網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

altar-steps, you might see the reign of silence and recollection on every side, without any necessity, so to speak, for the interference of prison discipline. Our oldest superintendent, M. Marquet Vasselot, attests that, never since he has seen the prisoners assisting during mass at the different religious ceremonies, has he known two examples of scandal and impiety...... In the sphere of penitentiary education, confession is the necessary complement of moral instruction. It is not enough to confess to one's self one's faults: one must have the courage and frankness to make the avowal to somebody else. If hypocrisy be the most perilous quicksand to be shunned, the avowal of the offence is the most important result to be obtained, in a scheme of education which aspires to regeneration and the re-edification of repentance. Confession has one other advantage, that of calling to the aid of a mind of but small development, the counsels and directions of a more enlightened intelligence. Now, in this regard again, Catholicism renders, by confession, a signal service to penitentiary education."

Accordingly we learn from the same authority, that in Lyons, Bordeaux, and elsewhere, the trial has been made with the happiest results. May France soon be unable to afford a single instance of a prison conducted on any other system! Meanwhile let us return to our colony. Having thus disembarrassed ourselves of so much of our task as respects the economical objections which our Van Diemen's Land friends appear to raise to the final extinction of the transportation system, and the pretended reform, which, it is asserted, this system tends to operate upon the offenders, let us come to the only remaining point, possessing, as it does, the further merit of lying in a very small compass. The end of punishment is prevention. We do not say with some writers, that it is the exclusive end; we are far from being transported into raptures by the tropes and flowers of poetic prose which are to be found in various parts of the Gazette des Tribunaux, of the 21st August, and 25th May, 1836, and the 17th and 18th April, and 18th May, 1837, under the appellation of speech or speeches of M. de Lamartine. We are far from excluding the retribution due to the crime itself from the delegates of God's temporal justice, as an essential element of all punishment. At the same time, we confess that the chief constituent characteristic of punishment is the endeavour to repress future or possible crime, by an exemplary penalty signally inflicted upon the detected criminal. This premised, we think it impossible to doubt any longer that the practice of transportation is, under this head, as indefensible as under the two less important ones. The first in

*

reputation, and nearly the first in order of date, who had the merit sof drawing public attention to the colonial punishment of British

offenders, as calculated to allure to crime instead of dissuading from it, was Archbishop Whately. Mr. Gibbon Wakefield's -powerful pen contributed largely to the Protestant prelate's side of this then disputed question. Mr. Heath, and other writers of more or less note, soon swelled the ranks of this fast increasing party, that called for the strictest scrutiny into, and if merited, the immediate determination of the transportation system. Since then it has pressed itself upon the successive parliaments of this realm, in every possible shape,—by petition, motion, and committees of inquiry, &c. &c. In the Upper House, Dr. Whately, whenever his cycle, after the customary revolutions, has returned; in the Lower House, Sir W. Molesworth, Mr. Ward, Mr. Charles Buller, and others, have been most unwearied in their patriotic efforts to bring about the downfall of a system, which they justly regarded as hurtful and demoralising. The consummation is fast approaching. The first blow has been struck. After two protracted sessional inquiries in two distinct parliaments, an unanimous vote of an impartially chosen committee has authorised the able and voluminous report, which its chairman, Sir William Molesworth, had drawn up by request of his colleagues. It is remarkable how closely and practicably the principal objec

tions, urged by Dr. Whately, in his early letters to Lord Grey upon this subject, have been ratified and adopted by this committee, and established by the most recent and overpowering evidences. The opinion of the committee is already expressed. Transportation is condemned alike in principle and in practice. Their only doubt seems to have been, what to substitute for it. And, in fact, this was evidently not one of those points on which they were required to give judgment. In pronouncing so decidedly as it has done, upon the indefensibility of transportation, the committee had already concluded its meritorious labours. The question of the next experiment to be tried, is matter for another committee, and another protracted examination. There are many other conflicting systems of secondary punishment to be gathered throughout this world of ours ; some differing from the rest very greatly in the respective details, but all alike repugnant to the very principles on which we have so long maintained transportation,-gregarious systems, solitary systems, silent systems, systems silent and solitary too,--and many more beside them ;-surely there is VOL. XI.—NO. XXII.

GG

work enough here for at least one committee to discuss, though it sat the session long. In the meantime let us rejoice that so much has been gained by us, and that we have lived to see that for which Blackstone sighed in vain,-transportation condemned by a parliamentary tribunal, and the promise half expressed, of its speedy abolition under form and sanction of law. And in determining the reign of a great abuse, this is the greatest, as it is the first point to establish. “We have those amongst us," said the orator of Athens, “who deem that they have fully confuted a speaker when they have asked him, what then must be done? To whom I answer with the utmost truth and justice,—not what we are doing now!"* An answer, indeed, that always holds the germ of all that, at a later period, may be conveniently said. It now remains only to be seen what the home administration will do to forward this good work. Their late proceedings, inconsistent and contradictory as they appear to our fellow subjects in the Antipodes, and even to ourselves, may doubtless be for the present accounted for, by their having prepared themselves for some vital change of scheme, agreeably to the decision of parliament, and the natural embarrassment which the breaking up of this overgrown absurdity is calculated for some time longer to produce. But of this they must assure themselves, that no change whatever, short of extinguishment of transportation, will meet the evil. The social system of Captain Maconochie may be good or bad: it can be tried at home quite as well as at our two penal settlements, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land. And whether it be intrinsically good or bad, the real grievance will remain untouched while the convict is transported to the scene of the experiment. Transportation in any case must cease. For a time, perhaps, many a bad substitute may be tried in its stead, and rejected. It is a consolation to know and feel, that, try what we may, we cannot try a worse system. Impunity itself were preferable to such a profanation of the public justice and humanity. And though we are perhaps out of season in these remarks of ours, which are on this side of the Atlantic, at least, esteemed as truisms that need no proof, let us here indulge ourselves in one powerful extract or two, from the pages of an able writer on the reasons why transportation has tended to the increase of crime at home. *

* Demosthenes, vii. Orat. On the state of the Chersonesus.

† By a late order in council, New South Wales has ceased to be a penal settlement.

“ The distance of the place of punishment from those for whose warning the punishment is inflicted, has an ill effect in two ways. 1. It diminishes the disgrace of a criminals lot, both by removing him from the eyes of all whose good opinion he values, and whose censure he dreads, and by putting him in the midst of

many

other persons who are in the same case as himself; so that, at any rate, there is nothing singular or remarkable in his condition ; his fate is shared by so many, that it seems to be rather his misfortune than his fault. There are some criminals so utterly abandoned, so lost to all sense of shame, that no punishment can reach them but the infliction of physical privation and pain. But there are others of a higher class, by whom the disgrace of being branded as a felon, would in England be actually felt, which in New South Wales, the standard of moral estimation being one degree lower, they are favourably judged, in comparison with those more guilty, as having only committed one crime...... In the second place, the distance favours suppression of the truth, and the dissemination of false reports with respect to the condition of the convicts. For although, on the principle of omne ignotum pro magnifico, the name of punishment may sometimes lead persons who know nothing on the subject, to believe that transportation really is a punishment, yet those who are personally interested in the matter, and being led by their inclination to crime, naturally seek to ascertain the good rather than the bad parts of their probable destiny, are sure to receive from the convicts an exaggerated account of its pleasures, to hear from them little of its pains, and to apply to themselves the best part of the description, and whatever is most agreeable to their own tastes. To convicts they naturally apply for information, as being the best authorities on the advantages and disadvantages of a transported convict's life. They best can paint them who have felt them most ;' and criminals always have a pleasure and pride in seeming to cheat the law, and to outwit the officers of justice... ...If transportation to the colonies is not the means of inflicting pain, then all must admit that the system ought either to be amended or abolished. If, on the other hand, New South Wales is not an agreeable retirement, or a new field of enterprise for unsuccessful rogues, if it is not the Paradise of felons, which it has been called, then our system is worse than if these notions were correct; for it is almost universally believed to be so ; and it would thus seem to be contrived in order to obscure the pains, and to throw a false glare of light round the pleasures of transportation. In the arrangement of punishment, pain inflicted and not publicly known, is pain thrown away......

“ Thoughts on Secondary Punishments," by Archbishop Whately. App. ii.

p. 133.

It is not sufficient that a punishment should be painful ; it should seem to be so...... Still more objectionable is a system which encourages not only the concealment of truth as to the pain really ensured, but the fabrication of falsehood as to the pleasures never enjoyed. The secrets of the prison-house should be known in all their worst features, that human suffering may not be in vain...... Above all things, in penal jurisprudence, we should avoid whitening our sepulchres.”

We cordially subscribe to the foregoing extracts. We have not been sparing with our scissors here, as we felt that it was impossible for us to utter our own views in clearer, stronger, and, at the same time, more concise language, than Dr. Whately's friend and fellow-labourer has here done for us and before us. We shall not add to these extracts further than by referring our readers to the Parliamentary papers on transportation, for the last twelve or fifteen years downwards, for the facts which the writer had before him when he wrote, and for other facts of a similar kind, which have been since collected and made public, to the confirmation of the views so ably above expressed. We ourselves have read many a convict's letter to his friends in Britain. One form might have easily served the letter writers, with variations of name and date. In most of them, the mark or ill-spelt scrawl at the foot of an otherwise legibly worded epistle, showed plainly that a “scholar's” services had been put in requisition. The “scholar," boasting the accomplishments of reading and of writing too, and generally the greater villain from that very circumstance, might have misused his opportunity, or he might have simply obeyed his client's instructions; but so it was, that, in every letter we have ever perused, every inducement seemed to be presented to the starving pauper, and perhaps incipient thief, to whom it was addressed, to face the law with the writer, that like him, he too might cheat it in a land of plenty afterwards. Whether the truth were conformable to the representation, is, as the last quoted writer says, not here the question. Suffice it, that it has been generally believed to be so; and at quarter sessions, the freshly sentenced criminal has more than once laughed to scorn the chairman's portraiture of the horrors of transportation, and produced in court his pal's last letter from the antipodes to contradict the governor's elaborate dispatch, just printed aud circulated by authority of Parliament. * We

* See the Appendix of Evidence to the First Report of the Committee on Transportation.

« 上一頁繼續 »