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compliment than in saying that they might, in most cases, be taken for parts of the bishop's text. It is illustrated throughout with engravings on copper and wood-cuts, all after his lordship’s sketches, many of which are highly spirited and elegant. It may not be improper to add, that no publisher has any concern in the property of this book, the profits of which will go entirely to the family of the lamented author,
Art. VI.-1. Report on the Criminal Law of England. (Ordered
by the House of Commons to be Printed, April 2nd, 1824.) 2. A Treatise on Crimes and Indictable Misdemeanors. By
William Oldnall Russell, Esq., of Lincoln’s-Inn, Barrister-at
Law. Second Edition. 1826. 3. A Treatise on Criminal Pleading. By Thomas Starkie, Esq.,
of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister-at-Law. Second Edition. 1822. 4. A Supplement to all the Modern Treatises on the Criminal
Law; containing the Alterations by Statute to the Prorogation of Parliament in 1827. By F. A. Carrington, Esq., Barrister
at-Law. 1827. WHEN
HEN Mr. Peel, in bringing forward in the House of Com
mons his plans for amending parts of the criminal law, hinted that a more splendid name might attend the originator of a new code, than could ever be hoped for by any cautious improver of an old system of law, we were pleased to hear it asserted by Mr. J. Č. Hobhouse, and other members, that no fame more truly valuable could be acquired than by steadily pursuing the course in which Mr. Peel himself had hitherto proceeded. We confess, we prefer the plan of inquiring into defects in our legal system productive of actual mischiefs, and remedying these by simple and practical corrections, to any bolder attempts at a general change of system—and this for two reasons : lst, because we believe that, considering the long-established and deep root of our legal system in all our institutions and habits, and its many and acknowledged excellences, no general speculative plan of innovation could really be so productive of good, still less be so satisfactory to the public at large,-as improvements and corrections of the existing system, contrived so as to leave its main basis and character untouched; and 2dly, because, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the system, we are convinced that gradual correction is the only practicable plan likely to be productive of any speedy results, and carrying with it any prospect of certain success unattended with danger. The confusion, perplexity, and volume of our criminal code L 2
have for some time become a subject of general animadversion and growing dissatisfaction: and while these defects have unquestionably contributed to the inefficacy of the laws, and to the consequent impunity of crime, they were really without any reasonable excuse in the subject matter of the laws. We believe that a considerable degree of intricacy and complexity must, in such a state of society as the present, of necessity belong to the civil code, which regulates all the artificial and involved rights and interests of a populous, refined, and commercial nation. But the crimes of murder, of larceny, and fraud, are marked by broad and simple characteristics, which the advance of society by no means tends to perplex in the same degree as questions of civil litigation. If any additional reason could be required for directing our attention to the simplifying, and thereby invigorating, the penal code at the present moment, it was furnished in that melancholy increase of crime to which Mr. Peel alluded in bringing forward his bills, and to which all investigations now bear testimony. Whether the game laws, or the demoralizing effects of the poor laws,—or their mischievous administration, or the increase of statutory offences by new enactments,—whether any, or, as is more probable, all of these causes united, have occasioned the lamentable increase of committals and punishments, it has become a matter of imperious necessity to improve the criminal code, and thereby bring punishment home, with greater certainty, to guilt.
The great increase of crime, we are pleased to find, is entirely confined to thefts and crimes against property, while bloody and atrocious offences have decreased in a remarkable degree. With all the nominal severity of our law, in practice it has, for many years, made that wise distinction in punishment which Montesquieu applauded : 'Quand il n'y a point de différence dans la peine, il faut en mettre dans l'espérance de la grace: en Angleterre on n'assassine point-parce que les voleurs peuvent espérer d'être transportés dans les colonies, non pas les assassins. And the recent repeals of capital punishments, effected by the exertions of Sir Samuel Romilly, Sir James Mackintosh, and Mr. Peel,* have even more judiciously marked the distinctions of guilt, by making the difference in punishment matter of legal enactment instead of royal grace. Out of 14,437 persons who were in custody for crimes in the year 1825, it appears that not less
* As the improvements in the Criminal Law, recommended by the two former distinguished legislators, related to the single, though important, point of reducing the number of capital punishments, they do not fall within the scope of our present observations. Sir James Mackintosh's committee of 1819 was expressly limited to the above object.
than 12,530 were on charges of theft. During the last seven years there were 241 convictions for forgery, 111 for murder, 50 for arson, 43 for perjury; while the number of convictions for theft were not less than 45,000—an amount lamentable in itself, but consolatory when compared with the small proportion of crimes of a more heinous dye.
The deplorable increase of crimes in the mass appears from the fact, that in the seven years ending December, 1816, the commitments to gaol in England and Wales were 47,522, while in the seven years ending December, 1825, the number was 93,718, being nearly a two-fold increase in the space of nine years—an augmentation which, we fear, must be considered as five times as great as the advance of population in the same period. During the former period there were 29,561 convictions in England and Wales, while during the latter there were 63,418-an amount which, as compared with the number of committals, proves the alarming fact that not above two-thirds, or thereabouts, of the number of persons committed for offences are found guilty and punished. In either of the two views which this fact presents, it is pregnant with matter of reflection. If we suppose that the disproportion between committals and convictions arises, in any considerable degree, from innocent men being committed on unfounded suspicion, the fact is truly alarming; but if, as we take it to be undoubtedly true, the main cause of the disproportion is the escape from punishment of guilty persons not convicted by reason of defects in evidence, backwardness in prosecutors, faults in the law, and other causes, it surely becomes the most serious duty of the legislature, to render the punishment of guilt more certain by the amelioration of every thing defective in the judicial administration of the country. During the former seven years (that is, from 1809 to 1816) the number of persons sentenced to death was 4,126, while during the latter (from 1818 to 1825) the number was 7,770-an increase about in proportion to the comparative amount of crimes during the periods. But during the former period there were 536 persons executed, while during the latter there were only 579 executions—being an increase of capital punishments of only one-eleventh during a period in which crimes had nearly doubled. We are aware of the many and multifarious causes to which the augmentation of crime may, in a great degree, be traced pretty accurately; but, as long as we find such increase accompanying so extensive a reduction in the severity of punishments, we must consider it as a fact deserving of much consideration, and well calculated to awaken the most serious inquiries into the connexion between severe punishment and the repression of offences. We think it calls upon legislators to be cautious how they consider reduction of punishments, abstract
edly viewed and per se, as matter for congratulation. We never can regard it as such until we see clearly that, without these painful severities, the end of repressing crime is adequately effected.
It is satisfactory to find that the metropolis and its neighbourhood form an exception to the general augmentation of offences : nor should it be lightly considered that Mr. Peel, with his large practical experience of such matters, distinctly ascribes this to the more efficient police of London and the county of Middle
In the first seven years above referred to, the number of persons who received sentence of death in London and Middlesex was 1018, while in the latter seven years there were 1124
an increase of only one-eleventh, which must, however, be mainly ascribed to the great statutory reduction of capital punish
But the total number of convictions in London and Middlesex during the first period was 7421, while, in the latter seven years, they amounted to 11,624, being an increase of only about one-half-instead of double, as in the country at large. In two years alone, 1786, 1787, 138 persons were executed in London and Middlesex, while in the three years ending with 1826 there were only 39 executions. The great diminution of robberies with violence from the person is shown by the fact that in 12 years, from 1810 to 1822, there were 173 executions for these offences in London and Middlesex, being at the rate of above 14 per annum ; while in 1823 there were only five such executions, and in each of the years 1824 and 1825 only six. In the seven years preceding 1823 there were 140 convictions per annum for this offence, while in the three years from 1823 to 1825 the number was 110. The diminution in the number of murders appears also to be satisfactorily established. From 1810 to 1822 there were 260 convictions for murder in England and Wales, being at the rate of 20 per annum; while in 1823, notwithstanding the augmented population and the general increase of crimes, there were only 12 convictions; in 1824, 17; in 1825, 12. So much for the state of crime in the country: now for the condition of the laws made for repressing it.
In the course which Mr. Peel has pursued, both in amending and altering the criminal law, and in condensing and consolidating its diffuse provisions, he has followed strictly in the path marked ont by the wisest, because the most cautious and practical of reformers, Lord Bacon, in his proposal to James I. for amending the laws of England,
• For the reforming and recompiling of the statute law, the which consisteth of four parts : 1st, to discharge the books of those statutes where the case by alteration of time is vanished, as Lombards, Jews, Gauls, half-pence, &c. These may, nevertheless, remain in the libraries for antiquities, but no reprinting of them. The like of statutes
long since expired and clearly repealed; for if the repeal be doubtful, it must be propounded to the parliament.
2. The next is to repeal all the statutes which are sleeping and not of use, but yet snaring and in force: in some of those it will, perhaps, be requisite to substitute some more easonable law instead of them, agreeable to the time, in others a simple repeal may suffice.
3. The third is, that the grievousness of the penalty, in many statutes, be mitigated, although the ordinance stand.
4. The last is the reducing of concurrent statutes heaped one upon another, to one clear and uniform law.'
In the days of Lord Bacon, the statutes of the realm were comprised in little more than two volumes; the laws of a whole century then scarcely swelled to the size of a volume; and fifteen or twenty statutes were the utmost amount of the laws enacted in a single session, although parliaments were then often disused for many years together. Yet his lordship at that day considered the multitude and intricacy of the statutes as a great evil, and complained, “There is such an accumulation of statutes concerning one matter, and they so cross and intricate, as the certainty of the law is lost in the heap, as your majesty had experience last day, upon the point whether the incendiary of Newmarket should have the benefit of his clergy. What would have been his lordship’s expressions on the condition of the statute-laws in the present day, when they compose twenty-nine volumes; when the laws of every two years fill an immense volume; and when every session produces, on an average, above one hundred new public statutes, while the accumulation has no intermission from any intervals in which no parliament is sitting? What would his lordship have thought of a digest* of the public statute law occupying one thousand six hundred and fifty-eight closely printed quarto pages; and the index to that digest taking up nearly four hundred ? Nor has the quality of legislation improved in the proportion in which its quantity has increased. In his lordship’s days the statutes were apt to be sometimes vague and jejune, and occasionally verbose and long-winded; but he witnessed little of that indiscriminate rage for legislation on partial interests, and peculiar topics, and special emergencies, which has, in modern days, contributed so much to the volume of our laws; or of that extreme haste and carelessness of execution which has introduced into them so much complexity and confusion. While the preparation of contracts and legal instruments has been always the work of persons of skill and experience in different branches of law, the most important of all documents--a law of the realm-has been generally left to the hasty concoction of the individual member who happened to in
Digest of the Public General Statutes, by Messrs. Tyrwhitt and Tyndall, 1822.