« PreviousContinue »
lution of the society.-The Commit- Blasphemous and licentious books iee are also charged with having and prints, which tend to inflame exercised on some occasions a spirit the minds and corrupt the morals of of bigotry, which has led them to the rising generation, will be dilipronounce a sentence of esclusion gently sought out, and no effort upon most respectable characters. spared to bring the venders of them From this charge, we fear that we to punishment. cannot wholly exculpate them. We · The preventing of the evil conhave much satisfaction, however, in sequences resulting from lotteries, expressiog our opinion--an opinion forms another object of the serious founded on facts which have come attention of the society. to our knowledge that this spirit Many other offences, injurious to has greatly abated of late. We sin- public morals, and contrary to the cerely hope that it will entirely dis- express or implied injunctions of appear.
his Majesty's Proclamation, come Having thus stated freely what within the scope of the society's appears to have been questionable exertions: such as the keeping of in the conduct of this society, we disorderly houses and gaming-houses, will now give our readers the re- profane swearing, cruelty to ani. verse of the picture, and informimals, and other enormities. In short, them what we conceive to be its real it is the grand design of the institumerits.
tion to promote a general reformaIn the first place, let us consider tion of morals, by the aid of the exthe design of its institution. On isting laws against vice and immothis point the members have a right rality; and to afford assistance to to be heard for themselves.
magistrates and their officers, in a The society, in the general ac- variety of ways, both by the comCourt of its own design which it munication of facts, and by pointing presents to the public, gives us the out offenders to their notice. following statement. The parti- Now of the designs of the insticular objects to which the attention tution, thus stated, it may safely be of this society is directed, in further affirmed, that the objects which it ance of its main design, are the fole proposes to itself are strictly legal,
and of the first and most unequivocal The profanation of the Lord's. importance. Day, in the carrying on of trades, in That to secure the observation of the working of artificers at their or- the Sabbath, to regulate weights and dioary callings, and in the vending measures, to repress blasphemous of their goods by shopkeepers, &c. and licentious books and prints, to - It is unnecessary, and, indeed, check lottery insurances, to shut up scarcely possible, to point out how disorderly houses of every descrip essentially the cause of religion suf. tion, to defeat the practices of those fers from the wilful or inconsiderate who are employed in the seduction violation of the Lord's-day.--The of youth, to silence the tongue of society, however, wish to be under the blasphemous, to curb the fury of stood as being desirous of distin- the cruel, are legal objects, cannot guishing between the actual profa- be disputed, because each of these nation of the Sabbath, and acts of practices is known to be the subject of duty or necessity
a specific enactment of the law. The The frauds and abuses practised in members of the society are indeed selling by false weights and measures, able to marshal old laws and new are grievances of great extent, and the laws, royal speeches of other days in a particular mannor affecting the and the proclamations of our own, recomfort of the industrious poor. To cords musty with the mould of every the correction of this oppressive evil
, century, as auxiliaries in their cause. the society professes to direct its They have not fancied an enemy, serious attention.
and then attacked him; they hain
not magnified their individual ene- weights and measures, of enlisting mies into the enemies of the state, the press and the arts in the service and made the public interest a han- of vice, of straining the evils of the dle for private revenge; but they lottery to their dregs by the most have taken those for foes whom the knavish practices, of opening houses law has proclaimed such, and have where rogues are to live by depreendeavoured to strengthen the hands dations upon the honest and indusof the law in the unequal contest trious, or where the debauched are which it wages with them.
to fatten upon the ruin of the innoNor will the importance of the ob- cent. Such crimes as these are of jects pursued by the society be more too gross a nature to admit of pallidisputed than their legality. From ation or compromise. They canLivy, who imputes the triumphs of not be disguised by a gentle name Rome to her reverence for what is or artful colouring. Every man disasacred, down to Machiavel, who vows them, hates them, anathema. reluctantly admits that no state can tizes them, and trembles for the exexist without a religion, there has istence of the society in which they been scarcely any writer, whether have free course and circulation.They infidel or not, who has not con- are crimes of that pernicious nature, ceived some species of religion es- that where they are planted and sential to the good order of society. flourish, public happiness and welIf they have rejected a particular fare must wither in the deadly shade. creed, they have yet proposed some Such, then, being the objects at other modification of religion; or if which the society aims, we must they have thought it well for them- admit that they quarry at legitimate selves to “ live without God in the game. If these are really the speworld,” they have by no means con- cies of virtues which they design sented that the great mass of the to advance, and these the specommunity should thus live. So- cies of vices which they design to crates in his last moments sacrificed check, they plainly, in the language a cock to gods in whom he did not of the continent, deserve to be placed believe, because he deemed eren in the “ legion of honour.” When superstition to be better than albe, there were wolves in the land, a ism : Rousseau taught his child the premium was offered to the man Bible, because he knew that a world who sallied forth to destroy them. of unbelievers would be a world of Nor let the premium of public comscoundrels: and the great body of mendation be denied to those who, sceptics amongst ourselves, acting at the expense of much obloquy upon the unphilosophical principle and detraction, venture into the dens that a false creed can produce good of these moral monsters, to drag morals, have deemed that faith es- them to the light, and to place them sential for the mob, which they re- within reach of the violated laws of ject for themselves. The importance, their country. therefore, of that part of the design But it may be said, no set of men of the society which more pecu- publish an unpromising prospectus. liarly regards the interests of reli- What bas the society done? Have gion, will be almost universally ad- they attempted or have they effected mitted.
much? - The fact is, the society Still less will men be disposed to has done much: had it done less, it cavil at the other objects proposed would probably have been less reto itself by the society. It is, in- viled. It has done more, we bedeed, impossible to say how far a lieve, than any preceding society; modern patriot will push his prin- more than could have been anticia ciples; but we conceive that the pated by any but those who specuwildest champion of popular liberty late in their closet upon the facility will scarcely wish to indulge the and worthlessness of every thing people with the licence of using false but speculation ; more than could
have been hoped from individuals them to an act which they find proassociated in a public, and not very ductive of so much comfort to popular cause, against a phalanx of themselves, and they have journalists and pickpockets, irreve. associated to secure that triumph rent wits and blaspheming dray- which the labours of the society had men, friends of the people and ene
We hail this single achieve. mies of the country, staunch pa- ment of the institution with no comtriots and French prisoners, game- mon gratitude. The more solemn sters and procuresses, men of light observation of the Sabbath has, for fingers and ladies of light character, a long period, distinguished this flogging critics, butchers, and ass- country from the continental drivers.
powers; and who shall say that it But, lest our estimate of the acti- has not been one of the barriers be. vity of the society be thought too tween us and the common calamities bigh, let us inquire what it has actu- of Europe? ally done. In an address to the pub- What has been said of the violation lic by the members of the institu- of the Sabbath, may be affirmed of. tion, published in 1804, two years other crimes. The number of proafter its first establishment, we find secutions has diminished, because the following table of its proceed- the number of criminals has dimiings :
nished. But will this be a charge Total convictions
against the society? Is not the obProfanation of the Sabbath 623 ject of all punishment prevention ; Vending obscene books and prints and, therefore, can the success of the Riotous and disorderly houses, &c. 11 society be better estimated than by Lotteries, little-goes, &c.
33 the diminution of crimes? A state Cruelty to animals
is not powerful because it has a If the number of convictions since number of armies fighting unsucthat period has diminished, it is not cessfully in different quarters of the because the zeal and activity of the globe ; but because its armies are society, but because the number of in such a state at home, as to imoffenders, has lessened. That this pose peace on every nation around it. last effect has taken place, is indeed Indeed, in estimating the success apparent, from the statement pub- of the society, its effect in preventlished by the society in 1807. There ing crime ought to occupy a proit appears, that such had been the minent place. It admits of no influence of its proceedings against doubt, that the number of crimes of violators of the Sabbath, as gra- a certain description has diminished dually to have diminished the ne- since its erection ; but it may also be cessity of prosecution ;-that at one presumed, that its bare erection in general meeting of the society, the ihe first instance acted powerfully as number of prosecutions reported was a preventative. A publicdeclaration an hundred and eighty; at the next, of an intention to prosecute for ceran hundred and seventy-eight; and tain offences, could not fail to have at the third, only seventy. Since the effect of materially diminishing that period the reformation of the those offences. We possibly "owe metropolis, where alone the society to it, therefore, blessings of which we in the first instance was able to act, little dream.” It may have crushed has been progressive as to this par- in the egg the most förmidable evils. ticular offence. In this respect the It may have chained the hands of the whole town exhibits, to a consider- swindler, crossed the stratagems of able degree, a new face. A vast num- the seducers of youth, chilled the Ber of shops are now closed which prurient imagination of the licenformerly used to be open. The tious artist, rescued our domestics butchers of several markets have from jails, and our sons and daughthanked the society for compelling ters from pollution. It is of ?!
nature of much of the good done by large to warrant, and even to deth is society, that it should be imper- mand, the interference of all lovers ceptible ; but it is not on this ac- of morality and good order. Nor, count the less substantial. We are wbilst the lusts and passions of men at least as much indebted to him continue what they are, is this sowho keeps us from a sick-bed, as ciety likely to want objects to call to him who heals us when we are forth its exertions. there.
