House Of Lords
Friday, April 12, 1850.
MINUTES.] PUBLIC BILLS.—1a Judgments (Ireland); Alterations in Pleadings.
2a Brick Duties; Exchequer Bills.
3a Convict Prisons.
Convict Prisons Bill
Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
EARL GREY moved the Third Reading of this Bill.
said, that he was not aware that the noble Earl (Earl Grey) intended on the second reading of the Bill to have entered into the whole question of transportation. As the noble Earl had, however, taken that opportunity of expressing his opinions, he also was anxious now to make a few observations on the subject. He had too strong a conviction, founded upon his own recollections of office under the late Government, of the frightful evils which had attended our former systems of transportation, and of the great difficulties which must always attend any attempt to deal with this question, not to wish heartily well to any attempts which might be made to alter and improve the existing system. In many respects he believed that the plan now proposed by Her Majesty's Government was an amendment on that system. Until a comparatively recent period the object which was always had in view in secondary punishments, was to deter from the commission of crime those who had not hitherto rendered themselves amenable to the law, while the reformation of those who had committed offences was wholly lost sight of. They had now been engaged for some time in endeavouring to combine the two systems, of deterring from crime and reforming the criminals. Those who held strong opinions upon either of these objects of punishment, entertained doubts as to the possibility of combining them. Archbishop Whately and Sir W. Denison, and those who held their opinions, always spoke of the permanent reformation of the prisoner as little better than an amiable delusion, and contended that the main object to be kept in view in all punishments was the deterring from the commission of crime. On the other hand, Captain Maconochie, when treating of the subject, invariably spoke as if the idea of deterring from crime was to be kept wholly in the back ground, and even as if those who were criminally disposed might as well at once commit crime in order to pass through the beneficial and healing process which he proposed. The present plan offered some hope of success in this attempt at combination of the two objects; but he wished to point out that its whole force and efficiency depended upon what was proposed to be done with the prisoners at home previous to their deportation; for the colonial part of it was nothing more in effect than a revival of the old assignment system, though with some improvements in detail. Upon the arrival of the prisoners in the Australian colonies, they were subject to no penal discipline, and the prisoners who were here undergoing their punishment, looked forward with hope, as might be seen in the report on Portland prison, to the period when they could obtain their tickets of leave. The fact was that the Government did for the prisoners what they would not do for the honest labourers, namely, gave them a free passage to a country of comparative happiness and plenty, where they might spend in quiet the remainder of their lives. The only chance which existed of counteracting this was that of inflicting such a formidable period of punishment at home as would have a sufficiently deterring effect to counterbalance the advantageous prospect held out to the prisoner upon his arrival in another country. With respect to the colonies, he was glad to express his decided approval of the conduct of the Government in not having forced upon the colony of New South Wales the reception of convicts after an unfavourable expression of opinion on the subject by the legislature of that colony: any attempt to do so against the declared will of the colonies would be a most fatal step for any Government to take. He might, perhaps, agree with his noble friend opposite in the opinion that, taking everything into account, the people of New South Wales had committed an error with respect to their own interest by refusing to receive the convicts; and that, perhaps—[Earl GREY: Hear, hear!]—they had failed in their duty in declining, as their legislature had done, without assigning any reason, to continue the reception of convicts in the colony; but, at the same time, he thought that the Government at home had acted perfectly right in at once deferring to the views which they entertained on the subject. Experience had shown that it would be a vain experiment to force the reception of convicts on any colony against its will. He was sorry, however, to except from his expression of approval the conduct of the Government in refusing to comply with the distinctly expressed wish, on the part of the colony of New South Wales, that the Order in Council reconstituting that colony as one to which convicts might be conveyed, should be revoked and removed from the Order-book. The conduct of the Government in this respect appeared to him nothing more nor less than a gratuitous and unnecessary annoyance to the feelings of the people of that colony. It was true, as his noble Friend had said, that the feelings of the people on the subject had not been decisively stated, and that, therefore, it might be better to leave the matter open until such complete expression of opinion had been received from the colony. The value of such an argument was, however, but small, for upon the receipt of any notice of change of feeling on the part of the colonists, it would be perfectly easy for the Government to renew the order if it had been previously expunged. The order with respect to the Cape of Good Hope had been withdrawn, and the refusal to act in a similar manner towards New South Wales would tend to create a feeling of irritation upon the minds of the colonists which it would be desirable to prevent. With regard to the present state of affairs in New South Wales, the Government had themselves, in a great degree, to thank for the existence of any unfavourable feeling in that colony with regard to the reception of convicts. The district of Port Phillip was as much in want of labour as any other district in the Australian colonies; but the inhabitants of that district were set against the continuance of the system, after it had been commenced under somewhat favourable auspices, by the neglect of the local government in framing proper regulations for the reception and management of the convicts upon their arrival in the colony. Now, as to Van Diemen's Land, it was impossible to read the papers laid before Parliament without feeling the extreme insecurity and precarious prospect of continuing transportation to that colony, even under the plan as now proposed. He did not deny the validity, strictly speaking, of the arguments which had been used with reference to continuing transportation to Tasmania, that the colony had always been a penal settlement, and that the free settlers had gone with their eyes fully open to that fact. But this was an argument which was becoming less and less a practi- cal one every day. It was impossible to reason about the colonies in that strict and rigid manner. It must surely be the wish of every one to see those colonies happy and flourishing, whatever might have been the original bargain or contract with the colonies with respect to the reception of convicts. Besides that, the Government had encouraged, to a great extent, the emigration of free settlers to that and other penal colonies, and their wishes were certainly entitled to some consideration at the hands of the Government. If they looked to the actual state of feeling which existed in Van Diemen's Land, it was not such as to lead persons to suppose that the almost exclusive transportation of convicts could be long continued to that colony. The last expression of opinion on the subject, on the part of the legislative council of Van Diemen's Land, was in the form of a resolution, to the effect that any plan by which convicts who should be sent out after having undergone punishment in England might be distributed over the whole surface of the Australian continent, would, to a certain degree, neutralise the evil effects consequent upon their reception at one colony. The resolution to that effect was passed in the council in October, 1848. At that time, a hope was held out to the colony that some such distribution and proportion of convicts would be adopted by the Government at home; but it was now, however, proposed to confine the convicts entirely to Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island. Numerous meetings had been held in the colony on the subject; and at one of the largest meetings which was held upon the subject, it was resolved that the resumption of transportation should be received with the utmost disfavour on the part of the people. If this state of feeling existed in the country with its present defective legislative institutions, much more strongly would the feeling be expressed when the colony received the new representative constitution which it was proposed to confer upon it by Her Majesty's Government. With respect to this feeling of dislike to the reception of convicts on the part of Van Diemen's Land, the Government had to thank themselves in a great degree for its existence. He remembered the state of confusion in which the whole question of transportation was left at the time when the late Government resigned office; and he bad no wish to express any severe or harsh censure upon the present Government for the course of policy which they had adopted on the subject; but still he could not help saying that the Government had raised up very formidable obstacles to the continuance of transportation, by the opinions which they expressed in 1846 and 1847, that transportation would in no shape or form be resumed to these colonies.
