Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Laurence Butler- Ch. 12: Butler's Petitions to Macquarie for a Pardon

In 1810, following the arrival of the new Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, all pardons and land grants that had been issued during the period after Bligh’s removal, were recalled.

 Luckily for some of the Irish rebels who had been given pardons, they had taken the opportunity to return to their homeland- such as Sutton, Gough, Dixon. However, Laurence Butler was not among them, and his Conditional Pardon was handed over in February 1810,[i] accompanied by his petition to have it re-issued. Although his pardon was not re-issued, he was granted his Ticket of Leave in August of that year  [ii], which at least released him from having to work for the Government and he could continue with his cabinet-making business which had been operating for at least three years. Whether he had been required to return to Government service between February and August is unknown, but unlikely.

No longer enjoying the freedoms attached to a conditional pardon, he would have had to accept the restrictions of holding a Ticket of Leave for a further two and a half years, always having the threat of having his ticket cancelled at the whim of someone bearing a grudge. Having experienced the freedom associated with holding a pardon, the restrictive conditions associated with holding only a Ticket of Leave must have galled him.

The ‘Sydney Gazette’ Saturday 3 November 1810, had the following directive from Macquarie:
“All those Government Men residing at Sydney, who have obtained the Indulgence of Tickets of Leave to work for themselves, are in future to be mustered every Sunday Morning along with the rest of the Prisoners, and to be marched with them to Church.
The Chief Superintendant is to make out a Roll of all the Prisoners living in Sydney who have Tickets of Leave, in order to their being regularly mustered by it on Sundays; and any one absenting himself fro Muster without permission being regularly obtained for so doing will be deprived of his Ticket of Leave, and recalled to Government Labour.” [iii]

This must have been quite humiliating for Laurence who had been a free man for at least two years, previous to Macquarie’s arrival. To have to attend a weekly Muster with all other convicts, and answer to a Roll call before being “marched” to Church (a Protestant Church) on Sundays, must have had him, and his Irish colleagues, seething.

Macquarie was inundated with petitions for pardons, following their recall.
Many of the Irish petitions were written by the prisoners personally, indicating the high level of education of the Irish prisoners. Others were wealthy enough to afford the lawyer’s fees incurred in preparing the petitions. It would appear that Laurence’s petition was prepared professionally.
Laurence began his petition by saying :
“That your petitioner in obedience to your Excellency’s Commands, herewith sends his conditional Emancipation which was given him by Joseph Foveau Esq.
That your Petitioner is upwards of eight years in the Colony, the principal part he spent in Government employ until he received a hurt by the fall of a piece of timber in erecting the Building of the Church.
That your Petitioner is 59 years of age and with the infirmities attending him in this stage of life, nearly renders him incapable of earning a subsistence.
That your Petitioner confides much that you will admit him to participate in the Indulgences that may be extended to others during Your Excellency’s Administration, And Petitioner as in duty bound will pray.[iv]

His petition was then endorsed by several well-known identities of that period ie. John Oxley (explorer and surveyor; later- Surveyor General), Elizabeth Macarthur (wife of John Macarthur, and recognized as ‘mother’ of Australia’s merino sheep industry), Gregory Blaxland (of ‘crossing the Blue Mountains’ fame, wealthy free settler and brother of wealthy free settler John Blaxland), Captain James Birnie (a merchant and ship-owner, a sea captain by profession, who arrived in NSW in 1809, and was engaged in the local sealing and whaling industry, while working as colonial agent for shipments from his brother and partner’s firm Alexander Birnie & Co., the only London merchant and general agent regularly trading to NSW in the 1810’s.) and John Apsey (Apsey, who was the ship’s officer on board the ‘Atlas 2’ with Laurence, was by this time a ship’s captain who was granted land in the colony. Apsey had two properties in Sydney, including one in Pitt’s Row, opposite John Reddington, and another in Sargeant Major’s Row in the Rocks area, near Robert Campbell, Absalom West, William Balmain, etc. As the captain of the colonial vessel “Estramina”, Apsey was ordered by Major Johnston to “haul down Bligh’s broad pendant now flying on board the Colonial schooner Estramina lying at anchor in this harbour under your command. Jan 27th ”. [v] He was also ordered to sail to Van Diemen’s land in the Estramina to collect Col. Paterson, following the overthrow. As Paterson was ill, Apsey returned without him, however Paterson would adhere to a further summons. Aspey was granted 100 acres near Macarthur’s land at Camden.).

