THE EXILE'S RETURN: NARRATIVE OF SAMUEL SNOW WHO WAS BANISHED TO VAN DIEMAN'S LAND, FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE PATRIOT WAR IN UPPER CANADA IN 1838
published in CLEVELAND, 1846
Edited by Cassandra Pybus
© all rights reserved
This narrative has been broken into 3 sections: I/II/III
We received our tickets sooner than prisoners in general; their own convicts have to work on the road two years, and are then LOANED to the settlers for a number of years more, according to the nature of their sentence. We were sent into the country immediately, and soon found that a ticket of leave was a MAGNA CHARTA on a very small scale; and that we held our liberty by a very precarious tenure; for upon the slightest provocation, the almighty little country magistrate would wrest it from us. I believe that none of the American patriots, however, were so unlucky as to loose their tickets.28
Now, when we were permitted to work for ourselves, wages had become very low, and our party generally found it difficult to get steady employment. In 18434, a good ticket-of-leave man could get no more than a dollar and a half per week, unless he was a mechanic; if so, he might get a dollar a day, and board himself. Fifteen of our party concluded to join hands and work a farm, and were invited by an old gentleman and his son, of the name of Kermode,29 to take a farm of three hundred acres, of good land, to sow to wheat and oats. The old man was a member of the Governor's council. The farm was situated in the Oatland district the owner was to furnish teams to do the work, and provide provisions for us at a fair price. We accordingly took the farm, and in a few weeks had the surface of it nearly covered over with seed. At this time we had to pay six English shillings per bushel for seed wheat, and three for oats. Our crop proved to be a very good one; only about fifteen acres of the wheat was injured by the frost; and on the 10th day of December, 1842, we commenced harvesting. We were engaged ten and a half weeks in cutting and putting into shocks our three hundred acres of grain, during which time we had but one slight shower of rain. We drew it to a threshing machine, in the vicinity, which was impelled by water power, and had it threshed and cleaned; and on measurement we found that for the labor we had expended in cultivating the FACE of "mother earth," during the summer, she had yielded us an income of three thousand bushels of wheat, and a little over three thousand bushels of oats.
There was now one serious drawback to our prosperity, and that was, while our wheat and oats had been GROWING UP, prices had been GROWING DOWN HILL.30 Three shillings per bushel for wheat, and one shilling and sixpence for oats, or just one half of what we paid for seed, was all we could get for our stock on hand; and after deducting our expenditures, we had about ten pounds a piece, English currency, left; and as our tickets prevented our being fed at the public crib, or clothed at government expense, we soon found ways and means which to rid ourselves of the whole of our cash capital, as well as stock in trade.
In speaking of the natural history of Van Dieman's Land, I omitted to speak of one animal, more savage, and feared, than all others put together, that have ever been found. It is nothing more nor less than a species of the degenerate tribe of MAN, and is known throughout the eastern world by the name of BUSHRANGER. This class of beings were first found to infest the island during the administration of Sir George Arthur, and were indebted for their origin to the rigor and cruelty with which this tyrant reigned over his fellow man. They had been imported convicts, who, after suffering all the forms of punishment which the inventive genius of Sir George could contrive, were driven to desperation, and took refuge in the BUSH or woods, and assumed and maintained the character of robbers, murderers, &c. These desperadoes, when they are driven to the necessity of BOLTING, or breaking loose from the restraints of slavery, and joining the standard of the Rangers, are ripe for any deeds of daring that may offer.
The free population of the island are thinly scattered over the country, generally several miles apart, or wherever good land and water may be found. After a colony had been planted on the island, the home Government offered great inducements to emigrants to turn their attention in that direction. They wished a part of the wealth of England, which was continually going out to foreign countries, to be deposited here, and offered an acre of land, selected by the settlers at will, for every pound sterling, in money or property brought on to the island.31 This had a tendency to make large land owners of persons, who possessed but a moderate fortune in the mother country; and it was no uncommon thing to see farms of single individuals containing ten, twenty, thirty and even as many as fifty thousand acres of land. On these farms might be seen from five to fifteen thousand sheep, five or fifteen hundred head of horned cattle, and from two to five or seven hundred horses. Such a division of property created an aristocracy but little inferior to the same article found in England. And this made it easy for the Bushranger to carry on his predatory operations with the greater safety.32
These men are equipped with fire-arms, and knives, and as a general thing, go in companies of two or three only, and lay in the woods, or on some neighbouring hill, during the day, to ascertain the strength of the farmer's forces, and watch their operations. In the evening, when they have made a choice of an individual on whom to bestow a special call, they sally forth with guns loaded with double chargesrush into the farm-house; and if there is no particular demonstration of resistance on the part of the inmates, one of the Rangers proceeds to secure the farmer and his household, by tying their hands behind them and putting them all into one room together, where an armed guard is placed over them. Then the house is thoroughly searched for money, watches, clothing, guns, ammunition, provisions, and other valuables and necessaries; and though, from the urgency of their business, their calls are necessarily SHORT, still they make a clean sweep. If they find more of this world's goods than they can handily carry off, they compel one of the occupants of the house to assist