§ Mr. Bennet
presented a Petition from Dr. Halloran, sentenced to seven years transportation, for forging a frank, complaining of the unprecedented severity of the punishment for such an offence, and of the treatment which he had experienced since his conviction. The hon. gentleman said he had inquired into the circumstances of the case. Dr. Halloran was unquestionably a man of considerable literary talents, he was advanced in life, and had a large family. The sentence pronounced upon him certainly appeared much, too severe for the offence; but it was the cruelty which Dr. Halloran complained that he had suffered since his conviction, to which he was desirous to call the attention of the House. He had, on his apprehension, been sent to Coldbath-fields, where he was imprisoned with felons. He was thence removed for trial to Newgate, where he was confined in the condemned cells with thirty or forty boys. From those cells, he was transferred to the hospital among the sick felons. He by no means imputed any blame to the magistrates or to the keeper, but it did so happen, owing to the crowded state of the prison, that a very severe punishment, in the mode of his imprisonment was, as in this case of Dr. Halloran's, inflicted on a prisoner, even before his trial. After Dr. Halloran had been convicted, he was sent on board the Alonzo hospital ship. Here he was seized with violent illness, in the middle of which he was removed, and carried on board the Baring transport, where he was left in a small cabin for nineteen hours without any kind of sustenance. He was then served with the usual sea allowance, which was very unfit for a man in his condition, but could obtain no medical aid. Dr. Halloran had been promised by lord Sidmouth that he should have every accommodation which it would be proper to grant him, and that he should not be compelled to associate with common felons. In a few days, however, after he had been taken on board the Baring, twenty felons were lodged with 89 him in the same cabin. He had seen this cabin; it was twelve feet square. Twenty-one human beings were crammed into it, in cribs six feet and a half broad by five feet and a half long, into each of which, six human beings were stowed. In that situation they were unable to turn round, and Dr. Halloran declared he was witness to one of those disgusting and abominable scenes, the increasing prevalence of which was so degrading to the character of the country. Dr. Halloran sent a statement of this transaction to lord Sidmouth, tendering evidence of the fact. A most respectable officer certainly, Mr. Capper, was sent down in consequence, and by his report it appeared that one of the individuals was a young lad of previously fair character, who for a small offence had been sentenced to seven years transportation. He (Mr. Bennet) repeated, that he himself had visited the vessel. It contained between two and three hundred human beings, all stowed in about fifty cribs. It was in the middle of the day, about three o'clock, when he went on board; and yet it was necessary to use candles. Never should he forget the loathsome scene which the vessel exhibited! A scene most disgraceful to a country and government calling themselves civilized and Christians! It appeared that the ship had a short time before, got on a bank in a gale of wind, and had been nearly lost. The agitation of the storm had occasioned violent sickness among the unhappy men on board, and those who were at bottom, were almost suffocated by the results of that sickness. Good God! was it possible to contemplate such physical torture without horror? And yet what was that to the moral evil—in what a dreadful state of moral disease would this human cargo be poured out on the shores to which they were bound! It was impossible that it could be otherwise, for these wretched men were shut down in the state which he had described, for fifteen hours out of the twenty-four. Who could contemplate the horrors of these white slave ships, without indignation at the government by which their existence was permitted? He recollected the impression that was made all over Europe, and especially at Paris, by a paper in which the room allotted to each negro in the African slave ships was shown to be only one foot six inches by six feet. He had measured, and made a calculation of the room in the vessel which he had been de- 90 scribing, and he found that the room allotted to each convict was only one foot one inch, by six feet. And yet he had no doubt the "humanity" of the noble secretary of state would be forced upon the House, in answer to these glaring facts. Such was always the usage of the hon. gentlemen opposite. He had no hesitation, however, in saying that the condition of the ship in question was most disgraceful to the noble lord. To the accuracy of the facts (with the exception of that particular one mentioned by Dr. Halloran, of which, of course, he could know nothing) he pledged himself; and he repeated that the country could entertain but one opinion of the remissness of the head of a department under which a vessel so circumstanced was allowed to leave the country. He would say but one word more. This ship was ordered to sail at the most dangerous period of the year. In the committee on this subject last session, it appeared that vessels were sent out to New South Wales at periods so ill chosen, as to occasion the most dreadful mortality on board. One transport, called the Surrey, lost, in the passage fifty convicts out of two hundred. Under these circumstances, he had felt it his duty to make the statement with which he had troubled the House. He was no advocate for crime, but it was incumbent on the House to see that justice was properly administered. Penalties were inflicted on human beings, in order, if possible, to correct their evil propensities, and not to send them to a new world, in a state of even greater depravity than that in which they had been sunk in the old, [Hear, hear!] The hon. member then presented the petition.
