Archive for February, 2017

A VICIOUS CIRCLE – THE HANGMAN’S NOOSE

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

‘The death penalty was brought to Australia with the First Fleet’. Mike Edwards, The Hanged Man, The Life and Death of Ronald Ryan, 2002.

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I don’t think that he [Thomas Barrett] had the least thought that he was to suffer…the body hung for an hour and was then buried in a grave dug very near the gallows’.  Marine Lieutenant Ralph Clark, First Fleet Journal

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‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and the convicts…the standard adopted was that of the troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1990

‘When leaving Botany Bay Phillip noticed two [2] French ships in the offing…there would seem to be “some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six [6] days”. Edward Jenks, History of the Australian Colonies cited H.E. Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Methueun, London 1928

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In British eyes it [the First Fleet], if it has been noticed at all, was a small, peace-time convoy, which founded a colony’. Roger Knight, Studies [no. 10] From Terra Australia to Australia, eds. John Hardy and Alan Frost, Highland Press, Canberra 1989

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Botany Bay – 1788 – January, 18-20: A large armed English fleet of 11 vessels with a complement of 1500 souls reached Botany Bay in the middle of January 1788.

Overwhelming male one-half were convicted criminals – 750 male combatants and 193 women prisoners – reprieved death on condition they be exiled ‘from the realm’ .

Sydney Cove – 26 January: By ‘8 pm’ on the 26th of January the entire  English fleet having evacuated Botany Bay were riding at anchor in Sydney Cove nine (9) miles (14km) north of the original beach-head. 

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CATCH 22 – JAMES FREEMAN

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

 James Freeman – ‘Hang or be Hanged’. 

 

Part of the original document pardoning a convict if he acts as executioner

Extract showing a pardon on condition of becoming the public executioner. Dated 1 March 1788, signed by Governor Arthur Phillip.

‘For here was an opportunity of establishing a Jack Ketch who Should, in all future Executions, either Hang or be Hanged’. Dr John White, Chief Medical Officer, First Fleet Journal.

1788 –  Friday 29th February: Shaped as another busy day for the infant colony’s’ criminal court. It had been decided court would convene earlier than usual.

At 8 am to avoid Sydney’s intense midday sun and drenching humidity, after the long drawn-out dramas of the previous two (2) days,  convicts James Freeman and William Shearman, accused the previous day of stealing from government stores, were first to appear in the dock. See: Blind Man’s Bluff – Hall and Lavell

Both were found guilty.  Shearman was sentenced to 300 lashes. Freeman was condemned to death .

George Whitaker, Daniel Gordon and John Williams were next to appear charged with stealing eighteen (18) bottles of wine.

Whitaker was discharged. Gordon and Williams, both Afro -Americans, were found guilty and sentenced to hang with Freeman. The executions to take place that afternoon.

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BLIND MAN’S BLUFF – A DOUBLE BILL- HALL & LAVELL

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

‘The full force of laws against theft was imposed from the moment the expedition arrived in Sydney. At the end of February 1788 five [5] men were convicted of theft and condemned to death, illustrating that property was more sacrosanct than life itself.

The sentences were carried out at public hangings, which the whole convict population was forced to watch’. Henry Reynolds,  Searching for truth-telling, History, Sovereignty and The Uluru Statement From the Heart, NewSouth Publishing, 2021

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‘Few personal documents relating to [Governor Arthur] Phillip survive; his low personal profile and the secret work in which he was sometimes involved make him one of the least-known founders of any modern state – in this case Australia’. Nigel Rigby, Peter Van Der Merwe & Glyn Williams, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, 2018

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1788 –  27 February, Sydney Cove: Four (4) convicts John Ryan, Thomas Barrett, Henry Lavell and Joseph Hall stood before a hastily  convened military court.

‘Just three [3] weeks before half a continent had been declared Crown land in one of the most remarkable acts of plunder in modern times.’. Henry Reynolds. op.cit.

All were accused ‘on shaky evidence’ of robbing or conspiring to rob food from the government storehouse. Found guilty all were sentenced to death. The execution to take place later that same day.

‘The arm of a large tree was fixt upon as a gallows’. Arthur Bowes Smyth, Surgeon Lady Penrhyn, First Fleet  Journal, Australian Documents Library, 1979

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JOHN M’ENTIRE – DEATH OF A SURE THING

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

‘The bloody raw power of decapitation…the eternal tension between drama and control…lies at the heart of the death penalty’. Frances Larson, Severed, Granta Books, London 2015

PICTURE

1790 – Sydney, June: Major Grose the Corps’ commander remained in London to recruit sufficient numbers to satisfy establishment requirements.

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1790 – Sydney, December : By December 1790 Governor Captain Arthur Phillip RN knew ‘certain officers’ of the newly arrived New South Wales Corps (June 1790) – led by Lieutenant John Macarthur an ambitious junior officer who had moved swiftly to fill the vacuum, were circling the tents.

In Phillip’s judgement the Pitt Administration in far off England was in danger of losing New South Wales (Australia) gateway to India,  Asia and its  ‘proximity’ to  Spain’s South American ‘treasure’ colonies. See: Proximity Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland.

However the threat did not come from the First Nations’ People. The previous year 1789, 50% of local Eora Aborigines died after contracting smallpox. The survivors were struggling to regroup. See: A Lethal Weapon Smallpox – Boston 1775 – Sydney 1789

Governor Phillip knew a serious threat to ‘King and Country’ came from within the military ranks. Isolated, without naval support in the midst of a hostile soldiery, he had only one (1) option in his armoury – diversion.

And he had been down this road before. See: From Here to Eternity – Terror in Three Acts

In December 1790 Governor Phillip had his back to the wall and only one (1) sure arrow in his quiver. The ‘hated’ convict John M’Entire, his convict game-keeper, one (1) of  four (4) convicts authorised to carry a gun.

1790 – Botany Bay, December 9: ‘On the 9th of the month, a serjeant of marines, with three convicts, among whom was M’Entire, the governor’s game-keeper (the person of whom Bannelon had, on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred) went out on a [kangaroo] shooting party’. Marine Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

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THE IRISH & THE ENGLISH KING IN AUSTRALIA

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

‘In 1800 and 1801 many hundreds of Irish prisoners arrived, pushing the percentage of Irish to more than one-third of those under sentence and one-quarter of the white population. Governor King nervously estimated that more than half of the recent arrivals were Catholic ‘Defenders’, summarily transported  for their part in the massive Irish rebellion of 1798′. Marian Quartly, Creating a Nation 1788-1990, Chapter 2, 1990

1800 – September, Sydney: Governor Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN succeeded Governor Captain John Hunter RN who had been recalled to England took up his commission on Hunter’s departure in September 1800.

King found himself juggling many balls; an unruly soldiery, a tsunami of grog, French colonial ambition and a simmering Irish rebellion. The Irish, many sentenced to death following the uprisings of 1798 on home soil, were reprieved death on condition of transportation to Australia, and these appeared to pose the most immediate threat.

A mixed bunch most poor illiterates, others were educated men; General Joseph Holt a militant Protestant, Rev. Henry Fulton an Episcopalian minister and Father James Harold a Catholic priest with two (2) British army officers Captains Alcock and St. Ledger.

1800 – 11 January, Sydney: At the beginning of 1800 these five (5) men were among one hundred and ninety-one (191) prisoners, twenty-six (26) of them women, who arrived aboard the convict transport Minerva in January 1800. See: G for Gender

Minerva and another convict ship Friendship sailed together from Cork on 24 August 1799. Friendship with one hundred and thirty-three male (133) prisoners. During the voyage of one hundred and forty (140) days via Rio one (1) in seven (7) prisoners died. Father James Dixon a Catholic priest and Paddy Galvin were among the survivors. See: G for Genocide

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ALICE – DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE WITH KING

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

‘A knowledge of the position of the military and their immediate friends occupied from 1792-1810, affords a key to the whole history of the colony; and without this knowledge many important transactions, affecting the civil, social and political  interests of the community would appear almost incomprehensible’. Samuel Bennett,Australian Discovery and Colonisation, Vol. 1 to 1800.

