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The Molesworth Committee 1837-38 Inquiry

    On Friday 7 Apr 1837 the British Parliament ordered that a House of Commons Select (Molesworth) Committee be appointed to Inquiry into the System of Transportation, it’s Efficacy as a Punishment, its Influence on the Moral State of Society in the Penal Colonies, and how far it is susceptible of Improvement, 1837. 

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House of Commons Select (Molesworth) Committee Membership and Minutes of Evidence, 1837

Sir William Molesworth (Chair) 1  Sir Thomas Fremantle  2 
Lord John Russell  3  Mr Francis Baring (Thetford)  4 
Sir George Grey  5  Sir Robert Peel  6 
Mr [John Temple] Leader  7  Mr [Thomas Barrett] Lennard  8 
Mr [Henry George] Ward  9  Mr [Nicolas William] Ridley Colborne  10 
Mr [Benjamin] Hawes  11   Mr Charles Buller  12 
Mr William Ord  13  Mr [William] Hutt (joined committee 24 Apr 1837)  14 
Lord Viscount Howick  15  Mr Henry Lytton Bulwer (joined committee 8 May 1837)  16  
Mr Fowell Buxton (discharged from committee 24 Apr 1837)  17   

            
                                                
Members of the Committee Present on 18 Apr 1837      

Sir William Molesworth, bart. [Baronet] Mr Hawes
Mr F Baring Mr William Ord
Mr C Buller    Lord John Russell
Sir George Grey, bart. [Baronet]  Mr Ward

 

Minutes of evidence, Sir Francis Forbes, 18 Apr 1837  18  and  19 

502.    [Sir William Molesworth] Chairman:    You have stated the extraordinary disproportion of the sexes in the colony; are you aware, from report or from evidence that has been brought before you as a judge, whether unnatural crimes are common?
            [Sir Francis Forbes]:    There are cases of prosecution for unnatural crimes in the court occasionally.

503.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are you aware from report that that crime is common?
            [Sir Francis Forbes]:    No; I am not aware from report that that is common.

504.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    At Norfolk Island, for instance?
            [Sir Francis Forbes]:    At Norfolk Island I have understood that it is suspected to be very common, from the circumstances of there being very few women there; but I know of no other ground for imputing that except general suspicion.

505.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    But that general suspicion amounts to a general belief in the minds of almost all the inhabitants of the colony?
            [Sir Francis Forbes]:    Yes, the belief is very general; indeed it has been called a Sodom in the papers, but on mere suspicion and belief.

506.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    The general belief is that it is called unjustly so?
            [Sir Francis Forbes]:    I cannot say what the general belief is upon that point, but I know that it is so called.

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The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Tue 5 Sep 1837  20 

Chief Justice Forbes.   

Private intelligence has been received in the Colony relative to Sir Francis Forbes’ examination before the Committee on Transportation, of rather a singular nature. As we shall most probably before our next publication be put in possession of authentic information on this subject, we shall not at present, give the particulars that have already transpired publicity. Suffice it to say that the probable result will be the cessation of all thought on the part of the Home Government, of sending Sir Francis here again as Chief Justice. His Honor’s man Gough figured conspicuously we believe on Sir Francis’s examination. Major [James] Mudie, we hear, was present during the time the Chief Justice gave his evidence, and kept his Honor’s memory a jogging, which we are sorry to learn has suffered from severe illness.

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Members of the Committee Present on 21 Apr 1837

Sir William Molesworth, bart., [Baronet] in the chair Mr Hawes
Mr F Baring Mr Leader
Mr Ridley Colborne Mr Lennard
Sir George Grey, bart. [Baronet]  



Minutes of evidence, James Mudie, Esq, 21 Apr 1837  21 and 22 

718.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is your opinion with regard to the rarity of unnatural crime?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    I cannot say much on that head.

719.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:     Amongst the convict population, is it common or not, as far as report goes?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    As far as report goes, it is; but I cannot speak to it.

720.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you believe that that report is well founded?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    I should think so; I have heard a number of very horrid reports about boys.

721.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you suppose that those reports are well founded?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    I should be inclined to believe it of the boys, because they go by names; if a boy happens to be upon a farm, and to be sent to the prisoners’ barracks in Sydney, the boys will go by the names of Kitty and Nanny; but that is all mere report.

722.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Is the report of such a description as to induce you to believe that unnatural crime is common among the convicts?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    I certainly could not make use of the word common; but I should say there is a good deal of it goes on, no question.

723.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Should you think it safe to let a boy associate with convict men?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    No, I should not; nothing could save his being corrupted; every species of vice they glory in; it is the glory of the men convicts to corrupt a boy; in fact they could not live if they resisted.

724.    [Mr Lennard]:    When you say to corrupt a boy, what do you mean?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    To make him swear, and to put him up to every species of vice; I should say that there is no species of crime that they would not glory in.

725-8.    [Mr Lennard]:    Including unnatural crime?
                [James Mudie, Esq]:    Yes; but I do not mean to say all the convicts, but there a great many.

729.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Amongst the convict population, would the suspicion of a person having been guilty of unnatural crime excite abhorrence and detestation?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    No; they might amongst one another jeer and talk a little, but it would only be a sort of cant phrase.

730.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    You do not think it would have been in abhorrence?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    No, I have heard them jeer one another, such as calling one another “sods.”

731.    [Mr Lennard]:    Is that a term of reproach?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    Yes, one convict will call another so.

732.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you know anything about Norfolk Island?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    Nothing whatever, but by report.

733.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Can you state what you know of it from report?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    I know nothing but that it is reported that there is a vast deal of that species of crime carried on there.

734.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are the circumstances of the report such as to induce you to believe that it is well founded?
            [James Mudie, Esq]:    I believe it is universally believed; and there is a vast deal in the public prints about it.
   

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Members of the Committee Present on 25 Apr 1837  23 and 24 

Mr F Baring  Mr Leader
Mr Ridley Colborne Mr Lennard
Sir George Grey Sir William Molesworth, Bart. [Baronet]
Mr Hawes Sir Robert Peel
Lord Viscount Howick Mr Ward
Mr Hutt   



Minutes of evidence, Mr Ernest August Slade, 25 Apr 1837  

1022.    [Sir William Molesworth] Chairman:    During the whole of your superintendence of the convict barrack, how many do think were under your charge?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Many thousands.

1023.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    When you had the direction of the barrack, can you say what were the crimes that were common?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    When I took charge of that barrack, I found it in the worse state of discipline in the world; but from the rules and regulations which I established, I gave it up in as efficient state; and during the last six or seven months I was there I hardly punished a single man for a crime.

1024.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What were the crimes which you found common?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I should say that the crimes that were common were drunkenness, pilfering, men being absent without leave.

1025.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Any others?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    No; those were the most common crimes.

1026.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    How could the convicts be absent without leave?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Working out in their gangs, they did not return, and the overseers allowed them to escape.

1027.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Could not the convicts obtain leave at the barracks?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I made a regulation to allow non of them to quit the barrack on any pretence.

1028.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Did not they quit it frequently at night?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    They did not, in the last six months.

1029.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Did they before?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes, they did, and were nightly prowling about the town.

1030.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    How did they manage to escape?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    By connivance with the officers in charge of that barrack, paying them for it, it being understood at the time that if they were found out they should report them as absent without leave, and prosecute them themselves; I should state that the clerk in charge of that barrack was a convict, who had charge of the most important papers connected with the convicts.

1031.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Where no other crimes besides those to which you have referred common, or suspected to be common?
                [Mr EA Slade]:     Yes, sodomy has been suspected to be common there.

1032.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What has produced that suspicion?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    The boys making the complaint that they could not remain in the room with the men.

1033.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    You say that there was a general belief that sodomy was common?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes, but it was always impossible to establish it.

1034.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Did this apply to any particular period, or any particular branch of convicts?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    No; I imagine that the new hands became contaminated from the contact with the others, because the complaints were not made by the older stayers in the colony, but by the young boys, who complained of the men taking liberties with them.

1035.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Amongst the convict population, would the suspicion of a person having been guilty of an unnatural crime excite abhorrence and detestation?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Only among the gentlemen convicts.

1036.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Amongst the gentlemen convicts, would it?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    It would excite abhorrence.

1037.    [Mr Hawes]:    Do the police officers keep any record of cases brought before them?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    They have been kept, but in a very slovenly state.

1038.    [Mr Hawes]:    Do you think any accurate knowledge could be obtained of the state of crime from the books of that office?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I should doubt it, because, when I left, the books were in arrear.

1039.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    With regard to your general belief which you have stated, should you think it safe, for instance, to allow boys to associate with convict men?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Certainly not.

1040.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is your feeling upon that subject?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    My feeling is that they would be contaminated by contact with those men, as I believe, among a certain class of convicts, sodomy is as common as any other crime, and I found my belief upon what I have stated, that young hands have frequently made a complaint to me of improper liberties taken with them by those men, and I had frequent complaints to that effect.

1041.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What steps did you take to prevent it?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I appointed two overseers in each dormitory as a kind of watch, and to whom people who felt aggrieved might appeal for protection, and to call out in the yard, where I kept nightly watchmen.

1042.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Were you successful in preventing it?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Partly, but it was frustrated from not having men I could depend upon; had men been appointed as a nightly watch to visit those dormitories at stated hours, and lamps kept constantly burning, I have no doubt that the crime would have been put to an end.

1043.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    It was stated in the evidence the other day that boys had been called by the names of girls [see above]; have you known that to be the case?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I have known of boys being called the fancy girls of men.

1044.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Have you known many cases of that kind?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I should think I know about five or six cases of that kind.

1045.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    You have spoken solely with reference to those crimes in the barrack; as a police magistrate, did any knowledge come to you of such crimes out of the barracks?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Crimes have been brought before me.

1046.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Pretty frequently?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    They were not frequent, for this reason, that they were seldom brought forward except out of revenge to the party himself, and then they were brought forward by an exasperated overseer, and generally a convict man, who perhaps had not received so much of the plunder of the night before the convict-men got in prowling about without leave.

1047.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What did you do when such cases were brought before you?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I have seldom been able to bring them home to the parties, and I have therefore summarily punished them, by either giving them 50 lashes or sending them to the chain-gang.

1048.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Taking the whole number of cases of that description, how many do you think occurred in the year?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    It is impossible that I could state; I could state one or two cases that came before me of a particular kind of crime, but I could not state the number of cases.

1049.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are those crimes common?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I only remember one case.

1050.    [Sir George Grey]:    What did you mean by saying that you could not bring it home to the parties, and therefore that you gave them summary punishment?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Because the evidence was not sufficient.

1051.    [Sir George Grey]:    You mean that you had moral evidence of guilt, but not sufficient to produce conviction before a jury?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes; rather than put the government to the expense of prosecuting those men, I have summarily punished them.

1052.    [Sir George Grey]:    Did you keep a record of the case?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes.

1053.    [Mr Hawes]:    Is it usual, upon insufficient evidence, but upon moral assurance of the guilt of the men, to punish them?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    The evidence was such as this; a man being punished for being found with his trousers down.

1054.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Did you not punish the man for the minor crime?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes, for bestiality.

1055-6.    [Mr Hawes]:    If the crime was proved against the man which justified the punishment, you inflicted it upon him?
                    [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes.

1057.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Should you say that such cases were common?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I should say cases with animals are not common in Sydney, but I think the case of sodomy is common, in consequence of the men not being able to have connexion with women.

1058.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is the proportion of men to women?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Two-thirds, at least; it may be more.

1059.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    You could not tell near about the number of cases which you think were brought before you of this description?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    No; but the cases of bestiality were exceedingly common; cases of another description were seldom brought before me, unless on the pique of some party.

1060.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Had you reason to believe that they were much more common than appeared?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Very common.

1061.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    More common in Sydney than in any other of the civilised world?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    More common; I should say there were 100 cases at Sydney to one in the United Kingdom.

1062.    [Mr Lennard]:    You say that young hands complained of the liberties taken with them by the men; whom do you mean by young hands, boys or convicts lately come over?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    The convict boys, 16 or 17 years old, and who had arrived in the last ships, and who had been with my convicts as a temporary residence previous to assignment; and I could not place them in the barracks of the old stagers, in consequence of the liberties those men were accustomed to take with them.

1063.    [Mr Lennard]:    Am I to understand that you conceive that, after a long residence, those young persons became generally less averse to them?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I conceive after a residence they became contaminated, and acted as the rest.

1064.    [Mr Lennard]:    And that you found to be the general case?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    That is my belief.

1065.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Then many complaints were made to you by the boys?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Many. I could never bring them home to any parties, but I took such precautions so that at last I think it existed very little.

1066.    [Mr Hawes]:    You spoke just now of cases of bestiality; do you mean of indecent exposure of the person, or indecent exposure combined with other circumstances?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Combined with other circumstances, which led me to suppose that the man was up to no good.

1067.    [Mr Hawes]:    You mean, then, indecent exposure combined with special circumstances?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes.

1068.    [Mr Hawes]:    Always more than simple exposure of the person?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes.

1069.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    By what class of person are those cases brought before you?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    By overseers.

1070.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are complaints of this nature brought by boys out of the barrack?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I only know one case of a boy bringing it forward out of the barrack, and he brought a charge against three or four men; and I had reason to believe, after sifting the evidence, that he had been a willing participator in the offence, and that in consequence of some pique he had taken towards the parties, he gave evidence against them; but the evidence was of that slight character, that it was impossible to convict them.

1071.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Was the boy of character?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes.

1072.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Where boys had been concerned, did you find that they were willing or unwilling to give evidence?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I have invariably found that boys when they first came to court, when I pushed it to a examination, would not give the evidence that they had stated before.

1073.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    When complaints have been brought by other persons, have you found that the boys were willing or unwilling participators?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I should think, willing; but I beg to observe, that sodomy exists to that great extent only among men who have no access to women; when men are shut up without any intercourse with women.

1074.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What do you know of Norfolk Island?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Only by report.

1075.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What do you know of it by report?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    That the crime of sodomy is carried on to a great extent.

1076.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is the punishment?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Summary punishment of fifty or one hundred lashes.

1077.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is your authority?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    A gentlemen who lived there many years.

1078.    [Mr Hawes]:    Do you mean that the discretion as to punishment in Norfolk Island extends between fifty and one hundred lashes?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I heard that they seldom gave more than fifty or one hundred lashes, because cases could not be proved.

1079.    [Sir George Grey]:    Do you mean that that was a punishment which was attached to the crime when fully proved?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    No, it was capital punishment when fully proved.

1080.    [Mr Ridley Colborne]:    Of this species of crime, which you describe as so very notorious, do you think that one in ten were ever proved to you, so that the parties could be easily convicted?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Not one in twenty.

1081.    [Mr Ridley Colborne]:    One in thirty?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Perhaps that may be nearer the mark; it is very difficult of proof.

1082.    [Mr Ridley Colborne]:    Do you think that twenty-nine out of thirty were such as mere reports, and not found upon facts that could be substantiated?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I had no doubt in my own mind that the fact had been committed, but the evidence was not such as to authorise us to send the case to the Supreme Court.

1083.    [Mr Hawes]:    Will you describe the general character of the evidence given to justify the suspicion?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Evidence of men being seen with their breeches down in secluded places with other men.

1084.    [Mr Ridley Colborne]:    Did you punish those 29 cases out of 30 in a summary way?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Most of the cases that I ever had of bestiality have been punished in a summary manner, because I could never get conclusive proof; I have found that those parties were unwilling to give evidence.

1085.    [Mr Lennard]:    Did you find that any of those cases were malicious?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    There have been such cases; but if you had it proved that men were found with their breeches down in secluded spots, and they stated that they had been there to ease themselves, and upon examination it was found that they had not done so, what could have occurred?

1086.    [Mr Ridley Colborne]:    Was there any legal evidence that could have brought home the offence?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Certainly not. otherwise they would have been committed.

1087.    [Sir George Grey]:    Were these circumstances amounting only to a strong suspicion of an attempt to the commission of crime?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes.

1088.    [Mr Ridley Colborne]:     And yet the punishment of flogging was inflicted?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes, or the tread-mill.

1089.    [Sir George Grey]:    The evidence upon which the summary conviction took place would not have availed and jury for convicting them?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    No; for the offence upon which we punished them was, where men where seen in an improper indecent position, with their trowsers [sic] down.

1090.    [Sir George Grey]:    was the offence upon which you punished cognisable alone in that way, and not by the courts of law?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Only cognisable in that way, and it would not have been so bad for the men had they exposed themselves in public places.

1091.    [Sir George Grey]:    Then it was, in fact, for indecent exposure of the person that the parties were punished?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    With a belief in my mind that they had been there for improper purposes.

1092.    [Sir George Grey]:    Does the police act draw any distinction between an indecent exposure of the person and an indecent exposure allied to a suspicion of an attempt to commit a crime?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes. Had there been evidence to that effect, the man would have been committed for trial for attempting an unnatural crime.

1093.    [Sir George Grey]:    But the evidence did not amount to that suspicion?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Where the evidence did amount to that they have been sent to take their trial.

1094.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Is perjury common with convicts?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    They are not to be believed. I would rather take the word of a free men of irreproachable character than the oath of all the convicts in New South Wales.

1095.    [Mr Lennard]:    Did you punish those persons, of whom you have just spoken, upon the testimony of free men or upon the testimony of convicts?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Generally upon the evidence of free men combined with that of convicts.

1096.    [Mr Lennard]:    Never simply upon the testimony of convicts?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Except it was borne out by other convicts. In all summary convictions we went a great deal upon the character of the men, and whether they have any malice against any one, and therefore we called up the master to prove what intimacy subsisted between the overseer and the men.

1097.    [Sir George Grey]:    Setting aside the evidence of character, do you mean that you necessarily required the evidence of free men as corroborative of the evidence of the convicts?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    No; that rested with the discretion of the magistrate.

1098.    [Sir George Grey]:    In the majority of cases is convict evidence received?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    Yes; but I always received convict evidence with the great caution.

1099.    [Sir George Grey]:    With respect to the crimes committed in the barrack, was the evidence upon which you inflicted punishment summarily generally free evidence or convict evidence?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I had nothing to do with that punishment; if I had any charge to make against a person, I made a complaint, and if the magistrates were satisfied, then they punish him.

1100.    [Sir George Grey]:    In other cases, was convict evidence generally received, or, in the majority of cases, was the evidence of free people required in order to subject the party to summary punishment?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    At the police office, the magistrates received the evidence of convicts; I always received the evidence of convicts with great caution; I very seldom punished on the evidence of convicts alone.

1101.    [Sir George Grey]:    In those 29 or 30 cases of which you spoke, can you state in how many there was the evidence of free people?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I cannot state that.

1102.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Is the a traffic in false swearing?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    I have always understood so; and I found my opinion upon th follow circumstance: I committed a ticket-of-leave man for giving false evidence before the Supreme Court, in which a colonial lad had been acquitted of horse-stealing; the evidence he had before given at the police office was so strong that the lad must have been convicted, but he contradicted his words before the judge, upon which the attorney-general threw up the case.

1103.    [Sir George Grey]:    Was the deposition in court?
                [Mr EA Slade]:    The deposition was never opened by the judge; I had that man brought before the bench of quarter sessions to be tried for false swearing; and although I proved, by my own oath and that of the chief clerk of the peace of the county and other men of good character, that what he had stated was false, he by hard swearing for the offence got acquitted, and although there was primâ facie evidence that this ticket-of-leave man, if not guilty of perjury, had been guilty of disgraceful conduct, he was still allowed to receive the indulgence of a ticket of leave.

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Members of the Committee Present on 12 May 1837

Sir George Grey Sir William Molesworth
Mr Hutt Mr Ward
Mr Lennard  


Minutes of evidence, Lieut Col Henry Breton, 12 May 1837  25 and 26 

2257.    [Sir George Grey]:    During the time you were police magistrate, was there any charge for crimes of a serious nature brought before you?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    I have no recollection of any instance during those three months.

2258.    [Sir George Grey]:    I need hardly ask you whether any charge of an unnatural offence was brought before you during that time?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Not one.

2259.    [Sir George Grey]:    Do you believe that unnatural offences are more common among the convicts in the colony than they are elsewhere?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    I have no doubt of it.

2260.    [Sir George Grey]:    Is that the general impression in the colony?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Quite so. I have heard three different surgeons going out with convicts say there is a great deal of it.

2261.    [Sir George Grey]:    In the ships while they are going out?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Yes; I know my surgeon had an idea that there was a great deal of it; still we had no positive proof of it, we could not find it out.

2262.    [Mr Hutt]:    You do not consider the circumstance of very few cases having been brought before you any reason to believe that the crime did not exist?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Not at all; my district was a very large one, and the population so scattered, that I could hardly expect very many serious crimes brought before me; I was in an almost unsettled district, where the crimes which are generally committed the masters chiefly pass over.

2263.    [Mr Hutt]:    Perhaps the inference would be of an opposite nature, that the crime was common, and consequently did not produce that effect of abhorrence that it would on the minds of persons who were less depraved?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    It was a charge very rarely brought before the bench.

2264.    [Mr Hutt]:    Notwithstanding, you believe it existed?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    I certainly do; but as the evidence could only be given from among themselves, there was little actual proof to be obtained.

2422.    [Sir George Grey]:    Is there any gross immorality prevalent in Sydney, which would attract the notice of a stranger, as compared with large seaport towns in England?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Certainly not; if you take Sydney itself, and take George-street, you will see there a great number of prostitutes.

2423.    [Sir George Grey]:    Is there any marked difference between the ordinary streets of Sydney and the ordinary streets of a seaport town in this respect?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    No.

2424.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Can you give us no accurate information with regard to the supposed prevalence of unnatural crime in Sydney?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Not at all.

2425.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    With regard to Norfolk Island?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Not at all.

2426.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Not even from report?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    The impression among us military men was, that there is a great deal of unnatural crime among the convicts, and we have instances among our own men; not frequent.

2427.    [Sir George Grey]:    Do you limit that observation to Norfolk Island, or extend it over the whole colony?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    Over the whole colony.

2428.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Could you state to the Committee what your opinion is with regard to the effect of transportation on the moral improvement of the convict?
                [Lieut Col Henry Breton]:    I think it has the very best effect on the convict in one particular respect, in getting him away from the country in which he has committed his crime. He gets into a new country, and feels that he has an opportunity of turning over a new leaf, and becoming a good man; and many of them do become exceedingly good men.
   

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Members of the Committee Present on 30 May 1837

Mr Francis Baring  Sir George Grey, Bart. [Baronet]
Mr HL Bulwer Mr Hutt
Mr Ridley Colborne Mr Lennard
Sir Thomas Fremantle, Bart. [Baronet]   Sir William Molesworth, Bart., [Baronet] in the chair

 

Minutes of evidence, Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang, 30 May 1837  27 and 28 


3525.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Explain to the Committee more fully what you mean by saying that the punishment may be disagreeable without being of a penal character?
                [Rev Dr John D Lang]:    The convicts themselves complain that associating with persons of their own class, but of much deeper depravity than individually they may be of themselves, is extremely disagreeable, and it is decidedly demoralising; they are shut up in barracks, where they have unrestrained intercourse with each other.

3526.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you believe that the consequence is, that it leads to the most disgusting crimes?
                [Rev Dr John D Lang]:    Not to such an extent by any means as is supposed in this country; but such crimes are undoubtedly practised, especially in the penal settlements.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Members of the Committee Present on 30 Jun 1837 

Mr Ridley Colborne Viscount Howick
Sir George Grey Sir William Molesworth, in the Chair

 

Minutes of evidence, Col George Arthur, 30 Jun 1837  29 and 30 


4535.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    How far is Port Arthur from Hobart Town?
                [Col George Arthur]:    You might run down in about six hours.

4536.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    With respect to the situation of Port Arthur with regard to the settled districts, do you think there are any advantages resulting from its situation?
                [Col George Arthur]:    I think the great advantage, which cannot be commanded over the penal settlement of Norfolk Island. The distance of Tasman’s Peninsula is so small from Hobart Town that the governor has an opportunity of visiting it himself, which is a most important consideration, in connexion with the discipline of the settlement; he has an opportunity of personally inspecting all the prisoners, and hearing their complaints; and on my visiting it, it always occupied a day and half, investigating their different statements, and applications to be removed from the settlement. It also afforded an opportunity for the chief police magistrate being dispatched to inspect the settlement, and some of the principal officers who were magistrates; the chief justice also visited it during the last two years two or three times. All these visits afforded the convicts that were placed at the settlement an opportunity of stating any peculiar grievances, if they had such to present.

4537.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Did you find that they were ready to make complaints?
                [Col George Arthur]:    I did not find they were ready to make many complaints; on the contrary, I should scarcely say any complaints as to their treatment at the settlement, but most earnest solicitations to have their period shortened.

4538.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you think they felt deeply degraded by being there?
                [Col George Arthur]:    Very much.

4539.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you think that degradation would tend to harden them?
                [Col George Arthur]:    It would do so, but every measure was resorted to counteract it. Finding it difficult to get a minister of the Established Church, I prevailed on the Wesleyan Mission to send one of their missionaries to the settlement, and one was stationed there from its earliest formation. The greatest care was taken that a minister of that denomination was selected who was most qualified to afford religious instruction to such a class of person, and his exertions were very beneficial. A school was established under his care, to which many of the convicts ultimately voluntarily attended.

4540.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Were unnatural crimes supposed to be common in Port Arthur.
                [Col George Arthur]:    I have several times interrogated the commandant on that subject; his impression was that from the period when the lights were kept burning, and the constable and watchmen made the circuit during the night, as well as the principal superintendent, that that crime did not prevail.

4541.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    It had previously?
                [Col George Arthur]:    I think he was under the impression it had done so, and on that account the measure of having lights was resorted to.

4561.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is the proportion in the colony of males to females?
                [Col George Arthur]:    I do not distinctly recollect, but I can put in a return showing it.

4562.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    The number of males far exceeds that of the females?
                [Col George Arthur]:    Yes; and it is most desirable that more females should be sent out.

4563.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Is it supposed that unnatural crimes are common amongst the free persons in the colony?
                [Col George Arthur]:    No, I do not think it is; where it prevails, it is among the prisoners and convicts.

4564.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you suppose it prevailed to any extent?
                [Col George Arthur]:    I have particularly asked that question of the commandant; and I did also of Captain Crowley, whether he thought it did among the gang at Bridgewater, where I should have thought it would have prevailed; and his reply to me was, that he thought it did not.

4565.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Among the assigned servants?
                [Col George Arthur]:    I should think not there; I have no reason to suppose it does; I have seen very few cases of that kind that have come before the courts.

4566.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are the assigned servants allowed to marry whilst they are prisoners?
                [Col George Arthur]:    The Government has endeavoured, by every possible means, to promote marriage. If a settler consents to keep both convicts in his family, so that they shall not become a burden to the Government, then marriage is allowed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    On the Friday 24 Nov 1837 the British Parliament ordered that a House of Commons Select (Molesworth) Committee be continued to Inquiry into the System of Transportation, it’s Efficacy as a Punishment, its Influence on the Moral State of Society in the Penal Colonies, and how far it is susceptible of Improvement, 1838.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

House of Commons Select (Molesworth) Committee Membership and Minutes of Evidence, 1838 

Sir William Molesworth (Chair)  Sir Thomas Fremantle  Sir George Grey
Lord John Russell   Mr Francis Baring (Thetford)   Mr Charles Buller
Sir Robert Peel    Mr [John Temple] Leader   Mr [Benjamin] Hawes
Mr [Henry George] Ward  Lord Viscount Ebrington  31  Sir Charles Lemon  32 
Mr William Ord Mr [Fitzstephen] French  33  Lord Viscount Howick

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Members of the Committee Present on 8 Feb 1838

Mr Charles Buller Sir George Grey
Lord Ebrington Mr Leader
Mr French Sir William Molesworth, bart., [Baronet] in the Chair


Minutes of evidence, Very Rev William Bernard Ullathorne DD, 8 February 1838  34 and  35 


237.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    With regards to the crimes committed in the penal colonies, in a work which is written by you, you say, “There is another class of crimes too frightful even for the imagination of other lands; which St Paul, in detailing the vices of the heathens, has not contemplated; which were unknown to the savage, until taught by the convict – crimes which are notorious – crimes that, dare I describe them, would make your blood to freeze, and your hair to rise erect in horror upon the pale flesh;” now, it is my painful duty, as Chairman of this Committee, one of whose chief objects it is to inquire into the moral state of the penal colony, to call upon you to give a full and clear explanation of the meaning of the passage which I have just read; and I am convicted that no false delicacy on your part will induce you to withhold the information which you have been placed in a position to obtain; and you must perceive, I think, that you will perform your duty as a priest, and render an important service to the community, by unfolding the horrors to which I have referred, in order that, convinced of their magnitude and extent, the Committee may be induced to make the most strenuous efforts to amend that system which had produced such enormities, I need hardly ask you whether, in the passage to which I have referred, you allude to unnatural crime; I would inquire whether you believe those crimes to be common in the colony?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    Before I enter into the subject, I beg leave to state, that it was intimated to me that I should be examined on this subject; I have seriously considered the subject’ and I beg leave particularly to state to the Committee, that it is only a hope that something will be devised for preventing such horrible crimes, which will induce me to say anything at all upon the subject. I have gone through a great deal of pain and torture of mind in consequence of the horrors which I have witnessed in the colonies, and particularly in the penal settlements, and I have such an intense conscientious feeling upon that subject, and of the results of those evils, in the thorough breaking up of the moral man, which ensues from the crime, that I would do anything that is lawful; I would even deliberately give my life if I could in any manner lawfully contribute towards the removal of that evil. The crime, I believe, sometimes prevails on board ships going out from England; but I do not think that it prevails in ships going out from Ireland. I believe, where it is introduced on board the ships from England, it is most commonly introduced by persons from the hulks in England. I believe, likewise, that the putting together such a number of persons on board ship, and the crowding even of boys together, is a cause of much crime of that kind.

238.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are those crimes supposed to be common in the hulks of this country, do you mean to say?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    Yes.

239.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    On the voyage, you do not say that they are common?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    Not so common during the voyage, as they are under certain circumstances in the colony.

240.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Under what circumstances in the colony, in the barracks?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe, and am convinced that wherever a number of bad men are brought together and continue together for any length of time, and are crowded together, there is a very great deal of that crime.

241.    [Sir George Grey]:    Do you derive your impression of the frequency of crime in the hulks here from the statements of convicts with whom you have conversed in the colony, who have been in the hulks?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]: I derive my information from convicts arriving in the colony, and occasionally from person who have been in the hulks, but more frequently from the other persons who have been on board ship, and of course are aware that such is the case.

242.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    In the barracks at Sydney did you say that those crimes were supposed to be common?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe that they exist, and that they are not uncommon in the barracks at Sydney.

243.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are the boys permitted to associate with the men?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    At night I believe they are separated from the men, but during the day they mix with them; and I have already mentioned a case where a boy was, very soon after he arrived, assailed, and first taught the crime, of which he had no idea previously.

244.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Is it not the fact that the boys are designated frequently by females names in the barracks?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe it is not unfrequent.

245.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are unnatural crimes common in country districts amongst the convicts?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe that where they do exist on farms, it is where a number of them are brought together on the large farms.

246.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    That they are not common amongst the shepherds, who are separated?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I do not think they are so common amongst the shepherds as they are amongst a much more dissolute set, the stock-men.

247.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are they common amongst these stock-men?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe that there is a great of that kind of crime amongst the stock-men.

248.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Is it supposed that they have introduced those crimes amongst the natives?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    Yes.

249.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    You stated that your information, with regard to the existence of unnatural crimes, resulted from persons who had been at the hulks, and from other persons in the ships, who were aware that such crimes were committed; you do not mean sailors, but convicts?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I mean convicts; persons on board the hulks are put on board ships in which there are convicts from other places.

250.    [Sir George Grey]:    You do not know what proportion of the convicts pass through the hulks before they are transported?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I could state the proportion.

251.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are those crimes common in the penal settlements of Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe they are very common.

252.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What proportion do you suppose are guilty of those crimes in Norfolk Island?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    When I was last there, at the close of 1835 and the beginning of 1836, there were two prisoners sentenced to death; they were attended by a Protestant clergyman, and likewise by another person, a Protestant, who was in the habit of reading prayers and instructing persons there, and it was publicly stated by those two persons, that one of the prisoners had declared that two-thirds of the island were implicated. I believe that there is considerably less of it now than there was at the time.

253.    [Sir George Grey]:    That statement refers exclusively to Norfolk Island?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    It does.

254.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you think that those crimes will ever entirely cease in the gaols and barracks, as long as men and boys are crowded together in the manner you describe?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I think it is impossible that they should cease so long as they are crowded together. When I returned from Norfolk Island, I suggested what I thought would be a means of preventing them to a considerable extent; I proposed that the prisoners should each be separated from the other by a sort of boarded partition; that there should be two lamps, one suspended at each end of the apartment; and that there should be likewise two watchmen in each apartment, one at each end; and that no communication should be allowed whatsoever between the convicts, and no words spoken during the night. I thought that that was a more effectual means of preventing it; but that will not prevent it being done in other places where the men are together; it will be necessary, whenever the men are employed together, during the day that they should always be under the eye, or liable to be under the eye of the inspector.

255.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you think that those crimes will ever cease among the convicts not in confinement as long as the proportion of men and women is so great as it is at present in the whole colony; I believe in Sydney it is two and half to one, and in the country about four to one?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    Yes, I believe that is about the proportion; I think the temptation to crime will be very great as long as the disproportion is so considerable.

256.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    When you speak of unnatural crimes, do you include under that head other crimes besides sodomy?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    Yes.

257.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are unnatural connexions with animals, do you suppose, common?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe that they exist, particularly in the remote districts.

258.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    To any considerable extent?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe that the amount of that kind of crime is not inconsiderable.

259.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Are there any other species of bestiality common?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe that when a bad man is under the dominion of a passion of that kind, he will gratify that passion in any manner that suggests itself to his imagination.

260.    [Sir George Grey]:    Do you form your opinion of the frequency of those crimes in New South Wales from the general rumour on the subject, or from facts which have come to your knowledge, and to which the public in general would not have access?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    My knowledge of that kind is derived from converse with the convict population.

261.    [Sir George Grey]:    Do you know that amount of convictions that have taken place in the year in New South Wales, on the average of the last five years, for offences of that nature?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I believe they are very few; I do not know the amount.

262.    [Sir George Grey]:    How do you account for the absence of prosecution for offences of this nature, where information upon the subject is freely communicated by the convicts themselves?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I do not thin that such information is freely communicated to persons who would convict; information is communicated perhaps to a clergyman, that is to say, a prisoner will speak of his difficulties to the clergyman more readily than he will to other persons; he will narrate the state of those that are around him; and I may say, that a prisoner will speak to a clergyman with a great deal of freeness when he is consulting that clergyman with regard to the temptations with which he is beset; in such cases a prisoner will communicate that very freely which he would not communicate to other persons.

263.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    You stated that you had been at Norfolk Island?
            [Very Rev William Ullathorne]:    I have twice visited Norfolk Island; once in 1834, and again in the end of 1835.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Members of the Committee Present on 12 Feb 1838

Lord Howick Sir William Molesworth, Bart., [Baronet] in the Chair
Mr Leader Sir Robert Peel, Bart. [Baronet]
Sir Charles Lemon, Bart. [Baronet]  


Minutes of evidence, John Barnes Esq, 12 February 1838 36 John Barnes Esq, surgeon, who was on the civil list resided in Van Diemen’s Land from Jun 1822 to Jan 1828. He was surgeon at the Macquarie Harbour government establishment.

37 op. cit, Molesworth Committee, 1838, pp. 42.} 36 and 37 {/tip}


372.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Were any boys sent to Macquarie Harbour as well as men?
            [John Barnes Esq]:    They were.

373.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What was the effect upon their character, of being sent to that penal settlement?
            [John Barnes Esq]:    I should say that the effect was to make them more depraved if possible than they were before they were allowed to mix with the other felons, and they were frequently made the tools of individuals in the commission of crimes and theft from the other convicts; they had intercourse with each other, and in many instances it was generally that they were made the dupes of old felons there, in the commission of unnatural offences which were well known to have taken place at the settlement.

374.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you suppose that unnatural offences existed to a considerable extent in the settlement?
            [John Barnes Esq]:    I think they did to a considerable extent, though at the time I was at Macquarie Harbour there was no positive fact of any instance brought before the commanding officer, although several individuals in the settlement went by female names, who were supposed to be persons on whom those crimes were committed. I have said here ‘So common was this practice at the settlement during the period of 1827, that many of the convicts went by the names of Polly, Sally, Bet, &c., to designate the individuals upon whom those crimes were supposed to be committed.’

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
 

Members of the Committee Present on 19 Feb 1838

Mr Charles Buller Sir Charles Lemon
Viscount Ebrington Sir William Molesworth, Bart., [Baronet] in the Chair
Viscount Howick  

Minutes of evidence, Mr John Russell, 19 February 1838  38 and 39 


478.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is the effect on the character of the boys from their intercourse with the convict teachers?
            [Mr John Russell]:    I think they have made a great progress in the knowledge of trades, and reading and writing; but they became very much demoralised there. I recollect a case in which I had not sufficient evidence to commit; it was a case of sodomy; there was very little doubt; I had no doubt in my own mind; it was between a convict and one of these boys; but still I had not sufficient evidence to commit them to trial at the Supreme Court, therefore I preferred hushing the business up, and keeping a watch on the parties.

479.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you suppose that unnatural crime exists at Port Arthur?
            [Mr John Russell]:    I had reason to suppose that crimes of that nature did exist there.

480.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Did you take any precaution to prevent it, or could you?
            [Mr John Russell]:    No farther than those whom I had confidence in, and could trust, keeping as strict watch as possible. Since I left it, I believe lamps have been lighted in the sleeping places at night; that is the only precaution, I believe, that has been taken on the subject.

587.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Can you give the Committee any details with regard to the amount of crime committed in the colony, nearly>
            [Mr John Russell]:    No.

588.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    The nature of the crimes?
            [Mr John Russell]:    I think crimes of violence against the person are much more rare now than they used to be, far more rare; the crimes are principally petty thefts; larceny is very common; acts of violence among themselves; and there have been, no doubt, a great many crimes of an unnatural nature in the colony; as a juryman, I have had opportunities of hearing many trials for unnatural offences, with animals particularly.

589.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Have the facts which have come to your knowledge induced you to believe that those crimes are peculiarly common?
            [Mr John Russell]:    I think they are much more common than in any other country inhabited by English.

590.    [Mr Charles Buller]:    That is, among the convicts?
            [Mr John Russell]:    No.

591.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    And the lower orders of the free population too?
            [Mr John Russell]:    I cannot say as to that; I do recollect the men that were tried, whether they were free or bond, but I think the generality were convicts; I recollect one soldier being tried of that kind.

592.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    What is the proportion of males to females in Van Diemen’s Land?
            [Mr John Russell]:    I cannot say exactly, but it is very great indeed.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Members of the Committee Present on 26 Feb 1838

Mr Charles Buller Sir William Molesworth, Bart., [Baronet] in the Chair
Viscount Howick Mr Ward
Mr Leader  

Minutes of evidence, Sir William Edward Parry, 26 February 1838  40 and 41 

683.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Do you suppose serious deceases were introduced by the convicts?
            [Sir Edward Parry]:    I suppose very largely so.

684.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Still with reference to the disproportion of the sexes, pardon me if I ask you if you suppose it gave rise to unnatural crime?
            [Sir Edward Parry]:    I can hardly say; it is hard to that the thing was so; unless men were tried, and the offence brought to light, one has right to say so; and I cannot (since my attention was within these two or three days drawn to the subject of the question), recollect a single case in which such an offence occurred on the Company’s estate.

