HC Deb 12 August 1853 vol 129 cc1682-99

Order for Third Reading read.


said, that seeing convicts could not be transported, as they had hitherto been, or, at all events, to the extent to which they had hitherto been sent to the Colonies, it appeared to him that the provisions of this Bill might prove to be extremely beneficial. There was one special provision which he hoped would not be impaired by the executive administration of the law. There was nothing more embarrassing to Judges in the execution of their duty than the uncertainty under which they laboured as to what would be done with the convicts after they had received sentences of transportation. He (Mr. Wortley) had, for his own part, felt that embarrassment very considerably. When he first undertook the duties of his present office (Recorder of London), he applied to the Home Office in order to ascertain what the regulations on the subject were; but, though not from any want of courtesy certainly, but simply from the difficulty of supplying information, he was able to learn very little indeed as to the principle upon which convicts were disposed of after sentences were passed. It was notorious, however, that the sentences were not carried out in the terms in which they were passed; and the Judges were consequently left in ignorance as to what extent of punishment would be consequent upon any particular sentence. According to the terms of this new Act of Parliament, there seemed to be much greater certainty introduced with respect to the operation of sentences in future; and he would take the liberty of suggesting that, if it was intended to have a system or code of regulations according to which sentences would be carried out in a particular manner, which did not appear on the face of the sentences themselves, it would be extremely desirable that from time to time as alterations were made, those alterations should be communicated to the Judges who presided in the Criminal Courts, in order that they might have an opportunity of seeing what would be the effect of the sentences which they passed. There could be no doubt that considerable terror used to attend the passing of sentences of transportation; but this salutary effect had of late years been greatly impaired by the utter un- certainty which had prevailed as to what would be done with the convicts after they received sentences of transportation. An impression had latterly grown up that a sentence of transportation for any period short of twenty years or for life was mere sound, for in very few cases was it ever carried into effect; or, if carried into effect at all, that the result of it would be that they would be set at liberty in a country where labour was well paid for, and where, consequently, their circumstances would be improved rather than otherwise by the change. He did trust, therefore, that under the new system greater uniformity and certainty would be effected in the carrying out of sentences.


said, there were several clauses in the Bill which deserved the careful consideration of the House. He would refer more particularly to those clauses by which it was provided that the Secretary of State should give tickets of leave t such criminals as should have a sentence of penal servitude at home substituted for a sentence of transportation. There could be no difference of opinion as to the propriety of doing every thing which could be done to effect the reformation of a criminal. At the same time they should bear in mind that that was not the only object for which punishment was awarded. One great object of punishment was to deter others from the commission of similar crimes. Now, in his opinion, those clauses, introducing as they did a novel system into the criminal procedure of this country, ought to be well considered by the House before they were enacted. In the first place, by means of this ticket-of-leave system, which he presumed would be granted on a large scale a new class of persons would be introduced into society in this country—a class of persons, namely, who might be considered as quasi freemen—who would be entitled to go forth like other freemen, and contract obligations and enter into engagements such as freemen were expected to enter into, but who would be always in the position of being liable to have their liberty cut short, without any fresh commission of crime, at the mere will of the Secretary of State. He willingly admitted that the Secretary of State would of course exercise that power to the best of his judgment; but still the evidence upon which he must necessarily act was of a very questionable description. The great objection to the clauses, however, was, that they established a jurisdiction in the Secretary of State to enable him to revise sentences pronounced by the Criminal Judges, who were the persons whom the constitution appointed to award the punishment due to crime. When a Judge passed sentence, he did so upon the supposition that the sentence would be carried out and endured; and if upon an ex parte statement, nobody knew whence derived or how obtained, the sentence was to be revised, then a new feature was introduced into our criminal procedure. He was quite aware that the Secretary of State at present possessed the power of granting a free pardon; but that was a very different thing from the power of setting criminals at large, liable to have their liberty subsequently restricted without the actual commission of any fresh crime. When a criminal received a free pardon, he went forth as if he had endured his punishment; but nothing could be more demoralising or less likely to deter others from the commission of crime than to have persons in society who, without having fulfilled the sentence passed upon them, should appear to enjoy all the rights and liberties of free men. Under these circumstances, he begged to suggest that these clauses should for the present be withdrawn from the Bill; and if upon further consideration the Government should still think it right to adopt the principle upon which they were founded, let them do so in a separate Bill next Session.


said, he was not surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had probably not attended to the discussions which had already taken place upon the Bill, should be struck with the novelty of the proposed arrangement. He could, however, assure the House that the subject had received the most deliberate consideration from persons much more competent to deal with it than he could profess to be, and it had been thought that the new system would be attended with considerable advantage to the country, as well as to the criminals themselves. The practice had hitherto been, after a certain period of preliminary imprisonment, and a certain period of employment upon public works, to send convicts to a penal colony under that system of qualified servitude which was called the ticket-of-leave system. The hope of obtaining that indulgence had been found to have a very powerful effect upon the mind of convicts confined in prisons, and employed upon public works, and had tended greatly to produce resignation to their condition, and a deter- mination to merit that good conduct which would entitle them in course of time to participate in the same indulgence. Now, as the great object of punishment for offences not of the gravest character was the reformation of the criminal and the example of others, he thought it would be not only unwise but undesirable that, when transportation ceased, they should with it cease that element of hope which was so important a feature in prison discipline. There appeared to be no other mode of preserving that element of hope than by adopting that ticket-of-leave system which had proved so beneficial in our penal colonies. As far as example went, he thought that separate confinement in prison, forced labour upon public works, and subsequent liability to control, would be sufficient; while on the other hand, as far as security to the public went, he thought the proposed system was an additional guarantee for the good conduct of the criminal population. Under the present system periods of limited transportation, now converted into imprisonment, of course had an end. The convict must at some period or other lapse into the mass of the community. It was important that before that period arrived, he should have acquired habits of self-control, so that his conduct, when set free, should not be injurious to the interests of the community at large. Now, he thought the position of a man holding a ticket of leave, and liable to be called back to serve the rest of his period in confinement or on public works if he misbehaved, was exactly that condition which was calculated to operate upon his mind, to teach him habits of self-control, and to accustom him to harmless and laudable conduct. Here was a man a free agent for general purposes, but yet liable to be called back to work out the rest of his sentence if his conduct while in that condition should be such as to forfeit the indulgence which he had received. For his own part he had no hesitation in saying that if he was employing a man who had unfortunately been the subject of a criminal sentence, he would feel more confidence in such a man, and more disposed to repose trust in him if he knew that at any moment, upon his misconducting himself, he (Visct. Palmerston) could have him called upon to perform the rest of his sentence, rather than if he knew the man was entirely free to go where he pleased if he misbehaved in his service, unless he rendered himself liable by the commission of a fresh crime to a fresh sentence. The hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that the Bill gave to the Secretary of State a power which he did not at present possess. The Crown, acting through its responsible organ, the Secretary of State, had now the power, not only to remit sentences altogether, but to commute and qualify them as it might be advised. He was sure he would be corroborated by the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary (Mr. Walpole) when he said that a very large, irksome, and painful part of the duties of the Secretary of State consisted in revising sentences upon those applications which were made in almost every case by the friends of the convict, or by persons who, from benevolent motives, might take an interest in his behalf. He therefore hoped that the House would adopt the Bill as it stood. The clauses referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman had been suggested by persons conversant with the administration of the law; they had been deliberately considered by the highest legal authorities; and he was convinced himself, though his opinion might not be of much value in such a matter, that they would be advantageous, and, at all events, he hoped the House would be disposed to give the system a fair trial. If it should turn out that the plan would not produce the advantages which were expected from it, Parliament would always have it in its power to interfere, and at some future period to reconsider the whole question. With regard to the suggestions which had been made the other evening by the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) he had consulted high legal authority on the subject, and there appeared to be objections to them. With respect to an alteration in the periods of sentences, he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not press that change at present; and with respect to the question as to an increased sentence upon the second offence, he thought it would be found, upon referring to the 7 & 8 Geo. IV., c. 28, section 11, that provision was already made for that object, and that a second conviction for felony or for larceny did subject the person so convicted to an aggravated punishment, and to a severer sentence than that which was awarded for the first commission of a similar offence. He trusted, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would allow the Bill to pass in its present shape.


