Resolutions of a Meeting held to determine whether Western Australia should apply to become a Penal Settlement

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Resolutions of a Meeting held to determine whether Western Australia should apply to become a Penal Settlement  (1849) 

At a public meeting held at the Court House, Perth, Western Australia, on Friday, 23 February 1849, G.F. Stone Esq., High Sheriff, in the chair, the following Resolutions were proposed and carried:

1st. Resolved, that this colony is at present in a state of great depression, caused by the exhaustion of the important elements of capital and labour.

2nd. Resolved, that the whole capital of the settlers being already invested, and that too in pursuits which yield no profitable return, the means of the colony are inadequate to the promotion and completion of the various schemes of improvement which the still undeveloped resources of the country suggest, and which would be highly impracticable under more favourable circumstances, while the difficulty is still further increased by the steady and constant emigration of labour from the colony.

3rd. Resolved, that the meeting can see no remedy for such a position other than one which shall have the effect of speedily introducing fresh capital to supply the place of that which has been lost, and new and abundant labour to meet the drain that has taken place in the old.

4th. Resolved, that this meeting views with great regret and alarm the introduction by the Home Government of persons drafted from the various penitential asylums in England, and men on tickets of leave, as being a course quite unsuited to the wants of the settlers, and as tending to make matters worse rather than better. That this course, at the very best, would meet only half the evil, viz., the insufficient amount of labour without providing at all for the other and more important half — the want of capital. Labour without the mens of employing it being a burthen rather than a benefit, while the introduction of persons of this class without any precaution being taken or fund created for the establishment of an adequate guard, either of police or military, to protect the colonists, would of itself be an evil of very great magnitude, the colonial revenue being totally insufficient to meet any part of this necessary expense.

5th. Resolved, that this meeting, believing that some great change is necessary to the welfare, and even to the existence of this colony, and bearing in mind also the evident intention of the Home Government to make it indirectly the receptacle of convicts by pouring in upon us felons under the various names of 'exiles', 'probationers' and the life, thereby inflicting upon us all the evils of a convict colony, without the necessary protection and expenditure, considers it advisable, under the circumstances, that application should at once be made to Her Majesty's Government, to erect this colony into a regular penal settlement, with the necessary Government establishment and expenditure, the whole cost of the transmission, maintenance, and supervision of all such convicts as may be transported hither being borne, of course, by the Home Government.

6th. Resolved, that the establishment of a penal settlement in this colony would seem to present some advantages to the Home Government to counterbalance the expense of the measure, inasmuch as the convicts would be employed in developing profitable resources which at present are totally useless, either to the mother country or to the colony, from the want of adequate means in the settlers to render them available. Of these may be enumerated the promising mines of lead and coal recently discovered to the northward and southward, and the exhaustless supply of fine timber, an article of special value to the mother country, and which could serve to freight home the ships by which the convicts are conveyed.

7th. Resolved, that a full representation of the objects of this meeting shall be made to His Excellency the Governor, and that for this purpose a deputation from this meeting, to consist of Messrs W. Burges, A.O.G Lefroy, Thomas Helms, Robert Habgood, and G. Shenton, with power to add to their numbers, be appointed to wait upon His Excellency with a copy of the resolutions passed, to solicit the assistance of the local government in carrying out the purposes of this meeting, and to request His Excellency to take all such proper steps as may be necessary to put Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies in full possession of the facts of the case; and that the gentlemen forming such deputation shall also be a permanent committee for the purpose of organizing the scheme and of communicating generally with the local government and others on the subject.

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