PROSTITUTES AND POLICEMEN
Sir, - I wish I could prevail upon you to walk up the Haymarket
some evening. Whether you are young and handsome, or old and ugly, will matter
not; you will, in either case, be received with terms of endearment, and will be
embraced with an ardour dangerous to your pockets, if there be anything in them.
If you do accept my invitation, pray carry with you a good temper and no money, so that you may submit to your fate without much damage. If you resist, be assured you will have abundance of abuse at least; and that there will be no policeman near, of, if there be, that he will quickly look on and leave you to your fate.
Do not suppose me to be one of those who would add to the misery of the unfortunate women to whose conduct I allude. Often "more sinned against than sinning," they are driven to a course of life most hateful to themselves, till, feeling that they are for ever banished from respectable society, and are unnecessarily persecuted, they become perfectly indifferent to the opinions of the world, and careless as to every thing but their own immediate wants.
In most of the continental states women of this description are under better management, both as respects their own comforts and the morals of others. Instead of being allowed to make their market amidst our wives and daughters at the theatres, and to interrupt passengers in the most public streets, they are located in districts where the evils of their residence is least felt, and are thus placed more immediately under the control of the police authorities.
In this canting age it is not possible to expect any material improvement of our bad system. While fools and fanatics abound, and are so ignorant as to suppose it possible to subdue one of the most powerful passions of the rising generation by any other course than that which would soon terminate the race of saints as well as that of sinners, amendment is out of the question; but I do ask that the higher police authorities will give attention to the state of the Haymarket, which is worse than any other in London, and that they will secure us a free passage through it.
I am, Sir, your most obedient servant,
letter to The Times, October 21, 1846
Sir, - Your correspondent "J.R." in your paper of this
morning, seems to be one of those persons with good intentions, but unfortunate
in the application of them. His letter, though stating facts with an evident
regard for truth, is, nevertheless by no means calculated to remove the
annoyance of which he complains, but in many cases to increase the burdens of
the most distressed. There can be no doubt but that the police alone are to
blame, but how would your correspondent remedy the evil? By taking those women
to the station-house who offend such high morality as his own! In that case the
weak would suffer, and depravity in uniform triumphs over that which, although
perhaps not less legal, is certainly more to be pitied and excused, for it is
well known that sums as high as 1l. are given by these unfortunates to
the avaricious, or otherwise merciless officers of offended justice, and those
who successful prostitution provides such sums are released, while the poor
creatures, fainting from hunger, half naked and shivering, and fearless from
want, are hurried to loathsome cells with viler depravity than their own, to be
taken before a magistrate, imprisoned, and only liberated from confinement to be
driven reckless to the precipice beneath which spreads the gloom of irrevocable
I am far from justifying such annoyances, and think that honest and strict policemen would correct all that is possible; and your correspondent, I feel sure, had he known the above, would have paused ere he laid before the public his statement, which is clearly calculated to increase the calamities of the most wretched as well as the extortion of the police, and make those alone suffer who are not more to blame.
I am, Sir, your most obedient servant,
London, Oct. 21. JUSTITIA
letter to The Times, October 22, 1846
I will now allude to the unmanly persecution going on by the police, and apparently sanctioned by the higher authorities, against poor women on the town; for if any women have a claim upon the sympathy and protection of man it is that class who owe to the gratification of his unruly passions their sad condition, for, not to blink the matter, though all men may not have been seducers, nine out of ten amongst us have put ourselves upon a level with the poor creatures we affect to despise and make a merit of persecuting. Who the Lord Angelo of the present day is I know not, but I heard a policeman say that if he saw a girl addressing a second person in the street, however decorously, he was entitled to take her to the station-house, and that the magistrate the next morning would give her a week or ten days for it. It is also well known that as poor women may be either persecuted or tolerated at the will of any individual policeman, many unprincipled fellows amongst them seem to regard drink and gratuitous favours from these poor creatures as regular perquisites of office.
from a letter to The Times, February 19, 1847
Sir, - Allow me to call your attention as well as that of your
readers, to a very serious nuisance which exists of an evening in the
neighbourhood of the Regent's-park - viz., in Albany-street, Norton-street,
At the corners of these streets are congregated of a night parties of six or seven of the very lowest class of prostitutes, who make it their business to insult every passer-by, whether lady or gentleman, with the vilest and most obscene language, and often committing acts of the greatest indecency, thereby making these streets quite impassable for ladies after 10 o'clock at night.
Surely the police have power to interfere in these matters! We pay for having the streets kept in order, and for their lighting; and surely we ought to have them clear of such very disgusting and revolting nuisances.
I send my name, and beg to remain, Sir, your very obedient servant.
Nov. 10, 1847. D.
letter to The Times, November 12, 1847
Sir, - Allow me to thank your correspondent "D." for
calling the attention of the public, as also of the police authorities, to the
great annoyance respectable persons are constantly subjected to by the gross
indecency, obscenity of language, and other insults, offered to them by
prostitutes of the lowest grade, who congregate at the corners of streets and
byways in the suburbs of London; more particularly I would point out the road
from Kennington to Clapham, and also the Lawn, and the immediate vicinity, at
South Lambeth. Several inhabitants of the latter place have represented the
nuisance to the police, and have also addressed the superintendent on the
subject, but, hitherto, without the least effect.
I perfectly agree with your correspondent "D." that contributing, as we are compelled to do, by heavy rates, for the maintenance of the police force, they are bound to afford us protection from such disgusting annoyances.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
Nov.12 AN OLD SUBSCRIBER
letter to The Times, November 13, 1847
REGULATION OF PROSTITUTION
I cannot venture to hope that the sexual passion will in our time
cease to operate or diminish very materially. I have no idea that the
preventives of prostitution hereafter suggested, will, if adopted at all,
operate otherwise than tardily and incompletely. It becomes us,
then, to consider what curatives or palliatives are at our disposal.
Having already attempted to depict, not extravagantly, the present
external aspect of the vice, and the interest of society in its being well
ordered, I will now consider the possibility of our regulating it by
law, or mitigating its attendant evils.
We may here at once discard from our calculation the class of females who live in a state of concubinage. Their ill effect upon society, so long as they remain in that category, is moral, not physical. They do not, or according to my theory previously illustrated, they very rarely descend into the grade of public supply, but are, even on the Continent, and still more in this country, utterly beyond the reach of medical or public police supervision. The depravation of public health and the national power are more traceable to the young clandestine prostitute, and the promiscuous class who practise from year's end to year's end, for five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years of their lives in a chronic or intermittent state of unsoundness. The hardened common prostitute when overtaken by disease, pursues her trade as a general rule, uninterruptedly, spreading contagion among men in spite of her own pain, that she may live and avoid debt, until positively obliged to lay up for medical treatment, in lodgings or in a hospital. It is from her class that society may be prepared for - if not expect - contempt of and danger to public order and decency; and over it the police of foreign countries have established the partial control already described.
In Chapter 41 considered the working of the Contagious Diseases Act at Aldershot and other places, and approved the objects that it has in view, and the means adopted under its provisions, for lessening the evil results of the system against which it is directed. I showed that whatever opinion might be held by myself, or others, as to the advisability of interference on behalf of the general mass of the community, it was plainly the duty of the legislature to afford relief and help to those who through its action, rather than their own vice, are exposed to contaminating and hurtfu4 influences. We have seen that its results, from a sanitary point of view, have proved most beneficial, and I earnestly advocate that every place in which there are barracks for soldiers, and all seaport towns, should be brought within its healing influence. The further question now arises whether its benefits should be confined to the present objects of its care, or be extended to the civil population.