Can you quote any despatch on the subject?
said, that he would shortly do so. One of the resolutions passed at a public meeting in the colony of Van Diemen's Land was, that—
That, therefore, was the feeling of the colonists on the subject; and he would proceed to show that it was a reasonable one. Within a very short time after the present Government taking office, a despatch was sent by the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Office, on September 30, to Sir W. Denison, in which a plan was proposed of sending out convicts, with respect to which he said, that it was not proposed as a scheme to enable the Government to pour in any such flood of convicts as had recently been sent to Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land, and adding, "The resumption of that plan I regard as altogether impossible." This despatch referred only to preliminary arrangements; but when the noble Lord in 1847 was able to enter more fully into the consideration of the subject, the question was very differently stated. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, writing to the noble Earl at the head of the Colonial Office, said—"This meeting views with the deepest indignation the conduct of the Home Government, in proposing to resume convict transportation in direct contradiction to the deliberate and solemn assurance from Her Majesty's Ministers at home, that from that time it should altogether cease."
[Earl GREY: Hear, hear!] He was fully aware of the limitation which the noble Earl cheered, but the meaning of it was cleared up in a subsequent passage, in which it was stated—"I think that transportation confined to Van Diemen's Land, as hitherto carried on, ought to be wholly abandoned. Should your Lordship concur in that opinion, I would suggest that it should be intimated to the Lieutenant Governor, that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to resume transportation to that colony, as recently existing."
This is not transportation. Not one word was said about deportation to any place. The noble Earl opposite, in reply to the letter of the right hon. Baronet, expressed his entire concurrence in the proposal, and a despatch was forwarded to Sir W. Denison, who stated, in his answer to it, that the resumption of transportation would be most distasteful to the colonists. He would not dwell on the error of judgment into which his noble Friend had fallen, when, after declaring that in case transportation were resumed he would take care an equal number of free emigrants should be sent out with the convicts, that promise had been disregarded; the convicts had been sent, but no free emigrants; causing thereby great irritation and annoyance to the colonists. But he could not regard with satisfaction the proposition itself, that, when they were sending convicts to any of their colonies, a number of free emigrants should be sent concurrently with them. He thought that by so doing they would inflict a great degradation on free emigration. Would any respectable class of persons like to be sent out as make-weights, to counterbalance an equal number of convicts? It was impossible that any person of right feeling could like to do so. Let Government, on the one hand, encourage free emigration as far as they could; and, on the other, let them send out convicts according to the best regulations they could adopt; but if they sent them out together, in the way that had been proposed, they would produce more evil than good. He would only say one word further on the state of feeling of the people of Western Australia, from whom his noble Friend had obtained in some qualified sort of way a consent to receive convicts, and for the erection of a penal settlement in that small colony. As far as the faint and feeble voice of that almost perishing community could be heard at all, they were anxious to catch at any straw to relieve themselves from the evils under which they are suffering from the want of labour and capital. But although in their present unfortunate condition, they might be willing to receive convicts, yet he hoped that his noble Friend had not forgotten the remark contained in the despatch of the Governor of that colony, that—"It is proposed that upon obtaining the conditional pardon, the only restriction upon the liberty of the person holding such pardon shall be the prohibition of remaining in this country."
Looking to that fact, and recollecting that none other of their colonies were willing to receive convicts on any condition whatever; there was, he thought, great reason for the expression that had been used by the First Lord of the Treasury in the other House of Parliament, namely, that the time was coming when it would be necessary to review the entire question of seondary punishment, with a view to the complete cessation of the system of transportation."Although the settlement was now ready to receive convicts, yet, if any other remedy could be found for the evils under which it laboured, there was not any colony more unwilling to be made a penal colony."
thought that, in considering this measure, every allowance ought to be made for the great difficulties the Government had to encounter in grappling with the question. According to the plan of the Government, it was proposed that convicts should, in the first instance, undergo a punishment under the separate system for a period of from six to eighteen months; then they were to be transferred to the public works at Gibraltar and Bermuda; and, lastly, they were to be sent to Van Diemen's Land and Western Australia, which was to be created a penal settlement, where the convicts were to be employed as labourers under certain restrictions. With regard to the separate system, it appeared to him to be a matter which was most deserving of attention. There might be different opinions entertained as to the means of carrying it out, but he thought it was better than any punishment that had been devised, as it was well calculated not only to terrify but to reform the criminal. There were some individuals who, having obtained a better education than the generality of convicts, might not feel that mode of punishment so acutely as others who had no mental resources; of course the effect would vary according to the different shades of human character, but he believed the majority of criminals would think it a very severe punishment. It was a terrible thing to an uneducated or half-educated man, to be debarred from talking over his past crimes, and planning for the future. To such persons the silence and solitude of the cell, and the lash of conscience, were frightfully appalling; and their hours of imprisonment were thus likely to prove hours of penitence and reformation. In the next place, the convicts were to be transferred to the public works, and, although he imagined there was some difficulty in carrying that out, yet, considering the attention and care that were bestowed on those establishments in this country, and at Gib- raltar, and elsewhere, he thought it was possible it might be rendered an effective and salutary punishment. Then, with regard to transportation, although he was fully aware how impracticable it was to devise any well-considered means of secondary punishment without having recourse to transportation, he thought the means hitherto devised for carrying it out were objectionable. It appeared to him that the plan proposed would confer certain advantages on this country. It would afford them the means of getting rid of their criminals without the chance of their again returning at the expiration of their respective sentences. It would also prove advantageous to the convicts, for it would obtain for them labour and the means of honest livelihood which they might not obtain in this country; and it would be of advantage to the colonists, as giving them cheap and abundant labour. Yet there were considerations on the other side which would go far to diminish its value. If he could show that transportation, instead of producing terror—and it appeared that there were great doubts entertained on that point under every system of transportation yet tried—then he thought that he should make out a strong case against it as a secondary punishment. For his own part, he could not understand how transportation could inflict terror at all. Of all men the criminal was the most ready to leave his home; the love of adventure was dear to him, and he had ever a wish to seek his fortune on a new stage. Not so the honest English labourer. There was reluctance on his part to emigrate from the place of his birth, and for this reason—that he always associated emigration with the punishment of crime. He confessed it appeared to him that in proportion as emigration was extensively practised, and the knowledge of it more widely diffused, so much would the terror of transportation as a mere exile and punishment diminish. What was the opinion of the colonists on this subject? Mr. Hall says, "By the majority of the assignees, the convicts are treated justly, and, by some, with patriarchal kindness." So it appeared that for one of the severest punishments inflicted by the English law, there was substituted a degree of kindness that was considered patriarchal. That seemed to him to affect the value of the punishment. They should consider also the effect that would be produced in Van Diemen's Land by the introduction of an amount of convict labour, which would more than counterbalance the amount of free labour. It was a very convenient arrangement no doubt, when the demand for labour was so great that it was found impossible to retain an establishment of free labourers, and it was not to be wondered at that the colonists should waver in their decision; but it should not be forgotten that it would take a long time before they could purify society in the colony. He could not understand what guarantee they had that the colony of Van Diemen's Land, as soon as it got a free constitution, would not follow the example of New South Wales, and refuse to receive convicts, and let them see what then would be the result. The noble Earl near him (Earl Grey) said that we had a right to send our convicts to the colonies; but if our colonies refused to receive them, would he feel himself justified in compelling the colonies to receive them by force? It was not because a few emigrants had gone to Van Diemen's Land they were to forget the duty they owed to their fellow-subjects in every portion of the empire to consult their happiness. They should introduce an element into society in Van Diemen's Land that would neutralise the introduction of the convicts; but he could not see how the introduction even of an equal number of free labourers would effect that object. He could not understand how that would neutralise the introduction of convict labourers into Van Diemen's Land. What did he find in the papers laid on the table of the House? He found that in a population of nearly 68,000, excluding the military, 27,476 were convicts; and of the remaining 40,524, 32,000 only were really free; and when he recollected that 16,500 were under fourteen years of age, he could not understand how the introduction of a few free settlers would neutralise the convict element in that population. The most probable result would be to corrupt the morals of the free settlers sent out, and to lower their character. He knew how impossible it was to propose any plan that was not open to objection; but he might venture to say that no mere wish of getting rid of their criminals should induce them, without necessity, to place a burden on a colonial community that it would not bear. They should not forget that the possession of a wide region, which was destined to become a great nation, imposed upon them great responsibility; and if they forgot that responsibility, and founded a nation that would reflect the vices rather than the virtues of the mother country, the consequence of that low standard of morality would recoil upon themselves, and some day they would meet with a well-merited retribution.