On Laurence’s petition they stated: “We who have here subscribed our names do recommend the Petitioner as an honest, industrious man and deserving of that clemency that may be granted Good Characters.”

John Oxley

Gregory Blaxland

Elizabeth Macarthur

This was probably a major mistake on Laurence’s part, as most or all of these characters were either involved or supported the removal of Bligh, and Elizabeth Macarthur’s husband John was in England with Major Johnston who was facing a court-martial for his role in the mutiny. As a result, Macarthur would remain in exile until 1817, and Johnston was cashiered (a light sentence considering the gravity of the charges; he returned to the Colony to live out his life at Annandale as a free settler). This factional group would have been under great suspicion by the newly arrived Governor Macquarie, and he was under orders to punish those involved in the rebellion and to send those responsible back to England to face trial. However, he was pre-empted by Johnston and Macarthur who had already made the decision to return, to explain and justify their actions, before the arrival of Bligh. This situation may account for the fact that Laurence’s original pardon was not as quickly re-issued as was the case for some of his Wexford rebel friends such as: Michael Hayes who received his absolute pardon in February 1812, as did Joseph Holt in March 1811, John Brenan in January 1813, John Ahern in Mar 1811 (despite being convicted of being a rebel captain and murder, similar to Laurence’s conviction- however, Ahern held a responsible position with the government as deputy engineer which may account for his pardon), William Henry Alcock in Mar 1811, James Dempsey in March 1811, Denis McCarty in June 1810, John Reddington in February 1812. William Davis received a conditional pardon in July 1811 followed by an absolute pardon in January 1814, and Michael Murphy who was convicted of conspiring to rebel in August 1800 for which he received 100 lashes, received his conditional pardon in July 1811.  Notably most of these Irishmen had received Colonial sentences for local ‘crimes’ such as illegal distilling, inciting rebellion etc., and had served time on penal outposts such as Norfolk Is and Coal River, yet Laurence who had not faced any Colonial charges for illegal activity, was treated more harshly in regard to the issue of pardons. This can only be explained by his association with the Macarthur faction. John Butler (‘Atlas 2’, from Carlow) had received an absolute pardon from Foveaux but only received his conditional pardon from Macquarie in January 1814. He eventually received his absolute pardon after Macquarie left the colony. It is unknown why he was in such disfavour with Macquarie.

Interestingly, in the first petition Laurence stated “That your Petitioner is upwards of 8 years in the Colony, the principal part he spent in Government employ until he received a hurt by the fall of a piece of timber in erecting the Building of the Church. He is 59 years old with infirmities attending him in this stage of life which nearly renders him incapable of earning a subsistence". Yet he had been trading as a cabinet maker successfully for at least three years as shown by his sale of furniture to John Blaxland in 1807-1808, and was employing an apprentice in 1809. As previously discussed, in the period of 13 months, he earned £95. 15s., from Blaxland alone, which was a considerable sum at that time. He no doubt had other well-paying customers as well, including those who endorsed his petition. This was before he had received his Conditional Pardon from Gov. Foveau in December 1808.

Within a year of his 1810 petition, in 1811, he was advertising his business in the "Sydney Gazette". He was by this time, however, employing journeymen to do the heavy work, under his ‘immediate supervision’.

Sydney Gazette advert 2 Nov 1811

Chest of Drawers c 1806 attributed to Laurence Butler
 (Clyde Bank Collection)

His second petition in December 1812 stated:
That your Petitioner was sent to this Country for the unfortunate affair of the Rebellion in Ireland in the Year 1798, a servitude of nearly twelve years induced Lieut. Governor Paterson (sic- Lt Gov Foveaux) to grant him a Conditional Pardon, which was after surrendered up agreeable to your Excellency’s Orders.
 Your Petitioner most humbly begs he has during his time in this Colony been freely permitted to follow his trade as Cabinet Maker from which he has derived some degree of competency for the support of himself and family, without any criminality impuled (?) to him.
May it please Your Excellency to take Petitioner’s Case into your humane consideration and extend to him a participation of that clemency about to be conferred on others and Petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray.[vi]

