Convicts had to apply to the Government to obtain freedoms such as Tickets of Leave, Conditional Pardons and Free Pardons. They also had to apply for their Certificate of Freedom once they were free by servitude. Tickets of Leave could be revoked for misbehaviour.
Levels of Freedom
Ticket of Leave:
After serving a portion of their sentence and being of good behaviour, a convict could apply for a Ticket of Leave. This allowed them to work for whom they chose, but it often restricted them to a particular police district. It was the first step towards freedom. The Ticket of Leave was an indulgence which could be revoked.
-An act was passed in April last, under which the condition of transported convicts will be bettered, provided they are willing to amend their lives.
Those persons who have obtained tickets-of-leave may possess personal property, and may
bring actions for the recovery of any property with the exception of real property, which they cannot hold; but wherever a ticket-of-Leave is revoked, the property so acquired is declared to vest in the crown, and shall be disposed of at the discretion of the governor, subject to such instructions as shall be forwarded from one of the secretaries of state. The act is to be proclaimed in the several colonies where convicts are sent to, and " hope which springs eternal "is held out to the poor creatures that a power exists whereby they may recover themselves and become respectable members of society. Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)Saturday 2 March 1844 - Page 6
The Ticket of Leave system was updated in November 1850 under the Probation System:
No 168, Executive, [?] 26 July
V.D. Land Govt.House
25th July 1850
In my Despatch of the 8th January last, I transmitted copy of a correspondence which had taken place between the Comptroller General and myself as to the expediency of inducing Passholders to remain in one service, by allowing a diminution of the periods for which they are required to serve for a Ticket of Leave, proportionate to the length of their continuous service.
- Since writing that Despatch the breaking up of the Establishment on board the Anson, and the sanction which Your Lordship had given for the distribution of the female convicts into private service immediately on their arrival have brought the subject of the Regulations under which Female Passholders were allowed to enter service prominently under notice, and considering that no step could be more likely to lead to the reformation of the women than one which would give them settled habits, and allow that favorable relation to arise between master and servant which length of service is almost certain to produce, I have proposed that every engagement should be for twelve months terminable during that period by the employer as heretofore, but terminable only on my authority on the part of the Passholder should any sufficient cause be shewn, and that for every year of continuous service a deduction from the period for which they would otherwise be required to serve for a Ticket of Leave should be made in accordance with the following scale which was submitted in my Despatch of the 8th January.
Period of Service
and for each successive six months a deduction increasing by two weeks.
Thus, under this regulation a Convict remaining for three years in one service would become entitled to a deduction of eleven months, and if she continued in the same service for six years, to a deduction of three years, three months & two weeks.
3 Entertaining a hope that this Regulation might be found to have a beneficial effect, I thought it desirable that the change in the Regulations should be brought to bear on the cases of the women who were about to be discharged direct from the ship, and I therefore published my intention of recommending the adoption of the arrangement, in a notice, copy of which I enclose, and I have now to submit for your Lordship’s favorable consideration, that I may receive your Lordship’s authority for carrying the proposed Regulation into effect.
I have &c (signed) W Denison
The Right Honble, Earl Grey, &c &c &c
Replied to 2 Jany 1851
Printed Regulations of 1st March 1850
This resource is part of Libraries Tasmania’s collection and can be viewed online: Item Number
GO25-1-17 59 no 168 pp247-249
A convict became eligible to apply for a Conditional Pardon after a certain amount of their sentence had expired. It was approved if they were of good behaviour. Convicts applied at their local Police Office and the application was sent to the King or Queen for approval, which was often given a year or so after the application. A Conditional Pardon gave the convict the status of a free person except that they were only allowed to travel within certain jurisdictions, usually the Australian colonies and New Zealand.
Certificate of Freedom:
Convicts were eligible to receive a Certificate of Freedom (also known as a Free Certificate) when they had completed their sentence of transportation (but not if they were sentenced to life). Not all convicts collected their Certificate of Freedom, and some only did so several years after their sentence expired. The Certificate allowed them to travel wherever they wished.
The letter below from the the Colonial Secretary to the Police Magistrate at Launceston details the cost to convicts for obtaining their Certificate of Freedom (source: Manuscript 3251).
Colonial Secretary's Office
10 December 1846
I have the honor to inform you that His Excellency has decided that the course formerly pursued in issuing Deeds of Pardon to convicts entitled them, shall in all future applications be reverted to viz that the personal description of the convict, and the fee of 3/6 for registering the Pardon shall be forwarded by the Police Magistrate of each District before any Deed of Pardon will be issued but instead of being transmitted, as formerly, to the office of the registrar of the Convict Department they must be sent to this office from which the pardons issue.
I have also to inform you that in cases where the holder of a Deed of Pardon applies for a pardon with extended conditions, a fee of 2/6 is to be demanded, and also forwarded to this office with the Deed in questions.—
I have the honor to be
Your obedient servant
10 Dec 1846
5/6 to be forwarded ... applications of C.P. & 2/6 for extended documents
Free by Servitude
Convicts who had served their sentence were ‘free by servitude’. This did not apply to male and female convicts who were sentenced to life.
A Free Pardon was granted to a convict being officially forgiven, usually in response to an act of bravery. This could be granted locally through the Lieutenant Governor. Male Convicts were granted Free Pardons for capturing bushrangers or murderers on the run. It was harder for a female convict to achieve a free pardon, but that's exactly what Isabella Renshaw accomplished in 1836:
An Absolute Pardon meant that a convict's sentence was completely remitted. They were free with no conditions and could move beyond the limits of the colony or even return to Britain. All their civil rights were restored.
Only two female convicts applied for an Absolute Pardon. To obtain an Absolute Pardon an application was made at the office of the Comptroller-General, Hobart Town, or at that of a Police Magistrate in the interior. A recommendation was then made to Her Majesty the Queen to grant the Absolute Pardons.
In the case of Susan Jones of the Mellish the Absolute Pardon was refused by the Queen and a Conditional Pardon was issued instead.
THE HOBART TOWN GAZETTE.
GOVERNMENT NOTICE. No. 98.
Colonial Secretary's Office, 12th June, 1846.
The Queen has been pleased to grant a Pardon to Susan Jones, per " Mellish," upon condition that she does not return to, or be found within, Great Britain or the Continent of Europe.
By His Excellency's Command,
J. E. BICHENO.
Elizabeth McDonald per Lady of the Lake applied for an Absolute Pardon, but was recommended to the Queen for a Free Pardon, which she received with provision she did not return to Great Britain or Ireland.
General Musters would still require all free men to attend. Not turning up for a muster would mean indulgences were revoked: 'As sufficient notice is given, those Persons who do not make their appearance will Forfeit all Indulgences they hitherto have had from the Crown'. The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, Saturday 9 November 1816
Tickets of Leave could be revoked (or not granted) as punishment for any breaches of the convict laws, including absconding, being absent from muster or, for women, being pregnant.
The following article appeared in the Launceston Examiner on Saturday 19 March 1842 (p.8).
PRINCIPAL SUPERINTENDENT'S DEPARTMENT. March 10th, 1842. The Ticket-of-Leave granted to Catherine Fawles, per Hector, has been cancelled by order of the Lieutenant-Governor; His Excellency considering her unworthy of the indulgence, in consequence of her having been sent to the Female House of Correction in a state of illegitimate pregnancy.
The promises of Ticket-of-Leave given to the under-mentioned convicts have been cancelled by order of the Lieutenant-Governor; His Excellency considering them unworthy of the indulgence in consequence of their having been sent to the Female House of Correction in a state of illegitimate pregnancy:—Anne Armstrong, Newgrove. Jane Skinner, ditto. Jane Owen, ditto.