"Mind-forg'd manacles": the mechanics of control inside late-nineteenth century Tasmanian Charitable Institutions.
Abstract: In the second half of the nineteenth century a conservative paternalistic benevolence permeated middle-class thought, leading to demonization and criminalisation of pauper invalids, many of whom were ex-convicts. This paper examines some aspects of the mechanics of the charitable system as practiced in nineteenth-century Tasmania through an analysis of life inside the institution. It examines the institutional environment, the conditions which inmates were subject to, and how institutions implemented a regime of coerced labour, strict discipline, confinement, surveillance, regimentation and punishment as a means to control the lives of pauper invalids.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Charities (History)
Charities (Management)
Prison administration (Analysis)
Prison discipline (Analysis)
Author: Piper, Andrew
Pub Date: 06/22/2010
Publication: Name: Journal of Social History Publisher: Journal of Social History Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: History; Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Journal of Social History ISSN: 0022-4529
Issue: Date: Summer, 2010 Source Volume: 43 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Company business management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Australia Geographic Name: Tasmania Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia; 8AUTA Tasmania
Accession Number: 230778705
Full Text: Britain had a long history of banishing convicted criminals to other countries. The Transportation Act of 1718 allowed felons sentenced to death to instead be transported to the American colonies. However, the American War of Independence brought this practice to an end. While other places were investigated, it was eventually decided to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay in New South Wales in 1788. Additional colonies were established in the ensuing years with penal settlements established in the south and north of Van Diemen's Land in 1803 and 1805 respectively. Between the establishment of the first settlement in Hobart and the cessation of transportation to Van Diemen's Land in 1853 some 75,000 convicts served time in the island colony, representing about forty-five per cent of all convicts transported 10 Australia. (2) Following the end of transportation to Van Diemen's Land a new colonial administration took over governance of the re-named colony of Tasmania on 1 January 1856.

In early 1839 the colonists of Van Diemen's Land were informed that the existing system of domestic assignment, whereby settlers were able to access convict labour, at minimal cost, would cease. It was replaced by a new system known as probation to which all convicts arriving after November 1839 were subjected. (3) The transition from assignment to probation saw the construction of dozens of new convict stations throughout much of Van Diemen's Land, many of which were subsequently used to house the aged-poor. Under probation there was a massive growth in the numbers of transportees who were to stoke the dormitories of Tasmania's charitable institutions for the next sixty years. (4) It was the administrators of this new system who advocated, approved and implemented the policy of institutionalisation which was to dictate the treatment of the aged-poor in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Convict Australia was an unfree labour system but it was not as efficient as implied by Stephen Nicholas and Peter Shergold, of the Convict Workers school of thought, who have argued that only physically fit, healthy and productive convicts were selected for transportation. (5) While there is some evidence generally to support the Nicholas and Shergold interpretation that labour endowment was a facet in selecting human capital for conveyance to Australia, overall there is little evidence that convict workers were conscripted on a systematic basis. Transports included amongst their ranks the aged and infirm. The notion should not be completely dismissed that New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land (and later Western Australia) were used to dump the refuse of the British and Irish convict establishments. (6) The evidence suggests that Britain deliberately and systematically used the transportation system to convey invalid convicts from its shores to the Australian colonies. There appears to have existed an unofficial policy, winked at by the Home Office, to rid Britain of prisoners who were likely to be long-term liabilities. While the trickle of transported invalids did not go unnoticed it was never of significant enough proportions to warrant a prolonged and concerted protest. The flow of ineffectives was sufficiently large, however, to leave a significant invalid emancipist legacy. This was to be an on-going point of disputation between the imperial and colonial governments. In many respects it contributed to the general parsimony which characterised the government's treatment of emancipist inmates. (7) The last imperial convict station in Tasmania, the Port Arthur Penal Establishment, did not close its doors until 1877, although imperial responsibilities for the convict system and its legacy was very quickly transferred to the new colonial administration after 1856.

With the cessation of transportation, and the withdrawal of the imperial government, colonial Tasmanian society underwent structural change. In order to re-rain power and control, the newly emerging colonial elite demanded an ordered, disciplined, self-motivated labour force. To achieve this, labour needed to be reformed from a system based on fettered coercion to one consisting of autonomous workers. The price of the new industrial discipline, especially for some recent emancipists, came at a cost. Society demanded higher levels of individual self-control. Those unable to conform found themselves re-incarcerated in the prison or charitable institution.

Charitable establishments were part of a wider institutional network which sought to extract deference from the labouring classes and as well as manufacturing compliant workers. (8) They were penal in nature because they coerced inmates to labour against their will while denying them their liberty. Not only were they structured to impose order but they also sought to internalise social obedience through the establishment of a routine of labour One of their roles was to act as a deterrent to others highlighting the fate that awaited those who failed in bringing order, and thus self-sufficiency, to their lives. They were the threat 'ever present' of not conforming to the exigencies of capitalism. Their object was to deter nor only the inmate, but also others through the veiled exposure of the hardships and privation of institutional life.

The treatment of inmates was initially deliberately harsh in order to internalise self-discipline and self-help on their bodies and minds, and to infuse in the wider community a broader social agenda. Charitable institutions were what Michael Meranze has called 'laboratories of virtue'; places which sought to inculcate the habits of labour, self-control and submission to authority. (9) He concisely expressed the function of institutions and their position in society:

Increasingly, society came to use its institutions, both built and legal, as a means to encourage the "development of what could be called bourgeois character in the population." (11) As well, there was an increasing preparedness to use criminal law against behaviour perceived as being either immoral or disorderly. (12) This was the changing face of society which the pauper invalid in Tasmania encountered from the 1850s onwards. To make matters worse for the invalid this was also a period in which chronic moral disorder came to be associated with chronic physical disorder; thus the linking of invalidism with criminality which was reinforced in the Tasmanian setting by the convict legacy of so many invalids. It is within this context that institutionalisation of the aged-poor needs to he considered.

