Transportation and colonization/Chapter 16



From the statements and observations contained in the preceding chapters, it will doubtless be evident that the ability of the colony of New South Wales to afford constant employment for all the convict labour that may hereafter be procurable in the colony, together with the means of reformation for all such convicts as may hereafter receive tickets of leave or conditional freedom, will depend in great measure, if not entirely, on the due encouragement and promotion of emigration; and, as the annual introduction of a large number of virtuous and industrious families and individuals into the colonial territory, will be indispensably necessary, to counteract the evil influence and effects that have unhappily resulted from the mismanagement of the transportation system in times past; so will a greatly increased and well-selected emigration be equally necessary to counteract the natural influence and effects of that system, even under the best management, for the future. In such circumstances, the new arrangement of selling Crown land in the Australian colonies, and devoting the whole proceeds of such sales to the encouragement and promotion of emigration,—an arrangement, of which the results have already so greatly exceeded all previous expectation,—would seem to be a provision beneficently intended by Divine Providence for the recovery of the moral health of the body politic of these colonies, and for its future preservation. Indeed, it may be safely affirmed, that no other government, either in ancient or modern times, has ever had such ample means provided to its hand for the healing of the moral diseases of its people, as are at present possessed by the government of New South Wales; and correspondingly great and awful, therefore, will be the moral responsibility of those who shall in future be entrusted with the government of that colony, if these means are not plied to the utmost.

After what has already been advanced, it is perhaps unnecessary to enlarge on the very unwise and unwarrantable mode in which the land fund of the Australian colonies has hitherto been appropriated,—under the authority of Boards and Agents in London, having no interest in its judicious appropriation, and no adequate knowledge of the subject,—in inundating the colonies with vice and misery, whether in the form of free emigrant females, conveyed in whole ship-loads to New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land, without friends and without natural protectors; or in that of free emigrant mechanics and agricultural labourers, collected by shipowners and shipbrokers, many of whom have proved equally destitute of moral character and of fitness for any useful employment. The cases of favourable exception (for they have been but exceptions in both of these classes of emigrants) have shown how much real benefit the colony would derive from an extensive and well-selected immigration; but the general result of the mode in which the immigration funds of New South Wales have been appropriated for the last few years, has at length induced the colonial government to dispense with the services of London Boards and Agents altogether, and to appropriate the funds exclusively towards the immigration of families and individuals selected by the colonists themselves, or by agents duly appointed by them, and acting on their behalf.

Supposing therefore that a voluntary emigration of virtuous and industrious families and individuals is henceforth to take place to the territory of New South Wales, to the full extent to which the land revenue of that colony can be made available, it may not be out of place to estimate the future probable amount of that emigration, and the benefits which the land-selling system will thus be the means of securing both to the mother country and to the colony. The land revenue of New South Wales amounts at present to upwards of £100,000 per annum, but will probably be increased very shortly to double that amount. That revenue, it should be observed, however, is almost exclusively of colonial creation, upwards of nine-tenths of its whole amount being received for purchases of land and town allotments, made in extension of their former possessions, by residents of some standing in the colony, who have acquired the means of making such purchases chiefly by the rearing of sheep and the growth of wool. And it should also be borne in mind, that before the £100,000 has been paid into the colonial treasury chest for the land so purchased, the carriage of the wool and other colonial produce, of which it has been the price, from New South Wales to London, has afforded profitable employment for six months to at least four British ships of 350 tons register, with crews of twenty men each. At the rate of £30 for each family, the amount of bounty recently fixed by the colonial executive, exclusive of children, the present colonial land revenue will pay for the annual emigration of three thousand three hundred families of farm labourers, shepherds, and mechanics, from Great Britain and Ireland. Now, at the rate of one hundred families for each ship, a number which would require a vessel of 500 tons, the conveyance of these families to their colonial destination will afford profitable employment for six months together to thirty-three first class British merchant-ships, having crews of twenty-five or thirty men each, entirely at the expense of the colony of New South Wales; the profits of the voyage, including the outfit and provisions, being exclusively appropriated by British merchants. As for the emigrants themselves, they consist of families and individuals, who, before leaving the mother country, are in all likelihood a dead weight on the community; as they can only obtain subsistence by elbowing out of employment other deserving individuals of the same class, whose circumstances will consequently be greatly improved by their emigration; or by reducing the wages of labour generally below the proper standard for the comfortable subsistence and education of a virtuous family. In all these respects, therefore, the value of such a colony as New South Wales to the mother country, whether as a cheap and practicable outlet for her surplus labouring population, or as a source of profitable employment for her commercial navy, is evident and incalculable.

On their arrival in New South Wales, the emigrants will be employed for the most part as farm-servants, shepherds, overseers, handicraftsmen; and in any of these situations they will be able to live in the enjoyment of many of the comforts and conveniences of life, of which a large proportion of the industrious classes of society in England are deprived through sheer poverty. Their much higher rate of wages, and their other superior opportunities of accumulating property, will also enable them, if at all industrious and frugal, eventually to become proprietors of sheep and cattle, houses and land. They will thus materially augment the capital and the raw produce, as well as the population of the colony, and assist in developing its vast resources; while, besides consuming probably four times the amount of British manufactures that labourers of a similar class can afford to purchase in the mother country, they will contribute to sustain the vast fabric of British commerce, by also paying for the freight of these manufactures from England in British vessels.

In a moral and religious light, the introduction of a numerous and virtuous free emigrant population into the colony of New South Wales, cannot fail to afford a highly gratifying prospect to all who are sincerely desirous of promoting the best interests of that important dependency of the empire. I acknowledge, indeed, that if things had continued to be carried on in the colony in the way in which they have hitherto been managed, the free emigrants themselves would have had but a sorry prospect for the future in regard to their own spiritual welfare, and the intellectual and moral improvement of their offspring: but now that every hundred free adults can obtain a salary of £100 per annum from the colonial government for the support of a clergyman of their own communion, in whatever part of the colony they may choose to settle, besides liberal assistance for the establishment of a school for their children, there is evidently much less to be feared in these important respects,—nay, there is every thing to be hoped for the future.

From the preceding enumeration of the benefits that are likely to accrue, both to the mother country and to the colony of New South Wales, from the future and exclusive appropriation of the land-revenue of that colony towards the encouragement and promotion of emigration, it will be difficult to determine whether the mother country or the colony is likely to reap the greater advantage from that admirable arrangement. To Great Britain, whose ministers of state and parliamentary committees have, on the recurrence of every periodical return of difficulties and distress among her labouring population, arising from the want of food and from the want of employment, been holding endless consultations, accumulating volumes of evidence, and ever and anon devising ways and means of carrying off the surplus portion of that miserable population to a land of duly requited labour, and of abundance of the necessaries of life;— to Great Britain, so circumstanced, it cannot surely be a matter of indifference to find a revenue suddenly created for that very purpose, independently of her own internal taxation, in the woods and wilds of New Holland,—a revenue, moreover, annually increasing, and of which the very expenditure in this way ensures the constant and rapid increase. With such a system in actual operation, who can doubt the policy of the maxim of Napoleon,—"Ships, Colonies, and Commerce,"—as it is thus the legitimate use of a well-regulated colony to afford profitable employment to numerous ships, and a powerful stimulus to commerce and manufactures?

In connexion with the subject of transportation, and the means of rendering that mode of punishment really efficient for the future, as well for the prevention of crime as for the reformation of criminals, the extension of colonization along the coasts of New Holland, both within and beyond the present limits of the colony of New South Wales, by means of an extensive emigration of virtuous and industrious families from the mother country, becomes a subject of national importance. For while it cannot be denied, that convicts undergoing their sentence of transportation could be employed most usefully for the public, in preparing new settlements for the reception of such emigrants, in the manner recommended at Moreton Bay; it must also be evident, that the progressive allocation of ticket of leave men, and convicts enjoying conditional pardons, in the immediate vicinity of well-regulated free settlements, affords the best prospect of their ultimate and entire reformation. In such settlements as might thus be formed progressively in ten thousand localities on the coasts of New Holland, persons of this class would find a high tone of moral feeling generally prevalent, and the vices that uniformly distinguish a population of exclusively convict origin universally discouraged. They would see honest industry rewarded with comfortable circumstances and the prospect of independence; and they would be incited and encouraged to follow the good example held out to them on all hands, by being placed under the direct and salutary influence of pastoral superintendence. And surely a prospect of this kind, which, I am confident, from more than thirteen years' observation and experience in the colony of New South Wales, would be realized in ten thousand instances, under a judicious and well-regulated system of free emigration, is much more attractive to the eye of enlightened philanthropy, than the one which invariably presents itself in the writings of those, who, with comparatively little knowledge of the subject, affect to decry transportation as a species of punishment altogether—I mean, the penitentiary and the gibbet.

I have said that there are ten thousand localities along the coasts of New Holland, in which flourishing free settlements might be formed, by employing convict labour in the way I have recommended. Little as we know of the capabilities and resources of that continent, this at least can be affirmed with safety. And with a coast line six times more extensive than that of the whole thirteen colonies that revolted from Great Britain on the declaration of American independence, and numerous harbours along that extensive line of coast, equal, if not superior, to any in North America; with a range of climate, and a fertile soil adequate to the production of all the products of American agriculture, in addition to its own peculiar and unrivalled production—fine wool; it is impossible to estimate the stimulus that would be given to the manufacturing industry and the commercial enterprise of Great Britain, by the rapid colonization of that continent with virtuous and industrious free emigrants from Great Britain and the continent of Europe. This I have shown sufficiently could be effected to a vast extent, through the mere appropriation of the colonial land-revenue to the encouragement and promotion of emigration, and without costing the mother country a single farthing. For within a period of time comparatively short, a population of entirely European origin, as numerous as that of the thirteen American colonies in the year 1776, might be successfully established on the continent and islands of Australasia; whose industry and enterprise would afford constant employment to thousands of British ships, and to tens of thousands of British sailors, artisans, merchants, and manufacturers. And although emancipated convicts and their children would doubtless be found everywhere in the Australian territories, they would no where constitute a separate and influential caste in society, like the present emancipists of New South Wales; but would rapidly disappear among the mass of virtuous and industrious inhabitants, as the waters of a river are lost insensibly in the ocean, or as the English convicts and their offspring were at last indistinguishably blended with the virtuous and industrious free emigrant population of Maryland and Virginia. At all events, there would be no such moral curse entailed even by the transportation system on the future population of the Australian colonies, as the existence of negro slavery has already entailed on the American republic.

From their central and highly favourable position on the surface of the globe, the Australian colonies, teeming as they are already with that spirit of enterprise and force of character which are so peculiarly the growth of Britain, cannot fail eventually to exert a powerful influence, either for good or for evil, on a large portion of the family of man. That influence is already felt, both for good and for evil, in the neighbouring islands of New Zealand, situated within six days' sail of Sydney, and containing a native population of upwards of half a million of souls. It will ere long be felt over the ten thousand populous isles of the Western Pacific, as colonization extends to the northward on the Australian continent. It will at length pervade the whole Indian Archipelago—that vast ant-hill of nations,—and perhaps ultimately force open the iron gates of China and Japan, which, like those of the temple of Janus, are uniformly shut upon the European nations, even in the times of profoundest peace. And will his Majesty's government permit that influence to be any longer a curse to the nations of the eastern hemisphere, as it has hitherto most unquestionably been, from the manner in which the transportation system has been managed in the Australian colonies; especially when it is so fully in their power to render it a source of inestimable blessings, by making transportation the pioneer and precursor of advancing colonization? If the measures I have recommended for the future management and improvement of the transportation system had required a large expenditure of British money, or implied a large addition to the public burdens of the nation, I should have hesitated to propose them; but while I feel confident, from thirteen years' experience and observation, that the adoption of these measures would not only tend to diminish crime and to lessen the expense of transportation, but afford positive relief to the mother country, by carrying off annually many thousands of her superabundant labouring population, and transforming them into purchasers of her manufactured produce instead of unprofitable consumers of her capital; I have no hesitation in earnestly urging their immediate adoption.