Ticket of leave

Thomas Beaton, 1840

This Ticket of Leave granted to convict Thomas Beaton shows how well-behaved convicts could reduce the length of their sentences. A 22 year old Londoner, Beaton arrived in the colony in 1836 on Moffatt with a seven year sentence for picking pockets. When his ship arrived in Sydney Cove, he was one of 396 convicts marched to Hyde Park Barracks to be inspected and distributed for work. Then, after four years of good behaviour, Beaton was granted this Ticket of Leave, which excused him from working for the government, and allowed him to work for himself in the Yass district of New South Wales. In other words, a seven year sentence, could be cut short to four or five years, with a sort of parole for the remaining three years. Those with 14 year sentences could also reduce their time as a convicts, and get a Ticket after six to 12 years.

Convicts had to apply to the Barracks Court of General Sessions for Tickets of Leave, or the court in the area where they were assigned. Lists of convicts were sent from around the colony to the office of the Superintendent of Convicts at Hyde Park Barracks, where he checked the names in registers in his office, then forwarded the list and his report to the Governor for approval. Ticket of Leave men in Sydney had to attend muster at Hyde Park Barracks four times a year, and attend church on Sundays, if they did not attend, or committed some other misdemeanor, their precious Ticket could be ripped up and cancelled.

...it is more than probable that the next convict ship will be the last that will ever be Dispatched from England for this Colony… all the well-behaved men will get tickets of leave : those who have Misbehaved, will be forwarded to a new settlement for further probation…

Commercial Journal and Advertiser, 8 January 1840, 3.

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