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and petty- larceny were liable to the pu-, seven years, had laid above four years in nishment of transportation, if the judges prison, and consequently had only three , thought proper. Thus the law continued, years of their sentence remaining. This until the revolution in America rendered was a most tlagrant injustice on the persons it impossible to send over any more con- sent. During the many years since this victs to that country. As the persons so colony had been established, the case was transported were bound in this manner, very frequent of sending over persons who, those that were rich could easily make had been on board the hulks for above six such an agreement as that to them the years, and whose sentence would have expunishment should be only exile, whereas pired in nine or ten months. When they to the poor labour was superadded to were sent to Botany Bay, however, there exile. In the beginning of the American was no chance of their returning in the war, the system of imprisoning convicts time that by law they were entitled to on board the hulks was first introduced ;) their liberty. In fact, there was no proand an act was also passed, allowing the vision made for their ever returning, and judges to transport convicts who were this was a most peculiar hardship and inliable to transportation to any part of the justice to the female convicts. The only world. A mode was then devised for re-, mode in which the male convicts were storing persons convicted of crimes to the able, after the expiration of their sentence, habits of industry and virtue. This plan to return home, was by working their paswas first set on foot by the celebrated Mr. sage, as they had not money to pay for Howard, lord Auckland, and Mr. Justice it. What, then, was to become of the feBlackstone. Judge Blackstone, in his males to whom this resource was not left: Commentaries, had descanted warmly on Several of them had been transported at a the advantages which were then expected very early age, and the hardship and infrom the penitentiary houses which it was, justice which they sustained was a subject proposed to establish.
For 36 years a
deserving of the serious consideration of law for this purpose had remained a dead that House. As to those men who returnJetter on the statute book, although it was ed from transportation, they were gene. a monument of eternal praise to those who rally far more desperate and depraved. had framed it. While the law so lay dor- than when they first went there. The mant, a project was unhappily proposed education was in many instances derision; to government, of sending the convicts to for when young boys were sent on board New South Wales to establish a colony the hulks, they acquired in a short time a there. It was, perhaps, the boldest and matured virility in vice, which they would most unpromising project which was ever not have learnt so soon in any other school. held out to any administration, to estab. This was, in fact, a subject to which the lish a new colony which should consist attention of the House had not been serientirely of the outcasts of society, and the ously called, from the first establishment refuse of mankind. The persons sent of the system. Those who escaped from there were not even left to their natural the settlement wandered among the islands profligacy, but had a sort of education in of the South Seas, where they were the the hulks, which rendered them infinitely apostles of mischief. Their character more vicious than ever they had been be- perhaps fitted them for chiefs among safore. In the month of February 1787, the vages: they taught them navigation and first embarkation was made for this new useful arts, and many of the missionaries colony, consisting of 264 convicts. He found their labours ineffectual from those was justified, from the report of a Com- persons having preceded them. The exmittee of that House, in believing that pence also of this establishment was most the original profligacy of those men had enormous, and infinitely superior to that of been much increased by their long impri- erecting penitentiary houses. As to the sonment on board the hulks. Instead of difficulty of making the prison in Newselecting for the first embarkation persons gate a place for the reform of criminals, who knew any thing about country busi- the book of sir Richard Phillips (to whom ness, they chose only those who had been he thought very great credit was due for convicted in London and Middlesex, and his attention to this part of his duty as who must, as inhabitants of a large city, sheriff'), shewed that it was not possible. be conceived most unfit persons for a new After paying some high compliments to colony. Out of the 264, 233 who had the memory of Mr. Howard, he said that been sentenced to imprisonment for only he was not, however, an advocate for soVOL. XVI,
litary imprisonment, unless combined, victs whom he had happened to see, and with useful labour. To immure a man could by no means disapprove of an eswithin the walls of a solitary cell, who tablishment which brought convicts to was used to company and of social habits, that sort of regularity and industry. He was often a punishment worse than death, did not know but that the establishment of unless some suitable employment was pro- | New South Wales might also act as a pevided for him. He concluded by moving nitentiary. If a young lad was sent there an Address to his Majesty, praying him to for picking pockets, he might be reform. direct the act of the 19th of his reign, re- ed of that crime, by living in a country lating to penitentiary houses, to be carried where there were no pockets to pick. (A into execution.
Jaugh.) There was an absolute impossibiMr. Secretary Ryder agreed in many of lity of committing in Botany Bay many the general observations made by his hon. of those crimes which were severely pe. and learned friend. He thought that it nished in this country. would be better to put off the discussion Mr. Wilberforce admitted that, under for the present, and he should take every the care of Mr. Graham, the hulks were pains to inform himself fully on the sub- brought to uncommon order and usefulject, before it should be again discussed. But still the penitentiary system As to imprisonment on board the hulks, was superior to any other that had been that was now very different from what it devised. The single cause which had left had been at the time the committee pre- that admirable system still a dead Jettet, sented its report. By the exertions of a was the difficulty of finding men who most able magistrate, Mr. Graham, a would let their ground for the buildings. mode of imprisonment, which was origi- As to the settlements in New South nally most unwise, had become salutary. Wales, the whole had been conducted The convicts were laborious and diligent, with an utter neglect of the natural proand probably did obtain habits of indus- visions which were most important for a try during their imprisonment, which colony. Morals, the great cement of se would be useful to them when the term of ciety, were thrown under foot; the goo their imprisonment was expired. No es- vernment was corrupt, the subjects licentablishment could be more economical, tious. For twenty years there was no for he really believed that, from the value church in the capital city. But last year of their works, the establishment supporto a governor was appointed by lord Caso ed itself. They were in general reputed tlereagh, from whose character the best to be such good workmen, that the lords results might be expected. The penitenof the admiralty had 'applied to him for tiary system was the work of some of the the direction of one of their hulks, as they wisest and best of men ; of Judge Blackdid not think they could find better la- stone, Mr. Howard, and other distinguistbourers any where else. He hoped the ed persons : and it afforded the fairest hope honourable gentleman would not name a of reformation among the lower ranks of very early day, as he would wish to take the people. As for the jail of Newgate, time to inform himself perfectly on the it was a disgrace to the city of London subject of the establishment at New South He was only anxious that some gentleWales.
man, with better opportunities than himMr. Frankland complimented sir S. Ro- self, should take up the subject, and he milly for the great attention he had paid would give all his support to the inquiry to these subjects, and the many important into its abuses. observations he had suggested to the con- Mr. Windham said, that there could be sideration of the House. Agreeing as he little doubt as to what sort of moral did with him in most of the principles discipline might be reasonably expected he laid down, he wished, however, to from a mere colony of thieves. If the allude to the materials that now existed in necessary mixture could not be had, it this country.
He thought that names was proposed that penitentiary houses should go but for little; and that a place should be established. They had been might be built and called a penitentiary, established. There were numerous peniwhich would not answer the purposes of tentiary houses throughout the country
. one; and, on the other hand a floating If the error was solely in the manage prison, called a hulk, might really be ment, how were they sure that the ereccalled a penitentiary. He praised the re- tion of new penitentiary houses would obgularity and industry of many of the con- viate such an objection? He, however, did not object altogether to the principle; representative body, which, as its power but if such houses were established upon was derived from the people, could never the plans proposed, he should be very be better exercised than in relieving its jealous as to the manner in which the re- grievances, and receiving with open doors ligious instruction was inculcated; it its complaints, when properly and respect. might be so done as to generate a sort of fully conveyed. The petition admitted mischievous fanaticism superinducing hy- the right of the House to commit, not pocrisy upon their original depravity. only its own members, but also any This, however, would be a subject for stranger, for any breach of privilege, after consideration,
where necessity required it; but that such Mr. W. Pole would mention on the sub- necessity was confined to the case of ob. ject some of those circumstances which struction merely, The same necessity, had struck him on a similar inquiry in in the opinion of the petitioners, did not Ireland. For want of transports, the con- exist in the case of libel upon the House victs were frequently kept in prison for and its members ; and therefore, in their five or six years. It had been declared opinion, libel ought not to be punished by the judges, that those years formed by the House, but considering that freeno part of the time of their exile. This dom of person and freedom of the press induced the benevolent mind of the lord were so essential to political freedom, such lieutenant to examine into so crying an complaints ought to be prosecuted at injustice. An old law was found, which common law, and brought before a jury. allowed the exile to be transmuted for an Mr. Simeon said, he had the misfortune equal period in confinement. There were to differ with the petitioners in this disdiscovered sixty females, in cells of 12 feet tinction ; after the maturest consideration, square, 10 in each cell. Those women and looking into the records of the House, were put into penitentiaries; they be and after hearing those able arguments came industrious, as they felt the enjoy- which had employed so much of its time. ment of light and air, and food; as they The House having no public legal organ felt the pleasure of honest industry, they of its own by which it could prosecute, grew diligent and honest; work could must depend upon the crown for its perscarcely be supplied to them sufficient mission to direct its Attorney General to for their new activity, and at the return prosecute. Pending prosecution, if com: of every week, there was an additional menced, the Attorney General might stop evidence of the signal power which en- the prosecution by nolle prosequi at any couragement and care had in reforming time, which made the popular branch of the most abandoned, and cheering the most the legislature dependent upon the crown, unhappy.
