Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

easy to over-rate the obstacles to such perseverance. First among these must be reckoned the destruction of the self-respect which so largely helps to maintain in the right path a man who, as the phrase is, has a character to keep up. The ex-prisoner has no character to keep up. The jail has destroyed it. How can he hold up his head among his fellows? He is no longer 'a respectable man.' People look askance at him—as well they may. They regard him with not unwarranted suspicion. He is a convict pitted against non-convicts in the struggle for existence. What wonder that he often succumbs, and that 75 or 80 per cent. of those who have been in prison return thither? An experienced prison official has observed : 'The first time people come here is often an accident. If they come a second time it shows some leaning to vice. If they come a third time they will spend their lives in and out of jail.' And this view has found expression in the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1908, which provides that a prisoner who has been thrice convicted, and is shown to be leading a dishonest life, should be accounted an habitual criminal. Such a one goes to swell the criminal class. Now it is a factand I ask my readers to ponder it—that, in the year 1911, of the 916 persons sentenced by the Courts to penal servitude, only 118 had not been previously convicted, the vast majority of the old offenders having from six to twenty convictions against them. Further, the Prison Commissioners in their Report observe : The proportion of persons having previous convictions has continued to rise for many years : in fact, the proportion of persons having previous convictions has in the last few years risen from seventy-eight to eighty-seven per cent.'

And this criminal class has become a permanent element of the population. It is difficult correctly to estimate the number of habitual criminals in England, but Mr. Neames, a very competent authority, quoted by the late Mr. Tallack, in his Penological and Preventive Principles, puts it at ' a score of thousands in London alone. The lives of these men are a perpetual warfare against their fellow-men. Crime is the very breath of their nostrils. They have said to themselves · Evil, be thou my good.' Mr. Tallack quotes the remark of one of them to a fellowprisoner : 'I have been convicted seven times, but I won't work : by the last robbery I gained 4501., and when I am discharged I will have another go at it.' These words represent truly the spirit of the criminal class generally. Every great city is infested by these habitual offenders—habitual and in many cases desperate, as their recent exploits both in this country and in France sufficiently show. I do not know who has given a better account of them than Théophile Gautier in his book Tableau de Siège :

Underneath every great city there are dens of lions, thickly barred caves, wherein are confined wild beasts, malodorous beasts, venomous

beasts, all the refractory perversities that civilisation has been unable to tame, those who love blood, those whom a conflagration amuses as though it were an exhibition of fireworks, those whose delight is in larceny, those for whom indecent assault takes the place of love, all the monstrosities of the heart, all the deformities of the soul, an unclean population shunning the light and swarming ominously in the depths of its subterranean shades.

Yes ; such is the criminal class to be found in every great city. They await their opportunity to devastate and destroy. One day it comes.

One day [Théophile Gautier continues] the keeper in a moment of distraction, forgets the keys of his menagerie, and the ferocious animals spread themselves through the terrified city with savage cries. From the opened cages rush forth the hyenas of 1793 and the gorillas of the Commune.

Now one of the most serious problems of the day is how to deal with this criminal class. I venture to say that our present method of dealing with it is most futile, most irrational, and most unjust to the community. I have before me an account furnished by the Times of the recent trial at the London Sessions, before Mr. Wallace, of an offender described as “A Modern Fagin.' It was given in evidence that the man is a notorious trainer of young thieves : that he had been dealt with thirty times, nineteen times for theft and eleven as an incorrigible rogue, and that the total of the sentences of imprisonment imposed upon him amounted to thirty-five years. Mr. Wallace remarked, with obvious truth, that the man's life had been devoted to crime and sentenced him to-What does the reader think? Three years' penal servitude! So that at the expiration of that periodor probably a shorter, for prisoners seldom serve their full termthis monster will be let loose again upon society. Take another case of an habitual criminal tried a day or two afterwards at the Middlesex Sessions for committing three burglaries in North London. This is his record. He had undergone three terms of penal servitude-one of five years, one of four, and another of three years. He had also been sent to prison on several other occasions, his offences being chiefly house and shop breaking. No sooner did he come out of prison than he recommenced his career of crime, and was constantly the associate of well-known thieves. On the occasion of the last burglary he was caught red-handed. Here, too, the sentence passed was three years penal servitude! A well-known American philanthropist, Mr. C. Dudley Warner, has excellently remarked : 'We pay immense sums to a police to watch men and women perfectly well known to be criminals lying in wait to rob and murder; and other immense sums to catch and try, over and over again, these criminals, who are shut up for short terms, well cared for, physically rehabilitated, and then sent out to continue their prowling warfare against society.'

Surely these things ought not so to be. It is as wrong to leave an habitual criminal at large as it would be to leave at large a homicidal lunatic or a mad dog. Common sense and elementary justice demand the suppression of this criminal class which is in open revolt against society. A third conviction at Assizes or Quarter Sessions should result in the offender's loss of personal liberty for the rest of his life. He should be deported to some island and reduced to a state of industrial serfdom, in which he should earn his own subsistence, for it would be monstrous that he should be maintained at the expense of the community. Of course be should be humanely treated, sufficiently fed, not overworked, and provided with the means of moral and religious culture : but a stern discipline should be enforced, the chief instruments of which would be the lash and reduced rations for the mutinous. Possibly, like the slaves of ancient Rome, be might be allowed a peculium or, at all events, the privilege of receiving for himself, and of employing, as he might choose, the proceeds of his own labour in excess of the cost of his maintenance.

