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£300,000; at Anne's accession it was £16,000,000, in 1714 it had reached £52,000,000. Except for the barren glory of Marlborough's victories and the pleasure of financing the schemes of the Dutchman and nursing Dutch trade, little advantage accrued to the islands from this great burden of debt. Luckily the credit of England was, like that of Holland, very good. Godolphin writes in 1706 that England can borrow at 4 and 5 per cent. while France has to pay 20 to 25 unless she remits the interest in specie.
Under such conditions as these the men at the foot of the ladder, the private soldiers who fought in Flanders or Spain, the sailors who kept the seas for our shipping, were not likely to see much advantage. The extortion of the agents through whose hands the money and credits passed forced both officers and men to rob to save themselves from starvation. The hardships which accompanied the campaigns in Flanders were not likely to lead to the religious exuberance with which the well-fed soldiers of Cromwell indulged themselves in the intervals of slaughter. Corporal Trim (for fiction often is an aid to history) answering the curate's observation, “I thought that you gentlemen of the army, Mr. Trim, never said your prayers at all,” expresses the situation accurately. A soldier, an't please your Reverence, prays as often (of his own accord) as a parson; and when he is fighting for his king, and for his own life, and for his honour, too, he has the most reason to pray to God of anyone in the whole world. But when a soldier has been standing for twelve hours together in the trenches, up to his knees in cold water-or engaged for months together in long and dangerous marches ; harassed, perhaps, in his rear to-day; harassing others to-morrow; detached here : countermanded there : resting this night out upon his arms : beat up in his shirt the next : benumbed in his joints : perhaps without straw in his tent to kneel on : must say his prayers how and when he can." How far Trim's assertion was borne out would depend, I believe, on the eighteenth-century soldier having fallen under the influence of Law's Serious Call or of such evangelists as Wesley or White eld.
Nor was such a life likely to attract a highly respectable class of citizens who should be a credit to the country in whose supposed interests they were fighting as examples of a high
morality. The mortality was fearful, and sick men were left or sent home without money, clothes or food. Naturally in all the armies devastating Europe (for these conditions applied to all) the proportion of desertions was enormous, providing bands of robbers who roamed over the Continent, plundering and murdering all alike.
If anyone asks how in such circumstances armies were recruited, one form which the answer might take would be an enquiry into the state of the prisons in which criminals, bankrupts and debtors were confined.
iii. Civil Order. Prisons. There is not much reliable evidence except in fiction as to the condition of the prisons in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, but it is fairly safe to assume that the accounts of their condition (1777–84) given by Howard (sheriff of Bedford in 1773), reinforced by such observations as those of Lord Loughborough in 1793, would be applicable to the earlier years. The conditions at the end of the century may have been worse, but they are not likely to have been better in any respect at the beginning. The state of the cities such as London, the absence of lighting after midnight, except on dark nights, the sanctuaries in Whitefriars, the Savoy, etc., not abolished until 1723, for the bands of villains or reckless bloods that infested the streets, encouraged crime. In the country, says Lord Loughborough, "we have known gangs of horsestealers and housebreakers in association with each other and in a regular train of communication from Norfolk to Devonshire.” The provisions for the prevention of crime had stood still since Tudor days, lagging behind the increase of population and the circulation of material wealth. The police, such as there were, appear to have been as incompetent as Dogberry's watch, without the merciful desire of that officer to pass on the criminal. Their character may be judged from a letter of Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann in 1742. parcel of drunken constables took it into their heads to put the law in execution against disorderly persons, and so took up every woman they met, till they had collected five or six and twenty, all of whom they thrust into St. Martin's Round House, where they left them all night with the doors and windows closed. The poor creatures, who could not stir or breathe, screamed as long as they had any breath left, begging at least for water. In the morning four were found stifled to death, two died soon after, and a dozen more were in a shocking way. Several of them were beggars, who from having no lodging were necessarily found in the street, and others honest labouring women. One of the dead was a poor washerwoman, big with child, who was retiring home late from washing. One of the constables is taken and others absconded. But,” says Walpole, “ I question if any of them will suffer death, though the greatest criminals in this town are the officers of justice; there is no tyranny they do not exercise, no villainy of which they do not partake.”
Yet the law, though always lenient to its officers, lay heavy on the lay criminal. The following, an imaginary petition of a girl of fourteen sentenced to death, taken from a work dealing with the eighteenth century, represents, judging by occasional reference of the time, a fairly common case of criminal justice in that century. “Your Petitioner humbly submits that she was born and brought up in a part of London occupied entirely by thieves, rogues and vagabonds; that she was taught from infancy that the only way by which she could earn her daily bread was by stealing ; that the only art or trade she had ever learned was that of stealing without being detected ; that she was never at any school or church or under any kind of instruction whatever ; that she was never taught the meaning of right or wrong; that she had learnt no religion and no morals; and knew not what they meant; and that being caught in the act of stealing a piece of cloth value six shillings from a shop, she is now lying under sentence of death.” After all she was only following the example of Louis XIV. and Frederick the Great.
Probably those who suffered death were happier in their lot than those who, accused of crime or detained for debt or some small trespass, were committed to the English prisons and places of detention which Howard and Lord Loughborough described.
Beginning with the lesser places of detention, Lord Loughborough says, “An House of Correction is destined for the reception of those who are accused or convicted of small offences, of persons apprehended upon a sudden breach of the Peace, of those who have not given satisfaction to their Parishes for the support of their illegitimate offspring; of vagrants, refractory Apprentices, Journeymen and Labourers or Artisans, who have not observed the regulations of their Trade, or the conditions of their engagements.” In reference to bastard cases he says,
Application is made by a Parish against the Putative Father of a Bastard Child, who may be an industrious young man earning from 15s. to 18s. by the week ; the magistrate endeavours to interpose with the Parish officers to accept the man's own undertaking to pay a moderate proportion of his earnings. They stand out, and he finds himself obliged to commit the man to absolute idleness.' It is not an unknown case, he says, for some to be placed there because they are poor and unknown; perhaps without a suspicion of crime they are bound over to give evidence, and having no person to answer for them are committed to secure their testimony. 'There are not,” he says, many Houses of Correction which afford any means of instruction or in which there is any public regard paid to the offices of religion.” In 1793 the accommodation in many of the Houses of Correction was so scanty that “the prisoners are mixed together for the whole day, and the men and women only separated at night.” “At a quarter sessions women brought up to be discharged, whom the Justices have sent to the House of Correction as vagrants in rags, often appear dressed out in smart caps and handkerchiefs which they must have acquired in their Confinement, and certainly not by any honest industry.” He sums up as to prisons, “ loathsome with disease, where all the day is consumed in perfect idleness, and every vice is huddled together, every good habit is destroyed, and every bad propensity promoted, to commit the youth of either sex, and that for the purpose of correction, is a grievous reproach to the laws of a civilized country.”
Howard begins his account by telling us : “The circumstances which excited me to activity on their behalf was the seeing, somewho by the verdict of juries were declared not guilty ; some-in whom the grand jury did not find such appearance of guilt as subjected them to trial; (this safeguard has quite lately been destroyed) and some—whose prosecutors did not appear against them-after having been confined for months, dragged back to gaol, and locked up again till they should pay sundry fees to the gaoler, the clerk of assize, etc.” Failing to obtain a
remedy he was led to visit the county gaols, where he was struck by the prevalence of the pestilential gaol fever and confluent smallpox. More prisoners, he said, were killed by gaol fever than by all the executions. At his own cost he travelled the country on horseback, his clothes after visiting the prisons being too offensive to permit of travelling in a chaise.
In these prisons were confined the felons, the persons accused of slight offences, the insane, the bankrupts, the debtors, the idle apprentice and the beggar, the deserter and the pirate. They had no work, for they had neither tools nor materials of
In many gaols, he says, debtors who would work are not permitted to have any tools lest they should furnish felons with them for escape or other mischief. There was no provision for the relief of the sick, so that Howard says at the quarter sessions you see prisoners covered (hardly covered) with rags; almost famished; and sick of diseases which the discharged spread where they go ; and with which those who are sent to the county gaols infect these prisons.
The provision of food was equivalent to starvation. There were several bridewells in which prisoners had no allowance of food at all. In some the keeper farmed what little was allowed them; and where he engaged to supply each prisoner with one or two pennyworth of bread a day, “I have known this shrunk to half, sometimes less than half the quantity, cut or broken from his own loaf.” Even the pennyworth was only half or less than half the quantity it was when the value was originally fixed. Generally all was eaten at breakfast. The truth is, says Howard, some debtors are the most pitiable objects in our gaols. In above half the gaols the debtors have no bread; although this is granted to the highwayman, the housebreaker and the murderer. 32 George II. provided for debtors to receive 4d. a day from their creditors. But the cost of suing for it was such that it was often equivalent to the small debts for which they were imprisoned, and beyond their means, so that in all his journeys he found only twelve in all England and Wales who had obtained it. He speaks of the extortion of the bailiffs in the sponging houses to which debtors were carried. The general observations on the debtors were borne out by