and might be attended sometimes with Sir S. Romilly, after a few observations the danger of compromising part of the on what had occurred in the debate, liberties of the people, or of the privileges stated his intention of withdrawing the of the House (which was the same thing) motion for the present, in conformity to as a price of prosecution, or endanger a the advice of some of his friends. He i feeble and inefficacious prosecution by then fixed it for the 25th of May. the crown, if it had any interest which
was in opposition to the privilege contended for, as might frequently happen.
Now, supposing the crown to lend its aid, Thursday, May 10.
and to do its duty effectually to the pro[PETITION FROM READING RESPECTING secution, the whole must turn upon the THE COMMITMENT OF Sir F. BURDETT, construction of the libel by the jury, &c.] Mr. Simeon said, that be had great which might be contrary to that of the pleasure in offering to the House a Peti- House ; in which case, the third branch tion from the borough he had the honour of the legislature, consisting of 658 perto represent, which formed a striking sons, comprehending as a body the great contrast with some, which, on account of bulk of the property, talent, and educathe language in which they had been tion of the nation, and exercising practiconveyed, had been rejected. The lan-cally and in effect the largest share of le. guage of this, though firm as it ought to gislation, would be subjecied to the judge be, was respectful, and exhibited a good ment of twelve jurymen, whose opinions illustration both of the freedom of the upon the construction of a written paper constituent and the true character of the might leave the House of Commons under
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
zuch contamination of character az to ex- its dignity, independence, and just prepuse them to the contempt of the nation, ponderance; but the petitioners have been and to the triumphs of the crown. No iaught, and believe, that the privileges of man had a more ardent love for she trial | the House are not of higher value than by jury than he had : considering it as the prerogatives of the crown, and that the palladium and shield of the public li- both the one and the other were given berty, and that the freedom of the press solely for the benefit of the people, the was equally essential. The only objec. ultimate end and object of all good and tion could be a fear of trusting the House rational government; and that the two of Commons with this power, which, bow- greatest benefits that Englishmen enjoy as ever, it bad exercised for near two cen- a fiee people are the liberty of person and turies at least; but considering the trust the liberty of the press: the right of pubreposed in the crown, in the exercise of lic discussion is the strongest barrier its prerogative, and the trust reposed in against every species of tyranny and opthe other House of Parliament, which pression, and if at any time this right be was the ultimate and final court of judica- abused for purposes of libel or sedition, ture, binding finally by its decisions the these offences are cognizable in the courts property, the liberties, and lives of the of law :-Summary commitments in exesubject; he could not think that the cool cution by way of punishment for libel, are and judicious part of the nation would be considered by the petitioners as an enafraid of trusting to their own elected re- croachment on the trial by jury, injurious presentatives a power to commit for libel, to the liberty of the subject, and the liwhich, as tending to vilify the Commons' | berty of the press; and that the power of branch of the legislaturc, undermined the commitment may be necessary for the true freedom of the public, and opened protection of the House in cases where the way to all the bloodshed and miseries obstruction is actually given or menared; of anarchy and confusion. He concluded but the petitioners are not aware that any with moving, That the petition do lie on such obstruction made the exercise of that the table.
power necessary in the cases of Mr. John Mr. Shaw Lefevre seconded the motion Gale Jones and sir F. Burdett, or that any of his hon. colleague, and said he felt great mischief or inconvenience was likely io satisfaction that the petition was so pure, have ensued if their cases had been le t to and the language so respectful, as to defy be decided in the ordinary course of law; even the most fastidious to raise any ob- and therefore praying, that the House jection on that head. If there was any will discharge Mr. John Gale Jones and thing exceptionable in the prayer of the sir F. Burdert from their confinement.” petition, another opportunity would occur Ordered to lie on the table. for its discussion. For the present, he [PETITION PROM READING RESPECTING would only say, the meeting at which this A REFORM OF PARLIAMENT.] Mr. Shato petition was signed was called by the Lefcore then rose and said that he held in mayor; it was most numerously and re. his hand another Petition, which he begspectably aitended, and the decision was ged leave to offer to the House. It was unan mous.
voted at the same meeting, and transmitted The motion passed, and the Petition was at the same time with the petition just received and read; setting forth “ That received, and prayed for a Reform in the the petitioners consider it to be one of the representation of the united kingdom in undoubted rights of the people to lay the Commons House of parliament. He before the House their grievances of every moved that the petition be now received. kind, and that this right in no wise ceas- Mr. Simeon seconded the motion; but eth, or is diminished, when the cause of begged leave at the same time to observe, complaint originates within the walls of that although the requisition to the mayor the House; and that the petitioners have for convening the meeting at which the witnessed, with great concern, the competitions were voted, had been signed by mitment of Mr. John Gale Jones to Newa number of respectable persons who were gate, and of sir Francis Burdett, baronet, to voters, yet the meeting consisted of the the Tower, for alleilged libels, without inhabitants at large, whether voters or not, examination of evidence upon oath, and who were very numerous; so that the without any trial by jury: far be it from voice and opinion of the real electors the petitioners to wish to disarm the House might be completely drowned by the of any privilege that serves to maintain voice of those who had not the electire
franchise, which might mislead the House. are not freeholders nor burghers in core There was nothing to guide the House bui porate towns. Would it be said that the the names subscribed to the petition, and inhabitants of those great and wealthy here there were only twelve names sub- manufacturing towns, Manchester, Birscribed, though he did not doubt but that mingham, and others he could name, had there was a numerous meeting, of differ- no right to discuss nor to petition parliaent descriptions, and many other voters ment for reform, or for any other purpose amongst them. Those who had signed in which their interests were concerned ? were very respectable in situation and Mr. Simeon rose to explain. He had character. He had noticed this distinction been nuch misunderstood by the hon. the rather, because those who were in ge- gent. He had particularly guarded against neral the secret engines of these meetings, the construction which had been put upon were desirous, for their own purposes, of his words; for he admitted in the fullest bringing in a multitude of persons, whe. manner, and rejoiced in the right of every ther electors or not, to carry a favourite one, even the humblest and lowest subject point; not considering, or else intention of the realm, to petition the House upon ally concealing from the real electors, that any subject of grievance, whether he was it was an act of political suicide on their an elector or not; but the opinion of the part to suffer their opinions to be swal. | real electors upon the conduct of their lowed up by a shew of hands of every representatives, or the House, for the sake person present, of whom, perhaps, nine of their own weight and consequence in tenths might not be voters. This was an the state, ought to be exercised as purely intimidation of the real voters, who, per- and distincily as their franchise was exerhaps, durst not express their opinions cised in giving their votes for electing a upon popular subjects, urged by artful member of parliament; and that those demagogues; for fear of the multitude that who, for private purposes, called in persurrounded then. He admitted, and glo- sons who had no vote to mix in the deliried in the admission, that the humblest berations of those who had a vote, despeasant as well as the wealthiest gentle. troyed or lessened the consequence of the man should be the object of our care and real electors, and wished to govern by a attention; and that the property, the pri- mob. The separation did not déprive vileges, and life of the poorest were as those who had no vote of the right to pemuch entitled to protection, as the rich-tition, or lessen it. With the greatest reest : all he meant to argue was, that those spect to the petitioners, he was bound by who were the legal electors were the con- his constitutional duty as a member of stitutional judges of the conduct of their that deliberative assembly, to suspend any members, and of the representative body opinion upon the important subjects to which they had elected: and that their which it alluded, until after he had heard political opinions, for the sake of them them debated. Saving, therefore, to him, selves and of their own independence, self such opinion as he was bound to form ought to be kept separate, in order to pre- and act upon, after hearing all the arguserve their characier and weight in the ments that could be urged upon any pro-constitution; for they would speak with position that might be offered for the pubmore weight when they were to speak the lic good, he was happy to second the pure voice of the constituent body. motion for receiving the petition offered
Mr. J. W. Ward said, it was impossible to by his honourable colleague. suffer this petition to pass without some
The Petition was accordingly brought answer to what had fallen from the hon. up and read; setting forth, " That the petigentleman. Was it possible that any tioners have observed, of late years, and member of that House could say there was especially during the present administraany man in this kingdom who had not as tion, an entire difference of opinion begood a right to discuss and to sign a pe- tween the people and their representatives tition of that nature praying for a parlia in parliament upon almost every question mentary reforn, as any freeholder or of general feeling and national importance; burgher in the kingdom, however legally and being sensible how much the stability authorised? If any one argument could of our constitution depends upon the rebe stronger than another for parliamentary storation of mutual confidence, they sinreform in the constitution of that House, cerely lament that difference, and beg it would be the denial of that right to dis- leave to draw the attention of the House cussion and petition in the persons who to the grounds and causes of it; and that