§ LORD LYTTELTON
presented two petitions, of which he had given notice, from the colonists of Van Diemen's Land, or Tasmania, as they themselves preferred to have it called, praying for the cessation of transportation of criminals to that island. The one was from the colonists in public meeting assembled, and the other from colonists of the Northern Division of the colony; and the two petitions together were signed by many thousands of persons. (Minutes of Proceedings, 46.) He had also been entrusted with a memorial to Her Majesty the Queen on the same subject, which he hoped shortly to be able to present, signed by many thousands of the women of that colony. The noble Lord said, the importance of these petitions, and the subject to which they referred, would, he hoped, be his excuse, if he troubled their Lordships with some remarks upon them, notwithstanding that a short debate on the same question had taken place upon it a few weeks ago, at which he was not present. But there was a special reason why those who concurred with him in that subject were induced at once to bring it under the notice of the House. The subject of transportation to our colonies was one on which public opinion in this country was weak, and did not press upon the Government; and it was no wonder that it should be so, the subject being a painful and a disagreeable, as well as a complex and difficult one. Of the Members of that House, for example, probably there were not many who knew or cared about the subject of transportation; but those who did know it, knew that it was a very serious matter. They would know, although to many of their Lordships it might be a disagreeable piece of news, that at this moment there was in the course of formation in all our Australian colonies, an anti- 741 convict league, to resist and oppose the transportation of convicts to any one of those colonies—not only to Van Diemen's Land, to which it was at present nominally confined, but to any one of the Australasian colonies, including New Zealand. And as to what was the immediate origin of this Australasian combination, which would probably produce a petition to the Parliament of this country before the end of the present Session, signed by 40,000 or 50,000 persons out of a population of British origin and of all ages, little exceeding 300,000. No doubt the immediate incentive of this combination was the successful example of the colony of the Cape, than which he had heard it stated that since the transactions in Boston Harbour, New England, in the last century, no more alarming events of a similar character had ever oscurred. Whether this Australasian Anti-Convict League would lead to results of equal gravity could not now be predicted—he trusted that it would not—but, at all events, it was one of the first fruits of the successful resistance of the Cape to the reception of convicts. This circumstance showed the feeling of the colonists on the subject, and he would urge upon the attention of the House then, as he had done before, to consider whether the necessity of getting rid of the inconvenience suffered at home from the difficulty of dealing with our criminal population, was sufficient to counterbalance the dissatisfaction and discontent engendered in these young and growing colonies, by their being compelled to receive the demoralised population we landed on their shores. No doubt the Government—and especially his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Grey)—deserved the greatest credit for their attempts to reform the system of transportation; and doubtless if the system was to be carried on at all, it could not be carried into effect in a better manner than it was at present, or under a better agency. For the appointment of the present Governor of Van Die-men's Land, Sir William Denison, and Mr. Hampton, the Comptroller-General of convicts, under the existing system, he (Lord Lyttelton) was himself in some degree responsible; but he would call their Lordships' attention for a short time to the evidence of the Parliamentary Papers now on their Lordships' table, as to the manner in which the reformed system of transportation had worked. No one doubted that the present Government's reformed 742 system was only to be regarded in the light of an experiment; and the question was, how far had that experiment answered as a reformatory system? The main feature of that system was that the whole of the strictly penal part of the punishment for convicts sentenced to transportation should be inflicted at home, and that, after the termination of that portion of their punishment, they should be deported to one of the colonies. Now, as had before been pointed out, everything depended, as regarded the operation of this system, on the effect which it would have on the criminally disposed population at home; for, whatever differences there might be in detail, the system of removing convicts with tickets of leave was nothing in principle but the assignment system revived. How far the system had been satisfactory at home, there could not, at this period, be any doubt, for in this country crime had been on the increase, while the convicts who had been sent to the colonies arrived there with extravagant expectations of high wages and certain prosperity. What had their Governor in the colony of Van Die-men's Land said as to the circumstance of having the restrictive and reformatory punishment inflicted at home, and not in the colony? The Governor of that colony (Sir W. Denison), who had a great desire that the experiment should succeed, said—Upon the supposition, therefore, that it is still the intention of Her Majesty's Government to carry out the principle of a gradual remission of punishment, allotting to the convict, first, a period of separate confinement; secondly, a term of compulsory labour; and, thirdly, a series of indulgences, closed at last by a conditional pardon, I am prepared to submit and to recommend most earnestly that all the convicts whom it is intended to transmit to this colony should be sent here after having undergone the first portion of these punishments, and that they should pass their period of compulsory labour, and of the various modifications of indulgence, in accordance with the rules now in force here, and which have been found to work very well when properly administered.The Governor again repeated this opinion in still stronger terms:—I have submitted to your Lordship the propriety of sending the convicts out to this colony as soon as they have passed through the first stage of their punishment, namely, the separate confinement, and of allowing the colony to benefit by the labour of the men when undergoing the second stage of compulsory labour. The documents which I now forward are sufficient, I submit, to prove the absolute necessity of the adoption of some rule of the kind, with regard to, at all events, the Irish convicts.743 But this recommendation went to uproot the whole reforms in the system introduced by the Colonial Secretary, because it was the very keystone of his improvements that the convicts should pass the two first stages of their sentence in this country, and not in the colony. His noble Friend opposite could not be expected to accede to this; and in consequence he said in his reply, dated the 25th of July, 1850:—I do not consider that an experiment tried under such unfavourable circumstances ought to set aside the conclusion adopted upon general grounds, and from a much wider experience, as to the advantage of subjecting convicts to compulsory labour more immediately under the eyes of the Government, where any errors in the system of management may be more easily and promptly detected, and where the services of efficient officers can more easily be secured than in a distant colony. In Ireland, indeed, there have not yet been the requisite opportunities for introducing an efficient system of discipline for the whole of the greatly increased number of convicts in that island; and I think that it will probably be very desirable to take advantage of the means which you describe to exist of inflicting the second stage of punishment, or that of compulsory labour, in the colony for some of these Irish convicts.Now, observe, the noble Lord (Lord Grey) had made two important modifications in his expression of opinion. He stated that, in the first place, with regard to all Irish convicts—not the most welcome in the colony—as there was no efficient system of discipline in Ireland, it was probably desirable to take advantage of the means of inflicting the second stage of punishment—compulsory labour—in the colony in the case of some, and probably the whole of the Irish convicts. Well, as to the beneficial effect of the system, Sir William Denison wrote an honest statement declaring that he would be belieing his own convictions, and misleading the Colonial Office, if he said that he believed in the probability of any marked change in the moral principles of a convict through the operation of secondary punishments. The statistical tables showed that the number of male convicts at a given time under the operation of that system in Van Die-men's Land was 18,000 of all sorts, and out of these 1,700 were under magisterial sentence. Then, as to the condition of the female convicts in Van Diemen's Land, there was not much evidence on that point in the Parliamentary papers, and that little was not favourable; for he had heard, and he believed that many of their Lordships might also have heard, the most deplorable accounts regarding these female con- 744 victs. Indeed, their condition was such, that notwithstanding the lamentable disproportion of the sexes in the colony, hardly any of them were ever disposed of in marriage. But if there could be any doubt entertained whether the experiment had worked well in the colony up to the present time, he apprehended that the feelings of the people of Van Diemen's Land on the subject could hardly be doubted. The feeling of the inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land was evidently against our system of transportation under any shape whatever. He hardly thought the Government themselves would dispute that the great majority of the colonists were opposed to transportation; and he believed that the Government sympathised with them, and would be glad, if they knew how it could be done, to relieve the colony from the obnoxious system. Evidence might be produced which on the first blush might lead to the belief that there was a feeling in favour of the convict system, and such a feeling had even been represented through the colonial newspapers. But in fact that was the most serious part of the case; because there was a convict interest in the colony, composed of convicts and emancipists, who wished to set up on their own account, and who carried on an open war against the interests of the free colonists. But it was the interest of the free colonists that was the important consideration; and doubtless the Government were anxious to relieve them from the convict system. But how was that to be done? The question had been referred to the Legislatures of some of the Australian Colonies; and with regard to New Zealand, South Australia, and Port Phillip, or Victoria, no one could doubt that the unanimous feeling was against transportation in any shape. The noble Earl opposite had submitted it also to the Legislature of New South Wales; and a resolution, came to without a division, represented the final decision of that body to be hostile to the renewal of transportation, accompanied by a request that the Order in Council might be abrogated which constituted them a settlement liable to receive convicts; and, as far as they could judge of the feeling of a scattered population, which could not be easily arrived at, as distinguished from the feeling of the Legislative Council, petitions had been presented to the Legislative Council against transportation, signed by upwards of 36,000 persons, while petitions signed by only 525 persons had been 745 presented in favour of the system. With regard to the district of Western Australia, which was the strongest case of the Government last year, it was impossible to read the reports of the Governor of the colony without seeing that it was impossible to inflict the convict system much longer upon the colonists except by force. It was only an experiment which they were willing to endure from the dire necessity and need of labour for a certain time. They had repeated their request to have the convict system combined with an equal amount of free emigrants— a scheme which had failed in Van Diemen's Land; and the Governor even doubted how the system would work as regarded the boys sent out from Parkhurst Prison, for he declared that, in his judgment, many of the boys who had been deemed the best conducted while in the prison at Parkhurst, had turned out the worst conducted when they arrived in the Colony. With regard to the district upon which the noble Earl opposite relied—the district of Moreton Bay—it could not be denied that from the great want of labour, there was some chance that the colonists would be willing to receive convicts. But that was a most precarious tenure upon which to place the system. At present the Moreton Bay district was a part of New South Wales, and being subject to its Legislature, would therefore be unable to have convicts against its consent. But even if it was made independent of New South Wales in future, the convict system could only last for a time; you would be only staving off the evil day; the colonists of Moreton Bay would not be able to resist the tide of feeling in all the neighbouring colonies; and doubtless when they had attained a sufficient supply of labour, and a state of prosperity, they would refuse to receive convicts any longer. The real question to be considered in a case like the present was this—" What sort of a community do you wish your Colonies to become?" He took it for granted that we wished them to consist of good and useful and virtuous citizens. Now, in a moral point of view, the presence of these convicts must lead to the temporal and spiritual pollution of the Colonies, although it might forward their material interests; and yet we were bribing them, by a measure which seemed beneficial to their material interests, to consent to that which must tend to the degradation and ruin of their future social and spiritual interests. It could not be 746 otherwise but that the presence of shoals of convicts would be detrimental to the morals of a Colony. The arguments advanced in favour of the present system was that the convicts at home, after passing through their punishment, could not find employment because they were shunned and dreaded by everybody. On what was that feeling founded? Was it not on something good? Was it not the dread of the contamination which they might spread among our children and families? And because the Colonies could not resist the pressure which we brought to bear against them, were we justified in forcing upon them a lower standard of morality than that by which we regulated our own society at home? His belief was that the present experiment in the convict system was not going on much better than the former experiments; and he believed that the Government would yet find themselves inevitably bound to reconsider the whole question, and abolish penal settlements altogether in the Australasian Colonies. This brought him to another important point—a point to which he had adverted last year, and to which he must advert again now. Last year, as now, every petition, every memorial, and every discussion that had taken place on this subject in Van Diemen's Land, had upbraided the Government in the strongest manner with the non-performance of the alleged promise which the colonists said they had received from the Secretary of State, in 1846, that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should cease. Probably a promise to that effect would not affect the convict system now pursued there; nevertheless, great aggravation of feeling had existed in consequence on the part of the colonists; and therefore it was that the subject had been so frequently before Parliament. But the Secretary of State had only given one answer to that alleged promise; he denied that he had ever made it. He said there might be a few expressions in an isolated despatch which might bear that construction; but no one could read the whole set of despatches without seeing that the intention of the Government was to maintain transportation in some form or other, and especially to Van Diemen's Land. But this was a fallacious mode of putting the case. There was no such set of despatches as the noble Lord referred to, and the question was as simple as possible. When the present Government came into office, they found the question of transportation 747 in a painful and oppressive shape, and they immediately had to consider it. On the 30th of September, 1846, the noble Lord opposite (Earl Grey) wrote a despatch to Sir W. Denison, containing several very commendable modifications and improvements in the transportation system then enforced—the probation system, as it was called; and he prefaced his remarks by stating that a more fit occasion for taking a general retrospect of the whole question would have arrived whenever he should he able to explain the views of the Government and the decision of Parliament as to the entire system of transportation, and that that time, he trusted, was not remote. Till then (the noble Lord wrote) he should confine the instructions he addressed to the Governor to the course to be pursued in regard to the convicts who were then in the colony, and who might hereafter arrive. Several months after the date of that letter, Sir G. Grey, Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was equally concerned in this question, addressed a long, deliberate, and complete despatch to his noble Friend the Secretary of the Colonies, containing a matured exposition of the views of Her Majesty's Government. This was the statement. After recapitulating the evils of the former system, he wrote on the 20th of January, 1847—The transportation of male convicts to Van Diemen's Land, as hitherto carried on, should not be resumed. Should your Lordship concur in this opinion, it should be intimated to the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land that it is not the present intention of Her Majesty's Government to resume the transportation of male convicts to that colony.Sir George then proceeded to describe the system about to be adopted. He gave an account of the separate system of confinement to be adopted at Pentonville and elsewhere, observing that "employment on works should be followed up in ordinary cases by exile or banishment from their