Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood all your life, but in a new way."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 10

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter
    Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not
    joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    Captain Cook found Australia in 1770, and eighteen years later the
    British Government began to transport convicts to it. Altogether, New
    South Wales received 83,000 in 53 years. The convicts wore heavy chains;
    they were ill-fed and badly treated by the officers set over them; they
    were heavily punished for even slight infractions of the rules; "the
    cruelest discipline ever known" is one historian's description of their
    life.--[The Story of Australasia. J. S. Laurie.]

    English law was hard-hearted in those days. For trifling offenses which
    in our day would be punished by a small fine or a few days' confinement,
    men, women, and boys were sent to this other end of the earth to serve
    terms of seven and fourteen years; and for serious crimes they were
    transported for life. Children were sent to the penal colonies for seven
    years for stealing a rabbit!

    When I was in London twenty-three years ago there was a new penalty in
    force for diminishing garroting and wife-beating--25 lashes on the bare
    back with the cat-o'-nine-tails. It was said that this terrible
    punishment was able to bring the stubbornest ruffians to terms; and that
    no man had been found with grit enough to keep his emotions to himself
    beyond the ninth blow; as a rule the man shrieked earlier. That penalty
    had a great and wholesome effect upon the garroters and wife-beaters; but
    humane modern London could not endure it; it got its law rescinded. Many
    a bruised and battered English wife has since had occasion to deplore
    that cruel achievement of sentimental "humanity."

    Twenty-five lashes! In Australia and Tasmania they gave a convict fifty
    for almost any little offense; and sometimes a brutal officer would add
    fifty, and then another fifty, and so on, as long as the sufferer could
    endure the torture and live. In Tasmania I read the entry, in an old
    manuscript official record, of a case where a convict was given three
    hundred lashes--for stealing some silver spoons. And men got more than
    that, sometimes. Who handled the cat? Often it was another convict;
    sometimes it was the culprit's dearest comrade; and he had to lay on with
    all his might; otherwise he would get a flogging himself for his mercy
    --for he was under watch--and yet not do his friend any good: the friend
    would be attended to by another hand and suffer no lack in the matter of
    full punishment.

    The convict life in Tasmania was so unendurable, and suicide so difficult
    to accomplish that once or twice despairing men got together and drew
    straws to determine which of them should kill another of the group--this
    murder to secure death to the perpetrator and to the witnesses of it by
    the hand of the hangman!

    The incidents quoted above are mere hints, mere suggestions of what
    convict life was like--they are but a couple of details tossed into view
    out of a shoreless sea of such; or, to change the figure, they are but a
    pair of flaming steeples photographed from a point which hides from sight
    the burning city which stretches away from their bases on every hand.

    Some of the convicts--indeed, a good many of them--were very bad people,
    even for that day; but the most of them were probably not noticeably
    worse than the average of the people they left behind them at home. We
    must believe this; we cannot avoid it. We are obliged to believe that a
    nation that could look on, unmoved, and see starving or freezing women
    hanged for stealing twenty-six cents' worth of bacon or rags, and boys
    snatched from their mothers, and men from their families, and sent to the
    other side of the world for long terms of years for similar trifling
    offenses, was a nation to whom the term "civilized" could not in any
    large way be applied. And we must also believe that a nation that knew,
    during more than forty years, what was happening to those exiles and was
    still content with it, was not advancing in any showy way toward a higher
    grade of civilization.

    If we look into the characters and conduct of the officers and gentlemen
    who had charge of the convicts and attended to their backs and stomachs,
    we must grant again that as between the convict and his masters, and
    between both and the nation at home, there was a quite noticeable
    monotony of sameness.

    Four years had gone by, and many convicts had come. Respectable settlers
    were beginning to arrive. These two classes of colonists had to be
    protected, in case of trouble among themselves or with the natives. It
    is proper to mention the natives, though they could hardly count they
    were so scarce. At a time when they had not as yet begun to be much
    disturbed--not as yet being in the way--it was estimated that in New
    South Wales there was but one native to 45,000 acres of territory.

    People had to be protected. Officers of the regular army did not want
    this service--away off there where neither honor nor distinction was to
    be gained. So England recruited and officered a kind of militia force of
    1,000 uniformed civilians called the "New South Wales Corps" and shipped
    it.

    This was the worst blow of all. The colony fairly staggered under it.
    The Corps was an object-lesson of the moral condition of England outside
    of the jails. The colonists trembled. It was feared that next there
    would be an importation of the nobility.

    In those early days the colony was non-supporting. All the necessaries
    of life--food, clothing, and all--were sent out from England, and kept in
    great government store-houses, and given to the convicts and sold to the
    settlers--sold at a trifling advance upon cost. The Corps saw its
    opportunity. Its officers went into commerce, and in a most lawless way.
    They went to importing rum, and also to manufacturing it in private
    stills, in defiance of the government's commands and protests. They
    leagued themselves together and ruled the market; they boycotted the
    government and the other dealers; they established a close monopoly and
    kept it strictly in their own hands. When a vessel arrived with spirits,
    they allowed nobody to buy but themselves, and they forced the owner to
    sell to them at a price named by themselves--and it was always low
    enough. They bought rum at an average of two dollars a gallon and sold
    it at an average of ten. They made rum the currency of the country--for
    there was little or no money--and they maintained their devastating hold
    and kept the colony under their heel for eighteen or twenty years before
    they were finally conquered and routed by the government.

    Meantime, they had spread intemperance everywhere. And they had squeezed
    farm after farm out of the settlers hands for rum, and thus had
    bountifully enriched themselves. When a farmer was caught in the last
    agonies of thirst they took advantage of him and sweated him for a drink.
    In one instance they sold a man a gallon of rum worth two dollars for a
    piece of property which was sold some years later for $100,000.
    When the colony was about eighteen or twenty years old it was discovered
    that the land was specially fitted for the wool-culture. Prosperity
    followed, commerce with the world began, by and by rich mines of the
    noble metals were opened, immigrants flowed in, capital likewise. The
    result is the great and wealthy and enlightened commonwealth of New South
    Wales.

    It is a country that is rich in mines, wool ranches, trams, railways,
    steamship lines, schools, newspapers, botanical gardens, art galleries,
    libraries, museums, hospitals, learned societies; it is the hospitable
    home of every species of culture and of every species of material
    enterprise, and there is a church at every man's door, and a race-track
    over the way.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Mark Twain essay and need some advice, post your Mark Twain essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?