Page images

spinning, knitting, washing, getting up linen, simple cottage cookery, the management of the farm-yard and cow-house, and the cultivation of the kitchen garden. There we saw them all silently at work learning to be farm servants, and in due time to bless the homely store of the Flemish peasant, not qualifying themselves to inundate the world with a deluge of nursery governesses. On the whole they looked less sprightly than the boys; how should this be? Is it that working in silence is less congenial to the female nature? Or has the fact that they have no instrumental music something to do with it? It is, to say the least, a singular coincidence that of all the reformatory institutions which I have visited, those only can be said to be absolutely successful in which a prominent place is given to instrumental music. Is not the secret to be found in the words put by an acute observer of human nature in the mouth of his itinerant exhibitor of horsemanship-" People must be amused. They can't be always a-learning, nor yet they can't be always a working, they arn't made for it. You must have us, Squire. Do the wise thing and the kind thing too, and make the best of us; not the worst."*

Of the results of the girls' institution, at Beernem, I cannot speak, for it has only just been established; but with all my difference of creed, I cannot for a moment doubt but that a blessing will attend the faithful labors of those unpretending sisters.

I must reserve for some other occasion my visits to Reformatories in our own country, I can assure you that private zeal has made some glorious beginnings in England, but, for want of legislative sanction, these have hitherto worked at great disadvantage, and nevertheless, with great success, for if at Ruysselede the demand for young sailor-boys exceeds the supply, so at Red Hill the demand for farm-servants in the colonies exceeds the supply. Our Parliament has, in the act which I referred to at the beginning of the lecture, taken a long step in support of the movement, and no one can now pretend that the grand undertaking of reclaiming thousands of spirits run to waste wants the sanction of the law, or such facilities as mere law can afford.

There is the law, the money will not be wanting. Where are the men? Let no persons presume to say "we are the men," without counting the cost, without feeling the mission. Hard

"Hard Times."


work, constant anxiety, small pay, no promotion, little worldly esteem, a life spent in the noiseless routine of subordinate duties, and, as regards temporal prosperity, continuing and ending just where it began, such is the prospect; ambition, love of distinction, comfort, wealth, spirits of the earth earthy, will find no resting place there: but I cannot believe that the land of Sunday School teachers will not produce also some of those more sublime self-devotions that are called for by the work that we are at last thinking to take in hand.

In more poetical times I should now have concluded with some classical allusion, some apposite illustration embodied in immortal verse, some fable pregnant with its moral. But at a time when writers are found who can speak of descriptions in Homer as disgusting, when we are absolutely bound up in facts, facts, all facts, nothing but facts, I will conclude with a fact, a dry fact, a fact which you may all of you verify at six o'clock to morrow morning, but a fact pregnant with its moral.

About a mile to the E., perhaps E. S. E., of the place in which I am addressing you, there is and for a long time has been a large factory, but not for one of the staple industries of the town, it is in fact a silk mill. If you enquire into the history of that mill, you will find that formerly in preparing the raw silk for exportation from the countries in which the raw silk is produced, there was a large quantity of refuse which was thrown away as useless. It occurred however to the enterprising mind of our fellow townsman that even this refuse was rich in silky fibre, the extraction of which might possibly pay: : he tried the experiment in that very mill, and carried it out with such success that the Italian states, in which this material was formerly thrown away as refuse, have now imposed a duty on the export, and such of you as visited the Great Exhibition in 1851 can answer the question, whether the spun silk of our friend Mr. Holdforth was second to any other in that vast collection.

My friends, let but the proper machinery be applied by the proper hands, and of the very refuse of our population, of the youths that people our prisons, that infest our streets, that desecrate our sabbaths, you will, by God's blessing, work up a large proportion into fair average members of those most important branches of society, the hardy, intelligent emigrant, the skilful sturdy mariner, the bold industrious peasant.




To The Editor of "The Irish Quarterly Review."

