« PrécédentContinuer »
If the circumstances of this case be strictly as they are stated, (which there appears no reason to doubt,) the conduct of the Catholic priests will be censured by every discreet member of their own communion. There seem, however, no means of removing the obstacles which such bigotry presents : but it relates only to the children of Irish parents, and whether the intolerance of the priests, or the interest and common sense of the parents, shall preponderate, must be left to themselves. All that could be done by positive law would be to provide, that no parents shall receive relief for à child above a certain age, unless it were certified that such child was in regular attendance in some school or other. The shallow arguments for leaving out the national faith in a system of national instruction have been already exposed in this journal;—this fact alone might confute all declamation in behalf of that insidious scheme. A school is established, wherein expressly in condescension to the Roman Catholics, no catechism is taught, and the Roman Catholic priests insist that their catechism shall be introduced. It is not because of their zeal for their own tenets that we condemn these priests, it is for the manner in which that zeal is displayed, and their intolerance of all other communions; this indeed is the indelible character of their corrupted church, though undoubtedly there are some among its members who have emancipated them selves fr m such bigotry, and are men of true Catholic charity, in the true Catholic sense of the expression.
The matter of religious instruction is settled, as it ought to be, in the schools of the National Society: the principles of the national church are taught there, but no question is ever put to any children concerning their religion; the consequence is that they are strictly and truly schools for all; 'many are dissenters, and dissenters of every description; one third,' says Mr. Johnson, in his evidence concerning the Central School, if not one half; and at this time we have seven Jews.' Upon this point there is no obstacle to be apprehended from any quarter except the Roman Catholics. There is one of a different kind arising from the babits of the depraved poor. In the parish of St. Clement's Danes, the rector says, where there are a great many mendicants, the children of these wretched people cannot be got to the Sunday Schools, because they get more by begging on Sundays than on any other day lity in general. The standing intentions of this Society shall be-1st. The soul most in need.-2d. The deceased niembers.-3d. The welfare of the living subscribers.
• A member may enter the names of his departed parents or friends on the books of the Society, and such deceased persons shall be deemed members of the same, and partake of its spiritual advantages, as long as their subscriptions continue to be paid.
• The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary shall be said daily for the intentions of the Society, and on no account whatever he omitted.' The Association was formed in 1810!
in the week : the more children they have, the more success they meet with in begging, and they keep them in that way. Two children employed
in begging about Great Russell street were recommended to a Catholic free-school in St. Giles's; they were soon removed, and when the master inquired of the mother why she could not let them attend, she made answer, God bless you, sir, these children earn eight shillings a day for me.' It appears by other evidence that some children are let out to beggars at halfa-crown a day, and others sent out by their parents, and punished if they return without bringing home a certain sum.
The notorious existence of this evil is another proof how totally the Poor Laws have failed to produce the object for which they were enacted. The parents are receiving relief from the parish for every child who is thus miserably employed, and the children are kept in a state dirty beyond description, wilfully made. loathsome and wretched, for the purpose of imposing upon the charitable; many them undoubtedly perish in consequence of diseases produced by the cold and sufferings to which they are thus inhumanly exposed, -and they who perish in childhood by this slow murder are happier than those who live through their hardships to be trained * up in filth, falsehood, blasphemies, obscenities and crimes of every kind. The greater part of the money which their parents obtain both from the parish, and the humanity of individuals, is generally spent in spirits. I have known them, says an overseer, in his evidence,
come up to the table at the workhouse and take a shilling, when we were sitting there to relieve them, and just as they were going out they would say, “ I will drink your health with this !” to the officers as they were sitting round the table.' From this abuse of the funds which were intended to alleviate human wretchedness, this waste of private and public charity, it has followed as a natural, but not therefore a less lamentable consequence, that adequate relief is not and cannot be bestowed in cases of real misery; the meritorious sufferer receives no more than the worthless and culpable, and sometimes is confounded with the impostor. Hence those shocking instances of persons dropping down in the streets, or crawling to brick-kilns, and dying from inanition, cases which make us shudder when we read of them, which can scarcely be regarded
About two years ago,' says Mr. Finnigan, in his evidence before the Committee, there was an old woman who kept a night-school, not for the purpose of instructing children to spell and read, but for the sole purpose of teaching them the street Janguage—that is, to scold ; this was for females particularly. One girl, according to this carious declaration to me, would act the part of Mother Barlow and the other Mother Cammins; these were the fictitious names they gave. The old woman instructed the children in all the maneuvres of scolding and clapping their bands at each other, and making use of the sort of infamous expressions they use : this led them into the most disgraceful scenes. When these children met, if ove entered into the department of the other the next day, they were prepared to defend their station, and to excite a mob.
otherwise than as a national disgrace and sin whenever they occur, and which could not happen in a country where so many laws have been enacted, and such beavy iinposts are raised for the relief of poverty, unless there were something radically erroneous in the system of administering that relief, something that increases the very evil that it was intended to remove.
Human beings could not thus expire from mere want in the streets of the most populous, the most wealthy, and it may be added) the most charitable city in the world, if a proper system had been established for the suppression of inendicity. For this evil is completely within reach of a well regulated police, and if impostors were deterred from the trade of begging, by the certainty of a due allotinent of hard work and low diet as a corrective, they who deserved compassion would, by the same system, be assured of finding inquiry and relief. While alms are indiscriminately bestowed, it is certain that they produce more mischief than good in the distribution; but it is not less certain that as long as mendicity is suffered, it will be thus encouraged; for though the cases of imposition niay be most numerous, there are very many of real and deplorable distress, and it is neither to be expected nor desired that we should harden our hearts. • Better relieve twenty drones,' says Sir Mathew Hale, “than let one bee perish.' If the Society which has been formed for the removal of this evil should persist in its meritorious undertaking, with that zeal which, from the known activity and beneficence of its conductors there is pect, a great step will be taken toward the reformation of the lowest and most degraded class. Any aid from the police, and any legislative assistance which might be required would surely be granted. How large a portion of the rising generation in the metropolis may be saved from physical suffering, guilt, and destruction by this institution, and by the general establishment of schoolstoo long delayed and now so generally desired, and so easily practicable!
