Leave First Reading
Sir, I rise, in pursuance of the notice I have given, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Act of 16 & 17 Vict. c. 99, entitled "An Act to substitute in certain cases other punishment in lieu of transportation." I am well aware of the deep interest felt in this subject throughout the country, and I therefore think it my duty to avail myself of the earliest opportunity of submitting to the House the views entertained by the Government respecting it, and of stating the course they think it expedient to adopt. In considering this question, as I have done very carefully, during the recess, I have derived great and valuable assistance from the reports of the two Committees of last Session, which contained a vast amount of evidence and information carefully collected from all sources. One of those Committees was appointed by this House to inquire into the operation of the Act of 1853, and was presided over by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Baines). The other was a Committee of the House of Lords, and was appointed for the same purpose. The two Committees followed different lines of inquiry, and, in so doing, they acted, as I think, very properly and usefully. They examined a great number of witnesses whose opinions are entitled to great consideration, and after having collected a vast mass of valuable and important evidence, they made recommendations to the respective Houses of Parliament, which the Government felt were entitled to very great weight. Before, however, I consider the resolutions and recommendations of either of these Committees, I think it desirable that I should shortly recall to the recollection of the House the nature of the provisions of the Act which I propose to amend. The circumstances under which the Act was passed are too fresh in the recollection of hon. Members to render it necessary for me to dwell on them at any length. It will be recollected that transportation as a secondary punishment was long in use in this country. After being resorted to for a great many years as the highest secondary punishment, it had become almost impossible to carry it into effect, owing to the closing of those avenues of transportation which had been open to this country in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, in consequence of the feeling which had sprung up on the subject in those colonies, though in the earlier stages of their existence, transportation had been carried on with advantage to both of them. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the great and growing prosperity of those large colonial communities was in a great measure owing to the introduction of convicts into them in their earlier stages of existence. Those convicts supplied an amount of labour which, with the capital introduced into the colonies, laid the foundations of a greatness which it would otherwise have been found impossible to have attained; but, as in course of time the colonies received a very large number of free settlers—as the stream of emigrants flowed in from this country—as wealth and capital increased, and as free labour found its way into and was capable of supplying this new and profitable market, and of rendering capital available in the cultivation of the land, it became, first of all, a subject of doubt and dispute in the colonies themselves whether it was desirable that transportation to them should be continued; and ultimately there grew up a very general, strong, and decided feeling, first in New South Wales and afterwards in Van Diemen's Land, that it was inexpedient that convicts should be transported any longer to either of those colonies. And the Government forming a just if not a necessary decision, under these circumstances determined that transportation should be altogether discontinued, first of all in New South Wales and afterwards in Van Diemen's Land. Such was the state of things when, in 1853, my noble Friend, now at the head of the Government, who was the Secretary of State for the Home Department, submitted to Parliament the Bill adapted to meet the exigencies of the time, which received the assent of Parliament, is the Act which I now propose to ask permission of the House to amend. The provisions of the Act are shortly these:—After reciting that, by reason of the difficulty of transporting offenders beyond the seas, it had become expedient to substitute some other punishment in lieu of transportation; it abolished sentences of transportation for less than fourteen years, and substituted in its stead certain terms of penal servitude. While it retained in the Statute-book the sentence of transportation for fourteen years and upwards, it did not require that the Judges should pass that sentence in all cases in which it would have been passed before that Act bad become law; but it gave the Judges a discretion in those cases to substitute for transportation a certain term of penal servitude. The Act provided that instead of seven years of transportation there should be substituted four years of penal servitude; instead of more than seven years and not more than ten years' transportation, there should be substituted from four to six years of penal servitude; instead of more than ten years and not more than fifteen years of transportation, there should be substituted from six to eight years' penal servitude; instead of transportation for terms exceeding fifteen years, there should be substituted from six to ten years of penal servitude; and it was only in case of transportation for life that Parliament provided a co-extensive term of penal servitude—that is to say, for life also. The Act further contained an important provision, which was not to be found in it, I believe, when it was first submitted to Parliament, but which was engrafted on it during its passage through the House of Lords—I mean the provision embodying what is popularly termed the ticket-of-leave system. By that provision it was enacted that it should be lawful to grant to any convict under sentence of transportation of penal servitude a licence to be at large within the United Kingdom, or the Channel Islands, during any period of his sentence. I have now stated the main provisions of the Act of 1853. There are other parts of that Act which deal with matters comparatively unimportant, and to which it is not therefore necessary that I should refer. Before I proceed, however, I should like for one moment to state the principle on which, as I understand the case, shorter terms of penal servitude were substituted by the Act of 1853 for the longer periods of transportation to which offenders had previously been liable. Under the system of transportation as it had been carried on for several years, prisoners sentenced to transportation were in the first instance confined in separate imprisonment for a period varying from nine months to twelve months; they were then removed to some public works in this country or in Bermuda, or in Gibraltar; and after having undergone a term of associated labour on those public works they were removed, if there were no special reason against that step, to a settlement in a penal colony, either with a ticket of leave immediately on their arrival, or with a prospect of receiving it very shortly afterwards, the time being partly determined by the period to which their sentence extended. When it became imposible to continue the practice of transporting convicts after they had been subjected to from nine months to twelve months' imprisonment in this country, and after they had undergone a certain amount of associated labour on public works, it was considered that it would be unjust to condemn them to undergo in strict confinement in this country the full term of the original sentence of transportation. Such a punishment would be much more severe, inasmuch as during the latter years of the sentence of transportation they obtained a ticket of leave, and subsequently a conditional pardon, merely binding them not to return to this country. The terms of penal servitude, therefore, fixed by the Act as substitutes for transportation, represented about that portion of the former sentence, which under the previous system had been undergone in actual confinement of the same character as penal servitude. Having shortly stated the provisions of the Act of 1853, and the circumstances under which it was passed, I will now proceed to describe what I conceive to be the effect of that Act, and in doing so I have this advantage over the Committee of the House of Commons which last sat on this subject, that I have the experience of some eight or nine months more than they had. The immediate effect of the Act was that which was intended by Parliament—namely, a very considerable reduction in the number of sentences of transportation. That was the special object for which the Act was passed. Whether or not, the effect was not greater than was at the time anticipated or intended, is a question I do not pretend to decide. Taking the three years before the passing of the Act—the years 1850–51–52—I find that the average annual number of sentences of transportation in England during those years was 2,649. I exclude from the calculation the year 1853, which was a mixed year, it having been the year in which the Act was passed. But taking the three years 1854–55–56, since the passing of the Act, I find that the average annual number of sentences of transportation in England during each of those years was 298; while the average number of convicts annually sentenced to penal servitude during those years was 2,102, making in England a total annual average of 2,400 persons sentenced to transportation and to penal servitude since the passing of the Act. The average annual number of persons who had undergone the two sentences during those years was therefore less by 249 than the number of those who had been sentenced to transportation during the three years preceding the year 1853. But it appears from the criminal tables that the number of sentences for the higher class of imprisonments has increased of late years, and it is therefore probable that the courts of law in the exercise of their discretion have resorted more frequently during those years than they had previously done to imprisonment as a substitute for the severest form of secondary punishment. With regard to Scotland and Ireland there are no complete returns for all the years I have mentioned, and I will therefore take the year 1852, the last year before the Act of 1853, and compare it with the year 1855. In Scotland, in 1852, the sentences of transportation were 361, and in the year 1855 they were only 53. The sentences of penal servitude in that year were 174, making, with the sentences of transportation, a total of 227, showing a diminution of 134 sentences as compared with 1852. With regard to Ireland, I think I ought to exclude that country from the present calculation, the results there being of so remarkable and exceptional a character. I willingly, however, state the figures in the case of Ireland, because they show a rapid and extraordinary diminution of crime in that portion of the United Kingdom. In the year 1850 the number of sentences of transportation in Ireland was 1,849, in 1851 it had increased to 1,978, and in 1852, the year before the Act of 1853 passed, it had decreased to 1,411; but in the year 1855, which is the last for which I have got a full return, the number was only 33; in the previous year it was 39, and I should not be surprised if the return for 1856 showed a further diminution as compared with that of 1855. We might expect that a very large number of prisoners must have been sentenced to penal servitude in lieu of transportation, so as to make the number approximate to the 1,411 sentences of transportation in the year before the Act passed; but I find that in the year 1855 there were only 485 prisoners sentenced to penal servitude, making, with the 33 sentenced to transportation, a total of only 518, which shows a difference of nearly 900 sentences of this class when compared with the year 1852. This is so remarkable a difference that I think it is owing to causes independent of the Act of 1853, and I do not rely upon it as evidencing the effect of that Act. The main feature then produced by the Act of 1853 is the decrease in the number of sentences of transportation. But in England and Scotland there has been, corresponding with the decrease in the number of sentences of transportation, a very large number, as might have been expected, sentenced to penal servitude. The average annual number of sentences of penal servitude in England and Scotland since the Act of 1853 was passed is 2,300, and of those nearly three-fourths were for four years' penal servitude in lieu of seven years' transportation. But it must be borne in mind that simultaneously with this reduction in the number of sentences of transportation there has been an increase in the average character of the crime for which these sentences were passed. The number of prisoners sentenced to transportation during last year in England was 263, and in Scotland 53. All of these were sentenced for fourteen years at the least, and some of them were for life. These sentences were passed for very grave offences, on prisoners who had been repeatedly convicted. I will now, Sir, go back to the year 1853 and advert to the large number of convicts sentenced to transportation who were then in this country, undergoing the first portion of their punishment, and with regard to the greater part of whom it had become impossible to carry the sentence which had been passed upon them into effect. The number of convicts under sentences of transportation in England and Scotland when the Act of 1853 was passed was 9,850. Regulations were made at the time of the passing of the Act with regard to the disposal of these prisoners. They had had expectations held out to them, first of all, when they were placed in separate confinement, and afterwards when sent to Portland or Portsmouth, or any of the other places in which convicts are employed on public works, that if they conducted themselves well, according to certain tests of good conduct laid down by the authorities, and which are alone available in a prison, they would, after a certain time, be sent to some penal colony with tickets of leave, or, with the expectation of receiving a qualified discharge within a short period after their arrival in the colony. Those expectations, however, in consequence of the causes I have referred to, could no longer be fulfilled, and it therefore became necessary to consider what should be done with them. It would have been clearly unjust to have made them undergo the whole period of the sentence which had been passed upon them with an entirely different intention, and contrary to the announcement which had been made to them. It was assumed, therefore, that the only course which could be adopted with respect to the majority of such convicts as had undergone a certain period of strict confinement and imprisonment was to give them their freedom in this country; and it was to meet their case that the provision had been inserted in the Act by which, instead of giving to these persons an unqualified discharge, as was the case under the previous system in regard to prisoners who could not be transported, and as was the case some years ago as to all prisoners sentenced to seven years' transportation, who were generally discharged after undergoing one-half of their sentence, a licence was to be given to the prisoner to be at large during good conduct, which licence was liable to be revoked at any time during the continuance of the term for which he was originally sentenced, provided he relapsed into criminal courses. The minimum term fixed by these regulations for the discharge with tickets of leave of men sentenced to seven years' transportation was three years, and of those sentenced to ten years was four years. I say the minimum term because it was distinctly understood that if a prisoner did not conduct himself well, whether in separate confinement or at the public works, he should have no claim to a discharge at the end of the three or the four years, but might be detained for a longer period. It is a remarkable fact, however, and one which shows how very imperfect is the test of good conduct as a condition of the release of the convict, that the vast majority of the prisoners discharged with tickets of leave under those regulations—and I believe the regulations have been honestly acted on by the prison authorities—have been discharged at the minimum term. But the test of good conduct in prison is necessarily imperfect. The mere fact of a man's good conduct when he is removed from the ordinary temptations of life, placed in an unnatural position, and required to conform to prison rules, to be industrious in the occupation assigned to him, and to be respectful to his superiors, affords no proof of actual improvement of character or of moral reformation; for it may be that, as soon as he is released from the restraints placed upon him while in prison, and returns to the scenes of his former temptations, he will associate with his former companions, and soon make it evident that he has undergone no change of character, and that he is still unrestrained by any moral principle from returning to a career of crime. I do not mean to say that the prison discipline never produces any good effect. I believe it is possible, I hope it is probable, and even that it often actually happens, that the habits of regularity, cleanliness, and decorum acquired in the prison, exercise a salutary influence on the convict's subsequent life; but until he is again subjected to temptation there is no means of determining whether his good conduct in prison was not the result of the compulsion imposed upon him, or even of his desire to obtain his freedom as soon as possible, with a view to enable him to return to his former life of crime. I wish merely to show the necessarily imperfect nature of the good-conduct test in prison, and I have no desire to depreciate the value of the endeavours very properly used for the reformation of prisoners. I have already stated that the number of convicts under sentence of transportation when the Act of 1853 passed was 9,850. Of that number 1,050 have been actually transported to Western Australia, of the remaining 8,800 not less than 7,002 have been discharged on licences up to the present time; about 1,200 have been sent to Bermuda and Gibraltar; and the total number of those who remain in this country under sentences of transportation, and who, in case of their good conduct, will receive tickets of leave in the course of the next two or three years, does not amount to 500. But I must add that the 1,200 at Bermuda and Gibraltar must come back to England and be discharged here. The number of licences which have been revoked for misconduct up to the same time is 466; but to this must be added the number of licence holders who have been reconvicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment which exceed the margin of their original sentences, and the revocation of whose licences could therefore have no effect. The number of these is 583. In addition to these there are 95 who have been reported for misconduct, and with regard to whom proceedings are still pending. Taking these numbers