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would be altogether futile, we must adopt the method pursued by council with a garrulous or superannuated witness, and let him tell his own tale, with as little interruption as may be.
Mr. Berkeley first attempts to show that the undue and horrible severity with which offences against the game laws are visited, does not contribute to the fatal effects of encounters between poachers and keepers, or, as he invariably terms it, of murder ; charging the guilt by a petitio principii, which can only be pardoned in a young logician, upon the poacher and not upon the keeper. He says :
"I may be permitted here to turn to other statutes, and invite the public attention as to how far the mitigation of punishment bas led to the prevention of crime, where the experiment has been tried. Has the abolition of the punishment of death lessened the crime of forgery? No. Forgery has increased to a frightful extent. Has the reluctance to visit murder with that unflinching severity, so honestly and religiously demanded at the hands of man, lessened its perpetration ? No. We have the fearful fact from the lips of a culprit who murdered his sergeant on parade, when he found that death was to be awarded to his crime, that had it not been from the observation he had made as to the rarity of the fact and reluctance in government to carry out the capital punishment, and the hope he therefore imbibed that he should but be transported for life, he would never have murdered his non-commissioned officer.
The severity of punishment on persons banded and armed at night for the destruction of game does not produce murder rather than submission.'—pp. 6, 7.
This may be regarded as a fair specimen of the author's utter recklessness of assertion—of what may be properly called his
punch on the head' method of reasoning. Where does he find his proof that forgery has frightfully increased far beyond the ratio of increased population, since the amendment of the law ? Can he be ignorant of the fact that the certainty and fixedness of punishment is far more effective than its severity, fluctuating, as all severe punishments must be, through the scruples of prosecutors, the humanity of jurors, the stupid tyranny of magistrates, and the testy caprice of judges ? If so, we beg to refer him from the extorted confessions of culprits to the enlightened and comprehensive views of such jurists as Romilly and Mackintosh.
His next argument appears to be directed not so much in support of the game laws as against those which obtain in our solar system, and which regulate the succession of day and night. He puts into the mouths of his opponent the following unspeakably silly enquiry :
“What is the reason, then,' asks the surface observer, 'why
there are more murders in poaching cases by night than there are by day? Does it not arise from the difference in the grade of punishment ?
" . It does not arise, he replies, ‘from the difference in the punishment by which the heavier and the lighter crimes are met.''
And after a series of sentences, which are really too foolish to be quoted, he adds :
• There are a thousand obvious reasons why the night should be the more probable time for murder than the day.'-pp. 8, 9.
Of course there are. Who doubts it? When men are forbidden, under heavy penalties, from exercising what they deem their just rights, they prefer the obscurity of the night to the dangerous openness of the day. Christian martyrs and persecuted dissenters have even been driven to the same necessity. The obvious hinge of the question is the rigidly restrictive character of the game laws, and upon this our author is wisely silent.
The next cause to which Mr. Berkley refers, is the beer shop : • Inflamed with the beastly drugs of the pothouse, and in the hope of being shielded from observation by the obscurity of night, the cowardly and brutal ruffian fires his gun, without any very clear reason in his brain as to the cause of his doing so, save in the hope of injuring some honest man. The severity of punishment consequent on capture no more hastens the murderous grasp on the trigger than it hastens the next year's snow; the ruffian steals, &c., &c.'
And again (p. 17), 'watching in the cold drives him to drink with the evil companions of his sport, &c. Now we beg to ask Mr. Grantley Berkeley, whether his keepers are members of the temperance society? Have they no acquaintance with the butler at the hall ? Are keepers so differently constituted from other men, that watching in the cold midnight never suggests to their minds the convenience of a flask of gin? Do they not carry guns? And would it be an unpardonable impeachment of their character to imagine that they may now and then be a little pot-valiant in their encounters with the unauthorised sportsman ? But Mr. Berkeley tells us that he himself has been in the habit of accompanying his keepers all night in their rounds. Did he never fortify himself against the cold of the midnight watch with those creature-comforts to which mendacious rumour hints that sportsmen are slightly addicted. Did punch in the stomach never precede the well-directed punch on the head, which he has so gloriously inflicted in his twenty-six encounters ? On these points, as on the drunkenness of poachers, Mr. Berkeley unfortunately adduces no evidence whatever.
One of our author's strongest points, however, is that no man is led to the conventional crime of poaching by distress, and on this he cites the evidence of the Duke of Beaufort, whom all who are acquainted with his Grace's character and pursuits, must, of course, regard as an unprejudiced witness. Now, if by distress these honourable and noble game preservers mean the temporary and total destitution of food for their families, without the slightest prospect of supply, we can admit their statement with a comparatively slight discount; indeed, in such a state of things, the labourer would be more likely to pawn his gun, than to load it; but then, gentlemen have yet to learn that syncope from starvation and the raging fever of famine, are not the only forms of distress, though such alone may constitute their criterion. Children, with insufficient rations of oatmeal and potatoes—wives sinking, perhaps, in pregnancy, from want of adequate support — limbs incapacitated by rheumatism, from want of fuel and blankets, are indications of what humane men designate as distress, by whatever terms they may be known in the vocabulary of the aristocracy; and these, we have abundant evidence to prove, are some of the many temptations to the infraction of the game laws.
Besides, Mr. Berkeley tells us that poaching (i.e. by his own showing, nocturnal poaching) is extensively pursued as a trade; men, boys, and even women, he tells us, are accustomed to exterminate the game in the fur, the feather, and the egg.
