It does not appear by the above calculations that the voluntary system has cheapness to recommend it, when people worship in a respectable manner, as you might hire a house and farm of fifty acres in that State for the same rent which this gentleman pays for going to church; but it must also be recollected that it is quite optional and that those who do not go to church need not pay at all.
It was not, however, until late years that such was the case. In Massachusetts, and in most of the Eastern States, the system was not voluntary, and it is to this cause that may be ascribed the superior morality and reverence for religion still existing, although decaying, in these States. By former enactments in Massachusetts, landowners in the country were compelled to contribute to the support of the church.
Pews in cities or towns are mentioned in all deeds and wills as personal property; but in the country, before the late Act, they were considered as real estate.
A pew was allotted each farm, and whether the proprietor occupied it or not, he was obliged to pay for it; but by an Act of the Massachusetts State legislature, passed within these few years, it was decided that no man should be compelled to pay for religion. The consequence has been, that the farmers now refuse to pay for their pews, the churches are empty, and a portion of the clergy have been reduced to the greatest distress. An itinerant ranter, who will preach in the open air, and send his hat round for cents, suits the farmers much better as it is much cheaper. Certainly this does not argue much for the progressive advancement of religion, even in the moral State of Massachusetts.
In other points the cause of morality has, till lately, been upheld in these Eastern States. It was but the other day that a man was discharged from prison, who had been confined for disseminating atheistical doctrines. It was, however, said at the time, that that was the last attempt that would ever be made by the authorities to imprison a man for liberty of conscience; and I believe that such will be the case.
The Boston Advocate says—"Abner Kneeland came out of prison yesterday, where he has been for sixty days, under the barbarous and bigoted law of Massachusetts, which imprisons men for freedom of opinions. As was to have been expected, Kneeland's liberation was made a sort of triumph. About three hundred persons assembled, and were addressed by him at the jail, and he was conveyed home in a barouche. During his persecution in prison, liberal sums of money have been sent to him. How much has Christianity gained by this foul blot on the escutcheon of Massachusetts?"
It is however worthy of remark, that those States that have enforced religion and morality, and have punished infidelity, [Miss Martineau complains of this as contrary to the unalienable rights of man:—"Instead of this we find laws framed against speculative atheists; opprobrium directed against such as embrace natural religion otherwise than through Christianity, and a yet more bitter oppression exercised by those who view Christianity in one way over those who regard it in another."] are now the most virtuous, the most refined, and the most intellectual, and are quoted as such by American authors, like Mr Carey, who by the help of Massachusetts alone can bring out his statistics to anything near the mark requisite to support his theories.
It is my opinion that the voluntary system will never work well under any form of government, and still less so under a democracy.
Those who live under a democracy have but one pursuit, but one object to gain, which is wealth. No one can serve God and Mammon. To suppose that a man who has been in such ardent pursuit of wealth, as is the American for six days in the week, can recall his attention and thoughts to serious points on the seventh, is absurd; you might as well expect him to forget his tobacco on Sunday.
Under a democracy, therefore, you must look for religion among the women, not among the men, and such is found to be the case in the United States. As Sam Slick very truly says, "It's only women who attend meeting: the men folks have their politics and trade to talk over and havn't time." Even an established church would not make people as religious under a democratic form of government as it would under any other. [Mrs Trollope observes, "A stranger taking up his residence in any city in America, must think the natives the most religious people upon earth." This is very true; the outward observances are very strict; why so will be better comprehended when the reader has finished my remarks upon the country. The author of Mammon very truly observes, that the only vice which we can practise without being arraigned for it in this world, and at the same time go through the forms of religion, is covetousness.]
I have yet to point out how slander and defamation flourish under a democracy. Now, this voluntary system, from the interference of the laity, who judge not only the minister, but the congregation, gives what appears to be a legitimate sanction to this tyrannical surveillance over the conduct and behaviour of others. I really believe that the majority of men who go to church in America do so, not from zeal towards God, but from fear of their neighbours; and this very tyranny in the more established persuasions, is the cause of thousands turning away to other sects which are not subjected to scrutiny. The Unitarian is in this point the most convenient, and is therefore fast gaining ground. Mr Colton observes, "Nothing can be more clear, than that scripture authority against meddling, tattling, slander, scandal, or in any way interfering with the private concerns, conduct, and character of our neighbours, except as civil or ecclesiastical authority has clothed us with legitimate powers, is specific, abundant, decided, emphatic. It is founded in human nature; it is essential to the peace of society a departure from it would be ruinous to social comfort. If therefore it is proper to introduce any rule on this point into a mutual church covenant, it seems to me that the converse of that which is usually found in that place ought to be substituted. Even the apostles, as we have seen, found it necessary to rebuke the disposition prevalent in their time to meddle with the affairs, and to make inquisition into the conduct of others. But it should be recollected, that the condition of Christians and the state of society then were widely different from the same things with us. Christianity was a new religion, and its disciples were generally obnoxious. They were compelled by their circumstances to associate most intimately; they were bound together by those sympathies and ties, which a persecuted and suffering class always feel, independent of Christian affection. Hence in part we account for the holy and exemplary candour [?an dour] of their attachments to their religion and to each other. But even in these circumstances, and under these especial intimacies, or rather, perhaps, on account of them, the apostles found it necessary to admonish them against the abuse of that confidence so generally felt and reciprocated by those who confessed Christ in those unhappy times; an abuse so naturally developed in the form of meddling and private inquisition."
I quote the above passage, as, in the United States, the variety of sects, the continual splitting and breaking up of those sects, and their occasional violent altercations, have all proved most injurious to society, and to the cause of religion itself. Indeed religion in the States may be said to have been a source of continual discord and the unhinging of society, instead of that peace and good-will inculcated by our divine Legislator. It is the division of the Protestant church which has occasioned its weakness in this country, and will probably eventually occasion, if not its total subversion, at all events its subversion in the western hemisphere of America.
The subjugation of the ministry to the tyranny of their congregations is another most serious evil; for either they must surrender up their consciences or their bread. In too many instances it is the same here in religion as in politics: before the people will permit any one to serve them in any office, he must first prove his unfitness, by submitting to what no man of honesty or conscientious rectitude would subscribe to. This must of course, in both cases, be taken with exceptions, but it is but too often the fact. And hence has arisen another evil, which is, that there are hundreds of self-constituted ministers, who wander over the western country, using the word of God as a cloak, working upon the feelings of the women to obtain money, and rendering religion a by-word among the men, who will, in all probability, some day rise up and lynch some dozen of them, as a hint for the rest to clear out.
It would appear as if Locofoco-ism and infidelity had formed an union, and were fighting under the same banner. They have recently celebrated the birth-day of Tom Paine, in Cincinnati, New York, and Boston. In Cincinnati, Frances Wright Darusmont, better known as Fanny Wright, was present, and made a violent politico-atheistical speech on the occasion, in which she denounced banking, and almost every other established institution of the country. The nature of the celebration in Boston will be understood from the following toast, given on the occasion:
By George Chapman:—"Christianity and the banks, tottering on their last legs: May their downfall be speedy," etcetera, etcetera.
Miss Martineau informs us that "The churches of Boston, and even the other public buildings, being guarded by the dragon of bigotry, so that even Faith, Hope, and Charity, are turned back from the doors, a large building is about to be erected for the use of all, Deists not excepted, who may desire to meet for free discussion." She adds, "This at least is in advance!" And in a few pages further:—"The eagerness in pursuit of speculative truth is shown by the rapid sale of every heretical work. The clergy complain of the enormous spread of bold books, from the infidel tract to the latest handling of the miracle question, as sorrowfully as the most liberal members of society lament the unlimited circulation of the false morals issued by certain Religious Tract Societies. Both testify to the interest taken by the public in religion. The love of truth is also shown by the outbreak of heresy in all directions!"
