Many of the Convicts were sent to Australia for quite odd crimes. For example, Irish catholics were transported for simply looking suspicious. Likewise, political reformers were transported to trying to form unions, suggesting politicians get paid and promoting the French revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
By today's standards, all of the Convicts sent to Australia had only committed trivial crimes. The serious crimes, such as rape, murder, or impersonating an Egyptian, were punished with the death penality.
Because there was a sense of illegitimacy about whether the punishment fitted the crime, many Convicts decided that there was a difference between being a law abiding citizen, and being a decent human being. Such sentiments can be seen in verses of Convict poetry such as:
"The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose "
And song verses like
:"He bade the judge good morning
And he told him to beware,
That he'd never rob a needy man
Or one who acted square,
But a judge who'd rob a mother
Of her one and only joy
Sure, he must be a worse outlaw than
The wild colonial boy. "
In 1827, a small ship manned by nine Greek sailors robbed a British ship bound for Malta. The Greeks were later caught and brought to trial. In their defence, the Greeks argued that, under international law, they had been entitled to intercept and rob a vessel destined for a port occupied by Turkey; their enemy. Initially, the men were sentenced to death, but concern about the validity of the English laws led to seven of the men being sent to Australia instead.
Machine breakers and swing rioters
While technology increases production, it also brings with it a human cost. In the 1830s, the introduction of threshing machines coincided with a series of difficult growing conditions and poor harvests. These machines took away the winter employment for ploughmen who were already doing it tough.
Threshing machines were soon attacked while a mythical “Captain Swing” started sending threatening letters to farmers and manufacturers if the machinery wasn’t removed and wages increased. Rioting eventually broke out, with the troublemakers being tried as “machine breakers” or “swing rioters”.
In 1690, Catholic Ireland was conquered by Protestant England. The English subsequently passed laws that Catholics could not vote, could not enter university, could not be members of Parliament, could not own a gun, could not travel more than 5 miles from home and could not teach in Protestant schools. Three-quarters of the Irish land was owned by the English Protestants who rented it to the Irish farmers. If rent was not paid, bailiffs would take anything moveable (such as livestock or furniture) and then evict the family. To survive, many Irish were forced to a life to crime. Other Irish struggled to realise political change. In March 1798, Ireland was declared to be in a state of insurrection. Under the Insurrection Act, Magistrates and Military Officers were empowered to arrest and punish, by death or otherwise, according to their discretion, people committing treasonable acts or even suspected of treason. An Indemnity Act protected them from suits for illegal acts committed by them in suppressing a rebellion, so that many thousands were, without any judicial trial or investigation, flogged, tortured, transported or executed.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six men from the Village of Tolpuddle in England who were transported in 1834 for trying to form a union. They were: George Loveless; James Loveless; Thomas Standfield; John Standfield; James Hammet; James Brine.
The Scottish Martyrs were five men who promoted the ideals of the French revolution: liberty, equality and fraternity. For promoting these views they were transported to Australia. They were: Maurice Magarot; Thomas Muir; Thomas Fyshe Palmer; William Skirving; Joseph Gerrald.
Life was difficult for sailors in the 18th century. They could be flogged without reason, food was scarce and pay almost non-existent. It had been said that 'being a sailor in a ship is being in goal with the chance of being drowned. 'Mutinies were usually dealt with by hangings. Occasionally; however, the mutineers were sent to Australia. One notable mutineer was a surgeon by the name of Dr William Redfern.
In 1837, a group of Canadian rebels staged an uprising to achieve reform. 29 were executed and 149 were transported to Australia.
The Chartists were a group of about 60 people from Monmouthshire in England who had drawn up a list of changes they wanted made to the political system. The list included an idea that everyone should be given a vote, that voting should be by ballot and Parliamentary members should be paid. (The system of the time only allowed rich men who didn't have to earn a living to enter Parliament.) For creating this list, the Chartists were transported to Tasmania.
Black South Africans
From 1828 to 1834 South Africa deported many blacks that were not political prisoners, but had transgressed the white South African laws.
Often the pickpockets were well organised gangs that targeted social gatherings of the rich and famous. In a crowd, the pickpocket's victim would not feel a hand relieving them of their valuables. As soon as the item was stolen, it would be passed to an assistant (often an elegantly dressed lady) who would hurry to another part of town.
Convicts as young as 10 were transported to Australia. Such children had no parents, no homes and no schools hence took to a life of crime to survive.
Some eccentric noblemen from England 's establishment were transported. These included:
- James Hardy Vaux - An eccentric who despite acknowledging the folly of his ways, found it impossible to resist the temptation to break the law;
- Francise Greenway - Short fused architect who rubbed people the wrong way;
- James Grant- Discharged a weapon in a gentleman's 'duel' after his honour had been tainted;
- Sir Henry Brown Hayes - A knight and sheriff of Cork who kidnapped a lady and forced her to marry him.