begged to say one word in explanation. If it were thought that he had made light of the prevention of crime he was misunderstood: he meant distinctly the reverse.
said, he could not give his approbation to this Bill without some qualifications which he was anxious to state to their Lordships. After what they had heard so ably stated by the noble Lord who had just sat down, he was inclined to make a few remarks upon the system of transportation which he understood was about to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government. He had been always one of those who felt as strongly opposed as any man in that House, or in the country, to the system of transportation hitherto in existence. The great moral wrong that had followed from the system hitherto adopted was, that they were creating an important and populous nation with very unpromising materials, rendering them not only a burden and a nuisance to the mother country, but a sort of danger to the peace of that portion of the globe in which they are situated. He felt strongly on the subject; but he did not consider that transportation, under certain limitations, was a punishment to be altogether given up. If the Legislature would adopt a system of secondary punishment, the reformation of the offender, to ensure the great end of all punishment, the prevention of crime, should be a necessary condition of it. It was because that just and wise principle had hitherto been neglected, that a just retribution had visited the Government of the country. The unreformed prisoners were let loose on society, and not only committed crimes themselves, but led others to commit them by their bad example. He did not wish that transportation under certain limitations should be given up, for he knew, from his experience of the habits and opinions of convicts, that the mere fact of being sent away from their own country, and from their old friends, was a punishment that had a material effect upon them. The experience also of gaolers and chaplains justified what he said, that with the majority of convicts the prospect of transportation was accompanied with a considerable degree of dread, When he was appointed one of the commissioners for the government of Pentonville prison, his only fear was lest the prospect of ultimate transportation might have such an additional effect upon the minds and spirits of the prisoner, as to make separate imprisonment almost too severe a punishment. The view which the prisoners took of transportation, upon their first confinement in Pentonville prison, was one of great and universal dread, and they were only reconciled to the next stage of their punishment by the information they received as to the circumstances of the colony to which they were going, and the assurances given on the part of the Government, that if their conduct was good in prison, they would immediately receive their ticket of leave, or be placed in another more favoured class that was then designated by the name of exiles. With regard to the separate system, it produced the most beneficial moral effect upon the prisoners, but it was a most terrible punishment. As he had alluded to Pentonville, he wished to make one remark with respect to that prison. It was stated, on a former occasion, by a noble Friend of his (Earl Grey), that the commissioners appointed for the management of Pentonville prison had resigned, and that although it was desirable in the first instance to have a considerable number of influential men acting as unpaid commissioners to watch over this experiment, yet that that was not a state of things that would probably last. There was no doubt as regarded himself and the noble Duke on the Commission (the Duke of Richmond), that they had, in fact, tendered their resignation twelve months ago. He thought it only fair to state that the ground of their resignation was not inability, or still less disinclination to act upon the Commission; but, on considering the constitution of the prison, they thought that other regulations should be adopted, and by resignation that they should strengthen the hands of Government, if not urge them to bring in such a measure as this, making the Government more responsible. He thought, however, there was an objection to the Bill in its present form. When it was introduced, he had made a few remarks to their Lordships as to the number of statutes referred to in this Bill, and which related to several prisons that were now put under this new board of management. Their Lordships would observe, that none of those Acts were repealed, but one new board was to conduct those several prisons according to those several Acts. He found fault with the Government for bringing in what he thought to be an imperfect measure, though certainly a measure in the right direction, and an improvement of the present state of things. But he considered it a very imperfect measure, and thought that it must be followed sooner or later by some one measure of a more general nature. It would be found necessary to consolidate those several Acts, and by more stringent provisions than now exist in any of those Acts, require a periodical inspection of those prisons by officers, not officers of the prisons, and that there should be some stringent rules requiring the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament many more details as to the distribution of convicts, and the rules he makes for the regulation of those prisons, than is required by any of those Acts. In the year 1847, he was appointed with others to inquire into alleged abuses in Millbank prison, and he alluded to it for the purpose of quoting the report made on the occasion. He quoted it, because in the opinion expressed in that report he had the concurrence at the time of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. They would see it was their opinion, and he thought it was still the opinion of his right hoe. Friend, that it was necessary to introduce some more general and stringent measure to regulate those prisons. The report recommended that the government of Millbank prison should be managed by paid servants of the Crown, and suggested that such a change should be made as would secure a separate and independent inspection. Now, the present Bill made no provision for such an inspection. The report also contained a suggestion in which he strongly concurred—namely, that whilst so much inequality in punishments continued, there ought to be an annual return laid before Parliament to show how the Government had exercised the powers entrusted to it. That the judges and magistrates, and the public at large, should know what secondary punishments were used, he thought important, not only to the due administration of criminal justice, but also in its effect on the means of deterring from crime. He was happy to find from the report of the Portland prison which had been laid on the table of the House, that the employment of convicts on public works had proved satisfactory, but he still considered that the system required very vigi- lant and very close inspection; and this circumstance rendered it more important that that part of their punishment should take place in the mother country, where the superintendence could be more complete. In conclusion, he thought it unnecessary to disclaim any hostility to this measure; his only object had been, whilst he entirely approved of the system contemplated by the Government, to show the necessity for a further extension of that system than would be effected by this Bill.
