« НазадПродовжити »
Lodging-Houses—Gradations of rank among Thieves.
sold for half its value, which I have no doubt was stolen.”—Constabulary Report, p. 67.
An orphan boy, ultimately convicted, gives this sketch :
“When lads run away from home they go to a lodging-house, and if they (the parents) look for them the lodging-house keeper hides them. If a lad once gets into one of them it's all up with him ; for he sees them drinking and card-playing, and hears them talking of the places they have been in. Young girls are enticed to the houses ; many hundred lads would not go if it was not for them. I have seen nine beds in a room, and two persons in each. I was once in a lodging-house at Warwick where there were 130 men, women, and children, all loose characters.”—Constabulary Report, p. 68.
Thieves have their gradations of rank according to their skill. The more proficient are admired and worshipped in these houses by those who have yet to learn; and the youth at threepence a-night is excited to imitation by the stories that he hears. We have all around us sad evidence of the skill with which the instruction is given and acquired, and of the power with which the plastic elements of humanity are moulded into perfection by accomplished masters. Physically and intellectually young criminals are, in one sense, in a high state of education, though unable to form a single letter, or toss up the first problem in simple addition. People talk of the influence of public opinion; but public opinion is nothing more than the judgment of the circle of 20 or 100 individuals with whom we associate, or among whom we
Duties derive their obligation from the opinions of that limited number; and to the scorn, as to the approbation of the rest of mankind, there is the most profound indifference. Hence the more proficient adepts in thieving are looked upon as illustrious chiefs of a body adorned by their talents; they keep up its spirit amid the persecution of cruel policemen, and have the sympathy of hundreds when denied in jails and penitentiaries the freedom they love. The means are dwelt on by which they have become great and unfortunate; and when at last they wind up their brilliant career by the gallows, or by a compulsory travel in a distant land, they bequeath to their companions the benefit of their example. The evils that such men do are thus not limited to the particular outrage for which they suffer. In their ruin they drag down not merely themselves, but the weaker instruments whom they have made their tools. Alceste, after reading Orontes' sonnet, announced the judgment of every reader of their confessions
Qu'un homme est pendable après les avoir faits.” The removal of such evils has been attempted by the erection
of houses regulated upon better principles, directed by humane and enlightened men. In Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, and London, we have seen these establishments in operation, and nothing can be more pleasing than the contrast. Cleanliness, order, quiet are there; and in some a collection of books. It is gratifying also to know, that, unlike other charitable schemes, they have turned out profitable speculations. Yet, after all, the accommodation so given must be limited in its operation to those houseless isolated stragglers who have no family, and no abiding resting-place. A man
with a wife and children, of course, cannot enter a large public lodging-house; for his case separate dwellings must be provided, if we wish to preserve him as a selfsustaining member of society.
The orphans and deserted children of degraded parents seldom come with a good recommendation to a tradesman wanting an apprentice. When he can get the children of the middle classes, he will seldom drag from the pollution of the London streets the wild creatures who infest them. Without a trade, or an honest means of livelihood, they have thus the sad dilemma offered to them to thieve or die. In that case, (and it is of professional thieves that we are now speaking,) undoubtedly want originally gave a direction to their life. Many respectable men have no doubt given it as the result of their experience, that such is not the cause of the vast majority of crimes.* They assert what is true, that a skilful thief will be able to acquire a far larger income than the best employed workman can ever make, and can riot it in a style of sensual gratification which no workman's income could ever meet. This may be the reason which induces the convicted thief when he grows in years to continue his predatory life; but, at first, the sole consideration is to get immediate subsistence. If work could have been got they might have been skilful operatives, raising still higher our manufacturing renown; but excluded from this outlet to their energies, they only serve to raise the prison and the poor rates.
Nothing can be more curious than the revelations which these children make of the practice of their art. The “ Memoirs of Vidocq” disclosed a history which, in point of interest, yielded to none of the master-pieces of imaginative fiction. The confessions of our own juvenile thieves, if they do not hurry us so often to the brink of improbability and melo-dramatic exaggeration, yet disclose pictures of human life which must be new to many. At one time we find them possessed of large sums of
* See the evidence of Mr. Hill, Recorder of Birmingham, First Report, Lords, p. 20 ; Surveyor-General's Report, p. 41; and evidence digested in Constabulary Report, p. 129.
Fences—Gains of a Thief.
money, which would have maintained a family for years; and in the following week it is gone. Each has got a “ sister," who generally aids in spending the ill-gotten produce, and who is often the best witness for a conviction. Eager for novelty, unscrupulous in the mode of gratifying it, impatient at the quiet monotony of sober life, the thief is soon inured to the roving spirit of his profession, and would feel it as the greatest misery to forsake it.
Most of them begin at the age of seven or eight, which must leave them two years of impunity, as we cannot find from the evidence of any of the witnesses examined before the House of Lords in 1847, that magistrates have ever tried children under nine. They begin their life first by petty thefts of loose articles from the market-stands and shop-doors; they next proceed to pocket-picking, stealing from the shop-till
, cheating shopmen, extracting valuable articles from shop-windows by taking out a pane. If what is obtained be money, it is immediately divided; it it be anything else it is taken to the “ fences," or receivers of stolen property, who for the most part are Jews, and who, to conceal the nature of their trade, carry on ostensibly the business of furniturebrokers, gold-refiners, and keepers of marine-stores. No one acquainted with the history of a thief's progress will doubt the assertion, that if there were no “ fences there would be fewer thieves. These, in truth, are among the greatest pests of society; they encourage the thief by finding him a market; and many robberies are effected upon their suggestion.
