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security of their lives, may receive, in a week, more than double what an officer earns after all the expenses, privations, fatigue, and danger, to which he is exposed; when we know all this, can the pay of a police officer be considered a fair equivalent for his services ?
Arriving, then, at the supposed attainment of our object, with a well-provided and adequately-paid police at our disposal, its direction and its power now become the necessary considerations. Can it be effectually operative without arming the officer with greater authority than he now possesses ? What imports it that hundreds of them patrol our streets, where they may see almost double their number of known thieves, if they have not the authority to touch such persons, except in the actual or manifestly-intended commission of offences, or unless they be under circumstances in which the Police Act recognises the officer's authority ? Must we not, it may be asked, have more law, and with such law an encroachment on our constitutional liberties? I answer, that the influence of a large, well-composed and efficient police, will be more powerful than all law which the sagacity of man can devise. Separate the officers, in feeling and in interest, from the criminal; let them feel the public interest to be their own, and then send them forth; let the pursuers be sufficiently strong; let their pursuit be seen and known; and these swarms of our London marauders will no more than those of the veriest vermin that infest our lands or our houses, long remain where they can only live in fearful insecurity. Officers, I know, cannot be every where, but they may be expected any where. Compare but the present state of our roads round London with that in which it was many years since. Highway robberies were then committed nightly. The horse-patrol has almost annihilated the offence. Is it that three or four of them can cover every furlong of ground between London and Uxbridge? Clearly not; but upon any furlong of it a pursuer may spring up; and thence the salutary influence upon the mind of the robber; he will retire if he think that he cannot escape. The same principle has, in its application to the enormous depredations formerly committed upon the Thames, been illustrated with equal success, and must apply every where, supported by adequate means, even in its most extended operations.
Reasonable and satisfactory as these means of improvement must appear, I cannot blind myself to the obstacles which may be opposed to their adoption; obstacles not arising so much from the difficulty of convincing the Legislature of the correctness of the view which has been taken, as from the more serious objection which the increased expense of an effective establishment must produce. A considerable addition to the existing number of officers, together with increased pay, would fix the police upon the country as a large national establishment; whilst it is known, that almost every where but in London this part of our domestic machinery may be said to work itself, by the agency of independent magistrates, and the interests of those who are obliged to take a part in it, and when it is considered that even here it was formerly conducted without national remuneration.
It is not now necessary to reason upon the practicability or the expediency of a gratuitous police; necessity produced the present establishment, and a still stronger necessity demands its continuance. The question, therefore, is not the system, but how that (system shall be made most conducive to the interests of the country: and here it may be asked, what comparison the moral and political objects in view will bear with the necessary expenditure, and to what extent such expenditure will reach?
We shall not duly appreciate this branch of our subject without forcing our minds forward to the probable consequence of partial, ineffectual attempts to mitigate, rather than subdue, our existing evils; and if it should appear that a right view has been taken of that unfortunate part of the community to which we have been directing our attention, no sound statesman will consider police to be a mere question of finance, supposing it to be confined within reasonable and practicable limits.
Treating this as an abstract question of finance, it will primarily, no doubt appear, that if a given sum, (say 50,0001. or 100,0001. a-year,) be destined to police, and that, if such a sum be taken from the pockets of the people, it is a tax upon them to that amount. But taxation for the due administration of our laws has a different character from, and is less grievous and obnoxious than any other within the whole range of our financial system. I should consider this species of payment an universal insurance against the risks of person and property, to which all must contribute to procure protection from the incidents which may happen to any, rather than positive taxation; that, in proportion to the contribution, will be the means of protection ; and consequently, that it will tend to the personal interest and comfort of all, to have such a fund as will afford a reasonable probability of the desired security.
It may be safely assumed, that the amount of property
which is annually lost by depredation in this town, is infinitely greater than the sum paid to the policc for the supposed protection of the public. I am unwilling to hazard calculations which are not to be drawn from ascertainable or known data, but it is confidently asserted by those most competent to afford the information, that, in a month,-nay-a single week, an aggregate of property is sometimes lost greater than the whole allowance, under the Police Act, for a year together. If such be the case, may not the same principle be applied to a general insurance against such losses, as that which induces thousands to insure against the various casualties to which we are exposed ? In those cases, such as fire and other incidents, nobody conjectures that all will suffer, yet all contribute to the possible contingencies which may happen to any. The same principle, if rightly understood, would soon reconcile us to the very small payment which a police, upon the most efficient scale, would call for from the whole public.
