[article from the Quarterly Review]
[-87-] ART. IV. - 1. Judicial Statistics. 1868. 2. Criminal Returns: Metropolitan Police. 3. General Regulations, Instructions and Orders, for the Government and Guidance of the Metropolitan Police Force. 1862. 4. Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. 1870
London has long since ceased to mean that
part of the capital which is governed by its mediaeval corporation. Though 'The
City' is still the great centre of commerce, and includes
[-88-] includes the Bank, the Exchange, the Post Office, and other great
public establishments, its resident population is less than that of Shoreditch,
is greatly exceeded by that of Marylebone, and does not amount to more than
about one-thirtieth of the entire population of the metropolis.
From the ancient wall-girded 'City,' with its ports at Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Moorgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Newgate, and Ludgate, - afterwards enlarged by the Liberties outside the Wall, and bounded by the 'Bars' at Whitechapel, Holborn, and the Temple, - London has extended in all directions into the country, swallowing up parish after parish and clusters of suburban villages and hamlets - Bow, Islington, Hampstead, Paddington, Kensington, and Chelsea - as well as adjoining towns and cities, like Southwark and Westminster, - until at length the ancient London is only to be regarded as the nucleus of a great city covering some seven hundred square miles of ground, inhabited by about three millions and a half of people,* or a larger number of persons than are to be found congregated in any other city in the world.
[* 'The population of London within the registration limits (says the Registrar- General in his Twenty-eighth Annual Report) is by estimate 2,993,513; but beyond this central mass there is a ring of life growing rapidly, and extending along railway lines, over a circle of 15 miles radius from Charing Cross. The population within that circle, patrolled by the Metropolitan Police, is about 3,463,771.' The Commissioner of Police, in his recent Report, states the population of the Metropolis, patrolled by the Metropo1itan Police in June, 1870, to be 3,563,410.]
The population of London is nearly double
that of Paris, four times that of New York, five times that of Berlin, six times
that of St. Petersburg, twelve times that of Amsterdam, and eighteen times that
of Rome. The inhabitants of Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg, added
together, fall short of the population of London, which exceeds that of all
Scotland, is more than equal to two-thirds of the population of all Ireland, and
constitutes nearly one-eighth of the whole population of Great Britain. The
increase alone in the inhabitants of London during the last thirty years,
exceeds the entire population of the kingdom of Greece, brigands included.
Indeed, one of the most surprising things about modern London is the rapidity of its growth. Notwithstanding its already enormous size in 1849, not fewer than 225,322 new houses have been added to it since then, forming 69 new squares, and 5831 new streets, of the total length of 1030 miles! Nor has the growth of London apparently been checked, notwithstanding adverse times; for 5167 houses were in course of erection in the month of February last. In short, as the French observer said of London, 'it is not so much city, as a province covered by houses.
[-89-] The growth of London, however, has only kept pace with the power, population, and wealth of the empire. it is the seat of the Court, the Government, and the Legislature; of the Supreme Courts of Law ; of science, art, and justice ; and it might almost be described as the centre of the world's commerce. While it is the capital of Great Britain and its vast colonial dependencies, London is also in a measure regarded as the capital of modern industry, to which men of energy and enterprise resort, not only from the counties and distant provinces, but from the various countries of Europe, and indeed from nearly all parts of the habitable globe.
But while London thus attracts the most pushing, enterprising, and industrious men of many provinces and countries, it also attracts men of another sort - those who seek to live upon the industry of others. The best men rise to London, and the worst men sink to it. For though it is a centre of art, and intellect, and industry, London is also a centre of misery, poverty, and vice. It is the general rendezvous of the criminal classes, some of whom come to hide in it, and others to pursue their vocation of plunder in it.
The miserable and desperate classes of London are almost equal in number to the population of some kingdoms: they would fill a great city by themselves. They include a multitude of beggars, tramps, match-sellers, crossing-sweepers, rag-pickers, organ-grinders, prostitutes, and others hanging on to the outskirts of society, ready at any moment to become criminal. In the second week of June last, there were 31,402 indoor paupers, and 88,992 outdoor paupers in the metropolitan districts, maintained at the public expense; and outside this actual pauper class, there is always a vast number of poor men and women, struggling for subsistence, amidst wretchedness, dirt, drunkenness, and crime.
It is not easy to form an estimate of the number of persons living by plunder, who look upon society as their daily prey. According to the Judicial Statistics, the criminal classes at large in England and Wales in 1868 - excluding from the known thieves and depredators all who had been living honestly for a year at least subsequent to their discharge from any conviction - numbered as follows:-
|Under 16||Above 16||Totals|
|Known thieves and depredators||3,743||19,216||22,959|
|Receivers of stolen goods||54||3,041||3,095|
|Vagrants and tramps||6,366||26,572||32,938|
to these we add the daily average of criminals in gaol, or 18,677, we arrive at
a total number of the known criminal population of England and Wales, of
134,323. Of these, 16,053 thieves and depredators, receivers of stolen goods,
suspected persons, vagrants, and tramps, with 5678 prostitutes, belonged to the
metropolis; and adding to them the daily average of 7800 criminals undergoing
sentence in metropolitan prisons, we obtain a total of 29,531, or about
one-fifth of the whole criminal classes of England and Wales, who make London
the head-quarters of their operations.
But this estimate is doubtless very much within the actual number, as only a comparatively small proportion of felonies are detected, for which the offenders are brought to justice. A common pickpocket will steal daily, one day with another, about six pocket-handkerchiefs in order to 'live,' and the chances are that he will commit from three to four hundred thefts of this petty sort before he is caught. Yet such is the vigilance of the police, that in 1868 not fewer than 9799 persons guilty of felonies affecting property were apprehended in the metropolitan district alone, of whom 6145 were tried and convicted.
When such are the numbers of the criminal classes who are in a state of constant war against society,-who live by plunder, regarding honest people going about their daily business but as so many persons with pockets to be picked, and dwelling houses, shops, and warehouses, only as so many places to be robbed, the wonder is, not that the number of felonies against property should be so great, as that London should, after all, be one of the safest places in the world to live in.
The wonder, however, ceases when it is considered that scoundrelism has no principle of cohesion. If these thirty thousand persons of the lawless classes had the power of organisation, society would be at their mercy. But there is no 'honour among thieves,' notwithstanding the popular maxim. They cannot trust one another, and are usually ready to sell and betray each other. They live in a state of constant fear, and a hand placed suddenly on the thief's shoulder from behind, is apt to paralyse the boldest.
For the same reason that the lawless classes arrayed against society are weak, the constabulary forces arrayed in defence of society are strong. The baton may be a very ineffective weapon of offence, but it is backed by the combined power of the Crown, the Government, and the Constituencies. Armed with it alone, the constable will usually be found ready, in obedience to orders, to face any mob, or brave any danger. The mob quails before the simple baton of the police officer, and flies before it, well knowing [-91-] the moral as well as physical force of the N ation whose ~vil], as embodied in law, it represents. And take any man from that mob, place a baton in his hand and a blue coat upon his back, put him forward as the representative of the law, and he too will be found equally ready to face the mob from which he was taken, and exhibit the same steadfastness and courage in defence of constituted order. n
It is in this conscious weakness and disorganisation of the criminal classes on the one band, and this conscious strength and organisation of the defenders of law on the other, that the chief security of civilised society consists. A comparatively small number of honest, steady, active men, - compact and well organised, - acting under the direction of skilled and experienced officers, will always have an immense advantage over the heterogeneous mass of roughs, thieves, and desperate characters which constitute the scoundrelism of great cities. And such a body London unquestionably possesses in its Metropolitan Police Force, of which we propose to give some account in the following article.
A distinguished stranger, who lately visited England, said of the force generally, 'When I speak of the English Police, I take off my hat,' and he suited the action to the word. Nor was the compliment undeserved; for a more carefully-selected, well-conducted, and efficient body of men, than the Metropolitan and City of London Police, probably does not exist in any country.
The value of the present police organisation of the metropolis can only be duly estimated by contrasting it with the state of anarchy which it superseded. Before the establishment of the present force, the government of London was entirely in the hands of the Corporation and vestries. Its administration was entirely local, and therefore inefficient; for, notwithstanding the eulogies so often pronounced from the Stump on 'the glorious principles of local self-government,' those principles, when reduced to practice, will usually be found exhibited in jobbing, waste, maladministration, and local disorder. Such at least was the case with the police of London; and the belief is growing that the same incompetency continues to be exhibited by the same local bodies in their administration of the poor law and other branches of civic government over which they continue to exercise control.
Before the last forty-five years, the police of London was nothing short of a public disgrace. The scoundrels had everywhere the upper hand - in the streets, in the suburbs, and on the river. The roads leading to and from the metropolis were [-92-] infested by thieves and footpads. It was unsafe to walk abroad anywhere after nightfall. The thieves were much better organised than the police. There were day thieves and night thieves, and organised hustlers of passengers. Bullock-hunting,* duck-hunting, and dog-fighting went on in public thoroughfares by day, and after dark the streets were disgraced by broils and disturbances, making night hideous.
[* "Have you ever witnessed bullock-hunting, and that riotous assemblage of persons in the neighbourhood of the church and churchyard which has been detailed in evidence before this Committee?" "Oh yes, many times; the most disgraceful thing in the country. I have offered to turn volunteer to prevent it. On Monday and Friday we have a bullock or poor cow hunted. The butchers round Hackney and Bethnal Green have paid police officers for having their bullocks brought home safe, and as soon as that pay ceased, their attention ceased." -Evidence of .Iames May, Vestry Clerk of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1817.]
Gangs of women prowled in certain neighbourhoods under a sort of organised system, by which they were protected against disturbance in their infamous calling by the guardians of the night, with whom they shared their gains.*
[* 'Third Report from the Committee on the State of the Police of the Metropolis, 1818,' p. 30.]
An organised police force could scarcely be said to exist; yet in most parishes a show of such force was made. It consisted of constables, headboroughs, beadles, and watchmen, elected for the most part annually, at vestry meetings and wardmotes. The petty constables in some districts were appointed by the vestries, and in several cases they were themselves found to be thieves and receivers of stolen property. They were rarely paid any salary, but relied for their remuneration principally on fees and perquisites. Hence many of them lived by extortion, countenancing all sorts of vice, and receiving regular pay from brothel and alehouse keepers.*
[* Ibid., p. 26.]
The night-watch for the most part consisted of
helpless old men, or of labourers, appointed by way of charity to keep them and
their families off the poor-rate. They were paid from 10s. to 15s. a week, and
they usually eked out their wages by taking hush- money, gifts from
street-walkers, and contributions from publicans. These were the old Charlies,
who used to be described as men employed by the parishes to sleep in the open
air. Boxes were provided for them, the overturning of one of which, with the
watchman inside, was one of the favourite feats of the 'Mohawks' and 'Tom and
Among the best watched parishes were those of Marylebone and St. James's, where none but Chelsea pensioners were employed. But the thieves and roughs merely removed from them into other quarters where there was less interruption to their depredations.
