« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
by making charges of misconduct against the police in putting the law in force. The Commissioners made inquiry into every case in which names and details were given. In some cases the persons who publicly made these statements refused to come forward to substantiate them ; in others the explanations were hearsay, or more or less frivolous. The result was to satisfy the Commissioners that the police were not chargeable with any abuse of their authority, and that they had discharged a novel and difficult duty with moderation and caution. With regard to the evil to be dealt with, the Commissioners received much evidence. They found that improved treatment had of late years mitigated the virulence of the disease to which these Acts of Parliament relate, and the more cleanly habits of the people may have diminished its prevalence; but it was shown on the highest authority that it remained a disease of a most formidable description—the source of many diseases formerly referred to other origins, infecting innocent persons, and causing a number of children to be born quite unfit for the work of life. The medical evidence was general in favour of the Acts among the officers of the Army and Navy. Among the witnesses summoned at the instance of the Association for the repeal of the Acts there was no medical officer of either service. Were the physical aspect of the question alone to be considered, the Commissioners reported that they would feel it their duty to recommend the extension of the enactments to the general population, or at least to the large towns. But an inquiry into the moral and political bearing of the Acts introduced considerations of more doubt and difficulty, though the diminution of the number of women practising public solicitation in the protected districts was a material gain to public decency and morality.
It was objected that the result of the Acts was to permit immorality without attendant hazard; on the other hand, it was urged that it is the duty of the State to maintain the Army and the Navy in the highest possible state of physical efficiency, and that camps and seaports are so especially the resorts of a dangerous class as to justify exceptional regulations, strictly guarded. The principal objection, however, seemed to be to the periodical examination, which is the most efficacious means of controlling disease. The Commissioners considered that it would be difficult, if not practically impossible, to make this system general throughout the country, even if it were desirable to do so, and that to confine to a few favoured places the remedy for a disease which is general would not be possible. They were, therefore, brought to the question whether these Acts should be repealed, or whether some modification of them might not be recommended by which they might be stripped of their anomalous and offensive character without materially impairing their efficiency
The Commissioners thought that such modification might be arrived at. There was evidence that the Act of 1864, if allowed fair play, could work with vigour and efficiency. It applied to certain naval and military stations, and dealt only with disease. No proceedings were taken unless there was evidence to satisfy a magistrate, upon the information of a superior officer of police, that the woman was a fit subject for medical examination; and no woman could be detained in a certified hospital except by a magistrate's order founded on the certificate of the medical officer that she had a contagious disease. The evidence showed to the Commission that the women were willing to submit to treatment when disabled by disease, but that under a voluntary system they would leave the hospital upon temptation from without or even from mere weariness of confinement. The Commissioners stated their views as follows:
“Many of the witnesses before the Commission, who upon various grounds, but always upon those of its alleged grossness and immorality, have expressed the strongest repugnance to the periodical examination of public women as practised under the Act of 1866, are, nevertheless, agreed that the detention of the women in the hospital for the completion of their cure is justifiable. It would be, indeed, to little purpose to provide hospital accommodation if they were to resort to them and to leave them at their pleasure. As regards voluntary applicants, there could be no objection to the patients being required to enter into an engagement to remain until discharged by the hospital authorities. We are assured, however, that few women would enter under such a condition; and it is orged that the liberty of the subject is invaded when a diseased prostitute is prevented from propagating disease, and compelled to enter a hospital for the purpose of being cured. We think, however, the temporary suspension of personal freedom in this instance, such suspension being strictly measured by the time required to effect the patient's cure, and accompanied by no restraint unnecessary for such purpose, is not to be regarded as an infringement of a great constitutional principle. The periodical examination being abolished we would return to the proceedings taken under the Act of 1864, which dealt directly with the disease. We would continue in existence the certified hospitals already established, preserving carefully the provisions made for the religious and moral treatment of the patients, but we would regulate the dealing with prostitutes sent compulsorily to such hospitals according to the provisions (with some modifications to render them consistent with the control of the local authorities) of sections 11–21 of that Act; and we would permit the said provisions to be extended to any town in the United Kingdom which should make requests for such extension, and should provide proper hospital accommodation for the reception of patients. The Acts of 1866 and 1869, with the exception of the sections relating to periodical examination, and with certain other exceptions hereinafter mentioned, should continue in force within the prescribed limits, and at any military camps which may be temporarily formed, as measures of sanitary police applicable to the Army and Navy.”
