|Newspaper Title||Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||John, the Bishop: A Tale of the Dark Days of Tasmania|
JOHN, THE BISHOP.
A TALE OF THE DARK DAYS TASMANIA.
BY JAMES GRASSIE.
One of the mutineer sailors was a lynx-eyed ruffian, and while the Police Inspector and " the Banker " were chaffing each other he noticed one of the Spaniards trying to attract the notice of the former by curtaiu sus- picious movements of his head, and also that the Inspector noticed him and
looked as if he felt confident that the fellow had something important to divulge, for it was then that he asked leave for one of his men to look through, the ship; and it appeared evi
dent to the mutineer that if " the Banker" had suffered himself to be taken on the hop, and granted the re quest,the Spaniard would have betrayed tnem. 'When that discovery was com municated to the other Vandemonians, the doom of all the Spaniards in the ship was at once signed, sealed, and
delivered. But it was resolved that they should be disposed of secretly, because open violence would be sure to shake the confidence of the others. The watches were, therefore, on some pre text, shifted next day, and the mutineer mate took all the poor Spaniards into his watch. It was then arranged that one of the mutineers should go into the hold on some pretence or other accom panied by a Spaniard, and give him a bucketful of brandy on the sly, which he would, of course, carry to the fore castle, where the men would soon get drunk and fight;; and if they did not kill each other, the Spaniards when asleep oould be thrown to the sharks without exciting any suspicion of foul play. The weather was favorable for such a bloody game, the air being a dead calm and likely to remain calm for days, and as there was no sail in sight the mutineers determined that the tragedy should be played next day. Everything went on as they had ex pected, and the deceived Spaniard sneaked away to the forecastle with a bucket of brandy concealed under his shirt, grinning like a Cheshire cat and thinking he was doing a heavy stroke. At first the forecastle men took the brandy as some ladies do quietly be hind the door; but as their Dutch courage increased they took it more openly, and ultimately they went swag gering about the decks drunk, when "the Banker" had no difficulty in fomenting a quarrel between the Spaniards and Lascars, and then gam moning to take part with the latter he aided them to murder the Spaniards and throw them overboard. They therefore not only achieved their vile purpose, but actually increased the confidence of the deluded Lascars by the deception. Poor John the Bishop
saw when it was too late that he was
in bad company, and would willingly have changed his position, for that of Selkirk in Fernandez, and sometimes he even wished that he was back in the horrible penal establishment again, for his associates here were human demons and, the ship was now a living hell. To make matters worse the ship was now short-handed, and if they should fall in with foul weather they had barely enough men to work her. They therefore, resolved to stow in the lofty canvas and sail the ship by reefed courses only, which was not a very wise precautiou for desperadoes like them ; but they soon got into light leading winds and went bowling along on their
When Mr. Armstrong got alongside of the captured ship in his vacht and saw the American flag floating at her masthead, he felt himself in a very peculiar and responsible position, be cause the Yankees were then jubilant over a most unjust award granted to them at a national arbitration by the "Ya Hoos; and he knew that they would greedily fasten upon any proceeding of his that might yield them another million or two on such easy terms. If, therefore, he had boarded the ship by force and an American or two had been
killed in the encounter without his being able to justify the means used by the end achieved; if the ship had then been found to contain no escaped
prisoners, there woiild be another arbi tration or perhaps another war. Under the circumstances, therefore, he con sidered discretion the better part of valor, and withdrew; but he had a penal warder with him to identify the prisoners, and that man was struck with the appearance of the Captain of
That Captain'a voice was familiar to the warder's ear, and he felt certain that he had seen him bofore, but where he could not recollect, until one morn ing his memory revived by some un known and sudden impulse, and he recollected that the Captain of the Rose was no other than John Ducker, a prisoner out on assigned service near Launceston. An enquiry was at once made, and it was speedily ascertained that Ducker, whom we know as " the Banker," had absconded and had prob ably left the island in the stolen boat. But no one knew whether he had ever been a sailor, as he had been known in prison as a cunning London swindler only. He waa tolerably well educated, and his conduct in prison was so good that there was not one black mark at bis name, and the chaplain had even placed him in the Church choir and viewed him somewhat in the light of a persecuted saint. There was a warder in the prison who had been in it all his life; he waa born in it, and his father and grandfather before him had been warders; he was a hereditary gaoler with the baton for his heirloom, and he was also a bush lawyer, and was known facetiously as the " Solicitor-general." He knew a deal about the instincts and motives of prisoners, and how these motiyes directed them. The Inspector General therefore submitted tho case in all its details for the opinion of this " Solicitor-genoral," and he gave a de liverance somewhat as follows:-"It's onsartin whether the Dooker (" the Banker ") is a sailor or not; but that's neither here nor there, as he is the Captain; but it is sartin that he's a bit of a schollard, and it's for that reason they made him Captain. No doubt he waa one of them who stole the boat,
and no doubt they passed themselves off as shipwreoked sailors until they got into the ship, when they murdered the rightful captain and crew, aud the passengers, if there were any. They will now make for Ameriky aud keep robbing and murdering by the waym and tbe Dooker will not leave anyone to give evidence agen him, I don't think. I think that if a fast ship with a good
crew was sent after them now and head
for Ameriky she would catch them yet, for they cannot be all sailor and there must be a deal of mismanagement, and consequently delay amongst them. They may be now not very far from where Mr, Armstrong saw them, As for 404 (John the Bishop), he was mad as a March hare, aud I don't think he is amongst them, but running wild in tbe bush, here or dead. I have a mis giving now that the Dooker had a hand in the murders for which the Laun ceston storekeeper was hangod, and it may have been from him that the notes and saddle were got. I cannot believe that the storekeeper shot the black fellow, because if he had done so he
would not have left the body lying at his own shop door, I therefore advise an instant pursuit."
The suppression or prevention of crime was at one time supposed to be the special duty of the clergymen whose fulminations would be so cheering or deterrent that all offences against the law would cease. But the eleventh hour olive proved a signal failure, and the flagellator took tho matter in hand and made matters worse than they were before. The pastry-cook next came into office, ana tried to choke crime with plum-pudding; but the cure soon became, and is now worse, than the disease. At last the school master is found to be the man who is to banish crime from the world. The prospects of Mr. Birch in the matter are, however, not cheering. A return from the prisons in Britain lately makes them exceedingly gloomy. That return shows that the unlettered Burke is balanced by the lettered Palmer; and the Glasgow highly cultivated criminal physician transcends Green
acre. Jeremy Diddler and his class are completely eolipsed by Hugh I, Cameron and the British Bank swindlers, and the Colonial Provident Bank Institute makes city cracksmen hide their dimin; ished heads. I therefore fear that Mr. Birch is not stout enough for the task imposed on him, and that the proper dootor has not yet arrived, but is com. ing. In the case we are dealing with all the ruffians could read and write well, and were intelligent. Ducker had been formerly a clerk in the Bank of England; the two mutineer sailors at one time ship captains; and John the
Bishop, in better days and calmer hours, kept a Sabbath school, approved
of by the Bishop of London. We have seen that John's criminality was, the
result of external pressure, aud was actually forced upon him; and it is
doubtful whether even Howard himself could have undergone the same ordeal and emerged from it with spotless hands. The pressure on Palmer was of a different kind-a pressure on a morbid intellect-and for aught we know may have been irresistible as most morbid impulses are--forcing him to do for gain what John did for liberty. A singular instance of the effect of morbid impulse was exhibited in Melbourne the other year, and ex cited a great deal of attention to the
subject at the time.
A man walking through one of tbe public markets in the middle of the day with a gun in his hand deliberately shot a market gardener, and then made no attempt at escape. The gardener was wholly unknown to his murderer, who could derive no benefit whatever from his death. The man was con fined in Pentridge, aud there having wrenched off an iron hinge from his cell door, he, with it, murdered one of the prison chaplains-a clergyman who had boen good and kind to him. He could derive no advantage whatever
from the minister's death, and he, had no animosity whatever against him. For that crime he was hanged in Mel- bourne. People demurred at the execution of that man, believing him to be a criminal idiot. But if hangiug is justifiable in any case it is doubly justifiable in his, because the common murderer acting on a motive kills only for gain, revenge, or lust; but the morbid wretch, requiring no motive, would murder friend and foe alike, aud like a mad dog, would bite at any or everybody; aud perhaps, all things considered, is was best both for him self and others to put him out of existence. Under any circumstances, if he was allowed to live on, his pro sence would be dangerous to others.
That man's case has, however, no resemblance to John tho Bishop's, but there was a man hanged in Melbourne much about the same time whose case did somewhat resemble John's, and if that man had been as wholly innocent of crime as John was, their cases would have closely resombled each other. John Weechurch was sentenced at the Melbourne Sessions for some petty offence to a short period of imprisonment in Pentridge Stockade; but either from misapprehending the prison regulations or wilfully contra vening them, he was continually in trouble-and mouth after month was added to his original sentence by the prison authorities, who, it seems, have that power, until his sentence became a long one, and ho got exasperated. In his exasperation be assailed the inspec tor of the establishment, to whom he attributed injustice in his case. For that assault his sentence was extended into one for life, which naturally exas perated him still more, and subse quently he assaulted a warder, for which he was hanged in Melbourne, although he did no serious injury to either the inspector or warder. This man, Weechurch, is said by those who knew him to have been formerly of a mild disposition. Whether he was or not we can plainly see him goaded into crime by external pressure. He first fancied the prison regulations frivolous, then contravened them, aud denied the right of the prison authorities to increase his sentence for acts which, out of a prison, would have excited no notice at all. A month extra for hav
ing an inch of lead pencil in his pocket,
or a quid of tobacco in his a mouth, was viewed by Weechurch as the very height of oppression, and he resented it and made matters worse. He did not take time to consider that the rules in all prisons must be to a certain extent despotic, and that the strictest obedience in minute matters was indis pensable, and must bo enforced to pre vent anarchy aud insubordination. He felt only the pressure of what he deemed tho injustice done to him, and it pressed him on to the gallows - I do not say that the execution of Wee church was just, but if it was not it was politiic. He always claimed a re hearing of his case, and he never could get a re-hearing without committing a a crime.
There does sometimes really seem something like a special providence directing the actions of men, and it is almost discernible in the movements of the Rose and the blood thirsty mis creants who ruled her by stowing most of their canvas low and aloft they are now losing the full benefit of those mon soons which will soon be blowing latterly against them. If they had kept all their sails set in these steady
winds the monsoon would have carried
them to its extremity, and handed them over to the trades in safety! and pursuit would then be vain. But the monsoon will change before they quit its latitudes and blow them violently back to the very point from which they
(To le Continued.)