« ElőzőTovább »
advantage than can ever be derived from the mere circumstances of birth and fortune, even the most splendid.
I think I cannot more appropriately conclude this anecdote than by adding the excellent and excellently expressed advice of Polonius to his son, on his departure for a foreign country. The precepts are admirably adapted to form a man of the world and a gentleman, in the best sense of the terms; and, in my opinion, are well worth committing to memory by those whom they
“ Give thy thoughts no tongue,
AN EXECUTION. Amid the varied scenes of this vast metropolis, there is probably none so striking as an interior view of an execution at the Old Bailey. Being desirous to witness the effect of the punishment of death, I once accompanied one of the sheriffs, on a cold winter's morning, to see three men executed. We arrived between seven and eight o'clock, and were shown into the pressroom, a low, gloomy chamber. Two of the men, having attempted to escape, were heavily ironed. Each placed his foot upon an anvil, whilst a smith, with a large hammer, and great force, drove the rivets out. The sound was awful. One of the crimi. nals, who had confessed to a hundred burglaries, I had myself committed for trial. He was a fine-looking man of nine-andtwenty, but so altered that I could scarcely trace his former features ; and I was informed that, even in the most hardened, nature generally gives way in the last four-and-twenty hours, and suffers dreadful wreck. When the three were pinioned, the
procession set slowly forward along the dark and narrow passages, a bell dismally knolling, and the Ordinary reading portions of the burial-service. A few minutes after the drop fell we retired, as is the custom, to breakfast in what is called the Lord Mayor's parlour. The Ordinary presided in full canonicals, and kept our attention alive by anecdotes connected with the occasion. On his right sat the City Marshal, in military uniform. The Sheriffs wore their massive gold chains, and the two Under-Sheriffs were in court dresses, contrasted with whom was a gentleman of peculiarly primitive appearance and attire-a constant attendant. The group, the time of day, the occasion, formed a combination altogether singular. After the lapse of an hour, the Sheriffs were summoned to see the bodies cut down, and I was surprised to find the countenances as placid as after natural death.
Notice.--In consequence of different requests, I shall, in my next number, begin to fulfil my promise to treat of the Art of attaining high Health, from experience.
No. III.—WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 1835.
PAROCHIAL GOVERNMENT. It was my intention, in entering into the details of parish government, to have written an original article; but in looking into a sketch on the subject, which I published in January, 1834, I think it advisable to begin with that, in a corrected form, and to supply its deficiencies hereafter.
It seems to me that the first in order and most important of all reforms, is the Reform of Parochial Government—that is, the adaptation to present circumstances of the English principles of SELF-GOVERNMENT BY SMALL COMMUNITIES. Parochial government is the very
element upon which all other government in England depends, and as long as it is out of order, everything must be out of order-representation—legislationpolice. Hence, instead of a House of Commons of men of practical wisdom and distinct views in matters of government, saying little and doing much, a House of Commons as it is. The choosers and the chosen are alike vague in the knowledge of their duties. They have had no proper training; they have not begun at the beginning-GOVERNMENT AT HOME. Hence also a confused mass of laws, and a flood of vice and crime. Hence demagogues, adventurers, theorists, and quacks, the tormentors of the public peace; and mobs, and combinations, and visionary schemes. Let
each portion of the country be properly governed, and the soundness of the whole will make those evils necessarily vanish. At present, all is, as it were, chaotic, offering a fertile field to the wild and selfish, whilst the wise and good are discouraged and dismayed.
It is by the principles alone of self-government by small communities that a nation can be brought to enjoy a vigorous moral health, and its consequences--real prosperity. It is by the same principle alone that the social feelings can be duly called into action, and that men, taken in the mass, can be noble, generous, intelligent, and free. It has been from neglect of this principle that England, with all her advantages, has not made greater progress; and it will be only to its abandonment, and the substitution of a heartless system of generalization and mercenaries, that she can ever owe her decay and become fit for despotism.
Put the administration of justice throughout the land, the police, the poor laws, the roads, into the hands of mere officials placed over extended districts, with which they are to have little or no community—take from men of business and of fortune everything but their business and their fortunes, and on the one hand will be created a race of traders in public affairs, and, on the other, of selfish besotted individuals, with a government relying for its strength on an all-pervading patronage; and, in the proportion that this is done, evil will arise, and good be prevented.
It is true that everything connected with parish government has long been, with the ignorant and unthinking, as well as with many who ought to have known better, the object of ridicule and abuse ; and that those whose duty it especially was to have taken office upon themselves, have diverted their attention and their efforts to public channels, or to those public institutions which, at best, are but inefficient expedients for well-organized local government. They have had an excuse for their neglect in the difficulty of effecting good, and the feeling that it could only be temporary; and most of those who have made any attempt at reform, have rather furnished a warning than an example for imitation, because the machinery was too defective to work well
any length of time. There have been some general acts of parliament and many local ones for the better government of parishes; but they have been called forth only to remedy evils become intolerable, and have either been in abandoment of true principles, or have very inadequately enforced them. The ancient courts, too, with their inquests and fines, have fallen into disuse, and their place has not been supplied by local institutions better fitted to the times, and absolutely necessary to well-ordered communities.
It is a melancholy truth that at this moment no small portion of the population through the land may be said to be out of the pale of government, unless when their crimes, the consequences of neglect, draw down its vengeance upon their heads. It is pitiable to see wretches brought before the tribunals of justice who never had any chance of well-doing; and the only marvel is that, with so many temptations and so little care, there is not far more of disorder and outrage. Not only in the metropolis, but in every town, nearly in every parish in the kingdom, there is a neglected population, sunk in ignorance, filth, and vice, which, almost unseen, festers in the body politic, and more or less infects the health of all. It is not by the efforts of individuals, or of any combinations of individuals, that this evil can be remedied, but by an improved local organization proceeding from the State---an organization required for the moral elevation and the well-being of all classes, as well the governing as the governed.
The mode of reform I think desirable is briefly this. As the parishes throughout the kingdom vary so much in extent, population, wealth, and intelligence, it would be impossible to form one constitution to suit them all; nor would it be quite practicable to meet the exigences of each case, or of each class of cases, by separate acts of parliament; besides that amidst the rapid improvements of the age, which would become still more rapid by better local organization, no constitution could in numerous instances be long applicable without some change.
I would therefore suggest a general act of parliament, empowering commissioners to apply its provisions according to the circumstances of each parish; which being done, the commission to cease, and any future alterations, from time to time deemed requisite, to be made by the magistrates in quarter sessions assembled. All that the commissioners or magistrates should have to do, should be to adopt parochial constitutions, and then the parishioners should manage their own affairs, independently of all control, except that of the legal tribunals. Any system of interference is a mockery of freedom-childish in conception, arbitrary and debasing in effect. The difference in the size of parishes I think very desirable, as affording varied scope for intelligence and exertion. At the same time, there may
be some 80 small as to require consolidation, at least for certain purposes; and others so large, and possessing such different interests, as to make division expedient. It seems to have been a universal oversight with the founders of empires, and with great legislators, to have made no provision for the change of circumstances their wise institutions were sure to produce, and baneful have been the consequences to mankind.
There are three principal points to be attended to in parish government-subdivision according to extent and population election of officers, and their powers. Division is in all things essential to order, and every parish too extensive or populous for individual superintendence ought to be divided into wards, over each of which a warden or guardian, annually elected by the rate-payers of the ward or of the parish, according to circumstances, should preside. It should never be forgotten, that it is indispensable to every well-regulated community that there should be no part of it with which some individual superintendent should not be thoroughly acquainted. In parishes requiring no subdivision, the rate-payers should annually elect a certain number of governors. In parishes containing few subdivisions, the wardens and a sufficient number elected in addition should be governors, and, where the wardens are numerous enough, they alone. In every parish there should be a principal and his deputy, chosen from amongst the governors by themselves.
With respect to the powers of the governors, they should have those of peace-officers, and each warden should have a subwarden and the requisite number of assistant constables, elected in the same manner as himself. When fit persons could be found, a certain portion of the governors, to be elected amongst themselves, should be magistrates within the parish. All the ancient officers of England, from the sheriff downwards, are supposed to have a community of interest with those over whom they are placed—the only principle for a free country. In the acts of parliament relating to the management of the poor, from Elizabeth's time to that of George the First, magisterial acts are directed to be done by magistrates “ residing in or near the parish; and to the non-observance of that direction may be attributed a great deal of the mal-administration of the poorlaws. The governors should further have the power of enforcing the laws, of prosecuting such felonies or misdemeanors committed within their parish as to them should seem meet, of holding a court of requests, of abating and fining for nuisances, “ of inquiring of,” to use Lord Bacon's words respecting the jurisdiction of the court leet," punishing and removing all things that may hurt or grieve the people in their health, quiet, and welfare,” of managing the poor and the highways, of providing school-houses and savings' banks, of making drains, public walks, bathingplaces, and any other improvements for the common good, and of raising rates within certain limits for carrying the above objects into effect.
Were parishes properly constituted, it can scarcely be doubted but that the advantages of distinction, the hope of further ad