Several convicts attempted to escape from the settlement on board of these ships, some of whom were discovered before they sailed, and, being brought on shore, were punished; but there was great reason to suppose that others were secreted by the connivance of the seamen, and eluded the repeated searches which were made for them.
In addition to this exportation, the colony lost some useful people whom it could ill spare; but who, their terms of transportation having expired, would not be induced to remain in the settlement, and could not be prevented from quitting it.
By the commissary’s report of the muster it appeared, that forty-four men and nine women were absent and unaccounted for; among which number were included those who were wandering in the woods, seeking for a new settlement, or endeavouring to get into the path to China! Of these people many, after lingering a long time, and existing merely on roots and wild berries, perished miserably. Others found their way in, after being absent several weeks, and reported the fate of their wretched companions, being themselves reduced to nearly the same condition, worn down and exhausted with fatigue and want of proper sustenance. Yet, although the appearance of these people confirmed their account of what they had undergone, others were still found ignorant and weak enough to run into the woods impressed with the idea of either reaching China by land, or finding a new settlement where labour would not be imposed on them, and where the inhabitants were civil and peaceable. Two of these wretches at the time of their absconding met a convict in their way not far from the new grounds, whom they robbed of his provisions, and beat in so cruel a manner that, after languishing for some time, he died in the hospital at Parramatta. He described their persons, and mentioned their names, with the precise circumstances attending their treatment of him, and it was hoped that they would have lived to return, and receive the reward of their crime; but one of their companions who survived them brought in an account of their having ended a wicked and miserable existence in the woods.
Depredations being nightly committed at the skirts of the town, and at the officers’ farms, by some of these vagrants, who were supposed to lurk between this place and Parramatta, it was thought necessary to send armed parties out at night for a certain distance round the settlement, with orders to seize, or fire on, all persons found straggling; and several were detected by them in the act of robbing the gardens at the different farms. Indeed neither the property nor the persons of individuals were safe for some time. Two villains came to a hut which was occupied by one Williams a sawyer, and which he had erected at a spot at some distance from the town where he could have a little garden ground, and attempted to rob him; but the owner surprised them, and, in endeavouring to secure them, was wounded so severely in the arm