In some parishes the night-watchmen were principally Irish, because they were found ready to serve for less wages; and it [-93-] used to be observed that in those parishes, when an Irish thief or rioter was taken, he was very apt to get off. But there were large and populous districts absolutely without protection of any kind. One of such was Deptford, with a population of 20,000, which, in 1828, was without a single policeman or watchman. To check the prevalence of street robbery and burglary, the inhabitants formed themselves into a Watch Committee, taking their turn by twenties to patrol the streets at night; but this lasted only until the thieves had taken their departure into other parishes when the practice was discontinued, and thieving began again as before.
There was nothing approaching unity of action in the maintenance of order. The whole metropolis was divided and subdivided into petty jurisdictions, each independent of every other, and each having sufficiently distinct interests to engender perpetual jealousies and animosities. The indolent and indifferent watchman was not slow to take advantage of this state of things. Thus cases occurred in which the 'Charley,' observing a row going on, or a crime being committed, on the opposite side of a street, would refuse to interfere because it was in another parish! In short, had the increase of crime rather than its repression - the interest of the thieves rather than of the honest public - the provision of facilities for enabling professional depredators to obtain the largest amount of plunder with the least danger - been the express objects of parochial and municipal arrangement, they could not have been more effectually promoted by the system, or rather the utter want of system, which then prevailed with respect to the Police of London and its suburbs.
Attempts were made about the beginning of the present century, under the pressure of increasing crime, to remedy this disgraceful state of things. The publication of Mr. Colquhouns works,* which excited great interest at the time, probably contributed not a little to direct attention to the subject.
[* 'The Police of the Metropolis, containing a detail of the various crimes and misdemeanours by which public and private property and security are at present injured and endangered; and suggesting remedies for their prevention.' By P. Colquhoun, LL.D., Acting Magistrate for the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, &c.
'A Treatise on the Commerce and Police of the River Thames.' By the same. ]
A horse patrol was
established by the Government in 1805, with the object of checking the increase
of highway and foot-pad robberies in the neighbourhood of the metropolis. It was
divided into mounted and dismounted. The former patrolled by night all the
great roads round London to within a distance of about twenty miles; while the
latter was principally stationed in the [-94-] immediate environs of London, within a distance of four or
five miles, patrolling those roads not watched by the mounted men. This force
consisted for the most part of old soldiers, steady and well disciplined, the
mounted being recruited from the dismounted; and dressed as they were in blue
coats and red waistcoats, they were commonly known as the 'robin red breasts.' In
addition to the horse patrol, there was the Bow Street night patrol, established
in the time of Sir John Fielding, which patrolled the principal streets of the
metropolis, more particularly those in which the drunken old Charlies were found
the least efficient.
These several patrols, consisting of properly selected men, acting under the immediate orders of the Chief Magistrate at Bow Street, were found extremely serviceable in checking foot-pad robberies, and in increasing the general security of persons and property within the range of their respective beats. But their numbers were altogether inadequate to the duty that had to be performed. As late as 1828, the mounted patrol consisted of only fifty-four men in four divisions, with two inspectors, and four deputy-inspectors; and the dismounted patrol consisted of eighty-nine men, also in four divisions, with four inspectors and eight sub-inspectors. The Bow Street night-patrol consisted of only eighty-two men, seventeen conductors, and one inspector; but there was no day- patrol whatever, nothing in the shape of a regular day police force until the year 1822, when the Bow Street day-patrol was introduced by Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Peel, for the purpose of watching the principal streets of the metropolis until the night-patrol came on duty.
At its commencement, this day-patrol consisted of only twenty-four men and three inspectors; yet it formed the nucleus of the present splendid day and night police force of the metropolis. It was begun on the lowest scale as to numbers and expense, being regarded by Mr. Peel mainly as an experiment of a new organisation, which might be adopted on a larger scale, or discontinued, according as circumstances might determine.
From the day on which Mr. Peel's day-patrol of twenty-four men was established, its usefulness and efficiency were at once recognised. It was the only body of men in the metropolis that could be brought together to put down a disturbance or disperse a mob without calling in the aid of the military. The constables, head boroughs, and beadles of the separate parishes of the metropolis, were useless for such a purpose. Some of the most crowded thoroughfares were so ill protected that .the inhabitants established patrols of their own in front of their [-95-] shops, even in the day time. In short, Bumbledom had been fully tried, and was found utterly incompetent either to protect property or to maintain order. The anarchy which continued to prevail among the parochial administrations arising from their unconnected, inefficient, and often conflicting action, was at length found so intolerable, that after full trial had been given to the experiment of a day-patrol, it was at length determined to apply the system to the entire metropolis.
The result was the passing of the Act 10 George IV. chap. 44, for the establishment of an efficient police, to patrol and watch the Metropolitan Police District (excepting only 'The City'), which was defined as extending to an average distance of seven miles round Charing Cross - the modern centre of London. This district was afterwards extended by Order in. Council, pursuant to the 2nd and 3rd Victoria, chap. 47, to all parishes any part of which was within twelve miles of Charing Cross, which had the effect of enlarging the area to an average radius of fifteen miles from that centre. And by a subsequent Act, passed in 1860, the care of the Royal Dockyards and certain Military Stations was also made over to the police force of the capital.
The first portion of the new police was embodied in September, 1829, under Major Rowan and Richard Mayne, Esq., who were appointed Joint Commissioners and placed under the control of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Some time elapsed before the force was completely organised, and it was not until May, 1830, that the whole metropolitan. district became occupied. At that date the metropolitan police stood at 17 superintendents, 68 inspectors, 318 sergeants, and 2892 constables, or a total of 3295 men. With the extension of the metropolis, their duties were necessarily increased, and successive additions were from time to time made to their numbers, though neither in proportion to the increased area they had to patrol, nor the increased population they had to guard.
At the present time, the metropolitan district is divided into nineteen divisions, designated by certain letters of the alphabet, as well as by local names. These divisions are subdivided into subdivisions, and these into sections, which are again subdivided in to beats. The policemen have charge of the beats, the sergeants of the sections, the inspectors of the subdivisions, and the superintendents of the whole divisions. Besides the letter divisions, there are also the Thames Police or water division, and the five dockyard divisions at Woolwich, Portsmouth, Devonport, Chatham, and Pembroke respectively, organised after the same plan.
[-96-] The following is a summary of the Force as it stood at the beginning of the present year
|Letter of Division / Local Name of Division||Superintendents||Inspectors||Sergeants||Constables||Total Strength of All Ranks|
C St. James's
Besides the Superintendents of Divisions, four additional
officers were appointed early in 1869, holding a position intermediate bet~veen
them and the Assistant-Commissioners, each of whom has the immediate supervision
of about one-fourth of the metropolitan district, and to them has been given the
title of District Superintendent.
Each division of the police has a principal station, which, by means of the electric telegraph, is kept in direct communication with the central office in Scotland Yard; so that at any moment the reserves of the force may be alarmed and moved on any given point where their services are required. For this purpose Reserve companies, consisting of picked men, in full bodily vigour, are attached to all the divisions, from whence they may be concentrated at any time for special duty, such as the regulation of the traffic on the Derby Day, or the great Boat Race, or on the occasion of a procession, or a tumult, without interfering with the security of the respective districts. The Whitehall [-97-] division is also applicable to general purposes, being employed to attend upon the Sovereign, the Parliament, the theatres, the parks, and other places of public resort.
The whole force is directed by one Chief Commissioner, and two Assistant-Commissioners, under the control of the Home Secretary, who is responsible to Parliament. The Commissioner and his assistants are charged with the execution of the Acts of Parliament under which the force is constituted, including its organisation, the framing of the orders and regulations for the government of its members, their selection and rejection, their distribution and inspection, their discipline and drill, and, in short, all the arrangements in detail which are necessary to render the force as efficient as possible in the discharge of its various duties.
Though the police of the City of London are a distinct force, appointed by and under the control of the Corporation, they are in nearly all respects identical in their organisation with the metropolitan police force. Some ten years after the efficiency of the new system had become recognised, the City authorities wisely determined to reconstitute their police after the metropolitan model, and it now forms an equally effective force - its sphere of action, however, being confined to the City and Liberties. It is directed by a commissioner, and consists of two superintendents, 14 inspectors, 14 station-sergeants, 12 detective sergeants, 56 ordinary sergeants, 338 first-class constables, 165 second-class, and 95 third-class; or a total force of 696 men.
Every possible care is taken to select the best men to fill the ranks of the police. If imperfect men obtain admission, it is probably because perfect men are not to be bad at the wage. Nineteen shillings a week, with a chance of rising by good conduct to 21s., 23s., and 25s. weekly,* is not a very tempting salary; yet there is no want of candidates to fill vacancies in the force. In 1869 the number of applicants for admission to the metropolitan police was 4550; of whom 2470 were not examined, as not coming within the stipulated conditions of age, stature, health, education, &c.; 1750 were rejected as unqualified on account of insufficiency of testimonials; 720 did not proceed with their applications, and 2080 were selected for examination, of whom 940 were rejected, and 1140 passed; or only about 25 per cent. of the original number of applicants.
[* The Commissioner, in his last Report, recommends that the rate of pay be increased from 19s. to 20s. on entry, rising to 22s., 24s., and 26s.; and that first- class sergeants be increased, from 28s. to 31s., and second-class from 26s. to 29s. per week.]
Of the men [-98-] who passed their final examinations, 939 were eventually sworn in as police constables.
Before the candidate is admitted to examination, the following preliminary conditions are requisite :-He must be under thirty years of age, and, if married, not have more than two children dependent upon him for support; he must stand at least 5 feet 7 inches in height,* be free from bodily complaint, and of strong constitution; he must be intelligent, able to read and write, and, above all, he must be able to give proofs of an unimpeachable character for honesty, industry, sobriety, and good temper.
[* The standard has been 5 feet 7 inches since the institution of the force until recently, when it has been raised to 5 feet 8 inches; but it is doubtful whether this can be maintained.]
And if, after being
examined, he shows the requisite amount of intelligent comprehension of the
rules and regulations of the service, and gives evidence of his ability to act
with discretion and judgment in a variety of problematical cases that are laid
before him, this first-class man-for such he must really be to fulfil these
various conditions-is taken on at 19s. a week, having first undergone
instruction in the rudiments of company drill for a fortnight. There is one
advantage he has on entering the service: he knows that promotion is entirely by
merit, and that he is commanded by gentlemen who will be quick to recognise his
good qualities; so that he may hope by activity, sobriety, and intelligence in
the performance of his duties, to rise to superior stations in the force.
Although, as might naturally be expected, by far the largest proportion of the metropolitan police consists of Englishmen, mostly belonging to the Home counties, it also contains 670 Irishmen, of whom 3 are superintendents, 22 inspectors, and 98 sergeants; and 152 Scotchmen, of whom 3 are superintendents, 13 inspectors, and 31 sergeants. The proportion of the men who have served in the army is about 9 per cent.; 73 men having served in the artillery, 152 in the cavalry, 426 in the line, and 123 in the militia. Of the linesmen, 3 are superintendents, .5 inspectors, and 46 sergeants. There are also in the force eleven foreigners, some of whom are connected with the detective force.
