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cult to realise the idea, yet it is a historical reality, that around the wealthy seaports of Britain many a household was subject to the same terrors and domestic privations, which in later days drew the sympathy of all good men to the dusky dwellers in the huts of Senegambia and Congo. De Foe's amusing Life of Colonel Jack is the story of a boy kidnapped in Newcastle and sold in Virginia; and the incident was not more unnatural in its day than Marryat's anecdotes of press-gangs during the great
When this American outlet was stopped by the Revolution, there arose a cry, far louder than any that has lately been uttered, to rid the British empire of her increasing and terrible band of felons. They ought, it was said, to be cast at once into the desert; either they must go, or honest men must go there was no room within these two islands for both. The cry of that age was far more reasonable than the cry of 1856. The science of punishment had hardly got beyond the principle of getting rid of criminals by the shortest means if these were merciful, it was well, but the shortest should be taken. Frequent executions were not so much the fruits of hardened cruelty, or of the doctrine that society must take vengeance upon criminals, as of the feeling of relief of clean effectual quittal-created by the extinction of an evil life. Imprisonment, such as it was in Britain, was a homage to the doctrine that a community must bear the burden of its criminals, such as other nations did not pay. In France, and over the European continent generally, to have been in prison was almost a patent of nobility. Custody within strong walls was too costly a punishment for criminals of the common order. The prisons were state fortresses, dedicated to the custody of persons important enough to affect the interests of the state; for the humbler people, ignominious death, mutilation, stripes, the pillory, and gang-slavery were the appropriate punishments. And when, in the reign of George III., the ever-thoughtful British people found that their jails were becoming fuller and fuller, it naturally occurred to them, as they
thought of a prisoner's condition and fate, to question whether, after all, this elaborate machinery for safe custody was more humane than the speedy and remorseless remedies of their more selfish and less considerate contemporaries. The old jail, such as Howard found it to be in all parts of the empire, has been sketched by Lord Cockburn in a few words with a rare felicity, due to his having lived through the transition stage of prison discipline, and feeling the force of the contrast between the old and the new. Of the "Heart of MidLothian" he says: "A most atrocious jail it was, the very breath of which almost struck down any stranger who entered its dismal door, and as illplaced as possible, without an inch of ground beyond its black and horrid walls. And these walls were very small, the entire hole being filled with little dark cells; heavy manacles the only security; airless, waterless, drainless, a living grave. One week of that dirty, fetid, cruel torture-house was a severer punishment than a year of our worst modern prisons, more dreadful in its sufferings, more certain in its corruption, overwhelming the innocent with a more tremendous sense of despair, provoking the guilty to more audacious defiance."-Memorials, p. 242.
With no other alternative but the cramming of such receptacles, it seemed not only a blessed riddance to the country, but a merciful dispensation to the wretched victims themselves, to shovel them forth into the most distant solitude known on the face of the globe, and leave them there. The cry was responded to in the spirit in which it was raised; and with so thorough an absence of all forethought and arrangement was the first cargo of convicts freighted off to Australia, that the fine inlet on which stands the capital of New South Wales was literally discovered by the expedition wandering along the vast coast of the island-continent in search of the most eligible of the landing-places which fortune might place at their disposal. At home there was an immediate feeling of relief. Half the circumference of the globe was placed between society and its greatest pests. There was
much natural chuckling on the wisdom of a scheme which gave little chance of even the expiree returning, since only by a long and costly voyage could he enjoy his liberty at home. As to the real fate of the outcasts, people were not too curious in their inquiries. Whatever it was, the public were inclined to find a general verdict of "served them right." Of the miseries to which they were exposed we can only form a general notion by the rapidity with which death removed them from suffering. A not unnatural incident to an expedition sent to land "anywhere," was a failure in the arrangements to supply it with food. Famine followed; and before a system of supply was fully organised, a second cargo of convicts was thrown on shore. That death had been busy with these-164 had died in one vessel seems to have been received as a merciful dispensation, since it brought the number to be fed in the new colony within the compass of its resources.* There is a tragic significance in these words of Governor Collins-"Had not such numbers died, both in the passage and since the landing of those who survived the voyage, we should not at this moment have had anything to receive from the public stores: thus strangely did we derive a benefit from the miseries of our fellow - creatures."
