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William Johnson, one of 160 convicts transported on the Earl St Vincent, 20 April 1826
Name, Aliases & Gender
Birth, Occupation & Death
|Date of Birth:
|Date of Death:
||24th March, 1828
life span was 61 years*
* Median life span based on contributions
Conviction & Transportation
Sentenced to 7 years
||Suffolk Quarter Sessions
Earl St Vincent
20th April, 1826
13th August, 1826
|Place of arrival
||Van Diemen's Land
Travelled with 163 other convicts
||Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 88, Class and Piece Number HO11/6, Page Number 13 (8)
||This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.
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Maureen Withey on 2nd November, 2019 wrote:
Was on a list of 10 men from the ship to be sent to Norfolk Island. Convicted for grand Larceny. Had a record of previous conviction. Age 24, Very bad character.
However, he was sent instead to Moreton Bay penal establishment.
Moreton Bay record:
Arrived at Moreton Bay, 4 November 1826.
William Johnson, convicted at Woodbridge, 19 Oct 1825, sentence 7 years. Trade- sailor ret. These six men were landed at Hobart Town from the ship “Earl St Vincent”; and removed hither with 4 others on the ship “Portland”, they having been ordered by the British Government to be sent to Norfolk Island, being notorious bad characters; but his Excellency the Governor has deemed it advisable to send these to Moreton Bay, where they are to remain for their respective sentences. To Sydney, 22 Nov 1827.
Maureen Withey on 5th February, 2020 wrote:
Moreton Bay Records
Wm Johnson – Ship, Earl St Vincent, tried at Woodbridge. 19 Oct 1825, sentence, 7 years, Sailor ret. These six men were landed at Hobart Town from the Ship “Earl St Vincent”; being notorious bad Characters; but His Excellency the Governor has deemed it advisable to send these to Moreton Bay, where they are to remain during their respective sentences. Sent to Sydney 22 Dec 1827.
The reason he was sent to Sydney 22 December 1827, was not becaus ehe had finished his sentence. It was because he had murdered a fellow prisoner and was sent to trial.
FRlDAY, MARCH 21.
(Before Mr. JUSTICE DOWLING)
William Johnson was indicted for the wilful murder of Morris Morgan, at Moreton bay, on the 11th of December last. The information charged the prisoner with having inflicted a mortal wound on the right side of the head of the deceased, with an axe, whereof he died, &c.
John Stones examined—I am a labourer employed at Moreton-bay ; on the 11th of December last I was at work making bricks, together with a man named Edward Mullen, and another whose name I do not know; I know the prisoner at the bar, and I also knew the deceased ; they were employed in cutting wood, about 200 yards from the place where I was at work ; about 8 o’clock in the morning, the prisoner came down to where I was at work, and said to me, “Morris Morgan has threatened to knock my brains out many times, and I hit him with an axe.’’ I asked the prisoner if he had killed the man ? and he said, ” go up, and see;’’ I accordingly did so, in company with Mullen, and found the deceased lying on his back, all in a gore of blood ; he had a wound on the right side of the head, and a deep cut in the neck, on the same side ; I came back and said to the prisoner’, ” you have struck the man above once with the axe,” when he replied, ” I might have struck him two or three times for what I know ; the deceased was insensible when I went up to him; the doctor was sent for, and I then went back and remained with the deceased till he died, which was altogether about ten minutes from the time I first saw him ; I had seen him the same morning previous to the occurrence, and he appeared to be in good health ; I heard no quarrelling between the prisoner and the deceased ; I could have heard at the distance I was off, if they had talked very loud, I could see them distinctly, and did see them a few minutes before the prisoner came to me ; the prisoner did not appear to have received any blow himself.
Cross-examined-I have been about three months at Moreton-bay ; the deceased was not a quarrelsome man ; I never saw him quarrel, and in my opinion he was a quiet man; the deceased and the prisoner were employed cutting wood ; they were required to cut three loads a man each day, on pain of being punished; an instrument called a mall is used in cutting wood ; it is a piece of wood with a hole through, and two rings on it, employed for driving wedges, in order to split the pieces ; a blow from a mall on the head would cause death, if sufficiently violent ; I did not see a maul near the place where the deceased was lying ; the deceased was lying on his back when I came up; the two wounds I saw might have been inflicted by one blow ; the wound in the head might have been given with a billet of wood; the prisoner said when he came to me, that the deceased had threatened to knock his brains out, that he would stand no more nonsense ; that he knocked him down with the axe, and I would find him behind the stumps; the prisoner did not tell me that he acted thus in his own defence ; he did not say that the deceased struck at him with a mall, but that he had threatened to do so several times; the prisoner came and informed me immediately, he might have escaped before, if he wished.
