Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - In the Slums, by the Rev. D. Rice-Jones, 1884 - Chapter 24 - The Slaughter of the Innocents

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OF the children born out of wedlock it is well known that many are murdered by their own mothers, either deliberately, or in a fit of desperation. The rest are mostly intrusted to women whose business it is to check the increase of the population, who understand the art of murdering children without rendering themselves amenable to the laws of the land, and who, "for a consideration," are ready to polish off any number of infants at the shortest notice. In these baby-farms there is a wholesale slaughter of the innocents constantly going on.
    But illegitimate children are not the only victims to the cruel disregard of infant life so prevalent in the slums.
    In the annals of the Foundling Hospital it is recorded that when in former days a basket used to be kept outside the gate for the purpose of receiving any "love children" whose mothers might choose to take or send them there, a very large proportion of the [-155-] children so left there in infancy, never again to be seen by the parents, were the offspring of married people, who simply wanted to be rid of the burden of children; and to so great an extent was that practice carried on, that conveying babies to the Foundling Hospital became a regular and profitable trade. In different places men were found who, for a certain sum of money, undertook to bring infants up to town and deposit them safely in the basket outside the Foundling; and married folk constantly availed themselves of their services. But as it would not have paid to bring only one or two children up at a time, the contractor had to do what is done in the present day by babies' undertakers-to wait until the number of bodies accumulated sufficiently to make the undertaking pay. The consequence was, that babies, not illegitimate, were brought up to town by the cart-load. And so great were the hardships to which the poor little things were subjected, that they died by the cart-load, and were buried by the cart-load.
    The Foundling Hospital has been reformed, but human nature remains much the same as it was in those "good old times," when any one was at liberty to drop a child into the foundlings' basket. The only difference is in the method of getting rid of troublesome children.
    One of the commonest methods of getting rid of [-156-] babies in the present day is for the mother to go and deliberately get drunk, and then take the baby to bed with her, and lie upon it, until it is "smothered by accident."
    Another method is to lock the baby up in a room, and to leave it there all day by itself, with a feeding-bottle near enough for the little creature to take hold of and feed itself, if it only had the sense and the power to do so.
    Another method is to send the baby out into the streets in charge of another baby not much bigger than itself, and to leave them in the streets all day and late at night, exposed to the wet and the cold. The chances are, that if they do not get killed by accident, they will both sooner or later get killed by exposure to the inclemencies of the weather.
    Another method of getting rid of children who are no longer babies is to encourage them to steal, in order that they may be taken before a magistrate and sent to a reformatory. But if they show a talent for thieving, and are likely to bring much grist to the mill, they may be allowed to make their home under the paternal roof until they are old enough to go to college instead of school; or, in plain English, until they are sent to a convict prison to graduate as ticket-of-leave men.
    As for the poor girls, we all know what becomes of most of them in such cases.
The following reports, which are all taken from a single newspaper, dated February 16, 1884, will give some faint notion of the sort of work which is going on amongst the children of the poor every week in different parts of the country and abroad:-
    BABY FARMING.-An inquest was opened on Tuesday at the schoolroom adjoining St. John's Church, Milton, on the bodies of two children, found in the house occupied by Esther Williams and Emily Green, on Wednesday last, information of his suspicions as to foul play having been given by Dr. Waring. The mother of one of the infants, Mary Kempton, identified the male child as hers, and said she left him in charge of Green in November last. The child was then well and healthy. It was now in a most emaciated condition. - Dr. Waring, parish doctor, said he was called to attend this child on the 3d of January. It was then suffering from a mild form of bronchitis. He afterwards noticed that it wasted away alarmingly, and spoke to Green about it. She said that it would not take its food, and he prescribed a mild stimulant. His opinion of both the deceased children was that they were starved to death. They had been fearfully neglected, as were also the other children found in the house, none of which were the offspring of the prisoners. - Chief-Inspeetor Moloy said he had not been able to discover the parents of the other children up to the present, but no doubt the publication of the case would bring them forward. One of the [-158-] children that had been removed to the infirmary was in a dangerous state. - Charles Gordon, living next door, said the cries of the children were heartrending at times. They had only been in Milton about three months. - Mr. James Williamson, the deputy-coroner, said the facts disclosed a shocking state of things, and he thought it would be well that an adjournment should take place for a week, in order to give time for the parents of the children to come forward. - The foreman said the jury were agreed to at once bring in a verdict of "Wilful murder" against Green, but the coroner said he should adjourn the case for a few days.

    ALLEGED DEATH THROUGH NEGLECT.-Martha -----, a married woman, living in Montague Street, Hammersmith, was charged with causing the death of Adeline Brown, aged three months, by not providing proper food and nourishment. By direction of the magistrate, the prisoner was allowed to sit on a chair in the dock.  - Sergeant Rose said that an inquest had been held on the body of the child at the Halfway House in Fulham, when the jury returned a verdict of "Manslaughter" against the prisoner. He then took her in charge. She said, "I am innocent. I never neglected the baby; it was well cared for." - Matilda Brown, a single woman, in service in Jermyn Street, stated that she was confined in Queen Charlotte's Hospital, and afterwards went to live with the prisoner. She remained a week, and then [-159-] went into service, leaving the child in the care of the prisoner. She removed the child from her on the 25th January. - Mr. Partridge: How came you to remove the child? - Witness: I received a letter from a lady stating that if I wished to save its life I must do so. I went to the prisoner, and found her nursing the child. It was not washed, and in dirty clothes. The child died on the 31st ult. - Dr. J. E. Cooney, who made a post mortem examination of the body, which weighed 6lb. 6oz. only, said there was no trace of fat throughout the body. The cause of death was exhaustion, produced by neglect and starvation. The average weight of a child at birth was 7lb. His opinion was that the child was born healthy.- Mr. Partridge remanded the prisoner, and certified for legal aid.

    A CHILD BURNT TO DEATH.-Yesterday Sir John Humphreys held an inquiry at the King's Arms, Market-hill, Shadwell, as to the death of Catherine Adelaide Tucker.-Catherine Tucker, the mother, who is the wife of a labourer living at 55 Sherman Street, St. George's-in- the-East, stated that on Thursday she left home about half-past eight, and was only absent ten minutes. On her return she found deceased's night dress in flames, She had left her sitting on a chair in front of the fire. another child, a boy three-and-a-half years old, being in the room. So far as she could ascertain, the latter had lit a piece of paper, and so ignited his sister's [-160-] clothes. There was no guard in front of the fire. The baby was taken to the Children's Hospital at Shadwell, but it died at nine o'clock the same night. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."

    CHILD-MURDER AT HORNSEY. - On Wednesday Dr. Thomas held an inquest at the Three Compasses tavern, High Street, Hornsey, respecting the death of a female child, found in the New River on Sunday last. Evidence was given of the finding of the body. -Dr. Thomas Mayor stated that he examined the child, which had not been properly attended to. There was a cord around the neck tied very tightly, and had made a deep mark around it, and the face was very livid. The deceased had been dead for four or five weeks, the body being much decomposed. The child was so large that he at first thought that it was several months old. He believed that the string was tied around the neck before death, because if it had not been, the face would not have been so congested. Death arose from suffocation by strangulation, after which the body was wrapped up and kept until a few hours before it was found in the New River.-The jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder" against some person or persons unknown.

    SHOCKING CRUELTY BY A MOTHER.-An adjourned inquest has been held at Loughborough, Leicestershire, on the body of Walter Conolly, aged four years, which [-161-] disclosed shocking cruelty by the mother, Mary Conolly. The child was locked up all day in a house, and because he cried for food at night, she horsewhipped him, and immediately the child became insensible.-The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the mother was guilty of the grossest cruelty and that death resulted from congestion of the lungs.

    BRUTALITY TO A CHILD. - A labourer named Graham, employed at the docks at Aberdeen, was apprehended on Tuesday on a charge of attempting to murder his illegitimate child. The child, it is alleged, had been subjected to a course of brutal ill-usage, and when found both its legs were broken. The man, when taken into custody, feigned madness.

    A NEGLECTFUL MOTHER.-At Derby, Mr. Justice Smith, in passing sentence on a woman named Anne Yeomans, of notoriously drunken habits, who was indicted for the manslaughter of her child by starving it, said that when she by her own voluntary act got drunk, she was culpably neglectful. Supplied with ample money to support home and child, she squandered that money in drink, and did not supply the child with the common necessaries of life. He had thought whether he ought to send prisoner to penal servitude, but he would limit the punishment to eighteen months' hard labour.

    ALLEGED MURDER OF AN INFANT.-Mary Winstone, a [-162-] servant-girl, was indicted at Gloucester for the murder of her illegitimate child by strangling it with a cord. She was found "Guilty" of concealment of birth, and sentenced to imprisonment for nine months.

    JANE SINCLAIR, the woman who was charged with suffocating her illegitimate child at the last Cornwall assizes, and acquitted, fell down dead on Monday night after a carouse with some associates.

    A SINGLE woman named Elizabeth Palmer was, at York on Monday, charged with having murdered her infant. The child has disappeared, and no trace of it has been discovered. It was proved that the prisoner is insane.

    A SECT OF CHILD-MURDERERS.-The Novoe Vremya says it has been found that in Rostov there is a society of child-murderers, who poison children by means of narcotics. They are instigated to do so by a fanatical woman, who says, "It is every woman's duty to spare the evils of life to as many children as possible, and to make them share in the bliss of heaven before the earth has contaminated their souls."