This brings me to a period of great uprising, when it was proposed - and the proposition was eventually given effect to - to resume transportation - one I cannot pass without reference. In the South a wordy and demonstrative battle had been waged from 1842, but it was not until the year of which I write that the matter may be said to have reached a head.
I need not enter in detail into the reasons which prompted the Imperial Government to adopt this course, but this much I will venture : Earl Grey was influenced in his recommendations to the Ministry by a class of people whose profits bad been considerably curtailed by the proclaiming of New South Wales a free country. In October of 1846 a "monster petition" was prepared by the anti-transportationists, and this was presented to the House in Sydney, but the motion for printing it was negatived, thus showing that whatever may have been the strength of the actions, outside the upholders of convictism were in power.
The authors of the petition were naturally incensed, and presented the document to the Governor. Although Governor Fitzroy was favourable to the petitioners, "he could use no influence in the matter, for he had none," but promised to forward the prayer to the Imperial authorities. So things went on until 1849, when a despatch was received stating that the Imperial Government had definitely decided to resume transportation, but as a solace it was added that 'it was not intended to send any convicts but such as were considered would become useful labourers in the colony."
Numerous processions followed this announcement, and tremendous meetings were held both in Sydney and Port Phillip. Some advocated the total cessation of business when the convicts should arrive, and the organization of mobs to prevent their landing; others, of a milder turn, urged that the prisoners should be placed upon Cockatoo Island and employed on Government works; while others would memorialise the Governor to break the commands of his Sovereign, and thus render himself liable to arrest and trial, if nothing worse.
All those were opposed by a small but powerful body who at every turn manifested pleasure in a recurrence to the old system of assigned slavery with all its concomitant horrors - the fetters, the lash, the gallows! And, as has been shown, they were successful, the first ship, the Hashemy, arriving in Sydney in May, 1849.
It was a remarkable thing that protests against the revival had been sent from every town and village except Moreton Bay, and if the Government had acted upon the reasonable inference to be drawn from such a circumstance, and forwarded to Moreton Bay every convict that arrived in Sydney, the Executive would not have been half so blameable as the inhabitants of this Sleepy Hollow. This apathy is difficult of explanation unless it was that the demand for labour was so urgent that the employers cared not whence it was drawn.
Political freedom was evidently after all but a secondary consideration - and political freedom would have been impossible had Moreton Bay been made a penal centre, for the reputation of such a colony would be sufficient to deter desirable persons from emigrating, and to effectually check the commercial prosperity of the place.
Socially, too, it would prove detrimental, for the free labourer would be placed in competition with the prisoner under circumstances in every way disadvantageous to the former, because this competition would create feelings of deadly animosity - as it already had done in the South - between the two classes; while the necessity for convict discipline would tend to harden the hearts and deaden the sensibilities of the whole population.
As a result forty-five of the prisoners by the Hashemy and others of the Rudolph were handed over to Moreton Bay, where they landed on the 20th June, this place presumably being considered as exclusively entitled to the first fruits of the importation. It was reported that sixty more were to be sent immediately, and that a petition had been prepared by a gentleman of influence here for the purpose of inducing the Governor to despatch a shipload of convicts to this port, which by-and-by was actually done.
Before those latter arrived the ‘Fortitude’ and ‘Chasely’ people established a vigorous line of opposition, showing conclusively the evil the residents had done by doing nothing, and though they did not succeed in immediately taming the Executive from its apparently fixed determination they eventually succeeded in preventing the propagation of a truly pernicious system.
Within a week after the arrival of the Hashemy and Rudolph convicts, there were incipient signs of rowdyism on the streets, and in a few weeks the ticket-of-leave holders in many cases had absconded from their hiring altogether, things promised to be very lively, for nothing had been done to strengthen the police force.
A petition was immediately drawn up and sent to Sydney, which was acknowledged by the arrival of the Mount Stuart Elphinstone on the 2nd November with 225 prisoners! Between the arrival of the two batches, however, a circumstance occurred which shows the narrow escape Moreton Bay had by reason of its apathy.
Attention was first directed to Governmental intentions by Bell's Messenger, which published a statement that Moreton Bay was to become a penal centre, and that 100 males were to be despatched thither, "a great number being Pentonville exiles who through good conduct have had their sentences commuted."
The Sydney Morning Herald also contained a statement as follows:-
" Moreton Bay will probably be the centre of the new penal colony. . . . Earl Grey stated in the House that in order to put an end to all objections that might be made to the reception of convicts by the older colonies, Moreton Bay would be declared a place to which transported offenders might be sent, and would be separated from New South Wales for that purpose."
This was a most important announcement, and one which was received here with mingled feelings of delight and disgust.
The contractor at Brisbane, too, had been instructed to prepare for the victualling of 100 people, while there was a rumour that unmarried free women over the age of 15 would be sent out direct in proportion to the number of convicts. Even the Courier went back on its anti-transportationist policy, giving as its reason that " it is our duty to chronicle the sentiments of the people," many of whom declared that if Moreton Bay was to be the capital of a colony it would be immaterial to consider the elements from which the colony might be formed ; while others claimed that "some of the finest colonies have risen from the seeds of criminal transportation."
But Dr. Lang's immigrants determined to resist the innovation, claiming that if Brisbane was to be a capital it should be a free one. It will be noticed that the separation movement was thus contemporaneous with the resumption of transportation and was initiated ten years before its object was attained.
Immediately after the arrival of the Mount Stuart Elphinstone - which event strangely enough occurred the day before the arrival of Dr. Lang's third ship, the Lima - a meeting was called "to consider the best means of receiving exiles," and " to petition the Government to send out a fair proportion of free immigrants. " This meeting was held on the 13th November, and developed into a vigorous protest being made against transportation in any form. A larger gathering took place four days later, when this decision was confirmed and a memorial was forwarded to the Imperial authorities.
Sometime later, Earl Grey forwarded a despatch to Sydney stating that in future a number of free immigrants equal to that of the male convicts shipped would be sent out, but that the wives and families of these convicts would be counted as free immigrants! The transportation party, as a counter movement "demonstrated" at Ipswich, their headquarters, but strangely enough resolutions submitted in favour of the scheme were rejected - a fact due in a large measure to the energy and strategy of Dr. Lang's people.
This meeting was held in George Thorn's hotel, and was called for the purpose of "considering the resolutions passed at the Brisbane meeting. " The said Brisbane people, possibly with a view to personally meeting any charges that might be made against them, but probably with the main object of upsetting their opponents' apple-cart, rolled up in such numbers as to fill the parlour to overflowing.
At the outset a loop-hole had been given in the framing of the first resolution, which developed into an acrimonious discussion and a decision that the question to be discussed should be the practicableness of transportation. The meeting divided, the squatters sticking to the parlour, while the others invaded the billiard room. As a fact, therefore, two meetings were held, both of which it may be stated ended in favour of the anti-transportationists.
A few of the leading squatter lights roundly attacked Dr. Lang and his followers and memorialised for exiles. I do not intend to follow up this movement, or to relate the sensational scenes which took place at the many meetings which were held, or to the dodges resorted to by both sides, but they were of a most exciting nature.
Some of the veterans now alive have, in my interviews with them, referred to them, and have related with infinite pleasure the anecdotes pertaining to the day when transportation and separation were regarded as above even business considerations. The anti-transportationists were eventually successful in both, the last convict ship, the Bangalore, arriving in Moreton Bay on 30th April, 1850, and separation was attained nine years later.
Turning to local topics I may chronicle the proclamation of Moreton Bay a warehousing post, the invitation and acceptance of tenders for the Customs house at the Bight, the revival of the agitation for the establishment of a bank, the conviction of John Molloy for the murder of John Leonard at Canoe Creek (now Oxley Creek) and his execution at Sydney, the inauguration of a branch of the Sydney District Grand United Order of Oddfellows at Ipswich on the 20th August, the arrival of the Lima (Dr. Lang's third and last ship) and thirty young women of the class known as orphan girls.
