§ Mr. Bennet
rose, pursuant to notice, to move for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the management of the Hulks, and the general conduct of the Transport system upon the voyage to, and the general government of New South Wales. That this was a subject of great importance to the interests of humanity and morals, would, he concluded, be readily admitted by every one who had taken the trouble of making any inquiry respecting it; it was clearly of such a nature, that it could not be fairly said to be comprehended within the scope of the motion of which the noble lord had given notice with regard to the state of crime in prisons in the country, and it was with some surprise he had learned therefore that his motion was to be opposed on the ground of the subject of it being comprehended in that noble lord's notice. Through the industry of a committee of that House only could accurate information be obtained on subjects of this nature, and the best way of getting at that information was, by the evidence of eye-witnesses. This indeed was pretty clear from the nature of the answers laid before the House with regard to the state of the prisons of Scotland. Those answers were from magistrates, to whom certain questions had been transmitted from the Secretary of state's office. But how different were the answers of those magistrates from the report of an eye-witness, Mr. Gurney, who had personally visited and examined the 465 state of the Scotch prisons. It might be objected to his motion, that, in 1812, a committee sat to consider this subject. He admitted that two committees had sat for its discussion; but the object of the first related entirely to the propriety of erecting penitentiaries, an idea suggested by an hon. friend of his (Mr. Holford), who was an honour to the House, and a credit to his country. On the report of the committee over which his hon. friend presided, the Penitentiary at Millbank was established. With respect to the hulks, the committee on that subject recommended many alterations, some of which were attended to, but many were not carried into effect. The hulks were five in number—in three of them some alterations were made, but two were suffered to remain in their old situation. The committee recommended, that separate hulks should be provided for those who were to be sent to New South Wales, in order that they might not be mixed with convicts who were sentenced to a shorter period of imprisonment in those floating gaols. The committee also stated, that in 1812–13, four hundred persons were sent to Botany Bay. Now, in the year 1817, nine hundred and forty persons were transported thither, which materially altered the features of the case, with reference to 1812 and the present time. But it was said, that those persons were volunteers, that they preferred going out of the country. Could any case more strong be laid before parliament to induce them to inquire into the subject, than that such a body of persons preferred that punishment which was classed next to death, to what was supposed to be the milder infliction, imprisonment on board the hulks? He knew how unpalatable it was to have recourse to statements of figures in that House, yet, as it was impossible to explain his case clearly without them, he would shortly advert to one or two documents on the subject. By one of those documents it appeared that, from 1804 to 1811, the average number of persons confined in the hulks was 1,750; from 1811 to 1817, 2,186; from 1817 to 1819, 2,418; being an increase in the last period of nearly 1,000. With respect to transportation, the number of persons sent out of the country from 1812 to 1817 was 2,840, of whom there were transported for 14 years, 838; for 7 years, 2,002; from January 1816 to January 1817, there were transported 508; from January 1817 466 to January 1818, 940, of these last there were for 14 years 234; for 7 years 706. From this statement, the great increase of transportation, and the consequent necessity of examining the system, became evident. It was quite true that the condition of the hulks was much improved; they were no longer the depositories of disease which they had been; but great and substantive faults, which he would presently point out, still existed in the system; of which faults the most serious was the want of classification. The expense of maintaining convicts was also a very serious object. The average expense of each convict was about 23l. In 1797 the total expense was 33,578l., or 23l. 19s, 7d. a head. In 1810, 59,290l., or 29l. 12s. a head. In 1814, 66,328l., or 32l. 9s. a head. In 1816, 69,107l./, or 31l. 15s. a head. In 1817, 84,608l./, or 39l. 7s. a head. In 1818, 91,958l. or 37l. 13s. a head. Thus, not only the total expense was progressively increasing, but the expense of each individual also; and what a contrast did this expenditure present to that in the bridewells, penitentiaries, and houses of correction at home, where prisoners were punished, and criminals somewhat reformed. This fact the hon. member illustrated, by referring to and detailing the expense of maintaining the prisoners in the Glasgow Bridewell, the Preston House of Correction, and other places. Thus economy, which was an important consideration, was comparatively discarded in this transport system. The arrangements made in the hulks by Mr. Capper, who was the instrument of lord Sidmouth, were productive of some good, although the attempts at classification were quite ineffective. This failure was peculiarly to be lamented; to let mere youths mix with the hardened poacher, the deserter, and the bigamist, must lead to the most deplorable consequences, for it was known that as boys of about. 16 years had the strongest passions and the most flexible hearts, they were the more easily wrought upon by example and precept. How dangerous then to expose such youths to depraved connexions. Yet those convicts who had attained that particular period were confined with old and hardened characters, and thus shut out from the chance of reformation. He knew that those praiseworthy characters, the chaplains of the hulks, were very strict in attending to their duties—and he trusted that what they said, in their re- 467 ports, would turn out to be correct. But what was the statement of one of them, the Rev. Mr. Edwards, a pious and intelligent man? "He hoped," he said, "that scores of convicts, when discharged, would become honest members of society—but he feared there were hundreds set at liberty, who were not in a state of moral improvement." But there was not adequate arrangement made even for the classification of the sexes on board the hulks. He was however glad to learn that females were now much better situated than formerly on the voyage to Botany Bay. Those unhappy beings were, he understood, throughout the voyage, evidently impressed with the salutary lessons which they received in prison from Mrs. Fry and others, their treatment on board was materially different; and they heaped benedictions on the heads of those by whom their condition had been so much improved. Before the introduction of this improved system, he was assured that the ordinary practice was for the officers and seamen to select the women, with whom each thought proper to associate during the voyage. No such practice was however tolerated at present; and this was surely no small step to good. All those women could not be considered as common prostitutes, and, even if they were, the law sent them out of the country to improve their morals, and not to plunge them into deeper turpitude by an habitual indulgence in vice during their voyage to New South Wales. Here he thought it proper to state, that in consequence of the petition he had presented, and what he had himself mentioned on a former day with respect to the state of the convicts on board the ship Baring, a communication had been made to him, affecting to differ in some respects from what was on that occasion laid before the House, but which he could not distinctly understand. It was stated therein, that there were only four convicts confined in the birth, to which he understood that six prisoners were consigned. But granting that only four were so confined, still he maintained that there was great ground for complaint, because much of severe suffering must be endured by the unhappy wretches who were so situated. He could assure the noble lord and the House, that he had made the most diligent inquiry upon this subject, and the result of that inquiry was truly shocking, whether regarded with reference to the moral prin- 468 ciple or individual suffering of each individual. But this must be obvious to any man who considered the state of between 2 and 300 human beings stowed in the hold of an ordinary-sized transport, for so many hours every day, and during so long a voyage. He should be told, no doubt, that the army were often placed in the same situation; but this was erroneous, as a great proportion of the soldiers were usually on deck. Having, however, conversed with several officers who had been with their men on board transports, he could say upon such authority, that the soldiers themselves suffered most severely, their sufferings being indeed such, that in hot climates an officer felt it impossible to go below, from the noxious smell that prevailed in consequence of the manner in which the men were stowed. The reference, then, made to the soldiers on board transports, was no answer whatever to his complaint with regard to the treatment of convicts, but furnished a strong argument for improving the condition of both. In the army and navy too, amidst all their sufferings, discipline was preserved—but what discipline was to be found amongst the convicts? To prevent mutiny, guards were placed on the deck and gang-way, but this was all the control to which they were liable. Was it not a fact, that the whole voyage was passed in gambling, in singing indecent songs, in every species of vice?—Could it be otherwise, when they had nothing to employ their minds, except the selection of means to get rid of all reflection? Did they not endure great bodily torture? If the laws never intended, which they never did, that convicts should writhe under bodily torment, and sink under mental degradation, was there not good reason for abrogating the whole system? The noble lord might say, that great good had already resulted to the colony of New South Wales, by adopting the recommendation of the committee which sat in 1812. But the state of that colony still required investigation. In consequence of numerous complaints with which the office of the noble earl at the head of the colonial department had been assailed, he understood a person had been sent out to inquire into the various topics connected with the colony. That person he had long known, and a more humane or intelligent individual could not have been selected for the purpose. But it did not follow, because his majesty's government had done their 469 duty, that the House of Commons were to abstain from performing theirs. There was one point which the House was imperatively called on to investigate. He meant the expense which the colony entailed on the mother country. From the year 1788 to 1819, it had cost no less than 4,000,000l., and the expense was still increasing to a very great degree. In the 28th Report of the committee of finance, in which all the sources of expense were enumerated, the committee asked this question—"What is the expense which the colony incurs, and what expense ought it to incur?" The following was the sum which it appeared that it had cost for a series of years:—From 1788 to 1797, the average per year was 86,455l.; from 1798 to 1811, 106,700l.; from 1812 to 1815, 178,456l.; from 1816 to 1817, 193,775l.; for the year 1817, 220,000l. He knew not, and he believed his majesty's government did not know, what the expense of 1818 was. In this statement he was aware that the expense of the colony, and that of the transportation of felons were mixed together; and that the accounts also included incidental expenses; but the general increase was incontrovertible; and he would maintain, that no example could be produced of a greater sacrifice of human happiness, or a greater misapplication of pecuniary means. The defects in the system of governing the colony were numerous. He would not travel over the whole of the conduct of the governor of this colony; but there were some points which he could not forbear to notice. The governor of this colony assumed to settle the price of all labour, and also of all provisions; and the orders upon this subject were issued by the governor himself, without referring to the opinion of any council; an extraordinary stretch of power, and one which must be attended with many hardships, both to the labourer and his employer. Again, the governor had the power of opening and shutting the public stores, and the ports of the island at his own pleasure. The consequence was frequently this: poor cultivators came from different parts of the island with the produce of their farms. They found the stores shut—and anxious to procure some money for their commodities, they sold them at reduced prices. The very next day the stores were opened, and their grain was safely housed there! 470 Let the House consider the wretched situation in which the colonial settlers, who were little above the rank of paupers, were placed by such an occurrence. They sent down their grain, believing the government stores were open, and that they would receive 10s. per bushel for it. They found them, by the governor's command, shut—they were then compelled to take six or seven shillings per bushel—and they found that the very persons who had made purchases, lodged them, perhaps the very next day, in the government stores. This was a thing of constant occurrence. It was most injurious to the colony, and he was ready to prove the fact at the bar of the House. In the year 1813, the governor imported a great quantity of grain. What followed? The crop of that year was remarkably abundant, but the stores were filled with the imported corn, and the farmer could not get more than 5s. per bushel. The consequence was, that he wasted his grain, that he fed his hogs with it. What was the result? A scarcity followed, and, at the end of the year, the governor wanted to purchase the remainder of the grain he had originally refused, and for which he was then obliged to pay 15s. per bushel. With regard to meat, it had been customary for the government to give 9d. per pound for it. But governor Macquarrie issued an order, without an hour's notice, that instead of 9d. only 6d. should be paid in future. Thus, by his command, the property of every man in the colony, who had cattle, was depreciated 25 percent. No stop could be put to such unwarrantable conduct, for a considerable period. When any one ventured to complain or remonstrate with regard to the abuses of the government, the party was referred to the government at home, which was a species of delusion, especially from a people forming the antipodes of England, as no answer to any complaint could be received in a much less period than twelve months. To call New South Wales a commercial colony was a mere mockery. It was, in point of fact, an agricultural colony. It might, indeed, produce fleeces finer than those of Spain, and as fine as the Saxon wool; they might fetch the very highest prices in the European market, but still the colony was completely agricultural.
The next point to which he would direct the attention of the house, was the man- 471 ner in which justice was administered in the country. The committee, in 1812, had recommended the introduction of trial by jury into this colony. Attached as he was to that noble institution, he would not say, at present, that juries ought to be introduced into New South Wales; but he thought it most inexpedient that the question should be determined in consequence of any sort of communication made at the office of the secretary of state. He wished to hear the opinions of those who advocated, and of those who objected, to such a measure, stated openly, and to let parliament judge with respect to the wisdom of adopting the recommendation he now alluded to. Another subject intimately connected with the administration of justice was the appointment of magistrates. It was known that two attornies, of the name of Laud and Johnson, who had been transported to New South Wales, had been appointed magistrates by the governor. In a publication which he (Mr. Bennet) had given to the world some time ago, he had mentioned that the person whom the governor had appointed to the office of surgeon-general had been sent as a convict from this country. He learned, however, that he had been misinformed on this subject, and that the gentleman whom he had mentioned was not a convict; and, as the only reparation which he could make to him, he had stopped the circulation of the pamphlet, because he thought it might be calculated to do him injury. No person living was so little inclined as he was to injure the character of any man; and he accordingly took this public manner of correcting the error which he had committed unintentionally, and of declaring that he understood the gentleman in question during the whole of his residence in the colony had conducted himself with the utmost propriety. But, to resume, he thought the fountain of justice ought to be pure, and that no convict should be appointed to a judicial office. He would say, that such appointments were improper, and that it was the duty of the noble lord at the head of the colonial department to reprimand the governor for so gross an outrage on propriety and justice. This Laud, to whom he had alluded, he understood to be an auctioneer; and, according to the custom of that country, as soon as he came down from the seat of justice, he got into a cart and sold blan- 472 kets. This he conceived to be one of the most indecent acts that could possibly be exhibited. He now begged the attention of the house to a subject which must interest the best feelings of their hearts—he meant the state of crime in that colony. Convicts were sent from this country to New South Wales, in the hope that during the period of their banishment, their vicious habits might be reformed; but the number of capital convictions which took place in that country, proved how unlikely it was that this hope would ever be realized under the present system. He could not get the accurate information which was to be derived from the returns sent to the Secretary of state's office, and was obliged to found his observations on the statements contained in The Sidney Gazette. He learned from them that there were no less than 27 persons capitally convicted there at two sessions, in 1817—and, if he averaged the number, per annum, at 40, he did not think he would be above the mark. This, considering the population, was about one individual in five hundred. Let the house contrast this with the state of crime in England. He found, that in Devonshire, 13 persons were capitally convicted in the last half-year, out of a population of 383,308—or one in 29,485. In the county of Warwick, where the assizes were considered very heavy, he found that twenty-seven persons had been capitally convicted in the half-year—or one in 8,759. And, in Yorkshire he found, greatly to the credit of that large county, that, during six months of the year 1816, only twenty-four persons were capitally convicted out of a population of 987,000—or one in 41,000. So that in this school of reform, which England had been supporting for thirty years, vice and criminality had arrived at a much higher pitch than in the mother country. It was impossible to open any one of those gazettes without feeling chilled at the long details which it contained of every species of guilt and villany. Perhaps there never was a country on the face of the globe in which the same degree of guilt prevailed, as in the settlement in question.
There was another subject which was deserving of the most serious attention of the house—namely, the power assumed by the governor of New South Wales to inflict punishments at discretion. He had read attentively the act for the 473 regulation of that colony, and he could confidently say, that there was nothing in it which could authorize the governor to exercise such a power. Now, governor Macquarrie had thought fit, of his own free will, to cause three free settlers to be flogged, for what was called a contravention of the orders of the governor in going through a hole in a wall into what the governor called his park. One of these men was an ingenious artist, who had invented a machine—which he (Mr. Bennet) recommended to the consideration of the right hon. the master of the Mint—for striking out the centre of a dollar, an operation by which the governor had been enabled to take 10,000l. out of the pockets of the inhabitants of the settlement. Yet in the fury of his power the governor had ordered this free man to receive twenty-five lashes by the public executioner. He understood indeed that the person in question intended to institute a prosecution against the governor on his return home; but that was no reason why the house should shut its eyes to the transaction. Could the house shut their doors to inquiry, when the existence of such facts were admitted as those which were stated in the report of the committee appointed to inquire into this colony in 1812? It appeared in the report of that committee that the governor considered he had a right to inflict lashes to any number not exceeding 500, under the colonial regulations. He conceived it was the duty of the house to interfere, in order to prevent the exercise of any such power. He could prove the occurrence of the circumstance which he had stated by the evidence of the parties who had suffered, who were now in England, and by the remonstrances of the magistrates of the settlement. Had the governor had the good fortune to have a council, this and many other transactions of a like nature would never have occurred. Governor Macquarrie might be unwilling to receive such a council; but why lord Bathurst should put 20,000 persons and their properties under the unlimited control of one individual without any council to advise him, he was altogether at a loss to conceive. The subject of the taxes levied In this colony was also well worthy of attention. He knew the argument would hold, that money might be levied in a conquered colony; but he was ready to meet any man on that ground, and to show, that New South Wales was not 474 a conquered colony. It was not in the power of government to raise a single shilling in it beyond what it was specially authorized to do by parliament. Yet the governor of that colony had levied ten shillings a gallon on spirits, sixpence a pound on tobacco, and various duties on other commodities, amounting to 20,000l. a year without any legal authority. If he were allowed to go on in this way what was to prevent him from levying a property tax on the colony? This was stealing a march on the house. Parliament could of course authorize government to levy duties on the inhabitants, but the Crown, with the privy council alone, had not power to raise a single shilling. The last subject to which he should advert, was the religious and moral education and instruction of the colony. The state of the colony in this respect baffled all description, A letter from Mr. Marsden, the chaplain-general of the colony, set at rest all loose assertions with respect to the moral state of the colony, and what was to be expected from exporting annually such a quantity of vicious matter to the New South Wales. A large proportion of the convicts were Irish Catholics, who had no religious instruction whatever, for he did not think they derived any from the order of the governor, who compelled them, by the intervention of a number of constables, to attend a place of Protestant worship every Sunday. In the church where they were thus assembled, every thing took place except what was most suitable to it. He had been also told that the Catholics, rather than submit to have the various religious ceremonies performed by Protestant clergymen, lived together unmarried—that their children were unbaptized—and that in short they submitted to no ceremony but that of being marched to church by the constable. A Catholic clergyman had voluntarily gone from Ireland with the view of instructing convicts of his own persuasion. He had gone from house to house, and exerted himself in the most laudable manner in promoting the comfort and correcting the morals of the people. No objections whatever were made to him on any other ground but that of his being a Catholic; but as a Catholic he was sent away from the settlement. He was no friend to the Catholic religion, and was of opinion that the conversion of Catholics to the Protestant religion would be a very great blessing, but these could be no 475 doubt that good morals under forty religions was better than immorality under one, and that those persons who were Catholics, and conscientiously attached to that religion, ought not to be deprived of the religious instruction of their own clergymen. There could be no doubt, he should think, in the minds of any person, of whatever religion he was, that moral and religious instruction from a Catholic clergyman was better than none. Yet the governor had shut up this priest in a gaol, and sent him home a prisoner. All he could say was, that he had this under Mr. Marsden's own hand—he had his letter in his pocket. Nothing could be more affecting than the manner in which mass was first celebrated in the settlement. Hundreds and thousands were present The poor Irish lamented exceedingly the departure of their clergyman. They shed tears as he left them, and appeared rather to be following some beloved friend to his grave, than their pastor to the vessel which was to bear him away. He hoped government would take care that in future proper religious instruction should be given to the Catholics. The state of education was a matter deserving also of the utmost attention. There were 4,000 children in the settlement, and of those only 1,000 were educated—three thousand remained without any instruction whatever. The house would hardly believe that there was a place of deportation, to which persons were sent when they behaved ill; and that there was no church and no clergyman there. It was a remarkable fact, that out of all the women in the colony, there were not above 400 who ever were known to attend church. Those who knew the value of a religions education to the female sex in this country, would easily conceive from this statement what a dreadful laxity of morals there must be amongst the women in New South Wales. Mr. Marsden, in 1808, felt it to be his duty to wait on the noble lord, who then held the situation which lord Bathurst now filled, and communicated to him the dreadful condition in which the women were placed. The noble lord, whose humanity always disposed him to promote whatever tended to the amelioration of his fellow creatures, wrote a letter to the governor on the subject, almost doubting the possibility of the facts which had been stated to him, but giving directions for the removal of the abuses, if they existed. The complaint was, that the women, who were employed 476 by government were, after three o'clock in the afternoon, turned out loose on the town, and from having no fixed quarters, the greatest number were obliged to prostitute themselves. Now would the house believe, that though this abuse was pointed out in 1808, and though instructions were immediately sent out to the governor on the subject, yet that until the 21st March, 1818, not one single step had been taken to remedy the abuse? On the 21st March, 1818, he saw that a tender had been made for building a place to receive these persons. In 1815, that was to say, eight years after the first communication of the abuse, Mr. Marsden declared that during the 20 years he had been in the colony, he never remembered so many atrocious offences, such as house-breaking, highway robbery, and the like, as of late years. Those prostitutes were the cause of the male convicts going out to rob and plunder to supply their wants. Nothing was more distressing than to see the vices and misery which prevailed. In 1808 Mr. Marsden had applied to government at home on the subject. In 1815, seven years afterwards, he again wrote to the colonial department, stating that nothing had been done for the females; that in consequence of female convicts being allowed to go at large at night, not one female convict would go into any respectable family; that this gave rise to the most dreadful system of plunder and devastation; that there was not a farmer who could keep a bushel of wheat on his farm, or any potatoes in his grounds; or a single hog in his stye; that when he went to bed, he was sure to be robbed of them, either by his own servants, or by others, to supply the wants of the females who lived by prostitution, to whom the men had access at all hours of the night; and that there was hardly a night but what the most dreadful crimes were committed; crimes at which even the people of London would be startled; crimes which would hardly allow a man to believe he was living in a country inhabited by Englishmen. That such should be the case would not appear wonderful when it was known that last year there had been no fewer than 52 public-houses licensed by the governor. One should have thought, that care would at least have been taken to see that proper persons held those licences. Many of them, however, were convicts, and some of them persons who had been guilty of the most atrocious crimes. One of them was the 477 wife of a person in this metropolis, well known by the name of Oxford Bob.