صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

PART I. facility afforded to legislation; the ease with which every member of

Parliament could indulge his whims and caprices; the little difficulty he found in obtaining measures to augment the number of capital felonies. (Hear.] An anecdote, confirmatory of this statement, was told by Mr. Burke, in the early part of his public career. He was about to leave the house, when he was detained by a gentleman who wished him to remain. Mr. Burke pleaded urgent business; and the reply of the individual who held him was, that the subject on which the house was engaged would very soon be dismissed, as it was only upon the subject of a capital felony, without benefit of clergy. (Laughter.) Mr. Burke bad afterwards stated, that he had no doubt that he could, without difficulty, have obtained the assent of the house to any bill he brought in for capital punishment."

“Mr. Bennet observed, (June 26, 1816,) that the abuse of the system of solitary confinement had exceeded any thing that could have been imagined. For the crime of vagrancy a person had been subject to this terrible punishment for thirteen months, one for seven months, and one for four months.

“Among the cases mentioned in the return was that of a man who had been kept in solitary confinement three months, for destroying a pheasant's egg! That was to say the miserable being who fell under the sentence was kept twenty-three hours out of twenty-four within four small walls, without any kind of employment, either entirely open to the air, or quite excluded from light; and the crime for which this punishment was inflicted was the breaking of a pheasant's egg."

“Mr. Western said, (April 2, 1819,) that in looking at the returns already prepared for the years 1817 and 1818, it would appear that there were two thousand persons in each year, against whom either no bills were found; or who were not prosecuted, and two thousand six hundred who were acquitted. In the period which elapsed between July and the Lent assizes, many persons had been confined, who had remained in prison perhaps fourteen or fifteen months, before they had been tried-an enormous evil.”

“Mr. M. A. Taylor asked, (May 26, 1818,) did the house consider it fit and proper that this state of things should continue ; that in four counties there should be but one assize in a year; and that prisoners should, notwithstanding all the exertions of magistrates, in disposing of minor offences, lie for so many months in confinement, before they were brought to trial. A man, taken up on suspicion, and sent to the county gaol, must in such a case be ruined, however innocent of the crime imputed to him. We might boast as much as we pleased of our superior laws, and practice of administering them, but there was no country in Europe where so monstrous a defect existed in the judiciary system--a defect equally injurious to individuals and disgraceful to the character of justice. A case of manslaughter bad recently occurred, in which the prisoner was acquitted, after lying eleven months in confinement; the whole punishment annexed by law to the conviction of that offence being but twelve months' imprisonment. One man he had known indicted for stealing a game cock, who was closely confined for nine months; and when he was at length brouglit to trial, there was not a shadow of evidence to prove his guilt.”.

“Mr. W. Smith said, (May 26, 1818,) that he had been informed by the town clerk of Norwich, that instances had occurred of persons being confined nine or ten months previously to their trial ; and a navy surgeon had been confined for twelve months, and then acquitted. By so long an imprisonment, individuals sometimes suffered more than they would have done, if convicted, from the sentence of the law.”

"Mr. Bennet said, (May 6, 1817,) that last year there was a wretched individual in the Fleet, who had been confined there, under af order

of the court of chancery, for contempt of court, for no less a time than PART I. thirty-one years. The name of that man was Thomas Williams. He had visited him in his wretched house of bondage, where he found him sinking under all the miseries that can afflict humanity; and on the following day he died. There were at this moment within the walls of the same prison, besides the petitioner, a woman who had been in confinement twenty-eight years, an

two others who had been there seven., teen years.”

“li was worthy of remark that eight hundred persons were committed to Clerkenwell prison, in one year, chiefly for assaults.”

The following is an authentic list of persons who, in October, 1817, were confined in the Fleet prison alone, for.contempt of court, no other charges being alleged against them: viz. Hannah Baker, confined twenty-seven years; Charles Bulmer, eighteen years; Ann Britner, ten years; Richard Bell, five years; Matthew Bland, five years; Jeremiah Board, three years ; Elizabeth Dawson, seven years; David William, six years ; Mary Tiuch, three years ; Samuel Mansell, four years'; John Melson, three years; George Picked, fifteen years ; Thomas Pale, three years; Peter Rigby, four years ; I. Scribner, eight years; John Watts, four years; John Somax, seven years; William Smith, eighteen years.

“Mr. Bennet said, (March 28, 1817,) that the situation of the prisons in Dublin was miserable in the extreme, and certainly it could not be too much lamented that any human beings should be confined in them.”

“Mr. Peele entirely coincided in the opinion of the honourable gen. tleman, as to the miserable state of the prisons in Ireland, and should be happy to find that any measures could be taken, which would lead to the amelioration of the condition of the wretched inmates."

“ The Marquis of Lansdowne said, (June 3, 1818,) from the information contained in the report of the House of Commons on the state of the prisons of the kingdom, it appeared that, in the course of ten years, such had been the progress of crimes, that they had increased to three times their former amount. It was not improbable that, out of the number annually consigned to the prisons, thirteen thousand were permitted to return to society, either by being acquitted, or after hav. ing undergone the sentence of imprisonment. In what a state of de. gradation must they, under their present system, return to the duties, or, he was afraid, rather to the vices of civilized men."

