Thursday, February 25, 2010

Guv'ner Phillip was a public-minded public servant

Gotta love a bloke who, back in the dark ages of 1788, held the lives of fellow human beings in his hands yet opened the gates and proclaimed "Be free!!!!"

No, seriously, he got a tad stroppy on a group of convicts who were handy on the tooth and who were tea-leafing the precious food stores.
Let's hear from Arty himself....
(Phillip to Lord Sydney, 15 May, 1788)
Your Lordship will not be surprized that I have been under the necessity of assembling a Criminal Court. Six men were condemned to death. One, who was the head of the gang, was executed the same day; the others I reprieved. They are to be exiled from the settlement, and when the season permits, I intend they shall be landed near the South Cape, where, by their forming connections with the natives, some benefit may accrue to the public. These men had frequently robbed the stores and the other convicts.                       Select Documents In Australian History 1788-1850, CMH Clark (p.48).

And who was that lucky chappy who was hanged?
None other than Thomas Barrett, counterfeiter sent out for 14 years, who had turned spoons into Portuguese quarter-dollars to be passed off in Rio de Janerio on the trip out to Oz, got caught and got flogged for his effort.
But did Thomas learn?
No, he did not.

Lieut. Clark of the Marines records that right to the end Barrett did not believe he would hang. He thought that the hook-nosed little Governor was bluffing right up to the moment when Brewer tied a handkerchief round his eyes, when he turned as white as a sheet. He died without a groan, wrote Clark.
Birth of a Nation, William Joy (p.16)

Only two days after this 2 more convicts, John Freeman and a mate, were sprung red-handed with goodies in their hairy mitts, but Phillip gave 'em the old reprieve on the proviso that Freeman (oh, ironic fate in names!) become the public hangman.
"Hang or be hanged!, said Phillip.
Freeman saw the wisdom in this.
Freeman, one may assume from this peek at history, had a little more commonsense than Barrett.


  1. "He thought that the hook-nosed little Governor was bluffing..."

    You should always take an undersized governor with a hook nose seriously.

  2. Indeed, Brian, one never knows when "small man syndrome" will strike!

  3. Oh, the two of you are pretty funny stuff!

    I love history, and you do a good job dishing up a heaping helping of it.