THE GOLDEN ELYSIUM OF THE CONVICT.
To murderers, burglars, forgers; and others, her Majesty's Govern- ment are securing a free passage to the gold-fields of Australia. The route may be a little circuitous, but the goal is the same. Instead of going to Melbourne direct, the free passengers under Government patronage proceed via Van Diemen's Land. Her Ma- jesty's Government deserve great credit for the conservative zeal with which they have defended this privilege against the attempts of the colonists. The people in Van Diemen's Land have no in- terest or sympathy in the welfare of the poor criminal as compared with their own selfish interests, and they throw the utmost obsta- cles in the way of this peculiar route.
But the inconsistency of their course is very evident. It is not long since they objected to receiving convicts amongst them, be- cause, they said, the convicts corrupted the heart of society,— wandering over their land, debauching their servants and children, and doing all this at the expense of the colonists. Government re- plied, that the colonists esteemed it a great favour to be supplied with servants. But the people of Van Diemen's Land have evidently outgrown the innocent stage at which they appreciated the official favours. They have now carried their discontent so far as to de- clare that they shall withhold the ways and means of providing for
the convict's expenses; but they have shifted the grounds on which they object. They no longer sax that the felon will corrupt their own land, but they allege that, instead of remaining in the island, he escapes to Ballarat or Mount Alexander on the Austra- lian main ; and they state that not fewer than 700 convicts have thus escaped without the possibility of recapture. What then be- comes of the argument of the colonists, that the felonry wanders over their own land? They here confess that they get rid of their unwelcome guests; and yet it would seem that they are more dis- contented than ever!
Ministers still try to please the Tasmanians against their will. In order to prevent the escape of the convicts, Government has ap- pointed a party of the convicts themselves to keep watch, as a sort- of police ; a plan perfectly in accordance with the old maxim of setting a thief to catch a thief. It is true that it does not succeed in the present instance, and it is even suspected that the convict police have been open to bribes from those who have escaped ; but if so, we can only impute the fact to the fallen state of human nature, and to the peculiar circumstances of Australia. To make it a reproach, as the Tasmanian colonists do, that the people of whom they want to get rid are leaving the country, and that con- victs are open to the passion for gold by which all are swayed, only proves the extremities to which they are driven for pretexts in blaming the Government. It is true that the convicts escape to the gold-diggings, where there is considerable difficulty in enforcing discipline. But it is evi- dent that there are several advantages in that ultimate destination for this peculiar class, the felons. The state of society in those districts is all so disorderly, that a few disorders more or less can really be of no practical importance. The mass of bad principles aroused in that scene of avarice and unrestraint may be presumed to be so considerable that the convicts will as it were be lost in that hell upon earth; and they will be, so to speak, properly con- signed to that sort of" everlasting redemption." The temptation to which they have given way in their first departure from the rules of society has usually been the desire of appropriation ; but it is evident that at the gold-diggings there can be no temptation to pick a pocket when every man ean do as well by picking the pocket of Mother Earth. Or if the morbid propensity to pick the human pocket he so great as to be incorrigible, where could it be exercised more harmlessly than in a region where the victim can immediately fill his pocket again? It seems to us that a benevo- lent government could not choose a spot of earth more suitable to receive the spoiled Children of governments, pickpockets and thieves, than the golden regions in the midst of the Australian wilds.
We have the utmost confidence that her Majesty's Government will he firm in coercing the rebellious colonists where any attempt is made to deprive the convict population of their last privileges.