Penitent of the transport Hashemy

On 30 June 1849, a Sydney broadsheet published letters by a convict called Penitent. The Colony's conservative paper, the Sydney Morning Herald, had refused to publish. The letter was prepared aboard the transport Hashemy which was carrying the last cargo of convicts to the colony of New South Wales. My great great grandfather was a surgeon on board. It is said that a medical man helped Penitent pen these two letters - both phonetically spelled.

The Hashemy was met with great opposition in both Melbourne (where it was refused permission to dock) and Sydney (where it was forced to stand off the port for some time). The Governor was presented with the following protest.

We, the free and loyal subjects of her Most Gracious Majesty’s inhabitants of the city of Sydney and its immediate neighbourhood, in public meeting assembled, do hereby enter our most deliberate protest against the transportation of British criminals to the colony of New South Wales.

Firstly. — Because it is contrary to the will of the majority of the colonists, as is clearly evidenced by their expressed opinion on this question at all times.Secondly. — Because a number of us have emigrated on the faith of the British Government that transportation to this colony had ceased forever.

Thirdly. — Because it is incompatible with our existence as a free colony, desiring self-government, to be made the receptacle for another country’s felons.

Fourthly. — Because it is in the highest degree unjust to sacrifice the general social and political interests of the colony at large to the pecuniary profit of a fraction of its inhabitants.

Fifthly. — Because, being firmly and devotedly attached to the British Crown, we greatly fear that the prospect of so stupendous an act of injustice by Her Majesty’s Government would go far towards alienating the affections of the people of this colony from the mother country.

For these and many kindred reasons in the exercise of our duty to our country – for the love we bear our families – in the strength of our loyalty to Great Britain, and from the depth of our reverence for Almighty God, we protest against the landing of British convicts on these shores.

Shocked by the treatment of those aboard, my young ancestor deserted the Navy and fled to New Zealand. He had a change of heart and returned to the Imperial exploration ship the HMS Fly, which transported him to England where he was court marshaled. 

The Letters of Penitent

1. An introductory letter published by Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer

To _________ , Esq.,


Honnerabl Sir

Last Toosday weak I send the folloring leter in the Sydney Morning Herald’s leter box and they wont put it in. I dont know why I am sure. I didnt callnobody names in it. I don’t know nothing about em only what they sed about us, butI rite from the bottom of my hart to pray for kind usage from fello creturs.

Weve been spared from kollera at home, and storms and roks at sea, and weve been taught to thank the Almighty who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, and gives us time to repent, and were found our own feller men ready to drive us back in despare. Our Saviour sed he come to save sinners, and told men to forgive and love one another aint it a cruel thing of men that can read their Bibles to run rough agin what they be told in it, and try to send us to ruin. I hope theyll think better of it and remember how the blessed Saviour as died for us, didnt scorn to eat and drink with sinners, but went amung em to save em, and I hope they’ll be forgiven for their charitableness. Heres the letter I send the paper on Toosday, if I ad aney money Ide advertis it, for I am sure I didnt mean wrong in it, and me and another worked hard with the Dictionary a making it up.

Hon Sir Your humble servant PENITENT.

2. This is the Letter refused publication by the Sydney Morning Herald


They says as you lets a man speak for hisself, and seeing the way as you lets other people talk agin him it aint only fair to let him talk arterwards. We heared as there was a fine country here and hundreds of people a doing well and by good conduct as we could do the same. We comes here and if we’d been all sarpints and theyd been all hangels in the garding of Eden, they could not have made worse on us; and what for – why if all them as comes here afore has turned out so good as they talks on, and left childer brought up to read their Bibles, and do their dootys, why cant you let us do the same. I see in your paper that some on em talked about protesting agin us in the face of the Almighty.

I hope he will forgive em their cruelty to us all but its a sore trial to a man to be shouted at and shunned like a wild beast because he wants to mend hisself like more as come before. If any o they was there I pray to God that my mendment if he spares my life maint make me turn agin another man as wants the chance to mend. Its a long thing and I cant go threw it all, but there was one man mure furiouser than all, as sed our ship was a floating hell, it aint honest to talk that way when he’s chose to come to live where so many hells as he calls em, has been unloaded before. There is a man as says it aint long since the same person wanted us to come for all his talk agin us now, but I cant beleven that, it is too bad to be true.

The goods o this world dont last long for any of us – and theres misery enough without provoking one another – or I wont say much but its hard that a man shouldnt be let mend when he wants – its judging him aforehand – why Nicodemus one of the Jews sed it wasnt their law to judge a man till they knew what he did. It’sa comfort to us, if we can only rub through this world somehow that we shall find a judge as wont be ashamed to forgive us if we deserve it – tho it do seem hard to us now that them as talks so much about virtue here and has good edication should talk as if charity and mercy didnt belong to religion.



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