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“Among dogs, we have a modifica- long sentences; and since 1843 this tion of structure and function made family had been chiefly supported at fixed and permanent, and more or less the public expense in prisons. The hereditary. Habits got by training relations I found in prison were: the are transmitted to the offspring of cer- father, two sons, three daughters, one tain breeds of dogs as their very na- daughter-in-law, and a sister-in-law. ture. It is so in the wolf-dog and the Doubtless other connections not dishound. The pointer, also, from origi- covered were there also. When these nal teaching, shows as the pup, while notes were taken there were in this yet in the farmyard, a tendency to prison three cousins (two being sispoint at every fowl or bird it sees be- ters), two aunts, and two uncles of the fore it has ever been afield. The shep- same family. Of two families, six herd dogs-perhaps above all others were in prison about the same time-show inherent sagacity of an extra- viz., four brothers and two sisters. Of ordinary kind from transmitted ha- three families, there were three prisonbits by training. It is the same in ers from each family, chiefly brothers certain castes and races and communi. and sisters; also several mothers and ties of the human family; and is the their daughters at the same time. transmission of thieving and other From four families, two brothers becriminal habits to form an exception longing to each family: From eight to other analogies?
families a brother and a sister. From “One of the most remarkable exam- ten families two sisters." * ples of a criminal family I know of is as follows: Three brothers had fam
This is a gloomy statement. ilies amounting to fifteen members in Where are we to find materials all. Of these, fourteen were utterers for weighing against it hereditary of base coin. The fifteenth appeared groups of poets, artists, metaphysito be exceptional, but was at length cians, and mathematicians? It is detected setting fire to his house after but a morsel gathered from an overinsuring it for four times its value.' The importance of checking, if possi- whelming mass of testimony, provble by legal restrictions, such criminal ing that the human animal is most tendencies, is brought out in this prolifically hereditary in the class case, when it is calculated that thou- of accomplishments that ought if sands of offences might have been pre- possible to be extirpated. The vented by these three brothers being facts stated by the writer just quotpermanently imprisoned before they ed are to be depended on, for he became fathers of families, and thereby perpetuated crime by heritage.”
was an honest man and an inde
fatigable investigator. There is no After some further general re- doubt, too, a sort of truth in the marks, the author, whose opinions sweeping conclusion that a deal of are thus expressed, sets forth some
crime and mischief would have been statements of a more specific kind obviated had the three fatal brothers as to inmates of the prisons under referred to been committed to perhis own medical charge:
manent imprisonment before they
became fathers of families. But “At the same time, one hundred how is such a feat as this imprisonprisoners were known to be in the same prison out of fifty families. Of ment to be accomplished in a counone family eight were known-often try like ours, where the law keeps two or three-at the same time. The jealous watch on the liberty of the father had been several times under subject, and will be reluctant to
* The Hereditary Nature of Crime. By J. B. Thomson, F.R.C.S., Resident Surgeon, General Prison for Scotland at Perth. Pp. 8, 9.
take it on the word of any man, expedition near the door of a church that some other man is sure to be or theatre will be as uncontaminthe sire of a race of housebreakers ated in his sobriety as the adept and pickpockets? A time was, in- who is striving after the solution deed, when there seemed to be a of a difficulty in the higher mapleasant prospect of such a practi- thematics. There is a belief that cal realisation of philosophical posi- criminals are apt to indulge in a tivism. The phrenologists would jolly fit after a good take. Such have done the world the service of an incident has been told as that identifying the proper objects of crew of housebreakers having restraint by manipulation of the found liquor with the other rewards bumps of the skull. But the day of their skill and industry, have and influence of these adepts has been prompted to partake too passed away, and the world is not rashly of it on the premises, and even conscious of the calamity it in their excitement and exuberhas endured in the privation. ance to revel in excesses that have
The criminal classes are extremely betrayed them to their capture. dexterous in catching and appro- But drinking is not so markedly priating any popular cry likely to the vice of the habitual criminal be of service to them. In recent as of some less offensive members years they have evidently been of society. There seems to be lending an attentive ear to the something in the excitement of loud wailings of a portion of the criminal work that is sufficient in community against the jovial habits itself and needs no aid. The expert of another portion. Drink did pocket-picker is shy of anything it all—that weary drink;" “ If it that would tend to injure the nicety hadn't been for the drink we never of his fingering. would have been here,” are assur- On the other hand, the partaker ances often repeated by the jail- whose excesses have carried him bird. The doctrine is a consolatory so far beyond the bounds of selfone to them, as it in a manner control as to bring him into the brings in as the accomplices, and, class called “habitual drunkards," indeed, in some respects as the sometimes comes within the walls instigators of their crimes, all who of the prison under conditions tercommit themselves as “participa- rible and tragical. He has comtors” by the pot of porter or the mitted some great act of violencepint of wine taken at dinner-time. generally the greatest of allIf we take this in the sense of some murder, and it often happens that jolly bout having been the cause the victim is some member of his that drove or tempted the partaker own family whom he had been in it to the commission of some known in the days of his sanity to predatory crime, no alliance of cherish and protect from all harm. cause and effect can be more pre- The usual arrangement for dealing posterous. No group of human with such tragedies is to find the beings is likely to be more abso- perpetrator to have been insane at lutely untouched by the influence the time of committing the act, and of any intoxicant than the com- decreeing that he shall be put at panions who have arranged a heavy the disposal of the 'sovereign. By * cracksman's” or housebreaker's this arrangement an addition is job; and the experienced hand made to the class treated as “crimwho goes on a special pickpocket inal lunatics." Then comes a diffi
culty in dealing with such that no time must be lost in reinwhen the man who has brought stating them in safety. himself to lunacy by his evil habits A dialogue was once overheard is restored to the condition of sanity between one of these “Queen's lunaby treatment in the prison or the tics," as they are often called, and a hospital. There are causes exciting person in authority over the prison to furious and criminal lunacy other where he was in custody. He had than excess; but these, and the treat- been for years in possession of his ment of the poor creatures affected senses, and they were the senses of by them, belong to a science beyond a man who had received a good the acquisition of those who merely education to qualify manners natdeal with the criminal in possession urally inoffensive and gentle. He of his senses. Perhaps the adepts represented the hardship, to a culin it know something in the nature tivated man like himself, of restricof cause and effect as attending on tion to the society of the loathsome the treatment they administer to lunatics around him. It was pleaded its victims; but the unlearned on- in vindication : “Ah! but you know looker, however closely he may look, when you are at large you are apt to being under the same roof with the play such tricks.” The latest of these mysteriously afflicted, finds it a vain tricks that had occurred was, that he task to endeavour to solve the had been caught in Paris rushing mystery. One clear result, how- along a street with a bloody knife in ever, is perceptible among the mys- his hand. Restraint brought him teries and difficulties, and though it to composure, and it was thought a may go to the aid of those who are safe and judicious arrangement to apt to be intolerant in their con- send him to his grandmother, residclusions and vociferous in support- ing in a quiet village. He was ing them, they are entitled to much attached to her, yet, neverpossess it. The result points verytheless, in one of his grim revels he clearly to the irreclaimability of the cut her throat.
After some years habitual drunkard. There has been of treatment the arrangement for for some time at work an arrange- liberation under supervision was ment, by which persons detained as tried in his case; but he tasted criminal lunatics have been set at the fatal first drop, and had to be large, or rather removed from the hustled back into close custody. prison or asylum, under conditions At this point of his story it hapof supervision or espionage, so that pened to the writer of it to dip into they may be immediately restored à book called “Buried Alive; or, to seclusion in case of an outbreak Ten Years of Penal Servitude in of the old insane malady. Among Siberia, by Fedor Dostoyeffsky, these the dipsomaniacs as a class translated from the Russian by were found less curable than the Marie von Thilo.' The tone of the others, and of course more apt to book he found utterly antagonistic find their way back to the old re- to all experience of convict-life in treat. Years of untainted absti- Britain. For instance, “My First nence passed over some of them Impressions” :abiding in respectability and peace,
"I distinctly remember being very when, as if by some caprice of des
much struck at first to find that my tiny, the fatal primary drop was new life was, after all, not so very swallowed and followed by a wild different from my old one. I seemed to career of orgies, proclaiming aloud have known all about it beforehand.
When on my way to Siberia I tried to among prisoners or their keepers. guess what my life would be like. It Its first announcement came in the was not till I had spent some time in midst of a crowd of ingenious sug; the convict-prison that I fully realised what an exceptional and unnatural ex. gestions, devised by distinguished istence I was to lead henceforth, and I pundits in prison discipline, as infalcould never make up my mind to bear lible remedies for all the mischiefs it patiently. My first impression on of crime, and potent instruments for entering the prison was a feeling of the regeneration of the human race. intense depression; yet, strange to sayThere was something, however, the life of a convict seemed to me less about this suggestion of marks that hard than I had pictured it upon the road. The convicts were in chains, mind; and it gradually took a form
recommended it to the practical but still they were free to go the prison, to smoke, to swear at cach capable of overcoming many of the other, sing whatever songs they liked; difficulties in the way of bribing a few even drank brandy, and some prisoners under punishment into had regular card-parties every night. The pursuit of industry. Neither did the work appear to me The first danger was that, giving very difficult, and it was not till later on that I began to realise that it was
the prison-bird certain benefits for rendered irksome and unbearable good conduct, the system could only through being imposed as a task be worked by the officers of the which had to be finished by a certain prison, and would be open to abuse time for fear of punishment. Manya from the difficulty of bringing home poor labourer who is free works per- responsibility for fair-dealing to haps harder than a convict, and even them. To meet this came a comspends sometimes a part of the night plicated system of records or diaries, the summer time. But he works for where the conduct of the prisoner, himself only; and this thought, and being recorded from day to day, it the knowledge that he will profit by would not be in the power of the his labour, is enough to reward him officer, if he quarrelled with the while the convict is obliged to work prisoner, to alter the record to his at something which can never be prejudice; while, on the other hand, of the slightest use to him.”—Pp. 28, if the record were damaging, he 29.
would not have an opportunity, if, It is scarcely necessary to say through bribery or otherwise, he that the portion of this sketch of desired to benefit the prisoner, to prison-life, dealing with brandy and effect his purpose. Hence it came card-parties, has no parallel—or any- to be an understanding that marks thing approaching to a parallel — were to be earned for industry in our British prisons. The other solely. Thus they were payment part of the picture, representing the for specific work, and the characdistastefulness of labour bringing ter and value of the work being in no gain to the labourer, admits of existence and produceable, its price some explanations that may be became credited in marks. found instructive as well as curious. Still conduct called for consideraPerhaps the reader has heard of tion, and hence for specific acts of the “mark system,” yet if he has misconduct marks came to be fornot come in personal intercourse feited. Of course there might be a with it, his impression of it may possibility of false evidence in the be vague and indistinct. When it reasons for forfeiture, but the prowas first suggested, it gained little cess would have the distinctness of respect from the old hands, whether any other punishment, as by a fine,
and would not leave the same open- entered its dismal door; and as ill ings to the exercise of partiality or placed as possible, without an inch enmity in the prison officers, as the of ground beyond its black and horrid
walls. And these walls were very method, no doubt simpler, of conferring the marks according to the with little dark cells; heavy manacles
small; the entire hole being filled character and conduct of the pris- the only security; airless, waterless, oners as these were appreciated by drainless; a living grave. One week the officers.
of that dirty, fetid, cruel torture-house Dissipation and dirt within the was a severer punishment than a year walls of a prison are now in this of our worst modern prison-more country traditions of the far past, tain in its corruption; overwhelming
dreadful in its sufferings—more cerbut scantily finding any place in
the innocent with a more tremendous the memory of living men. It has
sense of despair--provoking the guilbeen in some respect calamitous to
ty to more audacious defiance.” * a district to be forward in the race of improvement, since it may have The structural character of the happened that a prison has been more recent prisons, as well as the erected for it, not equal to the purifications in the whole system demands of these declining years of of arrangement, have done service the nineteenth century, yet too good to the officers in extinguishing one to be sacrificed. Of the prison that of the old traditional plagues of with a curious baronial picturesque- their existence in the dealing with ness crowns the Calton Hill of Edin- gentlemen criminals. burgh, this may be said.
be little doubt that the man of recorder of the events of his time education and social position, who thus commemorates its coming into has yielded himself to crime, may existence :
be fairly considered a more guilty
mortal than the race of habitual “ The year 1808 saw the commence- criminals cursed with the nature ment of our new jail on the Calton
that is found in them. But this Hill. It was a piece of undoubted bad taste to give so glorious an emi- will not prevent the exceptional nence to a prison. It was one of our
inmate from grumbling at the sornoblest sites, and would have been didness of conditions not so acutely given by Pericles to one of his finest felt by his neighbour the rough, edifices.
and the official staff of a prison is
not unlikely to sympathise with Fortunately the writer of this brief such grumblings. They may in announcement was acquainted with these days, however, be substanthe old building, celebrated by Scott tially met. For that essential that in the great romance of the Heart is said to be next to godliness, of Mid-Lothian,' and has given this there is perhaps scarce a gentlepotent description of it:
man's house in the empire quite so
cleanly kept as the large convict" The completion of the new jail prisons. The diet is with careful implied the removal of the old one: and accordingly, in a few years after
skill adapted to the ends of wholethis, the Heart of Mid-Lothian'
someness and nutrition. The medceased to beat. most atrocious jail ical authorities are supreme in the it was, the very breath of which al- enforcement of these qualities; and most struck down any stranger who it would be neither beneficial to
* Cockburn's Memorials of his own Time.