The Detective department - the head-quarters of which are in Great Scotland Yard - was instituted in August, 1842, when it consisted of only two inspectors and six sergeants, selected because of their quickness of intelligence and special experience in the detection of crime. Successive additions were made to the force until, in the month of April, 1869, it numbered one superintendent, three chief inspectors, three ordinary inspectors, six first-[-99-]class sergeants, and thirteen second-class sergeants. Shortly after, it was decided to establish detective officers in the local divisions; and in the month of July last this measure was carried into effect, 20 sergeants and 160 first-class constables being apportioned among the various divisions, according to their respective requirements.
The duties of the detective force are of a very varied character, which it would be difficult to describe in detail. It may, however, be mentioned that they are principally occupied in tracking the perpetrators of murder, forgery, and other crimes of a serious nature; but they are never allowed to enter upon any such inquiry without the express sanction and authority of the Comimissioner or Assistant-Commissioner. Occasionally, in very obscure cases of crime, detective officers are sent into the country, by order of the Secretary of State, to assist the local police in cases of murder, burglary, and incendiary fires. The Road murder afforded a remarkable illustration of the sagacity of Whicher, the detective officer employed in the case, for he arrived at conclusions with respect to the perpetrator different from those formed by everybody else; and though he received much abuse on account of the opinions which be early formed and expressed, he never varied from them, and they eventually proved to be accurate.
The detective force was also found extremely useful during the Fenian disturbances, when their services were called for at all hours, and in all parts of England; nor were they ever found wanting in courage, coolness, and readiness for action, when required. The acuteness displayed by the principal officers in holding and keeping clear the threads of many intricate plots and the histories of many suspected individuals has been very striking; and, were it considered expedient at the present time, instances might be given of certain notorious cases, showing the process of working out conclusive evidence from clues that were originally extremely indistinct.
The influx into London of foreign criminals who have fled from their own country on account of breaches of the law has also considerably increased the work of the detective force. Some of these foreign criminals are very dangerous men - of desperate and subtle character - who need constant surveillance. A few of them are given up on warrants to the authorities of the countries from which they have fled; but as extradition treaties exist only with France, Denmark, and the United States, and these only for crimes of a very grave character, a large number of them are left at liberty, who resort to dishonest means for a living. This influx of foreign criminals renders it necessary that some mem-[-100-]bers of the detective corps should be able to speak foreign languages, and there are accordingly officers of the force who are familiar with French, German, Russian, Italian, and Greek.
These, however, are the exceptional men of the police, who are employed in the performance of special work, requiring the exercise of great experience, ability, and skill. The rank and file have more humble and routine, but not less important, duties to perform. Their first and principal function is that of an efficient patrol. They have to keep watch and ward over the half million dwellings, shops, and warehouses, which. occupy the area of the metropolis, extending over some seven hundred square miles. Every street, road, lane, court, and alley, forms part of a divisional beat, and must be visited more or less frequently every day and night.
The total length of the streets and roads regularly patrolled by the metropolitan police is not less than 6708 miles, or equal to the distance, in a direct line from London across the Atlantic and the continent of North America, to San Francisco! This length is divided into 921 day-beats and 3126 night-beats - the average length of the day-beats all over the metropolitan district being about seven and a half miles, and of the night-beats a little over two miles - though they are, of course, much shorter where the population is the most dense.
The beats are all numbered and entered in a register, which can be referred to at any time. This register shows the streets, roads, squares, &c., in each beat, and the time required to pass over it at the rate of two and-a-half miles an hour. A sergeant has the charge of each section, and of the men doing duty in it; he is responsible for the proper conduct of the men, and, to satisfy himself that they are doing their duty properly, he is constantly patrolling the section. As a check upon the sergeant and the men working under him, the inspector visits the subdivison at different points during the day and night, the superintendent keeping a vigilant eye upon the working of the entire division; while, as a check upon the whole, the commissioners and district superintendents either make inspection of the divisions in person, or send out special officers from Whitehall to report as to the manner in which the whole duty is done.
It will be observed, from the much larger number of night-beats than of those in the day, that the patrol-work of the police is principally done at night : night being the time of danger, and consequently of watching. in round numbers, two-thirds of the whole force are employed by night, and one-third by day; the men taking their turns on both kinds of duty. The night constables go on duty at 10 P.M. and remain until 6 A.M., when the [-101-] day duty begins. The whole service is arranged by reliefs, each man taking his turn of eight months' night duty and four months' day duty in the year. It is also arranged that the force patrolling the principal thoroughfares shall be greater at certain hours than at others, the largest number being on duty between seven and ten in the evening; long experience having shown that it is between these hours that the greatest number of thefts and depredations are attempted, as well as because the streets are then the most disorderly by reason of the number of drunken people abroad.
And now observe what are the routine duties expected to be performed by the police-constable on patrol. These are carefully laid down for him in his book of 'General Regulations, Instructions, and Orders,' the details of which he is required to master, to remember, and to carry out. He is informed, at the outset, that the principal object of the institution of the force is the prevention of crime:-
'To this end (says the Order-book) every effort of the police is to be directed. The security of person and property, the preservation of the public tranquillity, and all the other objects of a police establishment will thus be better effected than by the detection and punishment of the offender after be has succeeded in committing the crime. This should constantly be kept in mind by every member of the police force, as the guide for his own conduct. The police should endeavour to distinguish themselves by such vigilance and activity, as may render it extremely difficult for any one to commit a crime within that portion of the town under their charge.'
In carrying out these general instructions, the men on patrol are directed to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the geography of their respective sections, and with the names of the several streets, thoroughfares, courts, and houses. The police-constable is even 'expected to possess such a knowledge of the inhabitants of each house as to enable him to recognise their persons, and thus prevent mistakes and be enabled to render assistance to the inhabitants when called upon to do so.' He has to see to the proper fastening of the doors and windows of the houses along his beat, with a view to the better security of the inmates. He is to observe whether coal-holes, trap-doors, or other places, on or near the footway, are securely covered over; and report when they are not so, in order that this cause of danger to the public may be removed. He is to observe the conduct of any suspicious person hanging about a house, and to take notice of any one carrying away parcels or bundles from it at unseasonable hours under suspicious circumstances. He is to pay particular attention to public-houses and beer-shops, which, [-101-] however, he is not to enter except in the immediate execution of his duty. He is to report all nuisances in the streets, courts, or thoroughfares, that steps may be taken for their removal. He is also, amongst his other various duties by day and night, to look after beggars, tramps, and street nuisances; to watch letter-pillars and street lamps (reporting whether they are properly lighted or not); to check the nuisance of smoky chimneys and street noises; to prevent the solicitation of prostitutes; to seize stray dogs; to take charge of lost children; to remove destitute persons from the streets; to carry accident cases to the hospital; to report dangerous houses or structures; to watch the outbreak of fires, and assist in their extinction before the arrival of the Fire Brigade*; to take charge of exposed property at fires; to seize obscene prints and publications, and charge the persons offering them for sale before the magistrates; to prevent indecencies and offences against public morality generally; to charge disorderly persons obstructing thoroughfares or causing breaches of the peace; on all of which subjects the police have special and distinct instructions.
[* Since the introduction of the improved organisation of the Fire Brigade, the number of fires extinguished by the police before the arrival of the engines has been very much reduced. Thus, of 561 fires which occurred in 1859, 41 were extinguished by the police alone, whilst of 690 fires in 1868, only 7 were so extinguished, the fire-engines being so much more readily available since the general introduction of the electric telegraph.]
The Commissioner takes care to impress upon the minds of his men the
necessity of performing these various, difficult, and often delicate duties with
'perfect command of temper.' They are cautioned 'not to use irritating language
even to those offending against the law.' They are not to interfere
unnecessarily, but, when it is their duty to act, they are to do so with
decision and boldness. 'The police,' says the order, 'are not to use language
towards persons in their custody calculated to provoke them; such conduct often
creates a resistance in the prisoner, and a hostile feeling among the persons
present towards the police.' And again: 'The more respectful and civil the police
are upon all occasions, the more they will be respected and supported by the
public in the proper execution of their duty.'
Although the primary object of the metropolitan police was the establishment of an efficient day and night patrol, the organisation of so well-disciplined a body of active, steady, and intelligent men, spread over the whole metropolis, was found so convenient as to induce the authorities to call upon them from time to time to undertake new duties, with a view to the improved convenience, comfort, and security of the inhabitants; and it [-103-] is not saying too much to aver that they have, on the whole, performed them with discretion, judgment, and efficiency.
Among the more important of such new duties entrusted to the police is the regulation of the traffic of the metropolis. The increase in the number of carriages, cabs, omnibuses, vans, and vehicles of all kinds, has been so great of late years that, without the most careful regulation, the principal thoroughfares would, for the greater part of each day, be the scene of disorder, danger, and inextricable confusion. As it is, the principal thoroughfares are crowded with traffic from morning till night, and being for the most part insufficient in width, they can only be kept clear by dint of constant attention on the part of the police.
As might be expected, the greatest glut of traffic is in the thoroughfares leading to and from the city-not fewer than three quarters of a million of persons entering it daily, mostly for purposes of business. The pressure is greatest towards the centre, and where the thoroughfares are the narrowest-at the Mansion House, in the Poultry, at Temple Bar, in Holborn, at Aldgate, and especially on London Bridge. About 60,000 persons cross the bridge daily on foot, and over 25,000 vehicles; and it is only by the careful separation of the fast from the slow traffic by the constables stationed at the ends of the bridge, by which it is divided into four distinct streams passing in opposite directions, that the thoroughfare is kept clear; though, notwithstanding all the care that can be taken, blocks are still of frequent and unavoidable occurrence.
The most crowded thoroughfares of the West End are, the corner of Hyde Park during the season, Bond Street in the afternoon, the bottom of Park Lane, the Strand on the evening when lines of carriages to and from some ten different theatres require regulation, and especially the crossing to the Houses of Parliament of the stream of traffic over Westminster Bridge. As London Bridge is the greatest thoroughfare of the East of London, so is Westminster Bridge of the West. About 45,000 foot-passengers and 13,000 vehicles cross it daily in the busiest seasons of the year. Upwards of a thousand vehicles cross hourly between ten and twelve in the forenoon, and between two and four in the afternoon; and it is only by the careful and excellent regulations of the police that accidents are not of constant occurrence.
Since the abolition of the office of Registrar of Hackney Carriages, the regulation of the public conveyances of the metropolis has also been entrusted to the Chief Commissioner in Scotland Yard, under whose direction six Inspectors of Public Carriages perform the duties pertaining to the office, as pre-[-104-]scribed by the various Acts. They inspect all carriages plying for hire, all omnibuses and cabs (of which there are over 7000), and ascertain that they are in a fit condition for public use. The Commissioner licenses the drivers and conductors, on proof of good character being produced, as well as the watermen at carriage standings; and he also fixes the standings for hackney- carriages. All property left. in public carriages must immediately be taken by the drivers and conductors to the office in Scotland Yard, where it may be reclaimed by the public. In 1868, the number of persons informed against because of violations of the law-such as furious driving, cruelty to horses, demanding more than the legal fare, want of proper license or ticket, causing improper obstruction of thoroughfare, and such like offences-was 4785, and in 4166 of the cases convictions were obtained.
Another duty of the police is the inspection of common lodging-houses under the Act of 1851. All cases requiring attention are reported to the Commissioner for instructions. In 1868, proceedings were taken in 59 cases, in 49 of which convictions were obtained.
The police have also of late years been charged with carrying out the Act for abating the smoke nuisance, in which their labours have been attended with marked success. Since the passing of the Act in 1853, 15,335 cases of nuisance have been reported by the police, in 11,405 of which the nuisance was abated when the proprietor was cautioned by order of the Commissioner or when alterations had been made in the furnaces after examination by the inspecting engineer. It was found necessary to prosecute in 1827 cases, in 1635 of which convictions were obtained, and fines levied varying from 1s. and costs to 40l. But there were 505 cases still pending at the end of 1869. The nuisance of smoke has thus been very greatly abated not only on the land, but on the river.
Another howling nuisance, as well as a great cause of waste amongst the poorer classes, which the police have of late years been called upon to abate, has been the nuisance of dogs - fighting-dogs, rat-dogs, curs, and mongrels. In the course of fifteen months, ending the 28th of February last, they succeeded in seizing no fewer than 20,871 of these animals, 12,257 of which were destroyed. Of the remainder, 4644 were restored to their owners; 3649 were sold to the Dogs' Home, Holloway, at twopence per head; 270 were sold by auction; and 51 escaped.
Another duty of the police is to take up lost and missing persons, and restore them to their friends. Of 5195 persons [-105-] reported as lost or missing in the metropolitan district in 1868, 2805 were so restored. They were also instrumental in the course of last year in restoring lost property to the owners, of the value of 21,924l., independent of stolen property, or property left in metropolitan stage and hackneycarriages, the amount of which was considerably greater. Last year also, the police carried to the hospitals 1347 cases of street and other accidents, besides 732 persons suffering from other causes. And in 1868 they were instrumental in preventing not fewer than 324 suicides.
Next to the thieves, the drunkards occasion the greatest trouble to the police. There are the helplessly drunk, who are carried to the police station and kept there until sober; and there are the riotously drunk, who are for the time mad, dangerous, and often uncontrollable. These also have to be taken into custody until their delirium has abated. In 1868, there were taken up by the metropolitan police 2430 disorderly characters (more or less under the influence of drink); 1665 disorderly prostitutes (the same); 10,463 drunk and disorderly persons, of whom 5079 were women; and 9169 helplessly drunk, of whom 4336 were women. Of those taken up for drunkenness, whose occupations were known, the most numerous class were labourers, next female servants, then clerks, then sailors; but of the greater number the occupations are not specified. Minute directions are given in the police-book of orders and regulations, and printed instructions are posted in the passages leading to the cells, as to how helplessly drunk persons are to be treated. When carried to the station, 'the handkerchief or stock about their neck is to be undone, and when put into the cell a pillow is to be placed under their head to raise it.' But as mistakes have happened in certain cases of the sort, it is ordered that whenever the person brought in is insensible, whether from drunkenness or not, medical aid is to be immediately called in. Prisoners insensible from illness, drunkenness, or any other cause, are searched in order to take charge of their property and returning it to them when recovered from their insensibility; whilst riotously drunk and dangerous persons are searched for arms or weapons by which they might inflict injury on themselves or others.
The careful supervision of the places where men and women drink and get drunk, is also one of the most difficult and delicate duties of the police. There is the greater reason for this supervision as the lowest of those houses are the resort of prostitutes and other bad characters, and the harbours and schools of the criminal classes, there being not fewer than 360 in [-106-] the metropolis (including the City) in 1868, which were the known haunts of thieves and prostitutes. In the same year, informations were laid against 1322 public-houses, beer-shops, and refreshment-shops, for various infringements of the law; and in 1034 of the cases convictions were obtained.
Next there are the multitudinous idle and lazy persons, whom it is the constant business of the police to watch and keep in check. 'From the moment,' says Frégier, in his work on the Dangerous Classes, 'that the poor man, given over to his bad passions, ceases to work, he puts himself in the position of an enemy to society, because he disregards the supreme law, which is labour.' These dangerous classes include a great variety of idlers, rogues, and reprobates. There are the tramps and beggars,-the match-sellers, rag and bottle-buyers, ballad-singers, fortune-tellers, dog-fanciers, umbrella-menders, ring-droppers, prigs, area-sneaks, smashers, card-sharpers, clothes-beggars who go about half-naked leaving their ordinary clothes in the lodging- houses, women in white aprons with a crying baby in each arm, burnt-out shopkeepers or farmers carrying about and exhibiting forged begging letters, sham old soldiers 'wounded in the Crimea,' sham shipwrecked sailors who abound after a storm, sham epileptics who live in comfort upon convulsive fits with the aid of a little soap, and a host of idlers, vagabonds, and dissolute persons, from whom the regular thieves and criminals are from time to time recruited.
The foundation of all these is the common beggar. The beggar is an idler, ready as the opportunity offers to become a thief; and he is often a beggar because he is a thief. The beggar is the enemy of society, and especially of the deserving poor. The French have a true proverb: 'Les mendiants volent les pauvres;' for beggars divert the stream of charity from the deserving to the reprobate. There are many charitable persons who satisfy their consciences by giving to an importunate beggar, when, if the truth were known, they were only contributing to maintain in comfort an incorrigible thief. Hence, there was good reason in the old law which punished the indiscriminate almsgiver as being not only the patron of idleness but of crime.
It is foreign to our present purpose to enquire into the causes of crime. Many poor children are doubtless bred to thieving as others are to honest trade. They are sent out into the streets by dissolute and drunken parents to beg, as other children are sent out to work. If they do not bring home money they are beaten, and to make up the amount they do not hesitate to steal. These are the Arabs of the streets, the utterly neglected children - neglected by their parents, by society, and the State - over whom [-107-] the sects quarrel, leaving them to the elementary instruction of the gutters, the Adelphi arches, or the penny gaffs - creatures of mere instinct, with the means of animal gratification constantly in sight, and often within reach, deterred from seizing them by fraud or force, by no higher consideration than that of fear of the policeman.
Then there are the ill-disciplined, the idle, the vicious, who hate labour, but love pleasure by whatever means obtained. Labour is toilsome, and its gains are slow. There is another and a shorter road to pleasure - the Devil's. These people determine to live by the labour of others and from the moment they arrive at that decision they become the enemies of society. It is not often that distress drives men to crime; nor are necessarily the vicious. 'In nine cases out of ten,' says the Ordinary of Newgate, it is choice, and not necessity, that leads men to crime.' The main incentive to it is love of sensual gratification, which in the ill-regulated, untrained animal, overpowers all other considerations; and, once entered on this career, the criminal pursues the dismal round of vice, falling from one stage to another, until at last the wretched end is reached.
The classes who live by plunder are of many kinds. There are prigs or petty thieves, prowlers about areas or back doors, pick-pockets, stealers of goods from counters, robbers of dwelling-houses, and skilled cracksmen, or burglars. These several classes pursue their special branches of thieving as tradesmen do their respective callings. Thus, in the single branch of crime connected with the issue of false money, there are four distinct classes of persons concerned: 1st, the makers of the bad coin; 2nd, the dealers; 3rd, the carriers of the money to those who buy it; 4th, the utterers or 'sneyders' to which even a filth might be added, the stealers of pewter pots to be converted into bad ha1f-crowns and shillings.
The old and experienced thieves are the trainers and teachers of the young ones, whose help they need in carrying on their operations and whose education they undertake. These old thieves have graduated in many gaols and penitentiaries, and as much time has been devoted to their training as is required to master any of the learned professions, possessing a treasury of criminal knowledge, they even take a pride in imparting it to the rising generation of thieves. No 'conscience clause' stands in their way They know nothing of a 'religious difficulty.' In this country the school of criminal knowledge is perfectly free. While good men are higgling about the manner in which destitute children should be taught, the missionaries of crime [-108-] are busily at work, actively educating the rising generation of thieves. Hundreds of them are turned out of gaol yearly with their tickets of leave, to pursue their respective callings and to serve as so many centres of criminal training and example. The juvenile thieves have even a literature of their own*, which flourishes extensively under our famous liberty of the press, emulating in the wideness of its circulation the excellent publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Christian Knowledge.
[*' Juvenile Thieves' Literature.'-There are at least a dozen infamous publications which circulate largely at a very low price, and which have been described by the Ordinary of Newgate as among the principal incentives to juvenile crime. The heroes of the tales which form the staple of these periodicals are thieves and criminals. The honest man is a muff; the burglar a hero; and the prostitute a heroine. There is no disguise in the language employed in them. ]
London, however, is by no means the exclusive training ground
of the criminals that frequent it. As enterprising men come up to London from
the country to push their fortunes, so do enterprising thieves. Lancashire
business men are distinguished for their energy, and so are Lancashire
criminals. Indeed Lancashire is, even more than London, the great nursery of
crime. More than half the convicted criminals of England and Wales in 1868
belonged to three counties; Lancashire supplying 23.6 per cent., Middlesex 20.5
per cent., and Yorkshire 10.8 per cent, of the whole number.
The high average of criminality in the northern towns has been attributed to the large Irish element there. 'The Manchester and Liverpool men,' said a thief, 'are reckoned the most expert; they are thought to be of Irish parents, and to have most cunning. in fact three-fourths of those now travelling throughout the kingdom have Irish blood in them, either from father, mother, or grandmother.' The garotters - of whom ordinary thieves speak with contempt - are almost entirely of this origin. In London they are commonly known as 'Irish cockneys.' Of five garotters lately whipped in Newgate, four were Irish; the ruffians being recognisable by their names, their brogue, and, strange to say, by their religion! According to the last Census Returns, the Irish-born population of Liverpool formed 18 per cent, of the whole, whereas the criminals of Irish birth confined in the Liverpool borough gaol in 1868 constituted 35 per cent. Again, in London, where the Irish constitute only 38 per cent, of the population, the criminals of Irish birth (independent of those of Irish extraction) confined in the prisons of Middlesex in 1868 amounted to 13 per cent, of the whole; or four times more than their ratio to the population of the metr9polis. Of the total population of the United Kingdom in 1861. three per cent, were [-109-] born in Ireland; whereas Irish criminals constituted 14 per cent, of the total number committed in 1868.
That criminals pursue their trade as a regular calling is clear from the number of recommittals every year. The thief who has been once in gaol is almost certain to reappear there. He is not deterred by the so-called 'punishment' of the model prison, in which he enjoys food, warmth, and clothing, provided for him at the public expense. So he is no sooner set free than he at once recommences the practice of his vocation. The police had captured him before and handed him over to justice; but after a short term of absence justice restores him to society again. Another round of thefts or burglaries follows; the police catch him again; and again he is handed over to justice, to travel in the same circle of imprisonment, restoration to society, and renewal of burglary and crime.