Custom blinds us to many abuses in our social system. A further reason for neglect is, that those whose attention is more particularly drawn to these abuses, or rather, who are, from their position, brought into contact with them, and thus more competent to judge of the extent of an evil are, for the most part, the last to set about reform. The great mass of the people, or, to speak more correctly, the public, knew but little of the frightful injustice which our recently exploded Chancery procedure inflicted upon those who were so unfortunate as to become suitors in that court. There have always been numbers of successful lawyers, members of the legislature-these men knew of the evil, they were acquainted with its workings, the rottenness of the entire system had been exposed to their gaze, and yet, it was not until public opinion imperatively demanded legislation and reform, that any attempts at improvement were made. So with regard to our sanguinary penal code, which visited the stealing of a watch with the same punishment as wilful and deliberate murder, and for so many years continued in force a disgrace to a civilised community; none had the extent of the evil forced upon their view as lawyers had, and yet for years, we might say centuries, the evil was without remedy or an attempt at remedy. Although lawyers were the instruments by which these reforms were eventually effected, one is disposed to give them (with a few exceptions, however, as Sir S. Romilly and Lord Brougham, and one or two others) but little credit for what they did. They were the instruments, not the active agents. On the other hand, however, neither should they be visited with that sweeping censure to which, of late years especially, they have been exposed. There is something in the course of study to prepare a lawyer for his profession, and in the course of practice of a successful one, which renders him the last person in the world from whom to expect legal reforms. It is not that he is attached to the abuse as is often flippantly remarked, because when a profession is open, there can be no unfair advantage or monopoly, and further, even if there were an existing abuse which had the effect of giving lawyers larger incomes than they otherwiss should have, it must be remembered that men who have worked their way in the professson of the law, and attained to those offices which lead to the bench, who have passed, as it may be said, from the bar, have not that direct personal interest which can alone induce men to shut their eyes and ears to patent and crying abuses. Lawyers are interpreters, not makers of laws, and as I have already said, the deadening effect of custom blunts the sense, and it is only when an outcry has been made and public attention has been drawn to the subject, and the matter begins to be discussed in the public journals and to be talked over at the clubs and dinner-tables, that the lawyer perceives, in their true colours, the enormities at which he has been so long unconsciously gazing, and becomes roused to activity at the same time with the non-professional public. Let any man who has dealings with his humbler fellow, whether as landlord, manufacturer, farmer, or em


ployer of any kind, look a little closely into some of those things which he requires or sanctions, and which have only custom for their approval, and he might find many an evil and many a wrong which he would not knowingly and willingly inflict, but which is not regarded or thought of because it is customary.

One of the great popular writers of the day has adverted to the disgraceful fact, that while we have one of the judges of the superior courts sitting at Westminster or the circuit court house, in all that state and circumstance which is so becoming in a court of justice, with an intelligent and respectable jury, and a bar of some five or six counsel engaged to enquire whether John Styles, whose dog had worried Thomas Nokes' sheep, whereby one of said sheep was killed and the others very much agitated and depreciated in value and good looks, knew that the said dog was a dog of evil habits and ill-regulated mind, with an illegitimate taste for mutton, or not, the inquest as to the manner in which a fellow creature came by a sudden and violent death, is held in a pot house by the first twelve stragglers that can be picked up by a constable before a man who is certainly not a Denman, though he may very fluently lay down "crowners 'quest law." Now my complaint though it does not seem so startling as the above, is with regard to a system which more widely affects the general population, and the administration of criminal justice-The extensive jurisdiction of courts of quarter sessions in criminal cases, and the system which allows the judge of assize to be engaged in the trial of a case of petty larceny, while the assistant barrister may have the disposal of the most serious outrages upon personal property. In order to enable general readers to understand the extent of this jurisdiction, it will be necessary to explain the constituton of these courts.