A belief that invalids were part of a criminal underclass and were able to spread a contagion of crime, immorality and vice was particularly resilient in colonial Tasmania. Like convicts, invalids were viewed as social contaminants, as carriers of what Robin Evans has referred to as 'the contagion of immorality', and thus they were seen as potential conveyors of pauperism amongst elements of the working poor. (13) Many members of the elite and middle class believed that poverty resulted from vice, a vice which was communicable. Invalids were seen as the agents carrying this contagion. They were the spreaders of vice, of immorality, of disorder, of infirmity, of poverty, and as such were treated harshly. This belief fostered a social milieu which effortlessly accepted institutions as the appropriate solution to a perceived invalid problem. (14)

Compounding the situation, especially for male emancipists, was the nature of the convict experience. It did not engender the establishment of traditional family values and the sedentary lifestyle necessary to enable the creation of wealth for old age. The personal welfare of the aged in colonial Tasmania was directly tied to the number and strength of family ties. Having a family network to fall back on in difficult times offered a form of social insurance. Many convicts and emancipists were unable to establish/re-establish a family in the Australian colonies. (15) Consequently, those men and women who lacked family connections found themselves institutionalised in their old age and during times of infirmity. (16)

Tasmania's invalid depots were initially an integral component of the convict system. They were characterised by similar draconian regulations which demanded obedience, order and compliance; and were marked by strict discipline, regimentation and punishment. These tools, along with other measures, particularly confinement, coerced labour and surveillance, were used to control the lives of pauper invalids. Control was the means by which the state and institutional administrators sought to order and discipline the lives of invalids, and reform the behaviour of those members of society who were neither disciplined nor compliant, as well as those who from age, infirmity or social prejudice were excluded from selling their labour. This paper examines some of the mechanisms of control which the state brought to bear upon inmates in charitable institutions. (17)

The buildings

Charitable institutions tended to he converted, convict establishments and often underwent several reuses. The Cascades, near Hobart, for example, witnessed a marked degree of re-utilisation of its extensive buildings over a period of many years. The conversion of the old female factory into a pauper invalid depot involved considerable expense and significant modifications. Nevertheless, this was by far the path of least expense for the government. The construction of a new invalid facility would have cost the state a greater amount than that expended on the conversion. Indeed, the 1860s hailed the start of a long period in which government expenditure on institutional infrastructure was minimal. (18) While there was maintenance of, and extensions to, existing institutional buildings no new structures were erected until the mid-1890s. Instead, available government buildings, exclusively the remnants of the imperial convict system, were converted and reconverted to a multitude of new institutional functions. In addition to its re-use as an invalid depot, the Cascades also served as a boys training school and reformatory, a hospital for the insane, a contagions diseases or lock hospital, and a lying-in hospital. (19) This continual use of the buildings at the Cascades, and at other institutional sites, represents the embodiment of the response of successive colonial Tasmanian governments to the perceived social ills of their times: old age, poverty, infirmity, juvenile delinquency, madness, venereal disease and illegitimate pregnancy. All were addressed by the same approach, incarceration in an institution. This was very much a conservative response which had evolved out of the state's experience with the management of convicts. In the rules, regulations and acts of parliament governing these individual institutions it is possible to discern a strong undercurrent of penal philosophy. They also reflected a desire, on the part of the state, to remove 'undesirable, disruptive or untidy elements from public gaze. (20)

Admission procedures

Institutional order was impressed upon an inmate from the moment he arrived. Upon entry an invalid had to yield to inspection, classification, 'decontamination' and confiscation of personal property. Foucault has argued that this 'examination' was an integral component in establishing authority over an inmate and commenced the process of normalising behaviour. (21) Part of the induction was the classification of the inmate by the medical officer, a process which served not just as a health check but also as a ritual of initiation designed to subject the body of the pauper to the routine of the institution. The induction inspection was also intended to both humiliate and degrade, and amass psychological power over the subject.

Upon admittance to a depot, invalids were stripped of all their personal possessions including their clothes. (22) At the New Town Charitable Institution, despite having no regulatory power to do so, Superintendent John Withrington used to search newcomers upon admission. (23) As part this dehumanising process it was standard practice that inmates were deprived of their own clothing. (24) They had to yield to being washed and to donning the institutional livery, often ex-prison garb. In this manner they lost their external individuality and were incorporated into the penal population and carceral landscape. The issuing of government clothing was part of the performance of domination over the inmate's body in that it went some way towards stripping inmates of their individuality and stamped upon them the mark of the institution.

Goffman has referred to this process as "a leaving off and a taking on, with the mid point marked by physical nakedness." (25) He has pointed out that the dispossession of property relates to the link between belongings and the image of self, in that individuals invest self-feelings in their possessions. By breaking this connection the institution effectively weakens the ego, making it more malleable to institutional manipulation. Having stripped the newcomer, the institution has to make at least some reparations. These substitute replacements, however, invariably were impersonal and standardised issue, and always remained the property of the institution. The opportunity for the inmate to imbue them with self was denied and their regular recall for cleansing effectively washed away any individual identification. (26)

The dispossession of self was further compounded by other controlling mechanisms such as the economic imprisonment of the inmate through financial disempowerment upon admittance. Rule 66 of the New Town Charitable Institution regulations, for example, authorised the superintendent to hold 'all money and articles of value surrendered by or found in the possession' of persons being admitted. (27) As a further means of controlling inmates the regulations forbade invalids the right to perform labour for their own benefit. This was also the case at the Port Arthur Invalid Depot where inmates were not permitted to perform any work for their own benefit without the sanction of the Commandant. (23) Instead, they were allotted labour tasks, although they were recompensed between 2s.6d. and [pounds sterling]1.5.0 per month for some duties. (29) This measure denied them their independence and impeded their return to the world outside the institution. They were effectively locked into what Foucault has termed the 'the great carceral continuum'. (30)

The admittance process can therefore be interpreted as a stripping away of a person's power. They had their clothes removed, their possessions and money confiscated, their hair cut and bodies scrubbed. Effectively, initiation was very much a de-individualising experience aimed at giving the authorities additional psychological and economic control over inmates.

Imposing middle-class behaviour

In addition to their penal character, charitable institutions attempted to impose a middle-class value system upon emancipist inmates. They were agents in a wider program of social change in which the middle class and elite sought to impose ethics of self-discipline and self-reliance. The impelling force behind this was a conviction that moral duty, that ingredient in the social cement which confirmed the position of the elite and which had previously arisen largely out of stable and specific social relations, was breaking down as society gave way to a network of mobile, individualistic strangers. (31) Institutions were, therefore, utilised to impose middle-class virtues as well as reinforce and strengthen traditional hegemonic relationships.

Smoking was not permitted within the wards. Gambling and profane language were also subject to sanction. Likewise, middle-class impressions of intemperance amongst the lower social strata meant that alcohol was 'strictly forbidden'. (32) Any inmate who infringed this rule by introducing spiritous or fermented liquors was likely to be subjected to immediate discharge. Reading material, was also censored by the superintendents who confiscated any newspapers or books they considered to "have a mischievous or immoral tendency." (33) An attempt was made to eliminate all pleasurable aspects of emancipist culture. Institutional life was made excessively monotonous and dreary for the inmates. One description of inmate recreation published in the Mercury stated:

Life inside a charitable institution was a physical existence but that is all it was.

Rules and regulations

The power to control invalids in charitable institutions was embedded in rules and regulations which inmates were to strictly obey. (35) There is uncanny similarity between those for penal institutions and those framed for invalid depots. There is, for example, a striking resemblance between the 1868 rules and regulations for the newly established Launceston Invalid Depot and those issued in 1843 for prisoners in the first stage of convict probation. The semblance is not only in language, tone and arrangement but also in intent. (36) The emphasis is on discipline, order, cleanliness, the centralisation of power and authority, and the regimentation of activity and movement. As for probation stations, invalid depot regulations were justified as a means to maintain order within the institution and to control the invalids entrusted to its care. (37) Such penal-like regulations indicate that the authorities believed that invalids needed control. No doubt this reflected the disparity between the world the invalids wished to create for themselves and that which the administration was prepared to allow them.

The colonial authorities needed rules and regulations to control inmate populations and to order the daily operations of the institutions. They maintained the daily routine of such places and greatly extended the carceral powers of the state over the invalid. Poverty, specifically amongst the aged and chronically ill male emancipist community was dealt with harshly. This was borne out by the repressive nature of regulations, such as new regulations in 1876 for the inmates of the Pauper and Invalid Depot for Males at Port Arthur. (38) These new regulations were in keeping with those approved for other state charitable institutions in 1874. (39) Under rule 29 invalids admitted to the Port Arthur depot were detained, without entitlement to claim a discharge, for arbitrary periods determined by the Administrator of Charitable Grants. Effectively habeas corpus was suspended for male invalids sent to this penal station. At the Brickfields Invalid Depot, in North Hobart, men were detained but only for a set period, generally three months, not some undefined term as was the case with Port Arthur. (40) Once admitted into the Port Arthur depot the authorities could detain an individual indefinitely if the medical officer deemed them unfit. Rule 30 made it a prerequisite that an inmate had to pass a medical prior to even being considered eligible for a return passage to Hobart. (41) This was a radical departure from the 1850s and 1860s when invalids were given virtually an open-door policy to the Port Arthur depot and were returned to Hobart Town on demand.


Inmates were subjected to a systematic patterning of their daily existence. Strict routine and regimentation were the key techniques for maintaining institutional discipline and order. The lives of inmates were regulated by the sound of a bell. That chime which had so marked the soundscape of many of these men's lives whilst they were prisoners of the Crown, was again in their later years to be the sound which ordered their days. Just like Pavlov's dog, the hell informed them when they had to rise, when they had to eat, when they had to labour, when they had to muster and when they had to remain silent. The bell controlled, ordered and regulated their movement not only through space but also through time. (42) At the Launceston Invalid Depot, for example, the day commenced, in summer, with the ringing of the bell at 6.30 am (7.30 am in winter). (43) After rising the men were given half-an-hour to dress, make their beds and carry out their ablutions before they had to leave their sleeping apartments for the washhouse. If it were a Wednesday or a Saturday they would have received a clean shirt and a shave. After being ordered to the washhouse they would have had a slight wait in Hummer before the bell rang at 8.00 am to indicate the commencement of breakfast. It was always served at 8.00 am, summer and winter, as was dinner at 1.00 pm. However, tea was served half-an-hour later in summer, at 5.30 pm, than in winter. The final bell for the day, known as the 'Silence Bell', was rung at 9.00 pm in summer and 8.00 pm in winter and signalled the locking up of the institution and the commencement of silence, that much beloved middle-class virtue that supposedly confirmed order and discipline. (44)


The 'discipline of work' was strictly enforced in charitable institutions and was implemented as a means by which inmates contributed to the performance of the charitable system by reducing operating costs. It was thus a mechanism for installing the principle of self-maintenance and it also functioned as an instrument for preventing that most grave of middle-class sins--idleness. There was, therefore, an educative and moral facet, as well as economic aspect, in the use of labour within pauper establishments.

