Изображения страниц


these attacks with unruffled temper, intimated to the inspector that if the persons outside persevered in their disorderly conduct he would procure the assistance of a sufficient civil force, and cause the street and avenues of the court to be cleared. A pause of three hours took place in consequence of the doubt which existed as to the home office allowing the charges to be heard at that court, power being vested in the government of removing charges to Bow Street, to be heard there. This power had been several times exercised with reference to cases arising within the jurisdiction of the court, and always with great inconvenience to all parties-prosecutors, witnesses, and prisoners. About two o'clock a serious conflict happened between the police and the continually-increasing crowd outside. A newly macadamized road offered facilities to the mob to revenge themselves on the police, and of this they availed themselves when the information was conveyed to them that the prisoners were still locked up. The constables drew their truncheons upon their assailants, and drove them back with tremendous force into the narrow streets and lanes in the neighbourhood of the court. The conflict was short, sharp, and decisive. The police were the victors; and after a short time succeeded in conveying several of their opponents to the stationhouse to be added to the number with whom the magistrate had to deal. An additional body of police then made their appearance in front of the court, and began to clear away the mob that had assembled, when they were received with yells, groans, and other marks of disapprobation. The constables again freely used their truncheons, and at last drove the people back, none being allowed to remain in front of the court. Another long delay took place, during which there were several communications between the treasury and the magistrate, while a continual series of conflicts was kept up between the police and the crowd. After a good deal of discussion between Mr. Hardwick and Mr. Ballantine, who appeared on behalf of a number of the prisoners, they were nearly all allowed to go out on their own recognizances to appear next day. On Tuesday the cases were resumed.



The offences were thus stated: eleven for being riotous; twenty-one for throwing stones; ten for assaults upon the police; five for being riotous and obstructing the police; three for attempting to pick pockets. The other prisoners were unconditionally discharged at a late hour on Tuesday night. Mr. Clarkson, on the part of the government, intimated the withdrawal of the charges against persons charged simply with riot. The others were dealt with simply as police cases. Preston, the first prisoner, a gentlemanly young man, was charged with throwing a stone at the police, which he denied. The magistrates sentenced him to a fine of ten shillings or a week's imprisonment. This was a sample of the whole of the cases, all of which were visited with similar punishment. Some of the prisoners acknowledged the charges against them, but pleaded the great excitement.

The police of course acted under orders, and though they probably exceeded their duty, their position was a difficult one. Public sympathy with the rioters was mainly occasioned by the violent language as well as the riotous proceedings employed by some of the supporters of the bill, who saw an opportunity to pronounce in favour of measures of suppression. The disturbances might have become very serious, especially as an attempt was made to concentrate a large mob upon Grosvenor House and the adjoining gardens. A large number of windows were broken, and valuable articles of furniture destroyed or injured by the stones flung by the crowd; the police-constables who attempted to interfere were assaulted, and there were symptoms of a serious outbreak. Among those who, with some difficulty, got clear of the crowd, was Lord Palmerston, who was on horseback, and who mistook, or affected to mistake, the cries of the mob for cheering, and raised his hat. He rode down a side street and so got clear, but his groom, whose horse was more easily frightened, had much trouble to escape. Lord Brougham also sat in his carriage calmly smiling, but the coachman had hard work to control the restive horses. The whole mutual attitude was a mistake, since the frequenters of the Drive and Rotten Row were not for the 57

most part persons who desired to abridge the | repeat the disorders, public feeling would at


comforts or the conveniences of the labouring classes, or who supported the proposed bill against all Sunday trading. On the other hand it is exceedingly doubtful whether the great majority of those who, after the first demonstration, assembled to perpetrate outrages, really represented the people who would have been most affected by the inconveniences attending such a measure. Mr. Dundas, however, used language which may be said to have represented to excess that hard, irritating protest which is always potent to arouse popular indignation. He declared that the mob consisted chiefly of boys and young men under twenty, who leaned over the iron rails and screeched at every carriage which went past, and showed intense delight when they frightened a spirited horse and endangered the lives of those in the carriage. He said he saw the police endeavour to drive back "this canaille" with "the greatest moderation," and that "these rascally boys ought to have been more severely dealt with." Mr. Dundas seemed to grow into indignation as he proceeded, and in reply to Mr. Duncombe's suggestion said, "So we are threatened with another disturbance next Sunday, and it is said that men will come armed to oppose the police. I hope the honourable gentleman, the secretary of state for the home office, will take the strongest measures to prevent such a collision. Prevention is at all times better than cure, and I would remind the right honourable baronet that nothing will frighten a mob more than the crash on the pavement of the trail of a six-pounder." It was a foolish speech, not having the merit of being quite original, and was also an anachronism. The rumour of a similar remark in the old turbulent days when Wellington was opposed to the riotous demonstrations made under the name of reform, aroused furious passions and embittered the contest; but this later rendering was received with no more indignation than contempt. The time had gone by for six-pounders. The bill was withdrawn, and the promised commission of inquiry came to nothing. If the promoters of the Hyde Park outrages had continued to assemble and to

once have turned against them. The Sunday Trading Bill was abandoned, and the "Sunday Beer Bill," as it was called, which ordained the refusal of publicans to serve refreshments on Sunday mornings to any persons who were not "bona fide travellers" at a distance from their homes, soon occupied attention. The decision of what constituted a bona fide traveller having become a standing jest, led to the discussion of the bill itself with a certain amount of good humour, which was increased by the perception that an honest endeavour to diminish the sale of liquor, and during a large part of the Sunday to close the places where it was obtained, was intended as an effort on behalf of public decency and sobriety.

