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two, of reports of cases at the police offices, for the gratification of their readers. If, as is very frequently the case, there be any thing odd or ridiculous in the culprit, or the offence, or the mode of examination, it never fails to be made still more so by the witty reporter, who involves the whole affair, magistrate and all, in fun and frolic. A crime is thus presented to the reader as a mere joke, an excellent subject for thie wit of the justice, and the amusement of the public. It is devested of all its turpitude and atrocity, and instead of a serious of. fence to society, appears as a subject for jest and laughter. It is to be remembered, that the principal reading of the lower orders is confined to newspapers, and that the most interesting subjects of vulgar curiosity are the records of crimes and punishinents. Now, if courts of justice and culprits are thus made to furnish subjecis of merriment, and crimes become the objects of joke and ribaldry, it is very easy to be conceived, that those whose morality is not well fortified, will very likely yield to the seduction of such pleasant recreation.
If my preceding observations be correct, you will perceive, that it is scarcely possible there should not be a more than ordinary degree of turpitude, a greater portion of crime here, than is to be found among contemporary nations. In France, where the people are comparatively comfortable, and where the king and nobility have before them an awful example of the consequences of despising the just resentment of millions of human beings, crimes are diminishing every day. In this country, on the contrary, where the king and nobility seem to have forgotten, that they only escaped a similar lesson by the breadth of a hair, crines are every day increasing. They are gradually ascending into the more respectable classes, and descending to the meridian of childhood. In my occasional
attendance at the Old Bailey, Hatton Garden, Bowstreet, Guildhall, and other places where the police officers hold their state, I have frequently been shocked to see men and women, evidently well educated, and whose manners bore testimony to their former respectability, arraigned for crimes, not the effect of sudden passion or instantaneous impulse, but of reflection and plan; during the organization of which, the crime and its probable consequences must have been looked steadily in the face. Such instances are not, however, frequent; but occurring eveo rarely, they point to a state of morals verging towards the last stage of corruption, or to a state of society, in which the temptations of poverty are ascending to a higher class than usual.
But it is the number of little children almost every day brought before the police in the great cities, and especially in London, for crimes more or less atrocious, that affords the most melancholy proof of the decay of public morals, originating principally from the increase of poverty. Whether it be from ignorance, or hardihood, or want, I cannot say; but these little wretches discover neither penitence nor fear. They seem either so hardened by guilt, or brutified by suffering, as to be incapable of shame, and indifferent to punishment. It is shocking to see them. Both reason and humanity shudder at the contemplation of these poor little ragged, dirty, and depraved creatures, whom the unjust distribution of the means of instruction and subsistence has brought to this early maturity of wickedness. It is among the triumphs of this boasted system, which we yankees are every day called upon to imitate, that under the eye of a government expending seventy millions sterling a year--within reach of the example of a nobility rolling in wealth-and of the instructions of a clergy richly endowed almost beyond example-bands and combinations of little children, from eight to fourteen years old, associate not only for simple pilfering, but for more elaborate plans of swindling and depredation. I send you some of the reports of magistrates and societies, which, although in my opinion much exaggerated, have a terrible foundation in truth. To these I could add instances of the most singular precocity in guilt; but as I am not an amateur of human depravity, I will not pain myself by the recital. A single example of atrocity is no ground for condemning a whole people; and it is only where they are frequent, that any conclusion ought to be drawn from thein.
My principal object in writing this long letter was, to point out to you the inevitable consequences of a vast disproportion of wealth, and enormous public burthens, that press the people down to the dust; of those artificial distinctions of rank, which, being hereditary, require neither moral nor intellectual superiority to preserve them, and become in the end a warrant for the indulgence of every wanton and capricious impulse of folly or vice. This inequality of wealth, and these hereditary distinctions of rank, enable the possessors to despise the suffrages of mankind; to insult their poverty with a display of wasteful extravagance ; and to corrupt their morals by examples of vicious indulgence. These enormous public burthens, the inattention of the well-beneficed clergy to almost every thing but the collection of tithes, together with the profligate extravagance of the rich and nobility, have, all combined, gone near to ruin one of the finest and noblest nations under the sun. That they are not thoroughly corrupted and debased, is a proof of the excellent materials of which the national charac. ter was composed. At the time, or perhaps just before, our ancestors came to Plymouth, England might have challenged the world for inflexible integrity, diffused intelligence, and noble patriotism; nor was there a country in existence, where the principles of civil liberty were more cherished or better understood. But profligate kings, a dissipated nobility, a lazy and luxurious clergy, a paper system, and unexampled taxes, have at length undermined that high character, and left little else but the imperishable mummy to show what once
Every day, and every country I visit, add to my affection for my home, and my attachment to a republican form of government. I am more and more convinced of its intrinsic superiority over alt others, in diffusing a general and equal happiness over all ; in preventing the permanent and lasting accumulation of wealth, which enables one class of men to tread on the necks of another from generation to generation ; and in destroying that' hereditary and low-lived feeling of inferiority, which debases the mass of the people, and cows the master spirit of manhood. Let the advocates of kings clank their chains, and persuade us it is music; let them place the groveling feeling of loyalty above the ennobling sentiment of patriotism, and lift their pageants to the level of plain George Washington—but do not let them persuade you to be ashamed of the simplicity of our government, the plain coats of our President and officers of state, nor the cheapness with which we obtain the services of our most illustrious citizens. It is not those who are best paid, or who wear the most diamonds, that are the greatest men. My Lord Londonderry, with his thousands and tens of thousands a year, will never be put on a level with Franklin, in his plain snuff-coloured coat nor will Prince Esterhazy, whose diamonds made Sir Walter Scott's mouth water, ever reach the
level of the simple majesty of Washington, in his black velvet suit. The very admiration which is bestowed upon such idle pageantry, not only by the people, but by the most exalted statesmen, and warriors, and divines; the manner in which it is puffed, not only in newspapers, but in productions that affect to be literary, all together furnish the most unequivocal proof of the superior manliness and dignity of the simple republican character. So far, therefore, from being ashamed that our government and its officers cannot afford this effeminate trumpery, we should be proud of it, as a proof that the people are well governed, since their earnings are not wasted in boundless extravagance and childish parade.
The love of distinction is inherent in human naiure. As we ascend in the scale of society, this desire becomes the stronger, and it is on ihe direction given to it that the character of every man in a great measure depends. If it be turned towards noble objects, it becomes a love of honourable fame; if towards frivolous pursuits and fashionable eccentricities, it dwindles into a mere passion for notoriety, a desire to be distinguished for something or other, no matter what.
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