said, he was not disposed to enter into the merits of the alterations proposed by this Bill in the system of transportation as it at present exists. He agreed with the noble Earl who had just sat down, that in the previous stage of punishment—a stage of punishment common to the previous system and to this, there were greater facilities for a watchful and vigilant superintendence of the conduct of prisoners, and of the course pursued towards prisoners in this country than in the colony; and, therefore, though he was not absolutely convinced of the merits of the contemplated change as a whole, and although he felt satisfied that the system first introduced by the present First Lord of the Treasury, and which it had subsequently fallen to his own lot when in office to have to revise, had not had the benefit of a full and fair experiment in the colonies, he yet admitted the validity of the argument. He was also bound to say, from the last reports received from Portland prison—able and interesting documents, as far as he could judge—the experiment there, as far as it had gone, was working satisfactorily. He rejoiced that the noble Earl had greatly modified the plan which he two years ago suggested, because although it might be said, that under the provisions of his Bill, many of the former terrors had been stripped from transportation, and it was now rendered comparatively little worse than voluntary emigration, still he believed, with regard to the majority of convicts, transportation yet had a material effect in deterring from crime, and impressing the convict with the severity of the sentence. For it was the opinion of almost all the judges of the land, and almost the unanimous opinion of the Committee of their Lordships who sat on this subject two years ago, that the abolition of transportation would be fatal to the carrying out of the criminal jurisprudence of the country, and that there were particular classes of criminals at home to whom, above all others, the punishment of compulsory expatriation had greater terrors than any other. But he had another important reason for rejoicing that transportation was to be continued almost to as great an extent as before; because, however well disposed a convict might be, and however advantageous the reformatory discipline might prove here, yet he would often find, on being turned out of prison in this country, that every door to honest employment was closed against him; and however well inclined he might be to lead an honest life for the future, he would still be unable to do so from being exposed to the influences of old associates in crime and to former temptations. Instances to his own knowledge had occurred where persons, after expiating their sentences, had lived in this country for years in honest employment; and yet after that had been actually brought back to a career of crime from the threats of their former companions that they would inform their employers of their previous habits, unless they gave them money in some cases for concealing the circumstances, or unless, in other cases, they would rejoin them as partners in crime. Therefore he held it to be of the highest importance that male convicts in general should be removed from this country to the penal colonies. He concurred with his noble Friend, and with the noble Lord who addressed their Lordships for the first time that night, and with an ability and a clearness which gave promise of his becoming one of the most valuable Members of that House; he concurred with both of these noble Lords, that if transportation was still to be continued, we were only at the beginning of the difficulties of the subject. We had postponed and evaded for the present the pressure of the question of transportation, but we had not diminished the ultimate urgency of dealing with it. The first stage of the convict's sentence was to be solitary confinement; the next period was to be spent in labour on public works. At Portland there was a large prison, and there they had employment for the present on important national works for a large number of convicts; and on the continuous nature of that employment depended the whole organisation of that prison, and the whole efficacy of that second stage of punishment. Therefore, that system might go on for a considerable time; a harbour of refuge might be a work of five, six, or even ten years, but it would come to an end at last; and here they would have a permanent building that cost an enormous sum of money, and calculated to maintain a large proportion of criminals in the second stage of their sentence without any works to employ them—that was, no laborious works for the public benefit; and, consequently, they would have a breaking down of the system for want of the means of carrying it into operation. He apprehended greater difficulties in passing from the second stage to actual transportation. And here he could not help avowing his belief, that for some of those difficulties Her Majesty's Government had themselves to blame. There were some charges made against the system of assignment as it formerly existed in New South Wales, with which he could not agree; he did not mean to say it was not open to objection, being sometimes a very heavy and at other times a very light punishment; but he believed that with it great good was connected; and he thought the system was too inconsiderately and hastily abandoned, from an exaggerated view of its evils. He believed the Government acted rashly and hastily in announcing that within a very short period transportation to New South Wales should cease, before ascertaining what they were about to substitute, and what were the means they had of carrying out secondary punishments. He did not say that in the course of time that determination must not be ultimately come to; but still it was rashly and imprudently carried out; and the consequence was at the time that he (Lord Stanley) succeeded to the colonial deparment, that a very undue pressure was thrown upon a single colony by diverting the whole stream of our male convicts to Van Diemen's Land. And it happened that, concurrently in point of time with shutting up the largest field for convicts, there was a resolution of the House of Commons passed, putting a stop to imprisonment in the hulks; thereby greatly aggravating this undue pressure on a single penal settlement by sending all the transported convicts thither. And further, all this done concident with severe agricultural and commercial distress, which, commencing in this country, spread itself to the colonies, and just at that period when such large numbers of convicts were sent out, reduced New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land from a state of comparative prosperity to one of great distress, thereby destroying the capital from which labour could be found for the convicts. Under the exigency, steps were taken for the purpose of materially diminishing the inconvenience, by allowing the convicts to reclaim the land on the part of the Government, and to establish a settlement, and in point of fact by enabling the ticket-of-leave men to become settlers, and maintain themselves by their own labour. There was a great influx of convicts at the period when they were discharged from the public works; and when they became entitled to work for themselves they were not able to get employment, the capital of the colony being gone, and consequently they were obliged to fall back again upon the Government works. At the same time that the convicts were flung back into a condition different from what they had a right to expect that they would merge into, they were also pressing hard in a competition with the free labour of the colony. The scheme organised with the consent of the local authorities for the establishment of a new penal settlement, or, if not altogether a penal settlement, at least a settlement like the one now proposed for removing convicts to, was a scheme by which persons having attained to a certain stage of their progress to freedom, and having conducted themselves well, might be removed to the northern division of the colony of New South Wales, in the neighbourhood of Moreton Bay, where they would work under surveillance, and as their sentences expired might pour in a gradual stream of free labour when the colonists required them. The noble Earl had said the other night that the neighbourhood of Moreton Bay was a district which beyond all others demanded labour, and had the means of furnishing profitable employment; and this was immediately in the neighbourhood of the newly-proposed semi-penal settlement. The project was carried out at no inconsiderable expense both by him (Lord Stanley), and by his successor in the colonial department, and vet the noble Earl had not been two months in office before he upset it, and abandoned the plan before he had time to make himself master of the subject; or to provide a sufficient substitute, and which might have laid the foundation of a new penal colony, that would have obviated the present emergency. Now he believed that under the system of the noble Earl there would not on an average of years be a smaller number of convicts transported than formerly, because all the male convicts were to be sent out after they had served the reformatory part of their sentence here. Now, expectations, more or less distinct, had been held out to Van Diemen's Land by the Government, that transportation to that colony would cease; and it must be remembered that great encouragement had been given to Van Diemen's Land by the successful resistance of the Cape of Good Hope. Now, it appeared transportation to Van Diemen's Land was not to cease, but to continue, and to continue to the full extent that it was ever intended to be carried out; and now Van Diemen's Land was the only colony to which the Government proposed to send convicts, excepting a small number, who were to be sent to Western Australia. Now, what security had we that the colony would not successfully resist their introduction? And even if they did not resist, what security had we that all the moral, and still more all the economical inconveniences which in 1846 accompanied the sending out of a vast number of male convicts in a pertain colony would not be speedily renewed, although they might be suspended for a few years, while the convicts were undergoing their preparatory sentences here? He did not object to this measure, but he contended the Government were living from hand to mouth in this matter, which was too urgent to be dealt with in so superficial and temporising a manner. It was important that we should look forward, not for one or two years, but for five or ten years, as to the result of this system to Van Diemen's Land, or as to the possibility of substituting another mode of punishment, or of finding another colony, by which the difficulties might be overcome that must attend the continued influx of all our convicts to Van Diemen's Land. This evil was obviated certainly by the proposition to abandon transportation altogether, but not when we had only a single penal colony. Nor was this inconvenience obviated by accompanying the system of transportation by an influx of some free labourers, because the influx was too large for the wants of the colony, and consequently there was a superabundance of labour. Now the result would be a repetition of the same evil if we sent out a large body of free labourers; and it was vain to say that we should send out capitalists, because the persons whom the noble Earl would send out as free emigrants by the assistance of the Government, must be people just above want, perhaps possessed of a little money to enable them to obtain a freehold in Van Diemen's Land, upon which they would labour themselves; but they clearly could not be a class that would be material employers of the labour of others. Then, by sending such emigrants out, you would not only not correct the moral evils, but the economical evils of the former system would continue to embarrass the colony. He threw out these observations, not with the view of objecting to the experiment which the Government had in progress, and in which he believed they were working honestly—ho hoped it would prove as effectually—but he felt it his duty not to allow the Bill to pass a third reading without reminding the Government that they must be prepared to look forward to the future—that they had only staved off the evil a short time longer—and that, under the system they were pursuing, they were in danger, unless they took timely precautions, of having forced back upon them within a very few years a great portion of the evils which they experienced when they put an end for a time to transportation to Van Diemen's Land.