said, he did not wish to oppose the bringing up of the petition, but he thought it right not to lose a moment in replying to the charges which had been preferred against the head of the home department. His noble relative held a situation of high responsibility, and he hoped the House would never lose sight of the arduous duties which he had to perform. It was mighty easy for gentlemen to prefer such charges as these, but it was not quite so easy for the party attacked to perform all the duties of his high situation. He did not dispute the merit of the hon. gentleman in visiting those receptacles of misery which he so frequently explored, and he had often given him credit for his exertions, but it 91 would be to conceal his thoughts if he were not to say, that he was of opinion the hon. gentleman sometimes lent himself to those whose statements ought to have no weight with him, and adapted too much the views of men of bad character, believing the stories they told him without sufficiently inquiring into their truth. If he were to go into the history of the unfortunate man whose petition was now about to be presented, he could prove that he was no object of mercy. For many reasons he would not go into his history, and no reason weighed more with him than this, that such a statement might be injurious to his family, some of whom filled respectable situations in life. He, however, could not help stating, that if all the proofs had been brought forward that might have been urged against him, it would have been seen that the frank he forged, enclosed a forged character of himself, in which he recommended himself, using the name of a person not alive, to a curacy in the country, hoping by this expedient to secure to himself a comfortable situation. If the punishment awarded to his crime by the law was too great, that was a fit subject for the consideration of the legislature; but when application was made for mercy, the character of the individual was then to be considered, in order to determine whether or not he was a fit object for clemency. The hon. gentleman argued fallaciously when he contended that Dr. Halloran was punished for his bad character, and not for his crime. This could not be proved till it had been shown that a law did not exist to inflict the punishment to which he had been sentenced. If this were not proved, he must show that Dr. Halloran was an object for mercy. For his part, he would contend, that there had been shown no reason for extending mercy to him. The hon. gentleman reprobated those whose duty it was to see the law carried into effect. His true charge, however, was against those who superintended the present mode of transportation. He would believe all that the hon. gentleman had asserted that he himself had seen, but of the rest he should doubt. The charge was in a great degree against the punishment of transportation altogether. He did not think, that in the transportation of this individual any difference was made between him and others who had lately been transported. He was not aware of any variation in the construction of the 92 ship, or in the accommodation on board, from what had been usual. The officer was one of the royal navy, and this seemed to promise improvement, rather than otherwise, in the accommodation on board. But then the hon. gentleman had seen the accommodation was not good, and this was charged upon the head of the department. Now, what did the hon. gentleman say on this subject? Why, that a complaint having been forwarded to lord Sidmouth, he immediately sent down a gentleman who had been most deservedly praised, and who was at present the superintendant of the Hulks. This gentleman found many of the allegations contained in the statements of Dr. Halloran unfounded. The situation of that person himself turned out to be different from what he had represented it to be. As to the horrible circumstance which had been alluded to, it turned out to be utterly impossible for the crime described to have been committed at the time, and in the situation pointed out in the petition. It was clear that it was the object of this person, nay, he might add, of the hon. gentleman himself, to prevent the punishment to which he had been sentenced from being inflicted. For this, the statement of his ill-health, and then that of the abominable transaction before mentioned, had been sent forth, and both had proved to be false. If Mr. Capper had had any doubt on the subject, an inquiry would immediately have been instituted; but as it was found that it was not probable nor possible that the assertion of Dr. Halloran could be true, the matter went no farther. He doubted not that a threat had been held out by this person to those appointed to carry his sentence into execution.—"I have a gentleman in the House of Commons who will not let this punishment be inflicted." Personal threats, too, had been held out to the captain of what should happen to him if he did that which it might become his duty to do. If any restraint should be imposed upon him on the voyage, it would not be because there was a disposition to treat him with severity; but because his conduct, from his being encouraged to hope that by repeated complaints he might get the ship stopped and his situation made less irksome, might make some farther restrictions necessary. As to the ships, they were of the usual size. When a comparison was made between these and the slave ships, it ought to be remem- 93 bered, that no small addition was made to the horrors of the poor African's situation, from the circumstance of his being chained down to his birth during the whole of his voyage. Any system of transportation must subject the convicts to certain privations. If it was contended that these ought not to be experienced by a gentleman, who had not been used to any thing of the kind, it would follow, that the punishment of transportation ought only to be reserved for offenders of the lower classes, and that persons in a better situation of life, whatever their crimes, ought not to be punished in that way. At present no primâ facie case of hardship was made out. He did not say the petition, when read, would not prove the case one that would call upon the House to inquire minutely into its merits, but at present nothing appeared to prove that Dr. Halloran had been improperly treated. If the noble lord at the head of the home department deserved, as the hon. gentleman seemed to think, the censure of the House, let it be passed against him; but let it not in the first instance be supposed that he must be guilty, because he stood in a responsible situation, which made it his duty to see the law executed. The hon. gentleman was ever on the alert to collect such charges. No person was in Newgate who could not, and he might almost say who did not, correspond with the hon. gentleman. On board the Hulks he had met with a person whom he had known before in Newgate. Making in this way an extensive acquaintance, he took up every case that was imposed on him, and spared no pains to support it, and make it appear entitled to attention.
said, that nothing had fallen from the right hon. gentleman, that could at all meet the charge of the hon. member for Shrewsbury. It should be impressed on the consideration of the House, that every convict sent to Botany Bay, stood the country in 80l. After the shocking treatment of the unhappy convicts, described by the hon. gentleman, which had not been denied, he thought it was the bounden duty of the House to take up the subject, and to remedy so shocking a practice.
said, he did not doubt the correctness of the statements which the hon. member had made from his own actual observation, and was ready to admit that he had taken the measure of the apartments accurately enough. He could║94 assure the House, however, that great care had been taken by the navy board to provide for the safety and comfort of the unfortunate convicts. Of one ship which sailed from this country last year with 300 convicts, only two persons had perished during the whole voyage; and, in another instance, out of 250, one had swam away, and two had died. The general average of deaths did not exceed two out of every hundred.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, that not being acquainted, further than what he had heard in the House, with the nature or particulars of the case then under consideration, he would not enter at any length on the subject; but he could not help observing, as had already been justly remarked by the hon. member under the gallery, that the most important facts in the petition had neither been contradicted nor explained, but had been passed over in total silence by the right hon. gentleman, as if they had nothing to do with the question. The right hon. gentleman who now stood forward as the advocate of the noble secretary of state for the home department, could not deny the facts that had been stated to the House; and not only those, but others connected with a ship that lately sailed from this country to Botany Bay. An inquiry, it was true, was now to be instituted, as the House was told; but that inquiry should have been made long ago. The question of our penal code, as relating to prison abuses, long the subject of complaint, had lately been brought home to the feelings of every man in the country, by a work* written by an honourable member of that House, so full of profound information, of such great ability, of such chaste and commanding eloquence, as to give that House and the country a firm assurance, that its author could not embark in any undertaking which would not reflect equal credit upon himself and the object of his labours. [Hear, hear]. At a time, when an inquiry was about to be proposed by the government into the state and discipline of prisons on land, it seemed to him a matter of astonishment that an effort should be made to stifle inquiry, and to pass over in utter silence, the state of the transport vessels as a matter unworthy the attention of the House. Thus, whilst prisons on* Mr. Fowell Buxton's "Inquiry whether Crime and Misery are produced or prevented by our present system of Prison Discipline."95 shore were to be inquired into, and he hoped reformed, prisons at sea—for such he would call the convict ships—were to be passed over without inquiry, without notice, though the cries of the sufferers appealed to every humane feeling of man. Surely, if government meant to interfere in one instance, they could not refuse inquiry and redress in the other; for the miseries of the wretched beings were not more acute, or more severe on land, than they were on sea. The statement of his hon. friend—a statement which must have distressed the feelings of every man who heard it—had not been contradicted; and as to the case of the individual whose petition was now before the House, the right hon. gentleman had contented himself with attacking the character of that individual. He was then, it seemed, punished, not for the crime of which he had been found guilty, but he had been punished on suspicion of a bad character; if he had not laboured under this suspicion, it was clear he never would have been transported to Botany Bay—he would not have been sent to associate with the lowest and most wretched of mankind—he would not endure the hardships and the sufferings attendant on a voyage to that place.