Page images
PDF
EPUB

cusation,—who receive it (almost unknown to themselves) with pleasure,-and who, if they hate dulness and inoccupation, can have very little pleasure in the innocence of their fellow creaturesa. The natural consequence of all this is, that (beside that portion of rumour which every member contributes at the weekly meeting) their table must be covered with anonymous lies against the characters of individuals. Every servant discharged from his master's service,--every villain who hates the man he has injured,

-every cowardly assassin of character, now knows where his accusations will be received, and where they cannot fail to produce some portion of the mischievous effects which he wishes. The very first step of such a Society should be, to declare, in the plainest manner, that they would never receive any anonymous accusation. This would be the only security to the public, that they were not degrading themselves into a receptacle for malice and falsehood. Such a declaration would inspire some species of confidence; and make us believe that their object was neither the love of power, nor the gratification of uncharitable feelings. 'The Society for the Suppression, however, have done no such thing: They request, indeed, the signature of the informers whom they invite ; but they do not (as they ought) make that signature an indispensable condition.

Nothing has disgusted us so much in the proceedings of this Society, as the controul which they exercise over the amusements of the Poor. One of the specious titles under which this legal meanness is gratified is, Prevention of cruelty to animals.

Of cruelty to animals, let the reader take the following specia mens.

Running an iron hook in the intestines of an animal; presenta ing this first animal to another as his food; and then pulling this second creature up, and suspending him by the barb in his stomach.

Riding a horse till he drops, in order to see an innocent animal torn to pieces by dogs.

Keeping a poor animal upright for many weeks, to communi. cate a peculiar hardness to his flesh..

Making deep incisions into the flesh of another animal, while living, in order to make the muscles more firm.

Immersing another animal, while living, in hot water. - Now we do fairly admit, that such abominable cruelties as these are worthy of the interference of the law : and, that the Society should have punished them, cannot be matter of surprise to any feeling mind. But stop, gentle reader! these cruelties are the cruelties of the Suppressing Committee, not of the poor. You must not think of punishing these. -The first of these cruelties passes under the pretty name of angling ;-and therefore there

Sie Nothing the controy the speci

can

;-and process for makin can be any cers and

can be no harm in it-the more particularly as the President himself has one of the best preserved trout streams in England. The next is hunting ;--and as many of the Vice-Presidents and of the Committee hunt, it is not possible there can be any cruelty in hunting. * The next is, a process for making brawn ; a dish never tasted by the poor,--and therefore, not to be disturbed by indictment. The fourth is the mode of crimping cod; and the fifth of boiling lobsters ;-all high-life cruelties, with which a justice of the peace has no business to meddle. The real thing which calls forth the sympathies, and harrows up the soul, is to see a number of boisterous artisans baiting a bull, or a bear ;- not a savage hare, or a carnivorous stag,-but a poor, innocent, timid bear;—not pursued by magistrates, and deputy-lieutenants, and men of education,—but by those who must necessarily seek their relaxation in noise and tumultuous merriment,-by men whose feelings are bfunted, and whose understanding is wholly devoid of refinement. The Society detail, with symptoms of great complacency, their detection of a bear-baiting in Black-Boy Alley, Chick Lane, and the prosecution of the offenders before a magistrate. It appears to us, that nothing can be more partial and unjust than this kind of proceedings. A man of ten thousand a year may worry a fox as much as he pleases,-may encourage the breed of a mischievous animal on purpose to worry it; and a poor labourer is carried before a magistrate for paying sixpence to see an exhibition of courage between a dog and a bear! Any cruelty may be practised to gorge the stomachs of the rich, none to enliven the holidays of the poor. We venerate those feelings which really protect creatures susceptible of pain, and incapable of complaint. But heaven-born pity, now-a-days, calls for the income tax, and the court guide; and ascertains the rank and fortune of the tormentor before she weeps for the pain of the sufferer. It is astonishing how the natural feelings of mankind are distorted by false theories. Nothing can be more mischievous than to say, that the pain inflicted by the dog of a man of quality, is not (when the strength of the two animals is the same) equal to that

produced

* ! How reasonable creatures' (says the Society) - can enjoy a pastime which is the cause of such sufferings to brute animals, or how they can consider themselves entitled, for their own amusement, to stimulate those animals, by means of the antipathies which Providence has thought proper to place between them, to worry and tear, and often to destroy each other, it is difficult to conceive. So inhuman a practice, by a retribution peculiarly just, tends obviously to render the human character brutal and ferocious,' &c. &c. Ad. dress, p. 71, 72. We take it for granted, that the reader sees clearly that no part of this description can possibly apply to the case of hunting.

produced by the cur of a butcher. Haller, in his Pathology, expressly says, that the animal bitten, knows no difference in the quality of the biting animal's master ; and it is now the universal opinion among all enlightened men, that the misery of the brawner would be very little diminished, if he could be made sensible that he was to be eaten up only by persons of the first fashion. The con. trary supposition seems to us to be absolute nonsense ; it is the desertion of the true Baconian philosophy, and the substitution of mere unsupported conjecture in its place.

The trespass, however, which calls forth all the energies of a suppresser, is the sound of a fiddle. That the common people are really enjoying themselves, is now beyond all doubt: and away rush Secretary, President, and Committee, to clap the cotillon-into the Compter, and to bring back the life of the poor to its regular standard of decorous gloom. The gambling houses of St James's remain untouched. The peer ruins himself and his family with impunity; while the Irish labourer is privately whipped for not making a better use of the excellent moral, and religious education which he has received in the days of his youth!