Those who looked into the transportation system beyond the mere riddance promised by it, anticipated that a severance from old habits and old companions might prompt the criminal to start on a new and better career. To give him the means of re-entering a new social system, it was thought good that free emigrants should be encouraged to settle in the penal colony. The arrangement seemed to work well. The scanty population scattered over a large space, and many other circumstances, created conditions unfavourable to the development of crime. The expert London thief, placed in a gum-slab hut little larger than his coffin, on a wide-squatting allotment, feeding on tea and damper, ten miles
from his nearest neighbour, would have little opportunity for the practice of the accomplishments in which he excelled. Among the more violent criminals the unsubdued passions would occasionally arise, and a murder or a burning-down would diversify the monotony of colonial life. But on the whole, during their infancy and youth, the penal settlements rubbed on in a tolerably satisfactory manner. It was when wealth and population increased, and the new social system, into which the convicts were to be diffused, came into existence, that the criminal element was found too strong for the virtuous. No general terms can convey an adequate expression of the result. In the island, which used to be called by the appropriately-sounding name of Van Diemen's Land, there was, perhaps, more human wickedness concentrated together, than the world in its long history had ever before experienced. The energy of the Anglo-Saxon race and the skill of a high civilisation were yoked to the service of the most brutal propensities of the savage. There were scenes which_civilisation buries beneath deadened memories, as the Dead Sea and the Salt Desert cover the cities of the plain; and the ingenious philosopher who speculatively discovered man's first step out of cannibalism, had he been there, might have practically studied the conditions under which civilisation can drive him back to this primitive resource of the barbarian conqueror; and yet might have found that human ingenuity had developed practical horrors beyond this creation of his imagination. The penal colonies were not left to this terrible fate without an effort for their redemption. Philanthropy attempted its mitigation. The social amenities which grow in the school of virtue were brought artificially into the mart of vice. They made it worse: for, lacking one-half of the natural conditions of social wellbeing and purity, partial freedom aggravated the depraved tendencies, and proved that beings so degraded by mismanagement could be dealt with
*COLLINS' New South Wales, i. 123.
solely by the even hand of discipline. The easy recklessness with which the convict had been cast to the opposite end of the earth had now thoroughly reacted on the community which exulted over the riddance. A social condition of such a character that it cannot, without an outrage on decorum, be described except vaguely, was that into which parents had to send their sons and daughters, if they wished them to participate in the fortunes of the most successful of colonies. While the ear still rings with the cry to send the convicts back again, we are apt to forget how loud was the demand that Government should abandon the pandemonium at the antipodes. And the punishment, attended by so many horrors abroad, was it really a terror to evil-doers at home of the hardships which ended many a life, they heard little. At all times abject misery has difficulty in sounding its complaints to a distance. Success, however, has the means of trumpeting its renown, and the echoes of prosperity among transported convicts drowned the faint murmurs of disaster. The criminal class, true to their order, nourish every incident or argument tending to prove that, after all that is pattered about righteousness and integrity, it may turn out that they are in the right and the moralisers in the wrong. To show what ground the newly-arrived convict might have for sending exulting news home to his companions, let us for a moment realise the examples which, it has been shown on abundant evidence, he was likely to see on his arrival at Sydney.
Past him rolls an open carriage magnificently equipped, occupied by a well-dressed man, whose full form and lustrous face betoken high living, and his careless lounge indolence and wealth. Opposite to him sits a woman in silk and fur, weighted with jewellery. You will call her appearance brazen-faced, or haughty, according to the extent to which it deceives you about her real character. Faint reminiscences begin to dawn on the awed and admiring convict. Is it possible! Can that be his old "pall," the Downy Diddler-and that stunning lady, is she Bess the Smasher?