—He would now observe on another subject, but it was one which was closely connected with the question before the House. He had long felt and lamented the imperfect state of our penal code: it cried aloud for amendment; and it was his intention to have made a distinct proposition to the House on the subject. He was, however, prevented from doing so, finding that notice had been given of an intention to institute an inquiry, on the part of ministers. He had, therefore, hoped, that the question would have been taken up on an enlarged principle; he had hoped that ministers intended to perform that duty which they owed to the country, by considering, on an enlarged and extensive scale the present system of punishment. He had hoped that the alarming increase of crime—that the lessons of experience, that the example of every other country, would have induced government to consider whether the present mode was a wise one. But if he had been rightly informed of what had passed in the House before he entered it this evening, he feared there was not much reason for entertaining those hopes. He understood it was the intention of a noble lord, now absent, to propose the subject to the 96 consideration of the House; but from the observation of the right hon. gentleman on the other side, he must conclude that this great question—this question that pressed so heavily upon the feelings of the country—this question, upon whose side humanity had enlisted so many advocates—was not to have the benefit of a distinct inquiry, but was to be made a kind of incidental appendage to the inquiry on the state of the prisons. He felt that nothing could result from that mode but disappointment and delusion. He was impressed with the magnitude of the subject; he felt that it demanded a separate and solemn inquiry; the country looked for it; and if he did not receive a satisfactory answer, he should not think that he had discharged his duty if he did not bring the general question of our penal code under the immediate attention of parliament.
§ Mr. Lawson
was anxious to make a few observations on what had been said. The hon. and learned gentleman, who spoke last, had asked, why, when there was such a strong feeling throughout the country in favour of a reformation in the construction and discipline of prisons, the reformation was not to be extended to gaols at sea? But there was this material difference between gaols on land and gaols at sea—that in gaols on land many innocent men might be confined, but in those at sea none but the guilty were confined. In the same manner, the hon. gentleman who opened the subject, had mistaken the cause of the indignation at the treatment of the persons confined in slave ships. The reason why people sympathised with the slaves was, not the nature of the punishment, but because they were innocent. But what analogy could there be between the case of innocent persons and convicts? Why were such cases compared unless it were to excite impressions which, though favourable to the criminal, would only tend to lessen the terrors of the law? If the punishment of death was to be abolished for certain offences, or rendered less terrific, recourse should certainly be had to that punishment, which in point of severity was the next. Generally speaking, in this country transportation was so cosidered, but would gentlemen deem it prudent, that that also should be abolished—that punishment altogether should be at an end? Disgusting pictures of a prison, either on sea or land, were very easily to be drawn; but he would 97 ask, if the sea was so very terrible as gentlemen opposite represented it, why did great and noble lords leave their splendid mansions for a watering place? Why did they undergo all the difficulties presented by narrow staircases and confined rooms, if the freshness of the breeze and the excellence of the air did not invite them? In his passage from Dover to Calais, he had witnessed scenes quite as gross as any mentioned by the hon. gentleman opposite, although he had committed no sin—of course, he excepted original sin [A laugh]. He thought the hon. and learned gentleman who spoke last had badly replied to the observations of the right hon. gentleman respecting the character of Dr. Halloran, in what he said as to his being punished for previous bad character, and not for his crime. Judge Buller used to punish with more severity a man who had a good character; the circumstance of the good character being a great reason why he ought not to have forfeited that good character. But now we thought differently. Why was such power given by the legislature, not to the judges only, but to common country magistrates, of inflicting various degrees of punishment for the same offence, except that character was to be taken into consideration. And this was a great guard to virtue: it made a man not consider a particular crime only, but his whole conduct; as that would be taken into consideration, if he should be found guilty of any crime. He had only to observe, if death was to be laid aside for a less severe punishment, that of transportation—if transportation was to be rendered not severe, it might induce people of slender incomes, whose situations were not very comfortable at home, to desire such a means of removal to another country. To such persons transportation would be a benefit, and a source of joy. He had spoken to some of those persons who were preparing for a journey to Portsmouth, and they had very facetiously informed him, that while the great and affluent were visiting foreign countries at considerable cost, they were about to take a very interesting tour at the king's expense. As to the charge which had just been made against the noble secretary for the home department, he could not think it at all made out, or believe it for a moment, especially when he considered the many unfounded attacks which had been so frequently made against that noble lord.
