Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

of Colquhoun,* that there are in Great Britain and Ireland - that is, there were twentyfive years ago,

1,750,000 of the population of an age to be instructed, who are growing up to an adult state in the grossest ignorance,' we shall have before us causes, fully equal to the production of all this increased and increasing crime and wretchedness. Thus, adds Colquhoun,

within every thirtythree years, the period assigned to a new generation, 7,000,000 of adults must mingle with the population of the country, without any fixed principles of rectitude, and with very little knowledge either of religion, or of morality. In view of this state of things, can it be a matter of wonder, that millions should descend into indigence, and become burdens on the industrious part of the community, either in the character of paupers, or of criminals?' I think not. Here, alone, is a cause of poverty and crime, which might well alarm the boldest statesman, or legislator; and alone, if unchecked, even with all the improvements that could be made in parochial police, it would seem, in a few generations, might overwhelm, and bear away, the strongest barriers that could be opposed to it by the strongest government on the globe.t

* Treatise on Indigence, p. 144, 5.

At the hazard even of falling under the imputation of arrogancy, I am constrained to say, that the great error, as I think, of legislators and of political economists, has been, that they have looked upon man only, or almost exclusively, as a creature of time, and a subject of human government; almost alone as he is seen in the class in which he stands of his fellow beings; and forgetting, or lightly regarding, his moral nature, they have sought for the causes, and the remedy, of evil in society, altogether in outward circumstances ; and every where, but where alone these causes and remedies are to be found, in the elements, and springs, and capacities of that na

But we have later testimony than that of Colquhoun on this subject. I refer to a “Treatise on the Police

ture, which makes us what we are, men. It is not indeed surprising that the poor, and that criminals, under despotic governments, have been treated as beings of altogether a distinct nature from that of their rulers and oppressors. But it is wonderful, that, under a government in any measure elective, and free, and under the light of protestant christianity, a criminal code should have been retained till the 19th century, which was the disgrace of the 16th ; and, that it could ever have been hoped to have restrained the growth of poverty, under institutions which as effectually excluded the great mass of the poor from the means of intellectual improvement, as they would have been excluded by a law which forbade their instruction. It is wonderful that, in a protestant country, and in the 19th century, the very means employed for the punishment of criminals, should be the means best suited, of all others, to produce an indefinite extension, and aggravation of crime; and that there should have been annual assessments, to an immense amount, for the support of the poor, which from year to year have been most manifestly a bounty upon idleness, and a legislative provision for the progress of want, and misery, and sin. These are causes and effects, which should be well understood, and seriously pondered, in a young country; and especially in a country, whose law is the will of the people ; whose institutions, of every character and naine, rest on the will of the people ; and whose only true greatness, and security, and happiness, is in the intelligence and virtue of the people. The truth is, that both political economists, and legislators, have too generally looked to wealth as the supreme good of a nation ; and to the means of increasing wealth, as the means of national greatness and happiness. The working classes have therefore been regarded by them as is machinery, in relation alone to their productiveness of wealth. The question, therefore, respecting both the poor, and criminals, has been, how are they to be disposed of at the smallest expense ? This very course of procedure, I believe, has quadrupled the expenses which would have been required, if legislators and political economists had acted upon the doctrine, that a nation is truly great, and powerful, only in the intelligence and the virtue of all the orders of its subjects. Let the wealth of a nation be a

and 'Crimes of the Metropolis, published in London in 1829.

“There are probably,' says the writer of this Treatise, '70,000 persons in the metropolis, who live by theft and fraud. Most of them have children, who, as a matter of course, follow the example of their parents, and recruit the general mass of mendicity, prostitution and delinquency. This is the chief source of juvenile delinquents; who are also augmented by children abandoned by the profligate among the working classes, by those of poor debtors in confinement, of paupers without settlement, and by a few wayward spirits from reputable families, who leave their homes without cause, or from the neglect, or the misfortune, of their natural protectors, Children of this description are found in every part of the metropolis; especially in the vicinity of the theatres, the market places, the parks, and fields, and outskirts of the town. Many of them belong to organized gangs of depredators, and are in the regular employ and training of older thieves. Others obtain a precarious subsistence by begging, running errands, selling playbills, picking pockets, and pilfering from shops and stalls. Some of them never know what it is to be in a bed. They lodge in sheds, under stalls and

thousand times that of England, and let it be in the possession of the few, while the many are reared in ignorance, and are left to be goaded by want; and, when they fall into crime, are treated in any way but that in which men should be treated ; and the day will wome,

when all this wealth will not be sufficient to appease the passions of a blind and infuriated mob. Mr Peel, in the same breath, speaks of the prosperity of the country,' and of what he calls the frightful difference,' in that very country, between the increase of crime, and the increase of population. I will only say, may God save our country from such prosperity as this!

piazzas, and about brick-kilns. They have no homes. Others have homes; either with their parents, or in obscure lodging houses; but to which they cannot return, unless the day's industry or crime has produced a stipulated sum. - It is from the thousands of children so situated, that the chief mass of criminals is derived, who fill our prisons, the hulks, and convict settlements. It is a most extraordinary fact, that half the number of persons convicted of crime have not attained the age

of discretion. During the last seven years, out of 16,427 commitments in the county of Surry, 7,292 were under twenty years of age; 370 under twelve years of

age; and several of these were not more than eight, or ten

years old.'

The question arises, what are the causes of a similar tendency to the growth of poverty and crime in our own cities? I can speak but generally of them. But I shall feel that I have accomplished much, if I can awaken that interest in the subject, which will lead others to think of it, to inquire concerning it, and to understand it.

I observe then, first, that one cause, and a considerable one, of the exposure of cities everywhere to this evil, is, that here society is divided into classes, and separated by broad and distinct lines, as it is not in the country. I have adverted to this circumstance in my former reports. In the country, and even in villages of a considerable population, every individual has a sufficient prominence, to be known to almost every other individual in his neighborhood, and perhaps in the parish in which he lives. The poor are successively laboring for those who have lands to be cultivated; they every

day see, and are seen by, the richest around them; and, even if they do not meet in the same church every Sunday, the characters and habits of each are well known to the other. In the city, on the other hand, men are not only divided, and separated, by the very great inequalities of their condition in respect to property, by the diversity of interests among them, and by their various inclinations and tastes for pleasure, but by the very fact of the extent of their numbers. Here are brought together fifty, or a hundred thousand, or it may be hundreds of thousands, living within a very narrow space, each of whom is every day passing thousands, of whose abode, and occupation, and name, he knows nothing. Even individuals in the different classes may, for a long while, and perhaps through their lives, be unknown to many even of the class to which they belong. There is, therefore, proportionally, in the vicious, a hope of escape in open shame and crime; and, for those who are inclined to crime, a hope of safety from detection in it, which they could not have in the country. And as the differences of condition are here more real, and sensible, and the sympathies of the classes with each other far weaker, the suffering of virtuous poverty will not only be often far greater, but greater too will be the recklessness of vicious poverty. These facts, I think, need not proof, or illustration. I suppose that as few of the evils of this division of classes and interests exist in Boston, as in any city of its population; for there is here a great extent of affectionate and benevolent communication between the rich and poor, though far short of what there should be. But there is a tendency to this division, and separation, in proportion to the growth of cities; and, in proportion as

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »