the prior consideration is due to those who have not the remedy for the evil in their own hands.

But the truth is-and so (after a hundred monopolising experiments on public patience) the railroad directors will find it-there can be no other dependence for the safety of the public than the care which every human being is inclined to take of his own life and limbs. Every thing beyond this is the mere lazy tyranny of monopoly, which makes no distinction between human beings and brown paper parcels. If riding were a monopoly, as travelling in carriages is now become, there are many gentlemen whom I see riding in the Park upon such false principles, that I am sure the cantering and galloping directors would strap them, in the ardour of their affection, to the saddle, padlock them to the stirrups, or compel them to ride behind a policeman of the stable; and nothing but a motion from O'Brien, or an order from Gladstone, could release them.

Let the company stick up all sorts of cautions and notices within their carriages and without; but, after that, no doors locked. If one door is allowed to be locked, the other will soon be so too; there is no other security to the public than absolute prohibition of the practice. The directors and agents of the Great Western are individually excellent men; but the moment men meet in public boards, they cease to be collectively excellent. The fund of morality becomes less, as the individual contributors increase in number. I do not accuse such respectable men of any wilful violation of truth, but the memoirs which they are about to present will be, without the scrupulous cross-examination of a committee of the House of Commons, mere waste paper.

But the most absurd of all legislative enactments is this hemiplegian law-an act of Parliament to protect one side of the body and not the other. If the wheel comes off on

the right, the open door is uppermost, and every one is saved. If, from any sudden avalanche on the road, the carriage is prostrated to the left, the locked door is uppermost, all escape is impossible, and the railroad martyrdom begins.

Leave me to escape in the best way I can, as the fireoffices very kindly permit me to do. I know very well the danger of getting out on the off-side; but escape is the affair of a moment; suppose a train to have passed at that moment, I know I am safe from any other trains for twenty minutes or half an hour; and if I do get out on the off-side, I do not remain in the valley of death between the two trains, but am over to the opposite bank in an instant-only halfroasted, or merely browned, certainly not done enough for the Great Western directors. . . . .

Railroad travelling is a delightful improvement of human life. Man is become a bird; he can fly longer and quicker than a Solan goose. The mamma rushes sixty miles in two hours to the aching finger of her conjugating and declining grammar boy. The early Scotchman scratches himself in the morning mists of the North, and has his porridge in Piccadilly before the setting sun. The Puseyite priest, after a rush of 100 miles, appears with his little volume of nonsense at the breakfast of his bookseller. Every thing is near, every thing is immediate-time, distance, and delay are abolished. But, though charming and fascinating as all this is, we must not shut our eyes to the price we shall pay for it. There will be every three or four years some dreadful massacre—whole trains will be hurled down a precipice, and 200 or 300 persons will be killed on the spot. There will be every now and then a great combustion of human bodies, as there has been at Paris; then all the newspapers up in —a thousand regulations, forgotten as soon as the


directors dare-loud screams of the velocity whistle-monopoly locks and bolts, as before.

The locking plea of directors is philanthropy ; and I admit that to guard men from the commission of moral evil is as philanthropical as to prevent physical suffering. There is, I allow, a strong propensity in mankind to travel on railroads without paying; and to lock mankind in till they have completed their share of the contract is benevolent, because it guards the species from degrading and immoral conduct; but to burn or crush a whole train merely to prevent a few immoral insides from not paying, is I hope a little more than Ripon or Gladstone will bear.

We have been, up to this point, very careless of our railway regulations. The first person of rank who is killed will put every thing in order, and produce a code of the most careful rules. I hope it will not be one of the bench of bishops; but should it be so destined, let the burnt bishopthe unwilling Latimer- remember that, however painful gradual concoction by fire may be, his death will produce unspeakable benefit to the public. Even Sodor and Man will be better than nothing. From that moment the bad effects of the monopoly are destroyed; no more fatal deference to the directors; no despotic incarceration, no barbarous inattention to the anatomy and physiology of the human body; no commitment to locomotive prisons with warrant. We shall then find it possible

'Voyager libre sans mourir.'

Letter to the Morning Chronicle.

5. Treatment, of Untried Prisoners.

PRISON discipline is an object of considerable importance; but the common rights of mankind, and the common principles of justice, and humanity, and liberty, are of greater consequence even than prison discipline. Right and wrong, innocence and guilt, must not be confounded, that a prisonfancying Justice may bring his friend into the prison and say, 'Look what a spectacle of order, silence, and decorum we have established here! no idleness, all grinding! - we produce a penny roll every second,—our prison is supposed to be the best regulated prison in England. . . . .

There seems to be in the minds of some gentlemen a notion, that when once a person is in prison, it is of little consequence how he is treated afterwards. The tyranny which prevailed, of putting a person in a particular dress before trial, now abolished by act of Parliament, was justified by this train of reasoning:- The man has been rendered infamous by imprisonment. He cannot be rendered more so, dress him as you will. His character is not rendered worse by the tread-mill than it is by being sent to the place where the tread-mill is at work. The substance of this way of thinking is, that when a fellow creature is in the fryingpan, there is no harm in pushing him into the fire; that a little more misery—a little more infamy—a few more links, are of no sort of consequence in a prison-life. If this monstrous style of reasoning extended to hospitals as well as prisons, there would be no harm in breaking the small bone of a man's leg, because the large one was fractured, or in peppering with small shot a person who was wounded with a cannon-ball. The principle is, because a man is very wretched, there is no harm in making him a little more so.

The steady answer to all this is, that a man is imprisoned before trial, solely for the purpose of securing his appearance at his trial; and that no punishment nor privation, not clearly and candidly necessary for that purpose, should be inflicted upon him. I keep you in prison, because criminal justice would be defeated by your flight if I did not; but criminal justice can go on very well without degrading you to hard and infamous labour, or denying you any reasonable gratification. For these reasons, the first of those acts is just, the rest are mere tyranny. . . .

A prisoner before trial who can support himself, ought to be allowed every fair and rational enjoyment which he can purchase, not incompatible with prison discipline. He should be allowed to buy ale or wine in moderation,—to use tobacco, or any thing else he can pay for, within the abovementioned limits. If he cannot support himself, and declines work, then he should be supported upon a very plain, but still a plentiful diet (something better, we think, than bread and water); and all prisoners before trial should be allowed to work. By a liberal share of earnings (or rather by rewards, for there would be no earnings), and also by an improved diet, and in the hands of humane magistrates, there would soon appear to be no necessity for appealing to the tread-mill till trial was over.-Edinburgh Review, 1824.

6. Francis Horner.

I REMEMBER the death of many eminent Englishmen, but I can safely say, I never remember an impression so general as that excited by the death of Francis Horner. The public looked upon him as a powerful and a safe man, who was labouring not for himself or his party, but for them. They were convinced of his talents, they confided in his

[blocks in formation]
« VorigeDoorgaan »