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The Criminal and the Community
Part II - Chapter VII - Punishment


SINCE newspapers have become great advertising mediums their readers have had information thrust upon them by picture and story regarding the need to flee from ills to come and seek refuge in the patent pill. Health is the great thing to attend to, and there is a large number of people engaged in our instruction. Some will have us see to the equal development of all our muscles, though what we are to do with them when they are developed we may not clearly apprehend. Others prescribe for us all a proper course of diet, and though the professors differ among themselves as to what is the best food for mankind, they seem to be all agreed that there is a universal food. If we find their prescriptions do not suit us, that is an evidence of degeneracy on our part which must be overcome. It is all very like what has passed itself off as education. At school, if a boy showed an aptitude for drawing and none for composition, he was taken from the thing he could do and worried into doing the thing he was not fitted for doing, with the result that in many cases children left school able to do a number of things equally badly and few things well. The attempt to make people ambidextrous is more likely to make them left-handed in both hands.

Health is the greatest of blessings, but the man who is always concerned for his health is not the healthy man; time passes, and he may lose his life while he is preparing to live. He is encouraged to examine himself, and all the possible ailments which may annoy him are described and their significance exaggerated till he gets nervous. A specific is found for every ill to which the flesh is heir, and its efficacy is trumpeted till some equally infallible cure replaces it in public estimation. The saving remedy may be called a quack preparation, and its composition proclaimed and condemned by the regular practitioner, but a sufficient number of purchasers is found to justify the expense of advertising it. It is sure to benefit somebody, however antecedently improbable that effect may be, and there is certain to be some sufferer who will be grateful enough to testify to its cure. Some of the testimonials may be spurious, but many of them are quite as genuine as any that the doctors receive. The reader sees that Mrs. Dash has suffered from pains in her back for years, and has tried the patience and the prescriptions of every doctor within her reach without obtaining any permanent relief. She has had to resign herself to a state of chronic invalidism, and is an object of pity to all who know her. She hears from a friend of the wonderful curative effects of the Rational Rheumatic Regimen and puts herself under treatment, with the result that her neighbours cannot believe she is the same woman, and she herself feels in better health than she has ever before enjoyed. Then follows a list of symptoms which is sure to appeal to some sufferer. The public, knowing all that can be urged against quack medicines, distrusts and purchases them. The buyer knows that the case of Mrs. Dash is not published for philanthropic but for business reasons, but he thinks that what cured her may help him. It may or it may not, but he risks it.

Even those who utterly condemn quack medicines fall quite readily into the error of quackery when they come to discuss social subjects; for the essence of quackery is the belief that what is good for one person must be good for every other. Diseases are not entities, but conditions that cannot exist apart from the man; and similarly crime cannot exist apart from society. We may alter conditions in such a way that the tendency to disease or crime will be lessened ; but when a person has become diseased we have to know something more about him than the fact that he shows certain symptoms before he can be treated in any rational way and with a prospect of his recovery. So when he has committed a crime we must know more than that fact before there is much hope of being able to correct him. There is as much quackery in the practice of making punishment fit crime as in that of making remedies fit diseases.

When a man offends against the law he is taken in hand by the ministers of the law; and they are awakening to a sense of the futility of their treatment of him, but so far not much progress has been made towards a rational method. There are more institutions projected and a greater variety of remedies prescribed; but they depend on the nature of the crime charged, rather than on the character and condition of the culprit. Some day it may be acknowledged that the court that has to determine whether a person is guilty of the offence charged against him is not therefore the court that is able to determine his treatment, but there will first require to be a more general recognition of the fact that before a man can be treated rationally for any physical, mental, moral, or social fault in him, something more must be known about him than that the fault is there.