said, he had stated on a former occasion that the responsibility of a measure of this importance should rest solely with the Government, and, therefore, he should not press the Amendments of which he had given notice. He fully concurred in the principles which had been laid down by the noble Viscount, and he believed that the measure as a whole would be highly beneficial. With respect to what had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Keating), he begged that Gentleman to bear in mind, in addition to what had been said by the noble Lord, that the principle which was at present in operation, and which had been well considered and matured by successive Secretaries of State was this—that when sentences of transportation were awarded, they were, as a general rule, commuted to three periods—first, a probationary period of separate confinement; second, a further probationary period of employment on public works; and then a ticket of leave was given, when the convict went out to the colony, by which system the period of transportation to which the prisoner was originally sentenced was in every instance materially diminished. The system of separate confinement, of employment upon public works, and then of sending criminals to the Colonies with a ticket of leave, had been found to work extremely well. They could only reclaim offenders either by the influence of hope or fear—by punishment to deter others from the commission of similar offences; but they should never exclude hope, or they would leave the criminal in so desperate a condition that he could never become a reformed character. The only alteration made by this Bill was, that instead of a conditional pardon being given to the Colonies, it would be given in this country. If they looked to the opinions of prisoners, of chaplains of gaols, and of keepers of gaols, they would find that separate confinement was considered the most reformatory part of prison discipline. One prisoner said, "To a person who wishes to do well, this is the best mode;" and another said, "It drives a man to think over himself, and right through himself." But the last portion of this system could not be carried out, for the Colonies refused to take more than a certain number of convicts. The colonists objected to the reception of the convicts, and it, therefore, became important to consider how they were to be otherwise dealt with. It had been suggested that they ought to be transported to a very distant penal settlement. To this he objected. Transpor- tation to populous colonies, where the great mass of the people were guided by a higher scale of morality, would tend, by example, to improve the character of the convicts; but transportation to a place no better than a mere lazar-house of moral pestilence must make the man worse instead of better. He, therefore, entreated the House, whatsoever step it took, not to sanction transportation to such places as Norfolk Island or Van Diemen's Land, where men's bodies and souls were placed in a state of the greatest degradation, and moral as well as physical punishment. If we could not transport to our Colonies abroad, they were driven back upon the system of employing the criminals at home. Could they do so with advantage to the criminals themselves, and without detriment to the mother country? It was his firm belief that they could do so, and, further, that it would be productive of immense advantage, not only to the mother country, but to the criminals themselves. From the visits he had paid to many of the prisons of this country, he believed there was generally a very anxious desire on the part of the convicts to be restored to the position in society from which they had been degraded by crime. Upon this point, as the subject was one of such vast importance, perhaps the House would forgive him if he pointed out a few facts with reference to the enormous expenses now incurred in the punishment of convicts and criminals, and the great saving that was effected in the expense of convicts by the proceeds of convict labour. It appeared from official returns that the expense incurred by the removal of 3,100 males and 800 females from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia, and of 800 to Bermuda and Gibraltar, was (as stated in the estimates for 1852–1853) 95,000l. The expense of transport for each convict was for the passage 24l., and an outfit worth 1l., making altogether 25l. The estimates for the convict expenses in the Australian Colonies were—for New South Wales, 7,600l.; Van Diemen's Land (4,762 convicts maintained by Government), 108,044l.; Western Australia, deducting 13,500l. for new buildings, and providing for 1,450 convicts, 73,100l.; making a total expense of 188,744l. The total number of convicts provided for in the estimates referred to was 21,932; the gross expenses 587,294l., of which 283,744l. were—estimates for transport service to the Australian colonies, 95,000l.; estimates for the Australian co- lonies, 188,744l. making together the sum above stated. The other items in this estimate were—for the convict prisons in Great Britain, 182,331l.; ditto Ireland, 53,912l.; for removal of prisoners, 12,424l.; gross estimates for convict service at Gibraltar and Bermuda, 48,842l.; and estimates for transport service to Bermuda and Gibraltar, 6,041l. Assuming, however, that the labour of the convicts was judiciously and profitably applied, the real cost to the country would be reduced by the value of their work at home, which might be thus stated. Deduct the earnings of 15,720 prisoners as follows:—7,824 in Great Britain, at 12l. per head, 93,888l.; 5,246 in Ireland, at 5l. per head, 26,230l.; 2,650 in Bermuda and Gibraltar, at 18l., 47,744l.; making a total of 167,818l. The total estimated net cost to the country for the current year, deducting the prospective value of labour, was 419,476l. He had no doubt but that great advantages would be gained by the employment of convicts on public works in this country. Now, in the case of the works at Portland, where convicts were employed, the expense of the prison was defrayed by the labour of the convicts, while in other prisons the maintenance of the convicts cost from 20l. to 25l. a year each, and and the profit of their labour varied from 8l. to 12l. a head. He held in his hand a paper showing the expenses of three systems—namely, the present system; the modified system, which included imprisonment for a proportion of the convicts; and the system under a discontinuance of transportation. Now under the present system, the expense of 15,720 prisoners was 587,294l. in the gross; but the real cost to the country, after deducting the value of their labour, was 419,476l. The cost under the modified system—namely, imprisonment for a proportion—was for 16,070 prisoners, 507,284l.; and the real cost to the country, after deducting the value of their labour, was 337,336l. Under the discontinuance of the transportation system the gross estimate of the cost, on the assumed minimum of 15,050 male prisoners, and 1,200 females, including Ireland, was 324,050l.; and deducting the value of their labour, it was 175,400l. The gross estimate of the assumed maximum of 19,250 prisoners, under the discontinuance of the transportation system, was 431,800l., and the real cost to the country, after deducting the value of their labour, was 232,750l. The assumed maximum number of prisoners was 19,250 males, and 1,200 females, including Ireland. It must be remembered that convicts could be employed with great utility to this country in the improvement of fortifications, the formations of harbours of refuge, and other public works; he felt convinced that a proper system of penal discipline could be enforced, and could be maintained and carried out, under the able superintendence of the gentleman who was now at the head of that department. If this principle were fully and fairly carried out, he, for his own part, could see no reason why the expenses of maintaining convicts could not be reduced to a comparatively trifling sum. He now came to another question, and one, he admitted, on which there was great difference of opinion—namely, whether such a system could be acted upon without danger to the public. He had shown the House why it was inexpedient and improper to transport to distant penal settlements. He had, upon a former occasion, stated that it was absolutely necessary to impose the check and control of terror of a greater punishment, if the convict, taking advantage of the Royal clemency committed a breach of the law. The noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston), remarked truly enough that for such offences, as the law stood, there was a higher punishment than for the first offence. That was so; but yet he thought it was necessary to enforce severity, and put it beyond all question, that a severe punishment would be visited upon those who abused the conditional pardons granted to them. He wished to press these suggestions upon the Government, with a view to their considering whether or not they should adopt them. He addressed himself more especially to the Government, for, after all, it was a question for the responsible advisers of the Crown. He might also suggest to the Government that a penal settlement might be established, not very far from our own shores, where useful labour might be carried on, and where the convicts would be actuated by the hope of a mitigation of their punishment from good conduct, and by the certainty of an aggravation of that punishment if they abused the clemency of the Crown. He thought that the House and the public had been rather unnecessarily alarmed by the fear that under the discontinuance of the transportation system a vast number of convicts would be thrown back upon society. But the real facts seemed to be much exaggerated. In 1847 the number of convicts transported was, from—

Males. Females. Males. Females.
1847 938 334 134
1848 817 490 599 515
1849 1,476 377 636 606
1850 1,808 360 575 200
1851 1,568 422 310 432
6,607 1,983 2,120 1,887
The annual average for Great Britain might be taken at 1,300 males, and 450 females—together, 1,750: from Ireland, about 600 males and 400 females are also annually sent out, raising the average number who were so disposed of to 2,750, of which 1,900 were males, and 850 females, so that, after all, there was not much occasion for alarm. He felt, no doubt, after the statement of the noble Viscount, that the present system of punishment proposed by this Bill, if it were prudently and vigorously carried out, would be beneficial to the Colonies, by removing a great grievance of which they now bitterly complained; that it would benefit the mother country, by enabling her to obtain the execution of public works of great importance at the least possible expense; and that, if the convicts were vigilantly watched and kept under constant supervision and control, it would tend to the reformation of the criminals themselves. He hoped, at all events, the House would never forget that the reformation of offenders should always be their principal object when they were dealing with questions of this nature. Those unfortunate creatures partook of a common nature with ourselves—they were, from their condition, more liable to error—they had not the advantages of birth, fortune, education, or religious instruction; and it could hardly be estimated how much was due to those influences, and how little might be due to our own intrinsic merits—in many instances, the position of the convict might be the effect rather of misfortune than of wilful error. For these reasons he respectfully asked the House to consider the suggestions he had taken the liberty of throwing out, and ponder well upon a question which had so important a bearing upon our social condition.


said, that having had considerable experience as a magistrate in a very densely populated district, he begged to say that he entirely concurred in the views that had been expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Reading (Mr. Keating) on this subject. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department said, that there was nothing new in the principle of the measure under he consideration of the House. But he (Mr. Spooner) thought that there was something decidedly new in this, that a Home Secretary would have the power of reimposing a sentente whenever he might think fit to do so. The licence was to be granted to the criminal at the will of the Crown, and it was to rest with the absolute will and pleasure of the Crown whether or not the sentence should be reimposed. Now, that was a perfectly new principle. The convict with a ticket of leave would be placed by it in an anomalous position. He might enter into contracts with his fellow men, and mix with them, as though no stain rested on his character; he might even intermarry with a woman who was quite ignorant of his true position, and then suddenly his sentence might be reimposed and he be consigned to prison at the mere pleasure of the Crown. That would be a very anomalous position for the man himself, and would be highly dangerous to his fellow-subjects. He (Mr. Spooner), therefore, called upon hon. Members to be careful before they sent out convicts throughout the country upon tickets of leave which might be withdrawn at any moment. Such a system would be, in his opinion, pregnant with great danger; and when the public came to be fully informed in this question, he felt sure that remonstrances would be poured in upon them from all quarters. Already a very important petition had been sent up from Portsmouth, signed by the aldermen and common councillors, setting forth the danger of employing convicts in public works upon the same terms and with the same advantages enjoyed by men who had not infringed the law; and he thought the representations contained in that petition deserved the attention of the Government. He hoped the noble Home Secretary would take into his consideration the suggestions of the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole).


said, he quite greed in the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. He believed that the clauses to which attention had been called were the most objectionable parts of the Bill, for they introduced a principle which was at present unknown to our law, and which vas calculated to produce such dangerous consequences both to the person under punishment and to the public at large, that it was to be hoped the Government would reconsider the subject. He maintained that this was a principle wholly unknown to our constitution, and antagonistic to the feelings of the inhabitants of this country, that persons should be liable, without any assignable reason, to be seized, and have their sentence of punishment reimposed at the mere will of the Crown. He would be sorry to see any person in this country in a state—to use the expression of the noble Lord—of qualified servitude." That was an expression which he should regret to hear applied to persons who walked the soil of England. He hoped the noble Lord would take the scheme proposed by the right hon. Member for Midhurst into his serious consideration. If these clauses were to be retained in the Bill, he (Mr. Phillimore) doubted much whether they should have gained anything by the abolition of penal settlements.


said, he was not so surprised as some hon. Members appeared to be at the clauses under consideration. The principle of "qualified servitude" was not entirely a novel one, for persons very often entered into recognisances to appear and receive sentence at any time when called upon. This was quite analogous to the provisions of the clauses in question. But while he did not concur with those who found so much to complain of in this part of the Bill, there was a portion of the measure in which he should like to see the amendment, of which he had given notice, made. Most persons were aware that for the crime of felony a great variety of punishment might be inflicted, commencing with, he believed, a shilling fine, and increasing, under the existing system, up to transportation. But in addition to the punishment at the different ends of the scale being thus wide apart, there was also a great hiatus in the middle, for, as things stood, there was nothing between simple imprisonment for two years, and transportation for seven years. In the present measure as proposed by the Government the matter was in some degree remedied, the jump being only from two years' imprisonment to four years' penal servitude. He saw no reason why there should be any such gap at all; but, on the contrary, thought the measure would be more efficient if it provided that a short term of penal servitude might be inflicted. He would therefore propose in the 12th clause to leave out the word "four," and insert the word "two." By this alter- ation, from two to ten years of penal servitude might be inflicted, instead of the limits being four and ten years.