—What could such houses be but flash houses, serving as a receptacle for all the thieves in the colony, and keeping up a communication between them? But this was not all. He understood it was customary for the governor to give tickets to persons who had come out with their pockets filled by the crimes which they had committed in England; thus authorizing them to open shops, to be furnished by those very crimes for which they had been transported. Were we to plant a colony on the other side of the globe, and to take no care as to the manner in which it was administered? He had no hesitation in saying, that if the settlement were well governed, and its resources wisely drawn forth, it might be made, instead of a seat of immorality and a nursery of vice, a source of great profit to the country. The exportation of wool from it was already considerable, and promised to be of the greatest consequence. He knew one gentleman, a Mr. M'Arthur, who had introduced sheep-farming into the colony on an extensive scale. That gentleman had last year sent over no less than 8,000 Merino fleeces, and he had sold his wool as high as 5s. 6d. per pound. But all those advantages were checked by saturating the colony with 2,500 criminals in one year. This would deter all honest settlers from going there. Many of these convicts could be of little use in such a colony; nor were those, intrusted with the disposal of the convicts on their arrival, attentive to the applications which were made to them by the settlers. He might instance the case of a settler, who wrote to the governor that he was in want of three husbandmen: on which the governor sent him two tailors, and a London pick-pocket. If this country were to return to its ordinary average of crimes, more than 600 convicts should not be sent out in one year. The expense of penitentiary establishments would be much less than that of the system of transportation. From every inquiry that he had made into this subject, he was led to believe that a penitentiary, capable of containing from 800 to 1,000 persons, could be erected at an expense of from 40 to 50,000l. Now the expense of removing such a number of persons to New South Wales exceeded that sum. It was a question deserving the greatest consideration, whether the youths of the country ought to 478 be thus sent out of it. Was it the object to reduce our population by transporting all who became liable to that punishment? But if the object was, to support the colonies, let industrious settlers, persons acquainted with agriculture, be encouraged. When he had brought under the consideration of the house, the crowded state of our gaols, and the wants of the prisoners, he was sneeringly asked whether he would have Turkey carpets for them, and have them supplied with coffee and chocolate. He should probably, in like manner, be now asked whether he wished to abolish all punishment. So far, however, was he from being an enemy to punishment, that he was really a friend to punishment; but his motto was, "punish when necessary; but punish wisely, discreetly, and usefully." Transportation, which ought to be the greatest punishment next to death, should not be made an object of choice. They all knew, however, from the best evidence, that transportation was an object of choice to many. Applications had been made to himself by convicts, on the supposition that he possessed influence, begging him to use that influence to get them sent out. There was not a greater error that states could fall into, than that it was possible, by examples of severity of punishment, to check crimes. Facility of detection furnished the most efficacious means of checking crime. If punishments were to be as mild as possible, and if they could associate with the idea of crime in the minds of the public, that it would be sure to be followed by speedy detection, the house might take his word that that would do far more to check crime than filling the statute book with sanguinary punishments against which the good sense and humanity of society revolted. He begged pardon of the house for having so long trespassed on their indulgence, and concluded with moving, "That a committee be appointed to take into consideration the system of Transportation, and the state of the colony of New South Wales; and to report their observations thereupon to the house."
said, that in the observations which he had to make he should confine himself to the general scope and view of the motion, rather than enter on the details and particular grounds which the hon. gentleman had brought before the house. He assured the hon. gentleman that he should very much regret if he were to suppose that he was not ac- 479 tuated by a wish to be of service to the cause which the hon. member himself had at heart. The hon. gentleman would do him great injustice if he did not consider him an ally rather than an opponent. One of the great advantages of peace was, that it enabled the house to devote more of their time to inquiries into subjects of this nature. If this case therefore stood on insulated grounds, it might be proper to appoint a committee to inquire into the facts stated by the hon. gentleman; but it was essentially connected with an inquiry which the house were on the point of entering into, and to which the attention of the country was now strongly turned, namely, the inquiry into the state of our gaols and of our penal law. If he could prove therefore that the hon. gentleman, by this separate inquiry, was not pursuing the best course for the attainment of his own object, he had a fair claim on him to abandon it for that course which he trusted he should prove was the most judicious and suitable. He was not disposed to shut his eyes to the defects which still existed in the administration of the colony, which was now the object of the attention of the house. He was not disposed to shut out the question from such farther investigation, as the state of the colony required. But he conceived that the subject of this motion ought not to form a separate inquiry in an insulated committee, which might have the effect of withdrawing many members, and among others the hon. gentleman himself, who were possessed of extensive knowledge on the subject, from the great inquiry of which this formed only a branch, and which ought to concentrate as much as possible the attention of parliament. Now if no case of abuse had been stated, which fairly called for a separate inquiry, he did not see why it ought to be disjoined from the matter of the same nature, which was so soon to occupy the attention of the house. A committee on the same subject had been moved for in 1812, by an hon. and learned gentleman, who, he lamented, was no longer a member of that house, whose attention was as vigilant, and whose mind was as competent for such inquiries, as any gentleman's—he meant the late sir Samuel Romilly. The result was, a committee was instituted, and an elaborate report was presented to the house, which he now held in his hand. In the conclusion of that report, it was stated, that it appeared the colony had latterly attracted more of the care of the govern- 480 ment than it had done for many years; that from the measures proposed by government, and the liberal views of the present governor, the best effects were to be expected. He could also assure the house, that before the hon. gentleman gave notice of the present motion, his noble friend at the head of the colonial department had instituted a commission, and had obtained the consent of an individual, known, he believed, to the hon. gentleman, to go out to the colony and make a detailed inquiry on the spot, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the colony could be made more auxiliary to the administration of justice in this country; and how far its religious and moral improvement might be promoted. Now, if he could show that the inquiry which was proposed by the hon. gentleman would contravene the other more important inquiry into the whole subject, of which it formed only a branch, and that a commission had been instituted for the purpose of inquiry, particularly into the state of New South Wales, he hoped the hon. gentleman would feel that this separate inquiry ought not to be gone into. The hon. gentleman must know, that several individuals had lately come to this country, capable of giving the most valuable information to a committee of the house. Now, he could assure him, that in the committee in question, an opportunity would be given him for obtaining all the information of which he was desirous. If he could show him that the mode which he proposed was not the fittest for his object, that the government had neglected no duty of their own in this case, and if he undertook to give the hon. gentleman the means of obtaining all the information that he wished, he trusted the hon. gentleman would see the propriety of not pressing the present motion. The fair and frank avowal of the hon. gentleman, with respect to the measures of a noble friend of his, called for the same frankness on his part. He was ready to acknowledge that he, for one, was disposed to believe that the hon. gentleman devoted his attention to inquiries of this nature with the most sincere view of serving his country—that he entered the abodes of misery with the praise-worthy intention of benefitting his fellow-creatures. But the hon. gentleman threw so much laudable zeal into whatever he entered on, that he (lord C.) was disposed to think he reposed, not unfrequently, more confidence in the communications 481 which were made to him than they merited. But though he did not suppose the hon. gentleman on this account to be the less actuated by the most respectable motives, he would own that he was disposed to receive facts from him with considerable caution; for not on one occasion, but many, he had found the facts stated by the hon. gentleman to have been, speaking of them in the mildest manner, considerably coloured. He thought the hon. gentleman pledged himself more to the truth of the ex-parte statements which he received, than for the sake of his character he ought to do. He had indeed, that evening, made most honourable reparation to the individual, whom in a former statement he had unintentionally injured, but this ought to be a lesson to him to proceed with more caution in the accusations he might bring forward in future. The hon. gentleman seemed to aim at something quite out of nature in the case of the present colony. He confessed, he was not a little astonished how he should think of applying the same standard of morality to Botany Bay and Warwickshire. The one a colony of which two-thirds of the inhabitants were sent thither for crimes by which they had forfeited their lives to the laws of their country; the other, one of the counties of this civilized, and he hoped he might call it moral country. He confessed that he regretted the absence of the hon. member for Warwickshire, as he would no doubt have returned the hon. gentleman his warmest thanks for the compliment he had paid his constituents. The hon. gentleman's sensitive mind, in reflecting on the inconveniences to which a passage by sea was necessarily subject, had illustrated those inconveniences by asking what would be the sensations of any gentleman in the house, were he to go down into the holds of the transports, and expose himself to all the offensive smells to which persons confined in those vessels were subject? It must undoubtedly be confessed that a passage by sea, whether in a large or in a small vessel, whether in a ship of war, or in a packet, with convicts, with soldiers, or even with ladies, was not very desirable at any time. But unless it could be contrived to make a journey to New South Wales over land, he was at a loss to see how the inconvenience could be avoided.