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otherwise than as a national disgrace and sin whenever they occur, and which could not happen in a country where so many laws have been enacted, and such lieavy imposts are raised for the relief of verty, unless there were something radically erroneous in the system of administering that relief, something that increases the very evil that it was intended to renjove.
Human beings could not thus expire from mere want in the streets of the most populous, the most wealthy, and it may be added) the most charitable city in the world, if a proper system had been established for the suppression of mendicity. For this evil is completely within reach of a well regulated police, and if impostors were deterred from the trade of begging, by the certainty of a due allotment of hard work and low diet as a corrective, they who deserved compassion would, by the same system, be assured of finding inquiry and relief. While alms are indiscriminately bestowed, it is certain that they produce more mischief than good in the distribution; but it is not less certain that as long as mendicity is suffered, it will be thus encouraged; for though the cases of imposition may be most numerous, there are very many of real and deplorable distress, and it is neither to be expected nor desired that we should harden our hearts. “Better relieve twenty drones,' says Sir Mathew Hale, 'than let one bee perish. If the Society which has been formed for the removal of this evil should persist in its meritorious undertaking, with that zeal which, from the known activity and beneticence of its conductors there is reason to expect, a great step will be taken toward the reformation of the lowest and most degraded class. Any aid from the police, and any legislative assistance which might be required would surely be granted. How large a portion of the rising generation in the metropolis may be saved froin physical suffering, guilt, and destruction by this institution, and by the general establishment of schools too long delayed and now so generally desired, and so easily practicable!
The increase of youthful criminals (which these measures more than any other would effectually prevent) has of late years excited considerable attention ; though perhaps it is not more than may naturally be explained by the growth of the metropolis, in the utter want of any preventive care. The larger the vessel, the greater will be the quantity of the lees. The enormous increase of murders is a more frightful feature of the age, for that this crime is much more frequent than it was formerly is notorious. Forty or fifty years ago, murder was so rarely committed in this country, that any person who has amused bimself with looking over the Magazines or registers of those times, might call to mind every case that occurred during ten or twenty years, more easily than he could recollect those of the last twelve months; for now scarcely a weekly newspaper comes from the press without its tale of blood. And as the crime becomes more frequent, it has been marked, if that be possible, with more ferociousness, as if there were not only au increase of criminals, but as if guilt itself was assuming a more malignant and devilish type.
To what must we impute this frightful symptom of the age ? Perhaps the newspaper press, which is guilty of so much direct and intentional mischief, may indirectly and unintentionally have contributed to this. Every murder is now laid before the public at length, with its minutest circumstances in shocking detail, when it were better on every account that all memory of such deeds should, if it were possible, be blotted out. Publication of them can do no good. Right minds shudder at the recital; tender ones turn from it with fear and loathing; to them it is painful and revolting, but there are others upon wbich it excites a contagious influence. It operates as example rather than warning upon those who, according to Dr. Spurzheim's philosophy, have the organ of murder strongly developed,-in wiser language, upon that disease of the heart and the soul which renders it possible for man to perpetrate this dreadful crime. In that state, the guilty imagination feeds upon examples of horror, and assimilates the poison which it extracts. These are not merely fine-drawn speculations, the gossamer threads of theory. The man who is possessed with an appetite for guilt finds the same aliment in such things as the hypochondriac for his malady in treatises upon medicine, or as the books of Aretine minister to a thoroughly depraved imagination. However unwillingly it may be acknowledged, crimes as well as madness are contagious. Mr. Godwin, who delights in the morbid anatomy of the heart, might produce a novel in illustration of this psycological fact. It is, we fear, in vain to express a wish that less publicity should be given to such cases : for while any thing is to be gained by making them public, that consideration will prevail over every other. Looking however to those causes which are within reach of discipline and law, certain it is that the increase of crimes is attributable in no slight degree to the abominable state of our prisons, which, for the most part, have hitherto been nurseries of licentiousness and schools of guilt, rather than places of correction, so that the young offender comes out of confinement in every respect worse than he went in.
A frightful picture of the state of Newgate has been laid before the public by Mr. Bennet. That gentleman, by his exertions upon this subject, and in behalf of those miserable children who have been called the white-negro slaves of England, is entitled to the thanks and the respect of all good men: the more is it to be reVOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.
gretted that one whose feelings are so good, and whose intentions are so benevolent, should blindly pursue a course in politics which, if it were successful, would revive in London and Manchester the prison-scenes of Paris and Lyons. There are men whon it is better to have against us thau with us,--men whose hearts and understandings are so tainted, that some evil motive may reasonably be suspected whenever, by any apparent eccentricity, they happen to take the right side. But it is a melancholy thing when benevolence is
night and day for the destruction of laws, monarcliy, religion, and
It was very long before the prisons attracted any of that charitable feeling with which England has at all times abounded ; nor is this to be wondered at, for the innocent and the meritorious have assuredly a stronger claim in their misfortunes upon sympathy and benevolence, than those who have drawn their wretchedness on themselves by chusing the evil part, and attempting to prey upon society. The first persons in this country who appear to have felt any compassion for the sufferings of guilt were the Methodists. Their founders at the beginning of their career visited the prisons. Afterwards one who had been connected with them was condemned for some petty robbery, and sent for a woman, remarkable for enthusiastic charity, to assist him with her prayers. Her name was Sarah Peters, and it deserves to be honourably recorded; for thouglı the jail-distemper was at that time raging, she attended him and the other poor wretches who were under sentence of death, regularly for about three weeks, till they went to execution rejoicing in a full belief that their sins were forgiven ; then she sickened and died of the infection to which she had exposed herself. Silas Told, a credulous and weak-minded but well-meaning man, acconpanied her on these visits, and as long as he lived, which was about tive and twenty years, he used to preach and pray with the condemned malefactors and accompany them to Tyburn. Since that time the Methodists have occasionally followed these examples, but it has not been a part of their economy to visit the prisons, and no institutions analogous to the Misericordia of certain Catholic countries has ever been formed in this. Indeed this kind of charity when contined to condemned criminals, though eininently meritorious in the individual, dies with its object, and effects little or nothing by example. It is at once the most painful and most unprofitable mamer in which charity can be employed; the zeal which expends itself upon cases thus lost to society has frequently strayed into indiscreet and mischievous language, both in administering consolation, and in boasting of its success. Of that charity which, tending directly to amend the guilty, is be
neficial neficial to the public as well as to its immediate objects, a memorable example has been given in Mrs. Fry and those other generous Quakers who have effected so great a change in the condition of the female prisoners in Newgate. Their zealous and well-directed benevolence is beyond all praise, and as it proceeds from the most exalted of all motives, true Christian charity-so beyond all doubt it carries with it the highest of all rewards. An army officer, one who was what the world calls a man of pleasure, was asked by some of his free companions what was the greatest pleasure he had ever felt. After pausing awhile, he replied— When we were on our march in Ireland, in a very hot day, I called at a cabin by the road side, and asked for a little water. The woman brought me a cup of milk. I gave her a piece of silver--and the joy which that poor creature expressed gave me the greatest pleasure I ever had in my life.' 'Now,' says Wesley, by whom this story was related in one of bis sermons, if the doing good gave so much pleasure to one who acted from natural generosity, bow much more must it give to one who does it on a nobler principle, the pure love of God and bis neighbour !
But as heroic virtue will not always supply the want of military discipline in war, so neither should it be depended upon for remedying the defects of civil institutions; nor indeed ought there to be a call upon the sublimest charity for a purpose which may be perfectly well effected by the machinery of good regulations. Separate the prisoners, according to their different degrees of criminality and hardihood in evil; provide instruction for all, with more or less of solitary confinement, according to their deserts ; let no spirits or fermented liquors enter the prison; suffer no gambling there, or sports of any kind ;- it is a place of penance,-a lazarhouse of guilt,-a hospital for the treatment of moral diseases. Toward those who evince a desire of amending their lives, let there be as much kindness and encouragement shown, as is consistent with their situation. Let the prison-fare be a penitentiary regimen, any improvement of which the patients must deserve by good conduct, and earn by their labour; and let a portion of their earnings be carried to account, and paid them when their confinement is at an end, and they leave the prison with habits of industry, regularity, sobriety, and temperance. However unpleasant their abode may have been, the greater part of the persons who have had these virtues forced upon them will look back upon the intirinary with gratitude, and will respect those laws by which they have been chastised in mercy, and saved from wretchedness and utter destruction. The prison at Philadelphia affords a model for such regulations, and they may be introduced wherever they are needful, with little difficulty, and sure success.
When the measure of punishment exceeds the offence, the laws are in contradiction to our natural sense of equity, and a hostile feeling towards them is excited, innocent and even honourable in its origin, but dangerous in its consequences. On the other hand, the laws are brought into contempt when they neither tend to reform the offender, nor in the slightest degree to prevent him from repeating the offence. It is not our present intention to inquire how far our laws are faulty in either respect, but we will venture to point out a very easy, and at the same time a very necessary and material reform. We venture to ask whether it be absolutely necessary that so many loop-holes should be left for the escape of guilt? Whether the purposes of justice are not sacrificed to the technicalities of law, which is sacrificing the end to the means and whether the weight which is allowed to flaws and informalities in the practice of our courts, and the importance which is attached to things so utterly insignificant in themselves, be a whit more honourable to the profession of the law, than the grossest quackery is to the science of medicine ?
The evil will be more clearly understood by general readers, and may perhaps strike professional ones more forcibly, if a few cases be stated to exemplify it. Some years ago a man was tried for forgery; the fact was proved against him, and his condemnation would have been certain, had it not been perceived just in time that his Christian name, which happened to be Bartholomew, had been abbreviated in the indictment. It was one of those cases, we believe, in which no person, not even the prosecutors themselves, could be sorry that the prisoner escaped; this however was merely accidental, and matters nothing to the point before us. There was no doubt of the man's identity, there was no doubt of his guilt; and what did it siguify in the eyes of justice, or of common sense, whether bis Christian name were written at full length or not? In a more recent case, a Aaw of the same kind, and if possible still more contemptible, sufficed to save an offender from punishment, where there was certainly no room for compassion. The crime was the odious one of writing letters to threaten the life of a timid and defenceless woman, for the purpose of extorting money from her, and that too under circumstances of peculiar aggravation; and the guilty party was acquitted because the phrase by-nights in the letter had been written by night in the indictment! It might be expected that so flagrant an instance as this would have excited the attention of the legislature, and that paltry pedantries would no longer have been suffered to disgrace our courts by frustrating the very purpose for which laws were instituted. It is not long since an attempt was made to invalidate an indenture, because, though perfect in all its parts, the paper upon which it was