The criminal court of judicature was assembled at the close of the month; when one man, a sergeant of the New South Wales corps, was condemned for forgery, but recommended to the governor’s mercy by the court; another was condemned for a burglary, and a third sentenced to receive a severe corporal punishment, for having shot a native (man) at Botany Bay. Could the evidence of some of these people have been taken, it was supposed that he would have been capitally convicted, in which case he would certainly have suffered, the governor being determined to put that article of his Majesty’s instructions in force, which, in placing these people under the protection of the British Government, enjoined the punishing any injury done to their persons or property, according to the degree and nature of the offence.
When this man was brought out to be punished, several of the natives were assembled for the purpose; and he received in their presence as much of his sentence as he could bear, they witnessing his sufferings with the most perfect indifference.
The weather was exceedingly hot during the whole of January.
February.] Deplorable was the catalogue of events that presented itself in this month: executions, robberies, and accidents.
On the 8th a prisoner, who had been condemned to die by the last court, suffered the sentence of the law. The recollection of his untimely end, and his admonitions from the fatal tree, could not have departed from the minds of those who saw and heard him, when another court sent another offender to the same tree and for the same crime. Samuel Wright had been once before respited at the gallows. On the morning of his execution, the wretched man attempted to cut his throat; but as he only very slightly wounded himself, it may be supposed that he merely hoped, by delaying the execution, to gain time to effect an escape.
Before this court, was brought part of a nest of thieves, who had lately stolen property to the amount of several hundred pounds; but none of them were capitally convicted, being sentenced either to be transported to Norfolk Island, or corporally punished.
It might be supposed, that these executions and punishments would have operated as a check to the commission of offences; but they appeared to be wholly disregarded, and enormity had not yet attained its full height.
On the night of the 11th, between the hours of eleven and twelve, the public gaol at Sydney, which cost so much labour and expense to erect, was set on fire, and soon completely consumed. The building was thatched, and there was not any doubt of its having been done through design. But, if this was the fact, it will be read with horror, that at the time there were confined within its walls twenty prisoners, most of whom were loaded with irons, and who with difficulty were snatched from the flames. Feeling for each other was never imputed to these miscreants; and yet if several were engaged in the commission of a crime they have seldom been known to betray their companions in iniquity.