The commonest class of thieves are the street thieves, who are of many kinds. Whatever draws a crowd into the streets - a fire, a Lord Mayor's Show, the march of a militia regiment, or a Reform procession - brings them together in hundreds. They also attend the May meetings, the Divorce Court, and other places attended by country yokels. A popular preacher draws them largely; and when the Rev. Mr. Liddon delivered the first of his recent series of sermons at St. James's, Piccadilly, forty purses, and many watches, were abstracted from the owners' pockets. A man who gets into a push amongst the swell mob may be robbed with certainty, unless protected by a cloak, which foils thieves. Two go before the appointed victim and. the others close up behind. A push occurs; the person to be robbed is hemmed in, and jostled and hustled about. If be keeps his hands in his pockets, or at his side to guard his property, his hat gets a tip from behind. To right his hat be raises his hands, and in the confusion. With one of the thieves pressing his arm against his chest - his pockets are at once emptied all round. The signal is then given that the robbery has been effected; the push subsides, and the thieves move away in different directions, to re-assemble round another victim and repeat the process.
A large number of thieves of a different sort prowl about spying goods exposed for sale, and watching for an opportunity of carrying them off. The number of felonies of this sort committed in the metropolitan district in 1868 was 2650; and of the 2084 persons apprehended 1196 were convicted. There are other thieves who break into City warehouses and shops, sometimes contriving to carry off large quantities of goods, which they sell to Jews and pawnbrokers. These [-110-] receivers of stolen goods are among the greatest encouragers of crime. They are not only as bad as the thief, but worse. They educate, cherish, and maintain the criminal. The young thief begins by stealing small things from stalls, from shops, from warehouses; or he first picks pockets in a small way, proceeding from handkerchiefs to watches and purses; always finding a ready customer for his articles in the receiver of stolen goods. And when a skilled thief gets out of gaol, without means, the receiver will readily advance h im 50l. at a time, until he sees his way to an extensive shoplifting, from which he not only gets his advance returned but a great deal more in the value of the stolen goods. The number of detected receivers of stolen goods committed for trial in the metropolitan district for the five years ending December, 1868, was 642; being an increase of 38 on the preceding period.
The vigilance of the police has probably to a certain extent increased the skill of the thieves, and driven them to new methods of plunder in which detection is more difficult. And they have always been found ready to adapt themselves to new habits customs, and circumstances. Thus there is a class of ingenious thieves, driven from the streets, who operate upon the pockets of the public through the post-office and the press. Lucrative situations are advertised, and applications are invited from persons prepared to deposit a sum as security; or the remittance of so much in postage stamps is requested in consideration of certain valuable information to be communicated to the applicants.
Begging letters are of a thousand kinds; sometimes purporting to come from distressed authors, sometimes from distressed beauty and virtue, oftenest of all from distressed clergymen. The facilities provided by the post-office are adroitly turned to account by these swindlers. When they remove from one lodging to another, they give directions at the central office, by which the letters of their dupes continue to reach them at their new address. Thus the police are eluded, and the system of plunder is continued. But even when detected, it is very difficult (at least in England, where there is no public prosecutor) to bring the swindlers to justice; as the persons defrauded are mostly of small means, and not likely to be at the trouble or the expense of a journey to London to prosecute the guilty parties.
The classes who live by plunder have been equally prompt to take advantage of all new methods of travelling. Thus railways have attracted the attention of several distinct classes of thieves. Women respectably dressed, sometimes as widows, haunt the waiting rooms of the railway termini, where they lie in wait for [-111-] passengers' portmanteaus. No one could suspect any guile on the part of these distressed-looking widows, but on the occurrence of a suitable opportunity, when the owner's attention is called away, or he leaves the room to enquire after a starting train, the apparently bereaved person suddenly lays hands upon his portmaflteau and quietly carries it away.
There are other railway thieves who travel first class with season tickets. These are, for the most part, card-sharpers but they are also ready to take a purse, or to carry away any promising-looking portmanteau or travelling case - ' by mistake.' A gang of accomplished card-sharpers of this description regularly works' the southern railways. Their method is as follows: One of them walks along the train about to start, and having selected a compartment containing a promising- looking victim - perhaps some young fellow setting out with a full purse on a continental tour - he enters and takes his seat, ostentatiously showing his season ticket. Immediately after, another well-dressed person enters, apparently a stranger to the first, hut really a confederate. The train starts, and one of them, to beguile the tediousness of the journey, draws out a pack of cards. The confederate is invited to play; at first he refuses; then he reluctantly takes a hand, and money passes between the two. The pigeon in the far corner intended to be plucked, becomes gradually interested in the game, sees one of them playing badly and losing money. He ventures to make a suggestion, is invited to join, and by the time he reaches Dover his purse is very much lighter than when he left Charing Cross. Sometimes it is empty, and then be discovers, when too late, that he has been robbed; but he is too much ashamed of himself to think of making any attempt to bring the sharpers to justice. Besides, as a magistrate observed to one such victims who did bring his case before him, You yourself stood to win, and therefore you have no case.
There are at present known to be about sixty well-dressed, well-educated thieves employed in this pursuit on the principal English railways; and in the autumn season, being good linguists, they frequently try a venture on continental lines, sometimes gathering a very rich booty from foolish travellers, foreign as well as English.
The first-class thief is equally ready to adapt himself to circumstances. He is no longer a highwayman, mounted on his 'Black Bess,' with a brace of pistols in his belt; but a skilled mechanic - an expert, a cracksman - provided with the best tools and appliances of his 'profession.' There is no longer the mail to rob, but there is the express-train running at sixty miles an [-112-] hour, a speed which one might naturally suppose would outstrip the most agile thief. Yet he contrives to mount the train, and rob it while running, with his accustomed skill. Thus what is known as the Great Gold Robbery was accomplished, one of the most care fully-studied and cleverly-executed robberies of recent times.
Burglars are a distinct order of thieves, the greater number of them being liberated convicts and ticket-of-leave men. These, too, are of many classes. Thus, there are the breakers into shops and city warehouses, the receivers of stolen goods providing them with a ready vend for the plunder. There are the breakers into dwelling-houses, who conduct their depredations on a regular system. Thus, on the person of a repeatedly convicted burglar, recently captured and tried at the Old Bailey, there was found a list of dwelling-houses 'put up' for being robbed, on which those which had been 'done' were regularly ticked off! Then there are the breakers into banks, and jewellers' and goldsmiths' shops. These last are the senior wranglers in crime; they are men who will only 'go in for a big thing;' and they are spoken of by the profession as 'tip-toppers' and 'first-class cracksmen.'
Two other classes have come up of late - 'window-fishers' and 'portico thieves.' The recent attempt on Mr. Attenborough's shop in Fleet Street, was made by window-fishers, and it had very nearly succeeded. This ingenious method of robbing shops has long been known. As long ago as 1833, it formed the subject of the following order issued by the metropolitan police, which clearly describes the means by which it is accomplished:-
'The superintendents are to send an inspector to all the jewellers, silversmiths, and others in their respective divisions, who keep chains, &c., in their windows, and explain to them the method thieves have adopted of robbing shops of this description, viz, by boring with a large gimlet or centre-bit under the bottom of the window, and drawing chains, rings, &c., through the aperture by means of a hooked wire, the thieves noticing by day time the place in which such property is laid in the window.'
Two men and one woman, who had been seen hanging about Mr. Attenborough's door, were taken into custody as the persons who had cut through the iron shutter and smashed the plate-glass inside; but as the robbery had not been effected, they were only imprisoned for three months with hard labour, under the habitual Criminals Act. For it is worthy of note that the persons taken up were all old thieves. One had been twice before convicted, another four times, and the third five times; [-113-] and all three are, doubtless, by this time at liberty pursuing their vocation, unless again caught and imprisoned.
There is another class of thieves who enter houses from porticos, thus described by a detective in his report to the Commissioner :-
'Some time ago portico larcenies in the suburbs were very numerous, and of a most audacious character, being generally committed in the afternoons or evenings, when the families were all in or about their houses, the thieves always managing to enter and leave without being seen. This naturally made it a most difficult task to trace them. In nearly all cases the thieves committing this class of larceny are well dressed, keeping their own horses and traps, mostly at livery stables. Some of the carts are made with a box under the seat, the top of which contains cigars, &c., as if travellers, while under this is a false bottom containing housebreaking implements. In this manner they drive about the suburbs without suspicion, sometimes with a very dressy lady." * [*Appendix to the Commissioner's Report, 1870.]
An extensive gang of this sort was cleverly broken up by the Metropolitan Police in the course of last year, which was in no small degree due to the skill and integrity of Detectives Ham and Ranger. In consequence of certain information received by them as to portico and other robberies, these officers considered it necessary to keep close watch on two receivers of stolen goods, ,named Simpson and Critchley. At length sufficient reasons were found for taking Simpson into custody, together with a notorious thief, named Green; and, on Simpson's house being searched, the proceeds of several portico robberies were found There, and the two criminals were committed on seven separate cases. While they were in custody waiting examination before the magistrates, Ham received a letter from an anonymous correspondent, requesting an interview, which would 'prove to his advantage.' He submitted the letter to his Superintendent, and was authorized by him to proceed to the appointed rendezvous. There he met a person named Richards, who, after some preliminary conversation, offered Ham and Ranger a bribe of twenty sovereigns on condition of their getting Simpson and Green 'turned up' - that is, discharged. Ham pretended to entertain the proposal, and at a further interview he again met Richards in the presence of Critchley, who paid over the bribe of twenty sovereigns. Proceedings were at once instituted against Richards and Critchley, and they were both tried at the Central Criminal Court in August last, and sentenced to two years' hard labour. Critchley had been a known receiver of stolen goods for many [-114-] years, in the course of which he had accumulated some 12,000l. by the pursuit of his nefarious calling. He was connected with 'first-class thieves' in all parts of the world, advancing money to them to go to foreign countries and commit robberies. His 'house' contained correspondence relating to transactions of this sort in France, Spain, Germany, and America; and stolen property received from these countries were found upon him.
While Critchley and Richards were sentenced to their two years' hard labour, the criminals Simpson and Green, whom they had endeavoured to buy off, were sentenced to twelve years' penal servitude at the same sessions. Simpson, who went by several aliases, had been for nearly thirty years a notorious 'fence.' He was a native of Clayton Heights, Yorkshire, and was concerned in some of the most notorious robberies in that county of late years as receiver, but he was always fortunate enough to escape conviction until hunted down by Detectives Ham and Ranger. But the apprehension and conviction of Critchley and Simpson did not stop here. In the course of the inquiries instituted respecting them, a whole school of portico thieves; of whom they had been the receivers, was discovered, and seven climbers were taken into custody, of whom five are now in prison for long terms.
There is still, however, another school of these portico thieves, as yet undiscovered, who have of late been remarkably daring and successful; and their hauls of jewels and plate at Mr. Motley's, Lord Napier's, and Lady Margaret Beaumont's, have been great almost beyond precedent in the history of robbery. It has been suggested that these thefts have been committed by a quondam acrobat. But this is quite a mistake, as nothing can be easier than for an ordinarily agile thief, with the aid of a confederate's. back, or the help of a small hand-ladder, to mount a portico, and from thence enter an unfastened window. There is, however, one remarkable circumstance connected with these thefts,-that the thieves should be able at once to lay their hands upon the most valuable articles in the house, and carry them off before any alarm was raised. But the truth is, that none of these skilled burglaries are attempted except by old and practised thieves, and without much preliminary study and consideration. They watch the premises intended to be robbed, ascertain whether any guard is kept against which provision must be made, acquaint themselves with the habits of the family, and obtain all possible information as to the internal arrangements and communications of the house. Sometimes they obtain their information from servants of the family, sometimes from painters and paperhangers who become familiar, in the course of the annual white-[-115-]washing and painting, with the internal arrangements of London houses.
