Abbildungen der Seite

should the laws remain as they now are how they may lead them to destruction; to what they could have done if their forefathers had (because they felt all men as their brethren) anxiously and honestly endeavoured to legislate for the substantial benefit of the offender, as well as the victim.

But if we investigate the subject as simple hearted men; as much as possible apart from early prejudices, will it not be evident that we have not yet on the subject of improved legislation got on the right scent, if one may so speak, and that without a thorough change on some points it will be impossible to compass a material reduction in crime? Our criminal code speaks any thing rather than a christian spirit; it provides not for crimes in proportion to their moral turpitude and the degrees of injury produced on the most important interests of man. Witness the severe penalties attached to the crimes to which men in the station of members of

parliament are accustomed to suffer from, as sheep-stealing, destruction of trees, cutting of fish-pond banks, poaching, &c.; contrast these


with the punishment provided for the crimes inflicted on poverty, as child-stealing, unchaste designs against poor honest girls, encouragement of drunkenness, and many others. To those who are really religious might one not appeal as to whether a blessing may reasonably be expected from such an unjust medley ?

If we would legislate correctly, we should consider the constitutions of men's minds, their habits, their necessities, their affections, their weaknesses, and even their prejudices; remembering that it is far easier and incomparably more useful to lead men along a path and make them love it, than to drive them along another path to the same object and make them hate it. Still there are points beyond which even a Lycurgus could not go, and happily no moral or generous character would desire to go half so far, for instead of warring with the most amiable feelings of human nature as he did, these might all be enlisted as powerful auxiliaries in the cause of good, sound legislation, thereby greatly promoting the happiness, respectability, and

power of the nation. History proves that it would ever be easy to rule a people with good laws, there seems to be a something implanted in the human breast in sympathy with our kindliest feelings inclining it to a respect and even love of authorities where no injustice compels it to feel that it is one party and the ruling power the other party; indeed, we generally see that where rulers, whether in the higher or subordinate stations, deviate from the path of rectitude, they soon find the error turn round on themselves in some shape or other; witness the game laws, for where is the country gentleman who preserves large quantities of game that is not more annoyed by poachers than pleased with his game? And if his tenants are half-ruined by what he calls his wild animals and which he refuses to those at whose expense he feeds them, and their sons by a feeling of the poverty thus induced, and disgusted at the cause thereof, which they see the injustice of so clearly that all the arguments in the world on the other side would pass for nothing with them for facts, facts would rise up in their minds

against every sophistry, and you never could persuade them that their mothers and sisters ought to be half-starved or their father's creditors defrauded of half their debts that the squire might in one respect be the village tyrant; and, if while so situated and so feeling they come in contact with the functionaries of the laws and plunge their parents into deeper distress, does not their landlord feel it in his arrears of rent ? and who would say that he suffers more than he deserves ? He may be so weak as to fancy or act as though the land was created for his pleasure, but his tenants won't fancy that they were created for any such object; and is it possible that any man of an average share of the sympathies and goodness of heart of his fellow men can be so happy with the sons of his tenants in gaol for poaching, and misery extending her dominion and entrenching herself in the cottage, yet with his game like a poultry yard, as he would if there were not a head of game in the country, and his tenantry happy, cleanly, respectful, industrious ? Truly, a nobleman must be made of unenviable stuff indeed, if he would long hesitate to prefer the latter.

It is a good thing to see good practice blended with good theory, and a strict observance of the laws by those who make them; but when we reflect how large a proportion of our nobility, and indeed of all the classes not engaged in trade or honest professions, are employed in gambling, and forbidden sensualities; how little actual use to themselves, or their fellow creatures ; how little to the credit of their country or their king, or the glory of their MAKER; how tremendously large the list of young girls who have to deplore their deceitful protestations, arising from their tyrannical lusts; how many industrious families are disabled from acting honourably towards others, because these spurn at the very foundations of probity and honour, while they foolishly persuade themselves that they are at the very summit of it, because they regularly hold themselves responsible to kill or be killed, as quarrels arise, to the given standard for the abominable offer.

Now I would ask any one, who believes

« ZurückWeiter »