On the propriety of adopting this latter course there is naturally great divergence of opinion, and some confusion of ideas. It is of the first importance that all who take part in the discussion should clearly understand their opponents' ideas and their own. It is happily a question far removed by its nature from the arena of party warfare, and the highest and most sacred interests of society demand imperatively that it shall not be made for party purposes the sport of rival politicians. It is, however, peculiarly susceptible to the influences of prejudice and ignorance, and we who desire by our labours to benefit the human race, must jealously guard against allowing our opinions to be warped by these twin enemies of truth. Some approach this question with selfish views, and desire to obtain by legal enactments immunity from danger in the gratification of base desires, while others, regarding prostitution as the safety-valve of society, wish to preserve, at the expense of others, their own wives and daughters from contamination. For such cold-blooded reasoners I have only the most unmitigated abhorrence and contempt; their maladies and pain deserve no sympathy, and as for their wives and daughters, I can only join in the indignant remonstrance, 'who are they that they should be considered while others are left to perish?' Surely, in the eye of their Maker, the noblest lady in the land is no more precious than the poorest outcast, and the fair fame of the one is too dearly purchased if the price be the other's virtue. For the credit of humanlty, I trust that such views are not widely held, and that few desire the perpetuation of this loathsome system. A life of prostitution is a life of sin, replete with evils both for those who follow it as a calling and for those who reap advantage from their shame. As such it can receive from Christian men neither countenance nor toleration. This negative statement is too cold; it is their plain duty to do all in their power to discourage and repress it.
I have already shown that the evil is in its nature highly complex, its causes are various, and of divers degrees of endurance and intensity; of some of them, it may be fairly said that they are ineradicable and coextensive with human nature. So long as society has existed, its hideous counterfeit has been seen side by side and intermingled with it; and so long as society endures we may safely predict that it also will remain a foul reproach to Christianity and civilization, a puzzle to philanthropists, statesmen, and divines. Two propositions must be clearly kept in view: the one, that it is a sinful system, highly displeasing to Almighty God, and offensive to all right-minded men; the other, that until the world is purified from sin its extinction cannot be expected; and as a corollary to this last, I may add that it is an unextinguishable source of serious mischief.
The question then arises, what is to be done with this system, at once injurious, imperishable, utterly sinful and abominable? There are, as we have seen, two methods of dealing with it, diametrically opposed to each other, in vogue in the civilized world. The one is adopted on the Continent, and the other is adopted in England, and also in the United States. The former is the licensing, the latter the voluntary. They are of course based on entirely opposite principles. The LICENSING SYSTEM takes for its basis the indestructible nature of the evil and the terrible mischiefs which arise both socially and physically from its uncontrolled and misdirected energy; it is argued that it is better to recognize what we cannot prevent, and to regulate it rather than leave it to itself, and since we cannot suppress, to define the conditions subject to which it shall exist. The VOLUNTARY SYSTEM is based on the proposition that prostitution exists in defiance of the laws of God, that the only recognition which the State may lawfully take of sin is to suppress it, and that if this is inexpedient or impossible, the only alternative is to leave it to itself to find its own level and its own remedy - to remit to the individual conscience the abstaining from or partaking in the sin, and to private philanthropy the alleviation of its attendant evils. The State, in fact, ignores its existence, taking cognizance only of it indirectly, when gross acts of public indecency and disorder enforce attention and demand repression. It is objected to the licensing system, that it is in fact licensing sin, and that permitting indulgence under certain restrictions is in truth lending the sanction of the law to evil practices; it is also objected that it is practically useless, as the large majority of prostitutes contrive to evade its provisions. This is, however, not so much an objection against the system as an observation upon the method of carrying it out, and even if it be taken as an objection against the system, it seems to be one of little weight, because the facts are clear that several thousand women are thereby rendered physically harmless, that is to say, not merely a small, but a very large amount of good is done. Surely the refusal to reap a considerable benefit because we cannot reap all the benefit we desire is not wise. We should always bear in mind that half a loaf is better than no bread. It may, however, be said that the argument is not quite fairly represented, and that what is really meant is that the benefits derived from the licensing system are insignificant when compared with the evils introduced by it. The licensing system legalizes vice by distinctly permitting it under certain given conditions, the result of which is to lend to prostitution the appearance, at least, of a lawful calling, and to diminish sensibly both in men and women the sense of shame. Such a lowering of the public morals is too dear a price to pay for partial security to the public health. Another argument is, that it is degrading to the woman to be forced to publicly admit herself a harlot, and that English prostitutes would never submit to any law compelling them to do so.
It is a somewhat curious style of arguing, to tell us in one breath that the system is bad, because it takes away from the shame naturally attaching to the life of a prostitute, and in the next that it is bad because it increases her degradation, and takes away, if submitted to, the last remnant of self-respect - that it is bad because it accords a certain recognized position to prostitution, and exalts it almost to the dignity of a profession, thereby diminishing or destroying the sense of shame at their calling felt, or supposed to be felt, by prostitutes, and making them consider themselves, at the worst, martyrs to sensuality', to use the words of a celebrated fille de joie, and at the same time bad because it adds to the woman's sense of degradation, by compelling her to enrol herself publicly in the ranks of a shameful calling. If the calling have ceased, by the operation of the law, to be a shameful one, there is no degradation in admitting publicly connexion with it; if there is degradation in making this announcement, then has the trade not ceased to be shameful. These propositions cannot both be true at once; objectors to the licensing system must choose between them, and probably if they take their stand upon the first, their position will prove impregnable.
It is further objected that the licensing system encourages the trade of the brothel-keeper, and that to increase the security against disease is to diminish the sanction against indulgence, and thereby directly promote vice; it is asserted, in support of this view, that the tone of morals at Aldershot has visibly deteriorated since, and in consequence of, the passing of the Contagious Act; this last assertion must be strictly proved before its truth can be admitted, or its value, as an argument, acknowledged. And of the virtue, which is only preserved from fear of pain, we may fairly observe that it is a sufficiently cheap and poor possession, hardly worth protecting...
Whatever may be the failings of the licensing system, the demerits of the voluntary seem not inconsiderable. This latter is a systematic refusal to admit certain facts and their consequences, whose existence no sane person would attempt to dispute, or even casual spectators fail to observe, a perverse determination to ignore the presence of a vast mass of evil, because the best way to deal with it, is difficult to discover; the result is that disease carries on its ravages unchecked, private charity being unequal to the task of combating an enemy so gigantic. Our streets are a standing disgrace, the police being unable, with the limited authority intrusted to them, to cope with the disorderly characters that throng them. The great mischief of the licensing system is, that it tends to blunt the moral sense; of the voluntary system, that it leaves an evil state of things unchecked; this latter, out of regard for private liberty, neglects the public good, the former, for the supposed benefit of the State, remits to and confirms in a life of degradation individual members of the nation. It is difficult to choose between two evils, but happily for us the question is asked, and should be fairly answered, is there not some middle path that may be safely followed? Cannot prostitution be checked and regulated without being licensed? The Contagious Diseases Act exhibits an attempt to steer between these two extremes. It may be that some of its provisions are open to criticism; but critics should not confound two systems utterly different in principle. Though to a certain extent analogous in their working, both involve the recognition of prostitution - both enforce the examination and detection, if diseased, of the prostitute. The one, however, licenses the plying of a shameful trade on certain conditions fixed by law - in fact, legalizes the system. The other proceeds on the theory that it is useless to deny or ignore the fact that prostitution exists, and that worse evils even than those which now oppress us might be apprehended from any attempts to repress it, and that to strive to put it down is therefore worse than useless; but at the same time, that it is a thing to be kept within certain bounds, and subjected to certain restraints and surveillance. By the Contagious Act we virtually say to the women, You cannot be prevented from following this sad career which you have chosen; we cannot force you to abstain from vice; but we can and will take care that your shameful lives shall no longer work injury to the health of others, or outrage public decency.' Some assailants of the Contagious Act seem to confound it with the licensing system, and adduce arguments against it, to which, though the latter is plainly obnoxious, it most certainly is not. I hope that I have said sufficient to show how entirely different the two methods really are. We must not confound recognition with licence; to license prostitution is to license sin, and in a measure to countenance it. Recognition is not licence, and has neither the appearance nor the effect of encouraging vice. We are told that it is unchristian to recognize and make provision concerning fornication. Is fornication, it may well be asked, a greater sin than adultery? Yet the law recognizes and provides for this. Can it be said by the establishment of a Divorce Court to encourage adultery? Does it, in providing for the separation of faithless spouses, countenance their unchastity? Does it legalize adultery? Such a contention is absurd; it merely recognizes the fact that some people are untrue to their marriage vows, and provides the relief demanded by their unhappy cases. In the same way the law, in recognizing and legislating concerning prostitution and its attendant evils, neither encourages, countenances, or legalizes it.
