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riod to which they refer, that is now great wealth and resources, to silence before the public ; and if the sketch those shallow persons who are so forwhich they present of the growing ward to announce to the world, that a debts and burdens of the country be failure of pecuniary means might have such as to teach her an impressive les compelled England to submit her forson of prudence and economy, it is no tunes to the insolence of her enemies. less calculated, by the display of her
State of the Nightly Watch and Police of the Metropolis. Account of the
Riots in different Parts of the Country. Bill for increasing the Punishment of Persons breaking or destroying Frames. Bill for preventing the administering or taking unlawful Oaths. Report of a Secret Committee on the disturbed State of certain Counties. Bill for the Preservation of the Public Peace in the disturbed Counties.
The feelings of the people of Eng- with those of the monsters who have land were, about the beginning of this outraged and astounded humanity, had year, wound up to the highest pitch exterminated two whole families of inof amazement and horror, by the per. nocent and unoffending beings, with petration of barbarities hitherto un- circumstances of matchless cruelty.paralleled in the annals of the country. The metropolis was in a ferment'; aCrimes of deep atrocity, of wanton larm and distraction pervaded all corand savage cruelty, have been of rare ners of it ; every one dreaded, lest him. occurrence in this island; and although self and all who were dear to him, might offences against property have increa- become the next victims of a malignity, sed in full proportion to the growing which seemed to transcend all limits, wealth and luxury of the people, it is and to defy all calculation. The nato the honour of the national charac- ture and extent of the conspiracy were, ter, that crimes of aggravated baseness for some time, unknown; and as no and enormity have been little known one could think that a single blood. amongst us. In some foreign coun- thirsty monster could have required tries, excesses of all kinds are so fre- so much to satiate him, the existence quent, that they excite neither indig- of an extensive and formidable combination nor horror; they are enumera- nation was very generally believed. In ted
among the ordinary occurrences of the alarm of the moment, many causeless the day, and quickly sink into obli- arrests took place, and
innocent vion. When such acts are perpetra. persons were exposed to a painful and ted in this country, one general move- disgraceful scrutiny. The real crimi. ment of detestation pervades the pub- nal, however, was at last secured ; yet lic mind; the whole powers of the ma- owing to a degree of negligence which gistracy are put in the most vigorous must for ever reflect discredit on those operation ; the attention of the legis- to whose care he was entrusted, he lature is instantly roused, and the land was suffered to elude by suicide the resounds with shouts of indignation vengeance of the law. Conjectures, and vengeance.
formed in the moment of alarm and The solitary malignity of a wretch dismay, were contradicted, to the surwhose name will in future be classed prise and relief of all; the ruffian, who
VOL. V. PART I.
had already disappointed the justice of of a kind so opposite. The absurdity the country, was ascertained to have of this plan, in short, which was the been the solitary actor in the late atro- mere offspring of a momentary alarm, cious
people seemed to have soon became apparent, even to those learned, for the first time, the extent who had originally proposed it, and which human ferocity was capable of the project of a military police was reaching
speedily abandoned. Some great fault, it was supposed, The defects, however, in many parts must be chargeable on a system of po- of the actual establishment could not lice, which exposed the inhabitants of escape observation. It was not till London to such dangers, and as the the year 1774, that parliament interfirst suggestions of fear are always ex. fered with the police of the metropotravagant, many persons would have lis, by passing an act, which applied been willing to have surrendered their only to fifteen of the most populous liberties, with the view of securing parishes. Each parish had, in former protection to their persons. A cry times, provided the means for its own was raised for the establishment of a
protection; but by the act referred to, preventative armed police ; but the directors and trustees were appointed, madness of such a proposal could not under whose controul, the watch, the long escape observation.
patrole, and the beadles, were placed. A preventative armed police can be The immense increase of the metronothing but a military police, and to polis, however, since the act was passsubject the metropolis, as well as all ed, had gone far to destroy its effithe more considerable cities in the cacy ; and various abuses had crept in, kingdom, to the government of sol- by which some of the most important diers, would have been, in fact, to sur- provisions of the statute were disre. render the liberties of the country. garded. The act had, in particular, Those who appeared to believe that provided, that none but able-bodied the soldiers might easily have been re- men should be appointed to guard the tained in subordination to the civil streets at night, a provision which had power, must have known little of the been notoriously evaded for a number character of an army. It can never of years. It was the opinion of governbe safe to tell a body of men, who ment, however, that the laws already in are naturally desirous of pre-eminence, existence, if properly'enforced, would, that the tranquillity of the state can- with some slight alterations and amend. not be preserved without their aid, nor ments, be found quite sufficient for the is it possible, after such a declaration, preservation of the public peace; but to enforce respect to the civil power, before recommending any measure to which thus declares itself incompe. parliament, it was the wish of ministers tent to the exercise of its most im.
