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CRIME AND TRANSPORTATION

(BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, MAY & JULY 1844, & Nov. 1849]

Among the many causes of anxiety which the present state of society in the British empire must occasion to every thoughtful or reflecting mind-one of the most extraordinary and alarming is, the constant and uninterrupted increase of crime. The Liberals shut their eyes to this, because it affords a sad illustration of the effect of their favourite theories, which for a quarter of a century have been, under the direction of his Majesty's Ministry, or his Majesty's Opposition, in almost ceaseless operation. The selfish and inconsiderate (and they form the vast majority of men) give themselves no sort of trouble about the matter : they care not though their neighbours are murdered or robbed, plundered or swindled, so as they escape unscathed themselves ; and without either thinking on the subject, or suggesting one remedy for its evils, interfere only, with stentorian lungs, to resist any project to arrest them which has the remotest tendency to terminate in an assessment. Their principle is to take of civilisation only its fruits, and steadily to withstand the concomitant evils ; and the simple way by which they think this is to be effected is quietly, and without saying a word, to reap the benefit of manufacturing industry in the doubling or tripling of their incomes ; but to resist to the uttermost when the smallest percentage is proposed to be laid on them, to arrest or mitigate the evils which that industry brings in its train. Government, meanwhile, albeit fully aware of the danger, is not sufficiently strong to do anything to avert it ; its own majority is paralysed by the inherent selfishness of mankind ; and nothing but some great and stunning public calamity can, it is

universally felt, awaken the country to a sense of the evils growing out of its greatness, but threatening in the end to endanger its existence. Thus nothing is done, or at least nothing effectual is done, to avert the dangers : every one shuts his eyes to them, or opens them only to take measures to avert an assessment; and meanwhile crime advances with the steps of a giant, sweeping whole classes of society into its vortex, and threatening to spread corruption and vice, in an unprecedented degree, through the densest and most dangerous classes of the community.

Authentic and irrefragable evidence of the magnitude of this danger exists in the statistical tables of committals which have now, for a very considerable time, been prepared in all parts of the British empire. Since the year 1805, when regular tables of commitments began to be kept in England, commitments have increased sixfold: they have swelled from five to thirty-one thousand. During the same period population has advanced about sixty per cent ; in other words, detected crime has advanced TEN TIMES AS FAST AS THE NUMBERS OF THE PEOPLE. Unwilling as we are to load our pages with statistical tables—which, attractive to the thinking few, are repulsive to the unthinking many—we must yet request our readers to cast their eyes to the bottom of the pages, where these appalling truths are demonstrated by the Parliamentary Returns. In Scotland and Ireland the returns of commitments have not been kept, until within the last twenty years, with such accuracy as can be relied on ; but they exhibit an increase still more alarming. Ireland, as might be expected, exhibits a growth of crime which has fully kept pace with that of England during the same period ; but Scotland exhibits a change which fairly outstrips all the others in the race of iniquity. In 1803, Lord Advocate Hope said in Parliament, that more crime was tried at one Quarter Sessions at Manchester than over all Scotland in whole

year ;

and the proceedings of the criminal courts to the north of the Tweed, at that period, amply bore out the truth of his assertion. In the year 1805, eighty-nine criminals were brought before the whole tribunals, supreme and inferior, in Scotland; but in the year 1842, the committals for serious offences were almost 5000; in other words, serious crime, in less

a

than forty years, had augmented in Scotland above THIRTYSIX FOLD. During the same period, population has advanced about 50 per cent, viz. from 1,800,000 to 2,660,000 ; so that in moral, staid, and religious Scotland, serious crime, during the last forty years, has risen TWENTY-FIVE TIMES as fast as the number of the people. *

Overlooked as this prodigious change has been, as all things are which arise gradually in this country, it has yet attracted, as well it might, the astonishment of writers on the Continent, Nine years ago, M. Moreau observed, speaking of the increase of crime in Scotland—“In the year 1805, the criminal commitments in Scotland were 89; they are now 2864 ; that is, they have increased in thirty years thirty-fold. It would appear that Scotland, in becoming a manufacturing state, has in a great degree lost the virtue and simplicity of character by which she was formerly distinguished.”+

Wbat renders this prodigious increase of crime in so short a period, in all parts of the British empire, in a peculiar manner extraordinary and alarming, is, that it has taken place at the very time when unheard-of efforts were being

* Table showing the progress of crime in the British islands since 1805, in so far as can be ascertained.

