Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/32

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
4
A COLONIAL AUTOCRACY.

to exchange his own happy soil for the possession of territory, however extensive, in a part of the world so little known" would have been justly censurable. For such a purpose there remained criminals who, having forfeited their lives or liberties to justice, "have become a forlorn hope, and have always been adjudged a fair subject of hazardous experiments; … if the dangers of a foreign climate or the improbability of returning to this country be considered as nearly equivalent to death, the devoted convict naturally reflects that his crimes have drawn on this punishment, and that offended justice in consigning him to the inhospitable shore of New Holland does not mean thereby to seat him for his life on a bed of roses."[1]

There was, however, a difficulty in the likelihood that the punishment would not prove a heavy one, and would thus encourage the commission of offences (a condition said to have been realised thirty years later[2]) or might prove a fatal argument for the multiplication of capital penalties. On the whole the prospects of the new settlement were hopeful, the future home of the convicts was likely to be better than they expected or deserved, and "such of those unhappy people as testify an amendment in their morals, or an inclination to embrace the profession of honest industry, will probably not be shut out from enjoying in some measure even the comforts of life".[3]

Of the Colony as an instrument of commerce, and ultimately of profit to the mother country, he had high expectations, and he pushed aside the less optimistic views of colonisation to which the loss of America had given point. He argued that the errors and prejudices of past ages could not be fairly advanced "against the success of similar measures, when undertaken at this period with the assistance of superior lights".[4]

It is melancholy to reflect that the decree of the "superior lights" was the foundation of a penal settlement under military government. Having founded it, so lacking in forethought and energy were these high powers that delay in sending

  1. History of New Holland, Preface, pp. v-vi.
  2. See H. G. Bennet in House of Commons. Hansard, vol. 39, p. 478, 18th February, 1819.
  3. Ibid., p. vi.
  4. Ibid., p. ix.