Man without a country

Man without a country

The practice of transporting prisoners from the UK to the American colonies was a terrible punishment, but not for the chronic criminal James Dalton.

It was the 1721st year. The ship called "Prince Royal" was heading for the shores of the American colonies. On board was a cake made from gingerbread.

The members of the British crew were not particularly surprised when they found a file in the cake. He was hid by James Dalton, the infamous thief and master of escape, who unwittingly cruised between Britain and America more often than the transatlantic diplomat. Unfortunately for Dalton, his plan to make a mutiny failed as soon as the gingerbread cake fell apart. Fortunately for Dalton, he could always try the next time. In the end, as a prisoner, who was repeatedly sentenced to “transport to American colonies,” Dalton had previously tried to raise a riot.

Although the conditions of detention in British prisons of the 18th century were terrible (in fact, fewer people died on the gallows than in prisons), this was not considered the most terrible punishment.For the period from 1718 to 1776, the British authorities exiled about 50,000 prisoners to the American colonies as part of a policy that received the euphemistic name “transportation”. Once in America, prisoners forever became servants or slaves; they were malnourished and worked like damned. They were forced to obey their masters, otherwise they would face jail and punishment, which included whipping. During the period of "transportation", about half of the prisoners died in slavery.

 

Convoy transportation

Therefore, the transportation policy was not particularly popular among British prisoners. Some convicts even begged for execution, so long as they were not sent to America. Thus, many prisoners sentenced to transportation tried to escape during the journey. On the ships that were heading for the shores of America, riots often broke out. Most of the runaway prisoners preferred to return to the UK, rather than flee to remote parts of the colonies on arrival, despite the death penalty for escaping in their homeland.

One of them was James Dalton. He grew up surrounded by crime and punishment.His father was fond of gambling, and his mother and sister were exiled for criminal activities. When Dalton was five years old, his father was executed for robbery. James began his own criminal career at the age of eleven, and, according to his memoirs, which he will write later in prison, it included an impressively diverse assortment of crimes, including theft of toys from a shop and a "pile of wet laundry hung in the garden." He led the London street gang and called himself "one of the most daring incorrigible thieves who ever lived in England." The money he received from the sale of stolen goods, as a rule, was spent on prostitutes. (Dalton's excessive love for women will subsequently destroy him.)

For Dalton, the concept of honor did not exist. Once he stole something from his accomplices. When they were caught, they all testified against each other. After one of his former comrades handed over James with the guts, he was sentenced to terrible transportation.

In May 1720, Dalton was aboard a ship with the ironic name Honor, which was heading for Virginia.On board were 56 prisoners - 36 men and 20 women - and 12 crew members headed by Captain Langley.

“Once, when we were at sea,” Dalton would write later, “there was a strong storm that knocked down our main mast.” Twelve men, including Dalton, volunteered to help with the repair of the deck. This freed them from the chains. The first mate ordered Dalton to look after the prisoners. Dalton was well aware of what supplies were aboard the Honor; the prisoner Gescot shared information with him: “about fifty pounds of biscuits, two barrels of" Geneva "[gin], cheese and some butter." Dalton and his comrades began quietly emptying food and liquor. Gescott complained to Captain Langley, who promised to flog the prisoners with a whip to find the culprit. But before he could do it, Dalton gave a conditional signal. He and another fourteen prisoners seized weapons on the ship, tied up the crew members and took control of the vessel.

It was a relatively civilized rebellion. One prisoner who refused to take part in the rebellion immediately changed his mind as soon as he saw that the process was taking off successfully.Dalton and his accomplices granted the defector freedom in exchange for 10 pounds. They even gave him a receipt.

 

Illustration of a shipping ship heading to Australia

The rebels kept control of the ship for 14 days. Near Cape Finisterre (Spain) they took from the captain and his first mate watches, money and other things (totaling £ 100) and forced the sailors to drag the long boat. Then they drank a little, freed the captain and his first mate, said goodbye to them and boarded a long boat. A few hours later they were on the Spanish coast.

From Spain, the fugitives headed to Portugal. There, Dalton and his eight comrades boarded a Dutch warship that was heading for Amsterdam. Once in the city, Dalton returned to his former occupation - looting. When he had enough money, he decided to return to England, where he soon married Maria Tomlin.

When Tomlin found out about what he did for a living, their marriage began to go to pieces. Dalton left his wife to live with another woman - who informed the authorities that he had escaped from the transport ship.Dalton was arrested and sent to Newgate Prison, where he was tried along with other rebels. All were found guilty and sentenced to death. Later the sentence was relaxed: they were exiled to American colonies for 14 years.

In August 1721, Dalton was on the ship "Prince Royal". He planned to raise a riot, as was said of the gingerbread cake that belonged to him, which accidentally fell apart, allowing the guards to detect the file. Now Dalton was under the scrutiny of the crew.

However, this did not prevent him to make another escape - on the other side of the Atlantic. However, Dalton could not return to normal life. He ran away, fed on moss and venison, was in the tenacious hands of the authorities, again escaped, sold horses or slaves, returned to England and fell on a transport ship - once again. In America, his relationship with his owners never worked out in a good way — perhaps because he did not consider them as masters. He wrote: “When my master told me to go to work, I told him that horses, not Christians, should work.”

Once, Dalton even volunteered to go on one of these transatlantic journeys.When he faced charges related to returning from exile, he decided to surrender his former accomplices in order to get out of the situation. When Dalton was released, he began to fear that the widows of his former accomplices who were hanged would want to take revenge on him. So he took 40 pounds, which the government paid him for assistance, and went to Virginia to wait until the passions in London subside.

However, when he returned to Britain, he was brought to trial for robbery of John Waller. Dalton denied his guilt. He called Waller a liar and a chronic informer.

And although Dalton swore innocence to the end, he was reportedly "very cheerful" on the day of his execution. In 1730, 10 years after the first sentence was passed, Dalton was hanged.

Two years later, Waller was in the dock for perjury, again, in a robbery case. He was pilloried in a public place. While he was standing immobilized, Brother Edward furiously beat him.

 

Illustration of the pillory

 

Dalton, as a criminal, had nine lives. He mocked his masters, refused to work and did incredible criminal feats in America.He survived several journeys on shipping ships and was not killed. In addition, he constantly managed to avoid the death penalty on his return to England.

And Dalton was obviously lucky in his personal life. He enjoyed extraordinary popularity among women. He was as prolific a husband as a thief. Four of Dalton's former wives visited him while he was in Newgate prison, and seemed to be on good terms with each other. At least one of these marriages was purely business. She was pregnant, so her family paid Dalton to marry her.

As for the practice of transportation to America, it ended with the American Revolution. The demands for independence put forward by pesky Americans have led the UK to send prisoners to Australia instead of America. Transportation of convicted criminals to this continent was about three times more than the “American version”.

The smaller scale is one of the reasons why the history of the United States overlooks the fact that some of the East Coast people who have a long pedigree allegedly came from exiled prisoners.Historians of the XIX century argue that the practice was less common than it is thought. The 3rd President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, in his book, Notes on the State of Virginia, wrote that the number of prisoners exiled to America was only four percent of the amount indicated in the documents, and that those people had no effect on the American gene pool: “ I do not think that the number of exiled convicted criminals exceeded 2,000; besides, most of them died from diseases. It is also known that they rarely intermarried and multiplied. ”

As for Dalton, he remained faithful to his path. He became famous for publishing his memoirs. The prison priest, having learned the history of Dalton's life, said the following about him: "One can only guess what tree could grow from such a seed." And Dalton really did little to dissuade anyone from doing so.

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