In the early days there was strong support here for transporting convicts from England.
The first settlers were induced by promises of free land, food and labour and if you accepted the enormous danger and hardships involved, the government gave you a chance of becoming rich.
Things changed in the 1830s with the government requiring payment - first for land, then convict labour. When they insisted settlers pay for the prisons as well, there was outrage and mass protest meetings in Launceston.
At first everyone wanted a return to the old system, but then turned against transportation entirely. The property and sexual crime was too much to bear when they were expected to support the criminals as well.
In the 1840s every adult was, in effect, paying for the upkeep of two convicts, and the government was using those convicts to undercut wages and prices.
It all came to a head in 1847 with huge rallies at the Cornwall Hotel. Even ardent supporters of the convict system switched sides when the government announced plans to move all the worst convicts in Australasia to Tasmania.
On November 2, 1847 a vast crowd, equal in numbers to the entire adult population of Launceston, marched from the Cornwall around the city to Government Cottage. They were led by William Weston, Adye Douglas and James Cox, and carried banners "No Norfolk Islanders!" and "No Sydney Convicts!"
In 1848 they formed the Anti-Transportation League. To be a member cost nothing, you only had to swear not to employ convicts arriving after January 1, 1849.
The League was a huge success and led to sister organisations in Hobart and Campbell Town.
Mass meetings continued through 1850. "The whole city was in motion" declared one newspaper.
William Weston and Reverend West were sent from Launceston to the mainland to gather support, accompanied by William Aikenhead, founder of the LauncestonExaminer.
Soon there were organisations across the country and in 1851 the Australasian Anti-Transportation League was formed, based in Tasmania.
The League became arguably the most successful political organisation ever seen in Australia and at the 1851 Tasmanian election, 14 out of 16 MPs elected were League members. In Launceston, every councillor was a member or supporter of the League.
After the last convict ship arrived on May 26, 1853, huge festivities were organised. "A vast concourse" came out to celebrate on August 10, 1853.