“In Wiltshire, my keeper caught a woman in the act of setting traps for game, her husband thinking that she would attract less sus. picion than himself, and that we should deem her as simply employed in gathering sticks for fuel. In each of these places I had the rights of sporting, and set about a speedy reformation. In each of these places some of the tenantry were the first whom I caught poaching; and in each place I had personally to establish a character for determination of purpose and aptness of hand, before I could enforce obedience. In addition to the rebellious spirit of the lower orders, consequent on long neglect of the laws and habitual demoralization which ever attends their slightest infringement, I was hampered with the weak and prosy decision of timid injustice, for I seldom attained justice.”
Now, men, women, and children, do not usually act without motives; and mightly watchings, coupled with Mr. Berkeley's ‘ well directed punch of the head,” and the agreeable 'sight of their own blood,” are not the most powerful incentives to this kind of sport; yet our author has the simplicity to assure us that the game do no harm to the farmers’ crops and the labourers' cabbages; and even adduces an instance of one old man who, in a fit of landlord loyalty, declared that he thought
the game so far from injuring him, had rather done him good. This last case reminds us of a lady, who in the late slippery weather, accidentally tripped up on the pavement, and fell violently backwards. The nature of the injury, if ascertained, would not need to be specified ; but upon a gentleman promptly lifting her up, and enquiring if she was hurt, she replied, Not at all, Sir, I'm much obliged to you, quite the contrary !
But we must meet Mr. Berkeley's case with a few facts. Our author, with that cunning which constitutes his sole qualification as a controversialist, adduces the published opinion of some farmer, that a thousand hares on an estate do as much mischief as an equal number of sheep, and to do him justice, he tilts at this windmill with some success. It has, however, been repeatedly declared by experienced farmers, that the keep of three hares is equivalent to that of one sheep; and we believe that this statement has never been refuted. In a recent number of the Mark-lane Express,' we find the following statement in a letter signed ' A Tory:
Observing in your paper some account of the ravages caused by game, I beg leave to state what I saw during the harvest of 1844, on the estate of a tenant-farmer, who has now happily left that occupation: he did not put a scythe into 36 acres of barley, it being so completely destroyed by the game. The proprietor has since killed on the estate 3000 hares. In these days, when the population is considered to be more than the kingdom can contain, still less sup. port, we see hares and rabbits eating that which would feed thousands all the year round. Nor is this all ; 'tis not that which is wasted or eaten by these creatures, but it is what is also prevented from being grown, by the curtailment of the tenant's means, and also the distress amongst the labourers by the damages sustained by the farmer.'
But Mr. Berkeley slyly intimates, without daring to assert the the fact, that a compensatory provision for these damages is made in the diminished rent of the tenant. Here, too, we will appeal to known facts. In a recent number of the 'Norwich Mercury' we find the following paragraph,
• DESTRUCTION CAUSED BY GAME.—Sir Thomas Hare has given directions that the game on his estate at Stowe, near Downham, Norfolk, should be shot down as close as possible. This determination, we believe, has arisen in consequence of the numerous complaints he has received of the injury done to the crops of his tenants. A gentleman near this city, who hired an estate last year in this county for sporting, and where he had reared a large head of game, had this week an account of £200 presented to him for payment for damage done by the hares and rabbits to the tenants' crops.'
We have similar cases within our own personal knowledge. On the estates of a certain noble lord in Leicestershire a highl
respectable tenant had, during the last year, a most promising crop of oats. The whole ground was so completely destroyed by his lordship’s game, that the tenant never realized a single peck. To complain was to lose his occupation. On the rentday, however, the steward returned him the sum of £20, probably one fifth part of the loss he had sustained. On another occasion the same nobleman, while walking over a part of his estate in the company of his tenant, and observing the destruction occasioned by his game, ordered the steward to return to him at the next rent day no less than a hundred and forty pounds upon his rent, adding, “I wish, Mr. — I had known of this before;' to which the tenant replied, with amusing naïvetè, “I wish you had, my, Lord!' " But even these are not the most serious evils resulting from the game laws. It appears that in a single county town (Buckingham) out of 539 prisoners, committed during the past year, 169 were offenders against the game laws, while, in the year 1843, there were in England no fewer than 4,500 men convicted of poaching. Most truly did Mr. Bright say, at a recent county meeting at Aylesbury
• IIis opinion was, that the game laws should be abolished, and that the law of trespass would be quite sufficient to ensure a gentleman sufficient game and sport. His neighbours would protect his land, and his tenants would get rid of a great source of disaffection. Any gentleman who would have the moral courage to call upon Parliament to repeal the game laws would prove himself to be the farmer's friend. The game preserver was not the farmer's friend, but his enemy, and the persecutor of the labourer, loading the villages in his neighbourhood with taxation to maintain the wives and children of those he caused to be sent to gaol. The game-preserver was indeed the tyrant of his country, filling the prison with inmates sent from his own domains, and doing mischief to almost every other class of his fellow-subjects.' And here it is impossible to pass by one statement of Mr. Berkeley, “That the pheasant is often the farmer's best customer. On this subject we will quote again the language of Mr. Bright. There was,' he said, ' a general charge he would bring against the game laws.' The landowners of this country had undertaken to feed the people.
• It was common for them to express their desire that this country should be independent of foreigners for a supply of food, saying that the land of this country was sufficient to supply the whole population with food. He was not going into other questions. But the land-owners having undertaken to feed the 27,000,000 of people of England and Ireland, if there was reason to believe that those people were not sufficiently fed, then it was the height of injustice and im.