685.    [Sir William Molesworth, Chairman]:    Your belief is that it did not occur?
            [Sir Edward Parry]:    My belief is that it could not occur to any great extent, if it could at all; I have heard people talk loosely about it, as they will talk, saying they believed such a thing did occur, but really I have no knowledge of such occurrences; I think it is likely that that crime is kept under by the other circumstance, of their connection with the black women; it is probable it has that one good effect.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Members of the Committee Present on 2 Apr 1838

Mr French Sir William Molesworth, Bart., [Baronet] in the Chair
Viscount Howick Mr William Ord
Sir Charles Lemon  


Minutes of evidence, Major Thomas Wright, 2 Apr 1838  42 and 43 


1722.    [Sir Charles Lemon]:    During the period which were at Norfolk Island, you are not conscious of any instance of a person committing crime with a view of being executed, and getting rid of life?
                [Major Thomas Wright]:    Not while I was Norfolk Island.

1723.    [Sir Charles Lemon]:    Were any boys sent there?
                [Major Thomas Wright]:    Yes, there were boys.

1724.    [Sir Charles Lemon]:    How did they conduct themselves?
                [Major Thomas Wright]:    I think pretty well, upon the whole; the boys in general are not reckless and desperate, the same as old hands.

1725.    [Sir Charles Lemon]:    Speaking of the graver offences committed there, were unnatural crimes at all common?
                [Major Thomas Wright]:    There was no instance of an unnatural crime proved during the whole time I was there. There was an opinion on the island that unnatural crimes were committed; the same as we have an opinion that they are in Italy, or other places. I never knew but one charge for an unnatural offence during the whole time I was down there, and I examined into all the evidence in order that I might get at the point whether it was the case; I would not bring the matter before the court, as I was determined to ascertain the thing, so that there could be no collusion; and I therefore took the evidence of every witness apart and investigated the matter minutely, and I found that that was a charge trumped up against a man entirely. He was an overseer, and a man whom he had brought up to be punished charged him with having done something to a boy; upon investigation, I could not find any foundation for it.

1726.    [Sir Charles Lemon]:    Was the overseer a free man or convict?
                [Major Thomas Wright]:    I cannot recollect.

1727.    [Sir Charles Lemon]:    You say there was a general opinion among that convicts that crime of that description existed?
                [Major Thomas Wright]:    Not that opinion existing among them; I cannot say that, because I never asked them their opinion; there was an opinion among the four or five officers on the island that it was very probable that fellows did that kind of thing. I sometimes used to observe a friendship existed between a man and a boy, that was probably, I should say, more than ordinarily took place without a motive; when I observed that, I generally pretended the boy’s service was wanted somewhere else, and gave him an order to go somewhere else, three or four miles off, under some pretence, without affecting to think I suspected a thing of that kind: I thought a man had no right to betray an opinion, against a convict, of that description, without some overt act.

1728.    [Sir Charles Lemon]:    Although no overt act was proved, what is your opinion as to the existence of that crime?
                [Major Thomas Wright]:    I have no opinion of the existence of that crime beyond what I have stated; that sometimes I have observed a greater degree of intimacy between and older man and a youth than probably would have existed without a motive; and when I observed that, I sent the youth away to another place, and separated them.

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NSW, Number Convicted – Offences with and Without Violence – 1829-1835

    The following [NSW and VDL tables below] refer to the amount of grave crimes committed in the penal colonies, and which are cognisable only before the Supreme Court and Quarter Sessions. It should be remarked, that no convicts are prosecuted by the Attorney-General in Van Diemen’s Land, except for crimes punishable with death; for all lesser crimes they are tried summarily before magistrates, so that generally offences committed by convicts do not appear in the Returns of crime as published.

NSW, Number Convicted – Offences with and Without Violence – 1829-1835

 

VDL, Number Convicted – Offences with and Without Violence – 1829-1835 

VDL, Number Convicted – Offences with and Without Violence – 1829-1835

VDL, Number Convicted – Offences with and Without Violence – 1829-1835

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– No. 57. –   

Return of the Number of Persons charged with Criminal Offences, who were committed to the different Gaols in New South Wales and in  44  Van Diemen’s Land, and the Dependencies thereof, for Trial at the Assizes or Sessions held for the several Counties and Circuits, and Town therein, during the last Seven Years; distinguishing the Number in each Year, and showing the nature of the Crimes respectively of which they were Convicted or Acquitted, and with which those were charged against whom no Bills were found, and who were not prosecuted; and Sentences of those convicted; and the number of those Executed who received Sentence of Death; distinguishing Males from Females, so far as relates to New South Wales.

    Colonial-office,    }    Downing-street
    15 May 1838        

   G GREY   

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 NSW Crimes, Including Unnatural Offence, How They Are Deposed of and the Subsequent Sentence Passed 1829-1835

 Molesworth, NSW Crimes

Molesworth, NSW Crimes

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Explanatory Recapitulation – Crimes How They Are Deposed of and the Subsequent Sentence Passed, 1829-1835, NSW

Explanatory Recapitulation

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Thomas Arnold, Norfolk Island Deputy Assistant Commissioner letter to Sir Richard Bourke, NSW Governor, 27 Sep 1837  45 and 46 

Enclosure (D.)       

Commissariat Office, Norfolk Island,
    27 September 1837.     

Sir,
    It is with great diffidence that I venture to do myself the honour of addressing your Excellency on this occasion, but the importance of the subject which it is my wish to bring under your notice will, I trust, be received as an adequate excuse. Six months have nearly elapsed since I assumed the charge of the commissariat duties of this island; these duties; as a matter of course, brought me into frequent contact with the various authorities of the settlement, and as a natural consequence, I soon became acquainted with the system in practice with respect to the prisoners transported hither; and after having minutely inquired into the condition of these people, and being convinced of it from my own actual observation, as well as from the opinion of those on the island best qualified to know the truth, having no party to please, and with no other motive but the public good, I most respectfully beg leave to state that, under the present system, this settlement has ceased to be, if it ever was, the place of punishment which it is considered, not only in the colony of New South Wales, but in the mother country.

    That its terrors do not operate to the prevention of crime in either country; that, as a place for the reformation of criminals, it is worse than useless; and that it is, in fact, neither more nor less than a nursery of vice and depravity of the worst description.

    In order to show that it is not the place of punishment which it is considered, I have only to state that, contrasting the condition of convicts on this island with that of those employed in iron gangs and road parties, &c. In the colony, from my own experience as well as from the authority of the superintendent of convicts here, who has before had charge of several of the stockades in New South Wales, I am fully persuaded that the punishment endured by prisoners sentenced to work in irons on the highways and public works in the colony (where such labour is so much required and so beneficial, while here it is almost entirely thrown away), is far greater than that suffered by those transported to this settlement.

    There, the prisoner is worked under the eye of a sentinel; not permitted to converse with his fellows; restricted altogether, in the way of provisions, to the ration allowed by Government, and at night locked up in his box in the stockade. Here, whether in irons or otherwise, the prisoner is worked under the guardianship of a convict overseer, by whom silence and a due portion of labour is not always insisted upon. In the evening he is marched home to his barrack, where a warm supper and a clean and comfortable bed await him; besides, after being on the island twelve months, each prisoner who behaves himself properly obtains a piece of garden ground, in which he is permitted to work an hour each day, and which supplies him with cabbage and potatoes: and those who are employed in agriculture, in the charge of stock, and in cutting and sawing timber in the bush, may be seen every evening returning to their barracks laden with the fruits in which the island abounds.

    That its terrors do not operate to prevent crime, may be inferred from the fact, that many of the prisoners are here for the second and third time; and it has been confessed by several of them, that, after returned to the colony from a first conviction, they have actually committed crimes in order to get back again.

    That as a place for the reformation of criminals, it is worse than useless, is unhappily a fact too notorious to be contradicted; and if it be true, as no doubt it is, that our penal statutes propose the reformation of the offender as well as his punishment, then this place is of all others the least calculated to produce so desirable a result: and, in a moral and religious point of view, the consequences, not only to the wretched beings themselves, but to the colony of New South Wales at large, are dreadful to contemplate.