altogether, we have a total of 1,144 who have been convicted of or charged with crime, or about 16 per cent. upon the whole number of persons to whom licences have been granted. Now, there has been a good deal of discussion as to the principle upon which these revocations have been directed. There have been cases in which the licences have been revoked without actual proof of guilt upon the part of the convict holding the ticket of leave, further than the information of the police or others that he was leading a dishonest life, and was the associate of thieves. The number so revoked without actual conviction is forty-one. But as a general rule, it has been deemed expedient to act with caution in these revocations, and not to send a man back to several years of his original sentence, where no charge on oath could be preferred against him before a magistrate, and where he had not the opportunity of meeting that charge as he would have had upon a trial. In many cases where reports have been made that a man holding a licence is suspected of leading a dishonest life, although he has not been detected in any overt act, the police authorities have been instructed to warn him, to tell him that their eye was upon him, and point out the consequences of his continuing such a course of life. To revoke the licences of men on the mere assertion of the police that they were the associates of thieves, would be to put a most dangerous power in the hands of the officers, without a sufficient safeguard against its abuse. Even in some cases of summary conviction, where the offence has been extremely trivial, the licence has not been revoked, because it was thought to be a disproportionate punishment to remit a man back to prison for three, four, or it may be five years, for the commission of an offence for which a very short confinement would be ample punishment. But, generally speaking, in cases of conviction for any crime whatever, at assizes or sessions or by summary jurisdiction, the licence has been revoked. I adverted, Sir, just now to the principle on which a shorter term of penal servitude was substituted for the longer one of transportation, and, looking at that principle, and considering that persons sentenced to penal servitude had no such hopes extended to them as I have represented as having been held out to those who were in this country under sentence of transportation at the time of the passing of the Act of 1853, it has been determined that, as a general rule, no tickets of leave should be granted to such persons, but that they should be required to serve the full period of their sentences. No such licences have been granted to persons sentenced to penal servitude, except under special and exceptional circumstances, and these have amounted in number to but fifty-three. To have habitually granted these licences to such persons would have been to defeat the intention of the law, and to act in opposition to the views and intention of the Judges by whom the sentences were passed. In one instance a gentleman for whom we all have great respect, the Recorder of Birmingham, Mr. Hill, without the slightest communication with the Government, but looking at the Act of Parliament and the debates which took place upon it, conceived the opinion that it was the intention of Parliament that two-thirds of the sentence of penal servitude should be remitted as the reward of good conduct in prison. I received from some prisoners who had been sentenced by him, petitions complaining of the severity of the sentences which had been passed upon them. These I referred, as usual, to Mr. Hill, from whom, in reply, I received a letter, stating that he never anticipated that these sentences would be fully carried into effect in all cases, and that he understood that, if the prisoners behaved well, a large portion of their sentences would be remitted; and that, if he had acted under an error, he should in these and in a great many other cases feel it his duty to submit recommendations for the mitigation of the sentences. I asked him what mitigation he thought necessary to reduce the sentence to that which, had he believed it would be fully carried out, he should have passed upon the prisoners? In reply I received from him a list of prisoners, two-thirds of whose sentences he recommended should be remitted. Under these circumstances I felt bound to commute the sentences, not by the grant of tickets of leave, but by reducing them to the term which the Recorder told me he should have inflicted, had he known that they would be fully carried into effect. Mr. Hill is a gentleman who is entitled to great respect, and whose benevolent efforts for the reformation of prisoners cannot be spoken of too highly. But he had in this instance acted without authority and under a misconception, which was not shared by the Judges generally. It is extraordinary how much information prisoners, even in our best managed gaols, obtain of what is going on out of doors; for, immediately after this I received numerous memorials from prisoners, all saying that the Judges who sentenced them had told them that if they behaved well in prison a large part of the punishment would be remitted. These memorials I referred to the Judges—by which term I mean chairmen of quarter sessions and Recorders, as well as the Judges of assize, including those in Scotland—and I remember no case in which a Judge informed me that he had passed a sentence with the expectation that it would not be carried into effect, or had given any intimation to a prisoner that he would be entitled to claim the remission of any portion of his sentence if he behaved well. Indeed, with reference to Scotland, the Lord Justice Clerk wrote to me very fully, expressing his opinion against the remission of any portion of the sentence, and informing me that he was authorised to state that the Judges of the superior courts of Scotland had passed no sentence of penal servitude except with the expectation that it would be fully carried into effect, as they understood to be the intention of Parliament. I only mention this to show that there is a wide difference in the application of the principle of granting tickets of leave to prisoners under sentence of transportation, and those sentenced to penal servitude. Then, again, I have seen it stated that a rule had been adopted by the Home Office which defeated the intention of Parliament, by issuing tickets of leave only to prisoners who were under sentence of transportation in 1853, excluding all subsequently sentenced to that penalty. No greater mistake could be made. There was not any such rule or regulation, nor was any such necessary. The House will see that as all sentences since 1853 have been for a term not less than fourteen years, and as, in all such cases, a certain amount of preliminary punishment in this country has to be undergone by the prisoner, the time has not yet arrived when, according to the regulations, any of this class of prisoners could be entitled to a ticket of leave. It is obvious, therefore, that the ticket-of-leave system, which has given rise to a great deal of what I must term exaggerated alarm, would, if things remain as they are, gradually become almost extinct, or, at all events, have a scarcely perceptible effect, because the prisoners under sentence in 1853 will have been discharged, and there will be but few others to claim the indulgence. It is true that there will be many persons for some time to come holding tickets of leave; but if, leaving those out of consideration, we merely take into account the small number of tickets of leave, hereafter to be granted to persons now sentenced to transportation, it would constitute such a trifling proportion of the criminal class of the country that it would be almost imperceptible. Still that, I admit, is no answer to the questions, "What shall we do with our criminals?" and "What is the best kind of secondary punishments to apply to them?" Nor can it be expected to allay the apprehensions—to a certain extent well founded, although I think greatly exaggerated—which have been excited with regard to the retention in this country of prisoners who have been convicted of serious crimes, and who under the former system were sent abroad. The ticket of leave has little or nothing to do with the question, because whether a prisoner is discharged with a ticket of leave in 1856, or whether at the expiration of a sentence which cannot be prolonged by law he is discharged in 1857 or 1858, the effect is the same—he must on the expiration of his sentence be discharged in this country; and, instead of finding himself in a now community, with ample opportunities for obtaining honest employment, and with little temptation to evil, he is thrown back among his old associates, and even if disposed to avoid them, he has the greatest difficulty, perhaps, in getting employment, from the feeling, which is entitled to respect, entertained against persons who have been convicted of crime, where they meet with numberless competitors in the labour-market. These dangers may no doubt be over-rated, yet unquestionably they are of great magnitude; and it is most desirable as far as possible to provide against them, in the interest both of the country at large and of the criminals themselves. This was very forcibly pointed out by Mr. Baron Bramwell in his recent address to the grand jury of Essex, in which the learned judge remarked, without expressing any opinion whether tickets of leave are good or bad, that the real question is what is to become of the criminal after he is discharged? I have said that I think the alarm on this subject exaggerated; and, in tracing the effects of the Act of 1853, I ought, perhaps, to say why I am of that opinion. Much of what has been written in the newspapers about the danger arising from ticket-of-leave men being at large in this country is applicable, not exclusively to the holders of tickets of leave, but to persons who have either been in prison or have undergone sentences of transportation and returned to this country after their legal discharge. That class no doubt forms a large portion of our criminal population; it did so before 1853, it has done so since then, and I am afraid it must continue to do so. Nobody who looks at the reports of the trials at our sessions and assizes can fail to observe that in a great number of cases the prisoners are not charged for the first time, but have been convicted of repeated crimes, and are habitual offenders. I obtained a return the other day of the number of ticket-of-leave holders convicted at the assizes held in twenty-four counties in December last. At those assizes 625 prisoners in all were tried, only twenty-nine of whom, or less than 5 per cent, are returned as holders of tickets of leave. I do not say it is not to be regretted that there should be even that number. What I maintain is that these figures do not justify the great apprehensions felt as to the extent of crime committed by ticket-of-leave men. But what is the general state of crime as disclosed by the returns for the last two years? At the close of the debate on the Address the other night, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) spoke of a frightful increase in pauperism and crime, but I did not then deem it necessary to comment on his observations, because I felt that I should have a fitting opportunity to state the facts of the case on the present occasion. Criminal tables, prepared by Mr. Redgrave, were laid before Parliament on the first day of the Session, containing a very careful comparison and analysis of the crime in this country in the years 1854 and 1855. I need not refer to that comparison, because it is in the hands of Members. But what was the state of crime in 1856 as compared with 1855? The year 1856 was the year in which so much alarm had arisen as to the effects of the ticket-of-leave system. It must be remembered, too, that in that year the militia were disbanded, and the regular army considerably reduced; and, although the majority of the soldiers who served the country abroad were doubtless well-conducted men, yet, when a large body of persons from the ranks of the army were thrown again into civil life, as the commanding officers on making the reductions of regiments were always instructed to discharge the men of bad character, you could not be surprised if that reduction were followed by some addition to crime, wholly irrespective of the discharge of prisoners with tickets of leave. Now, doubtless there has been a considerable increase in a certain class of crimes, especially in those attended with violence. In 1855, the passing of the Criminal Justice Act extended the summary jurisdiction of justices of the peace, and the consequence was an increase in the number of sum- mary convictions concurrently with a decrease in the cases tried at the assizes and sessions. In the latter part of 1855 and in 1856, the Criminal Justice Act was in force. The following tables give the summary convictions and other commitments for trial in 1856, contrasted with those for the previous year:—England and Wales—Number of persons committed on summary convictions in 1856, 77, 667; number of persons committed for trial at assizes and sessions in 1856, 19,433;—total, 97,100; number of persons committed on summary convictions in 1855, 77,041; number of persons committed for trial at assizes and sessions in 1855, 25,972;—total, 103,013. Comparison of the commitments in 1856 and 1855:—Summary convictions, 0·8 per cent increase; commitments for trial, 25·1 per cent decrease;—total, 6·1 per cent decrease. Thus, while there was but a small fractional increase in the number of summary convictions in 1856 compared with 1855, there was a very remarkable decrease, amounting to no less than 25 per cent in the class of cases constituting the commitments for trial at the assizes and sessions. That is a state of things which I think does not justify all the alarm which has prevailed in the country in regard to the progress of crime. Burglary and other violent offences are comprised in this general aggregate, and in those crimes, as I have said, it is undoubtedly true that there has been an increase; but it is also worthy of note that the crime of robbery, including, as it does, garotting, which is only one of the various modes resorted to for effecting robbery, has slightly decreased in 1856 as compared with 1855. If the right hon. Member for Manchester were present I should call his attention to the fact, that the late chief constable of that city recently informed me that within the last three months there has been a remarkable diminution of crime in Manchester. As the general condition of the people of this country is so closely connected with the state of crime, and as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) coupled pauperism and crime together, perhaps I may also be permitted to observe that the decrease of crime which I have mentioned is in some degree no doubt attributable to a cause which has always a powerful effect on our criminal statistics—namely, the condition of the people. I hold in my hand a copy of a return, which will be laid on the table by the President of the Poor Law Board, showing the number of persons in receipt of parochial relief in England and Wales on the 1st of January, 1857, as compared with those in receipt of such relief on the 1st of January, 1856. This return comprises forty counties of England and all Wales, and I find that in seven counties only is there any increase in pauperism, and in some cases that increase is hardly perceptible. In all the other counties there has been a decrease. In Lancashire the diminution is 11 per cent; the same in Nottingham; and there has been a large decrease in Middlesex and the East and the West Ridings of Yorkshire. In fact, in those counties where the population is most dense there has been a decrease in pauperism, and I believe also a large decrease in crime,—at least, of that class of crime which is mostly affected by the condition of the people. I may remark that when the general condition of the people is good, when employment is plentiful, and food is cheap, then crimes against property such as those which come under the head of larceny diminish, but crimes of violence often increase, arising, as they do, from causes quite irrespective of the difficulties and privations of the poorer classes. Having, Sir, said so much as to facts, let me now refer to the state of the law. Sentences of transportation for fourteen years or upwards may be passed, or, at the discretion of the court, penal servitude may be substituted in lieu of the higher penalty; but below periods of fourteen years, only sentences of penal servitude can be pronounced. Sentences of penal servitude must be carried out at home, or in those colonies of the Crown where the convicts can be employed upon public works, as at Gibraltar and Bermuda, and every prisoner sent to those places must be brought home again to this country either in anticipation of the expiration of his sentence, or when he has fully completed its term; for, even were it otherwise possible to do so, there are political reasons against liberating convicts in those colonies. Now, of the 350 persons annually sentenced in Great Britain to transportation, after deducting women, with regard to whom there are now no means of carrying out such a sentence, and also deducting the sick, the old, and those with worn-out constitutions, of whom there are many to be found among the criminal classes, there will probably be not more than 250 annually who, under the present state of the law, could be transported from the country, and even that number may decrease by the exercise of the discretion that is vested in the Judges, of passing sentences of penal servitude for the higher class of offences instead of transportation. I will now refer to the opinions of the Committee which sat last year upon this subject. The Committee of the House of Commons entered chiefly into that branch of the subject which related to the administration of the law in this country, and the value of transportation as a secondary punishment. It received much valuable and useful evidence, and made some important recommendations. The Committee of the House of Lords took another course, and, although they examined Colonel Jebb as to the administration of the law in this country, they examined no other witness upon that point, but directed their inquiries into the possibility of continuing and extending transportation in Western Australia, and of finding other places where it could be carried into effect. There was, however, a remarkable concurrence of opinion between the two Committees as to the benefit to be derived from a continuance of the system of transportation to as great an extent as the Government could find means to apply it. The Committee of the House of Commons say—
The Committee of the House of Lords said—"That the punishment of transportation is more effectual and deterring, and better adapted for the ultimate reformation of convicts, and more beneficial to this country than any other secondary punishment for serious crimes which has yet been tried. That the Committee therefore recommend the continuation of the sentence of transportation, so far as Her Majesty's dominions may afford safe and proper facilities for that purpose."
