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modification of it. We notice this, because there seems a tendency at present, especially in people strongly impressed with the evils of the probation system as tried in Van Diemen's Land, to fly back to old errors, the vices of which are less vividly present to their minds, and therefore appear, but are not in reality, of less magnitude. Some, by the expression 'modification,' really mean, we believe, an abandonment of the principle of assignment. Now the principle of assignment is, that the work or service of the convict shall be assigned by the Government to some private individual. It was slavery, in so far as the natural right of a man to his own labour was taken from him, and given to an individual not chosen by himself. The system, however, fell, not because of a cry against white 'slavery;' but because it produced the peculiar evils, which have ever followed the acquisition by one man of this particular right over another. These evils are neglect and tyranny. It is beyond the power of Government to obviate or to palliate them. The only remedy is to convert the slave into a servant; and thus place some means of redress in his own hands; - the right of seeking another master being far more effectual for his protection, than any power in the Government of inflicting punishment. Our system of apprenticeship is the nearest approach we have to assignment, and is often adduced as an evidence of its practicability. But apprenticeship exists, because the apprentice is really under the protection of some relative; and the pervading influence of hundreds of thousands of parents, whose children are apprentices, keeps the practice and the general tone of feeling right. If the apprentice is friendless, then the inherent danger of the principle immediately appears: And the sufferings of parish apprentices, even in England, have often given a significant intimation of the character it would assume in the distant solitary sheep-farms of Australia-where the arm of the law does not reach, and the voice of public opinion is unheard. So long as the principle of assignment is maintained, under whatever modification, the condition of the convict must depend on the temper and the occupation of his master; that is, on chance. The objection is, not that the suffering is unequal, because that must be the case in every system of punishment; - but that it is inequality and uncertainty carried to the maximum. It is worse than a lottery; for such is the perverse working of the system, that the blanks generally fall to the comparatively innocent, and the prizes to the vicious man. There is but one cure for this,-to give the convict the right of choosing his own master. In every thing else the Government may, without mischief, exercise its control; but liberty of choice is essential.
Liberty of choice necessarily includes the power of giving his services to the highest bidder, and so obtaining the full value of his labour. One of the great evils of the assignment system was, that, while it professed to make the criminal work without higher pay than the mere cost of his subsistence, it did so, in reality, only with those who were deficient in mechanical ability; the ignorant, but not generally vicious, offenders from rural districts. Whereas the most depraved of all the convicts the skilful town-bred mechanics-had to be bribed by high wages, and every species of criminal indulgence, to exert their skill. Their ingenuity being mostly useless in the country, they were taken by masters living in towns; so that they fell exactly into the locality which they would have chosen for themselves, and received the same wages as if they had been in possession of tickets of leave. On the supposition, that liberty of choice is comprehended in the phrase a modified system of assignment,' our objection to the proposal is at an end; for this constitutes the real difference between the system of assignment and tickets of leave. A man with a ticket of leave is restricted to a certain district, placed under the notice of the police, and subjected to the summary jurisdiction of magistrates; but, within the district allotted to him, he has full right to earn his own subsistence in any way he may prefer. If he is in possession of superior mechanical skill, this is an advantage of which, under the former as well as under the present system, it has not been found practicable, even if it were thought expedient, to deprive him. He is very far, however, from being in the position of a free emigrant; and has no more liberty than is necessary to preserve a healthy relation between him and his employer,-to prevent the one from sinking into a slave, and the other from degenerating into a tyrant. In case a criminal, when placed in this situation, either will not, or cannot, repress his propensity to crime, he is quite unfit to be assigned; he is, indeed, unfit for any thing but the seclusion of a prison and the restraint of hard labour; and to that condition will he infallibly return through the ordinary operation of the laws.
It is but too certain, that among our criminals there are some who are hopelessly incorrigible. Whether they are to be deemed moral lunatics, or that their organisation is peculiarly susceptible of evil impressions and open to temptations, or that there is in certain habits a course of training so mischievous as utterly to pervert the moral nature of men, and make them believe a lie and take wrong for right,—we will not presume to say. But in practice we do find men, on whom punishment and kindness are thrown away alike; and who are equally inaccessible to the pre
cepts of religion, its hopes and fears. Liberty to them is merely the liberty of indulging their vicious propensities; and punishment only hardens them in ferocious obduracy. Fortunately, the number of these men is small; but the existence of such a class seems to point out the propriety of some special arrangement for them. Not that we would for a moment dream of sending them to an ultrà-penal settlement, where an attempt might be made at working out some terrible equation between punishment and guilt. An obstinate offender should rather be removed to some place of seclusion, where those unhappy persons who cannot with safety to the community be left at large, may be securely restrained. Society ought to recollect that it has neither an interest nor the right, uselessly to aggravate the cheerless despondency of a life of labour and confinement, by irritating punishments and excessive toil.
In considering the condition of a convict sent with a ticket of leave to a colony, we must not overlook, how this may be affected by the mode in which female convicts are to be dealt with. The number of female convicts varies from one-seventh to oneeighth of that of males *; and the disposal of them is a matter of great difficulty. In the case of females, imprisonment on the separate system and removal to a distant colony are found to be a more severe punishment than in the case of men;-as indeed we should naturally have anticipated from their more impressible organisation. Then, the second stage of punishment is inadmissible in the case of women; for we cannot put them to hard labour. Every attempt at associating them together, even under classification, has, as yet, only made them worse than before. It would seem, therefore, that the amount of penitentiary discipline, to which it may be necessary that women should be subjected under a sentence of transportation, ought to be inflicted under careful superintendence at home; and that they ought never to be sent out to the colonies except as holders of tickets of leave. In which case, female penitentiaries in the colony would only be required for those, who might misconduct themselves after their arrival.
The only chance of reformation among females, seems to lie in placing them in the situation for which nature has intended them, and in calling forth the feelings of a wife and mother; which, though dormant, are rarely extinguished in the female breast. Mr. Hampton informs us that the general good conduct of female convicts in Van Diemen's land after marriage,
In England and Wales the number of males sentenced to transportation in 1848, was 2884, and of females, 367.
is almost incredible.' Of this characteristic every advantage should be taken; and we find that the Government are now sending out the wives and families of those convicts who have received tickets of leave or conditional pardons. In some instances, the whole cost has been defrayed by this country; but where it is practicable, part of the expense is borne by the convicts themselves. It is one of the stipulations in these cases, that the married convict shall agree to repay half the cost of sending his wife and family to the colony, unless that amount be contributed by their friends or by their parishes in England: power being given by the act 11 & 12 Vict. c. 110. to parishes to assist in this emigration, and to charge the expense upon the rates. Whenever this can be carried into effect, it will be an unmixed benefit to all parties. The disruption of the domestic relation has a pernicious effect upon the wives of transported convicts. They frequently become reckless and degraded, and, along with their children, are an expense and a nuisance to the parish. So that it is of moment on this account also, that these ties should be re-united as soon as possibleindependent of the further security obtained over the man, when he has recovered a partner and a home. It has been objected that this is an immigration of a corrupt female population; but the disparity of the sexes is an evil of such magnitude, that no measure can be called a bad one which tends to reduce it. We must also not undervalue the providential principle of purification, which society contains in itself, and which arises out of the instincts of the legitimate parental connexion. It is almost impossible to eradicate the instinctive wish of parents to see their children not only more prosperous, but morally better than themselves. It is a great mistake to suppose that criminals are destitute of all good and kindly feelings, or of fondness for or pride in their children. Instances will occur to many of our readers of a vicious mother training her daughters in purity, with a most sedulous care; and this is not confined to any particular rank in life. I have met with very few instances of criminals trained to thieving by their own parents. I believe the case of married parents so bringing up their children for crime and infamy is rare, even amongst the lowest of the poor. Total neglect, or total inability, to discharge the proper duties of parents, low neighbourhoods, vile lodginghouses, and the training which they get in the streets, are quite enough to account for excess of crime amongst the offspring of the poor in our large towns. The feelings of nature are the last to leave the fallen, and these are to be found amongst the vilest of mankind, more than is generally thought.'
-Sixth Report of the Commissioners of Pentonville-Chaplain's Report.
The final precaution taken by the Government is, to prevent the emigration to any one spot being too exclusively of a tainted character. Happily, the same circumstances which render a colony a suitable place for convicts, make it also desired by free emigrants; and this tendency on their part may be encouraged and regulated by the joint efforts of the mother country and of the colony. Parliament has already voted 10,000l. to promote emigration to the Australian colonies. Occasional assistance from the same quarter, the Colonial Land Sales' Fund, and the repayment of their passage money by the convicts, will form sufficient means, if judiciously distributed, to secure this important point.
If we compare the number of convicts annually sent from England either with the entire population of New South Wales or with the annual number of free emigrants, we find that there is now no reason to apprehend a recurrence of former evils. In New South Wales, when it was strictly a penal settlement, the convicts formed a very large portion of the community. In Van Diemen's Land they were one half. What a very different proportion, under the most unfavourable circumstances, they are likely to form of the future population of New South Wales, may be clearly seen from the census taken in March, 1846. At that time, the population, which in 1841 had been 130,856, amounted in the whole to 189,609; - being an increase of nearly 45 per cent. in five years, or an annual increase of one eleventh. During these years there was little immigration, except from Van Diemen's Land to Port Philip. But since the completion of the census, owing to the prosperity of the colony and the judicious management of the Land Sales' Fund, a large immigration has set in; the number of emigrants from this country to New South Wales, which in 1846 was under 400, having increased in 1847 to 4610, and in 1848 to 12,287. Where free immigrants are augmenting with such extraordinary rapidity, the effect of introducing even a considerable body of convicts will not be material. When we bear in mind that some improvement in the convicts has already been effected, and that the present proportion of the tainted to the virtuous portion of the population is decreasing every year, we may be justified in believing that the colony is no longer in danger of being swamped by an influx of criminals.
The disparity of the sexes is too serious a consideration to be omitted:-especially as, in New South Wales, the proportion of males to females in the country districts was, at one time, as 5 to 3 among the free settlers, and no less than 17 to 1 among the