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the tendency of cities to an accumulation of poverty and vice. Secondly, upon the importance of an enlightened public sentiment on this subject, as the great means by which to remedy, or to prevent, the growth of these evils. And to give effect to what I have to say upon these topics, I would adduce a few facts, obtained from authentic documents, respecting poverty and crime in England. I confine myself, in this illustration, to that single country, because I am confined within such narrow limits in the reports I must make to you ; and because facts respecting poverty and crime in England are more accessible, than those which respect these evils in the rest of Europe. If even this single view of the subject, however, shall obtain the attention which it deserves, it cannot be that good, and important good, should not result from it.
Poverty and Crime in England, - What are they?
All have heard of English poor-rates. All, however, may not know their origin and progress. It may not, therefore, be unappropriate to say a few words of them.
The confiscation of ecclesiastical property in England, in the reign of Henry VIIIth, threw upon the country many thousand beggars, who had previously been supplied in various ways by the church ; and, principally, by the monasteries. It became necessary, therefore, to provide for these beggars ; and, in this necessity originated the famous act of the 43d of Elizabeth, under which the poor-rates of England have ever since been levied. The great objects of this act were, provision for the support of the aged, blind, impotent, sick, &c; the employment of children whose parents could not maintain them ; the apprenticing of poor children; and, setting the idle to work. Commenda
ble, however, as were these purposes, this very act has been made the instrument of a vast increase of the idleness, beggary, and crime, which it was intended to prevent. The first assessment under this act was made in 1601. The following table, showing the progressive rise of the poor-rates, the revenue, the national debt, and the population of England, except the last line, is taken from Colquhoun's Treatise on Indigence,* published in London, in 1805.
I offer no comments upon this table. My object is to show, that, wonderful as has been the growth of the revenue of England, and, consequently, of the wealth accumulated there by individuals, still more wonderful is the disproportion between the growth of the poorrates, and of the population. Should this disproportion continue to increase for a century to come, as it has increased for a century past, how long, with all her resources, will even England be able to sustain this mighty burden? What an extent of poverty is that, which, in a population of 12 millions of inhabitants, requires, for the support of the poor, an annual tax of thirtyfour and a half millions of dollars?
But even this table does not show the annual amount of expenditures for the poor of England. It is inde
| Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vol.xxi. p. 117.
pendent of the annual amount of the produce of lands and money, bequeathed at different periods for charitable purposes; of the private charities, and the sums collected by the benevolent societies, of that munificent nation; and, of the expenses of hospitals, and of dispensaries for the sick poor. These, taken together, would probably fall but little short of the amount of the poorrates. The inquiry arises, and it deeply concerns ourselves, whence has arisen the vast extent of poverty and suffering, for which such provision is demanded? Thirty years ago, in his Treatise on the police of the Metropolis, Colquhoun said, that 'twenty thousand miserable individuals, of various classes, rise there every morning, without knowing how they were to be supplied during the passing day; or where, in many cases, they were to lodge on the succeeding night.** And, twenty five years ago, he estimated the total number in England and Wales, who lived chiefly, or wholly, upon the labors of others, including criminals, at 1,320,716 persons. Of these, he computed indigent persons,
mendicants and vagrants, including gipsies, to be
1,110,716 Of the idle who desert, or but half support
their families, and loiter in ale houses, 10,000 Of lewd and immoral women,
100,000 Of rogues, vagabonds, and lottery vagrants, 20,000 Of criminal offenders,
1,320,716 This statement, it is worthy of remark, is made from the Parliamentary Abstracts of 1803.
The annual amount of depredations committed on property in the metropolis and vicinity, thirty years ago, was estimated, by this magistrate, at 2,000,000 of pounds sterling; or, nearly nine millions of dollars. And the amount of sums won and lost by gaming in the course of a year, at 7,225,000 pounds; or thirtytwo millions of dollars.
We have, however, later records than those of Colquhoun on this subject. In Hansard's Parliamentary Debates,* I find that, In 1801, the persons totally, or partially de
pendent on poor rates, in England and Wales, were estimated at
1,040,000; one in nine of the population of that year. In 1811, the number was estimated at 1,340,000; Or, one in eight of the population of that year. And in 1827, the number was estimated at 1,850,000; Or, nearly one-seventh of the community.
On the 5th of June, 1829, the Duke of Wellington said in the House of Lords, that ' it appeared from the returns of the last six years, that the total number of criminals committed for various offences, had increased in the ratio of two-fifths; and that this proportion did not arise from the prevalence of any particular crime, but prevailed in almost every species of crime perpetrated in the metropolis, and in the neighbouring districts.”+
I will add but one other testimony on this subject. It is that of Mr. Peel, in his speech on the Metropolis Improvement Bill.
In addressing the Commons, Mr. Peel said, that "if they compared the state of crime in the metropolis,
* Vol. xviii, p. 1527. | Hansard, vol. xxi, p. 1750.
with that in other parts of the country, or in England and Wales at large, the result would be very unfavorable to the former. If, for example, they selected the last year,(1828) and calculated the proportion which the number of criminals in London and Middlesex bore to the population, they would find that not less than one person in 383 had been committed for some crime in that year. Of the number of persons similarly committed, within the same period, in England and Wales, the proportion would be found to be one criminal to every 822 of the entire population. Nor will the different ratio of increase of population in London and Middlesex, and in the country at large, account for this difference in the amount of crime. An examination of the subject will show, that the great increase of crime in the former cannot be explained by the increased number of its inhabitants. For example,
'In 1821, the number of criminals committed in London and Middlesex amounted to 2,480; the population being 1,167,000.
· In 1828, the committals for London and Middlesex amounted to 3,560, and the population to 1,349,000.
Here, then, is an increase of 41 per cent in the number of committals in 1828, over those of 1821; while there was an increase of population only of 15)
- Nor does the rate of increase of the number of commitments in England and Wales correspond with that of the inhabitants; for a comparison of both, in the years 1821, and 1828, show that crime had increased 26 per cent, while the population had increased but 111
Comparing also the increase of crime in the metropolis, in the seven years beginning with 1811, with the seven years ending in 1828, and comparing both with the increase of population, it will be found