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John St Barbe and his Seething Lane link to Walsingham: The convict contractor lists: The degradation of convict status in Virginia: Jonathan Forward Sydenham and relics: The export of rattlesnakes: The bad press of the convict transportation system: Redirecting the English convict service: An unrecognised small mercy:


The Blackheath Connection©

Chapter 1
By Dan Byrnes


John St Barbe (1742-1816) of 33 Seething Lane, London, The City, was an interesting man, by turns a shipping contractor to government during the American War of Independence, and a man who continued to give service to government, part of which was shipping convicts to Sydney, or, New Holland, New South Wales. ([1]) He was a name at Lloyd's, a vigorous investor in the South Whale Fishery, and later a rebel at Lloyd's, a promoter of the Red Book which rebelled against the earlier-established Green Book for marine insurers. He lived comfortably at Blackheath, outside London, very close to his whaler neighbours and friends, the Enderby family, and had a stable housing perhaps six horses. St Barbe is just one of the London convict contractors profiting from sending convicts to Sydney before 1800, and he is not the only London ship manager whose ancestry provides information and themes which bind themselves up in ways not yet written in Australasian history - which is a story in itself.

Queen Elizabeth 
Queen Elizabeth I

The provenance of St Barbe's City address stretches back to Elizabethan times, and reveals intimacies of the career of Elizabeth's spymaster, Walsingham. The key is one Ursula St Barbe. The daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham (1532-1590) and Ursula St Barbe, was Frances Walsingham (1567-1631), who became the wife of Richard De Burgh, first Earl St Albans, of Philip Sydney (1554-1586), promoter of International Protestantism, first Earl Leicester and of Robert Devereux (1566-1600). ([2]) Frances, who had six if not more children to her three husbands, had inherited a site in Seething Lane, and so it appears that Ursula St Barbe inherited Walsingham's premises there. Later, Robert Devereux (1590-1646) was born there, as his grandmother was Frances. This Seething Lane address, probably the one becoming No. 33, evidently stayed with the St Barbe family, for after the 1770s, No. 33 Seething Lane became the address of John St Barbe, convict contractor, also a man partly responsible for opening New Zealand seal fur resources to exploitation, at Dusky Bay.


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Unfortunately, the St Barbe genealogy is broken between 1710-1770, so it is difficult to explore this possibility fully. But the as-yet-unexplored theme that St Barbe's case raises is this: that men letting their shipping to carry convicts to Australia had close links to government, or government officials, government departments. This may come as no surprise to some, depending on how intimate is their knowledge of Australian history. What is entertaining to discover is how deep the roots can go, where shipping managers in London sent convicts to Australia, not just a few times, but over concerted periods of time. A great deal of suspicion exists in Australian folklore, about "the system" governing the treatment of convicts, or, in the maritime sense, their transportation, and even in recently-published books of history... This suspicion in fact acts as a blinker... more so where research is not deepened. When the blinkers are removed, the London which sent convicts to Australia appears afresh, bathed in new questions, and far more understandable, as follows, and follows, and follows... the point being in this book to identify, elaborate on connections which have not earlier been followed up, so that future researchers can use this book as a guide through parts of a complex labyrinth of documentation, conjecture, genealogies, and possibilities-in-history.


John St Barbe the convict contractor has some genealogy given in the computerized version of the IGI for the London area. Earlier, Ursula St Barbe, married to Walsingham, had a sister Edith who married diplomat Robert Beale. ([3]) One line of St Barbes is given in Burke's Extinct Baronetcies; ([4]) mentioned is one Edward, a sheriff of Somerset, with one later linkage being Richard Colley/Wellesley, first Baron Mornington. The name St Barbe often entwined with the name Sydenham, and Sir Francis Drake's second wife was Elizabeth Sydenham, daughter of Sir George Sydenham of Combe. ([5]) One Sydenham is found as a convict contractor name working from London about the 1720s.


In following fragmented information on St Barbe genealogy, however, chiefly from Burke's Extinct Baronetcies, it remains unclear if John St Barbe in fact had earlier genealogical links of any sort with the convict contractor Sydenham, but questions at least are provoked. (More information on St Barbe will be presented in later chapters.) At this point, we need to know of the milieu in which the name Sydenham is found...