said, that in adverting to the subject which had been discusssed in the earlier part of that portion of the debate, he thought that the objections against the ticket-of-leave clause of the Bill were reducible to two heads: first, that they introduced a new system; and, secondly, that the system so introduced was a vicious one, and would produce injurious results. Now, the early part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who preceded him completely answered the first objection, that there existed at present an analogous power to that which it was proposed by this Bill to give to the Secretary of State; and he would therefore only address himself to the second. It should be borne in mind that the question was not whether convicts were to be allowed to return into society or not—that it was impossible to prevent—but the matter at issue was under what conditions should they return, and how should they be prepared for so doing in order that they might be benefited, and society suffer as little as possible? He thought human ingenuity could not devise a better scheme for doing this than was developed in the present Bill, which did not leave their return to the period when they had fully atoned for the crime which they had committed, and so could claim that return as a matter of right, but allowed them to come into the world with the sentence still hanging over their heads. Thus the convict returned into society with everything to hope if he behaved himself, and with certain punishment awaiting him if he did not do so. As regarded society, the result was equally beneficial. If a man were returned to the world determined and hardened in his wickedness, and the law had no control over him, he must proceed to commit fresh crimes before the hands of justice could overtake him. Under this Bill, if such an individual obtained a conditional pardon, he might, immediately on his disposition showing itself, be brought back to punishment. As to the possible evils in regard to a person in a state of qualified freedom entering into engagements or contracting marriage, that was undoubtedly a drawback in the scheme, but it was no greater than what attended all human efforts. The question was, how to effect the objects of the measure with the least possible drawback, and he believed that was done by the Bill before them.


said, that he remembered the weight of the evidence against the abolition of transportation as a secondary punishment which was given in 1847, when fifteen Judges of England, the Scotch Judges, without exception, and the Irish Judges, excepting Judge Perrin, declared it as their opinion that few greater mistakes could be made in the government of this country than the abolition of transportation. He, therefore, could not help looking with diffidence on any measure that contravened such a decision. For some 200 years this country had been relieved of the worst part of its criminal population by means of transportation, which accounted, in great measure, for the fact of our having a more moral population than any of those countries which did not possess the same outlet for criminals. The history of the troubles of France proved that its demoralisation had been aggravated, if not caused, by the absence of all opportunity, such as this country possessed, to get rid of its criminal population. When he (Mr. Newdegate) was in the United States, he frequently heard Americans complain of the great difficulty they had to contend with in establishing a good system of secondary punishments, inasmuch as, being on a great Continent, and having no colonies, they were without the means of transportation. He (Mr. Newdegate) admitted that difficulties at present existed in continuing transportation, because the sphere of the penal colonies had been contracted most unwisely by successive Governments. In 1839 (the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) unconditionally promised that no more convicts should be sent to New South Wales; that rendered the number sent to Van Diemen's Land, Norfolk Island, and the other penal colonies, too large for the means of accommodation, employment, and subsequent absorption of convicts into the general population at the expiration of their terms of primary and ultimate punishments, and created disorders, of which the colonists of Van Diemen's Land complained justly; but those evils might have been avoided by providing a wider sphere for the reception of our convicts. This was not done, and now transportation to Van Diemen's Land was to cease. That was the result of maladministration, of neglecting to provide new penal settlements; not of any fault in the system of transportation itself. He wished to know if Her Majesty's Ministers had ever contemplated the plan of Lord Derby for founding a penal colony in North Australia, which plan had been sanctioned by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, then a Member of Sir Robert Peel's Government, as well as by the entire Cabinet of that period. Banishment was a most salutary punishment. It was not alone feared, but it had also the advantage of breaking up evil associations, on which many a man's reformation altogether depended; and, therefore, he should be sorry to see that punishment parted with. There was much difficulty in securing the reception of a convict, however repentant and reformed, back into the society which he had once outraged, and by the laws of which he had once been formally and publicly condemned. The best qualities of English society—morality, the love and guardianship of the family—revolted against this reception of convicts on terms of equality with those who had never been convicted. This was the natural and just, though severe, consequence of crime. Society in this country revolted at the idea of receiving any man tainted with crime, and, therefore, the best chance for the ultimate moral recovery of such persons was in a foreign country. This feeling of distrust of those who had once been convicted of grave crime, rested on melancholy experience, and extended throughout all classes in this country. Chartism, for instance, extended chiefly among the lower orders of society, and the Chartists had given curious and positive, though indirect, evidence of their opinion on this subject. One of the points claimed by the Chartists, with whom he did not at all agree, was, that there should be manhood suffrage possessed by all males of full age who were citizens of this country; but, let the House mark the exception conveyed by the condition, "and who were untainted by crime," which showed how strong the feeling was in the mind of the lower orders of society against convicts. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) in 1847, immediately after having for five years filled the office of Home Secretary, cautioned the House how they proceeded in this matter, and spoke of the pressure that was certain to be brought to bear upon the Home Secretary by the friends of those criminals who might be retained at home. There could be no doubt of the truth of the right hon. Baronet's statement. So long as the duties of the Secretary for the Home Department continued to be connected with an office which changed hands with the changes of the Administration of the day, on political grounds, there was always danger that the administration of justice might be tainted by party feelings in the remission or extension of punishments, especially for political offences or breaches of the peace connected with political excitement. He felt great confidence that no such feeling would bias the conduct of the noble Lord who now held the Home Office. But every measure which exposed the person who held that office to pressure, which might bias his discharge of the grave duty of dispensing justice, on the score of party or political bias, or excite suspicion on that score, was on that account alone liable to the gravest objections. For if once the belief grew up and became general, that the administration of justice in this country was tainted by party feeling, by the influence of political connexion, the respect for the law, which was the great bond of society in this country, the great ground of our superiority as a free, yet orderly, community would be lost. On this ground he objected to the retention of convicts in this country who had hitherto been transported for grave crimes. He feared this measure was the forerunner of a total abolition of transportation. For a time the public works might, as at Portland, afford employment for convicts with advantage to the State; but the supply of convict labour would overbear that demand, and then no resource would remain but the formation of penal colonies within England, instead of beyond the sea, without the advantages either to the convicts themselves or to the community, which the removal of such persons from the scene of their guilt had hitherto secured. In the foundation and extension of colonies, criminal labour could always be employed in the formation of roads, bridges, quays, &c., as the pioneer of civilisation, without being suffered to taint society, and without completely depriving the reformed criminal of the hope that he might again be received into an honest community. He (Mr. Newdegate) should conclude by stating that, in the event of their adopting this measure, they would be deliberately abandoning one of the great advantages which the insular position of this country afforded. The experience of the United States, of Australia, and Van Diemen's Land, proved that if we did not overcrowd our penal colonies, instead of sending our criminal population to abodes of corruption and decay, we were sending them to found new colonies, from which one day might arise great and mighty empires. He believed, the like of what had been done in this respect might be repeated, and, therefore, deprecated the present measure.


