The Penal Colonies.
Botany Bay serves as a recipient for criminals whose reformation is hopeless, and whom it is therefore desirable to remove from the Society to whose peace and security they are sworn enemies. This is the sole value of the colony. If it did not exist, recourse would be had more frequently to perpetual imprisonment and the gibbet. Experience shews, however, that transportation does not produce the intended effect of terrifying the guilty. Its monitory operation depends greatly on the situation of the criminal. “Agricultural labourers with families dread it extremely, while to single men, mechanics who are sure of receiving high wages, and generally to all those who feel a desire of change, and a vague expectation of pushing their fortunes, it appears to hold out no terrors whatever.” In the colony there is a competition among settlers to obtain convinct servants, and those who get them, endeavour, from a regard to their own interest to render the situation of the convicts as little irksome as possible. The evidence proves, that when the feeling degradation is once overcome, the situation of the Australian convict “is, in many respects, preferable to that of the agricultural labourer in this country :” He has better clothing, more abundant food, and enjoys a finer climate. The hardship, too, of compulsory labour is but for a limited time. The convict who is transported for 7 years, is allowed a Ticket of Leave, at the end of 8years. Once possessed of this ticket he is allowed to work on his own account, and with high wages, easily acquires capital. The committee see little chance of rendering punishment effective in the colony. They recommend various subordinate regulations, and among others, they suggest as a remedy for the great expense attending transportation, that no convict be assigned to a settler until he shall have paid, or given security for the payment by instalments, of the expense incurred in the conveyance of the convict from the mother country.
We are satisfied that the true check to the increase of crime is to be found, first, in the diffusion of education and sound knowledge ; and, second, in the improvement of our judicial and municipal institutions. Law, in all its important branches, should be dispensed by paid and responsible persons. A judge ought to be stationed in each small district, and keep open court every day of the year. He should be chosen by some popular constituency, which would faithfully represent the feelings of the mass of suitors; and as a guarantee for his diligence, he should hold his office only for seven years, and be re-eligible. Justices of Peace, if retained at all, should be elected as in most of the American states, by the householders for three, four, or seven years. Jails also, should be placed under the controul of popular bodies, and thrown open to the improving efforts of private benevolence. In this, as in other points, we have much to learn from the Americans, who never forget that the criminal is still a man. The grand defect in our legislation has been, that the rich made laws for the poor, of whose situation they had scarcely any knowledge, and with whose feelings, wants, and moral condition, they had of course no sympathy. The unpaid Magistracy of Britain is a barbarism belonging to the tenth century. Thirty years hence men will wonder how their forefathers tolerated so monstrous a system.
Citation: Scotsman (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 13 October 1832, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/226.