The convict contractors:


It appears that the merchant names noted in the convict service between England and North America after 1717 had survived the South Sea Bubble well. After 1717, a list of the names of British convict contractors to North America, in roughly chronological order of their first appearance in records, would include:


1717 Francis March, London; 1718 Jonathan Forward, London; 1720 members of the Lux family, Darby, John, and Francis, probably London (later linked to Jonathan Forward's operations) and in 1750, William Lux; 1721, 1722, Jonathan Forward Sydenham of London; 1722, Cheston, ?; 1731, various men named Reed, to 1771; 1737, Joseph Weld in Dublin; 1739, Andrew Reid, London, with James and Andrew Armour, London, and John Stewart of London; 1740ff, Moses Israel Fonesca, London; 1740, Samuel Sedgley, Bristol; 1740, James Gildart, Liverpool; 1744, John Langley, Ireland; 1745, Reid and Armour, London; 1745, Sydenham and Hodgson, London; 1747, William Cookson of Hull; 1749, Jonathan Forward Sydenham a nephew of Jonathan Forward; 1749, Stewart and Armour, London; 1750, Andrew Reid, London; ; 1750, Samuel Sedgely and Co. of Bristol; John Stewart and (Duncan) Campbell, London (JS&C); 1758, Sedgely and Co. (Hillhouse and Randolph), Bristol; 1759, Stewart and Armour, London; 1760, Sedgely and Hillhouse of Bristol; 1763, Andrew Reid retired; 1764, John Stewart and Duncan Campbell, London; 1766, Patrick Colquhuon, Glasgow; 1766, Sedgely and Co. at Bristol replaced by William Randolph, William Stevenson, James Cheston, Bristol; 1767, Stevenson, Randolph and Cheston, Bristol? with a colonial agent Cheston; 1768, Jonathan Forward Sydenham, London or nearby counties; 1769, Dixon and Littledale, Whitehaven; 1769, Sedgely, Bristol; 1769, any ships captain providing necessary securities could transport felons; 1770, James Baird, Glasgow; 1772, John Stewart died, Duncan Campbell carried on alone in London until 1775. At Bristol, Stevenson, Randolph and Cheston (SRC) were active till 1776. SRC made ill-advised and vain attempts to transport felons to North America at the end of the American Revolution, but Campbell did not.


The above list of merchant names prominent in the convict service has been re-compiled from myriad information compiled by historians working independently between 1933 and 1987 on the original documentation of convict transportation to North America. (Especially, historians such as A. E. Smith, Oldham, Coldham, ([6]) Eris O'Brien, Shaw, Ekirch ([7]) and Morgan ([8])). Merchant names continually cropping up were obviously stayers in the service. Some of the merchants figured in the American-British tobacco trade, and suffered from the destruction of that trade from 1775. ([9])


By 1722, Virginia tried to have convict servants kept to its new frontier settlement. It also wanted to force ships captains to give security of 100 for all convicts sold, and buyers to give security of 10, for good behaviour. This however was vetoed by the Privy Council. Problems of law and order did not arise as feared, but colonial ideas about convicts became more complicated. By the 1740s, the convicts were seen as common indentured servants. Later they were seen in a different and more moralistic light, as a class degraded in more formal, legalistic and moral senses, classed more with slaves, and this more so in Virginia than in Maryland. So to the 1740s, the convicts had the usual rights of indentured servants in both England and colonies, which included freedom dues, since they received no regular wages. Once their time was expired, they could claim provision for an independent start in the world. Increasingly, Virginia began to express grave doubts about freedom dues, in 1736 and in 1740, in 1748, into the 1750s, the idea being that since transported convicts were criminals under sentence, they had no right to freedom dues.


These doubts were the product of an increasingly pervasive process in colonial slave-using society, which had to with elaborating and refining views on morality, or, moralism - in brief, respectability. Paradoxically, as chattel slavery became more institutionalised in the economy, the American colonials became more concerned about respectability, the rights of citizenship, about their own "quality" vis--vis the quality, of course, of the English upper classes. There was a peculiar hypocrisy about linking ideas of quality, morality, owning property and citizenship, when property also included slaves, which has been traced in James Michener's novel, Chesapeake. In Chesapeake, Quakers set themselves to at least speak honestly about this hypocrisy, which stemmed chiefly from a psychological need to dehumanise those on whom the colonies depended for the most servile labour, who were therefore one source of wealth.