He is quite right. The Diddler, after a long and brilliant career, got "lagged" at last. With the happy versatility of his order he immediately assimilated himself to the enforced conditions of his new mode of life. In the convict-prison at home, in the transport-ship, ever obedient to rule, civil, obliging, and handy, he entitled himself to the good opinion of all the officers. He passed through the hands of several chaplains, some of whom referred to him in tracts and sermons as a brand snatched from the burning; while even the most suspicious of them could not but say that he had expressed himself as contrite, and had given a willing ear to spiritual instruction, which might, it was hoped, not be totally barren of good fruit. Thus he arrived with a flaming character, and was assigned to a good master-strict but kind. Under judicious discipline, he was kept so clear of his old practices, that he was not detected in any and when at last he obtained a ticket-ofleave, there was a sum at his disposal sufficient for the establishment of a grog-shop. Meantime his "blowen," the Smasher, left at home forlorn, pursued her vocation recklessly, until she too was "booked" and sent after him; and so these two loving hearts were united to commence that Elysian life of wealth and prosperity which rewards the constancy and fortitude of the hero and heroine in legitimate romance. They are not a shade more honest, this couple, than they were when they met at the flash shop to get up some job to allay hunger and recruit the ragged wardrobe. But of late they have been so rapidly mounting fortune's wheel, that they have had no opportunity to resume their old business.
The new-comer might have seen the same prosperity typified around him in many shapes. These busy warehouses by the wharf are the property of the eminent "fence" who trained half the thieves in Whitechapel. The owner of the suburban mansion, gleaming in plate-glass, with the portal heavily decorated with heraldic devices, is a bold blackleg, who, after hundreds of dishonest acts within the margin of the law, was so far deserted by his habitual prudence
as to attach another man's name to a bill instead of his own. There were still some slight drawbacks in the prosperous convict's lot. He could not, for instance, by any effort succeed in being presented at Government House; and a sympathising public of the devoted worshippers of wealth have thought it hard that there should be a privilege of this kind which wealth could not buy for a man because of his antecedents.
The knowledge that transportation might open the way to fortune, was often exemplified in courts of justice, by an episode soon, let us hope, likely to be a tradition of the past-the convict, on his sentence being awarded, loudly thanking the court for giving him the high punishment of transportation, instead of the lower nominal punishment of imprisonment. It is true that transportation had some terrors and disagreeables. Instances have been known of tears shed by the convict at the parting scene; but, as a witness before the last Committee on Transportation justly remarked, there are tears shed at the embarkation of emigrants, and yet people emigrate from choice. There is much open ground for speculation on the amount of terror which the chance of transportation may have communicated to criminals generally. But more instructive than all such speculations, is the significant fact. that there were very alarming symptoms of outbreak when it was imparted to the convicts in the large prisons that they were not to be transported for the periods to which they were sentenced, but to be detained in Britain for periods averaging half the time. The female convicts in Brixton proclaimed their disappointment by a frantic and uncontrollable outbreak. Some of them had the hardihood to maintain that they were grossly deceived and wronged, since they had pleaded guilty to false charges to obtain the benefit of transportation.
