Table of Contents
|Editor/Translator:||Keen, Paul, fl. 2003|
|Editor/Translator Alternative Name:||Paul Keen|
|First Published Date:||1818|
|Genre:||Social and Political Writings|
SATURDAY, JANUARY 24, 1818
[p. 245] | [Page Image]
THE YELLOW DWARF,
A WEEKLY MISCELLANY
"A sunning; DWARF we do allowance give
Before a sleeping Lion" —SHAKSPEARE.
Number 4. SATURDAY, JANUARY 24, 1818. PRICT 4d.
POLITICS OF THE DAY.
PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.—Before we shall again address the public, the House of Commons will have met, and as we shall naturally be led to remark on its proceedings, it will be adviseable for us thus early to give an idea of our opinions as to the present state of that body.
The House of Commons is now constituted of 658 Members, all of whom are returned by some form of election; 513 of them for England, 45 for Scotland, and 100 for Ireland. They are entrusted with a great share of the Sovereign power of the commonwealth, and, as the only part of the legislative body over whom the people have any shadow of controul, have the exclusive power of originating all by which the people are to be taxed. In England, a majority of the 513 Members is returned by 11,075 electors, who form the communities of the different boroughs, and these electors are for the most part under the absolute influence of a few individuals, who, either by leasing to them land or by other means, have in their power to direct them to give their votes for such Members as they please, having an assurance, which is never falsified by experience, that this order will not be disobeyed. In 1793, it was offered to be proved to the House of Commons, that 161 Peers and Commoners, and the Treasury, returned, either by nomination or by influence which the electors were unable to resist, 306 Members in England alone. No man has attempted to say, that the state of the representation is since that time materially improved. The boroughs, like all other sorts of property, have changed proprietors in many instances, but the result has not materially changed the number of possessors. In Scotland, the 45 Members are returned by about 2700 electors. So that leaving Ireland out of the question, though the majority of the Members in that country also are returned by the influence of a few individuals , the majority of the 658 Members of the House of Commons are returned by a small number of persons, over whom the rest of the kingdom have no sort of power. The proportion which the men who return these Members contribute to defray the expences of the State, can bear a very small proportion to the whole amount of taxes paid. The electors of the boroughs, who possess the greatest share in electing the Representatives, are seldom rich, and often are indigent men; and if we suppose the electors to be those Peer3 and Commoners by whom in reality the returns are made, even their share of the taxes, and their share in the welfare and liberty of this country, is but small. They might very well happen to be in a state of wealth and happiness, while the rest of the people are in poverty and misery.
We take it for granted that it is not wished by the people of this country, that these persons, who enjoy, in fact, the power of returning Members to Parliament, should exercise that privilege for their private benefit. Laws which profess to guard against this abuse have often been made; but it appears to us, that these laws must remain entirely inadequate to that end, while the power of electing the majority of the Members of the House is in the hands of a body so small in number, that the -taxes which may be distributed among them and their friends may be greater than the sums which they are compelled to pay in consequence of their connivance at the profusion of the Executive. In war 119,000,000l., and in peace 65,000,000l., have been raised within, the year, by taxes or loans; the whole of which is levied, and great part of which is expended, by the Crown or its agents. This state of things, by which 300 persons nominate the majority of those who raise the taxes, and one person nominates those to whom they are to be distributed, seems to afford such temptations for a breach of trust, that no statutes which do not cut at the root of the system itself can prevent it. But money is not the only commodity which may be trafficked with. Monarchs naturally love an increase of power, which it may be to the interest of the people to deny to them. But all power requires agents; and they will be very well satisfied to obtain the fee-simple for themselves, while they entrust the stewardship to those who have been instrumental in letting them into possession. It appears to us, therefore, that the people can never have a perfect security, either for their liberty or property, while the disposal of it is in a few hands, whose interests, whose habits of thinking, whose notions of Government may be, and naturally will be, altogether different from their own. We wish to see this security established by extending the number of those who elect the majority of the Members of the House of Commons,—in such a manner that the electors shall have no separate interest from that of the body of the nation; and by lessening the durations of Parliaments, so that The Members shall feel themselves dependent on those by whom they are returned. This alone can be a representation of the people in Parliament; for when men speak of a virtual representation, they mean no representation at all. But as it has not been thought expedient by those who defend the present state of things to say that the people ought not to be represented in Parliament, they say they are virtually represented there. They say with perfect truth, that there are landholders, and stockholders, and merchants, and manufacturers, in the House of Commons. They would persuade us, that though perhaps these men buy their seats, or are put in by the rich borough-holders, they represent the landed interest, or the monied interest, or the mercantile, or the manufacturing interest. The truth of the matter is, that they represent no interest but their own. If a proprietor of land sit in the House of Commons, being elected by many proprietors of land, while it is in the power of his electors to turn him out when he displeases them, there can be no doubt that he will naturally, in his public conduct, consult the interest of the body by which he is elected, and to which he belonged. If a tax was to be laid upon land which would compel him to pay ten pounds as his share, he would 'naturally object to it, as
[p. 246] | [Page Image]well on his own account, as for the sake of those by whom he was sent, if he did not think the benefit which they derived from it was greater than the inconvenience of paying it. But if he was sent there by some one individual, or by his own nomination, as some of the borough-holders now are, the case would be altered. It would be in his power to secure from the Minister who proposed the tax something for himself, or his relations or dependents, which would outweigh the proportion of the tax which he would, have to pay, and he would not think of consulting the interest of the landed body any more than he would consult his fields and hedges. We say that this would be the case, not with every individual, but with the majority of men so circumstanced. For nothing can be more true than the proposition, that though one man may now and then be found upon whom the ordinary motives of personal interest do not operate, in proportion to the numerousness of an assembly will the chance diminish, that the majority of its members are influenced by any other motives than those which guide the mass of mankind. To this sort of connection between the virtual Representatives and the real Minister there are no obstacles of any kind; it is not dangerous, it is not, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, dishonourable. The Member for a rotten borough, who is on good terms with the Minister, is not the less regarded by his friends or by his equals. None of those whom he is supposed virtually to represent can complain that he has broken his faith with them. He opens the way for his children or relations to honour and respect in the Church, in the Army, in the Navy, and for himself to tides and pensions. There are ba(...)ts on the hooks of the Crown for all appetites—for the needy or rapacious, for the vain or the ambitious;—all titles of nobility,—all places and pensions,—all preferments in the army,— all dignities in the church,—all advancement in the law which is not a matter of traffic,—all situations in which the industrious can excel or the idle fatten,—situations fit for those who have talents, or those who have none,—for those who would do good to others, and those who would do good to themselves. There are even nooks for poets. Is it to be supposed, that the virtual representation will shut his mouth to all their good things, on account of his nominal connection with some particular body of men, or that he will sacrifice his own interest from an abstract love for theirs? We might as well suppose, that those persons who happened to wear blue coats in the House of Commons would attend to the interests of those who happen to wear the same-colour out of the House. Setting aside, therefore, the want of all proportion between the Members of the virtual representation and the bodies they represent,—setting aside also the fact, that the great body of shopkeepers, and men in the middle classes, have not even these virtual representatives, the idea of this virtual representation is absurd, even as a protection to the classes so represented. There can be no representation where there is no election, which is not a mere mockery.
