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fail to combine against an accused person belonging to the class of free colonists: in the same manner, juries chosen from among free colonists, will always think they show the purity of their own class in condemniny an old convict against whom a second accusation should be directed.”
• In fine, among the English colonies, Australia is the only one deprived of that precious civil liberty which has constituted the glory of England, and the strength of her children in all parts of the world. How could the functions of a jury be confided to men who have just been condemned in an English court ? And can the direction of public affairs be entrusted without danger to a population harassed by its vices, and divided by a mutual hatred ?
We must allow, that transportation may succeed in rapidly peopling a desert country; it may form free colonies, but not solid and peaceful communities. The vices which we thus remove from Europe are not destroyed; they are only transported to another soil ; and England only expels a part of her refuse, to bequeath them to her children of her Austral dominions.'
Dr. Lang, however, notwithstanding the stress he lays upon its being primarily a penal settlement, and upon the importance of keeping that object in view in the distribution of the population, zealously labours to prove that the Colony is quite ripe for a House of Assembly, and ascribes the opposite opinion to an entire misapprehension of the state of the Colony. It is true, that, according to his estimate, out of a population of 65,000 souls, 20,000 are convicts; and of the remaining 45,000, a large proportion are what are technically termed Emancipists, i. e. convicts whose sentences have expired, or who have obtained free pardons in consideration of their good conduct. But, “in reply to the objection arising out of this peculiarity in the construction of the Australian Colonies,' the Author observes :
• As the free population of New South Wales is considerably more numerous than that of the West India Islands, in which Houses of Assembly have been long established, I cannot conceive why the circumstance of having white slaves (for convicts are nothing else during the period of their sentence) should subject the Australian colonies to a different system of government from that of other colonies in which the slaves are black.' Lang, Vol. I. p. 326.
This will not, we think, be deemed a very strong reason for establishing a Botany Bay legislature. The West India colonies were not founded as penal settlements. Indeed, Dr. Lang is aware of the extravagance and absurdity of the position taken by some of the Sydney orators, who complain that the right of a popular representation has for forty-five years been withheld from the colonists. Thus, he says:
It is tacitly implied by Mr. Wentworth, that the British Government ought to have instituted a House of Assembly in New South
Wales on the first establishment of the colony, and that, as soon as a few dozens of convicts had become free by servitude, they ought to have been permitted to meet together and elect certain of their own number as members of a colonial Parliament, to govern the colony, and to regulate the expenditure of British money within its own territory. In short, Mr. W. lays himself completely open to the sarcasm
of the poet,
“ A precious tale the sage
Australian weavesA House of Commons for a Den of Thieves !" In opposition to such egregious absurdity, which cannot fail to injure the cause which it professes to advocate, I would unhesitatingly state it as my opinion, that if there had been no other persons in addition to the officers of government, but convicts and emancipated convicts in New South Wales, from the first establishment of the colony, the British Government would have been justified in withholding a House of Assembly from New South Wales for a century to come.
For all that the convict could in such a case have demanded from the Government, on the expiration of his sentence, was permission to leave the jail, or to return to England as a freeman; and that permission has never been refused him.
· The legitimate grounds, however, on which the colonists of New South Wales can petition for a House of Assembly are: First, That in addition to a penal settlement for the punishment, coercion, and reformation of convicts, New South Wales has all along been held forth by the Government as a British colony, in which British subjects might settle and exercise their various trades or professions under the protection of British laws, as in other British colonies. Such a state of things necessarily implies, that, as soon as the said British subjects settled in the said colony should be in sufficient number to manage the raising and disbursement of public money, and of sufficient ability to bear the
expenses of their government, they should be allowed that form of government which is established by the mother country in the other foreign possessions of the empire.
Second, That there is a numerous native population in New South Wales, to whom the Imperial Legislature owes the same act of justice in the matter in question, as to free emigrant British subjects settled in the colony.
• Nay, when not a single emancipist in New South Wales could have had a shadow of right to demand free institutions for the country, if it had been mere convict colony or jail, the circumstance of its being regarded and held forth by the British Government as a free colony, has altered the political standing even of that class of the community, in so far that they also have a right, in common with the other free inhabitants of the colony, to the same privileges to which their satisfaction of the law would have entitled them in other British colonies.
• In short, the claim of the colony to a House of Assembly is fair and equitable; but Mr. Wentworth's method of stating that claim lands its abettors in a reductio ad absurdum.'
Vol. I. pp. 336, 337, note. VOL. XII.-N.S.
It will be perceived, that the Author is decidedly in favour of rendering the emancipists eligible as members of the colonial parliaments. Whether this would have been advisable, had
the colony been under proper management from its first esta‘blishment, and had a system of free emigration, such as Governor . Phillip recommended, been encouraged and promoted all along, he deems it unnecessary to inquire.
Our business is with the colony as it is, not as it ought to have been; and surely the egregious mistake of yester, in not organizing the colony judiciously at first, is not to be remedied by an injury to be inflicted to-day, in affixing the stigma of political degradation to those who, in consequence of that very mistake, have acquired a degree of consideration and weight in the community which they would never otherwise have attained. In short, I conceive that the exclusion of emancipists from a colonial House of Assembly, in the present condition of the colony, would be a most ungracious, a most unjust, and a most impolitic act. What right have we to demand more than the law has done? What right have we to affix a brand to men who have lived reputably perhaps for twenty or thirty years, and reared families, and accumulated wealth, and acquired consideration in the society to which they belong? If one great end of the establishment of the colony was the reformation of its convict population, is this end likely to be attained by telling the whole class, that, however reputably they may live in the colony, after satisfying the demands of the law, and whatever service they may render the community, the circumstance of their convict origin will never be forgotten, or, in other words, they shall never be restored to the rights and privileges of freemen? In short, if emancipists can sit as Bank Directors, Directors of Insurance Companies, and of Bible, Missionary, and Benevolent Societies, I see no reason why they should not be eligible as members of a Colonial House of Assembly
• If there were a House of Assembly, to consist of fifty members, in New South Wales, I question whether there would be more than one or two_ I am persuaded, however, there would not be more than three or four-emancipists in the number. For the question is not whether certain individuals of that class would not be fitter for the office than certain free emigrants or natives of the colony, but whether the whole class shall be subjected to a species of political degradation. Leave the matter open, and in nine cases out of ten, emancipist electors would choose free emigrants, or natives of the colony, rather than persons of the same colonial origin with themselves. In short, the case is precisely similar to the one that so long constituted a bone of contention between the aristocracy and the commons of Rome, on the subject of marriage. Not a single respectable plebeian family in Rome cared for the privilege of intermarrying with patricians, as the event fully demonstrated; but so long as there was a law on the Roman statutebook, prohibiting such marriages, the plebeians naturally considered themselves subjected to political degradation, and had consequently an undoubted right to demand the repeal of the obnoxious statute.'
Vol, I. pp. 324-326
That the exclusion of this class would be impolitic and fraught with danger, we can easily suppose ; and, according to Dr. Lang's account, they are, as a class, by no means the least respectable portion of the coloured population. But what can shew more convincingly the incompatibility of the two systems of colonization, the penal and that of free emigration, and the folly of persisting in the egregious mistake? The vices of the penal system are frankly exposed by the Author; and we only wonder that, with such results before his eyes, he can come to any
other conclusion than that the abandonment of such a system is imperatively demanded by the interests of the rising colonies; —that, whatever may have been the wisdom or folly of the original experiment, the present circumstances of the Australian settlements render it alike unjust and impolitic to make them the drain of our gaols, by a mode of punishment which operates, in many cases, as a bounty upon crime. How far the reformation of the convict population has been kept in view, which, we are told, was one great end of the establishment of the colony, the following extracts will serve to shew.