The first serious check the thief receives after the usual short imprisonments of his early youth, generally takes place in his third or fourth year. In pursuing his usual art, he may not have used his usual caution; or in attempting something new, he may not have displayed sufficient skill. A long imprisonment, or perhaps transportation, relieves society froin the agent that had troubled it. Of the results of Prison-discipline, we shall have occasion before concluding to speak. But in the meantime we will, from the confessions of one of these juvenile thieves, prove that their profits are far beyond what they ever could have obtained by honest living.
One of them states* that he was the son of respectable parents, and left them expressly to live by robbing. He and another young man on the first day of their expedition from Manchester made about £4 by picking pockets at Chorley. They then went to Preston, and in a fortnight “got a decent sum— about £30.” Thence they went to Garstang, where they took £12 from a drunk man. În the ensuing week at Lancaster and
* Constabulary Report, p. 4).
Carlisle they did “very fair.” In a short time they went to Hexham, where in about three minutes they “flattened the nose” of a flour-dealer, and relieved him of £25. They left for Newcastle that night, and got into a warehouse, from which they took goods to the value of £15. To Durham they next proceeded * to look at the Cathedral, but did nothing there," and were equally unsuccessful at Darlington; but at Stockton, in the following week, they made about £12, for which they were apprehended, and had a month of solitude in Durham jail. On their emancipation from this duresse, they went to Sunderland for a week, where the party making the confession could find no other book but the Bible, in which he read a passage that troubled him for soine weeks. On the road between Sunderland and Shields, they made £8; "and determined to work back to Manchester." Before they arrived at York, they “were low," and had only made £14, 10s. At Leeds, they got some little—about £10;" at Bradford, £3; and arrived in Manchester on the 25th of May, from which they went to Ashton and Huddersfield, and obtained £10 by picking pockets, but “had to fly very quick.” Wakefield" stood” 25s.; and Selby and Hull, “ some few pounds.” At Beverley and Scarboro', they made “ £30 at two hauls ;” and at Hartlepool, “ we lit on an old sailor just landed, who had got £25, (his wages just received,) and picked his pocket.” On they drove to Edinburgh, where we “ drawed” a grocer's till
, which yielded £30. At Glasgow, they were a fortnight, “got about £20 the day before we went out, to help us on the road.” Thence to Greenock, which is described as “a pretty town, but we did not choose to do much." Ayr, however, yielded a more liberal return in £40, which was taken from the pocket of a female, but which roused the hue and cry after them. They escaped, how
One left Scotland, crossed to Ireland, where at various places enumerated he made £77, 10s.; his companion having parted from him at Ayr.
Here is an amount of robberies which may be taken as a sample of hundreds contained in these confessions. The misery to the victims---such as the poor sailor, who after perhaps a long year of dangerous service had returned with his hard earned wage-can scarcely be estimated; and yet all this vast amount of money obtained within a period of one single year, was just as recklessly squandered as it was obtained. When apprehended at Manchester, on his return from Ireland, the improvident thief had only £25 remaining. Another of the tribe, who makes a similar confession, adds these significant words :-“ Separate confinement for a month or two, and as little meat as would sustain health, might have altogether stopped me."--Constabulary Report, p. 49.
Classified System- A Blunder.
The Prison-discipline now to be adopted has become of pressing interest. For the last forty years it has been made the subject of a long series of experiments, each thrust forward as an improvement on its predecessor. The damp dungeons which engendered the jail-fevers of former days, at İast yielded to the reclamations of humanity, startled by the disclosures of Howard. A feeling of strong commiseration for the victims directed attention to schemes of improvement; one of which was that upon which we have settled. So early as 1775, the Separate-system was established by the Duke of Richmond, in the county of Sussex. The suggestion came from Howard; but it never appears to have been generally adopted, and passed away for
many years from the public attention. A system of classification, about thirty years ago, was resorted to. To give it effect, many new prisons were erected, which have since required expensive alterations. The object was to put into various divisions of the prison criminals in the same stage of crime, in order that thereby the more hardened might not influence the penitent. It was a total blunder. It was found impossible to effect any proper classification. For how is it possible to gauge the exact amount of individual corruption, or to require from turnkeys that psychological knowledge which can fathom the consciences of men? It is a dream to expect so nicely to appreciate moral guilt as to assign to each prisoner his place in a graduated scale. It was fallacious, too, upon another ground; for an old offender, who might have escaped for many a year, was perhaps caught for a petty larceny. If judged according to this last crime, and so classified, it is obvious that a great mistake would be committed. The system, besides, partook of the evil of association, the effects of which cannot be exaggerated. To put down this, every motive of humanity, as regarded the individual prisoners, and of policy, as regarded the good of society, induced inquiring men to resort to some other system which should save prisoners from the fearful contamination resulting from unrestricted intercourse. It was found that every association of criminals perverted, and never reformed; and that, although classification might be useful, it was only in an inverse proportion to the numbers of which each class was composed, and was only perfect when it came to the point at which it lost its name and nature, in coinplete separation.
What was then fallen upon is what has since gone by the name of the silent-system ; of which the best examples are at the Maison de Force at Ghent, and the Auburn Penitentiary of New York. The prisoners, during the day, are all in each
presence. They are compelled to work, and under the pain of immediate flagellation, they are forced to be absolutely silent. It is a modification of this system which does not give