« PreviousContinue »
who have become for ever famous through art, have been profound and solid thinkers. If they have been enthusiastic, their enthusiasm has grown out of the intellectus cogita• bundus.' Theirs has been no such lawless and giddy impulse as is vulgarly affirmed, -less, we imagine, with the real desire of honouring artists, than under the mistaken notion that we bring them nearer our own level, by assuming that methods of production, which we can hardly and seldom wholly understand, were equally unintelligible to the artists themselves. We dwell upon this the more positively, because, whatever apparent grounds there may be for maintaining the fanatic theory with respect to artists, whose every work is in some sort unique and unrepeated, it is manifestly absurd when it comes to be applied to the ancient architects. Granting the assumption, that all great poems, paintings, and musical compositions may have been psychological curiosities,'-- as remarkable as the opium exhalation, Kubla Khan,'- it is too much to believe that a hundred allied corporations of Freemasons, simultaneously working in as many diverse parts of the world, were, not only every one of them, unconsciously and plenarily inspired, but that they were all of them so inspired with one and the same idea.
ART. IV.-1. Fifteenth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons for
the Home District. 2. Report from the Select Committee on Prison Discipline,
1850. 3. Etudes sur les Colonies Agricoles, gc. c. Par MM. DE
LURIEU et H. ROMAND. Paris : 1851. 4. Transportation not necessary. By C. B. ADDERLY, Esq. M.P. 5. Rapport du Comité du chambre des deputés sur les jeunes
Détenus. Decembre, 1849. 6. Reformatory Schools. By MARY CARPENTER. 1851. 7. Education, as a Means of preventing Destitution. By W.
ELLIS. London : 1851. 8. The Dwellings of the Poor, and the Means of improving them.
By Montagu GORE. London : 1851. What shall we do with our Juvenile Delinquents ?. is a ques
tion often asked, but as yet most unsatisfactorily and variously answered : Punish them more effectually,' says one class of philosophers, and so deter.' • Educate them better,' says another class, and so prevent.' 'Open houses of refuge and • asylums,' says a third party, “and so reform'!
But prisons multiply and are better regulated; Juvenile Offenders' Acts are passed and boys whipped by the hundredThe Schoolmaster walks abroad enlightening our youth on Geography, History, the Steam Engine and Social Science-Ragged Schools and Refuges increase, and eloquent Chairmen and Treasurers rejoice in speaking of thousands of vagabonds and thieves, enlisted under the banners of the Ragged School Union, and its dependent establishments. And still, in spite of all, the vexing fact of a large amount of juvenile delinquency remains - and the young offender gains ground upon us, the plague of
the policeman, the difficulty of the magistrate, a problem to the statesman, and a sorrow to the philanthropist.
That the question,-What shall be done with this class of criminals ? presses for a practical reply, a few statistical details will show. It ought not naturally to be the age of crime. But the number of young persons under 17 years of age who were confined in the year 1849, as given in the 15th Report of the Inspector for the Home District, amounted to 17,126; 14,569 being males, and 2557 females. Of these 2257 were convicted at the Sessions or Assizes, and 10,251 were summarily convicted; the remainder being either acquitted or not prosecuted, or left for trial at the end of the year. There were, in fact, 12,508 boys and girls punished for crime in that year. These figures apply to the whole of England. The results of similar inquiry within the Metropolitan-police district (that is, within London and its vicinity, exclusive of the city,') are as well calculated to arrest attention. In 1849, the number of young persons under 20 years of age, convicted summarily or committed for trial, was 8203, of whom 75 were under 10, and 1473 betwen 10 and 15: while in 1850, the number under 20 amounted to 8261, of whom 68 were under 10, and 1785 between 10 and 15,-showing an increase, be it remarked, of 308, or of above one-fifth on the number of the classes below 15 years of age as compared with the results of the year previous.
From 14 to 15,000 boys and youths under 17 years of age are thus brought annually before the tribunals of our country, charged with offences against the law; of whom near two-fifths are carrying on their criminal career in the very streets of London. Nor is this all: these figures only give us the earlier symptoms of the disease, and only the more immediate and tangible. The vicious boy is but the father of the vicious and dangerous man. Few who enter this way of death, ever depart from it; and the burglar who disturbs our midnight slumbers so unpleasantly, and the skilful pickpocket who abstracts our purse and watch so provokingly, are but the juvenile offender developed to full growth and stature. And still fur
Number of Juvenile Delinquents.
ther, in our mixed and multiform society, no man liveth for himself, or dieth for himself: each individual criminal has a sphere of influence (or rather infection), small perhaps, but certain. Each is the centre of a circle of sympathising and gradually emulous admirers and associates, whose tendencies for the thief's life he fosters, develops, and directs. Reckon but five of such satellites of crime to every juvenile delinquent, and we have a mass of at least 50,000 depraved and vicious lads, professionally living on the plunder and injury of society. Such facts speak for themselves, and may well set us thinking deeply on our social prospects and responsibilities; and difficult as the subject is, and intricate as are the questions of legal interference, of social responsibility and of religious duty which it involves, the state and proper penal treatment of juvenile offenders, are points which must be felt to press imperatively on the attention of our Government and our Legislature.
