A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

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THE TROOPER POLICE

the Endeavour, having held the position of midshipman.
He had no doubt imbibed a good deal of the enthusiasm dis-
played by Banks. His suggestion, respectfully submitted to
his Majesty's Government, was that in New South Wales
would be found an admirable refuge for the loyalists in ques-
tion, a people whom, he said, " Great Britain is bound by
every tie of honour and gratitude to protect and support
where they may repair their broken fortunes and again
enjoy their former domestic felicity." To provide them
with efficient labour Kanakas were to be introduced from
the neighbouring islands, with a sprinkling of Chinese. The
many natural advantages that the new land held out,
advantages confirmed by his own observation, were duly put
forward, while it was argued that with good management
the settlers " in twenty or thirty years might cause a re-
volution in the whole system of European commerce, and
secure to England a monopoly of some part of it and a large
share of the whole." Matra was not without the visions of
an empire-builder.

The upshot of this ingenious proposition was that steps
were taken in due course to plant a little colony on the spot
where Cook and his companions had first landed. But it
was not destined to be on the lines originally laid down.
The American loyalists found that the Government's solici-
tude for their welfare had blown cold, and as time went by
and delay after delay occurred, the majority of them with-
drew any support they had lent to this novel emigration
scheme and betook themselves to Eastern Canada.

What proved to be the culminating point of their decision
was the stipulation that transportation of convicts to New
South Wales should go hand in hand with its colonisation.
Lord Sydney was now at the head of the Home Office, and

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SOLDIERS AND CONVICTS, 1788-1821

the idea of forming a penal settlement in this quarter of the
world strongly commended itself to him. A recent at-
tempt to utilise Africa for the purpose had proved abortive.
It was, furthermore, a unique opportunity for putting into
practice certain theories for the treatment of felons that were
being exploited. The new Australian land, in fact, was to be
converted into a reformatory as well as a prison.

Yet a further consideration, it may be noted, was a de-
sire to forestall any attempt on the part of France to gain a
footing in this region of the Pacific. It was known that such
a step was in contemplation, and, indeed, French ships
under Du Fresne, La Perouse and D'Entrecasteaux, fol-
lowed hard upon the heels of Cook and Phillip when they
ventured into the southern seas.

Having made up his mind to go forward with the great
project, Lord Sydney drew up the " Heads of a plan for the
establishment of a colony in New South Wales " * and in-
structed the Admiralty to make all necessary arrangements
with as little delay as possible. For the leader of his ex-
pedition he had selected Captain Arthur Phillip, a naval
commander of experience and distinction, and one who pos-
sessed remarkable qualities of tact and judgment. As events
proved, it was a wise choice. Phillip threw himself into
the work of preparation with all his energy. Thanks to
his assistance the authorities were kept up to the mark, and
by May 1787 all was hi readiness for a start to be made.

" The First Fleet," as it is known in Australian history,
comprised eleven vessels : Six transports, three store ships, 2
the 20-gun frigate H.M.S. Sirius and the armed tender

1 See Appendix A.

2 The Alexander, Charlotte, Scarborough, Friendship, Prince of Wales,
Lady Penrhyn, transports, from 270 to 450 tons ; the Fishburn, Golden
Orove, Borrodale, store ships.

5



THE TROOPER POLICE

Supply. In all these carried over 1,000 persons, of whom 750
were convicts. After a safe voyage round the Cape the
fleet reached Botany Bay on January 18th, but Phillip
saw at once that the place was unfitted for his purpose.
He accordingly set out along the coast to the northward,
and was rewarded by the discovery of the magnificent har-
bour of Port Jackson. Cook had seen its entrance between
the two heads, but had passed by ignorant of its wonderful
capacity. Here, at a spot which was named Sydney Cove in
honour of Lord Sydney, Phillip decided to make his landing.
In a little while the remainder of the vessels were brought
round, and the work of settlement was forthwith entered
upon.

