« FöregåendeFortsätt »
THE CONVICT SHIP "EARL GREY.”
Inspection and embarkation of the prisoners—Their moral position
Scriptural instruction the means of reformation.
Ar Brighton, Sept. 3d, 1842, I had the honour to receive a letter, “on H. M. Service," from Sir John Barrow, Bart., Secretary to the Admiralty, acquainting me with my appointment as surgeon-superintendent on board the ship “ Earl Grey," destined to embark male convicts for the penal colony of Van Dieman's Land.
By the aid of kind Christian friends and benevolent societies, I instantly set about making the best possible provision for the education and instruction of the prisoners during the voyage, in addition to the religious books supplied by Government. On the 13th I received my instructions, joined my ship at Deptford, and directed the necessary preliminary arrangements for the approaching embarkation. On Saturday the 17th, the ship dropped down to Woolwich; and on Monday the 19th, ninety prisoners were inspected and embarked from the “Warrior” hulk, and ninety-four from the “Justitia.” The day following we sailed for Plymouth Sound, where we arrived on the 25th; and, on the 26th, eighty prisoners were inspected and embarked from the hulk “Ştirling Castle :” completing the number for whom accommodation had been prepared, namely, two hundred and sixty-four men."
The system of management which I had found, under the blessing of God, successful in five preceding voyages with convicts, I pursued from the first moment of entering upon my present charge. For the details of that system I must refer to the Second Part of this volume, “ Instruction and Management,”-only. requesting it may be borne in mind, that it was in daily and hourly operation in the “ Earl Grey."
Addresses were delivered to the prisoners after inspection in the hulks,* which were listened to with breathless, attention,—the men seemed to be brought at once under the moral influence of the system of management then referred to, and of the encouraging hope set before them; a hope calculated to generate moral life, to rescue from the chilling and destructive influence of despair, and to invigorate and prepare the mind for future usefulness and high enjoyment. The embarkation from the hulks took place exactly
* See Part ü. chap. 9.
in the style I wished, with the solitary exception of one of the prisoners from the “ Justitia” having been allowed by the petty officer in charge to play his violin until the boat came within hail of my voice from the “Earl Grey," when the ill-timed music was instantly stopped. Such a practice appeared to me to be highly indecorous, wholly at variance with the position of the prisoners, and of injurious influence, not only on them, but on all observers on shore, especially that class of persons to which convicts generally belong. This incident became a subject of beasonable instruction, not only to the prisoners, but to the petty officer, who acknowledged, on the quarterdeck, that the fault was wholly chargeable on him, as be had desired the prisoner thus to act. Such embarkations as these, it is almost unnecessary to observe, ought ever to be conducted with the greatest possible solemnity.
The prisoners having been received on board, duly arranged, and disposed of in their respective berths, they were assembled on the quarter-deck, and received their first address in the “ Earl Grey."*
But before we proceed further with our narrative, it will be profitable to pause a little, and consider who they are that are thus assembled on the quarter-deck of a transport. Every one of these men is in possession of a spirit of immense value-a spirit on which He alone who called it into being can set the fair, the proper price; the price He himself paid to redeem it
* See Part ü. chap. 9.
from sin, pollution, and death, unto pardon, holiness, and life.
Let it also be remembered that these men, with very limited exceptions, are the victims of the darkest ignorance of Scripture; and although it would be unkind and destructive to the prisoner himself to palliate crime, and we are ever to regard all sin with the most perfect abhorrence, yet are we to look upon the transgressor with Christian pity, to recollect who it is that maketh us to differ, (wherein we do indeed differ!) and to bear in mind, that no man acquainted with the deceitfulness of his own heart, as discovered in the light of God's Word and Spirit, will take up the stone to throw at the convict. The man who, in the presence of the holy Lord God, can say to the prisoner, “ Stand by thyself; I am holier than thou,” gives but fearful demonstration of his own moral distance from God, and would probably be nearer the truth, were he to regard himself as more guilty and polluted in the sight of the Searcher of hearts, than the selfdegraded and despised convict.
These prisoners assembled on the quarter-deck of the “Earl Grey," have not only, in common with all men, violated the law of God, but they have despised and trampled upon the laws of their country, stained themselves with crimes committed against society and the state; rendered themselves a burden and a curse to those to whom they were bound to prove a help and a blessing,—and, notwithstanding all the untoward circumstances that may mark their lot in the
world, some of them have heard the calls of the gospel and neglected the great salvation, while all have more or less resisted the light of reason and conscience. They are all, nevertheless, the prisoners of hope.' They form a portion of that family whom Christ came to redeem by his blood : for he came to seek and to save the lost; not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The gospel of the grace of God reaches to them all, and is able to meet and to relieve the worst case which may be found amongst them.
It is only the spiritual knowledge of a crucified Redeemer that can inspire these men with hope, and make them worthy of our confidence, and safe and useful members of the community. “It is in vain," observes a distinguished servant of Christ, “to pluck the leaves off a tree; they will grow again : lay the axe to the root, and the leaves will all fall off, and will appear no more.” Grappling with particular sins and vices merely, cannot warrantably be expected to produce any radical improvement of heart or reformation of life. To deal faithfully and effectually with men, we must begin where God in his Word begins. We must clearly and impressively set before them their apostasy and depravity ; their ignorance and utter helplessness; their need of a Divine and justifying righteousness, and of the sprinkling of the blood of atonement. We must urge on their consideration the necessity of a change of heart, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to produce in them, through the knowledge of Christ, that godly