George Lincoln was convicted of theft in 1838 and consequently transported to Van Diemen's Land. There, George received lashings and other punishments for various offences, later probably sailing from VDL to Melbourne in 1853 once he was free.
George was born in either 1821 or 1822 in London, and in 1839 his transportation documents record that his occupation was a labourer. His transportation documents also tell us that he was from Stepney, and there is a census document that may refer to his family. Although it is from 1841, two years after George was transported, it is possible that George’s inclusion on the record was an error. In any case, the document, if it does in fact refer to George’s family, names a father named John Lincoln, and a mother named Hannah Lincoln, who both lived in Stepney, and the George included in the document was born in the same year as the George we are looking at.
George only had one trial, and this took place on 26 November 1838, when he was 17 years old. He was charged with larceny, along with two other boys, James Smith and Robert William Lock, both of whom were 16. They were accused of stealing items from the London and Birmingham Railway Company, and the boys were met by a policemen on the evening of 3 November. The policeman told the court that Lincoln was wearing a large jacket and looked “stout”. The policeman felt something in his jacket, and asked him what he had. Rather than denying the charge, Lincoln apparently said to the officer, “Stop them, they have something else as well as me”, at which point the two other boys ran off. They were eventually located, however, and the three boys were arrested. Following testimony from the owners of the property taken from the Railway Company, all three boys were found guilty. Perhaps in revenge for George originally alerting the officer to the other boys’ stolen items, as a defence during the trial Smith claimed, “We met Lincoln by Chalk-farm-bridge, and he gave us these things that we had”. All three boys were sentenced to the same punishment – seven years' transportation to the juvenile prison in Tasmania (presumably referring to Port Peur).
All three boys were transported in April the following year aboard the Egyptian, however their brush with the authorities back home in London does not seem to have reformed their behaviour. In fact, in their transportation documents, George is described as a “dishonest” and “once a quiet boy”. Robert William Lock, on the same ship as George, was described as “careless and inclined to be saucy and dishonest”, while James Smith was merely described as “rather stupid”, and was caught pilfering aboard the ship. We also learn that James had ulcers on his toes when they set sail for Australia.
Once in Australia, in contrast to his two friends who appear to have absconded multiple times, George did not abscond, although he was found to be absent without leave in 1840. However, this does not mean George’s behaviour in Tasmania was particularly good. His conduct record reveals that he was punished more than once for "disorderly conduct" and "mistreating a fellow boy", including receiving lashes on the back as punishment. Despite this, George was granted a ticket of leave in 1844 and a certificate of freedom in 1845, and unlike in the case of his “rather stupid” former friend James Smith, these were not revoked. Therefore, it seems that although George’s behaviour in Tasmania was far from perfect, and he was punished for his behaviour multiple times, his behaviour seems to have actually been better than the two other boys he was sent to Tasmania with, and the severity of his transgressions do not seem to have increased significantly following his transportation.
As mentioned above, it is possible that George had a mother named Hannah and a father named John back in Stepney, although this is not certain. George’s transport records tell us that George had hazel-coloured eyes, brown hair, and a dent in his forehead. He was identified as a Protestant, and was 4' 9" when he arrived in Tasmania. Around this time, male juveniles made up about 20 per cent of the convict population of Tasmania, and so it is likely that George’s gender and his youth were both factors in him receiving the sentence of transportation over any other punishment.
George was still a juvenile when he was transported, and so being separated from his family support networks at home may have perpetuated his bad behaviour. In addition, his behaviour could not have been helped by the fact that he was sent to Australia along with the two boys he had been arrested with initially, with them all sailing on the same ship together and going to the same juvenile institution. However, after a few years at the juvenile institution, George does seem to have avoided being punished the same amount of times that James Smith and Robert William Lock were, and so perhaps these factors did not ultimately impact on his behaviour as much as they could have done. In addition, George was granted a ticket of leave whereas James Smith had his revoked, presumably due to bad behaviour. Therefore, it does seem that especially towards the end of their sentences, the influence the other two boys had on George’s behaviour had diminished somewhat, and by that point it is possible that they had little to do with each other.
It is not certain what happened to George in his later years. He received his certificate of freedom in 1845, and there is a departure record in Tasmania for a George Lincoln in 1853, which could be him. The departure record refers to a George Lincoln who travelled from Hobart aboard the Jane Catherine to Melbourne. There are no available records for George in Melbourne, and so if this is the correct George then we cannot say what happened to him beyond this point. However, there are no census records for George back in London, suggesting that he never did return home, which makes the Melbourne record all the more likely to refer to him. If so, this would have made George around 32 years of age upon his arrival in Melbourne. Although there are no marriage or birth records in Tasmania that relate to this George, he was still young enough when he arrived in Melbourne for him to realistically have got married and had children, but of course in the absence of documentary evidence from Melbourne this remains speculation.
As mentioned above, around 20 per cent of the convict population of Tasmania were male juveniles around this time, so George’s experience of being convicted and transported there was a very common one during this time. The most common offence committed by juveniles that resulted in a sentence of transportation was also larceny, which was the crime committed by George. The move towards transporting large numbers of juvenile males was conducted in part in the belief that young males did not mind being transported and separated from family, and that transportation would reform them. This was compounded by the idea that young people were more receptive to behavioural reform than adults, which may also explain the high numbers of juvenile males transported to Tasmania around this period.
Although it is not clear, presumably the juvenile prison mentioned in the three boys’ sentence refers to Port Puer, which was a convict prison reserved specifically for juveniles and whilst there, prisoners were often put to hard labour and construction work. Port Puer was located near Port Arthur, an adult convict prison which became famous for being apparently inescapable, and even today is one of the most prominent tourist locations in Australia.
Larceny, Transportation, Imprisonment, Whipping, Ticket of Leave, Juvenile
This page was written by Alex Traves with additional contributions by other members of the Digital Panopticon project team.