« PreviousContinue »
Beemes' • Rookeries of London,' and in Mr. Montagu Gore's pamphlet on the • Dwellings of the Poor,' that Saffron Hill and Church Lane, St. Giles's, are not the only haunts where the process of unhumanising is going on, where all are taken in, who can pay their footing; where the thief and prostitute
are harboured among those whose only crime is perhaps their 6 poverty :' where large families are to be found with only one bedstead between them, - sometimes not even this; where, in the upper room of a single house, let out piecemeal at enormous profits, as many as seventeen juvenile thieves, between the age of six and twelve, are collected and live together. What choice or chance can life propose for those, to whom a brutal receptacle of this kind has been their infancy's or boyhood's home?
Without doubt, however, whether the parents be discreet or foolish, indulgent or neglectful, there is much in the educational position, the school circumstances of this class of children in London and our great towns, which tends to lead them into crime, or at least exposes them to severe temptations; and which may therefore, in some measure, lead us to mingle mercy with censure in our estimate of their deserts, and stir us to devise remedies for the cause of the offence as well as punishment for the offence itself.
We take the following statement of a practical witness (the resident Chaplain of the Philanthropic) from the evidence given to the select Committee of the House of Commons on Prison Discipline last year.
• The great mass of juvenile criminals appear to me to be led into their vices and errors from the want of superintendence and industrial training. The parents have to go to their work, and must be occupied all day long, and these boys are left entirely on the streets. If your National Schools, which are merely open 4 days a week for 5 hours, and 2 days a week for 3 hours, were so arranged that a parent could take his child to the school in the morning and leave him there, with the certainty that he would be protected and looked after, and, to a certain extent, employed during the day, there would be a great check administered to the cause of juvenile crime. But what is the case. Twelve o'clock strikes, the children are all turned into the streets. The school is generally placed in one of the worst neighbourhoods, from the cheapness of the site. At two o'clock they come back to the school of themselves ; and at four, or half-past four, are again turned out, at least an hour and a half before their parents can come from their work. With this exposure we cannot wonder that they are contaminated; bad associates, who are ever on the watch, get hold of them and lead them astray; first, merely to play the truant, afterwards to be petty thieves, and at last to be accustomed criminals.'
There is substantial truth in this representation, and truth
Deficiencies in National School Arrangements.
which we cannot but recommend to the consideration of our Clergy, and the managers of our National and British Schools. It is well worth considering whether these might not be so organised as to become a species of day Boarding-Schools for the labouring class, educational Salles d'Asile, in which the children of the working man might have the advantage of moral superintendence and control, such as would form good habits, as well as afford mental instruction for the stimulating their intelligence. The cost of the children's dinner might be paid for by the parents, the child either bringing its food with him, or being furnished with a plain wholesome meal in consideration of the parents contributing so much a week; and those who are conversant with the working classes of our towns, will, we believe, be disposed to say, that they would generally avail themselves of such an arrangement, and would be thankful to have their children kept out of the streets at the price of a moderate payment for their board. The cost of the additional service and superintendence could not be heavy; there is nothing novel or operose about it; while certainly it might be expected to be among the best practical preventive remedies for the evil we are treating of, as respects that class of juvenile offenders who have decent and industrious relatives, and who fall away in spite of care and good example at home, and not for want of it.
One powerful agent for the depraving the boyish classes of our population in our towns and cities is to be found in the cheap concerts, shows, and theatres, which are so specially opened and arranged for the attraction and ensnaring of the young. When for three-pence (or as till late for two-pence) a boy can procure some hours of vivid enjoyment from exciting scenery, music and acting, with funny songs, and amusing tricks of magic and dexterity, it must be owned that the temptation to acquire the pennies rectè si possit, sed quocunque modo,' is a very powerful one. And when our national indifference or our fear of interfering with personal and public liberty, allows these shows and theatres to be scenes of the grossest indecency – training schools of the coarsest and most open vice and filthiness—it is not to be wondered at, that the boy who is led on to haunt them becomes rapidly corrupted and demoralised, and seeks to be the doer of the infamies which have interested him as a spectator. That we may not be thought to exaggerate the case, we would place before our readers the following short testimony of a most competent witness, Mr. Bishop, the agent or Minister to the poor' of the Liverpool Domestic Mission. VOL. XCIV. NO. CXCII.
In company with a serjeant of police, in plain clothes, I visited fourteen of these concert saloons one Saturday night between the hours of nine and twelve. I will not attempt to explain in detail what I saw, but altogether it was a series of the most heart-sickening scenes I ever witnessed. In many of the rooms lads from about 13 to 18 years of age formed a considerable number of the audience; and in every instance I marked the presence of abandoned women. In one there were about 150 persons, a third of whom were boys. In another, a young woman, with a rouged face, dressed as a Swiss flower-girl, with a basket of flowers in her hand, was singing, while in a state of intoxication; and the extravagances occasioned by the excitement of the drink were the principal sources of amusement. This was a scene too disgusting, perhaps, to be dangerous; but in the better conducted rooms, where there is more attention to appear. ances, and a thin gauze of propriety thrown over all the scenes, every thing is calculated to deprave the taste, to intoxicate the senses, and to stimulate the passions.'
A yet plainer testimony is given in the Report of Mr. Clay, the excellent chaplain of Preston Gaol.