“Mr. Buxton said, that from parliamentary documents it could be seen, that it was ten to one that an offender was not taken, fifty to one that he was not prosecuted, a hundred to one that he was not convicted, and more than a thousand to one that he was not executed.”

“Alderman Wood rose (House of Commons, March 12, 1819). He said, that the petition which he had to present did not complain of the heavy burdens which the lord mayor and corporation had to bear, in supporting the various persons confined in the different prisons of the metropolis, but of the crowded state of the gaols at the present moment. They were so full, that it was totally impossible to attempt any reformation in their inmates, by classifying them, according to the crimes of which they had been guilty. Newgate was filled to repletion with criminals under different sentences : there were now in it fortyseven individuals condemned to death, besides sixteen individuals for lesser offences, who had been sent there by the magistrates from the Clerkenwell sessions. Of these sixteen he was sorry to observe that fifteen were for abominable and infamous offences, and that from want of space they had all been placed in one room. This was an evil which

ght, by all means, to be remedied. There was another, also, which he wished to press upon the attention of the house. There was no

VOL. 1.-35

1

PART I, accommodation, in any of the prisons, for state prisoners ; and he

thought it rather hard that an individual of respectable rank and character should be compelled to herd with common felons, as he now was obliged to do, if committed by that house. Latterly, Newgate had been so crowded, that in the fifteen condemned cells they had been obliged to place the forty-seven men now under sentence of death, thus giving a proportion of more than three inmates to each cell; which was much greater than it ought to be.”

“Men, who see their lives respected and thought of value by others, come to respect that gift of God themselves. Before he sat down, he begged leave to say a few words on a public spectacle, which had been made at Newgate, of a wretched man, who, being accused of murder, had destroyed himself. It was stated in the newspapers of that day, that the mangled and bloody corpse had been exhibited in an elevated situation, with a small gallows erected over it, to which was appended the fatal instrument of destruction. Such a horrid exposition, he was persuaded, was calculated to produce the most mischievous conse. quences on the men, women, and children by whom it was beheld.” (Sir Samuel Romilly, ib. Feb. 25, 1818.)

“Mr. Buxton said, (March 3, 1819,) 'with respect to the effect which an execution was supposed to have upon the minds of the criminals, he could assure the house that it was next to nothing; and if any gentle. man would expose his feelings to the pain of seeing one of these dreadful exhibitions, the truth of his assertion would immediately appear,

“He believed there was not a single instance of an execution having taken place, without some robberry being committed-at the same time, under the gallows. Indeed, it had been admitted by one of the lightfingered gang, that an execution was their harvest, as, while people's eyes were open above, their pockets were loose below.

“ There was a fact within his recollection, which, if possible, would place the matter in a stronger light. A man was executed in this metropolis for selling forged bank.notes: his body was given over to his family, and it was taken home. The first feeling would be that of compassion towards his afflicted children, and a disconsolate widow; but the house would be shocked to hear that this unhappy family and mourning friends were actually seized by the police officers, in the act of selling forged notes, over the dead body. It was evident, therefore, that something ought to be done."

“From the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on the Police of the Metropolis, it appears that many thousands of boys are daily engaged in the commission of crime: that in one prison only (Clerkenwell), where young and old are all mixed indiscriminately together, three hundred and ninety-nine boys, under twenty, were confided for felonies in the last year; of whom was one of nine, two were of ten, seven of eleven, fourteen of twelve, and thirty-two of thirteen years of age!

"Nor is it possible to pass over, in this inquiry, the dreadful state of our infant population, and the alarming increase of juvenile delinquency. To no cause whatever can this be attributed to with so much certainty as to the depraved and hardened disposition of the parents, the result of that habit of intoxication, which induces them either to abandon their offspring altogether, or, in order to supply the cravings of their depraved appetites, to incite them to, and instruct them in, every species of theft and depredation. The extent to which this has been carried, not only in the metropolis, but in some of the principal towns in the kingdom, would be as incredible as it is disgraceful, were it not from its almost daily exposure in our judicial proceedings."

Roscoe's Observations on Penal Jurisprudence, 1819.

PART I. COURTS OF LAW AND CHANCERY. [Mr. Brougham, June 30, 1818.] A number of the objections which had been made to the bill (for a committee to enquire into the education of the poor) were grounded on the confidence which those who made them reposed in courts of law, as affording the means of correcting abuses. He confessed that he himself had not any reliance on courts of law in that respect, especially with reference to expedition and cheapness. He allowed those courts the possession of learning without stint. He allowed them great copiousness, great power of drawing out written argument. The faculty of caring nothing for the time and patience of suitors, and the hundreds of thousands of their clients' money they enjoyed in a perfection which the wildest sallies of imagination could not go beyond. But as to expedition and cheapness, and attention to the comfort of those who were involved in the business of those courts, they were qualities by which they were certainly not distinguished

Notwithstanding all the good qualities on the part of the noble and learned lord (Chancellor,) it was his (Mr. Brougham's) duty to say, that there was something in the court of chancery that set at defiance all calculations of cost and time, and rendered the celebrated irony of Swift, when he made Gulliver tell the worthy Hynynhmn, bis master, (what he says, his honour found it hard to conceive, that his father had been wholly ruined by the misfortune of having gained a chancery suit, with full costs, not only not an exaggeration, but a strictly correct description of the fact.