The Convict women were usually reported to have been low-class women, foul mouthed and with loose morals; however, this was not always the case. Often women would commit crimes deliberately to be able to join their husbands in the colony. Punishments for women included an iron collar fastened round the neck or having her head shaved as a mark of disgrace. Often these punishments were for moral misdemeanours, such as being 'found in the yard of an inn in an indecent posture for an immoral purpose'.Women would often intentional offend the authorities by bearing their back side or name the priest when asked who the father was of their child.
In a house of nobility, if an item went missing or was misplaced, the servant was usually blamed. Convictions were assured even when there was a lack of evidence. Other servants formed relationships with their masters and were accused of theft when the master wanted the relationship to end.
Aborigines became Convicts for either defending their home or cultural misunderstandings. Warriors such as Yagan, Pelmulwuy and Musquito were outlawed for enforcing Aboriginal law. Yagan and Pelmulwuy were eventually beheaded whilst Musquito was transported to Tasmania where he again made trouble and was then executed.
Other Aborigines came before the law due to cultural misunderstandings. In nomadic societies, there was no concept of individual possession rather what is owned by friends is owned by all. Consequently, the Aborigines frequently walked off with any European item that held their interest. Subsequently, many officials found it ironic that they had established a penal colony amongst the greatest thieves on earth.
Official crimes list
The following is the list of crimes that was punishable by transportation to Australia 1.) All theft above the value of one shilling.2.) Thefts under the value one shilling. 3.) Receiving stolen goods, jewels and plate. 4.) Stealing lead, iron or copper. 5.) Stealing ore from black lead mines. 6.) Stealing from furnished lodgings. 7.) Setting fire to underwood. 8.) Stealing letters.9.) Assault with intent to rob. 10.) Stealing fish from a pond or river. 11.) Stealing roots, trees or plants. 12.) Bigamy. 13.) Assaulting, cutting or burning clothes. 14.) Counterfeiting the copper coin. 15.) Clandestine marriage. 16.) Stealing a shroud from a grave. 17.) Watermen carrying too many passengers on the Thames , if any drowned. 18.) Incorrigible rogues who broke out of prison and persons reprieved from capital punishment. 19.) Embeuling naval stores.
Activity 1 - Why laws are created
Discuss, why are laws and regulations created?
1) Look at the following laws. Decide if they were created to express morality, power or to solve a problem:
In 1838 it was declared illegal to swim at NSW public beaches during the day. This law was enforced until 1902.
In 1690, Catholic Ireland was conquered by Protestant England. The English subsequently passed laws that Catholics could not vote, could not enter university, could not be members of Parliament, could not own a gun, could not travel more than 5 miles from home and could not teach in Protestant schools.
In 1918, the Northern Territory Aboriginal Ordinance Act intended to ensure that Aboriginal people could not drink or possess or supply alcohol or methylated spirits, could not come within 2 chains of licensed premises, have firearms, marry non-Aborigines without permission or have sex across the colour line.
Sodomy and homosexuality have been illegal for the majority of Australia’s urban history. Male homosexuality was decriminalised in the Australian Capital Territory in 1976, South Australia in 1975, Victoria in 1981, NSW in 1984 and Tasmania in 1997.
The following where laws imposed by the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001
Complete ban on women's work outside the home, which also applied to female teachers, engineers and most professionals.
Complete ban on women's activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).
Ban on the watching of movies, television and videos
Ordered that all people with non-Islamic names change them to Islamic ones
Ordered that men not shave or trim their beards, which should grow long enough to protrude from a fist clasped at the point of the chin
Ordered that all people attend prayers in mosques five times daily.
2) Look at the following laws and decide who might be advantaged by such laws and who may be disadvantaged
Laws against assembling in public without a permit
Laws against selling goods on a public street
Laws against receiving payment to mind children in the home
Laws against brewing and selling alcohol without a licence
Laws restricting the height of a building in a given area
Laws restricting the business activities in a given area
A change in laws that allows high-rises to built on land previously zoned as reserved for single story development
Laws against disseminating material that may not be in the "public interest"
Laws against against keeping live animals in a commercial kitchen.
3)These laws are returned by google in response to the terms “silly Australian laws.” Try to come up with explanations for why these laws were created.
A life sentence is 25 years.
Children may not purchase cigarettes, but they may smoke them.
You may never leave your car keys in an unattended vehicle.
It is illegal to roam the streets wearing black clothes, felt shoes and black shoe polish on your face.
It is illegal to walk on the right hand side of a footpath.
Under Australian Communications Authority (ACA) regulations, a modem can't pick up on the first ring.
Bars are required to stable, water and feed the horses of their patrons.
The legal age for straight sex is 16, unless the person is in the care/custody of the older person, in which case it is 18.
Only licensed electricians may change a light bulb.
It is illegal to wear hot pink pants after midday Sunday.
You must have a neck to knee swimsuit in order to swim at Brighton Beach.
It is illegal to read someone's tarot, or give them a psychic reading.