It is not true, as urged by the Society, that the vices of the poor are carried on in houses of public resort, and those of the rich in their own houses. The Society cannot be ignorant of the innumerable gambling houses resorted to by men of fashion. Is there one they have suppressed, or attempted to suppress ?-Can any thing be more despicable than such distinctions as these ? Those who make them, seein to have for other persons' vices, all the rigour of the antient Puritans--without a particle of their honesty, or their courage. To suppose that any society will ever attack the vices of people of fashion, is wholly out of the question. If the Society consisted of tradesmen, they would infallibly be turned off by the vicious customers whose pleasures they interrupted ; and what gentleman so fond of suppressing, as to interfere with the vices of good company, and inform against persons who were really genteel? He knows very well, that the consequence of such interference, would be a complete exclusion from elegant society; that the upper classes could not, and would not endure it ; and that he must immediately lose his rank in the world, if his zeal subjected fashionable offenders to the slightest inconvenience from the law. Nothing, therefore, remains, but to rage against the Sunday dinners of the poor, and to prevent a bricklayer's labourers from losirig, on the seventh day, that beard which has been augmenting the other six. We see at the head of this Society, the names of several noblemen, and of other persons moving in the fashionable world. Is it possible they can be ignorant of the innumerable offences against the law

and

and morality which are committed by their own acquaintances and connexions. Is there one single instance where they have directed the attention of the Society to this higher species of suppression, and sacrificed men of consideration to that zeal for virtue, which watches so acutely over the vices of the poor? It would give us no sort of pleasure to see a dutchess sent to the Poultry Compter; but if we saw the Society flying at such high games we should at least say they were honest and courageous, whatever judgment we might form of their good sense. At present they should denominate themselves a Society for suppressing the vices of persons whose income does not exceed 5001. per annum ; and then, to put all classes upon an equal footing, there must be another society of barbers, butchers and bakers, to return to the higher classes that moral care, by which they are so highly benefited. . To show how impossible it is to keep such societies within any kind of bounds, we shall quote a passage respecting circulating libraries from their proceedings.

• Your Committee have good reasons for believing, that the circu. lation of their notices among the printsellers, warning them against the sale or exhibition of indecent representations, has produced, and continues to produce the best effects.

• But they have to lament, that the extended establishments of circulating libraries, however useful they may be, in a variety of respects, to the easy and general diffusion of knowledge, are extremely injurious to morals and religion, by the indiscriminate admission which they give to works of a prurient and immoral nature. It is a toilsome task to any virtuous and enlightened mind, to wade through the catalogues of these collections, and much more to select such books from them as have only an apparent bad tendency. But your Committee being convinced that their attention ought to be directed to those institutions which possess such powerful and numerous means of poisoning the minds of young persons, and especially of the female youth, have therefore begun to make some endeavours towards their better regulation.' Statement of the Proceedings for 1804, p. 11, 12.

In the same spirit, we see them writing to a country magistrate in Devonshire, respecting a wake advertised in the public papers. Nothing can be more presumptuous than such conduct, or produce, in the minds of impartial men, a more decisive impression against the Society.

The natural answer from the members of the Society (the only auswer they ever have made to the enemies of their institution) will be, that we are lovers of vice,—desirous of promoting inde ! cency, of destroying the Sabbath, and of leaving mankind to the unrestrained gratification of their passions. We have only very

calmly

calmly to reply, that we are neither so stupid nor so wicked, as not to concur in every scheme, which has for its object the preservation of rational religion and sound morality ;-but the scheme must be well concerted, and those who are to carry it into execu tion must deserye our confidence, from their talents and their character. Upon religion and morals depends the happiness of mankind ;--but the fortune of knaves and the power of fools is sometimes made to rest on the same apparent basis; and we will never (if we can help it). allow a rogue to get rich, or a blockhead to get powerful, under the sanction of these awful words. We do not by any means intend to apply these contemptuous epithets to the Society for the Suppression. That there are among their number some very odious hypocrites, is not impossible ; that many men who believe they come there from the love of virtue, do really join the Society from the love of power, we do not doubt: but we see no reason to doubt that the great mass of subscribers consist of persons who have very sincere intentions of doing good. That they have, in some instances, done a great deal of good, we admit with the greatest pleasure. We believe, that in the hands of truly honest, intrepid, and above all, discreet men, such a society might become a valuable institution, improve in some degree the public morals, and increase the public happiness. So many qualities, however, are required to carry it on well,—the temptations to absurdity and impertinence are so very great,-that we despair of ever seeing our wishes upon this subject realized. In the present instance, our object has been, to suppress the arrogance of suppressers,-to keep them within due bounds,-to show them, that to do good requires a little more talent and reflection than they are aware of, and, above all, to impress upon them, that true zeal for virtue knows no distinction between the rich and the poor ; and that the cowardly and the mean can never be the true friends of morality, and the promoters of human hap, piness. If they attend to these rough doctrines, they will ever find in the writers of this Journal their warmest admirers, and their most sincere advocates and friends.

ART. V. Letters froin a late Emiment Prelate to one of his

Friends. 4to. pp. 380. Kidderminster, 1808.

W ARBURTON, we think, was the last of our great divines

the last, perhaps, of any profession who united profound · learning with great powers of understanding, and, along with

vast and varied stores of acquired knowledge, possessed energy

of

« PreviousContinue »