§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL GREY
said: I beg now to move that this Bill be read a second time. The object of the Bill is not one of any considerable importance. Its scope is confined to little more than assimilating the law with respect to Irish offenders, to the law as it now exists in Great Britain. By the existing law, all offenders sentenced to transportation in Great Britain are placed at the disposal of the Crown; and the usual course is, that they are sent to Van Diemen's Land, Gibraltar or Bermuda, or are imprisoned in Millbank or Pentonville prisons, or confined on board of the hulks, as circumstances may render desirable. But the Acts which give this power, as regards offenders in Great Britain, do not extend to Ireland; and with respect to Ireland there is no power of disposing of criminals otherwise than by sending them to Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island, because even Bermuda and Gibraltar, where there are convict establishments, do not come within the operation of the law as regards Irish convicts. To do away with this distinction is the whole scope of the Bill of which I now move the second reading. There is another Bill—the Prisons Bill—before us, intimately connected with it, of which I shall also move the second reading this evening, but which is not in itself of very much more importance. Its whole object is to make a change, and I believe a very necessary change, in the constitution of the governing bodies of the three national prisons of Pentonville, Millbank, and Parkhurst. But though those two measures are not in themselves of any very great importance, I think it is right that, in moving the second reading of this Bill, I should call your Lordships' attention to the whole subject of secondary punishments; for this reason, that these are the only measures of a legislative kind which it is necessary for Government at present to introduce to Parliament in carrying into effect a change in the policy of the country with respect to punishments of a very important kind. That change is of no less extent than a virtual abolition of the system of transportation, which has so many years prevailed under different regulations 899 and modifications as a mode of punishment. Although by law the Executive Government has, undoubtedly, the power of making this change without appealing to Parliament, yet, considering the extreme importance of that change—considering that the system which it is proposed to alter is one which has now lasted for very many years, and that it has received on repeated occasions the deliberate attention of Parliament—I certainly do feel that it would be inconsistent with the duty of Her Majesty's Government to carry such a change into effect without distinctly calling the attention of Parliament to the subject. My Lords, I believe there is no subject which can come under the consideration of Parliament of more deep importance than that of the punishment of offenders. It is absolutely necessary, for the very existence of society, that the punishments by which the law is to be enforced, should be of such a character as effectually to deter offenders from the commission of crime. It is equally necessary, for great ends of humanity, that the punishment inflicted on offenders should be one, calculated, as far as possible, to reform and improve the unhappy objects of that punishment themselves. These are ends, my Lords, of the very highest importance; and not less is the extreme difficulty in carrying it out with success. It is a subject on which various systems have been adopted by the various civilized nations of the world, and upon which many attempts at improvement have been made; but I believe nowhere can it be said that that great and difficult problem of discovering the best mode of treating offenders, with a view at once to the prevention of crime and the reformation of the criminal, has yet received a completely satisfactory solution. But though this is the case, the experience which has of late years been gained both in this and other countries, has, I think, enabled us to judge far better than we could have done a very few years ago, what are the measures which it is expedient to adopt. I have already said, that the change which Government have considered ought to be introduced into the policy of the country, extends to no less than the virtual abolition of transportation, because when I speak of transportation, I do not include the punishment of offenders at Gibraltar and Bermuda: that punishment is of a totally different character from that which is usually known under the name of transportation. It is one of the 900 known features of the system of transportation, that in the very great majority of cases, the persons on whom that sentence has been passed, being carried to a very remote part of the world, at the termination of their sentence remain in the country in which their punishment has been carried into effect, and do not return to this country: so that relieving this country from the presence of those criminals, was considered one of the main objects in view under that system. But with respect to those removed to Bermuda and Gibraltar, this has not been the case; on the contrary, criminals who have there been punished, are not allowed to remain in those places; they are brought back at the public expense to this country. Punishment at Bermuda and Gibraltar is, therefore, rather to be considered as an extension of the hulk system which is in practice here, than as a system of transportation; it is only that a certain number of convicts who would have been otherwise sent to the hulks at Portsmouth or Woolwich, have been sent to hulks stationed at Gibraltar or Bermuda, because their labour can be rendered there exceedingly valuable to the country. Defining in this manner what I mean by the word "transportation," Her Majesty's Government propose to do away entirely with the system of transportation as it has hitherto existed. I cannot believe that any of your Lordships who have read the papers lately presented, and those which in former years also have been laid before Parliament, or who have attended to the progress of the various measures adopted on this subject within the last few years, can doubt the absolute necessity—I use no lighter word—of that complete change of policy which Government have thought it their duty to adopt. I trust a short recapitulation of what has been passed on this subject, will be sufficient to show your Lordships that this necessity really exists. Allow me, therefore, to remind your Lordships that the old system of transportation was one very different from that which of late years has existed. Convicts sent to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land were not kept at the charge of Government; they were assigned to private individuals, with whom they were placed in a situation, I may call it, of slavery, because they were compelled to serve those persons. According to the regulations, wages were not allowed to be paid to them; they only received food and clothing, and if they failed to work, or for any neglect of orders, 901 the punishment was of the most summary kind—flogging by order of a magistrate. It was to all intents and purposes a system of slavery which existed in those colonies. In 1837, a Committee, of which I had the honour to be a Member, was appointed in the other House of Parliament to consider this subject, which sat both in that and the following Session, and took a great deal of evidence upon this subject. Of that Committee, Sir R. Peel, Lord J. Russell, and other distinguished persons, who had taken an active part in the business of Parliament, were Members; and it was ably presided over by Sir W. Molesworth. No difference of opinion, so far as I recollect, existed among the Members as to the necessity of doing away with what was called the system of assignment, because that system was one of the grossest inequality and injustice. It was a matter of accident under it what was the nature of the punishment to which a man was subjected. If he had a good master, disposed to be indulgent, it often happened that a criminal who had been sentenced in this country for some most heinous offence, more especially if he proved to be a good mechanic or workman, instead of finding himself worse off than in this country, found his situation infinitely improved. I remember that with respect to the agricultural labourers sent out for their share in the riots of 1830, which were caused by the great distress then existing in Kent and Dorsetshire, this was very remarkably the case. These men being generally good labourers, their services were extremely valuable, so that the masters to whom they were assigned were very anxious to keep them in good humour. They were consequently well treated; and thus to those men whom you sent to New South Wales for the purpose of punishing them, the effect of the sentence of transportation was this, that whereas in England—the cause of those riots being, undoubtedly, the severe pressure of the distress at that time existing—they had been receiving 7s. or 8s. a week, which barely enabled them to obtain a most scanty diet, and a miserable provision of clothing, when they went to New South Wales, and were assigned to masters by way of punishment, they received rations of ten pounds of meat a week, with a good allowance of sugar, tea, bread, and clothing; and this in return for labour certainly much less severe than what they had been used to. In some cases, therefore, this was no punishment whatever; while in others, ac- 902 cording to the disposition of the masters (and this was a mere matter of accident), it was a punishment of the cruellest and severest kind. The assigned servant was, as I have already said, entirely the slave of his master. If it so happened that he got a bad and tyrannical master, he was subjected to a continual system of annoyance, ill treated, and at length driven into mutiny and resistance, when he was immediately carried before a magistrate, and, upon the mere allegation of the master, was subjected to corporal punishment of the severest kind. Returns were laid before the Committee in 1812 which showed the fearful extent to which this system of corporal punishment had been carried. Your Lordships will observe another result of this system. The suffering endured by the convicts in this way was altogether useless as an example to offenders at home; it was little heard of in this country; but, on the other hand, those convicts who were well off wrote home to their friends and relations, and said, "It was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me to be convicted and sent out here. I was never so well off before, and do you contrive to get yourself sent out, and follow me as soon as you can." I was Under Secretary in the Colonial Office, and had opportunities of seeing many of those letters; and I think my noble Friend opposite (Lord Ripon), who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, will also remember seeing numerous letters of this kind which came through the office. No doubt many of these representations were false; but they were not made in vain—their statements were believed; and, whether true or false, they produced their effect; and their result was, to render this system ineffectual in deterring others from the commission of offences at home. For these reasons, the Committee of 1838 came, as I believe, to the unanimous conclusion that the system of assignment was one which must be done away with. Their resolution to this effect was reported to the House of Commons; and measures founded on that resolution were adopted, by which steps were taken to put an end to the system of assignment. At the same time it was proposed, that all convicts whatever were to be retained in the hands of Government; and that, therefore, a much smaller number of convicts than formerly should be transported. It was felt, that when the system of assignment ceased, and when all convicts were to be retained in the hands 903 of the Colonial Government, it would be a matter of extreme difficulty to administer the system properly if a very large number were to be sent out. The plan which it was intended to adopt, and for which instructions were framed by my noble Friend at the head of the Government (Lord John Russell), who then filled the office I have now the honour to hold, was that of confining the punishment of transportation to a comparatively small number of criminals, who were to be sent to Van Diemen's Land and to Norfolk Island. In accordance with these views, in the beginning of 1840, an Order in Council was issued prohibiting transportation to New South Wales. It was also a part of this plan, that the system of punishment at home should be greatly improved; but time was required to carry these views into effect. For that purpose the prison at Pentonville was founded, and measures were adopted to improve the system of prison punishment at home. But in 1841, while these measures were in progress, a resolution was moved in the House of Commons to the effect that it was inexpedient to keep such a large number of convicts on board the hulks at home: that resolution was resisted on the part of the Government; but it was carried by a majority of the House of Commons. This was towards the end of Lord Melbourne's Administration; and the resolution was carried in a thin House in the month of March. As far as I can trace the matter, no measures were taken for carrying that resolution into effect during the continuance of that Administration. When a change of Government took place shortly after, it was determined that the views of the House of Commons should be acted upon; and I find, that after a good deal of discussion on the matter, in the early part of 1843 it was decided that all convicts should be sent abroad, except those belonging to either of two classes—first, those who might be selected for imprisonment at Pentonville, Parkhurst, and Millbank; and, secondly, those whose age or health was such as to render it inexpedient that they should be transported. The whole of the remaining body of criminals were to be sent to Bermuda, to Van Diemen's Land, or to Norfolk Island. The consequence of this determination was that a very large number of convicts were sent to Van Diemen's Land and to Norfolk Island. I confess I at the time entertained the very strongest conviction that the adoption of this measure must lead to 904 very great evils. I was persuaded it was impossible so large a number of convicts could be sent to those colonies without its being found that, practically, there were no adequate means of there carrying into effect the intended system of punishment; because your Lordships must remember, that as these convicts were not to be assigned as servants to settlers, but were to be retained under the immediate charge of the Government, the punishment really resolved itself into the infliction of forced labour. But the difficulty of inflicting this punishment upon large numbers of convicts without giving rise to abuse, which is great everywhere, was infinitely increased by the circumstances that at such a distance from home, these colonies were out of the immediate control of Government; and if there were any slight errors or defects in the system brought to light by experience, they could only be corrected by reference home, which would require nearly a year before an answer could be returned. There is also a much greater difficulty in getting trustworthy agents and officers than at home; so that in situations of that kind, the impediments to a good system of penal labour were great indeed. I have already stated that the Committee of 1838 had it in contemplation