All taxation, it may be said, is referable and open to similar reasoning; it has always in view some species of security, pecuniary or personal. Wars, the main source of every coudtry's burden, have invariably had for their object one or other of these kinds of security. Political discussion or controversy forms no part of my present object; but, without denying the truth of such reasoning, it must be obvious that it cannot have the direct application which belongs to an impost incidental to police expenditure. Although, as has been observed, the great weight of our taxation has been produced by wars, yet their necessity bas been almost always doubted, their prospective benefits considered to be problematical, and their policy according to varying opinions, still deemed to be questionable.
Is taxation (if it can be so named) for the purposes here stated, liable to such objection? The evils against which police has to contend, are positive, visible, notorious,' and acknowledged by all. The people know when their houses are plundered, their persons injured, and their property forcibly taken from them. There is nothing speculative in the existence of such evils; and, if practicable remedies can be resorted to for their removal, should any thing but the absolute want of means prevent their adoption ? The means here would, according to our former views of police, be apparently considerable in the aggregate, but in their minúte sub-divisions through society, be hardly felt or known individually.
However, granting that they were, is police therefore to be abandoned ? Political events have leftus with immense national establishments to support the very machinery of taxation;
we murmur not at this, but if, when we look to our great financial establishments, and the sum total of their expenditure, are we, because they exist, and occasion such pressure from past, to be refused any effectual relief from our present ills ? Is the moral government of our citizens to be nothing in comparison with the maintenance of our fiscal system ? or, if the latter at present absorb so much of our resources as to preclude all aid to the former object, would it not be desirable to ascertain, whether any thing can be spared to assist the lesser, but equally important establishment under consideration ?
For the reasons before stated, it is not probable that this would be necessary; but it is impossible not to lament the disregard with which our police establishment has been hitherto viewed, comparatively with most of our other national institutions.
I am not furnished with sufficiently accurate information to state the expenditure of our principal public departments in the metropolis; but the obvious amount of their charges will justify the contrast between them, and the scanty provision, 24,0001. a year destined to the public service under the Police Act, to which sum even its own earnings are made to contribute.
I have dwelt more fully than I intended upon this head of inquiry, because the present feeling of the country upon all financial questions, makes it absolutely necessary to place in a right view those measures which are connected with them; and I trust that the merits of the object now in contemplation will, when duly weighed, be such as to ensure its success, even against the great obstacles which considerations of expense oppose to all national improvement.
If, then, a police can be established in the metropolis, which, whilst it contributes to our personal protection, shall not endanger our liberty; and, whilst it very materially ensures our property, shall not exact more than that insurance is actually worth, neither the most constitutionally jealous nor the most parsimonious, can hesitate to give it their sanction upon such terms.
But we have hitherto principally considered police as it affects the personal or pecuniary interest of those who are to be guarded by it, rather than with reference to its moral influence upon that portion of society on which it is particularly meant to bear.
By those who have of late years directed their attention to the moral character of this country, education has been considered as the sovereign remedy which is to purify and correct
all the corruptions of our internal system; and thence it will be said, that if the unwearied exertions of the most benevolent and enlightened men in the kingdom have hitherto failed to effect any material improvement of the morals of the people, or at least of that part of it which we are now considering, can it be expected that the scattering a host of constables over our city, will at once produce this great object of our wishes ? He would indeed know but little of human nature, who, whatever his former views may have been, would now attempt to check the progress which education is making through all the subordinate classes of society. The impulse has been given, and the system by this time, has acquired a force which will more itself without the adventitious direction which first gave it action; it is irresistible; it must go on; and God grant that it may, to the happiness and lasting interests of mankind! But if we look to the very nature of that education to which our poorest classes must and should be limited, and to the degree of attainment with which, at a premature age, they must be necessarily thrown upon the world; can we expect, in the early stages of this system, that their instruction will fortify them against the temptations to which, at such a dangerous period of their lives, they must be inevitably exposed ? It has not hitherto done so ; it may quicken the faculties, but it cannot, from the shortness of the time which is occupied in it, very powerfully affect the mind; because, the body, rather than the mind, is or must necessarily soon be called into daily action. It is not, it cannot be, with this class of society as with those whose early culture is, as it were, but the seed which is to ripen and scatter its fruitful increase for the intellectual use of man. Without derogating from the merits of the laborious classes of our fellow-subjects, to whom, above all others, we are most indebted, we must see, that their use and their happiness consist in the practical and operative, rather than in the intellectual pursuits of life.