At the same time, there are burglars who will act quite independently of such assistance, and rely upon the knowledge they themselves obtain of the premises by careful and continuous external observation of them. The skilled cracksman is accomplished in the handling of tools, jemmies, wedges, spring-saws, braces, and centre-bits. Give him time and he will make his entry anywhere-through iron or through wood. In short, no dwelling can resist the skilled burglar determined to get in. The only obstacles he fears are chains across doors, bells inside shutters, and, more than all, a little active dog inside the house.
Although the number of burglaries yearly committed in the metropolis is small compared with its enormous size, and the number of houses - considerably over half-a-million - which it is the duty of the police to watch, yet these crimes probably occasion more terror than all the other offences against persons and property combined. Every burglary sends a thrill of alarm through the neighbourhood in which it is committed, and women and children are thrown into an agony of fear lest the house in which they live, should come next in turn to be 'done' and ticked off the burglar's list. On such occasions agonised householders are very apt to rush into the daily newspapers, with loud cries of 'Where are the police?' They say, and with justice, that they are heavily taxed to maintain this large and expensive force; and yet their houses are broken into, their wives and children kept in terror, the burglaries go on unchecked; and the conclusion almost invariably drawn is, that the police are to blame, and that, as a body, they are inefficient for the prevention of crime.
But the police are not without their defence. They acknowledge, for it cannot be denied, that there is a large class of known thieves abroad - men skilled in burglary, who pursue it as a regular calling. But are the police responsible for these men being at liberty to pursue their nefarious industry? 'Why don't the police catch the burglars?' ask the public. The police reply that they have caught these habitual criminals again and again, and handed them over to 'justice;' but that justice has again and again let them loose to rob and plunder as before. 'Why do not the police catch the portico thieves?' The reason is that these portico thieves, as well as the skilled burglars, are all old, trained, and repeatedly caught and convicted criminals, who, after each successive capture by the police, come out of gaol with an increased degree of cunning and circumspection, rendering them not only more dangerous as thieves but more [-116-] artful in evading detection and apprehension. The question which should be asked is, not 'Why do not the police catch the burglars?' but 'Why is it that confirmed and habitual criminals already repeatedly caught and convicted, are let loose upon society to pursue their known profession of plunder?'
The total number of criminals committed to prison throughout England and Wales, in 1868, was 158,480. Of these, 21,189 had been in gaol once before; 9263 twice; 5213 three times; 3557 four times; 2438 five times; 2933 seven times and above five; 2427 ten times and above seven; while 4488 had been in prison more than ten times! The worst thieves and burglars were those who had been in gaol the oftenest. Not fewer than 1343 were re-committed in 1868, who, on previous convictions, had been sentenced to transportation or penal servitude because of burglary, in some cases accompanied by violence; and yet they were again found at large, committing the same crimes, and were again apprehended by the police, and again handed over to justice as before.
It is the same as regards the worst criminal class of the metropolis. Of the 21,498 criminals convicted in metropolitan Courts during the seven years ending 1868, 2628 were recognised * as having been twice before in custody for felony; 391 had been three times; 70 had been four times; and 16 had been five times and upwards.
[* 'To meet the risk of being recognised and its consequences' (says the Ordinary of Newgate, in his recent letter to Lord Kimberley) 'old offenders change their names, age, trade, religion, condition, and the particulars of their education, in fact, every circumstance; and many old offenders, notwithstanding the great aptitude of Sessions officers for their duties, by these tricks escape perhaps not recognition, but legal identification.']
Yet the number recognised probably forms
but a small proportion of those who have undergone previous imprisonments. Many
old and habitual criminals are not recognised at all, because their previous
convictions occurred in other police districts, from which they removed because
already too well known there; and even in the case of such as have before
undergone sentences in metropolitan prisons, identification is not always easy.
The old and hardened criminals, with whose faces the police have come to be so familiar, are, without exception, the worst and most dangerous class of the community. They pursue crime as a vocation, and train up young thieves to follow in their footsteps. Hating work, but loving debauchery, their whole time is spent in contriving how to live upon the labour of others. They think of nothing but picking pockets, robbing warehouses, and breaking into dwellings. These are the people [-117-] who keep society in constant alarm, and nervous women and children in a state of nightly terror. These accomplished scoundrels, who have taken every degree in thieving, and advanced from area-sneaking to shoplifting, until they have graduated as first-class cracksmen, are at perpetual war with the honest part of society. They have been repeatedly apprehended by the police, and as repeatedly set at liberty; and when another robbery occurs, because the police do not immediately succeed in apprehending them - skilled as they have become in the art of evading detection-loud outcries are raised of 'Where are the police?'
It is not the police who are really in fault, so much as that tenderness for scoundrelism of all kinds that has become one of the pervading follies of our time. Modern philanthropy has so busied itself in ameliorating the condition of criminals that the condition of the thief has come to be almost more tolerable than that of the honest working-man. We have abolished the severer punishments, done away with transportation, and provided comfortable houses of detention, where convicted criminals are better housed, clothed, and fed than the average of city mechanics. We do not, as we once did, send our convicts to forced labour on unoccupied land in the colonies, but we get rid of our skilled workmen instead, sending them off in shiploads abroad, and keeping our thieves and criminals at home. Indeed, it is scarcely to be wondered at if the honest poor man, struggling to keep out of the devil's ranks, and taxed all the while to maintain the scoundrel class, should begin to think, with Dean Swift, that honesty must, after all, be derived from the Greek word onos, signifying an ass.
The convicted criminals have now had every consideration shown them; but the question arises whether some consideration is not also due to those who are robbed, as well as to those who rob-to the wives, daughters, and children of the rate-paying and non-burglar part of the community, who are kept in constant terror by their depredations. It is notorious that the worst crimes of late years have been committed by criminals out of gaol 'on licence,' who have been taken red-handed with their tickets-of-leave upon them! Yet the men who are let loose upon society with those tickets-of-leave are almost invariably the most hardened and habitual criminals.*
[* By the Habitual Criminals Act passed in 1869, but not yet come into full operation, it is expected that ticket-of-leave men may be kept under somewhat more effectual supervision. But this is very doubtful, so long as the worst criminals are allowed to be at liberty. Convicts on licence are to be registered, and placed tinder the supervision of the police. They may be taken into custody if believed to be getting a livelihood by dishonest means, and again placed in prison until their term of imprisonment or penal servitude has exjired. Criminals twice convicted of felony are in like manner to be registered, and in certain cases remain under supervision of the police for seven years, and if unable to satisf~' the magistrate before whom they are taken that they are not earning a living by honest means, or if found lurking about premises under suspicious circumstances, they are liable to be imprisoned for not more than a year. The great objection to the Act is, that it leaves confirmed criminals at liberty; and so long as that is the case, unless the policeman is constantly at the convict's elbow, it is very doubtful whether in a city of such magnitude and population as London, society will be rendered any more secure against the depredations of the habitual criminal class than it is now.]
'The principle,' says the [-118-] Ordinary
of Newgate, 'upon which licenses are regulated at present is this: he who can do
most work, and who conforms most entirely to the prison rules, is he who
receives most mitigation of sentence. And who is he? The old criminal, who
has served an apprenticeship to the work and discipline of prison. . . . . My own conviction is, that as a rule (and the exceptions are
very rare) mercy is never more undeservedly shown than to a prisoner who has
been previously convicted.' * [* Report of the Rev. J. E. Lloyd Jones, Ordinary of Newgate,
to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, 1868.]
The tenderness for crime which has grown up of late years has become extraordinary. The common working-man, who pays his way, and struggles with difficulty to keep himself and family out of the workhouse, excites comparatively little interest. But, let an atrocious murder be committed, and the whole country is roused to rescue the criminal from the gallows. The burglar may not murder, or intend to murder; yet he is no less the sworn enemy of society. But we have ceased to hang him; we no longer flog him at the cart's tail; we have ceased to transport him; we make him as comfortable as possible in the model prison we have built for him; and we even cut short the term of his imprisonment there and let him loose again upon society with his ticket-of-leave to recommence his depredations.
Wonderful, indeed, are the freaks of philanthropy! Now that thieves and scoundrels have been made comfortable, and that the sentimentalists are in want of an object for their activity, they have, with remarkable consistency, taken up another section of the same class: and persons who never in their lives stirred a foot or stretched out a hand to help a struggling virtuous poor woman, are now found banded together in an active agitation for the protection of diseased prostitutes! In their case also, the old plea of the criminals is alleged, that the Contagious Diseases Act 'interferes with the liberty of the subject.' But in all civilised communities the liberty of individuals, especially of those who live by vice and crime, must needs [-119-] give way to considerations of the general well-being. To escape moral disorder, civil order is contrived; and if the public health or security be imperilled, the vicious classes - whether they be thieves, burglars, or prostitutes-must be compelled to submit to regulations which are ascertained to be for the advantage and protection of the public. 'Humanity should be exercised,' says the Ordinary of Newgate, 'rather for the protection of those who keep the law than for those who choose to break it; for, in nine cases out of ten, it is choice, and not necessity, that leads to crime.' * [* Letter to Lord Kimberley.]
As regards the repeatedly-convicted and habitual criminals, we hold that something more is needed for the security of society than confining them in well-warmed, well-ventilated, well-regulated model prisons for a few years, and then setting them free to pursue their vocation of crime. It used to be said by the advocates of the abolition of capital punishment that the worst use that could be made of a man was to hang him; but surely it is a still worse use to make of a man who has become a hardened and habitual criminal* to let him loose upon society, after numerous convictions, to resume his vocation of plunder and educate others in criminality.
Why should incorrigible thieves and irreclaimable burglars be left at large? We shut up lunatics for life because they are dangerous to society; but liberate confirmed and habitual criminals who are infinitely more dangerous. Such men have clearly forfeited all claim to personal liberty. Their repeated convictions have proved them to be a constant source of danger to society. We have ceased to banish them; the only remedy that remains is continuous incarceration, with compulsory productive labour. Thus only can society be effectually protected from the injuries and terrors which habitual and irreclaimable criminals inflict upon it.
[* In a letter addressed by the Rev. Mr. Lloyd Jones to Lord Kimberley (11 March, 1869), the following passages are worthy of note:- 'The greatest difference rests, morally and religiously, between those who are not and those who are habitual criminals. To treat these latter from a humanitarian point of view, securing them from the stigma of their own vicious choice, is inflicting a great wrong upon society, and exposing it to great danger. An habitual criminal may reform, but, with the greatest advantages, he rarely does. I could give your Lordship instances of habitual criminals being in good situations, when their former course of life is not known, who have availed themselves of the opportunity to concoct plans for extensive robberies; for which purpose they have corrupted their fellow workmen who, till then, had been honest men . . . . I could give your Lordship some valuable information, derived from old convicts sent to prison again for fresh crimes planned just before their release, from information they had received from fresh arrivals at the prison when they had finished their sentence.']
