HC Deb 09 August 1853 vol 129 cc1535-60

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.


said, there was no subject more important or more difficult to deal with than the question of secondary punishment. In the early stages of society crimes produced in the minds of the community but one feeling—that of resentment; and the sole object of legislation was one almost simple, namely, vengeance. In those more barbarous ages that vengeance was carried to such an extremity that not only was the punishment of death inflicted for almost every offence that could be imagined, but for graver offences the actual extinction of life was not considered sufficient unless accompanied by varied and exquisite torture inflicted upon the offender previous to death. Where death was not inflicted, imprisonment for a long period, attended with every severity that human ingenuity could inflict, was awarded to those whose lives were not actually taken away. As civilisation advanced, and as milder feelings had prevailed in legislation, the punishment of death had in principle been restricted to offences of the most serious and flagrant character, and secondary punishments had been substituted in the greatest number of cases. But the question of secondary punishments was also one of extreme difficulty. You want to make the punishment penal upon the offender, to make it a deterring example to prevent others from committing similar crimes, and yet at the same time you wish to avoid shocking the feelings of the community by sights revolting to mankind, and you ought to endeavour, if possible, to do that so as to combine a system of reformation with the principle of punishment. In the countries which had not had large colonial establishments such as we had, whither offenders might be transported, a great variety of practice bad prevailed—offenders had been punished on the secondary system within the limits of the country in which they had committed the offences. We, however, owing to our extensive colonial possessions and advantages, had hitherto been enabled to dispose of our offenders who were subjected to secondary punishment by transporting them beyond the seas after having undergone a certain period of preliminary imprisonment at home. We had now been reduced to the necessity of altering that system, by circumstances which were not within the control of the Government. In the first place, those colonies to which hitherto our offenders were transported, were become thriving and wealthy communities, and their feelings had led them to revolt against being made, as they conceived, the receptacles for criminals deemed unfit to be left in the mother country. Whether those feelings were well founded or not, it was unnecessary for us to inquire, for we had conceded to those Colonies the principle and the right of self-government, and, that cession being made, we must adopt and submit to its consequences; and the refusal of those communities to receive henceforward criminals sent from this country, would of itself compel us to alter the system which we had hitherto pursued. Independently of that consideration, a great event had happened in those Colonies which had hitherto been the places to which criminals under secondary punishments had been sent; and, even if the colonists themselves had not made any objection, that great event would necessarily have led to the reconsideration of our previously existing system. Because, though it might be advisable to send the criminal out of his native country to pass a certain period of qualified servitude in a foreign country, and to follow up that qualified servitude by a conditional pardon, involving of necessity perpetual banishment from his native land, and although that punishment was one which had great influence upon the minds of men—on the criminals themselves, on their families, and on their neighbours—yet when it turned out that those lands to which these criminals were sent, were places where wealth abounded beyond the previous imagination of man, where the exercise of a small amount of manual labour was likely to create a splendid fortune for the man who would employ it, it was quite clear that the great discovery of gold in those Colonies which had hitherto been the places to which criminals had been sent, so entirely changed the character of transportation to those Colonies, that it no longer continued to be a banishment, but henceforward must be looked on as a reward to be aimed at; and, if a free passage could not be obtained by honest means, a man would commit crimes for the simple purpose of being sent to that wonderful and gold-producing land. The attention of the Government had been therefore unavoidably directed to the revisal of our penal system. The first result to which the Government was led was the necessity of ceasing to send those offenders to the Colonies abroad at all. He believed, however, that there was one portion of the Australian continent to which the twofold objections to which he had adverted did not apply. There was a part of Western Australia to which, for some time to come, at least, offenders might continue to be sent; but the bulk of offenders hitherto sentenced to transportation must henceforward be dealt with in a different manner. The Bill now before the Committee therefore proposed, as hon. Members would perceive, to empower the Courts of Law to alter the nature of the sentences. That which was intended to be done might be generally described in the following manner:—For a considerable period the practice had been, when a culprit was sentenced to transportation for a given term of years, that he was confined, in the first instance, for a certain period, varying, according to regulations, from eighteen months to a less period, in separate confinement; be was then transferred to the public works, and, next, upon good conduct., was sent out to the Australian Colonies, on what was called "a ticket of leave," which placed him in a condition of qualified servitude; and at the end of another period, if his conduct deserved such indulgence, he received a conditional pardon. As offenders could not now be sent abroad—except, at least, that small portion who might go to Western Australia—it was proposed that a period should be taken—which it would be perceived was token into the Bill—after the preliminary imprisonment in separate confinement, corresponding with the period of the voyage out to the Colony, and the ticket of leave servitude; and that after such period the offender should be capable of re- ceiving a ticket of leave, not in a foreign Colony, but in this country, liable to be called back to complete the full term of his sentence if his conduct during the period should not be such as to warrant the further continuance of his leave. He was quite aware there might be objections to the course which the Government had been compelled to pursue; but it was not sufficient to point out objections, unless at the same time those objections could be enforced by showing that another and a different course was practicable. The Colonies must be considered as shut to us, and it was needless to inquire whether it was desirable or not that offenders should be released under certain conditions at home. Many persons had thought that new penal Colonies might be established. It had been suggested that the Falkland Islands, for instance, and other places which had been named, might be substituted for those Colonies which hitherto had been places to which criminals had been sent; and, in the first instance, those suggestions appeared plausible. But the Committee would see, upon a little reflection, that however plausible in the first instance, such an arrangement would not accomplish the purpose hitherto aimed at and accomplished by transportation. If the only object were to provide a place of detention for offenders during the period in which they were to be kept, he might say, under qualified imprisonment, there could be no difficulty whatever. Nothing could be easier than to establish such a penal colony in the Falkland Islands, or even much nearer home, where the expense of sending out offenders would be infinitely less, and the expense of keeping them also not so considerable. For that purpose we should not require penal settlements at a distance from our own shores. There were islands which might be obtained upon the various coasts of the United Kingdom, which would answer perfectly well as places of detention for criminals during the periods of their liability to qualified confinement; but the object which had hitherto been sought for by transportation, and which he thought he might venture to say had, to a great degree, been attained hitherto, had been the subsequent reformation of the culprit. It had been felt that when the transported man had undergone his sentence, and had passed through the preliminary or transition state, which consisted in the ticket of leave commission, his habits became changed, his mind became more reconciled to habits of order and conformity to the law, and when he got his conditional pardon he merged into the community of the country to which he had been transferred, and he became one of that community, harmless at all events, and very often, it was to be hoped, a useful member of society,. If, however, our new Colonies were established, say in the Falkland Islands, where there was no free population, where the great bulk of the inhabitants would be themselves convicts, this last process of amelioration could scarcely be hoped for or rarely attained. There would be no free population into whose mass these reformed offenders might be absorbed, or who would be the means of educating them to habits of order and industry; they must be set free in a colony of convicts, and it was obvious that that would not accomplish any beneficial purpose either to themselves or to the country where they were. Then it had been suggested that they might be sent to the neighbouring countries—to the continent of South America for instance; but he was afraid that those countries to which they might under those circumstances be sent, would not view without prejudice or disinclination an influx of what they might consider bad subjects into their community, and difficulties would unquestionably arise out of that consideration. No doubt there are objections to the course which we are prepared to recommend, and difficulties are easily started in our way; but he was afraid that we were so circumstanced as to have no choice, at present at least, but to make up our minds that that portion of our offenders who might be sentenced to transportation, and who, under a former system, might be sent out to the Colonies with tickets of leave and the hope of a conditional pardon, must be dealt with, partly at least, in some similar manner at home. He could assure the Committee that the great subject of reformation had not been lost sight of either by the present Government or those who had preceded them. He could not but think that, with regard to a great portion of the persons sentenced to transportation, reformation was by no means a hopeless object to be aimed at. There was nothing that had struck him more forcibly, in the short time during which he had had the honour to preside over the department of which he at present had charge, than the great diversity of punishment allotted by different authorities to offences, he might say, of the same kind, or rather the extreme variety of judgment exercised by different Courts in allotting for punishment for offences. What he meant was, that, on the one hand, he had frequently observed very severe punishments, lengthened periods of transportation, inflicted for what appeared to him trifling offences; while, on the other hand, to offences of a much graver character were awarded punishments of a much lighter description. This was an evil which must necessarily arise from the varied judgments of men; and when they considered the great number of Courts before which criminals were from day to day brought, it was impossible that they should not expect, either from diversity of judgment, or circumstances known to the Court at the time, which could not be recorded in their proceedings, but which nevertheless influenced their judgments, that there must be an apparent inequality in the, sentences pronounced. For that inequality the constitution fortunately provided a remedy by an appeal to the Secretary of State, whose duty it was to investigate all such appeals, and if necessary to advise the Crown in cases where he might think that the severity of the punishment was injurious to the public interest. The inference which he wished to draw from this was, that a great number of persons sentenced to transportation had not committed crimes of a magnitude which indicated such a degree of moral depravity as to prevent us from hoping that during the period of their confinement a great reformation might be effected in their minds and character. At all events, every effort would be made to accomplish that object. When those persons were to be released upon this conditional ticket of leave, the grave question immediately arose—what were they to do? Where were they to go, and how were they to be employed? Because there was, of course, in the minds of men a disinclination to employ, by preference at least, persons who had been sentenced by law for their offences. Men would prefer, if they could find such agents, those against whom no charge or delinquency had been established; and the apprehension was, that if persons of this description were so released, though they might carry with them some small accumulation of the wages which they had earned during their detention, that would soon be gone, and the difficulty they would find in supporting themselves by honest employment might perhaps drive them back to their old associates and to their old course of life, which had rendered them amenable to the law in the first instance. Upon consulting persons, however, who had charge of these departments, and whose experience and reflection on questions of this nature would enable them to judge, he had every reason to believe that there would be found means of giving all these persons employment upon the public works, separate from the convicts, at suitable wages, thus placing them in this country in a state of transition in some degree analogous to that in which they would have been had they been transported to the Colonies. Thus, these released convicts might, during the period of their ticket-of-leave service, find employment which would not attach any stigma their character, and from which they might easily slide into the ordinary avocations of the industry of the country. So far as that went, he should hope that means might be found for smoothing their passage from the condition of convicts to the condition of free and hottest labourers. Another objection had been urged, that the detention of so many more convicts in this country would entail additional expense upon the counties, by the necessity of providing places for their accommodation. Upon that point Her Majesty's Government felt it their duty to relieve the apprehension of the counties, because it would be the duty of the Government, and it would also be in their power, to provide, at the public expense, that additional accommodation which this altered system might require for the custody of the criminals during the period of their confinement. It would be perfectly unjust that a change which the counties had not originated, and in which they had no hand, should fix upon them an additional annual expense. There was no reason, therefore, for the counties to be under any apprehension that this additional expense would fall upon them. This, generally speaking, was the change which the Government proposed. It was a change, as he had before said, not resulting from choice or from the will of the Government. It was a change imposed upon the Government by the course of events, and one which appeared to him to be a mode of meeting that course of events the least, of any of which he was aware, liable to objection. There were a great number of public works connected with the harbours of refuge, and with the defensive works on the coast, in which employment might be found, for a great length of time, both for those convicts who were still work- ing out their sentences, for those who were sentenced to hard labour, and for those who might be in the condition of ticket-of-leave men. Those operations would be well performed by these men; and he thought that in that way habits of industry might be created in them which would tend eventually to their future reformation. With regard to the general expense of providing additional accommodation, the change, he thought, would be attended with a considerable saving of public money, because, if they set on the one side of the account the cost of erecting places for the accommodation of the increased number of convicts, and the cost of maintaining them, and on the other side the great cost of sending them abroad, and the cost of maintaining them there, it could be shown that a very considerable annual saving would in the end result to the public. That, of course, was not an ingredient in the decision to which Parliament might come, but, at all events, it was an incidental circumstance, which was so far satisfactory as showing that the charge which other necessities imposed would not be attended with additional expense to the country. In conclusion, he would invite the attention of hon. Gentlemen to the Bill, which had been drawn with great care. The whole system must be considered as an experimental one to a great degree, and if in the working of it fresh suggestions should occur, and other improvements appear likely to be easily accomplished, Her Majesty's Government would be most happy to receive any such suggestions from others, and profit by the lessons of experience. He believed, however, that, on the whole, this was the best mode that could be devised to meet that great change in circumstances which prevented us from pursuing that course which had hitherto been followed.


