The Reeves Family and the Ewing Family Genealogies







The first major innovation in eighteenth-century penal practice was the extensive use of transportation. Although there was some idea that transportation might lead to the reformation of the offender, the primary motivations behind this punishment were deterrence and the exile of hardened criminals from society.


Although many convicts were transported in the seventeenth century, it had to be done at their own expense or at the expense of merchants or shipowners. In the early eighteenth century there was a desire to extend transportation as a way of creating a more effective alternative to the death penalty (in terms of deterring crime) than benefit of clergy and whipping. 

Convicts sentenced to transportation being led to a boat at Blackfriars Bridge.  They include some children and are chained together by their necks. Reproduced courtesy of and with thanks to Mark Herber from Criminal London: A Pictorial History from Medieval Times to 1939 (Chichester, 2002).


In 1718 the first Transportation Act allowed the courts to sentence felons guilty of offences subject to benefit of clergy to seven years transportation to America. In 1720 a further statute authorized payments by the state to the merchants who contracted to take the convicts to America.


The first Transportation Act also allowed those guilty of capital offences and pardoned by the king to be sentenced to transportation, and it established returning from transportation as a capital offence.


Under the terms of the Transportation Act, those sentenced to death could be granted a royal pardon on condition of being transported for fourteen years or life.


In 1776 transportation was halted by the outbreak of war with America. Although convicts continued to be sentenced to transportation, male convicts were confined to hard labor in hulks on the Thames, while women were imprisoned. Transportation resumed in 1787 with a new destination: Australia. This was seen as a more serious punishment than imprisonment, since it involved exile to a distant land.


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Copyright Brian Reeves, 2005 2007.