A lot of violence in Australia was held in check by the vigorous — and sometimes not sufficiently merciful — application of much of the Common Law. Too, the early governors had great power to affect the life of a convict. Thus, many fared well under Governor Macquarie (who was a very humane Presbyterian).
Indeed, such as behaved themselves and were diligent — like the enterprising one who painted beautiful artifacts for churches — were advanced and given preferential treatment. In general, convicts who became obedient and well-behaved — would usually win freedom and happiness before those who constantly rebelled and then committed fresh crimes.15
There was also the influence of Christianity. Already in 1786, the very evangelical Minister Rev. Richard Johns(t)on was offered the Chaplaincy of New South Wales — and took Bibles and Psalters to Australia. When the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay in 1788 to establish the first British Colony in Australia — Governor Phillip, an eminently fair and impartial person, upheld the Bible's Decalogue especially in public life. Indeed, even Ken Edwards writes of the Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip: "He remained determined to bring the Aborigines the gifts of civilization — agriculture for this life, and Church of England doctrine for the next."16
13 Time Australia 1788-1792, pub. 1987, p. 20. 14 Op. cit., pp. 39 & 46f. 15 Op. cit. pp. 49-51. 16 Ib., p. 29.
THE CHRISTIAN FOUNDATIONS OF AUSTRALIA
The Britons brought the Bible and their Biblical Common Law to Australia
Rev. Johnson had been recommended to the Home Office by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. His sponsors trusted that as Chaplain to New South Wales he would prove a blessing to lost creatures, and hasten the coming of that day when the wilderness became a fruitful field — when the heathen would put off their savageness, and put on the graces of the Spirit.
In addition to Bibles, Books of Common Prayer and Psalters — Johnson took with him Kettlewell's offices for the penitent. He also had supplies of copies of exercises against lying; of cautions to profane swearers; of many exhortations to chastity; and of dissuasions from stealing. He set sail for Australia with the most fervent wishes from the Board of the Society — that the divine blessing might go with him.
Thus Australia's renowned historian, even the crypto-Marxist Professor Manning Clark.17 Very significantly, all of the above are closely intermeshed with the upholding of the Common Law and its Deuteronomic Decalogue.
On the second Sunday after leaving Britain, Johnson preached on the ship to the convicts against swearing. For days thereafter, they refrained from coarseness.
After their arrival in Australia, on Sunday 3rd February 1788, Johnson preached his first sermon 'Down Under.' His congregation consisted of soldiers and convicts.
He preached from Psalm 116:12f. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord! I will pay my vows unto the Lord now!"
Australia's first and indeed sole dayschools were Christian dayschools
Rev. Richard Johnson organized the first schools in Australia. They were Christian academies, and preceded the many denominational schools which followed. Only in 1848 were state schools established, paid for entirely by the Government. At the same time, however, even thereafter the Government still continued to help the older church schools — and does so throughout Australia, even today.18
The 1798 Rules or Articles to be Observed Respecting the School at Sydney — laid down by Rev. Johnson and now kept in the archives of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel which sent him to Australia — are full of instruction. Among other things, they provide19 that: