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putrefy; the houses are all of them small, stained with smoke and dirt, no traces of paint or whitewash to sweeten them; they are filled with the heavy atmosphere laden with the smell of all the congregated impurities around ; and the dwellers in these places are obliged to endure all this, for they cannot alter the state of their streets, nor even of their houses. We blame the poor for being dirty ; and Provident Visitors and Benevolent Society Ladies exhort them to cleanliness; but they are condemned to dirt from the actual absence of all water from their houses, and they have no means either of obtaining or of keeping any, except at an expense above their means, or at a cost of exertion—much more energetic than can reasonably be looked for—to fetch it from a distance. They cannot deliver themselves from all this,-it is their destiny,—they cannot afford to live in better places, and they must, besides, be near their work; and those who build the abodes of the poor are either too ignorant or too avaricious to include any of the comforts, or as we should consider them, necessaries, of existence. Bad as the streets are, there are places still worse : narrow alleys, close courts, " in the lowest depths a lower still ;"--and miserable as are the houses with their small close rooms, yet a poor family cannot even possess one of them ; several herd together, till, as one who has been much amongst them testifies," that the state of many of the districts where the poor dwell, renders it impossible for decent people to continue the habits they may have formed under better auspices ; for that the environments tend to destroy the common decencies of human creatures.” And it must be remembered that all this is far more terrible in its naked reality than can be even surmised from the vague general indications we alone venture to give,-and it is not with reference to the bodily privations and hardships that we have referred to this condition of
every-house-his-castle,” in which such a large proportion of the people dwell, (for the poor are by far the most numerous class) but it is for its effect on their MORAL and mental condition—it has never been taken into consideration, in legislating for crime. The growth of crime can never be checked whilst all this continues ; the poor cannot ameliorate themselves, so they come into the world not only predestined to suffer more than the average amount of human ill, but many of them to be actually imprisoned, transported, and hanged, for what is, in great measure, the natural
NO. XX.-VOL. IV.
growth and consequenec of their position. It is a statistical fact, not a theory at all, “ that in the worst and most neglected districts, live, and from birth have lived, that portion of the population out of which come, not only the thieves and pickpockets, and those other degraded and profligate persons who are the pests of society; but also, in general, our great criminals, violent and reckless men, who every now and then perpetrate, in cold blood, deeds which fill the whole country with horror."* Cause and effect must follow each other, though we may not be able always to trace the line of connexion. The effect of an action or of a fact is never still-born; and when the largest class of the community live under the influences we have alluded to, till their soul is stupefied out of them, and their bodies unhealthy, debased, till they have begun to depart from the very type of humanity,is it any wonder that erime flourishes? Is it not, rather, wonderful that the fair daylight structure of society is allowed to repose so tranquilly, girt round as it is with this abyss of dark unutterable suffering, and the elements of all loathsome things ?
It is fortunate for the other portion of society that the people who are condemned to this state of things are in general too brutally apathetic to be engaged in active criminality long together. They are in a state of moral decomposition, induced by their circumstances, and their very energy to be vicious is fitful and indolent. But this ocean of guilt and darkness with which we are encompassed, surges up from time to time, instinct with human souls, leaving them stranded, and wrecked, and discovered to the eyes of all men.
Then society takes cognizance of their existence, but it is only to cast them from her for ever. There are no conveniences for restoring them to the exercise of their moral funetions, to the state of HUMANITY from which they have deteriorated.
A criminal is a word of fear to the well-to-do-in-the-world members of the community--there is more cowardice than moral reprobation in the punishment inflicted on him ;-- there is a sentiment of self-preservation in the zeal for justice to take its course—"c'est faire à la fois, le bien public et particulier, chef d'oeuvre de morale."
In words, criminals who are aux prises with justice, are exhorted to profit by their sentence, and reform and lead a new life—but even supposing that the breath of moral life followed the words of the judge, under what practical possibility is a convicted felon to lead
* See Dr. S. Smith's “ Evidence before the Commissioners for Inquiring into the State of Large Towns and Populous Districts_1844."
the life of an honest man? Justice takes no heed of him before his crime,—her connexion with bim ceases, at the expiration of his sentence; and with his name written in the Recorder's Book,with the odour of the Criminal Court clinging to him like the scent of the grave,--how is he to obtain admission into the ranks of honest men--even supposing him suddenly and miraculously endowed with the moral strength to become one ?
It is social destruction to gaze face to face on a judge in the awful exercise of his functions. His exhortation to a prisoner, either to amend his life, or attend to his soul, is like the “Extreme Unction”_never administered till there is no chance of recovery. It is virtually casting him adrift on the wilds of rascaldom ; for after condemnation there is a deep fixed between society and the criminal, and no man having once crossed over may repass it.
Thus one class of men seem born to a horrible primogeniture of crime ;-brought up in brutality, their senses steeped in want, filth, licentiousness, and all unutterable forms of demoralisation, they excel in wickedness.
They do not, as we said before, monopolise crime; the ranks of criminals have been recruited by men of talent, education, birth, rank, and possessors of some virtue too ; one touch of nature makes the whole world akin," and that holds true of the evil as well as the good of humanity.
The demoralising process, though carried on under different forms, is essentially the same in all classes.
Life itself is a constant struggle against dissolution, against the tendency to break the combination which holds us together in a visible form. The process of moral decomposition is the ceasing to struggle, to keep thoughts, words, and actions, in a state of coherency-an indulgence of the disposition “ to live at ease a ceasing to hold ourselves in control, or, in the words of the Apostle, ceasing "* to live like those who must give an account." When men have once fallen into this helpless, indolent state, all trouble is odious to them--they have gone so far towards dissolution that the germ, the possibility of crime is developed in them ; their whole nature is softened, and becomes easily tainted by any ill temptation that may beset them.
Great crimes are seldom contemplated afar off ; they are given into by little and little : the current has set in that way, and the man floats along with it, and is ever drifted on towards it, until only the brief space of the actual fact separates him.
The outward environments of decency and civilisation, the conventional laws of society, are a great check on men, and hinder the development of much evil ; but the process of moral deterioration, wherever it exists, has the same symptoms and tendencies if want and misery stupefy the soul, pleasure hardens the heart ;in both, it is sensualism that rots the spiritual life away. But with the better classes there are so many more chances of redemption, such comparative want of facility to break down the barriers that separate them from crime, that we feel less sympathy with them,their moral means are as abundant as their physical ones,--they suffer from the lack of nothing.
But for the criminals of the poorest and most numerous class surely something might be done to save their souls alive, before they render themselves obnoxious to the great Juggernaut of Human Justice, and fall crushed beneath its course ! But the remedy must be applied before the evil has become embodied in a criminal act. Men are prone to have faith only in what can be plainly demonstrated, or at least seems to have a logical connexion with something tangible ; it must assume the aspect of a concrete totality, before they will venture to act on it. A crime is a fact ; something men can grapple with. It is easy to make laws to take vengeance on it; but the floating elements of evil, before they have hardened into the definite consistency of an act of crime, are not so susceptible of demonstrated remedy-and there is none provided.
Evil in infinite shapes has held for six thousand years undoubted sway-has got itself recognised for a Fact ;—whilst men, by a natural instinct, still only speak of “dreams of doing
When a thing is established as a fact, it has a stability, one might almost say, a consideration, enjoyed by nothing else in this world. The existence of CRIME, being unhappily a Fact, men are more apt to feel faith in the vengeance they can execute on it, than in any plan for preventing its growth. Preaching and hanging have hitherto been the principal weapons opposed to its progress, and with small success. The pestilential element is not attacked, but allowed to accumulate and form an inexhaustible treasure-house for crime, confusion, and every
evil work. If crime is to be diminished, it is only by dealing with the elements out of which crime arises that it can be done.
If it be Justice to hang a man for being a murderer it is
no less Justice to ameliorate the influences which brutalised him
The same Justice that demands punishment on a felon requires (though this part of her prayer is dispersed to the winds) that he shall have had at least an average chance of taking to good ways.—Justice ought to deal with men before their crime, as well as after it ; and that portion of society which has the power to punish crime, performs only half its task if it leave untouched those remote causes which, it can be proved, have a direct tendency to make men utterly brutish, ignorant, cruel, and reckless. Society at large, by its apathy to these previous circumstances, has been an accessary before the fact to a vast proportion of the crimes which have thrilled it with wonder and horror.
It is not by building churches, or even schools, that, in the first instance, the lower orders are to be Christianized. They must first be raised to the condition of human beings, before they can be addressed as immortal souls with any chance of success. Men of high and well-known reputation, practical men, whose avocations have taken them amongst the poor, have all united in the same testimony to the physical and moral influences that surround
A medical man (Dr. Ward) has declared that even the admission of light into the dwellings of the lower orders would have
a most signal ” influence on their moral condition. Dr. Southwood Smith, after giving practical illustrations of the working of the present state of things, which cannot well be transferred here, calls the attention of the public and the legislature to the physical deterioration and moral degradation which result from the confined space—the want of a sufficient number of separate rooms in the houses of the poor ; and this is not the case in large towns alone, but throughout the country, wherever the poor dwell. If Men are obliged to live like Brutes, they can be degraded down to their level, and have left to them none of the feelings and affections proper to human beings.
All who have spoken and written on the subject unite in testifying that legislative enactments are absolutely necessary to ameliorate the actual state of things. The poor are too ignorant and too apathetic to take proper care of themselves in matters that most concern them ; and they can do little or nothing towards bettering their own condition. The amount they have to pay for their wretched dens is such as ought to procure accommodation