Beastrabban\'s Weblog

It’s pretty much a commonplace that Australia was founded as a penal colony. What is surprising is how close the penal servitude of the convicts transported to that great continent actually came to real slavery. Before the government built barracks for them, convicts were expected to find their own accommodation. Some built huts for themselves, others worked for government officials or free citizens for their board.

And some were assigned to free citizens as servants. The government owned the services of all the convicts, and so its official had first choice when selecting which of them should they should employ as servants. Those rejected by the officials were to be assigned, under proper regulations, to private employers. These had to house them and pay them for work done outside the formal working hours. The order of two magistrates was required before they could be flogged or returned to the government…

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