Recognition is the first step necessary to be made by those who would oppose any effectual barrier to the advance of prostitution. In vain do we build lock hospitals and penitentiaries to heal or reform those who by accident, as it were, have fallen into sin and reaped its bitter fruits. Wilfully assuming, in spite of well-known facts, that the unfortunates relieved by our charity are mere waifs and strays of society, instead of being integral parts of a widespread system, poor stragglers that have fallen into a ditch, and been bruised and soiled in their fall, whom it is sufficient to extricate if possible, leaving the ditch untouched, in the hope, perhaps, that it will in time be cleansed by some accidental stream of purity, or choked up, it may be, by its own filth; whereas these saved ones are mere units out of thousands who have fallen into a deep and widespreading morass, which claims fresh victims yearly, and yearly encroaches on the honest soil around, who may for a brief space struggle to regain their footing when first made alive to the full horror of their position, but who, unseen or unpitied and uncared for by the passers-by, soon cease to struggle, and, helpless and hopeless, fall little by little, till they finally sink overwhelmed in the black depths of the treacherous swamp. To what good general end do we rescue a few of these 5oor sufferers from time to time, as chance may favour, leaving the multitudes to perish, and, worst and most fatal folly, leaving the morass untouched, to extend as it pleases, and engulph all it can ? To. leave an open stinking ditch unclosed is bad enough - to leave the morass untouched is fatal. To know of its presence and its power, to feel it close to us and round about us, and to think that we can free ourselves from its fatal influence by gazing on fertile plains around, or admiring the secure ground on which we ourselves are standing, is to act no better than the stupid ostrich, who hopes to elude her pursuers by shutting her eyes to their approach. To take no steps to control its power, while we build far from its brink a few poor refuge houses, insufficient to contain one thousandth part of the fallen ones, into which they may struggle if they can, unhelped by us - nay, rather pushed farther in - by way of dealing sufficiently with the mischief, is simply to reproduce Dame Partington's experiment with the Atlantic Ocean. What if the folly pleases and gratifies us? then let us at least remember that its result is the ruin of human souls - the pollution of the social fabric. What we have to do is to close the approaches to this deadly swamp - to drain it, and to fill it up, and at the same time to disinfect its foul malaria streams, and prevent them from overflowing into purer soil - to diminish its power for mischief - to stop aggregations to it - to withstand its extension. To do all this, we must take its measure, probe its depths, and accurately experience and understand its nature. We must look at it ourselves, and call the attention of others to it; we must discard euphemisms, and call it by its true name; we must prescribe the method of treatment, appoint its limits, and subject it to rule. What is this but recognition? The public are, I am happy to believe, at length awakening to a consciousness of the truth of this position, and the principle has received by the passing of the Contagious Diseases Act the sanction of the legislature, so that accomplished facts have to a certain extent closed the mouths of religious objectors.
It is still, however, unhappily true that the difficulties the philanthropist and surgeon have to meet in dealing with this subject are raised mainly on its moral and religious side. Those who would ameliorate the physical condition of prostitutes on behalf of society are at once met by the objection - ' Disease is a punishment for sin'; syphilis, the penalty paid by society for indulgence in fornication'; and many worthy persons are so deeply impressed with these convictions, as to say, ' We will have none of your sanitary or preventive measures, in this respect at least.' And again, ' The present chances of contracting disease is the strongest means of deterring men from being unchaste. This risk is the most potent barrier against vice. Remove it, and you put a premium on fornication, discourage matrimony, and upset society.'
It must be my endeavour to show the real value of this kind of objection, and further, to advance views which I trust may not be deemed incompatible with Christianity and good morals. I admit, without hesitation, that the fear of contracting contagious diseases operates with many a gentleman of education and refinement as a deterrent from fornication, and that such afflictions, involving, as they in general do, both bodily suffering and financial loss, exert a major force upon the unlimited recurrence to debauchery of the poor, coarse, incontinent rake; I allow that, without this pressure, men's sexual passion is so strong, and the training to continence has been so neglected, that a life of sensual indulgence would, in the present state of society, be more a rule than an exception; and I know that it exercises some little influence even when religion is unheeded, especially among the bulk of the better educated youth, whose minds are so little made up upon the sinfulness of fornication, that I believe the fear of suffering on earth operates more as a curb upon its licentious practice than the more remote contingency of punishment hereafter.
But, conceding this certain amount of deterrent power to the liability to disease, we shall look in vain for proof that it has had any effect towards extirpating the calling of the harlot, or the traffic in female virtue, which has of late years forced itself upon the attention of our legislature. For every thousand upon whom it operates there are ten thousand thoughtless, passionate, habitually licentious men, on whom all lessons are thrown away, and as many defiant scoffers at religion and morality, who will point out some grey-haired offender, permitted by Providence to ' go on still in the way of his wickedness', for every ' frightful example' that can be adduced on the other side.
As I am writing this, a very remarkable case, showing how little deterring a cause is syphilis from vice, occurred to me.
In the early part of my practice, a gentleman of position was brought to me by his medical attendant suffering from severe affection of the bones of the nose, following several attacks of syphilis. Under our care the patient recovered, but lately the disease has returned, and just now this patient is under my care, not only on account of a piece of bone that I have removed from the nose, but he has come to me with two new chancres, contracted recently when taking his holiday. I may mention that my patient has a wife and family. He confided to me that his sexual passions were very strong, and when he takes wine, as he freely and habitually does, he is very liable to expose himself in spite of the danger, the importance of which he is fully aware of.
The following characteristics of prostitution are worthy of observation: First, that it must be co-existent with human society, a social plague that cannot be got rid of. That women who have abandoned themselves to this course of life are, nevertheless, susceptible of good influences, and capable of improvement and reformation; and, moreover, eventually return for the most part to a more regular mode of life. That many enter upon this life owing to evil rearing, or driven by want. The first seems to point to the necessity of regulation, the second to amelioration, the third to prevention. I propose in this and the succeeding chapters to consider the subject under these three heads; and first regulation, as, having arrived at the conclusion that prostitution must always exist, it seems reasonable to consider how far it admits of regulation, before turning our attention to plans that may be adopted for amelioration or prevention. Prostitution cannot be put down, though its extent may be diminished and its attendant evils mitigated. It seems to admit of regulation in three particulars - viz., the health of the women, their places of resort, their appearance and demeanour in the streets. I have already sufficiently shown the great mischief that arises to the community from the presence in our midst of vast numbers of diseased prostitutes. We have seen that the voluntary system encourages the existence and spread of infectious disorders, evils which are, on the Continent, sought to be obviated by the licensing system, which however is open to the serious objection that it is in fact licensing sin, that it makes the State an accomplice in wickedness, and results, as might be expected, in hardening the consciences of men and completing the degradation and ruin of the prostitute. Any change to it, therefore, from the voluntary system, notwithstanding all the mischiefs to which the latter exposes us, is out of the question. We have also seen that a measure has been recently adopted in parts of this empire for dealing with disease fairly obnoxious to none of the defects chargeable upon the licensing system, although it has been attacked with more zeal than wisdom on similar grounds.
It is not my purpose to merely force opinions of my own upon the reader. I have set before him the evils to which we are exposed, and the methods of dealing with prostitution adopted in this and other countries. I am deeply conscious of the difficulties that beset our efforts to bring about a better state of things, and that it becomes a reformer to be tentative rather than dogmatic in his speech. I will therefore, instead of attempting to form any system of my own, call the attention of the reader to the evidence of Captain Harris, one of the Commissioners of Police, before the Committee of the House of Lords in June, 1868, as to the advisability of extending to the civil population the provisions of the Contagious Diseases Act. I cannot do better than give the evidence in extenso, with the addition of a few remarks of my own upon it:
Can you give us any ideas as to how far it is practicable to extend the Act to London? - I consider it very feasible. Knowing the object of the committee, I have prepared a paper upon the subject of this inquiry, which, if you will allow me, I will read:
' The prevention of contagious diseases being an object of primary importance, I beg to suggest that the operation of the Contagious Diseases Act, 1866, might, with advantage, be extended to the civil population of the metropolis. I would recommend that a special department of police be formed, similar to the common lodging-house branch, now in operation. That this department should consist of two visions, administrative and active. That the administrative should be 1 chief inspector, 1 registering inspector, 1 serjeant clerk; and that the active should be 4 visiting inspectors, 20 visiting serjeants.' I name a very small staff in the first instance, because it is easier to extend than to reduce the number. That this department be entrusted, (1) With the surveillance of houses of ill-fame, to enforce cleanliness and good order; (2) To maintain decency in the streets with regard to public morality; (3) To suppress the sale of indecent prints, photographs, etc.; (4) Repress, as far as possible, clandestine prostitution; (5) Apprehend procuresses; (6) Apprehend persons who procure abortion; (7) Search for women who fail to attend medical inspections. That to this department be entrusted the registry of prostitutes within the district. That no prostitute be registered unless, (1) There be proof of former offences; (2) Public notoriety, such as attendance at places of public resort, or where prostitutes assemble, or other form of conclusive evidence. That each registered woman be required to carry a card, on which shall be entered, (1) Name; (2) Address; (3) Date of last medical inspection. The following regulations should be printed on the back of this card: (1) To show card when demanded by officers of police specially employed in this department; (2) To present themselves every fortnight for medical inspection; (3) Not to stop or form groups in the public thoroughfares.
' I recommend that there should be a compulsory periodical medical examination of all females known to be prostitutes, and of all unmarried soldiers and sailors; more particularly previous to the former going on or returning from furlough; or when the latter are on board a harbour ship. As the early treatment of the disease is indispensable, examination, when persons are supposed to be diseased only, is insufficient; besides, irregular examinations are objected to by the females themselves. The absence of regular and frequent examinations allows the disease to be communicated before discovered. It is necessary that ample hospital accommodation be provided; that the patients may be detained in hospital as often as found diseased, and as long as they continue so; and that when discharged from hospital, the discharge ticket be handed to the police to prevent its improper use. Under the present system there is a constant influx of diseased women into towns where the Act is in operation, showing the necessity of applying preventive measures to all places. Should the Act become general, it would be necessary to provide hospital accommodation in all unions of parishes.' (I presume half a dozen beds, in country districts, would be sufficient.) Some difficulty might be experienced at first from the want of sufficient hospital accommodation; I would recommend the establishment of hospital ships under the charge of naval surgeons ; these vessels might be dispensed with as the disease lessened. I recommend that there should be a weekly medical examination of all women living in brothels; and that all drunken prostitutes charged before a magistrate should be medically examined before being discharged. It is found, where the Act has been in operation, that the more serious forms of disease are of rare occurrence; that the social condition of the prostitutes has been raised; that their homes and habits are improved, and that they are more cleanly in their persons. No objections would be raised on the part of these unfortunate women to the surveillance of the police of this special department; the common lodging-house serjeants are much respected by the lower orders, and considered in the light of friends; and I feel assured that these unfortunate women would at all times look to the police for protection.'
You have used the phrase, to suppress ' clandestine prostitution': how would you propose to do that? - The examination that these women would be subjected to, would cause a great many to abstain from prostitution.
It has been proved that that has been the result of the Act, in places where the Act has been carried out? - Yes, it has.
Is that the only mode by which you would suppress clandestine prostitution? - The fact of women being subjected to medical examination would, in a great measure, prevent their entering into that course of life.
Then the simple carrying out of the extension of the Act, as it now stands, would effect that object? - I think so.
Then you would simply propose a special police, to carry out the Act as it now stands, with the addition, as I understood your paper, of Lord Campbell's Act, against immoral prints? - The police carry out the provisions of Lord Campbell's Act, at the present moment; but I would suggest that directions be given to this special branch of police to carry out the provisions of this Act.
Then, as far as I can make out, you would make no change in the Act, except extending it, and supplying the police to work it? - Yes, and making the medical examination compulsory.
It is compulsory already, is it not? - Yes; but from a want of sufficient hospital accommodation, the provisions of the Act are not enforced. I strongly advocate the registering of women, because I think that you cannot reach the whole of them unless they are registered.
That is the mode by which you would get hold of them, namely, by registering? - Yes.
You think that the Act, as it now stands, requiring an information before a magistrate, is insufficient for getting hold of all the common prostitutes? - Yes. I think that there might be other clauses introduced into the Act.
To what effect? - I think that, if the Act were properly carried out by the police, houses of ill-fame might come under the control of the police. At the present moment the police do not interfere with these houses; for instance, in Portsmouth they have no control over them.
But as Tread the Act, if a woman has got the disease in a brothel, the brothel-keeper is liable to punishment? - Yes, if he does not give information of the existence of the disease. (The Act is handed to the Witness.) He is liable to a penalty, I see, for harbouring. ' If any person, being the owner or occupier of any house, room, or place within the limits of any place to which this Act applies, or being a manager or assistant in the management thereof, having reasonable cause to believe any woman to be a common prostitute, and to be affected with a contagious disease, induces or suffers her to resort to or be in that house, room, or place for the purpose of prostitution, he shall be guilty of an offence.'
Earl De Grey: I think your attention has been drawn to clauses 15 and 16 of the present Act? - Yes.
Do you not hold that under the 16th clause there is the power in justices to order the periodical inspection of any woman who may be represented to them, upon the oath of a superintendent of police, as being a common prostitute? - Yes.
Whether she be diseased or not at the time when that statement is made to the magistrate? - Yes.
Therefore, those clauses give the power in that respect which you think it would be desirable to extend? - Yes.
But I understood you to say that power was not universally acted upon even in the districts to which the Act now applies, in consequence of insufficient hospital accommodation? - Yes, from the want of sufficient hospital accommodation, the provisions of the Act are not enforced.
Then the defect in that respect arises not from the fault of the Act, but from the want of hospital accommodation? - Yes.
You spoke of the keeping of a register of these women. The police at present exercise a certain control over common prostitutes; do they keep any register now of those people in London? - No, they do not.
But your suggestion that a register of these women should be kept, would not, I suppose, involve the granting to them of any licence as prostitutes? - No; certainly not.
Would you approve of a licensing system? - No; I do not think that it would be desirable.
You think that it would be repugnant to the general feeling of the country, I suppose? - I do.
What distinction do you draw between a licence of that kind, and the certificate which you suggested should be given? - That certificate would be simply a card to be produced to the special branch of police (provided one was established), to enable them to see where the woman resided, and whether she had undergone the periodical medical examination.
That card, then, would simply be to show that she had complied with the provisions of the Act? - Yes.
At present, I think, in all the places in which the Act is now in force, whether at dockyards or at military stations, the carrying it out is entirely entrusted to the metropolitan police? - It is.
If the Act were to be extended to other districts of the country, not containing naval or military establishments, it might be difficult to extend the power of the metropolitan police there, might it not? - I think that great difficulty would be found in that respect.
Do you think that the ordinary county constabulary could carry out the Act? - I think that the county constabulary might, but I should be sorry to entrust it to the hands of the borough police, except in such towns as Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, etc.
In the larger towns, you think, where there is an efficient police, the Act might be carried out by the local constabularies? - Yes.
But that would be difficult in the case of smaller towns? - Yes.
Earl of Devon: You select picked men for this purpose now, do you not? - Yes.
Do you select men of a certain age? - No.
Are they married? - Two-thirds of our men are married; so that, in all probability, married men would be selected to carry out the Act.
Viscount Sidmouth:- In places like Devonport and Portsmouth, I suppose the police are tolerably well acquainted with the women of the town? - Yes, they are well known to them.
Are there occasions of a great influx of fresh women? - Yes.
These would be immediately known to the police, I suppose? - Yes.
Would it not be easy for the police to have authority to see that in any case of an influx of fresh women, they should be subjected to examination, because the police would know the parties to pitch upon, would they not? - Yes, they would know the parties; but at the present moment, with the very limited hospital accommodation at our command, it is useless to have them examined, as you cannot send them into hospital, even if found to be diseased.
What I mean is this, that it would be possible for the police to have power to compel these women to be examined, and not to exercise their vocation until they had passed this examination, and that, in the case of their doing so, they should be liable to some penalty? - That would be quite possible; but I do not think that power exists at the present moment.
Will you state whether you have known many cases where penalties have been inflicted under the 36th clause, for it seems to me that there would be some difficulty in getting a conviction for a person harbouring a prostitute, and ' having reasonable cause' to suspect that she has the disease? - I do not think that there has been a single conviction under that clause.
Or a conviction for keeping brothels? - No, there has been no conviction under this Act for keeping a brothel.
The conviction can only take place where the keeper of that house has reasonable cause to believe any woman to be a common prostitute, and to be affected with a contagious disease' ? - Yes; that is to say, for carrying on her calling, she being in a diseased state.
But you have not known cases of conviction at present? - No, I do not think that there has been a single conviction.
Earl De Grey: You suggest now that any prostitute brought before a magistrate for being drunk and disorderly should be inspected before being discharged; and I suppose that you would add, should be sent to the hospital if found to be diseased? - Yes.
Is the number of prostitutes who appear before magistrates on charges of that kind a large number? - There must be a very large number in the course of the year.
Would they form a large proportion of women of that character? - Yes, of the very low prostitutes round about Wapping and Shadwell, and in that neighbourhood.
Lord Penrhyn: You spoke of insufficiency of hospital accommodation just now: have you ever known any instances at Portsmouth or Aldershot of women being taken into the workhouse when suffering from the disease, in consequence of the deficiency of hospital accommodation? - No, I do not myself know any case of the kind.
You are aware that there is a clause in the Poor Law Amendment Act enabling the guardians to retain any person in the workhouse suffering under contagious diseases? - Yes.
You do not know whether it is acted upon or not? - No.
Earl of Devon: Do you know cases where the guardians have refused admission into workhouses to women suffering under this disease? - No, I do not know of any such case.
Viscount Templetown: Is the attention of the policemen selected for this particular duty strictly confined to that, or do they exercise all the other functions that belong to the police? - I think that they exercise their ordinary functions; if they saw any case of felony committed, or assault demanding their interference, they would interfere.
You are, I suppose, aware of what occurs among the police at Chatham and Sheerness, and Devonport and elsewhere? - Yes.
Have you ever heard of any violence being shown towards them on the part of these women? - No.
The police perform their duties with ease? - Yes; there is no difficulty whatever.
Lord Penrhyn: Do not you think that it would be difficult to frame any Act by which a line could be drawn as to women above the class of common prostitutes? - I do not myself think that there is the slightest difficulty whatever in that.
In what way would you propose that it should be drawn; I am speaking of the class of woman who is above solicitation in the street, who comes above the class of common prostitutes, and yet is known to carry on this intercourse with men; where would you draw the line? - Speaking of London, I should propose that any woman who goes to places of public resort, and is known to go with different men, although not a common street-walker, should be served with a notice to register.
Is there anything that you could take notice of beyond that fact of a woman going to public places and going with men from those public places; you could not draw the line, so as to inquire into people's character, to know whether they had connexion with men or not, could you? - It would be soon known to the police; every woman has a place of resort, and I think the police could find out any woman's history in London, if they chose.
Do not you think that it would be difficult to draw the line in an Act? - I do not consider that necessary; I think that every common prostitute should be registered, and a day named for medical examination. It would be desirable to classify, as far as possible, the women for this purpose, a certain day in the week being set apart upon which medical examinations would be made by payment; this would enable the better class of women to classify themselves, and would partly defray the expenses of putting the Act in operation. Great discretion, however, is necessary in carrying out an Act such as that contemplated.
Viscount Templetown: Do you know whether the police employed in carrying out this Act obtain their information from the prostitutes themselves, or from the men? - I think they obtain information from the men; but I do not consider that you can in every case rely upon it; it is difficult for a man to say that he got the disease from any particular woman.
Do you think it would be difficult, from the information they possess, for policemen to find out from prostitutes whether any prostitute among them is diseased? - I think they might readily find it out from the women; the women would tell upon one another.
Do you see any reason why it should not be an indictable offence when a woman, knowing herself to be diseased, gives disease to a man? - No, I see no reason why it should not be made so.* ( * [Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Contagious Diseases Act, 1866 (1868), qq. 742-800.])
We learn from the above evidence of Captain Harris, that he considers the idea of extending the Act to London very feasible. He has from his position ample opportunity of judging, and his experience and ability lend great weight to his opinion. There is a twofold disadvantage in placing some districts under surveillance and restriction, from which adjoining districts are free. In the one case, prostitutes plying their trade in the former are enabled to baffle the vigilance of the police, to defy the law, and spread disease, by living in the adjoining districts, thus adding greatly to the immorality of these places. This is very noticeable in the country districts around Oxford and Cambridge, more especially the latter. For the purposes of discipline at the Universities, large powers are entrusted to certain officers called proctors, part of whose duty is to prevent any intercourse between undergraduates and women of the town, the latter being liable to arrest and imprisonment if caught flagrante delicto; the result is that the majority of the women take up their headquarters in the adjoining villages and towns outside the jurisdiction of the proctors, thus introducing an immoral element into places which would otherwise be comparatively free from taint. The other disadvantage is, that diseased women flock in from the free districts, to those under supervision, to obtain for themselves the benefits of medical inspection and hospital nursing, thus pressing unfairly on the resources of the district and the time of the medical staff. If all places were made subject to the same supervision this double evil would be avoided.
With regard to the machinery to be employed, it is only natural that Captain Harris should incline to entrust the police with the carrying out of the Act, and they are no doubt the proper persons to perform the subordinate duties; the public, however, are naturally, and it seems to me very justly, jealous of vesting administrative power in the police, who are, and ought to be, nothing more than servants of the executive; and even if this were not so, it is at least a question whether so difficult and responsible a duty could be safely remitted to the unaided discretion of police inspectors: they are, as a rule, undoubtedly worthy men, but it is no disparagement to them to say that the person responsible for the action taken should be of superior position and education; and I would suggest that the police should act under the orders of medical officers, it being of the greatest importance to guard against tyrannical and indiscreet behaviour in the performance of the difficult duties created by the Act.
It does not seem to me that the surveillance of any houses of ill- fame, except accommodation houses, should be considered part of the duty of the police, as for reasons that I shall give in another place, I am inclined to think that, with this exception, such places should be altogether repressed. It is difficult to know what offences the assistant-commissioner requires that a woman should be guilty of to justify her registration as a prostitute, and it is to be regretted that his evidence is not more explicit on this point, as the question what conduct is to expose a woman to police surveillance is one of no small difficulty.
I subjoin here the presumptions of prostitution required on the Continent, before placing a woman upon the registry; not that I wish it to be supposed that I advocate their adoption in toto, or that I consider that they afford the only or the best criterion to judge by, but because it seems to me that I shall best assist the reader to form an opinion on this difficult point - what course of conduct is to render a woman liable to be placed on the police registry as a common prostitute - by placing before him all the facts within my knowledge that appear to bear upon it. The points, then, from which presumption of clandestine prostitution are deduced on the Continent, are the following:
1. When a girl is arrested in any public place or public road, giving herself up to acts of debauchery with a man who declares he does not know her, and will not bail her.
In this case the offence of clandestine prostitution is complicated with the offence of outraging public feeling and modesty, and often that of vagrancy.
2. When a girl is arrested introducing into her house a man whom she has met in the public streets, or place of public resort, and who makes the same declaration as the above.
3. When a girl is arrested in a furnished house or inn, shut up with a man who makes the same declaration as the above.
4. When in a short period the police have met the same girl in the streets, or public places, with different men, although each of them may have declared themselves to be her sweetheart or her protector.
5. When a girl has been arrested in a house of accommodation, or when the police see her entering or leaving a house of this description.
6. Associating with well-known prostitutes, or the mistresses of houses of ill-fame, is considered presumptive evidence of clandestine prostitution.
In any of these cases, and on a written report signed by two policemen, the girl is summoned before the Bureau des Moeurs, by letter; and if she refuses to come she may be arrested and brought by force before the chief of the Bureau. She may then be examined as regards her family, her antecedents, her business, etc., and a letter is written to the mayor of the town in which she says she was born; if subsequently it is found that she has renounced work, and has no other means of subsistence than prostitution, if found affected with venereal disease, and it is in vain to hope that she will return to an honest way of living - permission is asked from the mayor or the prefect, to inscribe her on the register of public prostitutes.* (* Jeannel, De la prostitution (1868), 227-9.)
I regret to observe that Captain Harris is inclined to recommend that a card should be given to the prostitutes when registered; this has too much the appearance of the health ticket of the foreign inscrite, and if not intended to be used in the same way is certainly very adaptable to the purpose. The only reason for giving this card seems to be to facilitate identification by the police; a little additional trouble on their part seems a good substitute for it. Captain Harris agrees that the licensing system is undesirable. It is imperative to avoid not only the reality, but also the appearance of it. It will be seen that more hospital accommodation is necessary for the extension of the Act, and even for the proper working of it in its present state, as the question of greater hospital accommodation requires attention, whether any change such as here suggested is made in the law or not. I shall deal with this subject hereafter in the chapter on amelioration, to whose pages it seems more properly to belong.
One serious objection presents itself at once to the mind of an Englishman, when measures of surveillance are suggested to him; it is sufficiently well founded, to require to be fairly encountered and fully answered, or else frankly admitted to be fatal. The objection is, that such measures are invasions of private liberty, and therefore intolerable in the land which boasts itself to be the peculiar home of freedom. The slave who sets foot on English soil is free, and here the fugitive from tyranny finds refuge and shelter. We may go where we like, do what we like, say what we like, be what we like, so long only as we obey the laws. And these laws are framed with the object of securing to the individual the largest amount of liberty consistent with public welfare. This personal liberty, the birthright and heritage of every Englishman, purchased by our fathers' blood, and secured by the wisdom and labours of centuries, is a noble possession to be preserved by us undiminished, and by us transmitted to the after-time unshorn of any of its fair proportions. This is not merely a sacred duty, but an instinct in our nature, so that when any change is proposed that seems to encroach upon a right so precious, we may expect it to be regarded with suspicion, and encountered by resistance, and doubly so when the objects of its attack are mean, defence- less, and despised. Moreover, this English liberty includes the right to sin as much as we please, so long only as we do not thereby commit any offence cognizable at law, against the property or person of our fellow subjects. We may gamble, drink, and whore; the first must be done to a certain extent in private; the second must not cause public commotion; but the last may be done without any restriction whatever.
Every man is free to seduce a woman, take his neighbour's wife, or keep a mistress, without rendering himself obnoxious to the penal law. He may be a sabbath-breaker, atheist, or teacher of sedition, and yet incur no punishment. In like manner it is undeniably lawful for a woman to abandon herself for money if she chooses. This right of sinning, however, infinite though it at first sight appears, is subject to certain restrictions, and even actions, in themselves innocent, may fall under the scourge of the law if indulged in under circumstances prejudicial to the public safety. For instance, there is no harm in stone throwing per Se, but if little boys, or others of a playful disposition, throw stones at railway trains, or in places of public resort, they by so doing render themselves liable to punishment; and in the same way it is unlawful to let off fireworks in the streets, or to ride full gallop in Rotten Row. Again, there is no harm in selling goods at a shop - on the contrary, it is a very praiseworthy means of earning daily bread; but the fishmonger who sells stale fish, the butcher who sells tainted meat, and the tradesman who uses false weights, are liable to punishment. And this, notwithstanding that it would be quite possible to do substantial justice between the dishonest trader and his customer, by leaving the latter to recover damages for the injury done to him in a civil action; caveat emptor is a sound maxim, the buyer has his own folly to thank if he is taken in. And again, there may be no buyer at all, and therefore no one is actually taken in. The mere fact of endeavouring to trade with the bad fish, or meat, or the false weights, is an offence against the law.
It will no doubt be objected that there is no parallel whatever between the case of a dishonest trader and a diseased prostitute - that the former is pursuing a lawful calling, and that people come to his shop with an honest object, and therefore that it is only right that they should be protected by the law; while to the latter it is impossible that a man should go with an honest purpose, and therefore the law rightly extends protection in the one case, which in the other it withholds. There is, no doubt, much force in this observation; it must not, however, be carried too far; and it must be remembered that the gist of these offences is, in the one case, doing acts that may prove injurious to the public health, in the other attempting to obtain money under false pretences; and the fact that any injury is actually done on the one hand, or any money actually obtained on the other, is not material to constitute the offence. The question remains, does the immorality of the transaction through which the injury must come in the case of the prostitute, place the infliction of the injury, or the attempt to inflict it, beyond the cognizance of the law? I think not, and will produce a case in point.
Gambling is, in the eye of the law, immoral, and its public practice prohibited, so much so, that not only are public gaming tables suppressed, but even wagering on horse races is prohibited in the streets, and in public-houses. If any man, therefore, loses his money gambling, he has only himself to thank for his folly; and had he not engaged in an immoral transaction, he would have been secure against the loss. So that it was through his own evil deed that the loss befell him; and yet if money is unfairly won at games of chance, the cheat is liable to punishment for obtaining money under false pretences. The reason is obvious; gambling, although a wrong thing, and a pursuit which, therefore, the law will not encourage, is very widely indulged in. It is quite impossible for the law to put it down; it is plain that, in spite of any enactment that might be passed against it, men would still yield to the indulgence, and therefore the law punishes those who play unfairly. No man would willingly play with a cheat, neither would any man in possession of his senses knowingly go with a diseased woman. The cases are analogous; why should not the law insist in both on fair play, that what is actually given should correspond with what is professed to be given; and why should the law punish the individual taking advantage of human weakness in one case, and not in another?
We have, then, in the law against unfair gaming the principle admitted that punishment may be meted out to those who in immoral transactions, which the law takes no other cognizance of, act in a manner injurious to others. Although the victims of the unfair play are themselves engaged in an immoral pursuit, and have thus exposed themselves, through their own fault, to evil machinations, those who take an unfair advantage of them are punished. But here again we find a difference; the law does not interfere until the crime has been committed. The law attempts no surveillance of gamblers, but this is because the law will not attempt impossibilities, and it would be impossible for the police to exercise any surveillance over persons unknown to them. It may be objected that in the proposed registration of prostitutes, a whole class will be placed under certain disabilities, quite irrespectively of any given individuals comprising that class, being in such a state as in the particular case to make inspection necessary. To this it may, I think, be fairly answered that when persons commit themselves to a course of life which may, and in the majority of cases does, actually render them dangerous to the public health, the law may reasonably interfere with their liberty, so far as to insure that as little evil as possible may result to the State from their immoral practices; in fact, we may go a step further, and say that it is only right that this should be done, and that personal liberty and personal rights must be in all cases subservient to the public welfare. Compulsory vaccination is a case in point: here the law interferes plainly and directly with the liberty of the subject; parents may dislike to have their children vaccinated, and it may be that in nine cases out of ten the precaution is superfluous; still there is a certain danger that must be guarded against, and private inclination and opinion must yield to the exigencies of public safety.
The laws for the suppression of betting-houses establish another principle, which is, that persons who will persist in doing an immoral thing, must not do it in such a manner as to place temptation in the way of the thoughtless and ignorant, and, by a parity of reasoning, the law may insist that if women will pursue the shameful trade of prostitution, they must do so in such a manner as not to place temptation in the way of those who might otherwise abstain from immorality. The laws protecting minors from dealing with their property or binding themselves by contracts, and married women from being sued for debt, or dealing with their property, except under certain conditions, furnish a further instance of protection being afforded by the State to persons in an otherwise defenceless condition. The young and inexperienced are peculiarly liable to yield to the temptations of harlots and to suffer the evils incident thereto: for their protection, therefore, if for no other reason, the law may rightly place restrictions upon prostitutes. Further than this, large numbers of the lower classes are, as we have seen, almost forced by circumstances into a vicious mode of life. Surely it is not too much to ask the law to protect them so far as possible from the evils attending the accident of birth.
We have thus far argued the case, merely from the point of view of protecting others; may we not add a plea on behalf of these unhappy women themselves? Is it not a worthy object to force these wretched creatures to pay some attention to cleanliness and health, to bring healing and elevating influences within their reach, to raise them, if not to virtue, at least from the lowest depths of degradation, to bring to them relief from suffering and help in distress? For the sake of these wretched women, no less than on behalf of the rest of the community, this act of mercy should, it seems to me, be passed. One other instance of interference for the public good with private liberty must not be unnoticed: the Habitual Criminals' Bill which, while these sheets are passing through the press, has received the sanction of the legislature, strongly asserts this principle. Under its provisions, persons may be committed to prison, not for overt acts of crime brought home to them by regular legal process, but because they are known to be leading lawless and predatory lives. No principle is more clear or more jealously asserted than that every man shall be presumed to be innocent until proved to be guilty; but here the burden of proof is shifted, and guilt is presumed until innocence can be shown. This Bill, and especially, perhaps, the clause relating to receivers of stolen goods, is a far more arbitrary enactment than the measure that we are considering. The laws restraining nuisances and compelling unwholesome and noisome trades to be carried on in such places and in such a manner as to interfere as little as possible with the health and convenience of the community are clearly restrictions for the public good upon private liberty, as also are the laws permitting the compulsory surrender of private property for the public advantage. I think that I have now said enough to show that the principles involved in this measure are already sanctioned and acted upon in numerous instances. A paternal government, as it is called, is intolerable to English instincts, and will ever, I hope, remain impossible in this country. People must be left to a great extent to reap the bitter consequences of sin and folly, but the principle lying at the very root of the existence of society is, that for the common good and for the advantages obtainable by this means only, each member of the State must be content to be deprived of the power to do exactly as he pleases - that is, must surrender for the sake of social order a portion of his freedom. So much for the arguments that may be adduced against the proposed legislation on the ground of interfering with the liberty of the subject. But after all, what is this liberty? It is not liberty, but wanton license. It is not freedom, but lawless indulgence. ...
The law is cognizant of the existence of prostitution. It is known that thousands gain their bread by lives of infamy; the evils incident to and arising from their calling, also, are well known. May it not be urged with at least equal truth that the law that permits without restraining is in reality an accomplice, and chargeable with the evils which it refuses to remedy. Am I my brother's keeper?' was the excuse for himself, offered by the first murderer, and is virtually said by all who see suffering and wrong, and pass by on the other side. Let us beware lest in endeavouring to avoid a sin, we do not fall into a greater. The suffering shame and ruin ascend from the pitiless streets and haunts of misery to the gates of heaven, and cry there for vengeance, not only on those who wring from broken hearts their guilty pleasures, but also on those who, wrapping close around them the cloak of self-righteousness, and shutting up their bowels of compassion from the sorrow that they needs must see, refuse to make even an effort to avert it, or to raise the arm, which if stretched forth, might save.
After all, the question resolves itself to one of common sense. Does the Contagious Diseases Act, so far as tried, work well? I appeal with confidence to results. Si monumentum quaeris circumspice.
... From discussing the advantages derivable from a systematic supervision of prostitutes, we pass on to the question how far it is possible to control their appearance and deportment in public. In dealing with this part of my subject, I propose first to consider what steps, if any, should be taken with regard to the various places to which they resort. These naturally divide themselves into two distinct heads: the first comprises the casinos, music-halls, and public gardens, such as Cremorne; the second, the class of places known as night-houses.
I must here, again, remind the reader that prostitution must always exist, that it cannot be suppressed by law, and that no measures taken against it will be wise and beneficial which do not recognize this fact. It cannot be denied that the existence of places where prostitutes congregate is an enormous evil. The attempt to suppress them all would, however, be as impolitic and quixotic as the attempt to suppress prostitution itself. All that we can do, is to render the public haunts of prostitutes as little injurious to the public morals as their nature admits of. Although this is undoubtedly true, it does not follow that every place is to be tolerated. It will be seen that the two divisions above referred to are very different in character, the one existing for other purposes besides that of affording facilities to the practice of prostitution, the other for this purpose alone. I think that we may lay down and act upon the following principle, that all places of which the only use is to enable women to meet with customers should be rigorously repressed, but that such places as exist for other objects, such as music or dancing, although it may be true of them that they are supported mainly by base women and their associates, must be tolerated. The first division, therefore, must be permitted to continue as at present. With regard to the second, this again divides itself into the night-house proper, such as Kate Hamilton's, Rose Young's, Coney's, etc., etc., where refreshments are supplied without a licence, and after the regular hours, and from which the police are so far as possible excluded, and the supper-rooms and cafés in and about the Haymarket from which the police are not excluded, and in which refreshments are not supplied without a licence; it would be as unreasonable to deprive a prostitute of a place for obtaining refreshment as to close against her all places of amusement; these latter, therefore, must be left unclosed, at all events for the present. The case of night-houses, however, is very different; they exist only for the purposes of vice, and should be put down with the strong hand. We have already seen... how difficult it is for the police to suppress these places in the present state of the law. I submit that it would be well to deal with them in precisely the same way as by the Habitual Criminals' Bill the persons obnoxious to its provisions may be dealt with; there is no question as to their character, the only difficulty being, to obtain such evidence of it as shall amount to legal proof and justify conviction. It seems to me that if the principle of the Habitual Criminals' Bill were adopted in their case, and the burden of proof shifted from the police to the ostensible proprietor, their suppression would be easily obtained.
From the night-house to the house of ill-fame the transition is easy. This latter class comprises, as we have seen, two distinct species of brothel: the brothel proper, or dress-house, where women are kept by the proprietor, and farmed for his benefit; and the accommodation house, where in return for a moderate payment the convenience of temporary shelter is afforded to chance companions. The first of these houses should, in my opinion, be utterly suppressed. I postpone, however, to the chapter on prevention, the discussion of this question. The second must, I think, be tolerated, and for the same reason that prostitution must be tolerated because their suppression is either impossible or attended with worse results than the mischiefs which they occasion. They are in fact rather the result of evil than the cause. True it is that in France they are viewed with more disfavour than the maisons defiles, but that is because the French system makes no efforts for the amelioration of the prostitute, but recognizes prostitution as a necessary evil, and those who follow it as a calling, as persons forming a certain defined class whom it is necessary to render amenable in the greatest possible degree to regulation; it therefore directs all its efforts to producing centralization; this process is assisted by the maisons defiles with their confined inhabitants, and retarded by the maisons de passe with their floating occupants. In England we recognize prostitution as a necessary evil in the same sense only as we recognize poverty, crime, and disease as necessary evils. The object of those who advocate regulation in England is not to create a class bound down by hard and fast limits, whose life and development are blighted and ruined, for the supposed advantage of the State. We want no ' martyrs to sensuality'. We admit the fact that prostitution must exist, and admitting it, and feeling its power for evil, we deprecate the policy of ignoring it, and demand that limits be fixed which it must not pass, and laws laid down for it that it must obey. We therefore suggest that those who are known to lead this life of shame, and to have no other means of subsistence than those afforded by prostitution, should be registered; and as the only way of checking the fatal evils arising to the community from their mode of life, that those persons whose names are found in the register should be compelled to submit to inspection. We know that the class must exist; we know the dangers to which by its existence we are exposed; we desire to limit those dangers, and to deprive the class so far as possible of the power of inflicting physical injuries.
But we desire more than this, we desire to ameliorate the condition of the individuals comprising that class, and to lessen their numbers. We see that the life of prostitution is in the majority of cases temporary only; we desire not to make it permanent. We see that prostitutes, . . . as a rule, return to the ranks of honest people and become absorbed in honest society. We wish therefore to ameliorate their condition, to elevate their habits, of thought and mode of life, so that their return may be assisted and accelerated, and that as little as may be of degradation may be absorbed in their absorption. The method, whatever it may be, by which our object can be best achieved, is evidently something very different from centralization. The motive, therefore, that makes the maison depasse in France peculiarly obnoxious to the law does not exist in England.
One other principle I may allude to here, which should be firmly held by all advocates of regulation, and should accompany the one that I have just stated, which is, that prostitution must so far as possible be kept a thing apart and by itself. Society must, so far as possible, be secured against its contaminating presence. We desire to give all possible access of good and helping influences to the prostitute, and to draw her back from her life of sin, but we must be careful in doing this not to give prostitution access to society. Fornication must not come to be regarded here as a naughty thing which everybody does.
I may now repeat and examine the proposition that houses of accommodation must be tolerated because their suppression is either impossible or attended with worse results than the mischiefs which they occasion. The main objections to them are the following: they afford facilities for the illicit intercourse of the sexes; they keep in existence a class of people directly interested in the extension of prostitution; it will be more difficult for the police to make complete registers, if places are tolerated to which women can take their customers, instead of having only their own houses to take them to. To the first objection I answer, that it proves too much. Prostitution being permitted to exist, houses in which prostitutes live must also be permitted; to these they can take their customers, and it seems to me to make little difference whether the rooms to which men can be taken are regularly rented by these women, or by other people; no greater mischief seems likely to arise (except that arising from the other objections that I have stated) to the woman, her customer, or the public, from the existence of houses of accommodation than from the existence of houses where prostitutes live. The second objection is more serious; it is no doubt most undesirable that any people should exist interested in the continuance and increase of prostitution, or that any persons should gain advantage or earn their livelihood from the sin of others. On this subject, however, we are endeavouring to attain, not the desirable but the possible; the only legislation for which we can hope, is a balance of evil.
Rigorous enactments against bawds and panders will enable us to prevent the keepers of houses of accommodation from turning them into dress-houses, or brothels proper, and from promoting the extension which they desire of an evil system. While, as to the third objection, though we must regret any circumstance that may render more difficult the arduous duties which will, under the proposed system of regulation, fall to the lot of the police, we feel bound to say that any objections of this sort are of a secondary nature only; that although they must, if possible, be obviated, when this cannot be done the difficulty must be cheerfully accepted and means found to meet it.
Having disposed of the objections that may be urged to the toleration of houses of accommodation, I may now consider the reasons that seem to render their repression impolitic, and these fortunately come within the range of experience. We find that since the law has been put in force against these houses their number has been sensibly reduced; on the other hand, hotels, restaurants, and coffee-houses have been to a large extent pressed into the service of prostitution; thus is introduced the very mischief against which we desire to guard, namely that of bringing prostitution and society en rapport, so to speak. However deplorable it may be that accommodation houses should exist, it is infinitely more undesirable that through their extinction every coffee-house should become a brothel, and that hotels and restaurants should be generally, and as a matter of course, used for immoral purposes. In addition to this, any law for the suppression of these houses can be easily evaded, and in their absence means will be surely found to meet in some more irregular and objectionable way the requirements of vicious people.* (* This objection is not an imaginary one. I understand that a limited liability company has already been started for providing its members with the accommodation they desire; doubtless more will follow.) Legislation, then, on this point is at best useless, and should therefore be carefully avoided.
The regulation of prostitutes' appearance and behaviour in the streets is the only other topic to which allusion need be made in this chapter. The police have, as we have seen, . . . power to arrest, if necessary, persons guilty of indecent and disorderly conduct in the streets. It seems hardly possible to interdict the prostitute from the liberty of using the public thoroughfares, which she naturally enjoys in common with the rest of the community, and it is a question whether the right can be denied to any one person of civilly addressing any other. These natural rights, however, of using the streets and addressing the passers-by give rise to the evils of loitering and solicitation.
The condition of our streets - although a marked improvement seems to have been effected in the interval that has elapsed since the appearance of the first edition of this work - is still far from satisfactory, and it is worthy of consideration whether, notwithstanding the right to which I have above referred, some further improvement may not be made in this respect. Of pertinacious solicitation there appears to be little or none, unless, perhaps, occasionally late at night. Against solicitation every man has the remedy in his own hands; it is, no doubt, a nuisance to which he should not be exposed, but as the absence of rejoinder usually suffices to repress it, and in the rare cases in which it proves insufficient, an effectual appeal can always be made to a policeman, it seems better to leave things as they are, at all events for the present, than to run the risk of introducing by stringent enactments more serious evils. It is, moreover, a ques tion of detail, fit rather to be dealt with by the Police Commissioners than worthy to be made the subject of legislation. This last remark applies with equal force to the question as to the best means of dealing with the mischief of loitering. It is to be met by applying to it some recognized principle rather than by direct legislation. I must, however, point out that certain localities are far worse than others: the question may arise whether in such of these as may happen to be merely bye-streets, any measures should be taken for the prevention of loitering, but it seems to me that all the principal thoroughfares should be protected from this nuisance, and this could be accomplished by a little firmness and tact on the part of the police.* (*I may mention the street connecting Leicester Square with the bottom of Regent Street as a thoroughfare infested with loitering prostitutes from whose presence it should be freed, the Burlington Arcade as a place the policy of interfering with which is open to question.)
Of one thing we must not lose sight, and that is, the necessity of giving no opportunity to the police of indulging in acts of petty tyranny. The majority of the force are, I believe, men of good temper and behaviour; but no one acquainted with the streets of London can be ignorant that the instances of bullying and overbearing conduct towards unfortunate costermongers, applewomen, and others are far more frequent than could be wished.* (* A case of very recent occurrence illustrates and justifies my anxiety that no unnecessary power may be entrusted to injudicious officers. A respectable married woman passing through a locality much infested by prostitutes, and ignorant of her way, asked a passer-by for direction; she was immediately pounced upon by an over-zealous constable, and, despite her explanations and the remonstrances of the man to whom she spoke, was summarily walked off to the police station. What satisfaction to her for so gross an outrage was the severe censure ultimately administered to the policeman?) The first thing necessary, therefore, is, that the police authorities shall tell off for the duty of preventing loitering, those men only on whom they can implicitly rely - men who will act up to their authority, but not exceed it, and who will perform their duties not only with firmness, but also with gentleness, moderation, and discretion. The next step is to give these men full instructions to prevent the obstruction of the thoroughfares. The duty is, no doubt, a somewhat difficult one, but the exercise of common sense will suffice in the majority of cases to prevent the commission of any grave errors. ' I have often,' the late Sir P. Laurie once observed, discharged unfortunate women against what appeared to be the reasoning of the police, that if a woman after having walked down Fleet Street dared to walk back again, she must be walked off to prison.' And the worthy alderman was undoubtedly right. If some modern Dr Johnson should propose to walk down Fleet Street, and having walked down should propose to walk back again, and should give like effect to the last proposition as to the first, and should repeat the operation a hundred times in the course of the day, the ' active and intelligent officer' who should attempt to interfere with him would expose himself to the charge of being foolhardy and unreasonable. In the same way a cluster of the gentler sex round windows dedicated to the display of bonnets, robes, or jewelry should not be wantonly disturbed. If, in the place of the learned doctor on the one hand, and the fair cluster on the other, we find a portly harlot or a collection of vicious women, the same observations will hold good. The pavement is free to all: to use, however, not to abuse. The book-making fraternity are not allowed to pursue their avocations in the streets; why should greater indulgence be extended to prostitutes? The action taken against betting men perhaps supplies the rule of which we are in search; and it may be safe to lay down that, making allowance for the difference of pursuit, the police should, in those cases in which they would interfere with these latter, interfere also with prostitutes, who should certainly be prevented from turning their promenades into short beats, and making any leading thoroughfare their daily haunt.
The foregoing suggestions seem to me sufficient as regards the regulation of the streets in the daytime and evening. As the night advances, the number of disorderly characters present in the streets increases; this is especially the case in those nearest to the places of amusement frequented by prostitutes and their companions. We have seen that the neighbourhood of the Haymarket has acquired an evil notoriety, and I think it is clear that the state of things existing in this and similar localities should not be tolerated. Although I have admitted that the liberty of using the streets should not be denied to women merely on account of their being prostitutes, there would, I think, be no harshness or undue interference with the liberty of the subject, in requiring such persons to withdraw from them within half an hour after the time at which the Argyll Rooms and similar places of amusement are usually closed. Some such measure as this seems absolutely necessary to prevent the continuance of a grave scandal, and we must not forget that if we make the streets less disreputable, we shall in doing so diminish both the opportunity for and the temptation to impure indulgence.
William Acton, Prostitution, considered in its Moral, Social, and Sanitary Aspects 2nd edition 1870