These latter arrived in the Eagle on 1st August 1850. The arrangements with regard to their disposal differed somewhat from those in the case of the last importation of the same kind. They were surrounded by precautions which it - would be hard to condemn in total, perhaps, but equally difficult to avoid laughing at. In the first place, they were to be carefully excluded from communication with any persons (excepting clergymen and doctors) who could not produce authority under the hand of a magistrate. Another regulation was that none of the girls was to be placed in the service of a person who could not produce a testimonial from the clergyman of the denomination to which he or she belonged.
They were sent to Brisbane by the Orphans Board of Guardians, who prescribed that engagements should be made by indenture in all cases where the girls were under 18 years of age, such indentures continuing in force until the servants arrived at the age of 19 years. The salaries were fixed by this board on a sliding scale according to the age of the girl; indeed the employer had no say in the matter at all. It is scarcely to be wondered at, then, that these orphan girls did not go off very fast - they were a perfect drug on the labour market, though they occupied a somewhat better position on the matrimonial market.
Various agitations for bridges were now initiated, resulting in the construction of models by Mr.Petrie and others. Subscription lists were opened, one for a structure over Breakfast Creek and another for a bridge across a creek running across what is now Stanley street, but then " the principal thoroughfare in South Brisbane. " The last named was started first as an experiment, but in a week the work was hung up for want of funds although the estimated cost was under 60 pounds.
As if to set an example to the Government, the Hunter River Shipping Company decided to mark the channel though the river bar by means of beacons. Mr. Warner's plan of the new road from the Bremer to North Brisbane, too, was sent to Sydney for approval, and while improvements were being made outside the Settlement speculators were running up houses in North and South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point, possibly in anticipation of the influx of population. With the arrival of the ticket-of-leave men came instructions for the vacation of all Government buildings, and in order to make the Lima people as comfortable as possible on their arrival a number of bark huts were erected by subscription.
The old windmill had a narrow escape from falling a victim to the money grabbing propensities of the Government and its present existence is due more to sheer good luck than to anything else. The old landmark was first offered for sale on the 6th December, 1849, for what useful purpose goodness only knows, but it was bought in by a Government official, who wished to save it from public hands and possible demolition. It was knocked down to him for something like £30, and was subsequently disposed of by tender at an advance of £10.
As if fearing interference with the purchase, the investors commenced pulling it down, but fortunately a flaw was discovered in the sale note or some such document and by dint of perseverance and hard work it went back to the Crown, who a few years later converted it into a signal tower. During the time the right of the last purchasers was being questioned the top of the tower had been pulled down, but this was some years later rebuilt and with this exception the old relict is in much the same condition as when used as a mill.
At this time there was much competition for the ferries, and at the annual sale in December that at Russell street realized £830, and the one connecting Petries Bight with Kangaroo Point £135, the upset prices being £40 and £15 respectively. The purchasers were Pat Byrne and John Bishop who were, and not unreasonably, voted to be verging on insanity.
I am somewhat puzzled to understand how the investors could hope to make the speculation pay, but they evidently did so, since Byrne did not care whether he kept passengers waiting two minutes or two hours. Of course this competition for ferry rights was appreciated by the residents who had been given the proceeds of all such sales for road making purposes two years previously. December was indeed an eventful month. It marked the launch of the Hawk (built by the late Captain Winship), Brisbane Gaol was proclaimed and Mr Freny appointed gaoler and the foundation stone of the long talked of Custom house was laid.
The opening months of 1850 were equally full of interesting events. February 12th saw the establishment of a circuit court at Moreton Bay; the Custom house was completed on 26th April, a tender was accepted for building a bridge over Breakfast Creek at a cost of £180 on 9th May: the next day marked the opening of the new Catholic Church in Elizabeth street which still exists in a dilapidated condition next to St Stephen's Cathedral; the first Circuit Judge (Mr Justice Therry) arrived in Brisbane on the 12th May and by the return trip of the steamer which carried him was sent for approval the surveyed plan of the township of Cleveland.
