News & Tall Tales. 1800s. Prison Ships
State and County Prisoners
November 6, 1850, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California
A Brief Review
We were very much edified by the perusal of an article published in, the "Tribune" of Monday, headed "Prison Ship," and struck with profound admiration at the wisdom and acumen evinced by its writer. The conclusion he arrives at is truly appalling. After enumerating the hardships which its inmates are subjected to, viz: fishing, playing cards and chequers, cracking jokes, and eating "all the hard bread and salt pork'" they may desire, occasionally interspersed with bean soup he proceeds to inform us that the prisoners are as respectably appearing, except their chains and halters, as any like number of men in the community, and that good manners, civility &c. are the order of the day. We most fully concur with your contemporary in anticipating the rapid increase of the number of prison ships like the "La Grange" that will be needed within the jurisdiction of Sacramento the coming winter, particularly as long as the inmates will have plenty to eat; frolic and and fun, and nothing to do.
|Convict Hulk Gallery|
We think, however, that the, city fathers, in increasing those resorts of amusement, may save themselves the trouble of providing for the innocent poor with whom the "Tribune" sympathizes so much. It is sheer twaddle to talk about the poor in California. There is not a man it in, possessed of health, strength, and life, but can get employment if he seek it.
We do not pretend to say that he will get the wages he may imagine he is entitled to, but he is sure to get at least his board and more or less pecuniary recompense for his services. It is a well known fact to all who know this country, that the supply of labor is not equal to the demand. If this hypothesis is doubted, all we ask the skeptic to do is to examine the country within a circuit of twenty-five miles of Sacramento city, either east, west, or north, and witness the thousands of acres of auriferous land that will pay fair wages to the experienced miner if labor is attainable at anything like a moderate price.
There is not the most distant apprehension of the innocent poor suffering if they are not too lazy to work, or if the description of the gay and easy life led on the Prison Ship does not induce them to forget their innocence, and crave after its luxuries; for we pretend to say these are infinitely more enticing to many, than hard work and reasonable pay.
Your contemporary asks, "Who would not steal sooner than starve? and how many would prefer theft to begging?"
We answer, that there are "innocent poor" who would prefer living upon the crust given by the generous, than acquire fortune by vice. If there were but the two alternatives left, either to starve or steal, theft might be excusable; but when we see hundreds of men loafing about our gambling and drinking saloons, in idleness, refusing employment if enormous wages are not given, what conclusion must we arrive at? why, that our prison ship holds out too many inducements. We might add, that we know scores of instances where as high as sixty dollars per month and board have been refused by persons who represent themselves as poor, and in want.
March 5, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California
G. C. S. VAIL GONE -- For the last week Mr. Vail has been released from the prison ship, having accepted the commutation of his sentence by the Governor. The terms were that he should pay a fine of $1,000 and leave the state of California, or remain in prison one year. Yesterday he left in charge of Mr. L. B. Washington, for San Francisco, and today, we presume, he will be placed on board the steamer which is to leave for Panama.
SLIPPING THE LAW
A man named Edmonson slipped the emissaries of the law very quietly yesterday. It appears that the Justice and those in attendance hearing a muss on the street went out for the purpose of seeing it. The Justice committed the outside offender to a night's lodging in the prison brig, but on returning to his office, the other "bird had flown." Taking advantage of the tumult, the person arrested slipped out, and has not since been heard of. The person arraigning him has had some difficulty in doing so -- the cost, thus far, being some $75.
Sacramento Transcript, April 5, 1851, Sacramento, California
The State and County Prisoners.
The following are the names of the prisoners now confined on board of the prison ship together with the date of their commitment the crimes of which they were convicted and the length of time they were sentenced to serve in the State Prison. The list was made out on Wednesday.
|Jan 24||Charles Huff||Grand Larceny||24 months|
|Jan 24||Jonathan Herndon||Grand Larceny||18 months|
|Jan 24||Charles Currier||Grand Larceny||24 months|
|Feb 11||S. S. Putnam||Petit Larceny||3 months|
|Feb 11||Sam'l Williams||Petit Larceny||6 months|
|Feb 11||Henry Smith||Petit Larceny||Indefinite|
|Feb 14||Jos. Baldwin||Grand Larceny||12 months|
|Feb 15||George Gahn||Grand Larceny||60 months|
|Feb 15||John Fisher||Grand Larceny||36 months|
|March 31||James Brown||Grand Larceny||48 months|
|March 31||Christian Allen||Grand Larceny||12 months|
The following persons are confined on the prison brig, awaiting trial at the next term of the District Court:
Edward J. Allender, charged with grand larceny, stealing stock. Committed March 12
J. W. McOmber, charged with intent to commit a rape the case that occurred at the Spanish house on 7th street. Committed March 16.
James Armstrong, charged with intent to defraud and swindle one of the box and ball operations. Committed March 16.
Fanstino Someso, a Spaniard, charged with burglary and grand larceny stealing from the house of Francisco, another Spaniard, on the corner of I and 2d streets. Committed March 28th.
