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CHAPTER II.: OF TRANSPORTATION. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 1 (Principles of Morals and Legislation, Fragment on Government, Civil Code, Penal Law) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 1.
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Among the advantages which the North Americans have derived from their independence, there is one which cannot fail to strike every man who has any feeling of national pride: it has saved them from the humiliating obligation of receiving every year an importation of the refuse of the British population; of serving as an outlet for the prisons of the mother country, whereby the morals of their rising people were exposed to injury, by a mixture with all possible kinds of depravity. North America, after having been exposed to this scourge for upwards of a century, no longer serves as a receptacle for these living nuisances: but can any limits be assigned to the moral effects that may have been produced by this early inoculation of vice?
I shall have occasion again to recur to this important topic, when, in speaking of the colony at New South Wales, and of the population now forming there, I shall point out the inconveniences which result from sending thither these periodical harvests of malefactors.
The present object is to show that the system of transportation, as now managed, is essentially different from what it was under the old system, and that, with the change of scene, the punishment itself has in many respects been materially altered: in some respects for the better; in many others for the worse.
Under the old system of transportation to America, power being given for that purpose by Parliament, the convicts destined for transportation were made over by the government to a contractor, who, for the profit to be made by selling their services for the penal term to a master in America, engaged to convey them to the scene of banishment. To banishment—the banishment prescribed by law—was thus added, in all cases in which the individuals were not able to purchase their liberty, the ulterior and perfectly distinct punishment of bondage. But wherever it happened, that, through the medium of a friend or otherwise, the convict could bid more for himself than would be given for his services by a stranger, he was set at liberty in the first port at which he arrived. The punishment was limited, as respected him, to simple banishment: the individual was therefore punished with bondage, rather for his poverty than for the crime he had committed. Thus the most culpable—those who had committed great crimes, and who had contrived to secure the profits of their crimes, were least punished. The minor thieves, novices, and inexperienced malefactors, who had not secured their plunder, bore the double chain of banishment and slavery.
Under the system of transportation to Botany Bay, the whole expense is borne by the government. The governor of the colony always retains an authority over the convicts, and acts as their goaler; he provides them with habitations, employment, and food; they are placed under his sole controul; he may employ them either in public or private works. Hard labour, with some few exceptions, is the lot of all; exemption from it cannot be purchased by money. In this respect, the inequality above spoken of has been greatly corrected, and the punishment having been rendered more certain, is consequently more efficacious.
Transportation to America was attended with another inconvenience: that country presented too many facilities for the return of the convicts. A great number of them availed themselves of these opportunities, and returned to the mother country to exercise their fatal talents with superior skill—some when their terms of banishment had expired, many before that period had arrived. As to the latter, the facility of return was one among the disadvantages attending transportation to America: as to the others, in the eyes at least of those who conceive that the commission of one offence ought not to operate as a forfeiture of all title to justice, this facility of return could not fail to appear as an advantage. On the other hand, the distance of Botany Bay afforded a better security against illegal returns: being situated at the antipodes of Britain, with scarcely any existing commerce when first selected, the return of any of the convict population was an event hardly to be looked for. Whilst, however, a security thus effectual was provided against the return of convicts whose terms had not expired, an equally effectual barrier was raised against the return of those whose terms had expired; and thus, at one stroke, all inferior degrees of this punishment were, in nearly all cases, indiscriminately converted into the highest. Whether such an effect was intended or not, is is needless to inquire; but that such was the effect, is indisputable.
Transportation, under the present system, is a complex punishment, composed, first, of banishment, and second, of hard labour:—banishment, a punishment eminently defective, particularly in respect of its inequality; hard labour, a punishment in itself eminently salutary, but, when connected with banishment, and, as in this case, carried on under every possible disadvantage, failing altogether to produce any beneficial effects.
In order to show how completely adverse the system of transportation to New South Wales is to the attainment of the several objects or ends of penal justice, it will be necessary shortly to recapitulate what those ends or objects are, and then to show, from the accounts which have been furnished respecting the state of the convict population of that colony, in what degree these ends or objects have been respectively fulfilled.
1. The main object or end of penal justice is example—prevention of similar offences, on the part of individuals at large, by the influence exerted by the punishment on the minds of bystanders, from the apprehension of similar suffering in case of similar delinquency. Of this property, transportation is almost destitute: this is its radical and incurable defect. The punishment is not seen by—it is hidden, abstracted from, the eyes of those upon whom it is desirable it should operate in the way of example. Punishments which are inflicted at the antipodes—in a country of which so little is known, and with which communication was so rare, could make only a transient impression upon the minds of people in this country. “The people,” says an author who had deeply considered the effects of imagination, “the mass of the people make no distinction between an interval of a thousand years and of a thousand miles.” It has been already said, but cannot be too often repeated and enforced, that the utility and effect of example is not determined by the amount of suffering the delinquent is made to endure, but by the amount of apparent suffering he undergoes. It is that part of his suffering which strikes the eyes of beholders, and which fastens on their imagination, which leaves an impression strong enough to counteract the temptation to offend. However deficient they may be in respect of exemplarity, the sufferings inflicted on persons condemned to this mode of punishment are not the less substantial and severe: confinement for an unlimited time in prisons or in the bulks—a voyage of from six to eight months, itself a state of constant sufferance from the crowded state of the ships and the necessary restraint to which convicts are subjected—the dangers of the sea—exposure to contagious diseases, which are often attended with the most fatal consequences. Such are some of the concomitants of the system of punishment in question, which serves as the introduction to a state of banishment and bondage in a distant region, in which the means of subsistence have been extremely precarious, and where, by delay in the arrival of a vessel, the whole colony has been repeatedly exposed to all the horrors of famine. It is scarcely possible to conceive a situation more deplorable than that to which the convicts thus transported have been exposed. Constant hard labour, and exposure to depredation, (if they have anything of which they can be plundered,) and occasional starvation, without the means of mending their condition while they remain there, without the hope of ever leaving it: such has been the condition to which persons banished to this colony, for periods that in pretence were limited, have found themselves exposed. Here, then, is punishment, partly intentional, partly accidental, dealt out with the most lavish profuseness; but compared with its effects in the way of example, it may be considered as so much gratuitous suffering, inflicted without end or object. A sea of oblivion flows between that country and this. It is not the hundredth, nor even the thousandth part of this mass of punishment, that makes any impression on the people of the mother country—upon that class of people who are most likely to commit offences, who neither read nor reflect, and whose feelings are capable of being excited, not by the description, but by the exhibition of sufferings. The system of transportation has, moreover, this additional disadvantage, which not merely neutralizes its effects in the discouragement of offences, but renders it, in many cases, an instrument of positive encouragement to the commission of offences: A variety of pleasing illusions will, in the minds of many persons, be connected with the idea of transportation, which will not merely supplant all painful reflections, but will be replaced by the most agreeable anticipations.* It requires but a very superficial knowledge of mankind in general, and more especially of the youth of this country, not to perceive that a distant voyage, a new country, numerous associates, hope of future independence, and agreeable adventures, will be sufficiently captivating to withdraw the mind from the contemplation of the painful part of the picture, and to give uncontrouled sway to ideas of licentious fascinating enjoyment.
II. The second end or object of punishment is reformation—prevention of similar offences on the part of the particular individual punished in each instance, by taking from him the will to commit the like in future. Under this head, what has been done in the colony of New South Wales? By referring to facts, we shall find, not only that in this respect it has been hitherto radically defective, but that, from the nature of things, it ever must remain so.
Connected with the system of transportation to the American colonies, there were two circumstances highly conducive to the reformation of the convicts transported: their admission, upon landing in the country, into families composed of men of thrift and probity; their separation from each other.
When a master in America had engaged a convict in his service, all the members of the family became interested in watching his behaviour. Working under the eye of his master, he had neither the inducements nor the means of giving loose to his vicious propensities. The state of dependence in which he was placed gave him an obvious interest in cultivating the good-will of those under whose authority he found himself placed; and if he still retained any principle of honesty, it could scarcely fail to be invigorated and developed under the encouragement that it would find in the society with which he was surrounded.
