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Caroline Chisholm and the Family Colonisation Loan Society

On Christmas Eve, 1841 at 10 pm several young women were pulled from their beds aboard
the Carthaginian. Dressed in only their thin nightdresses, they were handcuffed and forced to
stand on the deck for several hours. One unfortunate woman named Margaret Ann Bolton
suffered the additional abuse of having upwards of 5 buckets of cold water poured over her,
causing an illness that went on for months, stopped her from working and ultimately led to
her death a year later. The captain and surgeon of the ship were brought to trial for the
assault of Miss Boltoni. Sadly, while both captain and surgeon were found guilty Miss Bolton
had to endure derision from some parts of the media, who questioned her sanity and blamed
her ill-treatment on her talkativeness and temper. These same critics wrote of the captain
that he spoke, in the coolest manner, of the unrestrainable, unconquerable, power of
tongue and temper appertaining to womenii.

The case against the captain and surgeon was brought with the help of Mrs Caroline
Chisholm and caused the government to re-evaluate the conditions by which emigrants
were brought to Australia.

Figure 1: Emigrants landing at the Queen's Wharf, Melbourne

Caroline Chisholm was a woman who knew her own mind. When her husband had first
proposed marriage she accepted only on the condition that she be allowed to carry on with
her charitable worksiii.

While her husband was stationed in India she set up a school of industry for the daughters
of the military, allowing them to gain the education they were denied by locationiv. When
the family moved to Australia on leave she immediately began assisting the destitute female
emigrants she saw arriving, day after day.

These works were only the precursor to her most important project; the Family Loan
Colonisation Society. The society aimed to alleviate the suffering of the poor in England and
encourage migration to Australia. Mrs Chisholm believed that the migration of women and
children if organised properly would bring a sense of decorum and decency to the male-
centric colony. To this end, the FCLS offered to loan migrants a portion of the fare to Australia, on the
understanding that it would be paid back within two years.

Figure 2: An Emigration Propaganda Poster

In 1852 more than 1 in 20 of all government assisted immigrants died during the voyage to
Victoria. On the ships organised by Caroline Chisholm, the death rate was 1 in 100v.

This difference in mortality rates was mainly due to the different hygiene and health
standards practised on the ships. On government ships, the lodgings below deck were
generally overcrowded, badly ventilated and unclean and the treatment of immigrants was
often inhuman.

Figure 3: Emigrant Ship Between Decks

Complaints of mistreatment were common, especially towards young unaccompanied

women. The lack of privacy, food deficiencies and increased likelihood of infection or
disease meant that government immigrant ships were incredibly unpleasant and unhealthy
places to be.
Figure 4: Emigrant Vessel Below Deck

Double-deck ships were commonly used by government agents to pack more immigrants
into one ship. It appears that this technique led to increased mortality rates. Nearly 65% of
all deaths on government ships between May 1852 to June 1853 were on board four of
these double-deck shipsvi.

Sadly, the majority of these deaths were likely avoidable. Most people fell victim to
infectious diseases that, as in the London slums, were a result of overcrowding, poor
hygiene and insufficient supplies of clean food and water.

Between 1848-1885 on
government ships to South
Australia the most common
causes of death were upper
respiratory infections
(including whooping cough
and tuberculosis), fevers
(including those which are
water or lice-borne), wasting
and deficiency and diarrhoea
related. Deaths from other
infections such as measles,
chicken pox and scarlet fever
Figure 5: Cholera in the London Slums
were also common.
In comparison, Mrs Chisholm went to great lengths to ensure that the ships chartered by
the Family Colonisation Loan Society were suited to the task of transporting people for 100
days at a time. Not only were the ships more spacious but the number of immigrants was far
lower; on ships of the same size, the government placed 600-800 people while the FCLS
placed only 200-300vii.

Figure 6: A Family Loan Colonisation Society being seen off by Caroline Chisholm

This and other measures such as increased rations, well-ventilated sleeping quarters and
weekly cleanings decreased mortality rates on FCLS ships, especially of infants and young
children for whom emigration was considered extremely dangerousviii. (The death rate for
all adults on voyages to Australia in 1852 was 8.5 times lower than that of infants and

Generally, on government ships, infants could travel for free but received no rations of food
or water. On FCLS ships infants received weekly rations of waterx. Many families had not
emigrated due to the belief that their children would die on the voyage as many had before,
but the FCLS proved that if proper care was taken small children could travel safely.
These improved accommodations did not come easily. Ship owners were angered by what
they saw as an unnecessary expense and criticized her fiercely.

They attacked her with bitterness, and publicly stated that she was making money by her
emigration schemes and that all her philanthropic work was merely a blind to her efforts to
enrich herself.xi


One family for whom migration would have been impossible without the FCLS were the
Hardesses. A Dutch/English family the Hardesses had fallen on hard times following the
collapse of their earthenware business in 1829. The business failed due to the Napoleonic
Wars, the stock market crash of 1825 and investment in a steelworks which floundered
under poor managementxii.