[-120-] The Metropolitan Police Force was not established without considerable opposition. The roughs, thieves, and criminal classes generally, of course detested the unusual supervision to which they became subjected, and naturally regarded the New Police as their enemies; for it was the express object of the institution of the force, to protect the honest part of society against their attacks and depredations. But a still more formidable opposition was that of the popular press. When the Metropolitan Police Act came into operation, the community at large was beginning to be excited about reform, and as the force had been devised and was instituted chiefly through the instrumentality of Sir Robert Peel, it was held up to popular indignation as a deep laid Tory plot against the liberties of the subject. Any stick will do to beat a dog with; and for many years after its institution, the New Police was identified in the popular papers with the political party which had carried the measure into effect.. The constables were nicknamed 'Bobbies,' * 'Peelers,' 'Peel's raw lobsters,' and sundry other opprobrious epithets.
[* So called after Sir Robert Peel, as the Charlies whom they superseded were supposed to have been called after the old bellmen and watchmen instituted in the time of Charles I. for improving the watch system of the metropolis.]
The principal denouncer of the new police in the press was. a
weekly paper, the property of a well-known city alderman of the time, which
contrived to make no small political capital of the subject. It is amusing now
to look over the articles which appeared in that paper relating to the police,
though it was very different at the time of their appearance, when society was
heaving with excitement, and the hatred of class against class was roused almost
to a pitch of fury. In these articles not a word was said against the thieves
and their depredations; but vituperation was concentrated on the 'Police
tyrants,' 'the Raw Lobster Gang,' the 'Gendarmerie,' and the 'Blue Devils.' The
vocabulary of abuse was exhausted upon them. The most groundless complaints
found a voice. Sheer inventions were published as facts week after week; and 'More Police Tyranny,'
'More Disgraceful Conduct of the New Police,' and such
like, were standing headings of articles and paragraphs.
This unmeasured denunciation was not, however, without its use. The force was new, and the men were mostly unused to their difficult and delicate duties. In selecting so large a number of persons from the general population - even though the best men that were to be had were chosen - many imperfectly qualified constables doubtless obtained admission to the police; but no defect on their part, no excess nor shortening of duty was allowed to pass unnoticed. Correspondents sprang [-121-] up in every quarter, and their complaints were eagerly published. The authorities at Scotland Yard acted wisely in turning this argus-eyed organ to useful account. Not a paragraph or communication, however preposterous, appeared relating to the police, that was not laid before the Commissioners, and, where specific facts were stated, made the subject of special inquiry and report; and where individual constables were found in fault, they were reprimanded or discharged according to circumstances. Thus, by constant watchfulness, the efficiency and organisation of the force was improved from year to year; and the very journals which specially devoted themselves to its denunciation, proved the most effective agents in ensuring its extension, improvement, and permanent establishment.
The first occasion on which the police came in contact with the political roughs of the metropolis, was at a meeting of the Political Union, held on the waste ground of the Calthorpe Estate in Coldbath Fields in May, 1833. The Whig government of the day had previously issued a proclamation declaring the intended meeting to be illegal, and forbidding it to be held. The leaders of the Unionists, men of desperate character, disregarded the proclamation, and determined that the meeting should take place. They called upon 'the people' to 'come in their thousands,' and even invited them to come armed. The government could not thus allow itself to be set at open defiance, and verbal orders were accordingly given by Lord Melbourne, then Secretary of State for Home Affairs, to one of the Commissioners of Police, directing him to send a force upon the ground and disperse the meeting if attempted to be held, and to seize the ringleaders. The police have no choice on such occasions but to obey orders; and steps were accordingly taken to carry out the instructions of the Secretary of State. A force of 440 men was assembled at different points; and when the meeting was in progress, the police advanced upon it amidst groans, howls, and showers of brickbats; but they pushed the mob before them, dispersed the meeting, and took the leaders into custody. It turned out that the orders given to 'the people' to come armed, had not been disregarded; and three policemen were stabbed, one of whom (Culley) died of his wounds.
A great outcry forthwith arose in the 'peoples' press' as to the alleged tyrannical interference of the police with the liberty of the subject. So strong was the popular feeling that the coroner's jury which sat on the murdered policeman brought in a verdict of justifiable homicide. The Whig government, whose instructions the police had merely carried out to the letter,. quailed before the fury of their followers, and Lord Melbourne [-122-] shabbily tried to evade his responsibility, by alleging that the verbal orders given to the Commissioner of Police had been exceeded. On this, a commission was appointed by the House of Commons, consisting of the leading men of the three great political parties of the day, Tories, Whigs, and Radicals - the last being represented by Joseph Hume, Abercromby (afterwards Speaker), Roebuck, Ward (of Sheffield), Hawes, and others; and after a most rigid investigation, the result was the complete exoneration and vindication of the police. The Commission stated in their report to the House that the police had employed no more force than was requisite to carry out the instructions given to them; and that in dispersing the meeting 'no dangerous wound or permanent injury had been shown to have been inflicted by them on any individual, while, on the other hand, one of their own number was killed with a dagger, and two others were stabbed while in the discharge of their duty.'
The dispersing of political mobs is always one of the most disagreeable parts of the duty of the London police; but it is one which they have on the whole performed with exemplary firmness, forbearance, and efficiency. The summoning of mass meetings is a favourite device with 'reformers,' because of the alarm which it is calculated to produce in the minds of men in office. And there is never any difficulty experienced in summoning a large crowd of the idle and desperate classes of the metropolis. An invitation to the multitude to assemble in their thousands' is cheerfully responded to by the thieves. The Finlans, Beales, and Bradlaughs may come with their following of 'reformers,' but there invariably come with them in still greater numbers the roughs, and the dregs of the roughs - those dreadful creatures that are never seen in London assembled in mass, except at a fire, a Lord Mayor's show, or a reform meeting. The only idea which these people have of 'liberty' is the liberty of picking pockets; their only notion of 'tyranny' is that of the policeman who detects and apprehends them. The security of London consists in keeping these roughs apart, and the danger of London consists in concentrating them in mass, where they may feel themselves sufficiently strong to pick pockets, smash windows, pull down railings, or stone the police with comparative impunity. That the roughs have of late years been held in check, and prevented breaking out into open riots such as disgraced the metropolis in the time of Lord George Gordon, we owe, not to the forbearance of the 'reformers,' nor to the better manners or civilization of the London mob, but to the admirable conduct of the force under consideration.
It must have been with no slight degree of pride that Sir [-123-] Richard Mayne, in one of his last reports to the Secretary of State, was enabled to aver that during the forty years that the Metropolitan Force had been in existence, the first and only occasion on which the Military Force had been called out to aid them in repressing the violence of a mob was in the course of the Reform riot in Hyde Park in 1868. And yet there have been numerous popular assemblages during that time, of great magnitude-the Trades Union procession in 1838, the great Chartist meetings and processions of 1842, and the alarming Chartist demonstration of the 10th of April, 1848. The Duke of Wellington took military charge of the metropolis on the latter occasion, arranging his small but effective force in such a manner as to hold it, in the event of a popular outbreak, with a grip of iron. In making his arrangements the Duke exhibited, at the advanced age of seventy-nine, as consummate and unimpaired an ability as he had ever displayed in his most famous battles in the Peninsula and the Netherlands more than thirty years before. Yet not a soldier was to be seen throughout the day; and though the special constables guarded the streets, the whole work of forcing back the Chartists from the bridges, and breaking up their procession, was accomplished by the metropolitan police alone. At the close of that ominous and threatening day, London breathed freely, and felt that, after all, it was something to possess a constitutional force of loyal and steadfast men that could be relied upon in times of difficulty and danger.
The great Hyde Park riot of July, 1868, was the last occasion on which the police were similarly employed; and however discreditable the circumstances connected with that deplorable affair may have been to various parties concerned, no share of the discredit attached to the police, who performed with their accustomed ability the difficult and disagreeable duty entrusted to them. When the government, after much vacillation, resolved on the one hand that the proposed meeting should not be held in the Park, and the Reform League resolved on the other that the attempt to hold it should be made, there remained no alternative but to vindicate the law and prevent the meeting taking place. The requisite orders were accordingly issued to the Commissioner of Police to take the necessary steps with that object. The total number of men stationed in the Park on the 23rd of July, with the reserves immediately available for their support, amounted to 20 superintendents, 41 inspectors, 127 serjeants, 1320 constables, and 105 officers in plain clothes,-a sufficiently imposing force, yet a mere handful of men compared with the vast multi-[-124-]tude attracted from all parts of London by the prospect of 'a row with the police.'
The roughs and thieves * turned out in overwhelming force, and at an early period in the afternoon beset all the entrances to the Park.
[* It was stated in the newspapers at the time that the Reform Committee, before starting on their procession, took the precaution to divest themselves of their watches, pocket books, and other valuables,-all but the magnanimous Beales, whose followers stript him not only of his watch but almost of his clothes.]
attempt was first made by the mob assembled at the Marble Arch to force their
way in at that point by violence. A street lamp-post was pulled down and used as
a battering-ram against the gates, which soon gave way. The crowd then tried to
rush in, but were driven back by the police, who also cleared the space outside
the gates, and held it so during the night. Having failed in forcing their
entrance through the gates, the mob next endeavoured to pull down the iron
railing, in which they succeeded at several parts for considerable lengths, and
many thousands of them rushed into the park. Sir Richard Mayne then, with much
reluctance, called in the military to the aid of the police, who were by this
time being assailed by volleys of brickbats, broken railings, and stones, of
which an abundant supply was obtained from the new and unfinished road extending
from the Marble Arch to the Victoria Gate. Eventually the police, aided by the
military, cleared the road as far as the Grosvenor Gate, as well as from Park
Lane, where the mob were occupying themselves in breaking the windows of the
adjoining houses. The Park was thus cleared, the mob was driven back at all
points, and the meeting was prevented being held.
The police behaved throughout with the greatest calmness and courage, as well as forbearance, notwithstanding that they themselves suffered serious bodily injuries. Many of them were carried away with fractured ribs and limbs, or disabled by wounds of the scalp and face, caused by the bricks and stones that were hurled at them. Not fewer than 265 men were wounded more or less severely ; while 1 superintendent, 2 inspectors, 9 sergeants, and 33 constables were so severely injured as to be rendered unfit for duty, many for life. Sir Richard Mayne *
[* The efficiency of the force was in no small degree due to the unremitting care and attention which Sir Richard Mayne devoted to its organisation and working during a period of nearly forty years; in the course of which he performed his duty with unflinching fidelity, and in the face of much vituperation and abuse. It was a most graceful and generous act on the part of Her Majesty to make acknowledgment of Sir Richard's services a few days after his death last year, in the following letter addressed by her private Secretary to the Secretary of State for the Home Department:-
[-125-] 'The Queen desires me to say how grieved and concerned she is to hear of Sir Richard Mayne's death. Notwithstanding the attacks lately made upon him, Her Majesty believes him to have been a most efficient head of the police, and to have discharged the duties of his important situation most ably and satisfactorily in very difficult times.'