Efforts were made to degrade the transported convict in the eyes of the law as ideas were refined about the moral bases of citizenship. As early as 1732 there had been an attempt to deny a re-offending convict any access to the higher criminal courts, but they could be tried in a county court like any slave. A Maryland Act of 1748 prohibited convicts giving evidence in a court of law. Convicts were viewed as having the kind of "corrupt principles" possessed by slaves, Indians and mulattos. In Virginia, in 1749, the same attempt was made via an electoral Act which disqualified for the vote, even if they had freehold property, women, children, Negroes, Indians, mulattos, and transportees convicted in Great Britain or Ireland. And so with convicts successfully stigmatised, presumably, the community of decent citizens was better defined. ([10]) As Atkinson has noted, the 1753 Act denying convicts any freedom dues was a natural consequence. Here, one can also note that, oddly enough, one reads very little about "convict servants" ever being resold in the North American colonies, although slaves were obviously sold and resold.

* * *


One finding from the list of merchants operating between 1717-1775 is pronounced. Small groups of merchants in London and environs, and two groups at Bristol, managed to dominate the business, snaring a significant and regular number of convicts for transportation. This means that while a government bounty was paid for each prisoner transported, these merchants obtained most of the bounty money available. No obvious financial or business links between the two groups London-Bristol have been found, so they can be viewed as two independent groups of merchants sharing the majority of the business of convict contracting. They apparently did not interfere with each other in England - nor apparently did they interfere with each other's interests in North America.


The Bristol groupings consisted of Samuel Sedgely and Co., and/or Hillhouse and Sedgely, who were replaced by Stevenson Randolph and Cheston before the American Revolution. The London grouping consisted of firstly Jonathan Forward and his nephew Jonathan Forward Sydenham, plus Hodgson, and men of a family named Lux. This early grouping and their associates generally avoided dealing with a later loose consortium consisting variously of Andrew Reid, Reid and James Armour, Armour and John Stewart, and lastly John Stewart and Duncan Campbell.


There is irony. Jonathan Forward died aged 80 in 1760, ([11]) leaving much property to a grandson, Edward Stephenson, including a share of the Iron Gate Wharf by St. Katherine's. By 1972, ([12]) "convict relics" from St. Katherine's Dock, were sent by the British Tourist Authority to be presented to the Lord Mayor of Sydney. A flagstone and a piece of railing. The flagstone was "part of the last dry land on which many of our [Australian] ancestors stood in England until they landed in Australia to begin their sentences as transported convicts". "It was at St. Katherine's dockside next to London's Tower Bridge... men waited there between 1827 and 1828, building storehouses and vaults. The piece of railing was from the barring of vaults... from the flagstones of St. Katherine's Dock, hard by the Tower". And so, convict relics sent to Australia still bear relation to Forward's career!


Jonathan Forward had extensive estates in the West Country left to his daughter Elizabeth, wife from 1734 of Robert Byng, seventh son of Viscount Torrington, who became a paymaster of the navy, then governor of Barbados. ([13]) Forward's career, newly researched by Peter Coldham, speaks of the money, property and useful connections a convict contractor could enjoy. Some convict contractors were not the utter dregs of commercial life, as many historians have seen them. Duncan Campbell would display a similar interest in displaying his final respectability via land ownership, one of the more potent status symbols of his day. John St Barbe has been less conspicuous, despite his engagement in various commercial environments. In this book, convict transportation is regarded as an underside of British Imperialism of the day. We find that as such, transportation was given different roles as Britain shifted ground, as forced to by the outcome of the American War of Independence, when the First British Empire became the Second...


The export of rattlesnakes (and their children):


"I might put [it] this way: I have never found a single reference to a convict in any genealogy or history of an American family, nor, in any other way does a single one of the 50,000 convicts sent to America appear as such in American history." ([14]) American historian, Bernard Bailyn.


Convict transportation as a business has impressed no one. Which is strange, as it also involved shipping engaged in the tobacco trade. Several British merchants such as Duncan Campbell were heavily involved in convict contracting and tobacco dealing. American historians have lately spent much time on tobacco dealers, notably Scots remaining in Scotland, but have not especially noticed Campbell. Yet it has long been said, the revolutionary Americans resented both receiving British convicts and the financial systems foisted on them by the British. It is odd, then, that historians have not noticed, especially, the tobacco dealers who had Americans in debt, who were also convict contractors. The answer here might be that American colonies receiving convicts was not so resented as has been believed?


* * *


Wertenbaker objected to Samuel Johnson's remark, that the Americans were a race of convicts as absurd, which it was. ([15]) But Wertenbaker would deny convict descendants their reality. He admitted that convicts were sent to the colonies from time to time, that in Virginia were records of crimes committed by these jailbirds, [i.e., recidivists]. He wrote, the convicts were never numerous, planters considered it a risk to use them, some were forced to serve as cannon fodder in colonial wars, others were shunted to the frontiers. There is no impression the convicts had children. ([16]) It seems that Virginians and Marylanders have long since suppressed or ignored genealogical questions relating to convict ancestry, much as Australians did until after World War II - and the North Americans are still doing this, despite the fact there must be hundreds of thousands of convict descendants now in the US. A more accurate impression is gained from treatments such as Peter Wilson Coldham, New Emigrants in Chains.


Meanwhile, the only people praising transportation have been concerned ministers of the British government and various legal officials and social commentators with "the interests of the Empire at heart". The governor of Maryland ([17]) in 1725, the year that Jonathan Wild "the thief taker" was hanged in London, wished convicts "heartily elsewhere", but he understood that so long as colonials bought "servants", merchants would carry them, and the British Government would continue to banish felons. Coldham notes, Wild had collaborated with the convict contractor Jonathan Forward! And that Forward's intelligence in matters of crime was "unrivalled". Felons returning from transportation were easy marks for blackmail. In 1728, the King wrote the justices of London about the "frequent robberies", said to be linked to the unlawful return of people from their sentence of transportation, and offered a reward for useful informers.


The Virginia Gazette of 24 May, 1751 asked, "In what can Britain show a more Sovereign contempt for us than by emptying their jails into our settlements; unless they would likewise empty their Jakes on our tables!" By World War Two, an American historian, A. E. Smith, in Colonists in Bondage, discussing repeated British quashings of anti-convict colonial measures, noted that the dominance of British trading assured the protection of the convict service, and that "the whole business [was] in truth an edifying example of the intimate relations between vested interests and statutory law". Smith ([18]) otherwise says [respecting the reign of Elizabeth I], "The system of transportation was a commercial perversion of an original tempering of justice with mercy"... Morally and otherwise, Smith is correct here.


The bad press of the convict transportation system:


Benjamin Franklin's irony of the 1750s suggesting that rattlesnakes might be transported to England in return for convicts is well-known. Franklin also regarded receiving British convicts as an "insult and contempt, the cruellest perhaps ever one people offered another". ([19]) Decades later, John Molony at Sydney University wrote about the decision of 18 August, 1786 to send the First Fleet to Australia, "the decision ... was made with breathtaking nonchalance and almost criminal negligence." ([20]) Basil Lubbock, a noted British maritime historian of the early Twentieth Century, wrote of transportation to Australia, "this gruesome traffic". Presumably writing in the 1920s, Lubbock remarks, "nearly everyone has read of the horror of the convict ships".


A formidable researcher, Gillen ([21]), in her book on the personnel of the First Fleet to Australia writes: "In a world already filled with the natural miseries of disease, accident and warfare, men were creating more and greater miseries for thousands of their fellow men and fellow women. Transportation was to continue for another eighty years, and leave a history so full of sadism and almost unbelievable human tragedies that one shrinks today from recalling it. .... Even judged by the standards of their own time, the method and application of their [the convicts'] disposal was unforgivably harsh... We should never forget the inhumanity of man to man out of which this nation [Australia] has sprung."


If these judgements are correct, they might be evidence useful in proposing further - that the entire matter was also irrational... so irrational that this helps us explain why a certain taintedness has been so extensive, why errors have been perpetuated so extensively, why certain information has disappeared. The entire operation of the transportation of convicted people was beyond reason. Some say that since the American Revolution, the people of Virginia and Maryland have responded by virtually abolishing evidence of convict ancestry. Of course, much depends on how much historical and genealogical information has been irretrievably lost. The contrast between the view of those on the receiving end, in the colonies, and those of the British perpetrators of transportation, is vivid. Due to intellectual inertia, the view is still shared by the British yellow press in its attitude to the origins of Australians - convict scum. In the middle of the debate of course were the merchants involved in convict contracting. The best way to view them is through the eyes of a maritime historian. And as we find, much information on the Anglo-American tobacco trade has been lost.


* * *


Redirecting the English convict service:


During 1717-1718, in the interests of efficiency, convict transportation was directed away from the West Indies and focused on Virginia and Maryland, where white servile convict labour filled a gap in the labour market not filled by illiterate black slaves and poorer white native colonials. Before the Transportation Act of 1718 (4 Geo 1, c. 11), ([22]) convicted criminals were sent out with a conditional pardon. With some exceptions, courts could NOT sentence felons directly to transportation; men and women were sentenced to death and pardoned conditionally on the understanding they would leave the country, so that they arrived in a colony free of penal restraint so long as they remained abroad, per dictates, even for life. Administratively, the 1717-1718 Act represented a major overhaul of this situation.


A West Indies merchant, Francis March, in 1716 agreed to ship all prisoners he was able take from Gravesend to plantations, at his own expense, but he ended being paid 2 per head by the Treasury. Ships used about then were Lewis and Queen Elizabeth, for Jamaica. March's career was short. By July 1718 he was replaced by Jonathan Forward, who had the ear of the Solicitor-General. ([23])


The 1718 Act caused dismay in Virginia and Maryland, due to fears there would be an upsurge in crime. Law and order remained a concern, and Maryland in 1719 and 1723 unsuccessfully tried to force purchasers to give good security for the behaviour of their "convict servants". ([24]) After the 1718 Act, and regarding changes with mercy provided by benefit of clergy, the number of convicts transported increased. Till then, perhaps only 5000-6000 had been transported to America. From 1718 to 1775, an estimated 36,000 felons were sent from Britain, 700 from Scotland and over 13,000 from Ireland. With the 1718 Act, government efficiency was improved, convicts had much less choice in the matter of being transported or being given a different punishment at home, and doubt always remained about what the law could do besides simply banish the convict. (This doubt in 1771 prompted William Eden to expound at length on such points.)


In the American colonies, servitude was said to be justified from a legal point of view, so that convicts might "work out their pardon" but it remains difficult to see precisely where this idea was stepped into the theory and/or the practice in the matter. The 1718 Act was partly to help make transportation "more effectual", and government introduced a subsidy to assist that end. Sentencing courts were given the power to convey, transfer, and make over such offenders, by order of the court, to the use of any person(s) who shall contract for the performance of such Transportation, to him or them, or their assigns, and they would have a property and interest in the service of such offenders for such terms of years (usually seven years, or more).


By 1758, the lower house of the Maryland Assembly deemed that the time for the commencement of servitude began when the vessel transporting such convicts dropped anchor, which meant the time since conviction, the time on the Atlantic, was extra time to be added to the original length of sentence. With the 1718 Act, with unspoken assumptions, worried debate, and rather by a waving of things such as candlelight, hats, feathers, mirrors and hands, it was decided that servile bondage was added to the penalty of transportation. And so a problem that was never openly stated was solved to the satisfaction of administrators. ([25])


* * *


An unrecognised small mercy:


The Manuscripts of the House of Lords, 1714-1718, ([26]) suggest that the lower orders got away relatively easily with the 1718 Act, compared to what it might have been if the views of the House of Commons had not been restrained. ([27]) On 1 February, 1718, was presented a Bill "for the further preventing robbery, burglary and other felonies and the more effectual transportation of felons and unlawful exportation of wool", read, brought from the House of Commons on 7 January. Alterations included lines 4&5, leave out "as also such offenders in any workhouse as aforesaid", line 14, after "transportation" insert "of such offenders in manner hereafter mentioned", regarding benefit of clergy, changes to... (etc.).


Benefit of clergy needs explanation. Originally of ecclesiastical origin, there had been a belief that those who could read the Scriptures had a much better chance of ameliorating their evil ways, so lesser punishment was granted those who could read. In time this became a mere test of literacy for defendants, and so some penal commentators wanted it struck out as a kindly option available to literate offenders. ([28]) Benefit of clergy had once prevented clergy being sentenced by a secular court of the realm. In time, protection could be found via Benefit of Clergy for all clerks, available to all who could pray the "neck verse" - Psalm 51 v. 1:


"Have mercy upon me O God according to thy loving kindness; according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions."


By the close of Anne's reign it had enabled lay men and women to avoid execution following particular offences. The privilege could be enjoyed only once. To prevent repetition, the guilty were burned in the hand. In spite of this limitation, its influence on the administration of the law was "very considerable". Some of the convicts intended to be transported in future were those "liable by law to be transported". Some of these were defined in the Transportation Act 1717 as those entitled to benefit of clergy, and liable at law only to burning on the hand or whipping, who, instead, could be transported to the use of the contractor for seven years. ([29])


The new Act meant that certain offenders could be transported. The courts sentencing could have power to contract for the transportation of those convicted, the county bearing the cost. Anyone returning from transportation before expiration of a period of servitude would be liable to sentence of death without benefit of clergy. Persons contracting for the transportation of offenders were to have a property in the service of offenders and had to give a security for effectiveness of transportation. (Today we would say, that sentencing to transportation severely curtained the civil rights of the prisoner in well-defined way, and rather too extensively.) The Act extended to all HM dominions, except for Scotland. In effect, the Act allowed the lawmakers to reduce the number of clergyable offences. In effect, this restored capital punishment for a first offence where benefit of clergy had formerly staved off capital punishment. Two others results were more use of the discretionary powers of the Crown (pardons, commutations and reprieves), and an increased number of non-clergyable offences. In 1717-1718 it was also enacted that persons not in [religious] orders, convicted of a clergyable offence, were to be transported for seven years. The list of felonies "without benefit of clergy" was gradually extended.


This was the legal foundation for all later transportation to America until the outbreak of the American Revolution. Initially, the most active convict contractor was Jonathan Forward. To about 1745, the Treasury paid about 1400 annually to the contractors. ([30]) The transportation system avoided the need for gaols for confinement and decentralised the costs of the system of transportation, except for the bounty paid by the Treasury to the chief contractors, as counties had to bear some costs.


On 28 February, 1718, a surprise, the House of Lords considered a petition of Leonard Thompson of Grays Inn. The late K. Williams had been granted letters of patent to petition for the sole registering of all such servants as should be sent to the plantations... (This possibly related to indentured servants.) The Lords understood that the petitioner's prosperity would be affected by a said clause in the Bill, which provided that any merchant may contract with idle persons under 21 years for a term of service not exceeding 8 years, and that the magistrates... shall certify such contracts at the next general quarter sessions to be registered by the clerk of the peace without fee. On 1 March the matter was discharged, and a Bill committed to a select committee. There was a doubt about a clause on a late act regarding piracy, and regarding deer-stealings. Certain judges were ordered to attend a select committee to consider some provisions of the Bill. ([31])


On March 5 arose some alterations, then more attention was given to exporting wool, and a debate on extending the Bill to Scotland was adjourned to the next day, Scotland was finally excluded. The House of Commons differed with the Lords regarding deer-stealers.


Parliament had met during the winter of 1717-1718 to create the great watershed for transportation... ([32]) The Transportation Act of 1718 (which exempted Scotland by the action of the House of Lords) was introduced into the House of Commons in late 1717 by Solicitor-General, William Thomson. ([33]) Thomson had sat in the Old Bailey and knew the problems of mounting crime at close hand. Conditions being worst in the capital perhaps explains the inclusion of all the members from London, Middlesex and Surrey, sitting on a committee appointed to consider the Bill. The Bill occasioned little debate and was approved in early spring after some rewording by the House of Lords. ([34])


In 1717-1718, indicating how the extension of relevant felonies was to be extended, it was enacted that persons not in [religious] orders, convicted of a clergyable offence, ([35]) were to be transported for seven years. The list of felonies "without benefit of clergy" was gradually extended, so that literacy became less a factor in considerations of final sentencing, which of course reacted even more on the poor. ([36]) ([37])


Petitioner Thompson, represented by Mr. Serjeant Erle, had a patent from King William. On 5 March came more alterations, plus extra attention to exporting wool. A debate on extending the Bill to Scotland was adjourned; Scotland was finally excluded. The House of Commons differed with the Lords about deer-stealers. It all became Act 4, Geo I c.12. printed as 4 Geo I c.11 in Sessional Volumes of Statutes. ([38])


Mr. Baron Montague had spoken with the Recorder of London - a clause for giving an allowance for the transportation of felons was read and agreed to be left out, (this possibly upset Thompson?). There was also some reference to the practices of thief-takers.