said, he entirely concurred in almost everything which the noble Lord had said; but there were one or two points to which he desired to allude before they considered the clauses seriatim. It was clear that the present system of transportation could not be continued on the same footing as heretofore—that some new arrangement must be adopted—and that the object should be to inspire convicts with that feeling of dread which the existing system of transportation no longer excited. Numerous cases could be mentioned in which crimes had been committed by persons who desired to be sent out to Australia, and those cases ought to be borne in mind when they considered how far and to what extent they could prudently do away with transportation to our colonial possessions. But then came the greater and more difficult question—how were they to deal with their convicts at home? He believed, with the noble Lord, that it would not be prudent, upon the whole, to establish any new penal settlement at a distance from this country, because, if they intended to aim at the reformation of offenders, they could only effect that object by putting them into a country where the usual character of the greater part of the inhabitants was superior to that of the convicts themselves. Another reason against the establishment of another penal settlement abroad, was the question of expense; and he was bound to say that the mode in which the noble Lord proposed to deal with the convicts at home was upon the whole an excellent arrangement. If they looked to the reports upon the subject of secondary punishment, they would find that the system of employing criminals upon public works had not only proved highly beneficial to the convicts themselves, but had also contributed to the lasting advantage of the country. The cost of transportation was little short of 200,000l. a year, including the expenses incurred in the Colonies; the cost of the prisoners at home was also very great; but the works at Portland paid themselves at the present moment, besides producing a noble harbour, and he was satisfied that, if similar works were prosecuted in other parts of the kingdom, great public good would be done to the country, and great progress would be made in the improvement and reformation of criminals. In the year 1849, the profits arising from the labour of the convicts employed at Portland amounted to 7,214l.; in 1850, it produced 14,067; and in 1851, 20,541. During the past year the earnings of the convicts had exceeded the cost of the establishment; and there was no reason to doubt that, wherever the same facilities existed for the employment of offenders, the same results would follow. He hoped, therefore, that the plan now before the House would be vigorously prosecuted by the noble Lord at the head of the Home Department, as they would thereby attain a lasting benefit to the country, while they would do more to reform criminals than they could do by any other system whatever. It was for that reason that he cordially concurred in almost everything which the noble Lord had said; but perhaps he might be allowed to make one or two observations which had occurred to his mind in reading the Bill. By the first clause it was proposed to do away with transportation altogether where the sentence was for a shorter period than fourteen years. He bad great doubts whether they ought to have framed the clause in that manner. He thought it would have been better simply to have given to the Crown, acting under the advice of the Home Secretary, the power of commuting all sentences of transportation for a shorter period than fourteen years for a period of penal servitude at home. There were still cases in which a colony might desire to have convicts; but if this Bill was passed into law in its present form, it would be impossible to pass sentences of transportation for seven or ten years. What he would suggest, therefore, was, that the first and second clauses should be left out altogether, and that a necessary alteration should be made in the third clause, so that offenders might be sentenced either to transportation for a shorter period than fourteen years, or to a corresponding period of penal servitude at home. He doubted also whether in Western Australia, which contained only a small population, sufficient employment could be found for those convicts whom, according to the proposition of the Government, it was intended to send to that Colony; and with reference to that part of the measure, he thought some alteration might very properly be introduced. The second observation which he had to make referred to the mode in which they were to deal with the ticket-of-leave convicts, who were to enjoy, under licence, an opportunity of reforming themselves in this country. To work out that system they must have great control over criminals; and if a man had once, through the indulgence and mercy of the Crown, had a portion of his punishment remitted, and if he committed during the time when he was enjoying that conditional pardon a similar offence, then a higher grade of punishment ought to be awarded in such circumstances. What he ventured to suggest, therefore, was, that a proviso to the effect stated should be inserted in the Bill; and he had only to say, in conclusion, that he concurred with the noble Lord in the propriety and good policy of this measure, and that he hoped it would contribute not merely to the peace and contentment of our Colonies, but likewise to the reformation of the offenders themselves.


