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far different; and such a supposition is the fair way of trying the question. We doubt if there be not some mischief in averting the fears and hopes of the people from the known and constituted authorities of the country to those self-created powers;–a Society that punishes in the Strand, another which rewards at Lloyd's Coffee-house ! If these things get to any great height, they throw an air of insignificance over those branches of the government. to whom these cares properly devolve, and whose authority is by these means assisted, till it is superseded. It is supposed that a project must necessarily be good, because it is intended for the aid of law and government. At this rate, there should be a society in aid of the government, for procuring intelligence from foreign parts, with accredited agents all over Europe. There should be a voluntary transport board, and a gratuitous victualling office. There should be a duplicate, in short, of every department of the State, –the one appointed by the King, and the other by itself. There should be a real Lord Glenbervie in the woods and forests, – and with him a monster, a voluntary Lord Glenbervie, serving without pay, and guiding gratis, with secret counsel, the axe of his prototype. If it be asked, who are the constituted authorities who are legally appointed to watch over morals, and whose functions the Society usurp 2 our answer is, that there are in England about 12,000 clergy, not unhandsomely paid for persuading the people, and about 4000 justices, 30 grand juries, and 40,000 constables, whose duty and whose inclination it is to compel them to do right. Under such circumstances, a voluntary moral society does indeed seem to be the purest result of volition; for there certainly is not the smallest particle of necessity mingled with its” existence. It is hardly possible that a society for the suppression v of vice can ever be kept within the bounds of good sense and moderation. If there are many members who have really become so from a feeling of duty, there will necessarily be some who enter the Society to hide a bad
character, and others whose object it is to recommend
N for the suppression of vice, is an involuntary combina
tion in favour of the vices to be suppressed; and this is a very serious drawback from any good of which such societies may be the occasion ; for the state of morals, at any one period, depends much more upon opinion than law; and to bring odious and disgusting auxiliaries to the aid of virtue, is to do the utmost possible good to the cause of vice. We regret that mankind are as they are ; and we sincerely wish that the species at large were as completely devoid of every vice and infirmity as the President, Vice-President, and Committee of the Suppressing Society; but, till they are thus regenerated, it is of the greatest consequence to teach them virtue and religion in a manner which will not make them hate both the one and the other. The greatest delicacy is required in the application of violence to moral and religious sentiment. We forget, that the object is, not to produce the outward compliance, but to raise up the inward feeling, which secures the outward compliance. You may drag men into church by main force, and prosecute them for buying a pot of beer, and cut them off from the enjoyment of a leg of mutton;–and you may do all this, till you make the common people hate Sunday, and the clergy, and religion, and every thing which relates to such subjects. There are many crimes, indeed, where persuasion cannot be waited for, and where the untaught feelings of all men go along with the violence of the law. A robber and a murderer must be knocked on the head like mad dogs; but we have no great opinion of the possibility of indicting men into piety, or of calling in the Quarter Sessions to the aid of religion. You may produce outward conformity by these means; but you are so far from producing (the only thing worth producing) the inward feeling, that you incur a great risk of giving birth to a totally opposite sentiment. The violent modes of making men good, just alluded to, have been resorted to at periods when the science of legislation was not so well understood as it now is ; or when the manners of the age have been peculiarly gloomy or fanatical. The improved knowledge, and the improved temper of later times, push such laws intov the back ground, and silently repeal them. A Suppressing Society, hunting every where for penalty and information, has a direct tendency to revive ancient. ignorance and fanaticism,_and to re-enact laws which, if ever they ought to have existed at all, were certainly calculated for a very different style of manners, and a very different degree of information. To compel men to go to church under a penalty appears to us to be absolutely absurd. The bitterest enemy of religion will necessarily be that person who is driven to a compliance with its outward ceremonies, by informers and justices of the peace. In the same manner, any constable who hears another swear an oath has a right to seize him, and carry him before a magistrate, where he is to be fined so much for each execration. It is impossible to carry such laws into execution; and it is lucky that it is impossible, – for their execution would create an infinitely greater evil than it attempted to remedy. The common sense, and common feeling of mankind, if left to themselves, would silently repeal such laws; and it is one of the evils of these societies, that they render absurdity eternal, and ignorance indestructible. Do
not let us be misunderstood : upon the object to be accomplished, there can be but one opinion;–it is only upon the means employed, that there can be the slightest difference of sentiment. To go to church is a duty of the greatest possible importance; and on the blasphemy and vulgarity of swearing, there can be but one opinion. But such duties are not the objects of legislation; they wmust be left to the general state of public sentiment; which sentiment must be influenced by example, by the exertions of the pulpit and the press, and, above all, by education. The fear of God can never be taught by | Yo nor the pleasures of religion be learnt from common informer.
Beginning with the best intentions in the world, such societies must in all probability degenerate into a receptacle for every species of tittle-tattle, impertinence, and malice. Men, whose trade is rat-catching, love to catch rats; the bug-destroyer seizes on his bug with delight; and the suppressor is gratified by finding his vice. The last soon becomes a mere tradesman like the \others; none of them moralize, or lament that their respective evils should exist in the world. The public feeling is swallowed up in the pursuit of a daily occupation, and in the display of a technical skill. Here, ...then, is a society of men, who invite accusation, — who receive it (almost unknown to themselves) with pleasure, —and who, if they hate dulness and inoccupation, can have very little pleasure in the innocence of their fellow creatures. The natural consequence of all this is, that (besides that portion of rumour which every member contributes at the weekly meeting) their table must be vcovered with anonymous lies against the characters of individuals. Every servant discharged from his master's service, — every villain who hates the man he has injured,—every cowardly assassin of character, —now knows where his accusations will be received, and where they cannot fail to produce some portion of the mischievous effects which he wishes. The very first step of such a Society should be, to declare, in the plainest vvmanner, that they would never receive any anonymous accusation. This would be the only security to the public, that they were not degrading themselves into a receptacle for malice and falsehood. Such a declaration would inspire some species of confidence; and make us believe that their object was neither the love of power, nor the gratification of uncharitable feelings. The Society for the Suppression, however, have done no such thing. They request, indeed, the signature of the informers whom they invite; but they do not (as they o make that signature an indispensable condition. Nothing has disgusted us so much in the proceedings of this Society, as the control which they exercise overthe amusements of the poor. One of the specious titles under which this legal meanness is gratified is, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Of Cruelty to animals, let the reader take the following specimens: — Running an iron hook in the intestines of an animal; presenting this first animal to another as his food; and then pulling this second creature up and suspending him by the barb in his stomach. Riding a horse till he drops, in order to see an innocent animal torn to pieces by dogs. Keeping a poor animal upright for many weeks, to communicate a peculiar hardness to his flesh. Making deep incisions into the flesh of another animal while living, in order to make the muscles more firm. Immersing another animal, while living, in hot water. Now we do fairly admit, that such abominable cruelties as these are worthy the interference of the law: and that the Society should have punished them, cannot be matter of surprise to any feeling mind. — But stop, gentle reader these cruelties are the cruelties of th Suppressing Committee, not of the poor. You must not think of punishing these.—The first of these cruelties passes under the pretty name of angling;-and therefore there can be no harm in it—the more particularly as the President himself has one of the best preserved trout streams in England. — The next is hunting; —and as many of the Vice-Presidents and of the Committee hunt,