At all invalid depots inmates had to labour as directed by the superintendent unless the medical officer exempted them. However, the very reasons which saw invalids admitted into depots imposed a limitation upon their capacity to work. By the early 1870s, they were described as being considerably aged, broken down in health and constitution, and suffering from chronic complaints. At the Cascades, it was the responsibility of William Benson, the then Medical Officer, to classify paupers, upon admittance, according to the nature of work they could perform. Benson found that few were able to labour, even at light work. (45) While female invalids were generally engaged in washing and needlework, such as repairing clothing from other institutions or making their own clothing, only a portion of the male inmates was capable of labour. In 186S, out of a daily average of 145 men only forty-five to fifty were estimated as being able to work. These men were engaged in cultivating land adjoining the establishment, stone-breaking and broom-making. In addition male invalids were also engaged in carpentry, shoemaking and coopering. (46)

The repairing and manufacture of boots and shoes, as well as horticultural activities were to have a considered effect upon the financial operations of the Cascades. There developed very early in the administration of this establishment, a marked differential between its gross and net operating costs that continued throughout its operation. (47) This was primarily related to credits given to the institution in recompense for the labour of inmates, predominantly in relation to profit from cobbling activities and the production of vegetables. In 1869, for example, the establishment raised 144,301 lbs of vegetables worth [pounds sterling]267-11.8 and made a net profit of [pounds sterling]71.12.7 from cobbling. (48) Subsequent annual reports show that these activities resulted in a substantial reduction in the net expenditure needed to run the pauper component of the Cascades establishment. A return made in 1872 provides a snapshot of pauper employment, at the Cascades. In July of that year there were 155 male and 128 female paupers. Amongst the male inmates, one was employed as a rough carpenter; two as shoemakers; one as a painter; one as a tinsmith; one as a tailor; one as a barber; one as a cooper; two as cooks; one as a gatekeeper; twenty-one as mess-room cleaners, wardsmen, and yardmen; tour as cleaners of day-room, bath-room, wash-house, and closets; ten as oakum pickers; twenty-nine as agricultural labourers; and, eighty were described as incapable of work. Amongst the female inmates nine were employed as nurses, five as cleaners, and fifteen as needlewomen. There were ninety-nine females designated as being incapable of work. (49)

Invalids at the Brickfields were likewise required to perform labour for the benefit of the institution. The willingness of invalid inmates to work influenced their treatment at the Brickfields and tobacco was used as an inducement to entice inmates to perform labour. In October 1862, for example, a memorandum was forwarded to all invalid stations to the effect that the weekly tobacco allowance should be cut from 1.75 oz to 1 oz. However, inmates could be issued the larger amount at the discretion of an establishment's superintendent. (50) As many inmates were addicted to nicotine, it was highly effective as both carrot, and stick.

During the same period in which the 'tobacco memorandum' was issued, invalids at the Brickfields were assigned tasks which supposedly related to those occupations that they had been employed in during their lives. Labour was divided into three categories: ground maintenance and gardening, domestic service and mechanical works. Those in the first category were generally employed in gardening activities such as hoeing and weeding, and their labour saw much of the Brickfields ground brought into cultivation. (51) Indeed, they converted much of the brick-earth which surrounded the building, some three to four acres, into decorative and productive gardens. The land at the front of the Brickfields was laid out in ornamental gardens, and vegetable beds on the east side yielded produce for use by the institution. Labour was directed at converting the grounds surrounding the depot from their inferior condition into productive cultivation soon after the institution was established. By early 1862 its Board was able to report that a considerable saving was being made to expenditure through the use of vegetables grown by the invalids. (52) At no time between 1861 and 1882 did the average age of the inmates of the Brickfields drop below 66 years. (53) It is a testament to the industry of these men that they were able to convert such heavy barren ground into gardens capable of significantly supplementing the institution's vegetable requirements. (54)

Invalid labour at the Brickfields effected many improvements despite the state of health of those executing it. However, it would be inaccurate to overemphasise the capacity of inmates to perform effective labour. The Brickfields Board recognised this and stressed it in their communications with the government. The reality of the situation was that only a small number of invalids were capable of performing any sort of labour. In April 1862, for example, there were 220 invalid inmates and of these only about thirty were capable of carrying out labour and, twenty-six of these were working inside the institution at this time. The rest were described as being old (the average age being sixty-eight), debilitated, feeble cripples afflicted with chronic ailments or diseases, or, if they were younger, subject to fits or "stricken with blindness or some other great physical infirmity." (55) Those able to perform labour were only able to work at a level considerably below that of a fit and healthy man. Despite this, they were productive and this was something the Board wished to encourage. They believed that all who could labour, as determined by the medical officer, should do so, but they also held that a system which indiscriminately obliged invalids to work would fail. At this time at least the carrot was still preferred to the stick through the use of some minor financial incentives as rewards for performing labour. (56)

While there may have only been about thirty invalids available for physically demanding work in the early 1860s, a decade later a considerable number of additional men were classified as capable of such labour. Commencing sometime in 1870, and continuing throughout the 1870s, invalids from the Brickfields were employed in construction, maintenance and repairs of surrounding roads. In 1872, for example, an average of forty men per day were employed on road works and, by the end of that year, they had formed 674 yards of road. (57)

Invalid inmates employed as wardsmen aided the running of pauper establishments and at the same time reduced operating costs. The Launceston Invalid Depot's annual reports, for example, make clear that the employment of the more able-bodied inmates as wardsmen, for a remuneration of 4d. per day, was the norm. In 1871, five inmates were paid this amount working as wardsmen as was another, who performed the function of gatekeeper. (58) The employment of invalids as attendants or wardsmen dated back to at least 1845. In that year, instructions for the management of convict hospitals were issued to both medical and invalid establishments. Rule 47 stated that invalids were to be employed wherever possible as attendants in order to minimise the costs associated with running these institutions. (59) Thus, economics played a pivotal, role in the engagement of invalids in the care of their fellow inmates. Questions were, however, asked as to their suitability and capacity to properly attend to these duties. But the employment of inmates, at the Brickfields and similar institutions, also permitted the operating of an incentive and reward scheme through which the superintendent could exercise his authority.

Throughout its operation the charitable institutional system, engaged inmates in coerced labour as a means to control, discipline and reform. However, as reported in an 1888 Tasmanian Royal. Commission into charitable institutions, by the late 1880s the population of the depots was aging, becoming mote infirm and less capable of labour. (60) Thus the capacity of the system to enforce labour was compromised and became self-defeating. Little by little, charitable institutions were becoming old-age homes for the poor and were, as such, less able to rely upon inmate labour for their operation. (61) Increasingly institutional administrators had to look for alternative means to carry out their daily operations through the engagement of able-bodied workers. This saw the operating costs of institutions rise. Thus, the controlling agency of inmate labour was effectively removed from the institutional repertoire at the same time as operational costs were rising. Out-door relief, with its connotations of deserving, became more and more attractive.


Discipline was strictly enforced in charitable institutions. The superintendents had immediate control of all staff and inmates, and were directed to 'preserve strict discipline'. (62): The discipline of the regime was enforced through a combination of punishment and indulgence. Insubordination and misconduct were offences punishable with expulsion from an institution. From the very beginnings of institutionalised management: of invalids in Tasmania the threat, and implementation, of discharge was a discretionary power used by administrators in regulating the behaviour of their charges. For many, life outside the institution represented a far worse alternative to life within, and thus the unveiled threat of discharge was probably highly effective in inducing compliant behaviour. Intimidation is likely to have been more effective than prosecution, although this was a weapon in the superintendent's arsenal. In practice it meant imprisonment and, in Launceston, it meant that the inmate literally crossed the road and entered the gaol, effectively a transfer from one 'penal' establishment to another.

The Brickfields Board found expulsion for misconduct 'the best remedy for maintaining proper discipline.' (63) On the evening of Thursday, 24 April 1862, for example, a violent confrontation took place in the yard between Richard Francis, an emancipist invalid, and another inmate John Macpherson, a boy of sub-normal intellect. This interaction, which resulted in Francis assaulting Macpherson, apparently followed a verbal exchange between the pair. There is an inference that it might also have resulted from Francis' frustration at not being able to isolate the boy for a sexual encounter. According to the Day Watchman, John Wilson, Francis was a troublemaker who constantly used profane language and regularly quarrelled with other invalids. He had also apparently threatened violence towards those invalids who had witnessed the assault. When brought before Withrington, Francis continued to exhibit a violent and insubordinate character. In order to maintain discipline he was forcibly evicted from the institution. As Withrington had no legal power to confine or punish an inmate, eviction was one of the few effective ways of maintaining discipline. (64)

Francis was one of five invalids expelled from the Brickfields in 1862 for bad conduct. There were also two cases that year which required the involvement of the police. (65) Given that the institution had a daily average of 205 inmates, seven cases of misconduct suggest a high degree of internal order and discipline, as well as compliant behaviour on the part of the invalids. The annual reports for the institution all refer to a high level of good conduct and order by inmates, though this may reveal a degree of self-interest. Nevertheless, it would seem that overt compliance was part of the invalid survival strategy once inside the walls of an institution. Given that this was the case, it is somewhat surprising that in 1867 two of the institution's officers were appointed as "special constables for the purpose of [maintaining] good order and discipline in the Depot" despite there being "few cases of misconduct during the year." (66)

As time went by, those administering invalid depots found it necessary to employ various punishments to counter breaches in discipline. In mid-1868, the government approved a proposal to appoint the day watchmen and the messenger of the Brickfields as constables for the establishment. (67) The government further recommended changes to the institution's regulations so they incorporated punishments "to check both idleness and insubordination." (68) Deprivation of tobacco, reduction in rations, isolation at meal times and the performance of additional duties were all measures suggested for use as punishments against inmates who did not conform to the rules of the institution. In order to ensure that no inmate could plead ignorance, they were read to them upon admission and they had to countersign them in the presence of a witness to signify their undertaking to abide by them, thereby creating a contract of compliance. (69)

In the mid-1870s disciplinary measures became increasingly stringent. At the Port Arthur depot minor infringements were punished through the withholding of the tobacco ration. However, failure to comply with instructions given by the superintendent, or refusal to perform labour as directed, was liable to be met in the first instance with a short period of detention in the establishment's cells. Further acts of resistance or disobedience resulted in increasingly harsher punishment. Disobedient inmates were dealt with under the Public Charities Act of 1873. Rule 33 specifically stated that Sections 9 and 10 of this Act were to be enforced when dealing with problematic inmates. These regulations provided the superintendent with an increasingly severe scale of punishment to be meted out to errant invalids. Commencing with punishments of up to 48 hours close confinement, the inmate who continued to offend could face seven days solitary confinement, followed by up to one months imprisonment (with or without hard labour). Unruly inmates could ultimately find themselves imprisoned with three months hard labour.


Charitable institutions also exercised authority through the power to control inmate movement, especially in terms of access to the outside world. Commencing in the late 1860s, inmates were only allowed out on a pass one day a month during the summer and only on very special occasions during the winter. Discretionary control of this 'indulgence' handed considerable power to the superintendent and the capacity to influence inmate behaviour whilst they were out on a pass. To return to a depot intoxicated or uproarious could have resulted in either the inmate being handed over to the police or else future leave passes being withheld. By influencing and controlling the issue of passes, the superintendent further expanded his control over the lives of inmates, as the issuing or revoking of leave passes could be used as an incentive to compliant conduct or as a punishment for aberrant behaviour. To leave the institution without permission was to be denied re-entry. The inclusion of this regulation was clearly aimed at controlling an individual's freedom of movement. Also, it demonstrated a desire by the authorities to control what they, and the community, perceived as a problem, the errant pauper invalid outside the bounds of the institution. Underlying this was a belief that the proper location for the pauper was in a supervised institutional environment.

Before the establishment of the Launceston Invalid Depot, the options for relief available to northern emancipist invalids were limited. Many had been incarcerated in the House of Correction as disorderly persons, having no place of abode or means of support. Some had also been sent south and spent time in the Brickfields and Cascades depots. (70) Therefore, as well as having endured the convict system, many invalids also had experienced both the colonial penal and charitable institutional system. They were thus hardened to this system which sought to deprive them of their liberty and subject them to an austere penal-like regime. Given that most invalids sent to a depot had been convicts, they probably resented the continuation of constraints placed upon individual freedom and choice. This possibly explains the inmate ethos where resistance held a place alongside conformity. (71) The implicit threat of disobedience, and the determination of the authorities to contain it, is evident in the regulations governing the issuing of passes.

In summer, inmates who obtained passes were permitted no be absent between 9.00 am and 7.00 pm and, in winter, between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm. However, passes were only issued in winter in exceptional circumstances and, in practice, an inmate could only anticipate gaining such a pass once a month during the summer. (72) Inmate ranks were usually swelled in winter by the return of those who could still eke out an existence during the warmer summer months. These men were potentially more capable and more likely to display individual will and resist the impositions of the institution and thus tighter control was enforced during their season of occupancy.

The penal character of invalid depots was crowned by having their buildings and grounds completely enclosed by a wall. Such a barrier demarcated the boundaries of controlled space without which the impression of order would have been destroyed. A gatekeeper who was under instructions to not allow any servant or inmate to leave without an order from the superintendent guarded the entrance. Nor was he to admit any person or persons without the superintendent's permission, creating another means by which the superintendent was able to preserve his control and authority over the institution. The gatekeeper was also to search packages, ostensively to stop the introduction of contraband and the pilfering of government property. Finally, the gatekeeper was to see that no discharged pauper gained re-entry to the institution.

The opportunities for an inmate to complain or rebel against the conditions of his incarceration were intentionally minimised. All inmate criticisms and other communication with governing boards or the Colonial Secretary had to be made through the superintendent. It was the superintendent's responsibility to take down complaints and comment upon their merits before forwarding them. This gave him considerable power to make recommendations and censor the flow of information to his superiors. Given this control, and the fact that the making of any complaint deemed to be frivolous or groundless was punishable through deprivation of tobacco, it is not surprising that no inmate complaints have been found which follow this procedure. (73)

An 1858 Joint Committee on Charitable Institutions noted that there were a variety of approaches applied to pauper management in the Australasian colonies involving the degree of control and influence exerted between public and private agencies. In Melbourne and Sydney, the manner in which the government relieved distress was to supplement, nor supersede, volunteer benevolent organisations. In Tasmania, the government assumed liability for the whole of the pauper class. The Committee held that the rationale behind the government assuming responsibility for invalids was char with the advent of 'responsible' government there had been a loss of control over convicts and emancipists. (74) They postulated that the imperial regime had exercised constant control over such individuals but that under the colonial administration these persons had become dispersed and removed from direct supervision. By institutionalising invalids, the government hoped to regain the upper hand in monitoring and controlling their lives. Charitable institutions were in effect control agencies, what Andrew Scull has referred to as "mechanism[s] for controlling the uncontrollable." (75) The establishment of charitable institutions in Tasmania was also in keeping with a trend throughout the western world, which Stanley Cohen has referred to as "increasing [the] involvement of the state in the business of deviancy control" as a facet of maintaining social order. (76) The institution permitted the enforcement of a degree of organisation and regulation consistent with a policy of instilling certain moral principles.

This paper has demonstrated that the mechanisms of control evident inside Tasmania's colonial charitable institutions replicate a pattern of disciplinary incarceration, and the use of coercive tools, in an institutional setting which earlier researchers examining prisons, hospitals, schools, factories, the workhouse, the asylum and other ancillary institutions have identified as present in much of late-nineteenth century western society. This particular case study evidenced the use of the institution as an agent for imposing social control amongst a previously relatively unexplored subject--the Australian aged pauper and invalid emancipist. It demonstrated how nascent practices developed within the context of the convict system were subsequently enhanced and extended to the management of a newly defined deviant group in a far-flung corner of the nineteenth-century western world. It thus represents the universality of the institution as a principal mechanism whereby society sought to control and discipline its deviants, as well as establishes an exemplar of what could befall the labouring classes should they fail to adopt and embrace the virtues of the 'modern' worker and capitalist modes of production.

Mechanisms of control and discipline, such as those discussed above, directed charitable institutions at those elements of society least able to defend themselves and with little voice before the law. Thus, they held a position of authority in the relationship between the state and its 'deviant' members. They were ultimately doomed because they failed to address the causes of social misery and disorder. Instead, they were reactionary institutions which punished and attempted to disguise the consequences of social inequality, as opposed to tackling its root causes, as a growing reform minority advocated from the mid-1870s onwards.

School of Humanities

Armidale, NSW 2351



The author would like to thank Emeritus-Professor David Kent who commented on an earlier draft of this paper, as well as the editor and anonymous renders of the Journal of Social History.

(1.) William Blake, "London," Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1794.

(2.) Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, "Convicts," in The Companion to Tasmanian History, Alison Alexander (ed.)(Hobart, 2005), 415.

(3.) The machinations of the convict probation system are detailed in Ian Brand, The Convict Probation System: Van Diemen's Land 1839-1854 (Hobart, 1990).

(4.) It is difficult to determine the exact numbers of invalids, especially female invalids, maintained in government charitable institutions until 1873. From this year onwards there are reliable figures. In 1873, there was a daily average of 624 male inmates and 129 female inmates. The daily average of male inmates peaked three years later at 716, and while this figure fluctuated there was a gradual decline in numbers. Nevertheless, daily averages above 500 male inmates were maintained until the mid-1890s, After this numbers markedly declined and were only 320 for 1901. On the other hand female daily average numbers steadily increased and remained above 200, between 1883 and 1899. As was the case with males there then followed a decrease, such that the 1901 daily average was 177 inmates, (See Andrew Piper, "Beyond the Convict System: the Aged Poor and Institutionalisation in Colonial Tasmania," unpublished PhD, University of Tasmania (2003): 442-3.)

