Transportation in the british empire

Print this page A powerful trading nation During the reign of Queen Victoria Britain emerged as the most powerful trading nation in the world, provoking a social and economic revolution whose effects are still being felt today. Since the latter part of the eighteenth century the process of industrialisation had built a firm foundation for nineteenth century growth and expansion. At the heart of this was the successful development and application of steam technology. With its advanced industrial technologies Britain was able to attack a huge and rapidly expanding international market.

Transportation in the british empire

The Need for a New Punishment: The Transportation Act of Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. As stories of crime and criminals captured the attention of the eighteenth-century reading public and English jails continued to fill beyond capacity, the need to find a new form of institutionalized punishment grew.

Two Birds with One Stone With the passage of the Transportation Act, judges could now sentence convicted felons of certain crimes to transportation overseas to a British colony. This new act gave judges the option of removing convicted felons from the streets and jails without having to take away their lives in the process.

Anyone who had sufficient means to make the trip overseas from Great Britain to start a new business in America had no intention of working for anyone else. Many settlers to America, then, faced the problem of securing labor at a price cheap enough for them to grow their businesses, and transported convicts could help fill this labor vacuum.

In the eyes of the British government, convict transportation killed two birds with one stone. The Transportation Act applied to two categories of offenses. For offenses where criminals would normally receive Benefit of Clergythe judge could now directly sentence the guilty party to transportation for 7 years Transportation in the british empire lieu of branding or whipping, which were the only possible punishments for such offenses before passage of the act.

The second category of offense covered by the Transportation Act was non-clergyable offenses, more serious felonies where execution was the normal punishment.

After being handed a formal sentence of death, the offender could receive mercy from the Crown and be pardoned on condition of transportation for 14 years or some other determined period, including life. Convicts who had been sentenced to transportation and returned before finishing their term were liable to an automatic death sentence.

The Transportation Act of formally institutionalized this type of punishment, made the British government responsible for actively transporting convicts out of the country, and gave judges the authority to pass a sentence of transportation for first-time offenders.

William Thomson and Jonathan Wild William Thomson, a prominent lawyer who became the sentencing officer at the Old Bailey, was mainly responsible for the passage of the Transportation Act. He had long sought more flexible sentencing provisions for judges and saw transportation as an effective means of dealing with persistent offenders who could not support themselves and would likely return to crime again and again.

In writing the Transportation Act, Thomson also included a provision aimed specifically at curtailing the organized criminal activities of Jonathan Wildthe notorious thief-taker and receiver of stolen goods.

This provision made it a crime for anyone to take a reward for returning stolen goods to their owner without at the same time capturing and giving evidence against the thief.

Failure to turn in the criminal could subject the person taking the reward to the same punishment as the offender, if he or she were ever caught. He knew that if he carefully covered his tracks and received payment indirectly from his clients, it was virtually impossible to secure a conviction against him.

A Preferred Form of Punishment Transportation quickly became the preferred form of punishment for lesser felonies. At the Old Bailey session on April 23, —the one immediately following passage of the Transportation Act—27 of the 51 people convicted of crimes were sentenced to transportation.

They would be the first of the roughly 50, who were transported to America under the Transportation Act and who together represented a quarter of all British emigrants to this country during the eighteenth century.

Resources for this article: Policing and Punishment in London, Urban Crime and the Limits of Terror. Oxford University Press, The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, The Norton Library, N In the 18th century, thousands of British convicts were separated from their families, chained together in the hold of a ship, and carried off to America, sometimes for the theft of a mere handkerchief.

What happened to these convicts once they arrived in America? Did they prosper in an environment of unlimited opportunity, or were they ostracized by the other colonists?

Transportation in the british empire

Anthony Vaver tells the stories of the petty thieves and professional criminals who were punished by being sent across the ocean to work on plantations. In bringing to life this forgotten chapter in American history, he challenges the way we think about immigration to early America.

The book also includes an appendix with helpful tips for researching individual convicts who were transported to America.Migration and Transportation c The British Empire saw a huge number of people migrating. Many others were sentenced to transportation to the colonies. Migration and Transportation c The British Empire saw a huge number of people migrating.

Many others were sentenced to transportation to the colonies.

Transportation as Judicial Punishment in Nineteenth-Century Britain

The Transportation Act of formally institutionalized this type of punishment, made the British government responsible for actively transporting convicts out of the country, and gave judges the authority to pass a sentence of transportation for first-time offenders.

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Second, penal stations established in New South Wales’s peripheries between and exemplified the further collapse throughout the British Empire of sites of transportation into peculiar and sometimes innovative iterations of the modern penitentiary, where both punishment and reform could be meted out through a combination of exile and.

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