that a certain number of convicts should still continue to be sent abroad. I confess, my Lords, I thought this the most doubtful part of their recommendation; but, at the same time, if transportation to Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land had been continued to a very small number of convicts guilty of the most heinous offences, I think it possible that the advantages which we might have reason to expect from the impression made on men's imaginations (if the system were properly carried into effect) by the great distance of those places, and the complete disappearance of persons sentenced to them—the effect of their being utterly lost sight of by their friends and relations, might, with regard to very serious offences, by rendering this punishment more calculated to deter offenders from the commission of them, have counterbalanced the disadvantages resulting from the greater practical difficulty of enforcing an effective system of discipline at such a distance from home. But when the system came to be applied, not to a few hundreds, but to many thousands—when immense numbers of convicts were to be carried to the antipodes, I believed that it would be 905 utterly impossible that any other result could follow than that which has actually occurred. I think the papers lately laid on your Lordships' Table will prove to you that my anticipation of the failure of the system was but too well founded. I will not disgust your Lordships by going into the horrible, the monstrous details of the abuses which have sprung up from this system in Norfolk Island. A state of things had been found, on evidence of which the general effect was unquestionable, to exist in that small island too horrible to mention. It is, my Lords, a disgrace, I may say, to the British name, that such a system should have existed under the British flag. Very soon after I was appointed to the office I now hold, I felt the effect of the evidence laid before me so conclusive, that I thought myself justified in issuing orders to the new Governor, who was then on the point of going out, at once to break up the establishment there. Since these instructions were given to Sir W. Denison, despatches have been received by which it appears that Sir Eardley Wilmot had already found that the evils existing in Norfolk Island had risen to such a height, that he had to a great degree anticipated the orders carried out by his successor. He had already taken steps to prevent more convicts from being landed on the shores of the island, and even to remove a portion of those already there. I need not go into the details of the state of things at Norfolk Island, nor of the frightful outbreak which took place there among the convicts, and which, it appears, a singular interposition of Providence alone prevented from being completely successful. But for the fortunate arrival of a small detachment of troops, it was by no means improbable that the convicts might have overcome the force of civil officers and the military in the island, and that every free person there might have been murdered. With respect, then, to Norfolk Island, I see there is no difference of opinion among your Lordships — you all see the breaking up of this establishment was absolutely inevitable. But I fear, my Lords, that the state of things in Van Diemen's Land is something similar—the evil indeed, I hope is far from being equally great; but still there is even in that island a state of things most painful to contemplate. Any of your Lordships who have looked through the evidence, will, I am sure, see reason to be abun- 906 dantly dissatisfied with the condition of Van Diemen's Land. We have often heard of abuses on board the hulks under the old system; but I firmly believe the worst conducted of these hulks was less fatal to anything like moral improvement amongst the prisoners, than the state of things in that island; and I am convinced that as regards the reformation of the convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land, the present system has worked very badly. I am aware, indeed, that the Governor and the authorities in immediate charge of the convicts, do not entirely support this impression, and that their reports are not so unfavourable as those received from other quarters; but I think it is impossible calmly to consider facts stated in the report of Sir Eardley Wilmot, and of Sir John Franklin, who preceded him as Governor, without coming to the conclusion, that even upon their showing the working of the system has been most unsatisfactory. The latter expressed this opinion very decidedly; and though the present Governor gives a different opinion, I must repeat that, in doing so, he admits facts which in my mind confirm the unfavourable impression produced by what appear to me to be trustworthy accounts which we have from other quarters. My noble Friend the President of the Council, in the early part of last year, presented a petition, signed by the Bishop of the colony, and a vast number of the most respectable inhabitants, to the number, as well as I recollect, of 1,700 or 1,800, every one of whom added his address to his name, as a proof of his respectability, which described in the strongest terms the state to which this island was reduced, by the existing system of transportation. In that petition it was stated—We are in continual dread and anxiety for ourselves and our families, owing to the numbers of convicts by whom we are surrounded; we feel that we have no security for life or property; that the moral condition of the colony is daily becoming worse and worse; that no regulations, however well intended, no Government, however able, no improvement in detail, will counteract the evil of the enormous mass of criminals that are poured upon our shores; and that if the present system of transportation continues, we must, at whatever sacrifice, abandon a colony which will become unfit for any man to inhabit who regards the highest interests of himself and his children.This was the statement of the petition. I have seen, within the last few months, various persons who have given me accounts of the state of things in the colony, and 907 they support to the fullest extent the statements contained in this petition respecting it. I have, amongst others, both seen the Protestant bishop and the Roman Catholic bishop of Van Diemen's Land, who at this moment are in England, which they were both very much led, as I believe, to visit by the desire of representing to Government the absolute necessity of putting an end to the system which has led to such dreadful results. Both of those right rev. bishops I have seen, as I said before, and they concur in giving me a picture of the state of society in the island, arising from the extent to which transportation is carried, which is too terrible to comtemplate. But there is another question still to be considered: the expenditure, on the part of the mother country, in carrying out this system in Van Diemen's Land has been extremely large—so large, indeed, that I have no hesitation in saying, that if the same sum of money had been employed in a well-considered system of punishment at home, the same number of convicts would have been effectually punished here; and proper buildings, constructed on the best system for prison discipline, might have been erected for their reception. But while it has been expensive to the mother country, to the colony it has been utter ruin—the amount of the charges which has fallen upon it, has made the colony, I may say, a bankrupt. So heavily had the charges connected with this system fallen on the colony, that some time ago my noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley) felt himself compelled to call on Government to submit to Parliament a proposal for throwing a large portion of expense on this country; and a grant of 24,000l. a year towards the expense of the police and the administration of justice in Van Diemen's Land, has accordingly been sanctioned. I am afraid, however, it is too true that some of the most desirable settlers in Van Diemen's Land have been forced to quit its soil, and that a most serious blow has been given to the prosperity of the colony. Before this large influx of convicts, it was a most thriving and prosperous colony, and its progress had been one of almost unexampled rapidity; but from the time this enormous influx of convicts took place, this state of things was greatly changed for the worse. I am aware that there were other causes for this, and that it is not alone to be attributed to that influx. Commercial distress in this country, the 908 existence of drought in New South Wales, and the reaction consequent on over-speculation in land, no doubt, contributed to this state of Van Diemen's Land: but I have no hesitation in saying that the transportation to this one colony of so large a number of convicts in the manner in which it took place, was one main cause for the rapid falling-off in prosperity of Van Diemen's Land, and that it has received a check from which it will be many years before it can recover. I have been told it is not the system which is in fault, but the persons who are appointed to carry it into effect; and that a greater degree of caution and energy on the part of the principal officers to whom the government of Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island, and the conduct and management of the convicts, have been entrusted, would have led to a different result. My Lords, I cannot adopt that opinion. In the first place, I must remark that the same Government by which the system of punishment was framed, had the choice of the agents to whom the execution of their plans was committed; but without pretending to deny that there may possibly have been faults on the part of those officers—a question on which I wish to avoid giving an opinion one way or the other—still I have a strong conviction that it was impossible for the officers and agents to whom this arduous duty was assigned, so to have discharged it under the difficulties in which they were placed, as to lead to anything like a satisfactory result. Allow me, my Lords, to remind you that it has been always a task of the greatest possible difficulty to carry on a system of punishment by means of forced labour. Whether attempted at home or abroad—by this country, or by America, or by France—it has been always found that any such system of punishment meets with very great difficulty and obstruction; but I have already observed that these difficulties and obstructions are multiplied tenfold when the system is to be worked out by a delegated authority, removed to so great a distance from those to whom they are responsible, and whose orders they are to carry into effect. In order that any system of the kind should work well, it is necessary that it should be closely watched from day to day, and that any mismanagement in it should be instantly checked; that errors—and errors are inevitable in such a system—should be noticed by the authorities, and a correction immediately given to them. 909 But an authority situated like the Governor of Van Diemen's Land cannot so act. He is bound, in the first place, to consult and communicate with the other officers of the colony; he is bound, if he wishes to make any material alteration in the plans approved at home, to postpone making the change until he can receive authority from this country. In Norfolk Island there is still more difficulty. The administrator of punishment in that settlement is the delegate of a delegate—the Governor of Van Diemen's Land is the authority to whom he looks immediately for his orders; and over him is Her Majesty's Government at home. The communication between that place and Norfolk Island is irregular and slow, and is kept up only by sailing vessels, so that an opportunity of communicating with the Governor very rarely occurs. If anything goes wrong in the island, there are no means of getting an improvement effected except through the long process of appealing to the authorities in Van Diemen's Land, and through them to the Government at home. But, besides all this, in any system of punishment, perhaps the greatest practical difficulty is to procure proper agents and officers to carry it into effect; and more especially is that difficulty felt with subordinate agents. I believe most of your Lordships have more or less knowledge of the manner in which prisons are conducted at home, and that you know the efficiency of a prison depends almost as much on the efficiency of the subordinate officers and overseers, as upon the governor. It is impossible for the best governor to carry out even a good system without good officers; but in Van Diemen's Land the difficulty of obtaining good officers is infinitely greater than in this country; and in Norfolk Island it is greater still. In the first place, the scale of remuneration for every kind of labour, has, till lately, been so much higher than at home, that the salary which in this country would secure the services of a first-rate person, would do no such thing in Van Diemen's Land. It has often happened that overseers and clerks employed in our establishments were tempted out of our service by superior offers from merchants and other persons in those colonies; so that, without going to much larger expense than is necessary at home, it is impossible to obtain agents and overseers of a superior description. But in a small colony like Van Diemen's Land, where, as I am afraid, party spirit at times runs very high, it is extremely diffi- 910 cult to get officers, who, however good they may be at first, do not after a short time become less so, and become involved in the various local disputes which are going on around them. On the other hand, the Governor has by no means the same authority to remove officers which belongs to the Home Government. He can only suspend those who have misconducted themselves; and this power of suspension is exercised with great hesitation and difficulty, because it is always liable to be reversed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and a lieutenant governor in Van Diemen's Land would not venture to suspend an officer unless upon a very clear case of misconduct. If an officer leaves his situation, the difficulty of replacing him in these islands is so great, that it is almost impossible to do so; and if removed by death, or for misconduct, he frequently cannot be replaced without reference here, and without sending out another person from this country, which involves a delay of twelve months. This is attended with the greatest inconvenience in Van Diemen's Land. But when your Lordships come to look at Norfolk Island, you will see that very few men such as could be employed as officers in the management of convicts, would consent to live among such a population, cut off (it might be said) from all intercourse with civilized society, having nobody to associate with except a few colleagues in the service, and the criminals of whom they had charge. I believe it is impossible that any person for a long series of years could be condemned to entire exclusion from civilized society without being more or less deteriorated, and without having his moral qualities affected by the atmosphere of crime in which he is placed. This is a very serious difficulty; and I believe one reason why the management of criminals is easier at home than abroad is, that here the governors of our prisons, and officers employed under them—though during the period when they are actually on duty, they are chiefly employed among convicts—are not excluded from the advantages of social intercourse with those who are neither employed on the convict service nor yet tainted with crime. I believe, that this is a consideration of very high importance in estimating the difficulties of maintaining the efficiency of the convict system in such a situation as Norfolk Island. These considerations it was which led Her Majesty's Government to conclude that, as by the abolition of the sys- 911 tem of assignment the really penal part of transportation came to be neither more nor less than forced labour and imprisonment, and as that change had been carried into effect, if these were to be the main elements of punishment to which we were henceforth to trust, that punishment would be likely to be more safely and more efficiently inflicted at home than at a distance; that penal labour and imprisonment could be rendered infinitely more efficient in England than they could be by any regulations which could be adopted in distant colonies. Here there would be all the advantages of close superintendence of the practical working of the system, of the power of immediately checking any abuses, of replacing officers found inefficient, of correcting any errors that might be made in drawing up the regulations under which punishment was to be inflicted—altogether every advantage wanting in the colonies will be obtained to the fullest extent by having this punishment at home. Such accordingly is the determination on the system to be adopted by Government. It is proposed—still continuing to look to penal labour and imprisonment as the main instruments of punishment—that they shall be carried into effect at home; it is intended that no efforts shall be spared to render it as efficient as possible, to deter offenders from crime, and to improve those who have fallen into the commission of error. With this view it is intended that every criminal sentenced to transportation shall undergo a period—longer or shorter, according to the nature of his offence—of what is called separate confinement, and that no criminal shall escape from some portion of such confinement. My Lords, I think the experience of the last four years is most satisfactory as to the effects of that punishment. I think it has been proved to be most efficient in deterring offenders from the commission of crime, and in improving those capable of improvement who have committed it; but at the same time I think it requires to be carried into effect with very great caution, and that it should not be carried to a great extent. It is a punishment which should not, under any circumstances in fact, be prolonged beyond a comparatively short period. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, propose that every person convicted of a crime shall be subjected to the same process of punishment and improvement for a period according to the nature of it—not for a longer term than eighteen months for offences of the 912 gravest character; and in the case of minor offences, for which seven years' transportation is the ordinary sentence, the period of separate confinement shall be made shorter. [Lord BROUGHAM: Eighteen months continuously?] Yes. The punishment has been inflicted for even more than eighteen months; and from the testimony of the medical authorities, I believe that period is sufficiently safe—that I understand to be the opinion of two gentlemen of great medical skill, who, as Commissioners of Pentonville, have had an opportunity of observing the effect of this punishment, I refer to Sir Benjamin Brodie and Dr. Ferguson, who, while they earnestly deprecate the prolongation of the punishment beyond eighteen months, do not think that for the gravest offences a period of eighteen months' separate confinement would be too long, provided due care is taken by the medical officers of the prison to watch the operation of the punishment in each individual case. It is clear that wherever the punishment is to be restricted to this period, a man guilty of a very heinous offence cannot be discharged immediately on its expiration. Take an aggravated case of manslaughter, where the difference between that crime and wilful murder depends on some very nice circumstance, so that the criminal escaped the extreme penalty, and was sentenced to transportation for life—eighteen months' solitary confinement would be a most inadequate punishment for such an offence. It is, therefore, proposed, that when such an offender is discharged from Pentonville or Parkhurst, he shall undergo a further period of punishment by being compelled to labour on the public works. I am aware there is a strong impression that this is a punishment liable to great objections. It is a punishment formerly carried into effect on board the hulks, to which I know objections, and I am bound to say very great objections, existed; but I cannot help thinking they apply rather to the means by which the punishment was carried on, than to the punishment itself. I do not believe that penal labour—where convicts in large bodies are allowed to associate—is necessarily productive of those evils. On the contrary, I believe these evils arise from causes which may be easily traced to other sources. In the first place, the labour of convicts was formerly enforced simply by coercion. The fear of the lash was the sole motive held out to them. The whole system was very ineffi- 913 cient, and the number of officers much less than what it ought to be. The provision for the religious instruction of the convicts was also utterly inadequate to the purpose; but of late years much improvement has been effected in these particulars, and I believe it can be carried much further still. We propose, then, that convicts should be employed in public works, under a system by which we hope the evils of the old system may be avoided. In the first place, it would, I think, greatly contribute to this end, if every prisoner shall have undergone a period of separate confinement, by which, I believe, that except in some of the most obdurate and hardened, an impression will be made on the minds of the prisoners, which will greatly facilitate the measures for their improvement. They will know, too, that those who have misconducted themselves on the public works, will be liable to be sent back to separate confinement; but what I look to still more is, the improvement of the general system under which the work is to be carried on. Your Lordships are no doubt aware that a plan of convict discipline which has attracted considerable attention was proposed by Captain Maconochie. I am aware that that plan, as it was tried under his superintendence in Norfolk Island, was very far from being successful; I know that Captain Maconochie urges he had difficulties to encounter there, which account for what was considered (but as he thinks unjustly) the failure of that experiment, and to a certain extent this may have been the case; still I am bound to say, looking to the whole history of the experiment, and considering the opinion formed on the subject by persons on whose judgment I have the most reliance, I am impressed with the conviction that his plan, as proposed by himself, could not practically work well; but at the same time I think there was a great deal that was highly valuable in it, and the fundamental principle he reeommends was, in my opinion, a wise and a sound one. That fundamental principle, my Lords, I understand to be this — that convicts under punishment should be subjected to a system by which they should have a great and direct interest in their own good conduct; by which, from their industry and good conduct, they should not only be enabled to abridge the period of punishment to which they were sentenced, but also enjoy certain immediate advantages. I am convinced that that is essentially a sound 914 principle; and in fact it is a system which has already been acted upon to a certain extent, since by the regulations under which convicts at Bermuda and Gibraltar are employed, their labour is performed by task, and they have an interest in the amount of that labour; and the effects of this system, which has not been many years adopted, have been highly satisfactory so far as it goes. The value of the work done at Bermuda and Gibraltar proves that the system is successful in stimulating the industry of the convicts, since it is sufficient not only to pay the whole expense of their maintenance, including the cost of superintendence, but to leave also a considerable annual gain at the expiration of the period of employment. In Gibraltar, the calculation is, that assuming the average time that each convict is employed to be four years, the gain that will accrue after paying the cost of passage money, the cost of superintendence, and that of maintenance, will be no less than 42l., that is, above 10l. a year each. I think this highly satisfactory, not merely as showing the effects of this system in promoting the industry of the convicts; for I believe we may lay down this rule, that wherever we find labour effectively applied—where there is a valuable result obtained from the labour of convicts—we may rest satisfied that the system of discipline is not a bad one; but when, on the contrary, the value of the work done by the convicts, as in Van Diemen's Land, is very small, then we may conclude that the system of discipline is generally lax and ineffective. I do not mean to say that this is altogether a certain test of the efficiency of a system of punishment; but you may conclude, with tolerable accuracy, that great abuses do not prevail where much valuable work is done, because the very fact that men work hard shows that the convicts have little time or inclination to commit breaches of discipline. But, my Lords, hitherto the period of a man's release from punishment has not been made sufficiently dependent on his conduct while undergoing it. To a certain extent, this was always practised as to the convicts in the hulks; but I think that by reducing it to something like a rule, keeping a regular register of the conduct of the convicts (as was suggested by the instructions of my noble Friend opposite, as to Van Diemen's Land, which I think were perfectly right), a system might be carried into effect which would contribute to render labour of this kind 915 extremely valuable as a punishment, while a security is afforded against those abuses which formerly existed to a great extent. [A Noble LORD: You have not stated the period of employment on public works.] What is intended is this, that every convict who behaves well and works industriously, and does not incur fresh punishment for misconduct, shall be enabled to obtain his discharge at the termination of half the period for which sentence was originally passed; so that if a man is sentenced to seven years' transportation, if he conducts himself well and is industrious, he may obtain his discharge at from three and a half to four years from the period at which his punishment commenced. Now, my Lords, I ought to say that in adopting this system, we do propose to retain the only real advantage which formerly existed in the system of transportation; because, objectionable as in many respects that system undoubtedly was, it was not without some compensatory advantage. That advantage was this—that whereas in this country a man whose character is once blasted by undergoing the sentence of the law, that man, at the expiration of his sentence, however good his intentions and strong his desire to give up his criminal habits and return to a life of honest industry, finds himself encompassed with great difficulties in attaining his object. Employment of every description is closed against him; wherever he goes his character meets him, and closes against him every eligible employment. In the intense competition for employment in this country, he is invariably defeated by other competitors in the race; and thus, I am afraid, it is too true that a vast number of men, after having served out their period of punishment, and who entertain a strong and sincere desire not to be led again into criminal courses, are driven again to the commission of crime by absolute distress. On the other hand, in the Australian colonies, labour is in such great demand, that generally a man, disposed to behave well, however criminal his former conduct may have been, has no difficulty in finding employment; and the convict is thus enabled, if he so likes, to restore himself to a respectable condition in society. That was, in my opinion, the only redeeming feature in the old system of transportation; and, under it, there were frequently instances of men holding tickets of leave, or conditional pardons, becoming honest and industrious members of society; many have ac- 916 cumulated large fortunes, their families having joined them in the colonies, and they have become respectable members of society. In one respect, the advantages thus obtained, extended to such a degree as to operate injuriously on transportation as a punishment; because I perfectly well remember seeing a letter written by a transported convict, in which the writer said to the party whom he was addressing, "You remember So-and-so: he was transported for sheep-stealing, he now lives at So-and-so, keeps a gig, and is a very thriving gentleman." Now, a letter of that kind was not calculated to cause transportation to be regarded at home as a very formidable punishment. Nevertheless, we may, I think, retain the advantages of transportation, and reject the evils by which it has been too often accompanied. Her Majesty's Government propose that at the expiration of their period of imprisonment and penal labour, all convicts should be required to go to the Australian colonies, not strictly speaking as a part of their punishment, since on the contrary, we hold it to be really an advantage that the criminal should, at the end of the period for which he is sentenced, be enabled by his industry and good conduct to raise himself in one of our colonies to a better situation of life than he could in all probability reach at home. We, therefore, propose that during the latter period of his punishment—his employment on public works—the convict shall receive nearly the full value of his labour—not in money payments at the time (except in small sums, to keep industry alive), but in an accumulated sum at the expiration of his period of punishment, so as to afford him the means of emigrating. It is further proposed, that the convict who thus earns the means of paying for his own conveyance to the colonies, and who has conducted himself for the required time to the satisfaction of the superintending officers in England, shall receive a conditional pardon, the condition being that he shall not remain in England. Under this system, convicts will be placed in the same situation as if, under the existing system, they had incurred the preliminary part of their punishment in Van Diemen's Land, where the convicts who behave well receive conditional pardons, by which they are enabled to go to any part of Australia, and are to all intent free men, except that they must not return to this country. I may say, that at present there is not in general any strong desire to return to this 917 country, as they find it far more advantageous to remain in the colony. In the same manner it is proposed that conditional pardons should be given to offenders at the termination of their period of employment on public works in this country. I am encouraged to hope that this system may be attended with beneficial results, in consequence of what I have observed with respect to the exiles to Port Philip, of whose progress satisfactory accounts have been received. The accounts relative to the exiles sent to Van Diemen's Land are less satisfactory on the whole, in consequence of the unfortunate state of things existing there, as the exiles have latterly found in that place as much difficulty in getting