—The question between the hon. mover and himself, was in substance the same as that which had occurred some nights before, between a right hon. gen- 482 tleman opposite, and his right hon. friend the chancellor of the exchequer. The right hon. gentleman wished at that time to have one committee to inquire into the state of the Bank, and another to inquire into the state of the currency and the exchanges; but the house had decided, that the question of the currency was so connected with the state of the Bank, that if there had been appointed two committees to consider these subjects separately, to enable any one to come to a practical conclusion, it would have been necessary to have a third committee to marry the two reports. Even if it were not intellectually impossible, it would be physically impossible for the house to divide its attention in the three committees. So many inquiries of the greatest interest were proceeding at present, among others, the committee on the Bank, while the house had also to try all the petitions on contested elections, that if the members, who had applied themselves to this subject, were dispersed in three committees, the inquiry could not be carried on with effect. He should think it a great misfortune, if his committee had not the advantage of the presence of the hon. mover, as well as the hon. and learned gentleman who had given notice of a motion for another committee. The house should make up its mind which was the best proposition of the three—that of the hon. gentleman, which was now before them; that of which the hon. and learned gentleman had given notice; or that which he (lord Castlereagh) should have to propose. In his opinion, that of the hon. gentleman was the least fitting of the three for the house to enter upon; in the first place, because it was the least comprehensive, and was the last that had been touched upon by the house, viz. in the committee of 1812; and finally, because the subject of it was undergoing an inquiry by the executive government. He agreed that the state of New South Wales, and the question of transportation, would form an important branch of the inquiries of the committee he had to propose. Indeed, the important question whether capital punishments could be diminished, was in his mind inseparably connected with the consideration whether transportation could be carried on in a manner attended with fewer evils; as the measures which it would be wise to propose as to the former, must depend upon the results of the inquiries respecting the latter part of this subject. He had stated, he hoped 483 fairly, why he thought the subject before the house the least fit to be made the exclusive subject of an inquiry: he should now mention shortly, why he thought his own motion was preferable to that which the hon. and learned member for Knaresborough intended to propose. The motion of the hon. and learned member, as he understood it, was to be for a general inquiry into the state of the criminal law, on the presumed allegation that by its severity it was open to reproach. The motion which he (lord C.) had to propose, was on the state of the prisons, on transportation, and the hulks. He did not exclude the state of the criminal law, but he contended that that subject could not be considered with advantage, except as connected with the practical question of remedial measures, and especially the question, what secondary punishment could be adopted if the punishment of death were less frequently inflicted. He thought it better to start from the practical than from the abstract question, because it was not wise in any state, and least of all in this state, at the present moment, to arraign its own administration of justice, in the eyes of its own people and of the world, without at least presenting, at the same time, a remedial resource. By the course he proposed, they would have the whole view of the subject before them; they could see where the pressure of severity was excessive. They could see where relief could be afforded to human suffering by the diminution of crime, through the force of example; and they could ascertain what were the best remedies for the evils of the present system. He preferred his own motion, because the others dissipated, while his rather concentrated the attention of, parliament. The inquiry proposed by the hon. gentleman was too narrow to occupy the exclusive attention of parliament, while that proposed by the hon. and learned gentleman, though more comprehensive, was also more dangerous. The course he proposed to take was on a middle ground. He should move for inquiry into the state of prisons, and into the nature of the different legal punishments, and by letting in the question of punishments, the consideration of the penalty affixed by the law to particular crimes would come before them. This he thought the fairest and most practical mode of proceeding; and he trusted the house would not, by any general declaration, lower the best system of jurisprudence and judicature which the 484 world had ever seen. It was, therefore, from no disposition to invade the province of the hon. mover, or to throw obstacles in the way of inquiry, that he felt it his duty, not to give a negative to the motion, for he should be unwilling to seem to receive any motion for such an inquiry, with disfavour, but to move the previous question.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
expressed his disappointment at the manner in which the motion had been met by his noble friend. The speech of his noble friend had consisted of two parts; in the latter part of it he had recommended inquiry, in the former, he had seemed to argue that inquiry was of no use. Now he had, from some experience of the world, learned to listen with some distrust, and to accede with some hesitation, to the reasoning of any one who, after urging that no inquiry at all was necessary, turned upon you to recommend one particular mode of inquiry, as much better suited to the purpose than that which you had proposed to him.
observed, that he was sure his hon. friend did not mean to misstate him, although he really was doing so. He had strongly recommended inquiry.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
admitted that his noble friend had, in the latter part of his speech, spoken in favour of a certain mode of inquiry; but he was of opinion, that if any one had left the House after his noble friend had gone through one half of his speech, he would have supposed he was hostile to any inquiry. The noble lord had told them that a committee of the House had inquired into the subject in 1812. That committee had recommended the adoption of some measures with respect to that colony. Was it not then in the present state of that settlement, desirable to inquire whether the recommendations of the committee had been attended to? He had hoped the question would have been met in a different way; he had hoped that something would have been told them of the means which had been taken to improve the morals of the convicts, but in the whole of his noble friend's speech he had heard nothing of any attempt of this kind. Was not the reformation of the convicts one of the special objects of that colony? Should there not then be some system of police particularly adapted to this purpose? Why else were the convicts debarred from the advantages of the British constitution, 485 and, together with the free settlers, put under the absolute control of the governor, if it were not that some specific measures suited for the reformation of these unhappy convicts might be carried into effect? Undoubtedly it must be confessed, that for some time past this colony had attracted too little attention. The war, and other objects, had diverted the view of the country from a consideration of those establishments which ought never to be neglected; and thus, since 1812, no inquiry had been instituted into the state of a colony essentially connected with the criminal jurisprudence of the country. The state of things was now very different. We could enter on the inquiry with a full certainty that it would command attention, and with the prospect that the results obtained would throw light on other questions of interest. Considering this to be the case, he could not but feel surprised at the speech of his noble friend, which appeared made for the purpose rather of stifling than of promoting inquiry. If the arguments used by his noble friend were to be decisive in this instance, the House would find that nothing had yet been done towards the objects which all professed to have in view, and that, like an old soldier, his hon. friend would have to "fight all his battles o'er again." His noble friend had objected also to the motion for an inquiry into the general state of the criminal law of the country, of which notice had been given by his hon. and learned friend who, by his practical knowledge, and his humane and enlightened mind, was peculiarly fitted for such an investigation. Such a motion, his noble friend seemed to think, tended to throw general discredit on our system of judicature. But one ground for such a motion was, that our real system was different from our nominal one; and that, by holding out the threats of severities, which we did not dare to enforce, we encouraged the criminal by hopes of impunity, and induced him to enter into gambling speculations on the uncertainty of punishment. But, to return to the question, whether one committee only should be appointed; or whether the House should commit the investigation of each branch of the subject to a separate committee? Would it not be much better, before the House decided that certain offences should be punished by transportation, that they should know that New South Wales was 486 a place fit for the reception of convicts? If they were to proceed in a different manner, the same committee must inquire, not only into the whole state of the criminal law, but into the state of New South Wales, into the system of transportation, into the state of gaols, into the classification of prisoners, and into many other subjects, any one of which would nearly be sufficient for its investigation. On the state of the prisons we had not only the information of Mr. Howard to peruse, but a book that contained statements with which all ought to be acquainted, and reasonings to which most must yield. That book had proved that prisoners might be employed for their reformation, and shown that thus the necessity for capital punishments, which was created by an unchecked progress in crime, might be reduced. He was therefore astonished, that his noble friend should think that such an arrangement as that which he proposed would facilitate inquiry. The committee, with these subjects committed to it, would be overwhelmed by the quantity of matter before them. The road to wisdom was the collection of different particular facts. An inquiry concerning gaols, to be complete, should embrace the state of the prisons on the continent and in America, in order to ascertain the means which had been used with effect to make those places. schools for reformation, instead of depravity. But why should the investigation on that subject not be prosecuted separately from that into the state of the colony of New South Wales, which was perfectly distinct from it? Were the same committee to have those distinct and separate duties imposed upon them, their labours would neither terminate in any reasonable time, nor lead to any practical result. To undertake a limited part of the task, nothing would be a sufficient inducement but the feeling of an indispensable duty; and the labour, therefore, ought not to be rendered inefficient by being made too extensive. When the temptations to the commission of crimes were weighed—when the want of education was taken into the account—when it was considered that the boy, the child, was doomed to capital punishment, it must happen that, the laws could not be executed; that a merciful forbearance, proceeding from a fear of drawing down the infliction of too severe a vengeance, would be indulged; that the guilty would be frequently allowed to escape, and there 487 would be a gambling in crime which would tend to promote its increase. This was a subject extensive enough for the inquiries of one committee; and he therefore wished it to be separated from that proposed this night, on the motion of his hon. friend. If, indeed, there was any disposition to conceal, to prevent things from being probed, the course recommended by his noble friend would answer the purpose. Whatever was the intention, the result would be the same. He was himself possessed of so much information respecting the state of New South Wales as to form the ground of considerable inquiry. Part of it derived from a gentleman with whom the secretary of the noble lord, Mr. Cooke, had had much communication. This gentleman (Mr. Marsden, chaplain at New South Wales), had acquired the admiration of all who knew him, and was entitled to assume as high a station in the moral world as any individual who had ever lived. The manner in which he had formed the settlement in New Zealand, was, in his (Mr. W.'s) opinion, an exemplification of true heroism; and would always endear his name to the friends of virtue and humanity. He had studied the character of the savage natives, some of whom he had kept for years in his own house; and he finally risked his own safety by setting the example of residing amongst them. This gentleman bore testimony to the wretched state of the inhabitants at Paramatta, who had no means of subsistence but by theft or prostitution This had been the case for years, but not a word of it was to be found in the report of lord Auckland's committee. Such would be the result again, if the House proceeded to inquiry tardily and reluctantly. A gentleman had been sent out by the government to inquire into the state of the colony, to whose character and qualifications he was willing to bear testimony;—but was the House to wait for years for his report? This was the first motion which had been made for an advance towards the moral reformation of the country, and such was the way in which it had been met. The noble lord would not negative it; no! he would not negative it! but he had moved the previous question. Was it not manifest that this would be the very way to prevent the House from obtaining information; would not all those persons who consulted the supposed wishes of the government, those men who were "wise in their generation," 488 shelter themselves from examination by quoting the disposition of their patrons, and abstain from giving information, when they saw that the ministers gave such a reception to the proposal for inquiry? The subject under their consideration was of no small importance to the future interests of the world. There was one view of the question which could not fail to command the attention of those who reflected for a moment on the consequences of the policy which we had for some time past been pursuing. We had formed in New South Wales a colony of eighteen thousand people, who were spreading themselves in those regions, and who might prove a nest of vipers. When we considered the immense extent of the country in which they were settled, their communication with New Zealand, with the Asiatic islands, and the facilities of their access to our Indian territories themselves, we should be cautious how we formed a nucleus of contagion in that part of the world. It was much more easy to purify it now, than when the colony grew to a more unmanageable size. Nothing could more strongly show the necessity of taking the most effectual measures to secure that moral improvement which would enable them to establish order while they diffused knowledge. What they could do was a subject for inquiry—but it was time that the attempt should be made. He therefore earnestly entreated his noble friend to reconsider the grounds on which he had refused to assent to the motion.
explained. He did not object to inquiry: he was as much disposed to it as his hon. friend, and only differed from him in the manner in which it ought to be conducted. He was for what he thought the best sort of inquiry.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that in his opinion his hon. friend had misstated the argument of his noble friend. His hon. friend had ascribed to his noble friend the desire of crushing all inquiry, than which nothing was further from the tenor of his speech. He thought the course proposed by the hon. mover was not the best. His noble friend had connected this measure of inquiry with others of the same class to which it seemed to him peculiarly to belong. The inquiry instituted by government into the state of the colony, had been long in contemplation, and had been delayed only in consequence of the difficulty of finding an individual qualified for the undertaking. 489 Such aft individual had however at length been found. Even the hon. mover had borne testimony to the merits of the individual to be appointed to conduct the inquiry on the spot, whose delicacy he (Mr. Goulburn) would not offend by sounding his praises. But leaving out of view altogether the qualifications of the commissioner, he would ask, would not inquiry be conducted with more probability of success on the spot than here? The hon. gentleman had objected to the hearing of half the case only; but would not an inquiry at home lead only to a knowledge of half the case, and make it necessary to receive statements without due scrutiny? His hon. friend had borne testimony to the high character of Mr. Marsden, and he (Mr. Goulburn) concurred with him in his praises of the individual mentioned; but even that gentleman had been the victim of calumny, propagated by people who had returned from the colony to this country; and whose evidence, if taken by the proposed committee, could not probably be rebutted by contrary testimony. Similar statements would be heard on other subjects, if the inquiry were prosecuted here, into transactions which took place at such a distance. If, therefore, he (Mr. Goulburn) objected to the present motion, it was not because he was averse to inquiry, much less that he was satisfied with the report of 1812, but because the proposed manner of conducting the inquiry appeared to be the worst calculated to obtain its object. If, as it had been said, the report of 1812 was meagre, why was it so? It was because the committee had to investigate at a distance of thousands of miles from the subject of their investigation. There could be no persons more anxious to obtain information than the members of that committee, among whom were sir Samuel Romilly, Mr. Horner, and Mr. Abercromby. They had done their duty, and had entered on the investigation with zeal; and their failure showed that the same inquiry conducted by another committee similarly constituted, might lead to an equal failure. In 1812 they could only procure information to 1810, and in 1819 the proposed committee could only gain a knowledge of the transactions of 1817, the evidence always referring to the transactions that happened two years previously. As to the present state of the colony, he had to observe, that he could not admit the whole of the hon. member's 490 statements. In the convict ships care was taken to introduce some species of classification. The boys and the younger persons were always separated from the elder convicts. This would show that the department of the government to which the care of the convicts was entrusted, was not entirely negligent of their reform. In no case was there a great degree of neglect, and in many cases an extraordinary degree of attention was paid to the convicts. The hon. gentleman then read part of a letter from a chaplain who had gone in one of the transport ships to New South Wales. The writer stated, that as soon as he had gone on board, the first object was, to establish a school, which was no sooner done than the convicts flocked to it; about 30 were taught to read and write who were destitute of those qualifications; the observance of religious duties four times a week was enforced; those who were addicted to profane swearing were led to the discontinuance of that impious habit; and the unhappy persons who were the objects of this humane attention eventually acknowledged the benefits which they derived from it with tears in their eyes. He mentioned this circumstance to show that those who were engaged in the transportation of these unfortunate persons were frequently disposed to do every thing possible to ameliorate their condition. Adverting to the subject of religious instruction, he observed, that it was extremely difficult to induce clergymen to abandon Europe for New South Wales, or indeed for any other colony. This difficulty was not confined to clergymen of the church of England. He was aware of the fact stated by the hon. gentleman, that a Catholic priest was wanted in New South Wales, and he was happy to tell him that measures were about to be adopted, under the authority of the heads of the Catholic church, which, he trusted, would supply that deficiency. But the hon. gentleman had said, that a Catholic priest had been sent away from New South Wales, by the governor. True; but under what circumstances? An application had been made to the noble lord at the head of the colonial department, by a person who stated himself to be a Catholic priest, for permission to go out to New South Wales.—The orthography of his letter inducing a suspicion of his fitness, reference was made on the subject to the heads of the Catholic church, the answer from whom was, 491 that the person in question was a most improper one to be intrusted with the cure of souls. Of course permission was refused; and the circumstance having been communicated to the governor, when the individual arrived, as he did in a clandestine manner, the governor of course did his duty by sending him away. As to the evils which the growers of corn in New South Wales endured, they were not greater than those to which the growers of corn in every other part of his majesty's dominions were subject. The government was the great consumer, and naturally felt an anxiety, which was surely laudable, to procure a sufficient foreign supply, which of course was injurious to the interest of the resident agriculturist. With respect to the moral condition of the colony, whatever wickedness might exist there, was attributable to peculiar circumstances, and not to any deficiency in superintendence. The hon. gentleman said that only 400 women attended divine service, and arguing from the fact, that in England women were more constant in their devotions than men, he assumed that the attendance of so small a number of women implied the attendance of a much smaller number of men; entirely forgetting the disproportion of numbers in the colony between the two sexes. From 1816 to 1818 there had arrived in the colony 3,535 male convicts, and only 271 females. What then became of the hon. gentleman's argument on this part of the question? In answer to the hon. gentleman's observations on the superintendence of the convicts, he observed, that with respect to the female convicts, it was certainly true that Mr. Marsden had made some representations on the subject in 1810; it was also true that means were taken to diminish the general prostitution which before prevailed, and government had long had the intention of building a factory for the employment of the women. It was true, that in the beginning of March, 1818, no such factory was erected, as the governor, being informed that three additional churches were necessary, had to balance between building them and building the factory. He decided for the former, but as soon as they were completed the factory was commenced, and there was every reason to believe it would be finished in the course of the present year. As to the male convicts, it had been in contemplation to erect a barrack for six thousand of them, but this was an undertaking which, 492 whatever energy or disregard of expense might be manifested on the part of the governor, required great previous inquiry, and would demand much time for its execution. He had now troubled the house a long time, but before he sat down, there was one observation of the hon. gentleman opposite which he felt it his duty to answer. He had thought proper to blame the government for not having made known to the house the measures which ministers had adopted in consequence of the report of 1812. Now, he begged to state, that in consequence of the motion of a gentleman who took great interest in the subject at that time, the dispatches which government sent to New South Wales, after the presentation of that report, comprehending the reasons which induced them to adopt some of the suggestions of the committee, and to reject others, had been laid on the table of the house, and as no observation had been made on them, government had a right to suppose that they met with the concurrence of the house. He apologized for not going into more minute details on the subject. It was one on which government were ready to afford the house all the means that might be required of forming a judgment. It was, therefore, unfair to tax them with an endeavour to thwart the hon. gentleman's object when their only reason for opposing the motion was, that they thought an inquiry by a committee could not be effectual until it should be known by the report of the commission already appointed, what was the state of affairs in the colony.
§ Sir T. B. Martin
said, that in rising to offer a few observations to the house on the subject now before them, he should in the first place trouble them with reading extracts from some letters which he then held in his hand, in order to prove that the treatment and situation of the convicts were very different from what had been represented on the other side. The hon. baronet then read a letter from certain convicts, after their arrival in New South Wales, to the captain of the transport, in which they thanked him for the many comforts they had received during the passage. He then read a letter to governor Macquarrie from other convicts, in which they stated that they had received the most humane treatment; and that great attention had been paid to them by the medical officers on board. He proceeded to read a letter which he had received from sir John Gore, the admiral on the 493 Medway station, in which the admiral stated that he had read the report of the discussions in the House of Commons, on the subject of the ill-treatment of convicts; and as he had never had an opportunity of seeing the arrangements on board of ships of this kind, he had visited that in which Dr. O'Halloran sailed, and his indignation was roused when he saw the space set apart for him, so different was it from what he had stated in his petition to the house. It was larger than the writer, or the hon. baronet himself had enjoyed when lieutenant of a frigate, and, in short, all the convicts were well accommodated, and by no means crowded. The fourth letter was from the hon. captain Duncan, who declared, that the convicts themselves were sensible of the comforts they possessed; and that every thing appeared to be done for their accommodation and convenience. The hon. gentleman opposite had thought proper to stigmatise a transport with the title of the white slave ship. With respect to the Surrey, it had been said, that fifty convicts had died on board of her; but from that very circumstance, his majesty's government had instituted an inquiry; and the result was, that such regulations should be adopted as would prevent a recurrence of that calamity. Those regulations had been put in execution long ago. He begged leave to say, that if he proved that a ship landed her convicts in a healthy state, and that out of 3,000 persons transported to New South Wales, only 14 died on their passage, he should prove that the assertion of ill-treatment and improper confinement was totally unfounded. This was the real state of the case; and therefore with respect to the charge against the government on the subject of the transportation of convicts, there never was a more unjust or ungenerous imputation cast on any public department.
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
observed, that it was unnecessary and would be inexcusable for him long to trouble the house, after the brilliant, beautiful, and unanswerable speech of the hon. member for Bramber, especially as it related to that part of the subject which most materially concerned him (sir J. Mackintosh), the criminal law. His hon. friend had been misunderstood. He had not said that the noble lord wished to stifle inquiry. He knew good manners and parliamentary usage too well to say so. What his hon. friend had said was, that the plan proposed by the noble lord*494 would stifle inquiry, or if it did not do that, would render investigation a mockery. The noble lord had said, that his was a practical, not a speculative proposal. In his (sir J. Mackintosh's) notion of any thing practical, was included its being easily effected. Now, the noble lord's plan was beyond all human powers of execution. To appoint a committee to investigate the nature of capital punishments, to add to their labours an inquiry into prison discipline, and to throw in the weight of an examination of the system of a penal colony, the mode of transportation to it, &c. was indeed to impose a task to which no physical or mental powers were equal. He would say nothing on the first subject he had mentioned, because he was persuaded he could not say any thing upon it without injuring the effect of his hon. friend's speech, and because he would not be surprised or provoked into a premature discussion upon it by any address or adroitness of the gentleman opposite. The two gentlemen who had last spoken, had quite forgot the original ground of opposition to his hon. friend's motion. The hon. under-secretary, in saying that no inquiry was necessary, confuted the admission of the noble lord, that the subject was one fit for grave inquiry. The hon. gentleman however had allowed that all was not so well in the colony as could be wished—that to be sure, was a very mild manner of expressing his opinion of the morality or immorality of any place. The same might be said of every country; and if that was all which could be said, if it was the positive fact, then it would render the noble lord's disposition for inquiry completely absurd. The noble lord, however, wished to couple the inquiry into that subject, with the inquiry into the criminal law. Did ever any man before the noble lord propose a committee to undertake the investigation of so vast a system in a single session! The various provinces of that system ought to be divided. Each should have a separate committee, pursuing a separate inquiry, and making a separate report. The collision of various minds would afford a better chance of eliciting such information as might be advantageously proceeded upon by parliament. As to the inquiry proposed by the noble lord, it was impossible it could ever be completed. He was convinced that the public at a distance were contemplating the proceedings of parliament on this subject with more than ordinary jealousy. 495 They would not accept the declaration of parliament on the subject; but if they saw that an inquiry was instituted which was of such a nature that it was impossible to go through with it, they would say that parliament meant it should have no result. He wanted to silence such censures. He called on the house to furnish him with an answer to their libellers by acquiescing in his hon. friend's motion, and he called on the noble lord not to furnish those libellers with weapons of attack, by making such propositions as that which he had in contemplation. He wished to make a few observations on what had fallen from the two last hon. gentlemen. For governor Macquarrie, with whom he had long ago an intimate acquaintance, he had a great personal respect, but it was possible for a man to be mistaken in his best intentions, and the circumstance of the good disposition of the individual would be no answer to faults alleged to be in existence by his permission or command. He must say, that the hon. gentleman opposite had made a very bad answer to the charge of his hon. friend respecting the neglect of providing religious instruction for the Catholic portion of the inhabitants of the colony. It was well known that during those melancholy occurrences which took place in this country 20 years ago, a great number of Catholic priests were transported to Botany Bay. Without reviving the discussions of that period, he might say that those persons were not common felons. They might be—if hon. gentlemen so pleased to call them—great political offenders, whose presence at home was dangerous to the tranquillity of the country, but they were not felons. So many Catholic clergymen having, however, been transported 20 years ago, it was rather strange to hear the hon. gentleman claiming credit from his majesty's government for having at length applied to the Catholic hierarchy for a proper person to send out! To withhold the means of exercising their religion from any great body of men was persecution. To have neglected for so many years to send out to New South Wales a Catholic instructor, and thereby to have neglected the morality and happiness of so large a portion of the community there, was an instance of culpable negligence, disgraceful to every administration under which it had occurred. He was ready to admit, that there was one part of the motion of his hon. friend which was naturally connected with the investiga- 496 tion to be proposed by the noble lord into the state of the prisons; he meant the state of the convict ships, and the system of transportation, and if he might venture a suggestion to his hon. friend (for whom no man could entertain a higher regard and respect), it would be to leave those topics out of his motion, retaining only an inquiry into the state of New South Wales. He could not conceive two subjects more essentially different than that last-mentioned inquiry, and an inquiry into the state of the criminal law. The latter was an European subject, and under the domestic control of the legislature; the former was entirely unconnected with domestic policy, and under the control of a colonial government. It was too late in the night to make many farther remarks on the question. He must say, however, that his hon. friend had been misstated by the hon. gentleman, as wishing to establish the British contitution in New South Wales. His hon. friend was, on the contrary, remarkably cautious on that subject. He went no farther than recommending the adoption of the suggestions of the committee of 1812. Nay, he dissented from the opinion of that committee in their recommendation of the establishment of trial by jury. And here he would make one observation which had often struck him. Until the accession of his present majesty, with the exception of a few inconsiderable factories on the coast of Africa, and a few not less inconsiderable in India, no body of Englishmen had ever been established as a colony on a foreign soil, without partaking the enjoyment of the British constitution. The smallest rock in the West Indies exhibited a sort of miniature of the British constitution. "Simulataque magnis Pergama." It was a benefit which seemed to be considered as indispensable to the happiness of the people as light and air. Undoubtedly the consequence was, that the British constitution was introduced into places little adapted for its reception—that its form was transplanted to a soil in which its substance could not flourish. But while making this admission, he begged to remind the noble lord, that it was the ardent love of liberty which led their ancestors into such mistakes. Their successors had become wiser and more enlightened. Innovation, in the present times did not always take place on the popular side.—For sixty years the old usage to which he alluded had been sedulously avoided. Not a single colony planted within that period, 497 except Upper Canada (and that very slowly), was thought worthy of participating in the British constitution. It was at least to be hoped, that while we acted with this circumspection to our colonies, we might at home set an example of that love of liberty, on which the good government, the glory, and the prosperity of the country depended.
observed, that when his hon. friend, the member for Bramber, imputed to his noble friend two speeches inconsistent with each other, the remark appeared to have been rather prophetic of the character of the speech to be delivered by the hon. and learned gentleman who had just sat down: who had certainly in the latter part of his speech, diverged much more widely than his noble friend, not only from the real question in debate, but from his own declared view of that question. The hon. and learned gentleman had commenced his address to the House, as if he conceived the reformation of the criminal law to be the real matter in discussion. But before he came to his conclusion he appeared to have lost sight of that topic altogether, and discussed the question before the House as if it related wholly to the policy to be observed with respect to Botany Bay, considered as a colony—and to the introduction and cultivation of usages there conformable to the principles of the British constitution. Now, much as he knew his hon. friend, the member for Bramber, concurred with him in admiring the British constitution, he did not think the hon. and learned gentleman would find his hon. friend an advocate for applying the principles of the British constitution to every colony, under every mode of colonial existence. Nay, he remembered that he and his hon. friend had once fought side by side in hostility to such a principle; he alluded to an occasion on which they had contended, and contended successfully, to exempt the island of Trinidad, under the peculiar circumstances in which that colony was placed, from a participation in the British constitution, in order that, for obvious purposes, it might remain more immediately under the control of the Crown. The hon. and learned gentleman, however, carried his wishes on that subject much further. He acknowledged no exception to his general doctrine. The hon. and learned gentleman asserted, that in the simple times of their ancestors there was not a colonial rock in the ocean 498 on which there did not spring up all the blessings of the British constitution. But, did the hon. and learned gentleman compare an acquired colony with a seminary of convicts? Did he recollect, that the convicts sent "in the simple times of their ancestors" to America, were there bound over to hard task-masters as labourers—in fact, as slaves. Had men so circumstanced, the enjoyment which the hon. and learned gentleman thinks so common and indefeasible, of the blessings of the British constitution? The fact was, that the care taken of convicts at the period adverted to and praised by the hon. and learned gentleman, as compared with the care taken of them at present, was as zero to a million. But "commend me" said the hon. and learned gentleman to the benevolent wisdom of our simple ancestors, who exported nothing but the blessings of the constitution. Amongst all who had formed any opinion on the subject—whether those who thought that Dr. Halloran had been unjustly "cabinned, cribbed, confined," or those who thought that that most exemplary character had been treated with an attention something beyond his deserts, the hon. and learned gentleman was probably the single philosopher, who, standing on the pier at Sheerness during the lading of a ship-full of convicts, would point it out to some foreign friend as freighted with a cargo of materials for building up a British constitution. He (Mr. Canning) doubted whether this ultra-philosophy would win many proselytes, even in the present most liberal day; he doubted still more whether their ancestors had bequeathed to them, either by precept or example, the duty of establishing in a colony of convicts, a constitution of king, lords, and commons, accompanied with a splendid hierarchy, mitigated by principles of universal toleration.
By comparing the two parts of the hon. and learned gentleman's argument, it would plainly appear that he had mistaken and misrepresented—misrepresented because he had mistaken—the question as between his noble friend (lord Castlereagh) and his hon. friend who sat beside him (Mr. Goulburn). The hon. and learned gentleman contended, that his noble and his hon. friend's arguments were opposed to each other. And why? The one defended the executive government from the charge brought against them: the other contended that the pro- 499 posed inquiry was one which ought to be united with that on the criminal law. Both positions were perfectly tenable, and perfectly compatible with each other: "If your motion conveys an accusation against government," said his hon. friend, "no case has been made out for it, and it ought to be negatived." "If your motion is for an inquiry," said his noble friend, "we will not negative it; but, admitting the fitness of the inquiry, move the previous question, in order that your inquiry may be subsequently comprehended in an investigation to which it naturally belongs." There was in this no inconsistency; but if such opinions were still held to be inconsistent by the hon. and learned gentleman, he (Mr. Canning) must beg permission to share the blame, by avowing his concurrence in both. But it was clear that the hon. and learned gentleman himself had felt the force of his noble friend's reasoning; for at the close of his speech he recommended the hon. mover to withdraw that part of the motion which related to the state of the convict ships, and the system of transportation, and to confine the motion to New South Wales. That was, to give up the whole argument. His noble friend had contended, that the convict ships were a connecting link between the object of his proposed motion and an inquiry into the state of the colony of Botany Bay; a colony which being not for the establishment of the British constitution and Warwickshire manners, but for the exportation of convicted felons, came naturally within the scope of an investigation into the criminal law. This connecting link the hon. and learned gentleman was for detaching, for the express purpose of separating what his hon. friend's (Mr. Bennet) motion had joined. As the motion now stood, the two parts were (as his noble friend had stated them to be) inseparable.
Adverting to the description which the hon. mover had given of the condition of the convicts on board the transports, he must say, with the utmost respect for the excellent disposition and humane views which so often directed that hon. gentleman's attention to such topics, that it reminded him of the observation of Dr. Johnson, quoted by the hon. mover himself on a former night, "that sometimes it was more probable that the evidence was mistaken, than that the fact was true." He trusted the hon. gentleman 500 would not impute any disrespectful feeling towards him when he said, that in all future cases of a similar nature which that hon. gentleman might bring forward, he should be inclined to withhold his belief of their accuracy on the first statement, and to wait for confirmation before he consented to act upon them as well-founded.—He confessed that he did not see the advantage of those general declamations against punishment which the House had lately heard in such abundance. They only tended to impress a belief, both in this country and among foreign nations, that our laws were unnecessarily and even wantonly severe. It might be so The gentlemen opposite might be right. If so, God forbid that the existing system should continue a day longer, provided another could be substituted, which, while it equally maintained and secured society, might be less severe in its penal inflictions. But he hoped the House would recollect that they sat there as the guardians of the life, property, and tranquillity of the public, and that while they lent a patient and sometimes a favourable ear to harangues calculated to excite their compassion and sympathy (the statements conveyed in which, when brought to the test of examination, were however often happily found to be devoid of foundation), they would not forget the interests which it was their duty to protect. Let the House beware of countenancing such sweeping and indiscriminate projects of change in the existing frame and sanctions of the laws, as might unhinge the peace of society, and raise obstacles to the due administration of civil government, such as all their ingenuity and wisdom might not hereafter be able to remove. He was the more apprehensive on this subject when he found even an individual characterised for so much ability and prudence as his hon. friend, the member for Bramber, betrayed on presenting a petition from the respectable society of friends, into an assertion of the proposition contained in that petition, that the legislature, while condemning by its enactments offenders to death or transportation, had been itself the fruitful source of crime, by its neglect to provide more liberally for the moral and religious instruction of the lower orders. He imputed not to his hon. friend the intention of exciting or countenancing all the wild and dangerous misrepresentations to which such an avowal*501 might be liable. But was it possible that his hon. friend should not be aware of them? Was it possible that he should not see to what inferences such an avowal, from such a quarter, diffused among the loose and profligate part of society, might lead? Let his hon. friend reflect on the dangerous consequences of entertaining lightly abstract questions of that nature, with out a constant reference to facts; without a determination that however excited by the fascinating eloquence of the advocates of every thing that was humane and amiable, the House would come to no resolution without a previous and ample inquiry into the real state, operation; and effect of the criminal law, the condition of the prisons, and the adequacy of inferior punishments to the repression of crime. (He would cordially agree with the hon. gentleman that when in any instance a scheme of secondary punishments should be found effectual for the prevention of crime, it ought to be adopted, and the capital punishment for that crime, unless one which the laws of God made punishable by death, should be abolished. But the worst and most objectionable mode of introducing a reform on the subject was to begin by attacking generally the system of the criminal laws. The House should recollect, that there was not in this country what was properly called "a code" of criminal law. Our laws had not been enacted at a moment; they were gradually framed, from time to time, as emergencies arose; they were not struck out at a heat; they had not been inscribed at once on twelve tables; nor did they, with the fanciful accuracy of Chinese legislation, anticipate every possible shade of offence, and apportion to it with nice adjustment a precise degree of infliction from a graduated bamboo. Our laws, criminal as well as civil, had grown with necessity. They had either acquired severity with the increasing energy of crime, or they had been mitigated as the desired object of correction had been accomplished; and in this administration was it necessary to say, or could it possibly be denied, that to avoid involving innocence with guilt was so much the ruling principle, that the openings for escape from punishment even to guilt itself were multiplied with the most anxious solicitude and ingenuity. It would, indeed, be easy, by a sweeping legislation, to pull down the fabric reared by the wisdom of ages; but how was one 502 of equal stability and value to be constructed a-new? Who was there among the advocates for the abolition of a system the result of the experience of our forefathers; who could offer to the House, or ensure to the country, in any other frame of criminal jurisprudence, even an equally adequate security for the protection of property, of individual liberty, and of public tranquillity? In our zeal to mitigate the infliction even of deserved punishment, it was surely our duty to remember that tenderness to criminals ought to be subservient and secondary to the general welfare of society; of those who had not offended the laws at all; and who had a right to look to them for protection. Convinced that the best mode of investigating this most important topic was the adoption of the committee to be proposed by his noble friend, he should vote for the previous question on the present proposition; thus leaving the subject open for that future inquiry.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
begged to be allowed to explain. He had never said, or meant to say, that New South Wales was in a condition to receive the benefits of the British constitution. The right hon. gentleman had directed his attacks only against the outworks, without daring to march boldly forward against the real substance of the question. He had never expressed any wish so absurd, as that the terrors of the law should be diminished: on the contrary, he was anxious that where necessary they should be augmented; but he should ever oppose that severity of the penal statutes which tended to deprive the laws of their efficacy. The right hon. gentleman had also misstated the contents of the petition of the Quakers, who did not pray that the punishment of death should be wholly abolished; but they expressed a hope that the frequency of an infliction so repugnant to the principles of Christianity would be diminished.
also explained, and contended that the whole substance and gist of the Quakers' petition was what he had asserted it to be.
§ Mr. Tierney
congratulated the right hon. gentleman on the happy disposition, and no less happy knack he possessed, of turning into jest the gravest subjects. Such a facility had been now and then attributed to him (Mr. Tierney); but if he had ever enjoyed it, the powers of the right hon. gentleman far exceeded his; or, to invert a figure of his own, were as 503 a million to zero. It was not a little singular to observe, that whenever any question was debated connected with the miseries of his fellow-creatures, the right hon. gentleman always found occasion to treat the House with a comical speech. The more aggravated the sufferings, the more numerous and the broader were the jokes. A discussion upon the state of gaols, upon the treatment of convicts, upon the hardships they had to endure on their voyage, and at its termination, never failed to afford him a high source of enjoyment; and it was amusing to see how skilfully he prevailed upon his friends around him to join him in a hearty laugh at the calamities and misfortunes of the rest of mankind. No doubt the right hon. gentleman and his friends had good reasons to congratulate themselves upon their own happy situation. They were all comfortably provided for (or by joining in the ridicule, hoped to be so)—they had nothing to complain of—they thought that things were just as they ought to be, and that it was the most absurd thing in the world to talk about any thing that could disturb their self-complacency: the right hon. gentleman, therefore, took upon himself to put every thing in the pleasantest point of view; and it was not long since he had convulsed the house with laughter, on the question of the Habeas Corpus act, by directing his ridicule against an individual who happened to be affected with arupture. Infirmities of mind and body were alike the subjects of his jest and sarcasm, and nothing was too contemptible or too wretched to excite his own and his friend's risibility. The motion of his hon. friend was for an inquiry into the state of the convicts and of the colony of New South-Wales; and the objection was, that the noble lord had that very night come down to the house, and before the motion could be brought on, had given notice of a committee on the state of gaols; and the argument was, that this ministerial manœuvre should get rid of the investigation proposed by his hon. friend, by mixing it up with an inquiry into the state of the prisons of the country. The three points which the noble lord wished to embrace, were gaols, convicts, and colonies; the two last being, in truth, the object of his hon. friend's motion. All agreed that inquiry was necessary, at least all professed to agree upon that point, and the test of sincerity would be the acquiescence of the noble lord in the mo- 504 tion of his hon. friend, by which his one object, gaols, would be united to his hon. friend's two objects, convicts and colonies. He (Mr. Tierney) denied that all these three objects should be made the subject of joint examination before one committee—each branch ought to be referred to a separate body, if any result were desired; the only objection urged by the noble lord to this wholesome mode of proceeding, was the inconvenience that might be produced. He urged that committees on the Bank, on the Poor laws, and on various elections, were now sitting; and to appoint one more, even for this great purpose, would be inconvenient. He (Mr. Tierney) had never till now discovered any precise motive for so long postponing the meeting of parliament; but motive enough was now apparent, if the multiplication of committees of all kinds in consequence, was to be assigned as a reason for not entering upon an inquiry not very palatable to his majesty's ministers. The right hon. gentleman had complimented the dexterity of the speech of the hon. member from Bramber; but he had himself displayed a great deal more expertness in endeavouring to get rid of a motion, by touching upon all the immaterial points, and diverting the attention of the house from all those that were important. It was quite clear that the noble lord and his colleagues were anxious to avoid all inquiry, under the pretence of the most full and ample investigation: they were not contented with a committee upon the state of New South Wales, but it must include also the condition of the gaols and the circumstances attending the transport of convicts—nothing would satisfy their greediness of inquiry—even the whole question of the criminal laws was to be submitted to the same body; for, said the noble lord, and said the right hon. gentleman (and of course said all those who sat by their sides), those subjects are all intimately connected; that is to say, the gaols of the united kingdom were intimately connected with the state of the colony of New South Wales, because ships now and then proceed thither from the united kingdom. This was the argument; although it would be just as logical to assert, that the treaties of Aix-la-Chapelle would come under discussion in a debate upon a bill for regulating the packets between Dover and Calais, because those packets had had the felicity of conveying the noble lord on his way to that 505 imperial rendezvous. But since the undoubted object of the noble lord was to stifle all inquiry, he could not do so more dexterously than by making the subjects that were to engage the attention of the committee, so extensive as to preclude for years the possibility of a report. Was this the general sense of the country? Did not the national voice demand an investigation, and a decision as soon as it was possible to arrive at a safe conclusion? His hon. friend who had brought forward the motion, had received compliments (and compliments they were only to be considered) from the noble lord and from the right hon. gentleman; but they were heartless and hollow, and only extorted because they knew that if they did not applaud, the country would. It bad been objected, however, that his hon. friend was not always well founded in his facts, that his good nature and humanity had been in some cases imposed upon. At least this objection could not be urged against the noble lord and his friends. He who kept open house for the miserable and unfortunate, must expect to hear misrepresentations—the ruptured would not be turned away from his doors with contempt and ridicule; but if the facts were doubted, was not that a sufficient reason for going into the committee? The question regarding the gaols was merely an after-thought with the noble lord: he had never intended to introduce it into his original motion; but, threatened with the proposition now under debate, he had resorted to this happy expedient of smothering all useful results in a mass of unimportant details. [Lord Castlereagh said, "I beg your pardon," across the table.] Mr. Tierney appealed to the recollection of the House, when the noble lord had first introduced the matter to its notice. Well might the right hon. gentleman object to the alteration of the motion as suggested by his hon. and learned friend, for the moment the passage of convicts by sea to Botany Bay was excluded from inquiry, the link of connexion was destroyed, and the state of the colony had nothing to do with the gaols or the criminal code. Was it a very absurd inquiry to ascertain the present condition of the colony, the improvement of the inhabitants, and whether the public money was properly expended? The latter branch always seemed unnecessary to the other side of the House; but what connexion had it with the criminal code, and the four walls of a prison? Such subjects 506 were only united by the noble lord to prevent the possibility of a report during the present and perhaps the next session; for he appealed to the hon. member for Bramber, whether on such complicated topics it would be possible to arrive at any speedy or satisfactory conclusion. The excuse, too, was as absurd as the proposal; for, was it not a gross reflexion upon the House to assert, that separate committees could not be named for separate and vital purposes, because a few election committees were employed in determining on the validity of a few paltry seats in parliament? He did not impute it to design so much as to habit; but the right hon. gentleman had a knack of exaggerating and misrepresenting, that was sometimes injurious to his own cause; when, for instance, he talked of his hon. and learned friend standing on the pier of Sheerness, and telling his companion that a cargo of kings, lords, and commons, was just on the eve of exportation for Botany Bay, a laugh for the moment might be excited, but at the expense only of the right hon. gentleman. In the same way he had tickled the back rows by jumping from Botany Bay to China, and by exhibiting his graduated bamboo; though how he applied it, Mr. Tierney was at a loss to imagine, unless indeed he thought it ought to be applied to his friends. As to arriving at the end of the noble lord's inquiry this year, it was quite as hopeless as to expect that the noble lord would arrive at Botany Bay this year. The dreadful anathema pronounced against the hon. member for Bramber was equally uncalled for, and could only be pardoned by the supposition of a singular misapprehension: all that hon. gentleman had meant was, that the higher orders, were in a degree responsible for the crimes of the lower orders, if they did not endeavour to promote their moral improvement. Having gone over the various points, and exposed the under-plot of the noble lord, he should only farther remark, that as the other side felt a little sore regarding the intended motion of his hon. and learned friend, the present discussion was intended by them as a sort of rehearsal, a kind of experiment of what they could both say and do. The noble lord was anxious to show his cards, that others might judge of his chance of success; but if he would take his advice, he would keep them himself, lest he should at length discover, after so much shuffling, that he had mis-dealt.
contended, that the motion of his noble friend would go to the extent of ascertaining whether it was possible to abolish capital punishment; consequently the state of the gaols and hulks, and the treatment of the convicts at Botany Bay, must come under consideration, and be connected with the inquiry. It appeared to him that an inquiry by commission upon the spot would be more effectual than one conducted at 4,000 miles distance; and that if the subject were referred to three committees, it would require a fourth to digest the substance of the reports of those committees before the House could come to any rational opinion upon them.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, that he had found the subject so large and so complicated, that his own experience and knowledge were in comparison extremely limited and insufficient. He was convinced, however, that if all these subjects were considered together, if the prisons, the penitentiaries, the transportation of convicts, the state of the colony of New South Wales, and the criminal law involving the whole question of the penal code, were all submitted to one committee it would be utterly impossible for that committee to make a report in any thing like reasonable time. The most expedient way of coming to a sound conclusion was, to form a solid and expansive base upon which a building might be erected, gradually advancing, like a pyramid, to a point; but the noble lord seemed entirely to have reversed the matter; he had begun at the wrong end, and had taken a point for his base.
Mr. Marryat spoke
against the original motion, and fully acquitted the ministers of any charge of inhumanity, or of any disregard to the comfort of the convicts. Upon referring to the documents before the House, it would be seen that the mortality among the convicts, on board the transports was less during the same period of time than among those on board the hulks, or those confined in the Penitentiary at Milbank. He was ready to admit that an inquiry was necessary to be instituted into the state of the colony of New South Wales; but the question was, whether that inquiry would be best made by a commission op the spot or by a committee in this country about 4,000 or 5,000 miles distant.
expressed his decided approbation of the original motion, and he 508 did so on the ground that it was not practicable for any committee to go through the various subjects to be laid before them in any reasonable time. It was asked on the other side, "shall we not have three conflicting reports?" but it seemed to have been entirely forgotten that the committees were only to report facts upon which the House was to decide. It had been supposed by the supporters of the previous question, that the inquiry in the committee was to be confined to the convicts at Botany Bay. It should be recollected that the convicts did not form one half of the British population in that colony. There were many individuals whose terms of transportation had long since expired, and who were unable to return to their own country. Unless some attention were paid to those persons, they might be compelled to remain at Botany Bay all their lives. He was extremely unwilling to take this inquiry out of the hands of government; he was glad at all times to see the ministers give their support to public measures, but in the present instance he thought it would be far more advisable to adopt the course proposed by his hon. friend.
addressed a few observations to the House respecting the conduct of Mr. Macquarrie, as governor of the colony of New South Wales. He had the honour of being personally acquainted with that gentleman, and he was convinced that the more strict the inquiry was into his conduct, the more the House would be satisfied that he had been guided in all his actions by the most humane feelings.
§ Mr. Bennet
made a short reply, and particularly to what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman opposite. He was very ready to admit that he was at all times willing to listen, perhaps with too much credulity, to the statements of misery and wretchedness which almost daily presented themselves to his view; that he might sometimes be biassed by representations which might not in the same degree influence a jury; but he thanked God, that he had not, as that right hon. member had done, made a subject of merriment of the miseries of these unhappy beings, that he had not trifled with their feelings. The right hon. gentleman might, indeed, amuse the House, but he might be assured that the public would listen to such indecencies only with feelings of disgust and abhorrence. There was one remark in the right hon. gentle- 509 man's speech which he could not pass over in silence. He had said that he could not give credit to his (Mr. Bennet's) statements. This the right hon. gentleman had asserted, and he could only reply, that he hoped the time would arrive when a convincing proof would be given of their truth. The right hon. gentleman had in the course of his speech been pleased to pay some compliments to him; for them he cared very little, excepting so far as they showed a decided enmity on the part of the right hon. gentleman towards him. On this account he was glad of these compliments; for if he (like the noble lord on the right hon. gentleman's right, and the right hon. Gentleman on his left) had been made the object of the right hon. gentleman's bitterest abuse, there would then have been a greater chance of their coming together.
explained, that he did not assert that he would not give credit to the statements of the hon. member; he had only said that he would not act upon them.
§ Mr. Bennet
replied, that the right hon. gentleman had a right to entertain what opinions he chose, and so had he (Mr. Bennet) and to express them in whatever manner he pleased, as long as he adhered to the settled rules of the House.
§ Then the previous question being put, the House divided: Ayes, 93; Noes, 139.