Transportation and colonization/Conclusion


The exclusive appropriation of the land-revenue of New South Wales, towards the encouragement and promotion of emigration, being a measure of such vast importance, as it will, doubtless, appear to the reader, from the preceding pages—both for ensuring the future efficiency of transportation as a species of punishment, and for promoting the moral and spiritual welfare of that colony;—it will scarcely be believed that any idea could possibly be entertained, either in England or in New South Wales, of devoting any portion of that revenue to any other purpose; especially after the faith of His Majesty's government had been virtually pledged for its exclusive appropriation towards that legitimate and important object. It is with extreme regret and disappointment, however, that I have to inform the reader, that during the very short period in which the Right Hon. Mr. Spring Rice presided over the colonial department, it was suggested by that gentleman to the Lords of the Treasury, that a certain portion of the lan-drevenue of New South Wales should in future be appropriated towards the payment of the police establishment of the colony; and this suggestion having accordingly been approved of by the Lords of the Treasury, it was recommended to the governor and council of New South Wales to make such appropriation forthwith. It was thus virtually enacted by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that a large portion of that revenue, which had been unexpectedly and beneficently created, as if by the immediate interposition of the providence of God, for the counteraction of the enormous moral evils that had resulted from the past mismanagement of the transportation system in the Australian colonies, and for ensuring the moral welfare of these colonies in all time to come, through the annual importation of numerous industrious and virtuous free emigrant families and individuals from the mother country,—and to the exclusive application of which to that object of transcendent importance to their adopted country, the virtuous portion of the inhabitants of New South Wales were looking with intense anxiety and with the highest anticipations;—it was thus, I say, virtually enacted by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that a large portion of the revenue, which had been so pledged and appropriated by his predecessors in office, should be applied towards the perpetual maintenance of the colony of New South Wales as a mere gaol and dunghill for the British empire!

Perceiving, with a sinking of spirits which I cannot well describe, the tendency of this most impolitic arrangement, and anticipating the use that would probably be made of the Secretary of State's license in regard to the land-revenues, by a body composed of such pliant materials as a legislative council, consisting chiefly of government officers holding their appointments at will; I considered it my duty to avail myself of the access, which I fortunately had at the moment, to the public press of the colony, to arouse the virtuous portion of its inhabitants to a due sense of the deep and irreparable injury they were about to sustain, in their best and dearest interests, through the forthcoming parricidal enactment. In this object I was happily by no means unsuccessful. The chord I had touched only required to be struck to produce a powerful vibration all over the colony; and a strong and numerously signed petition to the governor and council, from the respectable inhabitants of the colony, praying that no part of the land-revenue should be applied to any other purpose than the importation of virtuous and industrious emigrants from the mother country, was the gratifying result.

It is unfortunately, however, no part of the duty of a colonial governor and council to sit in judgment on the expediency or the justice of the mandates of a Secretary of State. A few independent members of the colonial council remonstrated, and voted against the appropriation of any part of the colonial land-revenue towards the maintenance of the colonial police; but the government officers, and those who held it equally preposterous to have any opinion of their own, of course, did as they were bid; and the principle, which had been virtually established by Lord Viscount Goderich, and to which the reputable portion of the inhabitants of New South Wales were looking with intense anxiety for the moral renovation of their adopted country, viz. that the land-revenue should be appropriated exclusively towards the importation of virtuous and industrious free emigrants from the mother country, was forthwith set aside.[1]

The appropriation from the land-revenue, which the Secretary of State for the Colonies had recommended and sanctioned, towards the maintenance of the colonial police, amounted to forty-five thousand pounds sterling. This amount had previously been paid chiefly by the mother country, on the ground of its being expended for the due control and custody of refractory convicts transported from Great Britain and Ireland; and the appropriation in question was ordered by the Right Honourable Secretary, under the idea that the ordinary revenue of the colony would be inadequate to meet so large an addition to its annual expenditure. Now supposing that this had actually been the case, it was most impolitic for the mother country to effect so paltry a saving on the annual expense of maintaining her unruly convicts beyond seas, at so prodigious an expense to the moral welfare of a flourishing colony, and at so great a loss to herself in a different respect: for the annual importation of three thousand additional free emigrants into New South Wales, which the misappropriated revenue could have effected, would not only have enabled the colony to meet the whole amount of its police expenditure at a much earlier period; but the very outlay of that revenue for such a purpose would have afforded a seasonable relief to the mother country, both by carrying off so large an additional number of her superabundant inhabitants of the labouring classes, and by giving profitable employment, for at least six months together, to at least fifteen or twenty of her ships.

So strong, however, was the demonstration of public opinion on this important subject throughout the colony, that although the appropriation was voted in due form by the legislative council, it did not take place; the ordinary revenue of the colony for the years 1835 and 1836 being found sufficient to meet the whole amount of the additional charge for the maintenance of the colonial police establishment.

The principle, however, being once established, that the colonial land-revenue might be appropriated for other purposes than the one originally proposed; it was kept for some time in retentis by the colonial executive, to be exhibited and carried into operation on the first convenient opportunity. And, accordingly, when the estimates of the general expenditure of the colonial government for the year 1837 were laid before the council in the month of July last, the sum of £80,000 was included in the Ways and Means, as the probable balance of revenue of Crown lands, after deducting the charges of immigration. It is a maxim of the lawyers, boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem; of course, after the principle had been established that a portion of the land-revenue might be appropriated towards the maintenance of the colonial police, it was merely a slight amplification of jurisdiction to apply it in prospect to any purpose whatever. As the present governor of New South Wales is generally understood to be a Whig, with a tendency to Radicalism in the matter of colonial church establishments; and as I have no hesitation in avowing my belief and conviction that such a modification of political opinions on the part of a governor is incomparably better for the good government of that colony than the absolute and unmixed Toryism of his predecessor, General Darling; the preceding remarks will, I trust, not be interpreted as a manifestation of that spirit of party which prevails in the colonies with perhaps greater bitterness than at home, and which subjects all the actions of political opponents to undistinguishing condemnation. My sole object in these pages is the moral renovation of my adopted country; and the policy I would reprobate and oppose to the utmost, is the policy of those only, who would either preclude or retard the accomplishment of that object of transcendent importance, or recklessly sacrifice it to others of temporary and inferior moment.

The estimated expenditure of the government of New South Wales, for the year 1837, is £240,673. 11s.d. To meet that expenditure, there are Ways and Means, including the sum of £80,000, which is calculated as the probable balance of the revenue of Crown lands, after deducting the charges of immigration, amounting to £364,545. 2s. 7d.

It is altogether foreign to my purpose to inquire whether the astonishing and unparalleled prosperity which this state of things indicates might not be greatly increased by a more judicious and economical expenditure of the colonial funds than has hitherto been exemplified, or is at present contemplated by the colonial legislature. It is equally foreign to my purpose to inquire whether a population of 80,000 souls, of whom 20,000 are virtually in a state of slavery to the rest of the community, can require an expenditure of £240,000 per annum, or £3 a head, for very indifferent government. It is not less foreign to my purpose to inquire whether, in a third or fourth-rate British colony, ([ mean in regard to the amount of its free population,) and in a climate unequalled for its salubrity, there can be any necessity for such enormous salaries as are still given to the principal officers of the colony;—salaries, which, varying as they do from £1200 to £5000 a year, are not only exceedingly disproportioned to the particular services rendered, but calculated to generate a taste for extravagant expenditure, of the worst possible example to the colony. These questions, I repeat, are foreign to my purpose; but whenever the colonial government shall bring forward a case of imagined necessity to authorize the application of a single farthing of the land-revenue to any other purpose than the one to which it was originally devoted, I mean the moral renovation of the country, they are questions which ought to be taken up and discussed dispassionately.

It is evident, however, that there will be no such case of alleged necessity during the year 1837; the estimated revenue for that year, which, in the present rapidly advancing condition of the colony, is always considerably under the amount actually realized, exceeding the estimated expenditure by £33,871. 10s. 10½d., independently of the probable balance of the land-revenue altogether. That balance arises from the demand for free labour in the colony being apparently below the existing means of supply; but this idea is altogether a fallacy, arising partly from a want of system and a want of energy on the part of the colonial executive, and partly from evident misconception in regard to the real interests of the colony, and the means it affords of rendering transportation really efficient in promoting the great ends of the imperial legislature. From evidence taken by a Committee of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, in regard to the actual demand for free labour in that colony during the year 1835, it appeared that that demand was at least equal to the utmost ability of the colonial government to provide a supply by means of the land-revenue. But, instead of adopting the requisite means to ensure an adequate supply in such circumstances, the colonial government merely offered a certain bounty to such individual settlers as should import within a given period agricultural labourers, shepherds, mechanics, &c. of certain specified descriptions. But most of the colonial settlers, and especially those who are best able to give employment to persons of these descriptions, having been long resident in New South Wales, and having no means of inducing trust-worthy persons in the mother country to undertake the trouble and expense of selecting and forwarding to the colony suitable emigrants for the purposes for which they required their services, the government bounty was applied for by comparatively few of the colonial proprietors, in proportion to the actual demand for labour; and the probability is, that through the obvious impracticability of managing affairs of this kind merely by written communications from the extremity of the globe, the number imported will fall greatly short of the number for whom the bounty is actually pledged, while the expense to the settlers will greatly exceed the amount of that bounty. It is in these circumstances that the home government are doubtless amused with the fallacy of a large annual balance of land-revenue in the treasury chest of New South Wales, over and above the whole expenditure required for supplying the whole existing demand for free labour in that colony. It is the bounden duty of the colonial government to see that there shall be no such balance in the colonial chest, and that every sixpence of the land-revenue be expended forthwith in importing virtuous and industrious free emigrants into the colonial territory. Nay, if money to the amount of several millions sterling could be borrowed at interest on the security of the land-revenue of New South Wales, for carrying out from Great Britain and Ireland, during the next five or six years, as many thousand free emigrants of the industrious classes of society, as could possibly be settled in any capacity in the colonial territory; it would be the wisest measure ever sanctioned by the British government in regard to the Australian colonies, and the most pregnant with blessings of incalculable value to the colony of New South Wales, as well as with important benefits to the empire: for in proportion as virtuous and industrious free emigrants are settled in that colony, will the evil effects that have already resulted from the past mismanagement of the transportation system be neutralized, and the future efficiency of that species of punishment promoted and secured. By adopting the course I have recommended for this purpose, it is practicable for the British government to render the infliction of that punishment subservient in the highest degree to the progress of colonization on the Australian continent, and to the rapid increase of the commercial prosperity of the empire; while, on the other hand, it is equally practicable to render the progress of Australian colonization subservient in the same degree to the growth and establishment of that powerful moral influence which alone will secure the ultimate reformation of the criminal.