This time, wisely, there were no endorsements from any of the factions in the community, and his second conditional pardon was granted shortly after, 25 January 1813.[vii]

Gov.  Macquarie wrote a reply on the back of the memorial:

List of Conditional Pardons

Unlike his younger rebel colleagues, Laurence never submitted another petition for a full pardon, after receiving his conditional pardon. Given his advanced age, and the fact he had a successful business and a very young family to support, while his life in Ireland was now truly set in his past, he may have felt he no longer needed to gain a full pardon, being a totally free man within the community in which he lived. Macquarie promoted the equality of emancipists in Sydney society, even to the point of socializing with some, much to the disgust of the “exclusives”.

As Laurence was never involved in any of the Irish insurrections in the Colony, appeared to keep a low profile, and had influential associates, one could speculate on the reasons why he did not receive the same level of indulgence, ie. a full pardon, enjoyed by so many of his Wexford friends. Notably, many of these friends were transported on earlier ships such as the ‘Friendship”. Only twenty-two of the rebels on the “Atlas 2” were given full pardons, including James Dempsey (who would play a prominent role in establishing the Catholic church in Sydney) and the controversial Sir Henry Brown Hayes, and only three, Thomas Connor, John Fowler and William Morris from County Wexford. Was this because the indent papers for the convicts on the ‘Friendship’ never arrived, and thus the authorities were never sure of their true sentences or of the level of ‘crimes’ they supposedly committed during the rebellion and had to rely on the convict’s own testament? Or was it because the ‘crimes’ committed by the convicts on the ‘Atlas 2’ were considered to be of a more serious nature, and the British Government did not want them to return to their native Ireland?
Could the reason also have been that Laurence’s original sentence may have been a death sentence commuted to transportation for life, in which case it is unlikely that he would have been allowed to return to his native land? One will never know.

© B.A. Butler

Contact email address:  butler1802  (NB. no spaces)

Link back to Introduction:
Links to all the chapters in this blog:

The 1798 rebellion
Laurence Butler's trial for his role in the Rebellion
Analysis of Butler's trial
Laurence Butler at the Battle of Tubberneering
Laurence Butler's imprisonment
Butler's life and family in Wexford
Laurence Butler's transportation to Sydney in 1802 on the Atlas 2
Conditions on Convict Ships
Life as a convict in Sydney
Laurence Butler's property investments in Pitt Street Sydney
Sydney Town in 1800-1810
Laurence Butler's petitions to the Governor
Laurence Butler's 100 acre land grant in District of Petersham
Butler's membership of the Commercial Society of Sydney
Laurence Butler's court cases
Laurence Butler's business interests in Sydney
Laurence Butler's cabinet making business
Laurence Butler's property investments in Sydney
Laurence Butler's colonial family
Laurence Butler's death in 1820
Laurence Butler's issue- Walter, Lawrence Junior and Mary Ann
The Catholic Community of Sydney up until 1820
Genealogy- Butler's possible ancestry and possible descendants in Ireland, and BDM records
Butler's fellow Irish rebels transported to Sydney
Conclusion about the life of Laurence Butler

[i] SRNSW: Index to Conditional Pardons; [4/4430, p. 039]; Butler Lawrence; Date of Pardon 3 Dec 1808; Cancelled; Reel 774.
[ii] SRNSW: COD 18; {4/4427, p614]; Ticket of Leave; 1 Aug 1810; Reel 601.
[iii] Sydney Gazette, Sat 3 November 1810, p1
[iv] SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [4/1846, p40], Petition for mitigation of sentence, 15 Feb 1810; Fiche 3163
[v] State Library of NSW, ; Copy of Major Johnston’s order to the Commander of the Estramina date 27 Jan 1807 (Series 40.097)
[vi] SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [4/1848, p.78-9]; Petition for mitigation fo sentence, 28 Dec 1812; Fiche 3169
[vii] Keith Johnson and Malcolm Sainty, Convict Pardons 1 Jan 1810- 31 Dec 1819, Genealogical Publications of Australia, Sydney, 1974, p35