Sivut kuvina

shilling a gallon added to the present duty on the 6,259,000 gallons of whisky annually consumed in Scotland alone, in demoralising the community, would provide the requisite sum, and tend to equalise the ruinous exemption which Scotland now enjoys in the manufacture of that attractive and pernicious liquor. An additional duty of the same amount on the 12,000,000 gallons annually consumed in England, would raise double the sum. But if Government, despite the £100,000,000 we were promised by free trade, cannot afford £300,000 a-year for this vital object, let it be laid on the counties as part of the prison or county rates. A little reflection would soon show every person of sepse in the country, that its amount could speedily be saved in prison and poor-rates.

Simultaneously with this change, an alteration, equally loudly called for, should take place in the administration of our criminal law at home. The present system of inflicting short imprisonments at first, and reserving long imprisonments and transportation for criminals who have plied their trade of pillage for two or three years, should be abolished. Imprisonment should consist of three kinds :- 1. A very short imprisonment, perhaps of a week or ten days, for the youngest criminals and a first trifling offence, intended to terrify merely. 2. For a second offence, however trivialor a first, if considerable, and indicating an association with professional thieves—a long imprisonment of nine months or a year, sufficient to teach every one a trade, should invariably be inflicted. 3. The criminal who has been thus imprisoned, and taught a trade, should, when next convicted, be instantly transported. In this way a triple advantage would be gained. 1. The immense number of prisoners now constantly in confinement in the British islands would be materially lessened, and the prison-rates proportionally relieved. 2. The cost of now maintaining a convict in one of the public penitentiaries, to prepare him for transportation, is not less than £17 or £18. Every year he is detained would be almost entirely saved; he would be prepared for it, in the great majority of cases, by his previous imprisonment. 3. The character and habits of the convicts sent out would be materially improved, by getting comparatively young and untainted men for penal labour, instead of old offenders, who have learned no other trade than that of thieving. To the country it would undoubtedly save £60 or £80 on each criminal transported, by removing him at the commencement of his career, when his reformation was possible, instead of waiting till its close, when he had lived for three or four years in flash-houses and prisons at the public expense, paid in depredations or prison-rates, and acquired nothing but habits which rendered any change of character abroad difficult, if not impossible. The prisons would become, instead of mere receptacles of vice, great houses of industry, where the most dangerous and burdensome part of our population would be trained for a life of industry and utility in the colonies.

For a similar reason, the great object in poor-houses, houses of refuge, hospitals, and other institutions where the destitute poor children are maintained at the public expense, or that of foundations bequeathed by the piety of former times, should be to prepare the young of both sexes, by previous education, for the habits and duties of colonists”; and, when they become adults, send them abroad at the expense of the public or the institution. Incalculable would be the blessings which would ensue, both to the public morals and the public expenditure, from the steady adoption of this principle. It is a lamentable fact, well known to all practically acquainted with this subject, that a large proportion of the orphan or destitute boys, educated in this manner at the public expense, in public institutions, become thieves, and nearly all the girls prostitutes. It could not be otherwise with young creatures of both sexes, turned out without a home, relation, or friend, shortly after the age of puberty, into the midst of an old and luxurious community, overloaded with labour, abounding in snares, thickly beset with temptations. Removed to Australia, the Cape, or Canada, they might do well, and would prove as great a blessing in those colonies, where labour is dear, women wanted, and land boundless, as they are a burden here, where labour is cheap, women redundant, and land all occupied. Every shilling laid out in the training the youth of both sexes in such situations, for the duties of colonial life, and sending them to it when adults, would save three in future prison or poor rates. A pauper or criminal, costing the nation £15

or £20 a-year, would be converted into an independent man living on his labour, and consuming £7 or £8 worth yearly of the manufactures of his native country.

The number of emigrants who now annually leave the British shores, is above 250,000 £* It might naturally have been supposed that so prodigious a removal of persons, most of them in the prime of life, would have contributed in a material degree to lighten the market of labour, and lessen the number of persons who, by idleness or desperation, are thrown into babits of crime. But the result has been just the reverse ; and perhaps nothing has contributed so powerfully to increase crime, and augment destitution among the labouring classes of late years, as this very emigration. The reason is evident. It is for the most part the wrong class which has gone abroad. It is the employer, not the employed ; the bolders of little capitals, not the holders of none. Left to its own unaided resources, emigration could be undertaken only by persons possessed of some funds to pay their passage. It took £100 to transport a family to Australia ; £20 or £30 to America. The destitute, the insolvent, the helpless, could not get away, and they fell in overwhelming and crushing multitudes on the parish funds, county rates, and charity of the benevolent at home. Labour became everywhere redundant, because so many of the employers of labour had gone away. The grand object for all real lovers of their country now, should be to induce government or the counties to provide means for the emigration, on a large scale, of destitute labourers, chained by their poverty to the soil. About 150,000 persons have annually emigrated from Ireland for the last three years, carrying with them above half its agricultural capital; and the consequence is, that in many districts the land is uncultivated, and the bank-notes in circulation, which, in 1846, were £7,500,000, have sunk in August 1849 to £3,833,000 !+ The small cultivators, the employers of the poor, have disappeared, and with them their capital—leaving only to the owners of land a crowd of starving, unemployed labourers, to consume their rents. A million of such starving

* Viz :-1847, 258,000 ; 1848, 248,000; 1849, understood to be still larger.Parliamentary Reports.

+ See Dublin Üniversity Magazine, October 1849, p. 372.

labourers now oppress the industry of Ireland. Such is the result of agitation at home, and free trade in emigration abroad. The American papers tell us, that each of these starving Irishmen, if strong and healthy, is worth 1000 dollars to the United States. Free-trade emigration can never send them out; it can transport only those who can pay. A large increase of penal emigration, coupled with such a proportionate influx, at the public expense, of free settlers, as would prevent it from becoming an evil, at once solves the Transportation Question, and is the first step in the right direction in that of Emigration.



It was observed by Sir Robert Peel, in his speech on the subject of free trade in the House of Commons, in the last session of Parliament, that those who reproached the new system with all the suffering the country bad undergone during the last three years, forgot or concealed the fact, that that system was partially introduced by the tariff of 1842, which so materially diminished the import-duties on rude produce in that year; and that the three following years (those of 1843, 1844, and 1845) were the most prosperous that Great Britain has ever experienced. Is it then just, he added, when quasi free trade in 1842 produced such beneficial results, to charge complete free trade in 1846 with the subsequent distress which has occurred ? the more especially as adventitious causes—in particular, the Irish famine of 1846, and the European revolutions of 1848— amply account for the change, without supposing that the same principles, when carried into practice in 1846, produced such widely different results from those which had attended their adoption, to a certain extent, four years before.

The observation is a fair one, and apparently of material weight in the great question now at issue in the nation. When properly considered, however, it gives no countenance to the free-trade measures which the right honourable baronet has introduced, but only shows that it is to the combination of those measures with another element of still more general and potent agency, that the disaster has been owing. In the interval, be it recollected, between 1842 and 1846, the new currency restriction bills were passed, and free trade

« EdellinenJatka »