The two Committees have concurred in the opinion, which I believe is shared by a majority of this House, that whether we consider the interests of the convicts themselves or the interests of the country, it is most desirable that before the expiration of the sentences of offenders who have been guilty of grave crimes they should be removed to another part of the world, where they would be freed from the temptations to a renewal of vicious courses, which they must be exposed to here, and where there would be greater opportunity for commencing a new and honest life. In saying this, however, I cannot shut my eyes to the difficulties which have lately arisen in the accomplishment of this object; and here let me say that, in any opinion which I may express upon this subject, either now or hereafter, I beg it may be understood that the Government has not the remotest intention of departing from the spirit or letter of the arrangement which has been made, and I think wisely, that as regards New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land transportation to those colonies should be wholly discontinued. I hope it will not be imagined by any one that we have any intention of renewing a contest with any colony on the subject of transportation. The Committees which sat last year have expressed themselves very clearly upon that point. The Committee of the House of Commons qualified their recommendations by adding, "so far as Her Majesty's dominions may afford safe and proper facilities for that purpose." The House of Lords had not less distinctly qualified their recommendation by the addition of the words "provided the system can be carried on with advantage to the colony and with satisfaction to the colonists." I hope, therefore, there will be no misapprehension upon this subject, or any idea that we are about to force convicts upon unwilling colonies. I may here observe that among the many suggestions which have been made from time to time there have been several for the establishment of great penal depôts at various places, such as Holyhead and elsewhere, where convicts during the period of their sentences could be usefully employed upon public works; but those who made such suggestions are not aware of what is the real difficulty in the question. There is no difficulty in disposing of convicts during the stages of separate imprisonment or of associated labour upon public works; in fact, I am obliged to refuse the requirements of the Board of Admiralty for convicts to work at Portland, Portsmouth, Chatham, Bermuda, and Gibraltar, simply because there are not convicts enough for the public works upon which they may be usefully employed. The difficulty consists, not in finding places where they may be beneficially employed, while undergoing strictly penal imprisonment, but in finding places whither they may go after the completion of this part of their sentences with some hope and prospect of reformation. It is the duty of the Government to avail itself of all the facilities which exist for that object, and I may venture to say it is the duty of Parliament to assist us in removing any obstacles which may stand in our way. What then are the facilities which exist at the present moment for transportation? They are these:—Western Australia is the only colony which receives convicts under sentence of transportation. The House must bear in mind that I have shown that in future years 250 is the largest number of convicts which we can calculate upon being able to send abroad while the law remains as it is at present, owing to the small number of sentences of transportation which are now pronounced, and it must also bear in mind that those 250 have all been either repeatedly convicted or convicted of offences of serious description. What are the facilities for their disposal? The Committee of the House of Lords took much valuable evidence respecting Western Australia. They examined witnesses who had been long resident in the colony, and, what was more important, who were about to return to the colony. Those witnesses comprised Captain Fitzgerald, the late governor, Captain Henderson, of the Royal Engineers, and Messrs. Brown, Moore, Hume, and other gentlemen of property and influence in the colony, and what was the character of their evidence? They showed a desire on the part of the colonists for a larger number of convicts than are now sent there, while the extent of the colony was very large, and that it was almost entirely separated from the other Australian colonies. It is described as a vast gaol, with only three ports from which convicts could effect their escape, while there would be no difficulty of guarding against escapes from those ports. The climate is stated to be good and suitable for agricultural pursuits; the country presents numerous tracts suitable for corn; there is an excellent breed of horses, which are exported largely to India, being considered superior to other Australian horses; there is an abundance of fine timber, and the land is suitable for the growth of the vine, which already is cultivated to a large extent. I believe that in Western Australia very considerable grants of land were long ago made to private individuals, who thought that land constituted wealth, whereas without labour land is perfectly valueless. Now that convict labour is available these persons are able to turn the land to some ac- count, and there is a general opinion expressed by these witnesses that even under the present system, without adopting certain changes suggested by the House of Lords, from 800 to 1,000 convicts a year might be received and usefully employed in Western Australia, and that probably more might be sent if measures were taken inviting capital and labour to the colony. In addition to this evidence given before the Committee, representations have been made by a deputation of gentlemen connected with the colony to the Secretary of State, that Western Australia possesses peculiar advantages for the reception of convicts, and that both proprietors and residents concur in the desire to have convicts sent. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Have no representations been sent home the other way?] The only representation the other way, of which I am aware, was a petition, which came last year while the Committee was sitting, which complained not that convicts were sent from this country, but that a certain number recently sent were not selected with as much care as formerly. They consisted of the worst class of criminals, some of whom committed very serious crimes in the colony, and the colonists deprecated the sending out such a class for the future. The Lords' Committee advert to that complaint, and recommend a return to the principle of selection, in order to send to Western Australia that class of convicts which will be most useful to the colony. This demand by Western Australia for convict labour is one which in the present state of the law the Government is unable to meet. Here is a colony asking for from 600 to 800 or 1,000 convicts a year, and the Government have not more than 250 who can be sent, and that number comprises criminals of the class against which exception was taken in the petition to which I have referred. Under these circumstances the question arose in the course of last year whether, under the 6th section of the Act of 1853 persons sentenced to penal servitude could be sent to Western Australia. The terms of the Act appear to be very large:—"That, in the opinion of the Committee, a continuance of the system of transportation to some colony or colonies, with such improvements as experience has suggested, or may suggest, would be highly desirable, provided that the system can be carried on with advantage to the colony, and with satisfaction to the colonists."
The question was referred to the law officers of the Crown, and, after carefully considering it, they arrived at the conclusion that it was not competent for the Government to avail themselves of Western Australia as a place where the sentence of penal servitude could be carried into effect; that if convicts were sent there they would not be subject to the colonial laws and ordinances, their labour could not be assigned to the governor of the colony, and they could not have the qualified liberty of a ticket of leave in the colony. Transportation would lose all its value, and it would be only sending convicts out to bring them back again before the expiration of their sentences at a great expense, without any advantage to the colony. That, Sir, being the state of the case at this moment, I will now call the attention of the House to the Resolution passed by the Committees of last year. The Commons' Committee, in their seventh Resolution, recommended that the sentences of penal servitude should be lengthened to terms identical with the terms of transportation for which they were substituted, and the Committee of the House of Lords resolved that the provisions of the Act of 16 Vict. c. 99, the Act by which the sentences of transportation when commuted for shorter periods of penal servitude should be revised. They did not specify with what object they should be revised, but I apprehend they, like the House of Commons, thought that the sentences of penal servitude should be lengthened, and made identical with the former sentences of transportation. The House of Commons state a ground for their recommendation—namely, to give effect to a previous Resolution, that every punishment should include a fixed period of imprisonment with hard labour, and a further period capable of being abridged by the good conduct of the convict himself; and they suggest that the present term of penal servitude should, as a general rule, be inflicted, but that there should be super-added, over and above the present term, a certain term, subject to mitigation, being the difference between the present period of penal servitude and the former period of transportation for which it was substituted. They further recommend an intermediate sentence of penal servitude. When sentences of seven years' transportation were passed there was a discretion in the Judge, which now remains in cases of four years' penal servitude, to substitute a sentence of imprisonment alone—usually two years' imprisonment, instead of transportation or penal servitude. In recommending the increase of the sentence of penal servitude to seven years the Committee recommend, in their 9th Resolution, that the discretion of the Judge shall be enlarged, and that he shall be enabled to inflict a period of penal servitude longer than the imprisonment, but shorter than the transportation would have been under the old law. Having made these observations, I come now, Sir, to the proposals which I have to make on the part of the Government, as appearing to them to be the most expedient, after full consideration of the subject. We propose in the Bill which I shall ask leave to introduce to give effect to the 7th Resolution of the Committee of the House of Commons recommending that sentences of penal servitude shall be lengthened so as to be made identical with the sentences of transportation for which they were substituted. We also propose to give effect to the 9th Resolution, giving discretion to the Judge to pass an intermediate sentence between the ordinary term of imprisonment and the term of seven years' penal servitude. The first clause of the Bill will repeal the provisions of the Act of 1853, by which the shorter sentences of penal servitude were substituted for the longer sentences of transportation, and will render persons who may formerly have been sentenced to transportation liable to be kept in penal servitude for the same duration as the term of transportation for which they were liable before the Act passed. There will then be a proviso giving the discretion to the Judge to pass an intermediate sentence of penal servitude, as I have already explained to the House. This, however, will not enable us to cure the evil complained of, and to avail ourselves of existing or future facilities for removing from this country persons convicted of serious offences. The Bill, therefore, will contain a provision removing the obstacles which prevent the infliction of penal servitude in any colony which may be open for the reception of convicts. The effect of this alteration will be that the sentence of penal servitude, although not necessarily involving the removal of the convict from this country, will render the convict liable to such removal, and will in that case subject him to the same regulations to which convicts sentenced to transportation are now subject. I propose to make this power generally applicable to all sentences of penal servitude, because it is difficult to draw the line, and to say what persons shall be removed from this country and who shall not. I do not, however, anticipate that this power will be exercised with regard to the greater portion of prisoners sentenced for short periods, and I do not think that it will be practicable to remove from this country convicts sentenced to very short terms. But it might be usefully exercised with reference to sentences of not less than six or seven years. I do not make even this proposal with the intention that they should be sent to the colony before a portion of their sentences has been undergone in penal servitude. But after this has been undergone, they could be sent to the colony, there to receive after a time a ticket of leave. This proposal would give that power of selection which the Committee of the House of Lords think essential to transportation to Western Australia, and which they recommend the Government to have recourse to. In making that selection, it would be necessary to consider in connection with their crime and their sentence other circumstances of which the Judge could know nothing at the time of the trial—the physical strength and character of the convicts. To send convicts to the colonies who are unfitted for labour by physical weakness, age, ill-health, and other circumstances, would be simply to impose a burden on the colonies. This would be a course which experience warns us against, while a proper selection would remove the objections which the colonists of Western Australia entertain to the class of criminals from which they have recently been supplied. This power will enable the Government to send at once a sufficient quantity of convicts to Western Australia, and to avail themselves of any additional facilities for the disposal of convicts without further alteration of the criminal law. An obvious objection may be made to the proposal on the ground of the uncertainty of punishment in the sentence of penal servitude, and it may be said that a convict will not know whether he will find himself in this country or in a distant colony on the expiration of his sentence. But that objection has always applied to sentences of transportation, many of which were not carried into effect. At one time no convict sentenced to seven years' transportation was really sent out of the country. The Judge may have depicted the horrors of separation from family and friends and being sent to a distant colony, and the convict often went from the bar expecting that such would be his fate. But in three or four years it frequently happened that the convict found himself again in his native village among his family and friends. In many cases, especially of short sentences, it was impossible to carry the sentence of transportation into effect, and there was always great uncertainty whether it would be carried into effect or not. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: These sentences were put an end to on that account.] No doubt that was the case—under the old system it was certainly impossible to carry a large number of the sentences of transportation into effect, either from the physical incapacity of the convicts, or from other causes, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot put his finger upon a single year in which a large number of convicts under sentence of transportation were not retained permanently in this country. It is on the other hand to be remarked that the sentences of penal servitude can always be carried into effect whether the convicts undergo their sentences at home or abroad—it is a mere accident whether it be carried out in this country or in a colony; whereas in a sentence of transportation the very essence of the punishment is deportation. But a further objection may be made, that if it were left to the discretion of the Government to send convicts sentenced to penal servitude to a distant colony, there would be an anomaly in retaining sentences of transportation for fourteen years and upwards. At present these sentences, though legal, need not be passed at all, and the Judges may pass sentences of penal servitude for the same offences. I admit that if the plan I have proposed is adopted there would be no good reason for retaining sentences of transportation. Why should the Judges have a discretion which they have not the means of properly exercising? The Judge has no knowledge whether the sentence can be carried into effect or not. A man stands before him, and he has no safe guide to enable him to exercise a sound discretion in awarding the one punishment in preference to the other, nor does he know whether the prisoner is a fit person for the labour of a colony. I propose, therefore, to abolish the sentence of transportation altogether, and to substitute the sentence of penal servitude for it. I now come to the fifth resolution of the House of Commons, which recommends that sentences should not be fully carried into effect in cases where the conduct of a prisoner entitles him to a partial remission. I have been pressed by the directors of prisons to extend the ticket-of-leave system to convicts under sentence of penal servitude. I would not do so, for the reasons before stated, and by the course I have taken I have prevented Parliament being fettered in the consideration of this question. No prisoner under sentence of penal servitude, except in a few special cases, has had any expectations held out to him of a remission of any portion of his punishment, and Parliament is, therefore, at liberty to deal with this class of convicts as it thinks best. I admit, however, that the resolution of the Committee is founded upon the evidence of witnesses of great weight. These witnesses, including some Judges, expressed their opinion that it is desirable to give the stimulus of hope to prisoners, and that the most effectual way of doing this is by offering them a remission of a portion of their sentence as a reward for good conduct. In that principle I, in a great degree, concur, though, as I think, it has been carried too far as to convicts under sentence of transportation, by the remission exceeding one-half of the original sentence. There were, however, peculiar circumstances in 1853 which may have made this necessary. I think it will be desirable that the principle of this recommendation should be acted upon. No doubt, it is the best way of maintaining prison discipline. Hope is a more influential motive than the fear of punishment, and if the sentences are for lengthened periods, a portion of the term might be remitted, as recommended by the Committee. Prisoners to be sent abroad under sentence of penal servitude would, as in the case of transportation, undergo in this country some months of separate imprisonment, followed by a term of labour on public works, varying according to circumstances; and then such of them as could be advantageously sent to Western Australia or any other settlement, would be sent there, with the expectation of receiving a ticket of leave shortly after their arrival. Captain Henderson has expressed a strong opinion, in which I concur, that the greatest value may be expected from the training which the convict receives in England, but he recommends that a part of the strictly penal sentence should be passed in the colony to which he is sent. The real difficulty is as to those who are left at home. There are some persons who commit crimes of such atrocity that they are unfit to be at large, or are guilty of such gross misconduct in prison, that they come under the denomination of incorrigible. This class have no claim to any indulgence, and ought not to be either discharged here or to be inflicted upon a colony. They almost belong to the class of criminal lunatics, who have committed some great crime, for which they are confined for life, not as a punishment for an offence for which they are not responsible, but to secure society against the consequences of their being at large. With regard to the other and far more numerous class of criminals, no doubt the more we can send abroad the better, but some must be kept at home. After a certain time, a portion of their sentences might be remitted, if they are well conducted. But two questions arise in connection with such a remission—first, what should be its amount; secondly, what should be its terms and conditions? It ought, no doubt, to be considerably less in amount than has been fixed in the case of convicts under sentence of transportation. A great deal of the outcry which has been raised against the system of discharging prisoners with licences has been caused by the large remissions of sentences which have taken place; great irritation has been produced in many neighbourhoods by seeing a man who had been sentenced to perhaps ten years' transportation return at the expiration of four years; and some of the Judges have evinced a certain degree of annoyance at being obliged to try prisoners for new offences upon whom they had already passed sentences which, if they had been carried into effect, would have prevented them from committing other crimes. I do not think that any term can be absolutely fixed as an unbending rule, but one-fourth, or, at the utmost, one-third of the sentence only ought to be remitted. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: Will that be fixed as the minimum period?] It is not possible to fix by law any minimum period. A Judge sometimes comes to the Secretary of State, and states that circumstances have come to his knowledge since the conviction of a criminal which induce him to think that he has passed too severe a sentence, although they do not amount to proof of the man's innocence. In such cases justice requires that the Secretary of State should make the sentence what it would have been if the Judge had been in full possession of all the facts at the time of passing it. Although the regulations as to remission cannot, therefore, be prescribed by Act of Parliament, they may be made the subject of some general rule which should be communicated to all Judges and persons holding judicial situations, in order that when they are passing sentence they may have a full knowledge of the amount of punishment which the prisoner will in any case have to undergo. Then comes the question of the terms upon which the remission ought to be granted, whether it should be conditional or absolute. On this question the Committee express no decided opinion. They state that the ticket-of-leave system had been in operation for too short a time to enable them to form a clear opinion respecting it, and they only passed a resolution recognising the justice of its principle, although they negatived a resolution that it should be acted upon in all criminal cases. The Committee, I think, were right in expressing no decided opinion as to the merits of the system upon the facts before them, and I still share the doubt which they feel; but I propose to retain the power of granting these conditional discharges, as it may often be very usefully exercised. In many cases it is expedient that the discharge should be conditional, and especially in cases where, on the recommendation of the medical officers of a prison, convicts are discharged on the score of ill-health. But the system has its disadvantages as well as its advantages. It is, to a certain extent, no doubt, a restraint upon the prisoner discharged, and a check on his conduct which may afford some security. But there is an erroneous impression that a ticket of leave is a certificate of good character, and that those men only obtain it who can prove that they are reformed. There was never a more fallacious idea. It is very desirable that the illusion should be dispelled that the holder of a ticket of leave is ascertained to be less likely to relapse into crime than any other discharged criminal. The imperfection of the test of conduct while a man is in prison renders this impossible. On the other hand, ticket-of-leave holders, as a class, have been the subject of much prejudice, and the cause of much alarm, and they have found great difficulty in obtaining any honest employment in this country. The ticket of leave, moreover, operates as a restraint on their going out of the country to seek employment elsewhere. It is only a protection to the holder of it while in this country. To meet this objection, it has been proposed to extend its operation, but this is inconsistent with the power of revocation. The revocation implies remission to the former punishment. If a ticket-of-leave holder is committed to prison for a new offence he is taken back after the expiration of his term of imprisonment to undergo the remainder of his first sentence in the prison from which he had been discharged; but if he went abroad, to France or America, how could the Crown exercise the power of revocation? It is true that no obstacle is placed in the way of their going abroad, and many of them have enlisted in the army and made good soldiers, but the Government could not encourage them to break the conditions of their discharge by going abroad. Then it has been said that the operation of the ticket of leave might be so extended as to allow the holders of it to proceed to the colonies: but that again would not be consistent with the power of revocation. The power of revocation could only be exercised by the colonial authorities, by virtue of colonial acts, which require the concurrence of the colonial legislature, and even if the power existed it would be impossible to send men from the antipodes to Portland or Dartmoor to undergo the remainder of their sentences. While on this point, however, I concur in the opinion expressed by the Committee, I do not propose to make any alteration in the power at present possessed by the Government, because it is a useful power to retain, although I think it ought to be exercised sparingly. There is one important consideration with regard to Western Australia which must not be overlooked—I refer to the inequality of the sexes. A large influx, of male convicts could not go on for many years, and it was stated before the Lords' Committee that the colony could not receive 800 or 1,000 convicts a year for several years without the adoption of some means of increasing the number of female immigrants. Hitherto the colony has refused to receive female convicts, and not unreasonably, considering their general character. But the Director of Prisons in Ireland states in his evidence that the class of Irish female convicts is essentially different from the same class in England, and that they are not generally persons of immoral life, using that term in its ordinary sense. That officer also explains the nature of the measures taken under his direction for the reformation of these women, and certainly the results he states afford ground for hope and expectation that many of these women would make very useful settlers, in a convict colony. So in England, at an establishment lately formed under the charge of Colonel Jebb, to which the best conducted female prisoners are draughted from Brixton Prison, the greatest pains are taken to effect their reformation. The attention of the Governor of Western Australia has been called to these facts by the Secretary for the Colonies, and I hope that the difficulty which stood in the way of female convicts being transported to that colony, will to a certain degree be overcome. This part of the subject has engaged the careful attention of the Government. There are one or two other resolutions of the Committee to which I will advert before concluding. The 10th resolution of the Commons' Committee recommended that the hulk system should be finally abandoned. For some time past that system has been in course of abandonment, and the only hulks now used are for invalid prisoners, and means are being taken for providing a prison on shore to which those prisoners may be removed. When that is effected, the total abolition of the hulk system, which is liable to serious objection, will have been effected. There is another Resolution of the Committee to which I wish to refer, and the policy of which I, with all respect, rather doubt. The sixteenth Resolution states,—"That every convict on his release with a ticket of leave, ought to be reported to the police of the town or district to which he is sent." If one could always place implicit confidence in the discretion of the police that might be done, but I certainly should be sorry to call the attention of the police in every case to men released with a ticket of leave, for that might have the effect of increasing the difficulty of those among them who are well disposed in obtaining honest employment. With respect to London the case is somewhat different. I have had reports from the inspectors of police of the character and course of life of men with tickets of leave residing within their districts, and I do not think that under their instructions, which I believe they honestly act up to, any obstacles are placed by them in the way of ticket-of- leave men obtaining an honest livelihood. I am aware that a meeting took place a short time ago, over which a noble Earl (Lord Carnarvon) presided, at which some ticket-of-leave men made complaints of the conduct of the police, in interfering with their endeavours to obtain honest employment. Such conduct, if the charge were true, was unwarrantable; and all I can say is, that if any policeman acted in the way described, he acted contrary to his instructions. I have directed the Commissioner of Police to obtain if possible the names of the men who made these charges, with the view of investigating their allegations, and the constables impeached will be punished if those allegations should prove to be true. Arrangements have also been made for the payment of the gratuities received by convicts three months after their discharge, if in London, through the superintendents of police. I believe there are no other points to which I need refer. The Bill I now ask leave to introduce is ready to be presented to the House, and it embodies the result of the deliberations of the Government on a subject of great difficulty and importance. When the Bill is in the hands of hon. Members, they will then perceive more clearly the nature of its provisions than they have probably been able to do from my explanation. With respect to the second reading I am anxious to consult the convenience of the House. It is desirable that the Bill should not be long delayed, because sentences are being passed every day, and it would be desirable that the alteration of the law, if approved, should be made soon. I shall at present name this day fortnight for the second reading; but if business of more importance should arise I will endeavour to name some other day which shall meet the convenience of the House. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to introduce a Bill to amend the Act of the sixteenth and seventeenth years of Her Majesty, to substitute in certain cases other punishments in lieu of transportation."Every person who under this Act shall be sentenced or ordered to be kept in penal servitude may, during the term of the sentence or order, be confined in any such prison or place of confinement in any part of the United Kingdom, or in any river, port, or harbour of the United Kingdom, in which persons under sentence or order of transportation may now by law be confined, or in any other prison in the United Kingdom, or in any part of Her Majesty's dominions beyond the seas, or in any port or harbour thereof, as one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State may from time to time direct; and such person may during such term be kept to hard labour and otherwise dealt with in all respects as persons sentenced to transportation may now by law be dealt with while so confined."
I think, Sir, it must be the general feeling of both sides of the House that the right hon. Gentleman has acted with a due regard to the state of public feeling on this question, in taking this early opportunity of bringing this important subject before us; and It for one, beg to tender him my thanks for the able manner in which he has stated the views of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the feeling of "exaggerated" alarm in the country with regard to tickets of leave. There can be no doubt as to the existence of that feeling; but I should be rather disposed to call it a misdirected feeling than an exaggerated one. No doubt, considering the state of crime which has prevailed during the last few months, it is but natural that a great feeling of alarm should exist in the public mind; but I think alarm should have been directed rather to the state of the law—to the new plan by which criminals are set at liberty—than to the system of ticket of leave, which applies to an entirely different class of prisoners. Although, before entering upon any serious criticism of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, I think it better that we should wait for the Bill, there are, nevertheless, one or two points raised by his observations. This subject, Sir, consists of two distinct parts. Firstly, as to what is the state of the law with regard to secondary punishments; and, secondly—which is scarcely less important—as to the manner in which that law ought to be administered and carried out. I will first advert to a portion of the subject which I think has created as much uneasiness as the system of tickets of leave itself. I mean that impression which widely prevails that Her Majesty's Government have been prone, indiscriminately, to advise the Crown with regard to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, so that sentences passed by the law have not been inflicted on the criminal. I believe that this feeling, like the other, is an exaggerated feeling; but I confess, at the same time, I do not think it is without foundation. But in calling the attention of the House to some instances of this kind, I beg to say that I have no intention of making any personal charge against the right hon. Gentleman; I am alluding to a practice which I believe has for some time prevailed rather than to any impropriety on the part of the right hon. Gentleman in the exercise of his high duties. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the opinions expressed at the last assizes by some of the Judges, and no doubt intended to refer to a charge of Judge Willes at Warwick assizes. [Sir G. GREY: The learned Judge afterwards explained that those observations were made under a mistake.] I hear that Mr. Justice Willes has expressed his regret that observations which he recently made in a charge were made in ignorance of the facts. I must, however, allude to another case—that of a man named Wild, who having been convicted of highway robbery, and sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment—a sentence remarkable for its lenity—was set at liberty at the end of nine months by the exercise of the Royal prerogative—on the recommendation, of course, of the right hon. Gentleman. I have had some correspondence on the subject with the right hon. Gentleman, who communicated to me the recommendations on which he acted, and I am bound to say that, if any recommendations could have justified the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, in that case these recommendations would have afforded a justification. They were recommendations from the most respectable men whose benevolence had led them to do an act which I cannot approve; for I do not think that in this particular case any recommendation from any quarter should have induced the Government to set this man at liberty. I will now, however, advert to some very curious papers which have accidentally come into my possession, and bearing in a most important manner upon the subject we are now discussing. I hold in my hand no less than fifteen letters written by a convict now under sentence of penal servitude for four years, and addressed to his mother and sisters, near neighbours of mine. In order to show the impression on the public mind, that sentence passed will not be carried out, I will give the House the substance of those communications. Some time ago, the mother (a most respectable person) of this ticket-of-leave man, and who lived in my neighbourhood, called on me to say, that her son was sentenced to four years' penal servitude in January, 1855, and that as he had passed nearly two years of his sentence it would be necessary to get the recommendations of some respectable gentlemen, in order that he might be set at liberty. [Sir G. GREY: Where was he convicted? At Birmingham?] No; not at Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman must not seek to draw consolation from the address of Mr. Recorder Hill. The sentence was passed at the Worcestershire assizes. Well, Sir, the mother brought me the letters. It appears that the man went through the usual process. He was sentenced to four years' penal servitude, was a short time in the county prison, was then removed to Preston gaol to go through the period of separate confinement, and, finally, was sent to Portland. By the way, I am in doubt whether I shall be doing more good or more harm by stating the substance of these communications; but I think I shall do more good. This man writes, in the first instance, to "all his friends in Preston." Then from Preston he writes, saying, "He likes that gaol better than Worcester," and then, on the 5th June, 1855, some four or five months after he had been undergoing the most highly penal servitude, he writes to say that "he is clad well, and is happier than he has been for years; has as much as he can eat, and has a good bed; has no particular class of work, and does just as much of it as he likes;" and he speaks of the nice green walks he has to walk upon. [Sir GEORGE GREY: Is that at Portland?] No; at Preston. And this is the "highly-penal" portion of the sentence too. [Sir GEORGE GREY: Perhaps it is all a myth.] I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is justified in saying that the statement is all a myth. Perhaps he thinks the letters I hold in my hand are myths. [Sir GEORGE GREY: I beg to apologise for the word.] In June, this man, in writing to his mother, said that the chaplain had told him that he would get his discharge next year if his conduct were good and if he would desire his friends to obtain a testimonial in his favour; but the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the sentences should be carried out in full. This statement of the man might be a myth and a misrepresentation, were it not that the letters are all sent with the cognisance of the officers of the gaol, and it cannot be supposed that they would have permitted a prisoner to be under an apprehension as to the possibility of his release before the term of his sentence had expired if they believed that no such possibility existed. [Sir George GREY: Prisoners' letters are sealed but they are not corrected by the authorities of the gaol.] They are attested by one of the best chaplains in the country—Mr. Clay. In September the same man writes a letter to the same effect—that he is doing better than before, and a great deal better than if he were in the militia. In March he writes from Portland stating that he is well and happy, has plenty of good food, and is getting stout; and he adds, "This is a, heavenly place; it is in the first class, and we get 2s. 3d. a week, besides other benefits." There are several letters to the same effect. In June, 1856, he states that he is in a shoemakers' shop, and "has the privilege of speaking with thirty men, all in the same rooms;" and in October, 1856, he "fully expects to be home in the course of the next twelve months." Now, sir, as we are entering upon a revision of our system of secondary punishments, I cannot conceive statements more worthy of our attention than these. Now that we are to retain a portion of our worst convicts, and our Colonies are not to be an outlet for them, I think it is of the utmost importance to consider whether the punishment ought to be of such a nature as to allow such letters as these to be written—letters stating that the writers are in a state of enjoyment, instead of feeling the consequences of their wrongdoing. How can the right hon. Gentleman expect the law to inspire dread, if a system more penal than these letters show to exist be not carried out into practice? With regard to the plan the right hon. Gentleman has submitted to-night, perhaps it will be better to wait for the second reading of the Bill; but as a Member of the Committee which sat last year, I cannot refrain from expressing my satisfaction that he has seen fit to adopt their recommendations to the very great extent he has done. There are two points upon which I have dwelt for years in connection with this subject. I have always felt it to be a great defect in our criminal code in having no intermediate punishment between two years' imprisonment and seven years' transportation, or its equivalent. I rejoice that the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to meet this defect. The periods of penal servitude enacted by the Act of 1853 are nothing like an equivalent for the term of transportation, and I am exceedingly glad that he purposes, in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee, to enlarge the term of penal servitude. The letters from which I have quoted show how little is thought of four years' penal servitude as compared with seven years' transportation. In the case of the man I have referred to, while undergoing his sentence of penal servitude, he was always in the neighbourhood of his friends;—he continually asks his mother to come down and see him; and he had facilities for correspondence with them, and was continually saying that after a comparatively short period he should rejoin them. But, under the system of transportation, there was an absolute and necessary separation from friends for seven years at least; and, indeed, as no criminals whose sentences had expired were brought back to this country —a practice which was very unjust to the convicts—a sentence of seven years' transportation practically operated as one of banishment for life; for unless the man could himself provide the means he could never return to this country. But another part of the plan I regard with considerable doubt. It is that which deals with the recommendation that the sentence of transportation shall be altogether done away with; and a man who is sentenced to penal servitude is left in uncertainty whether he will remain in England or be sent abroad. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will, in some degree, re-consider that part of the plan; otherwise it appears to me that what we want to get rid of on this subject, uncertainty, is left untouched. I ask him, is transportation, so far as it is retained, to be regarded as the severest punishment for the wicked, or as a boon for the well-conducted? The question seems to be left open by the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. I trust it may be made clear that transportation is to be regarded as the severest secondary punishment; but I inferred from what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman that, with the object of consulting the feelings of the colonists, he would for the future select well-conducted men to be sent abroad. The right hon. Gentleman says that transportation is an uncertain punishment; but I think he is hardly justified in comparing the uncertainty of the old system of transportation with that which has recently prevailed. The uncertainty which formerly existed was merely that of illness. It arose from the fact that convicts who were ill or infirm were not sent abroad. It is true that some years ago, persons sentenced to seven years' transportation, were sent to the hulks instead of abroad; but that has long been discontinued, and it was for many years understood that a sentence for transportation was always carried into effect. Except during that suspension, which took place in consequence of the crowded state of Van Diemen's Land, the sentence of transportation has always been carried out. I also think the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to the comparison of crime in 1855 and 1856, calculated to mislead. He said that in 1855 there were 77,000 cases of summary conviction, and 25,000 offences of a more serious character at assizes and sessions. That in 1856 there were 77,600 cases of summary conviction, and only 19,000 convictions for more serious offences. I think the public would draw an erroneous inference from the former figures. I believe the diminution from 25,000 to 19,000 of the graver cases of crime to be accurately described, but that the cause is to be sought in the Criminal Justice Act of 1855, under which a large portion of the prisoners were dealt with summarily. I do not know that I have any further observations to offer. I believe the statement of the right hon. Gentleman will be received with great satisfaction; and I am sure there will be but one feeling of satisfaction that he has so early called the attention of Parliament to the subject. For my own part I have no objection to the day the right hon. Gentleman has named for the second reading, and I am sure both sides of the House are anxious so to deal with the Bill as to make it generally acceptable.
said, both the Secretary of State and the right hon. Gentleman opposite had placed the question on its true footing:—the real question before the House was, what were they to do with their dangerous convicts—with that class of criminals whom their ancestors disposed of summarily by hanging, whom we had been in the habit of transporting, but whom, inasmuch as public opinion at home was against hanging, in the colonies was against transportation, there was a difficulty in disposing of? In considering this question, they must not lose sight of two things: first, what they were desirous of doing in the abstract; next, what they were capable of doing, and some confusion sometimes arose through Gentlemen considering the first question without reference to the second. In the first place, the question arose what was to be done with the worst class of criminals, including those (of whom there were several) who ought to have been hanged but had not—being convicted of manslaughter instead of murder, because the juries who tried them had an objection to capital punishment—men who had attempted murder once or oftener, but who had accidentally failed—men who had been convicted over and over again of robberies with violence and desperate offences—men of hardened irreclaimable characters, living in permanent hostility against society to which they were as inimical as dangerous lunatics. It seemed to him there was but one thing to do with regard to that class of criminals, and that was permanently to seclude them from society for the whole of their lives. This must be done upon the principle that the interests of the public were paramount to those of the criminal, a principle of which it had of late years been rather the fashion to lose sight; and that the protection of society from the violence of the criminal and the deterring others by the example of his punishment was of more importance than were any considerations of his liberty, his convenience, of even of the chance, if there were a chance, of his reformation. If then, it was conceded that dangerous criminals must be excluded from society, the question next arose—should that be done at home or abroad? The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) thought that this class should be transported. Now, there were two senses in which the word transportation was often used without discriminating between them, and yet they were widely different, for in the one sense it was admitted on all hands to have succeeded, but in the other it was equally admitted to have failed. In the one sense, transportation meant the conveyance of criminals to colonies where the free settlers largely preponderated, where there was a demand for labour, and where the colonists were willing to employ convicts; in such settlements convicts could be indulged with comparative liberty, and might look forward to the ultimate acquisition of property and an honourable status in the settlement. That kind of transportation obviously required conditions which it was not always in the power of the Government to supply. The other kind of transportation contemplated the establishment of purely penal settlements—such as Norfolk Island; and it was that kind of transportation which was admitted to have signally failed. The mother country had no right to transport, in the first sense, the hardened criminals of whom he was speaking. They had no more right to turn persons of that class loose in the colonies than they had at home. Such persons were enemies of all society, and ought not to be suffered to prey on society anywhere. That being conceded, the only question that remained was, would you keep criminals of that class in prisons at home or in prisons abroad—for a purely penal colony was, to all intents and purposes, a prison abroad. He (Mr. Collier) thought that the latter alternative was the wiser of the two, and that all arguments were in favour of keeping our dangerous criminals at home. In the first place, by that course they would save the expense of sending them out. In the next, they might have a better class of officers at home than they could have abroad. Again, the Home Office would be able to exercise a stricter surveillance over a convict establishment at home than would be possible if it was placed at a distance. In fact it was utterly impossible that such atrocities could take place in this country as had been perpetrated in Norfolk Island. Lastly there were means of usefully employing the labour of convicts at home which were wanting abroad, of which labour we should reap the benefit. There were, for instance, vast tracts of land on Dartmoor which might be reclaimed, and there were harbours of refuge and many other important public works for which convict labour was needed. Now it might be said that imprisonment for life was too severe a sentence to inflict; but imprisonment for life did not necessarily imply solitary confinement or even detention within the walls of a gaol. What he meant by perpetual imprisonment was merely safe custody. He would not even altogether exclude hope; for he had no doubt that it would be found quite possible, after a certain term of good conduct, to allow a prisoner many indulgences which would not militate against his safe detention; indeed it might deserve consideration, whether establishments might not be set up for that purpose. But, at all events, confinement for life here was not worse than confinement for life abroad. On this point abundant evidence had been given before the Committee in favour of Dartmoor rather than of Norfolk Island. Besides, he could not suppose that the people of this country would be so unreasonable as to object to imprisonment for life at home while they were perfectly willing to allow it abroad, where it could not be carried out under circumstances so favourable to the prisoner. A great difficulty then arose as to how we were to deal with the class next in guilt, which we had been in the habit of transporting, but which we could not confine for life. It had indeed been proposed by the Recorder of Birmingham (Mr. Hill), and by several other persons, that a criminal should be kept in confinement until he had given distinct evidence of his reformation; and that if necessary he should be detained for life. Now he (Mr. Collier) did not think that that plan could be carried out; for who were the parties to be satisfied with respect to the criminal's reformation? Were they to be the visiting justices? Was it to be the chaplain? He (Mr. Collier) did not think the public would be willing to leave a, question of such moment as a man's liberty or perpetual confinement in the hands of the chaplain; he could quite conceive a chaplain not being satisfied with a convict's theological sentiments, and on that ground thinking him unfit to be let loose on society. Indeed, that either chaplains or justices should practically have the power of determining whether or not a man should be detained in perpetual imprisonment would not be tolerated by the country for a moment. It seemed to him (Mr. Collier) therefore, that the best thing they could do was that which was involved in the proposal of the right hon. Baronet—namely, to transport as many of these less desperate offenders as they could find colonies willing to receive them; and to subject the rest to longer terms of penal servitude—terms which it might be hoped would break up those criminal cliques and coteries of which they had formed members. It had been recommended by Sir Archibald Alison and other witnesses examined before the Committee, to found one or two semipenal colonies to receive this class; that was, that four or five free emigrants to every convict should be sent out in order to give employment to our criminals. But such a plan was open to more than one serious objection. It would be attended with extreme expense; and the new colonies would be of such a purely artificial and Governmental character without any natural root in the soil that they could never be expected to flourish. What then was to be done with those whom you could not transport? Some people asked were they to be turned loose upon society? He answered they must some time or other be so turned loose—whether kept to penal servitude at home, or sent to a penal settlement abroad. The reason why transported offenders had not hitherto returned to this country was, they had been absorbed into the free colonial population; but if they were sent to mere penal establishments, depend upon it they would find their way back again to St. Giles's on the expiration of their sentences. On the other hand, they might hope that if they gradually and conditionally extended to convicts at home the privilege of freedom, they might learn to use it without abusing it. If they did not, and offended again, why then they must imprison them for the rest of their lives. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) objected to the proposal of the Government, on account of the uncertainty which would still remain in the sentence, as to whether or not it would be followed by transportation. No doubt there would; but the uncertainty resulted not from legislation but from the very nature of things, and therefore could not be obviated. If they left it (as they ought to leave it) to the Home Office to select which of the convicts should be sent abroad, the Judge could only sentence the prisoner before him to penal servitude, and it must be left to the Secretary of State, who was best informed of the wants and feelings of the colonies, and of their power from time to time to absorb a given number or a given class of convicts, to say whether the man should or should not pass the time in a prison at home. He (Mr. Collier) would not on the present occasion dwell on the important question whether anything could be done by the Government for the criminal when his sentence had expired. He thought not; for he thought that all that must be left to private individuals. Nor would he do more than allude to the promise of the right hon. Gentleman to bring in a measure for the reformation of juvenile offenders. He thought it a wise and sound measure to connect the reformation of the young with measures of greater severity to adults; and on the whole he considered the plan of the right hon. Gentleman a very important step towards the improvement of the administration of criminal justice.
