Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VI: LAW AND JUSTICE. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 4
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Chapter VI: LAW AND JUSTICE. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 4 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 4.
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LAW AND JUSTICE.
Though convicts were unhappily supplied at an increasing rate from the mother-country, the demand for free labourers throughout Van Diemen's Land became more urgent continually. The young men who settled either as wool-growers, farmers, or labourers, wanted wives. All above the lowest rank needed servants. The sheep were too many for the shepherds. There was too little produce in proportion to the land; and too few dwellings in proportion to the produce; too much or too little of almost everything, for want of a due proportion of labour. The same thing is the case at home; only here the proportions are exactly reversed. It will be very strange if in a short time we do not rectify the condition of each country by the exchange which would be equally beneficial to both.
Ireland and Van Diemen's Land are islands of about the same size. They are each favoured by nature in an unusual degree, having all the requisites of fertility, variety and beauty which can fit them to be the abodes of a thriving and happy population. The arable lands and pastures of both are excellent. The one has fisheries of salmon, herring and cod; the other of whales, and seals for export, and of a large variety of fish for home consumption. Both have fine natural harbours, ridges of protecting mountains, stores of mineral treasure, inland lakes, and fresh springs wherever man may incline to fix his abode. Both have, with all these advantages, their natural hardships and social troubles.
The natural hardships of each might be almost entirely removed by a well-conducted reciprocity of assistance. Ireland has a population of eight million; Van Diemen's Land of only twenty-five thousand. In Ireland, multitudes of half-starved wretches pine in idleness, and many die by the way-side, of that wasting of limb and heart and life which is the form in which poverty perpetrates murder. In Van Diemen's Land, the labourer is liable to be worn out by toil, and fretted by seeing half his produce rotting on the ground, or wastefully bestowed on swine; while articles which he has always considered almost articles necessary as food cannot by any means be procured. With him, abundance is not wealth, and plenty brings not the happiness for which he looked. If the wide sea did not lie between, he would beckon to a dozen Irishmen to come and nourish themselves with his superfluity, while he gathers about him the comforts which spring out of their industry, and solaces himself with a due portion of that repose, without a certain share of which the best ends of life cannot be attained. Why should not a bridge be built across this wide sea with the capital which is now unproductively expended on the maintenance of these paupers? Why should not the charity which cannot in Ireland give subsistence to one without taking it from another, be employed in a way which gives support to many, to tile benefit of many more? Whatever funds are judiciously employed on emigration are used as if to bring to a junction with the over-peopled country a rich region, into which a hungry multitude may be poured, to the relief of the old, and the great advantage of the new land. If the wealthy among the inhabitants of the old country would gladly if they could, call up such a new region, drest in fertility, from the surrounding sea, why do they delay effecting what is to their purpose the same thing? Since they cannot move the land to their poor, why do they not agree to devote what they now give in baneful charity to removing their poor to the new land? Till such a general agreement is arrived at, why do not individuals thus apply their charity, knowing that thus they not only relieve, for a time, but establish for life;-—that they not only assist the immediate objects of their bounty, but provide for their descendants of many generations? The rich should choose for their almoners the agents of emigration. Those who have little to give should unite their resources to send abroad a few of the young labourers of both sexes who are eager to go. Those who have no money to give, should bestow their services in spreading the knowledge of the facts how poorlaws aggravate, and emigration alleviates, if it does not remove, pauperism.
If this had been done long ago, the places whither we now transport our criminals might at present have been as remarkable for the good moral condition of their inhabitants as they actually are for the reverse. If it were now to be done effectually, it is yet possible that Botany Bay may in time outgrow the odium attached to its name, and become the chosen resort of the upright and industrious. Indigence causes crime; and by the prevention of indigence and its consequent crime, we may become better able than we now fancy ourselves to dispense with the institution of penal settlements;—whose results are as disgraceful to British wisdom as that of a legal pauper provision.
