Friends or foes?
Regrets and floggings
Very odd laws
Myall Creek Massacre
How to use history?
Dying for liberty
Rasputin meets Ned Kelly
Mary Anne Bugg
Our Ned Kelly
A story heard and considered
Not a good fence builder
Birth of Australian Morality
Urban Australia commenced in quite an immoral way. There was little concern for human life, little concern for suffering and overall, few examples of human behaviour worthy of any kind respect. On ships, Convict women were used as sex toys by officers and then unloaded to be selected by free settlers as if cattle. Men were flogged until their backbones were exposed though mangled flesh. People were executed for just trying to find something to eat. All the cruelty that humans are capable of became a daily fact of Australian life. Ironically, it was via outlaws that the penal society first saw how a semi-decent person should act. One of the earliest of these outlaws was Mathew Brady.
In 1820, Brady was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a basket of food. In the first four years of his sentence, he received no fewer than 350 lashes, mostly for attempting to abscond. In 1823, he was sent to the hell-on-earth Macquarie Harbour in West Tasmania, a new penal settlement established for secondary offenders. In June 1824 he escaped with 13 other Convicts in a whaleboat. After reaching the Derwent River, the escapees robbed a settler of his guns and commenced a life of bushranging.
As outlaws, the gang seemed intent on promoting a new moral code. On a personal level, Brady became known as a man that treated women with politeness and never let any of his gang harm them. According to legend, when his partner McCabe threatened a settler's wife, Brady shot him through the hand, flogged him and threw him out of the gang. Brady also made a point of rewarding human decency when he saw it. On one occasion, Brady returned some stolen property to a surgeon after he discovered that the surgeon had once intervened on behalf of a Convict that was being brutally flogged.
On a social level, Brady wanted to symbolically state that the true criminals were the authorities. His gang "captured" the town of Sorell. They then released all the Convicts and subsequently captured the troopers who had been sent to capture the gang. The troopers were incarcerated and Brady led the town in a celebration.
As Brady's gang increased in size, so did the rewards for his capture. At first, Governor Arthur offered twenty gallons of rum for Brady, then £10, and then £25. Brady responded by pinning the following notice to the door of the Royal Oak Inn in Crossmarch:
"It has caused Matthew Brady much concern that such a person as Sir George Arthur is at large. Twenty gallons of rum will be given to any person that can deliver this person to me. I also caution John Priest that I will hang him for his ill-treatment of Mrs. Blackwell, at Newtown."
Brady's fight against the Governor was one that he could only ever lose. With extra police and soldiers at his disposal, Arthur picked off the gang members in running skirmishes, one by one. He offered rewards such as a full unconditional pardon and a free passage back to England to the man who brought Brady in. He sent out Convicts to join Brady's gang so that they could betray him.
In 1826, the betrayals caused Brady to kill for the first and only time. Thomas Kenton, a deserter from a whaling ship, was flying the white cloth to signal that all was clear. In reality, Keaton was luring Brady into a trap. A squad of soldiers rushed out and captured Brady, tied him up and then went in pursuit of another gang member. Brady managed to untie himself and escaped. Later he tracked down Kenton, informed him why he would die, and then shot him in the head.
A short time later, Brady was shot in the leg in a skirmish near Launceston. He got away but was cornered a few days later, limping and exhausted, by a settler named John Batman (the future founder of Melbourne). He surrendered without a struggle.
In the preparations for his trial, it was apparent that Brady had become a popular hero. Dozens of petitions for clemency arrived at Government House. Women shed tears for the gentleman who had shown such consideration to their sex. His cell was filled every day with visitors bringing baskets of flowers, fan letters, fruit and fresh-baked cakes. Even the troopers that Brady had locked up in Sorrel came to pay their respects.
Brady was charged with an assortment of offences, including the murder of Thomas Kenton. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. He then gave an insight into his psychology that gave him such determination to never give up. In regards to his life on the run, he said,
"A bushranger's life is wretched and miserable. There is constant fear of capture and the least noise in the bush is startling. There is no peace day or night."
When asked why he just didn't surrender, he said,
"Because I knew it would end this way and I wanted to live as long as I could."
On May 4, 1826, Brady mounted the scaffold above a sea of faces contorted in grief. His last act of defiance was to bitterly protest at having to stand on the same gallows as Mark Jeffries, a cannibal that had eaten four men, and smashed a woman's baby against a tree. On the same scaffold stood two Convicts, but two very different people and two very different products of the same penal system.
White Australia Policy
From Convicts to Chinese
What to celebrate?
Science and survival
The father of the blitzkrieg
He died so others may live
Desert Rats defy Hitler
The White Mouse
Never giving up
Which side would Convicts choose?
A history of "no"
Skeletons in the closet
Australia's engagement with Asia