So much in rough outline as to his proper treatment. Nor let it be said that this doom would be hard upon him. What he has a right to is justice. And it is supremely just that one whose whole existence has been a perpetual warfare against civilised society should be cut off from civilised society. It is the righteous retribution which reason itself prescribes. That is its first justification. The second is that it would be eminently deterrent. Nothing except his miserable life is dearer to a malefactor than his personal liberty. The fear of perpetually losing it would often make him pause on the threshold of a crime. Thirdly, it would render possible, as nothing else would, the real reformation of the habitual criminal. It would supply him with a unique opportunity of self-examination and repentance, of calling his own ways to remembrance and of turning to better ones, in conditions where he would be protected for the rest of his days against the evil influences, the well-nigh overwhelming temptations, of his life of crime.

W. S. LILLY.

• Sir Alfred Wills in an interesting paper contributed to this Review nearly five years ago (December 1907) distinguishes between “habitual' and 'professional' criminals. By the latter he means, as he explains, those who follow crime as the business of their lives, who take it up as a profession, who calculate and accept its risk, who have utterly ceased to work, if they ever did any work, and who never mean to do so again.' But it appears to me that these words apply equally to habitual criminals. Of the whole criminal class it may be said-to quote Sir Alfred Wills—No punishment will ever alter them, and the moment they are released they begin to practise crime again. Such men are really hopeless.' I take this to be the view of Sir Robert Anderson also, whose contributions to this Review have thrown so much light on the subject.

VOL. LXXII–No. 426

2

THE MORALITY OF EXCAVATION

I AM asked with great frequency by travellers in Egypt why it is that the excavation of ancient tombs is permitted. Surely, they say, the dead ought to be left to rest in peace. How would we like it were foreigners to come to England and ransack our graveyards? Is it not a sacrilege to expose to view once more the sepulchres and the mummies of the Pharaohs?

Questions of this kind, suggesting disapprobation of some of the primary actions of archaeology, were at first inclined to take the breath away; but it soon became clear that in every case they were asked in all sincerity and were deserving of a studied reply. Moreover, there is no doubt that the whole subject of the morality of excavation, and the circumstances under which it is justifiable or unjustifiable, has been much neglected, and is liable to considerable misapprehension. It is not an easy matter, however, to give a lengthy answer to any query when it is sprung upon one, as this generally is, at high noon upon a hot day in a desert necropolis, or in the darkness of the bowels of the earth. I therefore venture here to play the part of an apologist and to explain the attitude assumed towards excavation by the small group of Egyptologists of what may be called the modern school, that it may serve as a response, halting but sincere, to this recurrent inquiry.

The main argument in favour of the excavation of tombs by archaeologists is easily stated. The careful opening of an ancient Egyptian sepulchre saves for science information and antiquities which otherwise would inevitably be scattered to the four winds of heaven by native plunderers. In spite of the strenuous efforts of the Department of Antiquities, a considerable amount of robbery takes place in the ancient cemeteries. Tombs are rifled, coffins are broken open, mummies torn to pieces in the search for gold, heavy objects smashed into portable fragments, and valuable papyri ripped into several parts to be apportioned among the thieves. It will not be easy for the reader to picture in his mind the disorder of a plundered tomb. There lies the overturned sarcophagus, there sprawls the dead

body with the head rent from the shoulders, there are the shattered remains of priceless vases believed by the robbers to Lave been of no great value. It is as though the place had been visited at full moon by demented monkeys.

Compare this with scientific excavation. The archaeologist records by means of photographs, drawings, plans, and copious notes, everything that there is to be recorded in the tomb. Before he raises the lid of the shell in which the dead man lies he has obtained pictures of the intact coffin at every angle; before he unrolls the bandages from the mummy he has photographed it again and again. There is a rough decency in his dealings with the dead, and a care in handling the contents of the graves which would have been gratifying to their original owner. Every object is taken from the sepulchre in an orderly manner, and the body itself is either buried once more or is sent to the workroom of the archaeologist or anthropologist. A tomb which might be thoroughly plundered in half an hour occupies the earnest attention of an archaeologist for several days; and the mummy which would have been rapidly torn to pieces in the search for jewels is laboured over for many an hour by men of science.

Which, then, is the better course : to leave the tombs to be rified by ignorant thieves, or to clear them of their contents in an orderly manner? I do not see how there can be any doubt as to the answer.

But let us assume for the sake of the argument that there is no illegal robbery to be feared, and that the question is simply as to whether these ancient tombs should be excavated or left undisturbed. What can be said in favour of the molesting of the dead? What can be brought forward to justify this tampering with oblivion?

Firstly, it is to be remembered that without the excavation of the tombs a large part of the dynastic and industrial history of ancient Egypt could not be reconstructed ; and the question thus largely resolves itself into the query as to whether the history of Egypt is worth studying or not. The ancient Egyptians buried in their sepulchres a great quantity of 'funeral furniture,' as it is called : beds, chairs, tables, boxes, chests, vases, utensils, weapons, clothing, jewellery, and so forth. Almost all the objects of this kind which are exhibited in our museums have been found in ancient sepulchres, almost all the pictures which give us scenes from the daily life of ancient Egypt have been discovered upon the walls of the mortuary chapels; and if there had been no excavation of the tombs very little would be known about the manners and customs of tbis antique race.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »