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although they are mistaken about it. Men feel that if they go in a great body together, to break into a house or to rob a person, or to steal his poultry, or his sheep, they are committing a crime against that man's property ; but I think with respect to the game, they do not feel that they are doing any thing which is wrong ; but think they have committed no crime when they have done the thing, and their only anxiety is to escape detection. In addition, Mr. Stafford states that he remembers not one single conviction under Mr. Bankes's Act against buying game; and not one conviction for buying or selling game within the last year has been made at Bow Street.
The inferences from these facts are exactly as we predicted, and as every man of common sense must have predicted—that to prevent the sale of game is absolutely impossible. If game be plentiful, and cannot be obtained at any lawful market, an illicit trade will be established, which it is utterly impossible to prevent by any increased severity of the laws. There never was a more striking illustration of the necessity of attending to public opinion in all penal enactments. Mr. Bankes (a perfect representative of all the ordinary notions about forcing mankind by pains and penalties) took the floor. To buy a partridge (though still considered as inferior to murder) was visited with the very heaviest infliction of the law; and yet, though game is sold as openly in London as apples and oranges, though three years have elapsed since this legislative mistake, the officers of the police can hardly recollect a single instance where the information has been laid, or the penalty levied; and why? because every man's feelings and every man's understanding tell him, that it is a most absurd and ridiculous tyranny to prevent one man, who has more game than he wants, from exchanging it with another man, who has more money than he wants — because magistrates will not (if they can avoid it) inflict such absurd penalties — because even common informers know enough of the honest indignation of mankind, and are too well aware of the coldness of pump and pond to act under the bill of the Lycurgus of Corfe Castle.
The plan now proposed is, to undersell the poacher, which
may be successful or unsuccessful; but the threat is, if you attempt this plan there will be no game-and if there is no game, there will be no country gentlemen. We deny every part of this enthymeme —the last proposition as well as the first. We really cannot believe that all our rural mansions would be deserted, although no game was to be found in their neighbourhood. Some come into the country for health, some for quiet, for agriculture, for economy, from attachment to family estates, from love of retirement, from the necessity of keeping up provincial interests, and from a vast variety of causes. Partridges and pheasants, though they form nine tenths of human motives, still leave a small residue, which may be classed under some other head. Neither are a great proportion of those whom the love of shooting brings into the country of the smallest value or importance to the country. A Colonel of the Guards, the second son just entered at Oxford, three diners out from Piccadilly — Major Rock, Lord John, Lord Charles, the Colonel of the regiment quartered at the neighbouring town, two Irish Peers, and a German Baron ;- if all this honourable company proceed with fustian jackets dog-whistles, and chemical inventions, to a solemn destruction of pheasants, how is the country benefited by their presence ? or how would earth, air, or sea, be injured by their annihilation ? There are certainly many valuable men brought into the country by a love of shooting, who, coming there for that purpose, are useful for many better purposes; but a vast multitude of shooters are of no more service to the country than the ramrod which condenses the charge, or the barrel which contains it. We do not deny that the annihilation of the game laws would thin the aristocratical population of the country; but it would not thin that population so much as is contended; and the loss of many of the persons so banished would be a good rather than a misfortune. At all events, we cannot at all comprehend the policy of alluring the better classes of society into the country, by the temptation of petty tyranny and injustice, or of monopoly in sports. How absurd it would be to offer to the higher orders the exclusive use of peaches, nectarines, and apricots, as the premium of rustication — to put vast quantities of men into prison as apricot eaters, apricot buyers, and apricot sellers — to appoint a regular day for beginning to eat, and another for leaving off — to have a lord of the manor for green gages — and to rage with a penalty of five pounds against the unqualified eater of the gage ! And yet the privilege of shooting a set of wild poultry is stated to be the bonus for the residence of country gentlemen. As far as this immense advantage can be obtained without the sacrifice of justice and reason, well and good — but we would not oppress any order of society, or violate right and wrong, to obtain
any population of squires, however dense. It is the grossest of all absurdities to say the present state of the law is absurd and unjust, but it must not be altered, because the alteration would drive gentlemen out of the country! If gentlemen cannot breathe fresh air without injustice, let them putrefy in Cranborne Alley. Make just laws, and let squires live and die where they please.
The evidence collected in the House of Commons respecting the Game Laws is so striking and so decisive against the gentlemen of the trigger, that their only resource is to represent it as not worthy of belief. But why not worthy of belief?. It is not stated what part of it is incredible. Is it the plenty of game in London for sale ? the infrequency of convictions ? the occasional but frequent excess of supply above demand in an article supplied by stealing ? or its destruction when the sale is not without risk, and the price extremely low ? or the readiness of grandees to turn the excess of their game into fish or poultry ? All these circumstances appear to us so natural and so likely, that we should, without any evidence, have had little doubt of their existence. There are a few absurdities in the evidence of one of the poulterers; but, with this exception, we see no reason whatever for impugning the credibility and exactness of the mass of testimony prepared by the Committee.
It is utterly impossible to teach the common people to respect property in animals bred the possessor knows not where — which he cannot recognise by any mark, which may leave him the next moment, which are kept, not for his profit, but for his amusement. Opinion never will be in favour of such property: if the animus furandi exists, the propensity will be gratified by poaching. It is in vain to increase the severity of the protecting laws. They make the case weaker, instead of stronger; and are more resisted and worse executed, exactly in proportion as they are contrary to public opinion :- the case of the game laws is a memorable lesson
upon the philosophy of legislation. If a certain degree of punishment does not cure the offence, it is supposed, by the Bankes' School, that there is nothing to be done but to multiply this punishment by two, and then again and again, till the object is accomplished. The efficient maximum of punishment, however, is not what the Legislature chooses to enact, but what the great mass of mankind think the maximum ought to be. The moment the punishment passes this Rubicon, it becomes less and less, instead of greater and greater. Juries and Magistrates will not commit—informers* are afraid of public indignation—poachers will not submit to be sent to Botany Bay without a battle-blood is shed for pheasants—the public attention is called to this preposterous state of the law—and even ministers (whom nothing pesters so much as the interests of humanity) are at last compelled to come forward and do what is right. Apply this to the game laws. It was before
* There is a remarkable instance of this in the new Turnpike Act. The penalty for taking more than the legal number of outside passengers is ten pounds per head, if the coachman is in part or wholly the owner. This will rarely be levied; because it is too much. A penalty of 1001. would produce perfect impunity. The maximum of practical severity would have been about five pounds. Any magistrate would cheerfully levy this sum ; while doubling it will produce reluctance in the Judge, resistance in the culprit, and unwillingness in the informer.
penal to sell game: within these few years, it has been made penal to buy it. From the scandalous cruelty of the law, night poachers are transported for seven years. And yet, never was so much game sold, or such a spirit of ferocious resistance excited to the laws. One fourth of all the commitments in Great Britain are for offences against the game laws. There is a general feeling that some alteration must take place - a feeling not only among Reviewers, who never see nor eat game, but among the double-barrelled, shot-belted members of the House of Commons, who are either alarmed or disgusted by the vice and misery which their cruel laws and childish passion for amusement are spreading among the lower orders of mankind.
It is said, 'In spite of all the game sold, there is game enough left; let the laws therefore remain as they are;' and so it was said formerly, “There is sugar enough ; let the slave trade remain as it is.' But at what expense of human happiness is this quantity of game or of sugar, and this state of poacher law and slave law, to remain ! The first object of a good government is not that rich men should have their pleasures in perfection, but that all orders of men should be good and happy; and if crowded covies and chuckling cock-pheasants are only to be procured by encouraging the common people in vice, and leading them into cruel and disproportionate punishment, it is the duty of the government to restrain the cruelties which the country members, in reward for their assiduous loyalty, have been allowed to introduce into the game
laws. The plan of the new bill (long since anticipated, in all its provisions, by the acute author of the pamphlet before us,) is, that the public at large should be supplied by persons licensed by magistrates, and that all qualified persons should be permitted to sell their game to these licensed distributors; and there seems a fair chance that such a plan would succeed. The questions are, Would sufficient game come into the hands of the licensed salesman ? Would the licensed salesman con