into the cause of their deaths. Beyer was asked to provide his views as to the cause of death, and whether he considered their treatment in general to have been ‘proper and suitable to the intention of sending them hither in health and safety’. Beyer responded by blaming the ship’s captain.[122]

10 June 1797 – Chief Mate, Second Mate, Carpenter, Boatswain and Steward went on shore to give evidence at a Court of Enquiry, held into the Captain’s conduct based on a complaint by the doctor.[123]

11 June 1797 – Steward and boatswain returned, the court being adjourned.[124] [These seem to have been preliminary inquiries.]

13 June 1797 – The Acting Judge Advocate, Richard Atkins, Reverend Richard Johnson and William Balmain opened an inquiry into the deaths on board the Britannia. The captain was charged with: (a) having occasioned the deaths of six convicts through the severity of the punishment he had ordered; (b) having failed to honour the government’s intention in sending the convicts to New South Wales in health and safety.[125]

6 July 1797 – The magistrates concluded, unanimously, that ‘Captain Dennott’s conduct in punishing the convicts in the manner he did for conspiring to take the ship was imprudent and ill-judged, inasmuch as he did not take the sense of the officers and ship’s company, individually, as to the steps necessary to be adopted for the preservation of the ship and the lives of the people therein, for although they might have all been present, and many of them assisting on that occasion, yet their not having been formally consulted renders it questionable whether the captain’s proceedings would have met their unanimous approbation, and, so far, his conduct in this instance may be regarded as bordering on too great a degree of severity.’

However, they were much more critical of the surgeon. He had a duty to superintend the convicts, and had failed: ‘we also clearly concur of opinion that the surgeon (Mr Beyer) was beyond all the other bystanders particularly culpable in not steadfastly protesting against the cruelties which he charges Captain Dennott with, and was therefore inexcusably negligent and indifferent in the performance of his duty, and consequently, in an eminent degree, accessory to the inhumanities he complains of.’

With respect to the ventilators and water sweeteners, they concluded that the Captain did not fail to take the proper steps for bringing the troops and the convicts to Sydney in safety, ‘especially when the refractory state of the people he had in charge and the coercion he was obliged to make use of towards them for the preservation of the ship and the people is considered.’ They added this recommendation:

". . . we here beg leave to offer to his Excellency our opinion that all ships coming to this port with transports should have on board an officer of the Crown, who should be invested with proper power and authority, as well for the conducting of the ship as the particular inspection and direction of the management of the convicts on board."[126]

Hunter wrote to Portland on the same day:

"In my letter No.27 herewith forwarded, I have mentioned that reports having been circulated that the convicts who were brought from Ireland in the ship Britannia had been treated with so much severity that the death of some of them had been occasioned by the punishment they had received – I directed a Board of Magistrates might assemble for the purpose of an enquiry into the truth of falsehood of these reports, in order that I might judge how far there might be ground for a more serious investigation. The enclosed paper, No.1, is the Examination in full & the opinion of the magistrates who made the inquiry."[127]

In his account of this inquiry, the Judge Advocate, David Collins, indicated that it was complaints by the convicts that had caused it to be established:

"These people, indeed, complained of much of having been treated with great severity during the passage, that the governor thought it right to institute an enquiry into their complaints. It appeared that they had been deserving of punishment, but that it had been administered with too much severity, in the opinion even of the surgeon who was present. As these punishments had been inflicted by the direction of the master, without consulting any of the officers on board as to the measure of them he was highly censured, as was the surgeon, who could stand by and see them inflicted without remonstrating with the master, which he declined because he had not been consulted by him.

‘Quis talia fando, temperet a lachrymis?’"[128][129]

Hillsborough (1798)

When the ship ‘came to the Bay’ in July 1799, some of the convicts from the Hillsborough complained that their property had been stolen by some of the sailors when the contents of their chests had been emptied overboard following the discovery of a planned mutiny early in the voyage. The matter was taken before some legal authority, presumably David Collins as magistrate, (the convict diarist William Noah referred to an order by ‘the judge’) and the sailors were sent to gaol until they provided satisfaction to the injured parties.[130]

17 September 1799 – Letter from an unnamed correspondent at Port Jackson:

"It is a melancholy consideration that out of the unfortunate cargo the Hillsborough brought in wretched [exile and durance vile?], no less than one in three died on the passage, scarce two hundred out of three hundred have reached these shores, and those the most miserable objects ever landed. A variety of serious charges are about to be brought in consequence; accusations of starving the convicts, and plundering them of their little merchandize and valuables.

