Images de page
[ocr errors]

sentence of the court is, that you be transported for seven years. The chairman then turned round to his brother magistrates, and said, "You see it could not be for want he stole see how well clothed he is;" forgetting, says the present writer, that the boy obtained the clothes by theft, and that, instead of every thing being done to reclaim him, every thing had been absolutely done to sink him more deeply in the ways of corruption. No, no, this chairman is wrong, and he is only the faithful representative of his numerous colleagues in the chair of justice, so far as the politic treatment of juvenile offenders is concerned: no, says our energetic author, for, when he first fell into crime, you sent him to live, to eat, and drink, and to sleep, among old and desperate offenders, who taught him to spurn any advice but theirs, which he naturally adopted, being most with them; they told him the more punishment he endured the better man he would make. you ordered him to be tied up and lashed in a manner which even brutes are protected from, and this you do from time to time till his brutalization is completed-all the better and latent good feelings totally obliterated-and then call this doing every thing to reclaim him. As the law stands, the chairman perhaps had no alternative but to transport the boy: but that did not compel him to talk nonsense, or to say that which was untrue. If there had been any effort to reclaim him, he would have been kept from vitiating companions; he would have received instruction, and the mind set to work in reading useful and instructive works; he would have been employed in some labour calculated to produce health and vigour of body, not rendered desperate by despair, after he left prison, of finding any home but in the streets, or any employment but in stealing.

The next point on which this writer animadverts, is, the effect of theatrical exhibitions on untaught boys: the subject is treated with great ability and knowledge. The author contends, in his chapter on crimes, that the multiplicity of penal laws in this country must, in the very nature of things, defeat the very object for which they were framed, namely, the prevention of crime. It would be impossible to enumerate the various modes in which crimes are committed in this country at present; but, for the sakle of convenience, they may be classed under the following general heads :

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

With the exception of the forger and highwayman, the whole of the foregoing crimes are concerted and executed by gangs of confederates. London is the head-quarters of the practised delinquent. Every spring, a gang of pickpockets, organized in the metropolis, starts for the country to make the circuit of the racecourses, cattle-fairs, &c. The house-breaker differs from the pick-pocket in this respect, that the former never goes out except on a planned expedition. The author then proceeds to give a highly interesting account of the whole process of a burglary, and concludes, that this really clever body of rogues is the most formidable in the country, and that the government ought to take steps to find out the best method of breaking up such an union. Much might be done, he thinks, by inquiries amongst those who have been engaged in these transactions. He himself knows, for instance, several boys, now in custody, who have been actors in some of the most complicated schemes of burglary, and from whom a great deal on this subject might be elicited. One boy, in particular, was brought to his attention, who had begun his career by robbing a gentleman in Mark-lane of his plate. boy was apprenticed to a sweep in the city, and was one morning going his rounds with his soot-bag on his back, when he was met by a man, who pretended to be his uncle, and who put a halfcrown into his hand. They met again; and the result was, that, during the succeeding sixteen months, this boy gave such information, respecting several houses, as enabled the man to effect no less than fifteen house robberies in that short period! At length the boy was induced to become a principal himself; and his first essay was that in Mark-lane, just alluded to. It should be noted that the premises, in this case, had been before surveyed by a gang, and deemed impregnable: nevertheless, the robbery was skilfully effected in the following way:-the boy was a favourite with the cook of the house, and she would have no other to sweep her kitchen chimney; a matter of business which was performed the last Saturday in every month. It was concerted


between the man and the boy, that the former should dress himself in the character of a sweep, and accompany the latter as his overlooker, or assistant. The real sweep-overlooker, of course, must be kept out of the way; and here laid all their difficulty. It cost the boy (to use his own expression) six months' longer punishment as a sweep, and the man six appearances, at an early hour of the morning, in the same character, before the object could be carried, namely, to get rid of the real sweep. At length, one Saturday, by pretending to forget the job until all the men were gone out about other work, the boy, affecting suddenly to recollect it, persuaded the master to let him go alone, saying, he himself could perform the duty. It was five o'clock in the morning when he and the disguised robber reached the house; the cook opened the door, having nothing on, save a blanket thrown over her shoulders. The arch young rogue said, "It's only me and Harry; it's a very cold morning; if you like to go to bed again, cookey, we will do it well, and leave all clean, and shut the door fast after us.' She went to bed, and they went to the plate depository, which had been well noted oft-times before. They put the whole of its contents into the soot-bag, and fearlessly walked through the streets with it on their backs. The boy, a few hours afterwards, was so metamorphosed, being dressed in the smartest manner, with cane in hand and fifty pounds in his pocket, that he walked the streets in full confidence that not even his master or his fellow-apprentices would know him.

[ocr errors]

In the chapter on pick-pockets, the author makes allusion to some very extraordinary facts connected with the management of the hulk at Chatham. This vessel, the Euryalus, he declares to be a regular college, and it is so considered by the thieves themselves, for teaching crime. From this large school, it is believed, that the chief of the house-breakers come forth. Should our readers wish to be informed of the qualifications of a pickpocket, he may read the following curious summary from the pen of the ingenious writer. The qualifications, he says, for a pickpocket are, a light tread, a delicate sense of touch, combined with firm nerves. These boys may be known by their shoes in the street; they generally wear pumps, or shoes of a very light make, having long quarters. There is about their countenances an affected determination of purpose, and they walk forward, as if bent on some object of business: it is a rule with them never to stop in the street. When they want to confer for a moment, they drop into some by-court or alley, where they will fix on an object of attack, as the people pass down a main-street; when they start off in the same manner, the boy going first, to do what they call "stunning," that is, to pick the pocket. The first-rate hands never, on any occasion, loiter in the streets, unless at a procession, or any exhibition, when there is an excuse for so doing. Many have a notion that instruments are used in disencumbering the

pockets: this is a false idea; the only instrument they use is a good pair of small scissors, and which will always be found on the person of a pickpocket when searched: these they use to cut the pocket and all off, when they cannot abstract its contents.

It would be impossible for us to continue our pursuit any longer through the catalogue of the strange and striking facts which form the events of the various hues of a criminal's life. The specimens which he have given will be sufficient to induce the reader to obtain the work for himself, where he will find a rare fund of the most curious, and, if studied with attention, the most instructive matter which has ever come under his attention.

ART. VII.-Travels in the United States of America and Canada, containing some account of their Scientific Institutions, and a few Notices of the Geology and Mineralogy of those Countries; to which is added, an Essay on the Natural Boundaries of Empires. By J. FINCH, Esq. &c. 1 vol. 8vo. London: Longman, Rees, and Co. 1833.

It is impossible to suppose that so many British travellers would employ their time in visiting America, and afterwards publishing the results of their observations, if a very potent appetite for such information did not exist amongst the public. We take it for granted then that such is the case, and that it was incumbent upon us to notice these successive works, whatever might be our private impression as to their too great abundance.

Mr. Finch, during his sojourn in the Western Continent, directed his attention more especially to its geological structure, and to the institutions by which it is adorned; and upon the whole we may truly say, that his observations are marked by impartiality, good sense, and good feeling. In the course of her voyage to America, the ship in which Mr. Finch sailed was driven by a storm on the coast of Newfoundland. He had time to institute some inquiries respecting this famous site of our fisheries. The banks extend over a space of forty thousand miles, and are from thirty to forty-five fathoms below the surface of the ocean. The shoals are inhabited, he states, by innumerable tribes of muscles and clams, to which it is a favourite residence, as they can easily bury their shells in the soft sand. They have enemies to contend with. The cod-fish resort to this coast to prey on them. They keep a constant watch, and swim about a foot above the surface of the submarine sands; when a muscle opens its shell, it is immediately seized and devoured. At other times the fish do not wait: they are provided with a horny protuberance round their mouths; with these they burrow in the sand, and capture the muscle in its shell. The fishermen of various nations, French, English, and Americans, who resort to these banks, take annually from eight to ten

millions of fish; on opening them they find the remains of twenty or fifty muscles in each-sometimes the muscle-shells are found either whole or partially dissolved. The first care of the fishermen, after taking their stations, is, to ascertain the depth of water: the lines must be regulated so as to lie on the bottom, where the fish are always engaged in this species of submarine war.

Mr. Finch seems to have been well pleased with New York; not only its external appearance, which includes several houses built of marble, reminding one of the beauty of some Italian city, but the internal domestic arrangements afforded him grounds for admiration. He was particularly struck at this city, with the proofs which it afforded of the general diffusion of science in the United States. The mode in which it is thus so beneficially extended, consists of the establishments of museums in almost every town where the inhabitants amount to ten thousand. In New York the museums are crowded in the evenings, where the partiality for natural history is warmed by music. Sailors have been known to bring presents, such as coral, &c., and place them in the museum, returning after every voyage to see their donations. The climate of New York is described as being very variable, the thermometer changing fifty degrees in a few hours. In no city of the same size in Europe, he says, is there so much money expended on amusements. The Americans visit in the evening, and their entertainments combine the amusements of Italy with those of Russia. From New York, he took his departure for Albany, where he witnessed the election of a governor and lieutenant-governor. Here also he inspected the capitol which contains the Halls of Legislation, where the representatives of two millions of the people of one semi-sovereign state of North America assemble. Each member has an arm-chair and a separate table. Every thing, he says, relating to the laws and government, the system of education, and internal affairs, is regulated by the deputies who meet in this hall. Any free man residing in the State who can command the respect and attachment of his fellow citizens is eligible to a seat. When elected, they are truly the servants of the people; their time is at their disposal, and their votes are narrowly scrutinized. If the representatives deviate from the will of their constituents in a single instance, they are certain to be reminded of it at the next election. The members are allowed three dollars per diem, besides travelling expenses. The senatechamber is handsomely furnished, and is ornamented with a picture of De Witt Clinton. The senators are elected for four years.

In the vicinity of a town on the Hudson river, Mr. Finch happened to come in contact with a lineal descendant of Oliver Cromwell. History makes mention that the Protector's daughter was married to Fleetwood, secretary under Cromwell, and that, on the death of the latter, he and his family went over to America, and resided in the island of Nassau, near New York. They afterwards

« PrécédentContinuer »