A number of the public labouring servants of the crown having lately absconded from their duty, for the purpose either of living by robbery in the woods, or of getting away in some of the ships now about to sail, that none of those concerned in the concealing them might plead ignorance, public notice was given ’that any officer or man belonging to the above ships, who should be known to have countenanced or assisted the convicts above alluded to in making their escape, would be taken out of the ship, and punished with the utmost severity of the law; and as the most strict and scrupulous search would take place on board, for every convict which should be found concealed, or suffered to remain on board without regular permission, so many of the ship’s company should be taken out and detained for daring to encourage such escape. Such of the above public servants as might have taken to concealments on shore for the purpose of avoiding their work, or making their escape from the colony, if they did not return within a week to their respective stations, might, upon discovery, expect the most exemplary punishment; but they would be pardoned for the present attempt if they returned immediately.’
On the day this order was issued, the Hillsborough, which was moving out of the Cove, and preparing for sea, was strictly searched, and several convicts being found on board, they were brought on shore, and each received a severe corporal punishment. One of them was excused, on condition of his declaring who the people were that had encouraged their concealment, and prepared hiding places for them. He accordingly deposed to two of the seamen, who were also brought on shore, punished, and afterwards drummed to the wharf, and sent back to their ship. The foregoing order was then published.
How well it was attended to, and what effect the punishment of the seamen and convicts produced, were instantly seen. The Hunter*, preparatory to a voyage to Bengal, where she was to freight with goods for the colony, went out of the harbour. A woman named Ann Holmes being missing, the governor ordered an armed boat from the Reliance to follow the ship, with some of the constables, and search her; with directions, if any persons were found on board who had not permission to depart, to bring her into port again. Having found the woman, the ship was brought up the harbour and secured.
[* This ship had been a Spanish prize, and was the property of Mr. Hingston, late master of the Hillsborough, and two others, free people belonging to the settlement.]