For those who do not know much about the topic, penal transportation was a practice of sending convicts to distant lands as a punishment. France sent convicts to New Caledonia and Devil’s Island while England sent its convicts, prisoners of war and, political convicts to its colonies in America and Australia.
In fact, it is said that most of the early population of America and Australia is connected to, one way or another, the practice of penal transportation. Here are some gross facts about penal transportation.
Public Exhibition of the King’s Mercy
Could sending someone to distant lands, never to come back again, be called mercy? During the 17th and 18thcentury, people were used to be executed for many crimes, big and small. Originally, penal transportation was introduced as an exemption from thecivil law for clergymen, it was soon extended to other people.
The conditions of exiled persons were very rough and they were treated as slaves. At that time, it was not much better than execution. However, considering that these people have established themselves as powerful nations, one can arguethat it was king’s mercy to give those people another chance to live.
It All Ended Up as Business Transactions
The practice of penal transportation eventually ended up as business transaction and slavery. Merchant chose the convicts on the basis of labor demand and profitability and sold these people as slaves AKA indentured servants.
Women and Children Were Not Exempt from Transportation
Even women and children were not exempt from penal transportation. More than half of the women sentenced were accused of minor offenses like theft were sentenced to death and penal transportation. Most colonies, however, refused to accept women and children because they were not of much use as laborers. Many of these women were imprisoned in inhumane conditions while women and children with minor crimes served thelesser sentences.