Ex convicts deserve a second chance

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Ex convicts deserve a second chance

And this is not the only illustration that Australia has furnished of a 'little one' becoming 'a thousand. His position was a peculiarly onerous one, his duties were most difficult, and the noble example of disinterestedness and self-sacrifice set by him on more than one occasion when actual starvation stared the colonists—free as well as bond—in the face, has never been surpassed by any ruler in ancient or modern times.

After the lapse of a hundred years one can hardly conceive the difficulties attendant upon official life in the days when Governor Phillip held absolute sway. The rough and rude material which he had to shape into order and decency would under favorable circumstances have tested the humanity and statesmanship of the kindest of mortals and the most skilful of generals; but it was under the most unfavorable conditions that Governor Phillip successfully carried the people placed under his charge through the initial stages of colonization and settlement.

The convicts at times gave great trouble, and had it not been for the strictness of the discipline enforced—although no approach was made to arbitrariness, much less official cruelty—it is more than probable that felony would have proved too much for the powers of militaryism, and lawlessness would have triumphed.

It is not every man who, in a similar position, would have used his powers so wisely—powers the equal of which have, perhaps, never been held or exercised by any other official in the British dominions.

As Samuel Sidney well puts it: His subjects consisted of his subordinate officers—for, as captain-general, the commandant of the troops was under his orders,—of the few who resorted to New South Wales to trade, whose profits were at his disposal, and the convicts, outcasts without civil rights.

The distance from England, the few means of communication, the indifference of the English to the fate of the inhabitants of a penal colony, or of any colony, rendered the governor, so far as the control of law extended, actually irresponsible.

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As there was no law, so there was no publicity and no public opinion to restrain the despotism which was the only possible government in such a penal colony. Under the unfavourable circumstances existing, it was not to be expected that during the four-and-a-half years of Governor Phillip's reign any great progress in the direction of proper settlement would be made; but there was progress, nevertheless.

The work of cultivation was carried on by the Government as well as it was able on the public account, but the conditions of soil and labour were so unsuitable that the yield was not nearly sufficient at the best to provide for the wants of the inhabitants, whose numbers were ever increasing by the arrival of fresh ship-loads of convicts.

On two or three occasions the colony was put in the greatest straits through the failure of the crops and the absence of provisions. During the first year nothing was produced in the colony except a few vegetables, and the stock of provisions brought out from England was in danger of being exhausted before fresh supplies could be procured.

Everyone was put upon short allowance, and disaffection among the troops and the convicts speedily manifested itself. Some of the former entered into a conspiracy for plundering the public store, and succeeded in abstracting a quantity of provisions before the plot was discovered.

As a warning to others the chief conspirators, seven in number, were hanged by the Governor straight off. Starvation stared the people in the face, and, regardless of consequences, the convicts broke regulation bounds and strayed into the bush in search of herbs and roots.

The result was a natural one—scores of them were murdered by the blacks, and so many were being cut down in this way that an order was given for every one found beyond certain boundaries to receive one hundred and fifty lashes.

If any of the unfortunates managed to get away from the aborigines only wounded they were sent to the hospital, and flogged as soon as they recovered.

Ex convicts deserve a second chance

In those days death was not always the worst fate that could befall a prisoner. The early records declare that one man who was caught by the solitary clergyman in the settlement stealing potatoes from a garden, was sentenced to lashes, to have his ration of flour stopped for six months, and to be chained for that period to two others who had been caught robbing the Governor's garden.

During this trying period Governor Phillip lived on the same ration as was allowed to the meanest person under his charge, the weekly provision issued to everyone being simply two and a half pounds of flour, two pounds of rice, and two pounds of pork. The humanity of the Governor is seen in the fact narrated by Collins that he gave up 3 cwt.

When the people were on the very verge of despair and death, their eyes were gladdened by the sight of a provision ship sailing into the harbour, and bringinglbs. A few days afterwards four ships arrived bringing male and female convicts. It can readily be imagined what would have happened had these transport ships discharged their living freight before the public larder had been replenished by the timely arrival of the vessel with provisions.A public health emergency has been declared in California amid deadly wildfires.

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