"Mann, one of the convicts, it seems, has sustained a loss of two hundred pounds, stolen by prisoners and otherwise, not accounted for by the Master, for which he exhibits his complaint; Jessop alias Clifford died on the passage, and left Mann what he possessed, said to have been something considerable, but is not forthcoming. Redman, who also paid the debt of nature, and who had, it seems, been a merchant of considerable property, and was known to have on board an investment of European goods to the amount of several hundred pounds, his effects stand unaccounted for, but some letters are received recommendatory of him, together with some private correspondence a fellow prisoner has secured, that I am in hopes will develop this business. Crossley (with wife) arrived here with much trade. The Hillsborough was seven months and upwards on her passage from England. . ."[131]

8 August 1800 – Extract of a letter written around December 1799 was used as the basis of the following account:

"The Hillsborough transport ship had arrived at Sydney with the loss of nearly 200 out of 300 of the unfortunate exiles who died on the passage. . . Redmayne, once a merchant in London had also a great deal of property, but he died on the passage; and the application, or rather misapplication of the property will undergo a strict investigation."[132]

Baring (1819)

As noted above, a gentleman convict, Laurence Halloran made complaints about his treatment on board the Baring prior to sailing, which were investigated and then debated in parliament. On their arrival in June 1819, he registered a complaint against the captain of the Baring with the colonial authorities. The Governor assigned the Bench of Magistrates the task of investigating the allegations, which found that the complaints were malicious and groundless.[133]

In spite of this, he was immediately issued with a ticket of leave and established his own school, known as the Sydney Grammar School.

Legal Actions


The official instructions given to Arthur Phillip made no reference to the question of convicts giving evidence in court, or their ability to initiate legal proceedings. If the question had been addressed, it is unlikely that the British legal authorities would have agreed that convicted felons should have legal standing in the courts.

And yet the first civil court case in Australian history, Kable v Sinclair, heard on the 5th of July 1788, involved two convicts suing one of the ships’ captains for the loss of their property. At some point throughout the voyage, or in the months immediately after landing, Phillip realised that a penal colony could not function if the majority of its inhabitants had no ability to defend themselves in court.

The following case – the court-martial of four marines over sexual relations with female convicts – was probably one of the occasions when Phillip realised the problems that would emerge if the prisoners could not be heard in court.

Connell Court Martial

22 July 1787– White wrote:

At night, the commanding officer of marines having received information that three men had made their way through the hole cut for the admission of the windsail into the apartment of the female convicts, against an express order issued for that purpose, he apprehended them, and put them on confinement for trial.[134]

These were Privates Patrick Connell, John Jones and James Reiley. Thomas Jones was also named for having attempted to convince a sentry to betray his trust in allowing him to go among the women. (White gives Connell’s first name as Cornelius, but he appears to be confusing him with Cornelius Connelly, a convict on board the Charlotte.)

10 August 1787 – The court martial was held on board the Charlotte – Lieutenant Faddy of the Friendship went on board the Charlotte to sit as a member of the court martial.[135]

According to White, Patrick Connell was found guilty and sentenced to receive 100 lashes for having an improper intercourse with some of the female convicts, contrary to orders. John Jones and James Reiley were acquitted for lack of evidence, ‘there being no witnesses to support the charge except convicts, whose testimony could not be admitted’.

Thomas Jones was also sentenced to receive three hundred lashes, for attempting to make a sentinel betray his trust in suffering him to go among the women; but in consideration of the good character he bore previous to this circumstance, the court recommended him to the clemency of the commanding officer, and, in consequence thereof, he was forgiven.[136]

11 August 1787 – The only punishment for the women appears to have been the removal of six of them to the Friendship, and their replacement with half a dozen better behaved women.[137]

The punishment of Connell occurred on the 13th of August:

Cornelius [sic] Connell, a private in the marines, was, according to the sentence of a court martial, punished with a hundred lashes, for having an improper intercourse with some of the female convicts, contrary to orders.[138]

Marine Private John Easty recorded that on the 13th, Phillip and Ross went round the fleet and spoke to the men – presumably this was also in response to several court martials that had occurred in recent days, including this one.[139]

Clark wrote that they came on board the Friendship and gave orders to Captain Meredith that in light of the fact that putting the women in irons made no difference, he was to flog them the same as the men when they behaved ill.[140]

Alexander (1787)

Kable v Sinclair
(Court of Civil Jurisdiction, 1, 2 & 5 July 1788)

Kable v Sinclair is the first civil court case in Australian history. Henry Kable and his wife had been the subject of newspaper stories after a turnkey went out of his way to ensure that the couple both travelled on the First Fleet. As a result, a number of individuals made donations of money and goods to the couple. By mistake, these were placed on board the Alexander (although the couple sailed on the Friendship) and en route, Kable asked for their package to be found. A search was made at the Cape, unsuccessfully, and when it was finally located upon arrival, some of the items had been stolen.

5 April 1788 – The Log of the Alexander reports that they were overhauling the hold for a small parcel. It is likely that this was the one belonging to the Kables, on which the later court case would be based.[141]

The court documents (amended to correct for old spelling).

1 July 1788 – Petition by the Cables:

"Whereas Henry Cable and his wife, new settlers of this place, had before they left England a certain parcel shipped on board the Alexander Transport, Duncan Sinclair Master, consisting of clothes and several other articles, which were collected and bought at the expense of many charitable disposed persons for the use of the said Henry Cable, his wife & child – several applications have been made for the express purpose of obtaining the said parcel from the Master of the Alexander now lying at this port, and that without effect (save and except a small part of the said parcel containing a few books. The residue and remainder, which is of a more considerable value still remains on board the said ship Alexander, the Master of which seems to be very neglectful in not causing the same to be delivered to its respective owners as aforesaid. Henry Cable and Susannah Cable his wife most humbly prays you will be pleased forthwith to cause the said Duncan Sinclair, Master of the Alexander aforesaid, to appear before you to show cause why the remaining parcel is not duly and truly delivered in that ample and beneficial [a manner?] as is customary in the delivering of goods. And also humbly prays you will on default of the parcel not being forthcoming, take and use such lawful and legal means for the recovery of the value thereof, as your Honour shall think most expedient."[142]

The case was heard the same day before the Judge Advocate, David Collins; the Chaplain, Richard Johnson; and the Surgeon, John White.

Henry Cable, described as a labourer in the transcript, appeared before the court and lodged his complaint. He swore an affidavit as to the value of the contents of the parcel - £15 or thereabouts.

The court issued a warrant to the Provost Marshal, commanding him to bring Duncan Sinclair before the court on the following day. They met the next afternoon and adjourned until the 5th (presumably because Sinclair had not appeared). Sinclair finally came before the court on the afternoon of the 5th. The complaint was read, and Sinclair joined issue.

The deposition of William Aston Long, the First Mate of the Alexander, was that on 25 December 1786, a parcel was brought on board the ship addressed to ‘Susannah Holmes, or otherwise Cable’. It was sewed up in Hessian matting and weighed about 25lbs. On receiving it, he put it in the gun room. The receipt of the parcel was known to several people in the ship. Duncan Sinclair was at that time in London. Prior to sailing from England, he made inquiries in the Lady Penhryn as to whether the addressee was on that ship and was answered in the negative. At the Cape of Good Hope, Sinclair had inquired about the parcel, and it could not be located. Its delivery was deferred until the arrival at their ultimate destination. Upon arrival, the owner and several other had sought delivery, but it could not be found. On the passage from the Downs to Portsmouth, the matting of the parcel had broken and several books had fallen out. Long said he took them up and made a separate parcel of them and kept them in his cabin until the cabin became leaky and having no place to put them, he sent them down to the gun room. On inquiry at NSW, only the books could be found.

Thomas Trimmings, the steward of the Alexander, said that he recalled being directed by the Mate of the ship to look for the parcel. He remembered seeing the parcel between Tenerife and Rio de Janeiro. He then put it, along with several other parcels belonging to convicts, in the afterhold of the ship. The ship’s company were allowed access to the afterhold, and some of the convicts were sometimes allowed to go back and forwards through the gun room. At Botany Bay he delivered the greater part of the parcels that he had put into the gun room, but did not see anything of that containing the clothes. He saw only the books. He had been asked to look for it at the Cape of Good Hope but could not find it.

John Hunter testified that Governor Phillip had asked him to make inquiries for the parcel at the Cape. He immediately applied to Duncan Sinclair, asking to him search for it. Some time later, Sinclair acquainted him they had not been able to find it due to the lumbered state of the afterhold, but he did not doubt that it would be found. Hunter told him to locate it when they arrived at Botany Bay.

The court found a verdict for the complainant to the value stated by him in the complaint.[143]

Neptune (1790)

Metcalfe v Gray
(Magistrates Court, 1790)

In 1790, following the arrival of the Second Fleet, one of the seamen from the Neptune, William Churchill said he had the ship’s surgeon, William Gray, summoned before David Collins for the buckles that he had seen taken from a package delivered on board for a convict, John Metcalfe by his father. Metcalfe told Churchill that Gray appeared in court wearing the same buckles and that they were taken from him in the courtroom and given to Metcalfe. It is evident that the action was either launched in Metcalfe’s name, or he gave evidence in court which was accepted.[144]

Barwell (1797)

Davis v Turnbull
(Magistrates Court, June 1798)

In June 1798, Charles Davis, a convict, brought a complaint against the Second Mate of the Barwell, John Turnbull, declaring that a trunk of clothes had been delivered to Turnbull by his brother, and that the said trunk had been broken open and the contents removed by some person or persons unknown. The magistrate concluded that there was no evidence that Turnbull had been given charge of the trunk and dismissed the complaint.[145]

Minerva (1799)

Holt v Salkeld
(Court of Civil Jurisdiction, 4-5 February 1800)

In February 1800, the Irish rebel, Joseph Holt sued the commander of the Minerva, Joseph Salkeld, seeking the return of the sixty guineas he had paid for his son’s passage. The boy had worked on deck and lived among the seamen throughout the voyage.

Holt claimed that when the case came on, he was told by the judge that they were all convicts, including his wife and son. Holt insisted that none of them were. When he persisted, he was instructed to be silent and then ejected from the court.[146]

According to the court papers:

"Capt’n Salkeld attended in court to answer to the Memorial presented yesterday by Joseph Holt, & having satisfied the Court that said Holt had mis-stated the case (no monies having been paid or rec’d for the purpose pretended) the Co’t dismissed the complaint as frivolous & groundless."[147]

Price wrote that Joseph Holt sued Captain Salkeld for the cost of his son’s passage, since he had worked on the way out. Holt lost and blamed a corrupt judge.[148]

Luz St Ann (1800)

Connor v Stewart
(Court of Civil Jurisdiction, 6, 8 July 1801)

Owen Connor launched a legal action against Captain James Stewart in the Court of Civil Jurisdiction, and over an amount of £38, ‘for work & labor done and performed on board the ship Anne – 76 days at 10s per day’.

It appeared to the court that a man named Benjamin Parker had worked on board the Ann as a journeyman, at 10 shillings a day, for the benefit of the plaintiff. Parker had received from the plaintiff, a pair of shoes and a bottle of liquor, and from the defendant, articles to the amount of £3/10/-, besides three bottles of spirits in part payment for his work. The plaintiff failed to establish any contract between the defendant and himself, or even with Parker as his journeyman, the court found for the defendant.[149]

It seems reasonably clear that Parker would have been a convict. It is unclear whether Connor was as well.

Later Court Cases

The question of convicts giving evidence in court was addressed in two NSW Supreme Court cases in 1829 and 1831, where the acceptance of their evidence was challenged on appeal.

In R v Garden & Yeurs (1829), Forbes J. said that this argument might have been raised in nine out of ten cases he had heard, but he had never heard it raised before. ‘The uniform practice has been to admit the testimony of such persons from the necessity of the thing.’[150] Stephen J. also said that he had never heard it raised. ‘The reason of admitting such evidence, is that of the best to be had in the state of society in which we live.’[151]

The matter was raised again in R v Farrell & Others two years later. The ruling was the same: ‘in New South Wales they are liberated on arrival, and are admitted to certain qualified rights’, and ‘Since the foundation of the Colony, now 43 years, such persons have been universally admitted as witnesses. . . ‘[152]

There was no mention of Kable v Sinclair or other such cases.