Thus it was in America. How is it in New South Wales? To receive the convicts upon their landing, a set of brutes in human shape, a species of society beyond comparison less favourable to colonization than utter solitude—few other inhabitants, but the very profligates themselves, who are sent by thousands from British goals, to be turned loose to mix with one another in this desert—together with the few taskmasters who superintend their work in the open wilderness, and the military men who are sent out with them, in large but still unequal numbers, to help to keep within bounds the mischief they would otherwise be sure to occupy themselves with when thus let loose. Here, then, there were not, as in America, any families to receive the convicts, any means of constantly separating them from each other; no constant and steady inspection. Field-husbandry is, under this system, the principal employment; hence general dispersion—field-husbandry carried on by individuals or heads of families, each occupying a distinct dwelling, the interior of which is altogether out of the habitual reach of every inspecting eye. It is true that the police officers occasionally go their rounds to maintain order and keep the convicts to their work: but what is to be expected from a system of inspection at long intervals, and which is as disgusting to the inspectors as to the inspected? Can this be regarded as a sufficient check against sloth, gaming, drunkenness, incontinence, profaneness, quarrelling, improvidence, and the absence of all honourable feeling? Immediately the back of the inspector is turned, all the disorder which his actual presence had suspended, is renewed. It may easily be imagined how completely all controul may be set at defiance by a set of men who have regularly organized among themselves a system of complicity, and who make it a matter of triumph and agreeable pastime to assist each other in escaping from inspection.
On this subject, the public have long been in the possession of a very valuable document: it is a complete history of the first sixteen years since the establishment of this colony, which, in respect of fidelity, possesses every title to confidence, and which states the events as they happened, in the form of a journal, accompanied with the necessary details. What gives the work the highest claim to confidence is, that the historiographer is also the panegyrist, the professed panegyrist of the establishment—a character which, when accompanied, as in this instance, with that candour and those internal marks of veracity, with which it is so rare for it to be accompanied, renders the testimony, in this point of view, more than doubly valuable.
The general impression left by a perusal of this work is one of sadness and disgust: it is a history of human nature in its most degraded and depraved state—an unmixed detail of crimes and punishments;—the men constantly engaged in conspiracies against the government, always forming plans for deceiving and disobeying their taskmasters, forming among themselves a society of refractory and wily profligates—a society of wolves and foxes;—the women, everywhere else the best part of humanity, prove in New South Wales a remarkable exception to this general rule. The late chief magistrate says, “The women are worse than the men, and are generally found at the bottom of every infamous transaction that is committed in the colony.”* His work abounds with passages to the same effect. Of such materials is it that the foundation of the colony is formed. From such a stock, and under such auspices, is it that the rising generation is to be produced.
The historian has not confined himself to vague imputations of general immorality and profligacy, but has particularized the acts of delinquency on which those imputations rest. The crimes that are committed at New South Wales, in spite of the alertness of the government and the summary administration of justice, surpass, in the skill and cunning with which they are managed, every thing that has been ever witnessed in this country. Almost every page of his work contains the description of offences against persons, or against property, either of individuals or of the public. Gaming and drunkenness produce perpetual quarrels, which usually end in murder. The crime of incendiarism is there practised to an extent altogether unexampled in any other country. Churches, prisons, public and private property, are all alike subjected to the devouring element, without any regard to the extent of the loss that may be occasioned, or the number of lives that may be sacrificed. “When the public gaol was set on fire,” says the historian, “it will be read with horror, that at the time there were confined within the walls twenty prisoners, most of whom were loaded with irons, and who with difficulty were snatched from the flames. Feeling for each other was never imputed to these miscreants; and yet, if several were engaged in the commission of a crime, they have seldom been known to betray their companions in iniquity.”† The bond of connexion is not sympathy for each other, but antipathy to the government, the common enemy. For the natives they manifest as little feeling, as towards each other. Spite of the rigour of the law, these European savages are guilty of the most wanton acts of barbarity towards the natives of the country; instead of cultivating a good understanding with them, which might have been attended with many advantages, they have converted them into the most determined enemies.
So far from exhibiting any symptoms of reformation, the longer they are subjected to the discipline of the colony, the worse they become. Whatever may be the degree of viciousness ascribed by the historian to the convicts during the continuance of their term, they appear in his history to be in a certain degree honest, sober, and orderly, in comparison with those whose term is expired, and who afterwards become settlers: they then become the prime instigators of all the crimes committed in the colony, and constitute the principal source of the embarrassment to which the government is subjected.
