In tracing the motives that could lead to this murder, the pernicious vice of gaming presented itself as the first and grand cause. To such excess was this pursuit carried among the convicts, that some had been known, after losing provisions, money, and all their spare clothing, to have staked and lost the very clothes on their wretched backs, standing in the midst of their associates as naked, and as indifferent about it, as the unconscious natives of the country. Money was, however, the principal object with these people; for with money they could purchase spirits, or whatever else their passions made them covet, and the colony could furnish. They have been seen playing at their favourite games cribbage and all-fours, for six, eight, and ten dollars each game; and those who were not expert at these, instead of pence, tossed up for dollars. Their meetings were scenes of quarrelling, swearing, and every profaneness that might be expected from the dissolute manners of the people who composed them; and to this improper practice must undoubtedly be attributed most of the vices that existed in the colony, pilferings, garden-robberies, burglaries, profanation of the Sabbath, and murder.
On the 5th the Francis sailed for Norfolk Island. The last accounts from thence were dated in March 1793; and as we were uncertain that the supplies which had been sent in the April following by Mr. Bampton had been safely landed, we became extremely anxious to learn the exact state of the settlement there. This information was all the advantage that was expected to be derived from the voyage; for, whatever Mr. King’s wants might be, the stores at Sydney were incapable of alleviating them. Little apprehension was however entertained of his being in any need of supplies, as, at the date of his last letter, he reckoned that his crops of wheat and maize would produce more grain than would be sufficient for twelve months consumption.
At this time, an account of the salt provisions remaining in store at Sydney and Parramatta being taken, it appeared, that there were sufficient for only ten weeks at the ration then issued, viz three pounds per man per week. In this situation, every addition that could be made to the ration was eagerly sought after. Wheat was paid to the industrious in exchange for labour; and those who were allowed to subsist independent of the public stores availed themselves of that indulgence to its fullest extent. It might therefore have been expected, that every advantage was taken of such a situation, and that no opportunity would be lost from which any profit could be derived. As an instance of this, one Lane, a person who had been a convict, and who was allowed to support himself how he could, was detected in buying a kangaroo of a man employed by an officer to shoot for him. The game-killer, with the assistance of six or seven greyhounds, had killed three kangaroos, two of which he brought in; the third he sold or lent to Lane, but said he had cut it up for his dogs.