Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

nution that would be made in the numbers of the people from being again filled up, no permanent advantage would be derived from the measure, and in a few years the population would be as redundant as ever. Emigration, by itself, would really give an additional stimulus to the principle of increase; and the hydra of pauperism would derive new strength and vigour from the very means resorted to for its suppression ! But, while we should be the first to oppose any measure for the encouragement of emigration, which was not accompanied by, and combined with, other measures for preventing the vacuum that would be made in the population from being filled up, as an idle and unprofitable waste of the national resources, we are at the same time convinced that the organization of an extensive plan of emigration can alone enable such supplementary measures to be adopted, and that it is quite possible to make them completely effectual to their object.

It is clear, as has been previously stated, that the removal of the cottier population would give the landlords the means of consolidating their estates into larger farms; and the Act of last Session has armed them with powers to prevent their being again split into minute portions. But it would be incon, siderate in the extreme to trust, in a matter of such importance, entirely to this security for the repression of so great an evil; nor can any one doubt, that Government would be guilty of a great dereliction of duty, if, after laying out a large sum in the encouragement of emigration, they did not adopt whatever other measures might be deemed necessary for opposing an insuperable barrier to the future increase of pauperism. Every one knows, that it is quite impossible, but for the facility with which slips of land and huts have been obtained in Ireland, that population and beggary could have increased so rapidly as they have done; and it appears, from the evidence taken before the Committee, that the same cause, or the comparative facility with which cottages have lately been obtained in England, has had an equally destructive influence in that part of the empire. Mr Curteis, M. P. for Sussex, and a most intelligent witness, Mr Hodges, Chairman of the West Kent Quartersessions, informed the Committee, that several parishes in Kent and Sussex had sent out a considerable number of pauper emigrants to America; but that it had had no effect upon the rates, for that the instant after they were removed, the cottages they had occupied were again filled with fresh paupers! I

am quite satisfied,' says Mr Hodges, that the erection of cottages has been a most serious evil throughout the country ; and I have • been induced, acting on that conviction, lo concur with other

6

' cottage proprietors, who are going to take down from twenty

six to thirty cottages as soon as these persons are out of them, • if they emigrate, as we think they will do; for, if we leave the buildings standing, young persons of seventeen and eighteen years of

age, and even still younger, would marry immediately, and thus the evil would continue !' (Report, p. 136.) And, in another place, Mr Hodges says, . Perhaps I am taking a liberty in adverting • to what I stated the other day, but without an attention to the • fact then disclosed, of the prodigious increase of cottages of late ' years, all other regulations will be nugatory; and I cannot forbear

urging again, that this, or any similar measure, having for its object the relief of parishes from their over-population, must

of necessity become perfectly useless, unless the Act of Parliament contains some regulation with respect to the erecting and maintaining of cottages.' (Report, p. 185.) The evidence of Mr Curteis is to the same effect, and is even stronger than that of Mr Hodges.

It is, therefore, quite indispensable, if we are really anxious to set limits to the tide of pauperism, that an effectual blow should be levelled against this ruinous system. And we are not sure, that this could be better done than by adopting the principle of the suggestions made by Mr Curteis and Mr Hodges, with respect to the taxing of cottages; and passing an Act, which should be applicable to both England and Ireland, imposing an annual duty of at least 21. or 31. on every cottage occupied by one family, and doubling or tripling, &c. the duty in the event of its being occupied by two or more families, that shall henceforth be erected, either in the country or in villages; it being at the same time enacted, that this duty shall be lericd from and made directly payable by the proprietor of the lund on which the cottage is built. Mr Hodges suggests, that the proprietors of existing cottages in England should be made responsible for the support of their occupants, in the event of their becoming destitute. But we are inclined to think, that there would be a sufficient inducement to contract the number of cottages to the extent required for the accommodation of the necessary supply of labourers, were the proprietors of estates, on which cottages are now built, directly taxed at the rate of 10s. or 15s. a year, for each of their cottages during the next seven years, the duty being then increased to 25s. or 35s. Such an act would not only prevent the farther increase of the mischief, but it would provide for its gradual diminution. And if it were, as it ought to be, distinctly stipulated, in removing the surplus inhabitants from the estates of such Irish landlords as the Emigration Commissioners might resolve upon clearing,

4

that the huts the emigrants had occupied should be rased to the foundation, and that the landlords would be charged with a duty of 21. or 3. a year on every hut or cottage for the accommodation of one family, and so in proportion, that might in future be erected on their estates, an effectual obstacle would be interposed to the farther progress of pauperism; and a great and beneficial change would very speedily be effected in the habits and condition of the people, and the appearance of the country.

It might, perhaps, be expedient, that some restrictions should be laid on the influx of Irish labourers into Great Britain during the period that the emigration was in progress. But no compulsory measures to force any individual abroad ought ever to be resorted to, or would be required. There would, in truth, be a large excess of voluntary emigrants. At present the disposition to emigrate is exceedingly prevalent in Ireland; and if the landlords were enabled, as they would be under the operation of the proposed system, to set vigorously about clearing their estates, this disposition would acquire new force. The dilliculty, we apprehend, would not be to find voluntary emigrants, but to make a judicious selection among the myriads that would be anxious to be removed from the destitution and wretchedniess in which they are now involved.