said, he would suggest that at the Isle of Man a large number of convicts might be advantageously employed. There was a great depth of water at Douglas, in the Isle of Man, where the Government had some idea of forming a harbour of refuge, which would be a great advantage to the Scotch coasts and to Liverpool. He recommended this work the more because the Isle of Man contributed a large sum to the revenue of this country, on condition that a harbour of refuge should be built. Besides which, by the recent Consolidation of Customs Act, a ninth part of the revenues of the Isle of Man was to be employed on her harbours. There would be great advantage in the Government carrying out such a work.


would be glad to know what were the intentions of the noble Viscount with regard to the adjustment of the employment of convicts. The noble Lord had mentioned public works, and as far as it went that plan was excellent. He wished, however, to call the attention of the noble Lord to the prison at Cork, where malefactors were so beneficially employed that they obtained funds for their own sustenance, and were enabled when set free to obtain an honest livelihood. The farm system, the separate system, the aggregate systems and the manufacturing system—were all combined in the system at Cork.


said, this was a subject in which he had not only taken a great interest and assisted in discussions in it in that House, but which in discharge of the duties of his office last year, had met with his serious attention; he hoped, therefore, that he might be allowed shortly to address the Committee on the measure. He thought there was reason to complain of the Government in bringing forward a subject of such extreme importance, and which had caused a strong feeling in the country, at so late a period of the Session as to preclude the possibility of a satisfactory discussion either to themselves or to the country. The late Government had made up their minds for various reasons as to the impossibility of transportation to Van Diemen's Land, the only one of the Australian colonies to which practically criminals had been transported of late years. There had been remonstrances on the part of the Colonies, and it was not only a question whether the Colonies could receive convicts, but whether with prudence they could be sent there. In addition to other grounds upon which they had based their opinion upon that point, he might mention that one not the least important was the circumstance that transportation to Australia had begun to be regarded by the criminal rather in the light of a reward than a punishment; cases had occurred in the Ionian Islands, in which the officer commanding the troops was obliged to inflict the punishment of death because offences were committed by the men in order that they might get transported to the land of gold. In another place, however, those who were most competent to judge had intimated a strong opinion that transportation ought to be continued as a secondary punishment. He (Sir J. Pakington) had always advocated the value of transportation as a secondary punishment; he had seen its effects, and under different circumstances he thought it admirably answered the purpose of the first secondary punishment after that of death. But, as things were, he thought the Government, he was going to say, lead acted wisely; but, as had been said by the noble Lord, the Government had no option than the course they had taken. Notwithstanding the necessity which he believed existed for such a measure, he thought the Government ought to have come forward with it earlier. He had often in the course of the Session put questions to the noble Lord as to when such a measure would be brought on. The late Government, in the Queen's Speech, virtually put an end to transportation; and the Judges were embarrassed with regard to the sentences which they were to pass; and when this Bill came down to this House and stood for a second reading, at two o'clock in the morning, when he (Sir J. Pakington) was fortunately in bed, but when the noble Viscount was still watching over the affairs of the country, it was read a second time sub silentio. It might be said that anything was justifiable by the Government in the month of August; but still he thought that even exceeded the licence of that period of the Session. The noble Viscount had now made a statement which though satisfactory, was not so full as it ought to have been; for which, perhaps, he would have the excuse of a morning siting in the month of August, and therefore under circumstances which rendered it impossible that the Bill should be discussed as it ought to be, so as to inform the country by means of their deliberations how this great question of secondary punishments was to be settled. One thing was quite certain, and that was, that the plan did not originate either with the late or the present Government, but was caused by the course of events comprised in the objections of the Colonies to receive convicts, and the discoveries of gold, which rendered this course imperative. Under the separate system of imprisonment the term was practically only a year and a half, although the law recognised three years as the term. The next step in secondary punishments was transportation for seven years, which was, in his opinion, too great a jump from one sort of punishment to another. He had placed this point before the Committee on Prison Discipline which sat in 1850, and they adopted the outline of a plan by which district prisons were to be erected at the cost of the Government, and an alteration made so as to substitute large periods of imprisonment for transportation. He had prepared a memorandum for the late Government, which he left in the Colonial Office, in which he recommended a gradation of secondary punishments, and the employment of prisoners in great public works, so as to make them self-supporting. That was the outline of the plan which the noble Viscount had adopted. He need not say, therefore, that