§ LORD MONTEAGLE
begged to present a petition to their Lordships from New South Wales on the subject of transportation—a question now of the very first importance. (Minutes of Proceedings, 61.) The petition, he feared, realised many of the apprehensions which he had ventured to express to their Lordships on former occasions. He had never concealed from 544 himself or from their Lordships, that it was utterly impossible for the mother country to abolish the punishment of transportation; but he had always felt, and frankly stated at the same time, that unless they applied some remedy to the undoubted grievances inflicted on Van Diemen's Land by the present system, they would find it equally difficult to continue or to defend it. The papers which his noble Friend the Secretary of State had laid upon the table of the House, and which within a few days had been put into their Lordships' hands, deserved the most careful attention. He believed that all his anticipations were proved to be realised, and that unless some effort was made on the part of this country, without delay, to alter the system for the disposal of convicts, they would have a struggle to encounter more resembling a struggle of force than one of reason. He had also ventured, on a former occasion, to predict that it was probable there would arise a confederation amongst all the Australian Colonies to express their united opinion against transportation; and whilst he denied that they had the right to resist altogether the power of this country in exercising the ancient prerogative of the Crown, or the law of the land, in applying transportation as a secondary punishment, he was ready to admit that it was the bounden duty of this country so to exercise its power as to diminish the amount, or even the apprehension, of evil to the colonists, and, if possible, to convert, as he believed they might convert, the system of transportation into a measure that would ultimately be for the benefit of all. He regretted that he could not see from the papers that had been laid upon the table, that the Government were taking those steps; and when he thought what the effect must be of such neglect on Van Diemen's Land, New South Wales, and the other Australian colonies, and when he further recollected that the Secretary of State was about to withdraw the military garrisons, he felt there was but too much reason to apprehend that fatal dissensions would arise between the colonists and the mother country. The petition which he held in his hand was the petition of the New South Wales Association for preventing the Revival of Transportation. It was the Central Association, representing the opinions of all the provinces. It included the names of most respectable men. Mr. Cooper, whose ability was known to their Lordships by 545 valuable reports addressed to the Legislative Council, was the chairman: he also saw the name of a gentleman who had been private secretary to a gallant friend of his, General Bourke, who had long been Governor of the colony. There were other names of considerable importance, including members of the Legislative Council, justices of the peace, and a great majority of respectable colonists. In the first place, they adopted, as an unquestionable fact, that they had been promised by the Secretary for the Colonies, that no convicts would be again sent out within the settled districts against the consent of the inhabitants. They naturally claimed the full performance of that promise; but it appeared to him (Lord Monteagle) that they went much further, and claimed much more than was reasonable. In presenting the petition, he should be sorry to say that he agreed in all the opinions which it expressed. The petitioners asserted that it would be unjust, and a violation of the promise made to them by the Government, to divide any part of the colony of New South Wales into a new province where convicts should be received; and they added, what was wholly indefensible, that, if a new province were created, it should not be made a place for transportation oven with the consent, and at the desire, of the colonists. The petitioners contended, that not only was the Government to be prevented from sending convicts to the older settlements in their province, but that they should also be restrained from sending convicts to any new States which might for their own benefit be created in any part of the great continent of Australia, even though the inhabitants and legislature of those new States should themselves seek for the assistance of convicts. He (Lord Monteagle) thought that demand of the petitioners to be wholly indefensible. Looking to the case of the northern colony, which it was at one time proposed to found—an intention which was unfortunately abandoned without the substitution of any substitute, but, on the contrary, was accompanied by a limitation of other remedial measures—considering the wisdom and expediency of the plan set aside by the present Secretary of State—he thought the pretension now put forward by the petitioners was as extravagant a proposition as could be made. He wished to call their Lordships' attention to the altered tone of 546 the complaints of the colonists. For many years the petitions of those colonists were couched in language of respect and moderation; but the petitions now were framed in very different language. In the first place, there was a melancholy uniformity in all their complaints. They universally attributed to this country, and to the highest authority in the State, to the Legislature, and to the department that governs the colonies, a breach of faith towards them. The language in which they addressed the Crown and the Government on this subject was sometimes offensive and insulting, and they addressed his noble Friend (Earl Grey) in language which he was sure lie did not personally deserve. But, at the same time, they attributed to him a breach of faith—a charge which he thought was well merited, and which was traced to the noble Earl's own despatches. They contrasted the principles on which he promised to conduct his administration with the principles on which he has latterly been compelled to act. Language of the following description had been used at a public meeting, at which magistrates, sheriffs, and municipal authorities were present. One speaker asserted, that if convicts were sent to his district, transportation should have ceased long since, for they would not have been allowed to land; but different colonies, he added, were differently circumstanced—where the people were strong enough to resist, they would do so effectually; and it was only whore a colony was weak, that the resolution of the Government could be carried into effect. Again, it was said that the course pursued at the Cape was the true way of getting rid of convicts; and that observation, which was in fact an excitement to rebellion, was followed by "three cheers, and three cheers more." The speaker assured his hearers that they had the means of resistance in their power, if they would only use them; he told them that they ought to force the Government into terms, for it was idle to petition any more. They would take the law into their own hands, and defeat the Government, as the Cape folk had done. It was also said, "What respect can we entertain for a Government that has despised our entreaties, and violated their most solemn promises? We have seen the effect of passive resistance, and we must now take the law into our own hands." No man could deprecate this violence more 547 than he did—no one could feel more strongly that these threats must stand in the way of the accomplishment of what the colonists had at heart; hut it showed their present disposition—it proved that it would not do for the noble Earl to let this question sleep. Unless we introduced a reformed system, which should have the effect of reconciling the colonists to the continuance of transportation, this country would have to encounter resistance which they must all deplore—violence might bring to an end our only effectual secondary punishment. He believed that a better system might be introduced—one that would still this agitation, and that would reconcile the colonists to transportation, by the adoption of a principle which, to a certain extent, had been acted on elsewhere for many years—a mode of proceeding advantageous not only to the convicts, but also to the colonists. This country should not burden the colony with the cost of transportation. It must not grumble at any expense; they would have to maintain the criminal population in England, and therefore they must not grumble at the additional cost being incurred when our convicts were transported to the colonies. They should make their labour in the colonies profitable to the colonists, and that, he believed, was a course as easy as it would be found to be advantageous. There were many examples in support of this proposition, and papers had been called for and laid upon the table of the House, respecting some of our proceedings in India, which had a most significant application to the question now before their Lordships. It was usually said that we could not employ our convicts except upon public works, and that there were no extent of public works upon which they could he employed. But if no further roads, harbours, and bridges were required in Australia, which was far from being the case, an inexhaustible demand for profitable labour might still be found. It was well known that in Australia there was a great deficiency in the supply of water, and that from this want the powers of agricultural production were greatly limited. Now, it must be remembered that the public land in Australia was the wealth of the colony; and sup-posing they were able, by means of the labour of convicts, employed in making tanks and providing for irrigation, to convert that land from its present insignificant 548 value to a value greater than any which had been realised in any part of the Australian territory, there would be found not only employment for the convicts, but an abundant remuneration for the cost. The convict problem would thus be solved. It was estimated that in one district of India the employment of the people in improving the water supply, at an expenditure of 241,000l., had raised the revenue from 96,000 rupees to 210,000, while the entire gain arising from that source was 400,000 rupees; and the public officer who described the works has reported that the moral improvement of the natives was as great as their improvement in agriculture. He took the liberty of throwing this out as one of the many ways in which the Australian colonists might be reconciled to the convict system. England might be relieved, the convicts reformed, and settlement and civilisation promoted. If the Government did not succeed in reconciling them to it, they might struggle to force it upon them; in that case there would be a fearful struggle, and a very doubtful result. Perhaps in some colony the convict population might predominate, and then such a colony would he degraded, as the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had said the other night, into a condition like that of Norfolk Island; while other colonies might succeed in their resistance, and refuse altogether to receive our transports. And what would become of this country if, by the impolitic conduct of Government, the carelessness of Parliament, and the public indifference to this question, we were ultimately left without the means of adequate secondary punishment at homo, or of providing for our criminals by transporting them abroad? The petitions presented to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and upon which this petition to their Lordships was founded, were carried by an immense majority, and were unfavourable to the continuance of transportation, for while there were only eight petitions, with 525 signatures, in favour of transportation in any modified shape whatever, there were no fewer than 36,000 signatures to the petitions against it.