If His Majesty's government should refuse to listen to this voice from the wilderness of Australia, under the idea that the present system of management in regard to the disposal of transported criminals in New South Wales can be indefinitely continued, they will, in all likelihood, find themselves mistaken much sooner than they anticipate. The intolerable expense and the moral abominations of that preposterous system, both of which are increasing enormously every year, are already exciting general impatience and deep disgust among the reputable classes of colonial society; and if these classes, who are now rapidly accumulating wealth, and acquiring the spirit of personal independence which wealth induces, should either find or fancy His Majesty's government indifferent to their moral welfare, and determined to maintain their adopted country as the mere dunghill of the empire, they will doubtless appeal directly to the nation by means of paid agents traversing the country, from the Land's End to the Orkneys, as was lately done with so powerful an effect by the enemies of negro slavery, and thereby arouse the people of Great Britain and Ireland to petition for the immediate discontinuance of transportation altogether.

Such a consummation would, in the present circumstances of the mother country, be calamitous in the extreme. The gradual accumulation of criminals in her prisons and penitentiaries, at the rate of five or six thousand annually; the enormous expense of their maintenance, and the unprofitableness of their labour; the contaminating influence of their society, and the hopelessness of their reform—^would at length be felt as intolerable evils by the nation at large; and the formation of another penal colony in some other part of the world would be the ultimate result. And in what part of the globe, I ask, would the formation and maintenance of a new penal colony cost less than ten times the amount for which the present transportation system could be effectually reformed, and indefinitely extended in the Australian territory?

I should be sorry to insinuate, however, that His Majesty's government could possibly be indifferent to the moral welfare of the colonists of Australia. There are positive proofs to the contrary in the liberal and enlightened measures, of which the Right Honourable the present Secretary of State for the Colonies has recently sanctioned the enactment in New South Wales, for ensuring the intellectual advancement of the colonists, by means of numerous and well-organized schools, and for promoting their moral and spiritual welfare through the regular dispensation of the ordinances of religion. But in the multiplicity of engagements that uniformly solicit the attention of the high officers of the Crown, it is possible that the moral welfare of the colonists of Australia, in as far as the bearing and operation of the transportation system are concerned, may have hitherto been overlooked or neglected. Besides, His Majesty's government have never yet had the whole case of the colonists, in reference to the transportation system, laid fairly before them; as is evident from the paltry amount and the inferior character of the information detailed in evidence before the parliamentary committee on secondary punishments; and in consequence of this want of information, or rather of the abundance of information calculated to mislead, they have in great measure been drawing a bow at a venture, in transmitting orders or regulations for the guidance of the successive governors of New South Wales.[2]

But the most important consideration of all is, that it has never been practicable for His Majesty's government, at any former period during the last twenty years, to effect such an entire change in the future disposal and management of convicts in New South Wales, as the present circumstances of the colony imperatively demand, and as may now be effected with the utmost facility, and without entailing any additional expense on the mother country. In such circumstances, although His Majesty's present ministers are in no respect responsible for the evils that have unhappily resulted from a state of things originated under a previous administration, and continued for forty-eight years, they will doubtless be responsible for whatever additional evils may result from its farther continuance.

If the preceding pages shall tend in any way to diffuse such information on the important subject to which they relate, as shall lead to the speedy adoption of those measures I have taken the liberty to recommend, for the future management and employment of transported felons within the present limits of the colony of New South Wales, and on the eastern and northern coasts of New Holland; I shall not have occasion to regret the circumstance of having employed a portion of the leisure of a long and dreary voyage, in thereby .promoting the welfare and advancement of my adopted country;—a country, which will ere long be, beyond all comparison, the most valuable, as it is already the most flourishing, dependency of the British Crown.

On board the Abel Gower,
Lat. 16° North Atlantic Ocean,
31st October, 1836.

  1. Lest the reader should suppose that it is my intention to attach any personal blame in this matter to the governor of New South Wales, it must be borne in mind, that that officer is appointed merely to administer the affairs of the colony agreeably to the directions of his superior officer, the Secretary of State. Sir Richard Bourke has placed it on record in a dispatch to the Secretary of State, as his own private opinion, that the settlers would do much better without convicts altogether; or, in other words, that the present system of transportation should be discontinued: bat the principle on which he was bound to act, was, that His Majesty's government did not intend to make any change in that system. With such an opinion on the subject of transportation, His Excellency must necessarily have been of opinion that it was expedient to apply the whole of the land-revenue of the colony for the encouragement and promotion of emigration; but the orders on which he was bound to act in that matter were, that a portion of that revenue was to be appropriated towards the maintenance of the colonial police. And although the governor is assisted in the administration of the affairs of the colony by a legislative council, it is too much, even for Credulity herself, to believe that that respectable body, composed as it is in great measure of government officers and a few easy-going gentlemen under the direct influence of the government, can possibly have a will of its own. A legislative body, composed of such materials, is the most anomalous that can possibly be constituted by associated man: it is a body without a soul, without an understanding, without a will.
  2. In the evidence of Mr. James Busby, the present British resident at New Zealand, before the parliamentary committee on secondary punishments, in the year 1831, the following passage occurs: viz.

    "1335. What measures are taken as to the education of children born in the colony? Very ample provision is made for that; there are schools in almost every district; wherever there are a few families together, they endeavour to provide a schoolmaster of some sort or other.

    "1336. At their own expense? Not altogether; partly by the government, partly by themselves. The ecclesiastical establishment is charged with that; and, in fact, it has been by the exertions of the late and present archdeacons that so many schools have been established, rather than by any desire on the part of the inhabitants of distant places, who are often very indifferent upon the subject.

    "1337. Is it an easy thing for labourers to go to a place of worship on Sunday? There are a number of clergymen in the colony, and they perform service in various places; it is generally understood that persons who have convicts in their service ought to cause their attendance, if they are within three or four miles of the place where service is performed; in all these matters there is a want of efficiency in enforcing the regulations; the regulations are perhaps as good as possible, but the government have not the means of enforcing them properly.

    "1338. Are there not places of worship within four or five miles? In many districts there are, but not every place; the people are scattered over an extent of many hundred miles. Where there are children at all, there is generally a number of people residing within a few miles of each other: it is only at the out-stations of the settlers, where none but working people are sent, that they have not the means of attending schools and divine service/'

    Now I refer it to any person at all acquainted with the state of New South Wales, in regard to the means of education and religious instruction, previous to the year 1831, whether there could possibly have been a more incorrect and unfounded representation of the actual condition of that colony in these important respects, or one more directly calculated to mislead His Majesty's government, than this precious evidence presents. No doubt, Mr. Busby was not upon oath to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! No doubt, it was natural for him, as an Episcopalianized Scotch Presbyterian hunting for office, to compliment the late and present archdeacons" for their alleged exertions! But Mr. B. could not be ignorant, that at the very moment he was giving his evidence, the colony of New South Wales was a perfect wilderness in regard to the means of education and religious instruction, through the inexcusable neglect of the Tory government, on the one hand, to which it had been uniformly subjected up to that period; and of the colonial episcopacy on the other, to which that government had entrusted the complete monopoly of its means. Why, could Mr. B. be. ignorant, for instance, that not only at Hunter's River, to the northward, where his own farm was situated, but at Illawarra to the southward, and in Argyle to the south-westward, there were whole hundreds of miles of settled country, containing thousands of inhabitants both free and bond, in the year 1831, without either a clergyman or a schoolmaster, a church or a school? Had his Majesty's government depended for their information, respecting the intellectual and moral condition of New South Wales, on such evidence as Mr. Busby's, they would just have let well alone, agreeably to the common proverb. At all events, they would never have either discovered or recognised the absolute necessity for making effectual provision for the education and the religious instruction of the colony, as has recently been done, to their own lasting honour, as well as to the gratification of all classes of the colonists, by the Whig Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Right Honourable Lord Glenelg, and the Whig governor of New South Wales, Sir Richard Bourke.