Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

ject of a free colony was formed by the Government of the day, whose main object evidently was, to get rid of an intolerable nuisance' and difficulty. It was not till six years after the arrival of the first convicts, that, at the recommendation of Governor Phillip, several families of free emigrants were conveyed to the colony at the public expense:-a strong presumption that this formed no part of the original plan. Dr. Lang tells us, indeed, that,

in direct opposition to an absurd idea which seems to have been taken up by one of his successors, viz. “ that the colony was intended exclusively for convicts, and that free people had no right to come to it,” Governor Phillip very speedily perceived the important advantages which the Colony was likely to derive from the settlement of virtuous and industrious families of free emigrants in its territory, and accordingly recommended to the Home Government to hold out every encouragement to such emigrants, and to afford them every assistance.'

Vol. I. p. 40. And he believes it was in consequence of these representations on the part of the Governor, that the first free emigrants were sent out, and that the free emigrant settlement of Portland-head, on the banks of the Hawkesbury, was formed in the year 1802. Now how opposed soever the notion taken up by his successors may have been to his own philanthropic view of converting a penal settlement into a free colony, the absurd idea ''that the settlement was intended for convicts only, would seem to have originally been entertained by the Home Government, until enlightened by Governor Phillip. Nay, Dr. Lang himself tells us, that it must have been the intention of the British Legislature, * that the colony of New South Wales should be conducted, in

the first instance, on those principles of coercion and moral discipline which are suitable for the government of a jail. And Governor Macquarie, the fifth governor, who presided over the colony during the twelve years from 1810 to 1821 inclusive, is vehemently censured for adopting a policy confessedly beneficial to the colony, but adapted to prevent the attainment of the chief end for which the settlement was originally established,

the reformation of its convict population. On the same ground, our Author deprecates the concentration of the population, as recommended by political economists of some note in the mother country; their principle being utterly inapplicable to the cir

cumstances of a penal settlement." (p. 137.) That this was the original character of the settlement, is unquestionable. Absurd as may now appear the scheme of appropriating a whole continent to a population of convicts, it must be recollected, that the greater part of New Holland was at that time terra incognita ; and it was perhaps imagined, that no one would voluntarily plant himself on its shores. The cost of establishing a Penitentiary


at the antipodes, was supposed to be compensated by the secure distance of a hemisphere interposed between the convicts and the mother country. The merit of the supposed ‘noble experiment • on the capabilities of man ’ does not, we fear, belong to the projectors of the penal settlement. The simple object was, to get rid of the convicts, whose numbers had excited considerable anxiety. Mr. Burke, in bringing the subject under the notice of Parliament in March 1785, stated the number of convicts under sentence of transportation to be not less than 10,000. He wished 'to know what was to be done with these unhappy wretches, and 'to what part of the world it was intended, by the minister, they

should be sent. He hoped it was not to Gambia, which, though represented as a wholesome place, was the capital seat of plague, pestilence, and famine. In Gambia, it might truly be said, that there all life dies, and all death lives.' * On the 11th of April following, the subject was again brought forward by Lord Beauchamp, who complained that no notice had been taken of an order that a report should be made to the House, relative to the manner in which Government intended to dispose of felons under sentence of transportation. That transportation, his Lordship remarked, “had generally been to places within the dominions of his Majesty ; but, if report spoke truth, Government had it in contemplation to send them to the coast of Africa, and to form ' a colony of them out of the British territories.' Mr. Burke referred in strong terms of indignation to the same report, but was told by Mr. Pitt, that he was assuming facts without authority: No explicit intimation of the intentions of Government was vouchsafed, however, at the time, although the project of the Botany Bay settlement was, probably, in contemplation. The gaols were stated to be crowded beyond measure; and the case had become urgent, when this costly experiment was at length resolved on. We may observe by the way, that Mr. Burke, on this occasion, adverting to transportation as a commutation of punishment, remarked, that, in this mode of punishing,

no distinction was made between trivial crimes and those of greater enormity: all indiscriminately suffered the same miserable fate, however unequal their transgression, or different their circumstances. The full force of this remark would be felt, if the pestilential shores of the African continent had been selected for the penal settlement.