    According to the present system, young men and boys are transported here for short periods for crimes of a less dark dye than others; these are on their arrival, comparatively speaking, innocent, and might be reformed; but from being thrown among, and constantly associating with, the doubly and treble convicted felon and murderer, they become hardened in vice, and by the time their sentence expires, they are returned to the colony adepts in villany, too ready, it is to be feared, to disseminate those evil principles which have from such bad association become established, and prepared for the commission of crimes, which perhaps they would have shuddered at previously to their passing through this school of iniquity.

    And, moreover, it is much to be feared that that horrible crime which brought down fire from heaven on the devoted cities of Scripture exists, and is practised here to a great extent. Indeed, I have been informed, by one who has the best opportunity of judging of the truth of the information (the colonial surgeon), that actually, incredible as it may appear, feeling of jealousy are exhibited by those depraved wretches, if they see the boy or young man with whom they carry on this abominable intercourse speak to another person. Crimes too of a bestial nature, it is also to be feared, are too frequent: the dying confession of an unfortunate being, who was executed here some time ago, proves the truth of this.

    Taking then, sir, into your consideration the circumstances which I have here laid before you, and fully believing that my statements cannot be controverted, and viewing the enormous expense (30,000l. Per annum) to Great Britain at which this settlement is maintained, (although I have no doubt this might be reduced,) and the evil consequence resulting from it, should it not be an act, on your Excellency’s part, of great economy to the mother country, of justice and beneficence to the colony of New South Wales, as well as one of perfect charity to the unfortunate prisoners themselves, to recommend the immediate breaking up of this establishment, and the removal of the prisoners, to be employed on the highways and public works in the colony? The same military force which serves to guard them here will be equally effective for the same purpose in the colony; and there such a system of separation and classification may be adopted as will afford a hope of their being reformed. This, from the narrow and confined sphere of the labours of the convicts here, cannot be carried into effect to any beneficial extent, notwithstanding the anxious desire of the commandant to effect it, as well as every other measure conducive to the public good, respecting which no officer can be more zealously alive than Major Anderson. Sincerely hoping that your Excellency will not conceive it presumption on my part to have addressed you on subjects in some degree foreign to my duty as a commissariat officer, and that you will be pleased to believe me when I assure you that I have been impelled to it from the purest motives; and confessing that I shall feel amply rewarded should I be the humble instrument, under Providence, in aiding in any degree in doing away with an establishment which has ever appeared to be, and especially since I have personally known it, to be only fitted for the perpetuation of crime; and believing likewise that, should your Excellency see the propriety of the measure which I have no respectfully ventured to suggest, and be able to carry the same into effect with His Majesty’s Government, it will shine forth as one of the brightest acts of your administration, and children yet unborn will have reason to bless you for the good deed.

I have, &c.
(signed) Thomas Arnold, DACG
   

Lieut.-Gen. Sir Richard Bourke, KCB,
&c. &c. &c.


1   Rt Hon Sir William Molesworth b. 1810 in Upper Brook Street, London. Represented Cornwall East from 1832-37 and Leeds from Sep 1845, in the House of Commons, until his d. on 22 Oct 1855. Michael Stenton, Who’s Who of British Members of Parliament, vol. 1, 1832-1885, p. 273.

2   Rt Hon Sir Thomas Francis Fremantle b. Westhorpe 1798. Sat for the borough of Buckinghamshire from 1826 until he accepted Chiltern Hundreds in Feb 1846, d. 3 Dec 1890. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 150.

3   Rt Hon Lord John Russell b. 1792 in Hertford Street, [London ?]. Secretary of State for the Home Department from Apr 1835 till 1839; Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1839 till 1841. Was Prime Minister from Jul 1846 till Mar1852. Represented Tavistock from 1813 till Mar 1817, and from 1818 till Mar 1819; Huntingdonshire from 1820 till 1826; Bandon Bridge till 1830; Devon in 1831, and Devon South 1832 till 1835, when he lost his seat. But was shortly afterwards elected for Stroud, for which he sat till 1841, d. 28 May 1878. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 337.

4   Hon Francis Baring b. 1800. Represented Thetford from 1832-1841; again elected without opposition Aug 1848, d. 6 Sep 1868. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 21.

5   Rt Hon Sir George Grey b. at Gibraltar 1799. Under Secretary for the Colonies from Jul-Nov 1834 and from Apr 1835-39. Represented Devonport from 1832-47 and Northumberland North from Jul 1847 to Jul 1852, d. 9 Sep 1882. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 169.

6   Rt Hon Sir Robert Peel b. 1788. First came to parliament for Cashel in 1809. Sat for Oxford University from 1818-28, when he was thrown out by Sir Robert Harry Inglis. He then sat for Westbury till 1830, when he was elected for Tamworth until he d. 2 Jul 1850. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 305.

7   John Temple Leader b. 1810, Member for Winchelsea from 1812-26. Sat for Bridgwater from 6 Jan1835 until May 1837. Sat for Westminster from the general election of 1837 until he retired 1847. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 230.

8   Thomas Barrett Lennard b. 1788. Represented Maldon from 1826 to 1837 reelected in 1847, d. 9 Jun 1856. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 234.

9   Sir Henry George Ward represented St Alban’s from 1832-37, after which he sat for Sheffield until May 1849, when he was appointed Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, d. 2 Aug 1860. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 398.

10  Nicolas William Ridley Colborne. Sat for Hosham in five parliaments previous to 1832; unsuccessfully contested Wells in 1832, but was elected on the death of Norman Lamont Esq in 1834. Died 3 May 1854. ibid., Michael Stenton, pp. 84-5.

11  Sir Benjamin Hawes sat for Lambeth from 1832-47, and for Kinsale from Mar 1848. Appointed Under Secretary for the Colonies Jul 1846 and knighted Feb1856. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 183.

12  Rt Hon Charles Buller b. Calcutta Aug 1806. Sat for West Loo in 1830 and sat for Liskeard from 1832 until his d. in 1848. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 55.

13  William Ord b. 1781. Sat for Morpeth 1802-32; unsuccessfully contested Northumberland South in 1832. First returned for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1835 and sat until retirement in in 1852, d. 25 Jul 1855. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 295.

14  Rt Hon Sir William Hutt b. 1803. Was Commissioner for the foundation of South Australia. Represented Hull from 1832 to 41 and Gateshead from the latter date until he retired 1874, d. 24 Nov 1882. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 206.

15  Rt Hon Lord Viscount Howick b. 1802. Under Secretary for the Colonies from 1830-33. Represented Northumberland North from 1831-41 and the borough of Sunderland fro Sep 1841. From 1846-52 he was again the Secretary of State for the Colonies, d. 9 Oct 1894. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 202.

16  Rt Hon Sir Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer b. 1804. Represented Coventry from 8 Dec 1832. From 9 Jan 1835 he sat for Marylebone. Sat for Tamworth from Dec 1868, d. 23 May 1872. ibid., Michael Stenton, pp. 55-6.

17  Mr Thomas Fowell Buxton b. 1786. Represented Weymouth from 1818 until defeated in 1837. Created a Baronet Jul 1840, d. 19 Feb1845. ibid., Michael Stenton, pp. 60-1.

18  ‘In 1803 Forbes went to London [from Bermuda] to study law ... and was called to the Bar of Lincoln’s Inn on 29 Apr 1812.’ Bathurst offered to recommend Sir Francis Forbes ‘for the position of chief justice of the Supreme Court in NSW’. ‘On 13 Oct [1823] the formal appointment of Forbes as chief justice of the new court gave him unique powers, for he was not only head of the judiciary but also a member of the [NSW] Legislative Council and, ex officio, of the later [NSW] Executive Council.’ Furthermore the governor had to submit any Legislative Council bill first to Forbes so the latter could check its contents not being repugnant to laws of England. Forbes and family reached Sydney on 5 Mar1824 and stayed with Governor Brisbane until there own Macquarie Place residence was ready for occupation. Forbes sailed from NSW with his wife in the Brothers to England. During 1837/38 he appeared three times before the Molesworth transportation committee. He died 8 Nov 1841 at Leitrim Lodge, Newtown. ADB, 1788-1850, vol. 1, pp. 392-9.