employment as they would at home. Owing to the excessive number of convicts who have been sent to Van Diemen's Land, the advantage of certain employment no longer exists: there is now difficulty in their getting employment; a great many, after being promised freedom, are obliged to remain in the "hiring gangs," because they are unable to find persons to employ them; and, according to the last accounts, above 3,000 persons were still in these "hiring gangs." Consequently the exiles sent to Van Diemen's Land have not done so well as might have otherwise been expected; but those sent to Port Philip, where the demand for labour is great, have done exceedingly well, and the report with respect to them is in the highest degree satisfactory. I trust, therefore, that when these offenders, who shall have been subject at home to punishment, and to the system of treatment which will not only be of a reformatory kind, but which will be directed with the view of teaching them those branches of industry most valuable in the colonies—I trust, and indeed I have not the least doubt, that on their arrival in Australia they will be welcome to the inhabitants, and that their emigration will be attended with great advantages both to the colony and themselves. It is not proposed that these men should go out without their families. With respect to the exiles to Port Philip, after so short an imprisonment as they underwent, it would have been impossible to allow their families to accompany them without making the punishment nugatory—indeed, something like a reward. But with respect to offenders who shall be employed in this country in penal labour on public works, in addition to a period of confinement, and who subsequently shall be sent abroad at their own 918 expense, the cost being defrayed out of their own earnings, the same objection will not apply, and their families may go with them; and to this I attach great importance. To go on with any system which should keep up that frightful inequality of the sexes which has hitherto existed in Australia, would be altogether inexcusable in the British Government or British Parliament. We are bound not to allow such a state of things to go on. But care being taken that the punishment of these exiles shall be first reformatory, and then conducted according to a system which shall secure to them an industrial and intellectual education; care being taken that no man shall be cast out from these places of punishment without knowing at least how to read and write, without being taught to know his responsibility to his Creator, as well as those particular trades which are most likely to be of use in the colonies—pains of this kind being taken beforehand in preparing these men for the life they are afterwards to lead, I am persuaded that there will then be found a class of persons whose going to the colonies will be attended with no disadvantage whatever. This will be more likely to be the case if, as I hope, it should be found possible that they may be sent out in such a manner as not to be recognised as criminals on their arrival. I see no reason why arrangements should not be made by which their passage may be made in emigrant ships, so that they would go out among other free emigrants, and on their arrival would be undistinguished in the general mass of emigrants, and would not be recognised as criminals. Of course many of them will be so recognised; but if their general conduct is such as I trust it will be, they will have no difficulty in getting over any prejudices which may arise from their former life; for as your Lordships are aware a public meeting has been held at Port Philip, at which there was a strong expression of feeling in favour of a larger number of exiles being sent there, I think it is of great importance that it should be made perfectly clear that this emigration was not a part of what might be strictly called the penal portion of the sentence. This emigration is not part of the punishment which they had to undergo, but it is a security against their again falling into crime, and an advantage to themselves. With this view I propose, with respect to those convicts for whose future good conduct trustworthy persons in 919 this country shall consent to be responsible, that they shall be relieved, if they so think proper, from the necessity of emigration, and their sentence will be considered complete when they regularly quit the public works. I attach great importance to this point, because I know that it will be asserted, that to revert to exile as a punishment is a step in a backward direction, and that it is reviving a barbarous and exploded system. I cannot altogether admit this; but, on the other hand, in order to maintain the efficiency of the system, it should be made clear that this emigration, which is an advantage to the individuals, is not to be considered as a part of the punishment. The criminals should be taught to regard the imprisonment and employment on public works as the real punishment, and not the emigration by which they are followed. I shall now point out the mode in which it is intended that this system should be carried into effect. On this head I have the satisfaction of informing your Lordships, that in the course of the present year it is calculated that means will be available in Great Britain by which every convict sentenced to transportation can be made to undergo the proposed preliminary period of separate confinement. The prison accommodation in Pentonville, Parkhurst, Millbank, and some of the county prisons, is sufficient for the purpose. Your Lordships are aware that since the change which took place last year, and according to which the maintenance of the convicts in the county prisons is charged on the public, county magistrates have no objection to the spare accommodation of county prisons being made available for the general wants of the public. Therefore, when in county gaols there are certain cells not immediately wanted, these cells will be made use of for convicts sent from other parts of the country. With respect to the convicts sentenced in Great Britain, there will be no difficulty in the present year in carrying into execution this part of their sentence. In Ireland I am sorry to say that the same is not at present the case. There is not sufficient accommodation for the separate confinement of Irish convicts; but no time will be lost in providing that accommodation; and it is proposed that a prison shall be built in Ireland for the reception of Irish convicts. Now, with regard to the disposal of the convicts sentenced to transportation after passing their period of imprisonment in separate cells, it has been found on an 920 examination into the available means at the command of Government, and on a calculation of the probable number of convicts to be disposed of, that for that number we shall be able to make provision; I have the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, that no serious difficulty will be encountered as to this part of the proposed change. Of course it will be necessary for the present to make use of hulks; but every effort will be made to improve the system of discipline on board those hulks. Already a good deal has been done in appointing additional officers for the management of prisoners, and in taking all the precautions in our power for the maintenance of discipline. But after all, I admit that hulks are but imperfect prisons, and I am of opinion that prisons on shore should be substituted for them as soon as possible. It is intended that the convicts should be employed where great public works are in progress, and removed when these are completed. In Portland, there are now public works in progress, and Portland itself possesses great advantages for a permanent convict establishment. Being a peninsula, it admits of arrangements for the safe custody of the convicts, while at the same time they can labour out of doors. But, further, a great quantity of stone will have to be quarried for various public works in progress, at which labour the convicts may be most advantageously employed. With reference to harbours of refuge, fortifications, and such works, which I know the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) is anxious to see completed as soon as possible, the labour of convicts will be of great value. The engineer officers whom I have consulted, are of opinion that the convict labour on such works will produce to the country a full equivalent for the cost of their maintenance, including superintendence and every other charge. My own opinion goes that length also. These are the measures proposed to be adopted as to male convicts, for all my observations have been made with reference to adult male convicts only. With respect to female convicts, it is determined they shall be sent to Van Diemen's Land for the present. Considerable pains have been taken to ensure a better system of discipline for female convicts in Van Diemen's Land; and considering the difficulty of disposing of them at home, it is thought best to send them there for the present. With respect to 921 juvenile offenders, a modification of the system now proposed will be necessary. That is a part of the subject which will be soon brought under your Lordships' notice, and for the present I postpone all reference to it. Such are the grounds on which Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that a change of policy ought to be adopted; and without further observations I beg to move the second reading of this Bill.
Nothing could be more satisfactory to him than to express his approval of the distinct, clear, and candid statement which had just been made by his noble Friend. He would not then enter further into the nature of the proposed alterations, than simply to state that considerable doubt remained upon his mind as to the propriety of totally abolishing the punishment of transportation. He had come to the same result as the Government, with respect to a great diminution of the punishment, not only from the evidence contained in the books on the Table, but from a long experience of and constant attention to the subject; and after examining many of the highest authorities on criminal police, he had satisfied his mind that the punishment of transportation must cease as a general infliction; but he was not prepared to say that it ought to be wholly abandoned. He remembered that in 1832 or 1833, Archbishop Whately addressed a letter on the punishment of transportation to the revered and lamented father of the noble Earl. His lamented Friend and then respected Colleague and himself agreed with the Archbishop in all but one thing: they were unwilling to give up that system of punishment absolutely in all cases. He was still of opinion that it was a punishment which would be good for certain cases; those cases to form the exception, not the rule. The objection to transportation, besides those of a political and a moral nature, was the entire and incurable inequality in the aspect and the nature of the punishment, inasmuch as to some it was the greatest punishment which could be inflicted upon them, short of that of death; while to others it was only a moderate sort of punishment, the object of dislike and aversion; and to a third class, it was little or no punishment at all. That was the great objection to transportation — that must never be lost sight of; the aspect of the punishment was various to the different individuals to whom it was addressed as an 922 example. But he still doubted whether it was safe to abandon it absolutely and altogether. We ought not to give up, rashly or inconsiderately, any branch of our penal system. Many eminent and humane individuals were strongly against all capital punishments: he could not agree with those persons, because, although they might not inflict it more than three or four times in the year—although it might not be necessary to inflict it more frequently—nevertheless he would not give up the punishment of death—he would maintain it even for those comparatively few instances to which it might be peculiarly applicable. Precisely for the same reason, he was doubtful whether they ought to abandon—whether they ought to deprive themselves of the power of—punishing some criminals with transportation. If that punishment were confined to a few cases, the main objection to it would be at an end—then its inequality would cease, and the penal settlement would be manageable. He would confine that punishment to persons who had moved in a superior rank of life, because to persons of that description the punishment of transportation was an awful punishment indeed—it was the most awful punishment which could be inflicted on them short of death. A few years ago a malefactor of that kind was so punished for a gross fraud; he would say no more of that case, because the punishment was still in force, than that for such a case transportation was the proper punishment. An individual had been tried the other day before his noble and learned Friend (Lord Denman); if he was in a state in which punishment ought to be inflicted at all, he ought to be subjected to a punishment of that description—to a person of that class it was a punishment only short of death. Again, and promptly, those curses to society, the receivers of stolen property—those who carried on that detestable trade, with whom the law was in perpetual conflict, out of which the law rarely came victorious—those persons carried on their detestable trade with some amount of capital—they were persons who were outwardly reputable—persons who in the eyes of the world had, at least, an apparent respectability—to such persons the punishment of transportation would be almost as bad as the infliction of capital punishment. They were the upholders of all offences against property—they were at the very root of crime—they were the cause of all the depredations which were committed by thieves of all ages and de- 923 scriptions, who infested society in the present day. It was melancholy to think of the misery they occasioned. Those in the profession to which he had the honour to belong, would recollect cases where an honest man's hopeless bankruptcy was actually traceable, link by link, to the facilities given to his servants or others for robbing him by the receivers of stolen property. To those persons transportation was the greatest terror, for it utterly destroyed their vile trade; and therefore he would be reluctant that that punishment, so well adapted to this case, should be abandoned. The only other part of the plan of his noble Friend upon which he would make any observation, was one to which he could not agree. He entertained some doubt as to the possibility of the deportation of the supposed reformed criminals being so easily effected as his noble Friend seemed to expect. On that subject he entertained some doubt—he entertained none whatever as to the exile. When a person was partly or nearly reformed—when he had obtained the necessary certificates, he was to be sent to Australia in an emigrant ship—not as part of his punishment, oh, no—not as part of his punishment, only he must go. Well, whether it was to be part of his punishment or no, still he was to go out as an emigrant, and, as his noble Friend said, he was to go out without his fellow-passengers finding out that he had been a convict. Unless he and his family had lost their powers of speech, it would not be long before a line would be drawn upon the deck, to one side of which the emigrants would adhere, and the convict and his family would be confined to the other. But as to the exile, he had no doubt whatever. That, in 1847, they should be restoring the old abandoned cases and obsolete punishment of the Scotch law of banishment, was most extraordinary—a punishment which was reprobated and ridiculed by Sir George Mackenzie, as long as 180 years ago, who denounced it as a barbarous and inhuman practice—inhuman, to send your convict population to your neighbours; and impolitic, because it was a game which two could play at; for your neighbours could send you their convicts in return. Such was the view of the earliest writer upon the subject; and Mr. Alison, the latest, was of a similar opinion; for he said, that the penalty in question was an exploded punishment, and one only fit for an infant state of society and legislation. Now, he was fully of Mr. Alison's opinion. 924 For let us consider for a moment how the system would work. As soon as the time of penal labour was over, would come into operation that part of the sentence which would send the convict abroad. But it was said that this was not to be made a part of the punishment. Well, but was he to be allowed to go abroad or stay at home, just as he pleased? If he must go abroad, that necessity was just as much part of the punishment as it was part of the sentence. He was to be compelled to go. He may say, "As it is not part of the punishment, I shall not go." "Oh, but," say you, "although it is not part of the punishment, you must go." "Oh, then," says he, "if I must go, it is part of the punishment." His noble Friend said it was necessary, in order that he might not fall back into his course of crime—it was necessary, in order to protect society; but if it were to prevent him from sinning again, why not put him to death? They might say to the partly-reformed criminal, after he had served his proper time in labouring on the public works, "This is no part of your punishment; but, in order to prevent you from returning to your bad courses, we are only going to remove your head—but, remember, it is no part of your punishment; we only want to protect society." It was just as a surgeon might say to a patient of amputation. It was all a question of removing. In the latter case it was of removing a limb; in the former, of removing a head. They might say, "We are only going to remove your head; it is no punishment." So of this plan. "It is only exile; you are only to be removed; it is no punishment; the exile is only compulsory." But, after all, where were they to go to? If they may go where they like, they may go to Calais. Well, when they got there, what was to prevent them from coming back again? How could that be provided against? No means existed to do so. The Liverpool convict would come to London, and the London one would go to Liverpool; and no one could prevent them from doing so. He certainly should like to see what would be said at the French custom-house upon the arrival of a cargo of live convicts. The officer would inquire of the captain of the ship, as to his cargo, "Is it hams, or carcases, or food, or manufactured goods?" "Oh, no," would the captain say, "oh, no; no hams, but convicts." "Convicts! what sort of goods are they?" Then the captain, mustering his best French, would explain, that they 925 were merely thieves, highway robbers, perjured persons, who had, by the breach of all sorts of duties at home, become liable to an importation duty abroad. He was afraid the French would soon put on a prohibitory duty upon the importation of such cargoes; most undoubtedly they would not like them to come into their country. The authorities would say, "Oh, you can't come here without passports, and we shan't give you any." Or, at all events, were they to be admitted, it would be on the reciprocity principle. If we send our convicts there, we must expect them to send their convicts here—a process which would by no manner of means increase the benefits and advantages of the entente cordiale. He had no doubt but that on further consideration this part of the plan would not be adhered to. They might preach to the end of time to the French—they might say, "These men have certainly been ruffians, but they have as certainly ceased to be so;" and you will still be answered thus: "How do you know that? They are probably just as bad as ever." "No, no," you will rejoin, "they come with excellent certificates from the chaplain of Pentonville vouching for their reformation, they have earned I know not how many of Captain Maconochie's marks. You may safely take them; they are most excellent worthy people." "But," says the mayor of Calais, "if they are such excellent, worthy people, why won't you keep them yourselves? We don't want them. We have plenty of excellent, worthy people, of the same description. We have numbers in every rank of crime, and every degree of reformation and improvement; therefore, keep your good people on your side of the water, and we will keep our good people on ours." The plan would not bear serious investigation — it was introducing into the English law the punishment of banishment, certainly not for the first time, because it was enacted as a punishment by one of the "Six Acts," against the enactment of which he and his noble and learned Friend (Lord Denman) had fought most strenuously, although unavailingly; but it was never once put in force. That punishment, however, was attached to an offence which would have proved no stumbling-block in the way of persons suffering it being received in France — it was enacted against political libellers. Now, the French might have no objection to receive a few political libellers from the Strand, 926 although they might have a strong objection to the importation of a few highwaymen from St. Giles's. Some other parts of the statement of his noble Friend were exceedingly satisfactory, more especially those relating to the improvement of prison discipline. To carry into effect a proper system, would require a very considerable expenditure of the public money; but in what way could it be spent with more advantage to the country? A bad and vicious system of prison discipline, was caused by the want of good prisons; and he trusted much time would not be allowed to elapse without a large number of gaols being provided, each having the means of affording industrial employment to their inmates, either in the field or the workshop. To talk of the expense of providing these, was absurd and grossly inconsistent. They were spending hundreds of thousands on matters useless as compared with this. The abolition of the system of transportation, or even if it were maintained within the bounds which he approved, would put at their disposal a revenue of 4 or 500,000l. a year. That was the cost of the system, besides the cost of the penal settlement itself; and that sum would provide not only proper gaols, but also provide them with proper workshops. He was exceedingly happy to hear the statement of his noble Friend with respect to the working of the convict system at Gibraltar. He had entertained no expectation that the clear gain from the labour of a convict would amount to 12l. per year, and that after paying the expense of carrying him there, his maintenance, and in fact, all expenses to the Government. [Earl GREY: It did not include the cost of the hulks.] No; but still it was gratifying to find that his labour provided the convict with food and clothing, and left a residue of 12l. a year. That was a fair encouragement to extend the system still further, and make all confinement be accompanied by industry.
was quite aware that there were few of their Lordships who were not more competent to address the House on this question than himself; but he hoped that he might find an excuse for making a few observations upon it, in the circumstance that he had formerly held the office of Colonial Secretary, and during that period had taken and still continued to take a deep interest in the subject immediately under consideration. He was anxious to take this opportunity, because, if he rightly understood his noble Friend 927 opposite, it was likely to be the last opportunity their Lordships would have of expressing their opinions upon the proposition before them—of stating his views with respect to that proposition. No doubt the measure was brought forward in a laudable desire of improvement; but he must not, at the same time, hesitate to say that he thought Her Majesty's Government were rather hastily adopting summary and extensive changes, and departing from a system which might have been, and no doubt was, at the present moment, subject to considerable abuses, but which was yet, in his opinion, valuable to a very great degree. The subject was one of very grave importance; and he must express his regret should this be the last opportunity their Lordships were to have to discuss and to consider it, and, if they should think necessary, to interfere with the course about to be pursued with regard to it. Because if it were competent to the Government and to the judges of the land to commute all past sentences of transportation to imprisonment, the object of the Bill was clearly not to be applied to individual cases, but to introduce an entire change in our system of punishing crime—a change which he believed would be most doubtful in its effects; and therefore he said, that such an important step ought not to be taken without receiving the fullest consideration at the hands of Parliament, and receiving also its sanction by an act of its own. He was afraid that there had been a good deal of haste, not only on this occasion, but on former occasions, in dealing with the question of transportation. He, for one, entertained very great doubts as to the policy of abolishing the punishment of transportation; for he believed that transportation, looking at it in the two points of view in which they ought to look at all descriptions of secondary punishments—namely, as a means of deterring persons from crime, and for the reformation of the individuals who committed crime—looking at it in these points of view, his belief was, that transportation was the punishment most dreaded by the hardened; the one which produced the greatest effect on those on whom it was passed, and on those who heard the sentence pronounced. Those persons who would, under the noble Lord's measure, be sentenced to three and a half years' imprisonment, and afterwards to hard labour upon public works, would, he was quite sure, look with very different feelings upon a sentence of transportation for twenty, four- 928 teen or even ten years. He was decidedly of opinion that the system of transportation could be carried on with the advantage of promoting the reformation of convicts, as well as the punishment of them. The opinion of the Committee which sat in 1821 was open, in his opinion, to great objections. It was quite true, as the noble Earl had observed, that the system of assignment as a punishment was very unequal, because very much depended on the temper and character of the masters to whom the convicts were assigned. To some convicts it was a heavy punishment; to others, a trifling one; and to others again, it was no punishment at all. This he would concede; but still, after the convict had undergone a period of penal labour in the colony, the system of assigning him for a period, at the end of his punishment, was in many respects a good one. If facilities and checks, which might have been devised, had been adopted, the convict, after undergoing a more severe punishment under the superintendence of Government, would have been, on his assignment, again introduced into private life and uncontaminated society; an event which was of itself capable of producing, and did produce, the most signal advantage to the character and disposition of persons subjected to that punishment. He thought that a hasty step had been taken in 1840, when the Government determined that transportation to New South Wales should altogether cease, and that Van Diemen's Land should be the single point to which the flood of convict emigration should be directed. He would also remark, that the abolition of the probation gangs had been coincident with the decline in prosperity of the former colony. Nothing could have been more unfortunate than the adoption of the new system, and nothing could have been more difficult than the state of affairs the local government had to contend against in consequence. He repeated, that he was perfectly satisfied that transportation had, generally speaking, acted, and was at present acting, beneficially on the persons who were subjected to it. He would not trouble their Lordships with any observations as to the nature of the horrors which were described in the papers before the House as having taken place in our penal settlements; they were almost too dreadful to contemplate. One could scarcely believe that such things could have occurred; and he had no doubt whatever that they would not have occurred 929 if a proper system of superintendence and watchfulness had been established—if ordinary precautions had been adopted, the disgusting facts which were described in the book before him might, in every instance, have been prevented. But, let their Lordships look to the general picture before them as to the condition of the convict under the system the Government were about to abolish. The evidence all showed that a great improvement had taken place in the condition of the convicts. He took it from a letter which had been published by the noble Earl opposite in the papers laid before the House, from the Rev. Mr. Fry, who was not an advocate for the continuance of transportation, except for minor offences. He (Lord Stanley) would first however, take the liberty of reading a passage from a petition on the "probation system," which was presented to the Governor in August, 1845:—We would desire to cultivate and express gratitude to Divine Providence that our moral condition is so good, rather than aggravate its evils or anticipate its deterioration. Our metropolis does not yield to any seaport and garrison town of Great Britain, of equal population, for orderly conduct and regularity in the streets. The convicts present no appearance shocking to humanity. The clank of chains is now seldom heard; and the deportment of free labourers, grateful and respectful, has succeeded to the scowl of malignity with which the assigned white slaves regarded their owners.Now, he must say, that it was a scandal and a shame to this country, that until the year 1842 we had not provided a minister of religion to attend to the spiritual wants of the unfortunate convicts we sent out to our colonies; and it was a matter of great satisfaction to him that during the period he held office, he had sent out several Protestant ministers and Roman Catholic clergymen to give spiritual instruction to those persons, and he believed that their efforts had been productive of very great good; and he was rejoiced, moreover, to hear from the Roman Catholic bishop who had recently left this country on his return to the colony, that although he bore witness to many of the horrors stated in these papers, yet he was convinced that the want was not in the system itself, but in the manner in which it was administered. He said that these horrors were capable of being checked, and in his judgment the continuance of transportation as a secondary punishment was absolutely necessary. But to return to the petition from 930 which he had already quoted. It went on, in another part to state—Twelve or fifteen ministers of religion pursue their holy calling to congregations very numerous in proportion to the population; and the charity of the community has been often so exemplified as to reflect upon it the highest credit. Religion has taken deep hold in the community, and every Protestant family have their Bible, and means and opportunities of religious service and instruction. Parents in every condition of