Charles Peter Hardess who had relied on his fathers money and business became virtually
penniless over the next few years. He tried many different jobs to support his family
including tax collector, policeman, ticket collector and farmer.

Finally, in 1834, he boarded the Henry Tanner to Sydney. As a guard on a convict ship he was
well paid. He remained in Australia for more than five years during which time he begged his
father to send his wife and family to him.

Figure 7: Sydney Convict Gang

At home, his wife Caroline
was in dire straits. With only
her eighteen-year-old son to
earn money for the family of
five she was forced to
request assistance from her
brother-in-law and consider
placing her youngest child
into an orphan asylum.

The whole family would not

make the journey to Australia
for another eighteen years.

This family is a typical

example of the people who
wished to emigrate in the
1840s. The lack of work in
England coupled with the
idea of Australia as a land of
opportunity led many to seek
assistance from the
government to migrate. Figure 8: Poor People Coming to a Workhouse for Food

However, the regulations for the selection of emigrants was stringent, favouring young
single men and many families faced unexpected expenses when they reached the vessel.

Government agents often charged another five pounds per child on the day of boarding, a
sum that many could not pay. This led to children being left behind in workhouses and
asylums. The regulations caused the separation of hundreds of families as elderly parents
and young children were barred from boarding.

The result was heartbreaking, those left behind struggling to stay out of poverty and those
who emigrated guilt-stricken and bereft.

the bounty regulations were not intended to allow of any such separation of
familiesin some cases they were assented to, on receiving proof that the children
were left properly provided for, in the care of relatives.xiii
Despite this supposed care taken by the
agents, many children were virtually
abandoned as their parents struggled to
raise the money to pay their fare to

In 1847 the Colonial Government were

led by the appeals of Mrs Chisholm, a
lady who has distinguished herself by her
humanity, and her activity in connection
with emigration, to promise a bounty for
the introduction of these childrenxiv and
in 1848 two shiploads of children were
sent to be reunited with their parents.

When the FCLS began sending out their

own ships Mrs Chisholm was clear in her
beliefs on family emigration.
Figure 9: Those Left Behind Farewell an Emigrant Ship
She told her agents to, always arrange if
possible, for the emigration of a whole
family; carry complete families, if you cannot carry complete institutions to the other side of
the world.xv

In 1852 the gold rush began in earnest in Victoria leading to immigration on an
unprecedented scale. The FCLS sent out multiple ships including three that left within days
of one another; the Scindian, the Francis Walker and the Nepaul. Aboard the Scindian was a
future rebel and politician, Peter Lalor, and on the Nepaul the Hardess family were finally
making their way to a new life.

Charles Peter and Caroline were now in their fifties, too old to be considered for
government sponsorship. Along with two of their grown-up sons, Henry and George, they
were sponsored by the FCLS and made the journey to Australia. Also emigrating was Henrys
wife, Susan, and their three young sons.
On board the Nepaul, conditions were far removed from the overcrowded and unhygienic
government ships. Indeed, one passenger remarked in a letter home that of Mrs Chisholm
he cannot speak too highly in all respects and would advise all persons emigrating to
come out under her management as he had enjoyed a very happy and prosperous
voyage xvi.

Another remarked on the cleaning done aboard stating,

12 Males also had to sweep the ship all through 4 times a day, the same 12 the next
day had to pump the cisterns and keep them full during the Day Twice a week we
had to go on our knees and scrape the Berths and deck throughout and strewed over
with Chloride of Lime it brought us into port a clean and healthy ship while some of
the ships had suffered severely from fever, for one ship buried one for every day she
was out, 3 ships that came in with us were obliged to go into Quarantinexvii

Caroline Chisholm and the FCLS allowed thousands of people to emigrate who would
otherwise not have been able. She pioneered better standards of transportation and
demonstrated the importance of hygiene and rations. Her work reuniting families and
advocating family migration helped to shape the society of Australia which we now all enjoy.

The migrants whom she assisted became important

members of a growing nation. Charles Hardess found
a job at the Supreme Court Registry Office. His son
George became a reader for the Victorian parliament
within months of his arrival and was elected to the
Hotham council. Their descendants became teachers,
artists, publicans, mayors and miners. In 2014 the
great-great-grandson of Charles Hardess was awarded
a Medal of the Order of Australiaxviii. None of this
could have been possible without Caroline Chisholm.

Caroline Chisholms endless charity to others less

fortunate and propagation of information helped the
colonies of Australia to be viewed as more than just a
penal colony. A woman of the 19th Century she
managed to take on work outside the home and be
celebrated by the patriarchal society in which she
lived, a truly astonishing feat. Figure 10: George Matthew Hardess

Front Cover: Caroline Chisholm, 1852, Library of Congress, cph 3c18009.

