Transportation was an effective and successful pattern of punishment

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Transportation was an effective and successful pattern of punishment discuss.

Transit during the eighteenth and nineteenth century as that of a success by the penal judiciary of the time, transportation had helped the British Isles, colonise far off countries and legally set up an efficient kind of penalty. Even then it could be debated that this is not the event entirely, this essay will talk about topics that arise from being perceived as a success and likewise that of its limitations when coming to points of who was sentenced to transportation, plus that of were there far greater issues caused both here in Britain and that of Australia.

From the outset of the decision to colonise new places in the world with that of convicted criminals, there was an initial belief that this would set up both a judiciary system that worked, but that also would be cost effective to the British rate payer.  (Anon, Unknown)

Transit to the settlements was largely more successful than that of the former Gaol system, due in a great portion of the British Government wanting it to run right. In his article, The cost of convict transportation from Britain to Australia, 1796-1810, Frank Lewis states, ‘The net output of ex-convicts are estimated to be higher in Australia than in Britain’. (Lewis, 1988, p. 516). Lewis uses here statistical data to prove that the cost of convict transportation was a remarkably efficient way of growing the British Empire. Convicts would work with crowds in the colonial empire and readily be used to build infrastructures such as Court Houses, Dockyards and tenant dwellings too. Lewis’s article shows a regular increase in convict labour contributed to society as a whole, in his article he seems at various variables to get attention to the cost effectiveness of transit. Convicts were also given new skills that they could employ when they obtained their tickets of leave allowing them to be able to be more employable to employees.

Initially it was also believed that the British Government did not want anything to do with policy making decisions in Australia, but as Shaw states this is not completely reliable. Shaw’s article states, ‘If cabinet ministers, however, and not civil servants, were effectively in charge of the Colonial Office, they were not dictators’. (Shaw, 1969, p. 76). This clearly shows that those who greatly looked at colonial administration were largely interested in what was being done in the Colonies. They caused a bunch of citizenry to answer too in their daily lives, MP’s and various other departmental establishments.

Some convicts who had been transported could if they desired to become quite affluent in the settlements, many of such had been initially working on the farms of the regime. Christopher Weir in his journal article, The Transportation of Nottinghamshire Convicts, states, ‘Many became successful farmers and tradesmen, a change of circumstance that sometimes led to unexpected results for their relations in England’. (Weir, 1979, p. 757). Weir points to one case in hand when stating, ‘George Green, a Nottinghamshire frameworker, had been transported in 1812 for smashing frames. But, thirty-five years later, a letter was sent to the Rev. J Atkinson of Arnold, Green’s birthplace, informing him of Green’s death and instructing him to settle property worth £300 on Green’s elder brother’. (Weir, 1979, p. 757). Owing to a great deal of information being held not only on the convicted criminals, but that of land, wills from Australia, it is easier to trace similar information that would have bestowed on others vast amounts of money left in these wills by ex-convicted criminals. C:\Users\Invate\Pictures\Prison (Anon, Unknown)

Godfrey and Cox, in the journal article ‘The Last Fleet’: Crime, Reformation, and Punishment in Western Australia After 1868, state while quoting Braithwaite, ‘Convict penal colonies were less damaging to their inmates in their operation than were the British prisons that would have provided an alternative format of punishment’. (Godfrey, 2008, p. 237). They further Braithwaite’s views when stating, ‘Postrelease from the penal colony, emancipated convicts were allowed to pursue economic success in their own right, and in their own names – whereas freed American slaves, for example, were not’. (Godfrey, 2008, p. 237). Godfrey and Cox believe that these are ‘fascinating hypotheses’ (Godfrey, 2008, p. 237), but it has to be pointed out that in the case of Green from Nottingham, there is proof that these convicts could pursue economic success in their own names. Both Godfrey and Cox prove that they find grounds in their findings for success’s themselves. This would give no room for critiques of the transit debate, Reformists would argue that this mode of punishment was not rough enough. Is that the case here?

The second section of this essay will look at the many fractures that were connected with exile and that generally are omitted. For most transportation offered a direction out of looking after felons in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but for two such criminals, transportation was a nightmare. Female prisoners, child prisoners, both alike were the subject of degrading abuse. Up until 1826, child prisoners were put up in the same cells on prison hulks with adult males and females. Kirsty Reid in her book, Gender, Crime and Empire, lists lots of failures, not just for female prisoners of transportation, but that of male and youth transported convicts. Reid’s book states, ‘Images of beleaguered domesticity – which were, notably, also an increasingly important part of British radical discourse in this period – found their most intense form in repeated discussions about child rape,’. (Reid, 2007, p. 240). This is damning, due to mainly the idea that youngsters, male and female were subjected to gross abuse. Reid was apparently linked to female abuse here, but earlier in her script, she indicates that the male prisoners also had an insatiable appetite to debauchery. Reid states, ‘Unnatural’ sexual practices were deemed particularly widespread: the men were alleged to have developed an insatiable and animalistic appetite for practices such as sodomy, bestiality and child rape’. (Reid, 2007, p. 174). Owing to a great deal of less women being transported and that of sharing cells, these would seem obvious occurrences. Only since the British Government had already stipulated the segregation of prisoners, obviously, been neglected by those who took upon themselves the transportation of criminals to Australia.

Reid also eludes to another level, that of how few women were sent to Australia and Van Diemen’s Land, in the presentation of the book. Kirsty tells the tale of one Harriet Bowtle, who wanted to turn back home she had composed to the Governor. Reid states the reply was not what young Harriet wanted to hear, ‘When it came, Governor John Eardley Wilmot’s reply was not what Harriet had wanted. ‘The Governor’, the Colonial Secretary noted briefly on the file, ‘has no power to grant this request – refused’’. (Reid, 2007, p. 1).

One other point that Reid makes is that by way of segregating families within the Colonies, this was believed to be because of wanting the convicts to feel a certain kind of loss. Reid states, ‘By extending and prolonging the separation of convicts from their families and friends and delaying the processes of household formation the sense of loss and disorientation created by transportation’. (Reid, 2007, p. 141).

Another point that Reid eludes to be that of land registry, some it seemed, had flaunted their rights by getting powerful allies to agree to giving over exuberant character references. Reid states, ‘Character and capital together governed both the numbers of acres to be issued to a prospective settler and the extent of their ‘introduction’ to the governor. While some prospective emigrants were simply furnished with a standard pro forma, those who provided more impressive character recommendations, particularly from powerful patrons, or who had sizeable capital received preferential treatment’. (Reid, 2007, p. 78). This obviously left some of the transported criminals at a distinct disadvantage after they received their ticket-of-leave.

C:\Users\Invate\Pictures\earlysydneyw994h706.jpg (Anon, Unknown)

In conclusion, transportation to the colonies clearly was not a complete success, it however gave the British Government a means of colonising far off shores to build the British Empire. It also enabled convicts the chance to deliver themselves and build their own chances in the dependencies of Australia and Van Diemen’s Land. Reformists brought about a great deal of changes in the early portion of the nineteenth century, which later brought about the utilization of American style Penitentiary’s and an Australian form of penal punishment. Feminists would argue that the only people who benefited from transportation is men, after looking at the evidence there is a strong argument to be had for that opinion.


Anon, I. 1., Unknown. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 27 12 2014].

Anon, I. 2., Unknown. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 27 12 2014].

Anon, I. 3., Unknown. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 27 12 2014].

Godfrey, B. C. D. J., 2008. 'The Last Fleet': Crime, Reformation, and Punishment in Western Australia After 1868. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 41 (2), pp. 236-258.

Lewis, F., 1988. The cost of convict transportation from Britain to Australia, 1796-1810. Economic History Review, XLI(4), pp. 507-524.

Reid, K., 2007. Gender, crime and empire convict settlers an the state in early colonial Australia. 1st ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Shaw, A. G. L., 1969. British Attitudes to the Colonies.. Journal of Britsih Studies, 9(1), pp. 71-95.

Weir, C., 1979. The Transportation of Nottinghamshire Convicts. History Today, 29(11), pp. 756-759.