The police of such a metropolis as that of London, cannot fail to excite interest in the minds of inhabitant as well as of visitors; for next to the blessings which a nation may derive from an excellent constitution and system of general laws, are those advantages which result from a well-regulated and energetic police, conducted and enforced with purity, activity, vigilance and discretion. How vain would be the boast of liberty, if the depraved made it hazardous to walk the highways; and how empty the praise of laws that give security to property, if the midnight robber is to plunder our dwellings and endanger our very existence! Then cannot we be surprised at the anxiety evinced by able and meritorious individuals out of as well as in parliament, to improve the system of police, by giving energy to those principles of inspection which may be falling into disuse, and by correcting those regulations which may tend to induce particular classes to encourage crime till it gain force, rather than to nip it in the bud. The general plan of the police, viewed theoretically, seems to be calculated to accomplish the security of the metropolis; but, reasoning from what we see and know—from the facts that there are numberless houses for the regular resort of thieves, and that bands of robbers whose faces are familiar to the police officers and constables impudently parade the streets at noon-day—can the practice of the criminal law demand our praise?
The city of London, as already stated, is under the control of it own magistracy, consisting of the lord mayor, and aldermen, and their orders are enforced by marshals, marshals' men, and constables. The city has two offices, one in the Mansion house and the other at Guildhall, and magistrates sit there daily to hear charges of robbery, fraud, and outrage.
For all the parts of the metropolis out of this jurisdiction, twenty-seven stipendiary magistrates are appointed. Three at Bow street, under a jurisdiction long established, and twenty-four by a statute called the " police act," passed in the present reign.
These twenty-four have eight different offices assigned to them, at different distances in Westminster, Middlesex, and Surrey; namely, one in each of the following streets: Bow Street; Great Marlborough Street; Hatton Garden; Worship Street, Shoreditch; Lambeth Street, Whitechapel; High Street, Shadwell; Queen Square; and Union Street, Southwark. Besides these, there is the Thames Police Office, Wapping. The last is under a separate act of parliament: and the attention of the magistrate there, is almost entirely confined to the cognizance of offences, either committed on the River Thames, or connected with maritime affairs.
The duty of the magistrates in these offices extends to several important judicial proceedings, which, in a variety of instances, they are empowered and required to hear and determine in a summary way: particularly in cases relating to the customs, excise, coaches, carts, pawnbrokers, persons unlawfully pawning the property of others, and a variety of other matters under penal statutes. Their duty also extends to many other objects, such as the cases of persons charged with being disorderly, persons brought for examination under charges of treason, murder, felony, fraud, and misdemeanours of every description: all of which unavoidably impose upon every magistrate a weight of business, requiring great exertion, and an anxious attention to the public interest. At each of these offices there are three magistrates: two of them attend every day except Sunday, and one every evening; two clerks, an office-keeper, &c. Each office has from eight to twelve constables attached to it; and they are the persons termed " police officers." Their pay from government is only one guinea per week; and for the rest of their means of existence they depend on the profits arising out of the service of summonses, warrants, &c., and portions of penalties. For the conviction of trifling offenders they get nothing but their bare expenses; for the conviction of an offender guilty of a capital offence there is a reward by act of parliament of forty pounds! Persons have traced to this regulation, the reason of minor culprits being allowed to prowl unmolested; they argue that officers, so far from being interested in apprehending such characters, are, on the contrary, induced not to bring them to justice, till their lives are likely to be forfeited to the laws. How far this forcible reasoning may be founded in truth, it is not for us to stop to determine; but it is a melancholy fact, and which strongly countenances such reasoning, that several conspiracies to swear away the lives of innocent men for the sake of the statute-rewards have recently been detected. How many conspiracies have escaped detection, Heaven alone knows; but the recollection that innocent men may have perished by such means, makes the blood run cold, while it calls on the legislature to ascertain whether the continuance of this system be really requisite.
As far as the police magistrates are concerned, the system possesses much merit. They are now almost invariably and most properly selected from amongst barristers, according to regulations established by Lord Sidmouth, the present secretary of state for the home department. They have good salaries, 600l. each, and what is called the resident magistrate, has the house in which the office is held to live in. Their powers might be improved by giving them more control over the officers, parish constables, watchmen, &c., and by making the fines imposed for various offences, more at the discretion of the magistrates. At present, particular sums are named as the penalty consequent on the proof of having committed certain offences: whereas it frequently happens that although there may be legal crime there is little
moral offence, with many mitigating circumstances; and yet such case is punishable equally with the most hardened. The sum ought to be limited, but it would be useful to give the magistrates the power of naming an amount under that sum, where some lenity ought to be shown, Ten shillings would often meet the justice of the case where ten pounds is the irrevocable penalty of the law; and frequently are poor working people—they being the persons mostly exposed to such penalties—doomed to six weeks' and three months' imprisonment, in places where they may become acquainted with vice and roguery, if they were previously strangers to iniquitous principles.