Having stated the most obvious objections to the voluntary system, I shall now proceed to show how far my opinions are corroborated by American authorities. The author of "A Voice from America," observes very truly, that the voluntary system of supporting religion in America is inadequate to the purpose, and he closes his argument with the following observation:—
"How far that part of the system of supporting religion in America, which appeals to the pride and public spirit of the citizens, in erecting and maintaining religious institutions on a respectable footing, in towns, cities, and villages, and among rival sects—and in this manner operating as a species of constraint—is worthy to be called voluntary, we pretend not to say. But this comprehends by far the greatest sum that is raised and appropriated to these objects. All the rest is a mere fraction in comparison. And yet it is allowed, and made a topic of grievous lamentation, that the religious wants of the country are most inadequately supplied; and such, indeed, we believe to be the fact."
The next point referred to by this author is, "that the American system of supporting religion has brought about great instability in the religious world, and induced a ruinous habit of change."
This arises from the caprice of the congregation, for Americans are naturally capricious and fond of change: whether it be concerning a singer, or an actor, or a clergyman, it is the same thing. This American author observes, "There are few clergymen that can support their early popularity for a considerable time; and as soon as it declines, they must begin to think of providing elsewhere for themselves. They go—migrate—and for the same reason, in an equal term of time, they are liable to be forced to migrate again. And thus there is no stability, but everlasting change, in the condition of the American clergy. They change, the people change—all is a round of change—because all depends on the voluntary principle. The clerical profession in America is, indeed, like that of a soldier; always under arms, frequently fighting, and always ready for a new campaign—a truly militant state. A Clergyman's Guide would be of little use, so far as the object might be to direct where to find him: he is not this year where he was last." And, as must be the consequence, he justly observes, "Such a system makes the clergy servile, and the people tyrannical." "When the enmity of a single individual is sufficient to destroy a resident pastor's peace, and to break him up, how can he be otherwise than servile, if he has a family about him, to whom perpetual change is inconvenient and disastrous? There is not a man in his flock, however mean and unworthy of influence, whom he does not fear; and if he happens to displease a man of importance, or a busy woman, there is an end to his peace; and he may begin to pack up. This perpetual bondage breaks down his mind, subdues his courage, and makes a timid nervous woman of one who is entitled, and who ought to be, a man. He drags out a miserable existence, and dies a miserable slave. There are exceptions to this rule, it is true; because there are clergymen with talent enough to rise above these disadvantages, enforce respect, and maintain their standing, in spite of enemies."
But there is another very strong objection, and most important one, to the voluntary system, which I have delayed to bring forward: which is, that there is no provision for the poor in the American voluntary church system. Thus only those who are rich and able to afford religion can obtain it. At present, it is true that the majority of the people in America have means sufficient to pay for seats in churches, if they choose to expend the money; but as America increases her population, so will she increase the number of her poor; and what will be the consequence hereafter, if this evil is to continue? The author I am now quoting from observes, "At best the poor are unprovided for, and the talents of the clergy are always in the market to the highest bidder." [This is true. When I was in the States one of the most popular preachers quitted his church at Boston to go to New York, where he was offered an increase of salary; telling his parishioners "that he found he would be more useful elsewhere"—the very language used by the Laity to the clergyman when they dismiss him.] There have been many attempts to remedy this evil, in the dense population of cities, by setting up a still more voluntary system, called 'free churches,' in which the pews are not rented, but free to all. But they are uniformly failures.
Two other remarks made by this author are equally correct; first, that the voluntary system tends to the multiplication of sects without end; and next, that the voluntary system is a mendicant system, and involves one of the worst features of the church of Rome, which is, that it tends to the production of pious frauds. But I have already, in support of my arguments, quoted so much from this book that I must refer the reader to the work itself.
At present, Massachusetts, and the smaller Eastern States, are the strong-hold of religion and morality; as you proceed from them farther south or west, so does the influence of the clergy decrease, until it is totally lost in the wild States of Missouri and Arkansas. With the exception of certain cases to be found in Western Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, the whole of the States to the westward of the Alleghany Mountains, comprising more than two-thirds of America, may be said to be either in a state of neglect and darkness, or professing the Catholic religion.
Although Virginia is a slave state, I think there is more religion there than in some of the more northern free states; but it must be recollected that Virginia has been long settled, and the non-predial state of the slaves is not attended with demoralising effects; and I may here observe that the black population of American is decidedly the most religious, and sets an example to the white, particularly in the free states.
[Mr Reid, in his Tour, describes a visit which he paid to a black church in Kentucky:—
"By the laws of the state, no coloured persons are permitted to assemble for worship, unless a white person be present and preside.
"One of the black preachers, addressing me as their 'strange master,' begged that I would take charge of the service. I declined doing so. He gave out Dr Watts' beautiful psalm, 'Shew pity, Lord, oh! Lord forgive.' They all rose immediately. They had no books, for they could not read; but it was printed on their memory, and they sung it off with freedom and feeling.
"The senior black, who was a preacher among them, then offered prayer and preached; his prayer was humble and devotional. In one portion, he made an affecting allusion to their wrongs. 'Thou knowest,' said the good man, with a broken voice, 'our state—that it is the meanest—that we are as mean and low as man can be. But we have sinned—we have forfeited all our rights to THEE, and we would submit before Thee, to these marks of thy displeasure.'"
Mr Reid subsequently asserts, that the sermon delivered by the black was an "earnest and efficient appeal;" and, afterward, hearing a sermon on the same day from a white preacher, he observes that it was a "very sorry affair," in contrast with what he had before witnessed.]
It may be fairly inquired, can this be true? Not fifty years back, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, was not the American community one of the most virtuous in existence? Such was indeed the case, as it is now equally certain that they are one of the most demoralised. The question is, then, what can have created such a change in the short period of fifty years?
The only reply that can be given, is, that as the Americans, in their eagerness to possess new lands, pushed away into the West, so did they leave civilisation behind, and return to ignorance and barbarism; they scattered their population, and the word of God was not to be heard in the wilderness.
That as she increased her slave states, so did she give employment, land, and power to those who were indifferent to all law, human or divine. And as, since the formation of the Union, the people have yearly gained advantages over the government until they now control it, so have they controlled and fettered religion until it produces no good fruits.
Add to this the demoralising effects of a democracy which turns the thoughts of all to Mammon, and it will be acknowledged that this rapid fall is not so very surprising.
But, if the Protestant cause is growing weaker every day from disunions and indifference, there is one creed which is as rapidly gaining strength; I refer to the Catholic church, which is silently, but surely advancing. [Although it is not forty years since the first Roman Catholic see was created, there is now in the United States a Catholic population of 800,000 souls under the government of the Pope, or Archbishop, 12 Bishops, and 433 priests. The number of churches is 401; mass houses, about 300; colleges, 10; seminaries for young men, 9; theological seminaries, 5; noviciates for Jesuits, monasteries, and converts, with academies attached, 31; seminaries for young ladies, 30; schools of the Sisters of Charity, 29; an academy for coloured girls at Baltimore; a female infant school, and 7 Catholic newspapers.] Its great field is in the West, where, in some states, almost all are Catholics, or from neglect and ignorance altogether indifferent as to religion. The Catholic priests are diligent, and make a large number of converts every year, and the Catholic population is added to by the number of Irish and German emigrants to the West, who are almost all of them of the Catholic persuasion.
Mr Tocqueville says—
"I think that the Catholic religion has erroneously been looked upon as the natural enemy of democracy. Among the various sects of Christians, Catholicism seems to me, on the contrary to be one of those which are most favourable to equality of conditions. In the Catholic church, the religious community is composed of only two elements—the priest and the people. The priest alone rises above the rank of his flock, and all below him are equal. On doctrinal points, the Catholic faith places all human capacities upon the same level. It subjects the wise and the ignorant, the man of genius and the vulgar crowd, to the details of the same creed: it imposes the same observances upon the rich and the needy; it inflicts the same austerities upon the strong and the weak; it listens to no compromise with mortal man; but, reducing all the human race to the same standard, it confounds all the distinctions of society at the foot of the same altar, even as they are confounded in the sight of God. If Catholicism predisposes the faithful to obedience, it certainly does not prepare them for inequality; but the contrary may be said of Protestantism, which generally tends to make men independent, more than to render them equal."
