When, in the year 1831, on being appointed to the Surry, the duties and responsibilities involved in the surgeon-superintendency of a convict ship, were, for the first time, imposed upon me, I felt myself greatly at a loss from the want of anything like a system of management and instruction; and my inexperience of the nature of the service on which I had entered, and of the details of its duties, caused me no small degree of anxiety. I had, it is true, a copy of the printed official instructions; but these, although they afforded me a general view of the duties of my station, supplied me with nothing like a scheme of education and discipline, and necessarily left the minutiae of duty to my discretion.
Much of the time occupied by my first voyage, was expended in observation and experiment, and was therefore in some measure lost to many of the prisoners, as it respected their advancement in knowledge and moral improvement. I entered on my second charge, which was in the ship Arab, in the year 1834, prepared with a system of instruction and government, the result of my experience in my first appointment, and to which some additions afterwards suggested themselves, during our progress to the Colonies.
As my third voyage, in the Elphinstone, advanced, my plan received farther improvements, and was finally brought to the state in which it is now exhibited, in the second part of this volume. Its fitness for the management of female convicts, was ascertained in the year 1840; when, (having in the mean time served in a ship of war,) I accomplished, in the ship Margaret, my fourth voyage.
1). State Library of Victoria....The convict ship : a narrative of the results of scriptural instruction and moral discipline as these appeared on board the Earl Grey, during the voyage to Tasmania :with brief notices of individual prisoners by Colin Arrott Browning. Colin Arrott Browning 1791-1856.