No colonial administrator ever had a more unenviable
task to perform than that which fell to the lot of Captain
Phillip, Governor and Captain-General of New South Wales.
In a strange country whose resources were practically un-
known he had to house and maintain a community of over a
thousand people, the bulk of whom were convicted felons, by
disposition unamenable to discipline and averse to under-
taking any manual labour. To add to his difficulties he soon
found himself deprived of the support of the military, upon
whom he naturally relied to assist him in the work of policing
the convict population. Nearly two hundred marines, under
Major Ross, had accompanied the expedition.

" I requested," Phillip wrote in a letter to Lord Sydney,
" that officers would, when they saw the convicts diligent, say
a few words of encouragement to them, and that when they
saw them idle, or met them straggling in the woods, they
would threaten them with punishment. This only I desired
when officers could do it without going out of their way ; it
was all I asked, and was pointedly refused. They declared

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SOLDIERS AND CONVICTS, 1788-1821

against what they called an interference with convicts, and I
found myself obliged to give up the little plan I had formed
in the passage for the government of these people, and which,
had it even been proposed to the officers, required no more
from them than the hearing of an appeal the overseer might
find it necessary to make, and a report from the officer to
me . . . but which has never been asked of the officers
since they declined any kind of interference."

The early years of the little colony were marked by end-
less trouble and dissension. Cattle and sheep, that had been
brought out, died or strayed away in the bush and were lost ;
provisions ran short, mainly owing to the inability on the part
of the settlers to take up farming, until many were of the
opinion of Major Ross that it would be cheaper " to feed the
convicts on turtle and venison at the London Tavern," than
be at the expense of sending them there. As for the soldiery,
they openly flouted the Governor and comported themselves
arrogantly towards both bond and free. There was, more-
over, constant apprehension of hostilities with the natives,
whom Phillip was desirous to placate but who suffered
numberless wrongs at the hands of the convicts and the
marines. It is not to be wondered at that in the circum-
stances many attempts to escape were made by the convicts,
and that robberies from the stores, together with acts of
violence, were of frequent occurrence.

In the absence of assistance from the military, and as
some precaution against theft of both public and private
property, the Governor now instituted a night watch of
twelve persons, who patrolled the settlement from sunset to
dawn. The document containing the regulations for this
embryo police force was dated August 7th, 1789, and
gave the names of the watch as follows : Herbert Keeling,

__. fj - .-!_.



THE TROOPER POLICE

Charles Peat, John Harris, John Coen Walsh, John Neal,
John Massey Cox, William Bradbury, James Clark, Josh
Marshall, Thomas Oldfield, George Robinson, and John
Archer. Three of these were afterwards replaced by W.
Hubbard, John Anderson, and Stephen Le Grove. All the
above, be it noted, were convicts, selected for this special
duty because of their good behaviour, and there is plenty of
evidence that they performed their task faithfully. On
one occasion they captured a party of six marines who, by
means of duplicate keys, had broken into a store-house to
steal flour. It was a time when every one in the settlement*
from the Governor downwards, was living on half rations
of salt meat, bread and peas, and this fact made the enor-
mity of the crime all the greater. The six marines, despite
their commander's remonstrances, were duly hanged.

During the winter of 1790 a second fleet of transports
arrived with prisoners from home, these being distributed
over the area of the gaol land. The settlement by this time
had spread as far as the Hawkesbury River on the north
and west, the river valley proving to be suitable for farming
operations. Sydney Cove itself was far too rocky and infertile
for cultivation, and the first experimental farm had been
started at Parramatta, at the head of the harbour. Away
from the mainland there was also a settlement on Norfolk
Island, where the community was successful in raising enough
grain to maintain itself.

With the newly-arrived ships from England came the
first detachment of the New South Wales Corps, a regiment
which was destined to play a great part in the history of the
colony. The Corps was intended to relieve the marines
originally sent out, and was under the command of Major
Francis Grose, who was responsible for its inception. At the

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THE TROOPER POLICE

end of 1792, after having seen the settlement pass through
many vicissitudes, Governor Phillip relinquished the reins
of office and returned home. Major Grose, by virtue of his
commission as Lieutenant-Go vernor, remained at the head
of affairs.