he was in favour of the plan of the Government. Experience showed that there was no reason to despair of the reformation of offenders who had been guilty of the milder offences; and by means of an amended prison discipline they might look to the reformation of the larger proportion of criminal offenders, and also remedy the evil, which was so much dreaded, of turning loose on society persons who had been criminal offenders. Great alarm was felt on that point, but he thought it an unnecessary alarm; for the public was not aware that when at one period transportation was suspended, a great many persons who had been sent to the hulks were let loose at the expiration of their terms of imprisonment; and that after a by no means reformatory training. By the adoption of such means as were now proposed, transportation might be got rid of. There had been a great increase in the number of criminals who were sentenced to less than ten years' transportation, and who consequently did not go abroad. It appeared by the returns for the years 1848, 1849, 1850, and 1851, that the average in each year was 573 persons who were transported for more than ten years, and 5,249 who were transported for less than ten years. For this latter great majority of cases the plan of the Government fully provided; and he believed that such reformation would be effected that society would have no cause to regret the change; for the law would be as well administered and crime punished as heretofore, while looking to the minor element of expense, he believed the noble Lord was right in saying that punishment would be carried out at a far less cost to the country. He here came to a part of the statement of the noble Viscount, in which he failed in explaining the system of imprisonment intended. The noble Lord had told them that there were means of accommodating prisoners; but he had not stated so fully as it ought to have been stated what that system was to be. Now, when a prisoner was transported, the first period of punishment was passed in separate confinement in gaol. In the case of a prisoner in future to be sentenced to transportation for seven years, how was the first period of punishment to be passed?—was it to be passed in separate imprisonment? [Viscount PALMERSTON: Yes.] But when that period was passed, where was the man to go? [Viscount PALMERSTON: To the public works.] That might be; but the noble Viscount had presented no calculation on the point, and it was doubtful whether there would be public works sufficient to absorb the great amount of labour which would be at the disposal of the Government; and the noble Lord should afford the House some more accurate information on that point. The Committee on Prison Discipline which sat in 1850 had recommended that district prisons should be erected, winch should be self-supporting. He was of opinion that such prisons could be made self-supporting, and he hoped that they might understand that the Government would be cautious in seeing that there would be no want of accommodation, and that sentences were not abridged merely to get rid of prisoners, for by that means the ends of justice would in a great measure be defeated. The late Government intended to do away with transportation, but not until proper prison accommodation was provided; and his (Sir J. Pakington's) own idea was, that it should cease on the 1st of January, 1854. The public had a right to expect from the Government that in putting an end to transportation so suddenly, they at the same time had the means of accommodating prisoners at their command. There was another important part of the subject that was most worthy of their consideration, and that was how they were hereafter to deal with a class of persons convicted of grave crimes, the punishment of which was only short of death, and who had hitherto been punished by fifteen or twenty years' transportation. The number was comparatively small, he had already shown; but what was to be done with them? At present they might go to Western Australia, He should suggest that if they were sent there, the system adopted in that settlement should be altered. Hitherto it had been a settlement for convicts generally, but now it would be reserved only for the worst criminals, and care should be taken to make the state of such men penal in exact proportion to their guilt. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) had mentioned that the population of the Colony was small; and he (Sir J. Pakington) thought you could not long make Western Australia an extreme penal Colony, and the time must be contemplated when you could no longer even send this class of criminals there. Would the Government found any other penal Colony? He did not think it so impossible as the noble Lord appeared to anticipate, and therefore, there ought to be fuller information afforded on this point. The Falkland Islands might be open to the objections stated by the noble Lord; but that was not the only place which might be taken for the purpose, and when he was Colonial Secretary he had received overtures on the subject from other places. Mention had also been made of Moreton Bay; but that could not be made a penal settlement without a breach of faith towards New South Wales, that district being now included in the Government of that Colony. When the impossibility of founding a new penal Colony was talked of, it should be remembered that the magnificent Colony of New South Wales had its origin in a penal Colony. The noble Lord had also spoken as to the variety of sentences which were awarded to nominally the same crime, and he referred it to the variety of characters existing among those who administered justice in our Courts of Law; but the real state of the case was, that in all the Courts, whether of assize or quarter-sessions, the variety of sentences was the result of the endless variety of guilt, although the crimes were nominally the same. He should conclude by stating that it was his intention to support the measure.