The Commissioners would not allow any one to be detained in an hospital for more than three months. They would transfer the administration of the Acts from the Admiralty and War Office to the Home Department, and require the police employed to perform their duty in uniform. Stringent provisions were proposed against the use of public houses and common lodging-houses for immoral purposes. There are provisions in existing Acts for the committal of women behaving in public in a riotous or indecent manner, or importuning and annoying passengers; and the Commissioners recommended that these clauses be strictly enforced, and that every person convicted under them be examined, and, if necessary, detained in a hospital for cure. Another recommendation made was that girls under sixteen brought up under the Vagrant Act, or found pursuing an immoral life, should be sent to a home or industrial school, if they could not be otherwise provided for to the satisfaction of a magistrate. In regard to the metropolis, the Commissioners observed that the garrison of London consists of more than 7000 men, and that they consort with a class of women described by a police surgeon as the “shame of humanity.” It was suggested that until arrangements could be matured for comprehending the metropolis in general within measures to be applied to the population as a whole, aid should be given from the public funds to Lock hospitals, or hospitals having Lock wards, and that women admitted should be required to remain for the requisite period not exceeding three months. The Commissioners said,
“ The offenders who bring this affliction upon themselves by their own vicious indulgence may bave no claim to the compassionate care of the State, but the numerous innocent persons who suffer from the disease are surely entitled to consideration. We venture to express our hope, therefore, that while due consideration is paid to the sentiments of the people in regard to prostitution, no misapprehension as to the real moral bearings of the question and no want of courage will be suffered to prevent the application of such remedy as may be practicable to this great evil. The firmness of a former Parliament withstood the storm of clamour with which the discovery of vaccination was assailed by the ignorance and prejudice of the day, and relieved posterity from a scourge which was the terror of earlier generations; and we would fain hope that an attempt to stay the progress of a plague scarcely less formidable in its ravages is not to be hastily abandoned.”
The Commission was large, and the Report had twenty-three signatures. Sixteen of those who signed it recorded their dissent from some part or other of it; seven of these were of opinion that it did not go far enough in its proposed legislation against the evil to be met. They desired to see the Acts of 1866 and 1869 maintained in substance and in principle with some details corrected, and gradually and cautiously extended as circumstances might render possible and advisable.
The Preliminary Report of the Census of England and Wales in 1871, with a view to the increase or decrease of population in the several areas by which Members are returned to Parliament, established some facts of interest. From this it appeared that the increase was almost equally divided between boroughs and counties, or divisions of counties, excluding the boroughs which they contain. The total increase of population having been 2,637,884, we find 1,441,393 of this increase within, and 1,196,491 without the boundaries of Parliamentary boroughs. Of the 95 counties or divisions of counties the population had increased in 83, leaving a decrease, which amounts in the aggregate to 25,071, in the remaining twelve. Of this decrease, 9755, or more than one-third, occurred in the three Welsh counties of Pembrokeshire, Anglesea, and Brecon; and the remainder in East Cheshire, East and West Cornwall, East Cumberland, North Devon, Huntingdonshire, West Norfolk, South Notts, and South Wilts. The greatest diminution in any English division was 6145 in West Cornwall ; and the least 496 in North Devon. The tables do not at once show whether the decrease of population in these counties or divisions occurred in or beyond their contained Parliamentary boroughs; but on investigation it seems to have been chiefly external to the borough boundaries. The exceptions are that Haverfordwest accounted for 355 out of a total diminution of 4342 in Pembrokeshire; that Liskeard and St. Ives accounted for 329 out of a diminution of 7292 in Cornwall; Macclesfield and Stockport for 2210 out of 2873 in East Cheshire; and Tavistock and Tiverton for 1559, which exceeded by 1063 the total diminution of North Devon, so that in this division the loss in these two boroughs was to a large extent retrieved by gain elsewhere. South Shropshire shows the smallest increase of any division, amounting only to eight persons; and the large increments were mostly in the divisions that contain great towns. Middlesex heads the list with 332,397, and is followed by South-East Lancashire with 160,680; by North Durham with 100,145; by the northern division of the West Riding with 89,920; and by East Surrey with 56,312.