· The principal singing room in this town (Preston) is capable of holding from 800 to 1000 persons: one end is fitted up as a stage. The bar, where the liquors are served out, is placed in the middle. The place between the bar and the stage is appropriated to juveniles, or boys and girls from 10 to 14 years of age; of them there were not less than 100— they were by far the noisiest portion of the audience, and many of the boys were drinking and smoking. The lower gallery, which extends round three parts of the room, was occupied by the young of both sexes, from 14 years and upwards. There could not be less than 700 individuals present, and about one-seventh of them females. The pieces performed encourage resistance to parental control, and were full of gross innuendoes, “double entendres," cursing, emphatic swearing, and incitement to illicit passion. Threefourths of the songs were wanton and immoral, and were accompanied by immodest gestures. The last piece performed was the & Spare Bed," and we gathered from the conversation around that this was looked for with eager expectation. We will not attempt to describe the whole of this abominable piece : suffice it to say, that the part which appeared most pleasing to the audience was when one of the male performers prepared to go to bed. He took off his coat and waistcoat, unbuttoned his braces, and commenced unbuttoning the waistband of his trowsers, casting mock-modest glances around him ; finally he took his trowsers off, and got into bed. Tremendous applause followed this act. As the man lay in bed, the clothes were pulled off; he was then pulled out of bed and rolled across the stage. After this he walked up and down the stage ; and now the applause reached its climax - loud laughter, shouting, clapping of hands, by both males and females, testified the delight they took in this odious exhibition.'
Cheap Concerts and Theatres.
Let but our readers consider the character and number of these places, of which there are said to be forty in Liverpool alone, and probably much above a hundred in London and its suburbs, and they will feel that it is indeed a grave consideration how far our laws and legislators must not be held responsible for the results, when such powerful agencies of demoralisation are left unchecked and uncontrolled. i. We may here advert to another active element in fostering and developing Juvenile Delinquency,—the multitude, namely, of what are courteously called Marine Store dealers, a class which might more justly be entitled Licensed Receivers of stolen goods. Many of our readers have probably seen in the courts and back streets of our great city, the significant question, in good round hand or Roman capitals, “Do you want money? - come to the Black Doll and get it: 2d. per lb. for rags and tailor's trimmings. ld. per lb. for paper. 6d. per lb. for horsehair. 2d. for kitchen stuff. Something for anything and
everybody. But they must be like the poor destitute or tempted lads we have been describing, penniless in pocket and hungry in appetite, and already taught to long for and hanker after the smart and well-lighted room, where indulgence and amusement await them, to fully estimate the awful force of the temptation which such announcements offer. They set the page and the apprentice on stealing their master's books, or tools, or bottles ; the errand boy on pilfering the goods he carries home; the destitute hanger on the pavè upon filching the pewter pot, or bit of lead or brass, or the jacket, or the gown-piece, or the pair of boots which offer themselves so temptingly at the stall or shop front as they pass. No doubt, the case of the receivers of stolen property is one very difficult to deal with: no doubt the habitual carelessness of the small retail shopkeepers in exposing their goods so temptingly, particularly small articles of food and clothing, should be checked; but it may fairly be a question whether some system of supervision might not be carried out in reference to these marine store dealers so as to restrict the perfect license with which they now traffic in manifestly stolen property, and to repress the assurance with which they now invite and stimulate dishonesty.*
Such is a rough outline of the circumstances of the juvenile offenders of our towns and cities, and the influences which enlist
An experienced police magistrate suggests that “Dealers in Marine Stores’ should be required to keep a register OF ALL THEIR PURCHASES; and that it should be made unlawful to purchase from any young person, or after a fixed hour in the evening, as is the case with the pawnbrokers.
and confirm them in their career; a career sure to end eventually in banishment, if not earlier cut short by disease, vice, want, and drunkenness. : In mining and agricultural districts, the amount of juvenile delinquency is comparatively small; in the two metropolitan counties, 3609 boys and girls under 17 were imprisoned in 1848 (of which number above 600 of the boys were whipped, under the Juvenile Offenders' Act), being in the ratio of 1 to 694 of the population. In the same year the number of such young offenders imprisoned in the manufacturing counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Warwick, Derby, Leicester, and the West Riding of Yorkshire, was 3295, being one in every 1600 of the population. And the number imprisoned in the counties of Norfolk, Hampshire, Essex, Sussex, Kent, Devonshire, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and the East Riding of Yorkshire, being districts with large maritime towns or watering places, was 2584, being 1 in every 1508 of the population; while the number in the five mining counties of Cornwall, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, and Northumberland, was 619, being 1 in 2078 only of their population; and the number in the thirteen agricultural counties of Cambridge, Hereford, Huntingdon, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Salop, Suffolk, Wilts, Oxford, Berks, and Northampton, was 1087, being only 1 in 1947 of the population. À proportion, however, of juvenile delinquency does exist in all, mostly to be traced to the want of superintendence and healthful exertion of the mind in early childhood. The agricultural juvenile offender usually begins his course as a crow boy. The little fellow, whose lungs can expand enough to raise a shout, or whose hands can wield a clapper, is not allowed to idle his time away at school, where he can earn nothing, but is perched on a gate, in a hedge, or a tree, all day long, to frighten away birds, both at seed time and harvest
, for which occupation he receives so many halfpence a week. He studies nature, and in due time becomes a wood and turnip stealer, and then a poacher, possibly supplied with a gun and ammunition for night-work by the receiver of the game. We fear, we must say, that the Union Houses have contributed their full share to the amount of juvenile delinquency. To quote the evidence of a witness before cited: With regard to
country boys, we have had a great many cases in the Philanthropic School in which the boy seems to have been allowed to turn himself out of the workhouse at 14 or 15 years of age; • because he was a little troublesome, the master has been glad
to get rid of him; and in a few days or weeks he has been in prison. That boy would soon become a finished convict.'