said, that if this Bill was passed immediately, it would produce the greatest inconvenience in Ireland, where there was not sufficient accommodation for the present number of convicts, to say nothing of the increased number who would have to be provided for under the new system. What Ireland wanted was, an improved system of prison discipline, and the Government ought, at all events, to have given them eighteen months or two years to prepare for the change. At the present time there was suitable gaol accommodation in Ireland for no more than 3,434 persons, but the number of prisoners was actually 5,246. Moreover, the ticket-of-leave system would have a worse effect in Ireland than anywhere else, for in that country the state of morals among the labouring classes was very low indeed, and the people were easily corrupted. The turning loose 200 or 300 of these convicts among the lower orders was a very serious consideration. He had always heard that the Government could send as many convicts as they pleased to the northern part of New Holland.


said, he fully approved the proposition of the Government. The right hon. Baronet the late Colonial Secretary (Sir J. Pakington) had told the Committee that it was the intention of the late Government to put a stop to transportation at the beginning of next year. There was, therefore, only six months' difference between the propositions of the two Governments in point of time, but in every other respect the difference was very much greater in favour of the present proposition. Did the right hon. Baronet mean to say that, knowing the feelings of the colonists on the subject, he would have landed convicts in Van Diemen's Land during the remainder of the period which he had fixed, because, if such were the intention of the right hon. Baronet, he would take leave to tell him that he would have run the risk of signalising his reign at the Colonial Office with as mischievous an éclat as had marked his predecessors. If there was any peculiar merit in the proposition of the Government, it was the promptness, readiness, and decision, with which they had recognised an urgent and palpable necessity. The reason for the introduction of the Bill was perfectly clear—that whereas the system of secondary punishment had consisted of three different stages—separate imprisonment, employment on public works, and transportation—the third of these stages had been rendered impracticable by recent circumstances. The only argument against the Bill was, that transportation was a desirable punishment; but it was useless to consider what was desirable when it could not be obtained. But even supposing it were still matter for argument, he considered transportation the least desirable punish- meat that could be inflicted. There were three grand objections to transportation as a punishment: that it was impossible to be carried out; that it was utterly detestable in itself; and that it was perfectly inefficient for the purpose in view. That it was impossible as a permanent system was manifest from the fact, that no settlement could be fixed as a permanent penal settlement; and the run after new settlements for the purpose, if not exhaustion, was extravagantly expensive. It was detestable as a punishment, by which Governments sought to get rid of the responsibility of their criminals by removing them out of sight, and by placing on their Colonies the burden for which they themselves ought to provide; and it was, moreover, a cowardly punishment, because no one ever thought of throwing this burden upon any but the weaker Colonies, who could not help themselves. No one ever suggested, for example, that Canada should be made a penal settlement; yet Canada, according to the noble Lord's theory, was peculiarly adapted for a penal settlement, by reason of the superior class and number of the population. It was inefficient as a punishment, because it was simply regarded as a means of enabling a man to remove to a place where his position would be infinitely ameliorated, as a transference, at the public expense, from poverty here to wealth in the gold regions of Australia. It must be borne in mind that the effect upon the lower classes of quitting the shores of England for a distant land was no longer what it used to be ten or twelve years ago, when all beyond this island was a terra incognita, regarded with doubts and fears; whereas now-a-days these classes knew as much or more about the Antipodes than they knew about their own country, and the effecting, somehow or other, of a removal thither was matter of general desire. Earl Grey himself, the most energetic champion of transportation remaining, had, out of his own mouth, condemned the system as an efficient punishment, when the other night he described transportation as absolutely a boon, which criminals had been taught to look forward to, and of which it was not fair to deprive them. A fine secondary punishment, truly!—a substitute for death itself! Most truly rejoiced was he to see in the measure now under consideration the termination of this system of punishing criminals with boons. He was satisfied that, by the effective operation of this measure, and by the application of reformatory processes, the sources of crime might be so narrowed that, before long, our ordinary prisons would amply suffice for all the convict criminality of the country. Much had been said of the opinions of the Judges. Now, he did not think Judges the persons best qualified to form an opinion as to the terrors of a sentence. It was a matter of absolute necessity that transportation should cease. And what was to be done in lieu of it? The right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) had darkly hinted at some other penal settlement. He seemed to linger about the precincts of Botany Bay, as if that Colony having been adopted first for penal purposes, had no right to disclaim being used for these purposes still. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: No, no!] He certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman to intimate that the region of Botany Bay, having been a penal settlement, we had a sort of lien upon it for its original uses.


said, he had been quite misunderstood.


said, he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman repudiated that argument; and was glad to find, also, that both sides of the House acknowledged the propriety of endeavouring to cut off the spring of crime in this country, rather than of providing a depository for it in other countries. There was now a prospect of being so able to deal with criminals in this country, and especially the young, by a reformatory process, as to lead to a hope that it might be practically dealt with by the extended use and application of various kinds of prisons in this country. The system of detention was more in the nature of real punishment than transportation, and yet we had never dealt with the question of perpetual imprisonment as the nearest substitute, in the worst cases, for the penalty of death. The Duke of Newcastle had been taken up rather warmly for saying that they were singing the requiem of transportation; but he (Mr. Adderley) believed that system had come to an end of itself, and all that it was necessary for them to do was to prepare for the inevitable result. He rejoiced to think that this measure carried in it the seeds of the entire cessation of transportation, and that it was the germ of the transfer to this country very speedily of the whole system of secondary punishment. If, however, any transportation remained in operation, it ought to be conducted on principles diametrically opposed to those of the Bill, by which the most atrocious criminals were to be sent out to enjoy all the ad- vantages of the gold regions of Australia, and to demoralise the population; while minor criminals, who might be sent out with enormous benefit to themselves, and with, perhaps, slight, if any, injury to the colony, were to be kept at home, to be thrown hereafter into the misery and the vice which had involved them in punishment. The proposed gradation of punishment leaving the narrowed means of transportation to supply the highest instead of the lowest stage of sesondary penalty, evinced the lingering ignorance of statesmen that transportation has ceased to have terror in it, as a sentence, in this country, while the new sentence of penal servitude to be used for the lighter offences will carry much greater terror with it, and the order of punishment will become inverted.


said, he entirely concurred in the proposition which had been made by the noble Viscount the Home Secretary, whom he heartily thanked for a measure which he had been long desiring to see. He did not himself admit the expediency of the entire cessation of transportation which hon. Members opposite advocated. Western Australia, for example, so far from rejecting convict labour, required it as a means of developing her resources; but, undoubtedly, the convict labour to be supplied to Western Australia should be of the best and not of the worst description, as had been suggested by hon. Gentlemen. The worst classes of convicts, he felt, should be dealt with elsewhere. Colonel Jebb, to whose unwearied and most able efforts the country was so much indebted on this matter, in his Report on the Discipline and Management of Convict Prisons and Disposal of Convicts, (1852), observed— In considering the means necessary for giving effect to any change of system affecting the continuance of transportation, it is deserving of consideration whether it would not, in many respects, be desirable to form a penal establishment in this country for convicts convicted of the worst classes of crime, and for incorrigible convicts; and, if any are sent abroad, to make a selection of the best and most deserving of the convicts, instead of the very worst. It was highly desirable that this suggestion should be carried out. There were many modes in which the labour of convicts could be made use of in this country with much public advantage. The entire system of our convict labour required amendment. Mr. Inspector Hitchins, in his Report on the State of Government Prisons in Ireland (1852), said, with re- gard to the public works in Spike Island— Serious complaints are made, however, of the limited number of prisoners appropriated to these public works, and the ineffectiveness of their labour. Fort Camden contains five small rooms leading out of each other. 132 prisoners are detained there. Fort Carlisle consists of two rooms fitted up to receive 84 convicts. The entire number of convicts contained in Spike Island and forts is 2,380. With respect to the manufactures and employments carried on there, Mr. Hitchins said— While no difficulty will be found in providing employment for a portion of the prisoners confined in Mountjoy and other prisons, there is a large section of the convicts of Ireland quite unsuited for any trade or handicraft. The disposal of this class is a matter of serious moment; and I would again beg to bring before your Excellency the necessity of establishing an agricultural depôt either on the mainland or on some island. This is a measure which cannot be too speedily taken into consideration. He trusted that the noble Lord would take these recommendations into his earnest consideration. The establishment of an agricultural depôt would be, in many ways, most beneficial, giving the convicts knowledge of an occupation and habits of industry, and, at the same time enabling them to save the State the cost of their maintenance. Another most beneficial employment of convicts might be in the construction of such public works as harbours of refuge. With comparatively small outlay, convict labour might be made to create, for example, a packet station and a harbour of refuge in Galway—an object, confessedly, of great public importance, and productive of largely valuable results. One great feature in the measure was the fixing the absolute period of punishment, instead of having, as now, one period named in the sentence, and another practically inflicted on the criminal. At present, an offender might be sentenced to seven, ten, or fourteen years' transportation, and yet, after all, not be transported at all—an uncertainty, notoriously productive of the worst effects upon the criminal classes, too well disposed to regard a sentence so passed as a form, if not, indeed, a farce. He trusted that the attention of the noble Lord would be applied to the best mode of dealing with convicts after the period at which they should be released, in this country, with conditional pardons or tickets of leave. It was a subject, no doubt, of great difficulty, and one upon which he had very serious doubts as to the propriety of carrying out as proposed at pre- sent. Upon this point Colonel Jebb observed— The class of convicts requiring assistance in this country would, probably, be most difficult to deal with; but if they were released with conditional and not free pardons, and some systematic efforts were made to enable them to meet the difficulties of their position, I should confidently expect a much more favourable result than might be generally anticipated. Rather than leave them to their fate and to the chance of Government being again burdened with the cost of a trial, and other attendant evils, I believe it would be desirable to retain the services, on public works, of such well-conducted convicts as could not readily find employment.


said, he hailed this measure as a great improvement in our penal legislation, so far as regarded the system of secondary punishment. Transportation, as a punishment, was notoriously inefficacious, operating neither as an example to others—the main object of punishment—nor for the reformation of the offender, nor for his punishment at the most economical rate to the State. He fully concurred in the propriety of the objection that had been urged against sending out to the Colonies—if convicts were sent out at all—convicts of the worst, instead of those of the best description. There was, however, one great defect in the Bill, that it did not provide any means by which the convict, discharged from his imprisonment, should be placed in a position for putting to account the industrious habits and the reformed principles he might have acquired during his punishment. It was highly expedient that these unhappy persons, that they might not, of necessity, fall again into their evil associations and their evil courses, should be enabled, in some way, to proceed to a distant Colony, or to apply their reformed sentiments and their improved habits to the purpose of an honest livelihood. Another great object to be attained was the effective superintendence of the convicts who were to be retained at home with tickets of leave, instead of being transmitted to the Colonies.


said, the question had hitherto been argued as a convict question and a colonial question, and the effect of the measure upon our social system had almost been lost sight of. The 9th clause was of immense importance to this country, and must materially affect our various institutions. Looking at the accommodation to be provided for convicts in this country, it appeared to him that, in the course of a short period, a large number of men with tickets of leave would be thrown upon the industry of the country, together with those who had fulfilled the term of their imprisonment. These people would be brought into direct competition with well-conducted industry, and there was no saying how much injury might not be occasioned to the latter by this circumstance. He believed that such a plan would force upon the country a general system of police. The noble Lord had not explained the mode in which the ticket-of-leave system was to be carried out. On that point a considerable amount of discretion must be given to the Government, and he did not see how they could carry out the scheme, except by some general system of police. He thought the carrying out of the system would also involve the necessity of a full consideration of the law of settlement, and he was not at all satisfied that it would not cause a considerable additional expense to counties.


said, that whatever doubt might be entertained as to the effect produced by sentences of transportation now, there could be no doubt they were formerly considered a very serious matter. As to the inequalities of sentences, they were occasioned by various matters brought to the knowledge of the Courts relative to the former conduct of the prisoners. He hoped to see the measure carried into a law, and trusted that both this country and the Colonies would greatly benefit by the change.


wished to know whether it was the intention of the Government to allow persons under sentence of transportation to be employed at harbours of refuge—works greatly required on many parts of our coast—provided no additional expense was incurred beyond the usual maintenance of the convicts.


said, it appeared to him that the classes exempted in the 11th clause were the very classes who, of all others, should be sentenced to transportation. He was not one of those who would do away altogether with the punishment of transportation. It placed the convict in a new country, removed him from the scene of his dissipation and guilt, brought him into communication with a new class of people, and opened up to him a new and more honest course of life. He wished to ask the noble Lord a question. One of the present depôts of convict labour—that at Portland—was situated in the county which he had the honour to represent. An apprehension prevailed in that neighbourhood that if, under the system, the ticket-of-leave men were to be dis- charged at the prison gates, a large addition would thereby be made to the surplus labour in the district, and, without doubt, the morals of the community around would suffer. He wished to ask the noble Lord whether he would adopt precautionary measures, in order to prevent such results?


Sir, in the first place, I have to express, on the part of the Government, the great gratification which they have felt at the general acquiescence in the leading principles of this measure; and, in the second place, I have to express our gratitude for the many valuable suggestions which hon. Members have thrown out in the course of this discussion; and which, bearing upon the execution of the measure, will receive our full and attentive consideration. I think that almost everybody seems to have come to the conclusion that this is a measure of necessity, that transportation to our Colonies could no longer be carried on. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) suggested that we should look back to the origin of New South Wales as a Colony founded by convicts; but I think his object has been somewhat misunderstood. I imagine that what he meant was this—not that the example of New South Wales gave us any claim upon other Colonies, but rather that we should found a new Colony in the same manner in which that Colony was founded. Now, I do not quite concur with the right hon. Baronet in the inference to be drawn from that example. I am disposed to think—what was stated by another hon. Gentleman—that if you look back to the infancy and childhood of New South Wales, however much it may have improved in its manhood and maturity, you will not see anything to induce you to follow the steps of those who founded that Colony as a penal settlement. I think there is one consideration which must have occurred to the mind of every person who has reflected upon the subject—that in founding a penal Colony in which you look to the enlargement of the convicts after a certain period of detention, you ought to provide that there shall be a due proportion of the sexes; and that is hardly possible if you begin a new penal Colony in the same manner in which New South Wales was founded. The right hon. Baronet said, that the statement I made was not perhaps as ample as might have been wished, in regard to the detailed means of execut- ing the different arrangements consequent upon the adoption of this principle. The fact is simply this—in explaining to the Committee a measure perfectly new, I thought it better to confine myself to those general principles upon which the Government had come to a final determination; but in regard to the detailed arrangements, which might be modified by experience as we go on, and by valuable suggestions, which may be and have been made to us from all sides, I thought it was not desirable for us to pledge ourselves as to what course we should finally pursue. But several points have been mentioned, to which I think it necessary to allude. First of all, in reply to the hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Floyer), I may repeat what I have already stated, that we hope to be able to give employment on public works, not with convicts, but separately and for wages to those convicts to whom tickets of leave may be granted. I think that the greater number of those to whom tickets of leave are given, will gratefully accept such employment as a transition, by which to get back to the ordinary employment of the country; and those who are so employed will invariably be taken away from the immediate neighbourhood of the depôt from which they received their discharge. With regard to the question how far we can expect that public works will be found to give employment to the convicts, I have only to say that, as far as we can look forward, I think no apprehension need be felt upon this subject. There are numerous applications for harbours of refuge and for works of great utility on the coast, which could be performed cheaply and advantageously by the employment of convict labour. Then it was said it would not be right to send our worst criminals to Western Australia. I admit that; and the Committee ought to remember that there are means of employing such persons upon public works within the United Kingdom, as well as at Bermuda, Gibraltar, and other places, where offenders undergoing a long servitude might be sent, instead of to Western Australia. All those who have spoken, have expressed but one opinion as to the desirability of so improving our system of treatment for prisoners, that we should endeavour not only to reform them morally, but to instil into them a consciousness and perception of the value of industry, and of the fruits which it in- variably produces. I am not the least afraid that the industrial employment of the convicts, whether it be in agricultural occupations, or in the construction of public works, or in other descriptions of labour, could have any prejudicial effect upon the general industry of the country. That alarm I believe to be perfectly groundless; and, on the contrary, I think the public benefit which will accrue from the employment of convicts upon works of utility, and from impressing them with the conviction that it is better to live by industry than by the fraudulent and dishonest exercise of their intellect, will infinitely counterbalance any little jealousy which any trade might feel at the competition of persons so situated and so employed. I think these are the principal points which have been touched upon. I shall feel it my duty to carefully consider the different suggestions which hon. Members have made in the course of this debate. The detailed arrangements for the execution of this measure are matters which require attentive consideration; and I am happy to say that in the consideration of these details, as well as in carrying them out, I have every reason to rely on the most able officers, such as Colonel Jebb and others who have been referred to. I therefore feel that it will be my own fault if I am not able to make such arrangements as will at once satisfy the public, and accomplish the purpose which Parliament has in view, in giving its sanction to the present measure.

Clause 1.


said, he hoped the two first clauses would be omitted, in accordance with the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole).


was not prepared to accede to that proposition.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2.


would suggest the substitution of the words "period of imprisonment" for "penal servitude," because if, by the latter words, the Government meant to distinguish that punishment which was to be a substitute for transportation, then larceny, which could not be punished with transportation, would not be brought within the scope of this Bill.


said, the object of the Government was this. They did not intend to touch the law by which confinement within the walls of a prison was awarded for a certain limited period, not exceeding three years, but to deal simply with sentences of transportation, which constituted a different punishment altogether. If Parliament should think it right to deal with sentences of imprisonment, it might do so, but that would require a separate measure.


said, he wished to know if the noble Lord would have any objection to alter the clause so as to do away with transportation for less than ten years, instead of for less than fourteen years?


said, he was not prepared to consent to any alteration in the Bill.

Clause agreed to; as were the remaining clauses.

House resumed.

Bill reported, as amended.

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