British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

34
LORD BATHURST TO LORD SIDMOUTH 23 April 18171

[The success of the emancipists and the great increase of free settlement have transformed the character of the colony, so that it is now 'less fit for the object of its original institution'.]

. . . This continued influx must annually increase the difficulty, which has long began to be experienced of enforcing on the convicts such a strict discipline, both as to labour and deportment, as is essentially necessary to make transportation answer the purpose either of punishment or reform. The difficulty of finding regular employment for them has been such that it has been the practice of late years to grant tickets of leave, almost without exception, to those who had any prospect of obtaining a livelihood by their own exertions, and also to place a greater proportion as servants in the families of free settlers. In the former case, the convicts could be subjected to little more than a nominal restraint; and, in the latter, it is obvious that with less regular labour they must enjoy a freedom inconsistent with the object proposed in transporting them. Another evil resulting from the increased number is the great difficulty of subjecting any of the convicts to constant superintendence either during the hours of work or relaxation; and the necessity of leaving to a large proportion of them the care of providing themselves with their own lodging during the night from the inadequacy of public buildings, allotted to their reception, forms one of the most formidable objections to the present system. These evils, and more especially the last, have been recently brought under my consideration by various persons, and also by the Governor, who has coupled his representations with a recommendation that buildings should be erected for the reception of all the convicts; but the heavy expense of such a work, if it be intended that the new buildings should increase with the increasing number of persons to be lodged in them, has induced me to decline my sanction to this recommendation except to a very limited extent. . . . I propose (should it meet with your Lordship's concurrence) to recommend to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent the appointment of Commissioners, who shall forthwith proceed to the settlements, with full power to investigate all the complaints which have been made both with respect to the treatment of the convicts and the general administration of the Government, and to report to His Royal Highness the improvements and alterations of which the present system appears to them to be susceptible, and the charge which their adoption may bring upon the public. . . .

____________________
1

H.R.A., Series I, vol. x ( 1917), pp. 807-8. Henry Addington, first Viscount Sidmouth, had been Speaker of the House of Commons ( 1789-1801) and Prime Minister ( 1801-4). Since 1812 he had been Secretary of State for the Home Department and became identified with the repressive legislation of the post-war years.

-442-

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