網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

a

also know, that so deeply is the truth of this felt in Van Diemen's Land, that it has been seriously proposed in several cases to suppress, at the local post-offices, such letters from convicts to British correspondents as disclosed too favourable a view of the represented condition of the writers. In one recent instance the letter written by a man assigned to the present attorney-general of that colony, was opened after his sudden death in the colonial hospital, and all the influence of his master was required to secure its being transmitted to the poor man's patron, a clergyman in England, to whom it was addressed. It stated, that “ it was a blessed thing for a poor man to be sent out here, and that he had been very lucky in his own place, having little to do.” It added, that in a few years poor free man might, with tolerable care,

come for to keep his carriage, like many others in this town. There are more carriages here, reverend sir, than I ever saw in —shire, and not kept by gentlemen either, as they used to be there, for the shopkeepers all keep carriages here, and gentlemen don't.The objection to the transmission of this document to its address, was not its untruth, but its untowardness at such a censorious period as this. In fact, the Dublin meeting and Dr. Dickenson have well nigh frensied the colonists, so that not only are those amongst them who side with Dr. Whately compelled to hold their tongues, but those also who will not flatter them at the expense of the mother-country, and every other community in the known world, had better hold their tongues too. We lately read a most amusing account, in a file of Hobarton papers for December 1840,* of the enormities of a barrister, which had drawn down upon him the heavy ire of judge, jury, audience, and public press,, including the newspaper which is our authority, and which, by the way, is edited by an emancipist. It seems that this unhappy barrister, in the course of his speech for the plaintiff, in a libel case, had endeavoured to move the jury to deal justly by his unpopular client, expressing at the same time his fears of an adverse verdict and defect of justice, from the strong partisan spirit of the place, and lamenting that he could not bring himself to be very sanguine of success, so long as a Colonial and not an English jury had to try the case. This was

enough and too much. The hubbub in court that day was but the prelude of the storm manufactured for him by the public journalists in their next. What was worse, his already unpopular client, made now thoroughly odious by the zeal of his advocate, lost his cause with costs !!

* “Hobarton Advertiser,” vol. ii.

Indeed the government on its side too, has the means of keeping Downing-street in the most Egyptian darkness as to the real working of their condemned system. How any man can read all the statements on this subject without being aroused to the natural suspicion, that the convicts are not the only correspondents at the antipodes who take advantage of their remoteness, to tell their own tales, we are at a loss to imagine. We have the evidence of ocular witnesses, boldly speaking before Parliamentary committees and elsewhere, and possessing a genuine credit, which we shall be delighted to discover in their opponents. Their evidence is printed and circulated everywhere, and, we suppose, in time reaches Van Diemen's Land. If so, why do not the compilers of the ostentatious blue-paper books, which, under various names, are periodically sent home from the colony, either admit or, at any rate, notice, the subjects of these statements ? For, as far as we can discover, these dispatch writers, or return compilers, do neither the one nor the other thing. It is painful to conclude, that they too, like the felon letter-writers, have seen, in the remoteness of their scene of action, an eligible occasion of suppressio veri, if not of suggestio falsi too. But what can we else conclude? Take, for instance, that costly thief-land, Port Arthur, with its adult and juvenile population of 1400 incorrigible souls. Its founder and sponsor, Colonel Arthur, * Captain Montagu, his nephew and secretary, and the like, all testify to “the improvement of morals,” and the “satisfactory results,” &c. &c. but in general terms,--specifying nothing, rebutting not a charge, however specific, to the contrary,—and furnishing no evidence beyond the circumstance, sufficiently explainable without any very satisfactory results, without any moral improvement at all, of so many convicts being annually restored to their fellow-convicts out of Port Arthur, for what is called good behaviour. The only information we have been able to glean, of even indirect utility, from Captain Montagu's elaborated tables and returns, is the fact, which pagan education-mongers will not do ill to notice, that out of 455 boys at the juvenile establishment at Port Arthur, called Point Puer, 265 had received the precious boon of reading-lessons long before landing in Van Diemen's Land!† Besides this isolated point, there is nothing in these statistical returns of greater consequence than the following matters, faithfully selected by ourselves from the able writer's own analysis at the beginning of his blue book: “Number of convicts at this settlement; convicts sent there a second time; removed for good conduct; deaths; number of boys at Point Puer and their ages; trades taught them, and work performed there; evening school; diseases; rations; labour expended by adults; value of work; timber cut; cultivation of gardens ; vegetables produced ; exports from Port Arthur; value of shipwrights' work.”+ And this is all! Surely if there be any regular discipline in the place, any moral or physical preventives employed by its commandant, to resist the evil tendencies of so numerous a crime-guild, it is here that we should have been able to inform ourselves of their nature and success; more especially since the publications of the last fifteen years, down to the admirable pamphlets of the Very Rev. Dr. Ullathorne, and also his evidence and that of others before Parliament, might have reasonably directed Captain Montagu's attention to this subject, in preference to “ the returns of turnips and cabbages” grown for the mess-pottage of these people ; about which what head can possibly trouble itself, unless it be a market gardener's or a cook's? And yet, strange to say, in the middle of his analysis, this colonial-secretary suddenly intermits it to tell us of his complacency at finding himself so minute, and his reasons for being so. His reasons are good, but we are at a loss to discover wherein he has acted upon them, and how he understands them himself.