That the penal settlement, the insular jail, the place of irrevocable exile amid the wastes of the Southern Pacific, would ever grow into a flourishing colony, would then have been deemed a romantic chimera. We acquit the Legislature of the absurd idea of thinking to graft a Colony upon a Penitentiary,-or of the still


* Burke's Speeches, Vol. III. p. 186.

grosser absurdity of seeking to promote emigration by identifying it with the penalty of crime. How could it be anticipated that any free men would voluntarily banish themselves to a region which was thought too distant to allow of the convict's return,or choose for their abode a settlement within the tainted atmosphere of a felon population, and governed on principles suitable for a jail? What could not be foreseen, however, has actually come to pass. But the absurdity of attempting to unite objects so incompatible, is chargeable only on succeeding governments, who persist in sacrificing the interests of the rising colony to a mode of punishment which has long ceased to be attended with terror, or conducive to the reformation of the offender. Either transportation or colonization ought to be abandoned.

That the objects of the penal settlement and the interests of the colony are irreconcileable, is admitted even by some of the advocates of Transportation as an instrument of punishment. Thus Archdeacon Broughton, who has put forth some strictures on Archbishop Whately’s First Letter on Secondary Punishments, makes the following remarkable concessions.

« « There is one consideration which appears to me not to have attracted due attention, although, by legislating without reference to it, we are exposed to all the inconsistencies which arise from acting without settled principles. It is most evident, that upon all propositions which may affect the condition of prisoners after their arrival in the colonies, the mother-country and the colonies have separate interests. The interest of the former is, that transportation should operate as a punishment, principally that it may act as a warning and a restraint. This is to render it · formidable,' not desirable, in the eyes of the nation at large. To effect this, it is evidently the policy of the mother-country not only to provide that the prisoners, while under sentence, should be under a course of punishment; but also, that after their sentence has expired, they should at least not find readier means of rising in credit, wealth, and station, than under any circumstances they could have aspired to, if they had remained at home. Every instance to this effect does prove that, whatever suffering transportation may cause, it affords to the individual an advantage which, but for transportation, he could not have enjoyed; and it thus far undoes the designed effect of that punishment, and operates accordingly against the interest of the country which is seeking thereby to deter from and diminish crime. On the other hand, when we look at the interest of the community to which offenders are transported, we find that, for its advancement, we ought to hold out to prisoners an encouragement exactly the reverse of that which the state from which they are banished would


To call forth the resources of a new country like this, it is plain that every man should be encouraged to exert his utmost skill and industry; which he will never do but in the hope of acquiring property. And if a prisoner is in a capacity to acquire property, he must from the force of circumstances be able, in proportion to his endowments of mind and body, to acquire it more easily than he could in England. In the recent act which incapacitates the holders of tickets-of-leave from acquiring or holding property, the legislature has acted very advisedly, no doubt, in furtherance of English objects; but the operation of that act will be to take away a great stimulus to industry and enterprise, and thereby to retard colonial improvement. So again, if we look exclusively to the interest of the colonies, it is plain that the prisoner whose sentence has expired, should be encouraged to apply his utmost energies to the acquisition of property, by the prospect of sharing those civil and political distinctions which, unless a prohibitory law intervene, it is the natural effect of property to confer. But on the other hand, if the road to honour as well as wealth be laid open to those who have been prisoners, it is evident that such exaltation will appear very enviable in the eyes of those honest people at home, who find that they cannot rise to the like; and thus again, what is good for the colony will be detrimental to the parent state. Their interests in this respect must ever remain opposed; and therefore it is incumbent on those who legislate for both countries, to decide at once which of these interests shall be preferred, and in all their measures to act upon the principle of making the other give way.'

"! Whately, pp. 17–20.

Strange to say, these remarks occur in a pamphlet written in vindication of the system! In what light that system appears to intelligent foreigners, we have an opportunity of ascertaining. In an appendix to his Second Letter, Archbishop Whately has given extracts from Remarks of the French Commissioners on the American system of Secondary Punishment, in which the effects of our system of transportation are thus estimated.

• We do not ourselves hesitate to say, the system of transportation appears to us as ill appropriated to the formation of a colony, as to the suppression of crimes at home. Without doubt it pours into the country they wish to colonize, a population who would not, perhaps, of themselves, have gone there ; but the state gains little from these precocious fruits, and it might have been desirable to leave things to follow their own course. And first, if the colony really increases with rapidity, it soon becomes difficult to maintain the penal establishment with little expense. The population of New South Wales, in 1819, consisted only of about 29,000 inhabitants, and the care of them was already become difficult; already the idea of erecting prisons to shut up the convicts has been suggested to the government, being precisely the European system, with its vices, at the distance of 5,000 leagues.

• The colonies of Australia will be the more ready to renounce their connexion with England, as there exists in the hearts of the inhabitants little good-will towards her. And this is one of the most fatal effects of the system of transportation applied to the colonies. In general, nothing is more tender than the feeling which binds the colonists to the soil which has given them birth. In spite of the ocean which divides them, early recollection, habit, interest, prejudice, all still unite them to the mother-country. Many European nations have derived, and continue to derive, both strength and glory from

these distant connexions. One year before the American revolution, the colony whose fathers had, a century and a half back, left the shores of Great Britain, still spoke of England as their home. But the name of the mother-country only recalls to the memory of the transported the remembrance of miseries sometimes unmerited. It is there that he has been unfortunate, persecuted, guilty, dishonoured. What ties unite him to a country, where, most generally, he has left no one who is interested in his fate? How can he wish to establish commercial or friendly connexions with home? Of all parts of the globe, that in which he was born seems to him the most odious. It is only the place in which his history is known, and where his shame has been divulged.

• We can scarcely doubt but that these hostile feelings of the colonist are perpetuated in future generations; and in the United States, we may still recognize the Irish, among this rival people of England, by their hatred to their former masters. The system of transportation is, then, fatal to mother-countries, as it enfeebles the natural ties which ought to unite them to their colonies; it also prepares for these infant nations a futurity of storm and misery.

The partisans of penal colonies do not fail to cite the example of the Romans, with whom the conquest of the world was preceded by a life of plunder. But the facts of which they speak are remote; others more conclusive have passed almost under our own observation; and we cannot think it necessary to refer to examples given at the distance of 3,000 years, when the present speaks so loudly.

• Some few sectaries landed, towards the beginning of the seven teenth century, on the coasts of North America; they there formed almost in secret a society founded on liberty and religion. This band of pious adventurers has since become a great people, and the nation created by them has remained the freest and most faithful in the world. In an island depending on the same continent, and almost at the same epoch, a band of pirates, the scum of Europe, came to seek an asylum. These depraved, but intelligent men also established there a society, which soon forsook the predatory habits of its founders. It became rich and enlightened, but remained the most corrupt people in the world, and its vices prepared the bloody catastrophe which terminated its existence. In fine, without seeking the examples of New England and St. Domingo, it would suffice us, in order to make our view of the subject better understood, to expose what passes in Australia itself.

• Society in Australia is divided into different classes, as distinct and inimical to each other as the different classes of the middle age. The criminal is exposed to the contempt of him who has obtained his liberty ; he, to the outrage of his own son, born free; and all, to the pride of the colonist whose origin is without blemish. They resemble four hostile nations meeting on the same soil. We may judge of the feelings which animate these different members of the same people, by the following extract from the Report of Mr. Bigges :--"As long as these sentiments of jealousy and enmity subsist,” says he, " the introduction of trial by jury into the colony must not be thought of. In the actual state of things, a jury composed of former criminals cannot

« AnteriorContinuar »