The first Circuit Court was opened on the 11th May and since the event is of some historic interest I may give the names of the jury empanelled. They were:- F. Ede, Michael Burns, H. R. Elkins, John Bruce, B. Cribb, R.J. Coley, John Fielding, S.W. Bailey, Thomas Costin, P. Campbell, Martin Byrne, and A.E. Campbell. The opening of the court, combined with the importance of the several cases to be heard, occasioned very great interest. The proceedings were marked by a lengthy yet lucid and important address from Mr Justice Therry.
The court was held in the chapel of the old Convict Barracks, and the cases ranged from petty larceny to housebreaking and murder. The latter was that in which Jacob Wagner and Patrick Fitzgerald, shepherds, were found guilty, though both loudly protested their innocence, of a most brutal crime committed at Wide Bay, the victim being James Marsden otherwise Charles Martin, a hutkeeper.
Fitzgerald even expressed a hope that the gates of heaven might be closed against him if he had committed either that or any other murder in his life, but from his statement made just prior to his execution it would seem that he was not so innocent as he would have folk believe, and had been an approver of the murder of a pay master in Ireland prior to his being sent out.
Wagner too, roundly abused the prosecutor, Joseph Benson on whose station the deed was committed, but was stopped by the Judge, who sentenced both to death. The murder was committed on the 9th March, the prisoners being brought before the local justice, Mr Bidwell, who forwarded them to Sydney.
Judging from the information before me I should say that Mr. Bidwell was a most negligent officer, and richly deserved the censure showered on him. Even the original depositions were missing when the men came to be tried, they having, it subsequently transpired, been destroyed by this officer because "they were too faulty ".
Immediately on the arrival of the prisoners at Sydney they were placed on board the Eagle (in which vessel the judge travelled) and despatched to Moreton Bay. Having been sentenced to death, further delay was occasioned by the fact that the Moreton Bay Settlement possessed no gallows. The grim structure was, however, imported from Newcastle, and did not arrive until the end of June.
At length the fatal morning dawned but the familiarity with the gallows which had been forced on the inhabitants, first by the removal of that machine through the public streets from the steam packet, and secondly by its erection in open daylight on a public highway - for the execution took place somewhere very near to the present post office - did not bring a single spectator before it at 8 o'clock on the morning of the 8th July,1850. Of the persons who afterwards assembled a large number turned away from the sight presented to them when the death moment of the convicts had arrived.
The few who remained saw two human beings full of life and vigour, who in a moment after fell dead before them strangled above their own coffins in fulfilment of the law which had adjudged them guilty of murder. All with two exceptions quickly quitted the scene, the two exceptions being hangman Green and the Rev Charles Stewart. The two lowered the bodies and placed them in their coffins, the Rev gentleman following Wagner’s remains to the burial ground in fulfilment of a promise made to the condemned man.
Before leaving this first sitting of the Circuit Court I may refer to a case brought before it which in some respects was remarkable. Between 10 and 11 o'clock on the night of the 28th November, 1849, a man named Humby called on Mr John Petrie, and shaking from head to foot announced that a black boy employed by Mr Petrie had reported to him that the blacks of York's Hollow (Victoria Park), had hamstrung a bullock, preparatory to roasting it, and had designs on several others.
Humby had previously been informed by the black boy that the natives were watching his hut, and being unable to shake off the fear which had seized him Humby worked himself up into a terrible state, causing him to forget the truth and furnish a story made up of imagination and downright untruths.
John Petrie with his brother Andrew and one or two others at once set out for the camp, while Humby was sent on to inform the police. Chief constable Fitzpatrick was in bed at the time end deemed his rest of more interest than Humby's message. He instructed a constable to inform the nearest magistrate (Dr. Ballow), but the doctor confessed he did not know how to act, and asked Lieutenant Cameron, who was in charge of the military, to take such action as he might think necessary.
The Lieutenant dividing his forces placed the left division in charge of a sergeant, while he controlled the right himself. Placing the value of the blacks' existence at nil some of the men in the left division opened fire on the sable warriors, who fled. Fortunately Mr Petrie came up before another round could be fired and prevented what might have developed into a very serious fracas. As it was several of the blacks were wounded. An inquiry followed, and as a result Chief constable Fitzpatrick was handed his "walking ticket"- being succeeded by Sergeant Sneyd - and three of the soldiers were ordered to appear before Mr Justice Therry. Only one however, was found guilty, and he was let off with six months' imprisonment.
