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back from the shore which he strives to regain, so that the punishment, which is nominally an imprisonment of a longer or shorter duration, becomes a doom to pass the whole life in a succession of crimes and imprisonments. This refusal to take a tainted character so long as a sound one remains, is natural, and perhaps right. But the remedy which man refuses, a more merciful Providence has provided ; and as it is said the lowering of the standard in the army causes an immediate diminution of crime, by substituting an honest for a criminal career of daring and adventure, so the want of hands in new settlements clears the labour market without very close inquiry into antecedents; and if, as appears likely, the same scarcity is beginning to be felt at home-if the constant stream of emigration, combined with the vast increase of capital and consequent employment in this country—is already diminishing the supply of labour, then it may
be that we shall have to mete to the outcast of our jail the same indulgence we show to our own erring and repentant children; and that it will be our own interest, as well as our duty, to forgive our brother's trespasses.
It seems however that after all that has been done, some few remain apparently incurable—the "unimpressible classes” of Captain Crofton—the åxol.dotos of Aristotle--who by repeated acts, have made criminality their öğıs or instinctive habit, and have so eradicated the principle of good as to render a return to honest life impossible. “The magnet of their course is gone, or only points in vain
The shore to which their shiver'd sail shall never stretch again.” It is admitted that this « wretchlessnes
ness of unclean living," as the article calls it, has frequently resulted from our former prison system. If so, the fault has been in the operator as well as in the patient, and the number of unimpressible may be reasonably expected to decrease.
The well-known Robert Owen, in a paper read before the Social Science Association at Birmingham in 1857, pointed to the time when the punishment of man by man would be entirely unnecessary. Whether this anticipation is to be realized or not,
there can be little doubt that, under present circumstances, both for the sake of the unhappy creatures themselves, and of those who may be exposed to their influence, the sterner conclusion of the Recorder of Birmingham expresses the true policy.
“ The vast majority,” he says, “ of all who enter your prisons as criminals, can be sent back into the world, after no unreasonable term of probation, honest men and useful citizens. Let the small minority remain, and, if death arrive before reformation, let them remain for life."*
ART. VIII.-MODERN LEGISLATION.
The Parliamentary Remembrancer. Vol. I.Session 1857-8;
Vol. II.-Session 1858-9. Conducted by TOULMIN SMITH, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister-at-Law. London: Office of the “Parliamentary Remembrancer,” 10, Little Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, 1858.
E have occasionally taken the opportunity of referring to
Mr. Toulmin Smith's "Remembrancer,” both because we have found it an exceedingly useful publication, and because we believed, if it were better known, many would profit by it who now perhaps may not be aware of its character and merits. We by no means desire to be understood as suggesting that Mr. Toulmin Smith's undertaking has not succeeded in obtaining a hearing, or in exercising an influence in the political world; on the contrary, we think that we have detected in various quarters a free but unacknowledged use of the information collected in its pages. Still, there are large classes of people who would be all the wiser if they perused weekly the legible and carefully prepared account of what is attempted and what is done in the High Court of Parliament. Neither the daily nor weekly press
* Transactions, 1857.
VOL. VIII, NO. XV.
provides what we find in Mr. T. Smith's publication, which professes to afford the reader a carefully prepared summary of the actual proceedings of parliament, with explanatory notes of the real nature of all the proposed bills brought before the Houses, and an analysis of such as affect the interests of municipal bodies, local authorities, and parishes. A multitude of measures, urges Mr. Smith, are being continually introduced, which threaten the efficiency of our national institutions, and affect important interests of society, directly and indirectly, but which fail to attract attention and due discussion, and lead to much mischief, simply because they are unobserved and unwatched. In the Preface to the first volume it is affirmed, and we believe with great justice, that “no bill has gone through a second reading, and no public measure has been brought before parliament, without its nature and the interests and institutions it touches (aside from all party considerations), having been pointed out, with such historical and other illustrations as seemed most useful." Whilst the 66 Votes” alone of the two Houses of Parliament will, if supplied through the post, cost about six guineas, the "Parliamentary Remembrancer” gives for one guinea much more than these “ Votes” contain, and in a convenient and intelligible form.
The contents of the Parliamentary Remembrancer may be divided into two parts; that which consists of the record of the actual doings in the legislative assemblies (as distinguished from the fálkings and personal and party maneuvres), and that which embraces Mr. T. Smith's commentary on the measures introduced.
It is but a repetition of a common-place truth when we say, that if the public were alive to the danger and mischief accruing from our present absurd, random, and ill-advised legislation, or could accurately appreciate the time wasted and the ignorance evinced in the attempts at legislation, these evils would be in some measure abated. But in the confusion of a parliamentary session, and the various technicalities in the proceedings of the Houses, even the vigilant politician often loses sight of some measure which may be maturing when he supposes it has dropped,
or be altered and deformed when he assumes it is progressing in its integrity. But, worse than this, it not unfrequently happens that, under some inappropriate, delusive, or utterly foolish title, an honourable and independent member is gently and silently conducting through its various stagez a bill of the nature of the one which L. J. Knight Bruce once inquired for in court, viz.,
a short bill to repeal the whole law of Great Britain and Ireland.” An authentic, clear, and accurate description, then, week by week, of every step taken or proposed in regard to every measure introduced into the Houses, with either a hint as to its real objects, or an analysis of its clauses, is invaluable to all concerning themselves with public affairs.
What strikes the mind very forcibly, in perusing in these two volumes the record of the deeds and misdeeds of our law-makers, is the small proportion which the annual genuine legislation bears to what are only patchwork, temporary expedient, mere experiment, or abortive attempts at passing statutes for this realm. Another remarkable circumstance, rendered very palpable by the Remembrancer, is the utter disproportion between the talking reported in the daily papers, and the work which we see positively accomplished. A third observation will also naturally occur with regard to the great mass of private and local bills by which the Houses are unduly encumbered. Again, it will not escape notice how hard it is for an independent member of parliament to pass a good measure, and how easy it is for a government to push a bad one through parliament. A few examples of legislation, which we will presently cull from the pages before us, will be, we think, of interest to our readers.
With respect to the commentary which Mr. Toulmin Smith applies to the subjects brought before him, in the pursuance of his laborious duties of watching and notifying the parliamentary proceedings, the reader of the Remembrancer will perceive that, whilst the learning and research shown on many occasions, establish a claim upon his respect and attention for all the criticism which the careful writer puts forward; yet Mr. Smith is a good deal haunted by certain " black beasts," on which he makes
furious and frequent onslaught. His dread and suspicion of these legislative abominations detract a little from the value of his remarks. We refer more particularly to Mr. Smith's disgust for "functionarism,"centralisation of government, and interference with local self-management, and other modern innovations, which he deems an unconstitutional and mischievous tampering with the rights of Englishmen. We regret the indiscriminate criticism sometimes indulged in, because the principles which he lays down with reference to these matters are for the most part sound, and his remarks very just. The following extracts afford a fair example of certain leading doctrines which Mr. Smith holds with regard to legislation, and of the form in which he states and illustrates the matters before him :
“Wednesday, 2nd June, 1818.—PUBLIC GROUNDS AND PLAYGROUNDS BILL.—Read second time. Committee on Wednesday next.---The excellent object of this bill is proposed to be carried out in a way which is practically unsound, and must do even worse than defeat its usefulness. It proposes that lands shall be conveyed to trustees, and further encumbers the matter with a number of red-tape conceits, and approvals of charity commissioners, lords of the treasury, and poor-law commissioners; the whole of which is nothing more nor less than a system of processes for extracting fees and promoting jobbery, and is based upon the entirely modern idea, that the affairs of the people of England cannot be trusted to those concerned in them to be taken care of, but must be coddled in the hands of paternal functionaries. Section 5 actually declares that a parish vestry shall not appropriate parish property to the purposes of this bill without the consent of the poor-law board. The whole of these provisions in the bill are a very unbecoming imputation upon the common-sense of the country, and a declaration of universal mistrust of those whom the bill professes to desire to benefit. “ The practical course would be to declare the power
of every borough, and of every parish, to appropriate, purchase, or accept, and to hold in its corporate capacity, any lands for these purposes.