• It has hitherto been the practice of the Government of New South Wales, to pursue the same uniform system of treatment in the case of all convicts arriving in the colony from the mother country, without regard to the various degrees of their previous criminality. The forger, the betrayer of trust, the highwayman, the thief, the pickpocket, the burglar, are all treated in precisely the same way as the Whiteboy from the bogs of Ireland, who has probably been sentenced to transportation under the provisions of the Irish insurrection-acts, In short, there has never been any attempt in the colony to classify the convicts according to the various degrees of their transmarine criminality.
• This has surely been a great error in the penal system of the colony, and its evil tendency has been apparent in three different ways. In the first place, it has tended to reduce to the same level in iniquity those whom the law had improperly visited with the same punishment, without regard to their respective demerits. In the second place, it has tended to blunt the moral sense of the prison-population of the colony, in regard to their power of discriminating between the lighter and the darker shades of criminality. And finally, by placing before the free portion of the community cases of individuals whose punishment had apparently exceeded their crimes, it has given rise to a sort of morbid sympathy on the part of no inconsiderable portion of the colonial community,—a feeling which regards the state of a convict as the result of misfortune rather than of misconduct.
· The colonial government, however, has not been so much to blame in this matter as the reader may perhaps imagine: for, if the criminal courts of the mother country have sentenced one individual to fourteen years' transportation, for a crime of much inferior enormity to that of another who has been sentenced only to transportation for seven years, it is not for the colonial government to attempt to remedy the acknowledged defects of the penal system of Great Britain, by ordering a new apportionment of punishment in New South Wales. The root of the evil is to be sought for in the penal code of the empire, the defects of which are great and obvious, and ought forthwith to be remedied. Besides, it very frequently happened in the earlier years of the colony, that no record of the convict's guilt was transmitted along with him to the land of his banishment. The convicts were landed from the transport-ship, like a herd of cattle, on the shores of Port Jackson, one for seven years, another for fourteen, and a third for life; but the why and the wherefore they were so landed on these distant shores could be learned only by inspecting the records of the Old Bailey at the other extremity of the globe, or by searching the ponderous registers of Newgate and Kilmainham.'
• The condition of a convict in New South Wales depends greatly on the character of his master. It is in the power of the latter to render his yoke easy and his burden light; it is equally in his power, however, to make him superlatively miserable. In general, the lot of a convict in the colony is by no means a hard one. For the most part, he is better clothed, better fed, and better lodged, than three-fourths of the labouring agricultural population of Great Britain and Ireland ; while, at the same time, his labour is beyond all comparison much less oppressive. In a great many instances, indeed, the object of the convict evidently is to get as much, in the shape of allowances, and to do as little, in the shape of hard labour, as possible.
The grand secret in the management of convict-servants is to treat them with kindness, and at the same time with firmness; to speak to them always in a conciliating manner, and at the same time to keep them constantly employed: and it is nothing less than absolute blindness to his own interest, and a want of common sense amounting to downright infatuation, that can lead any master to treat them otherwise. It must be acknowledged, however, that such infatuation has prevailed in New South Wales to a lamentable extent; and has greatly retarded the advancement of the colony on the one hand, and occasioned much misery on the other.
• A free emigrant settler, who has perhaps been riding about the country for a fortnight-neglecting his own affairs and troubling his neighbours-returns to his farm, and finds that his convict-servants have been very idle during his absence. He talks to them on the subject, and his choler rises as he talks ; and he curses and swears at them as if he had taken his degree at Billingsgate, instead of being a free landed proprietor in His Majesty's colony of New South Wales. One of the convicts—a man who has perhaps seen better days-replies in no measured terms; and the master immediately exclaims, with the highest indignation, “You convict-scoundrel, do you speak to me at this rate?” and, taking the overseer to witness that the man has spoken insolently to his
master, he forthwith hies both overseer and man to the nearest magistrate, who perhaps resides ten miles off, and gallops after them himself an hour or two afterwards. On arriving at the magistrate's, the settler, who is a remarkably good Protestant, kisses the book, and swears that the man spoke to him insolently. The overscer, who is a staunch Roman Catholic, confirms his master's