Fig 1: Grosse, Frederick, 1869, Emigrants Landing at the Queen's Wharf, Melbourne, National Library of
Australia, PIC Solander Box A26 #S2853.
Fig 2: Leech, John, 1848, Here and There; or, Emigration a Remedy, PUNCH magazine.
Fig 3: Emigrant Ship, between Decks, 1850, National Library of Australia, PIC Drawer 3971 #S2840.
Fig 4: Emigration Vessel, between Decks, 185?, National Library of Australia, PIC Drawer 3971 #S2843.
Fig 5: Leech, John, 1852, A Court for King Cholera, PUNCH magazine.
Fig 6: The Ballengeich emigrant ship leaving Southampton for Australia - Mrs Chisholms farewell, 1852,
State Library of Victoria Newspaper Collection.
Fig 7: Earl, Augustus, 1850, Government Jail Gang, National Library of Australia, PIC Solander Box A34
Fig 8: Brown, Hablot K. (Phiz), 1838, Outdoor Relief, Wellcome Library, L0006802.
Fig 9: Doyle, Henry, 1868, Emigrants leaving Ireland, Preface to An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD
400 to 1800 by Mary Frances Cusack.
Fig 10: Mr Hardess, ca. 1873, State Library of Victoria, PCLTA2215A400.

Primary Sources

Commission, Colonial Land and Emigration. "Seventh General Report of the Colonial Land and Emigration
Commissioners." London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1847.
"Female Irasability." Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 - 1848), 28 April 1842, 2.
Grimes, Edward, and Victoria Immigration Department. "Immigration." Melbourne: John Ferres,
Government Printer, 1853.
Hardess, Henry Thomas. "Hardess Pedigree Book." edited by Justin Levy, 1847.
"Life in Australia." The Illustrated London News, 2 Apr 1853, 266.
Lyle, Thomas L., and E. H. Coumbe. Copy of Notes on a Voyage to Australia in the Ship Nepaul (William
Neele Captain) in 1852. [in English] 1852.
"Queen's Birthday 2014: Ordinary Australians Doing Extraordinary Things for Our Country." The Courier,
Return of Diseases Most Prevalent on Board Ships Performing Quarantine During the Half-Year Ending on
the 31st December 1852 : Report of the Health Officer from the 1st May 1852 to the 30th June
1853. Parliamentary Paper (Victoria. Parliament) ;. Edited by Station Sanitary and Thomas d
Hunt. Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer, 1854.
"Supreme Court." Australasian Chronicle (Sydney, NSW : 1839 - 1843), 16 April 1842, 2.
Secondary Sources

Hoban, Mary. Caroline Chisholm, a Biography : Fifty-One Pieces of Wedding Cake. Kilmore: Lowden
Publishing, 1973.
Kiddle, Margaret. Caroline Chisholm. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1996.
McDonald, John, and Ralph Shlomowitz. "Mortality on Immigrant Voyages to Australia in the 19th
Century." Explorations in Economic History 27, no. 1 (1990 1990): 84-113.
Stinson, R. See, Judge, Act: Caroline Chisholm's Lay Apostolate. Yorkcross, 2009.
Swann, Margaret. Caroline Chisholm, the Immigrants' Friend. Sydney: Premier of New South Wales, 1925.
"Supreme Court," Australasian Chronicle (Sydney, NSW : 1839 - 1843), 16 April 1842, 2.
"Female Irasability," Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 - 1848), 28 April 1842, 2.
R. Stinson, See, Judge, Act: Caroline Chisholm's Lay Apostolate (Yorkcross, 2009), 13.
Margaret Kiddle, Caroline Chisholm (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1996), 7.
Return of Diseases Most Prevalent on Board Ships Performing Quarantine During the Half-Year Ending on the
31st December 1852 : Report of the Health Officer from the 1st May 1852 to the 30th June 1853, ed. Station
Sanitary and Thomas d Hunt, Parliamentary Paper (Victoria. Parliament) ; (Melbourne: John Ferres,
Government Printer, 1854), 7.
Margaret Swann, Caroline Chisholm, the Immigrants' Friend (Sydney: Premier of New South Wales, 1925),
John McDonald and Ralph Shlomowitz, "Mortality on Immigrant Voyages to Australia in the 19th Century,"
Explorations in Economic History 27, no. 1 (1990): 77.
Edward Grimes and Victoria Immigration Department, "Immigration," (Melbourne: John Ferres, Government
Printer, 1853), 14.
Mary Hoban, Caroline Chisholm, a Biography : Fifty-One Pieces of Wedding Cake (Kilmore: Lowden Publishing,
1973), 247.
Swann, Caroline Chisholm, the Immigrants' Friend, 44.
Henry Thomas Hardess, "Hardess Pedigree Book," ed. Justin Levy (1847).
Colonial Land and Emigration Commission, "Seventh General Report of the Colonial Land and Emigration
Commissioners," (London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1847), 17.
Ibid., 10.
Swann, Caroline Chisholm, the Immigrants' Friend, 41.
"Life in Australia," The Illustrated London News, 2 Apr 1853.
Thomas L. Lyle and E. H. Coumbe, Copy of Notes on a Voyage to Australia in the Ship Nepaul (William Neele
Captain) in 1852 (1852).
"Queen's Birthday 2014: Ordinary Australians Doing Extraordinary Things for Our Country," The Courier