said: Sir, I have listened with great attention to this debate, and especially to the speech of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Pakington), as I was anxious to learn whether the amendments to our penal system proposed by the Government, were considered by those among us who are best informed upon the subject, to be well suited to the present emergency, or whether in their opinion there was room and opportunity for a still larger measure. My own attention has been somewhat painfully drawn to the subject we are now discussing, as the district in which I live has been, perhaps, more than any other in England, afflicted and alarmed by crimes clearly traceable to released convicts. I have, therefore, looked forward with much interest to that Amendment of the law which the Government announced their intention of proposing to us this evening. The notice of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department referred only to the Act of the 16 & 17 Vict., of which the provisions apply only to penal servitude; but the right hon. Baronet's speech has taken, as the House must have heard with satisfaction, a much wider range, and, by opening up the whole question of secondary punishment, has given rise to a very useful discussion, in which I only presume for a few moments to take part, as the materials for information upon the subject, not only from the inquiries and Reports of Committees of both Houses of Parliament, but from other sources of information available to us all, are so ample as to give the least experienced among us no excuse for being uninformed or uninterested upon it. As far as I could catch the intention of the Government from the speech of the right hon. Baronet, they mean to base their proposed Amendments of the law upon two of the most important recommendations, or rather, I should say, resolutions of the Committee of last Session, which was a Government Committee, presided over by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and in which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich took a prominent part. The Government Amendments, as I understand them, embody the first and seventh Resolutions of that Committee. The first, or to speak more correctly, the first and second Resolutions of that Committee, taken together, recommending a return to transportation so far as it may be available as a means of punishment, and the seventh Resolution recommending that the sentences of penal servitude prescribed by the Act of 1853, should be changed and lengthened so as to be identical with the terms of transportation for which they are respectively substituted. Now, if we had heard any safe or efficacious scheme propounded in the speeches we have listened to in this House, or in the multitude of suggestions out of it, either for reclaiming adult criminals or for giving complete security to society against them when released unreclaimed, we might be dissatisfied with the Government for now proposing to us an imperfect measure; but, while the punishment of criminals is comparatively an easy matter, the best mode of dealing with criminals whose term of punishment has expired, and who are to be thrown back upon society unrestricted and unreclaimed, is a problem, unhappily, as yet unsolved in England. That transportation as a punishment is, on the whole, the most beneficial to this country, as stated by the Committee of last year, is now pretty generally admitted, though I cannot help thinking if I may venture to express such an opinion, that the Committee state its advantages rather too strongly, when they say that it has both a deterring and a reformatory effect. The evidence before us, taken as a whole, appears rather to show that transportation as a punishment is not dreaded by the criminal class; that, while it has great terrors for the accidental offender, who is surrounded by the ties of home and kindred, the habitual criminal looks upon it rather as a sentence of mere exile than as a condemnation to a state of penal slavery. To such an extent, indeed, was this apparent, even at a period when the condition of our convicts was one of the greatest endurance and hardship, that Sir George Arthur, as Governor of Van Diemen's Land, deploring before the Committee of 1837 the ignorance and insensibility of the criminal class in this country to the severities of transportation, actually proposed that measures should be taken by the Government in England, by the publication of tracts with appropriate sketches, for showing to the eye the degraded state of the convict working in chains, in order, as he observes, that the very worst of the criminal class might be made sensible of what transportation really is. Neither, I fear, can transportation be recommended as a reformatory punishment; for in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, we had it in evidence before the same Committee—and no witness testified to this point more strongly than the Attorney General of Van Diemen's Land—that the expirees and ticket-of-leave men were the very worst class in that colony—those of whose frequency and enormity of offence every witness spoke in the strongest terms. But although the purifying effects of transportation, as regards the convict, may easily be exaggerated, it is difficult to exaggerate its advantages to the mother country, as a means of eliminating from our society one of its most dangerous elements. The Government now propose to return to transportation, as far as the temper and circumstances of the colonies will admit; but they adopt the principle, which I think is a sound and just principle. that convicts shall not again be forced upon colonies unwilling to receive them. This of course much narrows the field available to us fur transportation; indeed, the right hon. Baronet has at present told us of no other colony but Western Australia that has expressed its willingness to receive convict labour, and Western Australia can absorb but a small proportion of those whom we desire to transport. How far the circumstances of other colonies and their demand for labour may widen the field for our convicts has, as I gather from the speech of the right hon. Baronet, yet to be ascertained. But so far as it goes, this determination of the Government, as an amendment of our penal system, must, I think, meet with general approval. But the other question remains as to that larger section of our criminals who can not be transported, and who, when the term of their imprisonment is over, must be set free in England. The right hon. Baronet proposes that the terms of imprisonment should be lengthened, so as to correspond with the former terms of transportation. This will undoubtedly be a very great improvement; but I trust that it will be completed by an enactment that the full sentence shall really be carried out, and that in future any relaxation of the terms of punishment shall be the exception and not, as under the present law, the rule. It is agreed by all authorities that the efficacy of a punishment depends less on its severity than on its certainty; and it is a perfect mockery of a court of justice that the Judge should solemnly pronounce a sentence, and that the criminal should hear it pronounced, when both the one and the other know that more is said than is ever intended to be carried into effect. No doubt the stimulus of hope acts beneficially on the sufferer; but it was well laid down by Lord Brougham, in the Lords' Report of 1847, that, in the work of reformation, time is the great moral agent; and, although we cannot and ought not to presume to say when or how the penitential feeling may set in, yet we may be pardoned for distrusting sudden reformations—more especially in a gaol, where, as those most conversant with criminals tell us, and as the right hon. Baronet has observed, there is no opportunity or motive for committing offences, but ample opportunity and motive, of which the oldest and cleverest offender is aptest to avail himself, of being obsequious to the governor, respectful to the gaoler, and most reverential to the chaplain, in the hope of regaining that liberty which he may employ in the perpetration of one of those mysterious and daring crimes by which we are occasionally startled and alarmed. But, while we are changing the terms of imprisonment, I cannot but think we ought to consider whether some further change ought not to be made in the condition and treatment of the prisoner. It is obvious that the condition of the criminal in prison, in his food, in his labour, and in his separation from his fellows, should be such as to make a poor hard-working labourer with the most scanty earnings and the severest privations, but with the enjoyment of liberty, an object of envy to him, and that when released from prison his recollections of prison life should be such as to make a possible return to it an object of dread and almost of consternation. And I shall be glad to hear that it was the intention of the Government to give effect in every gaol in the country to the separate system. It is the only system by which we can insure that, if the convict is not improved by the punishment inflicted, he shall not, at any rate, leave prison a worse man than when he entered it; and that association with vice shall not ripen the accidental offender into the hardened criminal. But, Sir, the real point for the Legislature to aim at is not so much punishment as prevention by reformation; and I must confess that every day's experience seems to prove to us that any adequate protection to society by the reformation of adult criminals is all but hopeless, and that it is only by arresting crime at an earlier age, by the instruction and reformation of youthful offenders, that any real and abiding good can be achieved. This, however, is a very large and a very interesting question, on which I should not now presume to enter, even if the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had not announced his intention of bringing it under our notice by another Government measure this evening; and I will only, before sitting down, repeat my opinion that the right hon. Baronet, in again adopting transportation as a means of punishment as far as it may be possible to do so, in rendering the terms of imprisonment at home more extended and more certain, and in enlarging the system of juvenile reformatories, is proposing as much as we can at present expect to remedy the evils complained of, and in my humble judgment, for the introduction of this Bill, the Government are entitled both to our thanks and our support.
said, he could not allow the present opportunity to pass of tendering to the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) his personal thanks for having so early in the Session brought forward this important subject. He was happy to say that, so far as he understood the right hon. Baronet, there was not one sentence of his speech in which he did not cordially concur, and which he would not be prepared most cordially to support. If he felt any dissatisfaction it was rather that the measure did not go far enough than with the provisions of the measure itself. With regard to tickets of leave, he hoped that the doubt that still seemed to weigh on the right hon. Baronet's mind as to the policy of abolishing them would be removed, and that we should ere long get quit of that which was a most useless as well as a most misunderstood provision. The right hon. Baronet had brought before them the pros and cons of this question, and said it was a most difficult one to decide upon; but he thought there could be little doubt that the good which flowed from the system was small compared with its disadvantages; and that one of the most prominent of them was the barrier it placed in the way of the convicts obtaining employment. Tickets of leave had become a bugbear in the eyes of the country. So much had been said about them, and so much terror was associated with them, that their use, if they had any, had become impracticable, and even were there no other objections to them, this would be enough to render their abolition necessary. There was another point about which the right hon. Baronet seemed to have some hesitation, and that was the Resolution of the Commons' Committee of last year, which recommended that a part of every sentence should be fixed, and that another part should be elastic according to the conduct of the prisoner. The principle which the Committee recommended was that in a sentence for seven years, for example, four years should be fixed and certain, and that the three years might be diminished according to the industry and good conduct of the prisoner. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think it was impossible to make a portion of the sentence fixed and certain, as that would limit the prerogative of Her Majesty; but the recommendation was not meant to operate against the ground on which the Royal prerogative of pardon was exercised. The diminution of the punishment was intended to rest on the prisoner's own conduct, but the exercise of the prerogative depended, generally speaking, on some new facts affecting the convicting evidence, and made known to the Home Secretary through the Judge subsequently to the trial: so that the ordinary and only legitimate exercise of the Queen's prerogative would not in any way be interfered with by making a portion of the sentence fixed, and irredeemable by the prisoner's own conduct. With these two exceptions he gave his unqualified approbation of the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. As to the transportation part of the scheme, he took something like a paternal interest in that matter, for a proposition having the same object in view, though not in every respect identical, was proposed by him, unsuccessfully, in the Committee of last year. He hoped that from the day this Bill was passed they would bid farewell to the penal sentence of transportation and that henceforward certainty was to be introduced into our criminal system. The great cause of uncertainty in regard to transportation was the impossibility of always, and in all cases, carrying out the sentence; and that must always be uncertain so long as we were at the will of the Colonies in that matter, and not much willingness being ever probable. Transportation was also uncertain in its effects upon the criminal, and was always most severe to the best men; its severity was felt in the inverse ratio of the criminality of the man. His understanding of the new arrangement was, that all such secondary sentences would now be to penal servitude, and when a prisoner had a sentence of penal servitude passed on him a certain period of imprisonment and severe labour would have to be undergone, and that when that period was over he would, as much as possible, be removed to another country; or, if not, that he would be let out on ticket of leave in this country or regularly discharged when the period of servitude was concluded. That was an intelligible sentence; but what hopes had the right hon. Baronet of being able to carry out even the post-penal deportation included in his plan for the ultimate disposal of prisoners? When he expressed his hope that there would be available means of so disposing of large numbers of convicts he (Mr. Adderley) wished that he had told them where. He was afraid that for some time to come Western Australia would be the only place to which we could send even liberated convicts, and that colony, he feared, was little capable of receiving the number that we had to dispose of. The great difficulty was to find out the means of carrying out the deportation part of the entire sentence, and that difficulty was to be attributed to the conduct of the Minister who made the first attempt to force transportation on unwilling colonies. The attempt was made seven or eight years ago to force convicts on the Cape. It was resisted. Other colonies took up the quarrel, and now it was a matter of pride and irritated feeling with them all not to receive, on any terms, our convicts. He hoped, however, it would go forth that the right hon. Gentleman had no wish to force our criminal population on any unconsenting colony, though he confessed it would have been matter of greater satisfaction to him if the right hon. Gentleman had stated more explicitly in what quarter his hopes and expectations of their being received lay. He was convinced that if they offered fair reciprocity to the colonists, and asked them, as fellow-subjects, to enter into arrangements which were mutually advantageous to the mother country and the Colonies, opportunities would be found, when new colonies were established, of employing a large number of convicts in the first formation of roads and harbours, and upon other public works. Although the other night he expressed a strong opinion adverse to the availability of the Hudson's Bay territory, yet for this purpose it was not improbable that it might absorb some convict labour, that is, in opening up new country for settlement. He wished to press upon the attention of the House the fact, that this country was more backward than, perhaps, any nation on the Continent in using the private assistance of benevolent individuals with the view of meeting difficulties of this nature. The advantages that had attended the efforts of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society at Birmingham, which had now been in existence for nearly twelve months, satisfied him that much might be accomplished by private benevolence in the disposal and re-employment of convicts. That society was chiefly formed by the chaplain and officers of the gaol, who constituted a sort of register-office, by means of which manufacturers, who were willing to do so, were enabled to take into their employment convicts who were discharged from prison. The great difficulty such convicts encountered in obtaining employment arose from their being without character; but this difficulty was met by the society, which acted as their friend and referee, and sometimes gave surety for their conduct; and one of the richest men in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, who had taken one of these discharged prisoners into his household, with the consent of his other servants, had not found his confidence misplaced. He (Mr. Adderley) believed that if benevolent societies with similar objects were established in this country they would be the moans—as had long been the case in France and Prussia—of affording employment to numbers of discharged prisoners at home. He hoped the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) intended to follow up this Bill by a further extension of secondary punishments, and that penal servitude would not be established as the only punishment of that description. He (Mr. Adderley) trusted that no absurd sentimentality would be allowed to prevent the much more extensive adoption of corporal punishment in fitting cases, which, owing to the abuse of it, had come to be too much disused. There was a large class of criminals who had become so degraded as to be insensible to any higher motive than the fear of pain. That class was now allowed to pass practically without punishment, and the consequence was that they were constantly committing offences which led to their recommittal to prison. He thought the abandonment of degrading punishments had been carried too far. He conceived that the wretch named Harrison, who had been recently convicted, might very properly have been subjected to the most degrading punishment, and that even had he been pilloried he would only have had his deserts. He thought also that many crimes which were now visited with secondary punishment ought to be again made capital. In his opinion, robbery attended with such violence as to endanger the life of the person attacked ought to be treated as a capital offence, and the crime of garotting should be placed within the same category, for it was to all intents and purposes of the nature of murder. He concurred also in the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) that incorrigible criminals ought to be punished by permanent exclusion from society.
said, that the proposal of his right hon. Friend had been so favourably received by almost every speaker, and there had been such a general desire that the principal discussion should take place on the second reading, when they would be better acquainted with the Bill, that he did not feel it necessary to trespass on the House for any lengthened time. But he could not help expressing his satisfaction—not his surprise, for he had not expected that it would be otherwise—that no speaker was at all disposed to view this question exclusively as it respected the interests of this country, as apart and separate from those of the Colonies. We were indeed bound to take a large and comprehensive view of the general interests of the entire British Empire—not to consider merely what might be convenient and agreeable to ourselves with regard to our own home population, but to take into consideration the past history and the present interests and feelings of our colonial empire. He had never believed that it would be otherwise. During the recess communications had reached him that alarm, and serious panic had been excited in some portions of our colonial empire by particular expressions which had fallen from some hon. Members last year on the subject of transportation, and from the crime which existed in this country. But he was perfectly certain that when Parliament met the Colonies would soon discover that there was no desire on the part of that House to deal with them otherwise than with that attention that was due to their interests and importance. Undoubtedly this question of transportation was to be considered with reference partly to this country and partly to our colonial empire. As regarded this country, it could not be disputed that there was the greatest advantage in being able to resort, in a considerable degree, to a system of transportation as secondary punishment for certain classes of criminals. It might be matter of dispute—it had been matter of great difference of opinion amongst those who had most considered the subject—how far transportation was or was not a deterring punishment to our criminal population. He believed that it acted very unequally. There were some, no doubt, to whom, to be sent out of the country, was an object of great terror, and to them it might be a deterring punishment; but he believed that there was a large and increasing class to whom transportation would be anything but a punishment. It was curious to see the contradictory opinions which had been given before the Committee, of this and the other House of Parliament, by persons well qualified to speak on the subject. There were some, and among them some Judges of the land, who were of opinion that transportation was in a high degree a deterring punishment; on the other hand, chaplains and governors of gaols, and persons who knew the habits of the criminal community, were strongly of opinion that transportation as a deterring punishment was fast losing its force. So far back as 1832, when Colonel Davies' Committee sat, there was an intimation that transportation was beginning to lose its terrors, as deterring from crime, and that something else must be looked to. Sir W. Molesworth's Committee, which sat later, expressed that opinion much more strongly. Remembering that within the last twenty years not less than 500,000 persons had gone as voluntary emigrants to the shores of Australia, he could not believe that in that class of persons, from whom those emigrants had proceeded, there could exist the same dread of transportation that had existed twenty years ago, when it was hardly possible, either by persuasion or bribes, to induce any portion of our agricultural population to leave the country. Still, it could not be questioned that, as a means of disposing of a large class of our criminal population, of reforming them, and giving them a far more favourable chance of improvement than they could possibly have at home, transportation, as an adjunct of a system of secondary punishment, was most valuable; and ought, by every means in our power, so far as was consistent with the rights and justice due to our colonial empire, to be preserved. The Government had considered the question during the recess with all the attention which its importance deserved, and had come to the conclusion which had now been stated by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that, while they continued the system they could not recommend that convicts should be transported to any part of the British dominions, except that already open to their reception—the colony of Western Australia. There had been a great deal of discussion out of doors on the subject during the recess, by writers and correspondents who were well informed and had paid great attention to the subject, and the consequence was that the Members of the Legislature approached the question with their minds far better informed than they would otherwise have done. The correspondence that had taken place between men of great knowledge and experience as to the expediency of transporting convicts to certain places showed that however, at first sight, those places might appear adopted to the purpose, there were great objections to them. In speaking of Western Australia as the only place, he did not mean that the Government would preclude themselves from taking advantage of openings that might arise in any other part of the world; but at that moment they were not warranted in holding out the prospect that any other colony would receive convicts. The places recommended in the Lords' Report were Vancouver's Island, the Gulf of Carpentaria, and Western Australia. To begin with Vancouver's Island—it was placed very near to California and the United States of America; there was a large population of Indians on the Island itself and close to its shores; and considering its immense distance from this country, and the great expense of transporting convicts there, all must see that it would be most unwise in the Government to propose to found a convict establishment there. With regard to the Gulf of Carpentaria, no doubt the House would be disposed to maintain inviolate the pledge given to our Australian colonies—not to inflict convicts upon them without their free consent, and would maintain that pledge, not only in the letter, but in the spirit. They would not only not send convicts to the colonies themselves, but not to any place which would give easy access to those colonies. From the imperfect information we possessed about the Gulf of Carpentaria, he was far from satisfied that the climate was fitted for a convict settlement—the very last accounts from that place spoke most unfavourably of the climate. There was another objection still stronger. The House would not be disposed to place convicts in any situation where they could filter through into neighbouring colonies. Now it was upon the sheep-walks and pastures that the prosperity of the colonies in that part of Australia must depend. The sheep-walks in Moreton Bay were extensive: already they were within 600 miles of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and, if the settlement of the Gulf of Carpentaria were to prosper at all, it must be by means of its sheep-walks, and there was consequently a probability of the convict population of the latter place finding their way to a free colony of New South Wales, to which we were pledged not to send them. Then there were the Falkland Islands, the advantages of which had been so strongly commended. Now with respect to the Falkland Islands, Captain Sullivan, the Commissioner who had been sent out to report on their eligibility, told the Committee of the House of Lords that they were admirably adapted for a convict settlement with one drawback—that after the convicts were liberated there was no probability that private employers would be found to take them into their service to any extent. He considered that fact as absolutely fatal to the Falkland Islands as a convict settlement; and he strongly protested against the principle on which some persons recommended the Falkland Islands as a convict settlement—that the convicts would somehow or other filter away, and not be heard of any more. That might be true of a mere handful, but any considerable number of convicts would become an absolute pest to the whole neighbourhood, find the adjacent colonies would not endure it for a moment. This was evident from what occurred at Bermuda. Occasionally convicts were pardoned there, and had as good a right to go where they liked as any Member of that House. Some had attempted to go to the United States. And what was the conduct of the United States? The States had immediately passed the most stringent laws, to the effect that if a vessel arrived at any port of the United States with a single pardoned convict on board, that vessel should be subject to the heaviest penalties, should be turned back again, and not allowed to break bulk. This had actually taken place in the State of New York. He mentioned this to show that it was not such an easy thing to establish convict settlements in some out-of-the-way part of the world, and to let the convicts go when they were pardoned, as some persons supposed. The state of feeling in the world on those subjects was much altered, and the means of free communication in the world had been very much increased. Even our own colonies had passed laws to the same effect. The colony of Victoria had passed a law of a very stringent, and in some respects a very exceptionable character, which prevented pardoned men from other colonies from coming to that colony. The United States had done the same thing with regard to Bermuda. If we sent convicts there we must keep them there, for other places would not have them. Ho (Mr. Labouchere) was therefore justified in saying that the Government could not come to that House and propose the establishment of a convict settlement in either of the two places recommended by the House of Lords. There remained Western Australia, at the present moment the only British settlement open for the reception of convicts; which we had never yet been able to use to the degree that was originally intended, and for which the free inhabitants of the colony were anxious it should be used. It would be a very mistaken policy to go and incur great expense in other parts of the world, at all events until we had exhausted the means which this colony was willing and able to afford. It presented some very peculiar advantages as a place of reception for convicts. The soil, though very fertile, was more adapted for agriculture than for sheep pasture. The sheep-walks were not so extensive there as in other parts of Australia, and the population were consequently more kept together. This was a great means of preventing the escape of convicts; there was hardly an instance of an escape since it had been a convict colony. It had also this advantage—a very great one with reference to the other colonies of Australia. There was hardly any communication by sea from Western Australia to the other colonies. There was very little coasting trade; the trade, such as it was, was almost entirely with British India and with England. There were considerable resources that might be developed by the convicts sent there; but, generally speaking, Western Australia did not furnish much to the other colonies; and the navigation was extremely long and dangerous round the cape at the south-western corner of Australia. The colony was very rich in timber; indeed a very great timber trade was springing up there. The Admiralty had just concluded a contract for timber from Western Australia; and he trusted that this trade might induce the investment of capital there, and be the means of employing men. At the same time, however, that he was fully justified in making these representations to the House, he must take care not to state them in too ample terms. It was only to a certain extent, and for a limited time, that they could look to the introduction of convicts into that colony; and the measure must be introduced with the greatest caution, vigilance, and circumspection on the part of the Government if Western Australia was to continue to receive convicts. It would be the duty of the Government to do everything in their power to surmount the difficulties that existed. One of the principal was that which had been truly adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) the necessity of taking care to keep up something like an equality between the sexes. The attention of the Government had been anxiously directed to that subject; he was in communication with the Emigration Commissioners, and hoped to be able to find a remedy for that which had hitherto been a serious evil in our convict colonies. One measure which he had felt it his duty to take, in accordance with the recommendation of the Lords' Committee, was to give facilities to convicts to send for their wives and children, also to send out destitute young women of good character to the colony. It would also be necessary to encourage, as far as they could, the emigration to that colony of free emigrants, between whom and the convicts it was of the utmost importance that the due proportion should be kept up. Under these circumstances they might hope that the colony would prosper. It was indeed far from being in a decaying condition. In 1849 the population was 5.564—all free, no convicts having been then sent there. In 1855 the population had doubled: it was 10,630, and a convict population of 2,175. In 1849 the revenue was £9,566; in 1855, £34,451. The exports, in 1849, were £28,554; in 1855, £105,350. The imports were in 1849, £26,150; in 1855, £46,304. The House would perceive that this colony, under judicious management, might be the means of relieving us of our convict population for some time to come. It had doubtless been an expensive colony; but all penal colonies were necessarily so; and the House must make up its mind to that if it wished transportation to be carried out with effect. But it had not been so expensive as penal colonies in former days. Transportation to this colony commenced in 1850; since that time 4,194 convicts had been sent there; and the whole expense of sending and maintaining them there had been £406,000. Looking back to the settlement of New South Wales, he found that in the first twelve years only 4,564 male convicts were sent out, at an expense of above a million of money, or more than double the cost of the convicts sent to Western Australia. The expense of Western Australia was therefore not so extravagant as some hon. Gentlemen had been led to suppose. And if we were to have transportation anywhere, to any penal settlement, we must make up our minds to pay for it. He must express his satisfaction at the fair and candid spirit in which the proposal of the Government had been met by the House. As far as principles were concerned, there did not seem to be any great diversity of sentiment. Above all, he rejoiced, that while Members were anxious to find a remedy for any evils in the penal code of this country, they were not unmindful of their permanent obligation to the British Colonies, and were determined to do nothing, either in letter or spirit, to violate those pledges which they had repeatedly given, not to interfere with the expressed wishes of the Colonies on this subject, not to send convicts to any colony which was not willing to receive them, and even not to place convicts in any penal settlement, the proximity of which could give any just cause of alarm to any colony which had expressed its unwillingness to receive them.
said, he could assure the right hon. Baronet that he had listened with the closest attention to the able and lucid speech he had made when introducing his measure to the House. But, making every allowance for the great difficulties with which the right hon. Baronet had to deal, he (Mr. Bentinck) was bound to say he was not yet convinced that the method proposed was one holding out the best means of dealing with this subject. He could not help thinking that the means sought for might be better attained by establishing penal settlements nearer home, and by utilising the labour of convicts. The great objects to be secured were—first, to protect society by the prevention of crime; secondly, to reform, as far as possible, the criminal; thirdly, to deal with the subject with a due regard to economy. The right hon. Baronet himself had furnished him (Mr. Bentinck) with a very strong argument in favour of the view which he took upon the question. He (Sir G. Grey) had spoken of the difficulties of finding a fitting penal settlement being already very great, and likely to increase; and that view of the subject was confirmed by the observations of the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House. The colony now proposed for the reception of convicts was not likely to be available for the purpose for more than a few years. Under these circumstances, did it not become the Government and the House at once to take the real difficulty in hand, and to endeavour to devise a system that should be permanent? Such a system would have this advantage also, it would secure to this country all the advantage to be derived from the labour of the prisoners. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had told them that the labour of those persons would be extremely beneficial to the colony. But surely, it that were so, it might be made equally beneficial to the mother country. This was an important economical view of the question—this country ought not to lose the value—if he might so term it—of the convict labour. The right hon. Baronet had said, that transportation did not increase the vicious habits of the convicts. Now, if they were to believe some of the accounts which reached them from the penal settlements, nothing could be worse than some of the consequences which had resulted from having a large number of convicts brought together. But, however, this might be, he (Mr. Bentinck) could not help thinking, that by a proper management of the convicts in this country, which would bring them more under the eye of the Home Government, there would be a much greater chance of effectual prevention of crime than could be hoped for, so long as these convicts were kept in a penal settlement at a great distance from England. One of the objections made to keeping prisoners at home was the alleged difficulty of finding suitable employment for any but the stronger part of them. But surely this objection applied equally to any colonial penal settlement. It did not apply to one on a large scale near home, because by proper and judicious arrangements, work might be provided for every class of convicts, including even women, and the labour of all might be turned to profitable account. It had been observed that it was quite impossible to judge whether the repentance of prisoners were sincere, or merely assumed as the expedient of a clever fellow to obtain a speedy discharge from prison. He thought that one of the causes which led to sham repentance was the uncertainty that now existed as to the duration of the punishment which would attend detection and conviction, and he was of opinion that it would be an improvement in the administration of criminal law if the Secretary of State was deprived of the power of remitting any portion of the sentence passed on a prisoner except in cases where it had become manifest that there had been a miscarriage of justice. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had spoken of the hulks and had intimated that it was the intention of Government to do away with them. He (Mr. Bentinck) was not prepared to offer a decided opinion on the point; but he certainly should have thought that the hulks could be used most beneficially as receptacles for prisoners employed at coast works, as their use would save the expense which would otherwise be gone to in erecting buildings for lodging those men. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies said, that the 4,000 convicts sent to Western Australia had cost £400,000.
said, that the sum he mentioned included the expense of the present establishment, which had already been incurred, and would not be incurred again.
believed it could be easily shown, that by proper management they might make the whole convict establishments pay themselves, if not absolutely profitable to the country; while, at the same time, they might protect society, and hold out a better prospect of the unfortunate inmates being reformed. He admitted that there was one difficulty, and one only, in the way of the adoption of his plan, and that arose from that maudlin sentiment which unfortunately existed in this country in favour of convicts. The distressed but honest labourer, who had a number of children to support, might, if he were not fortunate enough to live in the neighbourhood of some charitable individual of large means, go on struggling in misery year after year, unknown and uncared for, with little to fall back upon except parochial relief; but let him go into the nearest lane and commit a murder, and from that moment he was an object of sympathy with a large class of people in this country, who believed themselves to be actuated by the best motives. The moment a man proved himself to be a great miscreant, those excellent people endeavoured to invest him with all the attributes of a saint and a martyr. He (Mr. Bentinck), therefore, candidly admitted that this maudlin sentiment did afford an argument against keeping prisoners at home; but this difficulty, he thought, could he overcome by a determination on the part of the Government to carry out the sentence passed upon prisoners, and to do that in the manner best calculated for the safety of the community and the ultimate advantage of the criminals themselves.
said, he was perfectly ready to join with the noble Lord the Member for London and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford who had expressed their regret that the House had not been called together to discuss the war with Persia; but, if the two right hon. Gentlemen the Secretaries for the Home Department and the Colonies, could only have made their speeches a few months ago it was impossible to estimate the immense amount of nonsense and discomfort which would have been spared the country. Of course the right hon. Baronet could not have written a letter to The Times; but he might have got his constituents to invite him to a dinner, and such a speech then would have been far more valuable than many delivered under similar circumstances. He knew it was not the right time to discuss the details of this and the subsidiary measure which must go with it, but he hoped when they did discuss it they would show they were not affected by all the falsity and error which had for so long a period prevailed out of doors on the subject. He regretted that the temper and inclination of the House seemed to go along with the immediate and momentary temper of the country in the sense of greater severity and the establishment of the deterrent rather than the reformatory system of punishment. If there were any persons who expected to solve the problem by making our prisons uncomfortable—by thinning the gruel and diminishing the beef—they would find they had mistaken the way of acting even upon the criminal class of this country. He denied that there was any ground for believing that the increased activity of the reformatory and the decreased action of the deterrent principle of punishment had been attended with mischievous results. The population of England and Wales was increasing at the rate of 1,000 per day; yet there was a diminution of convictions in 1855 of 4,000, and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) had shown that this diminution had continued in 1856. With what face, then, could hon. Members say that all our reformatory action had been a failure? There were many causes, such as the cessation of transportation, the war and the high price of food, which might have led us to expect an increase of crime; but there had been, on the contrary, a decrease of crime; and hon. Members who declared that a just treatment of criminals had increased crime had no facts to refer to in support of their views. The system of licences permitting convicts to be at large had failed in this country, but not from the causes mentioned. He should rather say it had failed because it required of the police a very difficult and delicate duty, which was quite new to them, and for which they were totally unfit. What was wanted was something analogous to the police surveillance of foreign countries, in which the police acted the part of watching the persons in question, but so discreetly as not to damage them in their usual habits of life. But the result of our system had been that every unhappy man who had received a ticket of leave, was, or believed that he had been, tracked from door to door by the police, so that he lived without any sense of security or comfort. But the failure of this system had nothing to do with the other question introduced by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey)—namely, the diminution of punishment on account of good behaviour. This was no encouragement to crime, and if they did not allow something to good conduct and contrite behaviour they struck at the basis of all reformatory treatment. He hoped that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) would not press his Motion for a Committee, but would allow the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman had indicated to be introduced and discussed at its second reading. A subject that required attention was the treatment of discharged prisoners. The benefit of the punishment of transportation was not so much in the deportation of the criminal during punishment as in the condition and status he acquired after he was discharged. That advantage we did not now possess, but it was one which we must attempt to recover or find a substitute for. We must assist these persons in their attempts to attain a rehabilitation in society, or we should find ourselves driven to great difficulties. The hon. Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) trusted much to voluntary effort; but he (Mr. Milnes) regretted that in the wealthy and populous district of the West Riding only one petty juvenile reformatory had been established; but there had been established in connection with the Wakefield House of Correction a prisoners' home, in which all prisoners upon their discharge were received for a certain time, where they were employed under certain strict rules of discipline in remunerative labour, and encouraged to find work and independence outside its walls. He did not, therefore, think that voluntary means would be found sufficient to meet the difficulty. Some transition state was necessary, for a prisoner could not be turned out of prison destitute, and if a sum of money were given him it was spent in dissipation. He was convinced that if they did not make a bridge to facilitate the passage of a prisoner from the class of society they wished him to leave to that in which he would be able to recover a status in society, there would be very little advantage in their other measures, however good they might be in themselves. He would solemnly recommend those considerations to the attention of the House and the Government; and he would only further say that when he found that the measures which he and others proposed in that House ten years ago were now becoming subjects of serious consideration and discussion there he derived encouragement, and hoped that ten years more would not elapse before the principles he advocated, in connection with this question, were brought into actual operation.
said, he rose for the purpose of expressing the great dread he felt lest the House should again have recourse to the punishment of transportation, for, if any one thing had been established by testimony of the most trustworthy and indisputable kind, it was that transportation was cruel in its nature, degrading to humanity, ineffectual for purposes of reformation, and vitiated every one brought under its influence. He dreaded that under a temporary pressure of public feeling the Government might be driven to the adoption of transportation as a secondary punishment; but he hoped they would act with firmness on the occasion, for, however desirable it might be to remove criminals to some place of a reformatory character after they had undergone sentence—in the propriety of which he agreed—he did protest against transportation being used as a secondary punishment. Under a proper system of secondary punishments nothing would be easier than for a criminal, after enduring his sentence, to be furnished with the means of emigration; but to send a body of criminals to a particular locality, in the hope that they would thereby be reformed, was simply an absurdity, and indicated great ignorance of human nature. Send them, if the House would, separately, and so give them a chance of recovering a lost character and earning an honest livelihood; but to send them as a distinct body to one particular spot was only to furnish them with every possible motive for returning to a course of crime when the time for their liberation arrived. Nobody, he hoped, would ever seriously dream of restoring such a hell upon earth as Norfolk Island had been. Nor would anybody now contend that the worst class of our criminals ought to be inflicted on any of our Colonies. He would also urge upon the notice of the House that, in reference to the less criminal class of convicts, under pretext of sending them abroad for a short time, the Government would, in fact, inflict upon them, practically speaking, a sentence of perpetual exile. Another objection to a return to the system of transportation was that the disposition of the lower classes was rather to underrate its severity as a punishment. When men heard of the high rate of wages which prevailed in Australia, they were, ns it were, allured to the commission of crime, in the expectation that they would be sent to a country where a rapid fortune might be made. It was not to deter people from crime, surely, that the House would transport them to a place where they would have all the advantages of a fine climate, a sufficiency of food, high wages, and whither, as the Secretary of the Colonies had said, respectable young women might be permitted to accompany them. With regard to the ticket-of leave system, he trusted it was at an end; for, besides other evils connected with it, to cast upon the police of the country the duty of watching over suspected persons, whom they might have it in their power to ruin at any moment, was a thing wholly unknown to the laws and constitution of this country, and too grievous longer to be borne.
said, he was not one of those who, like the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Milnes), thought that public opinion of this country ought to be treated with contempt. He thanked the Government for the consideration they had given the subject before the House, and submitted that if the House would only look at the marked increase of crime, accompanied by violence, they would find that the opinion of the Judges on this subject, was amply borne out as well as by the public feeling out of doors; he thanked the public press for the exertions it had made to embody and reflect the popular opinion on this grave question. In 1853, when he protested against the Bill for the abolition of transportation, he found himself almost alone and unsupported. He must say, however, while rejoicing that this subject was now seriously engaging the attention of the Government, he lamented that the first three recommendations made by the Committee of that House by which this subject had been investigated had been totally overlooked or contravened by the measures which the Government sought to introduce. Those recommendations were, in effect, that transportation should be retained as a punishment under sentences passed by Judges on the Bench for all the graver category of offences, and he had heard no reason assigned why, when the Government were contemplating a new system of transportation, they should in the same measure embody a provision for destroying the punishment of transportation so far as it was at present retained. He could not understand why, while there was hope of a new penal colony being established, the House should be called on rashly to destroy the remnant of a punishment the tampering with which the whole country had cause to regret, and the restoration of which, under somewhat different conditions, was contemplated by the very measure now under consideration. He had heard means of punishment suggested, revolting, as he thought, to the kindly feeling of this country—such as the attempt to seclude men for life or for very long intervals of time. He could not believe, after the experience they had had of solitary confinement, that the House would ever sanction upon a larger scale, or under conditions of greater severity, a punishment from which the best feelings of humanity recoiled, which had proved both in this country and in the United States dangerous to the health and to the sanity of prisoners when unduly extended, and in what manner would they carry out a system of perpetual imprisonment? Was a corner of the island to be cut off and a penal colony formed in it? The Secretary of State would be besieged with applications for the remission of sentences of that kind if they were ever passed. The House ought not to be alarmed by the bugbear of Norfolk Island. The conditions under which that settlement had latterly existed were such that it could not succeed; that penal settlement had been overcrowded and subjected to other disadvantages, which rendered its success impossible. What had been done before with success might be done again; and, remembering what had been the results of the establishment of penal settlements in America, in Australia, in Van Diemen's Land, he hoped they would not be deterred by the example of Norfolk Island from establishing penal settlements elsewhere. The public asked to be relieved from the presence of the most dangerous classes of criminals, and, as it would be impossible to carry into effect a system of perpetual imprisonment or of Austrian police in this country, they must look to the natural resources afforded them by extended empire. He trusted that they would not abolish the power of sentencing to transportation until they had exhausted every means of discovering a place to which the worst criminals might be transported, with a view to afford to the public that protection which they had a right to demand at the hands of the Legislature.
said, he was glad to hear that the punishment which was to be inflicted upon a criminal was to have the character of certainty; and if there was one portion of the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department to which he had listened with greater regret than to another it was that by which, while reserving to the Government the power of transportation, the right hon. Baronet proposed to do away with the sentence of transportation altogether. He was glad, moreover, to find that two periods in the career of the criminal had been so distinctly recognised by the right hon. Baronet—namely, the period of punishment and the subsequent period of probation. He would confine the few observations he had to address to the House to the latter. He trusted that, in the future amended system of management, in the probationary period, care would be taken to distinguish as accurately as possible the causes which had led to crime, because there was a great distinction between the convict who became one from his corrupt and criminal nature, and the man who occupied the same position from having acted upon the impulse of the moment. He begged the indulgence of the House if he appeared to abuse the privileges of debate in directing their attention for a moment to the subject of cotton. It was an apparent digression, but they would presently see in what manner he connected it with the question before, them. They had heard repeatedly of late complaints with respect to the supply of cotton, and they were doubtless aware that five-sixths of all the cotton imported into this country came from the United States; but the capabilities of America to produce it were limited, and the Indian-grown cotton, it was well known, could only compete successfully with the American, when prices in the States were high, owing to a deficient crop. Very recently the supply of cotton had given rise to considerable discussion, and not long since some important light was thrown upon the subject by a communication made by a gentleman to the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce touching its cultivation in Demarara. That gentleman had shown that cotton in no way inferior to any of American growth could be produced in that country. They had also been told that in that part of our colonial possessions no less than 400 estates were no longer cultivated, owing to the scarcity of men for agricultural labour. Now, he wished to ask the Government whether there was any objection to entering into a contract with those planters who were in a state of ruin to supply them with a certain portion of convict labour for the cultivation of their lands? In Demerara, the planters were in a desperate position, and he did not think that, situated as they were, they would be very nice as to the character of labourer they employed—whether they would be disposed to give the preference to a Hill Coolie or a Chinaman over an English, convict. With regard to Demerara, he was the more inclined to ask the question he had put to the Government, from the fact that a penal settlement existed there already, The British possession in Guiana contained an area of something less than 100,000 miles, and he thought they afforded an ample field for our convict population, and for their useful employment in the cultivation of so important a commercial article. He might certainly be told that the climate was insalubrious; but he would remind the Government that they did not hesitate to send their soldiers to either hemisphere; in the one to be decimated by yellow fever, in the other to perish under the jungle fevers and burning suns of India; and were they, he would ask, to be told that they must deal more leniently with men who had violated their country's laws than with those who had taken up arms in its defence? Such, he could not help thinking, would be most mistaken philanthropy, and he could not but repeat that the penal settlement to which he referred promised the highest advantages and conveniences for disposing of a certain number of convicts. The right hon. Baronet had, indeed, stated that there were great difficulties in the way of giving tickets of leave in the colonies, and that in the event of any misconduct on the part of the convict it was scarcely within the power of the Government again to subject him to penal treatment. That objection would, however, hardly apply to the case of a country in great want of labour, and where a penal establishment already existed, such as the colony to which he had just alluded. Something had been said about the treatment of our prisoners, but in his opinion they were treated very much too well. The diet of the convicts at Bermuda was better than that supplied to our troops, and at home things were little different—a case had recently come under his notice where a boy had run away from a reformatory because he knew he should get better treatment in the county prison. He respected the efforts which had been made by different benevolent persons to purge our prisons of obscenity and vice, and, to a great degree, of discomfort, but he thought the convicts deserved less sympathy than had been shown them from many quarters. Looking over a work of Colonel Jebb's that morning, he had been much struck with finding of what value convict labour was. That work showed that in some of the Government prisons of this country the labour of convicts had been usefully and profitably employed in public works. He should also observe, that there existed the most conclusive reasons for believing that due economy and good management did not prevail in many of our prisons. He found that in Millbank Penitentiary the gross cost of each prisoner in the year 1655–1856 had been £27 7s., and the net cost of each prisoner, deducting the value of his labour, had been £23 1s. 10d.; and that in Dartmoor prison the gross cost of each prisoner had been £32 2s. 2d., and the net cost £30 4s. 11d. But at Portsmouth the gross cost of each prisoner was £31 11s. 1d., and the net cost, allowing for the value of his labour, was only £4 16s. 10d.; and at Portland the gross cost of each prisoner was £28 15s. 9d., and the net cost only £2 17s. 7d. In the two latter prisons the convicts being employed in the construction of useful public works and labour connected with the dockyard. Those figures went to show that a large saving might be made in the Millbank and the Dartmoor prisons if the labour of the convicts were turned to proper account. He hoped these matters would be borne in mind, and he trusted that some general information would be given by the Government with respect to convict arrangements in Demerara.
said, he wished to give an explanation respecting certain cases referred to by the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). He repeated that the observations which Judge Willes had made in the case referred to he afterwards explained as having been made under a misapprehension of the facts. With respect to the case at Worcester, the right hon. Baronet had himself admitted that the recommendations were such as excused the exercise of mercy on the part of the responsible Minister, and he did not think that the House would be of opinion that in no case were circumstances to be taken into consideration after conviction for mitigation of punishment. A petition had been presented to him on behalf of the prisoner by a clergyman of the Church of England, and by persons who had employed him, stating that it was his first offence, and all the documents were sent to Chief Baron Pollock, who tried him, and who, he understood, concurred in the propriety of a mitigation of punishment. He could only for himself say, that he had done all in his power to check the impression among the prisoners that the ticket-of-leave system would be universally adopted in their favour.
said, he wished to say a few words in the way of personal explanation. He was not in the House when the right hon. Baronet, delivered the speech introducing this Motion, but he had been informed that the right hon. Gentleman had attributed to him (Mr. M. Gibson) a statement to the effect that there had of late been a great increase of crime and pauperism in this country. But what he had really said was, that he thought the Government, in the Speech from the Throne, had given too favourable a view of the condition of the country, that their representation of that condition ought to have been more qualified, and that their allegations that the people generally were in a state of well-being and contentment was not a full and fair description of our actual position. He had added, that there prevailed in the country a great amount of discontent arising out of the pressure of the public burdens, as well as a considerable amount of pauperism and crime. He still believed that statement was quite true; but he had not said that there had recently been any alarming increase of crime and pauperism.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir GEORGE GREY and Mr. MASSEY.
Bill read 1°.