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2-167 (Text)

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addressee author,male,Petition,un
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Government English
Petitions & Proclamations
Connell, 1980
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2-167-plain.txt — 3 KB

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THE humble PETITION of the undersigned Members of Council, Magistrates, Clergy, Landholders, Merchants, and other Free Inhabitants of New South Wales,
THAT although the Colony of New South Wales, as regards its Agriculture, Commerce, and Revenue, presents an aspect of extraordinary and unexampled prosperity, yet, apprehending the best interests of this community to be threatened with serious danger, which a timely enquiry may avert, your Petitioners feel it to be their duty, on the occasion of the expiration of the existing Act of Parliament, and the enactment of a new Law for the Government of the Colony, humbly to submit, for the consideration of your Honourable House, a statement of the principal evils they are at present exposed to, and the grounds of their apprehensions for the future.
Your Petitioners would, in the first place, entreat the attention of your Honorable House to the fearful increase of crime that has of late years taken place in this Colony....
Your Petitioners would, in the next place, beg to advert to the existing Colonial Law for the regulation of Juries in the Supreme Court, and in the Courts of Quarter Sessions; by the provisions of which law, individuals who have undergone sentence of transportation, and other ignominious punishments, as well as persons of bad repute and low standing in society, have been placed upon a footing with Magistrates and Colonists of the highest respectability.
That if persons who have undergone punishment for their crimes, and of bad repute, be entitled to sit as Jurors, the same reasoning, carried a step farther, would render them eligible as Judges - a proposition revolting to every right feeling, and too monstrous to be for a moment entertained.
That the law, in its present shape, was passed through the Legislative Council, in opposition to the votes and conscientious opinions of the most experienced and independent members; and, as your Petitioners are informed, was intended merely as an experiment, the failure of which, they have reason to believe, is now fully admitted by the supporters of the measure.
That one of the obvious and natural effects of this law is to encourage crime, by the facility it affords to the guilty to devise plans for ensuring acquittal; whilst its operation, on the other hand, as regards innocent persons, might be such as your Petitioners tremble even to think of were its pernicious tendency not restrained by the right which is still left in criminal cases, to the party upon trial, to demand a Jury of military officers. And your Petitioners would humbly submit, that if the law be continued upon the same principle as at present, and extended to all cases, both criminal and civil, it will necessarily have the effect of deterring men of character from investing capital, or becoming settlers, in the Colony, and prove a manifest injustice to the emigrant, and the native-born inhabitants, and to all persons of respectability, of whatever class; who will thus be virtually deprived of the right of trial by their peers, in cases involving property, reputation, liberty, and life; and that too, in a community in which perjury is of every-day occurrence. 
Your Petitioners would entreat your Honourable House to bear in mind, that from the facility of acquiring wealth in New South Wales, by dishonest and disreputable practices, the possession of property affords but slight proof of good character; a state of things which your Petitioners are of opinion must necessarily prevail, so long as transportation is continued, unless an entire change in the management and discipline of the convicts can be effected, which, under the present circumstances of the Colony, they conceive to be hopeless, and almost impracticable.
Your Petitioners would therefore humbly submit, that if it be proposed to confer free institutions upon this Community, property ought not to form the sole standard for the regulations of the elective and representative franchises.