The immediate outcome of this change was the inaugura-
tion of an era of crime and lawlessness. The New South
Wales Corps was composed mainly of men who had joined
in the expectation of finding the new country more or less of
an Eldorado. They considered only their own personal gain,
and to advantage themselves did not scruple to encourage
the evil passions of those committed to their charge. At
this period the practice was begun of assigning convicts as
servants or farm labourers to officers of the Corps. Another
privilege of the military was the purchase of spirits at cost
price. In this concession the officers saw a quick road to
wealth. Most of them in time became farmers or engaged in
other industries that made them large employers of labour,
and in lieu of money they found rum highly acceptable to
the convicts. In a little while farmers in other districts
began to distil their grain instead of selling it for food-stuff,
for the high prices fetched by spirits made this method more
lucrative. The result was what might have been expected.
Robbery and murder became more and more rampant as
police supervision became more lax, and the fortunes of the
colony sank to a low ebb.

Major Grose's rule lasted two years. For some months
the governorship then devolved upon Captain William
Paterson, the senior military officer, after whom came Captain
John Hunter, the one-time commander of the Sirius, who
vainly endeavoured to stem the flood of abuses. The next
governor was Captain^Philip King, Phillip's able lieutenant

10



SOLDIERS AND CONVICTS, 1788-1821

in Norfolk Island during the earliest years of the colony.
King set about reform with a strong hand, and was instru-
mental to a large degree in checking the free sale of spirits.
Thousands of gallons of rum and wine were sent away, amid
general indignation. Other monopolies and forms of extor-
tion were also restricted, so that for a season the settlers
enjoyed somewhat improved conditions.

It was at this juncture that we first hear of a police force,
apart from the soldiery, being enrolled. The reason for
this was the unsettled state of the convicts, among whom
was now included a large number of " politicals " transported
for participation in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. These
factious newcomers were ripe for insurrection, and so
ominous did the situation become that the free settlers
formed themselves into an " Armed Association " to keep a
watchful eye on the malcontents and be in readiness to
counter any outbreak. A further cause for anxiety was the
rumour that the French, with whom war had broken out,
contemplated making a descent upon New South Wales.

That the colonists' fears of impending trouble were not
groundless was evidenced early in 1804, when an organised
conspiracy was revealed. Prompt measures were taken :
the military pursued the rebels to the Hawkesbury, and a
brisk fight ensued. In the end the convicts were dispersed,
several being killed, while the leaders were made prisoners.
Eight of the principal offenders were subsequently executed.

King's occupation of office ceased in 1806, when he was
succeeded by Captain Bligh, famous for all time through his
connection with the mutiny of the Bounty. Unhappily for
himself, as for the colony, Bligh was a man of strong pre-
judices and violent temper. He had been known as a mar-
tinet while in the Navy, and he now proceeded to confirm

ii



THE TROOPER POLICE

that reputation by his high-handed dealings with the New
South Wales Corps. His two years of rule are one continu-
ous record of conflict with the military and with certain of
the better-class settlers. Among the latter was John Mac-
arthur, an ex-officer of the Corps and an enterprising colonist
who was interesting himself in the wool industry among
other things. Macarthur had been prominent in all the
recent dissensions between the late governor and the Corps,
having sided with his former comrades : against him,
therefore, Bligh waged bitter war. The climax came when
the Governor arrested his enemy on a trumped-up charge
and proposed to put him on trial. Macarthur's military
friends rallied round him, a popular cry was raised demand-
ing Bligh's deposition, and shortly after the Governor was
taken prisoner by force of arms.

There was now an interregnum of another two years,
during which period officers of the New South Wales Corps
administered affairs. At the end of that time, in 1810, the
regiment, whose mutiny against Bligh had met with dis-
favour at home, was recalled and a new Governor appeared
hi the person of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie. With
him came a fresh military prison guard, the 102nd Regiment.

The practice of assigning convicts as farm servants, first
to officers of the New South Wales Corps and later to settlers,
did not tend in the main to their better conduct. The
prisoners generally had little restraint imposed upon them
by masters who in several ways made money out of them.
Too many opportunities were provided for their indulgence
in vice and debauchery, for if their owners were free men
their overseers were usually of the convict class, and nothing
was wanting to inflame them into open rebellion whenever
occasion offered. As we have seen, organised insurrection

12



SOLDIERS AND CONVICTS, 1788-1821

did rear its head in King's time, this being the most serious
of the several risings among the " croppies," as the con-
victs were termed. The vigilance of the guards was seldom
allowed to be relaxed. A second outbreak, four years
later, was only frustrated in time to prevent the whole
colony being plunged into anarchy by a general massacre
of the principal residents.