in conveying it into the bush, when he is allowed to return in safety. When they decamp from the premises, they leave their prisoners to unloose themselves according to the best of their ability. Sometimes they take horses from the stable for the purpose of transporting their TRAPS, SHINERS, YELLOW BOYS, and PUNT RAGS into the country, and then let them go to return home.It is seldom, or never, that they kill a man, unless war is declared at the door by the party feeling himself aggrieved. At such times they stand for the rights granted to persons in all civilized countries, of fighting in self defence. The interior of the island is mountainous, and they generally select some cavern on the hill side, far back from the retreats of the settlers, as a secure place of deposit. When they do commit a murder, the government offers a reward for their heads; and any convict who shall take them, can have the reward, a free pardon, and a passage to England. When robberies are committed, the district constables are put upon the track, with instructions to continue the chase till the Rangers are brought in. This keeps a good many of these petty functionaries in active service, during the greater part of their term of office. But the Bushrangers are caught almost daily, and new accessions are made to their numbers as often, and on the whole their ranks are increased rather than diminished. The military and ticket-of-leave men are frequently called out to hunt them. Mr. Gunn, the chief police magistrate of the island, had but one arm, the other having been shot away by a Bushranger many years ago.33 I recollect that one day, two of these bandits, of the names of Jeffreys and Donally, were seen by a constable to enter a hut; and he thought it would be both sportive and profitable to take them alone, as a bounty had been offered for their arrest. The constable, whose name was Ward, rushed in upon them, seized one and threw him upon the floor, and was strangling him, when the other, at the urgent cries of his friend, stepped up and ordered Ward to let up his comrade, or he would shoot him. To this Ward replied, he would never release his hold till he was secure, or as long as he had breath. The Ranger then placed the muzzle of his gun to Ward's head, and blew his brains out. They then fled, and left Ward on the floor, a horrible spectacle to behold. A reward of one hundred pounds, free pardon, and passage to England, was immediately offered for these two persons, whether taken dead or alive. They were hunted day and night, and were finally taken by two of our party, in company with a few constables. The reward was equally divided among them, and our men returned home to America in safety, by way of England.34 The Bushrangers were tried and executed
I have now but little more to say concerning the remainder of my stay at Van Dieman's Land. In 1843-4, the American prisoners found it difficult to get work, and prices were very low.On the 12th of October, 1844, I received the joyful news that my free pardon had been granted; and what heightened my joy was, that twenty-eight others, American prisoners, were liberated with me We are informed that Mr. Bicheno, the Colonial Secretary, received the above names from Mr. Everett, the American Minister at the Court of London.35 Mr. Bicheno informed Mr. Hathaway, the American Consul at Hobart Town, on the arrival of Mr. Everett's letter; and in a week we were cited to appear at the police office, where our parchment of freedom awaited us. And now, that we were at liberty to leave this country, to which none of us had formed attachments that would cause pain in dissolving, our anxiety to find a passage home increased daily.
We waited impatiently two long months, before an American vessel made its appearance. On the 15th of January, 1845, the Steiglitz, Capt. Selah Youngs, an American whaler from Sagharbor, N.Y., came up to Hobart Town to repair. We soon formed an acquaintance with the Captain, and entered into a negotiation for a passage to some other part of the world. He left fourteen of his own men at Hobart Town, on account of their bad conduct on the voyage out, and agreed to take twenty-five of us on board, when he should get ready to sail. He was bound to the North-West coast of America for whales, but told us if he should fall in with a ship homeward bound, he would get us aboard; if not, leave us in Otaheite, one of the Society islands in the South Pacific ocean. He was fitted for a three years cruise. The Captain was one of the most kind and obliging men, and we readily consented to sail with him. On Monday evening, the 27th, the repairs on ship-board being completed, we left the land with thankful hearts. On the 28th, our ship broke ground, and anchored again, and on the 29th, the sails were unfurled to the breeze, and we proceeded down the river. And now that we were so rapidly leaving the shores of this far famed island, after a residence upon it of five years, we could say with emphasis
Farewell, Van Dieman, ruin's gate,
With joy we leave they shore;
And fondly hope our wretched fate,
Will drive us there no more.
We had seen misery in all of its varied forms; we had seen how prone man is to tyrannize over his brother, when clothed with "brief authority," and we had learned to cherish the institutions of our own beloved countryour native land. We had thought of the moral influence exerted upon the minds of children of the free population by being associated with, and surrounded by so many of the most vicious human beings the world ever saw; we had in countless instances seen TOTAL DEPRAVITY PERSONIFIED.36
Edited by Cassandra Pybus, International Centre for Convict Studies, Tasmania, Australia. This narrative has been broken into 3 sections. You have just completed Section III. Return to sections I or II. See also the introduction to Snow's narrative by Cassandra Pybus.
29 William Kermode Esq. of Mona Vale on the Macquarie River.
30 Wheat prices boomed in 1840 following a drought in NSW. Thus in April 1839 the Colonial Times was reporting inflated prices of 12/- - 14/- a bushel. The VDL economy was subsequently hard hit by the 1840s depression a feature of which was falling prices which made it difficult for settlers to meet rent interest payments. See R. M. Hartwell, The VDL Government and the Depression of the 1840s in Historical Studies Australia and New Zealand, 4, 15 (1950), pp.185-197.
