On this day …….. 28th May 1814
Unlike in the penal colony of New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) remained largely a convict settlement for its first fifty years. Little was done to encourage free settlers to take up land on the island. The colony faced starvation in the first few years of its existence, so Governor of Tasmania, Colonel Collins, was forced to send out the convicts to hunt. Lured by their unexpected freedom and undaunted by their isolation from the mainland, many convicts chose not to return, but undertook a life of bushranging. Bushranging soon reached epidemic proportions, and in May 1813, Lieutenant Governor Davey demanded all absconded convicts and bushrangers return by December, or face being shot on sight after that date. Concerned by the ramifications of the subsequent outrage, on 28 May 1814 the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, offered a pardon to all convicts except for those who had been convicted of murder, if they surrendered within six months. Taking the proclamation as a licence to bushrange, many convicts continued their crimes until the last moment. True to his word, Macquarie pardoned them of all previous crimes, whereupon many of them promptly returned to bushranging.