thought it most important that the moral effect of the fear of transportation should be kept up on the criminal population at home. The result of all the inquiries that had ever taken place on this subject was, that the punishment of transportation was one dreaded by every convict; and his experience of criminal prosecutions in Ireland, as well as the evidence of the learned Judges, and of those familiar with criminal justice, convinced him that transportation was a punishment of greater terror to convicts than even death itself. In his opinion, the importance of the question, as connected with the due administration of justice in this country, could not be overstated. But even on the opposite hypothesis, it was clear that if transportation was to be abandoned, the sooner some efficient substitute was provided for it the better. This was indispensable. He thought that this question as a whole had been hitherto viewed too much in a one-sided light. The frightful pictures of the state of New South Wales given by many witnesses in this country, as the result of the system of transportation to that colony, were received with disapprobation and disgust on their arrival, among the colonists themselves. Men of the highest character in Australia, including the Bishop himself, had denounced these statements as exaggerations. He fully admitted that they were bound to regard the system of transportation not merely as one affect- ing the convicts, but also, the condition of the colonies. On both these points they had the valuable testimony of General Sir R. Bourke, late Governor of Australia, in a memorandum submitted by him to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), then at the head of the Colonial Department. In that document that distinguished individual, whose evidence was entitled to the highest respect, as one as sensible to moral considerations as he was capable of judging of political duties, stated that he set a high value on the employment of convict labour during the first process of settlement in a new country. He stated that in New South Wales, by the aid of convict labour, the settlers had within a period of fifty years converted a wilderness into a fine and flourishing colony; and he gave it as his deliberate opinion, that not only had transportation administered efficaciously to the wants of settlers, but had "led to the moral improvement of the convicts to full as much as, from his observation and experience of prison discipline in England and Ireland, he could hope to be effected by penitentiary treatment in those countries." He certainly was not surprised, after what had passed in that House—after the declaration of the present Secretary of State himself, condemning in unmeasured terms the system of transportation, and announcing its abandonment—and after the events that had taken place of late at the Cape, that a spirit of resistance should have been raised up against transportation; and it was impossible not to feel that unless transportation was put on a new footing altogether, the Government would be unable to carry on the system in future. Even the colony of Western Australia had given but a very qualified assent to the system; but even supposing that consent to be more absolute, it was impossible to believe the Swan River settlement in Western Australia to be capable of absorbing all the convicts of the united kingdom. Again, looking to Van Diemen's Land, and remembering the Order in Council, which had somewhat rashly been issued, prohibiting transportation to the larger colony of Australia, remembering too, the consequent pouring of the whole tide of our convict population into Van Diemen's Land, which forced convict labour into keen competition with the free labour, and drove out the free emigrant, it was impossible to believe that, after the example of the determined and successful resistance of the Cape to the will of the Government, and the power of a military Go- vernor before it, that Van Diemen's Land, with or without free institutions, would consent to remain exclusively the receptacle of all the convicts of this country. The few places where convicts would continue to be received must necessarily limit the number sent out. It was absolutely necessary, therefore, to put transportation on some new footing, or provide an efficient substitute. Had Government made any provision for the proper disposal of criminals in Ireland? The prison in his county was last summer overcrowded, there being upwards of 100 criminals in fifteen cells, during which time the cholera was raging. In the gaol of Cork, where there was accommodation for 500, there were confined at one time 1,549. In Galway prison there was accommodation for 112 prisoners, but it held at one time 1,075, and the mortality in the year amounted to 450. In 1847, 2,200 prisoners were sentenced to transportation in Ireland; in 1848, 2,733; of these no more than 825 were actually transported, leaving near 2,000 to be provided for at home. It was the duty of Government, without delay, to provide adequate accommodation, in some way or other, for these criminals. He also believed that they were bound to look to something beyond employment on public works in this country. The Government had acted hastily in their proposed abandonment of transportation. But the true interests of the colonies should also be consulted—a proper provision for the convict should be made abroad. The sphere of labour, restricted in a country like England, was in our colonies boundless. In Australia there was an unlimited field of employment, which would repay itself in the improved value of land; there was no prospect of being able to keep up a constant supply of labour for the convicts in this country. Providing means of immigration in Australia, would furnish employment for centuries to come. Let the question be fairly presented to the colonists, and their objections would speedily vanish, especially if it were shown that the convict labour would be beneficial to them by employing convicts as the pioneers of civilisation. At all events, till sufficient and effective means of secondary punishment are provided, the administration of justice in this country must not be left without that sanction and support which it derived from the dread of transportation. In conclusion, he would repeat, that if they meant to give up transportation, they must, with- out delay, gird up their loins to the indispensable task of providing a substitute, and dealing effectively with the whole question.
Before I proceed to notice what has been said on the general subject by the various noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, I have to observe with reference to the remarks of my noble Friend who has just sat down (Lord Monteagle) on the state of the Irish prisons, that I am far from denying that those prisons have been lamentably overcrowded; but this does not arise from any measures adopted by Her Majesty's Government, for on the contrary, since the appointment of the present Administration, the number of convicts annually removed from Ireland, has been very considerably greater than in any former years. The evil has arisen entirely from the excessive and sudden increase in the number of convictions for transportable offences, occasioned, as I believe, principally by the calamity of famine which has afflicted Ireland. This sudden increase in the number of convicts has undoubtedly created very great difficulty, more especially occurring as it did, at a time when Van Diemen's Land, from other circumstances, was absolutely closed against the reception of criminals. But no efforts have been spared to meet those difficulties as far as possible. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has made arrangements for extending the means for the reception of prisoners in that country. A large establishment has been created on Spike Island, where from 1,200 to 1,400 prisoners have been placed. An establishment on the model of Pentonville, has also been formed in the neighbourhood of Dublin. In addition to this, Gibraltar and Bermuda, which under the former state of the law were not available for the reception of Irish convicts, have been rendered so by an Act lately passed. I am not aware, my Lords, that more could have been done. You are aware that at Gibraltar and Bermuda, it is impossible to receive more than a limited number of convicts, nor were there any other colonies to which Her Majesty's Government could safely have sent an increased number. With regard to the general question, the discussion which has taken place, has upon the whole, given me much satisfaction. It is true, there have been various objections made by different noble Lords to the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government on this very difficult subject; but in general these objections have not affected the substance of the measures which have been adopted; and though two noble Lords have objected to transportation altogether, their views have certainly not appeared to be in accordance with the general opinion of the House. In answer to what those noble Lords have stated, I am not prepared to deny that much moral evil has arisen from sending large numbers of convicts to penal colonies; but I must express my belief that these evils have been exaggerated, and that even under the defective system which formerly existed, there is reason to doubt, whether upon the whole the balance of evil would not have been much greater from keeping these convicts at homo, than from sending them abroad. We must not forget, that it is, after all, but a choice of evils which is before us; and we know from the example of other countries how great are the evils to which I adverted on a former evening, and which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) has again noticed to-night, from retaining in a country where the supply of labour is fully equal to the demand, large numbers of persons who have undergone punishment for their offences. We have heard much of the army of liberated forçats in France, and of the danger which they occasion to the peace and good order of society. I pointed out to your Lordships that there are at this moment at large in the Australian colonies no less than 48,000 persons who have undergone transportation, the great majority of whom are now earning an honest livelihood, but who, had they remained in this country, would in all probability have been almost compelled, by the force of circumstances, to continue to live as criminals. This is an important circumstance which must not be left out of sight in considering whether, upon the whole, evil has resulted from the system of transportation; but this is not all. It must also be remembered, that the flourishing communities now spreading over Australia, and which promise, at no distant date, to become a great nation, are in fact the creation of the system of transportation. I believe that but for transportation, communities of this magnitude and wealth never would have been created in Australia. It is true that South Australia was not founded as a convict colony; but even South Australia could not have risen as it has done but for the neighbourhood of the convict colonies, from which it was enabled to draw cattle, sheep, and all the resources necessary for overcoming the difficulties of a first settlement in a new country. New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land are completely the creation of transportation, and Port Phillip hardly less so. Then, my Lords, when we look at these flourishing colonies, and consider over how large a portion of the globe they are likely to spread civilisation and a British population, I say again, that though there have been great errors in the system under which transportation was formerly conducted—errors which I trust are capable of correction in future—still, upon the whole, it has been productive of far more good than evil; for you must remember, that the free emigration to these colonies which is now going on upon so large a scale, and with so much advantage, is the result of transportation, since the pecuniary means by which it is carried on are derived from the wealth which transportation and convict labour have created. In the last year free emigration has thus been carried on, without expense to this country, to the extent of 31,000 persons who have gone to the Australian colonies. I am not, then, my Lords, prepared to concur with those who think that transportation ought to be altogether discontinued; but, as I have already had occasion to state, I am persuaded that the confinement and penal labour which must form a principal element of the punishment, ought to be inflicted chiefly at home; and I am glad to perceive that in this view of the subject noble Lords on both sides of the House have, to a considerable extent, acquiesced. It is, as I understand, admitted that separate imprisonment at all events can be best inflicted in this country; and though some considerations on the other side have been urged, the advantages in respect of supervision of making convicts undergo penal labour at home, have also been recognised. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley), indeed, objects to the establishment at Portland, that the works for the harbour of refuge will be finished in a few years, and that then all the buildings which have been there erected will be useless. This is an error. In the first place, the buildings at Portland have in general been constructed of wood, with a view to their ultimate removal if it should be found necessary, and I believe it might be accomplished at a comparatively small expense; but further, as long as we have public buildings in progress anywhere, the establishment at Portland will afford the means of providing useful work for a large body of convicts. The Portland stone, as we know from the magnificent cathedral which ornaments this city, is of the finest quality, and the quarries are practically inexhaustible. This stone would last for centuries, and the utmost facilities exist for employing convicts in quarrying and dressing it, so that it may be shipped ready for use in any buildings which may be in progress. The situation also affords the means of insuring the complete separation of the convicts from the inhabitants of the district, and I believe that upon the whole none could have been found more admirably adapted for a penal establishment. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) contends that it would be better to employ convicts on public works in the colonies, and more especially in preparing fresh districts for occupation by settlers. I do not disagree from the noble Lord as to the utility of works of the kind he refers to, but I differ from him as to the mode in which they should be carried on, and as to the possibility of safely retaining large numbers of convicts in distant colonies in the immediate custody of the Government. Let me remind your Lordships that the great source of all the worst evils which arose in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land from transportation, was the employment of large gangs of convicts on the roads; the chain gangs and road gangs, as they were called, were the cause of fearful demoralisation. Nor do I believe it is possible that this should be otherwise—in order to render the labour of convicts working in gangs, useful in opening roads and clearing land for settlement, they must be sent to remote districts, where no proper buildings can be provided for their custody, where the conduct of the officers in immediate charge of them cannot be closely and constantly watched by their superiors, and this, too, at a distance of 16,000 miles from the Home Government, which is thus deprived of the means both of discovering and of promptly applying a remedy to any abuses which may arise. Observe how this operated in Van Diemen's Land. When the probationary system, as it was called, was there established under the direction of the noble Lord when Secretary of State, he took the utmost pains in framing the best regulations which experience then suggested for the management and discipline of the convicts; he had himself the selection of the governor and of most of the subordinate officers by whom the system was to be administered; and I cannot doubt that he must carefully have chosen for these important duties the persons he thought best qualified to undertake them; yet what was the result? My Lords, it is sufficiently shown by the papers on your table. When I was appointed to the office I have now the honour to hold, I found that in practice the measures of the noble Lord had entirely broken down; Van Diemen's Land was suffering evils of a most frightful character; the convicts were in a state of demoralisation, and their labour was frittered away so as to be almost useless, and little or nothing was done by them for the improvement of the colony. Though a large proportion of the convicts were nominally employed in the cultivation of the ground for their own supply, and there were near 14,000 ablebodied men in the charge of the Government, they could not raise food enough for their own consumption. Now, can it for a moment be supposed, that if the noble Lord opposite could have obtained prompt intelligence of what was going on, if he could have sent a person from Downing Street to inspect these gangs, and see how their labour was wasted, and how badly the system was carried on; and if the noble Lord could have received such a report in three or four days instead of twelve months, would it have been possible that such flagrant abuses could have grown up, or that the noble Lord would have allowed such a system to go on? I believe, therefore, with the result of this experiment before my eyes, that it is not safe to act upon a plan by which convicts in the colonies are to be kept in the immediate custody of the Government, and employed on public works, except upon a very small scale, and in very limited numbers. When convicts are no longer retained in the custody of the Government, but have risen to the condition of holders of tickets of leave, I believe that much may be done to render their labour available in preparing new districts for settlement by the construction of roads and bridges. The attention of Her Majesty's Government is at this moment occupied by the consideration of arrangements by which this may be effected. Your Lordships may have observed in the despatches relating to the proposed penal establishment in Western Australia, that a plan which has been suggested by that invaluable public servant. Colonel Jebb, for so employing convicts, is to be there tried. My Lords, it has been asserted by more than one of the noble Lords who have taken part in this discussion, that the difficulty now experienced in disposing of convicts in the colonies—a difficulty which it is anticipated will soon become insurmountable, has been created by the measures of Her Majesty's present advisers. Much difficulty does now certainly exist in disposing of convicts; but instead of agreeing with noble Lords that that difficulty is likely to increase, I believe it to be greater at this moment than it will be hereafter, and that a larger and better field will be created than now exists for the employment of convicts in the colonies when they pass out of the custody of the Government. I will state the reasons for that opinion; but before I do so I must notice the remarks of the noble Lord at the table (Lord Lyttelton), and the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) as to the effect of the earlier measures of the present Administration in producing the difficulty which is now complained of. It is asserted that the language used both in despatches and in discussions in Parliament by Members of Her Majesty's Government was calculated to create an impression on the minds of the colonists that transportation was to be entirely discontinued, and thus to raise expectations which it is difficult now to disappoint. My Lords, if that impression and these expectations were created, it was rather by what other parties represented to be the views and intentions of the Government, than by anything which was said by Members of the Administration. I defy any person to read through the despatches upon this subject as a whole (for perhaps detached passages taken without the context might be quoted which would convey a different meaning), and not to perceive that the view entertained from first to last was, that convicts, after having undergone the more severe part of their punishment, were to be removed to the Australian colonies, and a very large proportion of them to Van Diemen's Land. Undoubtedly it was the original intention of Her Majesty's Government that convicts should be removed as exiles, that is, under regulations by which on their arrival they would have been entirely free, except as to the power of returning to this country. The plan has since been modified by determining that convicts should be sent out, not as exiles but with tickets of leave, by which means they are still kept under control. Experience has clearly proved that to remove them without retaining some such power over them, does not answer; nor have I any hesitation in saying. that upon this point the views I originally entertained have been considerably modified by the experience which has since been gained. At the same time I must remark that the success which attended the first experiment of sending exiles, and the accounts which had been received of their conduct when we came into office, seemed at that time to justify the opinion we adopted; and it is only the result of further trials, and of longer experience, which has led to a different conclusion. Another objection urged by the noble Lord was, that we acted injudiciously and hastily in putting an end to the scheme which had been adopted by our predecessors for founding a convict colony in North Australia. The noble Lord says, that in the six weeks between our accession to office and the adoption of this determination, the reasons in favour of the proposed measure could not have been very carefully considered. My Lords, the formation of this new penal colony had been publicly announced before the change of Administration, and even at that time I had formed, and I believe publicly expressed, a very decided opinion against it, for reasons which still seem to me conclusive. The plan which had been formed was one for colonising an unoccupied district entirely and exclusively with convicts. Now this is what I believed to be most objectionable; our first aim in sending convicts to colonies ought to be so to disperse them amongst free settlers that the convict element shall not be predominant in the population. When the society consists chiefly of those who have been punished for their offences, abuses are most likely to arise. Thus in New South Wales it was before free settlers went there, when its inhabitants were exclusively convicts, that transportation was most productive of evil; and the evil diminished, and the moral condition of the colony improved, as the proportion of free settlers was increased. The plan with regard to North Australia was, that convicts removed from Van Diemen's Land after they had ceased to be under the immediate control of the Government—
Holding tickets of leave and conditional pardons.
