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An Inquiry whether Crime and Misery are produced or prevented by our present System of Prison Discipline. Illustrated by Descriptions of the Borough Compter, Tothill Fields Prison, the Jail at St. Albans, the Jail at Guildford, the Jail at Bristol, the Jails at Bury and Ilchester, the Maison de Force at Ghent, the Philadelphia Prison, the Penitentiary at Millbank, and the Proceedings of the Ladies' Committee at Newgate. By THOMAS FOWELL BUXTON. 8vo. pp. 171. London: 1818.
THERE are two classes of subjects which naturally engage the attention of public men, and divide the interest which society takes in their proceedings. The one may, in a wide sense, be called Party Politics-the other Civil or Domestic Administration. To the former belong all questions touching political rights and franchisesthe principles of the Constitution-the fitness or unfitness of ministers, and the interest and honour of the country, as it may be affected by its conduct and relations to foreign powers, either in peace or war. The latter comprehends most of the branches of political economy and statistics, and all the ordinary legislation of internal police and regulation; and, besides the two great heads of Trade and Taxation, embraces the improvements of the civil Code-the care of the Poorthe interests of Education, Religion, and Morality—and the protection of Prisoners, Lunatics, and others who cannot claim protection for themselves. This distinction, we confess, is but coarsely drawn-since every one of the things we have last enumerated may, in certain circumstances, be made an occasion of party contention. But what we mean is, that they are not its natural occasions, and do not belong to those topics, or refer to those principles, in relation to which the great Parties of a free country necessarily arise. One great part of a
PUBLIC FUNCTIONS - POLEMIC OR ADMINISTRATIVE.
statesman's business may thus be considered as Polemic -and another as Deliberative; his main object in the first being to discomfit and expose his opponents-and, in the second, to discover the best means of carrying into effect ends which all agree to be desirable.
Judging à priori of the relative importance or agreeableness of these two occupations, we should certainly be apt to think that the latter was by far the most attractive and comfortable in itself, as well as the most likely to be popular with the community. The fact, however, happens to be otherwise: For such is the excitement of a public contest for influence and power, and so great the prize to be won in those honourable lists, that the highest talents are all put in requisition for that department, and all their force and splendour reserved for the struggle: And indeed, when we consider that the object of this struggle is nothing less than to put the whole power of administration into the hands of the victors, and thus to enable them not only to engross the credit of carrying through all those beneficial arrangements that may be called for by the voice of the country, but to carry them through in their own way, we ought not perhaps to wonder, that, in the eagerness of this pursuit, which is truly that of the means to all ends, some of the ends themselves should, when separately presented, appear of inferior moment, and excite far less interest or concern.
But, though this apology may be available in some degree to the actors, it still leaves us at a loss to account for the corresponding sentiments that are found in the body of the people, who are but lookers on for the most part in this great scene of contention—and can scarcely fail to perceive, one would imagine, that their immediate interests were often postponed to the mere gladiatorship of the parties, and their actual service neglected, while this fierce strife was maintained as to who should be allowed to serve them. In such circumstances, we should naturally expect to find, that the popular favourites would not be the leaders of the opposite political parties, but those who, without regard to party, came
528 THE POLEMIC, UNLUCKILY MOST SEDUCING,
forward to suggest and promote measures of admitted utility—and laboured directly to enlarge the enjoyments and advantages of the people, or to alleviate the pressure of their necessary sufferings. That it is not so in fact and reality, must be ascribed, we think, partly to the sympathy which, in a country like this, men of all conditions take in the party feelings of their political favourites, and the sense they have of the great importance of their success, and the general prevalence of their principles; and partly, no doubt, and in a greater degree, to that less justifiable but very familiar principle of our nature, by which we are led, on so many other occasions, to prefer splendid accomplishments to useful qualities, and to take a much greater interest in those perilous and eventful encounters, where the prowess of the champions is almost all that is to be proved by the result, than in those humbler labours of love or wisdom, by which the enjoyments of the whole society are multiplied or secured.
There is a reason, no doubt, for this also- and a wise one-as for every other general law to which its great Author has subjected our being: But it is not the less true, that it often operates irregularly, and beyond its province, as may be seen in the familiar instance of the excessive and pernicious admiration which follows all great achievements in War, and makes Military fame so dangerously seducing, both to those who give and to those who receive it. It is undeniably true, as Swift said long ago, that he who made two blades of grass to grow were one only grew before, was a greater benefactor to his country than all the heroes and conquerors with whom its annals are emblazed; and yet it would be ludicrous to compare the fame of the most successful improver in agriculture with that of the most inconsiderable soldier who ever signalized his courage in an unsuccessful campaign. The inventors of the steamengine and the spinning-machine have, beyond all question, done much more in our own times, not only to increase the comforts and wealth of their country, but to multiply its resources and enlarge its power, than all the
AND ALSO MOST POPULAR.
Statesmen and Warriors who have affected during the same period, to direct its destiny; and yet, while the incense of public acclamation has been lavished upon the latter while wealth and honours, and hereditary distinctions, have been heaped upon them in their lives, and monumental glories been devised to perpetuate the remembrance of their services, the former have been left undistinguished in the crowd of ordinary citizens, and permitted to close their days, unvisited by any ray of public favour or national gratitude, -for no other reason that can possibly be suggested, than that their invaluable services were performed without noise or contention, in the studious privacy of benevolent meditation, and without any of those tumultuous accompaniments that excite the imagination, or enflame the passions of observant multitudes.
The case, however, is precisely the same with the different classes of those who occupy themselves with public interests. He who thunders in popular assemblies, and consumes his antagonists in the blaze of his patriotic eloquence, or withers them with the flash of his resistless sarcasm, immediately becomes, not merely a leader in the senate, but an idol in the country at large; while he who by his sagacity discovers, by his eloquence recommends, and by his laborious perseverance ultimately effects, some great improvement in the condition of large classes of the community, is rated, by that ungrateful community, as a far inferior personage; and obtains, for his nights and days of successful toil, a far less share even of the cheap reward of popular applause than is earned by the other, merely in following the impulses of his own ambitious nature. No man in this country ever rose to a high political station, or even obtained any great personal power and influence in society, merely by originating in Parliament measures of internal regulation, or conducting with judgment and success improvements, however extensive, that did not affect the interests of one or other of the two great parties in the state. Mr. Wilberforce may perhaps be mentioned as an exception; and certainly the greatness,
the long endurance, and the difficulty of the struggle, which he at last conducted to so glorious a termination, have given him a fame and popularity which may be compared, in some respects, with that of a party leader. But even Mr. Wilberforce would be at once demolished in a contest with the leaders of party; and could do nothing, out of doors, by his own individual exertions; while it is quite manifest, that the greatest and most meritorious exertions to extend the reign of Justice by the correction of our civil code to ameliorate the condition of the Poor-to alleviate the sufferings of the Prisoner,or, finally, to regenerate the minds of the whole people by an improved system of Education, will never give a man half the power or celebrity that may be secured, at any time, by a brilliant speech on a motion of censure or a flaming harangue on the boundlessness of our resources, and the glories of our arms.
SOUNDER JUDGMENT APPROACHING.
It may be conjectured already, that with all due sense of the value of party distinctions, and all possible veneration for the talents which they call most prominently into action, we are inclined to think, that this estimate of public services might be advantageously corrected; and that the objects which would exclusively occupy our statesmen if they were all of one mind upon constitutional questions, ought more frequently to take precedence of the contentions to which those questions give rise. We think there is, of late, a tendency to such a change in public opinion. The nation, at least, seems at length heartily sick of those heroic vapourings about our efforts for the salvation of Europe,-which seem to have ended in the restoration of old abuses abroad, and the imposition of new taxes at home;-and about the vigour which was required for the maintenance of our glorious constitution, which has most conspicuously displayed itself in the suspension of its best bulwarks, and the organization of spy systems and vindictive persecutions, after the worst fashion of arbitrary governments;-and seems disposed to require, at the hands of its representatives, some substantial pledge of their concern for the general welfare, by an active and zealous