said, he thought that all experience led them to believe that they were to hope for the amendment of criminals, not from their congregation, but from their dispersion. The right course, in his view, would be to make transportation not a part but a supplement of the punishment, and to put the convict in such a position that he might have every inducement to form for himself a new character, and create for himself a new career, which could never be done in the country that had been the scene of his crime. He hoped the result would be, that, when criminals had been reformed as far as possible in this country, the colonists would no longer feel that extreme repugnance to receiving them, and the Colonies being open, a process of natural dispersion would take place.


said, he had a strong opinion that the attempt to reform criminals never had, and never would, succeed. He admitted the force of the arguments used by the hon. Member for North Warwick-shire (Mr. Newdegate); but in this case the Government were helpless, and were driven to the measure by the refusal of the colonists to receive convicts. This was to be regarded as an experiment, and it was not their part to throw difficulties in the way. Seeing the dangers arising from an immense accumulation of convicts, he thought Government was perfectly justified in trying the experiment.


said, he must express his regret on learning from the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) that he had not thought it desirable to adopt the suggestion he ventured to offer on a former evening with respect to extending the periods for which the punishment of penal servitude was to be inflicted. He confessed he thought the maximum of eight years' as the substitute for fifteen years' transportation, and the minimum of ten years where the existing Acts contemplated the duration of penal servitude for life, were periods too short. But his chief object in rising was, to express his regret at the explanation which he understood the noble Lord to give regarding that portion of transportation which was still to be retained. He was not disposed to recede from the general approbation of the measure he formerly expressed, but the idea of the late Government on this subject was, that transportation, so far as it was still retained, should be regarded as an intermediate sentence between penal servitude for the lighter class of crimes, and capital punishment for the worst. If he rightly understood the noble Lord, transportation was not to be reserved for the graver class of offences, as he had supposed, and, therefore, the public would not know which class of offenders was to be transported, and which was not. The discretion, it appeared, was to rest with the Executive Government, and not with the Court which passed the sentence. One of two things must follow: either the sentence of transportation must be abandoned, or the Court must pass sentence without knowing whether it would be carried into effect or not. This would throw an uncertainty around the administration of the law which he had never contemplated, and which he regarded as extremely objectionable.

Bill read 3°, and passed.