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Party, politics and penalism, 1836-1845 : an analysis of the role of John Montagu in the penal politics of Van Diemen's Land


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Joel, CR (2004) Party, politics and penalism, 1836-1845 : an analysis of the role of John Montagu in the penal politics of Van Diemen's Land. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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When Sir John Franklin, polar hero and explorer, succeeded George Arthur as governor of Van Diemen's Land in January 1837, there was an expectation among some of the colonists that the old, autocratic bureaucracy would be broken up and replaced by a more liberal regime. Van Diemen's Land was still a great open air prison, of whom 17,593 souls out of a total population of 42,795, including the military and aboriginals, were convicts. Most of the convicts were employed in private or assigned service, building houses, fences and roads, and generally increasing the value of the colony's holdings. Consequently, the success of the convict system and the safety of the colony's free inhabitants depended on the sometimes invasive vigilance and industry of the government, and it was partly this policy which made Arthur and his officials unpopular in the colony. Subsequently, some colonists, who did not directly benefit from the labour of the convicts, demanded the introduction of representative government, and the gradual abolition of convict transportation altogether. Franklin however was inexperienced in penal and colonial affairs, and naturally enough, he could not 'easily evade' the advice of Arthur's close officials, or the "faction" as they were known by their critics. A 'change of men and measures' however was not forthcoming, and Franklin placed almost unlimited confidence in his predecessor's favourites to administer the penal establishment. Meanwhile, Franklin's attention was averted to the progressing of civil reforms in the convict colony, and was distracted by matters which were not of primary interest to the "faction". Indeed, by the end of Franklin's first year in government, John Montagu, the Colonial Secretary, wrote to Arthur that 'the high qualities which were so conspicuous in Sir John... at the North Pole have not accompanied him to the South'.
Franklin's troubles with the "faction" were exacerbated by the introduction of the vast new 'separate' or probation system of convict punishment and reform in Van Diemen's Land, which was seen as being more politically safe or scientifically correct than assignment, and this thesis examines how the convict assignment system, which related penal outcomes of reform and punishment to economic productivity, was discarded for political and ideological reasons, rather than a consideration of the needs of the Australian colonies. The probation system, emerging out of the recommendations of a parliamentary committee on transportation chaired by William Molesworth, was to have quiet the opposite effect, and that it was persevered with, 'in the face of all reason', was a consequence of political ambition and administrative miscalculation both in London and Van Diemen's Land, and was to profoundly affect the political development of the colony.
Inevitably, the probation system of discipline deprived the colonists of cheap and plentiful labour, and saturated the unsettled parts of the colony with idle gangs of convicts. The central focus of this thesis is how Van Diemen's Land could be perceived as a continuing part of Britain's penal system in the post-Molesworth era, and analysis's in detail John Montagu's responsibility for suggesting that the probation system was an acceptable successor to the assignment system, and the consequences which followed from this advice.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
Keywords: Montagu, John, 1797-1853, Penal colonies
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2004 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

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For consultation only. No loan or copying permitted until 11th May 2007. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 2005. Includes bibliographical references

Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2014 02:48
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:54
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