Cap. LVI. An Act for regulating the Vessels carrying Passengers from the United Kingdom to His Majesty's Plantations and Settlements Abroad or to Foreign Parts, with respect to the Number of such Passengers. PARLIAMENT OF GREAT BRITAIN.

Cap. LVI. An Act for regulating the Vessels carrying Passengers…
Cap. LVI. An Act for regulating the Vessels carrying Passengers from the United Kingdom to His Majesty's Plantations and Settlements Abroad or to Foreign Parts, with respect to the Number of such Passengers.

Edinburgh: printed by Sir D. Hunter Blair & J. Bruce, 1803.

Folio, pp. [1]-14, disbound.

Surgeons on convict vessels

One of the most important amendments to the laws of Transportation, formalising the requirement for convict vessels to carry a Surgeon, and thus directly responsible for a huge improvement in mortality rates. The Act is also interesting for noting some of the abuses rampant aboard convict transports and other passenger vessels travelling from Britain.

One of the most important amendments to the laws of Transportation, formalising the requirement for convict vessels to carry a Surgeon, and thus directly responsible for a huge improvement in mortality rates. The Act is also interesting for noting some of the abuses rampant aboard convict transports and other passenger vessels travelling from Britain.
The First Fleet had been provisioned by the Admiralty itself, and the Surgeons on board, led by John White, had an excellent record. From the Second Fleet onwards the task was contracted to private companies, infamously derelict on the Second Fleet itself, and with wildly varying results over the ensuing decade. On several occasions officers colluded to deny the convicts their correct rations so the surplus could be sold upon arrival at Port Jackson for a handsome profit. A plan to return convicts to naval vessels was scuppered by the ongoing conflict with France.
This Act regulated the terms of carrying all passengers, free or convict, detailing acceptable provisioning and the role of the Surgeon, and allowing for a bond of £50 per head to be paid by the owners of any vessel. Although abuses continued aboard the convict transports conditions did improve overall, and the casualty rate for convicts sent to New South Wales fell from one in ten between 1795 and 1801 to one in forty-six for the period 1802-1812. One curious result was that British conservatives started to criticise the transports as being too comfortable and therefore a poor deterrent to crime.

Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies pp.115-119.

Price (AUD): $1,550.00  other currencies     Ref: #4007955

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