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2-314 (Raw)

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addressee,male author,male,Wentworth, William Charles,56
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Government English
Imperial Correspondence
Clark, 1957
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Your Committee.. . are sufficiently cognizant of the state of public feeling among their fellow colonists at large, to be satisfied that - if the proposed renewal of transportation were any longer practically and substantially an open question; if it rested with the colonists themselves to decide whether the deportation of convicts to this hemisphere should cease, or continue - if it were thus placed at their option, whether they would at once and for ever free themselves and their posterity from the further taint of the convict system, doubtless a large majority, especially of the operative classes, would give the proposal for renewed transportation an unhesitating veto. [224] Nor do your Committee feel by any means certain that the decision of the majority of the upper and middle classes of society would not also be in accordance with the Report of the General Grievance Committee of 1844, that the moral and social influences of the convict system, - the contamination and vice -  which are inseparable from it, are evils for which no mere pecuniary benefits could serve as a counterpoise. And if your Committee have erred in putting this construction on the Secretary of States intentions, as conveyed in this Dispatch, and if that Right Honourable functionary be prepared to discontinue the transportation of the convicts .of the British Empire, to any of the Australian Colonies, and thus practically, as well as nominally, to free this continent from their presence, your Committee beg unequivocally to state, that such a course is that which they conceive would be most generally conducive to the interests, and agreeable to the inclinations of those whom it will most directly and intimately concern.
Seeing however, that, in the view of your Committee, transportation is no longer an open question, - that the Despatch referred to your Committee, assumes that transportation is still to go on to Van Diemens Land and the other penal, establishments formed in these seas ; - seeing moreover, that a new penal settlement is immediately to be formed on the very northern boundary of the Colony; that with this design, a new division of territory has been made, and a new government already appointed; - that thus this Colony already inundated on the south with the outpourings of the probation system in Van Diemens Land, the most demoralizing that was ever invented, is soon to have poured in upon it from the north, the exiles from the penitentiaries of the Mother country, as well as the expirees from that Colony; that New South Wales must submit to this double stream of felonry, whether it will or not, and that to augment its volume, a system of conditional pardons confining the holders of them practically to the Australian Colonies, has been resorted to with the effect, if not with the view of relieving the British Treasury from the cost of maintaining this class - of offenders in reality, though free men in name seeing all this, your Committee consider that the question for their determination is substantially narrowed down to this; whether it is expedient that transportation should be renewed in a direct form on equitable conditions, or whether it is desirable that it should virtually exist in the indirect and polluted shape which, as far as this Colony is concerned it has already assumed ; - whether in short, we are to have this double tide of moral contamination flowing in upon us without check or restraint, and without any counteracting advantages, or whether along with whatever compensations transportation can be surrounded, we are to have the additional advantage of modifying and regulating its now inevitable introduction into this Colony, by the knowledge which fifty years experience of its working has given us, and which will at all events enable us to combine with the greatest possible good derivable from it, the least possible admixture of evil. [225] This being, in the view of your Committee, the true state of the question raised for the decision of the Colonists, and of your Honorable House, by the Despatch now under consideration, your Committee have been driven to the conclusion that the only safe alternative left to the Colony, is to accede to the proposition that a modified and carefully regulated introduction of convict labourers into New South Wales, or into some part of it, may, under the present circumstances, be advisable.
In thus submitting to an open renewal of transportation, your Committee concur in opinion with the majority of the witnesses examined, that it ought only to be tolerated upon the express understanding that the probation system of gangs now in operation in Norfolk Island and Van Diemens Land, or any conceivable modification of it, by which convicts are to be aggregated in masses, shall on no account be introduced into the Colony; as being not only the least efficient system of secondary punishment which can be resorted to, but the most unreformatory which was ever devised. [226] It seems to your Committee that as, in the physical world, it is an invariable law that all agglomerations of animal or vegetable matter heat and putrify and decay; so, in the moral world, there can be no aggregations of human beings, whether in Hulks, or Gaols or Penitentiaries or Gangs, without calling this putrescent agency into existence; and unquestionably, as far as the experience of the Sister Colony of Van Diemens Land goes, this destructive process of aggregation has been little, if at all counteracted by the agency of the systematic and religious instruction which has been applied to these living masses of crime, and which, according to the theory of the doubtless philanthropic originators of this system, it was hoped would form its chief ground of superiority over every mode of secondary punishment previously extant. On the utter failure of those anticipations, and the revolting crimes with which this new experiment has been attended, it is not necessary that your Committee should dwell. Some slight evidence on those topics has been taken, but your Committee have not had time, nor did they consider it necessary, to go into elaborate proof of the vicious and detestable working of a system, which has been over and over again denounced by the community which has been polluted by it - polluted by it to that degree that an intelligent gentleman lately arrived from that Colony asserted without hesitation at the public meeting lately convened to petition your Honourable House against the proposed resumption of transportation that the worst days of Sodom and Gomorrah were not so bad as the present days of Van Diemens Land; and that full proof of this statement might be had by referring to the fearful records of the Jericho station. That such, indeed, would be the necessary result of any large aggregations of vicious men, debarred from access to female society, might have been inferred a priori; and the wonder is, not that such should be the fruits of this system, but how it could have ever entered into the contemplation of its benevolent authors, that large masses of human beings, composed principally of the very dregs of society, and for the most part debased by crime previous to their deportation, could be thus aggregated and reformed. [227] Nor is it without regret that your Committee perceive in the Despatch under consideration, that while the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies impliedly admits the failure of the probation system, as hitherto practised in Van Diemens Land, he still clings to the delusive hope that it may under really efficient discipline, be yet made productive both of the punishment and reformation which its projectors had in view, It is lamentable to perceive that an eight years trial of this disastrous experiment - an experiment which, directly or indirectly, has been attended with an outlay of many millions spent without producing, your Committee believe, any of the benefits contemplated, whether in regard to the prevention of crime in the parent country, or to the, reformation of the convicts themselves, has not yet sufficed to dissipate the delusive theories, to which transportation as originally conducted was made to give ways It may be conceded that the old system, efficient and reformatory as it undoubtedly was, had its errors. It may be, as was urged by its objectors, that assignment, which was the soul of the system, did not, in all cases, work equally; that it was a greater or less punishment in proportion to the lenity or severity of the assignee; that it was not sufficiently discriminating in its selection of assignees; these, and other defects may doubtless have existed under the old system. They were not, however, defects essentially inherent in it, and might therefore have been remedied. 
Your Committee, therefore, - inflexible in their opinion against the introduction of any system of aggregation which, assuming that punishment is a necessary accompaniment of transportation, shall aim at carrying out that punishment in gangs, whether for the execution of public works generally, or for the making and repair of roads, as suggested in the despatch under consideration, or for any other conceivable under colonial sentence, and - only upon the express understanding as before stipulated, that - with the above exception - all gangs are to be utterly discountenanced - in the dilemma in which they consider the Colony now placed - and as a mere choice of evils, which, whatever may be the general desire, this community has not the power wholly to escape from - are willing to submit to a renewal of transportation upon the following conditions, and upon no other: [228] 
1st. - That no alteration shall be made in the Constitution Act 5 and 6 Victoria, C. 76, except with a view to the extension of the elective principle. 
2nd . - That the transportation of male convicts be accompanied - as a simultaneous measure - with the importation of an equal number of females, to consist of female convicts as far as they exist, and the balance to be made up of female immigrants.
3rd. - That, as a further simultaneous measure, such transportation be accompanied with an equal importation of free immigrants, as nearly as possible, in equal proportion as to sexes.
4th. - That the wives and families of all convicts receiving permanent or temporary indulgences, should be brought out, and count as part of this free immigration.
5th. - That no fewer than five thousand male convicts be annually deported to this Colony.
6th. - That the convict establishments properly so called, such as Norfolk Island, Cockatoo Island, ironed or road gangs of criminals under Colonial sentence, &c, &c, be maintained as heretofore at the cost of the British Treasury.
7th - That two-thirds of the expense of police, gaols, and the criminal administration of justice, be paid by the Home Government, but That on the relinquishment of the land fund, and all other revenues or droits of the Crown to the appropriation of the Governor and Legislative Council, the whole of this branch of convict expenditure be assumed by the Colony, with a view to aid the British Government in defraying the cost of the free immigration stipulated for in the second and third conditions. 
8th. - That in order to insure due permanency and efficiency in the regulations to be provided for the government and discipline of convicts, the sole power of making such regulations be vested in the Governor and Legislative Council saving entire the Royal prerogative of mercy. [229]
The description of convicts, in the opinion of your Committee, the Colony should agree to receive from the Mother Country, on the above conditions, are:
1st. - Young delinquents who have committed first offences after little or no probation.
2nd. - Convicts who have committed graver offences, after a probation considered adequate to the crime; the probation meant being probation under the separate system. 
3rd. - Convicts at the commencement of their sentences, who have committed various crimes.
4th. - If any convicts be received from Van Diemens Land, convicts with tickets of leave.
It appears to your Committee that the first two classes of convicts, having undergone certain probation, might receive tickets of leave on their landing - limited, as all tickets of leave should be, to some particular district; and excluding the holders of them from all permanent dwelling in towns. In arriving at this conclusion, your Committee have been particularly influenced by the uniform testimony given in favor of the decent and orderly conduct of the Pentonville Exiles, landed some time since at Port Phillip. While they consider this testimony, however, decisive in favor of the reformatory tendency of the separate system as now practised in that, and other penitentiaries at Home, they by no means admit that its general effects are more satisfactory in this respect than the old system of assignment ; - whilst the latter system has undoubtedly these marked advantages peculiar to itself; that it entails comparatively but small expense on the public, and instead of teaching trades, which are for the most part useless except in towns, where they might come unfairly and injuriously into competition with free labour, it trains the convict to those rural occupations which are most in demand, and by thus giving him an early taste for them - establishes ultimately that preference for a country life, which afterwards preserves him from those temptations and vices of cities, which occasioned, probably, his early downfall. [230]
The third class of convicts, transported at the commencement of their sentences, should, in the opinion of your Committee, undergo the punishment - with which, according to the modern theory, it is considered necessary that transportation should be accompanied, in order to render it terrible and effective; and to prevent it from acting - as it is supposed to have acted formerly, not as a check, but as a bonus to crime, - in a state of assignment, on the principles heretofore practised; but with this essential difference, - First, that previous to any assignment a rigid enquiry should be instituted into the character of the assignees, and their fitness for the discharge of the duties of that charge; secondly, that assignment should not be permitted in cities or towns, or in any districts within a stipulated distance of them; but should be limited in the first instance to those of the nineteen counties, in which pastoral pursuits are most generally followed, and to the squatting districts beyond the limits of location. In arriving at this conclusion your Committee concur in opinion with a great majority of the witnesses, that dispersion - as wide and complete as possible, and utter exclusion from cities and towns are the most effectual means of reformation that can be resorted to. It might, indeed, without any evidence, have been inferred a priori, that as aggregation has been the chief, if not only cause, of the failure of the probation system which has thus been acted upon, by way of supplement to transportation - so dispersion would be the proper remedy; and that as the failure of this experiment has been the more signal and decided, wherever the aggregation has been the most intense; so the more complete the dispersion, the more curative and reformatory would be its agency. Nor do your Committee feel any apprehension, that, while the dispersion thus insisted upon will be most influential as a measure of reform, it will be less efficacious as a mode of punishment. Mr. Miles, from long acquaintance with the opinions and feelings of criminals, states, that no punishment is considered by them so intense and severe as solitary confinement; that it enlists no sympathies - is attended with no showing off, and compels a man, in the graphic language of one of its experimentors, to look himself over. If this be, as indeed the experience of our penitentiaries at Home proves, the result of solitary confinement in cells, your Committee see no reason to doubt, that a similar result may be anticipated from the complete dispersion they recommend; for after all, what is dispersion, - amidst the lonely and boundless wilds of our vast interior, but solitude in another form? [231] Contemplate the life of a shepherd or hutkeeper, thus situated; placed two or three in number at most, in a small hut composed of bark and slabs, their nearest neighbours persons circumstanced like themselves, seldom within three miles, frequently not within ten; two out of the three of these men obliged in all weather to follow their flocks from sun-rise to sun-set; the third man, the hut-keeper - left all day alone to guard the hut, shift the folds, cook for his companions the out-going shepherds, and afterwards to watch their flocks by night, in order to protect them from the native dogs; there is evidently among persons thus circumstanced, (and in our boundless wilds thousands are, and tens of thousands more, may be so placed), but brief time for converse after the labour of the day, and before retirement for the night to their pallets, and briefer time still between their rising in the morning, and departure with their flocks on their daily round. to the profligate, who has been accustomed to the bustle and dissipations of cities, what life can be more monotonous and irksome? In a new world, at the distance of more than half the globe from the scenes of his early associations and the country of his birth, and with but slight chance that he will ever behold those scenes, and that country again, what being can become thus lonely and individualized - and his heart  not sink within him at the dreary solitude of such a doom? Your Committee feel it difficult to believe that any imprisonment in ones native land can be so effectual by way of punishment as the solitude of these distant wilds; and still less can they believe that any such imprisonment can be equally effectual by way of reformation. For if anything can soften and humanise and restore a fallen being to his primitive condition, it must be the constant opportunities for reflection which such a life presents, - the remorse which it must at times awaken in the most obdurate natures, - the gradual estrangement from former tastes and pursuits with which it is necessarily accompanied, - and above all, the constant contemplation of the power and beneficence of the Great Author of the Universe, which all surrounding objects must force upon the mind. [232] If religion could, be brought to the aid of these solitary wanderers, then indeed might its voice be listened to with penitence, and its lessons and admonitions sink deep into the heart; and since Britain abounds, more than all the world besides, with pious and zealous missionaries, ready to brave death itself for the-conversion of the heathen, who can doubt that the less hazardous field for missionary zeal, which this scheme, if acted upon, would open out, would soon be crowded with enthusiastic volunteers, labouring for the salvation of the fallen children of their own country and creed. Nor do your Committee feel any doubt that the settlers themselves, as well as the Local Legislature, would readily make adequate provision for the support of religious instruction to be thus administered.
Your Committee, in recommending the reception of ticket of leave men from Van Diemens Land, are aware that this recommendation may at first sight appear somewhat incongruous with the strong animadversions - in which they have indulged on the probation system, through which this class must necessarily have passed to qualify them for that indulgence. Without stopping, however, to dwell on the probability that this class of probationers are there, as here, the best men the system produces, the object your Committee have in view is capable of easy and satisfactory explanation. Perceiving that it is the practice in Van Diemens Land to grant conditional pardons at much earlier periods than they were formerly obtainable here; that these pardons, therefore, are no longer the same test of good conduct they were formerly; that the object of this premature emancipation is to enable this class to emigrate freely to the neighbouring Colonies, and thus to relieve Van Diemens Land from the overwhelming pressure of the convict inundation, by which, in the language of one of the witnesses, the free population has been swamped, - your Committee conceive that in thus consenting at once to the reception of ticket of leave men from the Sister Colony, who as a matter of course, like the same class here, will be limited after their arrival to particular districts, and subject to registry and muster and to the surveillance of the police, - they are accomplishing the main - if not the sole object which the Home authorities have in view, and are in fact providing for the transfer to this Colony of the surplus convict population, which has become useless or mischievous there, in, a much safer and less objectionable manner - than by the indiscriminate system of conditional pardons now resorted to; and that in this matter too it does not rest with the Colony to decide - whether they will receive this class or not, but simply whether they will receive them at this stage of their probationary career, under the restraints of a ticket of leave, or whether they will prefer having them at a later stage, with conditional pardons, without any restraint at all. [233] Your Committee have been the more readily induced to sanction the reception of this class in this earlier stage of their probation, conceiving that the stimulus to good conduct, which a ticket of leave perpetually holds out, in connexion with the limitations and restraints which surround it, will in most instances be sufficient, in a new scene, and with the dispersion, with which in our extensive and thinly peopled districts, the removal of this class would be immediately attended, to counteract and eventually subdue the evil tendencies of their earlier career.
In stipulating for the importation of not fewer than five thousand male convicts annually, accompanied with a free immigration of both sexes to double that extent, your Committee have been actuated by ,the apprehension, that the character of a penal Colony, which would doubtless again attach to us from any renewal of transportation, would interpose some considerable check upon voluntary immigration, - even though no assignment or other distribution of the convicts should be permitted, except beyond the boundaries of location. Conceiving that transportation would, in this way, act very injuriously on the future progress of the Colony, unless a copious and sufficient supply of labour can be had from this source, in connexion with the free immigration which is to accompany it, your Committee cannot give it their sanction on any other terms; and would as a less evil assist the parishes and the Government of England to pay for immigration from the United Kingdom, by means of a loan secured on the land fund, in the shape of a terminable annuity, as suggested in the evidence of Mr. Boyd, or have recourse to the large supply of Asiatic labour, which is to be found in India, in China, and in the adjacent islands of the Pacific Ocean, rather than thus run the risk of damaging, however undeservedly, the character of the Colony, as a field for immigration, in the opinion of the working classes at Home. [234] Your Committee, however, in thus specifying the amount of convict and free labour conjointly, upon which, if sent out at the expense of the Home Government, they would sanction the renewal of transportation, by no means wish to imply that this is the maximum amount of labour, which they are willing or able to receive. On the contrary, they consider it the minimum amount with which Colonization can make any sensible progression; and with the abundant harvest of which there is now such fair promise; with the unbounded supply of meat derivable from our flocks and herds - a supply equal to more than twenty times the number of our present population; with the augmentation of capital which has gradually grown up among us for the last three years; and with the land fund of the Colony reserved for internal improvements, and for furnishing employment, at any time of unexpected depression; - your Committee concur in opinion, with the same intelligent witness, that any amount of free or convict labour, that could be forwarded to us, would find immediate and profitable employment. Nor do they conceive that any doubt on this point can exist in the mind of any one, who duly adverts to the numerous unexplored channels of unbounded enterprize, which the evidence of this gentleman shews that this Colony possesses, in its forests, its mines, and its fisheries alone; two of which sources of wealth, out of the three, are utterly neglected, from the want of the necessary labour to make them profitable; and the third of them - the inexhaustible fisheries, at our very doors, are only partially embarked in from the same cause, although prosecuted successfully by foreigners, who have half the globe to traverse before they can reach them. Your Committee, indeed, feel satisfied, that under the conditions thus to be imposed on future transportation, all the hulks, prisons, and penitentiaries of England, might be at once emptied of their inmates, and those inmates readily employed, in the boundless fields of profitable occupation at present shut up from Colonial enterprise, and destined to remain so, until a sufficient supply of labour, from some source or other, shall arrive among us to open them out. [235]
In this way, it appears to your Committee, that the most expensive of the penal establishments of the parent country - the hulks and penitentiaries, together with all the penal establishments in her Colonies, except those in this Colony and Norfolk Island, might soon be broken up, and utterly got rid of. Nor are your Committee at all apprehensive, that any moral evil of serious account would flow in upon the Colony, from the large importation of criminals, which would be consequent on so great a revolution in the administration of the penal discipline of England. The free population have now obtained so great a head and mastery over the convict population, that if this preponderance be only maintained in any future scheme of transportation, the absorbing and dispersive powers of the community will be so vast, and will so rapidly augment, that there will be no chance that transportation here, whatever its amount, will be able to swamp the free population of this Colony, as it swamped it formerly, and as it has latterly swamped the free population of Van Diemens Land. The secret to disarm transportation of its evil influences is so to increase the free population - that it may always maintain a decided ascendency, and so to keep up the equality of the sexes, that the abomination of a populus virorum, such as polluted the earlier days of this Colony, and such as now pollutes the Sister Colony of Van Diemens Land, may never again be introduced. Let these conditions be fairly carried out, and transportation, as far as the Mother Country is concerned, will become at once the cheapest, the most efficient, and the most reformatory punishment that was ever devised, and as far as this Colony is concerned, and with the unequalled means of dispersion which it possesses, will be, in the language of the Despatch under consideration, a measure most favorable to the material fortunes of the colonists and unattended with injury to their higher interests. [236]
The stipulation contained in the seventh condition, that two-thirds of the expenditure of police and gaols and the criminal administration of justice shall be paid by the British Treasury, is merely an adoption of the principle which it is understood the British Government has concurred in - as a just apportionment of this expenditure in Van Diemens Land. This too, is the principle of apportionment insisted upon in the General Grievance Report of the Session of 1844, and upon which - since the breach of the compact under which the Colony assumed this expenditure as an equivalent for the surrender to it of the land fund - a debt has accrued to the Colony, amounting in that year, in round numbers, to seven hundred and ninety-three thousand and thirty-four pounds, and since considerably augmented by the convict expenditure, which we have unjustly been compelled to bear, notwithstanding our repeated protestations against it. No question can exist that up to the present time two-thirds at least of this most onerous charge, which has since the Report of that Committee, accumulated in the whole to about nine hundred and fifty thousand pounds, is occasioned by the convict and free population; and no proposition can be more reasonable or just than that this amount, which is in fact a convict charge - solely - should be paid by the British Treasury, until it cease to exist by the gradual disappearance from our population of the class that occasions it. In the event of the proposed renewal of transportation, your Committee presume that the assumption of this charge would be a condition readily conceded, even though it were not an article in this new compact ; - and they draw attention to its present amount, which however will rapidly augment on the renewal of transportation, to shew how much they are willing in this shape to contribute to the free immigration, which is to be a simultaneous measure. With so large a contribution from the Colony, and with such aid as the parishes at Home would in most instances gladly afford to get rid of their burdensome poor, but a small supplement, if any, would be required from the consolidated fund, and that may well be paid out of the million, in round numbers, which Britain owes us for past arrears. If due consideration indeed, were given to the appalling fact - in the present financial condition of the Mother country, that crime and poverty together cost her annually about ten millions of pounds sterling, it would seem to be her soundest interest, and wisest policy, not only to aid the emigration thus recommended, but to organise, at her own expense, some grand scheme of emigration to her colonies - by which this vast amount of crime and misery might be ejected from her bosom. [237]
In deeming it indispensable that so large a female immigration should be a sine qua non of renewed transportation, your Committee have only to refer to the state of our population in March last, when, as appears from official returns: its entire amount was one hundred and eighty-eight thousand, the males being one hundred and fourteen thousand, and the females only seventy-four thousand, leaving a balance of forty thousand females necessary to restore the equality of the sexes, or in other words exhibiting a preponderance of males over females in round numbers of about three to two. Such a disparity, it must be evident, is highly detrimental to the morals of the Colony, and if it do not demand immediate equalization at the hands of the Home Government, it is at least so great an evil, that no well-wisher to the community which is suffering under it can consent to its further aggravation. It appears to your Committee, that - if the British Government would of its own mere motion restore the equality, which by its vicious and unchristian scheme of secondary punishment it has thus destroyed, it would be no more than ,an act of moral justice which its rulers are bound in, conscience to perform, by way of expiation for the enormous mischiefs with which this shocking disparity has been attended, and that to pay in the shape of free immigration, as suggested in, the Report of the Grievance Committee of 1844, the debt which that Report proves is still due, would be the easiest and most beneficial way of at once discharging this obligation and duty.
Your Committee in allusion to the general distrust and alarm which pervade the operative classes at the prospect of renewed transportation, feel the utmost confidence, that not only are the apprehensions thus excited entirely groundless, but that whatever amount of convict labour may be imported and dispersed in our vast interior, cannot but react beneficially on our artizans in towns, on our agriculture, and the other branches of internal industry in which our free population are, for the most part, employed; and that this reaction will be more or less beneficial to them in proportion to the cheapness of that labour, and to the consequent accumulation of profit - that may arise from its employment. [238] Your Committee, however, are aware that the objection of this class of our population to the importation of labour is not limited to the importation of convict labour only; but extends to the introduction of any sort of labour, which, in their view, may interfere with their supposed vested rights in the labour market of the Colony, as it now is.
Your Committee, at this late period of the Session, and with the short interval necessarily assigned as the limitation of their labours, have been forced to abstain altogether from the wide and important field of inquiry, which they must have entered upon, had they, in the language of this Despatch, attempted to supply any definite plan of the regulations and discipline for the coercion and government of Convicts, which it would be proper to establish and enforce, if the views of your Committee, as embodied in the slight and general outlines of this Report, should be ultimately acceded to. They consider this omission, however, in the present stage of the negotiation with the Home authorities of comparative unimportance, seeing that it is deemed an indispensable condition for the reasons therein stated that all legislation connected with these important objects should be vested in the Governor and Legislative Council, saving entire the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, and that, in the event of a recurrence to transportation on the terms proposed, it will hereafter become the duty of your Honorable House to enter upon this subject with more minuteness, and more definite views than are within the aim of your present Committee.
The additional expense connected with the deportation of five thousand male convicts, on the terms now proposed, would be as follows: [239] [...]
And making the additional cost of transportation, at its outset, under this new system, amount to £10 3s. 4d, per head. In this calculation the cost of transportation of the convicts is omitted, because that is an item of expenditure which the Home Government must incur, whether they adhere to the old system, or adopt the new one now suggested. They will, under our present proposal, also have to provide, as at present, for the expense of the convict establishments, properly so called, which are necessary for the coercion and restraint of offenders convicted in the Colony. But here, if they choose, all further cost of transportation may end; and the expense of transportation, as a secondary punishment, be reduced at once from about £100, at which it is now computed in connexion with the probation system of gangs in Van Diemens Land, to a sum certainly not exceeding £31, in the whole, exclusive of the above annual charge for the coercion of Colonial offenders.
This amount of expenditure your Committee consider will well occur in this way: [240] [...]
Which makes the total cost, per head, to the Home Government, attending our proposal, the cost of transportation included, something short of £3 per head; to which will have to be added, as before mentioned, an annual charge of about £20,000 a year, above the present annual Convict expenditure, for the maintenance of ironed gangs and other penal establishments necessary for the coercion and punishment of criminals under Colonial sentence.
In conclusion, your Committee beg to observe that although the proportion of immigrants which they thus insist upon as an indispensable adjunct. to renewed transportation, will be attended probably with some additional cost to the Home Government at the outset, and so long as the penal establishments at Norfolk Island and Van Diemens Land are kept up on their present scale, the diminution of the expense of the system thus proposed as a substitute for the probation system of gangs, which is now enforced in both those places, will be immense - as soon as transportation is diverted from thence and directed here. It is not forming an exaggerated estimate of the expenditure now incurred one way or other in carrying out this worse than useless scheme of secondary punishment, to fix it at half a million sterling. Now if to this great outlay be added the cost of the penitentiaries and other penal establishments of the Mother country which might be wholly got rid of, provided transportation to this Colony were renewed on the scale recommended in this Report; - if the whole of these penal establishments were at once emptied, not only of such of their inmates as have committed graver offences, but also of those younger delinquents, who are passing through them in a perpetual round, - from the necessity which in most cases prompts them to the commission of crime in the first instance, and the necessity and inclination combined, which continue them afterwards in the same course; - if the penal establishments thus emptied were never allowed to become the permanent abodes of any such delinquents hereafter, and the whole body of these juvenile and other offenders were forced on their first conviction to undergo either compulsory exile, or transportation to our boundless interior, which seems to have been created the vast solitude it is, and to have been assigned by Providence to the British nation, as the fittest scene for the reformation of her criminals, and the city of refuge to which they should flee ; - if this comprehensive scheme of transportation and emigration were for the first time thus made to go hand in hand, and to afford each other the mutual support and encouragement of which they are capable; - if the yet untrodden wilds lately discovered by that enterprising traveller Leichhardt, and those opened out by previous explorers, were made available to these great ends; - how many millions, now spent for the support of the poor, and the coercion of criminals, might be saved; and withal how largely might the sum of human misery and crime be reduced; how many happy and smiling countenances - how many prosperous homes, might soon brighten up this now lonely but beautiful wilderness; how many souls that may otherwise perish might be turned to salvation? [241] It has been shown by authentic Parliamentary returns, that the assignment system, as formerly practised, saved Britain in less than fifty years the twenty millions of pounds which she nobly devoted to the extinction of slavery, and this immense saving, be it remembered, accrued from assignment, notwithstanding that far more than half that period, immense gangs, and other convict establishments, supported entirely by the Home Government, were kept up here, chiefly from the inability of the then comparatively limited free population and capital of those earlier times to afford them employment. [242] If, notwithstanding those obstacles which then existed to the dispersion and absorption of the convict population, such a vast saving was the result, how easy is the inference that - if transportation and assignment were reverted to in the altered circumstances of the Colony, and with the greatly augmented capital and free population it now possesses, - an amount of saving altogether unparalleled and unforeseen, might in the course of a similar period be effected. It seems to your Committee that they are indulging in no improbable anticipations that an amount of saving might accrue from this source which would go far towards the extinction of the national debt, or enable Britain to organise a grand system of national education and immigration, that would ultimately reduce toa mere nominal amount the crime and pauperism which are now the plague-spots of her system, and the main cause of the intestine turbulence and disorders with which she is troubled.
Such, your Committee conceive, would be the immense gains and mighty influences for good which would result at Home from the change here recommended in the administration of the penal discipline of our common country; whilst, on the other hand, the seeds of a great community would be sown on this continent, which would shoot up with a vigour and rapidity unexampled in the history of our race; a community which from its very outset would re-act powerfully on the whole frame of her internal industry, enlarging the field of her employment at Home, extending the circle of her commerce abroad; until, in the rapid progress and ultimate immensity of this beneficial interchange, a mighty Colony would arise, linked to her by the strong ties of common origin and mutual interest; a faithful subject and never failing customer, that would be attached to her in peace - would not desert her in war; that would multiply her resources, increase her numbers, consolidate her strength, and be the main stay not only of her supremacy and dominion in these seas, but probably of her continued supremacy and dominion in the world.
Legislative Council Chamber, Chairman.
Sydney, 31st October, 1846.