Obrázky stránek

and they can have no force at all, while the flogging system is continued. But we would have punishment-and severe punishments. There might be substituted for the lash, as Buonaparte said, dark and solitary confinement-diet on bread and water-stoppage of pay-and many other penalties, which would work upon the mind, without breaking the spirit; and have at least as powerful and as useful an influence, as servile and degrading fear, or the spectacle of a fellow-soldier, stripped, exposed, scarified, bleeding and writhing in the torments of bodily pain. By these means, we believe, the discipline of the army would be improved ; we are sure the character of the soldiers would be raised.

In whatever view, then, the subject is regarded, whether by the light of philosophy, or of experience, whether with reference to the immutable principles of abstract reason, or to the history of man, and the customs of other nations, the practice of flogging must be equally lamented, must be equally reprobated; it calls loudly, not merely for censure, but for abolition. We shall add a very few words by way of conclusion. The exalted station of your Royal Highness has, like every thing on earth, some inconveniences inseparably connected with its advantages. It prevents you from being accurately informed of the feelings and wishes of those beneath you. We, on the contrary, have made it our business, as it is our duty, to mix ourselves with all ranks of people, to penetrate their sentiments, and acquaint ourselves with their hopes. We can tell your Royal Highness, that the general opinion is decidedly hostile to the continuation of flogging, as a military punishment. We can tell you, that the recent occurrence has made but one impression on the public mind—the impression of indignation against the system, and compassion for the sufferer. We can tell you, that if we made an appeal to the passions, instead of the understanding of the nation ; if we were as anxious to excite commotion, as we are in reality desirous to preserve order; we could create a sensation on this subject, which could not be allayed, certainly without trouble, and perhaps, without change. The people already talk with Mr. Brougham of “a military degraded by the lash." They already look upon the practice as the “ ultimum supplicium"-the worst and most debasing of all punishment--as alike unprofitable, inhuman, and unjust. Nor are the sentiments of the army in contradiction to the feelings of the nation. There are a few-strict disciplinarians as they call themselves-who are averse to every shadow of alteration or innovationwho can fancy no method of correction or persuasion but the stick-who will laugh at what they choose to designate the affectation of tenderness, and the cant about cruelty and degradation-who consider the common soldier as a brute, and would treat him as a brute. But it is absurd to reason with such men. Our consolation must be, that they are not immortal. Another generation will be wiser; because not stultified by such insane and pernicious prejudices. At the present moment, too, the champions of the lash are a small and decreasing party. The majority of British Officers would hail with pleasure, even now, the introduction of a milder system. In the name, then, of justice, in the name of humanity, in the name of the British Nation, and the British Army, we once more call upon your Royal Highness to give your earnest attention to the practice which we deprecate. The universal feeling is in favour of a change; and no better time can be selected for it than a period of profound peace. You have not, it is true, an arbitrary discretion in the matter ;-you cannot decree by a word, the total abolition of corporal punishment-but your influence can do much towards accomplishing an object, which it must hereafter be a source of pride and gratification to have accomplished. Your Royal Highness will thus evince, even more than you have already done, your zeal for the interests of the army; by proving the sincerity of your regard for the comfort and the feelings of the meanest individual in its ranks. The soldier will recognise in you, not merely his most dignified commander, but his firmest friend. You will increase the popularity, which you now so deservedly enjoy, and add one more to your claims upon the gratitude of the nation.

We remain, my Lord Duke, with sentiments of profound respect, your Royal Highness's most obedient and most devoted servants,




Our readers need not be alarmed by the portentous word at the head of this article. There is already“ satis, superque," enough-and more than enough, of grave matter in our present Number; and, although the abuses of the Police may afford little opportunity for sprightliness and wit, we shall, at least, forbear to propose our crude suggestions, with dogmatic and oracular solemnity, upon a subject, which has been long undergoing a Parliamentary investigation. The weather is too hot for plunging into the chaos of Reports: and as wiser heads than our shoulders have the honour of bearing are at work, we are well contented to leave this important branch of domestic policy to the wisdom of the Legislature, and the vigour and discretion of the new Secretary of State for the Home Department.

A great deal, however, has been lately said about the Police both within and without the House of Commons. It has been a popular, because it is an easy, topic of declamation. Pamphlet upon Pamphlet, and Review after Review, have been stuffed with long and vehement diatribes upon the defects and enormities of the English system in theory and in practice. It has been called strange, anomalous, inefficient, barbarous, and a hundred more hard names into the bargain; the example, too, of our continental neighbours has been held out to us as a model for imitation. With many of these remarks we cordially agree. We believe that our system of police really demands in many respects investigation and reform. But on examining more closely the signs of the times, we perceive very little use in swelling the clamorous outcry which has been raised. There is no danger, we see very clearly, that the subject will be passed or slurred over with inattention and indifference. The tide is running the other way. We rather apprehend, that men will be carried by their zeal beyond the boundaries of prudence. Our only fear is that too much will be attempted.

The general chorus of the song is, “Let us have a pre

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ventive police.” The sentence of Blackstone is quoted and re-quoted; until it almost sounds like the single exclamation of a parrot. “Preventive justice is upon every principle of reason, of humanity, and of sound policy, preferable in all respects to punishing justice.” This is the motto to the pamphlet of Mr. Mainwaring—Mr. Mainwaring, the defaulter, who talks long and loudly about crying nuisances, increasing profligacy, depravity and demoralization. So often, alas, does it happen, that the reformer in doctrine is a rogue in life. Preventive police ! well and goud; preventive police is an excellent thing of itself; but let us just consider on what terms we can obtain it. It can only be obtained by the surrender of some portion of our liberty. A strictly preventive police is a thing impossible in a free country. The most exact police will always exist in the most despotic government. And why? because a perfect system of police is necessarily connected with perpetual superintendence, and surveillance, and espionage—things the most abhorrent from the spirit of liberty ;-things which to an Englishman must be intolerable. We must make our choice; we must take the bad with the good; we must decide, whether we will enjoy freedom with its concomitant disadvantages, or exchange and sacrifice it for a preventive police. For ourselves, we frankly confess, that we should think the latter benefit purchased at too dear a price.

But we shall be told, that all police and all government, with the security and protection which are afforded by them, must be obtained by the surrender of some portion of our liberty. We know it ; and we know too, that men suffer the restraints of police and of government only by comparing them with the comfort and tranquillity which they derive from such establishments; and finding that the restraints are far more than counterbalanced by the blessings. But the case is otherwise with a preventive police. For we would simply ask, which is the preferable state-to live under the regime of Napoleon and Fouche, and enjoy the advantages of a preventive police; or under the British Constitution, without a police, which pretends to be absolutely preventive? We almost blush at pro

posing such an alternative, as if it admitted a moment's doubt.

We have ventured upon these remarks, not because we believe that the present police system is the best which is practicable in this metropolis ; or has reached the highest point of perfection which is attainable in a free state ; not because we believe that it is incapable of modification and improvement, or that no political and moral evils are connected with its organization ; not because we believe that the depredations and outrages, which are daily and nightly committed, are not of sufficient consequence to demand the early and serious consideration of the Government; but because we would not have our countrymen deluded and led astray by extravagant hopes, and fallacious, perhaps fatal, expectations, which can only end in disappointment or in servitude. We fully concur with Mr. Mainwaring, If the principle of police be regulation, prevention, to check, and not to punish, the offender; if a system can be devised, which in its administration will leave the country free, and, at the same time, improve the morals of the people, what objection can there be to the adoption of the means, which shall contribute to so de. sirable an end? Is it wise, is it expedient, to resist even the discussion of those means, opposed, as it can only be, by mistaken views of finance, or by abstract notions of liberty, when the consequences of those views and notions upon this subject are contributing daily to the demoralization and depravity of the people, and necessarily to the ultimate subversion of liberty?" If-if-if-But we repeat, that we will subscribe to the conclusions; when Mr. Mainwaring, or any other writer, can prove the truth of the propositions which he finds it so convenient to take for granted. Till then let us not be deceived ; let us preserve the old sterling constitutional jealousy ; let us not suffer an encroachment upon our freedom under the disguise of an amelioration in our police. The expense, although it is something, is a matter of secondary moment. We advise no relaxation in the search after a safe and practical reformation in both the principles and agency of our existing system : but we must not rush upon a precipice, hood

« PředchozíPokračovat »