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Resignation of J. M. Chapman

In 1874 a group of boys were playing in the yard when they accidentally sent their ball over the Orphan School Boundary wall.  In response the Superintendent and Headmaster, J. M. Graham applied 24 strokes of the cane to 11 year old Alexander Carrick’s bare buttocks.  As if that wasn’t sufficient barbarity, he then had the poor boy placed in a cold bath, after which salt was rubbed into his wounds.

Following an outcry Chapman was dismissed, or technically requested to resign. The rambling self-justification in his letter of resignation provides an interesting insight into the culture of the Orphan Schools.  It is reproduced in full below.

Queen’s Asylum
13th April 1874
To the Hon
The Colonial Secretary,
Hobart Town


The course which in your favour of the 11th instant you suggest I should adopt is one I had previously contemplated - not on account of the Carrick case - but simply because I had found that no one trying honestly and diligently to perform his or her duty in this - and occupying such an anomalous state as I did - could do so unopposed or without at least expecting “passive resistance”.  Especially has this been the case in my instance - from the first the Matron set herself in direct opposition to me – and the power and authority having been withheld that would have enabled me to place the Institution in a satisfactory condition - my efforts were comparatively futile. The Matron, whose facility of language is notorious, has libelled my character and conduct far and wide and enlisted in her aid both clerical and political influence. These facts, and many but not all of her agents are known to me, and may yet be exposed. My anomalous position and the espionage to which I have been subjected made my position doubly disagreeable and in the former encouraged institutionalisation where I have every right to expect compliance and assistance.

Misrepresentation and falsehood have had free course, but I'm not the only one as my predecessor can testify who, while connected with this Institution, has suffered in a similar manner, but as I have hitherto done, I can still afford to despise my detractors and their calumnies.

In respect to Carrick’s case I must record my strongest protest against the whole proceedings, as I have been virtually tried and condemned unheard. The manner in which the Guardians conducted their investigation was alien alike to British Law and those principles of honour and justice which usually regulate the action of a gentleman. I can understand their motives but in stating this I desire it to be distinctly understood that I in no way impugn the government either individually or collectively. Facts are potent witnesses and these will, I dare say, in due time, show the not impartial constitution of the tribunal which has really condemned me. The Board of Guardians as now constituted – and for many reasons, some personal some general – could not be expected to act a strictly impartial path. Two of the members were as I know prejudiced by females connected with the Institution - others as I have good reasons to believe were influenced personal predilections.

As to their action I protest against it in toto. Though I applied to the chairman, John ??? in writing for permission to hear the children’s statements, this was not acceded. Afterwards, when called in by the Guardians, I requested that the statements made by the boys might be read over to me and I might know what I had to answer. This request surely was not an unreasonable one, yet it was not complied with. Indeed the only information vouchsafed me was a mere half statement – devoid of particulars - that I was accused of having severely beaten one of the boys. Afterwards I was to give a statement of the case and this I did fully, truly and truthfully without extenuating angst. No witnesses were called to show the show the character of the boys or my treatment of them. In fact great unwillingness to hear a full statement from me was manifested by some of the Guardians and understanding that it was intended to have the case investigated in the Police Courts I did not detain them from dinner to hear fuller details, hence have been sacrificed. I may add that before the investigation, and without my knowledge, priority or sanction the boy was stripped and examined by one of the female servants and the Matron -both longing for revenge - because I had forbid them punishing the girls -and afterwards in a similar such manner at their insistence by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Chaplains.

I have to thank the government for extending greater courtesy to me than was shown by the Guardians evinced by their forwarding the minutes of the Guardians’ inquiry to me thus affording me an opportunity of replying but from the tenor of Dr ???’s report I did not consider the case so grave as it evidently has been regarded, and consequently I did not attempt to rebut the false or rather exaggerated statements obtained by “leading questions” from the boys

I must express my regret that after the matter was referred by Government to such a formidable tribunal as the Guardians and to once more afford me a similar opportunity of pursuing their subsequent statement. Whether it was favourable or unfavourable, whether it did me justice or injustice, I know not but one thing I do know that one of the Guardians – I do not now hesitate to mention his name- was more reticent and less frank – than under similar circumstances I should have been.

In justice to myself and as these papers will become public records I beg to request that the Government will allow me an opportunity before leaving the Colony tomorrow of promising their communication to the Guardians made after the enquiry and their reply thereto, that if I deem it necessary, I may make such remarks thereon as any sense of right or self respect may dictate. I have a character to maintain and therefore I think I have a right to make this request.

Apart, however, from the merits or demerits personal to myself or relating to this case I now beg to tender you my resignation both of the office of Head Schoolmaster and that of “Officer in Charge” - the latter as yet unrecommended and conscious that I have honestly tried to do my duty and that I have effected several improvements, and that I would under more favourable circumstances, have done more for the wellbeing of the Institution.

As due the result of my labours I have the satisfaction of knowing that I shall leave the asylum provided with a good useful infrastructure and copious library. It is also satisfactory to me to know that notwithstanding the cry raised by a few interested parties the majority of the public approves of the manner in which I have managed to the institution. It is also gratifying to know that the officers with one exception, and the servants with a like limitation - and the children generally - not excluding Carrick - will regret the departure of myself and Mrs Graham and knowing as they do a department and the opposition - I may say - persecution we have encountered.

I plead for no flavour but on such an occasion delicacy should not be too much considered. I may therefore call attention to the fact that the complaint made about the beating not brought under the notice of the Guardians from humane motives, but in revenge because I had occasion on the 5th February to enforce the observance by the Matron the Rule No 4 under the heading “Discipline” and which is as follows:- “No child to be kept in separate confinement at all”.

I may also point out that the beating was on a part where the boy could not sustain any severe or permanent injury and permit me to add this action was not comparable to the cruel conduct of that Matron who some years ago made a pin cushion - actually not figuratively - of a girl's head till the girl became known in this institution by the cognomen “Mrs ___’s pincushion”. This poor girl is now an inmate of the New Norfolk Asylum. Later still a girl named Richmoth Lawson was apprenticed out “black and blue” from a beating as the present Matron can testify. These and such instances cannot be overlooked, but why the Guardians have done so is best known to themselves, to me it appears that justice to “matrons” is one thing while justice to Officers in Charge is another.

I am,
Your Obedient Servant
J M Graham

TAHO CSD 7/61/1499 Colonial Secretary’s Office General Correspondence

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