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-PORTER's Progress of the Nation, iii. 172, 227.

+ MOREAU, Stat. de la Grande Bretagne, vol. ii. p. 317.
| Irish Rebellion.
VOL. I.

2 M

We are very

made, in every part of the country, for the moral and religious instruction of the people.

far indeed from saying that enough has been done in this way; no one is better aware that the vast debt, which the prosperous wealth of Britain owes in this respect to its suffering indigence, is still in great part undischarged, and that, till it is taken up and put on a proper footing by the State, it can never be completely liquidated. Still, more bas been done to discharge it during the last thirty years, than in the whole previous centuries which have elapsed since the Reformation. The churches of England and Scotland, during that period, have improved to an astonishing degree in vigour and efficiency : new life, a warmer spirit, a holier ambition, has been breathed into the Establishment; the dissenters of all denominations have vied with them in zeal and effort; churches and chapels have been built and opened in every direction; and though they have by no means, in the manufacturing districts, kept pace with the increase of population, yet they have advanced with a rapidity hitherto unheard of in British history. The laity of all denominations have made extraordinary efforts to promote the cause of education. In this great and good work, persons of all descriptions have, though from very different motives, laboured together ; but much remains to be done. We well know how many tens and hundreds of thousands, in the manufacturing districts, are now wandering in worse than heathen darkness in the midst of a Christian land; we well know what insurmountable obstacles mere voluntary zeal and exertion meet with in the most praiseworthy efforts, from the selfish resistance of property and the reckless dissipation of indigence. But still, no one acquainted with the subject can deny that, during the last thirty years, incomparably more has been done to promote education among the poor than in the preceding three centuries. Yet this period of anxious solicitude, awakened fear, and general effort, to stem, by all the known methods, the deluge of profligacy and depravity with which the country has been flooded, has been characterised by an increase of crime, and a general loosening of morals among the labouring classes, hitherto unprecedented in the country-certainly not equalled during the same period in any other European state, and,

so far as we know, without an example in the previous history of mankind.

Struck with astonishment at this extraordinary and painful phenomenon, and wholly at a loss to explain it on any of the principles to which they have been accustomed to give credit, the Liberals have generally endeavoured to deny its existence. They say that the returns of commitments do not afford a correct measure of the crime that, really exists in the country ; that a police force is now more generally established, and is incomparably more vigilant than heretofore ; that crimes are classified in a different way from what they formerly were ; and that, though the figures do not err, yet the results to which they point are not the real ones. There is some truth in these observations. It is true that a police force is more extensively established, and is more efficient than it formerly was ;-it is true that crimes are now differently classified, and enter different columns, and appear in different returns from what they formerly did ;-it is true that there are specialties in the case ; —but it is not true that those specialties tend to make the returns for crime appear greater than the reality ; on the contrary, they all tend the other way. They show that the returns as now constructed, and the police force as it at present exists, do not by any means exhibit the growth of crime in its true colours; that it is in reality incomparably greater than these returns or this agency has brought to light; and that, great as the evil appears from an examination of the Parliamentary returns, it is in truth far more colossal and alarming.

How is a police force established in any part of Great Britain ? If we except the metropolis, where the vast concourse from all parts of the empire unavoidably forced upon Government, twenty years ago, the establishment of a central police, since found to be attended with such admirable effects, it is everywhere set on foot by the voluntary act of the inhabitants, or a certain portion of them, in a peculiar manner cognisant of the necessity which exists for such an addition to the means of public defence. In boroughs, it is generally the magistrates, elected by a suffrage little superior to household suffrage, who introduce such a mea

In counties, it can only be proposed by the justices

sure.

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