The assistant barrister's jurisdiction in criminal cases is created by his appointment as chairman of the court of quarter sessions, as upon his nomination he becomes a justice of the peace for the county to which he has been appointed, with the same powers and privileges as the other justices. The authority, of the justices assembled at quarter sessions is derived from an old Statute of Edward the Third, and the commision under the great seal forwarded to each magistrate upon his appointment, which is in the following words:

"We have also assigned, and by these presents, do assign you or every two or more of you, &c., to inquire by the oath of good and lawful men of our county aforesaid, and by all other lawful ways and means by whom the truth of the matter may be known, of all, and all manner of treasons, murders, manslaughters, burnings, unlawful assemblies, felonies, robberies and witchcrafts, enchantments, sorceries, magic arts, trespasses, forestalling, regratings, engrossings, and extor tions whatsoever, and of all and singular other misdeeds and offences of which the justices of our peace can, or ought lawfully to inquire by whomsoever and howsoever, done or committed, or attempted, &c. And also, of all those who presume by unlawful assemblies, to be disturbers of our peace and of our people within our county, and also, of all those who in the county aforesaid, have either gone or ridden, or that hereafter shall presume to go or ride in companies with armed force against our peace, to the disturbance of our peace, and also, of all those who in like manner have lain in wait, or hereafter shall presume to lie in wait, to maim or kill our people, &c., and also, a provision that they should inquire into offences against the laws regulating weights and


The above commission, which would seem to include every possible

class of crime, is qualified by the following recommendation, which, as the assistant-barrister always presides at quarter sessions, comes within the description of counsel learned in the law, goes for nothing.

Provided always, "that if a case of difficulty upon the determination of any of the premises shall happen to arise before you, or any two or more of you, then do not you or any two or more of you proceed to give judgement thereon, except it be in the presence of one of our justices of one or other bench, or one of the barons of our exchequer, or one of our counsel learned in the law.”*

As a matter of right, therefore, the courts of quarter sessions in Ireland have jurisdiction in all cases, even of life and death, with the exception of cases of treason excepted in the commission. Now it would be a reasonable ground of coniplaint, that so great a power should be vested in such a tribunal, even if it were not exercised to the extent to which it might. It must be borne in mind, that the recommendation contained in the commission, and the instructions for the guidance of magistrates issued by the Lord Lieutenant for the time, and to which I shall presently advert, are not mandatory. My objection, however, is of a more practical nature, as I think the extent to which the jurisdiction is actually exercised is most improper. It has been usual to forward instructions to magistrates from the castle, to which of course attention is paid, although those instructions are given by way of recommendation. In Nunn and Walsh's Justice of the Peace, Vol. 1, p. 440, I find the substance of the lattest instructions. "By instructions transmitted by circular to the magistrates by command of the Lord Lieutenant, and in which the propriety of returning all cases, whether the parties be held in custody, or admitted to bail, for trial at the first competent tribunal is particularly enforced, it is further recommended to magistrates to return for trial at the quarter sessions, if they shall occur before the assizes, a class of felonies which it had not been theretofore the practice to return for trial to the sessions, viz., all felonies, though punishable with transportation, for a term longer than seven years, (what had been the extreme punishment for simple or petty larceny,) if punishable with any term of transportation less than transportation for life." Circular of 3rd June, 1840. Here then we find the most extensive jurisdiction given to the court of quarter sessions in criminal cases, and the only limit recommended is, that cases punishable with transportation, for not less than for life, should be held over for the judge of assize. I may observe, that from the working of this recommendation, magistrates are not alone at liberty, but enjoined to send to quarter sessions, if they should be held before the assizes, all cases inferior to murder, and the very few statutable offences, which cannot be visited with any lesser punishment than transportation for life. As a matter of practice, however, I believe that cases of manslaughter and a few others not coming strictly with the description of excepted cases mentioned in the circular are transmitted to the judge of assize. Before I enquire into the constituton of the Court of Quarter Sessions, and the objections to which such a tribunal is, as it seems to me open, I should mention, that in England they have made this matter the subject of express legislative

*The words in the commission issued in England are instead of "one of our counsel learned in the law," "one of our justices appointed to hold the assizes in the aforesaid county."

I should observe, that they are recommended not to send cases of political or religious riot or of an insurrectionary character.

« PreviousContinue »