Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

léon, have been able to give to the grave and slow inhabitant of Normandy, the joyous and eager character of the chivalric child of Béarn.

What we have derived so far from M. Guerry, then, is merely negative—no proof of what is--but sufficient proof that that is not, which many have contented to be. But having completely set aside the doctrine of accident, having had no opportunity to trace the effects of government--not having satisfactorily established the effects of intelligence—having left us in complete doubt as to various influences that do operate, and that must operate upon human actions,—M. Guerry does at last show us some influences visihle upon our conduct which it will be interesting to the reader that I should point out. There is the influence of climate, and there is the influence of the seasons, which M. Guerry has not connected, but which I would wish to place in connexion together-for, observe, that whereas the crimes against the person are always more numerous in the summer, the crimes against property more numerous in the winter-so of the crimes committed in the south, the crimes against the

person are far more numerous than those against property, while in the north the crimes against property are, in the same proportion, more numerous than those against the person. Indeed, by comparing the two tables we find, as a general rule, that wherever there are the most crimes against persons, there are the fewest against property. *

But the effects of summer and winter are more strongly, marked and more exact in their recurrence, than the effects of north and south.

of a hundred attempts against public morals committed yearly. Years 1827. 1828. 1829. 1830.

35 · 36 · 35 · 38 36 During the three summer months.

[ocr errors]

* We must except Alsace, and the departmenis of Corsica, Seine et Oiser Moselle, and Lozère, which are equally criminal in both cases.

Les attentats à la pudeur (Rapes) form a sixth of the crimes committed upon persons : crimes against property are nearly three-fourths of the total number of crimes—and of these we may count five thousand three hundred per year. Domestic thests form a fourth of the criines against property : the number of crimes against property have increased, and the number of crimes against the person diminished of later years.

[ocr errors]

of a hundred cuts and wounds committed yearly. Years 1827. 1828. 1829. 1830. | Average

28 . 27 . 27 . 27 28 During the three summer months.

[ocr errors]

The influence, then, of the atmosphere * upon crime—the influence of climate, thus seeing it, as we do, in conjunction with the influence of the seasons, is difficult to controvert, and seems sufficient, in a slight degree, to separate France from other countries, and the different divisions of France from each other.

But it is in the influence which age and which sex exercise upon crime in France, that there more especially lies a vast field of inquiry—as to the morals, the habits, and the character of the French. In respect to the influences of age, I publish a table, the only one of the sort ever made, and which I think no reader will look at without considerable interest.

As is natural to suppose, the greatest number of crimes committed by both sexes are committed between twenty-five and thirty years of age: a time when the faculties are most developed, and the passions most strong. Assassinations become more and more frequent after the age

of

twenty years up to the age of fifty: forgery takes the same rule of progression, but continues increasing up to the age of seventy and

But the difference between the north and the south of France becomes still more remarkable, if after comparing them together we then compare France with England.

England and Wales contain about half the population of France; they are guilty, I may fairly say, of more than double the amount of crime; but in this total, so much greater than the total of France, there is not more than one rape, or attempt to commit rape, in England, to every three offences of a similar description in France. There is not more than one murder, or attempt to commit murder, in England, to every six murders, or attempt to commit murder, in France. Take infanticides alone—there are in France a bundred and eighteen; in England and Wales, in spite of the great increase in these cases during the years 1829, 1830, and 1331, about twenty-eight convictions and thirty committals. Is it the severity of our penal code which produces this effect? Not so: for since capital punishments have become more rare in France, the number of crimes against persons (crimes of personal violence) have diminished.

No very accurate conclusion can be drawn from two countries of which the laws and the police are different: still, make every allowance for these, and you will yet find the same difference between the south of France and the north. There will be more crimes in England against property, fewer crimes against the person, and a larger total of crimes altogether.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The crimes against persons form one-fourth of the total number of crimes committed yearly, above. The most striking fact is the enormous proportion that rapes upon children bear among crimes committed by persons passed the age of sixty-in a thousand crimes, from fifty to sixty, eighty-eight are rapes upon children; from sixty to seventy, one hundred and sixty-six; from seventy to eighty and upwards, three hundred and eighteen.

This crime is thrice as frequent as any other among old people, and one sees here—what is the case in maladies of all kinds—precisely the most appetite where there is the worst digestion.

Thus we are led to the influence of the sexes; and most singularly does it display itself in the fact, that the crime second in precedence among young men is rape upon adults—the crime first in precedence among old men, rapes upon children.

From the first step to the last, then, from the entry into life to the departure from it, the influence of the sexes, in all its wonderful variations, from physical passion to moral depravity, predominates in France over human actions, and shows here, in a more serious manner, many of those traits in character, to which I have elsewhere, in a lighter tone, alluded.

Nor is this all ; we find that in the committals in England and Wales, the females are in the proportion of one to five; in France, the females are in the proportion of one to three.

The difference indeed between the crimes of the male and the female in France, does not seem caused by the superior innocence but by the greater weakness of the female: for exactly as a woman's facility for committing crime increases, her criminality also increases, and becomes more especially remarkable—where one would have hoped to find it least soviz. beneath her master's, her father's, and her husband's roof. Two-fifths of the thefts by females are domestic thefts, whereas only one-fifth of the thefts by males are thefts of this description. Committing only one murder in twenty, and one assault in twenty-five, † the woman is guilty of every third

* I speak of the crimes against persons.

† Infanticide is the crime most frequent to females; assassination (murder premeditated) comes the next. There are one hundred and seven assassinations by women to forty-nine murders. On a hundred crimes against persons, the men are guilty of eighty-six, the women of fourteen. On a hundred crimes against property, the men commit seventy-nine, the women twenty-one.

.

parricide, of half the crimes by poison, and whenever man or wife conspire against the life of the other, the accomplice, if chosen from the family, is almost certain (says M. Guerry) to be a female. So restless, so active, so incapable of repose and insignificance, in France, is this nervous and irritable sexhere poisoning a husband, there intriguing for a lover-here spouting for equal rights, there scribbling in the livre rose,' — the nature of the French woman is still the same, sometimes conducting her to glory, sometimes to the galleys.

And now pursuing his analysis, Monsieur Guerry conducts us from crimes to their motives.

On a thousand crimes of poisoning, murder, assassination, and incendiarism, we find by his account, that, Hatred and vengeance cause

264 Domestic dissensions

. 143 Quarrels at gambling-houses

113 Adultery

64 Debauchery, concubinage, seduction

55 Jealouly

16 Hatred and vengeance cause the most of these crimes-jealousy causes the least. Remark! one of the most common crimes in France is—rape; one of the weakest incentives to crime is—jealousy! . . Adultery, however, causes a large proportion of the crimes (thirty-five in a hundred). But this is not the effect of jealousy—it is not the person injured, who avenges himself or herself: no, it is the person injuring; it is not the deceived, it is the deceiver, who commits one crime as the consequence of the other. Clytemnestra is the home tragedy of private life, and we find that in three cases out of five it is the adulterous wife and her accomplices who conspire against the life-of the betrayed husband.*

Debauch, concubinage, and seduction cause almost as many crimes as adultery: but here it is the life of the woman, as in adultery it is the life of the man, that is most '

menaced. A faithful mistress is a burthen; an unfaithful one is passionately loved. The connexion sought from inclination is viewed very differently from that which is usually dictated by interest, and

* I recommend M. Guerry's tables as an antidote to the novels of the day, and the doctrines in favour of adultery—to which husbands listen with so willing an ear.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »