The INDIAN Affair - 1849

(a barque of 557 tons bult at Hull in 1839). She departed from London 10 - 04 1849
with Captain Isaac Thorney (J.F.) English, arrived Port Adelaide on 7-08-1849, in ignominious circumstances.

On August 30th 1849 a meeting of the emigrants from on board the INDIAN met at the "Norfolk Arms in Rundle Street, Adelaide, for the purpose of hearing the statements of a number of persons who were dissatisfied with the way in which the ship was found, and 97 passengers signed complaints against the captain, the 2nd mate, the purser, the captain's clerk, the surgeon and the steward for a range of things including assault, fornication, adultery, selling of ardent spirits, permitting gambling aboard the ship, smoking and drinking between decks and other crimes.

E.L. Grundy Esq was invited to preside. In opening the business of the evening he stated that, although not personally involved, he took a lively interest in emigration affairs and, almost as soon as he arrived he found that the office of Emigration Agent was in abeyance. On his reporting this to his Excellency the Governor, Captain Brewer was almost immediately appointed.

Captain Brewer's report to the Government commented that the selection of immigrants in general needed closer attention.
He discussed some of the problems on board the ships including an occasional need to discipline, and indicated a need to provide an area of confinement on board the ships.

Mr Grundy agreed, declaring 'they are sending us the sweepings of old England' and that, if public opinion and the attention of the press was directed towards the complaints raised by many of the immigrants and settlers, these matters could be remedied. [applause]

Some of the INDIAN complaints:
Mr G. Wilson of North Adelaide, spoke on behalf of Miss Caroline Arnold, who was in service with Mr Myers of Morphett Vale, and therefore was unable to be present. She was a young woman of superior manners and education for her status in life. Before she left England she was assured that every protection would be afforded her on the outward voyage. "Miss Arnold complains that very soon after she went on board, the second mate (Mr Hames) and the steward went down to the cabins occupied by the single females, and took liberties with them. She repelled the advances of these ruffianly men (termed officers of the ship), and when she reported their conduct to the Captain, he dismissed he complaint telling her he could not receive it without confirmation. This, in her case was difficult as only five or six besides hereself had resisted the indecent attentions of the brutal fellows."
At length she was again compelled to complain and the Captain investigated the matter, and declared that Miss Arnold would be confined if she complained again.
Several voices interjected "It's true, I heard him".

To save herself from the annoyances of the second mate, she had been compelled to take refuge at night in the births of the married people's children, sleep in her clothes for weeks together and could only change her linen during the daytime. Miss Arnold was never asked by the Boarding Officer if she had any complaint. Apparently many of the emigrants believed that if they did complain, their luggage might be detained, or destroyed.
Mr Wilson also cited the case of a plasterer Mr Shaw who took a box of valuable plaster moulds (valued at 20) on board with him. This person, like many others, openly complained of the shortness of provisions, and was often seen notring down the irregularities to which they were subject. He naturally set great store by his moulds, and was greatly distressed to find his box was badly damaged and most of the moulds irreparably destroyed.
Mr Joseph Hill and his wife, both elderly gentlepeople and of quiet deportment, saw the "goings on" and was determined, if possible, to preserve the virtue of their two elder daughters (aged 19 and 22). Because their efforts were successfull, they were subject to physical abuse by the second mate (throttling him, thrusting his knees into the old gentleman's bowels, and nearly breaking his leg). Mr Hill concluded by stating that on arrival he had to pay 27s duty and 7s extra expenses before the Captain would allow his luggage to be landed. [His family consisted of six people brought out a total of 15cwt 3qrs 12lbs of luggage, and the Ship's Charter allowed them 10cwt per adult.]
Mr Bonus (Bowes ?) had two daughters, and could confirm the statements of the previous speakers regarding the second mate who was also in the habit af being tipsy. Mr Bonus also mentioned the extraordinary "short commons" - where sixteen people dieted off on tin of soup and bouill, weighing 6.5lbs.
Mr Pearce remarked that, on one occasion when under the influence of strong liquor, the second mate went below and declared "he would send the ship and passengers to hell". In such imminent danger were they that Mr Pearce had frequently known Mr James Davis (the chief mate) to rush from his berth in his night-dress to right the ship, and had, for the safety of the ship, often done double duty. Following a complaint by one of the crew to the Captain about short rations, the Captain had him locked up. The crew "struck" and the ship was running for a week towards the South Pole without an able-bodied seaman to work her.
Mr Pearce continued by mentioning that, following passengers quietly discussing the food shortage, the second mate announced he would weigh the meat out himself, and the first man who complained would be thrown overboard. [loud applause]
Mr Burnes confirmed all the above and went on to discuss the provisions, and admitted that, following his complaints, his wife used to fancy he had been pitched overboard if he stayed on deck longer than usual. He also complimented the first mate as the saviour of the ship, and confirmed that the second mate used to rattle at the door of the single womens area demanding admission, and demanded the keys from the matron. Mr Burnes declared that the doctor could not possibly plead ignorace of the second mate's nocturnal behaviour.
It was elicited during the meeting that, in contravention of the Passengers' Act, spirits had been openly sold during the whole voyage to the emigrants and crew, and that the captain is exposed to a penalty of 100. Constable Stokes admitted he had sold between 30s and 40s worth of porter and ale to the emigrants, and about 5 to the ship's crew. Stokes was aware of the shortage of provisions supplied to the emigrants, and had frequently deprived his own mess in order to help make up the deficiencies of the others. The Passengers had drawn up a Memorial to the Doctor and Captain, and eventually the provisions were increased.
Mr James Davis (the chief mate) attended this meeting and, at the conclusion, was presented with a Memorial of Appreciation.

1. A letter was written by ten families on August 31st, 1849 and published in the SA REGISTER. They felt it their duty to exonerate the accused officers, and declared they were well treated and perfectly satisfied during the voyage.
2. Mr Beck, of C & FJ Beck, stated at the meeting on September 10th, that there were no surplus stores on board the INDIA. If so they must have been landed, because this company advertised a sale by auction at the Port, of the Surplus Stores &c. of the barque INDIAN.
Captain Thorney appeared in the Adelaide Police Court on October 3, 1849 in relation to false documents
which had come to light regarding the stores on board the INDIAN.

When it seemed that no attention was being paid to the above charges, the emigrants off the INDIAN declared "having, on two public occasions", and had heard that an opinion had gone abroad "that no case had been made out to justify his Excellency's interference", now felt bound to reiterate these serious charges against the Captain and certain members of the crew (not one of which has been disproved). "Since the forgoing document mentioned was adopted for signature, His Excellency has with-held the gratuitites normally paid for service to the passengers on these emigrant ships were witheld in this case." The Governor also severely reprimanded the Immigration Agent Mr Brewer for the very tardy and imperfect manner in which he investigated and reported on the emigrants complaints by that vessel. Mr Brewer was later dismissed from his privileged position as Agent.

This report was published in a special supplement of the South Australian REGISTER on October 3, 1849 (viewable on microfilm at State Libraries around Australia) and repeats the charges, with some additional information to that recorded the above.