I do not suggest that rational treatment will invariably be successful; there is nothing absolute in this world, not even our ignorance; but I do assert that we are not entitled to act irrationally in dealing with criminals, and that that is what we generally do at present. The practice of the courts has changed much more than the law during the last sixteen years, and there is a greater disposition, on the part of judges to seek information regarding those who are brought before them, as well as a more marked reluctance to send offenders to prison if there appears to be a probability that they will not repeat their offence.

The old theories of punishment have broken down, and it is now difficult to find any coherent theory behind the practice. When a crime is committed that shocks the public by its atrocity there are demands made for fierce retribution on the culprit, partly on the plea that he ought to be made to suffer, and partly for the purpose of deterring others from repeating the act. Incidentally those who are most insistent on the employment of the executioner show that they possess a fair share of the same spirit that educed the act which they condemn. They are rightly indignant, but they do not seem to see that justice and bad temper are not the same thing.

Few would defend the application literally of the retributive “eye-for-an-eye” principle. They know that a man’s eye may not be of as much use to him as that which he has destroyed may have been to his victim. It may be like taking gold and offering lead in exchange. Even if the eyes be equal in value it does not in the slightest degree compensate the injured person to know that the person who did him the injury is as blind as he; and as for the community, it is to place two blind men where one was before. Of course nobody has proposed to deal in this manner with the person who blinds another; but many are quite satisfied to act on the principle, and to apply it by way of killing murderers and flogging those who commit assaults. The law has prohibited certain actions as below the standard of conduct permitted to the members of the community. When a man takes life, in order to show him the sacredness of life, it takes his. It is a lesson to him; and there is this to be said for it, that it prevents him from offending again.

We all know how much we are the superiors of the poor foreigners in our manners and our powers, for in spite of our modesty, our teachers in the Press are always insisting on the fact, and truth compels us to admit it. Yet these same teachers sometimes confuse us not a little by their methods of defending us when we are charged with doing something which we cannot deny having done. Some necessary severity in war, or some strong actions on the part of those who in our name teach the native races how to live, may have provoked remark on the part of other nations. At once we hear that they have done similar things; but if we are better than they, surely we must prove it by our actions? If we are better than those whom we judge and condemn, why do we treat them as they have treated others?

To hire a man to kill another is a queer way to teach men to respect life. That our fathers did it is true, and we have taken over the practice from them. I do not think it probable that our fathers were any greater fools than we are, but their circumstances were different; not to speak of the fact that we have had handed on to us by them an accumulation of experience in civil life which they had not time to absorb. We may be no better than they were, but they have not failed to contribute to make us better off, and their ways of doing things are not suitable to the altered circumstances in which we find ourselves. They were more worried by their fighting men than we are, and were always liable to be assailed by some lord or other whose honourable occupation was arms and who was industrious in the pursuit of it. He or somebody like him professed to protect the worker and ensure him the fruits of his labour—less discount. The fighting man has always made this profession; but he never protects the worker from the worker; he protects the worker from some other warrior who may be a greater nuisance—or may not. Now he is under the direction of the law, and is not allowed to make war on his own account. The survivals that do are criminals.

In the good old days the governor was often busily engaged and had no time to bother with offenders. The pit or the gallows were for them, unless they could be depended on to refrain from troubling him and pay him for letting them work. Part of the time he was himself a prisoner in his castle—and a not very sanitary or comfortable prison it was—and at other times he was acting as warder over some other lord whom he had besieged. The easiest way to deal with unruly persons was to hang them to a tree and leave them there; they deserved it, and even if they did not, they might do so; in any case they were a good riddance. Now we are more settled and less summary in our dealings with each other. We have long ceased to employ the hangman except in cases of murder, and even then the penalty is seldom inflicted in Scotland; for it is repugnant to the feelings of most juries, and they only call killing “murder” when their feelings of indignation get the upper hand.

I am far from saying that no case can now be made out for capital punishment; what I am contending is that it is the outstanding example of the application of the retributory principle; and yet in practice it is usually defended on the ground that the culprit is so bad that he ought to be killed—another ground altogether. “What could you do with a man who would do that?” is the question addressed to those who assert that the worst use to which you can put a man is to kill him. Well, is he so bad as all that? I have seen a number of very tough specimens under sentence of death, and have watched the effect on warders of intimate association with them. They have had to be constantly in the company of the condemned, for although he has to be killed he must be given no opportunity to kill himself; and in almost every case the men had only one opinion after getting closely in touch with the criminal, and that opinion was that, in spite of all the evil in him, he was not such a bad creature after all. In some cases the opinion of his character was much more favourable ; but in all cases the opinions were the result of seeing the man when he was under the sentence of the law. That is as true an observation as that the sentence was the result of conduct when he was running wild. It was the same man who had done the wicked act who impressed men favourably, though their official bias was against him ; and he could not have done so if the qualities had not been in him.

There may be men among us who are so utterly bad that all the State can do with them is to kill them in order to secure the safety of others, but I have not seen them. There are men so riddled with disease that no cure for them can be held out, and the disease may be of such a character that it is likely to infect or affect injuriously those who attend them, but doctors are not permitted to kill them. In these cases as strong an argument could be adduced in favour of capital punishment as in the case of criminals; and there are those who advocate the lethal chamber for certain classes of the diseased and “unfit.” In every case the advocates of the proposal should be the first to go there, for their very advocacy shows that they are themselves unfit to take a sufficiently wide view of the good of the State.

We know too little of the possibilities of life to be justified in condemning anyone to death. The medical man speaks of some diseases as being incurable ; but so far from meaning what he says literally, his whole life is spent in seeking for cures. Knowledge widens slowly, and false lights are hailed as true, but in spite of all set-backs there is progress ; and to-day the diseased conditions that our fathers could not deal with may be relieved and in many cases cured. What the doctor really means is that there are many diseases for which he has not yet found the appropriate remedy ; and when we speak of men as being incorrigible we are only entitled to use the word in the same limited way, meaning that we have so far not been able to correct them.

The infliction of the death penalty has no good effect on those engaged in it. I have never seen anyone who had anything to do with it that was not the worse for it. As for the doctor, who must be in attendance, it is an outrage on all his professional, as well as his personal feelings. The physician is taught that it is his duty to save life, apart altogether from its personal value. When he is called in to a patient it is no affair of his whether the sick person is a saint or a sinner; it is his duty to do his best for the patient irrespective of any question of character, and to risk infection as readily for the sake of the wicked as for the sake of the good. At the behest of the law he has to take a part in the killing of a man whom he has been instructed to attend in order that at the proper time he may be led to death in a state of good health.

I do not say that there are not men who may seem so debased and vile that any reformation would appear to be only remotely possible; but while they are to be blamed for their wickedness, we are not free from blame for permitting them to grow into such a state before taking them in hand. In no case that I have seen was such interference impossible had our system been one that lent itself to the prevention of crime and the reformation of the criminal; but because it was easier and more profitable for them to do ill than to do well, they went the wrong road with disastrous results to others as well as to themselves. Blame them by all means; but let us be just, and having settled how much they are to blame—not a very profitable task—let us set about to find how far we are to blame; having punished them, what about punishing ourselves ? Our punishment is fixed by laws that no Parliament can alter; our own neglect of the wrongdoer ensures it.

The objections to capital punishment apply to all punishment up to a point, for if it is wrong to slay a man it is also wrong to maim him ; and in so far as our conduct towards him makes him a less efficient member of the community it does maim him. There are many who are so indignant with the law-breaker that they have no patience with anybody who has doubts as to whether our way of dealing with him is all that could be desired. They object to his being pampered—whatever that means—and call everybody a sentimentalist who is not for “vigorous means of repression.” There is a sentiment of brutality that is quite as dangerous as any sentiment of pity, and a great deal more harmful; but pity for the criminal need have very little part in consideration for his reform. He may be, and often is, far from being an estimable or attractive person, and the last thing he needs is pity. A man may be a good physician or surgeon without being given to anything approaching sentiment that is maudlin; but whether he is full of pity or not he must be sympathetic—that is to say, he must be able to appreciate the standpoint of those with whom he is dealing. So must the man who would deal with offenders; if he fails in that he fails in everything. It may be all very well to describe some of them as brutes and to say they should be treated as brutes, but it does not help forward the matter of treatment in the slightest degree ; for even brutes cannot all be treated alike, and if a man is treated as a brute it is not likely to result in making him behave like a man. “The only way to make a man is—Think him one, J. B., As well as you or me.”

The cat is a specific for the “brutes” that have not qualified for the “rope.” The argument seems to be that because a man has committed a brutal crime therefore he is a brute; as he has inflicted serious bodily injury on a fellow-citizen it is proper that someone should be employed to inflict serious bodily injury on him. But will the man whom you employ to do this laudable work not be a brute also? Does your official imprimatur remove the brutality of his act? If not, one result would seem to be that at the end you have two brutes among you instead of one.

There has never been any pretence that the executioner’s occupation is not a degrading one; never in all this country for very many years, at any rate. He is not looked down upon because by his office he inflicts pain. The surgeon in the course of his work inflicts pain, but nobody considers him any the less worthy on that account. A hand might be cut off by either of them in the discharge of his duty; but though the result may be the same to the owner of the hand, the object has been different. The surgeon has amputated the hand to save the man’s life; the executioner has cut it off to maim the man. There can be no objection to the infliction of pain on a criminal more than on others if it is incident on a course of treatment which there is good reason to believe will result in his reform; but there is no such reason for belief in the efficacy of flogging.

I do not say that nobody has been the better for a whipping. There are many men who are ordinarily as modest as those of our race usually are, and who say that they were well whipped in their boyhood with great benefit. It might be unsafe to suggest that the argument is not so convincing as it may seem to those who advance it. Sometimes there is a temptation to think that the treatment, if it were really so efficacious in making them virtuous, might with profit have been continued ; but there can be no doubt they are firmly convinced that without the thrashings they received they would have been worse than they are. This hardly touches the point, for it is one thing to be whipped by an official who has no interest in the person whipped, and another thing altogether to be chastised by a parent or guardian, or even at his instance. The effect on the integuments may be the same in both cases, but there is a psychological effect which is different. Children know that wrongdoing on their part is sometimes the occasion and the excuse for an exhibition of temper on the part of their parents; and they take their punishment with the best grace they can and keep out of the way next time they misbehave. A whipping in cold blood they do not take in the same spirit; and they are right.

The great objection to any arbitrary punishment is that it may do far more harm than good. Suppose a child is disobedient and obstinate, and the father proceeds to whip it into obedience. If he succeeds the child may, through fear, avoid such conduct in the future; but if the child persists in his obstinacy in spite of the whipping, and gets into that dumb dour state in which he is likely to go off in a fit if the whipping is persisted in, the shoe is on the other foot. The father has to desist through fear, the child having met force with passive resistance is the master, and he retains the impression of his parent’s brutality and impotence. It is never wise in the case of children, or of men, to embark on a course of treatment that you cannot continue till your object is gained.

There may have been some reason in flogging men with the object of ruling them by fear, but the policy would depend on the thoroughness with which it was carried out for what success it could obtain. There would always be the risk that the penalty would make men more ferocious if it were the probable result of their misconduct, for if fear may prevent people from doing the ill they desire, it will also cause them to seek safety by attempting to destroy the evidence of their wrongdoing. Make death the penalty for robbery, and a direct inducement is offered to the robber to kill his victim and prevent him from telling tales. Flog men for breaches of the law, and if they fear the pain they will the more readily become reckless, on the principle of its being as well to be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

That there is a strong feeling on the part of the public against flogging is undeniable, and it is not so much the result of reasoning as of sentiment. The process shocks their sense of propriety. The mass of men not only shrink from suffering pain, but they shrink from the suffering of others, and they are less inclined than they once were to believe in its efficacy as a remedial agent. The man who in a former day would have been flogged and set to work is now sent to hospital if the whip has scored his flesh. A surgeon stands by to see that his vitality is not lowered beyond a certain point in the execution of the sentence; it is a nice occupation for him to superintend the impairment of a man’s health, but as a compensation the rogue may become a patient and the doctor have the privilege of healing any wounds made under his supervision. The patient is now in a position to do any mischief he chooses; you have done your utmost with him and are not permitted to kill him. If as rigid an enquiry were made into the causes of men’s wrongdoing as is made into the question of their personal guilt there would be less occasion for punishment as we have had it.

Boys are still whipped for some offences and in certain cases. To say that it is better to whip a boy than to send him to prison, is only to admit that whipping is the less serious of the two methods of injuring him ; and in some cases the boys are whipped for no other reason. There is a well-founded reluctance to sentence them to detention in any existing institution, combined with a belief in the necessity of inflicting some penalty on them for their misdeeds. The boy has done wrong and he must pay for it. The world is so constituted that we are all the children of our acts; payment may be delayed, but it must be made sometime if every deed carries its penalty with it; but such a belief is quite consistent with scepticism as to the necessity for the legal penalties on which so many place importance. Indeed, that they also carry their consequences is seen of all men, and there is no manner of doubt that those on whom they fall are made worse citizens by them. That might be a small matter if their degeneration did not injuriously affect the community of which they are unworthy members, but in hurting them we are hurting ourselves.

It is not so much what we do as the spirit in which it is done that causes the mischief. A person who is sick and in bed may be as much a prisoner as a man in a cell. His doctor may prevent him from seeing visitors and may sentence him to a period of something very like solitary confinement, but he knows that this is done with no intention of hurting him, but because it is necessary in the interest of his health, or that of others. The prisoner has no such opinion as to the purpose of his imprisonment, and neither have those who carry it out. He may be the better for it, though that is exceptional, but discomfort and pain is an essential part of whatever cure there is. I remember when a student a worthy old practitioner who made a point of choosing the most painful remedies for persons suffering from certain diseases, as he held the opinion that they ought to be made to suffer for their misconduct. He certainly made them suffer, but as they were not compelled to attend him they chose others who cured them more rapidly and with less pain.

It is now generally recognised that pain, or anything that lowers vitality, operates injuriously and retards the recovery of patients; and every means is taken to prevent suffering, not because it makes the patient feel bad, but because it causes him to be bad. Suppose a surgeon said to a man who appeared before him with a scalp wound received through falling on the kerb while under the influence of drink, “You have been foolish and wicked, since you have made yourself intoxicated and lost control of your senses. Your head is wounded, and it is only a chance that you have not been killed. You have disgraced yourself in the eyes of those among your friends who have any sense of respectability, and you have run the risk of losing your employment as the result of your intemperance. This I cannot permit to pass unpunished. An example must be made of you in order to deter others from following the same pernicious course. You have forfeited the right to consideration, but, though you must be made to remember that such conduct as yours cannot be lightly passed over, I shall deal with you as leniently as possible for the sake of your wife and family. You will receive an application off germs to your wound which will produce erysipelas, after which I shall proceed to deal with your cure.” The doctor who tried this method would be sent to a lunatic asylum; but it is precisely what is done in our courts. The prisoner is told he is bad—and he is; then he is sent—to be made better? Not at all.

Whatever may be said against the prisons, it cannot be shown that they ever were designed to reform those sent to them, and if they fail to do so they do not therefore fail in the purpose for which they were built, which is to detain and punish criminals. The extent to which they do punish varies greatly according to the antecedents of the person who is sent to them. On the clerk and the labourer who have received the same sentence its physical effect may differ very much. If both are put to do labouring work, as they very well may be, at the end of the day the man who is accustomed to it will be less hurt and fatigued than the man who has been used to other employment. If the object is to make them all alike uncomfortable the clerk should be set to dig a trench and the labourer to write, and at the end of the day the one would be stained with ink and the hands of the other would be stinging or blistered. As it is the work done by the labourer is child’s play to him, but it is toilsome to the man whose occupation is sedentary; to the public it is not of much utility in any case.

A common method of punishing offenders is to impose fines upon them, so that if a man has money he may commit any of a large number of offences without any risk of imprisonment. It may even be profitable for him to do so, for the fines for doing some illegal acts by which money can be made are in some cases less than the profits to be made by transgressing the law. It is a queer condition of affairs. The principle of restitution is one that can be readily understood and approved, but fines are not an attempt to apply such a principle. They go, not to any person who may have been injured, but to the local exchequer for the most part. This is a vicious arrangement, for it is an incitement to the local authorities to make as much as they can off the offenders in their district; and whether they are ever moved by it or not, it is not proper that they should have any interest in filling their coffers by such means.

Fines fall very unequally as a burden on those subjected to them. The amount inflicted, though small, may be out of all proportion to the offender’s means; half-a-crown is not much, but it is a great deal to the man who has not got it. Before the same court you may have two men charged with similar offences. One is a motorist who has exceeded the speed limit; the other is a driver of a light van who in trying to catch a train has been reckless in his driving. The motorist may be fined in five times the amount inflicted on the vanman, but to the one the sum only represents a small inroad on his means, while to the other it represents something like a week’s wages. There is not one law for the rich and another for the poor; if there were they might not be so unequally treated. There is the same law for both; but in its effect it favours the rich at the expense of the poor, and that is not to the ultimate advantage of the community.

The fine is an alternative to imprisonment, and in practice it is a peculiarly striking example of our whole system of punishment. The magistrate on behalf of the public says to the offender, in effect, “You have transgressed the laws of the state in which you live and must therefore be punished. I do not wish to be too hard on you, but you must either pay us five shillings or we shall keep you for three days.” Now as people cannot be kept in prison without cost being thereby incurred, the effect of the sentence is that if the offender does not pay to the police five shillings on his own account the taxpayer pays the prison five shillings. The culprit is injured by being sent to prison; but the public is also injured by having to pay. It is remarkably like the operation known as cutting off the nose to spite the face. This is indeed the effect of most of our punishments ; they injure others besides the criminal, and there is room for grave doubt as to whether they benefit anybody. Once the punishment has been undergone, the offender is supposed to have expiated his offence; but as there is no positive expiation for past wrongdoing, except it may be future welldoing, this is a fiction.

It is not a wise thing to teach the ignorant that they can pay for any harm they do; least of all to teach them that they atone by imprisonment for injuries inflicted on others. It is no compensation to a man who has been hurt to know that his assailant is being lodged and fed at his expense, and that some day he will come out no better than when he went into his place of retreat. When a man is disabled by injuries he has received his family is likely to suffer, and if he be a working man they may be in peril of becoming destitute. His assailant is shut up, and his family too may suffer in a similar way and to an equal degree. The law will see that the offender is taken care of, but the injured person and the families of both the parties are left to struggle as best they may. What harm have they done? They are neglected, and may suffer hunger unless they also do harm, while the offender is “expiating” his offence at the public expense.

In so far as punishment is retributive it is foolish and indefensible, harming not only those on whom it is inflicted, but those who inflict it. If as individuals we are not justified in fostering a spirit of revenge, we are as little entitled to encourage such a spirit in our corporate capacity. Their actions show that some men are capable of doing very wicked things, and that is a very good reason for interfering with them; but it is no reason for interfering in such a way that we are all burdened by it, while there is no reasonable expectation that they are being brought to a better frame of mind.

Until late in the last century the Crown Prosecutor craved for punishment on those who had committed indictable offences “in order to deter others from committing the like offence in all time coming.” That form has been dropped, but the theory is still widely held that punishment deters others than those convicted. The prison returns show that there is no reason for claiming that it deters many of those who have been punished from repeating their offensive conduct. The “others” in some numbers are always recruiting the ranks of those who habitually transgress, but the great majority of our fellow-citizens keep out of prison. Are we to believe that this is because the punishment of the prisoners sent there has deterred them from committing offences? It may be the reason; but it cannot be proved even if it is. For my own part, I have never seen any cause to believe that my acquaintances and friends refrain from beating their wives and from taking what is not their own because if they did these things they might be sent to jail; and I have observed that those who theorise most about the conduct of others and its causes, are frequently quite unable to advance any evidence from their own observations and experience that would support their theories,

There can be no doubt that the dignified jurists who adopt Mansfield’s view (that a man should be hanged not because he had stolen a horse, but in order that others might not steal horses) would resent the suggestion that they themselves are honest simply from the fear of the law, and it would show less conceit of themselves and more knowledge of their neighbours if they assumed that the mass of their fellow-citizens are no worse than they.

In my day at school some boys were unmercifully whacked, when the master got into a temper as a result of their iniquity. The theory was that this discouraged others from committing the same offences ; but as boys are as often punished for the stupidity of themselves or the teacher as for any wilful misconduct on their part, the theory was not in accord with the practice. When some unfortunate culprit was called up, the feelings of the rest of us were of a mixed nature. Partly we were sorry for him, but the degree was dependent on our personal regard for him; partly there was a feeling of contempt for him in so far as he was imprudent enough to let himself be caught; partly there was some curiosity as to how he would demean himself; and mainly there was thankfulness that we were not in his shoes. The punishment did not deter any of us from doing the same thing; but it did make us more careful in the doing of it, and it gave some a training in duplicity that appears to have been of use to them in their business careers.

In so far as the teacher was considered to be a tyrant it was rather a feather in a boy’s cap than otherwise if he could disobey, especially if he escaped. Even if he were caught it was not considered a disgrace, and if he were severely punished the clumsiness he had shown in playing his pranks was overlooked and he was treated with the respect due to a martyr. It was a small matter to break the master’s rules, though nobody cared to be caught; but it was a serious thing for a boy to outrage the standard of conduct which was adopted by his neighbours. The teacher who knew this could command obedience so long as he worked on the knowledge ; and it is the same with men as with boys. They react most powerfully to the opinion of the circle in which they move ; if it were not so they would soon cease to be members of it. Who sets the standard it is usually impossible to say ; but each influences the other, although one personality may be more dominant than any other. He is the bad one when there is a bad one; not because he is worse morally than others, but because he is usually more daring and active ; and as the commandments by which boys are ruled are mainly negative, his positive personality brings him into conflict with them and leads others after him.

But there are social circles in our midst where men are placed in the same relation to the law as boys were at school. They are told to respect it, and they know they must obey it at their peril; but it appears to them as a series of senseless and unjust prohibitions which interferes with their comfort and does not offer them any protection against their enemies. They do not need policemen to protect their property, for they have none to protect; and they feel quite able to look after their personal safety. What they would appreciate would be protection from what they consider the exactions of the factor and the tax-collector, and there are no police of that sort yet. They have no respect for the law any more than I have respect for a steam-engine, though I keep out of its way. If the law is something that protects other people from them, but does not protect them from other people, they cannot be expected to hold it in much respect; they may look on it as their enemy. Many do not go so far, though they distrust it and its ministers; but there are coteries, groups, who do regard the law as something that it is praiseworthy to break. I am not now referring to a man who makes a living by theft, but to the young people who are brought up in certain slum districts and who there contract inverted ideas of morality. Granted the existence of such circles, it is easy to see how defiance of the law may get a young man the admiration of his fellows ; and as there are parts of the city where homage is rendered to him who has most frequently and cleverly outraged the law by stealing, or by tricking its representatives— where so far from honesty being esteemed a virtue it is sneered at; where chastity is at a discount, and the thief, rake, and bully is the ideal character— there is no reason :tfor any wonder that in the face of punishments there is no lack of offenders. These people see no reason to respect our rules of conduct. Our punishments may exercise a deterrent effect on them to the extent of causing them to modify their methods of operation, but the bogey we fix up for their warning will not make them virtuous or cause them to alter the standards they have set up.

Punishment does not deter the great mass of our fellow-citizens from committing crimes. They are law-abiding because they have no inclination to break the law and no inducement to do so. Let it press on them and we may hear another story. I am old enough to remember when in 1886 it was proposed to give Home Rule to Ireland; we had then professors and eminent citizens threatening to take up arms rather than allow the proposal to be carried. They were genuinely alarmed for the safety of their friends, and their respect for the law took a back seat for the time. It is an easy matter for many of us to stand by the laws, for we have not felt their pinch. That may be a reason why there is always such a difficulty in changing them, and why almost any change is supported by the poorer classes. Certain it is that even among the honest and welldoing poor there is a suspicion of the law and a reluctance to have anything to do with it. Those who are definitely at war with it and those who may be tempted to join them, are the only persons whom we may reasonably hope to deter from the commission of certain offences by our arbitrary punishment of those whom we catch; and even in their case there is no ground for the belief that the deterrent effect is such as to cause them to mend their way of living, but only to modify their methods. The real deterrent is social opinion, and when one of them comes out of jail it is quite evident that his imprisonment has not caused him to sink to the smallest extent in the estimation of those whose good opinion he values.

Serious crime has steadily declined in Glasgow as the nests of the criminals have been tom down. They are much less potent for evil when separated from each other than when herded together; but now and then there is a recrudescence of brutality and violence followed by demands for more severe treatment of those who are captured. In France, lately, the guillotine has been brought forth again with the object of frightening the bandits. I know nothing about conditions there; but it is quite evident that here we might have such a demand resulting from an outbreak of crime, caused not by leniency of treatment of prisoners, not caused indeed by the way in which any part of our penal system acts, but due to the impunity with which the sharpers and criminals in our midst are allowed to practise. So long as there is no provision whereby a man can obtain opportunity for honest work with a guarantee that the fruits of his labour will not be taken from him, there will be many unemployed. Most of them are quite well-disposed persons, but some of them are not. We cannot deal properly with the shirkers and sharpers till we have separated off the merely unfortunate. When we have seen that men have opportunity to support themselves we shall be fairly entitled to question the person who has no visible honest means of subsistence as to how he is obtaining his living; and, failing satisfaction, to deal with him. Meantime they are mixed up with the honest and law-abiding but unfortunate citizens, to the aggravation of the misery that honesty and poverty combined have brought on them.

Let them combine and act together and there is no saying how far they may go; not because our prisons are too comfortable; not because of anything that does or does not take place there; but because our cities are not properly managed; because we have permitted the aggregation of people under conditions that have been favourable to the growth of an antisocial sentiment; because we have bred the monster that strikes fear into us.

The treatment of the criminal may be wise, or it may be as foolish as I think it; but you might as well blame the method of treating a typhus case in hospital for the spread of that disease in an insanitary area, as blame the leniency of the courts for any outbreak of crime you may have in the areas which are known to be infested with criminals. All the elements are there for such an outbreak, and if it occurs it will be because we have permitted them to combine. How far we are justified in making one person the scapegoat for the sins of another, even if we could do it, is a matter for discussion by those who are concerned with such problems. For my own part, I do not think it fair to make an example of anybody, as it is called, and I do not believe that it serves any good purpose that could not be better attained by more rational means.


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