And the author of a Voice from America observes—
"The Roman Catholic church bids fair to rise to importance in America. Thoroughly democratic as her members are, being composed for the most part, of the lowest orders of European population, transplanted to the United States with a fixed and implacable aversion to everything bearing the name and in the shape of monarchy, the priesthood are accustomed studiously to adapt themselves to this state of feeling, being content with that authority that is awarded to their office by their own communicants and members."
[The Rev Dr Reid observes:—
"I found the people at this time under some uneasiness in relation to the spread of Romanism. The partisans of that system are greatly assisted from Europe by supplies of money and teachers. The teachers have usually more acquired competency than the native instructors; and this is a temptation to parents who are seeking accomplishments for their children, and who have a high idea of European refinements. It appeared, that out of four schools, provided for the wants of the town (Lexington, Kentucky) three were in the hands of Catholics."
To which we may add Miss Martineau's observations:—
"The Catholics of the country, thinking themselves now sufficiently numerous to be an American Catholic church, a great stimulus has been given to proselytism. This has awakened fear and persecution; which last has again been favourable to the increase of the sect. While the Presbyterians preach a harsh, ascetic, persecuting religion, the Catholics dispense a mild and indulgent one; and the prodigious increase of their numbers is a necessary consequence. It has been so impossible to supply the demand for priests, that the term of education has been shortened by two years."]
Now, I venture to disagree with both these gentlemen: It is true, as Mr Tocqueville observes, that the Catholic church reduces all the human race to the same standard, and confounds all distinctions—not, however, upon the principle of equality or democracy, but because it will ever equally exert its power over the high and the low, assuming its right to compel princes and kings to obedience, and their dominions to its subjection. The equality professed by the Catholic church, is like the equality of death, all must fall before its power; whether it be to excommunicate an individual or an empire is to it indifferent; it assumes the power of the Godhead, giving and taking sway, and its members stand trembling before it, as they shall hereafter do in the presence of the Deity.
The remark of the author of the Voice from America, "that aware of the implacable aversion of the people to monarchy, the priesthood are accustomed studiously to adapt themselves to this state of feeling," proves rather to me the universal subtlety shown by the Catholic clergy, which, added to their zeal and perseverance, so increases the power of the church. At present Catholicism is, comparatively speaking, weak in America, and the objects of that church is, to become strong; they do not, therefore, frighten or alarm their converts by any present show of the invariable results; but are content to bide their time, until they shall find themselves strong enough to exert their power with triumphant success. The Protestant cause in America is weak, from the evil effects of the voluntary system, particularly from its division into so many sects. A house divided against itself cannot long stand; and every year it will be found that the Catholic church will increase its power: and it is a question whether a hierarchy may not eventually be raised, which, so far from advocating the principles of equality, may serve as a check to the spirit of democracy becoming more powerful than the government, curbing public opinion, and reducing to better order the present chaotic state of society.
Judge Haliburten asserts, that all America will be a Catholic country. That all America west of the Alleghanies will eventually be a Catholic country, I have no doubt, as the Catholics are already in the majority, and there is nothing, as Mr Cooper observes, to prevent any state from establishing that, or any other religion, as the Religion of the State; ["There is nothing in the constitution of the United States to prevent all the states, or any particular state, from possessing an established religion."—Cooper's Democrat] and this is one of the dark clouds which hang over the destiny of the western hemisphere.
The reverend Mr Reed says:—"It should really seem that the Pope, in the fear of expulsion from Europe, is anxious to find a reversion in this new world. The crowned heads of the continent, having the same enmity to free political institutions which his holiness has to free religious institutions, willingly unite in the attempt to enthral this people. They have heard of the necessities of the West; they have the foresight to see that the West will become the heart of the country, and ultimately determine the character of the whole; and they have resolved to establish themselves there. Large, yea princely, grants have been made from the Leopold society, and other sources, chiefly, though by no means exclusively, in favour of this portion of the empire that is to be. These sums are expended in erecting showy churches and colleges, and in sustaining priests and emissaries. Everything is done to captivate, and to liberalise in appearance, a system essentially despotic. The sagacity of the effort is discovered, in avoiding to attack and shock the prejudices of the adult, that they may direct the education of the young. They look to the future; and they really have great advantages in doing so. They send out teachers excellently qualified; superior, certainly, to the run of native teachers. [The Catholic priests who instruct are, to my knowledge, the best educated men in the states. It was a pleasure to be in their company.] Some value the European modes of education as the more excellent, others value them as the mark of fashion; the demand for instruction, too, is always beyond the supply, so that they find little difficulty in obtaining the charge of protestant children. This, in my judgment, is the point of policy which should be especially regarded with jealousy; but the actual alarm has arisen from the disclosure of a correspondence which avows designs on the West, beyond what I have here set down. It is a curious affair, and is one other evidence, if evidence were needed, that popery and jesuitism are one."
I think that the author of Sam Slick may not be wrong in his assertion, that all America will be a Catholic country. I myself never prophesy; but, I cannot help remarking, that even in the most anti-Catholic persuasions in America there is a strong Papistical feeling; that is, there is a vying with each other, not only to obtain the best preachers, but to have the best organs and the best singers. It is the system of excitement which, without their being aware of it, they carry into their devotion. It proves that, to them there is a weariness in the church service, a tedium in prayer, which requires to be relieved by the stimulus of good music and sweet voices. Indeed, what with their anxious seats, their revivals, their music and their singing, every class and sect in the states have even now so far fallen into Catholicism, that religion has become more of an appeal to the senses than to the calm and sober judgment.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.
REMARKS—SOCIETIES AND ASSOCIATIONS.
Although in a democracy the highest stations and preferments are open to all, more directly than they may be under any other form of government, still these prizes are but few and insufficient, compared with the number of total blanks which must be drawn by the ambitious multitude. It is, indeed, a stimulus to ambition (and a matter of justice, when all men are pronounced equal), that they all should have an equal chance of raising themselves by their talents and perseverance; but, when so many competitors are permitted to enter the field, few can arrive at the goal, and the mass are doomed to disappointment. However fair, therefore, it may be to admit all to the competition, certain it is that the competition cannot add to the happiness of a people, when we consider the feelings of bitterness and ill-will naturally engendered among the disappointed multitude.
In monarchical and aristocratical institutions, the middling and lower classes, whose chances of advancement are so small that they seldom lift their eyes or thoughts above their own sphere, are therefore much happier, and it may be added, much more virtuous than those who struggle continually for preferment in the tumultuous sea of democracy. Wealth can give some importance, but wealth in a democracy gives an importance which is so common to many that it loses much of its value; and when it has been acquired, it is not sufficient for the restless ambition of the American temperament, which will always spurn wealth for power. The effects, therefore, of a democracy are, first to raise an inordinate ambition among the people, and then to cramp the very ambition which it has raised; and, as I may comment upon hereafter, it appears as if this ambition of the people, individually checked by the nature of their institutions, becomes, as it were, concentrated and collected into a focus in upholding and contemplating the success and increase of power in the federal government. Thus has been produced a species of demoralising reaction; the disappointed units to a certain degree satisfying themselves with any advance in the power and importance of the whole Union, wholly regardless of the means by which such increase may have been obtained.
But this unsatisfied ambition has found another vent in the formation of many powerful religious and other associations. In a country where there will ever be an attempt of the people to tyrannise over everybody and everything, power they will have; and if they cannot obtain it in the various departments of the States Governments, they will have it in opposition to the Government; for all these societies and associations connect themselves directly with politics. [See Note 1.] It is of little consequence by what description of tie "these sticks in the fable" are bound up together; once bound together, they are, not to be broken. In America religion severs the community, but these societies are the bonds which to a certain degree reunite it.
To enumerate the whole of these societies actually existing, or which have been in existence, would be difficult. The following are the most prominent:—
List of Benevolent Societies, with their Receipts in the Year 1834.
================================================================+ Y YDolls Cts. Y +———————————————————————————————— YAmerican Board of Commissioners for Foreign MissionsY 155,002 24Y ————————————————————————————————+ YAmerican Baptist Board of Foreign Missions Y 63,000 00Y +———————————————————————————————— YWestern Foreign Mission Society Y Y ————————————————————————————————+ Yat Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Y 16,296 46Y +———————————————————————————————— YMethodist Episcopal Missionary Society Y 35,700 15Y ————————————————————————————————+ YProtestant Episcopal Foreign Y Y +———————————————————————————————— Yand Domestic Missionary Society Y 26,007 97Y ————————————————————————————————+ YAmerican Home Missionary Society Y 78,911 24Y +———————————————————————————————— YBaptist Home Missionary Society Y 11,448 28Y ————————————————————————————————+ YBoard of Missions of the Y Y +———————————————————————————————— YReformed Dutch Church (Domestic) Y 5,572 97Y ————————————————————————————————+ YBoard of Missions of the General Assembly of the Y Y +———————————————————————————————— YPresbyterian Church (Domestic) estimated Y 40,000 00Y ————————————————————————————————+ YAmerican Education Society Y 57,122 20Y +———————————————————————————————— YBoard of Education of the General Assembly of the Y Y ————————————————————————————————+ YPresbyterian churches Y 38,000 00Y +———————————————————————————————— YNorthern Baptist Education Society Y 4,681 11Y ————————————————————————————————+ YBoard of Education of the Reformed Dutch Church Y 1,270 20Y +———————————————————————————————— YAmerican Bible Society Y 88,600 82Y ————————————————————————————————+ YAmerican Sunday School Union Y 136,855 58Y +———————————————————————————————— YGeneral Protestant Episcopal Sunday School Union Y 6,641 00Y ————————————————————————————————+ YBaptist General Tract Society Y 6,126 97Y +———————————————————————————————— YAmerican Tract Society Y 66,485 83Y ————————————————————————————————+ YAmerican Colonisation Society Y 48,939 17Y +———————————————————————————————— YPrison Discipline Society Y 2,364 00Y ————————————————————————————————+ YAmerican Seamen's Friend Society Y 16,064 00Y +———————————————————————————————— YAmerican Temperance Society Y 5,871 12Y ————————————————————————————————+ Y Y8,910,961 31Y +================================================================
Many of these societies had not been established more than ten years at the date given; they must have increased very much since that period. Of course many of them are very useful, and very well conducted. There are many others: New England Non-resistance Society, Sabbath Observance Society, etcetera; in fact, the Americans are society mad. I do not intend to speak with the least disrespect of the societies, but the zeal or fanaticism, if I may use the term, with which many, if not all, of them are carried on, is too remarkable a feature in the American character to be passed over without comment. Many of these societies have done much good, particularly the religious societies; but many others, from being pushed too far, have done great mischief, and have very much assisted to demoralise the community. I remember once hearing a story of an ostler who confessed to a Catholic priest; he enumerated a long catalogue of enormities peculiar to his profession, and when he had finished, the priest inquired of him "whether he had ever greased horses' teeth to prevent their eating their corn?" this peculiar offence not having been mentioned in his confession. The ostler declared that he never had, absolution was given, and he departed. About six months afterwards, the ostler went again to unload his conscience; the former crimes and peccadilloes were enumerated, but added to them were several acknowledgments of having at various times "greased horses' teeth" to prevent their eating their corn. "Ho-ho!" cried the priest, "why, if I recollect aright, according to your former confession you had never been guilty of this practice. How comes it that you have added this crime to your many others?" "May it please you, Father," replied the ostler, "I had never heard of it, until you told me."
Now this story is very apropos to the conduct pursued by many of these societies in America: they must display to the public their statistics of immorality and vice; they must prove their usefulness by informing those who were quite ignorant, and therefore innocent, that there are crimes of which they had no idea; and thus, in their fanatic wish to improve, they demoralise. Such have been the consequences among this excitable yet well-meaning people. The author of "A voice from America" observes:—
It has been thought suitable to call the attention of mothers and daughters over the wide country to the condition and evils of brothels and of common prostitution, in towns and cities; to send out agents— young men—to preach on the subject; and to organise subsidiary societies after the fashion of all reforms. The annual report of "The New York Female Moral Reform Society" for 1838, (a very decent name certainly for the object), announces 361 auxiliaries and 20,000 members, with 16,500 subscribers (all females!) to the "Advocate of Moral Reform," a semi-monthly paper, published by the parent society, devoted to the text of the seventh commandment, and to the facts and results growing out of its violation. "This same class of reformers have heretofore been accustomed to strike off prints of the most unmentionable scenes of these houses of pollution in their naked forms, and in the very acts of crime, for public display, that the public might know what they are: in other words, as may be imagined, to make sport for the initiated, to tempt the appetites and passions of the young, who otherwise would have known little or nothing about it, into the same vortex of ruin, and to cause the decent and virtuous to turn away with emotions of ineffable regret."
I cannot help inquiring, how is it, if the Americans are, as they assert, both orally and in their printed public documents, a very moral nation, that they find it necessary to resort to all these societies for the improvement of their brother citizens; and how is it that their reports are full of such unexampled atrocities, as are printed and circulated in evidence of the necessity of their stemming the current of vice! The Americans were constantly twitting me about the occasional cases of adultery and divorce which appear in our newspapers, assuring me at the same time, that there was hardly ever such a thing heard of in their own moral community. Now, it appears that this subject has not only been taken up by the clergy, (for Dr Dwight, late president of Yale College, preached a sermon on the seventh commandment, which an American author asserts "was heard with pain and confusion of face, and which never can be read in a promiscuous circle without exciting the same feelings;") but by one of their societies also; and, although they have not assumed the name of the Patent Anti-Adultery Society, they are positively doing the work of such a one, and the details are entered into in promiscuous assemblies without the least reservation.
The author before mentioned says:
"The common feeling on the subject has been declared false delicacy; and, in order to break ground against its sway, females have been forced into the van of this enterprise; and persuaded to act as agents, not only among their own sex, but in circumstances where they must necessarily agitate the subject with men,—not wives with husbands, which would be bad enough, but young and single women with young and single men! And we have been credibly informed, that attempts have been made to form associations among wives to regulate the privileges, and so attain the end of temperance, in the conjugal relation. The next step, of course, will be teetotalism in this particular; and, as a consequence, the extinction of the human race, unless peradventure the failure of the main enterprise of the Moral Reform Society should keep it up by a progeny not to be honoured." ("A Voice from America.")
Let it be remembered that this is not a statement of my own, but it is an American who makes the assertion, which I could prove to be true, might I publish what I must not.
From the infirmity of our natures, and our proneness to evil, there is nothing so corrupting as the statistics of vice. Can young females remain pure in their ideas, who read with indifference details of the grossest nature? Can the youth of a nation remain uncontaminated, who are continually poring over pages describing sensuality; and will they not, in their desire of "something new," as the Prophet says, run into the very vices of the existence of which they were before unconscious! It is this dangerous running into extremes which has occasioned so many of these societies to have been productive of much evil. A Boston editor remarks: "The tendency of the leaders of the moral and benevolent reforms of the day to run into fanaticism, threatens to destroy the really beneficial effects of all associations for these objects. The spirit of propagandism, when it becomes over zealous, is next of kin to the spirit of persecution. The benevolent associations of the day are on the brink of a danger that will be fatal to their farther usefulness if not checked."
Of the Abolition Society and its tendency, I have already spoken in the chapter on slavery. I must not, however, pass over another which at present is rapidly extending its sway over the whole Union, and it is difficult to say whether it does most harm or most good—I refer to the Temperance Society.
The Rev Mr Reid says:
"In the short space of its existence, upwards of seven thousand Temperance Societies have been formed, embracing more than one million two hundred and fifty thousand members. More than three thousand distilleries have been stopped, and more than seven thousand persons who dealt in spirits have declined the trade. Upwards of one thousand vessels have abandoned their use. And, most marvellous of all! it is said that above ten thousand drunkards have been reclaimed from intoxication." And he adds—"I really know of no one circumstance in the history of this people, or of any people, so exhilarating as this. It discovers that power of self-government, which is the leading element of all national greatness, in an unexampled degree. Now here is a remarkable instance of a traveller taking for granted that what is reported to him is the truth." The worthy clergyman, himself, evidently without guile, fully believed a statement which was absurd, from the simple fact, that only one side of the balance sheet had been presented.
That 7,000 Temperance Societies have been formed is true. That 3,000 distilleries have stopped from principle may also be true; but the Temperance Society reports take no notice of the many which have been set up in their stead by those who felt no compunction at selling spirits. Equally true it may be that 7,030 dealers in spirits have ceased to sell them; but if they have declined the trade, others have taken it up. That the crews of many vessels have abandoned the use of spirituous liquors is also the fact, and that is the greatest benefit which has resulted from the efforts of the Temperance Society; but I believe the number to be greatly magnified. That 10,000 drunkards have been reclaimed—that is, that they have signed papers and taken the oath—may be true; but how many have fallen away from their good resolutions, and become more intemperate than before, is not recorded; nor how many who, previously careless of liquor, have, out of pure opposition, and in defiance of the Society, actually become drunkards, is also unknown. In this Society, as in the Abolition Society, they have canvassed for legislative enactments, and have succeeded in obtaining them. The legislature of Massachusetts, which state is the stronghold of the society, passed an act last year by which it prohibited the selling of spirits in a smaller quantity than fifteen gallons, intending thereby to do away with the means of dram-drinking, at the groceries, as they are termed; a clause, however, permitted apothecaries to retail smaller quantities, and the consequence was that all the grog-shops commenced taking out apothecaries' licences. That being stopped, the striped pig was resorted to: that is to say, a man charged people the value of a glass of liquor to see a striped pig, which peculiarity was exhibited as a sight, and, when in the house, the visitors were offered a glass of spirits for nothing. But this act of the legislature has given great offence, and the state of Massachusetts is now divided into two very strange political parties, to wit, the topers and the teetotalers. It is asserted that, in the political contest which is to take place, the topers will be victorious; and if so, it will be satisfactorily proved that, in the very enlightened and moral state of Massachusetts the pattern of the Union, there are more intemperate than sober men.
In this dispute between sobriety and inebriety the clergy have not been idle: some denouncing alcohol from the pulpit; some, on the other hand denouncing the Temperance Societies as not being Christians. Among the latter the Bishop of Vermont has led the van. In one of his works, "The Primitive Church," he asserts that:—
"The Temperance Society is not based upon religious, but worldly principles.
"That it opposes vice and attempts to establish virtue in a manner which is not in accordance with the word of God," etcetera, etcetera.
His argument is briefly this:—The Scriptures forbid drunkenness. If the people will not do right in obedience to the word of God, but only from the fear of public opinion, they show more respect to man than God.
The counter argument is:—The Bible prohibits many other crimes, such as murder, theft, etcetera; but if there were not punishments for these offences agreed upon by society, the fear of God would not prevent these crimes from being committed.
That in the United States public opinion has more influence than religion I believe to be the case; and that in all countries present punishment is more to be considered than future is, I fear, equally true. But I do not pretend to decide the question, which has occasioned great animosities, and on some occasions, I am informed, the dismissal of clergymen from their churches.
The teetotalers have carried their tenets to a length which threatens to invade the rites of the church, for a portion of them, calling themselves the Total Abstinence Society, will not use any wine which has alcohol in it, in taking the sacrament, and as there is no wine without a portion of alcohol; they have invented a harmless mixture which they call wine. Unfortunately, many of these Temperance Societies in their zeal, will admit of no medium party—you must either abstain altogether, or be put down as a toper.
It is astonishing how obstinate some people are, and how great is the diversity of opinion. I have heard many anecdotes relative to this question. A man who indulged freely was recommended to join the society. "Now," said the minister, "you must allow that there is nothing so good, so valuable to man as water. What is the first thing you call for in sickness but water? What else can cool your parched tongue like water? What did the rich man ask for when in fiery torments? What does the wretch ask for when on the rack? You cannot always drink spirits, but water you can. Water costs nothing; and you save your money. Water never intoxicates, or prevents you from going to your work. There is nothing like water. Come now, Peter, let me hear your opinion."
"Well, then, sir, I think water is very good, very excellent indeed—for navigation."
An old Dutchman, who kept an inn at Hoboken, had long resisted the attacks of the Temperance Societies, until one night he happened to get so very drunk, that he actually signed the paper and took the oath. The next morning he was made acquainted with what he had unconsciously done, and, much to the surprise of his friends, he replied, "Well, if I have signed and have sworn, as you tell me I have, I must keep to my word;" and from that hour the old fellow abstained altogether from his favourite schnapps. But the leaving off a habit which had become necessary had the usual result. The old man took to his bed, and at last became seriously ill. A medical man was called in, and when he was informed of what had occurred, perceived the necessity of some stimulus, and ordered that his patient should take one ounce of French brandy every day.
"An ounce of French brandy," said the old Dutchman, looking at the prescription. "Well, dat is goot; but how much is an ounce?" Nobody who was present could inform him. "I know what a quart, a pint, or a gill of brandy is," said the Dutchman, "but I never yet have had a customer call for an ounce. Well, my son, go to the schoolmaster; he is a learned man, and tell him I wish to know how much is one ounce."
The message was carried. The schoolmaster, occupied with his pupils, and not liking the interruption, hastily, and without further inquiries of the messenger, turned over his Bonnycastle, and arriving at the table of avoirdupois weight, replied, "Tell your father that sixteen drams make an ounce."
The boy took back the message correctly, and when the old Dutchman heard it, his countenance brightened up. "A goot physician, a clever man—I only have drank twelve drams a-day, and he tells me to take sixteen. I have taken one oath when I was drunk, and I keep it; now dat I am sober I take anoder, which is, I will be very sick for de remainder of my days, and never throw my physic out of window."
There was a cold water celebration at Boston, on which occasion the hilarity of the evening was increased by the singing of the following ode. Nobody will venture to assert that there is any spirit in the composition, and, judging from what I have seen of American manners and customs, I am afraid that the sentiments of the last four lines will not be responded to throughout the Union.
In Eden's green retreats A water-brook that played Between soft, and mossy seats Beneath a plane-tree's shade, Whose rustling leaves Danced o'er its brink, Was Adam's drink, And also Eve's.
Beside the parent spring Of that young brook, the pair Their morning chaunt would sing; And Eve, to dress her hair, Kneel on the grass That fringed its side, And made its tide Her looking-glass.
And when the man of God From Egypt led his flock, They thirsted, and his rod Smote the Arabian rock, And forth a rill Of water gushed, And on they rushed, And drank their fill.
Would Eden thus have smil'd Had wine to Eden come? Would Horeb's parching wild Have been refreshed with rum And had Eve's hair Been dressed in gin Would she have been Reflected fair?
Had Moses built a still And dealt out to that host, To every man his gill, And pledged him in a toast, How large a band Of Israel's sons Had laid their bones In Canaan's land?
Sweet fields, beyond Death's flood, Stand dressed in living green, For, from the throne of God, To freshen all the scene, A river rolls, Where all who will May come and fill Their crystal bowls.
If Eden's strength and bloom Cold water thus hath given— If e'en beyond the tomb, It is the drink of heaven— Are not good wells, And crystal springs, The very things For our hotels?
As I shall return to the subject of intemperance in my examination of society, I shall conclude this chapter with an extract from Miss Martineau, whose work is a strange compound of the false and the true:—"My own convictions are, that associations, excellent as they are for mechanical objects, are not fit instruments for the achievement of moral aims; that there has been no proof that the principle of self-restraint has been exalted and strengthened in the United States by the Temperance movement while the already too great regard to opinion, and subservience to spiritual encroachment, have been much increased; and, therefore, great as may be the visible benefits of the institution, it may at length appear that they have been dearly purchased."
Note 1. Not long afterwards a prominent Presbyterian clergyman of Philadelphia thought fit to preach and publish a sermon, wherein it was set forth and conclusively proved, that on such and such contingencies of united religious effort of the religious public, the majority of the American people could be made religious; consequently they might carry their religious influence to the polls; consequently the religious would be able to turn all the profane out of office; and consequently, the American people would become a Christian nation!—Voice from America by an American Gentleman.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.
The lawyers are the real aristocracy of America; they comprehend nearly the whole of the gentility, talent, and liberal information of the Union. Any one who has had the pleasure of being at one of their meetings, such as the Rent Club at New York, would be satisfied that there is no want of gentlemen with enlightened, liberal ideas in the United States; but it is to the law, the navy, and the army, that you must chiefly look for this class of people. Such must ever be the case in a democracy, where the mass are to be led; the knowledge of the laws of the country, and the habit of public speaking being essential to those who would reside at the helm or assist in the evolutions: the consequence has been, that in every era of the Union, the lawyers have always been the most prominent actors; and it may be added that they ever will play the most distinguished parts. Clay and Webster of the present day are, and all the leading men of the former generation were, lawyers. Their presidents have almost all been lawyers, and any deviation from this custom has been attended with evil results; witness the elevation of General Jackson to the presidency, and the heavy price which the Americans have paid for their phantom glory. The names of Judge Marshall and of Chancellor Kent are well known in this country, and most deservedly so: indeed, I am informed it has latterly been the custom in our own law courts, to cite as cases the decisions of many of the superior American judges—a just tribute to their discrimination and their worth.
The general arrangement of that part of the American constitution relating to the judicature is extremely good, perhaps the best of all their legislative arrangements, yet it contains some great errors; one of which is, that of district and inferior judges being elected, as it leaves the judge at the mercy of an excitable and overbearing people, who will attempt to dictate to him as they do to their spiritual teacher. Occasionally he must choose whether he will decide as they wish, or lose his situation on the ensuing election. Justice as well as religion will be interfered with by the despotism of the democracy.
The Americans are fond of law in one respect, that is, they are fond of going to law. It is excitement to them, and not so expensive as in this country. It is a pleasure which they can afford, and for which they cheerfully pay.
But, on the other hand, the very first object of the Americans, after a law has been passed, is to find out how they can evade it; this exercises their ingenuity, and it is very amusing to observe how cleverly they sometimes manage it. Every state enactment to uphold the morals, or for the better regulation of society, is immediately opposed by the sovereign people.
An act was passed to prohibit the playing of nine pins, (a very foolish act, as the Americans have so few amusements): as soon as the law was put in force, it was notified every where, "Ten pins played here," and they have been played every where, ever since.
Another act was passed to put down billiard tables, and in this instance every precaution was taken by an accurate description of the billiard table, that the law might be enforced. Whereupon an extra pocket was added to the billiard table, and thus the law was evaded.
When I was at Louisville, a bill which had been brought in by congress, to prevent the numerous accidents which occurred in steam navigation, came into force. Inspectors were appointed to see that the steam-boats complied with the regulations; and those boats which were not provided according to law, did not receive the certificate from the inspectors, and were liable to a fine of five hundred dollars if they navigated without it. A steam-boat was ready to start; the passengers clubbed together and subscribed half the sum, (two hundred and fifty dollars), and, as the informer was to have half the penalty, the captain of the boat went and informed against himself and received the other half; and thus was the fine paid.
At Baltimore, in consequence of the prevalence of hydrophobia, the civic authorities passed a law, that all dogs should be muzzled, or, rather, the terms were, "that all dogs should wear a muzzle," or the owner of a dog not wearing a muzzle, should be brought up and fined; and the regulation farther stated that anybody convicted of having, "removed the muzzle from off a dog should also be severely fined." A man, therefore, tied a muzzle to his dog's tail (the act not stating where the muzzle was to be placed). One of the city officers, perceiving this dog with his muzzle at the wrong end, took possession of the dog and brought it to the town-hall; its master being well known, was summoned, and appeared. He proved that he had complied with the act, in having fixed a muzzle on the dog; and, farther, the city officer having taken the muzzle off the dog's tail, he insisted that he should be fined five dollars for so doing.
The striped pig, I have already mentioned; but were I to relate all I have been told upon this head, it would occupy too much of the reader's time and patience.
The mass of the citizens of the United States have certainly a very great dislike to all law except their own, i.e., the decision of the majority; and it must be acknowledged that it is not only the principle of equality, but the parties who are elected as district judges, that, by their own conduct, contribute much to that want of respect with which they are treated in their courts. When a judge on his bench sits half-asleep, with his hat on, and his coat and shoes off; his heels kicking upon the railing or table which is as high or higher than his head; his toes peeping through a pair of old worsted stockings, and with a huge quid of tobacco in his cheek, you cannot expect that much respect will be paid to him. Yet such is even now the practice in the interior of the western states. I was much amused at reading an English critique upon a work by Judge Hall (a district judge), in which the writer says, "We can imagine his honour in all the solemnity of his flowing wig," etcetera, etcetera. The last time I saw his honour he was cashier to a bank at Cincinnati, thumbing American bank-notes—dirtier work than is ever practised in the lowest grade of the law, as any one would say if he had ever had any American bank-notes in his possession.
As may be supposed, in a new country like America, many odd scenes take place. In the towns in the interior, a lawyer's office is generally a small wooden house, of one room, twelve feet square, built of clapboards, and with the door wide open; and the little domicile with its tenant used to remind me of a spider in its web waiting for flies.
Not forty years back, on the other side of the Alleghany mountains, deer skins at forty cents per pound, and the furs of other animals at a settled price, were legal tender, and received both by judges and lawyers as fees. The lawyers in the towns on the banks of the Susquehannah, where it appears the people, (notwithstanding Campbell's beautiful description,) were extremely litigious, used to receive all their fees in kind, such as skins, corn, whiskey, etcetera, etcetera, and, as soon as they had sufficient to load a raft, were to be seen gliding down the river to dispose of their cargo at the first favourable mart for produce. Had they worn the wigs and gown of our own legal profession, the effect would have been more picturesque.
There is a record of a very curious trial which occurred in the state of New York. A man had lent a large iron, kettle, or boiler, to another, and it being returned cracked, an action was brought against the borrower for the value of the kettle. After the plaintiff's case had been heard, the counsel for the defendant rose and said:—"Mister Judge, we defend this action upon three counts, all of which we shall most satisfactorily prove to you.
"In the first place, we will prove, by undoubted evidence, that the kettle was cracked when we borrowed it.
"In the second, that the kettle, when we returned it was whole and sound.
"And in the third, we will prove that we never borrowed the kettle at all."
There is such a thing as proving too much, but one thing is pretty fairly proved in this case, which is, that the defendant's counsel must have originally descended from the Milesian stock.
I have heard many amusing stories of the peculiar eloquence of the lawyers in the newly settled western states, where metaphor is so abundant. One lawyer was so extremely metaphorical upon an occasion, when the stealing of a pig was the case in point, that at last he got to "coruscating rays." The judge (who appeared equally metaphorical— himself) thought proper to pull him up by saying:—"Mr —, I wish you would take the feathers from the wings of your imagination, and put them into the tail of your judgment."
Extract from an American paper:—
"Scene.—A Court-house not fifty miles from the city of Louisville. Judge presiding with great dignity. A noise is heard before the door. He looks up, fired with indignation.—'Mr Sheriff, sir, bring them men in here; this in the temple of liberty—this in the sanctuary of justice, and it shall not be profaned by the cracking of nuts and the eating of gingerbread.'"—Marblehead Register.
I have already observed that there is a great error in the office of the inferior and district judges being elective, but there are others equally serious. In the first place the judges are not sufficiently paid. Captain Hamilton remarks:—
"The low salaries of the judges constitute matter of general complaint among the members of the bar, both at Philadelphia and New York. These are so inadequate, when compared with the income of a well-employed barrister, that the state is deprived of the advantage of having the highest legal talent on the bench. Men from the lower walks of the profession, therefore, are generally promoted to the office; and for the sake of a wretched saving of a few thousand dollars, the public are content to submit their lives and properties to the decision of men of inferior intelligence and learning.
"In one respect, I am told, the very excess of democracy defeats itself. In some states the judges are so inordinately underpaid, that no lawyer who does not possess a considerable private fortune can afford to accept the office. From this circumstance, something of aristocratic distinction has become connected with it, and a seat on the bench is now more greedily coveted than it would be were the salary more commensurate with the duties of the situation."
The next error is, that political questions are permitted to interfere with the ends of justice. It is a well-known fact that, not long ago, an Irishman, who had murdered his wife, was brought to trial upon the eve of an election; and, although his guilt was undoubted, he was acquitted, because the Irish party, which were so influential as to be able to turn the election, had declared that, if their countryman was convicted, they would vote on the other side.
But worst of all is the difficulty of finding an honest jury—a fact generally acknowledged. Politics, private animosities, bribery, all have their influence to defeat the ends of justice, and it argues strongly against the moral standard of a nation that such should be the case; but that it is so is undoubted. [See Note 1.] The truth is that the juries, have no respect for the judges, however respectable they may be, and as many of them really are. The feeling "I'm as good as he" operates everywhere. There is no shutting up a jury and starving them out as with us; no citizen, "free and enlightened, aged twenty-one, white," would submit to such an invasion of his rights. Captain Hamilton observes:—
"It was not without astonishment, I confess, that I remarked that three-fourths of the jury-men were engaged in eating bread and cheese, and that the foreman actually announced the verdict with his mouth full, ejecting the disjointed syllables during the intervals of mastication! In truth, an American seems to look on a judge exactly as he does on a carpenter or coppersmith; and it never occurs to him, that an administrator of justice is entitled to greater respect than a constructor of brass knockers, or the sheather of a ship's bottom. The judge and the brazier are paid equally for their work; and Jonathan firmly believes that, while he has money in his pocket, there is no risk of suffering from the want either of law or warming pans."
One most notorious case of bribery, I can vouch for, as I am acquainted with the two parties, one of whom purchased the snuff-box in which the other enclosed the notes and presented to the jurymen. A gentleman at New York of the name of Stoughton, had a quarrel with another of the name of Goodwin: the latter followed the former down the street, and murdered him in open day by passing a small sword through his body. The case was as clear as a case could be, but there is a great dislike to capital punishment in America, and particularly was there in this instance, as the criminal was of good family and extensive connections. It was ascertained that all the jury except two intended to acquit the prisoner upon some pretended want of evidence, but that these two had determined that the law should take its course, and were quite inexorable. Before the jury retired to consult upon the verdict, it was determined by the friends of the prisoner that an attempt should be made by bribery to soften down the resolution of these two men. As they were retiring, a snuff-box was put into the hands of one of them by a gentleman, with the observation that he and his friend would probably find a pinch of snuff agreeable after so long a trial. The snuff-box contained bank notes to the amount of 2,500 dollars (500 pounds sterling). The snuff-box and its contents were not returned, and the prisoner was acquitted.
The unwillingness to take away life is a very remarkable feature in America, and were it not carried to such an extreme length, would be a very commendable one. An instance of this occurred just before my arrival at New York. A young man by the name of Robinson, who was a clerk in an importing house, had formed a connection with a young woman on the town, of the name of Ellen Jewitt. Not having the means to meet her demands upon his purse, he had for many months embezzled from the store goods to a very large amount, which she had sold to supply her wants or wishes. At last, Robinson, probably no longer caring for the girl, and aware that he was in her power, determined upon murdering her. Such accumulated crime can hardly be conceived! He went to sleep with her, made her drunk with champagne before they retired to bed, and then as she lay in bed murdered her with an axe, which he had brought with him from his master's store. The house of ill-fame in which he visited her was at that time full of other people of both sexes, who had retired to rest—it is said nearly one hundred were there on that night, thoughtless of the danger to which they were exposed, fearful that the murder of the young woman would be discovered and brought home to him, the miscreant resolved to set fire to the house, and by thus sending unprepared into the next world so many of his fellow creatures, escape the punishment which he deserved. He set fire to the bed upon which his unfortunate victim laid, and having satisfied himself that his work was securely done, locked the door of the room, and quitted the premises. A merciful Providence, however, directed otherwise; the fire was discovered, and the flames extinguished, and his crime made manifest. The evidence in an English court would have been more than sufficient to convict him; but in America, such is the feeling against taking life that, strange to say, Robinson was acquitted, and permitted to leave for Texas, where it is said, he still lives under a false name. I have heard this subject canvassed over and over again in New York; and, although some, with a view of extenuating to a foreigner such a disgraceful disregard to security of life, have endeavoured to show that the evidence was not quite satisfactory, there really was not a shadow of doubt in the whole case. See Note 2.
But leniency towards crime is the grand characteristic of American legislation. Whether it proceeds, (as I much suspect it does,) from the national vanity being unwilling to admit that such things can take place among "a very moral people," or from a more praiseworthy feeling, I am not justified in asserting: the reader must form his own opinion, when he has read all I have to say upon other points connected with the subject.
I have been very much amused with the reports of the sentences given by my excellent friend the recorder of New York. He is said to be one of the soundest lawyers in the Union, and a very worthy man; but I trust say, that as recorder, he does not add to the dignity of the bench by his facetious remarks, and the peculiar lenity he occasionally shows to the culprits. See Note 3.
I will give an extract from the newspapers of some of the proceedings an his court, as they will, I am convinced, be as amusing to the reader as they have been to me.
The Recorder then called out—"Mr Crier, make the usual proclamation;" "Mr Clerk, call out the prisoners, and let us proceed to sentencing them!"
Clerk. Put Stephen Schofield to the bar.
It was done.
Clerk. Prisoner, you may remember you have heretofore been indicted for a certain crime by you committed; upon your indictment you were arraigned; upon your arraignment you pleaded guilty, and threw yourself upon the mercy of the court. What have you now to say, why judgment should not be passed upon you according to law.
The prisoner, who was a bad-looking mulatto, was silent.
Recorder. Schofield, you have been convicted of a very bad crime; you attempted to take liberties with a young white girl—a most serious offence. This is getting to be a very bad crime, and practised, I am sorry to say, to a great extent in this community: it must be put a stop to. Had you been convicted of the whole crime, we should have sent you to the state-prison for life. As it is, we sentence you to hard labour in the state-prison at Sing Sing for five years; and that's the judgment of the court; and when you come out, take no more liberties with white girls.
Prisoner. Thank your honour it ain't no worse.
Clerk. Bring out Mary Burns.
It was done.
Clerk. Prisoner, you may remember, etcetera, etcetera, upon your arraignment you pleaded not guilty, and put yourself on your country for trial; which country hath found you guilty. What have you now to say why judgment should not be pronounced upon you according to law?
Recorder. Mary Burns, Mrs Forgay gave you her chemise to wash.
Prisoner. No, she didn't give it to me.
Recorder. But you got it somehow, and you stole the money. Now, you see, our respectable fellow-citizens, the ladies, must have their chemises washed, and, to do so, they must put confidence in their servants; and they have a right to sew their money up in their chemise if they think proper, and servants must not steal it from them. As you're a young woman, and not married, it would not be right to deprive you of the opportunity to get a husband for five years; so we shall only send you to Sing Sing for two years and six months; the keeper will work you in whatever way he may think proper.—Go to the next.