With Governor Macquarie's advent convict life entered
upon a new phase. In the years that had elapsed since the
arrival of the First Fleet a large number of the prisoners had
worked out their sentences, while others had received pardons.
It was with these, the " emancipists," that the Governor's
chief consideration lay. The time had come when the
colony was to be tested as a reformatory. " When once a
man is free his former state should no longer be remembered
or allowed to act against him : let him then feel himself
eligible for any situation which he had by a long term of
upright conduct proved himself worthy of filling " : so the
Governor expressed himself, and with this guiding principle
before him he set about the task of reclamation.

There were two great obstacles in the way, however,
against which Macquarie battled long and strenuously. In
the first place so many of the emancipists were totally un-
fitted for civil life. The unbridled licence of former regimes
had not been conducive to reform, and the material on which
he endeavoured to work was of the poorest kind. Secondly,
although the New South Wales Corps had been withdrawn,
many of the officers still remained in the colony, where they
were engaged in varied pursuits. They mostly occupied
high and influential positions. When the Governor's
amiable intentions towards the emancipists were made
known a storm of protest arose from those ex-officers and

13



THE TROOPER POLICE

the leading settlers who shared their views. In their
opinion the experiment was too dangerous a one. Not only
did they object to associating with men whose careers had
been tainted with crime, they feared the consequences of a
movement which, however lofty it might be in its ideals,
would rob transportation of half its terrors and render it
less of a deterrent to wrong-doing.

The opposition took a firm stand, but despite this Mac-
quarie persisted in his schemes of reform. He strove to
force the emancipists into such professions and trades as
were open to them, and in so doing found that he had stirred
up a veritable hornet's nest. Shamefully duped by his
proteges and cordially hated by the settlers, over whose
objections he rode rough-shod, the Governor proceeded to
further imperil his position. He was a man of big ideas,
but with the weakness of vanity. Public works, which
would give employment to many, were set in progress, road-
making, bridge-building, and the construction of schools
and other institutions being commenced in various directions.
There were many enemies ready to condemn these ventures
as reckless extravagance and to help hi bringing about his
downfall. An agitation was set on foot that called the
attention of the home authorities to the state of affairs,
and in 1818 Commissioner Bigge was despatched from
England to make inquiry into the alleged maladministra-
tion. This official's report was adverse ; three years later
Macquarie was recalled.

Before leaving this chapter of Australian history it is
necessary to refer to the several exploring expeditions that
at this period aided in the expansion of the colony. Until
Macquarie's appointment very little had been done in this
direction. Under his care the formidable barrier of the

14



SOLDIERS AND CONVICTS, 1788-1821

Blue Mountains was broken through, and a wide region of
fine pastoral and agricultural land beyond laid open to
occupation. The leaders in this work were Gregory Blax-
land, Lieutenant William Lawson (102nd Regiment),
and William Charles Wentworth. These three were the
first to cross the mountains. In their trail followed George
Evans, Deputy-Surveyor-General, to discover the Fish,
Macquarie and Lachlan rivers ; and the brothers Hume,
who opened up the country round Berrima and Bong-Bong.
To facilitate the settlement of this new territory roads were
quickly made, and soon the township of Bathurst sprang
into being.

Other explorers of note were John Oxley, the Surveyor-
General, and a surveyor named Meehan. In his first journey
in 1817, the former traced the Lachlan and Macquarie
rivers for some hundreds of miles, at the same time that he
found many smaller streams running north-east. Twice,
we read, Oxley was on the point of discovering the Murrum-
bidgee, but he returned to Sydney without having seen its
waters and with the conviction that the interior was too
marshy to be habitable.

Oxley 's second journey, a year later, carried him down
the Macquarie to Mount Harris, whence he struck out across
country to Port Macquarie. In the course of this trip he
discovered and named several new rivers, including the
Castlereagh, the Peel and the Apsley, with the rich grass-
lands of the Liverpool Plains.