Sir John Newport stated (June 20, 1818,) “ To show the enormous nature of the fees in the Court of Chancery, he might mention that in one case, the fees for docketing, enrolling, exemplifying, and register. ing a decree, amounted to upwards of 8001."

The Marquis of Lansdowne observed (March 6th. 1818,) “That no source of revenue operated to produce greater mischief to the poorer classes, than the stamps on law proceedings. The expense they occasioned was an obstacle to the attainment of justice.

“ As to the present measure, he continued, it went merely to reJieve unfortunate poor persons from paying the fees on pardons, which amounted on each to about 601., and therefore it could operate in a very slight degree towards the reduction of the revenue.”

The bill of the solicitor of the excise, in the prosecution of Weaver, for the offence of selling a certain drug to a brewer, amounted to nearly 250l. In this case, there were five counsel employed for the Crown, and the penalty ultimately recovered from the delinquent was 2001."

The following return has been laid before the House of Commons, of the amount of property locked up in the Court of Chancery in England; viz. in 1796, upwards of fourteen millions of pounds sterling; in 1806, upwards of twenty-one millions; in 1816, upwards of thirty-one mil. lions; in 1818, upwards of thirty-three millions.

Mr. Hume (March 1814,) begged to call the attention of the House of Commons particularly to the police in India. Persons were frequently taken up, and months elapsed before any information was exhibited against them. In the interval, they were confined in crowded and unhealthy prisons, where death not unfrequently overtook them, or after enduring the aggravated misery of imprisonment, nothing whatever appeared against them, and they were liberated. The whole system

of police at Bengal was conducted by a set of spies, who were generally composed of bands of robbers; these, when once discharged, were let loose to ravage the surrounding country. By a minute of the Bengal government, dated the 24th of November, 1810, it appeared that the pro

[ocr errors]

PART I. fession of a spy, in India, took its rise upon the order issued in 1792, for

the encouragement of head money. Every police-office had its regular and organized set of spies, who shared the reward or head money with the chief of the decoits (a species of robbers.) Much had been said by an honourable member (sir W. Burroughs) as to the economy observed in the appointment of legal men in India, affecting the administration of justice. So far from there being any thing like economy in this respect, the whole of Europe, put together, was at less expense for law officers than India alone-(Hear.) The whole revenue of India was estimated at 11,000,0001.; the charges of the law altogether were no less than 1,785,000l. sterling, above one-eleventh of that revenue.

BANKRUPTCY. “In Scotland,” (said lord Archibald Hamilton, 1818,) “the burgh of Aberdeen had been declared bankrupt for 230,0001. sterling, attend. ed with extensive ruin. It had dissolved in its rottenness."

“Sir William Curtis remarked, (Feb. 24th, 1818,) that rich men can go to the King's-bench prison, and drink their burgundy : They first rob their neighbours and then get whitewashed.”

Up to the 1st of March, 1817, (said Mr. Waithman, Feb. 12th 1819,) 9000 persons were discharged under the debtors' insolvent act, whose united debts amounted to nine millions sterling; whilst the property which they had given up to their creditors would not, on the average, pay a dividend of one half a farthing in the pound.”

“Sir S. Romilly observed, that every man conversant with the bank. rupt laws must know, that not a year passed without the occurrence of a great number of fraudulent bankruptcies.” (Ib. Feb. 25th, 1816.)'

Mr. Lockart rose (Feb. 17th, 1817,) according to notice, to move for the introduction of a bill to amend the bankrupt laws.

The evil of which he complained was the multiplication of fraudu. lent bankruptcies to an extent which threatened the most frightful consequences to the commerce and morals of the country.

By late returns to Parliament it appears, that the aggregate number of insolvent debtors discharged since the last return in 1815, up to 1st of February, 1819, was 13,291; the amount of their debts 9,506,8371. 168. 114d.; and the amount of dividends but sixty thousand pounds.

“Every one who heard him,” said Mr. Buxton, (House of Commons, March 3d, 1819,) "certainly must know how many fraudulent circumstances were connected with almost all the bankruptcies that now take place; and after a more careful examination, it had been declared, on the highest authority, that of the bankruptcies which occurred, by far the greater number were of a fraudulent description."

FINANCIAL MATTERS.

Mr. Baring said, (1817,) "there could be no doubt, notwithstanding the delicacy which had been professed on the subject of touching the sinking fund, that to all practical purposes, it was completely swept away.

Mr. Ricardo (June 10, 1819,) had already opposed the grant of three millions towards a sinking fund, because he did not wish to place such a fund at the mercy of ministers, who would take it whenever they thought urgent necessity required it. He did not mean to say that it

« السابقةمتابعة »