Something like the old times [10 May 1851]

[Editor: An article which shows one of the negative aspects of living as a free person in a society which uses convict labour. Published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 1851.]

Something like the old times.

— A labouring man, who stated that his name was Daniel Collins, was yesterday brought before Captain Browne at the Water Police Office, on suspicion of being a runaway.

He had been taken to the Superintendent of Convict’s Office but had not been recognised there. The man complained most bitterly of the treatment to which he had been subject. He arrived free in the colony, and was at work 300 miles up the country, when not having any certificate in his possession, he had been taken into custody and brought down to Sydney in handcuffs, being ten weeks in custody.

Not being known at the Superintendent of Convicts’ Office, he had been set free; but, in a very few days, he was again apprehended by a constable of the Sydney Police, and dragged about the streets in handcuffs for the purpose of recognition. Captain Browne said, hard though it appeared, it was the law of the colony to apprehend any person, against whom suspicion might be entertained, and who could not produce satisfactory proof of being free.

The man said, that when first taken to the Superintendent of Convicts’ Office he had applied for a memorandum to the effect that he had been so taken, and that he was not known there, but that this had been refused him.

His shipmates were spread all over the country, and he had no means of obtaining an official certificate as to his identity. He could give an account of the various services he had been employed in; but his mere statement would not be received if a policeman chose to take it into his head that “he looked like a runaway;” for this was the only reason given by the Sydney constable for taking him into custody. Captain Browne again said, that the law authorised the apprehension of unknown or suspected persons, and discharged him.

The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 10 May 1851, p. 5

[Editor: Corrected “Superintennent” to “Superintendent” (in the first instance).]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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