§ Mr. Buxton
observed, that he was sorry at what had fallen from the hon. gentleman who had just sat down. The hon. gentleman seemed to him to make no distinction between a trip to Botany Bay and one to Brighton, and had treated a subject of very serious import with a degree of levity which he must term indelicate, if not indecent. The question was one of the last importance—one that must excite the interest of every man who had an understanding to comprehend, or a heart to feel for human misery. His hon. friend had brought forward certain charges; and how were they met?—not by a denial of those charges, but by saying, indeed, that Dr. O'Halloran had a bad character—as if the character of Dr. O'Halloran was to be a bar against inquiry. It had been asserted, that the regulations with regard to convict ships were now precisely what they always had been. Every inquiry should be made on so important a subject; for the House could not be better occupied than in attending to the amelioration of our penal code.
§ Mr. Lawson
said, that he had not mentioned Brighton. His object was to state, that passengers between Dover and Calais were exposed to sea miseries, as well as those who were transported from Portsmouth to Botany Bay.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
said, that he should, at any time, have felt considerable difficulty in offering himself to the notice of that House, and have deemed an apology as absolutely necessary; but he now felt it doubly more so, when a question of such commanding interest was the topic of discussion. He regretted that the hon. gentleman should have expended so much sophistry, and misapplied hilarity, when the interests of suffering humanity were the subjects before the House. The hon. gentleman seemed quite pleased with himself at the notable discovery which he had made, and the admirable distinctions he had drawn, between marine and land prisons. But the hon. gentleman at the same time forgot another very obvious distinction, namely, that although all persons confined in sea prisons had been previously convicted of some crime, still that all such persons were not equally guilty, nor under an equal sentence,—some being only for seven years, whilst others were for the term of their natural lives. Different degrees of punishment should be admeasured to different shades 99 and species of crime, if punishment were at all meant to be beneficial in its operation. Desirous as he always felt to aid the wretched, and amend if possible their condition, he could not avoid making these few remarks on a speech which was delivered in a strain of jocularity ill suited to the occasion.
admitted the gravity and importance of the subject, but he thought it had been brought before the House in a manner extremely inconvenient, and extremely unlikely to lead to any useful result. The subject of transportation was deserving of attention, and four or five years ago it had been brought before the House and examined before a committee. He did not see why this subject should not, if the committee to be moved for by his noble friend should be appointed, come before that committee as a matter of course: he therefore objected to the manner in which the subject was now introduced, as being neither the most convenient, nor the best calculated to produce any beneficial result.
