Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
23 September 1836
“Vox Populi — Vox Dei.”
[Part III in a series of articles. See Part I, Part II, Part IV]
IT is not only with the view, desirable as it is, of turning to some good account an useless and worse than useless portion of our population, that we recommend that encouragement and facility should be given to the female convicts to marry; it is not only because we think that this step would help to reform the women themselves, but that the improvement would in our opinions extend over a wider space—over the males as well as the females. We are not of course simple enough to expect that the Colony would under this new system rival in primitive innocence a Swiss Canton—or that the Bark Hut inhabited by a Convict Husband and Wife could much nearer assimilate as to the nature of its contents to “the moral and virtuous peasantry” of whom we hear so much and see so very little here or anywhere else, than in external appearance to a vine-clad Alpine Cottage. But we suppose that the class will become better than it is—than it ever will be under the present state of things—or than it will be, should any change, hereafter determined upon, be of a sterner character. In short, we look upon the union of the sexes amongst the convicts as being that which is best calculated to effect the only end which we have in view, however little it may consist with the desires or plans of the people at home—and that end is reformation—making good, or at least tolerable members of society out of incurables. We think that, in the bosoms of persons who have long rioted in lawlessness, and grovelled in ignorance and vice, new emotions would be excited by this change in their position. They would be tied and bound to a certain place where they found, at least, a sufficient support—which offered them comforts and blessings much beyond those attached to their former condition—and which they could only hope to retain by a continuance of good conduct. Without at all undervaluing the force of temptation, or estimating too highly the moral restraint inherent in such characters, we yet do firmly believe that honesty would be considered by them, in practice as well as in theory, the best policy; and that not one tenth part of the crimes and offences now taking place, and which are the result in a great measure of an unnatural system, would stain the yearly records.
We have before, and do the same now, rejected the cant of that party which babbles about the immoral progeny which would naturally spring from so immoral a source—as if the actually existent immorality, the consequence of the “check-apron” system of separation now adopted, were not ten times more to be deprecated than any that could result from the proposed reform! We equally reject the fears of others as to the encreased [sic] population and the necessity for providing for the infant progeny—for if marriage be allowed, and if the couple have the means of support by the labor of their hands, these wiseacres need hardly be told twice that their children can be supported by the Parents in the same way that the child of the laborer is in England. True, this supposes that the couple are so far removed from a condition of actual servitude as to have the means of doing so—but this is the very point to which we would aim at attaining—this is the grand desideratum—to redeem all that can be prudently redeemed from the ranks of slavery, and their conversion into free persons. This of itself would be one long step towards moral improvement—at least if there is any truth in the aphorism that “a man in losing his liberty loses half his virtue;” for so the converse is true, that he that recovers his liberty regains his moral freedom in the process.
In short the question with us is this—shall we continue a system which is notoriously bad, or shall we try another; shall we be prevented from improving it because the means are opposed to the plans and wishes of the “prevention” school; shall we suffer the continuance of a great evil, lest its remedy interfere with rules laid down by men 17,000 miles off, who would doubtless be happy enough to get rid of some of their criminals and frighten the remainder by a “worse than death” system, but with whose views we as little coincide as our interest are opposite? Shall we be sacrificed for the good of the Mother Country, (supposing it to be for her good) or shall we act for our own?
See Original: “Vox Populi — Vox Dei.” THE FEMALE FACTORY,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 23 September 1836, p.2.