  1. ‘Report from the Select Committee on Transportation’, Ordered to be Printed 10 July 1812, House of Commons Papers: Reports of Committees, (341) 1812, p.61.
  2. Paul G. Fidlon, et al (eds.), The Journals and Letters of Lt. Ralph Clark, 1787-1792, Sydney: Australian Documents Library, 1981, p.35.
  3. Log of the Alexander, TNA ADM51/4375, 5 April 1788; Kable v Sinclair, 1 July 1788, Court of Civil Jurisdiction: Case Papers and Minutes of Proceedings, 1788-1809, in NSW State Archives, 2/8147, Microfilm Reel 25.
  4. UK National Archives (hereafter TNA) HO42/15/402-403.
  5. TNA HO42/15/399.
  6. Statement of Donald Trail, ‘Accounts and Papers Relating to Convicts on Board the Hulks, and Those Transported to New South Wales’, Ordered to be Printed 10th and 26th March 1792, House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century, (83) 1791-92, (hereafter ‘Accounts and Papers’) pp.259-368, at p.334.
  7. Churchill Examination, TNA TS11/381, 17.
  8. Smith Examination, TNA TS11/381, 28.
  9. Hoare Examination, TNA TS11/381, 25.
  10. Gowan Examination, TNA TS11/381, 40.
  11. Alexander Hood, ‘Papers relating to Captain Alexander Hood's command of the Hebe, Channel and Irish Sea: relating to the Convict Transport Queen’, 18 November 1790 to 21 April 1791, UK National Maritime Museum (hereafter NMM) MKH/9, MS68/099.
  12. TNA HO35/11; TNA HO 36/7/165-6; TNA T1/694/15-16; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, at p.342.
  13. Star, 23 June 1791.
  14. TNA T27/41/494; TNA ADM106/2119; TNA ADM106/2638; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, pp.341-342.
  15. ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, pp.288-289, 341-342; Dundas to Treasury, 23 June 1791, TNA HO36/7/164-165; TNA T1/694/14; TNA HO35/11; TNA HO36/7/164-165.
  16. ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, p.343; Extract at TNA HO35/11.
  17. TNA T29/63/219.
  18. TNA HO35/11; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, p.343; TNA ADM106/2638.
  19. TNA HO35/11; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, pp.342-343.
  20. The difference seems to relate to two pardoned and two sent ashore sick.
  21. ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, pp.345-346.
  22. ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, p.345.
  23. TNA ADM106/2638.
  24. Rose to Nepean, 27 June 1791, TNA T27/41/496 & TNA HO35/11; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, pp.344-345.
  25. TNA T27/41/497; TNA ADM106/2119; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, p.344.
  26. TNA T27/41/497; TNA ADM106/2119; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, p.347.
  27. TNA ADM106/2638.
  28. TNA ADM106/2638.
  29. TNA HO13/8/276.
  30. TNA HO35/11; TNA T1/694; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, pp.348-349; TNA ADM106/2638, 2 July 1791.
  31. Rose to Nepean, 3 July 1791, TNA T27/42/6; TNA HO35/11; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, pp.347-348.
  32. TNA T27/42/5; ‘Accounts and Papers’, 10 & 26 March 1792, p.349; TNA ADM106/2638.
  33. TNA ADM108/42/657.
  34. TNA ADM108/42/664.
  35. TNA ADM108/42/657.
  36. TNA ADM108/42/657.
  37. TNA ADM108/42/658.
  38. TNA ADM108/42/741-2.
  39. TNA ADM108/42/768.
  40. TNA ADM108/19/48.
  41. Dore to Le Fleming, 5 February 1798, in F.M. Bladen (ed.), Historical Records of New South Wales, Sydney: Government Printer, 1895 (hereafter HRNSW) Vol.3, p.356.
  42. William Noah, Voyage to Sydney in the Ship Hillsborough 1798-1799. . ., Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1978 (hereafter Noah), p.14.
  43. Noah, p.15.
  44. Noah, p.15.
  45. Noah, p.15.
  46. Noah, p.16.
  47. Noah, p.19.
  48. Noah, p.30.
  49. Noah, p.39.
  50. TNA ADM108/68/20.
  51. TNA ADM108/68/20.
