CHAPTER XV. FROM VAN DIEMEN'S LAND TO TASMANIA

Death of Collins and Paterson - Davey Lieutenant-Governor - The rule of Colonel Arthur - The convict system - Macquarie Harbour - Port Arthur - Bushranging - The black war - Arthur's black drive - Robinson's work among the aboriginals - Irish political prisoners - The Dorsetshire labourers - Jorgensen - Tasmania named.

The reasons why settlements were made at Hobart in 1803, and at Port Dalrymple, (Launceston) in 1804, have been explained in Chapter VIII. Colonel David Collins, the founder of Hobart and its Lieutenant-Governor during the remainder of his life, died there in 1810, and his second in command, Lieutenant Lord, incurred the censure of Governor Macquarie by spending 500 pounds on his funeral. The undertaker's bill, which is extant, is surely one of the most curious documents of the kind on record. It included 120 yards of material for the pall, 11 black gowns for marines' wives, 11 pairs of stockings for ditto, 11 petticoats for ditto, a large number of handkerchiefs, and two gallons of the best vinegar! Collins wrote the first HISTORY OF NEW SOUTH WALES, and his work endures as an authentic and interesting contemporary record of the establishment of British rule in Australia. In the same year died, on his way home to England, Colonel Paterson, the founder and Lieutenant-Governor of Launceston, and one of the principal officers in the service of Australia since the days of Phillip.

The history of Van Diemen's Land while it remained a dependency of New South Wales is that of a penal settlement whose system of control presented no remarkable difference from that of the parent colony. After the death of Collins and the departure of Paterson the dual lieutenant-governorships of Hobart and Launceston gave place to a single Lieutenant-Governor, appointed from England. The first was Colonel Davey (1813-17), a marine officer who had fought under Nelson at Trafalgar. A jovial but eccentric man, who made his official entry into Hobart in his shirtsleeves, with his coat over his arm, because the weather was hot, Davey secured popularity by means which were not calculated to maintain either a fair standard of discipline or respect for his office. He would frequently carouse with boon companions, including convicts, and he revelled in rough, horseplay frolics. With those who pleased him he would drink deep; those who offended him he would flog or hang. He required plenty of rum and rope. This rollicking Toby Belch resigned under pressure from Governor Macquarie, who sternly disapproved of his manners and methods.

Davey was succeeded by Colonel William Sorell, of the 48th regiment, an excellent man and an admirable administrator. He was the last of the Lieutenant-Governors who ruled in subordination to the 'Governor-in-Chief' in New South Wales.

Colonel George Arthur inaugurated the new system of rule in 1825, a year after he assumed office. Under an Act passed by the Imperial Parliament, power was taken to separate the Government of Van Diemen's Land from that of New South Wales. A Legislative Council was appointed, consisting of seven members, with powers and functions similar to those exercised by the corresponding body in the older colony; and the Lieutenant-Governor was given an Executive Council to advise him. The administration of justice was purified and strengthened. The island was divided into police districts, each under a paid magistrate. A Supreme Court was established. Arthur showed that he meant to keep a tight rein over the execution of the law by peremptorily dismissing the Attorney-General, Gellibrand, for having taken fees from a client for drawing the pleadings in his case and afterwards appearing against him in court.

Throughout its history as a convict settlement Van Diemen's Land was the scene of such a degree of callous brutality as can hardly have been equalled in any other country within civilized times. Statesmen like Russell and Grey said that the assignment system really meant slavery; but; in truth, slavery as practised in America and elsewhere was usually conducted with less cruelty than was the assignment system in this beautiful island. That it was accompanied here by a degree of degradation and torture surpassing what prevailed in New South Wales is to be explained by several circumstances. From the beginning the convicts were to a large extent a worse class than those who were detained in New South Wales. Hobart was originally peopled with drafts from Norfolk Island, and that station had been used (though not exclusively so) as a place of intensified punishment for those who committed offences after transportation. Consequently it was thought necessary to make the discipline harsh. The class of convicts available for assignment to settlers being generally less dependable than was the case at Sydney, a custom of desperately severe punishment became established. The magistrates ordered the application of the lash on the mere complaint of an angry master. There are recorded instances of assigned servants being mercilessly whipped for the 'insolence' of smiling when given an order. Magistrates would flog a man to the point of collapse on his master's request by letter. No evidence of wrongdoing was required; the mere application was sufficient. Semblance of justice there was none. Governor Arthur stated in evidence that, of 17,000 convicts in Van Diemen's Land in 1833, 5,000 had never had any complaints made against them, and he regarded this as a favourable circumstance. But obviously his own figures showed that 12,000 had had complaints made against them - and the simple making of a complaint entailed flogging.