In proof of this assertion, the historian furnishes a most satisfactory piece of evidence. During the first five years subsequent to the establishment of the colony, and when there were no convicts whose terms had expired, the conduct of the convicts was in general orderly, and such as to give hopes of a disposition to reformation: but in proportion as, by the expiration of their respective terms, the number of the emancipated colonists increased, the most ungovernable licentiousness was introduced: not only those that were thus recently emancipated, as if to make up for the time they had lost, abandoned themselves to every species of excess, but they encouraged the natural viciousness of those who still remained in a state of bondage.—The convicts finding among these independent settlers, who were their old companions and associates, receivers of stolen property, and protectors from the punishments denounced by the law, always ready to receive them in their retreat from justice, and to conceal them from detection, became more insolent and refractory, anxiously waiting for the time when they also would be entitled to assume this stage of savage independence.
What possible means can be devised to neutralize this perpetually increasing influx of vice? All the expedients that have hitherto been employed have proved completely fruitless, and there would be no difficulty in showing that so they must ever be. Instruction, moral and religious, seems almost altogether vain: the very nature of the population bids defiance to the establishment of an effectual system of police, or to an uniform administration of the laws: rewards were found as inefficient as good-will in procuring evidence: the enormous consumption of spirituous liquors, the principal cause of all the disorders in the colony, has, from local circumstances, hitherto been found altogether irrepressible. Under each of these heads a few remarks may suffice.
With respect to religious instruction, little could be expected from two or three chaplains for a colony divided into eight or ten stations, each to appearance at too great a distance from the rest to send auditors to any other. To minds so disposed as those of the convicts, of what advantage was the attendance on divine service for one or two hours on one day in the week? And with what profit could religious instruction be expected to be received by men who were “made (as the historian expresses it* ) to attend divine service?” To rid themselves of the occasional listlessness they were thus made to endure, the church was got rid of by an incendiary plot. To punish them (if by accident another building fit for the purpose had not been already in existence) they were to have been employed on the Sunday in the erecting another building for the purpose.† To work on Sunday they might be made; but will they ever be made to lend an attentive ear and a docile heart to authorative instruction? Even the women, says the historian, were extremely remiss in their attendance on divine service, and were never at a loss for mendacious pretences for excusing themselves. In short, instead of being observed as a day dedicated to religious duties, Sunday appears in that colony to have been distinguished only by the riot and debauchery with which it was marked—those who did not attend divine service, taking advantage of the absence of those who did, to plunder their dwellings and destroy their crops.
It has just been seen with how very sparing a hand religious instruction for the Protestant part of the establishment was supplied. For the spiritual instruction of the Catholic part of the colony, which, from the large importations made from Ireland, must now have become very numerous, it does not appear that any provision whatever was made. It is true, that in one of the importations of convicts from Ireland, a priest of the Catholic persuasion, whose offence was sedition, was comprised.‡ If, instead of a seditious clergyman, would not the expense have been well bestowed in sending out a loyalist clergyman of the same religious persuasion?∥
As to the police, it is necessarily in an extreme degree debilitated by the corrupt state of the subordinate class of public functionaries. In a population that warranted the utmost distrust on the part of the government, it was found necessary to restrain the free intercourse between the several parts of the colony. All persons, officers excepted, were forbidden to travel from one district of the settlement to another without passports. These regulations proved, however, altogether nugatory: the constables whose duty it was to inspect these passports,§ either from fear or corruption, neglected to do their duty, whilst, as has been already mentioned, a most effectual bar to the preservation of any well-regulated system of police, was found in those convicts whose terms had expired, and who were ever ready to give protection and assistance to the criminal and turbulent.
With regard to all classes of offences committed in this colony, justice was paralyzed by a principle which ensured impunity, and which it seems impossible to eradicate. With the historian, who was also Judge Advocate, it is a matter of perpetual complaint, that it was scarcely possible to convict an offender who was not taken in the very act of committing an offence. Evidence was on almost all occasions altogether as inaccessible as if there had been a combination and tacit agreement among the majority of the inhabitants of the colony to paralyze the arm of justice, by a refusal to bear testimony. He speaks of five murders in one year* (1796,) which were left unpunished, notwithstanding the strong presumptions which indicated the guilty parties, because the necessary witnesses would not come forward, even though extraordinary rewards were offered. One such fact is sufficient: it is superfluous to cite others of the same nature.