The second inquiry, whether the The society, in its fifth and last punishment of these offenders may Report, mentions the detection of a not be left to the ordinary operation large market for obscene prints, of the laws, demands a more extendimages, and toys, in the various ed reply. French prisons; and expresses its There are certain crimes which gratitude to the present government, are alike pernicious to the commu. for the zeal and vigour they have nity and to individuals. Such are displayed in crushing an evil so in- robbery and murder. Against theme, jurious to public morals.
if not in the first instance, yet after But it may be said, “admitting proof of their perniciousness, an to the full the activity of the so- adequate provision will necessarily ciety, was all this activity necessary ? be made in every country. It may Were the transgressors numerous ? be safely left to the ordinary ope. Might not crimes of this kind be ration of the laws to pupish such ofleft to the ordinary courts of justice ; fences. In such cases, justice will and does not their enormily secure be alive; for individual happiness their punishment?”– We shall an- being palpably affected by them, swer ihese questions distinctly. information will be popular, and
In the first place, as to the number therefore informers sufficiently nuof transgressors. Let the former state merous. There are other crimes, of our shops and markets, too fresh such as those against religion and in the eye of every Christian ob- decency, not less pernicious in their server to be so soon forgotten; let ultimate consequences to the comthe number of disorderly houses munity, but not so immediately which the agents of the society have injurious to individual interest. even now been unable to convict; Against these the state will be longer let the fact, that a considerable num. in providing: and as the peace and ber of persons were employed in comfort of individuals is only reselling prints in this country, a very niotely affected by them, informalarge proportion of whom vended tions will be very rare.
And not improper prints; let the fact, esta. ovly will there be little disposition blished upon judicial evidence, that in such cases to inform, but nothing these prints were regularly and less than an undaunted courage will abundantly circulated in many even enable a man to lay his information. of the female boarding schools in Consider the hosts of assailants the neighbourhood of London and which, like the cloud of locusts in elsewhere; let the additional fact, Egypt, the informations of this very that many of those polluting public society have called up from the celcations, which are now only sold by Jars in which they were concealed ; stealth and with peril to the vender, and the showers of raillery, insult, might have been seen a few years and calumny, which have descended back exhibited in the shops even of upon its members, from the thrones respectable booksellers;- let these, of philosophers and the garrets of and a thousand other like circum- critics. Could an individual be exstances, decide both whether the pected to encounter all this; to society was necessary, and whether leap into this lake for the good of it has been useful. "The number of bis country? criminals is still, however,suficiently Nor is it mere animal courage
that is wanting ; the profession of rals. This provision, however, has an informer, like that of the publi- been found inadequate ; because can in ancient days, has become though in times of repose and pubinfamous by the vices of the men lic virtue, the government may who have followed it. To inform, keep its post against the encroachtherefore, supposes an entire con- ments of the profligate and profane; tempt of public opinion ; a willing- they have, in a perturbed state of soness to share the merited abhorrence ciety, other battles to fight where the of an unpopular fraternity, and to contest is more popular,---the stake, forfeit our own character in expos- as far as they are concerned, larger, ing the pices of others. Now is and the danger more imminent. But this to be expected from mankind even if this provision were in any in general? If even an individual case complete, yet in our own courcould be found, thus willing to try it is not made. Whether it be fight the bartles of his country, does that the hope of individual exertion our knowledge of mankind teach us has rendered the necessity of public that we may safely rely for the interference less palpable; whether guardianship of the public virtue it be that the existence of such soon the regular and abundant pro- cieties as that under consideration duction of such champions ? Are (for more or less they have existed these Decii and Horatii born every at different times for upwards of a day?
century) has seemed in some deBut suppose men to have the re- gree to supercede the efforts of the quisites already specified, public government; or whether it be that spirit, courage, and contempt of our free constitution has revolted at public opinion; suppose them to all approaches to a minute police: have all possible disposition to in- whether one of these causes or the form against this class of criminals, combination of them has stood in the they would still want the ability. way of the interference of the goCould an individual, or a few unsup- vernment, we know not : but cerported individuals bear the expenses tainly it has not interfered. Though which numerous prosecutjons would, our system of national jurisprudence although in every case successful, be distinguished probably beyond necessarily bring with them? Are that of every other, it provides but not many of these crimes difficult of inadequate practical checks for the detection, the evidence being per- vices and immoralities of the people. haps of an obscure and complicated Our statute book is indeed the nature? Would not ordinary juries watchful guardian of our commerreceive the testimony of such in- cial interests; but it leaves the informers with suspicion, and, when terests of morality in a great degree cast, leave them without reluctance to shift for themselves. This may involved in all the expenses of pro- be owing to the nature of our consecution ? From these and a variety stitution. A stricter police may be of similar considerations, we think incompatible with the precise deit indisputable, that if the detection gree of freedom we enjoy. But if of the crimes in question is to be that degree of freedom is to entail Jeft to the zeal of individuals, they vice upon us, we should be disposed will be committed with impunity.
to abridge just so much of it as In many countries, the govern- might invest the government with ment, aware of this indisposition and the power of controuling vice. Ininability of individuals to carry con- deed, freedom without virtue is of viction home to criminals of this little value. It is like a sword in the most pernicious class, have assumed hand of a maniac--an instrument into themselves the office of prosecu- deed of honour, by its name and its tors, and have become the guardians ornaments, but which may produce of their own decency and good mo- ruin to himself and all around him.
CHRIST. OBSERY. No. Ill.