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A Free Voyage Text  Before the 19th century, imprisonment was not seen as a punishment in itself. For lesser offences punishments included the stocks or pillory, whipping, branding and fines. For more serious offences the sentence was death, which was often commuted to transportation to North America and later to Australia.

This is a transportation order of 1738 from among the Quarter Sessions records. After the preamble it begins

“Whereas Hugh Nelson and Saint John Burnett were convicted and attainted at last summer Assizes holden at Stafford in and for the County of Stafford on Wednesday to wit the nineteenth day of July in the twelfth year of the Reign of our sovereign Lord George the Second King of Great Britain for two several felonies that is to say Hugh Nelson for stealing a Mare and Saint John Burnett for being aiding and assisting in forging a Deed for which they were excluded the Benefit of Clergy – And Whereas his Majesty has been graciously pleased to extend his Royal Mercy to them upon Condition of Transportation of which Intimation hath been signified by Letter under the Hand of the Right Honourable William Lord Harrington One of his Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State Dated the fifth day of February last past, but no mention is therein made of any Term of Years for which they are to be transported, it is therefore Ordered by this Court that the said Hugh Nelson and Saint John Burnett be transported and sent as soon as conveniently may be to some of his Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in America for the Term or Space of fourteen years to be accounted from the Time of their several Convictions as aforesaid pursuant to the several Acts of Parliament in such case lately made and provided”

A further seven men guilty of grand larceny, for which the usual punishment was burning in the hand, were instead to be transported for seven years.

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