that due enquiry should be made into portant functions. But besides being all the circumstances by a committee more dangerous, a military police must of the House of Commons. be always less effective than a well-or- Mr Ryder, the secretary of state dered civil police ; close and patient for the home department, accordingly attention to the discovery and preven- moved for the appointment of a comtion of crimes constitutes the most va. mittee to examine into the state of the luable quality of all establishments of nightly watch of the metropolis and this kind; a quality which can never the parishes adjacent.--It was stated be expected in soldiers, whose mode of on this occasion, that although no sys. life tends to encourage in them habits tem of police, however vigorous, could
have prevented the late atrocities, it a case be followed than the appoint, was the opinion of government that ment of a committee composed of gen. these shocking occurrences afforded of tlemen possessing local knowledge, and themselves sufficient ground for en Wested with powers to collect all the quiry. All intention of resorting to a information which could be brought military police was anxiously disclaim together on the subject. ed, not only on account of the danger Sir Samuel Romilly, who is somewith which such a measure would be times accused of being more partial to attended to the liberties of the coun. a fine theory, than to an obvious and try, but on account of its inefficacy to practical remedy for an existing griesecure even those objects for which vance, complained much of the narrow some timid persons might be willing view of the subject which had been tato surrender their rights. It was re- ken by government, and proposed that marked, that even in countries where an enquiry should be instituted, not on. the preservation of the peace is com ly into the state of the nightly watch, mitted to the care of an armed police, but into the causes of the alarming in. furnished with all the powers of the crease of felonies and crimes. He remost vigorous despotism, atrocities marked, that there had been a great much as those which had thrown this and alarming increase of late years in country into a state of consternation, the trials for felonies of various kinds; were frequently committed.--It was a a circumstance which was the more melancholy fact, however, that, ma- surprising, that in other countries, one king all due allowance for the exagge. advantage, at least, derived from a rations which at this time prevailed, state of war, had always been a dimi. offences, though not of the deepest nution in the number of crimes. He enormity, had been multiplied beyond imputed this singular phenomenon the experience of former years, and it partly to the frequency of capital pu. was this circumstance which imperi. nishments, but chiefly to the circumously called upon parliament to insti. stance of promiscuous imprisonment ; tute the proposed enquiry. The most the youngest and the oldest felons are prominent defects in the police esta- often confined together, and when disblishment arose out of the improper charged, no means of gaining a liveappointment of weak and disabled per- lihood are provided for them. He sons for the nightly watch, many of thought that the late unusual diswhom, it was generally known, had charge of convicts from the hulks had procured their nominations to prevent greatly increased the number of crimes ; them from becoming burdens upon and that the evil had been greatly agthe parish_Itappeared that anim gravated by manyradical defects in the provement in the state of the watch system of police. He disapproved of had, in one instance at least, been at the rewards given to police officers for tended with the most signal benefit. the detection of crimes of a certain magThe parish of Christ Church, Spital. nitude, which gave them an interest to fields, which had formerly exhibited a encourage the growth of offences, till scene of riot, uproar, and crime, had, they had attained that pitch when it by a parochial exertion tending to im- might be convenient for the officers prove the nightly watch, become of to put them down. Rewards ought late almost proverbial for its good or not, in general, to be given to police der and regularity. But, at all events, 'officers; but, if given at all, should be a more proper course could not in such confined to accessaries after the fact,
by means of whom useful discoveries tee of penitentiary houses, and with might sometimes be made. He impu. the grave and difficult question as to ted the great increase of crimes, and the expediency of granting rewards as the corruption of public morals, to a part of the police system. He rethe mischievous effects of the lottery, marked, that the supposed familiarity which was encouraged by government betwixt the officers and delinquents for the paltry revenue which it afford. (which was at all events not new, since ed. He censured the familiarities said it been a subject of common.place conto exist betwixt the police officers and versation for a century past) could not their prey ; and stated, that the offi- have been the immediate causes of the cers were accustomed to go into places late unprecedented outrages, and exopen for the reception and entertain. pressed some doubt, whether a refiment of common thieves and other ned expedient of Sir Samuel Romilly abandoned characters, much in the to enable police officers to take up same way as a gentleman would go to persons, not for the crimes which they that part of his manor where he ex. had actually committed, but on suspected to start game.--Mr Smith, who picion of others which they might posconcurred with Sir Samuel Romilly, sibly commit, could well be carried moved an amendment, to extend the into effect.--Lord Cochrane ascribed power
of the committee to an enquiry the late atrocities to the pension list; into the state of the police as well as of and Sir Francis Burdett, who concurthe nightly watch.-Mr Perceval re. red in opinion with him, thought that plied to these speakers; but declined no adequate remedy could be provided entering the wide field of speculation for evils so great, except by the abowhich they had opened. He insisted lition of sinecures, and by a recurrence that the proposed remedy, if a good to the old and wholesome laws of Ed. one in itself, should not be disregard. ward the First. Mr Sheridan ridied, because other plans might also be culed the proposal to enquire into the attended with advantage, and main- state of the nightly watch, as totally tained, that, as the evil was pressing, inadequate to the object in view ; he it would be very absurd were the le maintained, that the act already congislature to wander for the present in. ferred all the powers which were neto an extensive and embarrassing en. cessary to make the watch efficient, quiry, such as that which had been and professed to discover in the proproposed by the preceding speakers. position of Mr Ryder, a most alarming He ridiculed the notion of refusing attempt to break in upon the charter of immediate protection to the metropo. the c ty of London. He censured the lis, because the surrounding country conduct of the magistrates during the might afterwards suffer from the de- late enquiry ; they had been foolish predations of the expelled criminals; enough, he said, to countenance all the and wisely thought that the prospect prejudices of the mob against Irishof a future and contingent evil could men; they had shewn themselves so afford no ground for refusing to cor- deficient in prudence, as to seize upon rect one, which, in fact, had already every one who had a torn coat and grown to an enormous magnitude, and dirty shirt to justify suspicion. which the legislature had the power The alarm of the country was great, of at least alleviating. He protested the exigency was pressing, and the de. against encumbering the present en
government provide a remequiry with the business of a commit- dy was at least sincere; while the reme