* See his evidence in Appendix to the First Report of the Committee on Transportation.

| Statistical Returns, &c. pp. 8, 15.

“I have been thus minutehe says, (p. 8) “in bringing the state of crime and punishment under review at the penal settlement at Port Arthur, as the conduct of the convicts in other parts of the colony, depends so much upon the system pursued there ; &c., &c. Of its usefulness at present there can be no doubt.

We wish there may be none. But while the Captain resumes his analysis of the rations and vegetables, let us beseech her Majesty's imperial government to distrust these invariably favourable reports from their underlings abroad. The military officers commanding detachments at Port Arthur can tell a different tale; and they have no temptation to distort it. Port Arthur is very differently represented by the colonists and by their local government. To the former it is a sink of unspeakable and miserable infamy; to the latter it is a source of patronage, and its secret administration a convenient blind when deception is to be practised upon Downingstreet. So lately as the month of February in this year, Mr. Henderson, R.N. surgeon-superintendent of the convictship Hindostan, which had not long arrived from England with juvenile offenders, waited on Sir John Franklin, the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, and represented to him, that, having accompanied or followed these lads from their ship to Port Arthur, their first destination, he had had an opportunity of witnessing with his own eyes, the horrid practices which in that abode of debasement are of daily oc currence. He indignantly denounced them to his excellency, with such details as the emergency of the case justified him in describing, and very properly and strongly protested against the fiendish barbarity of allowing his late charges to remain an instant within the influence of this widespread contamination. What his excellency's inferior officers may do in the matter is yet to be seen; to the best of our belief it is still undecided. In the meantime, we may be assured, that their first precaution will be to keep the matter snug, or at all events to disguise it from the home government. And when the next Statistical Returns come to be published, we shall doubtless read there of more crops of turnip and cabbage, and another vague assertion, that “the morals of the convicts have improved” !!! (Statist

* Statistical Returns, p. 8, Table, No. 38. # Ibid. pp. 7, 8, 9, 14, Tables, 25 to 46.

. Ret. p. 15.) 6. Thus, whether we regard, on the one hand, the inability of those, for whom the example is said to be intended, to profit by that intention, and take warning from a comrade's fate

---or, on the other hand, the want of a proper and efficient control over the home-secretary's colonial delegates of his penal ad'ministration, it is clear that the remoteness of its theatre altogether neutralises and defeats the punishment, and deprives the State of that guarantee of fitness and soundness in its own servants, without which the ends of its penal justice can never be satisfied. Hence, in either regard, transportation may be, for aught we know or care, the means of lavishing much pain upon individual offenders, but it certainly never can deserve the name of punishment. : Before we quit this part of our subject, however, let us indulge ourselves in one further observation, which, as far as we are aware, has not been anticipated by any previous 'writer. · It has been assumed by us, because universally conceded, that crime in England has not decreased but has increased, during the period that has intervened since the peace of Vienna. To what is it to be attributed? To transportation! say these. To diminution of capital punishments I say those. That transportation, though not the only cause, is the main one, we are well convinced. For if the abolition of the punishment of death be in itself an encouragement to crime, it follows that it must so operate in every community, or at any rate, in every British community. Now it so happens that, act by act, these successive mitigations of a bloody code (for the most part not so old as the Protestant Reformation), have been extended by local enactments of its legislative council' to our colony of Van Diemen's Land. And yet it is cheering to observe, that at the very same period, there has been a great decrease in the number of grave crimes of all descriptions, even in that community of adept criminals. We attribute this decrease, not to the mere substitution of a punishment milder than death, but to the kind of secondary punishment so substituted. Had transportation been adopted by the colonial, as it has been by the imperial legislature, we verily believe that crime would have continued to increase among the expert provincials, in at least the ratio which characterises its progress in the metropolitan community. And when England shall have the wisdom to take pattern by her colony's example, and punish her own offenders at home, within earshot, if not within sight, of the inhabitancy of their own vicinages, whereby he who runs may read the truth as it regards their actual condition, then will crime progress no longer in England, but retrograde! We do not say that the solitary cells of Hobarton, Launceston, New Norfolk, Oatlands, and the like, or their treadmills, chaingangs, &c. &c. have reformed the convict and free population of Van Diemen's Land, nor that similar institutions will ever reform our English knaves. Far from that! We have, we trust, sufficiently exposed the inane platitude of any such a proposition. But though Captain Montagu and Colonel Arthur most egregiously err in asking any higher thing of their experimental system, we concede most blithely that external crime has been repressed by such, even in Van Diemen's Land. And this is all that police laws and men are ordained to ac-complish. The which, if it be similarly attempted in Great Britain, and with similar success,--and if in these latter days we have learned from a penal settlement of ours, how to get rid of penal settlements altogether, and replace transportation with a wholesome substitute,-then shall we say, that, on the

« 上一頁繼續 »