Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
27 September 1836
“Vox Populi—Vox Dei.”
[Part IV in a series of articles. See Part I, Part II, Part III]
WE are not surprised that the Herald, in an extacy [sic] of dismay at the idea of any amelioration of the condition of the Convict Population, should have opened a fierce and energetic fire upon the proposition we have lately made on the subject of the Female Factory. Nor were we astonished, knowing how much farther some folks see though [sic] a mill-stone than others, that we should be suspected of speaking from authority. We have been too long accused by our Contemporary of being under “Court influence” — an accusation which, notwithstanding its absurdity, it is as impossible to disprove as it is easy to make—too long favored with the name of “the Court Journal,” to wonder that the Herald, like a conscious thief, sees an officer in every bush, or, in other words, suspects a Government order in every paragraph. In this instance—would that it were not so, and that a plan as practicable as it is just in principle were indeed the offsping of authority—in this instance at least not a whisper from the powers that be has guided our pen—so that we may truly say with MR. FOSTER, “me, me, adsum qui feci—in me convertite tela.”
By the adoption of this plan, namely, the dispersion of the class of Female Convicts in the character of wives to the Male Convicts, no doubt a radical change would be effected in the system of Transportation—and those who appear to regard innovation in the light of crime when the general innovation in the light of crime when the general instead of particular advantage is consulted, will be ready enough to denounce it. The time is gone by, however, when interested clamour and bigotted [sic] opposition had power to defeat the establishment of right principles—and we are morally convinced that ere long those which we have advocated will be considered worthy of acceptation by all men, and the contrary will scarcely find a place, even in that bird of various plumage, the public press.
If New South Wales were simply a Penal Colony, a large prison occupying and likely to occupy no higher place in the scale of things than in that character she would deserve, the matter would hardly be susceptible of argument—for the only question would be how best to manage a prison population; the Governor of a large Gaol of this description would have a simple task—the safe custody, and the management with reference to the interests of the Mother Country, of his confines. It is scarcely necessary to remark that such is not the character of the population, and that, consequently, not such are the duties of those in authority. There is a large and encreasing [sic] Free Population—men with rights equal and similar in character to those of their kind in other countries—men who have chosen this for their city of refuge, in the confidence and conviction that their Government will be such in its character as good citizens are bound to respect and obey, not one whose principles are alien to their interests, and against which honest men are called upon, on the first opportunity, to rebel. What is it then but the most miserable reasoning which refers every thing to the interests of the Mother Country—that makes that the one thing to be regarded, its acquiescence and approbation the one thing needful! That talks of the intentions and wishes of the Home Government as to which we are bound implicitly to defer, however little in unison with our own interests!
What may be true in one degree may be false in a greater; the “greatest happiness principle,” that which regards the good of the human race as the end and aim to be attained, is true when applied to particular communities, but in no more enlarged sense; the Cosmopolite, who would blend, in practice, all communities into one, and who would legislate on no more narrow a basis, is a hare-brained enthusiast. The world never can have a common interest pervading its different communities—there can be no more a community in this respect than a similarity of climate and production: no one country can be justly called upon to sacrifice itself for the real or fancied good of another or of a number of others. Though, then, it might be proved beyond the possibility of controversy, that a system injurious to this Colony might operate most beneficially for the Mother Country, we are justified in rejecting it, and, without question, should not hesitate one moment to do so. This may shock the sticklers for “the right divine of Kings to govern wrong,” and may be called sedition, and rebellion. Call it what you please. It was so called when Brother Jonathan felt that he was being victimised for the advantage of the Mother Country; he nevertheless proved himself in the right.
We put out of the question, then, in all considerations on the subject of Penal Discipline, the result as it would affect the Mother Country; whether the prevention of crime at Home be effected or not, is, comparatively speaking, a matter of perfect indifference. If this can be consentaneously with our own welfare, so much the better—but it ought not, and will not be allowed, to stand in the way. We are of opinion that to better the condition of the Convict will operate beneficially as far as we are concerned— that it will tend to reform that class of persons, and to diminish crime; this will be perhaps the reverse from the result with respect to the Mother Country, since to better the condition of the criminal is to rob transportation of a proportionate degree of its terrors; if the people of England are not satisfied with this result, let them find some substitute for punishment which has in their opinion lost its effect—but let them not delude themselves with the idea “that a worse than death system” will ever be established here.
See Original: “Vox Populi—Vox Dei.” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 27 September 1836, p.2.