When Jerry and Bob were landed at Launceston, they were as unable as those who sent them were disinclined, to reflect on the difference between their being sent there, innocent, to provide an honest livelihood for themselves, and being deposited as a curse upon this new region,—both guilty and one hardened, proscribed by the old country and dreaded by the new, and prepared to baffle all the professed objects of their punishment. The guilt of these lads was distinctly referrible to indigence. Their parents could give them little wherewith to provide for their bodies, and nothing of that care and instruction which were peculiarly needful to them in their circumstances of temptation. Being thus made outcasts, they acted as outcasts; from which time it became a struggle between themselves and society which could inflict the most misery upon the other. They put society in fear, violated its rights, mocked its institutions, and helped to corrupt its yet innocent members. Society inflicted on them disgrace, bondage, and banishment; and from all this misery no good resulted, however much was proposed.
The judge who pronounced sentence on Jerry and Bob told them that it was necessary to the security of society that they should be prevented from inflicting any further injury by their evil deeds.—There are two ways by which such prevention may be accomplished; one by the death, the other by the reformation, of the offender. Death was too severe a punishment for the offence of these lads; the judge must therefore have contemplated their reformation, or have thought only of England when he spoke of society. Did the law gain its object?
“I say, Bob,” said Jerry one evening, when they had got the leave it is so easy to obtain to go out of bounds, and work for themselves overhours,— “I say, do you remember what that fellow in Newgate read us about that cursed gaol where the people are mewed up as close as if they were in a school, and closer?”
“What that where they are shut in by themselves all night, and hard worked all day, and nobody may speak but the parson, and he praying and preaching night and morning, till a fellow's spirit is downright broken? Remember it! aye; and glad enough I have been many a time that we are not there. I'd rather be banged twice over.”
“Hanged! Yes: there's not much in hanging. I have seen it several times, and thought to myself, ‘if that's all, I should not mind it.’ But we are the best off, after all. I was horribly afraid, when old wiggy began to whimper, that it was to be tile hulks, or a long prison, instead of going abroad; for one never knows what they mean when they say ‘transportation.’ You would not have looked so downcast as you did if you had known what was before you.”
“Not I. I never thought to be made of so much consequence. 'Tis good fun to see them quarrel which shall have us, and to get them to bid rum and brandy against each other to seduce us away. We that could not get dry bread at home,—how easy it is for us to fill our stomachs with the choice of the land, and get drunk with our masters at the end of the day,—our masters being luckily of our own sort!”
“Yours, that is, Bob; not mine. But I don't know but I like mine as well. He gives me plenty of spare hours, on condition of my bringing back what I earn. You should have seen what a fright he looked in when somebody said the folks were growing moral at home, and no more convicts were to be sent out.”
“He was as sorry as some honester folks would be glad, Jerry. But as for dividing your earnings with your master,—they are a queer sort of earnings, I have a notion.”
“Easily got enough. 'Tis only just prowling on the downs in a dark night to meet a stray sheep; or making a venture into the fold. Then, if one gets so far as into the bush, there are other ways that you know nothing of yet, Bob.”
“I never can make out how you get seal oil from the woods; being as we are thirty miles from the sea.”
Jerry laughed, and offered to introduce his brother one day to somebody in the bush he little dreamed of.
“Do you mean, Frank, poor fellow, or Ellen.? They would not go so far to meet you.”
“Do you think I would ask them? It will be time enough for me to notice Frank when I have a house of my own to ask him into. I shall be the master of such as he before his time is out.”
“You need not carry yourself so high, Jerry. You are in a worse bondage than he just now.”
“Curse them that put me into it, and let them see if I bear it long! However, hold your tongue about it now. There is the moon through the trees, and the free turf under our feet. What a pity there is nobody with a heavy purse likely to pass while we are resting in the shadow under this clump! 'tis such dull work when there is nothing better to be had than sheep and poultry, and so many of them that they are scarcely worth the taking!”
“I like roving for the sake of roving,” said Bob. “I have plenty of mutton without stealing it.”
“I like robbing for the sake of robbing,” replied his brother; “and the mutton is only the price of my frolic. But there is something I like better. Let us be off, and I will show you, (if you'll swear not to blab,) how you may get such sport as you little think for. Learn to handle a gun, and to cross a farm-yard like a cat, and to tap at a back-door like a mouse within a wainscot, and you may laugh at the judge and the law, and all the dogs they have set to worry us.”
“Why no, us.” thank'ee, replied Bob. “I am trying after a character, you know, so I shall stay where I am. I'll light my pipe; and I shall I've got rum enough to last till morning both for myself and somebody I rather expect to meet me.”
“Take care she be not too deep for you, Bob. If ever you want a wife with no more sense than a monkey, and not half as many tricks, ask me, and I will show you how to get one.”
So much for the reformation of the offender. The other kind of security on which the judge expatiated was that afforded by the criminal being made a warning.
A waggon load of new convict-labourers arrived at the Dairy Plains one day, when the accustomed gang was at work on the road which was not yet completed. The masters who happened to he present were too much taken up with observing the new-comers to pay any attention to the looks of their labourers. They did not see the winks, and the side-long smiles, they did not hear the snapping of fingers behind their backs; they had no suspicion that some in the waggon were old acquaintances of those on the road. On the first opportunity after the fresh men were left with the others, and only one or two overlookers near, there was a prodigious hand-shaking and congratulation, and questioning. “How did you get over?” “How did you manage to get sent here?” “How do you like transportation?” “You'll soon learn to know your own luck.” —This is a fine country, is it not?’ &c. &c.
“I was so cursedly dull after you all went away,” observed one of the new-comers, “there was nothing to stay for: but I very near got sent to Sidney.”
“Well; you could soon have got away, either home or here. But how do you find yourself off?”
“With a bed to myself and a blanket, and rare good living to what I had when I was an honest man. The thing I don't like is the work; but they say we are to have plenty of spirits.”
“To be sure; and as to the work,—-what do the poor wretches at home do but work as hard as you, and for less than you can get in spare hours. But where's Sam? Why did not he come too?”
“He got baulked, as he deserved for being a fool. What, did he do but send his sister to the justice to know how much he must steal to be transported, and no more? The justice set the parson at him; and between the two, they have cowed him, poor fellow, and he will never better his condition.”
“Perhaps he is afraid. Perhaps he believes what the judge said about our being a warning. And yet he tipped me the wink when that was said, and When some of the pretty ones in the gallery began to cry.”
“He knows better than you think. If you were as moped as a linnet in a cage, he would know nothing of it; because you are too far off for him to see what became of you, in that case; but, being as you are, a merry, rollicking set, he would like to be among you; and that sort of news travels last.”
Another of the party did not like his lot so well. He said nothing of the disgrace, though he felt it; but he complained of the toil, of the tyranny of the masters, of the spite and bickerings of his companions.
“If you don't like your company, change it,” replied one to whom he had opened his mind. “Such a good hand as you are at a burglary, I don't wonder that you had rather steal enough in one night to live upon for a month, than work as commoner hands do. You had better go back. Jerry will tell you how. Nothing is easier.”
“Well; but there is my little woman yonder, that they were so kind as to send over at the same time; how is she to get back? She can't turn sailor, and get her passage home in that way.”
“Trust her for making terms with some gull of a sailor,” replied the other, laughing. “It is only following an old trade for a particular reason; and you'll give her leave till you touch land again. But let me hear before you go; there are some acquaintance of mine in London that will be glad to know you; and you may chance to help one another; though; to be sure, you take a higher line.”
“Are you thinking of sending over the fee they raised for your defence?”
“I did intend it, as a point of honour; but they assure me they made a good bargain of it as it was. They could have paid the fee three times over out of the plate-chest they stole for it. So I don't know that I need trouble myself.”
“So while Counsellor H—was preaching about your being tried that people might be safe, there was another robbery going on to pay him his fees. That's rare! You should go back, (since the way is so easy,) and pick Counsellor II—'s pocket. That will mend the joke.”
So much for the security to society from the exhibition of this kind of warning.