By this time the juvenile population had increased largely, and it was felt that some system of education should be adopted. Meetings were accordingly held in North Brisbane (on the 20th May), and on the following evening in South Brisbane, when it was decided to , adopt the National method, and the Government voted a small sum with which to start the institution. The Government also showed its mindfulness of the claims of Moreton Bay by forwarding by the Tamar two married couples - its proportion of the immigrants who had arrived in Sydney by the Thetis.
This, of course, was highly consolatory and encouraging, and the spirited introduction of four individuals had a powerful influence on the prosperity of the district! But a greater surprise was in store : Earl Gray gave evidence of his sincerity by despatching a shipment of "new chums" direct. These, or to be correct, some of these arrived in the Emigrant, which dropped anchor in Moreton Bay on the 8th August, 1850.
On the 12th May typhus fever made its appearance in the Irish quarters and carried off forty of the number before it was eradicated in quarantine at Dunwich. Among the victims was the medical superintendent (Dr. Mitchell). Dr. Mallon went from Moreton Bay to replace Dr. Mitchell, but was struck down and had to be relieved by Dr. Ballow, who in turn fell a victim to the terrible disease, and succumbed on the 29th September.
Not knowing where it might end, and Dr. Mallon being still ill, the services o£ the local medicos were requisitioned, but all refused. Captain and Mrs. Kemp were unceasing in their attentions to the sick and dying, and when at last the deadly disease was shaken off the Anglican portion of the survivors presented them with an address the concluding portion of which ran:- "Sacred to the memory of the Christian charity with which Captain and Mrs. Kemp, of the ship Emigrant, ministered with unwearied kindness to the last hours of those whose graves may be seen around. " A memento of this sad business can to this day be seen at Dunwich.
The 19th July had witnessed the birth of an adversary to the Courier - the Free Press. The Courier, from the time it had passed from the control of Mr. Lyon to that of Mr. Swan, had, I may say, consistently opposed the reinstitution of the penal system in the Settlement, and had become so warm in its denunciation of convictism that it was deemed necessary by the squatters to administer a check. It was decided that the most effective way of doing this would be to run an opposition organ, and - much to Mr. Swan's chagrin - for there was a disagreement other than political between them - Mr. Lyon was made its new editor.
Colonel Snodgrass had been asked and had stated his willingness to accede to the request to vacate his seat as the representative in Parliament for Moreton Bay. It was hoped by the promoters that some power might be swayed in the interest of the Transportationist cause by means of the Free Press, and if their efforts in this direction were unsuccessful it was not because of any lack of ability or enterprise on the part of their editor.
The first "leader" in the new paper stated that the journal would be published twice a week (of course the Courier had to follow suit), and avowed that the interests of the stock-holders, agriculturists, and townspeople were identical. It was promised that financial separation from Sydney would be sought, the best plan for the introduction of eligible labourers would be pointed out, and the question of education would be kept in view.
The Courier greeted its rival with a very fair and on the whole complimentary notice, even declaring that the establishment of a second newspaper was a proof of the increasing prosperity of Moreton Bay. This feeling of camaraderie not reciprocated, and ere a month had elapsed a war, sometimes fierce and bitter, was being waged between the twain. The Free Press had evidently laid itself out to annoy its neighbour, and did it with a vengeance - even to taking its articles without acknowledgment, and seducing its subscribers and advertisers by offering lower rates.
The Courier stood it awhile, but in newspaper work, as in other things, there is a limit to endurance, and its articles indicating how the Courier felt, form interesting reading at the present time. Here is a sample of the beginning and ending of one choice par :-
" The learned and distinguished penny-a-liner who props up the ephemeral constitution of our local contemporary, and writes the heavy annihilations for that influential thunderer, has published another string of incoherences by way of rejoinder to our remarks upon his previous fibs. . . . . When all the reforming world is busy turning swords into ploughshares we do not see why a pen - especially a blunt one should not be turned into a bullock whip!"