If we turn now to the boroughs, we find that, out of the 200 which returned Members at the last general election, 158 increased their population by the already-stated aggregate of 1,441,393. Eleven boroughs had been created since the Census of 1861; so that for them no comparison with the past could be made. Thirty lost an aggregate of 54,684 persons; and one, the remarkable case of Cockermouth, had remained stationary. In four boroughs the increase was less than 100; in 29 more than 100 and less than 500; in 13 between 500 and 1000; in 23 between 1000 and 2000; in 11 between 2000 and 3000; in 8 between 3000 and 4000; in 6 between 4000 and 5000; in 11 between 5000 and 7500; in 7 between 7500 and 10,000; in 9 between 10,000 and 15,000; in 11 between 15,000 and 20,000; in 12 between 20,000 and 30,000; in 3 between 30,000 and 40,000; in 3 between 40,000 and 50,000; in 4 between 50,000 and 60,000; and in one (Lambeth) it was 84,229. The other end of the scale is occupied by Stamford, with an increase of 39 only.
Sixty-eight boroughs had undergone alterations of boundary (probably in every case in the direction of enlargement), and sixtysix of these were among the number which show increase. In two of these cases - Ashton-under-Lyne and Cardigan--the increase was probably entirely due to the alteration of boundary, for the municipal boroughs of the same names showed a diminution, in the former case of 3856, in the latter of 8. Only two boroughs—Coventry and Macclesfield — had lost in population, notwithstanding the change of boundary. In the former the decrease was 297, in the latter 530.
Of the total decrease in borough population, about two-thirds, or 37,331, was in the City of London, and more than another sixth, or 8210, in Westminster. In these places, of course, diminution of population means the constantly increasing appropriation of houses to business purposes instead of to residence, and the consequent migration of the former occupiers to suburban or country districts. In the remaining 28 boroughs the total decrease was only 9130, or an average of 326 in each, and this average was very little departed from. Malmesbury, with a loss of 1 person only, and Liskeard, with 10, were at one end of the scale; Stockport, with 1680, and Tavistock, with 1137, were at the other. Between these extremes there was a loss of between 500 and 600 in 1 borough, between 400 and 500 in 2, between 300 and 400 in 9, between 200 and 300 in 1, between 100 and 200 in 3, of 100 precisely in 1, and less than 100 in 7.
As far as the decrease is concerned, therefore, it was altogether too small to make any appreciable difference with regard to Parliamentary representation, but the much larger and more important question of increase requires to be considered from this point of view. The borough of Lambeth in 1861 had a population of 294,883, and in 1864 had 25,037 electors on the register, or 83 per cent. of the inhabitants. The population is now 379,112, and at the general election of 1868 there were 33,337 electors on the register, or 8.7 per cent. of the inhabitants; so that in this borough the Reform Bill has scarcely at all increased the proportion of voters to population. Next to Lambeth the four boroughs with the greatest increase of population proved to be Finsbury, the Tower Hamlets, Sheffield, and Leeds. In 1861 they had an aggregate population of 1,116,308, and in 1864 an aggregate of 72,082 electors, or 6.4 per cent. The aggregate population was now 1,334,032, and in 1868 the aggregate number of electors was 129,822, or 9.8 per cent. In these places, therefore, the proportion of electors to population was half as great again as formerly. If we separate them into two pairs, the proportionate increase of electors was much greater in the provincial than in the metropolitan boroughs, showing that in the latter there were many more persons to be enfranchised by the Reform Bill. Thus Finsbury and the