Re-examined-If the prisoner had escaped he could only have gone into the bush.
By the Court-When I went to the deceased, I saw an axe lying near the body; I saw no other weapon there ; I saw no mall, but I did not take very particular notice ; had the prisoner been threatened by the deceased as he stated, he might have ran away and avoided any danger ; it was day light; there were no other men at the spot but themselves ; the deceased was about 30 years old and in good health ; he appeared to be a stronger and stouter man than the prisoner ; the prisoner was at that time in a bad state of health.
Edward Mullen - I was at Moreton bay on the 11th of December last and employed in the brickmaker’s gang ; I remember the day Morgan came by his death ; I was then working with a man named John Kirwan ; the prisoner and the deceased were employed cutting wood about 200 yards from where I was at work; about 8 o’clock in the morning the prisoner came down to the fence which divided the place where I and other men were at work, from the others, and said, ” John Stone, come here, I want you ;” Stone did not answer, and I said, “Stone, Johnson is calling you ;” he replied, “if he wants me, let him come to me;” upon which the prisoner came down to us and said: “Jack Stone, Morgan threatened to knock me down, and I knocked him down with the axe ; go up and you’ll find him at the back of the stump, I’ll stand no more nonsense ;” Stone asked if he had killed the man ? but I was so confused I do not know what answer he made ; Stone and I went up to the place which the prisoner had mentioned, and I saw the deceased breathing apparently his last gasp, and a great deal of blood lying about him ; I examined his head, and found a cut on the back of it, and another large cut under the right ear, inclining towards his whisker ; the cut under the ear appeared as if given with the edge of an axe ; I cannot say what instrument inflicted the wound on the head ; the deceased was insensible at the time ; I saw an axe within about two yards of the body, with blood on it ; I head no quarrelling between them that day ; I never heard any words between the prisoner and the deceased ; I slept in the same barrack with them ; the prisoner made no attempt to escape ; he might have fled into the bush had he been so inclined ; the deceased was called by the name of Morgan.
Cross-examined. - There are a number of men at large in the bush at Moreton-bay ; I swear positively that the prisoner said, when he came to the place where I was at work, “Morgan has threatened to knock me down, and I knocked him down with the axe ; go up, and you’ll find him lying at the back of the stumps, I’ll stand no more nonsense;” I saw no mall near the place where the deceased was lying ; if such an instrument had been thrown violently at the deceased, and struck him, it might have caused his death; I did not hear the prisoner express sorrow for what had occurred ; he said no more than what I have stated ; I never heard any thing against the prisoner before this, except that he was once taken up for stabbing a man at Moreton-bay.
By the Court - The prisoner could not have escaped after he came up to us ; we were determined to detain him then.
Mr. Henry Cowper-I am an assistant surgeon on the establishment, and stationed at Moreton-bay ; I was sent for on the 11th of December, about 9 o’clock in the morning, to the deceased, Morris Morgan, whom I had known before, a patient in the hospital, I found him between 300 and 400 yards from my house, nearly dead, but he gave one or two deep aspirations after I saw him ; I examined the body, and found on the right side of the head, on the upper part, a fracture of the skull; there was also, on the same side, posterior to the upper wound, and in a line nearly parallel to the lower jaw, an incised wound so deep as to have gone between two vertebrae, cut through the vertible artery, and partially divided the spinal marrow; to this latter wound I immediately ascribe the death of the deceased, as, had there been no other wound but that on the skull, with very great care he might have recovered; the incised wound must have been given with considerable force, on account of the great collection of muscles in that part of the human frame ; there was an axe in the hand of one of the men near the spot when I came up ; it was bloody, and I think it a likely weapon to have inflicted the wounds I saw on the deceased ; I think the two wounds must have been given by two blows; the wound on the upper part of the head, in my opinion, must have been received first, as I do not think it likely that the second blow could have been given, unless the deceased was lying down; I knew the deceased to be a particularly quiet man.
This was the case for the prosecution.
The prisoner being called on for his defence stated, that he laboured under considerable disadvantage, as he had subpoenaed three witnesses two months ago, but by some neglect they had never arrived. Mr Justice Dowling observed, that the prisoner’s statement came too late. Had such an objection been started when the trial was called on, he should have paid every attention to the application in such a case. It was then too late; the prisoner was defended by learned Counsel, and he should have made known to him that his witnesses had not arrived, before the case was gone into.
The Prisoner’s Counsel stated, that complaints such as had been made, were unfortunately but too frequent in that Court Subpoena for prisoners’ witnesses were in the usual course sent to the Attorney General, but no facility appeared to be afforded to compel their attendance.
Mr. Justice Dowling would not permit an insinuation of that kind to be made, as he was confident every facility would be afforded by the Government to ensure the attendance of witnesses on the part of the prisoner as well as the prosecution.
His Honour then enquired the names of the witnesses whose non-attendance the prisoner complained of, and which were Philip Rilo, Lewis Lazarus, and Philip Kirbin.
The learned Judge then recalled the witnesses for the prosecution, and severally examined then as to whether those persons were near the place where the deceased came by his death when the unfortunate occurrences took place, but from their testimony it clearly appeared that they could have been of no service to the prisoner, even had they been in Court, as one was employed away from the spot where the transaction took place, and could not have seen any part of it, and the other two were in the hospital.
His Honour then proceeded to sum up the evidence. He besought the most particular attention of the Jury to this case as one of such fatal consequence to the prisoner, should the issue of the enquiry be adverse to him. The offence appeared to have been committed under something of provocation; but it was His Honour’s duty to inform the Jury, on the authority of Lord HALE, and Mr. Justice BLACKSTONE, whose dictum he quoted, that no degree of provocation could justify a homicide ; the utmost it could do would be to mitigate it to manslaughter. The weapon, too, with which the fatal blow had been given should also be taken into consideration, as to whether it was such an instrument as was likely to cause death, and whether the use of it was commensurate with the provocation, assuming that a provocation had been given. But there was also another question for the Jury in this case, namely, supposing that a threat or some other provocation had been given on the part of the deceased, whether the prisoner could not have run away and avoided the injury to himself, without turning on a fellow-creature, and taking that life which God gave him. His Honour then recapitulated the whole of the evidence, and concluded by again pressing on the attention of the Jury, the two points for their consideration which he had already stated, namely, first, whether they could elicit from the whole of the circumstances, that such a provocation had been given as was commensurate with the use of such an instrument as the prisoner had employed on the occasion ; and, secondly, assuming that the prisoner was himself attacked, whether he had not an opportunity of escaping without resorting to the desperate means he had employed, and depriving a human being of his existence.
The Jury after a short consultation, found the prisoner Guilty. Counsel for the Crown then prayed the judgment of the Court.
Mr. Justice Dowling then addressed the prisoner:- “William Johnson, it is now my painful duty to pronounce upon you the dreadful sentence which the law affixes to the atrocious crime of which you have been convicted. You have been indicted for the wilful murder of your fellow labourer, Morris Morgan and after a most painful and anxious enquiry, the Jury have come to the determination that you are guilty of the offence with which you were charged. I, for one, am perfectly satisfied with the propriety of that finding, and, unhappy man, I am afraid that your own conscience and your own mind, but too painfully concur in the justice of the verdict. I am sorry that a man in your situation should have resorted to the desperate means you have adopted to deprive your fellow creature of that existence which God gave him, I do sincerely trust that long ere this you have duly considered of the awful situation in which you stand, and that even now you have, by a sincere repentance, made the only atonement in your power to the Almighty, for the dreadful act you have committed. If you have not, I implore, I entreat of you, when you leave this place, to shut your eyes upon the world, to prostrate yourself in prayer and penitence before your Maker, and entreat him in his mercy to pardon you the dreadful act you have committed. In a few short hours you will be hurried into the presence of your God! Oh! lose not the brief space that can be allotted to you on this side of the grave, but by a sincere repentance atone for the dreadful crime of which you are guilty. I am unwilling to aggravate your present situation by further observation. It is now my painful duty to pass the sentence of the law, which is, that you, Wm. Johnson, be taken from hence to the place, from whence you came, and that you be taken from thence to the place of execution on Monday next, the 24th instant, and that you be there hanged by the neck till your body be dead, and that your body be then dissected and anatomized. And my God, in his infinite mercy, have mercy on your soul!
The prisoner was then removed from the dock.
Sydney Gazette, March 24 1828.
Maureen Withey on 5th February, 2020 wrote:
Wm. Johnson and James Robinson, for stealing six silver tea-spoons and other articles, from the house of Mary Burrows, of Framlingham widow, whilst she was absent gleaning, were sentenced to be transported for 7 years.
bury and Norwich Post, 26 October 1825
Yesterday the following convicts were removed from the County Gaol, in this town, to be put on board the York Hulk, at Gosport:-Wm. Johnson, James Robinson, William Wilson, Jacob Cohen, and Edward Leeder, 7 years transportation.
Ipswich Journal, 5 Nov 1825.
Maureen Withey on 5th February, 2020 wrote:
William Johnson – 24 March 1828 – Hanged at Sydney Gaol for the murder of Morris Morgan at Moreton Bay.
Convict Changes History
Maureen Withey on 5th February, 2020 made the following changes:
gender: m, occupation
Maureen Withey on 5th February, 2020 made the following changes:
date of death: 24th March, 1828 (prev. 0000)