life exhibit a strong desire for the general education and the religious instruction of their children; and in proportion to the population the number of children in this colony attending school is vastly greater than that in England, and perhaps exceeds that of any other community. For the first time in the history of mankind, reformation has been adopted as the principle of penal discipline. In the prisons of Great Britain, reformation was found impracticable, for the discharge of the offender was his return to the scenes and companions of his crimes. The treadmill became the place of concerting future robberies, and the termination of sentence delivered the criminal as to a triumph among his accomplices awaiting his discharge. It was thus found that the same criminals were constantly returning to a repetition of punishments, amounting in some cases to an almost incredible number. The temptations and opportunities for crime were as great as the motives and means of reformation were small. The transportation of criminals to a distant country, where honest labour was well remunerated without the facilities for theft which existed in the great towns of England, seemed to supply the desideratum, and was carried into effect in these colonies. For forty years the Government was content to land the convicts on our shores, and to distribute them among the settlers, without providing adequate means for their protection or instruction. Representations and reports from this colony stigmatizing the assignment of convicts as a "white slavery," and describing it as full of horrors and iniquities, led the Government, after an inquiry by a Committee of the House of Commons, to abolish assignment and adopt the probation system. Then, for the first time, an attempt was made to Christianise the convicts. For periods exceeding two years, the probation men are taught in schools the principles of religion and to read the Bible. They are instructed in religion by religious teachers, and join in daily worship. Their habits of vice are broken off, and regularity of life is practised. Drunkenness, the cause of calamity to most of them, is stopped, if not cured; habits of obedience, submission, and labour are acquired; and if not reformed at heart, they are dismissed to society with a knowledge of religion and morality, and the practice of a regular and orderly life. In the probation gangs, the men receive instruction gladly, and repay their instructor, if he be kind and attentive, with gratitude and respect. The discipline is maintained by the moral influence of the system; and the men patiently obey its directions from a sense of the mercy and interest for their welfare which it displays, from the hope which it opens of honest independence, and from the exact impartiality with which it is administered. That so many parties composed of such materials, and almost abandoned to self-discipline, should have so long lived tranquilly in remote 931 districts, unawed by a surrounding force, is a subject of great thankfulness, and a practical evidence of one great attribute of the system—that it can exist by its own power and influence upon the men.In the month of August, 1846, Mr. Fry, in letter addressed to the noble Lord opposite, referring to the statements in the petition, says—I gladly declare that the statements in that paper, of the wonderful tranquillity, security, and good order of the colony, are completely true, and that the condition of the emancipists, ticket-of-leave, and probation passholders, is not inferior to that of persons in the same stations and occupations in England or elsewhere; that the presence of convicts has not a seriously demoralising effect upon the habits or manners of the free inhabitants, male or female; and that instances of reformation and of respectable conduct in the convicts are very common, and delightful to witness.And, again, he adds, in the same letter—As a proof of the benefits of transportation, I may mention that I have married above one hundred discharged convicts within the past year, and that I believe the great majority of them are living in a condition equal to that of persons in similar stations in England. Lord Stanley's remark that this colony is useful as affording a central station for the dispersion of convicts to neighbouring colonies as free men, is daily borne out by fact, and is most true and beneficial.With regard to the stages of punishment, he believed that no difference of opinion existed. He approved of the system of the local authorities issuing conditional pardons in Van Diemen's Land, which were available for all the Australian colonies. Convicts who had obtained tickets of leave were permitted to diffuse themselves over the continent without a violation of the engagements of the Government not to send convicts to those other colonies. He believed that his noble Friend admitted the principle of the infliction of severe punishment in the first instance for a certain definite period; from thence successive stages of greater or less restraint, till gradually, by good conduct, the convict should be suffered to emerge among the free and uncontaminated population. But the question was, under what circumstances the preliminary punishment might be effectually carried out; and what was the best manner of sending the convict again into society? The Government could not escape from this difficulty: after the sentence should have been undergone, the convict population must be poured forth on the conntry; and what, then, was to become of them? The noble Earl (Earl Grey) thought it best that the preliminary pun- 932 ishment should take place in this country, and that the punishment of transportation, in name, at least, should be abolished. Still it was necessary that the convict population should be poured forth from this country; and where was it most likely the Government would find the means of coercion, and secondly the means of severe penal employment—in the colonies or at home? Whatever the difficulty might be of finding the means of coercion and severe penal employment in distant colonies, that difficulty would be much increased if they endeavoured to find them at home. Considering the vast scale of offences subjected to the punishment of transportation, he was afraid there would not be that distinction between the highest and lowest grades of punishment which ought to be kept up. A man would not much care whether he received six months' imprisonment, which was to be the minimum, or eighteen months, which was to be the maximum; and thus the punishment of penal emigration, or whatever it was to be called, would cease to be a terror to evil-doers. The question of expense, in such a case, was a minor one. If the expense of such a system proved greater, but if, at the same time, it was necessary, then this country would look with comparative indifference on an additional expenditure of 100,000l., 200,000l., or 300,000l. a year. He thought, however, it would be found difficult to apply the system, even at the very outset. He believed the proportion of the male adult population annually sentenced to transportation, was, as nearly as possible, 4,000. It would be necessary, therefore, to begin by finding accommodation in prisons such as Pentonville or Parkhurst for that number annually. From preliminary imprisonment, you were to pass to employment on the public works. Assuming the imprisonment to be half the time of sentence to transportation, that would give five years employment on the public works as the average time of the convicts; that was to say, setting aside calculations for casualties and mortality, they would have five times 4,000, or 20,000 male adult convicts not in one year or five years, but permanently employed on public works. He ventured to say that that was a system which must infallibly break down. He said that it was a system which would revolt, in the first place, the feelings of the people of this country; which, if applied extensively (and if not so applied it could not be applied at all), would seriously interfere with 933 the demand for ordinary labour; would throw the whole Government employment for important works, which now employed an industrious population, into the hands of a convict population, who would labour on these works, well fed and well kept, and with the further promise that at the expiration of their sentence they and their families should be sent, as free labourers, to some of the colonies. It would operate as a gross injustice on honest industry, on the unconvicted portion of the population. They had hundreds and thousands of industrious people begging at their hands for that very boon which they were going to confer on the convict at the expiration of his sentence. He might truly say that emigration was no part of the sentence, because when they had gone through the penalty attached to the crime, they would be placed in a situation in which many of their industrious countrymen were begging to be placed. Let the House look further at this question of emigration, as it was proposed to be carried out. They had had some little experience of the feelings in which the different colonies of the empire regarded the presence of convicts. He did not go the length of assuming, as his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had done, that the Government would send those people to France, or to any other country in which they might desire to settle; but the only evidence they had of the intention of the Government in this respect went to show that they proposed to furnish these convicts and their families with the means of emigration, and to compel them to emigrate. To whom was the choice of the place to be left? Were they to be allowed to choose, out of the whole range of our colonies, that to which they would prefer to be transferred at the expense of the State? And were they to be there under no surveillance, and to be restored, uncontrolled, to society? His noble Friend must not deceive himself as to the result of such an arrangement. Every emigrant ship, if there were to be any efficient system of control, would be known to convey in her a considerable number of convicts. If not, a practical fraud would be committed on the honest emigrant, who would suppose that he and those with him were leaving the country in honest society. Well, then, if it was known what was the character of such portion of those on board, there must necessarily be a separation between them and those of good character, so that there 934 would be a brand upon every man who had been of the convict class from the moment he arrived on shore. He would be regarded only as a convict sent out to fulfil his sentence. He would mention a proof of this. When he was Secretary of State for the Colonies, he felt very anxious to send out a very limited number of the best and most reformed of those who were in Parkhurst and Pentonville prisons. After many difficulties the authorities of Port Philip were induced to consent to allow fifty of them to be sent there. What was the result? Why, that even so small a number gave rise to complaints, and petitions poured in from every British colony that they might not suffer the contamination of being made a penal colony. The Government of this country had pledged itself that New South Wales should no longer be a convict colony. Would it be keeping faith with that colony, if, in the teeth of that promise, substituting for the system of transportation punishment here instead of at Norfolk Island, we said that at the end of a certain number of years, there should be, not transportation, but compulsory emigration, to the extent of 3,000 or 4,000 a year to New South Wales? That might be keeping the promise to the ear, but it would not be keeping it to the sense. But you might say that these persons would be dispersed through all the colonies. The only result of that would be an universal outcry and clamour from every one of them. But how would it act? The expenses of the convicts, it seemed, were to be paid out of their wages. Of course, then they would wish to be sent to the nearest or the most advantageous place. The greatest portion would bo glad to be sent to Canada or North America. Would Canada be satisfied to be made the cloaca maxima of the convict population; or would the State of New York be satisfied to be made one of the deposits for the comtamination of this convict population? By this system it was proposed to do more than to allow them to go; we were to compel them to go; we were to pay for them; we were to find a passage for them; we were to send out officers to see that they did go; and yet we were called upon to suppose that foreign countries and our own colonies would be deluded into the belief that this was not a virtual renewal of the system of transportation. He was convinced, then, that they might change the name of transportation by this system, but they would not alter its nature. Although you might say that 935 Van Diemen's Land was no longer to be a penal colony, you would make every colony more or less a penal colony. Whilst purporting to keep the colonies uncontaminated, you were unduly pouring in a vast stream of convict population. Yet the preliminary system would involve the country in a great expense, while few, if any, greater facilities of reformation would be afforded than might, at a very little more expense, by the employment of efficient officers, be had in the colonies themselves. The public works system, he was convinced, for the reasons he had stated, must break down. Now he must say, on the whole, that he conceived it would be more advantageous to limit, if it was desired, the extent to which transportation should be carried; not applying it indiscriminately, and, above all, not to juvenile offenders to the extent it had been; making the sentence of imprisonment by law more frequent, and that of transportation more infrequent; but when imposed, not systematically departing from it, and substituting something else in its stead: if the number of convicts sent to penal colonies being thus diminished, an official control, watch, and discipline were maintained, and a proper superintendence established, under a system, for the reformation of those convicts, who might be subjected to a discipline equally good with that proposed to be effected by this preliminary system at home—who might be employed in clearing land, in quarrying stone, and building public works—in every way, in short, that would not interfere with individual labour; so that at the last, as their terms expired, they might be able to transfer themselves by twos, and and threes, and fours, to neighbouring colonies, not being sent by the Government, and so become a benefit to, say Van Diemen's Land, or other colonies similarly situated; and thus all the advantages obtained, with none of the disadvantages that were expected by the noble Lord from his system of primary punishment. He doubted much, too, whether the immediate change proposed would not be too summary and hasty before it was possible to get into full operation that by which it was proposed to replace it; and whether, also, it would not in fact introduce greater abuses than those which they sought to avoid. He had taken the liberty of expressing his doubts on the subject; and he might be allowed to add the expression of his hope that no final and irremediable step would be taken by the Government without the Parliament and 936 the country being afforded a full opportunity—he hoped by Act of Parliament—of expressing their opinions on the details and the probable practical workings of the system proposed—a system which had reference to almost the most important question which could affect the social happiness and the morality of this country.
§ LORD DENMAN
said, it was highly gratifying to know that the Government had bestowed so much attention on so important a subject, and that it had been discussed in the manner it had been. If, in the short time he had had to look at the papers on the Table, he had the least right to give an opinion on the details of this proposed system, he should beg leave to say that he was extremely rejoiced that the Norfolk Island establishment was to be broken up, and that, in the present state of the authorities of Van Diemen's Land, and the circumstances there with respect to transportation, the system there should be for some time suspended. But when he heard it proposed that that great power which consisted in the terror of transportation should be abolished; that that great terror should be withdrawn from the minds of those who, if not actually criminals, might be contemplating crime, he could not but regard such an intention with the greatest possible dismay—he could use no lighter term. Suppose the case—not of the poor, the ignorant, or the sinning, because not better instructed; but of those who might be leagued together for the purpose of crime or of stimulating crime, who, with large capital and well-constructed and contrived association—suppose those men were told, as they would be, "whatever crime you commit, you shall not be transported for it," he (Lord Denman) could not but view with some alarm the consequences which were likely to ensue from such a course, in the extension of crime, and in its effect on the security of all persons in this country. He did not believe that the punishment of transportation was without the greatest terror for offenders. He could state from his own experience, and, he believed, he might say from that of all the judges for some years past, that they had all seen examples—not constantly, but on many occasions—of the overwhelming terror of transportation. No person could witness a sentence of transportation being passed in a court of justice, without being struck by it; there was no person pausing on the verge of crime, who would not be deterred by it. He did not wish to repeat what his 937 noble Friend had so forcibly stated as to the effect of transportation; but there was one fact which had rather been lost sight of, and that was the great importance of removing influential persons, whether by their talents, wealth, or habits, from all connexion with those whom they probably were paying, employing, and instructing daily in the commission of crime. The receiver of stolen goods was often a man of perfect respectability as to his general appearance and conduct; he paid his tradesmen regularly; he had a long beadroll of witnesses as to character, meaning punctuality in the neighbourhood in which he resided; but that man was a normal teacher to the extent of thousands of young convicts, who were kept in full pay and employ by him. If he was convicted, was it no terror to him, surrounded by the comforts of life, to be told, "From the moment of your conviction by the law, you are no longer a subject of England, except that you may be punished; you shall no longer corrupt the young; you shall go where you can commit no more crime, where you can produce no more criminals; and the sentence which will be imposed upon you will be instantly carried into effect!" He apprehended that no greater benefit could be conferred on society than the removal of such a person from the sphere in which he had been working; and assuredly transportation would at once be a great terror to him, and afford a beneficial example. The infinite multiplication of resident criminals was of very serious consequence. All these persons had friends and connexions with whom they might be in daily communication in some mode or other, and they might endeavour to excite the compassion of the public. And, as the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had very truly said, the proposed system was very likely not to be carried out at all—that the public mind would be influenced by sentiments of compassion for those who might be exposed to its operation. That was very just. All those who had witnessed the working of these systems of public punishment, would admit the truth of the remark. He did not believe that it would be possible fully to carry out the system among a free people. He did not think that a free people like the English would endure, for instance, such scenes as were witnessed at Marseilles, where the cannon were always planted so as to command the workmen—where the fusillade was always ready in case of a mutiny among them—and yet 938 crimes of the blackest die were constantly committed by these wretched criminals. His objection was not confined to the more severe parts of the plan. It seemed a part of it that the convicts were to be secluded for eighteen months at home prior to their suffering the rest of their punishment, with every hope of procuring pardon through good behaviour and the favourable reports of officials. Experience showed that the worst criminals were the best behaved in prison. [The Duke of RICHMOND: For a short time.] Eighteen months were all that was required. That was no very formidable period in the life of a young man; and it was proposed that at the end of that time they should be able to earn wages and gain the right to become proprietors, perhaps in France, or in whatever other place they might choose. Under the old system the terror was extreme, because the suffering was very great to those who were subject to transportation, from the rupture of all natural ties and of all their former associations; while, at the time, there was always a chance of their final restoration to society through the demand for labour in those boundless regions which were still unexhausted by human enterprise. His noble Friend, in one of his despatches, gave a plan for an intended village, to be raised and peopled by convicts, and where certainly life might be enjoyed. But, on the other hand, there was the punishment of leaving home, and after the expiration of the term of punishment a man was to begin a new career of life, and perhaps, from the natural operation of circumstances, he might become a new man, and ultimately contribute to the happiness and prosperity of the community to which he belogned. That was the working of the system of transportation. To a great extent it had been carried out in New South Wales. What had occurred elsewhere seemed more to have resulted from the supineness of some of the officials, than from any other cause. Since he had been made acquainted with the actual effects of a sentence of transportation, he had not been able to bring himself to pass it; he had not availed himself of the power of sending criminals to a penal settlement. At the same time, he was quite of opinion that there might be a system under which convicts might be subjected to labour and discipline in such a manner that they might eventually be restored to a state of mind in which they would be a blessing to their families and to those connected with 939 them. He wished before he sat down to point out one or two matters which appeared to him not unworthy of their Lordships' attention in considering the Bill then before them. In the present state of the law a man might be condemned to death for an offence under circumstances which made it doubtful whether such a sentence was perfectly legal or not; and when there was thus a doubt that death could be lawfully inflicted, the convict himself was made a party to a compromise. If he submitted to be transported, he escaped the infliction of death—if he returned from transportation, he forfeited his life. But if they made the change now proposed to be effected in the law, they set the escaped convict free from capital punishment; and, having done that, how did they propose to deal with masses of men leagued together for purposes of crime, and led by persons of perverted ingenuity and large pecuniary means? A petition had been intrusted to him, which, as it was respectfully worded, he was bound to present. The petitioners demanded a total abolition of capital punishment. The suspension, and, still more, the discontinuance of transportation, might lead to the increase of capital punishment. Now, he called upon their Lordships carefully to consider the resistance which they might have to encounter from the pressure of public opinion upon this subject. Any increase of capital punishment must be attended with very serious difficulties. Upon these grounds he confessed he did not think that their Lordships ought to pledge themselves to an important system, or an extensive change.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
felt that he could not add anything to the able arguments which their Lordships had heard respecting the evil of abolishing transportation, and he should therefore confine himself to a very few observations; but he could not help saying that no punishment had proved more effective. It had been announced that as many as 4,000 additional convicts were to be kept in the gaols and prisons of this country. To that plan he saw several objections, founded on the fact that the gaols were not fit for the reception of these prisoners; and it would be inexpedient to try the experiment until prisons had been constructed expressly for the reception of this class of convicts. If they were at once sent to the gaols in tens or twenties, the consequence would be that they would be obliged for the eighteen months, the term of their confinement, to 940 continue in cells, deprived of either air or exercise—deprived of every opportunity for self-improvement which would render them useful afterwards. That would be a punishment which would be altogether too severe, and which should not be inflicted on any human being. From his own personal knowledge, he could speak of the terrors the idea of transportation produced on the minds of the convicts. He had often heard them say, "If you keep me here, I care not—do all you can to prevent my being sent across the water. In England I may receive letters from my friends—I may have interviews with my father, with my mother, my wife or children; but if sent to Australia, to hear or to see them there is no hope." That was one reason why they so much disliked transportation, because they never hoped again to see those whom they loved and cherished. Any individual who visited the cells of prisoners must know that the most reckless villain had as deep and as sincere an affection for his wife and children as the most regular or moral member of society. He hoped the noble Earl (Earl Grey) would consider the advice that had been given by the noble and learned Lord, and, instead of carrying out the whole of the proposed experiment, that he would diminish to a certain and safe extent the number to be transported. He knew how difficult it was to define that amount of punishment which would act beneficially on the offender: much depended on his habits of life, much depended on his constitution; yet he was sure that to separate a man, even for a short time, from his associates, would be of use, as it gave him time to reflect—it gave him time to look back on his past life—so that he might be brought to admit, if not to others, yet to himself, that he felt the errors he committed; that he was sorry for his conduct; and that he would endeavour to avoid them in future. In his opinion, the prison at Pentonville had not yet been sufficiently tested. The period when the first ship went out was most unfavourable; there was no work to be had when the convicts landed, and, unfortunately, some of them got drunk, and some went astray; but many of them were most thankful for having been placed in the Pentonville prison. The hulk system, however, was by no means to be equally commended. Many convicts were made worse, rather than improved, by being placed in the hulks. He was most happy to find that the Government was about to remove the prison inspectors from 941 having the immediate direction of the Millbank Penitentiary. He objected to that appointment when the Bill was brought before their Lordships. He thought the appointment would do mischief, as it would prevent the valuable services of those men from being extended to the prisons of the country, by which great good, could be effected in introducing one uniform system of prison discipline. He hoped now they would diligently apply themselves to the duties of the new office to which they were appointed, and bring the whole of the prisoners under one uniform system.