The most prominent cause of this state of abandoned profligacy, is the universal and immoderate passion for spirituous liquors: it is the exciting cause which leads to every species of vice—gaming, dissoluteness, depredation, and murder. Servants, soldiers, labourers, women, the youth of both sexes, prisoners and their gaolers, are all alike corrupted by it: it was carried to such a pitch, that numbers of the settlers were in the practice of selling the whole of their crops, as soon as they were gathered, in order to purchase their favourite liquor. The attempts made from time to time by the government, to check this practice, have proved altogether unavailing. The policy of the government upon this point appears not to have been quite steady: sometimes it has allowed the trade in spirituous liquors, at other times it has been forbidden. But whatever may be the policy of the government, experience shows, that from the diffusiveness of the population, as well as from other causes, no precautions within its power will ever diminish the quantity of this liquid poison consumed in any part of the colony. The greater the population, and the more distant the stations from the seat of government, the more easy will it be to carry on private distilleries, and to prevent them from being detected. And even if the supply thus produced were unequal to the demand, it would be impossible to prevent smuggling on an extent of coast which the whole navy of England would be unequal to guard. If it were found impossible to restrain this evil when the colony was confined to a single station, and a single harbour, can any better success be looked for now that the settlements are spread wide over the face of the country, when there are numerous settlers constantly employed in the manufacture of this article, and every ship that arrives is provided with an abundant supply, the sale of it being more certain and more profitable than that of any other commodity.
Such has been the state of the convict population of this colony—past reformation none—future reformation still more hopeless. We have perhaps dwelt too long upon this part of the subject: fortunately the topics which remain may be compressed into a narrower compass.
III. The third object or end of punishment is incapacitation—taking from the delinquent the power of committing the same crimes.
Transportation accomplishes this object, with relation to a certain place. The convict, whilst in New South Wales, cannot commit crimes in England; the distance between the two places in a considerable degree precludes his illegal return, and this is the sum of the advantage.
Whilst the convict is at Botany Bay, he need not be dreaded in England: but his character remains the same, and the crimes which are mischievous in the mother country are mischievous in the colony; we ought not, therefore, to attribute to this punishment an advantage which it does not possess. That an inhabitant of London should rejoice in the removal to a distance of a dangerous character, is easily comprehended: his particular interest is touched. But a punishment ought not to meet the approbation of a legislature, which, without diminishing the number of crimes committed, only changes the place of their commission.
The security, great as it may appear to be, against returns both legal and illegal, has not been so effectual as might have been expected. The number of convicts who left the colony between the years 1790 and 1796, the accounts of which are scattered over the whole of Collins’ work, amount in the whole to 166, of which 89 consisted of those whose terms had expired, and 76 of those whose terms had not expired. This is, however, very far from being the total amount of either description of those that had quitted the colony, with or without permission. Escapes are in various parts of the work mentioned as being made in clusters, and the numbers composing each cluster not being stated, could not be carried to the above account.
The number of escapes will, most probably, increase as commerce extends, and as the convicts become more numerous, and consequently possess greater facilities for escaping.
IV. The fourth end or object of punishment is the making compensation or satisfaction to the party injured.
On this head, there is but one word to be said:—The system of transportation is altogether destitute of this quality. It is true, that this objection has no weight, except in comparison with a system of punishment in which provision is made, out of the labour of the offender, for compensation to the party injured.
V. The fifth end or object proper to be kept in view in a system of penal legislation, is the collateral object of economy.
If it could be said of the system in question, that it possessed all the several qualities desirable in a plan of penal legislation, its being attended with a certain greater degree of expense would not afford a very serious objection to it; but in this case, this system, the most defective in itself, is at the same time carried on at a most enormous expense.
Upon this subject, the 28th Report of the Committee of Finance contains the most accurate and minute information. From that report it appears, that the total expense incurred during the ten or eleven first years of the establishment, ending in the year 1798, amounted to £1,037,000, which sum being divided by the number of convicts, will be found to amount to about £46 a-head. A possible reduction is in that report contemplated, which might in time cut down the expense to about £37 per head. To this expense, however, must be added the value of each man’s labour, since, if not considered as thrown away, the value ought to be added to the account of expense.