(5.) Stephen Nicholas and Peter Shergold, "Unshackling the Past" in S. Nicholas (ed.), Convict Workers: Reinterpreting Australia's Past (Cambridge, 1988): 9. Likewise Hirst and Frost have asserted that the British government was motivated by factors other than creating a dumping ground for convicts. See John Hirst, Convict Society and its Enemies: A History of Early New South Wales (Sydney, 1987); and, Alan Frost, Convicts and Empire, a Naval Question, 1776-1811 (Melbourne, 1981).

(6.) Historians such as Manning Clark, Lloyd Robson, and A. G. L. Shaw, support this position. See Manning Clark, "The Origins of the Convicts Transported to Eastern Australia, 1787-1852", Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand 7, 26 and 27 (1956); Lloyd Robson, The Convict Settlers of Australia: An Enquiry into the Origin and Character of (Convicts Transported to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land 1787-1852 (Carlton, 1976); and, A.G.L Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies: A Study of Penal Transportation from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia and Other Parts of the Empire (London, 1966). In 1999, A. G. L. Shaw restated his claim that he believed convicts to be a disreputable lot belonging to a criminal class and that Botany Bay was settled for penal rather than strategic reasons. See A.G.L. Shaw, "The Convict Question," Tasmanian Historical Studies 6, 2 (1999): 4-16.

(7.) See Joan Brown, 'Poverty is Not a Crime': Social Services in Tasmania, 1803-1900 (Hobart, 1972), 73, 96.

(8.) For a Marxist analysis of the links between the development of capitalist economies and the emergence of carceral institutions as the pre-eminent agency in framing new labour relations see Dario Melossi and Massimo Pavarini, The Prison and the Factory: The Origins of the Penitentiary System (London, 1981).

(9.) Michel Meranze, Laboratories of Virtue: Punishment, Revolution, and Authority in Philadelphia, 1760-1835 (Chapel Hill, 1996), 4.

(10.) Ibid.

(11.) Martin Wiener, Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law, and Policy, 1830-1914 (Cambridge, 1994), 67.

(12.) Ibid.

(13.) Robin Evans, Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (London, 1997), 94.

(14.) For a more derailed discussion or as to why the pauper issue was so acute in Tasmania see Andrew Piper, "Admission to Charitable Institutions in Colonial Tasmania: From Individual Failing to Social Problem," Tasmanian Historical Studies 11 (2004), 49-53.

(15.) Portia Robinson has estimated that three quartets of male convicts were unable to form traditional roles of father, husband and head of household See Portia Robinson, "Forgive Them Their Ways: Gender and Criminality in New South Wales, 1788-1829," unpublished paper presented to the Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies 1998 Conference: "Exiles of Empire: Convict Experience and Penal Policy, 1788-1852," Hobart, 25 July 1998.

(16.) For a more detailed discussion of the reasons why many emancipist lacked a family network and the repercussions of this see Piper, "Admission": 54-6.

(17.) Resistance to, and manipulation of, the institutional charitable system is discussed elsewhere. See, for example, Piper, "Beyond"; Andrew Piper, "A Love of Liberty: The Manipulation of the Colonial Tasmanian Institutional System by Invalids," Journal of Australian Colonial History, 11 (2009): 73-100; Shayne Breen, Contested Places: Tasmania's Northern Districts From Ancient Times to 1900, (Hobart, 2001); and Shayne Breen, "Outdoor Poor Relief in Launceston, 1860-1880," Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Papers and Proceedings, 38, 1 (1991): 19-50.

(18.) Brown, Poverty: 98-100 and Lindy Scripps and Audrey Hudspeth, "The Female Factory Historic Site, Cascades: Historical Report," unpublished report Tasmanian Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage, (1992): 24.

(19.) For an account of institutional re-use of the Cascades Female Factory, see Blown, Poverty: 98-100. For a detailed history of this institution see Scripps and Hudspeth, "Female Factory": 24. An understanding of its early convict period history can be found in Pony Ray net. Historical Survey of the Female Factory Historic Site, Cascades, Occasional Paper 3 (Hobart, 1981).

(20.) Scripps and Hudspeth, "Female Factory": 1.

(21.) Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Harmondsworth, 1991), 184-5.

(22.) Archives Office of Tasmania (AOT): Colonial Secretary's Department (CSD) 10/41/815, Regulations, Rule 32.

(23.) Tasmanian Parliamentary Papers (TPP), 6, Paper 154 (1885): 32.

(24.) Tasmanian Legislative Council Papers (TLCP), 17, Paper 47 (1871): 48, para. 73.

(25.) Erving Guffman, Asylum: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, (Harmondsworth, 1971), 27.

(26.) See ibid.: 24-30.

(27.) Hobart Gazette, "Regulations for the New Town Charitable Institution" (19.8.1885): 1194, c. 1, rule 66.

(28.) AOT: CSD 10/41/815, Regulations, rule 50.

(29.) AOT CSD 10/41/264, "Return of Paupers Employed, With Rate of Pay, Port Arthur" (31.7.1876).

(30.) Foucault, Discipline, 303.

(31.) See Wiener, Reconstructing, 70.

(32.) See AOT: CSD 4/103/1254, "Rules and Regulations of the Cascades Male and Female Invalid Depot"; and, AOT: CSD 10/41/815, Regulations, rule 51.

(33.) AOT: CSD 10/41/815, Regulations, rule 49 and Hobart Gazette, "Regulations for the New Town Charitable Institution" (19.8.1885): 1195, c. 1, rule 87.

(34.) Mercury (1.1.1873): 3, c. 2-3.

