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While it is rare to find such a direct statement of a slave past as that of James Brown, it is safe to presume for the majority experience for black convicts transported between 1788-1820 their formative experience had been of slavery, be it in North America, or the West Indies, or the slave
ships intercepted. After 1820 the penal colonies VDL and NSW began to receive a new kind of African convict: chattel slaves transported directly from Mauritius and the Caribbean.

Bruce, a slave who arrived in NSW in 1821 had been sentenced to life in St Vincent in the West Indies. Bruce was unusual in that the slave status of convicts sent from British colonies was rarely stated on the official documentation, a reflection of some kind of official squeamishness about being complicit in the slaving business. Bruce was transported at some considerable cost, since his master would have been compensated for the loss of his property. In those cases where slave owners had not managed to get their property returned, I would guess that the offence was an act of retaliation or rebellion. Certainly that was the case for Sophie, a Malagasy slave from Mauritius who had set fire to her mistress’ barn. She was found guilty of a breach of her mistress’ trust — an interesting concept in a master-slave relationship — and sentenced to death. Transportation to NSW was a condition of her pardon. Her owner was compensated for the
worth of Sophie, and her compensation included the worth of the baby that Sophie had given birth to while in prison. There is no record of the child arriving in NSW. Likewise the slave Theresa, a native of Madagascar, was transported from Mauritius in the same year, guilty of assault on her master and child. She went to strike the child with a hoe and when her master tried to stop her she had seized his testicles and squeezed so hard that he fainted. She admitted her violence was retaliation for the brutal treatment she had received. Her owner was well-compensated for the loss of his troublesome property.

Attempting to kill one’s master was not an uncommon capital offence. Two child slaves, Constance, aged eight, and Elizabeth, aged twelve, were found guilty of trying to poison their mistress and transported to NSW for life. Poison was a favourite weapon of rebellious slaves. Over 50% of attempted murder and murder cases involved poison. Yet Maria, a slave from the remote mahogany-cutting British settlements around Belize on the Bay of Honduras, used a knife.

At first there was only an occasional trickle of slaves from the colonies, but this traffic dramatically increased as the anti-slavery movement in Britain grew louder and more persistent. Although the slave trade had ended in 1808, the complete abolition of slavery in the British colonies did not finally come until 1838. After 1830, the slave colonies, notably those in the West Indies, sought transportation as a means to control a dangerously restive slave population excited by rumours of impending emancipation.

Between 1830 and 1838 at least eighteen slave colonies were able to transport hundreds of their troublesome black chattel to Australia.

Cassandra Pybus, A Touch of the Tar: African settlers in colonial Australia and the implications for issues of Aboriginality  (2001)

So basically Creole Mauritians have slave heritage and we come at least partially from Madagascar, where obviously our ancestors were Malagasy. This passage describes and analyses how slaves were transported as convicts to what was then Van Diemen’s Land and NSW (now part of Australia), and for what purposes.  From 1788, Indigenous peoples and lands are colonised by the British. Pybus states that from 1820, slaves were transported as convicts from Madagascar in Africa, and from Belize and islands/countries in the Caribbean. Pybus contradicts the other historian which I read today whom said that there was a Black convict specifically from Madagascar on the First Fleet in 1788. 

Pybus also talks about some of the content of slave resistance, and the costs of that resistance. This turning the slave into a convict weaves neatly into the wider slave resistances happening across British colonies which through transportation of resisting slaves, the British tried to quell. 

So basically our people were dehumanised as slaves and some were then doubly dehumanised as convicts. But then dehumanised is an inappropriate word because our ancestors were never even allowed to be human in the first place.

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