Consider New South Wales as a large manufacturing establishment: the master manufacturer, on balancing his accounts, would find himself minus £46 for every workman that he employed.
What enhances the expense of this manufacturing establishment beyond what it would be in the mother country, are—1. The expense incurred in conveying the workmen to a distance of between two and three thousand leagues; 2. The maintenance of the civil establishment, consisting of governors, judges, inspectors, police officers, &c.; 3. The maintenance of a military establishment, the sole object of which is to preserve subordination and peace in the colony; 4. The wide separation of the workmen, their untrustworthiness, their profligacy, favoured by the local circumstances of the colony, and the trifling value of the labour that can be extracted by compulsion from men who have no interest in the produce of their labour; 5. The high price of all the tools and raw materials employed in carrying on the manufactory, which are brought from Europe at the risk and expense of a long voyage.
If it be impossible to find a single clerk in Manchester or Liverpool, who would not have taken all these circumstances into his consideration, in making such a calculation as that in question, and if, after, or without having made it, there is not one man of common sense who would have undertaken such a scheme, a necessary conclusion is, that the arithmetic of those who risk their own property, is very different from that of those who speculate at the expense of the public.
In addition to the evils above enumerated, as attending the system of transportation to New South Wales, the punishment thus inflicted is liable to be attended with various species of aggravation, making so much clear addition to the punishment pronounced by the legislator.
When a punishment is denounced by the legislature, it ought to be selected as the one best adapted to the nature of the offence: his will ought to be, that the punishment inflicted should be such as he has directed; he regards it as sufficient; his will is, that it should not be made either more lenient or more severe: he reckons that a certain punishment, when inflicted, produces a given effect, but that another punishment, if by accident coupled with the principal one, whether from negligence or interest on the part of subordinates, exceeding the intention of the law, is so much injustice, and being nugatory in the way of example, produces so much uncompensated evil.
The punishment of transportation, which, according to the intention of the legislator, is designed as a comparatively lenient punishment, and is rarely directed to exceed a term of from seven to fourteen years, under the system in question is, in point of fact, frequently converted into capital punishment. What is the more to be lamented is, that this monstrous aggravation will, in general, be found to fall almost exclusively upon the least robust and least noxious class of offenders—those who, by their sensibility, former habits of life, sex and age, are least able to contend against the terrible visitation to which they are exposed during the course of a long and perilous voyage. Upon this subject the facts are as authentic as they are lamentable.
In a period of above eight years and a half, viz. from the 8th of May 1787, to the 31st December 1795, of five thousand one hundred and ninety-six embarked, five hundred and twenty-two perished in the course of the voyage; nor is this all, the accounts being incomplete. Out of twenty-eight vessels, in twenty-three of which the mortality just spoken of is stated to have taken place, there are five in respect of which the number of deaths is not mentioned.*
A voyage, however long it may be, does not necessarily shorten human existence. Captain Cook went round the world, and returned without the loss of a single man. It necessarily follows, therefore, that a voyage which decimates those that are sent upon it, must be attended with some very peculiar circumstances. In the present case, it is very clear that the mortality that thus prevailed arose partly from the state of the convicts, partly from the discipline to which they were subjected. Allow them to come on deck, everything is to be apprehended from their turbulent dispositions: confine them in the hold, and they contract the most dangerous diseases. If the merchant, who contracts for their transportation, or the captain of the ship that is employed by him, happen to be unfeeling and rapacious, the provisions are scanty and of a bad quality. If a single prisoner happen to bring with him the seeds of an infectious disorder, the contagion spreads over the whole ship. A ship (The Hillsborough) which, in the year 1799, was employed in the conveyance of convicts, out of a population of 300 lost 101.* It was not, says Colonel Collins, a neglect of any of the requisite precautions, but the gaol fever, which had been introduced by one of the prisoners, that caused this dreadful ravage.
Whatever may be the precautions employed, by any single accident or act of negligence, death, under its most terrific forms, is at all times liable to be introduced into these floating prisons, which have to traverse half the surface of the globe, with daily accumulating causes of destruction within them, before the diseased and dying can be separated from those who, having escaped infection, will have to drag out a debilitated existence in a state of bondage and exile.