Besides the magistracy and police, there are CONSTABLES and WATCHMEN appointed by the parishes for their own particular districts:—the magistrates and police officers are named by the afore-mentioned secretary of state for the home department, on the part of the government.
The office of CONSTABLE is of very ancient institution, even so far back as the time of Alfred; and if respectable householders in the several parishes were still not only chosen, but as a general principle compelled to serve, instead of paying a small fine, the office would be more efficient and respectable. In our times it has sadly degenerated, poor men now resorting to it, year after year, as the means of existence.
And the WATCHMEN in general are in still less commendable condition, they being selected from the humblest classes—from porters, Irish labourers, and such like characters, who have been at work all the preceding day, and whose families, possibly, compel them to earn an extra shilling at night. To expect efficient protection from them, would be to calculate on beholding strength resulting from imbecility. If they should not chance to be asleep when interruptions from robbers, pickpockets, night-walkers, or accidents by fire happen, they might be of some use by the noise which they could make with their rattles; it however, too frequently occurs, that they are asleep or absent from their boxes when their presence is most desired; and it is to be feared, from many recent complaints before the magistrates, and convictions at the quarter sessions, that the watchmen are guilty of the sins of commission as well as of omission. They not only levy contributions on unfortunate women to permit them to walk; receive bribes to dismiss complaints that have been charged against violators of the peace; but they have been convicted of interrupting and assaulting passengers who were quietly passing along the streets, with the view of promoting quarrels. Where this succeeds, the injured party is captured by these preservers of the peace, carried to the watch-house, and charged with rioting, or possibly with an assault, should an intercepted passenger have been provoked to inflict a blow. Rather than be doomed to a night's lodging in a dirty watch-house, and afterwards to appear at a police office at the charge of a crowd of watchmen, a compromise is injudiciously offered, and seldom refused. It is a duty to the public to pursue a directly-different conduct—to await the event of the morning, and to state the whole case to the magistrates. They will always afford justice, and grant protection against the designs of the watchmen.
Under different acts, a nightly watch is appointed for the prevention of robberies, and the apprehension of offenders. To the city of London are attached seven hundred and sixty-five watchmen, and thirty-eight patroles. The constables, patroles, and watchmen, who are every night on duty in and around the metropolis, are estimated at upwards of three thousand.
Watch-houses are placed at convenient distances in all parts, where parochial constables attend to keep order, receive offenders, and deliver them the next morning to the sitting magistrate. On extraordinary occasions, the officers of the police are ordered out, or kept in readiness to assist in the preservation of the peace.
The nightly watch is of peculiar utility in cases of fire, as in every watch-book the names of the turncocks, and the places where engines are kept, are to be found. Besides parochial engines, many public bodies are provided with them, and the principal fire-offices have engines stationed in various districts, with active men and horses. By means of fire-plugs, water is immediately supplied, and the general security is guaranteed by every effort of vigilance and activity.
It ought to be added, that the Bow Street police office is upon a more enlarged scale than the rest, the chief magistrate having 1,200l. a year. The expenses of this office for 1817 was 12,270l, while that for the seven other offices, not including the Thames police, was 24,196l. The whole expense, horse patroles, Thames police, &c., for 1817, amounted to 51,796l. Besides the usual number of constables, there are a hundred foot patroles, under proper conductors, who, to the distance of two or three miles, perambulate the environs of the metropolis: and in the winter season there are also forty horsemen, who ride every evening and night on the principal roads to the distance of ten or fifteen miles from town. These two bodies of men are well armed, and are under the direction of the chief magistrates of this office. This establishment has enlarged and peculiar powers. It is not included in the general police act; but there is a particular act for its institution.
Respecting the general system of police, it ought to be added that the chief magistrate of the Bow Street office communicates daily with the secretary of state for the home department, as do the magistrates of the other offices, when matters of deep interest, or affecting the public tranquillity require such communication. Besides this, all the offices make monthly returns of the information received, and of persons committed and discharged at the respective offices, which return from each office is presented by one of its magistrates, that inquiries may be made, if necessary.