19  Irish University Press series of British Parliamentary Papers, Crime and punishment: Transportation, vol. 2, 1837, House of Commons, Select Committee to ‘Inquiry into the System of Transportation, it’s Efficacy as a Punishment, its influence on the Moral State of Society in the Penal Colonies, and how far it is susceptible of Improvement’, Minutes of Evidence, p. 30. (Molesworth Committee, 1837).

20  The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Tue 5 Sep 1837, p. 2.

21  James Mudie Esq (1779-1852), officer of marines, landowner and author was dismissed from the marines in Aug 1810. Mudie was given free passage to NSW through the benevolence of the Colonial Office and Sir Charles Forbes arriving in Sydney mid Jul 1822. ‘About 1830 he was appointed a justice of the peace by Governor Darling and served on the bench at Maitland, where he became greatly feared by convicts because of his excessive use of flogging for even minor offences’. ‘In 1836 Mudie was not reappointed to the Commission of the Peace; disgusted with colonial affairs, he sold Castle Forbes [in the Newcastle district] for £7000 and in Mar [1837] sailed for England determined on vengeance’. ‘He also appeared before the select [Molesworth] committee on transportation; though much of his evidence was removed from the report, enough remains to reveal his distorted mind’. Mudie d. 21 May 1852 at Tottenham. ADB, 1788-1850, vol. 2, pp.264-6.

22 ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1837, pp. 44-5.

23 Ernest August Slade, b. 30 Jun 1805, superintendent of convict barracks and police magistrate son of General Sir John Slade. ‘Slade was an unruly and extravagant youth and his father hastened to get him into the army so that he would be under discipline and preferably out of England. A commission was bought for him for £450. In 1828 he joined the 40th Regt and serviced in the Australian colonies and retired from the army in 1831. In 1832 Slade returned to NSW with a Colonial Office introductory letter asking Governor Bourke to place him in any vacant position. Bourke appointed him in Feb1833 as superintendent of Hyde Park barracks. Oct 1834 he became Sydney’s part-time third police magistrate. Nov 1, 1834, Bourke allowed him to resign from both positions because of court proceedings and scandals arising from these. Slade returned Jul 1836 to England and was a witness before the Molesworth committee where ‘he gave a lurid picture of the moral depravity of the convict population in NSW’. Slade d. 5 Mar1878 in Boulogne, France. ADB, 1788-1850, vol. 2, p. 450.

24  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1837, pp. 66-9.

25  Lieut Col Henry Breton served with the 4th regiment for about four years till Mar 1836 in NSW. He was police magistrate for three months, while on leave of absence from the military.

26  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1837, pp. 146-7, 154-5.

27  Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang, b. 25 Aug 1799 at Greenock, Scotland. Lang was a ‘Presbyterian clergyman, politician, educationalist, immigration organiser, historian, anthropologist, journalist and gaol-bird’ brought up by Evangelicals. ‘Being assured by his younger brother in Sydney that a suitable field of labour there awaited him, he sailed [from England] in 1822, arriving in May 1823’. ‘Lang was alarmed by the gross wickedness produced by transportation’. He journeyed repeatedly between Sydney and England partly to promote immigrants to come. Lang d. after a stroke on 8 Aug 1878. ADB, 1788-1850, vol. 2, pp. 76-83.

28  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1837, p. 230.

29  Col, later Sir, George Arthur b. 21 Jun 1784, at Norley House, Plymouth, England. He was chosen in Jul 1823 to succeed Sorell as lieut-governor of Van Diemen’s Land. Arrived at Hobart Town on 12 May 1824 aboard Adrian took up office two days later. General Darling on his way to Sydney informed Arthur in Nov 1825 that Van Diemen’s Land had been made a separate colony and was no longer under NSW’s control. Arthur was a devout Calvinist Evangelical and believed that the ‘heart of every man’ was ‘desperately wicked’. He was a ‘high-minded, autocratic but thoroughly efficient administrator’ and ‘had no time for civil liberties or freedom of the press’. ‘His recall was a bitter blow’ when ‘he left Hobart’ per Elpihinstone ‘on 30 Oct 1836 and reached England the following Mar’. Arthur d. on 19 Sep 1854 in England. ADB, 1788-1850, vol. 1, pp. 32-8.

30  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1837, pp. 309-11.

31  Lord Viscount Ebrington (I), born 1783. ‘Sat for Stavistock from 1820-31 when he was elected for the county Devon, as he had been in 1830, but sat for Tavistock. Sat for Barnastaple 4 Aug 1804-07 (2) Parliaments); for St Mawes 22 Jul 1807-09; for Buckingham 1812-17 (Chiltern Hundreds); for Dvonshire 1818-20; for Stavistock 22 May 1820-30, when he was re-elected but chose to sit for Devonshire again, 1830-32. Sat for Devonshire North from 1832 until summoned to House of Peers in his father’s barony of Fortescue ... Died 14 Sep 1861.’

32  Sir Charles Lemon, b. London 1784. Represented Penryn from 1807 to 1812; again returned in 1830. Sat for Western division of Cornwall from 1813-1841; re-elected Feb 1842, and sat until retired 1857. Died 12 Feb 1868. ibid., Michael Stenton, p. 234.

33  Col Rgt Hon Fitzstephen French, born 1801. Unsuccessfully contested Sligo 1829. Sat for Roscommon Co. 1832. MP until his death 4 Jun 1873. ibid., Michael Stenton.

34  Very Rev William Bernard Ullathorne b. 7 May 1806 at Pocklington, Yorkshire, England. He arrived in Sydney Feb1833 and became eventually Catholic vicar-general of New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land. ‘On 8 and 12 Feb1838 Ullathorne gave evidence to the Molesworth committee ... to the effect that the system had failed altogether as a means of reformation of convicts. The Molesworth evidence was a special ordeal for him, because of his fear of accidentally revealing confessional secrets; he brushed with the chairman in private and spoke to the committee with nervous rapidity; only his concern for the mission carried him through.’ Ullathorne d. 21 Mar1889 at Oscott College, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands and left it, pro tempore, in Jun 1836. ADB, 1788-1850, vol. 2, pp. 544-6.

35  Irish University Press series of British Parliamentary papers, Crime and punishment: Transportation, vol. 3, 1837-61, House of Commons, Select Committee to ‘Inquiry into the System of Transportation, it’s Efficacy as a Punishment, its influence on the Moral State of Society in the Penal Colonies, and how far it is susceptible of Improvement’, Minutes of Evidence, pp. 24-6, (Molesworth Committee, 1838).

36  John Barnes Esq, surgeon, who was on the civil list resided in Van Diemen’s Land from Jun 1822 to Jan 1828. He was surgeon at the Macquarie Harbour government establishment.

37  op. cit, Molesworth Committee, 1838, p. 42.

38  John Russell resided in Van Diemen’s Land 1829 to the end 1833. He was for five years with 63rd regiment of which he was assistant surgeon.

39  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1838, pp. 52-3, 60.

40  Sir William Edward Parry b. 19 Dec 1790 Bath, Somerset, England was a naval officer and explorer. After much Arctic exploring Parry ‘found sedentary life irksome and in 1829 accepted the offer of the Australian Agricultural Co to go to NSW as commissioner in charge of their [Port Stephens based million acre grant] enterprise. Parry found himself commissioner, magistrate and minister to some 500 souls, half of them convicts’; with age his evangelical piety increased. Parry left NSW May 1834 for England and d. 8 Jul 1855 at Elms. ADB, 1788-1850, vol. 2, pp. 315-6.

41  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1838, p. 42.

42  Major Thomas Wright was about a year and eight months commandant of Norfolk Island, he preceded the officer who was appointed from England, Colonel Morrisett. Afterwards he was for two years police magistrate at Emu Plains.

43  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1838, pp. 136-7.

44  The Return relative to Van Diemen’s Land, ordered by The House of Commons to be printed 3 May 1837, No. 268.

45  ibid., Molesworth Committee, 1838, Appendix to Report, pp. 274-5. Emphasise added.

46  Mn: App. (E.) No. 45. State of Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay.