Marian Quartly published an article in 1978 on an episode involving a female convict, Penelope Bourke, who had declared in 1832 that ‘she only married to be free’. Quartly identifies a number of aspects relating to colonial marriage, the main one for this discussion being that consensual marriage was the most common form of cohabitation in the colony. It is a conclusion which she, herself, subsequently modified. The view of convict marriage expressed in Quartly’s article has become a touchstone. The article itself and the subsequent authority it has attained, raise important historical and historiographical questions, some of which are addressed here.