§ EARL GREY
said, that his noble Friend, in the speech which he had just addressed to the House, had not confined himself to the prayer of the petition, in which he had stated, indeed, that he did not concur. The petition was in reality directed against an Act passed in the last Session of Par- 549 liament, by which it was provided that upon the petition of the inhabitants of the northern part of the colony of New South Wales, that northern part might be formed into a distinct colony. Now, a few days ago a petition was received from the Governor, signed, he believed, by nearly all the resident landowners in that district, praying that the Crown would exercise that power, divide the colony, and give them the advantage of convict labour; and he (Earl Grey) observed, upon referring to the newspaper report of the discussion which took place upon that subject, that one of the grounds on which the petitioners rested their case was, that they contributed very largely to the revenue of the whole colony of New South Wales, but that the Legislature at Sydney entirely neglected their interests; refused them the advantages of the police that were absolutely required for their protection and safety, and in order to prevent collisions with the aborigines; and, in fact, withheld from them benefits to which they conceived they were entitled; it was, indeed, a repetition of the complaint to which Parliament had attended with respect to Victoria. Now the object of the petition which had given rise to this conversation was, that the power granted to Government by Parliament for the division of the colony should not be exercised; or that, if exorcised, the sheep farmers of Northern Australia should not be allowed to avail themselves of convict labour, even if they found it for their advantage to do so. That was all that the prayer of the petition contemplated. In sending over the petition from Northern Australia, the Governor said that he had only just received it, and that he had no time to accompany it with the information which he thought necessary to its proper consideration; and he therefore requested that Her Majesty's Government would take no steps upon it until that further information was sent home. Of course, that communication from Sir Charles Fitzroy was conclusive, and nothing could or would be done on the petition until the Government received additional information. But, undoubtedly, he was not prepared to say that, in deference to the complaint of the petitioners now before the House, the power given by Act of Parliament was not to be exercised for the relief of the inhabitants of Northern Australia if their complaint turned out to be well founded; or that because the inhabitants of Sydney found that convict 550 labour was no longer necessary to them, it should be withheld from other colonists. He had repeatedly stated in that House that while he thought we must still continue to send convicts to these colonies, and that it was for the real interest of the colonics that we should do so, yet that at the same time he considered that it was the duty of the Government and of Parliament to take all the measures in their power for rendering the transportation of convicts as advantageous as possible to the colonists. He thought what the noble Lord had stated with respect to the employment of convict labour was perfectly just; but he was surprised that the noble Lord, who had paid so much attention to this subject, did not perceive that the principle had been laid down over and over again, in the correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and Sir William Denison, and that even the construction of tanks was suggested to him five years ago. Indeed, roads and various other works had been constructed by the convicts in Van Diemen's Land, to the great advantage of the colony; and the same had been the case in Western Australia. He did not wish again to enter into the question that had been so fully discussed on former occasions. He had admitted that the colonists of Van Diemen's Land had much to complain of; but the cause of complaint had arisen before he (Earl Grey) had any responsibility in connexion with the Colonies, and since he had had, everything had been done to render the sending of convicts to the colony as compatible as possible with its interests. His noble Friend was apprehensive, from some suggestions thrown out at a public meeting, that the sending them there might be defeated by a combination against employing them; but he was happy to inform him that he had received a communication from the owner of one of the last ships which had taken out convicts to the colony of Van Diemen's Land, stating that immediately on the arrival of the ship at Hobart Town, and before the convicts could be landed, 100 of the ticket-of-leave men were engaged by persons in the colony who required labour.
§ Petition to lie on the table.