  52. Journals of the House of Commons, 4 August 1818 to 2 November 1819, Vol.74, 25 January 1819, pp.33-34; House of Commons Hansard, 1st Series, Vol.39 (hereafter Hansard), 25 January 1819, Columns 88-89.
  53. Hansard, 25 January 1819, Cols.89-90.
  54. Hansard, 25 January 1819, Cols. 90-93.
  55. Hansard, 25 January 1819, Col. 98.
  56. Hansard, 26 January 1819, Cols. 115-117.
  57. Hansard, 26 January 1819, Cols. 117-118.
  58. Hansard, 26 January 1819, Cols. 118-119.
  59. Hansard, 18 February 1819, Col. 481.
  60. Hansard, 18 February 1819, Col. 493.
  61. HRNSW Vol.1, Pt.2, p.329.
  62. TNA CO201/5/158; HRNSW Vol.1, Pt.2, p.354.
  63. Extract of a Letter from one of the Women Convicts that Sailed from England in the Lady Juliana, dated Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, July 24, 1790, Diary or Woodfall’s Register, 3 August 1791
  64. R v Callaghan, Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, 31 July 1789, in Bruce Kercher and Brent Salter (eds.), The Kercher Reports: Decisions of the New South Wales Superior Courts, 1788 to 1827, Sydney: The Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History, 2009, pp.35-45; David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales [1798], Sydney: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1975 (hereafter Collins), Vol.1, pp.60-61.
  65. Collins Vol.1, pp.149-150.
  66. CY3008/481-507, Banks Archive – the State Library of NSW attaches this to a letter of 8 August 1791, but this seems to be wrong, since Banks had already commented on it by 5 January 1791
  67. TNA ADM108/42/657.
  68. William Noah, Voyage to Sydney in the Ship Hillsborough 1798-1799. . ., Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1978 (hereafter Noah), p.14.
  69. Noah, p.15.
  70. TNA ADM108/57/163.
  71. TNA ADM108/68/20.
  72. ‘Report from the Select Committee on Transportation’, Ordered to be Printed 10 July 1812, House of Commons Papers: Reports of Committees, (341) 1812, Appendix 25, pp.105-106.
  73. Collins Vol.1, p.257.
  74. TNA ADM108/38/209.
  75. HRNSW Vol.3, p.235.
  76. ‘Journal of the Proceedings of the Ship Britannia from the Downs to Port Jackson and China, Commencing upon the 3rd of September 1796 & Ending upon the 30th of June 1798’ (hereafter Britannia Journal), Dixson Library, SLNSW MSQ35, 27 and 28 May 1797.
  77. Britannia Journal, 30 May 1797.
  78. HRNSW Vol.3, p.243.
  79. HRNSW Vol.3, p.243.
  80. HRNSW Vol.3, p.243.
  81. HRNSW Vol.3, p.243.
  82. HRNSW Vol.3, p.272.
  83. HRNSW Vol.3, p.385.
  84. Journal of the Barwell, 26 July 1797 to 17 October 1799, IOR L MAR/B/420G (hereafter Barwell Journal), L MAR/B/420G, p.49a.
  85. Barwell Log, L/MAR/B/420G, p.50.
  86. TNA CO201/15/204.
  87. Noah, p.61.
  88. Noah, p.24.
  89. TNA HO42/50/206a.
  90. TNA CO201/16/53; TNA BT6/58/27; HRNSW Vol.4, p.17.
  91. Pamela Jeanne Fulton (ed.), The Minerva Journal of John Washington Price, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2000 (hereafter Price), pp.140-141.
  92. Price, p.144.
  93. Journal of the Minerva, 6 August 1798 to 26 May 1801 (hereafter Minerva Journal), IOR L/MAR/B/14F, 14 January 1800.
  94. Mary Anne Reid, ‘Cursory Remarks on Board the Friendship’, Asiatic Journal, December 1819 (hereafter Reid), pp.555-558 at pp.557-558.
  95. Reid, p.557.
  96. Reid, p.558.
  97. HRNSW Vol.4, p.259.
  98. Journal of the Royal Admiral, 8 April 1800 to 9 August 1801, IOR L/MAR/B/338-I (hereafter Royal Admiral Journal), 21 November 1800.
  99. James Hardy Vaux, Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux, London, 1819, pp.171-172.
  100. HRNSW Vol. 4, pp.868-869.
  101. Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Sydney: Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1914 (hereafter HRA Series 1), Volume X, p.318, concerning the Janus, which arrived in 1820