Precisely; convicts with tickets of leave and conditional pardons were to be placed in a territory at that time entirely unoccupied, where there were no free settlers to employ them, and where, therefore, to enable them to maintain themselves, they must have been settled on the land, and supported till they could raise crops for themselves at the expense of the Government. If this expense was to be incurred, why remove these men from Van Diemen's Land? In that colony there was plenty of land upon which they might have been established, while the Government have a military force, and commissariat and police establishments, which in North Australia could only be created at a heavy expense. If, therefore, the scheme was really that which it professed to be, one for setting these men in a vacant territory, it would have been far better that it should have been carried into execution in Van Diemen's Land; but I know that the real object, and that which was scarcely concealed, was to send them through North Australia as it were through a sieve into New South Wales, where they would have found private employment. In this way no doubt the measure would have answered, but I cannot think its policy can be approved; if convicts are to be sent from Van Diemen's Land to New South Wales, let this be done openly and fairly. I do not object to allowing convicts, who have become free by the expiration of their sentences, or by obtaining conditional pardons, to find their way, if they can, to the neighbouring colonies. This cannot, with justice, be prevented; but it is an entirely different thing to remove them at the expense of the Government to a territory immediately adjoining New South Wales, from which it is divided only by an arbitrary line, and from which it is intended that they should at once go into that colony. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) says, that in consequence of the abandonment of North Australia, there will be no other outlet for convicts than Van Diemen's Land, to which so many must consequently be sent, that all the evils, moral and economical, which were complained of in 1846, will be reproduced, and in an aggravated form. I do not think that there are sufficient grounds for that apprehension. The evils which arose in Van Diemen's Land between 1841 and 1846 were not less attributable to the conditions under which the convicts were sent there, and to the omission of measures of precaution which might have been adopted, than to their numbers. The measures adopted by the noble Lord failed, because they did not sufficiently provide either for the moral and industrial training of the convicts while they were in the custody of the Govern- ment, or for creating a demand for their labour when they became entitled to partial freedom. With regard to the defects of the arrangement in respect to discipline and the improvement of the convicts, I have already expressed my opinion; it is necessary that I should now call your Lordships' attention to its defects in not providing for the difficulty arising from the want of employment of so large a body of convicts when they passed out of the custody of the Government. What was wanted was to create a demand for labour, and this could only be accomplished by rendering the colony attractive to settlers, by presenting advantages for the profitable investment of capital. But some of the regulations of the noble Lord (regulations which I have no doubt he found himself obliged to adopt under the pressure of that desire to reduce expense which those who have to present estimates to the House of Commons naturally feel) tended directly to an opposite result. It was ordered that when convicts were employed on works for the benefit of the colony, that a charge of 6d. a day should be made on the colony for their labour. It was likewise ordered that in consideration of the payment of 24,000l. a year by this country for the police, all receipts from the territorial revenue should be paid into the military chest towards defraying the charge of the convict establishment. The result was, that the colony not being able to afford to pay the charge for convict labour, the convicts could not be employed, as they might have been, on the construction of roads and other works, which by opening the country for settlement would have promoted their employment when discharged from the custody of the Government. On both these points the regulations I have mentioned have been altered. No charge is now made on the colony for convicts employed on colonial works except that for tools and for the extra supervision which these works render necessary. The territorial revenue has also been released, and rendered applicable to its legitimate object of improving the territory. The Government has thus been enabled largely to employ convict labour on works of the greatest importance for developing the natural resources of Van Diemen's Land, and rendering it an eligible place for settlement. The application of the territorial revenue to similar objects will be not less important. I regard the sums received from the sale of land as constituting a fund not properly applicable to the ordinary expenses of the Government, but which ought to be so employed as to be returned to the purchasers of land in the increased value of that which they acquire. The popular objections to the system of disposing of land by sale, would, I think, be well founded if the amount received from settlers, and withdrawn from their capital, were not returned to them by such an application of the money as to raise the value of the land they buy. The true object of the system of soiling of land is so to regulate its distribution that it may fall into the hands of those who can turn it to best account. If land is given for nothing by the Government, or sold at a very low price, no regulations, however stringent, which can be adopted, can prevent its falling into the possession of persons who do not intend to use it, but who expect to derive a profit from its rise in value when population increases. The principle of the present policy is, that the bonâ fide settler buying land at the price now demanded, and having that money laid out for his benefit, really gets the land as cheap or cheaper than if he got it for nothing, without these advantages; while on the other hand the immediate cost of the land is completely prohibitory to the speculator who does not contemplate settlement, and therefore derives no advantage from such works as I have mentioned. It is with these views that it has been determined that the territorial revenue in Van Diemen's Land, should again be applied to those objects in the hopes of encouraging free settlers who may give employment to the convicts. The noble Lord, indeed, asks, is it possible that any free settlers will consent to be sent out by means of the money which hag been voted by Parliament for the purpose of compensating, as it were, for the convicts? If the matter is put in this light, they probably would not; but we have experience to show that if proper regulations are adopted, free settlers may be induced to avail themselves of the great advantages of being enabled to obtain land upon easy terms combined with a supply of cheap labour. After the conclusion of the war, the number of convicts in the hands of the Government in New South Wales, was found to be a most serious evil, and Lord Bathurst, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, with great wisdom, as I think, adopted regulations by which the quit rent subject to which land was then granted, should be remitted to those who took into their service a certain number of assigned convicts. What was the consequence? Many enterprising and energetic settlers went to New South Wales, to take advantage of this cheap labour and land; and this was the foundation of the prosperity of the colony. In a very short time, instead of the Government being embarrassed by a large number of convicts of whom it knew not how to dispose, the applications for servants far exceeded what could be complied with. This, my Lords, is an experiment, which is well worthy of imitation; and the principles of our present regulations is in fact copied from those which I have mentioned, adopting what was really good in their substance, and avoiding, so far as we can, their defects. In the papers on the table, noble Lords will find the details of the arrangements which have been adopted with this view; regulations have been promulgated by the Land and Emigration Commissioners, by which persons in this country paying money for land in Van Diemen's Land, and going out to settle there, will be enabled to obtain free cabin passages from the grant made by Parliament, and are also promised that improvements shall be made for them on their land so as to fit it for immediate occupation. Those who avail themselves of these regulations will obtain advantages at least equivalent to