Imágenes de páginas

must be also an advanced state of misery. In the low public houses of great cities, very wretched and very criminal persons are huddled together in great masses. But is a man to die supperless in a ditch, because he is not rich, or even because he is not innocent ? A pauper or a felon is not to be driven into despair, and turned into a wild beast. Such men must be; and such men must eat and sleep; and if laws are wise, and police vigilant, we do not conceive it to be any evil that the haunts of such men are known, and in some degree subject to inspection. What is meant by respectable public houses, are houses where all the customers are rich and opulent. But who will take in the refuse of mankind, if monopoly allows him to choose better customers ? There is no end to this mischievous meddling with the natural arrangements of society. It would be just as wise to set Magistrates to digest for mankind, as to fix for them in what proportion any particular class of their wants shall be supplied. But there are excellent men who would place the moon under the care of Magistrates, in order to improve travelling, and make things safe and comfortable. An enhancement of the evil is, that no reason is given for the rejection or adoption. The Magistrates have only to preserve the most impenetrable secrecy-to say only No, or Yes, and the affair is at an end. No court can interfere, no superior authority question. Hunger and thirst, or wantonness and riot, are inflicted upon a parish

or a district, for a whole year, without the possibility of com- plaint, or the hope of redress. Their Worships were in the

gout, and they refused. Their Worships were mellow, and they gave leave. God bless their Worships !-and then, what would happen if small public houses were shut? Would villany cease ? Are there no other means by which the bad could congregate? Is there so foolish a person, either in or out of the Commission, as to believe that burglary and larceny would be put an end to, by the want of a place in which the plan for such deeds could be talked over and arranged ?

. Then there is a description of houses which have sprung up of late years, and are more mischievous than the public houses, over which the Magistrates have no summary power: they are called coffee-houses, or coffee-rooms, and open at eleven, twelve, or one at night, and remain open during the whole of the night ; so that, when idle people are driven out of the public-houses, they first find an harbour in those places, and can afterwards go to the early market-houses.

• Are they obliged to take out a license ?--No, there is no license at all. Even some eating-houses, or cook-shops, have got in the way of keeping open all night, in which hot victuals, roast pigs, and joints of meat are provided, and people (men and women of any description) are received. I have seen them open till four o'clock in the morning.

Do they not there sell liquor ?—No, not spirituous liquors ; but they sell spruce-beer and ginger-beer, and those sort of things,Police Report, p. 58.

Dr Edwards quotes, with great blame, the report of a Committee of Magistrates, in which we can discover nothing but humanity and good sense. It runs as follows.

“ It must be remembered of what description of persons the inhabitants of Kent Street and its neighbourhood are composed. A very considerable number of the tenants, both of the public and private houses, are, and have been, time out of mind, supported by letting them out in lodgings to persons of the lowest class of the community ; of whom, Dr Colquhoun says, above twenty thousand rise every morning without knowing how they are to be supported during the passing day, or where, in many instances, they are to lodge in the succeeding night. It is a fact easily to be proved, that no small portion of a publican's support in this neighbourhood is derived from persons of this description. An instance has been pointed out to your Committee, by an intelligent officer of the police, of a public house in Kent Street, in which not less than fifty people sleep every night, and few of them are believed to accommodate less than twenty or thirty. Many of the private houses are also occupied in a similar way. The miserable accommodations that are met with at these dreary abodes, and the deplorable shifts to which the persons who resort to them are obliged to submit, are distressing beyond the powers of imagination ; yet, however cheerless, however destitute they may be of comfort, they are nevertheless in request, they are useful ; nor under the existing state of society are they to be dispensed with. Annihilate the swarms of beggars with which the metropolis abounds, and the number of public houses in Kent Street, and in similar situations, may undoubtedly be dispensed with ; but while the one is suffered to exist, the other must be tolerated ; and cold indeed must be the heart which, after taking all due precaution for securing the peace and good order of such a neighbourhood, can cherish the most distant idea of depriving these unhappy beings of any of the scanty enjoyments which fall within the reach of their slender means to obtain. " Letter, pp. 27, 28.

These then are the propositions on which we principally insist.

The benefit of that principle of competition which is so useful to the rich, ought not to be withheld from the poor. To withhold competition, is to establish monopoly; monopoly enhances the price of refreshments to the stationary and the travelling poor; deteriorates the quality of those refreshments; and renders those who dispense them indifferent whether their conduct is satisfactory to their guests.

It is quite impossible for any body of men, acting under the most upright intentions, to ascertain when the public are, or are not sufficiently supplied with houses of hospitality, or with any other commodity. The only method of ascertaining what the

market wants, is by leaving the market free. Upon this principle, and upon this principle alone, there can be no more public houses than are wanted, and there will be no less. It is impossible to prevent any body of men from turning to their own advantage an absolute and uncontrollable power, given to them for the public good; and, if Dr Edwards's testimony is true, those public houses are only opened and only put down, whose license or demolition injuries no Justice's property, nor the property of any Justice's relation, nor the property of any brewer who has an interest over him, nor exposes any Justice's game to depredation.

To tax the publican for his license-to make rigid inqui. sition into his character-to deprive him of his license if he sins-to punish drunkenness-to punish the father of a family if he neglects his children-are all fair and just means of preserving decency. and order; but to meddle with men's actions beyond this, to deter men who keep clear from the law, by the vexations of an odious monopoly, from spending their money as they please, is to keep them in a state of infantine tutelage, and is to rule them upon the principles of a very odious tyranny. We charge Justices with nothing; for we have little means of knowing any thing about them; but Dr Edwards brings charges against them of the most odious nature. It is the duty, as we are sure it will be the wish of Mr Peel, to give these charges his most serious consideration. We sincerely hope they may be fully and fairly answered. Whether they are or not, our objections rest upon other grounds. Let the Magistrates be as upright and pure as they can be, the power of licensing ought not to be trusted to any body of men. It is an interference with the wants and comforts of society which it is impossible to exercise with judgment and propriety; which entails innumerable inconveniences and privations upon the lower orders of mankind, whether travelling or stationary; and which would have been exploded years ago, if the sufferers had been any other than dumb creatures, unable to tell their own story. The Magistrates will probably be very angry to lose this branch of power. We are sorry for it; for we have no wish to offend those, whom we consider upon the whole as an useful body of men. But it is absolutely necessary to do it, or to be. gin to do it. When a measure is wise, there is no objection to its being popular. The gratitude of the common people would know no bounds for an emancipation from the thraldom in which they are held by the licensing power of Justices. Mr Sturgess Bourne has wisely prevented Magistrates from being generous with other's people's money-we hope Mr Peel will prevent them from being sober and moral with other people's ale.

ART. VIII. 1. Parliamentary History and Review ; containing

Reports of the Proceedings of the Two Houses of Parliament during the Session of 1825–6, Geo. IV. ; with Critical Remarks on the principal measures of the Session. 8vo. pp. 808. Long

man and Co. London, 1826. 2. Parliamentary Abstracts; containing the Substance of all im

portant Papers laid before the Two Houses of Parliament during the Session of 1825. 8vo. pp. 722. Longman and Co. London, 1826.

These two books form, properly speaking, one work; the + latter being a second volume, or Appendix, to the first; and only printed separately, in order to accommodate purchasers. The publication is intended to be annual; and we look upon it as extremely important. The plan is excellent; and if the execution bears any proportion to the merits of the design, it is undoubtedly calculated to serve the very best purposes. We feel anxious, therefore, to lose no time in res commending it to the attention of our readers; and, with this view, we shall describe the nature of the work a little more fully than is done in the very meagre notice prefixed to the second volume, the first having no prefatory matter to usher it in. We shall, at the same time, offer some suggestions for the improvement of the plan, and a few hints, which we trust may not be thrown away upon its conductors, touching some faults that have crept into the execution. But, first, we wish to say a few words upon the publication of Parliamentary proceedings generally.

There is certainly no change in the administration of public affairs more striking than the complete opening of the doors of Parliament to the whole inhabitants of the country, which has been effected by the regular and, we may say to every practical purpose, authorized publication of all its debates and all its divisions. When the Annual Register was begun in 1758, and for several years after, we find no mention of what was passing in either House, except incidentally, and in a single sentence. Even in recording the changes of ministry, and describing the state of parties, without reference to the debates, the initials only of the . names are given ; it is Mr F- and Mr P- and the D. of Nfor Mr Fox, Mr Pitt, and the Duke of Newcastle. The questions connected with Mr Wilkes, in 1764, gave rise, for the first time, to a separate chapter on the Parliamentary history; which is given for some years after, in a very general manner, and with no reference to particular speakers. The substance of the

arguments used on either side of the chief questions, is presented, with no more particularity as to the persons using them, than is to be found in the fanciful summaries given by Hume in his History. It was not till the American War that the subject was handled in any detail : And yet during all that time, even during the six years when the existence of Parliament is scarcely referred to, its deliberations were of the highest importance, and excited the most lively interest; for, beside the great questions connected with the conduct of the War, and the making of peace, there were all the personal and party matters of Admiral Byng, Mr Fox's resignation and return to office, Mr Pitt's ministry and resignation, and Lord Bute's succession to, and loss of place. Nor was there any lack of political readers; for, though a much smaller proportion of the people then took an interest in public affairs, the Press was incessantly active in providing food for those who then composed the world of politics. Indeed, there can be no doubt, we think, that the war of pamphlets and newspapers was carried on even with greater effect,—that is to say,- what was then called public opinion, the opinion of those who read on political matters, was much more under the influence of political writers, and those who hired them, than it is in the present times. Because there was nothing else read on the subject of politics; whereas now-a-days, all the other political reading of the country bears but a small proportion to the daily reports of the debates in point of bulk; and in point of effect, a still smaller proportion. We shall look in vain for any effects produced in our times, by the most powerful tracts, circulated the most widely, and recommended too by the highest names, comparable to the sensation excited, and the actual influence exercised, by Swift's pamphlet on the • Conduct of the Allies,' published without his name; and it may be questioned whether even Mr Burke's pieces on French affairs, addressed as they were to the passions which the prodigious events of the day were working upon, would have been practically felt in the determination of public opinion, if all that was at the same time spoken and decided in Parliament had inclined to the opposite side, instead of taking almost entirely the same course. In one sense of the word, indeed, the Press never was so powerful as at the present day;—for the readers are far more numerous than they ever were before; and the writings upon all subjects are multiplied in proportion. Indirectly and remctely, therefore, a very great effect is produced by the discussions thus carried on, in enlightening and fixing the opinion of the country upon public affairs, and the questions connected with them. In so far, the Press

« AnteriorContinuar »