All the implications are that the House of Lords was willing to be gentler on transportable felons than the House of Commons. However, what historians of transportation have failed to be amused by, with the legislative changes of 1717-1718, early in the reign of George I, is the extraordinary economic atmosphere then existing in both England and North American that gave rise to the amazing South Sea Bubble. It was an air of economic optimism reigning so fiercely, so Whiggishly, that when it dissipated, England's confidence was briefly shattered. Knowing of this, it is easier to see why the House of Lords wanted to be gentler to transportable felons than was the House of Commons. Rapacious capitalist elements were hoping for a boom in the colonies, which implied a greater demand for labour.

* * *

[Finis Chapter 1]

Chapter 1: words 5204 and with footnotes 6535 pages 12 footnotes 38.


[1] The computerized version of the International Genealogical Index gives information on St Barbe's family, but only sketchily.

[2] On Walsingham and Ursula St Barbe: GEC, Peerage, Clanricarde, p. 231; Nottingham, p. 235; Essex, p. 142; Burke's Extinct Baronetcies for Worsley, p. 580. Hasler, The History of Parliament, Vol. 3, p. 574, calls Ursula "shadowy to posterity", and it is difficult to find if her father is named Henry or John.

[3] Robert Beale (1541-1601), see Burke's Extinct Baronetcies for Yelverton and Beale's own entry in DNB. Hasler, relevant volume, p. 411. P. W. Hasler, The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1558-1603. Vols. 1, 2, 3. London, The History of Parliament Trust, 1981.

[4] Burke's Extinct Baronetcies, pp. 460ff, p. 517.

[5] This Elizabeth Sydenham (died 1598) also married William Courtenay, twelfth Earl Devon. Burke's Extinct Baronetcies, p. 516. GEC, Peerage, Devon, p. 333.

[6] Peter Wilson Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage 1614-1775. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988. Coldham lists convicts per ship from England to North America. He also appends lists of ships and ships captains 1716-Oct 1775. The latter have all Duncan Campbell's ships but not those from Bristol used by Stevenson, Randolph and Cheston.

[7] Roger A. Ekirch, Bound For America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775. Oxford University Press, 1987. And also, importantly, Roger A. Ekirch, `Great Britain's Secret Convict Trade to America, 1783-1784', American Historical Review, Vol. 89, No. 5, December 1984., pp. 1285-1291.

[8] Kenneth Morgan, `The Organisation of the Convict Trade to Maryland: Stevenson, Randolph and Cheston, 1768-1775', William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, Vol. 42, No. 2, April, 1985., pp. 201-227.

[9] John M. Hemphill, Virginia and the English Commercial System, 1689-1733. London, Garland, 1985. [Facsimile of a 1964 Ph. D thesis, Princeton University., pp. 152ff, on matters such as changes in tobacco export inspection procedures from 1713 to 1730, prior to consideration of the 1733 Excise Act instigated by Walpole. By 1713, Virginia merchants were very apprehensive about pirates disturbing trade. Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750. New York, Cambridge University Press, 1987.

[10] Alan Atkinson, 'The Free-Born Englishman Transported: Convict Rights as a Measure of Eighteenth Century Empire', Past and Present, No. 144, August 1994., pp. 88-115, here, pp. 102-107.

[11] Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, p. 86.

[12] The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 March, 1972, p. 7.

[13] Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, p. 86. On Torrington, see Clark, The Later Stuarts, p. 164 and p. 180. Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, Vol. 7, pp. 252-255.

[14] Bernard Bailyn, The Peopling of the British Peripheries in the Eighteenth Century, Esso Lecture 1988. (Canberra, Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1988)., p. 19

[15] Thomas J. Wertenbaker, The Shaping of Colonial Virginia. New York, Russell and Russell, 1958. (Orig. in 1910) Concerning convicts, p. vi.

[16] Wertenbaker, Shaping of Colonial Virginia, pp. 27ff.

[17] Oldham, Britain's Convicts, p. 1. Oldham, variously, points out that colonial resistance to accepting convicts was at times overridden by Royal or Proprietary orders. Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, pp. 12-13. On the thief-taker Jonathan Wilde, see Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787-1868. London, Pan Books/Collins, 1988.. p. 27, and especially p. 613, Note 13.

[18] A. E. Smith, Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labour in America, 1607-1776. University of Carolina Press, 1947. Gloucester, Massachusetts, Peter Smith, 1965., remarking, p. 122; pp. 331-335.

[19] Noted in Leonard W. Labaree, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. New Haven, 1965. See also, Coldham, New Emigrants in Chains, p. 185.

[20] John Molony, The Penguin Bicentennial History of Australia: The Story of 200 Years. Ringwood, Victoria, Viking, 1987., p. 1.