Sydney -1800 – 15 April: Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN, Britain’s third naval governor of New Holland, now Australia, arrived here in the middle of April 1800 aboard HMS Speedy.

Gidley King brought Governor John Hunter RN  bad news. A Home Office dispatch dated 5 November 1799 ‘severely censured Hunter and ordered him to return to England by the first safe conveyance’.

Whitehall: Tragically for Australia’s First Peoples, London could not have devised a more destabilising arrangement than King’s ‘anomalous…dormant commission’. It  became effective only if Governor Hunter ‘died or was absent from the colony’.  

‘It is probable, therefore, that the home department was not prepared to give King the full appointment of governor-in-chief in the year 1799…[His] limited commission was practically the appointment of a locum tenens or a  governor-in-chief on probation, and was recognised as such by both King and the English officials, when it became operative’. Commentary, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol 3.

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MACHIAVELLIAN MACARTHUR

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

‘Twenty- five [25] regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between [June] 1790 and 1870 they participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent…for the first half of their stay were probably more frequently in action than the garrison of any other colony besides that of southern Africa’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, 1986, Kangaroo Press, 1986

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‘A knowledge of the position of the military and their immediate friends occupied from 1792- 1810, affords a key to the whole history of the colony; and without this knowledge many important transactions, affecting the civil, social and political interests of the community would appear almost incomprehensible’. Samuel Bennett, Australian Discovery and Colonisation Vol. 1 to 1800, Facsimile Edition, 1981.

Though Phillip recommended Lieutenant Gidley King RN replace him as Governor government failed to commission an immediate successor exposing the First Australians to the brutality of the infantry troops of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.

The first contingent of the Corps had arrived in June 1790 aboard the second fleet. But the Corps commander Major Francis Grose  remained in London to recruit and satisfy establishment requirements.

‘The other great change came in the arrival with the second fleet and the first companies of the New South Wales Corps of Lieutenant John Macarthur  – a central figure in the military ‘mafia’ – which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property owning elite.

This shift was commercially launched in 1793 when Macarthur organised a cartel that using credit accessed against pay bought 7,5000 gallons of rum and other cargo of an American trader [Hope], and sold it in the colony at a huge profit’. Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, Nigel Rigby Peter Van Der Merwe & Glyn Williams, Maritime Museum Greenwich, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London 2018  etc ....

There was intense dissension within its senior officer ranks. Lieutenant John Macarthur, an ambitious junior officer, moved swiftly to fill the vacuum.Britain’s Grim Armada’. See: Dancing With Slavers – A Second Fleet

1792 -Sydney Cove, December 12 : Following repeated requests for repatriation Governor Arthur Phillip RN, after five (5) traumatic years as Britain’s first Governor of New South Wales, sailed home to England in the Atlantic.

By default, between December 1792 and September 1795, ‘the plentitude of power’ Britain vested in its naval governors fell into the hands of the military.

For the length of the interregnum the British government was greatly at fault’. Hunter, J.J. Auchmuty, Australian Dictionary of Biography

1794 – London, February 6: Eventually Captain John Hunter RN,  hero of the ‘First Fleet’ expeditionary force, was ‘commission[ed] as captain-general and governor-in-chief’ at the beginning of February 1794 [but] did not sail until 25 February 1795′.

1795 – Sydney, September 7: Governor Hunter arrived in the colony on September 7, 1795 and assumed office four [4] days later.See: A Black Hole: The First Interregnum 1792-1795

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