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effects of the measure would be fairly estimated; if it be wise that it should proceed, let posterity do the rest. It is by no means necessary to destroy in one moment, upon paper, a payment which cannot, without violating every principle of justice, and every consideration of safety and humanity, be extinguished in less than two centuries.
It is important for Mr. Scarlett to consider, whether he will make the operation of his bill immediate, or interpose two or three years between its enactment and first operation.
We entirely object to the following clause, the whole of which ought to be expunged :
* And be it further enacted, that it shall not be lawful for any Churchwarden, Overseer, or Guardian of the Poor, or any other person having authority to administer relief to the Poor, to allow or give, or for any Justice of the Peace to order, any relief to any person whatsoever, who shall be married after the passing of this Act, for himself, herself, or any part of his or her family, unless such poor person shall be actually, at the time of asking such relief, by reason of age, sickness, or bodily infirmity, unable to obtain a livelihood, and to support his or her family by work: Provided always, that nothing in this clause contained shall be construed so as to authorise the granting relief, or making any order for relief, in cases where the same was not lawful before the passing of this Act.'
Nothing in the whole bill will occasion so much abuse and misrepresentation as this clause. It is upon this that the Radicals will first fasten. It will, of course, be explained into a prohibition of marriage to the poor; and will, in fact, create a marked distinction between two classes of paupers, and become a rallying point for insurrection. In fact, it is wholly unnecessary. As the funds for the relief of pauperism decrease under the operation of a diminishing maximum, the first to whom relief is refused will be the young and the strong; in other words, the inost absurd and extravagant consequences of the present Poor-Laws will be the first cured.
Such, then, is our conception of the bill which ought to be brought into Parliament - a maximum regulated
by the greatest amount of Poor-rates ever paid, and annually diminishing at the rate of 10s. per cent. till they are reduced 20 per cent. of their present value; with such a preamble to the bill as will make it fair and consistent for any future Parliament to continue the reduction. If Mr. Scarlett will bring in a short and simple bill to this effect, and not mingle with it any other parochial improvements, and will persevere in such a bill for two or three years, we believe he will carry it; and we are certain he will confer, by such a measure, a lasting benefit upon his country—and upon none more than upon its labouring poor.
We presume there are very few persons who will imagine such a measure to be deficient in vigour. That the Poor-Laws should be stopped in their fatal encroachment upon property, and unhappy multiplication of the human species, and not, only this, but that the evil should be put in a state of diminution, would be an improvement of our condition almost beyond hope. The tendency of fears and objections will all lie the other way; and a bill of this nature will not be accused of inertness, but of rashness, cruelty, and innovation. We cannot now enter into the question of the Poor-Laws, of all others that which has undergone the most frequent and earnest discussion. Our whole reasoning is founded upon the assumption, that no system of laws was ever so completely calculated to destroy industry, foresight, and economy in the poor; to extinguish compassion in the rich; and, by destroying the balance between the demand for, and supply of, labour, to spread a degraded population over a ruined land. Not to attempt the cure of this evil would be criminal indolence: not to cure it gradually and compassionately would be very wicked. To Mr. Scarlett belongs the real merit of introducing the bill. He will forgive us the freedom, perhaps the severity, of some of our remarks. We are sometimes not quite so smooth as we ought to be; but we hold Mr. Scarlett in very high honour and estimation. He is the greatest advocate perhaps of his time; and without the slightest symptom of tail or whiskers — decora
tions, it is reported, now as characteristic of the English Bar as wigs and gowns in days of old — he has never carried his soul to the Treasury, and said, What will you give me for this ? — he has never sold the warm feelings and honourable motives of his youth and manhood for an annual sum of money and an office, --he has never taken a price for public liberty and public happiness, – he has never touched the political Aceldama, and signed the devil's
bond for cursing to-morrow what he has blest to-day. Living in the midst of men who have disgraced it, he has cast honour upon his honourable profession; and has sought dignity, not from the ermine and the mace, but from a straight path and a spotless life.
PRISONS. (E. REVIEW, 1822.)
1. The Third Report of the Committee of the Society for the
Improvement of Prison Discipline, and for the Reformation
of Juvenile Offenders. London, 1821. 2. Remarks upon Prison Discipline, &c. &c., in a Letter ad
dressed to the Lord Lieutenant and Magistrates of the County of Essex. By C. C. Western, Esq. M.P. London, 1821.
THERE never was a Society calculated, upon the whole, to do more good than the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline; and, hitherto, it has been conducted with equal energy and prudence. If now, or hereafter, therefore, we make any criticisms on their proceedings, these must not be ascribed to any deficiency of good will or respect.
differ from the Society in the means - our ends, we are proud to say, are the same.
In the improvement of prisons, they consider the small number of recommitments as the great test of amelioration. Upon this subject we have ventured to differ from them in a late Number; and we see no reason to alter our opinion. It is a mistake, and a very serious and fundamental mistake, to suppose that the principal object in gaols is the reformation of the offender. The principal object undoubtedly is, to prevent the repetition of the offence by the punishment of the offender; and, therefore, it is quite possible to conceive that the offender himself may be so
be so kindly, gently, and agreeably led to reformation, by the efforts of good and amiable persons, that the effect of the punishment may be destroyed, at the same time that the punished may be improved. A prison may lose its terror and discredit, though the prisoner may return from it a better scholar, a better artificer, and a better man. The real and only test, in short, of a good prison system is, the diminution of offences by the terror of the punishment. If it can be shown that, in proportion as attention and expense have been employed upon the improvement of prisons, the number of commitinents has been diminished, this indeed would be a convincing proof that such care and attention were well employed. But the very reverse is the case; the number of commitments within these last ten years having nearly doubled all over England.
The following are stated to be the committals in Norfolk county gaol. From 1796 to 1815, the number averaged about 80. In 1816 it was
223.- Report, p. 57. In Staffordshire, the commitments have gradually increased from 195 in 1815, to 443 in 1820 — though the gaol has been built since Howard's time, at an expense of 30,0001. — (Report, p. 67.) In Wiltshire, in a prison which has cost the county 40,0001., the commitments have increased from 207 in 1817, to 504 in 1821. Within this period, to the eternal scandal and disgrace of our laws, 378 persons have been committed for Game offences — constituting a sixth part of all the persons committed; so much for what our old friend, Mr. Justice Best, would term the unspeakable advantages of country gentlemen residing upon their own property!
When the Committee was appointed in the county of Essex, in the year 1818, to take into consideration the state of the gaol and houses of correction, they found that the number of prisoners annually committed had increased, within the ten preceding years, from 559 to 1993; and there is little doubt (adds Mr. Western) of this proportion being a tolerable specimen of the whole kingdom. We are far from attributing this increase solely to the imperfection of prison discipline. Increase of population, new statutes, the extension of the breed of pheasants, landed and mercantile distress, are very operative causes. But the increase of commitments is a stronger proof against the present state of prison