those enjoyed by the early settlers in New South Wales; and I see no reason to doubt that when this is understood, settlers will be attracted. Western Australia also, my Lords, will, I believe, receive a considerable number of convicts. It is true, that at present, it is a very small community, and cannot therefore immediately absorb very many, but it is a colony of great natural advantages. Its timber is of unrivalled excellence and easy of access. Its soil is capable of yielding cotton and other productions of a warm climate, in addition to those which are usual in other parts of Australia. It possesses also the means of supplying in abundance the first wants of settlers who may go there—the great difficulty in colonisation—having an ample stock, not only of food, but of cattle and sheep for farming operations. By means of convict labour, the works necessary for rendering these advantages available, will be executed; and the convicts, when they obtain tickets of leave, will supply settlers with labour. I see no reason, therefore, to doubt, that with these advantages, settlers will be attracted, and capital will be rapidly accumulated, so that an increasing field for the employment of convicts will be created. Such, my Lords, are my reasons for believing that there is not reason to apprehend, with the noble Lord, that under the measures now in progress, the moral and economical evils which were experienced in 1846 will again arise in Van Diemen's Laud. Under the influence of the policy now adopted, and imperfectly as it has as yet been acted upon, the Governor of Van Diemen's Land states that the colony is already rising from that severe depression which various causes had combined to produce. Shipbuilding is becoming a trade of great importance, as well as the export of timber, and there are many signs that the supply of cheap labour which is there attainable will be made use of in carrying on various profitable branches of industry. By the measures which I have described, free settlers will be encouraged, and, as formerly happened in New South Wales, the most industrious of the convicts themselves will accumulate capital, and become employers of labour. Besides, as the convicts become entitled to conditional pardons, or to their freedom by the expiration of their sentences, the whole labour market of the adjoining colonies, with which steamers constantly running afford an easy communication, will be open to them. With regard to the opposition to the reception of convicts in Van Diemen's Land, I regret that my noble Friend who spoke last (Lord Monteagle) should have expressed the opinion he has, that that opposition will increase, and that it will be ultimately necessary to yield to it. This I do not anticipate. In 1846 there was good ground for the unanimous resistance which was made to the continuance of transportation as it was then carried on; but I believe that when the real advantages of the improved system come to be fully understood—when it is perceived that the reception of convicts, coupled with these measures, is calculated so greatly to promote the advance of the colony in wealth and prosperity, I am sanguine in believing that the objections to the system on the part of the colonists will cease. I am confirmed in that belief, because it is a matter of fact as to which there can be no doubt that the objections felt in the Australian colonies to the reception of convicts have only arisen of late years. Your Lordships may remember that in 1838, when the Committee of the House of Commons inquired into the sub- ject, the unanimous feeling of the colonists was against the discontinuance of transportation, and the utmost pains were taken by them to produce evidence to rebut that which was brought forward in proof of the necessity of a change. At that time the system of assignment still existed by which the colonists obtained cheap labour, and it was not till this system was discontinued, and the system of working the convicts in gangs was adopted, that the strong feeling against transportation arose.
I think the noble Lord is mistaken; the Order in Council for discontinuing transportation to New South Wales was issued in 1840 at the instance of the colonists before the probation system was established.
It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord has stated, that the demand from New South Wales for the discontinuance of transportation preceded the adoption of the plan for keeping all the convicts sent to the colonies in gangs, but there had always been a certain number of road gangs in the colonies. The abuses to which they gave rise were perfectly well understood, and I do not think it would be difficult to produce evidence showing that it was the experience of these abuses, and the just anticipation of their increase from the great extension of this mode of employing convicts, which created so strong a feeling of opposition on the part of the colonists to the reception of convicts. It seems, therefore, reasonable to conclude, that if we succeed in getting rid of the abuses which have created the feeling, the feeling will subside. But I must add, that at all events I consider the colonists of Van Diemen's Land to have no just right to call upon this country to discontinue the practice of sending convicts there. I admit that colonies which have been established as free colonies, have a right to expect that convicts should not be sent to them without their own consent. But Van Diemen's Land was founded as a convict colony. This country has spent millions of money in fitting it for the reception of convicts; and the free population which has established itself there for the sake of the pecuniary advantages of that expenditure, has no right whatever to expect that the policy of this country should be altered when they think proper to demand it, and that we should be compelled again to incur the heavy expense of preparing some new settlement for the reception of convicts. Nor does it follow, because representative institutions are to be established in Van Diemen's Land, that therefore on this matter the authority of the Crown and Parliament of England are to be superseded. On the contrary, I conceive that that authority ought to be firmly maintained and asserted, and that Van Diemen's Land should continue to be used for the reception of convicts. In duty and in justice we are bound to take care that we make all the arrangements which are possible, in order to prevent the reception of convicts from being injurious to the colony; and this, as I have stated to your Lordships, Her Majesty's Government are endeavouring to accomplish, I trust with good hopes of success. I have only to add, before I sit down, with reference to the provisions of the Bill now before us, that I admit the justice of what has been observed by my noble Friend behind me (Lord Chichester), I think it is likely that hereafter it will be necessary to consolidate the various Acts under which the different penal establishments to which this Bill relates are administered. But this consolidation would require very careful examination of the various Acts and of the different powers which they confer; and before this is attempted, I think it is better that we should have more experience of the working of the system of punishment as it will now be carried on under the authority created by this Bill. For this reason, I think it is better that the present measure should be confined merely to placing all the different establishments under the same authority, leaving the visitors who are to be appointed with that view to exercise the powers conferred by the existing Acts of Parliament on the separate and independent authorities by which these prisons are now managed. This is the object of the Bill, and I am glad to find that, as far as it goes, my noble Friend approves of it as a step in the right direction.
After a few words from Lord MONTEAGLE and Lord LYTTELTON,
On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative.
Bill read 3a , and passed.
Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow, And Dublin Railway
Order of the Day being read for the Attendance at the Bar of this House of Mr. Charles de Lacy Nash, the Secretary to the Committee of the Company, the Yeoman Usher informed the House, That Mr. Nash was in attendance, whereupon it was moved.
That inasmuch as Mr. Charles de Lacy Nash has made a Return to an Order of this House which he was not required or authorised to make, and has framed the said Return in a Form calculated to mislead this House, he be called in, and reprimanded by The Lord Speaker for the same, and then discharged from further Attendance:
The same was agreed to.
Then Mr. Nash was called in, and having prayed Leave to make certain Statements to the House on the Subject, he was heard accordingly; and was then reprimanded by The Lord Speaker, and discharged from further Attendance.
House adjourned to Monday next.