country." The system, therefore, which the Government had determined to act upon was this—employment at home, after a period of seclusion at Pentonville, to be followed by exile or banishment abroad. Now, what did that mean? It certainly did not mean banishment to a colony, because Sir G. Grey's letter went on to say—That the condition of the pardon to follow the punishment was to be that they should quit this country and not return to it during their term, and that, on obtaining this conditional par- 748 don, the only restriction on their liberty should be the prohibition of remaining in this country.Now, he would ask their Lordships whether there was in this description anything like transportation to Van Diemen's Land mentioned? No such thing; the sentence was to be, not transportation or deportation at all. It was merely to be banishment to any part of the world which the exile might select, with the single proviso that he should not return to this country. Whether the despatch which he had just quoted had been communicated to the Governor of the colony he could not tell, for the acknowledgment of the next despatch from Sir W. Denison was very short, and merely stated his determination to adopt the decision of the Home Government. His noble Friend opposite subsequently told Sir W. Denison, and Sir W. Denison repeated his noble Friend's words to the Legislative Council, that "it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should be resumed at the expiration of the two years for which it was to be discontinued." The colonists of Van Diemen's Land were thus left in a reasonable reliance on the faith of Government that transportation to their settlement was not to be resumed. Some months afterwards his noble Friend sent out another despatch to that colony, in which he stated that he had found it impossible to act upon the determination which he had announced. After that, transportation to Van Diemen's Land was resumed and continued, and carried on in its main features as before. His noble Friend had also promised that in two years the probation gangs should cease to exist; but not withstanding such a promise, they still continued in existence. But it should be remembered, that the Governor of the colony had announced in unqualified terms that transportation should not be renewed after two years, and that the noble Earl had never found fault with him for making that announcement. In point of fact, it was impossible that Government should censure him for an annunciation which it had authorised him to make. That, however, was a grievance of which the colonists had a right to complain, and which bitterly aggravated their feelings on this question. He did not blame the Government for what it had done; for the question in this country was so urgent, that it could not be waited for; it was one which every assize and gaol delivery would increase and complicate. 749 That which he thought that the Government ought to have done was this—they ought to have acknowledged with a good grace that they had undertaken to do more than they could perform, and that they must limit their efforts in future to the mitigation of the system. He had alluded to this part of the subject for the purpose of asking why they did not now act on the plan originally proposed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department? It was proposed in that plan that the punishment should be inflicted on the convict at home; that he should be allowed to earn money during his punishment; that with those earnings he should be allowed to leave the country; and that it should be penal for him to be afterwards found within its boundaries. If such a system were in force, the Australian colonies would not be the only places to which he could go, for the world would be before him free to choose. After repeating his conviction that it would soon be found impossible to carry the present system out, the noble Lord concluded by placing his two petitions on the table.
The ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN
said, that as his sentiments on this question had been communicated long since both to their Lordships and the country, he should not have addressed the House at present, did he not think himself called upon to bear testimony to the excellent working of the penal system recently introduced into Ireland for the reformation of criminals. He would bear his personal testimony to the results of the system he had witnessed in the Mountjoy Depôt recently established in the city of Dublin, partly because it was in his own diocese, and partly because he had occasion to pay it two visits of some duration, when he had instituted a very careful examination into the system pursued there, and the circumstances of which he would briefly mention to their Lordships. He had been invited to visit that depot with a view of holding a confirmation upon some of the convicts who were confined within its walls—a matter not of very frequent occurrence. He was forced to go to the prisoners, because they could not go to any of the churches in the city of Dublin. Mr. Blacker, the able and excellent chaplain of the depot, had informed him that there were a certain number of convicts ready to sail for the colonies, who were willing and anxious to receive the rite of confirmation before they sailed. There were thirty or forty of 750 such persons, less than 1/10th and not more than 1/15th of the whole number of convicts, the remainder being, as was most likely, in a country like Ireland, Roman Catholics. He was inclined to think from the examination which he had made—and his opinion was corroborated by the report of the chaplain, who was a most trustworthy man—that many of these convicts seeking confirmation had received great benefit from the moral and religious instruction which they had received in the prison. He had examined the whole of the prison on another occasion at a later period; and it then appeared to him that the working of the system pursued in that prison had solved many problems which up to that time had appeared to him to be incapable of solution. The discipline to which the convicts had been subjected appeared to him to have improved their moral and social condition, and not to have interfered injuriously with either their bodily health or with their intellectual sanity. There had been enforced among them a system of continued labour in silence and in solitude; and religious instruction, or at least an opportunity for religious instruction, had been afforded to them all without distinction. The greater part of them left the prison able to read and write, although they did not know a letter when they first entered it. And yet the restrictions had been so complete, that the punishment which the parties underwent, appeared to be a very sharp and severe and intimidatory punishment. Upon the whole the disposition of mind in which the Protestant prisoners were leaving the prison for the colony was such as to lead the chaplain to entertain hopes that the greater part of them would continue in the path of reformation which they had begun to tread—at the same time, that excellent and rev. person regretted— as he (the Archbishop of Dublin) also regretted—that they were going to mix in such society as they were likely to meet in our penal colonies; they were going to a country in which the general mass of the inhabitants were so contaminated that they would have to undergo a more fiery trial than that which the average mass of mankind could stand. The rev. chaplain had, therefore, expressed to him great alarm lest all his labours should prove vain and nugatory. From what he had himself seen of the discipline of this penitentiary, the punishment was sufficient to deter, and sufficiently reformatory as to be 751 the sole punishment requisite to be inflicted on the prisoner, except so far as his subsequent exile was concerned. He should be most gratified were he able to declare that his former expectations on this subject had been falsified, or that his most gloomy predictions had not been fulfilled. Everything which he had heard of late respecting the penal colonies had confirmed his most dismal apprehensions that in such society the convict could not be permanently reclaimed. He should have been happy to be contradicted by the experience of facts, but no such facts had yet come within his knowledge. He could bear witness to the fairness of the examination which had taken place on this subject before their Lordships, and to the total absence of exaggeration in the Reports agreed on by the Committees. He had indeed heard those reports styled "one-sided;" and, in one sense of the word, they were undoubtedly so—for they were one and all unfavourable to the system now enforced in our penal colonies. But if the reports were one-sided, how was it that the witnesses on the other side had not either come forward themselves, or been brought forward by others? The real state of the case was this: the evidence was one-sided, because the facts were one-sided. He had been present at the examination of many of the witnesses; and he must say that from many of them who had come forward to support the present system, evidence had been wrung, manifestly against their will, in utter condemnation of it. In conclusion, he observed, that so far as the Mountjoy Depot was concerned, the difficulty of finding a substitute for transportation had been overcome.
§ EARL GREY
said, that he should not enter into the general question of convict discipline, but should confine his remarks to three or four points which had been touched on in the speech of his noble Friend opposite, and to which he thought the attention of their Lordships ought to be drawn. Let him remind the House that on this most important and difficult subject neither his noble Friend opposite, nor the right rev. Prelate who had just addressed them, had attempted to set aside the conclusion as to the necessity of continuing to remove convicts from this country to which their Lordships had come upon this subject a short time ago, with a very general concurrence of opinion. Let him also remind their Lordships that 752 this conclusion was founded on the acknowledged fact that the convict, under whatever system of punishment was adopted, must, if left in England when his punishment was over, be placed in circumstances which led to his relapse into crime almost as a necessary result. The noble Lord who had been his predecessor in office had called the attention of their Lordships to this fact, that there had been repeated instances of convicts discharged from the penitentiaries who had been anxious to lead a reformed life, who had gone to some distance from their former haunts, and had there worked honestly and industriously without crime—who after some time had been found out by their former associates in crime—who had been threatened with discovery and exposure by those associates, if they did not co-operate in their designs of plunder—who had been driven by such threats to steal money from their employers—and who had been thus driven back, in spite of themselves, into the vortex from which they had escaped. Instances like these must repeatedly happen in a country like ours, where the market of labour was generally full, and where the preference, therefore, in the general competition for employment would always be given to those who had never fallen under the sentence of the law, over a man who had once been convicted of crime, so that the latter was placed under a disadvantage which made it scarcely possible for him to retrieve his character and gain an honest subsistence. He would next call the attention of their Lordships to the theory of the present system of convict discipline. That theory was to inflict a severe amount of punishment on the convict at home, in the first instance; and, in the next, removal or banishment to a colony abroad, where he was placed in a position in which a new career was open before him. Now, how had that theory been carried into practice? The most rev. Prelate had just told them that the prisoners in the Mountjoy Depôt had found the system both penal and reformatory. Now, the system enforced in that depôt was founded on the model of the Penitentiary at Pentonville. All the experience which they had yet had of that establishment showed that it had produced this effect. He believed that the system of separate confinement was greatly dreaded by the convict—he believed that it produced a strong impression on his mind—he believed that, to a certain extent, it softened his mind, and produced a disposition to 753 receive the moral and religious instruction which they had opportunities of gaining. But there was one circumstance connected with that system which must never be kept out of view. Experience showed that it had, when long continued, a serious effect on the health of the convict. Dr. Fergusson and Sir Benjamin Brodie, who had both watched with great attention the progress of the experiment, had concurred in reporting that eighteen months was the utmost period during which human nature could stand up against the stern and severe system of separate confinement. During those eighteen months it was necessary that the convict should be watched closely, both by the chaplain and by the surgeon of the prison, lest his mind or body should break down under the discipline to which he was exposed. Twelve months, in the majority of cases, was as long a period as human nature could support it. Now, their Lordships must be aware that there were many crimes approximating very closely to capital crimes in extent and enormity, in which it was quite impossible to let off those who had committed them with merely twelve or eighteen months' imprisonment. Something more was necessary to be inflicted to support the authority of the law, and for the general order of society. What you are now doing is the best that can be done under such circumstances. When the system of separate imprisonment came to an end, the mind of the convict was generally softened. He was then removed, either to Portland, or Gibraltar, or Bermuda, and was employed in what was called "associated labour." He did not know whether many of their Lordships had visited the establishment at Portland. He had visited that establishment himself, and, though the inspection was painful, since it was always painful to see a number of men suffering severe punishment brought upon them by their crimes, it was at the same time, in another point of view, gratifying. The good conduct of the men, the discipline carried out with little severity, the amount of useful labour performed under such circumstances, was highly satisfactory. The convicts in that establishment were trained up to labour of the most useful description. By the expectation of shortening the period of their labour, a great stimulus to exertion was given them; and it was found in consequence that when the convicts were ill they were most anxious to go out as usual with the working gangs, instead of 754 shirking from work, as was usual in the ordinary prison hospitals. He would give their Lordships a striking instance:— When he was at Portland, he saw a man who had been seriously injured by the falling of a stone where he was working, and who had been obliged to go into the hospital in consequence; and yet that man, instead of skulking from his work, showed the greatest anxiety to resume it as soon as possible, and was, at his own desire, and before he was perfectly recovered, permitted to go out and resume labour. What, after that, was the next step? They were then removed to the colony with tickets of leave. The noble Lord had objected to that step, and said, "Why not let them go out as exiles free from all restraint, and divested of the character of convicts? Such had been the original view of the subject adopted by Her Majesty's Government; but experience had shown that it could not be acted upon with advantage. It had been found not only that there were practical difficulties in removing convicts from this country in the character of free emigrants, but also that when this could be accomplished, the result with regard to the conduct of the men was unfavourable—that, after having been under a strict system of discipline for so long a time in this country, when they were at once made their own masters, and were freed from all control, they were unable to withstand the temptation of their altered circumstances, and which liberty and the renewed association with their old companions threw in their way, and many who had formed the best resolutions relapsed into their old courses. They were sent out, therefore, with tickets of leave; and the effect of that was that they might be dispersed to remote parts of the colonies. In many parts there was a great demand for shepherds and stock keepers, who would be scattered over a wide extent of country. The free emigrants did not generally like that employment, because it removed them from the neighbourhood of the towns; but to the convicts it was particularly well adapted. His noble Friend said that he had seen no reason in the reports sent home for believing that the system worked well. The reports were not of a very favourable character; but he thought this might be explained, that the convicts to whom these reports applied had been sent out before the system of punishment had been matured and properly carried into effect. At first, undoubtedly, the means 755 did not exist for carrying out the punishment properly in this country—separate cells were not to be had, nor were there establishments like Portland to send the convicts to. Originally, therefore, the convicts sent out did not succeed so well as those who had gone since; and it was the want of these disciplinary establishments in Ireland which explained the passage which had been referred to in a despatch which he had written, in which it was stated that with the Irish convicts the system had not succeeded; but he hoped that the establishments at Mountjoy and at Spike Island would remedy this for the future as far as Irish convicts were concerned. There were two points of which the noble Lord specially complained. In the first place, the noble Lord said that a promise had been made by the Government to Van Diemen's Land, which had been broken. He (Earl Grey) had already explained that once; but after the observations of the noble Lord, he felt it his duty to do so a little more fully than he had done upon a former occasion. And, in the first place, he asked their Lordships whether, upon the showing of the noble Lord himself, it was not quite evident, as he had before stated, that no promise whatever had been made to Van Diemen's Land that had been violated? In September, 1846, shortly after he had accepted office, he made known (as the noble Lord had said) to the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land that he could give him no information as to the system to be finally adopted until the decision of Her Majesty's Government and of Parliament should have been pronounced. Well, a few months after that, the noble Lord said, the views of the Government were embodied in a most elaborate official letter, written by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and addressed to him (Earl Grey). That letter contained the views of the Government, and it said, it is not the present intention of the Government that at the expiration of two years, transportation to Van Diemen's Land, as hitherto carried on, should be resumed. Certainly these words seemed to him very carefully to exclude the notion for a promise for the future; and the letter in which they occured was laid before Parliament, and transmitted to the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land as an authentic explanation of the views of the Government. What he (Earl Grey) com- 756 plained of was, that isolated passages were taken apart from the context; and their Lordships would see from what followed, and from the whole letter, that it formed an essential part of the system of punishment then proposed to be adopted, that ultimately convicts were to be removed from this country to the colonies, and, amongst other colonies, to Van Diemen's Land, though it is true it was then intended they should go as exiles, and not under coercion. The Government were most desirous that of these persons a few only should be sent to Van Diemen's Land; but that they should go to any other country that was willing to receive them. But this it had been found practically impossible to accomplish; and this reminded him how greatly the noble Lord was in error when he said that Government might do what they pleased in the matter, as so few persons took any interest in it that Parliament did not interfere. Why, if there were one subject more than another in which the Executive Government carried out the views of Parliament, and was controlled and overruled in the measures it proposed, it was this very subject of transportation; and the very change of plan now adverted to was an instance of the kind. Their Lordships might remember that when the plans of Her Majesty's Government were made known in 1847, much objection to them was expressed in both Houses of Parliament, and a Committee of that House had been appointed, which, after a full inquiry, reported strongly against the discontinuance of transportation as a punishment. Shortly afterwards representations came from the colonies that convicts ought not to go there as exiles, but rather under some species of modified control. Difficulties also arose in sending them, as had been intended originally by the Government, to as many different colonies as possible, and not in the character of convicts. As to this difficulty the House might remember an amusing speech made by a noble and learned Lord, who was now abroad (Lord Brougham) in which he described the manner in which a convict who attempted to go to the United States would be "nosed out," and rejected from the company of free emigrants. There had recently been an illustration of this fact. In Bermuda it had been the practice to give the convict a free pardon after a certain time if he behaved well, upon condition that he should leave the country; he might go where he pleased, 757 but he must not remain in Bermuda. Some of these men lately worked their passage in a ship to America; but on arriving at Boston or New York they found themselves met by a law that any shipowner taking men to that country who could be proved to have been under punishment as convicts should be subjected to a very heavy fine, unless he took them back again. These men were brought back to Bermuda, and a claim had even been preferred to have their passage paid. Though he agreed, then, with the noble Lord to a great extent that it would be most desirable to disperse these men, and to send them all over the world, so as to get rid as far as possible of their convict character, yet that had been impracticable for two reasons: first, because Parliament did not approve of it; and, secondly, because neither in the United States, nor in our own Colonies, nor elsewhere, would they be received. Then the question arose what were they to do? It was obvious that it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to defer to the wishes of Parliament, and continue to remove convicts to the only colonies which wore open for their reception; hence the necessity, which he greatly regretted, of sending of late so many to Van Diemen's Land; but his firm belief was that this difficulty was only of a temporary character, and that in a very few years, if we were as careful as we ought to be in improving penal discipline at home, we should have those very Australian Colonies, which were now so averse to receiving convicts, contending with each other which should have the great advantage of possessing them. The opinion of the colonists themselves had not been very consistent or settled upon the subject. Some of the principal names which were now appended to the petition which the noble Lord presented had been also signed to a petition presented to Parliament in 1839, when the discontinuance of transportation was proposed, stating that it would be the ruin of Van Diemen's Laud. Nor was that all. He had received lately from a gentleman in Moreton Bay copies of newspapers of a very recent date, from which he found that there had been a great public meeting held there at which an almost unanimous opinion was expressed upon the part of the "squatters," as they were called, or great sheep farmers of that country, in favour of the resumption of transportation; and they were going to petition Her Majesty to divide the co- 758 lony, that they might again have the advantage of those labourers; and it was most remarkable that one of the gentlemen who took part in the proceedings of the meeting declared, that, having formerly been opposed to the settlement of convicts, his views had been altered by the very good conduct of the men recently sent with tickets of leave to that part of New South Wales, after having gone through the system of penal discipline now established. He had within the last few days been shown a most interesting private letter from Western Australia, describing the manner in which the commencement of the experiment of removing convicts to that colony had succeeded. In the first place, upon the material interests of the colony it had produced a most extraordinary effect. Western Australia, owing to the errors of the system on which it had been founded, had being going down, year after year, and had arrived at last at so low a state of depression that the writer of the letter referred to stated that he believed that in another year, had it not been for the arrival of the convicts, the colony would have been altogether abandoned. Instead of that being the case now, however, he was told that the barren sand at Free-mantle—the water frontage—was actually selling at the rate of one guinea per foot to persons who were going to take advantage of the supply of convict labour which had been brought there by the system of transportation. Those men upon their arrival had excited the astonishment of the colonists by their correct behaviour. They had been sent out to pass a very short period of punishment under the Government, and then they were to obtain tickets of leave, and he understood that those who had obtained tickets of leave had conducted themselves in the most satisfactory manner. He believed that this system would give important new outlets for convicts from this country, and that it would also have the effect of establishing in a very few years a thriving and flourishing community in a place singularly favoured by nature, but which from the want of labour and other disadvantages was in an exceedingly languishing state. The report which he hoped soon to lay upon the table of the House would show the progress of this measure; and he was sure that their Lordships would not read that report without the greatest satisfaction. While he stated these reasons in favour of the course that had been taken by the Government, he 759 was bound to add that he did deeply lament the necessity which had been imposed upon them of sending so large a number of convicts to Van Diemen's Land. He felt that the success of the policy determined upon did in a great degree depend upon the dispersion of the convicts as widely as possible; and he greatly lamented that, under what he thought a misconception as to their own true interests, the other Australian Colonies had compelled the Government to send a larger proportion than was desirable to Van Diemen's Land. At the same time, there were no measures which it was in the power of the Government to adopt that had been neglected, with the view of reducing, as far as possible, the number sent to Van Diemen's Land, and of making the sending even of that number as little injurious as possible to the colony. He was happy to inform the House, that in the next six months the number to be sent out would not, he hoped, exceed half those sent out in the last six months of 1850; and if the progress in Western Australia should be as favourable as he anticipated, he believed that there would be an increasing field in that very extensive colony for the employment of a large number of convicts. Measures had also been adopted at a very considerable expense to the country (which in this case he thought they were bound not to judge), which he had already had occasion to explain, calculated, as he believed, to counteract the evils which might otherwise, arise from sending convicts to the colonies which received them. At the same time he was bound to express his strong opinion that Van Diemen's Land had no right to expect that sending convicts thither should be discontinued until it could be done without serious inconvenience to the mother country; for, let their Lordships consider the state of the case. Van Diemen's Land was a colony which owed its creation to the penal system. With its inferiority in many respects to Port Phillip and the adjoining territories, the much greater expense of clearing land, and other difficulties in the way, it could never have made any considerable progress for many years to come but for the convict system. It had been the establishment of the convict system which had created the whole wealth and material prosperity which now existed in the colony. Van Diemen's Land possessed what scarcely any other colony possessed—roads equal to the roads in this country. He need not tell them that facility of com- 760 munication was, perhaps, of all the instruments of civilisation the most powerful. It possessed, also, advantages in the supply of skilled labour, of which, in the great building that ornamented Hyde Park, their Lordships might see the proof, for, considering its population, it made a better show in that Exhibition than any other colony that we possessed. Some of the specimens of work in wood from Van Diemen's Land reflected the greatest possible credit on so young a community. He believed that that colony was likely to make very great progress; but, having had all the advantages of the penal system, the inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land were not entitled to turn round upon the mother country and say, "This system shall be discontinued precisely at the moment that shall suit us, without any reference to your convenience." That appeared to be a pretension upon the part of Van Diemen's Land which was utterly unwarrantable; for while it was the duty of the Government and of Parliament to consult the interests and advantages of Van Diemen's Land as far as possible, at the same time it was only justice to the people of this country that their interests also should not be lost sight of.
The BISHOP OF SALISBURY
said, his object in rising was to answer the question of the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, who had asked whether any of their Lordships had had an opportunity of visiting the convict establishment in the isle of Portland. He (the Bishop of Salisbury) had been there, and he was happy to give his testimony in accordance with that which the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Dublin) had given with respect to the prison establishment in Ireland, in which it was intended, in like manner as at Portland, to carry on the second part of that reformatory process of which the first part was intended to be effected at Pentonville, and other prisons of that kind. At the time that he visited the establishment at Portland there were about 800 men there, many of whom had been guilty of very grave offences, and it was impossible to see them engaged as they were in works of industry without being led to hope for their future reformation, which everything in that establishment seemed calculated to foster and promote. At the time of his visit they were returning from their outdoor labour, in excellent order, with cheerful countenances, and with a general appearance which 761 showed that proper care was taken of their bodily condition. He saw them at their evening meal, and enjoyed the pleasure of being present at their evening devotions, at which, at the request of the chaplain, he addressed to them some words of exhortation. Their demeanour was that of a well-behaved Christian congregation, and such that he could not but hope they were in some measure sensible of the improving influences under which they had been placed. Nevertheless, he should belie his own convictions if he were to say that he himself entertained any very sanguine hopes of a general reformation of criminals of mature years. He believed that their permanent improvement would always be comparatively slight—it was upon young and tender minds that they might expect to operate with the greatest success; but if a blessed change should take place only to a comparatively small extent, he thought they ought to be thankful for it, and consider all the pains by which it had been brought about well bestowed. The great danger attaching to the establishment at Portland appeared to him to be that (unless, indeed, care was taken to make the convicts first pass through a severe discipline at Pentonville) it was not sufficiently penal to act as a terror to the evil-doer. And this, no doubt, was a great difficulty; for it was hard to combine such treatment as would make the prison a real punishment, with the means best calculated to bring about a reformation of the criminal; for he thought that gentle means were best adapted for working a Christian reformation in a criminal, by calling forth a feeling of hope and of resignation to his situation. He had no doubt that the plan on which the Government were now acting on the subject of secondary punishment would meet with much opposition, on account of the strong feeling which had been excited in the Colonies on the subject of transportation; and there were undoubtedly evils connected with it; but their Lordships should remember that the whole condition of humanity lay in the choice of evils. He thought, therefore, that the noble Lord, who had dwelt so strongly on the evils of the present system, was bound to point out a remedy by which the difficulties that had been experienced could be more satisfactorily dealt with. To point out the former was comparatively an easy task; but the latter was one surrounded by many and great difficulties.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
wished to say a few words upon that very important and difficult subject, which was one that had for a long time greatly interested him, and upon which he had been permitted on a former occasion to address their Lordships. He, for one, felt great gratitude to the noble Earl, and to those who acted with him, for the great exertions they had used in dealing with this difficulty. Four or five years ago, he (the Bishop of Oxford) took the liberty of pressing upon their Lordships, in the then state of the question, the importance of making the punitive part of convict treatment take place, as far as possible, at home, rather than administering it abroad. He thanked the noble Earl for having, to a considerable degree, carried out that suggestion, and for having made the strict and severe part of the punishment be felt at home rather than in the Colonies. But much of what the noble Earl had said to-night had given him (the Bishop of Oxford) the deepest pain, because he seemed to have drawn back from the high view of this question he had taken formerly, until he had been led to shut his eyes to the great and prominent objections to the present system, and to look only at the minor objections, and then, smoothing down those minor objections, to end at length by giving the support of his name, and of his strong sense, to a system the evils of which he had so long condemned. The great and prominent evil of the system of transportation so conducted as to found by it penal colonies, was, that it violated the greatest responsibility which a civilised nation could have entrusted to it—that of planting the earth. For it adopted the plan, wicked and corrupt to the very core, of founding colonies with the basest portion of mankind. No advantage to the material wealth of a new settlement could possibly justify the mother country in shutting her eyes to the enormity of this evil, which fostered temptation, nor could she ever be justified in tempting a colony, by affording it such aid, to be its own future destroyer. The noble Earl had quoted an instance of a meeting in one of the great Australasian colonies, at which it was stated that by the help of transported convicts the material wealth of the colony had been increased. But that feeling was not peculiar to the colony alluded to; it had been the characteristic of the Australian colonies from the beginning; and there was a time when those colonies were ready to contest with one an- 763 other for the first shipload of the spoils of our gaols, and when they actually scrambled for convicts. And why? Because the strong temptation of having the command of immediate labour had made them willing to barter the future evil of moral pollution and degradation of their country for the advantage of present gain. We gave way to their wishes; and what was the result? As soon as their gains were obtained, their roads formed, and, at the same time, the stigma of moral degradation stamped upon the colony, the colonists began to cry out, because they began to perceive that there was an evil greater than could be atoned for by the acquisition of material wealth. And so it would be again. If we founded colonies in which the convict element was strong enough to colour the whole tone of society, and then ministered to the vicious desire of the colonists for convict labour, the result would be the same, because it was not the result of accident, but proceeded upon the deep unchanging necessities of man and of his nature. The noble Earl stated that convicts of good character would be selected to go out to the Colonies, and that they would be sent to places where they could maintain their good character. But no one had better depicted the mischief of sending such convicts to places where they would meet old companions, and be certain to be drawn back into evil habits, than the noble Earl himself. The main mischief of the proposed system was this—if the convict was useful to his master, his master winked at any kind of evil on the part of the convict, as it was convenient to keep him. Therefore, if a convict were sent out with a good character, it was not his good character that would serve him, but his faculty of making himself of use to his master. That would be his real and his only recommendation. The noble Earl said, that Van Diemen's Land had been the creation of the penal system—that it derived its present material prosperity from the penal system—and that, therefore, the inhabitants had now no right to protest against the introduction of convict labour without reference to the interests of the mother country. Now, if it had been right in the mother country originally to found colonies which consisted in their main element of convicts, the noble Earl's argument would have been perfect; but what he (the Bishop of Oxford) complained of was, that the noble Earl left out 764 of sight the great principle that to create penal colonies was a great sin in an enlightened country. And therefore, when a colony appealed to us, and said—"I have at length learned that by deluging me with the worst of your population you are making me degraded—no longer inflict this evil upon me," then, he said, the noble Earl's argument did not apply in the least, for the colony had a perfect right in that case to turn round and say, "You have committed this evil too long, and now I beseech you to commit the evil no longer." To plant colonies composed of the worst men in the community was to set a seed of evil in the earth, which no great nation could be justified in sowing. Be the difficulties what they might in the way of a remedy for the evils of the present system, they must be faced and overcome, and England, once enlightened to what she had been doing, must no longer be led on to perpetrate the wrong.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
always listened with interest and pleasure to the right rev. Prelate, not only on account of the great name he bore, but because his remarks were always characterised by eloquence and ability. But though he had heard with his usual satisfaction the speech of the right rev. Prelate, he could not entirely agree with all the propositions which he had advanced. If, indeed, all the evils depicted by the right rev. Prelate as resulting from the existing convict system were matters of fact, he should almost despair of society itself. He could not bring himself to believe that what he believed to be made inevitable rather than merely necessary, could be stigmatized as sinful. He would not condescend to argue the question of transportation on so low a ground as that of the increase of material wealth; but he thought they ought not to regard it with sole reference to the Colonies, but in relation to the whole empire, of which the Colonies were a part. Viewed in that light, then, he was prepared to establish upon the reason of the case, as well as upon experience, that transportation when properly conducted was a benefit to the empire at large, to the convicts, and to the Colonies themselves. The right rev. Prelate, in considering the case of a convict, after the expiration of his sentence, had entirely forgotten the distinction which was to be drawn between a country where the labour market was overloaded, and one which was ready to absorb labour to any 765 extent. If transportation were discontinued, what system of secondary punishments would they adopt? They must rely on the imprisonment in Portland and similar establishments—which would then require to be multiplied to an indefinite extent—or else they must provide employment elsewhere for every one of the prisoners whose term of sentence should have expired. Now, the former of these alternatives he supposed was impracticable, and therefore entirely out of the question; and as for the latter he would only ask if any of their Lordships knew a neighbourhood where these extremely well-reformed convicts would find a farmer that would take them into his house? There would always be a suspicion of crime attaching to them, and that undoubtedly led to a very grievous result. It was true that the convicts might probably meet their evil companions in a convict settlement; but at home that probability was changed into a certainty. The machinery by which stolen goods might be disposed of was at hand; that by which juvenile offenders might fall into the clutches of the Fagins—those "funny old gentlemen," as they have been described—who were always ready to turn their attention to their young friends as often as the term of their imprisonment should end, was at hand likewise; and both rendered it extremely unlikely that the unfortunate released prisoners should escape from temptation. In the colonies, however, the circumstances were widely different. Here the labour market was over-supplied by honest workmen; but abroad, labour was sought for with avidity, and hence nothing was more common than to find the sons of convicts—aye, and sometimes the convicts themselves—rising to a high degree of respectability and moral conduct. He knew the case of a man of whom both the clergy and the magistracy spoke in the most flattering terms, and who had filled respectable offices with credit and respect, who had been transported not many years ago. Nothing could in truth be more different than the present system of qualified freedom and the old plan of assignment. The convict used formerly to be assigned to a kind of domestic slavery; but now he was a free labourer, and that, he apprehended, made a very wide distinction. With regard to the prospects of the penal colonies, and more especially of Van Diemen's Land, he admitted that there were many difficulties in the way; but we had brought them all on ourselves by our own recklessness and sel- 766 fishness. We had neglected the convict, we had disregarded the colonist. We had sought our own interests only, and we are punished, and deservedly. Nevertheless, he maintained that the country had no other alternative; and in proof of his assertion he referred to the astonishing and interesting monument of skill and industry contained in the building recently opened in Hydepark. Did they think that if they had turned loose upon society 30,000 convicts, even as carefully reformed and trained as they were twenty-five years ago, when the chaplain of the hulks stated regularly in his yearly report to the House of Commons as a moral test of progress, the number of convicts who had learned to repeat the Thirty-nine Articles—did they think it would have been possible to witness the spectacle of calm order at the opening of the Crystal Palace, when there were assembled 500,000 spectators, if they had included 30,000 forçats? In fact, it would be impossible to carry on the Government of England unless the Executive authorities retained the power of expatriation. This was no justification, however, for our present vicious system. The condition of Van Diemen's Land, left as the exclusive receptacle of all our convict population, was not to be defended. It was a crime, and it had led to a spirit of resistance that was inevitable. The excitement produced in the Colonies had been very great—as great, perhaps, as that produced at home by Catholic Emancipation, Reform, or even Papal Aggression; and it had been produced chiefly by the despatches of Lord Grey, the letter of Sir George Grey, and the speech of Sir William Denison, who had been acting under the supposition that they had the means of abolishing transportation. The result, however, had been to produce in the minds of the colonists a feeling that it was degrading to receive convicts, and hence the agitation which had taken place. The fearful events at the Cape, the successful results of a resistance amounting to insurrection, had increased all this mischief; and the whole was exaggerated by the over-coloured picture of the social condition of New South Wales. From evidence of the best possible character—he spoke of the Bishop and of the late Governor of Sydney—that colony would stand a competition with any other colony with regard to moral character. It began with convicts, it is true, and h ad every disadvantage to struggle against that Van Diemen's Land had to complain 767 of; and yet, from the vigour and expansive force of the British character, the people of Sydney had cast off that state of degradation, and could now stand in competition in moral character with any other colony. The noble Lord concluded by asking if it was intended to resume the hulk system?
The DUKE of ARGYLL
expressed his satisfaction at the argument with which the noble Lord who had just sat down commenced his speech. He could not quite agree with the right rev. Prelate in the very strong and extreme ground which he took, that we had no right to export our criminals at all. But although he could not agree with the right rev. Prelate, he disagreed still more with the noble Lord, when he stated that the system of transportation was inevitable, and because inevitable that it must be right. In the first place, that was a false argument; and, in the second place, it was not true that transportation was inevitable. The arguments of the noble Lord—he did not mean in a personal or invidious sense—were of a selfish kind. They related to the inconvenience, he would rather say the moral evils, which we should suffer by keeping the convicts in this country. We could keep these convicts at home if we chose. He contended that it was on a balance of the convenience and inconvenience which must result to us and to the Colonies, that they must decide this question. He considered that the objections to sending the convicts to the Colonies, notwithstanding any reformatory discipline to which they might be subject, were some of them as strong almost as the objections to keeping them at home. He was not himself so thoroughly convinced of the high moral state of these Colonies. He happened to be intimately acquainted with a rev. gentleman, Mr. Lilly, the Presbyterian clergyman of St. Andrews, Hobart Town, who a few years ago wrote to him, stating that he was on the point of leaving that colony on account of its immoral character. The arguments in favour of transportation began with stating the conveniences to the mother country, and then went to the advantages it conferred upon the colony. The colonists themselves, however, were the best judges of the advantages to them; and, except where they could not otherwise procure labour, they had unanimously repudiated it; and in all those colonies where they had strength enough to resist it, Government dare not attempt to follow it up. The consequence was, they would soon be 768 able only to send convicts to those colonies who could not resist their arbitrary power. The Cape was a case in point. As transportation thither was only for a temporary purpose, he thought Government ought to have carried it out with a high hand, and have supported it even by military force if necessary. At the same time he admitted there were strong objections to it; and as the Colonies rose in power and influence, we should be unable to continue the system.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
explained that the whole of his argument was based on the idea of a given colony to which their convicts were to be transported in such numbers as that they formed the greatest portion of the people. When he described the system of transportation as a wicked system, he was quoting from Lord Bacon, who said "that it was a wicked thing to plant the earth with the basest of mankind."
said, according to the last returns, the state of Van Diemen's Land was this—there were 70,000 persons altogether, of whom nearly 23,000 were actually convicts, besides emancipatists and expirees. It was to that state of things that the objection applied. He hoped that Government would consider the state of feeling in Van Diemen's Land, and the state of feeling which was growing up in our Australian Colonies, and that they would take measures to put an end to the system.
§ EARL GREY
said, his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) asked whether the system of hulks was to be resumed. It had never been discontinued. He wished it was possible, as a floating prison was necessarily a bad one; but they could not create a substitute for the hulks in a day. They had hitherto had them at the dockyards and at Bermuda, but they wished to got rid of them as fast as they could. There was a very large prison in the course of erection in Bermuda, to which the convicts would be transferred as soon as it was completed. In this country the associate labour which he had described as the secondary punishment would always be performed by convicts; but until the prisons were prepared, it was absolutely necessary to continue the hulks. No prisoners now went straight to the hulks. All prisoners who were able to undergo punitive treatment were made to undergo it for a shorter or a longer time; then they went to the associate labour which he had described. The noble Duke stated that the accounts 769 he received from Van Diemen's Land five or six years ago were most distressing. He entirely agreed with him, and that state was a proof that Parliament should not interfere. The evils in Van Diemen's Land mainly arose from the Address in the House of Commons not to send convicts to Australia; and then convicts were sent in immense numbers to Van Diemen's Land, without proper arrangements being made. He must still repeat the opinion he had before expressed that this was a question of comparison, of comparative amount of moral evil which would be created by one system or another. He was firmly persuaded that the system now in operation was that which led to the least evils, because they knew that in the Colonies the great majority of those who were sent out as convicts, though they might not be improved in heart, were, at all events, improved in conduct; and a very large proportion of these men were now, instead of resorting to dishonest practices, honestly earning their subsistence.
§ Petitions ordered to lie on the table.
§ House adjourned to Monday next.