Charles Liston was brought out and arraigned, pro forma. He was a dark negro.
Clerk. Liston, what have you to say why judgment, etcetera?
Prisoner. All I got to say to his honour de honourable court is, dat I see de error of my ways, and I hope dey may soon see de error of deirs. I broke de law of my free country, and I must lose my liberty, and go to Sing Sing. But I trow myself on de mercy of de Recorder; and all I got to say to his honour, de honourable Richard Riker, is, dat I hope he'll live to be de next mayor of New York till I come out of Sing Sing.
Recorder (laughing). A very good speech! But, Liston, whether I'm mayor or not, you must suffer some. This stealing from entries is a most pernicious crime, and one against which our respectable fellow-citizens can scarcely guard. Two-thirds of our citizens hang their hats and coats in entries, and we must protect their hats and coats. We, therefore, sentence you to Sing Sing for five years,—Go to the next.
John Mcdonald and Godfrey Crawluck were put to the bar.
Recorder. Mcdonald and Crawluck, you stole two beeves. Now, however much I like beef, I'd he very hungry before I'd steal any beef. You are on the high road to ruin. You went up the road to Harlem, and down the road to Yorkville, and you'll soon go to destruction. We shall send you to Sing Sing for two years each; and when you come out, take your mother's maiden name, and lead a good life, and don't eat any more beef—I mean, don't steal any more beeves—Go to the next.
Luke Staken was arraigned.
Recorder.—Staken, you slept in a room with Lahay, and stole all his gold (1000 dollars). This sleeping in rooms with other people, and stealing their things, is a serious offence, and practised to a great extent in this city; and what makes the matter worse, you stole one thousand dollars in specie, when specie is so scarce. We send you to Sing Sing for five years.
Jacob Williams was arraigned. He looked as if he had not many days to live, though a young man.
Recorder. Williams, you stole a lot of kerseymere from a store, and ran off with it—a most pernicious crime! But, as your health is not good, we shall only send you to Sing Sing for three years and six months.
John H Murray was arraigned.
Recorder. Murray, you're a deep fellow. You got a Green Mountain boy into an alley, and played at "shuffle and burn," and you burned him out of a hundred dollars. You must go to Sing Sing for five years; and we hope the reputable reporters attending for the respectable public press will warn our respectable country friends, when they come into New York, not to go into Orange street, and play at "shuffle and burn" among bad girls and bad men, or they'll very likely get burnt, like this Green Mountain boy.—Go to the next.
William Shay, charged with shying glasses at the head of a tavern-keeper. Guilty.
Recorder. This rioting is a very bad crime, Shay, and deserves heavy punishment; but as we understand you have a wife and sundry little Shays, we'll let you off, provided you give your solemn promise never to do so any more.
Shay. I gives it—wery solemnly.
Recorder. Then we discharge you.
Shay. Thank your honour—your honour's a capital judge.
John Bowen, charged with stealing a basket. Guilty.
Recorder. Now, John, we've convicted you; and you'll have to get out stone for three months on Blackwell's Island—that's the judgment of the court.
Buckley and Charles Rogers, charged with loafing, sleeping in the park, and leaving the gate open, were discharged, with a caution to take care how they interfered with corporation rights in future, or they would get their corporation into trouble.
Ann Boyle, charged with being too lively in the street. Let off on condition of being quiet for the time to come.
Thomas Dixon, charged with petty larceny. Guilty.
Dixon. I wish to have judgment suspended.
Recorder. It's a bad time to talk about suspension; why do you request this?
Dixon. I've an uncle I want to see, and other relations.
Recorder. In that case we'll send you to Black well's island for six months, you'll be sure to find them all there. Sentence accordingly.
Charles Enroff, charged with petty larceny—coming Paddy over an Irish shoemaker, and thereby cheating him out of a pair of shoes.—Guilty.
Sentenced to the penitentiary, Blackwell's island, for six months, to get out stone.
Charles Thorn, charged with assaulting Miss Rachael Prigmore.
Recorder. Miss Prigmore, how came this man to strike you?
Rachael. Because I wouldn't have him. (A laugh.) He was always a teasing me, and spouting poetry about roses and thorns; so when I told him to be off he struck me.
Prisoner (theatrically). Me strike you! Oh, Rachael—
"Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love, But why did you kick me down stairs?"
Prisoner's Counsel. That's it, your honour. Why did she kick him down stairs?
This the fair Rachael indignantly denied, and the prisoner was found guilty.
Recorder. This striking of women is a very bad crime, you must get out stone for two months.
Prisoner. She'll repent, your honour. She loves me—I know she does.
"On the cold flinty rock, when I'm busy at work, Oh, Rachael, I'll think of thee."
Thomas Ward, charged with petty larceny. Guilty. Ward had nothing to offer to ward off his sentence, therefore he was sent to the island for six months.
Maria Brandon, charged with petty larceny. Guilty. Sentenced to pick oakum for six months.
Maria. Well, I've friends, that's comfort, they'll sing—
"Oh, come to this bower, my own stricken deer."
Recorder. You're right, Maria, it's an oakum bower you're going to.
The court then adjourned. See Note 4.
But all these are nothing compared with the following, which at first I did not credit. I made the strictest inquiry, and was informed by a legal gentleman present that it was correct. I give the extract as it stood in the newspapers.
Influence of a Pretty Girl.—"Catherine Manly," said the Recorder yesterday, in the sessions, "you have been convicted of a very bad crime. This stealing is a very serious offence; but, as you are a pretty girl! we'll suspend judgment, in hopes you will do better for the future." We have often heard that justice was blind. What a fib to say so!
Mr Carey, in his publication on Wealth, asserts, that security of property and or person are greater in the United States than in England. How far he is correct I shall now proceed to examine. Mr Carey says, in his observations on security of person:—"Comparing Massachusetts with England and Wales, we find in the former 1 in 86,871 sentenced to one year's imprisonment or more; whereas, in the latter 1 in 70,000 is sentenced to more than one year. The number sentenced to one year or more in England is greater than in Pennsylvania. It is obvious, therefore, that security is much greater in Massachusetts than in England, and consequently greater than in any other part of the world."
Relative to crimes against security of property, he asserts:—
Of crimes against property, involving punishments of one year's imprisonment, or more, we find:—
========================+ YIn Pennsylvania Y1 in 4,400Y +————————————— YIn New York Y1 in 5,900Y —————————————+ YIn MassachusettsY1 in 5,932Y +====================
While in England, in the year 1834, their convictions for offences against property, involving punishments exceeding one year's imprisonment, was 1 in 3,120.
Now, that these numbers are fairly given, as far as they go, I have no doubt; but the comparison is not just, because, first, in America crime is not so easily detected; and, secondly, when detected, conviction does not always follow.
Mr Carey must be well aware that, in the American newspapers, you continually meet with a paragraph like this:—"A body of a white man, or of a negro, was found floating near such and such a wharf, on Saturday last, with evident marks of violence upon it, etcetera. etcetera, and the coroner's inquest is returned either found drowned, or violence by person or persons unknown." Now, let Mr Carey take a list from the coroner's books of the number of bodies found in this manner at New York, and the number of instances in which the perpetrators have been discovered; let him compare this list with a similar one made for England and Wales, and he will then ascertain the difference between the crimes committed in proportion to the convictions which take place through the activity of the police in our country, and, it may be said, the total want of police in the United States.
As to the second point, namely, that when crimes are detected, conviction does not follow, [see Note 5] I have only to refer back to the cases of Robinson and Goodwin, two instances out of the many in which criminals in the United States are allowed to escape, who, if they had committed the same offence in England, would most certainly have been hanged. But there is another point which renders Mr Carey's statement unfair, which is, that he has no right to select one, two, or even three states out of twenty-six, and compare them all with England and Wales.