[21] Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet. With appendices by Yvonne Browning, Michael Flynn, Mollie Gillen. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1989., introduction.

[22] The entire Act forms Appendix III in Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, p. 165.

[23] Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, pp. 59-61.

[24] Alan Atkinson, 'The Free-Born Englishman Transported: Convict Rights as a Measure of Eighteenth Century Empire'', Past and Present, No. 144, August 1994., pp. 88-115; here, p. 99.

[25] Alan Atkinson, 'The Free-Born Englishman Transported: Convict Rights as a Measure of Eighteenth Century Empire'', Past and Present, No. 144, August 1994., pp. 88-115., here, pp.91-97.

Shaw in A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies: A Study of Penal Transportation from Great Britain and Ireland to other parts of the British Empire. London, Faber, 1966., says 4500 convicts were sent under conditional pardon between 1655 and 1699, as was the common system before 1718.

[26] Vol. XIII, New Series, London, 1977., pp. 506ff.

[27] On the full range of Acts designed to modify the more feudal behaviour of the working classes during the early onset of the Industrial Revolution, Linebaugh, The London Hanged, pp. 54ff. Innes noted the new Whig ministry's "willingness to put both money and muscle behind the revival of transportation". Joanna Innes, 'The role of transportation in seventeenth and eighteenth century English penal practice', pp. 1-24, in Carl Bridge, (Ed.), New Perspectives in Australian History. London, Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, 1990.

[28] Benefit of clergy had been a privilege designed to secure for clerical offenders a right of trial within church courts, keeping them out of secular courts, and it had by custom become attached to certain offences, filtering down to use in secular courts. On Benefit of Clergy, Oldham, Britain's Convicts, pp. 11-13.

[29] I am indebted to Mr. Bert Rice for having pointed out these matters in detail. The "Neck verse" test was abandoned in 1705. Branding was abolished in 1779. The clergy plea was wholly abolished in 1827. In 1705 benefit [of clergy] was extended to all except those convicted of specified crimes. Their unuttered prayers were granted and they were not sentenced but ordered (as penance?) to be burnt on the hand, whipped, or, alternatively, transported. From 1705, one did not have to be able to read to gain Benefit of Clergy.

[30] Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, pp. 59ff.

[31] Manuscripts of the House of Lords, p. 507; the petitioner Thompson represented by Mr. Serjeant Erle had a patent from King William.

[32] Oldham, Britain's Convicts, pp. 3-32; the "great transportation act" 4 Geo 1, c.11., included the words, "Whereas in His Majesty's Colonies and Plantations in America there is a great need of servants...".

[33] Thomson's DNB entry.

[34] On the Habeus Corpus Act of 1679 see Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, p. 24. Mr. Bert Rice in litt has commented that 4 Geo I c.11 was drafted so that transportation [was] conformed with Habeus Corpus, 31 C[h]as II c.2. [Mr. Rice utilises British Parliamentary Papers]. But see also, D. D. Heath, (1837), `Secondary Punishment' in British Parliamentary Papers, Crime and Punishment - Transp. 2. Sessions 1837., Appendix No. 10, pp. 258ff. Heath says 4 Geo 2, c.11, was passed in 1717, can be related to the "Hulks Act" of 1776.

[35] On Benefit of Clergy, Oldham, Britain's Convicts, pp. 11-13. I am indebted to Mr. Bert Rice for other information on this point.

[36] The "Neck verse" test was abandoned in 1705. Branding abolished in 1779. The clergy plea was abolished in 1827. Bert Rice questioned the legality of convict transportation to Australia being followed by forced servitude: Bert Rice, `Were the First Fleet Convicts Bond or Free?' (Letter to) Royal Historical Society Victoria. March, 1984., pp. 44-47.

[37] Eris O'Brien, The Foundation of Australia 1786-1800: A Study in English Criminal Practice and Penal Colonization in the Eighteenth Century. London, Sheed and Ward, 1937. Second Ed.: Angus and Robertson, Sydney. 1950. The 1718-1720 Acts, 4 Geo III c. 11 and Act 6 Geo III c.23, condemned any person convicted of any larceny or felonious stealing to be transported to America at the discretion of the court; O'Brien, p. 124; fifteen more such Acts were made until 1765, enlarging the scope of the application of the punishment of transportation into labour.

[38] Manuscripts of the House of Lords, p. 507.

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