[ocr errors]

ART. III. STOCKTON on the Practice of not allowing Counsel to Prisoners accused of Felony. 8vo. pp. 119. London, 1826. y the sixth of April 1824, Mr George Lamb (a gentleman

who is always the advocate of whatever is honest and liberal), presented the following Petition from several Jurymen in the habit of serving on Juries at the Old Bailey

. That your petitioners, fully sensible of the invaluable privilege of Jury trials, and desirous of seeing them as complete as human institutions will admit, feel it their duty to draw the attention of the House to the restrictions imposed on the prisoner's counsel, which, they humbly conceive, have strong claims to a legislative remedy. With every disposition to decide justly, the petitioners have found, by experience, in the course of their attendances as Jurymen at the Old Bailey, that the opening statements for the prosecution too frequently leave an impression more unfavourable to the prisoner at the bar, than the evidence of itself could have produced; and it has always sounded harsh to the petitioners to hear it announced from the Bench, that the Counsel, to whom the prisoner has committed his defence, cannot be permitted to address the Jury in bis behalf, nor reply to the charges which have, or have not, been substantiated by the witnesses. The petitioners have felt their situation peculiarly painful and embarrassing when the prisoner's faculties, perhaps surprised by such an intimation, are too much absorbed in the difficulties of his unhappy circumstances to admit of an effort towards his own justification, against the statements of the Prosecutor's Counsel, often unintentionally aggravated through zeal or misconception; and it is purely with a view to the attainment of impartial justice, that the petitioners humbly submit to the serious consideration of the House the expediency of allowing every accused person the full benefit of Counsel, as in cases of misdemeanour, and according to the practice of the Civil Courts.'

With the opinions so sensibly and properly expressed by these Jurymen, we most cordially agree. We have before touched incidentally on this subject; but shall now give to it a more direct and a fuller examination. We look upon it as a very great blot in our over-praised Criminal Code; and no effort of ours shall be wanting, from time to time, for its removal.

We have now the benefit of discussing these subjects under the government of an Home Secretary of State, whom we may (we believe) fairly call a wise, honest, and high principled manas he appears to us, without wishing for innovation, or having any itch for it, not to be afraid of innovation, * when it is gradual and well considered. He is indeed almost the only person we remember in his station, who has not considered sound sense to consist in the rejection of every improvement, and loyalty to be proved by the defence of every accidental, imperfect, or superannuated institution.

If this petition of Jurymen be a real bona fule petition, not the result of solicitation-and we have no reason to doubt itit is a warning which the Legislature cannot neglect, if it mean to avoid the disgrace of seeing the lower and middle orders of mankind making laws for themselves, which the Government is at length compelled to adopt as measures of their own. The Judges and the Parliament would have gone on to this day, hanging, by wholesale, for the forgeries of bank notes, if Juries had not become weary of the continual butchery, and resolved to acquit. The proper execution of laws must always

* We must always except the Catholic question. Mr Peel's opinions on this subject (giving him credit for sincerity), have always been a subject of real surprise to us. It must surely be some mistake between the Right Honourable Gentleman and his Chaplain! They have been travelling together; and some of the Parson's notions have been put up in Mr Peel's head by mistake. We yet hope he will return them to their rightful owner.

depend, in great measure, upon public opinion; and it is undoubtedly most discreditable to any men intrusted with power, when the governed turn round upon their governors, and say,

Your laws are so cruel, or so foolish, we cannot, and will not act upon them.'

The particular improvement, of allowing Counsel to those who are accused of felony, is so far from being unnecessary, from

any extraordinary indulgence shown to English prisoners, that we really cannot help suspecting, that not a year elapses in which many innocent persons are not found guilty. How is it possible, indeed, that it can be otherwise? There are seventy or eighty persons to be tried for various offences at the Assizes, who have lain in prison for some months; and fifty of whom, perhaps, are of the lowest order of the people, without friends in any better condition than themselves, and without one single penny to employ in their defence. How are they to obtain witnesses? No attorney can be employed-no subpæna can be taken out; the witnesses are fifty miles off, perhaps—totally uninstructed—living from hand to mouth-utterly unable to give up their daily occupation to pay for their journey, or for their support when arrived at the town of trialand, if they could get there, not knowing where to go, or what to do. It is impossible but that an human being, in such an helpless situation, must be found guilty; for as he cannot give evidence for himself, and has not a penny to fetch those who can give it for him, any story told against him must be taken for true, (however false); since it is impossible for the poor wretch to contradict it. A brother or a sister may come—and support every suffering and privation themselves in coming; but the prisoner cannot often have such claims

the

persons who have witnessed the transaction, nor any other claims but those which an unjustly accused person has upon those whose testimony can exculpate him—and who probably must starve themselves and their families to do it. It is true, a case of life and death will rouse the poorest persons, every now and then, to extraordinary exertions, and they may tramp through mud and dirt to the assize town to save --though even this effort is precarious enough : But imprisonment, hard labour, or transportation, appeal less forcibly than death, -and would often appeal for evidence in vain, to the feeble and limited resources of extreme poverty. It is not that a great proportion of those accused are not guiltybut that some are not - and are utterly without means of establishing their innocence. We do not believe they are often accused from wilsul and corrupt perjury : But the prosecutor is

upon

a life

« ZurückWeiter »