§ EARL GREY
said, that after the speeches which their Lordships had heard from his noble Friends behind him, and from the noble Lords opposite, it was necessary that he should occupy their attention for a short time by addressing to the House a few words of explanation: and in offering that explanation he should strictly confine himself to the points that had been touched on in the course of the present debate. His noble Friend opposite said that a change so important should not be carried into effect upon any less authority than that of an Act of Parliament. In that opinion he fully agreed with the noble Lord; and he never for a moment doubted that an Act of Parliament would ultimately be necessary. He had not perhaps on the first occasion when he addressed their Lordships, stated what he wished to say with the fulness and clearness that the occasion required; what he meant to say was, that under the existing powers which the Executive Government possessed, under Acts of Parliament already passed, the punishment of transportation might be commuted for imprisonment. It was well known that the late Government had adopted the resolution of suspending for two years the punishment of transportation. As the law gave that power, he saw no reason why advantage might not be taken of the existing law, for the purpose of trying a useful and promising experiment. As, after all, the proposed change must be considered experimental, there seemed to be much convenience in postponing the time of applying to Parliament till the period should have arrived, when, being enabled to judge by the practical working of the plan, how far it was likely to answer, and what modifications it might require, Parliament might proceed with much greater confidence than it now could, to determine upon the system of punishment which should be permanently adopted. For the present, it was intended 942 that sentences of transportation should be recorded in conformity with the existing practice; and the House, he presumed, knew perfectly well that every year large numbers of convicts were sent to Gibraltar, to Bermuda, to the hulks, and to Pentonville; so that when he spoke of suspending transportation, he merely referred to a suspension of it so far as Australia was concerned. Large numbers were thus sent to those places, and for the present that practice would be continued; so that, in fact, the proposed change would be, for the present, more apparent than real. He need not remind his noble Friend opposite, but he might as well inform the House, that, until the year 1843, those who were sentenced to seven years' transportation were never, or very rarely, sent abroad. They were almost uniformly sent to the hulks, and thence discharged at the end of four years, if they obtained a certificate of good conduct. Since that time, however, the great majority had been sent abroad. In the present state of the law, there could be no doubt that the practice of punishing by transportation might be suspended. If, hereafter, it was thought expedient to abolish it altogether, of course that change ought to be effected by the express authority of Parliament; but he conceived that it would be disadvantageous to alter the nominal sentence until after the proposed experiment should have been tried. His noble Friend opposite had said that within five years there would be an accumulation of 20,000 convicts, who would produce an evil effect upon the free labour of this country; but if the plan now proposed were adopted, such a result could not possibly ensue, and he therefore did now call upon them to consider whether such a plan was expedient. They could not be blind to this, that convicts must be kept to penal labour somewhere; and he desired to know whether it was easier to keep them to penal labour in this country or in Van Diemen's Land? He believed no one would venture to say that the old system ought to be re-established; no one who looked at the enormous abuses of the ancient system could possibly wish to see it re-established; most especially, he might say, that no one would desire to see the system of assignment re-established; it was a system no less injurious to the masters than it was to the slaves. It was well known to have produced effects similar to those which slavery had produced in our slave colonies. There might be excep- 943 tions; but the general rule was, that slavery inflicted enormous evils upon any one who came within the sphere of its pernicious influence. But, after all, what did transportation mean? It meant nothing more than penal labour in a colony instead of penal labour in England. It had been said, that transportation was viewed by convicts with infinite terror; and it was further said, that if the punishment to be inflicted on convicts were to be changed in the manner which the Government proposed, there would be no safety for society in this country; and the case of a receiver of stolen goods was mentioned, as one in which the proposed punishment would be altogether inadequate. But did his noble Friend (Lord Denham), who made this objection, know what, under the old system of transportation, was the amount of punishment really inflicted on such an offender? He had heard it stated—and he believed the statement to be true—that it had actually happened that a man who was a great receiver of stolen goods, perhaps the greatest that ever existed in this country, had been some years ago convicted of this offence, and was transported. He had previously accumulated enormous wealth, and he found no great difficulty in evading the law, so as to protect his moveable property from being forfeited to the Crown. He contrived, by means of bribery, to get himself assigned; he bribed the party to whom he was assigned, and he lived as well and drove as large a trade in stolen goods in New South Wales, as he had ever carried on in this country.
§ EARL GREY
resumed: That remark of the noble Lord might be perfectly true; but its truth did not invalidate the force of the argument which he had just used in favour of suspending, for a short time, the practice of transportation. It had been said, that transportation had far more terrors for the criminal than the plan now proposed was likely to have. To enable their Lordships to judge of this, he would briefly compare the two systems. Under the existing system, a man was sentenced to transportation for fourteen years; he was sent to Van Diemen's Land—he was put to a penal gang to labour on the roads. At the end of eight years, if well behaved, he obtained, perhaps, a conditional pardon, under which he might go to America, or India, or China, or anywhere he pleased, provided he did not return to England. 944 Under the system now proposed, the criminal, instead of going straight to Van Diemen's Land, was to be sent to Pentonville. Instead of being put to a penal gang, with no real system of discipline in force, he would be placed in the cell of a prison, where there was the strictest and severest system of discipline possible — so severe, that the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) thought that eighteen months of it was more than human nature could generally bear. He (Earl Grey) believed the noble Duke was right, and he certainly thought it ought never to be prolonged beyond that time. After that severe punishment, the criminal would be placed on public works in this country, where he would be subjected to precisely the same regulations as he would be in Van Diemen's Land, with this difference, that the system of penal labour to which he would be subjected, would be under the immediate cognizance of Government. So that if anything went wrong, they could instantly check it; and thus all the abuses of the system in Van Diemen's Land would be effectually avoided. If, for instance, they had an inefficient Governor in Van Diemen's Land—a circumstance which no Government could always guard against—it would be two or three years before they could know it; and then, when they did know it, it would be nearly another year before they could make a change. In both cases, then—in the present as well as the proposed system—there was penal labour, and for the same period; but the Government proposed to follow it out. At the end of eight years, the criminal would receive a conditional pardon; and the condition would be, that he should go to Van Diemen's Land. The Government would keep its eye upon him until he was placed on board a ship for Australia, where he would be placed in the same situation as the criminal who at present got a conditional pardon in Australia. When his noble Friend, then, said that the system would be an inefficient one, he surely did not consider that the only practical difference between it and the present system was, that it inflicted penal labour at home instead of in the colonies; being the same sort of labour, and under the same sort of regulation, with the advantage that we had infinitely greater facilities for inflicting it here than we had in the colonies; and that at the end of his punishment he was discharged, a free man in Van Diemen's Land. He reminded the House that he had always 945 admitted to the fullest extent that transportation, so far as it provided a refuge for the convict at the end of his punishment, was of great use; and no man denied that it was so. He could not help thinking that his noble Friend had taken an unfair advantage of his (Earl Grey's) saying that he did not consider this a part of their punishment. What he meant was, that he did not consider it a deterring part of the punishment. His noble Friend had said, that the evils of the system in Van Diemen's Land were owing to the fact, that the most common precautions had been neglected. How long had they been so neglected? Certain it was, that a state of things had existed in Van Diemen's Land for six or seven years which could not have existed in this country without public opinion being loudly declared against it, and a reform inevitably enforced. And that was the great advantage of the proposed change. From the distance at which our colonies were placed, we had no means of information respecting it, except from the reports of our own officers; so that it was impossible to have such a security for a due examination of the system as we could have in this country. He begged to remind their Lordships that it was not the rules on paper, but the rules that were enforced, that were of importance. His noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley) sent out to Van Diemen's Land some admirable rules; but the misfortune was, that there were no proper means of ascertaining whether the rules were enforced or not, or of applying so prompt a remedy if they were not enforced as they would do were the parties within six hours' journey by railway of London. He (Earl Grey) held it to be an inestimable advantage of the system, that it inflicted punishment at home instead of abroad. But his noble and learned Friend had said that a free people could not bear to see penal labour inflicted. Was this the language to be held when they talked of continuing transportation? If we, in this country, where the crimes were committed, could not bear to see the punishment inflicted, were the people of Van Diemen's Land to be compelled to witness the spectacle? He was persuaded that the period had arrived when they must extend the institutions of England to those who lived in the Australian colonies; and he hoped, in the course of the Session, to be able to introduce a Bill for that purpose; and when once the colonists had the advantage of a representative government, 946 did their Lordships think that any Government in this country would dare to say that the people here could not bear to see penal labour inflicted on their convicts, and that they must be inflicted in Australia? It would be impossible. To attempt to do so, would be to strive after two contradictory things. They wanted, in the first place, a certain number of men of wealth, intelligence, and capital to employ the convicts when they were sent out there; and at the same time they wanted these men to submit to what they would not submit to themselves. This was impracticable. If they insisted upon continuing the present system of transportation, the effect would be that the free colonists would leave the colony in a body: that was stated in the petition from which he had read an extract to their Lordships; they, at whatever pecuniary sacrifice would abandon the colony; they would take refuge in South Australia, in New South Wales, or some of the neighbouring colonies, and Van Diemen's Land would be left like another Norfolk Island—with no inhabitants but a vast herd of criminals and their keepers. There would be no society of freemen to watch over the conduct of the officers; and the consequence would be that every abuse that was seen in Norfolk Island would be wrought in that colony. But the noble Duke had said the punishment of transportation was infinitely effective, because he had heard men in Pentonville Prison say that they did not care for imprisonment, but that they could not bear the idea of being removed across the seas away from their parents, their wives, and their children. He (Earl Grey) suspected that the habitual and hardened felon had very little feeling of that kind. The professional criminal had few family ties, and was very callous to those which he had formed. It was the person who was accidentally betrayed into crime, who was tortured by such feelings as the noble Duke had referred to. But, if it were thought advisable to enforce a separation, between criminals and their friends—if it were deemed of importance that criminals should be deprived of the advantages in this respect which men not guilty of crime enjoyed—this could be done as completely at Pentonville or Portland Isle as at Van Diemen's Land. His own opinion was, however, that to allow that intercourse to take place within certain bounds, was a better system. In the old days of transportation, it was the invariable practice, in the case of men who obtained a conditional 947 pardon in our penal colonies, to send out their wives and families to them. This system had, in his opinion, been injudiciously discontinued. The Government proposed to resume that system. The idea of rendering these ties—of separating a man for ever from his wife and family, was too horrible to contemplate. He (Earl Grey), for one, would be no party to such a system. When the criminal's punishment had been to a certain extent gone through, it was proposed that his wife and family should be sent out with him to Australia. But, his noble Friend asked, what means had the Government of diffusing these convicts over Australia? What means had his noble Friend of doing this under the old system? Things would proceed in this respect very much the same as before. In the former case, when a man got a conditional pardon, facilities were given to him to proceed to any part of Australia he chose; and the same course would be adopted under the new system. His noble Friend had also said that there would be great objections on the part of the colonists to employ the convicts; and he had referred to what had taken place at Port Philip as a proof of this feeling, He (Earl Grey) was happy to say, however, that in consequence of the success of the first experiment, that feeling had undergone considerable change; and there was now so great a demand for their labour, that, provided care was taken to prepare the convicts by a proper system of discipline, the colonists would not object to receive them. On the contrary, he (Earl Grey) was persuaded that when the new system came into operation, there would in many colonies be a great desire to obtain the supply of labourers which it would provide. At the Cape of Good Hope, great anxiety had been expressed to have convicts employed in making a breakwater in that colony. These were the grounds upon which he deemed the system he proposed to be an advisable one. His noble Friend had said that they ought to postpone the operation of the new system till the prisons were ready to receive the convicts; but it was quite clear that we equally wanted the means of receiving them at Van Diemen's Land as we did here; and, as we must put them somewhere, we could provide for them at less expense here than in Van Diemen's Land. Even if we should return to the system of transportation, it would still be necessary to retain a large number of convicts at home. He was happy to 948 say, that in the course of a few months, arrangements would be completed for receiving a considerable number at Portland Isle. In conclusion, he trusted that their Lordships would remember that he entirely concurred with his noble Friend opposite, that if the system was to be established permanently, it would require to be done by the authority of Parliament.
§ After a few words of explanation from Lord DENMAN, Earl GREY, and the Marquess of SALISBURY,
§ Bill read 2a.
§ House adjourned.