Drawn up at Government House, Sydney, on 30 December 1846, and signed and sealed by Governor Charles Fitzroy, this document granted a free pardon to convict Joseph Taylor. A 15-year-old London tailor, Joseph was transported in 1829 for seven years for stealing a handkerchief. In Sydney he continued to offend and by early 1838 he was held at the Hyde Park Barracks; he escaped on 23 March but was apprehended in May. Having served his transportation sentence by 1840, Taylor received a Certificate of Freedom, but couldn’t stay out of trouble. In July 1846 he was convicted of stealing in a dwelling house, tried in the Supreme Court in Sydney and sentenced to be banished to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) for seven years. But in December authorities decided that Taylor was innocent of this particular crime, ‘notwithstanding the acknowledged bad character of the prisoner himself’, and he was granted this pardon.
The document is significant for its association with the highest ranking official in the colony, Charles Fitzroy, who had begun his term as governor of NSW a few months earlier, in August 1846. As a document presented to a transported convict for a secondary or colonial crime, this free pardon is relatively rare among the convict-era documents that survive today. It also reflects the administrative legacy left for the ongoing management of criminals in the colony after transportation to NSW was abolished in 1840. Creases in the paper indicate that it has been folded for storage, and possibly even carried by Taylor himself, since emancipated convicts were required to carry proof of their free status.
This acquisition was made possible by the generosity of The Copland Foundation.