Abolish convict labour?

Should convict labour be abolished because it is said to rob honest workers of jobs or should it be maintained to help ease the burden on taxpayers? Workers at Kingston wanted it abolished but business men, at an annual meeting, thought otherwise. From the Kingston Daily News, January 30, 1860.

The mechanics of Kingston memorialized this Board with the object of obtaining its assistance in abolishing the employment of convict labor in manufactures which are also carried on by honest labor in Canada.

This Council strongly sympathizes with the views of the mechanics. They think it a grievous thing that the honest man should be deprived of employment because the labor of the felon is substituted for his. While expressing this view the Council feel that great difficulties are presented in any alteration of the system, unless the public are prepared to bear the whole expense of the convict establishment and to get no return whatever on the felon’s labor. It must be borne in mind that whatever result is derived from the labor of the convict is so much increase to the wealth of the country, and it thereby reduces the cost of the maintenance of the prisoners, and thus decreases the amount of taxation which would otherwise be borne by the honest labor of the community.

No doubt under the present system individual suffering may often be considerable, but your council are inclined to think that the general interests of the labouring class throughout Canada are more promoted by the absence of the taxation which the maintenance of the prisoners in idleness would entail than the occasional interference with the industry of the Province by the labor of the convicts.

Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 045

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