- This letter comes from prison officials in Australia in 1849. The
letter was sent to Earl Grey, the Home Secretary, in Britain. The Home
Secretary was in charge of prisons. The letter was almost certainly
meant to be read by officials of the Home Office rather than by Earl
- The source shows us one of the thousands of letters that went out
concerning prisoners in Australia. The British first started setting
up colonies in Australia in the 1780s. The first convict settlement
was in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1788. By the mid 1800s over 150,000
convicts had been transported.
- After they had served their sentence (or part of their sentence, if
they behaved well) prisoners were entitled to go home on a ticket of
leave. However, Australia was so under-populated that the government
tried to convince most prisoners to stay. The government also thought
that the convicts would be less likely to return to crime if they stayed
- The various prisons mentioned (Parkhurst, Pentonville etc) were prisons
in Australia that were named after prisons in Britain.
- Van Diemen's Land was the island that is now called Tasmania. As a
general rule, the most dangerous criminals served their sentences there.
- For many years the non-convict settlers welcomed the convicts
and used them as labour. However, by the mid 1800s some were beginning
to feel that there were too many convicts. Transportation of convicts
stopped soon after this letter was written.