This was a great improvement in the system of local government. The crowded state of the Port of London, from the vast increase of its commerce, and the want (which existed at that time) of sufficient wharfage for landing and shipping merchandise, which, for 1797-8, was estimated at the immense sum of sixty millions and a half, had led to a most extensive and regular system of plunderage. Mr. Colquhoun, whose meritorious exertions contributed to the establishment of a regular Thames Police, estimated that about "eleven thousand persons inured to habits of depravity, and long exercised in all the arts of villainy," were engaged in this species of plunder; and that the amount of their depredations upon floating property was upwards of five hundred thousand pounds sterling annually! These numbers, and Mr. Colquhoun always dealt in astounding round numbers, cannot be implicitly relied upon; for every body must feel aware that calculations by the lump must always be suspected; and besides, how can it well be otherwise than mere guess-work, except regular returns of stolen property were made? But be this as it may, the extent and constancy of the depredations were so notorious as to call loudly for some special interference, and hence arose this establishment. In July, 1798, an office for the " Marine Police Establishment" was opened at Wapping New Stairs. Its importance will be admitted, when it is recollected that in this single river are engaged 13,444 ships and vessels which discharge and receive in the course of a year three millions of packages, many of which contain very valuable articles, greatly exposed to depredations, not only from the criminal habits of many of the porters, labourers, &c., but from the temptations to plunder arising from the confusion unavoidable in a crowded port, and the facilities afforded in the disposal of stolen property. The savings to the West India merchants and others were soon made manifest, although the system has not entirely crushed the plans of river-pirates, some daring and extensive robberies having recently taken place; but it has accomplished great good, and even where plunderage is committed, most of the parties are sure to be sooner or later brought to justice, When robberies take place on the Thames, they are now generally of the most audacious character: not only small boats are attacked, but lighters and vessels themselves, laden with rich cargoes, such as silks, bullion, etc.; and the plunder is carried off by wholesale and main force.
Some GENERAL OBSERVATIONS may not inappropriately follow the preceding details. From what has been here said, as well as in consequence of the numbers of criminals and frequency of crime, which have been voluminously dwelt upon by various writers, the uninvestigating inhabitant, or the inconsiderate visitor of the metropolis, might be tempted to conclude that within its limits there was no safety for property or life. But although there certainly are numerous classes of persons, consisting of plunderers in every shape, from the midnight robber and murderer, to the poor perpetrators of petty pillage,—from the cultivated swindler and sharper, to the daring street pickpocket; and although thousands of men and women, following the occupation of roguery and prostitution, daily rise scarcely knowing how they are to procure existence for the passing hour; yet we submit that it ought to be matter of especial surprise that so little open and daring inroad is made upon our persons as we pass along the streets, or upon property exposed in carts, warehouses, &c., when the extent of the population, merchandise, and commerce, is considered. There are thousands of persons residing within this metropolis, of which it may be said, from the early and late hours, the night and day work necessarily pursued in so trading a city, that it never sleeps; who have been for years compelled to pass along the streets without ever being robbed or seriously molested. Robbers lay wait for the timid and the unwary,—the dissolute and the drunken; they seldom intercept the man that is steadily pursuing his course without intermingling with suspicious company, or passing along by-streets. At night persons should always prefer the leading public streets. In them, there are few, lurking-holes; and besides, in case of attack, there are almost sure to be passengers travelling along who will render assistance when they hear calls for help. Much depends on a person's own resolution and discretion. If he resist attacks, be will generally drive off interlopers; and if he keep the public roads, and avoid companionship in the dead hours of the night, he may be watched as a likely object of plunder, but he is tolerably sure of escaping robbery.
Amidst so vast a population, and where there are so many opportunities for villains to practise their depredations, and screen themselves from detection, it is not surprising that so many rogues by profession are collected together, and that out of a great number, so few are brought to condign punishments To this great hive of human beings, the most vicious as well as the most learned, will resort, as the best field of exertion. Mr. Colquhoun, the magistrate previously mentioned, has enumerated and described eighteen different classes of cheats and swindlers, who infest the metropolis, and prey upon the honest and unwary; besides persons who live by gambling, coining, housebreaking, robbery, and plunder on the river. Although there may be, as there undoubtedly is, great truth, that villains of such descriptions, intermingle with honest, hard-working, or unsuspecting persons, we must again caution the reader against implicitly relying on round numbers and calculations in the lump, on subjects regarding which no human being has ever yet gained accurate information. Mr. C. very justly traces the origin of much of the crime that exists to the prevalence of public-houses, bad education of apprentices, servants out of place, Jews, receivers of stolen goods, pawnbrokers, low gaming-houses, smuggling, associations in prisons, and the prevalence of prostitution. Not fewer than 30,000 prostitutes are supposed by Mr. C. to live in London: and it is presumed that eight tenths of these die prematurely of disease and misery, haying previously corrupted twice their own number of young girls and young men. According to details furnished by the "Guardian Society," and noticed in the Commons' Police Report of 1818," out of three parishes, consisting of 9,924 houses, and 59,050 inhabitants, there are 360 brothels and 2,000 common prostitutes."
One of the chief encouragements of crime undoubtedly is the receiving of stolen property. In the metropolis Mr. C. believes there are upwards of 3,000 receivers of various kinds of stolen goods, and an equal proportion all over the country, who keep open shop for the purpose of purchasing, at an under price, often for a mere trifle, every kind of property brought to them, and this without asking a single question. He further supposes that the property purloined and pilfered in a little way, from almost every family, and from every house, stable, shop, warehouse, &c. &c., in and about the metropolis, may amount to about 700,000l. in one year. The vast increase and extensive circulation of counterfeit money, almost exceeds credibility; and the ingenuity and dexterity of these counterfeits have enabled them to finish the different kinds of base money in so masterly a manner, that it has become extremely difficult to distinguish the spurious from the real manufacture. In London, regular markets, in various public and private houses, are held by the principal dealers, where hawkers, pedlars, fraudulent horsedealers, unlicensed lottery-office keepers, gamblers at fairs, itinerant Jews, Irish labourers, market women, rabbit sellers, fish criers, barrow women, and many others, get supplied with counterfeit money, with the advantage of nearly 100l. per cent. in their favour.
There exists in the metropolis a class of dealers, extremely numerous, who keep open shops for the purchase of rags, old iron, and other metals. These are divided into wholesale and retail dealers. The retail dealers are the immediate purchasers, in the first instance, from the pilferers, or their agents; and as soon as they collect a sufficient quantity of iron, brass, or other metals, worthy the notice of a large dealer, they dispose of it for ready money. Others are employed in the collection of rags, and other articles purloined in the country, which are conveyed to town in "single horse carts," kept by itinerant Jews, and other doubtful characters, who travel to Portsmouth, Chatham, Woolwich, and Deptford, for the purpose of purchasing metals, &c., from persons who are in the habit of embezzling the king's stores.
Robbery and theft, in many instances, have been reduced to a regular system. Houses intended to he entered during the night, are previously reconnoitred and examined for days preceding, if one or more of the servants are not already associated with the depredators, the most artful means are used to obtain their assistance; and when every previous arrangement is made, the mere operation of robbing a house becomes a matter of little difficulty. This information should serve as a caution to every person in the choice both of their male and female servants, since the latter, as well as the former, are sometimes accomplices in the most atrocious robberies.
Night coaches promote, in many instances, the perpetration of burglaries, and other felonies. Bribed by a high reward, the coachmen enter into the pay of nocturnal depredators, and wait in the neighbourhood until the robbery is completed, and then draw up, at the moment the watchmen are going their rounds, or off their stands for the purpose of conveying the plunder to the house of the receiver, who is generally waiting the issue of the enterprise.
The SHARPERS, SWINDLERS, and ROGUES of various descriptions have undergone something like a classification by different writers; and although such an effort must necessarily be imperfect, partially to follow the example in this place may not be without its use. The following is a list of some of the species of cloaked marauders that beset the unwary in this great metropolis;—they deceive few but the ignorant and unthinking— those, however, afford too rich a harvest:—
1. Sharpers who obtain licenses to become pawn brokers. These are uniformly receivers of stolen goods, and under this cover do much mischief.
Swindlers, who obtain licenses to act as hawkers and pedlars. These men establish fraudulent raffles, substitute plated goods for silver, sell and utter base coin; deal in smuggled goods, and receive stolen goods with a view to dispose of them in the country.
3. Swindlers, who take out licenses as auctioneers. These open shops in different parts of the metropolis, with persons at the door, usually denominated barkers to invite strangers to walk in to attend the mock auctions. In these places, various articles of silver plate, and household goods, are offered for sale, made upon a slight principle, and of little intrinsic value. Associates, called puffers, are in waiting, to raise the article beyond its value when, on the first bidding of a stranger it is immediately knocked down to him; and, when it is too late, he discovers the snare he has fallen into. And in addition to the price at which the article may be knocked down, they add certain sums for expenses, duty, and the like.
4. Swindlers, who raise money, by pretending to be discounters of bills, and money brokers. These chiefly prey upon young men of property, who have lost their money by gambling, or spent it in extravagant amusements.
5. Jews, who are found in every street, lane, and alley, in and near the metropolis, and under the pretence of purchasing old clothes, and metals of various sorts, prowl about the houses of men of rank and fortune, holding out temptations to their servants to pilfer and steal small articles, which they purchase at a trifling portion of their value. It is calculated that fifteen hundred of these people have their daily rounds.
6. Swindlers, who associate together for the purpose of defrauding tradesmen of their goods. One assumes the character of a merchant, hires a genteel house, with a counting-house, and every appearance of business: one or two of his associates take upon them the appearance of clerks, while others occasionally wear a livery; and sometimes a carriage is set up, in which the ladies of the party visit the shops, in the style of persons of fashion, ordering goods to their apartments. Thus circumstanced, goods are obtained on credit, which are immediately pawned or sold, and the produce used as the means of obtaining more, and procuring recommendations, by offering to pay ready money, or discount bills. After circulating notes to a considerable amount, and completing their system of fraud, by possessing as much of the property of others as is possible, without risk of detection, they decamp, assume new characters, and generally elude all pursuit.
7. Sharpers, who take elegant lodgings, dress fashionably, and assume false names. These men pretend to be related to persons of real credit and fashion, produce letters familiarly written, to prove intimacy show these letters to tradesmen and others, on whom they mean to practise, and when they have secured their good graces, purchase wearing apparel, and other articles, and then disappear with the booty.
Besides these descriptions of rogues who "live by their wits," there are villains who associate systematically together, for the purpose of discovering and preying upon persons from the country, or any ignorant person who is supposed to have money, or who has visited London with the view of selling goods, who prowl about the streets where shopmen and boys are carrying parcels, and who attend inns at the time that coaches and waggons are loading and unloading. These have recourse to a variety of stratagems, according to the peculiar circumstances of the case, and in a multitude of instances succeed. Cheats, called duffers, go about the streets offering bargains, and attend public-houses, inns, and fairs, pretending to sell smuggled goods, of India and other foreign manufacture. By offering their goods for sale, they discover, by long-exercised acuteness, the proper objects to practise upon, and seldom fail to deceive the unwary purchaser, and to pass off forged country or other banks notes, or base coin, in the course of dealings of any extent.
There are many female sharpers, who dress elegantly, personate women of fashion, attend masquerades, and instances have been known, in which, by extraordinary effrontery, they have forced themselves into the circle at St. James's. One is said to have appeared in a style of peculiar elegance on the king's birthday, in the year, 1795, and to have pilfered, in conjunction with her husband, who was dressed as a clergyman, to the amount of 1,700l. without discovery or suspicion. Houses are kept where female cheats dress and undress for public places. Thirty or forty of these generally attend masquerades, in different characters, where they generally realize a considerable booty.
In addition to this detail of swindlers and cheats, much might be said respecting professed gamblers, notorious gambling-houses, &c., as well as the regular thieves, consisting of house-breakers, pickpockets, and footpads; but such a sketch would lead us far beyond our limits. What is mentioned in this division of our work, and the statements that will be found in our notices of the prisons, may lead the reader to form something like an accurate conclusion, regarding the various ramifications, as well as the extent of crime in London. But experience with the characters of those who are ascertained to be engaged in regular and systematic violation of the law—who procured the means of existence by plundering and cheating mankind, will not fail to show that they are rogues and criminals by education. When mere youths, their parents or relatives, or those who may happen to have had the guardianship and guidance of their infantile years, have themselves been violators of the laws by profession; and, excluded from honest society as they necessarily must be, as a matter of course these infants are instructed in the arts of roguery. There are schools to teach adeptness in thieving; and this fact, and the melancholy truth of the immoral habits of some of the indigent classes who abandon or sell their children, will account for there being regularly kept up the generation of dishonesty in all its odious shapes and repulsive features. That there were regular schools to initiate boys and men in the art of picking rockets, &c., even before the celebrated professor Barrington, of Botany Bay renown, is proved by Stowe, in his Survey of London. According to him, it appears that at the July sessions, 1585, considerable attention was given by the magistracy to the discovery and suppression of houses of resort for thieves. (Why is not the same thing done now?) Sixteen of these houses were discovered in London and Westminster, and two in Southwark. (They are now known to be much more numerous, as the Commons' Police Report has proved.) In one of these an alehouse at Smart's Quay, Billingsgate, the arts of cutting purses and picking pockets were taught scientifically! It was kept by one Wotton, "a gentleman born, and once a merchant of good credit, but fallen by time into decay." There was a regular school for teaching youth the necessary dexterity of hand which their trade required; and which was done by hanging up a pocket and a purse, one containing counters and the other silver, each of them being "hung about with hawks' bells," and having a little bell at top. The pupil was instructed to take out the silver and counters without gingling the bells, which, when he had accomplished, his proficiency was rewarded by styling him a nypper and a foyster: the former term signifying a pick-purse or cut-purse, and the latter a pickpocket. This system has been notoriously practised in our times; and was brought to a state of great "scientific" perfection by Barrington.
As to the EXTENT OF CRIME, some few particulars may not be here out of place. Mr. Colquhoun estimates, that in England and Wales there are 222,000 vagrants, gipsies, rogues, vagabonds, thieves, swindlers, coiners of base money, in and out of prisons, and common prostitutes; and that " there are 50,000 licensed ale-houses, constantly holding out seductive lures to the labouring classes in every part of the country," there being upwards of 6,000 of them in and about the metropolis. To dram-drinking he, and most writers on the subject who speak from experience, attributes the origin of much calamity and crime amongst the poor and indigent; indeed, from the evidence of the publicans themselves it might be inferred, that the very scenes of idle and unprincipled dissipation often behold the commencement of dishonest practices, as the publicans of London stated to the house of commons on applying for relief on the subject, that they were robbed of pewter pots to the amount of 100,000l. annually.
According to the returns made to parliament towards the end of last session, we look in vain for the proofs of the decrease of crime. In 1811 there were 5,337 males and females committed to the several jails of England and Wales, charged with criminal offences, of whom 3,163 were convicted:—amongst the convictions were 17 for having forged bank-notes in their possession, 26 for forgery, and 94 for counterfeiting coin and passing it; 2,503 for simple and other larcenies, 76 for burglary, and 8 for murder. In 1816 there were 9,091 committed to the several jails, of whom 5,797 were convicted:—amongst the convictions were 80 for having forged bank-notes in their possession, 43 for forgery, and 166 for coining and, uttering counterfeit coin; 4,493 for simple and other larcenies, 216 for burglary, and 30 for murder. And in 1817 there were 13,932 committed to the several jails, of whom 9,056 were convicted:—amongst them, 100 for having forged bank-notes in their possession, 62 for forgery, and 263 for coining and uttering counterfeit coin; 6,865 for simple and other larcenies, 374 for burglary, and 25 for murder. With regard to executions it appears, on consulting various returns, that on an average of many years, not above one in fifteen or twenty, condemned to die, suffers death. It may be fairly asked, whether the administration of justice should be allowed to continue in such a state, where the execution of the law is not the rule observed, but an exception to it; where, according to language used from the judgement seat, the "law exists indeed in theory, but has been almost abrogated in practice by the acuteness of judges, the humanity of juries, and the clemency of the crown?"
We cannot conclude better than by introducing an impressive quotation from the end of the Commons' Police Report of 1818: It justly dwells on the difficulties thrown in the way of establishing a perfect police by the regard paid to the liberty of the subject:—"This is a subject of great difficulty. It is no doubt true, that to prevent crime is better than to punish it; but the difficulty is not in the end but the means, and though your committee could imagine a system of police that might arrive at the object sought for; yet in a free country, or even in one where any unrestrained intercourse of society is admitted, such a system would of necessity be odious and repulsive, and one which no government could he able to carry into execution. In despotic countries it has never yet succeeded to the extent aimed at by those theorists; and among a free people, the very proposal would be rejected with abhorrence: it would be a plan which would make every servant of every house a spy on the actions of his master, and all classes of society spies on each other. The police of a free country is to be found in rational and humane laws,—in an effective and enlightened magistracy,—and in the judicious and proper selection of those officers of justice, in whose hands, as conservators of the peace, executive duties are legally placed. But above all, on the moral habits and opinions of the people; and in proportion as these approximate towards a state of perfection, so that people may rest in security, and though their property may occasionally be invaded, or their lives endangered by the hands of wicked and desperate individuals, yet the institutions of the country being sound, its laws well administered, and justice executed against offenders, no greater safeguard can be obtained, without sacrificing all those rights which society was instituted to preserve."
Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819