§ Mr. Bennet
said:—Sir; before the petition be given in, I have one or two words to say. My hon. friend who spoke last is not correct if he supposes that I touched on the subject of the law respecting transportation. I did not even allude to it. I heard, some years since, of the state of transport ships; I made an attempt to get on board one, and failed; but on the ship so often alluded to putting back, I embraced the opportunity, and at much personal inconvenience in coming down from the country, I at length got on board. I saw the situation of the vessel. I measured with my own hands, in this abode of vice and wretchedness, the spaces allotted for the unhappy sufferers. I made it my peculiar care, and I shall ever, I trust, be ready to lend my assistance to the unfortunate. I am not to be deterred from the path of duty even by the sneers of the right hon. gentleman opposite. It well becomes him—it well becomes the panegyrist of men who never take any pains to serve their fellow creatures—it well becomes the supporter of a government that never lent its aid to correct abuses. If they have latterly affected a disposition to look at matters that so long claimed their interference, it is not from choice—the public voice of the country cried aloud, and, they have, I verily believe, taken up the subject for the mere purpose of taking it out of the hands of 100 men who are honest and straight forward in their endeavours. Sir, I have been led away by the unbecoming sneers of the right hon. gentleman, which are more discreditable to the person who used them, than to the person to whom they were applied; and I thus notice it, to convince the right hon. gentleman that no blow shall be directed against me with impunity. Sir, my object in rising was, to state the facts which I am in possession of—to state that 300 human beings have been put into cribs five and a half feet long by six and a half feet broad, each crib containing six persons. I know not how others may feel, Sir, but I can never think of it without horror—I can never speak of it without shame; it has, however, been treated with considerable levity by an hon. gentleman on the other side of the House. It is strange how the relation of human sufferings can be treated as if it were a mere matter of joke. He has, Sir, thought fit to compare a trip to Calais to the sad journey of these unhappy convicts—as if the long dreary passage of six months, over stormy seas, in the manner I have attempted to describe, was to be compared to a two or three hours' sail from Dover to Calais. In that description I really see nothing to excite this unbecoming, I had almost said, this indecent gaiety. I am not the advocate of crime—but I wish to be the friend of the unfortunate; they are human beings like ourselves—and when they consider 300 of them confined, cooped up, penned in, I think the House will not hesitate to adopt such immediate steps as will remove a practice abhorrent to humanity, and disgraceful to the British name.
observed, that he did not think it a very strong proof of the hon. gentleman's candour, to have praised the agent of the noble secretary, whilst he so seriously censured the head of the home department. The hon. gentleman had said, that ministers had taken no measures to improve the condition of the convicts, yet he had given credit to Mr. Capper for the best management of the hulks. To Mr. Capper that department had been entrusted by the noble secretary. When the agent was therefore entitled to credit, was there no credit due to the head of the department? Had the agent been guilty of neglect, would not the noble secretary have received all the blame?
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that the right hon. gentleman had not denied the statement, that one foot six inches were allowed to a 101 black slave, and that the allowance to a convict was only one foot one inch.
said, the question had come forward incidentally. It was impossible for him at present to state what the dimensions really were. It was not for want of attention that he had not noticed this subject, but because he had not the means of knowing what the circumstances were.
§ Mr. Brougham
asked, whether the right hon. gentleman knew that this ship was fitted out exactly as other convict ships were?
said, he had no reason to think otherwise. It was commanded by an officer in his majesty's service; that Was all the general knowledge he had. He should endeavour to inform himself on the subject.
§ Mr. F. Douglas
said, it had been stated by his hon. friend, that the space allotted to six individuals was five feet and a half by six feet and a half. That statement had not been denied; but the right hon. gentleman had apologized for the manner he had been obliged to answer. This showed exactly the state of the home department, where information could not be procured, even concerning the dreadful facts which had so deeply affected the House. Honourable testimony had been borne to the character of Mr. Capper: he was far from wishing to detract from it; but it appeared that he was sent down by the noble secretary of state to inquire into the state of the ships. Now, either he did report, or he did not; if he did, why was not the necessary information afforded to parliament? If he did not report, he had failed in the performance of his duty; but this, Mr. Douglas said, he was not to suppose from the character of the man. Then of course he did report; and we were to take it for granted, because it had not been denied, that three hundred human beings were penned up in the cabin of this transport, and that to every six of them was allotted a space of five and a half feet, by six and a half!
§ Sir Isaac Coffin
animadverted, in very severe terms, on the system at present pursued as to the treatment of convicts on board ship during their passage. He had known convict ships sail for Botany Bay in such a crazy state, as made it hardly possible that they should reach the Cape of Good Hope in safety. It was an unquestionable fact that the surgeons of 102 these ships were paid for landing the convicts alive. The prisoners were put on board these transports without being supplied with those necessaries which were usually considered indispensable to persons in that situation. Medical attendance, in some degree, was certainly supplied; but it was to be considered, that in many cases the administration of medicines must be of little avail, unless there was humanity and attention on the part of the captain.