The increase of youthful criminals (which these measures more than any other would effectually prevent) has of late years excited considerable attention; though perhaps it is not inore than may naturally be explained by the growth of the metropolis, in the utter want of any preventive care. The larger the vessel, the greater will be the quantity of the lees. The enormous increase of murders is a more frightful feature of the age, for that this crime is much more frequent than it was formerly is notorious. Forty or fifty years ago, murder was so rarely committed in this country, that any person who has amused himself with looking over the Magazines or registers of those times, might call to mind every case that occurred during ten or twenty years, more easily than lie could re
ason to ex
collect those of the last twelve months; for now scarcely a weekly newspaper comes from the press without its tale of blood. And as the crime becomes more frequent, it has been marked, if that be possible, with more ferociousness, as if there were not only an increase of criminals, but as if guilt itself was assuming a more malignant and devilish type.
To what must we impute this frightful symptom of the age ? Perhaps the newspaper press, which is guilty of so much direct and intentional mischief, may indirectly and unintentionally have contributed to this. Every murder is now laid before the public at length, with its minutest circumstances in shocking detail, when it were better on every account that all memory of such deeds should, if it were possible, be blotted out. Publication of them can do no good. Right minds shudder at the recital; tender ones turn from it with fear and loathing; to them it is painful and revolting, but there are others
which it excites a contagious influence. It operates as example rather than warning upon those who, according to Dr. Spurzheim's philosophy, have the organ of murder strongly developed,—in wiser language, upon that disease of the heart and the soul which renders it possible for man to perpetrate this dreadful crime. In that state, the guilty imagination feeds upon examples of horror, and assimilates the poison which it extracts. These are not merely fine-drawn speculations, the gossamer threads of theory. The man who is possessed with an appetite for guilt finds the same aliment in such things as the hypochondriac for his malady in treatises upon medicine, or as the books of Aretine minister to a thoroughly depraved imagination. However unwillingly it may be acknowledged, crimes as well as madness are contagious.
Mr. Godwin, who delights in the morbid anatomy of the heart, might produce a novel in illustration of this psycological fact. It is, we fear, in vain to express a wish that less publicity should be given to such cases : for while any thing is to be gained by making them public, that consideration will prevail over every other. Looking however to those causes which are within reach of discipline and law, certain it is that the increase of crimes is attributable in no slight degree to the abominable state of our prisons, which, for the most part, have hitherto been nurseries of licentiousness and schools of guilt, rather than places of correction, so that the young offender comes out of confinement in every respect worse than he went in.
A frightful picture of the state of Newgate has been laid before the public by Mr. Bennet. That gentleman, by his exertions upon this subject, and in behalf of those miserable children who have been called the white-negro slaves of England, is entitled to the thanks and the respect of all good men: the more is it to be re
VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.
gretted that one whose feelings are so good, and whose intentions are so benevolent, should blindly pursue a course in politics which, if it were successful, would revive in London and Manchester the prison-scenes of Paris and Lyons. There are men whom it is better to bave against us than with us,- -men whose hearts and understandings are so tainted, that some evil inotive may reasonably be suspected whenever, by any apparent eccentricity, they happen to take the right side. But it is a melancholy thing when benevolence is duped into an alliance with that principle of evil which is at work night and day for the destruction of laws, monarchy, religion, and social order.
It was very long before the prisons attracted any of that charitable feeling with which England has at all times abounded ; nor is this to be wondered at, for the innocent and the meritorious have assuredly a stronger claim in their misfortunes upon sympathy and benevolence, than those who have drawn their wretchedness on themselves by chusing the evil part, and attempting to prey upon
society. The first persons in this country who appear to have felt x any compassion for the sufferings of guilt were the Methodists.
Their founders at the beginning of their career visited the prisons. Afterwards one who had been connected with them was condemned for some petty robbery, and sent for a woman, remarkable for enthusiastic charity, to assist him with her prayers.
Her Sarah Peters, and it deserves to be honourably recorded; for though the jail-distemper was at that time raging, she attended him and the other poor wretches who were under sentence of death, regularly for about three weeks, till they went to execution rejoicing in a full belief that their sins were forgiven ; then she sickened and died of the infection to which she had exposed herself. Silas Told, a credulous and weak-minded but well-meaning man, accompanied her on these visits, and as long as he lived, which was about five and twenty years, he used to preach and pray with the condemned malefactors and accompany them to Tyburn. Since that time the Methodists have occasionally followed these examples, but it has not been a part of their economy to visit the prisons, and no institutions analogous to the Misericordia of certain Catholic countries has ever been formed in this. Indeed this kind of charity when confined to condemned criminals, though eminently meritorious in the individual, dies with its object, and effects little or nothing by example. It is at once the most painful and most unprofitable manner in which charity can be employed; the zeal which expends itself upon cases thus lost to society has frequently strayed into indiscreet and mischievous language, both in administering consolation, and in boasting of its success. Of that charity which, tending directly to amend the guilty, is be