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deep-rooted sources; in short, to distinguish between the errors and the vices of mankind; between that which time will generally abate, and that which requires a more active agency to extirpate. Perhaps, there is no subject in which this principle should be more strictly preserved than in that of police regulation and enactment,
These observations are the more necessary, because there is such a decided and well-founded attachment to old systems in this country, that it must be a strong necessity indeed, which will produce the desire, or encourage the attempt to alter them. But the necessity is not now so much the question, as the practicability of improvement; and the difficulty will be to satisfy those, in whom the failure of former systems of police, has created a distrust and jealousy of all attempts to introduce beneficial alteration. Of this difficulty I am fully sensible, and it is the importance of the subject alone, which could embolden me to an undertaking in which the highest attainments and best powers would not be unworthily engaged.
It will be sufficient, for the purpose of the present inquiry, to direct our attention to the existing state of the Metropolis; to the sources from which it has proceeded, and to the consequences which it is bringing upon us. Inasmuch as police being mere local regulation, the society upon which it is to operate, need alone constitute the object of its attention.
The most superficial observer of the external and visible appearances of this town, must soon be convinced, that there is a large mass of unproductive population living upon it, without occupation or ostensible means of subsistence; and, it is notorious, that hundreds and thousands go forth from day to day trusting alone to charity or rapine ; and differing little from the barbarous hordes which traverse an uncivilized land, except that with us the milder influences of benevolence contribute to the unprovided wants of some; but, with a great part, the principle of action is the same; the life is predatory, it is equally a war against society, and the object is alike to gratify desire by stratagem or force. This, too, in the midst of a wealthy, highly civilized and refined city, the capital of a country blessed with the best Constitution upon earth; a Constitution, whose laws have been said to provide a remedy for every wrong. It would seem then, that there must be disorder somewhere; some acquired and misunderstood disease, the sources of which have hitherto eluded discovery. But I fear that we know the disease too well, and many of us are fully sensible of the causes which have been long working to bring it to its present height; and the aggravation of the
mischief is, that we find it to have taken such deep root, that no permanent relief can be expected without exploring the very elements of our national system; an attempt so fearful that the best intentioned politicians would rather bear with the ills which we have, and apply temporary palliatives in the hope that some self-renovating power will operate, than attack those parts of our institutions which have been the causes and consequences of our wealth and greatness, but which have at last become to numbers, the sources of their suffering and depravity.
It will be obvious, that I allude to our finance and poor laws; these, however, would lead to a larger range of observation than belongs to the present inquiry, but their operation so forces itself into every subject connected with political economy, that it is impossible not to feel their pressure whenever the view of any part of the people, whose interests have been affected by them, fall under our consideration. I know their power, and the obstacles and grounds of argument which they present against attempting to create any corrective system of police, without the removal of the causes which render such a system necessary.
But, in urging the necessity of a change in our police system, and in endeavouring to show the means by which it may be safely and constitutionally effected, I entertain a sanguine hope, that the very operation of a better system will so change the manners and habits of the people, upon whom it is to act, as to drive them to the pursuits of industry; or if, under existing circumstances, the means of industry be not open to them, that it will show such a deranged and disordered state of society, as finally and irresistibly to impel the Legislature to resort to some decisive and effectual measures, which shall deliver the country from the dreadful alternative of knowing, that it has a large portion of its inhabitants who must either live by plunder, or die from starvation.
Unsatisfactory as these reflections must be, it would be unworthy of a faithful advocate of the public interests, to shrink from the investigation of truth, especially when such investigation affords the most likely means of averting the evils which it brings to our view. Whatever the Legislature or the Government may do, the effects of the present state of things must necessarily be felt for a considerable time. The chasm which has taken place in society, and the separation which has existed between the employers and employed from the want of labor, and other co-operating causes, have begotten such insurmountable idleness, and idleness has been so extensively followed by crime, that habits have been acquir
ed which the force of law will not very shortly change, and which require the power of actual restraint to control. A large portion of the community must be left in this condition, and upon that portion it is that nothing but police can operate. How it is to operate without violating the Constitution and affecting the character of the country, becomes the question for inquiry.
Police must necessarily possess a power and efficiency commensurate with its object; and, considering the various difficulties with which the police of London has had to contend, I conceive that its failure has arisen from the want of this power and efficiency, and from the mistaken principle, or rather, the erroneous practice, upon which it has been conducted ; namely, to make the apprehension of offenders, upon the commission of offences, the almost exclusive ground of police operation. This fallacious principle of action has tended most extensively to aggravate the evils which the predisposing causes of society had originally produced. The desideratum now, therefore, is (if the causes cannot be removed,) at least to mitigate their effects. We canrot eradicate crime, or extirpate criminals; but we may, by a pervading, vigilant, discreet, and well-regulated system of police, make the pursuit of crime so irksome and harrassing, so full of apprehension and so unprofitable, that any other life, when contrasted with it, would be one of comparative enjoyment.
If then the principle of police be regulation, prevention, to check, and not to punish, the offender; if a system can be devised which in its administration will leave the country free, and at the same time improve the morals of the people, what objection can there be to the adoption of the means which shall contribute to so desirable an end? Is it wise, is it expedient, to resist even the discussion of those means, opposed, as it can only be, by mistaken views of finance, or by abstract notions of liberty, when the consequences of those views and notions upon this subject are contributing daily to the demoralization and depravity of the people, and necessarily to the ultimate subversion of liberty ?
Police, as I bave just observed, cannot be maintained without power, but as power of all other possessions is most susceptible of abuse, extreme caution and foresight are necessary in the constitution, composition, and organization of a body to whom the lives and liberties of our countrymen are in a great measure committed ; the character, however, of police jurisdiction till of latter years, was certainly not favorable
to its investment with that degree of authority without which it cannot now be beneficial to the public.
In thus considering this subject as connected with the metropolis, the defects of our police have been in a great degree attributable to the feeling of the people; it was formerly in very low estimation, a consideration in itself of sufficient influence to deter men of higher endowments and qualifications from devoting themselves to it; and this cause has I apprehend operated upon every part of its composition. The practices too of former years had a strong tendency to confirm this feeling; if, therefore, there be any degree of it yet remaining, it becomes the interest of the Legislature, the Government, and the people, instantly to remove it; because the power and influence of the laws are best supported and preserved by the dignity and character of those who execute them.
I have been drawn to a greater length than I intended in these preliminary observations, from the conviction that the subject has yet occupied but a small share of the public attentionand that, however many may have witnessed and felt the inefficacy of our existing police, few bave considered the means of its effectual improvement; and of those, some may yet
hesitate at their adoption, from the unfounded constitutional objections which have been raised against them. It is these objections which make the right understanding of the subject so imperatively necessary, inasmuch as if they be not completely removed, the evils of which we now complain, great as they are, will be infinitely greater by continuance. With this conviction, I proceed to the view of those means by which I conceive that alteration will be practicable and effi. cient.
The principle of our present police establishment is, perhaps, as little objectionable as any that can be devised for the regulation of the metropolis. The division of the town into districts, over which distinct offices, with their establishments, maintain their several jurisdictions, seems to present the most likely means of affording to each its adequate protection. Magistrates and officers might, with efficient means, have thereby the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the character of the inhabitancy under their protection, and of ascertaining and discovering the persons and the pursuits of those whom it is their peculiar province to watch and control, In this respect, (so far as authorities differently circumstanced could be assimilated,) the capital might have much of the ad
vantage of our provincial magistracy, if facilities proportioned to its exigencies were afforded to the magistrates acting in London, so as to give them a constant and pervading view of the districts committed to their charge. If, therefore, the operation of police has hitherto disappointed public expectation, the failure is neither attributable to the Government, nor to those who have its administration or execution in their hands. This failure has arisen in addition to the causes before mentioned, from the insufficiency of power and of means in every department, and from the disproportionate strength between those who administer, and those who violate the laws.
It is hopeless then to expect an efficient police, unless the Legislature will impart to it that influence and those large means which will give the necessary impulse, direction, and force, to all its executive branches. With these means, I think that no one who has rightly considered the subject, and witnessed the practical illustration of effective police in its most arduous struggles with a criminal population, can doubt the issue of a contest betwen the law and its violation.
Experiment is the only test by which we can try a question of this sort, and answer the scepticism of those who imagine because difficulties have not given way to the means hitherto adopted against them, that all further attempts must necessarily be visionary and abortive. But such, unfortunately, is the conviction of many who thence infer that preventive police is impracticable.
Notwithstanding such opposers, I maintain, that if police can be made effective in one part of the town, it may be so in another; and that if it has been tried successfully in a place where the obstacles were most formidable, its success may à fortiori, be reasonably expected, with less means, and greater ease, where such difficulties do not exist; and further, that if it be so in one or more districts, it may be universally obtained throughout the whole metropolis, by the application and extension of the means which have in those places proved successful.
A striking exemplification of this principle has fallen within my own observation and practice. In the parish of Spitalfields there had existed for a long time, the most open and daring defiance of all law and its authorities that ever was exhibited in the metropolis ;- it was not the hidden retreat of criminals, whence they emerged by night, to commit unseen depredations or outrage, from which they might reasonably hope to escape; but there was in this parish actually