In asking our readers to discuss with us the features of youthful crime, its causes and remedies, we feel we are not inviting them to an attractive subject. It must be owned, that the first impression which early depravity leaves on the mind is one of repulsion and disgust. It is hard, indeed, to realise a spectacle more sad and shocking than that which the practised boy-thief presents : often but a child in years, he is a man in knowingness and profligacy; a pickpocket, pilferer, or utterer of base coin by profession, he enters on and pursues his trade of shame and guilt for the sake of the sensual luxuries and indulgences it brings him, and for the adventure, excitement, and distinction it affords. He is emphatically dead in sin. Speak to him of reformation -of admission to some house of refuge, where in labour and comparative abstinence he may work out his emancipation and recovery-his answer will probably be,. Thank you, Sir, I can do something better than that.' He supposes, and allows perhaps, that he will be transported at last; but in his sight this prospect is distant and uncertain, only, meanwhile he knows how to enjoy himself and means to do it. We turn from such a picture of premature depravity as from something loathsome.
Yet look a moment over the records of his previous life, and trace what has made this moral deformity what we see it. He was not always the wilful self-condemned outcast from honesty and goodness he is now! It was his lot, perhaps, to be reared from the very dawn of life, if not in the Rookery, perhaps in places as bad, amidst scenes of filth and violence and vice, which dulled every moral sense and debased every thought and feeling. The blow and the curse were his first catechism, cheating and
lying his earliest lessons. At an age when the children of the wealthy would be carefully tended, and on no account allowed to leave the precincts of the nursery, he was sent out to beg or pilfer, beaten if unskilful or unlucky, rewarded and praised if clever and successful. He had, it may be, brutal and unnatural parents, who traded in their children's depravity, and locked them in the cellar or garret after they had despoiled them of the fruits of their dishonesty and begging; careless whether they lived or died, while they themselves revelled in the gluttony and drunkenness which their children's crimes had purchased. Or he was the child of a first marriage, and became the object of a step-father's ill usage or a step-mother's neglect, and was forced into the streets, an alien from his natural home, to starve or steal. Or he has been from his yet opening childhood an orphan, and has lived for years on his own resources, supported by the few pence per day he could earn by an errand or a crossing eked out by what he stole when opportunity occurred. Living as he has thus done, cared for by none, taught no social duty, instructed in no faith, knowing no moral aim or motive, what can be expected from him, but that which he is and does ? what can be looked for in him, but the daring ruffian or sneaking thief, who regards the great questions of vice and virtue, honesty and honour, truth and falsehood, as mere matters of circumstance; who calls his crimes misfortunes, their punishment his ill-luck: who recognises no goodness but what fills his pocket, no evil but that which puts him in the hands of the police?
But has society no share in the condemnation and the guilt of this lost soul? Has the law, which is so prompt and stern in punishing the child, but which leaves unpunished, nay unchallenged, and even civilly unliable, the drunken, vicious, cruel parent, by whom the child was forced into the gulf of crime, nothing to answer for ? Are not the authorities who have contentedly allowed such haunts of wickedness and infamy as he was bred in, to continue in the very heart of our great towns, and whose indifference to the physical and moral circumstances of the lower classes of our labouring poor, has fostered these nurseries and schools of crime, part authors and abettors of the boy's depravity ? Such questions open a fearful account against society. They compel us to feel that one, whose degradation and corruption are more our doings than his own, has the strongest claims on our compassion, even while he is heavily condemned by what we necessarily call our justice. Nay, they do more; they show us that by enforcing education, decency, and cleanliness of habits, and parental responsibility among our
Causes of Increase of Juvenile Criminals.
lowest poor, much might be done to lessen the amount of juvenile delinquency, and many hundreds saved to usefulness and happiness, who are now left the helpless prey of vice and misery, constituting the most crying scandal to our existing manners, our institutions, and our general humanity, and-by a natural law of retributive justice, far more really just than that under which themselves may suffer,-certain to grow up a curse and peril to the community.
But the young criminals of our cities and large towns are not wholly of this destitute and more pitiable class. In their ranks hundreds can be found who have had the advantage of respectable though poor parents, who have been reared in decent though humble homes; who have been sent to school betimes, and perhaps been put out in some little place, where they might earn their victuals, and which might serve as a stepping-stone to a better situation, or afford them the opportunity to learn some tolerably remunerative occupation. What has led this class to crime? Ask any of their number—the answer you will probably receive will be, bad companions, Sir'! Truants from the school, lingerers on their errands, they have become the prey of the sharp and ripened criminals, who, like good missionaries of the devil, are ever watchful and anxious to recruit their ranks: The Scripture maxim, evil communication corrupts
good manners,' is continually verified in this class. The boy has been usually a good deal spoilt at home, his fancies and appetites indulged, his self-government and power of saying No to temptation altogether neglected and unexercised. He is a ready spoil to the spoiler, an easy booty to the artful rogue, who lures him by his love for pastry or amusements, and uses him as the monkey employed the cat, to filch the loaf, the joint, the gown-piece, or the roll of calico, which he points out to him from a distance, as too well known to venture near them himself.
Much has been done of late years, by the classification of criminals, to clear our gaols from the guilt of being schools of crime, in which juvenile
delinquents graduated under the tuition of older and more hardened offenders. But there are earlier nurseries of corruption which remain at present unbroken up, and against which comparatively little has been attempted. The very dwellings of the poor are in too many instances preparatory training schools for the gaol. Nobody has better earned in teaching country landlords by example than the Duke of Bedford, the right of impressing on them by words, the obligations imposed on them to provide suitable residences for their cottagers. It is a grave moral question even in the country. What then is it in great towns ? The reader will learn in Mr.