§ Mr. Bernal
rose to ask, whether the ship in question had yet sailed, or whether she remained at anchor in the Downs, or was on any other part of the English coast? For he conceived this to be a most important subject; and hoped to God that the members of that House would not sleep until they had taken such proceedings as would be most likely to procure the detention of the vessel. This was no party question. Common humanity required some interference, and he trusted every member of the House, if it should appear that the vessel had not yet sailed, would pause, and not only pause, but act in such manner as the urgency of the case required.
said, that he believed the ship had sailed. From the latest accounts received by him, he was convinced that she must by this time have proceeded some way upon her voyage. As to what had been said of the treatment of convicts, he had only to observe, that this ship was fitted out and conducted in the same manner as every preceding ship.
The Petition was then read: It purported to be the petition of Laurence Halloran, doctor of divinity, and sat forth, "That the petitioner, after having devoted a large portion of his life to the service of his country, has in its decline been sentenced to seven years transportation on the sole charge of having defrauded the post office revenue of ten pence upwards of two years ago, by counterfeiting a frank; that this conviction is the first that has taken place under the statute, though by no means the first trespass that has been discovered against it by the officers of that department, as the petitioner is prepared to prove; that the petitioner has already suffered an imprisonment of six months, which has reduced himself and numerous young family to extreme indigence and distress, and which he humbly submits to the feelings of the House has been more than 103 an adequate punishment for the only offence that has been legally substantiated against him; that the petitioner, though in a state of severe indisposition, was forced from the Alonzo hospital ship at Woolwich, in an open boat, to the Baring transport at Purfleet, a distance of ten miles, on the 30th day of November last, to the imminent hazard of his life; and that on his arrival on board the Baring, though extremely exhausted and debilitated, he was locked up for nineteen hours without any kind of sustenance, in a prison cabin, twelve feet square, with a privy (used by a hundred and fifty convicts in the fore part of the ship) in one corner of it; that in a few days twenty other persons, eighteen of them in double irons, were consigned to the same dungeon, where they sleep in cribs, six feet and a half in breadth and five feet and a half in length, into each of which six persons are crowded; that the heat and stench arising from the compression of twenty-one human beings into so confined a space, and with so loathsome an appendage attached, are, even at this season, almost insupportable, and extremely injurious to health, and in a warmer climate must inevitably lead to the extinction of existence by lingering torture; that the petitioner, on the morning of Friday the 11th day of December 1818, clearly witnessed the commission of a detestable and unnatural crime by two of the depraved wretches with whom he has been associated, and who were afterwards distinctly identified by Mr. William Evison; that the petitioner considered it his duty to represent this abominable transaction to lord viscount Sid-mouth, principal secretary of state for the home department, to I. H. Capper, esq. the superintendent of convicts, and to sir Nathaniel Conant, principal police magistrate of this country; but that, after the lapse of a month, no measures have yet been adopted for bringing the criminals to justice for this enormous and capital offence, but, on the contrary, the petitioner has been reproached and menaced in the most unmanly manner by Mr. John Lamb, the master of the convict ship, for doing what he felt to be his duty in making the disclosure; the petitioner therefore most humbly prays, that the House will be pleased to take the hardships of his case, and the severe sufferings he has already undergone for a trespass of (he hopes) no very serious 104 complexion, into their candid consideration, and will act in the premises in such manner as to the wisdom and humanity of the House may appear most expedient for the relief of the petitioner from his present horrible situation."
§ Mr. Bennet
said, it was highly desirable that the whole subject, connected with the state of the hulks, and the fitting-up of the convict ships, should be thoroughly investigated. He held it to be utterly impossible that any one committee could perform the duties which, it appeared, were to devolve on that, of the motion for the appointment of which, notice had been given. The duties were multifarious, the papers and documents that were to be examined exceedingly numerous, and the subject of so comprehensive a nature, as to demand a most minute scrutiny. He meant, therefore, on a future day, to give notice of a motion on the subject of transportation generally. Of Dr. Halloran he knew nothing; for him he cherished no particular feeling of compassion; but he was deeply interested for the miseries of those unhappy creatures who were suffering under the sentence of the law. If the ship in question had not sailed from the Downs, and it was probable that it had not, as he had received a letter from on board, on the 22nd, he hoped and trusted, that government would give immediate orders that she should be stopped.
§ The petition was ordered to lie on the table.