(35.) AOT: CSD 10/41/815, Regulations, rule 31.

(36.) For a copy of the 1868 regulations see AOT: CSD 4/102/1226, "Rules and Regulations of the Launceston Invalid Depot" (22.9.1868). For a copy of the 1843 probation regulations see "Enclosure 6A" in Irish University Press British Parliamentary Papers: Correspondence on the Subject of Convict Discipline and Transportation: Crime and Punishment: Transportation, 9, "Comptroller General's Report for the Half Year Ending 31.10.1847" (Shannon, 1969), 150.

(37.) AOT: CSD 1/84/72, Sherwin to Henty (17.5.1860).

(38.) AOT: CSD 10/41/815 (18.9.1876).

(39.) New regulations were also approved for the Brickfields Pauper Establishment for Males, the New Town Charitable Institution for Indigent Females, the Cascades Invalid Depot, for Males, and the Launceston Male Invalid Depot. A copy of the regulations for each establishment can be found respectively in Hobart Town Gazette (25.8.1874): 879-81; (18.8.1874): 874-5; (25.8.1874): 882-4; and, (18.8.1874): 870-2.

(40.) AOT: CSD 10/34/554, Withrington to Colonial Secretary (24.12.1875).

(41.) AOT CSD 10/41/815, Regulations.

(42.) See Anthony Giddens, "Time, Space and Regionalism" in Derek Gregory and John Urry (eds), Social Relations and Spatial Structures (London, 1987): 296-336; and, E.P. Thompson. "Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism," Past and Present 38 (1967): 56-97.

(43.) AOT CSD 4/102/1226, "Rules" (22.9.1868).

(44.) AOT CSD 10/41/815, Regulations, rule 46.

(45.) TLCP, 17, Paper 47 (187l): 99, para. 599.

(46.) TLCP, 16, Paper 6 (1870): 3.

(47.) Piper, "Beyond": 192.

(48.) TLCP, 16, Paper 6 (1870): 5-6.

(49.) Tasmanian House of Assembly Papers (THAP), 24, Paper 15 (1872): 19.

(50.) AOT: CSD 4/31/339, Henty to Hobart General Hospital Board of Management (22.10.1862); and, CSD 25/11/532 (October 1866).

(51.) AOT: CSD 4/14/122, Macdowell to Hobart General Hospital Board of Management (28.4.1862).

(52.) TLCP, 7, Paper 6 (1862): 6.

(53.) Piper, "Beyond": 194.

(54.) Ibid., p. 195.

(55.) AOT: CSD 4/14/122, Macdowell to Hobart General Hospital Board of Management (28.4.1862); and, AOT: CSD 4/14/122, Minutes Hobart General Hospital Board of Management (26.8.1862).

(56.) For example, in 1861 there were fear invalids that were employed on full wages (a total of [pounds sterling]36) and rations as servants, with the rest being permitted a small sum monthly. (TLCP, 9, Paper 9 (1863): 5.)

(57.) TLCP, 19, Paper 7 (1873): 3.

(58.) TLCP, 17. Paper 47 (1871): 48, para. 60.

(59.) AOT: CON 74/1, Instructions for the Management of Convict Hospitals (Hobart, 1845), 14.

(60.) TPP, 15, Paper 50 (1888).

(61.) As early as 1880, Everybody's Almanac described the Launceston Invalid Depot as a public institution for the 'reception of old and infirm men.' Everybody's Almanac: Official and General Guide to the Colony, and Tourist Guide (Hobart, 1880), 67.

(62.) AOT: CSD 4/102/1226, "Rules" (22.9.1868).

(63.) TLCP, 10. Paper 24 (1864): 3.

(64.) AOT: CSD 4/14/122, "Report of Board of Management Brickfields Invalid Depot" (26.4.1862).

(65.) TLCP, 9, Paper 9 (1863): 5.

(66.) TLCP, 15, Paper 4 (1869): 3.

(67.) AOT: CSD 4/74/122, Dry to Kennerley (9.6.1868).

(68.) Ibid.

(69.) Ibid.

(70.) TLCP, 17, Paper 47 (1871):48, paras 80-l.

(71.) This is a subject that Michel de Certeau discusses in The Practice of Everyday Life Berkeley, 1988), and lames Scott takes up in Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (Yale University Press, 1990). Scott in particular argues that resistance is a dynamic process in which "most, subordinates conform and obey not because they have internalised the norms of the dominant, but because a structure of surveillance, reward, and punishment makes it prudent for them to comply" (193). He takes the position that antagonism between the dominant and subordinates "is held in cheek by relations of discipline and punishment" (193).

(72.) TLCP, 17. Paper 47 (1871): 48, para. 63.

(73.) AOT CSD 10/41/815, Regulations, rule 48.

(74.) TLCP, 2, Paper 37 (1858): 3.

(75.) Andrew Scull, "A convenient place to get rid of inconvenient people: the Victorian lunatic asylum" in Anthony king (ed.), Buildings and Society: Essays on the Social Development of the Built Environment (London, 1980), 46.

(76.) Stanley Cohen, Visions of Social Control: Crime, Punishment and Classification (Cambridge, 1990), 12.

By Andrew Piper

University of New England
Whether the target was poverty, criminality, delinquency,
  prostitution, or idleness, reformers and officials believed that
  social problems could best be contained through the transformation
  of individual character, that individual character could best be
  transformed through careful supervision of individual regimen, and
  that, the supervision of individual regimen could best take place
  within an environment where time and space were carefully
  regulated. (10)

The poor old fellows have very little to amuse them ... Very often
  one old follow, surrounded by a crowd of two or three dozen, will,
  commence to read a newspaper, not in the way we of the outside world
  skim it over at breakfast time, but commencing at the first column
  of advertisements, and reading steadily through the advertising and
  news columns to the end. (34)
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.