The only weight which belongs to the plea of virtual representation is this:—The House of Commons, under the boroughmongering system, or whatever other name may be given to the system by which " seats for legislation are as notoriously rented and bought as the standings for cattle at a fair,"[note] is composed, as it probably would be under any system, of persons of all professions. They are generally able and willing to display their individual knowledge in cases in which their information is useful, and they may prevent the Ministers from falling into blunders, to which they would otherwise be exposed, and from committing mischief through sheer ignorance or inadvertence. We do not deny that this is an advantage: it is a very considerable one; and the existence of any public deliberative body, however corrupt or unprincipled, will ever be attended with this benefit. But it is evident, that while such an assemblage, from the miscellaneous nature of its composition, will enable a Minister to go to work more skilfully, it is of no avail when the interests of the Ministers are opposed, as they often must be, to those of the people. Unless it possess very different qualities, such a virtual representation would not prevent the Administration from draining the people of the last farthing which could be extracted from them, or from extinguishing the last spark of their freedom.
It is in cases in which the interests of the Administration are opposed to the interests of the people,—in cases in which the Ministers want to obtain money or power, and in which it is for the welfare of the people that they should not have it, that a House of Commons should be useful- In those cases is a virtual representation of no more use than an assembly, in which the Members should speak and the Minister alone vote. In the latter case, the Minister would just take as much money or power as he wished; in the former, he would be obliged to demand more than he otherwise would, to satisfy the cravings of the virtual representation.
The phrase, therefore, " virtual representation," is an attempt at deception, and, as such, should be banished out of all decent society. It has no warrant in law or reason; and if it be admitted as valid, the inmates of Newgate may contend, that in virtue of the diversity of their original occupations or pursuits, they are representatives of the city of London. The Members for Old Sarum and Gatton represent Old Sarum and Gatton, and nothing else. Those who were returned in 1761, by the nomination of the 162 Peers and Commoners and the Treasury, represented those 162 individuals and the Treasury, or at most, the potwallopers who were in league with them: and the diversity of their professions was of as little consequence to the people, except for the purpose of affording information on various subjects, as the colour of their hair.
While so large a part of the House of Commons is made up of men who do not depend upon the community, it has been affirmed, and it is true, that in some instances in which the sense of the people has been manifested, that Assembly has submitted, and compelled the Minister to submit to that will. Hut this is by no means peculiar to a government in which a House of Commons exists. Public opinion or public clamour must in many instances have a power under any form of government, in which the people have not even a nominal share. —The most arbitrary governments frequently fear to lay on taxes, though they have an unlimited power, by law, over persons and property. A representative body really elected by the people would operate as a constant check upon extravagance, in those matters of detail to which the. attention of the public cannot be applied, or respecting which its voice cannot be raised with effect It is of little consequence, after years of extravagant expenditure, that the House of Commons refuses to sanction some obnoxious tax, to pay the interest of the debt which that profusion has created. At the very time when the Property Tax was rejected, a peace establishment was agreed to, four times as expensive as any preceding one. Though it was a year of peace, a great mass of debt was contracted, the money to pay which, must and will be found at the expense of the people. The debts which are thus incurred are a perpetual check upon our exertions in war, and a perpetual check on our advancement in peace. In America, with a real representation, instead of incurring new debts, they are speedily reducing what they have incurred. In Great Britain, with a virtual representation and a virtual sinking fund, we have every year a real increase of debt; and unless the constitution of the House of Commons be changed, whatever the public opinion may. be as to economy, it is impossible to keep the people in such a constant
[p. 247] | [Page Image]train of petitioning, or such a constant fever of excitement, as to compel the majority to enforce the exercise of this painful and repulsive virtue.
STATE PRISONERS.—The last of the State Prisoners are now discharged. They were first asked to give their recognizances, which they refused; and they are now set at large without any condition whatever. The conduct of Lord Sidmouth in this instance reminds us of the story of the highwayman, who presented a pistol to a man, and bid him deliver his money and watch. The traveller refused; the highwayman then demanded the purse alone. The traveller would not part even with that. Oh! you will not, said the robber, then you are a very shabby fellow; and so left him. The demand of the recognizances was in fact a mere mockery. A man who gives a recognizance signs a bond, by which he acknowledges himself the King's debtor (in 100% for instance), if he do not appear at the King's Bench on a certain day. Now it is evident enough, that if the Evans' were guilty of the high crimes imputed to them, they would have preferred running off, and suffering the Crown to seize their goods, to such an appearance, and might leave no goods to seize which are worth any thing like 100l.; so that it is altogether nugatory, if it were really meant to answer the ends of justice, that is, to afford a security that these men should stand a trial when called upon. But in another way it was not nugatory. These men would thus give a sort of acknowledgment that some legal charge was hanging over them: the people, too, who do not always know what the word recognizance means, would think that the Secretary of State had still the means of making them appear and take their trials, and that he therefore had some real idea that their guilt might be made to appear. But he knows very well, that these recognizances would afford no more security for the appearance of a person charged with high treason, than bonds of rotten straw, or any of those promises which the Allies broke to the people of France, or any thing else, if any thing more weak, and rotten, and worthless, can be found. But the giving these recognizances might injure these poor men's credit in trade, if they intended to follow any business:—it would form a reason sufficient to prevent many people from trusting them. All tradesmen . would know, that if they forfeited their recognizances, their goods would be seized by the Crown, and the amount of these bonds deducted, before any other creditor could be satisfied.— They know this, and the Secretary of State must have known this. "Why, then, did Lord Sidmouth, when he was going to set them loose, try to keep one link of the chain which would gall their ankles without securing them?—We know not. Let us say with Bishop Watson, thou shalt not speak evil of the Ruler of the people—(under the Suspension Act).
We now may give a shrewd guess whether the assertions of those who opposed or those who supported the suspension of the Habeas Corpus are true. Those who opposed that measure said, that the discontent which existed in many parts, at least so much of it as was not perfectly justifiable and legal, arose from want of food and want of work. The Committees of Parliament told us of Clubs and Societies, and widely extended organization, which in their opinion justified stronger measures of coercion towards the people than those adopted in 1745, when there was a rebellion in the country, and when, an army of rebels had marched triumphantly from the Highlands to Derby. For months there has been an end of every rumour of discontent. The prisoners are dismissed, some, perhaps,, with heir minds shaken by long solitary confinement; some, perhaps, with diseases of the lungs, contracted in unwholessme dungeons (See Ward's Letter in the Papers); and they may now, in their hectic nights, fatigue themselves in guessing for what they have been punished, or on whose oaths they were apprehended. If this dangerous organization existed, how is it put an end to? Conspiracies do not fall off in the winter season like leaves. But if the assertion of the existence of those conspiracies was a mere pretence, to stifle the cry in favour of reform, we can easily account for our hearing no more of them, when the petitions for reform are heard no more of. The Treasury writers take occasion to triumph, and exclaim that prevention is better than punishment. This means, that if an object can be attained without the infliction of pain, it is advisable that pain should not be inflicted. But is the imprisonment in solitary dungeons, of 50 persons, no suffering? Are we to be reconciled to it, because it is not inflicted by the sentence of a Court of Law, and that, for any thing we know, those who suffered may be perfectly innocent? On this principle, if Lord Sidmouth were authorized to take out men and hang them without trial, his eulogists might cry out still, that prevention was better than punishment. It is true, that this would not be punishment, because it would be inflicted upon persons who would not be ascertained to be guilty;—but it would be something worse than punishment And the same may be said of the suffering of these men who have been imprisoned, and who are now discharged without a trial. Let us take the case of the Evanses. They were arrested, it seems, on some suspicion that they were implicated in the Spa-fields Riot. At the same time were arrested,—Hooper, Preston, Thistlewood, the Elder Watson, and Keen or Kearn. The Ministers did not conceive that they had sufficient proof to bring before a Grand Jury a bill against the Evanses,—or, from their mercy towards them, as being in their opinion the least guilty, declined to indict them. The Grand Jury found no bill against Kearn, and he was discharged. The Petty Juries acquitted Watson, Hooper, Preston, and Thistlewood, and they were also discharged: while the two Evanses,—the two men who, even in the opinion of the Ministers themselves, were the least guilty, have been kept for months in close imprisonment. So that the real cause of their imprisonment has been, that there was not so much suspicion of them, as of those men who were brought before Juries: Such is the operation, the necessary operation, of acts made to suspend the laws. Those against whom there is some frivolous suspicion, —some suspicion that will not bear the looks of a Jury, are sure to suffer. The last act of this drama is to come. The Minister will ask for a bill of indemnity, if any of these men who were to raise the nation against him have money enough to bring actions at law. In the last Session he talked of his responsibility,—he was to act on his responsibility. Now he will beg to be discharged of this responsibility. His being responsible was given as a reason for the confidence of the House of Commons; and now their abundant confidence will be a reason for his* irresponsibility.
ON THE CLERICAL CHARACTER.
—"Now mark a spot or two,
Which so much virtue would do welt to clear[note] ."
THE clerical character has, no doubt, its excellences, which have been often insisted on: it has- also its faults, which cannot be corrected or guarded against, unless, they are pointed out. The following are some of them.
The first and most obvious objection, we have to it arises from the dress. All artificial distinctions of this kind have a tendency to warp the understanding-and sophisticate the character. They create egotism. A man is led to think of himself more; than he should, who by any outward marks of distinction invites others to fix their attention on him. They create affectation; for they make him study to be not like himself, but like his dress, They create hypocrisy; for as his thoughts and feelings cannot be as uniform and mechanical as his dress, he must be constantly
[p. 248] | [Page Image]tempted to make use of the one as a cloak to the other, and to conceal the defects or aberrations of his mind by a greater primness of professional costume, or a more mysterious carriage of his person—
—" And in Franciscan think to pass disguised[note] ."
No man of the ordinary stamp can retain a downright unaffected simplicity of character who is always reminding others, and reminded himself, of his pretensions to superior piety and virtue by a conventional badge, which implies neither one nor the other, and which must gradually accustom the mind to compromise appearances for reality, the form for the power of godliness. We do not care to meet the Lawyers fluttering about Chancery-lane in their full-bottomed wigs and loose silk gowns; their dress seems to sit as loose upon them as their opinions, and they wear their own hair under the well-powdered dangling curls, as they bury the sense of right and wrong under the intricate and circuitous forms of law: but we hate much more to meet a three-cornered well-pinched clerical hat on a prim expectant pair of shoulders, that seems to announce to half a street before it that sees the theological puppet coming, with a mingled air of humility and self-conceit—" Stand off, for I am holier than you." We are not disposed to submit to this pharisaical appeal; we are more inclined to resent than to sympathise with the claims to our respect, which are thus mechanically perked in our faces. The dress of the bar merely implies a professional indifference to truth or falsehood in those who wear it, and they seldom carry it out of Court: the dress of the pulpit implies a greater gravity of pretension; and they therefore slick to it as closely as to a doublet and hose of religion and morality. If the reverend persons who are thus clothed with righteousness as with a garment, are sincere in their professions, it is well: if they are hypocrites, it is also well. It is no wonder that the class of persons so privileged are tenacious of the respect that is paid to the cloth; that their tenderness on this subject is strengthened by all the incentives of self-love; by the esprit de corps; by the indirect implication of religion itself in any slight put upon its authorised Ministers; and that the deliberate refusal to acknowledge the gratuitous claims which are thus set up to our blind homage, is treated as a high offence against the good order of society in the present world, and threatened with exemplary punishment in the next. There is nothing fair or manly in all this. It is levying a tax on our respect under fraudulent, or at best, equivocal pretences. There is no manner of connection between the thing and the symbol of it, to which public opinion is expected to bow. The whole is an affair of dress— a dull masquerade. There is no proof of the doctrine of the Trinity in a three-cornered hat, nor does a black coat without a cape imply sincerity and candour. A man who wishes to pass for a saint or a philosopher on the strength of a button in his hat or a buckle in his shoes, is not very likely to be either; as the button in the hat or the buckle in the shoes will answer all the same purpose with the vulgar, and save time and trouble. Those who make their dress a principal part of themselves, will in general become of no more value than their dress. Their understandings will receive a costume. Their notions will be as stiff and starched as their bands; their morals strait-laced and ricketty; their pretended creed formal and out of date; and they themselves a sort of demure lay-figures, sombre Jacks-of-the-green, to carry about the tattered fragments and hoarded relics of bigotry and superstition, which, when they no longer owe the imagination or impose on credulity, only insult the understanding and excite contempt!—No one who expects you to pay the same regard to the cut or colour of his coat as to what he says or does, will be anxious to set an exclusive value on what can alone entitle him to respect. You are to take his merit for granted on the score of civility, and he will take it for granted himself on the score of convenience. He will do all he can to keep up the farce. These gentlemen find it no hardship
"To counterfeten chere
Of court, and ben estate(...)ch of manere,
And to ben holden digue of reverence."
On the contrary, if you offer to withhold it from them,
" Certain so wroth are they,
That they are out of all charity."
This canonical standard of moral estimation is too flattering to their pride and indolence to be parted with in a hurry; and nothing will try their patience or provoke their humility so much as to suppose that there is any truer stamp of merit than the badge of their profession. It has been contended, that more is made here of the clerical dress than it is meant to imply; that it is simply a mark of distinction, to know the individuals of that particular class of society from others, and that they ought to be charged with affectation, or an assumption of self-importance for wearing it, no more than a waterman, a fireman, or a chimney-sweeper, for appearing in the streets in their appropriate costume. We do not think " the collusion holds in the exchange." If a chimney-sweeper were to jostle a spruce divine in the street, which of them would ejaculate the word " Fellow?" The humility of the churchman would induce him to lift up his cane at the sooty professor, but he would hardly take his revenge by raising his brush and shovel as equally respectable insignia of office. As to the watermen and firemen, they do not, by the badges of their trade, claim any particular precedence in moral accomplishments, nor are their jacket and trowsers hieroglyphics of any particular creed, which others are bound to believe on pain of damnation. It is there the shoe pinches. Where external dress really denotes distinction of rank in other cases, as in the dress of officers in the army, those who might avail themselves of this distinction lay it aside as soon as possible; and, unless very silly fellows or very great coxcombs, do not choose to be made a gazing-stock to women and children. But there is in the clerical habit something too sacred to be lightly put on or off: once a priest, and always a priest: it adheres to them as a part of their function; it is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace; it is a light that must not be hid; it is a symbol of godliness, an edifying spectacle, an incentive to good morals, a discipline of humanity, and a memento mart, which cannot be too often before us. To lay aside their habit would be an unworthy compromise of the interests of both worlds. It would be a sort of denying Christ. They therefore venture out into the streets with this gratuitous obtrusion of opinion and unwarrantable assumption of character wrapped about them, ticketted and labelled with the Thirty-nine Articles, St. Athanasius' Creed, and the Ten Commandments,—with the Cardinal Virtues and the Apostolic Faith sticking out of every corner of their dress, and angling for the applause or contempt of the multitude. A full-dressed ecclesiastic is a sort of go-cart of religion; an ethical automaton. A clerical prig is in general a very dangerous as well as contemptible character. The utmost that those who thus habitually take their opinions and sentiments from the outside coverings of their bodies can aspire to, is a negative and neutral character, like wax-work figures, where the dress is done as much to the life as the man, and where both are respectable pieces of pasteboard, or harmless compositions of fleecy hosiery.
The bane of all religions has been the necessity (real or supposed) of keeping up an attention and attaching a value to external forms and ceremonies. It was of course much easier to conform to these, or to manifest a reverence[note] for them, than to practise the virtues or understand the doctrines of true religion, of which they were merely the outward types and symbols. The consequence has been, that the greatest stress has been perpetually
[p. 249] | [Page Image]laid on what was of the least value, and most easily professed. The form of religion has superseded the substance; the weans have supplanted the end; and the sterling coin of charity and good works has been driven out of the currency, for the base counterfeits of superstition and intolerance, by all the money-changers and dealers in the temples established to religion throughout the world. Vestments and chalices have been multiplied for the reception of the Holy Spirit; the tagged joints of controversy and lacketed varnish of hypocrisy have eaten into the solid substance and texture of piety; " and all the inward acts of worship, issuing from the native strength of the soul, run out (as Milton expresses it) lavishly to the upper skin, and there harden into the crust of formality[note] ." Hence we have had such shoals of
"Eremites and friars,
White, black, and grey, with all their trumpery[note] "—
who have foisted their "idiot and embryo" inventions upon us for truth, and who have fomented all the bad passions of the heart, and let loose all the mischiefs of war, of fire, and famine, to avenge the slightest difference of opinion on any one iota of their lying creeds, or the slightest disrespect to any one of those mummeries and idle pageants which they had set up as sacred idols for the world to wonder at. We do not forget, in making these remarks, that there was a time when the persons who will be most annoyed and scandalized at them, would have taken a more effectual mode of shewing their zeal and indignation; when to have expressed a free opinion on a Monk's cowl or a Cardinal's hat, would have exposed the writer who had been guilty of such sacrilege to the pains and penalties of excommunication; to be burnt at an auto-da-fe; to be consigned to the dungeons of the Inquisition, or doomed to the mines of Spanish America; to have his nose slit, or his ears cut off, or his hand reduced to a stump. Such were the considerate and humane proceedings by which the Priests of former times vindicated their own honour, which they pretended to be the honour of God. Such was their humility, when they had the power. Will they complain now, if we only criticise the colour of a coat, or smile at the circumference of a Doctor of Divinity's wig, because we can do it with impunity? We cry them mercy!
(To be concluded next week.)
STATE OF NEWGATE.
A Letter to the Common Council and Livery of the City of Lour don, on the Abuses existing in Newgate; showing the Necessity of an immediate Reform in the Management of that Prison. By the Hon. H. G. Bennet, M. P.
THIS is a strong, we hope it may prove an effectual, appeal to the City of London, on the state of its prisons, especially of Newgate. There is enough charity[note] and benevolence in London, as well as in most other parts of the world, if it were but well applied: but it is-really a matter of surprize, that so small a portion of it should have flowed into a channel where its operation would not have been confined to the relief of individual misery, but must have tended to the general improvement of the state of morals, and consequently to the security of the persons and the property of every inhabitant of the metropolis. Newgate forms a great seminary for the education of criminals; and it is melancholy to reflect, that in every instance in which persons are committed to prison for a first offence, they are, in all probability, put in the way of committing others. The state of Newgate has indeed, in consequence of the efforts of the author of this tract, and other benevolent persons, been much improved; but how-much room there is for further improvement, the following extract will shew:—
" The main question to be considered is, what is really the present reformed state of Newgate?
THE CLASSIFICATION OF PRISONERS.
"There are several yards and wards in Newgate, in which the male prisoners are classed after the following order:—First, those committed for trial for felonies. Second, Convicts. Third, Misdemeanors. Fourth, Fines. Fifth, those under sentence of death. Sixth, Boys under the age of fifteen, for all offences.
"You will observe, therefore, that the classification is of the most general kind. The youth accused of the smallest felony is confined with the most notorious criminal; with those charged with murder, piracy, housebreaking, and highway robbery. The application, then, of the principle of classification is scarcely worth notice, and the objections to the mixing of all sorts of offenders together, the youthful with the adult criminal, be who has committed his first offence with him whose life has been passed in the perpetration of crimes, from simple fraud to aggravated felonies, remain as strong as before, and the evil is very little lessened by the limited classification here practised: so that, when you are told that the system of classification is adopted at Newgate, you are told that which is only partially true. The tried and untried are not now mixed together, except in one ward, and that only for the present. The fines, and the accused of misdemeanors, and the felon convicts, are' not now shut up in the same yard; but persons, whose crimes are of a different character and complexion, all the steps and stages of guilt, are associated together. The school of crimes is still kept up; and though the teachers may have their range of instruction narrowed, yet, that these preceptors are active and diligent, as far as their field of enterprize extends, though not so much mischief is done, or so much youth and comparative innocence debauched and ruined, yet those who visit Newgate oftenest, and know what goes on there best, can furnish ample evidence of the extent and consequences of this system. The reform is good the little way it goes. Why then stop short, and not approach somewhat nearer to carrying into practice the statutes of the 19th, 24th, and 31st Geo. III.? The letter and spirit of these Acts direct a proper classification of prisoners, with a view of preventing the hardened from corrupting the youthful criminal. Let us then examine, if either the letter or the spirit is substantially carried into effect in Newgate. I saw there, in November last, several boys mixed with men convicts, in their yard. I interceded for one, a child in appearance and manner, and he was removed into the school, where he ought to have been placed long before; as his offence, though heavy, was his first, and his artless and simple behaviour bespoke a want of familiarity with the ways of guilt.. I saw him taken out of the circle of his associates, and I considered him as a fit, object for the Penitentiary, at Milbank: but a few days after he was removed to the Hulks, there to be reformed, and to learn those lessons of religion and morals, that regard for the property of others, and that respect for the laws of his country, which are taught in those acknowledged receptacles of purity and virtue.
"I visited Newgate again on the 20th of December. It contained then but few prisoners, the Sessions having lately terminated. There were only thirty-nine fines, or. persons of all ages and characters, under sentence of imprisonment for a limited period. Among them were Brock, Pelham and Power; a lad sentenced to a few months imprisonment for a fraud;' and a man imprisoned for five years for an attempt to commit an abominable crime: four of the fines were under twenty years of age. No doubt the morals of these young persons must be much benefited by the, company in which they were placed.
"There were one hundred and twenty-three convicts under sentence for life, fourteen, and seven years, promiscuously together, in different wards. Of these, forty-seven, were under twenty years of age, and many of them of the early ages of fifteen and sixteen. Among the untried for felonies, fourteen
[p. 250] | [Page Image]out of fifty-seven were under twenty years of age. Many of these wretched beings were there for their first offences; and the Saturday preceding my visit, an account being taken of the whole number then under confinement, out of two hundred and three, tried and untried, forty-seven had been in Newgate before.
"Of the young convicts, by far the greater part will be sent to the Hulks to join company with the poor boy, who was hurried there last November; and from the manner in which they have been classed, the associates they have met, the lessons of the academy in which they have studied, and the arts therein taught, when their time of punishment is expired, they will, I make no doubt, be found again in Newgate, to teach other youths the lessons in which they have been themselves instructed, and to keep unbroken a single link in that chain of offences, which, beginning by a simple fraud, ripens into robbery and murder. For my own part, with all the horror that I feel at the system of capital punishments, which prevails in this country, and though the very contemplation of the possibility of the act makes me shudder, yet, when I think of the wretched forlorn state of these miserable beings, many without a friend or home, but their goaler and their prison, the pains that are taken to vitiate and the indifference to reform, I am at times inclin'd to think the mercy of the Crown, that saves their lives, to be the greatest cruelty. I am sure, to the victims themselves, death is better than the life to which they are reserved. This however is most true, that to those, who think that when the offenders are lodged in prison, when the forms of the law are spent, all care of them should cease, and who practically consider all reformation hopeless, there is but one more step to take; and that is, to recur again to the ancient practice, to exhibit again rows of thirty and forty offenders on the scaffold, to place in a line ten or twenty children to be executed in the face of day, in the nineteenth century of the Christian aera: the spectacle to be performed in the capital of the freest country in Europe, amid a people whose vain boast it is, that they are more humane, more tender hearted, more sparing of human life than their neighbours. Horrible as this exhibition would be, disgraceful to us as Christians and civilized beings, if the interest of the wretches, whom we save to plunge them deeper in perdition, were consulted, it would be the most merciful plan. Nine-tenths of these commit offences from misery, from the seduction of others,: from the neglect or want of parents. If, then, reformation of these miserable beings is not to be looked to, but their punishment alone is to be considered, experience has shown, that the milder punishment does not deter. The choice is then narrowed, and we must recur again to the disgraceful severities of our ancestors.
"But I contend, that the reformatory system is alone that which ought to be pursued; and the first step to be taken in it is, in the earliest stage of guilt, so to separate and to class as to make the objects of legal detention, or criminal punishment, better for the moral discipline to which they have been subjected. It is for these reasons that I call upon you to admit of no delay, to hear of no excuse; but to insist upon your Magistrates and Representatives adopting some efficient plan to give to their prisons that reformatory character, which the well-being of society demands from their hands."
[SOME years ago, when a Clergyman from America preached for the first time at a certain chapel in the neighbourhood of London, the place of worship was crowded to excess, and there was a universal whisper when the Transatlantic Divine appeared. After the show was over, one of his auditors, the lady of a man of fortune, expressed much disappointment at finding that he was not a Black Man! " Why, I expected to hear a Black preach, for I thought all Americans were black." This, indeed, was more than thirty years ago, and it is to be presumed that ladies of fortune are now a little better informed: but much ignorance still abounds respecting the manners* of the Anglo-Americans, and we think it may be useful to publish some account of " our brethren on the other side of the Atlantic," who, like other members of a divided family, are unfortunately too often almost forgotten or remembered with bitterness. The account is taken from the Introductory Essay to the London Edition of Salmagundi, an American periodic work, edited here by Mr. LAMBERT, die author of the Essay. It should, however, be observed, that Mr. Lambert appears to have beheld the Americans with a more favourable eye than many of his brother travellers; but he gives reasons for his opinions, which is more than can be said of all who differ with him.]
"The manners, habits, and customs,, of the Americans bear so great a resemblance to our own, that to detail the one is almost to give a description of the other. Society in America has its distinctions like those of Europe, Equality is not to be found in the new world any more than in the old: it is only the absence of titles of nobility that renders the Americans more on a level with each other than the inhabitants of Europe. Society, for the most part, is divided into three classes:—the first is composed of the constituted authorities and government officers,— divines,—lawyers, and physicians,—officers of the army and navy,—land-owners, and people of independent property,— rich planters, manufacturers, and merchants. The second comprizes the retail dealers, small merchants, cultivators, and planters,—subordinate officers of the government,—and the inferior members of the three professions. The third consists of inferior artizans, and the labouring classes of the community.
"The first class associate together in a style of elegance and splendour little inferior to Europeans; and in some instances superior to those in a similar station of life. Their houses are furnished with every thing that is useful, agreeable, or ornamental; and many are fitted up in the tasteful magnificence of the present fashion. The gentlemen dress invariably in the English costume; but the ladies, particularly at New York, are more apt to adopt the light, various, and dashing drapery of the Parisian belles, than the modest and becoming attire of our English females, who possess the happy art of improving on French fashions. Nevertheless there are many of the American ladies who give a decided preference to the English costume, particularly at Boston and Philadelphia, where the manners of the people are less relaxed than at New York, Charleston, and other cities: not, however, that there is any thing the least unbecoming in the attire of the ladies of these places; on the contrary, whatever preference they may give to French fashions, they always avoid that indecent and disgusting exposure of the person which prevails among the Parisians.
"The females of the United States are elegantly made, and in- general handsome. The lily indeed predominates more than the rose, yet few have occasion for cosmetics to heighten their charms. Those travellers who have denied the Americas fairsex the advantage of good teeth, have, I think, been extremely illiberal in their remarks. In. the course of my tour through that country, I met with but few instances of indifferent teeth among the females. The men indeed are more liable to that defect, though not to the extent which some travellers would insinuate. The premature loss of teeth is in fact acknowledged by the Americans; and the subject has been discussed in their philosophical societies; its cause, however, has never been satisfactorily ascertained.
"The style of living among persons of the first class is splendid and fashionable. Many of the principal merchants and people of property have elegant equipages; and those who have none may be accommodated with handsome carriages and horses
[p. 251] | [Page Image]at the livery-stables. In some of the cities there are regular stands of hackney-coaches. The winter is passed in a round of entertainments and amusements:—at the theatre,—public assemblies,—philosophical and experimental lectures,—concerts, —balls,—tea and card parties,—cariole excursions,—and other recreations, peculiar to their respective climates. Little business appears to be done in the towns before nine or ten o'clock in the morning: most of the merchants and people in trade dine at two: others, who are less engaged, about three; but four or five o'clock is usually the fashionable hour for dining. The gentlemen of the Northern States are partial to the bottle, but not to excess: and at private dinner-parties they seldom sit more than a couple of hours drinking wine. They frequently leave the table one after the other, and spend the evening at a tea or card party at some other house.
"In the Southern States, a more extravagant style of living is adopted by the inhabitants, particularly the planters and cultivators possessing large estates. A degree of showy ostentation is maintained among them extremely flattering to strangers, who always meet with a hearty welcome at their tables. Every article that the market can supply is to be found at their festive board. The wine flows in abundance; and nothing affords the southern gentlemen greater pleasure than to see their guests drop gradually under the table after dinner. Hospitality is indeed their characteristic while the cash lasts; when that is gone, they retire to their plantations, where every thing is made subservient to the cultivation of cotton, rice, or tobacco, for the next year's round of dissipation. It has been observed, that the southern gentlemen are too apt to flourish away upon the proceeds of an anticipated crop,—that is, they are generally a year a-head of their income; and, though possessing most extensive estates, are often not able to command a single dollar. They are of course always in debt; and, though the traders who reside at Charleston, Savannah, and other towns to the northward, charge extravagantly high for their goods, yet it is with difficulty they realize an independency, in consequence of the long credit they are compelled to give, and the number of bad debts which they incur. This injurious extravagance and want of principle considerably lessen the favourable opinion which one should otherwise be apt to entertain of the hospitality and generosity of the Americans, in the southern parts of the United States. The northern merchant is, generally speaking, a more substantial character than the southern planter. He is plain in his manners, of honest principles, and industrious habits. If he does not display so much apparent hospitality towards strangers, he treats them with ease and politeness; and what he does offer, is offered in the spirit of friendship.
"The diversions of hunting, fishing, shooting, and horseracing, are enjoyed in perfection by the Americans: their forests, rivers, and lakes, afford abundance of sport for the three first; and, for the latter, they import some of the best English racers to encourage the breed in their own country. In several parts of the Union, mineral springs of an excellent quality have been discovered. These places have now become the fashionable resorts for the gay and luxurious as well as the invalid: and those who are tired of the smoke of the towns during a long winter, generally pass a considerable portion of the summer months at the springs. Here they doze away their time much in a similar way to the good folks who frequent Brighton and Margate. A very smart essay on Ballston springs, in the State of New York, is given in the Salmagundi, and which I recommend to the particular perusal of those who emigrate periodically to our fashionable watering-places.
"Marriages are conducted, in some parts of the United States, m a very splendid style; at New York, particularly, they form an important part of the winter's entertainments. For some years it was the fashion to keep them only among a select circle of friends; but, of late, the opulent parents of the new married couple have thrown open their doors, and invited the town to partake of their felicity. The young couple, attended by their nearest connexions and friends, are married at home in a magnificent style, and, if the parties are Episcopalians, the' Bishop of New York is always procured, if possible, as his presence gives an additional eclat to the ceremony. For three days after the marriage, the bride and bridegroom see company in great state, and every genteel person, who can procure an introduction, may pay his respects to the new-married pair. It is a sort of levee for all the gentry in town; and the visitors, after their introduction, partaks of a cup of coffee, or other refreshment, and walk away. Sometimes the night concludes with a concert and ball, or cards, among those friends and acquaintance who are invited to remain. Several young ladies, in the States, have fortunes of a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand dollars: and it is no uncommon circumstance for these generous girls to be3tow their hand upon some favourite youth, who has every thing but fortune to recommend him. Two or three instances of this disinterested conduct occurred while I was at New York. I understand that unhappy marriages are extremely rare; and that parents are not apt to force the inclinations of their children from motives of avarice.
"The servants employed by the Americans in household duties are, in the Southern States, all negroes; but, in the Northern States, there are many white servants of both sexes, particularly females, many of whom are young women of good families, who think it no disgrace to support themselves by their own industry. I was even told that the daughter or niece of a gentleman, who had been Mayor of New York, was then residing in the service of some respectable family, merely with a view to acquire a knowledge of domestic duties. The growing refinement of manners will, I dare say, eventually abolish this. praise-worthy custom, and render the American females as little capable of managing a family as many of our tradesmen's daughters, who have been educated in all the fashionable frippery and,. dissipation of the day, and whose highest attainment is the reading of a novel and the strumming of a piano-forte. Slavery is entirely abolished in some of the Northern States; and, in the other parts of the Union, there are considerable numbers of free negroes. Those who are unable to purchase slaves generally hire them, by the month or year, of people who are in the habit of keeping a number for that purpose. Many persons in Charleston obtain a handsome living by letting out their slaves for six or ten dollars per month. They also send them, out to sell oysters, fruit, millinery, &c. or as carmen and porters, The slaves who are brought up to any trade or profession are let out as journeymen; and many of them are so extremely expert and clever, that they are considered worth two or three thousand dollars. The mulattoes, or people of colour, are very numerous; many of them are free, but a greater portion are slaves. They are said to be more insolent and debauched than. the Africans, which is, perhaps, owing to the knowledge of their origin, and the liberties they conceive they are entitled to take in consequence. The negroes born in America have a high opinion of themselves, and look with contempt on the newly-imported Africans. The free blacks consider themselves a step above those who are in bondage; and nothing offends them more than to call them negroes. The Americans rebut the charge of inconsistency, in keeping a race of. people in slavery, by saying that the Grecians and Romans, who prided themselves beyond all other nations on their love of liberty, did the same time; and that whole communities of their enemies were condemned to perpetual servitude. The Americans, however, have imitated the laudable example of Great Britain, in prohibiting the slave trade, a measure which, it is to be hoped, will, in course of time, lead to the complete abolition of slavery.
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"The religion of the Americans comprises almost every denomination in the known world. There is no established faith or form of worship ordained by the government, and all are equally entitled to fill the highest offices of the State. In political -matters the Americans have wisely made religion a distinct concern: and, without endeavouring to support it by the powerful arm of government, as a matter of conscience, they have left it to the care and protection of its divine author. In short, every man is allowed to go his own road to heaven; for, though the paths are numerous and various, they, if properly pursued, all lead to one point. The consequence is, that religious squabbles, contentions, and prejudices, never interfere with the affairs of government; and, though a more heterogenous collection of faiths, creeds, opinions, and sects, never before existed, nor does at present exist, in any other nation of the globe, yet persecutions, tortures, and conspiracies, are unknown.
"The Americans, generally speaking, are distinguished for their enterprize, courage, and perseverance, in almost every thing they undertake, whether it be the pursuits of war or of commerce. They entertain a very high opinion of themselves and their country, in which respect they much resemble Englishmen: but they possess a degree of acuteness, or rather cunning, in their dealings not only with other nations, but even among themselves, that is but rarely met with in the British merchant. Not, however, that the latter is wanting in commercial art and sagacity, but he displays more openness and liberality in his dealings than the trader of any other nation. I say this not out of compliment to my own countrymen, but from the acknowledged character which they bear in every quarter of the globe. A number of circumstances have contributed to give an opposite turn to the actions of the American traders, particularly the neutral capacity in which they have stood for so many years; a situation which has originated more chicanery, deceit, and fraud, than is generally supposed. Can we then be surprized if the disposition of the mercantile part of the Americans, instigated by their eager thirst after riches, and influenced by the mode in which they are to be obtained, exhibits a degree of art and worldly cunning that have too often given strangers an unfavourable opinion of the whole nation; and have prompted them, most unjustly, to consider the American people as little better than knaves and sharpers. It is universally acknowledged, that nothing tends so much to deprave the heart as the constant repetition of petty falsehoods and deceit; for, though they may be considered only as the necessary requisites for business, and, in the estimation of some people, are of no more value than " a custom-house oath," yet, what strength of mind can withstand their pernicious and demoralising tendency? It may be urged, in palliation of such conduct, that deceit in one party is the cause of deception in another; and that artful people must be fought with their own weapons: however this argument may suit the purposes of those who find their interest in such proceedings, they can never avail in point of justice and truth.
[To be concluded in our next.]
POPULAR JUDGMENT.—Some persons haying dressed up a figure in a wig, -which they called Tom Paine, and set fire to it, a mob collected. A spectator seeing one individual particularly delighted, enquired of him who the person was they were thus burning in effigy? The fellow replied, he did not exactly know, but he supposed he was some Bishop!—Something like this occurred when Rousseau obtained leave to return to Paris. He showed himself in the public walks, where he was followed by crowds. The people were asked what had brought them there? They answered that they came to see Jean Jacques. When interrogated who this Jean Jacques was, they answered, they did not know, but they came to see him!
VOLTAJRE'S STATUE.—The King of Prussia having-desired D'Alembert to fix the amount of his subscription to Voltaire's Statue, the philosopher said, " A crown, Sire, and your name."
How TO WIN THE LADIES.—The Baron de Grimm fell desperately in love with a nymph belonging to the Paris Opera. The Lady rejected his addresses, which so affected the Baron, that he took to his bed, where he remained stretched out for several days, with his eyes fixed, neither speaking, eating, nor showing any kind of sensibility. Raynal and Rousseau watched by the afflicted man for several nights, fearing for his life. His physician, however, knew better; and the Baron was shortly on his legs again. " This adventure," says his biographer, " gave him great renown among the fair sex."
FINE SINGING.—-The Abbe Galiani being one day present at the French Court theatre, when every body round him was in ecstacies at Mademoiselle Arnoud's singing,—his opinion of it being a ked, he answered, " It is the finest asthma that I ever heard. "
CONJGAL AFFECTION.—Mons. Legres," whose fame in the art of dressing hair was spread over all Europe," was found dead one evening, while absent from home. His wife arrived, when some one broke the matter to her with due care. " 'Tis well," said she; " but I must feel in his pockets for the keys of the house, or else I cannot get in."
A TOUCHING WRITER.—It must be owned, said D'Alembert, that nobody ever succeeded better in the doleful style than Mons. Arnaud, since every time that one reads anything of Jigs, one is extremely sorry.
ANECDOTES OF POPE JULIUS III—Two of his Cardinals found Julius in the Court of his palace in a very indecent condition, for it being hot, he had put off his clothes, and was walking in his drawers. He obliged them to do the same, and afterwards asked them, what the people would say, should they show themselves in that figure in the streets of Rome. " Theywould take us," answered they, " for rogues, and throw stones at us."—" Therefore," replied he, " 'tis to our clothes that we are obliged for not being thought rogues. How much then are we indebted to our clothes?"—Julius was a great epicure. He had ordered that a peacock, which had been left at dinner, should be served up cold for his supper. At suppertime, hot peacocks were served up, but the cold one was missing. This threw Christ's Vicar on Earth into a bitter passion, and he uttered an execrable blasphemy against God.—One of his Cardinals observed, " your Holiness ought not to be in so great a passion for so little a thing." Julius replied, " If God could be so very angry for an apple, as to turn our first father Adam out of Paradise, why should it not be lawful for me, who am his Vicar, to be in a passion for a peacock, since a peacock is much more than an apple?"
A BEAUTY.—Constantine Manasses, a Greek author, describing the exquisite beauty of Helen, says, that she owed nothing to art; that she had neat legs, a little mouth, a long and very white neck, large eyes, and a fine breast—One line in Homer, which has nothing. of a description in it, gives -a much better idea of the fair one's, charms, than all such particulars. The Poet makes Priam's venerable Counsellors remark, on seeing Helen approach when they were in council, that neither Greeks nor Trojans could be blamed for enduring such evils on account of so divine a woman.
LASTING FONDNESS.—A Senator of Dijon having "been buried a whole year, lifted up his hand to embrace his wife's neck when she was laid in the same tomb.
SECOND MARRIAGES.—" Art thou loosed from a wife," says St. Paul, " seek not a wife."