It would have been well if the government of the day had followed up Her Majesty's graceful and deserved recognition of such valuable services, by making some provision for Sir Richard Mayne's widow; but in these days of economy in small things such an act of generosity, not to say of justice, was perhaps scarcely to be looked for.]
[-125-] himself was several times hit by stones, receiving a severe
contusion on the side of the head, and a cut on the temple which blackened his
eye. Each of the Assistant-Commissioners was also several times hit by stones.
Such was the moderation of the people' so loudly lauded by many of our Liberal
Perhaps in no country but England would a powerful body of men, standing forward in defence of the law, have so long and so patiently submitted to be pelted, bruised, and battered by a howling mob without being provoked into retaliation. Yet, to the honour of the police be it said, not a single case of ill- treatment of any person, or unnecessary interference, was proved against them throughout the whole course of these deplorable transactions.
But it is not in riots of this sort - which, happily, are of rare occurrence in London - that the policeman is exposed to the greatest peril, but in the ordinary execution of his duty: in his solitary beats by night in all weathers, when he is liable to the various diseases incident to exposure, and more particularly in the danger to which he is subject in dealing with criminals of the most desperate and abandoned character. As the greatest possible care is taken in the first place to select only healthy, strong men for police duty, their average of ordinary sickness is moderate, being far less than that of the Household troops. The principal diseases to which they are subject, as might be expected, are of the lungs and air-passages, the results of their constant exposure to vicissitudes of temperature. Out of about 800 men who are on the sick-list monthly, from 300 to 400, during the winter months, suffer from catarrh, bronchitis, sore throat, and rheumatism; while of the 63 deaths in 1868, 27 were from consumption. But, besides these diseases of exposure, the police are exposed to risks of wounds and injuries, which tend greatly to swell the list of disabled men. Thus, in 1868, not fewer than 1130 suffered from fractures, dislocations, wound; and miscellaneous injuries in the execution of their duty, or an average of about 100 cases a month.
The mere cost to the public of those ruffianly attacks on the [-126-] police which have come to be so common, and which are often so leniently dealt with by the magistrates, judges, and juries, before whom the offenders are brought,* may possibly appeal to some minds that are insensible to other considerations.
[* One of the latest illustrations of this leniency to roughs was exhibited in a recent trial at the Central Criminal Court, when five persons were indicted for interfering with a constable in the execution of his duty, throwing him into the Regent's Canal, and pelting him with stones and mud during the twenty minutes that they kept him there. The jury acquitted all the prisoners but one, who was found guilty. The Common Serjeant, in passing sentence upon him, characterized the offence as ' a very small affair,' which would be fully met by a sentence of three days' imprisonment, dating from the commencement of the sessions; and as those three days had already expired, he was, together with the other prisoners, forthwith released from confinement.]
At the present time, 188 men, permanently disabled by
having been stabbed, assaulted, jumped upon, or otherwise injured by prisoners,
are in the receipt of pensions amounting to 5664l. yearly; the widows and
children of 15 men, who died in consequence of wounds or injuries received by
them from prisoners, receive pensions amounting to 212l. yearly; 79 men,
permanently disabled by injuries accidentally received in the execution of their
duty, receive pensions amounting to 24851. yearly; and the widows and children
of four men, who died in consequence of like injuries, receive 80l. yearly. We
have thus a total of 286 men permanently disabled by wounds or injuries received
while in the execution of their duty, to whose widows and children pensions are
paid amounting to 8443l. per annum.
The greater number of the men thus wounded and disabled received their injuries while apprehending criminals, or in the attempts made by criminals to escape and of bystanders to rescue them by force. Not fewer than eighty men were disabled in this way. Forty-two were knocked down, kicked, and otherwise maltreated. Eighteen were permanently injured by drunken persons; nine by riotous or disorderly roughs; seven by burglars; six by Irish mobs; five by miscellaneous mobs; five by drunken soldiers and militiamen. Six were stabbed by prisoners, one of them a convicted thief. Three were severely injured by falling while in the pursuit of thieves, one from a roof another from a wall, and a third by being tripped-up to enable a thief to escape. One constable was shot by a highwayman, and another by a criminal he had brought to justice. One had his leg broken when apprehending a prisoner, another had his wrist dislocated, and a third his knee-cap. Among the remaining cases, we find several injured by being jumped upon by ruffians, kicked by prostitutes, knocked down by runaway horses which they were trying to stop, ridden over by cabs and vans, injured at fires by falling from ladders, and so on.
[-127-] The punishments of those guilty of maltreating and disabling the officers of justice in the execution of their duty are often ridiculously lenient in proportion to the offence. For instance, the assailant of police-constable Mackintosh, who was disabled for life, was fined -5l., or four months' imprisonment; the prisoner who stabbed constable Mosely got three months; the two prisoners who threw down Gardiner and disabled him by kicks got six months; the thieves who assaulted and crippled Luetchford for life, two months; the drunken prisoner who kicked Sandys, twenty-one days; the prisoners who twice assaulted and permanently disabled Ledger were fined 6l, or six months. The gross inequality of the sentences in certain cases strikingly illustrated the glorious uncertainty of law and justice. Thus, the two prisoners who assaulted and maimed Shickell were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, while the prisoner who similarly maltreated Smart was imprisoned only seven days; the prisoner who assaulted Sparkes got fifteen years, and the one who similarly assaulted Blakebough was sentenced to pay a fine of 20s., or fourteen days. All these constables were permanently disabled by their injuries, and are now in the receipt of pensions. In the cases of those who died in consequence of their inj uries, the murderer of Davey was executed; the discharged convict who fatally assaulted Jackson was imprisoned for two years; the drunken man who inflicted the injuries on Hawes, of which he died, was imprisoned for nine months; and the drunken prisoner who assaulted and kicked Este, who also died, was fined 20s., or a month's imprisonment.
The perils which these valuable public servants thus encounter in the protection of life and property, and the serious injuries which they so often receive in the discharge of their duty, entitle them to a degree of consideration and sympathy on the part of the public, which, however, is rarely extended to them. They are pelted by mobs when 'the people' are in sufficiently overpowering numbers to do so with impunity; and with equally safe courage they are pelted by the lower organs of the press, Which find no subject so agreeable to their readers in the dull season as 'pitching into the police.' They are targets for the witlings of the dreary 'Comic' papers; while caricatures of them are exhibited on the stage at Christmas for the recreation of 'the gods,' - the feeble play-writer never considering his pantomime complete without dragging in the unfailing policeman as a target for the missiles of the clown, pantaloon, and other stage rabble.
At the same time it must be acknowledged that the respectable organs of the press are free from that indiscriminate cen-[-228-]sure of the police which was so common forty years ago. The altered state of public opinion with regard to the force is in no respect more marked than in the comments which from time to time appear upon their conduct in the daily newspapers, compared with the abuse which was so liberally showered upon them during the Reform Bill period. Then the complaint was that they did too much; now it is that they do too little. If they then took a drunken man to the station, or cleared the foot- ways of loiterers, or apprehended a suspected thief hanging about an area, or prevented a husband assaulting his wife, they were charged with unduly interfering with the liberty of the subject. But now, if beggars get into Kensington Gardens, or a block occurs in Bond Street, or cabs 'crawl' in the Strand, or Sunday traders crowd the New Cut, or indecent boys wash themselves in the Thames mud, or street Arabs tumble like animated wheels in the way of foot-passengers, or roughs 'lark' along the new Embankment, or noises occur in the streets at night, or prostitutes annoy passers by with their importunity, or area sneaks enter an open door and contrive to run away with the spoons, or liberated burglars are allowed to be at large without at once being caught again, the police are called upon to interfere, to act, to exert themselves, and they are blamed, not because they interfere with the liberty of these subjects, but because they do not. They are expected to be omniscient, if not omnipotent; and because they are neither the one nor the other, solemn deputations of vestrymen wait upon the Home Secretary, and complain of 'the inefficiency of the police.' One of the most popular complaints recently made against them is, that too much of their time is occupied in drill, notwithstanding the distinct assurance of the Home Secretary that but one hour in the week is devoted to the purpose, and that only in certain seasons, - there having been twenty-eight weeks last year in which no drill whatever was given.*
[* As only the men on night duty, or about two-thirds of the force, attend drill (less one-seventh always on leave), the general result is that the average time each man is drilled during the whole year is under fourteen hours. ' The police,' says the Contmissioner in his last Report, ' are drilled no more than is absolutely necessary to enable men who are frequently required to act in concert in large bodies to do so with some little precision, and to prevent their being, when assembled, a mere disorganised mob, incapable of acting together or managing the crowds they sometimes have to oppose.']
Although indiscriminate censures of this sort are provoking
and useless, because undeserved and unfounded, it must nevertheless be
acknowledged that the intelligent vigilance of the press has been of much
service in improving the quality and efficiency of the entire force. The whole
population of the [-129-] metropolis are reporters for the newspapers; and where an act
of undue interference on the part of the police occurs on the one hand or
flagrant neglect of duty on the other, there is always correspondent at hand
ready to give it publicity in the columns of the press. There are, it is true, one or two of the
lower class penny papers, the conductors of which, with a greater regard for
circulation than truthfulness, are too ready to open their columns to any amount
of trash and slander relating to the police, and to found sensational articles
upon the often baseless and usually distorted statements of their
correspondents; but on the whole,
the spirit of the public press in this, as in other respects, is fair, honest,
and truthful. And although in the majority of instances in which blame is found
to be due, the matter has been previously brought under the notice of the
Commissioner and dealt with, yet the vigilance of the press is also of material
service in maintaining the general vigilance of the force. Every communication
which appears in the newspapers, reflecting on the conduct of the police, where
specific facts are stated, made the subject of careful inquiry and special
report by the superintendent of division: and the result of the whole is
laid before the Chief Commissioner for his consideration and judgment. Thus all
ascertained defects in the working of the system are corrected; inefficient and
unworthy men are cautioned or discharged; and the whole force becomes improved
in quality and efficiency. For this, amongst other reasons, the number of men
discharged for misconduct has been steadily decreasing year by year. Of the 8883
men in the force last year, 232 were pensioned off; 34 were discharged with
gratuities; 261 voluntarily resigned, because the service did not agree with
them, or for other causes; 144 were compelled to resign on account of
misconduct, or because of illness, not having completed five years' service: 263 were dismissed for misconduct; and 45 died; a total of
979 men, or an average of 11.02 per cent, of removals to
the entire strength, being a smaller proportion of changes than in any
In short, in the Metropolitan Police, and in the police of the country generally, for which it has served as the model, we have a sober, vigilant, and intelligent body of men,-a splendid, useful, and living monument to the late Sir Robert Peel,-a civic force arrayed in defence of law, order, and honest industry, - the like of which, perhaps, does not exist in any other country, and of which England, and London especially, has reason to be proud.
Quarterly Review, Vol.129, no.257, 1870