  102. Macquarie to Bathurst, 4 December 1817, HRA Series 1, Volume IX, p.504.
  103. Thomas Reid, Two Voyages to New South Wales & Van Diemen’s Land, London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1822, p.80.
  104. T.B. Wilson, Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, London, 1835, p.335.
  105. John Easty, Memorandum of the Transactions of a Voyage from England to Botany Bay, 1787-1793, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1965, p.132.
  106. Collins, Vol.1, p.150.
  107. Parker to Stephens, 2 July 1792, TNA HO28/8/238.
  108. ‘Minutes of the Complaint Made by the Convicts on Board the Queen Transport’, TNA HO28/8/240-241.
  109. ‘Examination of the Master & Mate of the Queen Transport’, TNA T1/714, No.326; TNA CO201/6/99-102.
  110. TNA CO201/6/81.
  111. TNA CO202/5/90.
  112. TNA HO28/8/238-238a.
  113. TNA ADM2/767/315.
  114. TNA HO28/8/236.
  115. TNA HO36/7/442-443; TNA T1/714, No.326.
  116. TNA T29/65/346-347.
  117. TNA T27/43/159.
  118. TNA ADM106/2645.
  119. HRNSW Vol.3, p.235.
  120. ‘Journal of the Proceedings of the Ship Britannia from the Downs to Port Jackson and China, Commencing upon the 3rd of September 1796 & Ending upon the 30th of June 1798’ (hereafter Britannia Journal), Dixson Library, SLNSW MSQ35, 27 and 28 May 1797.
  121. Britannia Journal, 30 May 1797.
  122. ‘Papers re Deaths on Board’, State Records Authority of NSW (hereafter SRNSW) 5/1156, No.13, Reel 1929 or COD 261, pp.112, 114-117; HRNSW Vol. 3, pp.270-272.
  123. Britannia Journal, 10 June 1797.
  124. Britannia Journal, 11 June 1797.
  125. HRNSW Vol.3, p.242.
  126. HRNSW Vol.3, pp.276-277.
  127. TNA CO201/14/29.
  128. ‘Whoever sows such things, shall he refrain from tears?’
  129. Collins Vol.2, pp.28-29.
  130. Noah, p.24.
  131. Bombay Courier, 22 November 1800.
  132. Star, 8 August 1800.
  133. Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1819, SRNSW Reel 6048; 4/1742 pp.113-151.
  134. John White, Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales [1790], Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1962 (hereafter White), p.68.
  135. Paul G. Fidlon, et al (eds.), The Journals and Letters of Lt. Ralph Clark, 1787-1792, Sydney: Australian Documents Library, 1981 (hereafter Clark), p.35.
  136. White, pp.73-74.
  137. Journal of the Friendship, 14 November 1786 to 28 October 1788, TNA ADM51/4376, 11 August 1787; Clark, p.36; White, p.73.
  138. White, pp.73-74.
  139. John Easty, Memorandum of the Transactions of a Voyage from England to Botany Bay, 1787-1793, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1965, p.30.
  140. Clark, p.37.
  141. Journal of the Alexander, 3 November 1786 to 10 February 1789, NA ADM51/4375.
  142. Court of Civil Jurisdiction: Case Papers and Minutes of Proceedings, 1788-1809, in SRNSW, 2/8147, Microfilm Reel 25.
  143. Ibid.
  144. Churchill Examination, TNA TS11/381, p.15.
  145. Bench of Magistrates Sydney, Minutes of Proceedings, June to December 1798, SRNSW COD 76, p.3.
  146. Court of Civil Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings, SRNSW 2/8150, p.76; Price, p.151; T. Crofton Croker, Memoirs of Joseph Holt, Vol.2, London: Henry Colburn, 1838, pp.70-73.
  147. Court of Civil Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings, SRNSW, 2/8150, p.78.
  148. Price, p.151
  149. Court of Civil Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings, 1801 Proceedings, SRNSW 2/8150, pp.6 & 7.
  150. T.D. Castle and Bruce Kercher (eds.), Dowling’s Select Cases, 1828 to 1844, Sydney: Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History, 2005, p.109.
  151. Ibid, p.110.
  152. Ibid, pp.141, 154.

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