31 Following the publication of the Bigge Report in 1821settlers were required to have a minimum of £500 capital in order to qualify for a land grant which were now granted in blocks which were usually not less than five hundred acres.
32 Although Snow exaggerates the scale of Midlands properties, by the late 1820s a number of large estates had sprung up across the Tasmanian landscape several of which were over 5000 acres in size. These properties were regular targets for bushranging raids.
33 William Gunn was wounded by the bushranger Matthew Brady in September 1825 and had to have his right arm amputated as a result. He was rewarded for his exertions with a colonial pension of £70 and a gift £341 raised by public subscription. Matthew Brady was one of 14 prisoners who escaped from Macquarie Harbour penal station on the west coast of VDL in an open whale boat in June 1824. It took the Colonial Government two years to apprehend Brady who assumed celebrity status amongst the ranks of convicts. Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol.1 1788-1850, A-H, p.493.
34 These were Stephen Wright and Aaron Dresser Jr both from the Buffalo. On their return they were instrumental in raising public awareness of the Patriots plight in the US which lead the US to pressure the British government into giving pardons.
35 The process by which free pardons were finally granted to the Patriot exiles in VDL was chaotic at best and dastardly at worst. Early in 1844, following representations from family and friends in Canada, eight pardon warrants had been dispatched for the few remaining Canadians patriots, but some of these went astray. Others were simply not gazetted in VDL. The same was true of the Americans pardons. Governor Wilmot, who replaced Franklin when he left in disgrace, took the view that he should exercise his own discretion by giving out the pardons in stages and withholding any pardons for convicts who had bucked the system. As a consequence few men were granted pardons at the time the pardon warrants were received in the colony; most had to wait between six months and two years.
Pleased though he was to be pardoned, Linus Miller was far from grateful, declaring: We have been, de jure, free men for years and the abominable slavery we have endured was not only a wanton violation of the laws of justice and humanity, but even of Van Diemens Land. Nor was Robert Marsh appreciative that, having been illegally compelled to become a British slave, he could now be said to be a free man. Surely it was not customary in law to pardon a man before giving him sentence? He demanded of the bemused clerk who issued the pardon.
By the middle of 1845 less than half of the Patriots had received their free pardon. Nor was there any assistance available for their return passages, although it was common practice for HM government to provide passage to England with a free pardon. For some such as Elijah Woodman, who died on his return voyage, it was a heart-wrenching struggle to get the money for passage at a time when VDL was in the grip of an economic depression and there was a chronic over-supply of labour. Most like those with Snow on the Steiglitz managed to return aboard American whaling ships either working a passage or on a promise to pay when landed in the US.
36 By the end of 1845, it was presumed in England and Canada that everyone had been pardoned, yet eighteen still remained in VDL. Eleven American names had simply been left off the US consuls list, while the others had their original 1844 pardons held back at the governors pleasure (one of these escaped). When Linus Miller arrived in New York early in 1846 he too wrote letters to the New York newspapers agitating on behalf of those left behind. In July HMs government reacted to mounting pressure from the US Ambassador and called for a report on the remaining Patriots in VDL. There is no evidence that the colonial authorities ever responded. It was over a year later that the Crown sought closure of the Patriot case by authorising pardons for all those they believed remained in VDL. These pardons were gazetted in VDL during 1848.
A conditional pardon was given to Horace Cooley late in 1849. Ironically, the Superintendent of Convicts remarked of that Cooley he had served nine and half years of a sentence for a minor offence and had no bad conduct against him, implying that he should have been pardoned long since. In fact Horace Cooley had been issued a full and free pardon in March 1844, but it had never been gazetted. Patrick White had also fallen through the cracks in the system with no one to represent his interests. He was recommended for a pardon in 1848, but it wasnt until February 1850 that he was granted a conditional pardon only. Since the terms of a conditional pardon restricted freedom to Australia only, these two may never have left. Only one, Moses Dutcher, who married in VDL, seems to have voluntarily stayed in the colony. Jacob Beamer was re-sentenced in Victoria in 1850 and was sent back to the penal system in VDL.
Four Americans remained in the cruel and capricious convict system: Joseph Stewart had been pardoned in 1844 but it never had never been gazetted; George Cooley had been left off the American consuls list, possibly because of a persistent confusion with Horace Cooley; William Reynolds was also left off the list, perhaps because of the young man of the same name had been pardoned in England. Each of these three had tried to escape when it was apparent they werent to be pardoned and consequently had their tickets-of-leave revoked, so they were returned to hard labour. They may have made good their escape sometime around the early 1850s when their convict conduct records fall silent. Most capricious of all was the treatment of John Berry, who had gone to work as a shepherd in the remote north west of the island. He was pardoned in October 1844, but never told about that he had been discharged from servitude until 1857. After seventeen years in the island colony he didnt suffer from torn loyalties. He caught the first American ship that would take him home.
This narrative has been broken into 3 sections. You have just completed Section III. Return to sections I or II. See also the introduction to Snow's narrative by Cassandra Pybus.