Can the intention of the legislator be recognised in these accumulated aggravations to the punishment denounced? Can he be said to be aware of what he is doing, when he denounces a punishment, the infliction of which is withdrawn altogether from his controul—which is subjected to a multiplicity of accidents—the nature of which is different from what it is pronounced to be—and in its execution bears scarce any resemblance to what he had the intention of inflicting? Justice, of which the most sacred attributes are certainty and precision—which ought to weigh with the most scrupulous nicety the evils which it distributes—becomes, under the system in question, a sort of lottery, the pains of which fall into the hands of those that are least deserving of them. Translate this complication of chances, and see what the result will be: “I sentence you,” says the judge, “but to what I know not—perhaps to storm and shipwreck—perhaps to infectious disorders—perhaps to famine—perhaps to be massacred by savages—perhaps to be devoured by wild beasts. Away—take your chance—perish or prosper—suffer or enjoy: I rid myself of the sight of you: the ship that bears you away saves me from witnessing your sufferings—I shall give myself no more trouble about you.”
But it may perhaps be said, that however deficient in a penal view, New South Wales possesses great political advantages: it is an infant colony; the population will by degrees increase; the successively rising generations will become more enlightened and more moral; and after the lapse of a certain number of centuries, it will become a dependent settlement, of the highest political importance.
The first answer to this is, if it be thought to require any, that of all the expedients that could have been devised for founding a new colony in this or in any other place, the most expensive and the most hopeless was the sending out, as the embryo stock, a set of men of stigmatized character and dissolute habits of life. If there be any one situation more than another that requires patience, sobriety, industry, fortitude, intelligence, it is that of a set of colonists transported to a distance from their native country, constantly exposed to all sorts of privations, who have everything to create, and who, in a newly-formed establishment, have to conciliate a set of savage and ferocious barbarians, justly dreading an invasion on their lives and property. Even an old-established and well-organized community would be exposed to destruction, from an infusion of vicious and profligate malefactors, if effectual remedies were not employed to repress them: such characters are destitute of all qualities, both moral and physical, that are essential in the establishing a colony, or that would enable them to subdue the obstacles opposed by nature in its rude and uncultivated state.
Where colonization has succeeded, the character of the infant population has been far different. The founders of the most successful colonies have consisted of a set of benevolent and pacific Quakers—of men of religious scruples, who have transported themselves to another hemisphere, in order that they might enjoy undisturbed liberty of conscience—of poor and honest labourers accustomed to frugal and industrious habits.†
[* ]Not many years ago, two young men, the one about 14, the other about 16 years of age, were condemned, for a petty theft, to be transported. Upon hearing this unlooked for sentence, the youngest began to cry. “Coward,” said his companion, with an air of triumph, “who ever cried because he had to set out upon the grand tour?” This fact was mentioned to me by a gentleman who was witness to this scene, and was much struck with it.
[* ]Collins, vol. ii. p. 218.
[† ]Collins, vol. ii. p. 197.
[* ]Collins, vol. ii. p. 122.
[† ]Ibid. p. 129.
[‡ ]Collins, vol. ii. p. 293.
[∥ ]There is a passage in Collins (II. p. 51,) highly characteristic of the light in which the securing the means of attendance, and thence attendance itself on divine worship, on the part of the convicts, was regarded by the constituted authorities. A church-clock having been brought to the settlement in “The Reliance,” and no building fit for its reception having been since erected, preparations were now making for constructing a tower fit for the purpose, to which might be added a church, whenever at a future day the increase of labourers might enable the governor to direct such an edifice to be built.
[§ ]Collins, vol. ii. p. 139.
[* ]Collins, vol. ii. p. 4.
[* ]The mortality attendant upon these first voyages to New South Wales appears greatly to have originated in negligence. Cargoes of convicts have in many latter instances been carried out without a single death occurring.
[* ]Collins, vol. ii. p. 222.
[† ]That New South Wales has, since these papers were written, become a flourishing colony, is owing not so much to convict transportation, but to the admission of free settlers. The evils above pointed out continue to exist, but their influence is lessened by the infusion of honest and industrious settlers.