That transportation to Australia, with all its prominent evils, should have so long existed, and at last come to so sudden an end, is owing to a local peculiarity which at first modified the growth of the evil, and afterwards protracted its existence. This
was the squatting system. The squatters, though the term was humble enough in its origin, were the territorial aristocracy of Australia— and a very powerful aristocracy. They were capítalists; and in a land where a great proportion of the people were needy, and the law was feeble, their capital gave them a power restrained by few responsibilities. They grasped at stretches of territory; and when the Government insisted that the sovereignty of the British Crown should be asserted over the seizures, they maintained an obstinate contest, which ended in a compromise, by which they paid a small licence-duty for their runs. In the scanty pas tures of Australia, where several acres are required to feed one sheep, the owner of the flocks dispersed over wide stretches required a number of dependants of a humble and servile character. The clever artisan or the ambitious peasant loathed the monotony of the bush. Slaves would have been an extremely convenient commodity to these squatting lords, and they tried to obtain as much of it as the constitution permitted to our colonies. They endeavoured to make arrangements, by which "assisted emigrants"—those whose outfit and passage-money were wholly or partially paid from their land-fund-should be bound to serve on the lands to which they were exported; should be, in short, adscripti gleba, like feudal villains; but it was too late in the progress of free principles for such a project to be realised. They had therefore to content themselves with the best available alternative, and endure the idleness and mischievousness of assigned convicts. This field for the expansive dispersal of convicts was quite peculiar. Such another may possibly arise, but cannot be counted on. The squatting interest fought hard for the continuance of transportation. But the depression --partly caused by the losses from unusual droughts- which began to weigh on the Australian colonies about the year 1840, broke the supremacy of the squatters. Meanwhile other interests—as, for instance, the building, the mercantile, and the
copper-mining, had risen to power; and even before the discovery of the gold-fields, the influences opposed to the reception of convicts had triumphed. The diggings at last concentrated, in one wild hunt after gold, all the reckless and fierce spirits scattered along the border of Australia. There was no longer a voice to support a practice which, on the one hand, recruited this dangerous assemblage by pouring into it the criminality of Britain; and, on the other, professed to punish offenders by sending them to that golden harvest after which all restless spirits aspired. Transportation to the old Australian colonies was consequently doomed.
Until some other opening presents itself, we must draw largely on the resources of prison discipline at home in the disposal of convicts; and it is therefore a more important question than for nearly a century it has been, In what condition is the science of prison discipline ?what has it accomplished?-what can it do for us? The majestic theorist, who deals not with results unless they are sudden, brilliant, and overwhelming, says of course that prison discipline is a failure. Were it so, the position of Britain at this moment would be awkward; but is it so? Perhaps those who question the progress it has made, compare its results with those of other agents, without remembering the difference of the material to be wrought on. The clergyman, the schoolmaster, and the social reformer, have to deal with average mankind. The jailer's function is among a population selected by the criterion of their wickedness, and it is utterly losing sight of the practical and obtainable ends of prison discip line, to expect that any method shall be discovered which at once, as if by a chemical combination, shall convert criminality to goodness.
Every Christian must believe that there is one way in which a criminal may be thoroughly changed.
He may have undergone religious conversion, and have awakened to such a sense of the sinfulness of his career in the eye of God, that he shall sin no more. But it is not for man to read the record of such an intervention. Every possible opportunity
should be afforded to the prisoner for spiritual instruction; but the result cannot be recorded, for these are matters beyond the function of statistics; and it is at once obvious that to admit the criminal to plead religious reformation and change of heart as a ground for reinstatement in society, as if he were a good and honest man, would be the offer of a bribe for the grossest hypocrisy. It is feared that even the slight influence which a prison-chaplain's good opinion of a convict may have in his favour, is often a temptation to those masters of the art of duplicity to exercise their skill.
It is for temporal purposes alone that we can speak of the results of prison discipline. Its immediate object is to make both those who are under its infliction, and those who may some day be so, aware that abstinence from crime is the best policy. In the matter of reformation, there seems yet much to be learnt about the character of the motives which influence criminals. Benevolent gentlemen transcribe them from the motives that have influence on their own kind and honest hearts. Judging from the motives by which they are often expected to be influenced, one might suppose the criminal classes to be very eminent for their susceptibility to all kindly and gentle emotions-generous, frank, confiding, and grateful. But the truth is, that they are rather below the average of the world in general, in these amiable qualities. Their wills are weak enough, but their hearts are generally hard; as the hearts of many a mother, wife, or sister, broken against theirs during their obdurate career, can testify. There has been, indeed, in the career of many of them a moment when a word of gentle counsel, a little kindly assistance, perhaps a touch of well-directed attention, might have turned them into a different groove from that fatal one in which they have been hurried on. In many instances, too, where the end has been confirmed crime, there had doubtless been at one juncture a condition of the heart which it would bring immortality to a tragic poet to be able to see and draw; when in a moment of aggravated temptation