G. W. Morton, charged with burglary the accomplice of Ogden in the "Palace" robbery. Committed March 30th. [Died on Thursday morning.]
Charles Hambleton, (a Negro) charged with grand larceny -- stealing $670 from Mr. Bochford, at the horse market. Committed April 3d.
The prisoners, as a general rule, do not present those terrific countenances, neither do they portray that reckless kind of abandonment, which is generally associated with those who commit crime. On the contrary, many of them have a frank and cheerful appearance, and we would as soon suspect any other as they for being violators of the law, and disgraced men.
The prison brig is a decidedly pleasant place, and the prisoners have full view of the business on the Levee, the steamers as they ply up and down the river, and are no ways restrained of liberty, except that they wear heavy chains, which is doubtless against their will, and in addition, have not the liberty to go on shore when they fancy.
A new state of things is dawning on them they are to be placed in a chain gang, and this harsh measure does not accord with their notions of comfort. We are gratified that this measure has been adopted, as it will doubtless have the effect of preventing many of the petit larcenies which take place almost daily in our city.
The Corporation That Changed the World: The East India Company
The English East India Company was the mother of the modern multinational. Its trading empire encircled the globe, importing Asian luxuries such as spices, textiles and teas. But it also conquered much of India with its private army and broke open China's markets with opium. The Company’s practices shocked its contemporaries and continue to reverberate in today's markets. The Corporation That Changed the World is the first book to reveal the Company’s enduring legacy as a corporation. Stock market bubbles, famines, drug-running and duels between rival executives are to be found in this new account.
The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of Modern China
The author is a translator, and academic. She is the author of The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC - AD 2000, which was published in eighteen countries. She has translated many key Chinese works into English, including Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang, The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, and Serve the People by Yan Lianke. She is a lecturer in modern Chinese history and literature at the University of London and writes for the Guardian, The Times, the Economist, and the Times Literary Supplement. She spends a large part of the year in China with her family.
The Opium War
Through Chinese Eyes
Waley offers a lively account of the Opium War full of human interest in the most concrete, real, and vivid terms. . . . What he has done is to account the thoughts and activities of the Chinese as men, not as Mandarins and generals. He has stressed what others had neglected, that is, the feelings and sufferings of the common men as affected by the war.
Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600--1900
Stephen R. Brown
Starred Review. Bown describes the six great companies, and their leaders, that dominated the "Heroic Age of Commerce." Bown demonstrates how the corporations served as stalking horses for kings and parliaments while enriching shareholders and the powerful managers themselves. Jan Pieterszoon Coen of the Dutch East India Company was particularly noteworthy for cruel tyranny in what is now Indonesia. The English East India Company's Robert Clive, through genius and perseverance, rose to a position of near-absolute power in India. Aleksander Baranov of the Russian American Company, known as the "Lord of Alaska," was bound by ties of decency and responsibility to the company's men, but also had a deep strain of brutality. Cecil Rhodes of the British South Africa Company and of De Beers, the South African diamond monopoly, was dedicated both to the British Empire and to the success of his various enterprises.
The Business of Empire:
The East India Company and Imperial Britain, 1756-1833
Professor H. V. Bowen
A detailed study of what happened in Britain when the East India Company acquired a vast territorial empire in South Asia. It offers a reconstruction of the inner workings of the Company as it made the remarkable transition from business to empire during the late-eighteenth century. Huw Bowen explores the Company's interactions with the domestic economy and society, and sheds light on its contributions to the development of Britain's imperial state. This book will appeal to all those interested in imperial, economic and business history.
Opium: Reality's Dark Dream
Opium: Reality's Dark Dream traverses the globe and the centuries, exploring opium's role in colonialism, the Chinese Opium Wars, laudanum-inspired sublime Romantic poetry, American "Yellow Peril" fears, the rise of the Mafia and the black market, 1960s counterculture, and more. Dr. Dormandy also recounts exotic or sad stories of individual addiction. Throughout the book the author emphasizes opium's complex, valuable relationship with developments in medicine, health, and disease, highlighting the perplexing dual nature of the drug as both the cause and relief of great suffering in widely diverse civilizations.
Practicing Law in Frontier California (Law in the American West)
Gordon Morris Bakken
The author combines collective biography with an analysis of the function of the bar in a rapidly changing socioeconomic setting. Drawing on manuscript collections, Bakken considers hundreds of men and women who came to California to practice law during the gold rush and later, their reasons for coming, their training, and their usefulness to clients during a period of rapid population growth and social turmoil. He shows how law practice changed over the decades with the establishment of large firms and bar associations, how the state's boom-and-bust economy made debt collection the lawyer's bread and butter, and how personal injury and criminal cases and questions of property rights were handled. In Bakken's book frontier lawyers become complex human beings, contributing to and protecting the social and economic fabric of society, expanding their public roles even as their professional expertise becomes more narrowly specialized.