Commercial Journal and Advertiser
Wednesday 8 April 1840
THE HATEFUL LASH
The Colonial Times, published at Hobart Town, has put forth a lengthy and sensible article under this head, which the talented editor has followed up by two others on the same subject. It is a production worthy the consideration of the public, and an honor alike to the head and heart of its author. The humane feelings of a true Englishman recoils at the inhuman practice of binding a man to the stake like a bullock intended for slaughter and subject him to the infliction of the lash like a dog. Shame on our countrymen who first invented such an odious and appalling kind of torture. The article in question, we are happy to find, has had its desired effect; namely, that of making an impression on the mind and heart of Mr. Price, and Police Magistrate at Hobart Town, on its baneful and disgraceful tendency, inasmuch as to have induced him to alter his mode of punishment from that of flogging to solitary confinement, the roads, and the treadmill. Times are altered in these colonies. In days gone by, when the population consisted merely of prisoners of the Crown, and the civil and military officers - when men, with hearts like men, such as now inhabit considerable portions of the soil were afraid to approach these dreaded shores; when all kinds of cruelties were practised upon those degraded and miserable wretches who had offended against their country's laws, and where the lash might then be inflicted thick and threefold, without any commiserating Christian to stop or expose such wantonness; and when the people's safeguard - the Press - was yet unknown in the territory; then, indeed, might these poor creatures suffer their flesh to be town off their bones, without the humane intervention of men such as Governor Bourke, and others like him, to whose humanity the world is indebted for its abolition and arrest in an extensive degree.
But whilst we find the sister colony stepping forward in the cause of humanity, and expressing its disgust at these continued practices in such strong terms as to work upon its magistrates so as to lead them to become sensible of their effects on the minds of Englishmen, we cannot but animadvert on the cruel and frequent infliction of the "hateful lash" in this colony, more particularly in the township of Newcastle and other inland towns; at Newcastle, the ears of females and its inhabitants are daily pierced by the horrid yells proceeding from poor wretches under its baneful torture - suffering beneath its writhing infliction by a monster in the shape of a man - possessing the strength of Hercules, and the stature of a young giant - scoundrel of the first water, one who has been doubly and trebly convicted; and yet such a miscreant is appointed to scourge his fellow creatures with wanton and cruel exultation. But a few days ago, a poor miserable creature was left for hours in a state of speechless insensibility from the effect of his powerful and accursed arm. Our attention has been called to the conduct of this brute, who, whilst his poor victims are being bound to the fatal triangles, employs himself in the playful amusement of snapping his cats, and trying their efficacy upon some piece of wood close by. Not only ourselves, but the inhabitants also, have observed, with the utmost astonishment, that this scourger is permitted to range about the town, dressed in a better suit of clothes than hundreds of the honest and industrious mechanics or labourers who work for their livelihood. Wherever such a fellow can become possessed of means to enable him to do so, is a question which might reasonable be asked; we can answer this - by pilfering, thieving, and the plunder of such prisoners in the stockade whose friends assist them with small supplies, which this fellow contrives to filch from them. Why is this allowed? Why does not the serjeant in charge of the stockade prevent this plunderer from quitting the prison after other prisoners are shut up for the night? Why does this serjeant wink at this fellow's frequent drunkenness? - and why did he not report the shameful scene which occurred on St. Patrick's Day?
Returning again to the hateful system of the "hateful lash", we see no reason why, in these days other punishments more congenial to the feelings of Englishmen might not be substituted in its stead. We consider the time has now arrived, when men possessing the milk of human kindness should be entrusted with the administration of the laws, instead of such of flogging notoriety as we have seen and heard of; such as lately ruled with his iron hand in a free settlement to the northward; one who had the heart to inflict, in numerous cases, 150 lashes, in quantities of fifties on three successive mornings; and one who took the pleasure to witness their infliction with apparent exultation, and call upon the executioner to "do his duty", when his hand - even his - accustomed torture, refused to perform its cruel office!
Here we pause for one moment, to inquire, what would our English police magistrates at home think of attending such exhibitions as this tender hearted Botany Bay magistrate seemed to delight in ? However this Government could have continued a man possessing such feelings to hold his judicial seat, or reappoint him after his removal, we feel at a loss to image in. Either His Excellency knows little of what is going on, or there is doggery somewhere.