Meehan's chief contribution to the sum total of explora-
tion was the opening up of the Goulburn Plains and the
adjoining district, a wide and fertile expanse of land. Into
all this virgin territory, where the blacks had held undis-
puted dominion, the colonists eagerly flocked, driving their

15



THE TROOPER POLICE

sheep and cattle before them. A new era for the colony had
begun.

The encouragement of exploration may be said to have
been the brightest feature of Governor Macquarie's reign.
It was a matter of pride for him that when he left New South
Wales he had enlarged its bounds by several hundreds of
miles and thus given_]a new impetus to colonisation.



16



CHAPTER II

SOLDIERS AND CONVICTS. II

1821-1835

Commissioner Bigge A new order Governor Brisbane A mounted
police force Governor Darling Bushranging Distribution of troops
A ghost story Black tracking Van Diemen's Land Early troubles
with convicts Exploration in New South Wales Oxley Allan
Cunningham Captain Sturt discovers the Darling Sir Thomas
Mitchell Hamilton Hume at Geelong A settlement at Port Phillip
John Batman Treaty with the natives Melbourne founded Swan
River settlement in West Australia Perth and Fremantle Wake-
field's scheme South Australia colonised.

MR. COMMISSIONER BIGGE'S report foreshadowed
many wise and far-reaching reforms, but perhaps
the most important of its recommendations was that which
urged the further settlement of the colony. The old view
which had held New South Wales cheaply as a dumping-
ground for criminals was now to be abandoned : there were
other and greater possibilities in the new country. Let free
settlers be encouraged to go out, said the Commissioner in
effect, young men of good character and some capital ; let
land be offered them on easy terms ; and, further, let convict
labour be supplied them with proper restrictions. New
South Wales had not been altogether successful as a gaol ;
it was worth experimenting upon as a plantation of such a
nature as the ones instituted two hundred years before in
the New World.

This broader scheme in due course commended itself to
17 c



THE TROOPER POLICE

the authorities at home, and steps were taken to induce the
right type of immigrant to settle on the soil. Young English
farmers who welcomed a wider field for their energies
quickly followed each other to the colony. In a little time
the new districts opened up by Oxley, Hume and their
fellow-pioneers, were dotted with farms ; and small com-
munities formed that were destined to be the nuclei of
thriving townships. A brighter future for New South
Wales seemed to be dawning.

The several features of Commissioner Bigge's report do not
need to be particularised here. They dealt largely with
constitutional matters, with the judicial and ecclesiastical
establishments, and with trade and agriculture. Things
had come to a pretty pass, what with mismanagement and
the bitter quarrelling between opposing factions. It was
high time that the tangle was straightened out. The primary
reason for the Commissioner's inquiry was the question of
penal discipline, and it is interesting to note that even at
this stage the English Government was contemplating
discontinuing transportation to the colony as a matter of
expediency. Touching this point Mr. Bigge was of opinion
that the system might be continued, but subject to certain
modifications. The emancipist class was not to be encour-
aged to the degree favoured by the late Governor, while by
means of a reformed judicature the rights of all classes were
to be safeguarded.

The new Governor who was selected to supervise this new
order of things was Sir Thomas Brisbane. He arrived in the
colony in the autumn of 1821. Much was done in the
direction of progress, but unfortunately for Sir Thomas,
during the four years of his rule he was mostly embroiled
with the newspaper press, which warmly espoused the cause

18



SOLDIERS AND CONVICTS, 1821-1835

of the emancipists, and which undoubtedly did some harm
in influencing the ill-balanced minds of the convict popula-
tion. At this period a new evil to be combated arose from
the wider distribution of the prisoners assigned to settlers.
This system certainly obviated the employment of large
gangs of convicts in or near the towns, but despite this
fact, and the care exercised in the allotment of these
bond-servants, the worse elements could not be eliminated.
In too many instances desperate characters found oppor-
tunity to escape from servitude (sometimes, it must be
admitted, with reason, for not all the settlers were easy
taskmasters), and drifted naturally into a career of bush-



Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 2 of 32)