It will not be out of place in direct relation to these topics, to consider what was still the condition (and it would be well if we could add, that it has now entirely ceased to be the condition) of some of the districts in which the people of London were compelled to live; and what were the provisions made for securing them against fraudulent tampering with their food and drink by unscrupulous adulteration.

The name of Dr. Letheby must be familiar to numbers of readers, for at the time which we are now considering, it was identified with those important decisions depending on the skilful analyst and the possessor of medical knowledge which can be immediately made available for the public service.

The homes and physical condition of the poor in some of the worst neighbourhoods had of necessity excited public comment when

itary matters had occupied the attention of parliament, and for the sake of the general health and safety it was deemed necessary that some detailed inquiry should be made into the best means of dealing with the filthy slums which were the disgrace of London and some of the large manufacturing towns of the kingdom. During the cholera epidemic, and on many occasions when the increase of fever, small-pox, and other infectious diseases caused a temporary panic, the subject had been ur


gently brought forward, and, as we have seen, the legislature had passed measures authorizing inspection and ordering certain provisions to be made for remedying some of the evils complained of. But more stringent regulations were needed. It was known that in the eastern district of the metropolis whole neighbourhoods of filthy tenements remained without the most ordinary means for securing decency and cleanliness, and that in other parts of London similar places were to be found which became dangerous centres of disease and demoralization. It was to Dr. Letheby that the task of inquiring into the state of the foul neighbourhoods eastward was entrusted, and his report disclosed a condition so horrible that people began to wonder why the question had never been thoroughly investigated before. To a large majority of the inhabitants of the west-end, and to many persons who lived not far from the infected places, their existence was almost unknown, and demands for sanitary reform had been but faint and ineffectual. There were not sufficient means to enforce the provisions of the Acts of Parliament which related to sanitary improvements, in cases where the officials whose duty it was to apply them were ready to make things pleasant for the owners of such property. In many instances these infected overcrowded tenements belonged to the parochial representatives of that or a neighbouring district, against whom subordinate paid officers of health were unwilling to raise complaints.

The revelations made by Dr. Letheby were bad enough to arouse greater attention to the subject, for he gave the kind of details which were most likely to arrest attention. Of 2208 rooms which he visited, and which were the abodes of beggars, vagrants, thieves, and the class that comprises the criminals, the vicious, the idle, and the casual underpaid workers at miserable callings,—1989 contained 5791 inmates belonging to 1576 families. The members of various families were in many instances occupying the same room, regardless of all the common decencies of life, and where from three to five adults, men and women, besides a train of children, were accustomed to herd together like brute beasts or savages; where


all the offices of nature were performed in the most public and offensive manner, and where every human instinct of propriety and decency was smothered.

"Like my predecessor," said Dr. Letheby, "I have seen grown persons of both sexes sleeping in common with their parents; brothers and sisters and cousins, and even the casual acquaintance of a day's tramp, occupying the same bed of filthy rags or straw; a woman suffering in travail in the midst of males and females of different families that tenant the same room-where birth and death go hand in hand, where the child but newly born, the patient cast down with fever, and the corpse waiting for interment, have no separation from each other and from the rest of the inmates." In one alley near Houndsditch he found a row of filthy and ruinous houses containing in all seventy-six rooms, letting at weekly rents of from fifteen pence to one and ninepence each, and inhabited by sixty-three families comprising 252 persons. In one room there were a man, two women, and two children, and the corpse of a girl who had died in child-birth a few days before still lay upon the bare ground without shroud or coffin. The place was a hotbed of horrible disease, and every adult male in the place had shortly before been attacked with fever.

Dr. Letheby determined to attempt a chemical analysis of the air, that he might see whether it contained some peculiar product of decomposition which rendered it so pestilential, and he found it not only deficient in oxygen, but with three times the usual proportion of carbonic acid, besides a quantity of aqueous vapour charged with alkaline matter having a loathsome stench, the product of putrefaction and of fetid exhalations. Such conditions were not peculiar to this one place. In the district near Whitecross Street, already referred to, similar abominations were to be found, and there were other areas of disease and filth in Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Westminster, and Bloomsbury, while St. Giles' and Seven Dials were partly destroyed, but the remnants of neither of them had been cleansed and purified. Not only the physical but the social and moral pestilence and degradation

arising from such dens were earnestly pointed | pical heat of the summer of 1858 had caused

out by Dr. Letheby; and in order to remedy them it was suggested that the registration of common lodging-houses should be enforced, and that the condition and number of their inmates should be under the control of the officers of health. It was also suggested that the metropolis should be brought under the authority of a single municipality elected by the ratepayers of the various districts. The first part of the proposed plan was adopted, and has since been enlarged; but for some years afterwards foul, ruinous, and pestilential tenements in the same districts continued to be crowded with human beings, nor has the operation of the legislature even yet been able to put an end to all the horrible abuses that were then disclosed. Something, but comparatively little, was done, until another fever epidemic some years afterwards once more emphatically called alarmed attention to the subject. Then, as we shall see, it again took a foremost place in the public regard, but with no commensurate result. Not in London alone, but in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, and in most of the important towns of the kingdom, the same story had to be told in more or less revolting detail; and though London perhaps maintains an evil pre-eminence for the preservation of condemned districts, the wretched inhabitants of which, if evicted, could find no adequate provision for their shelter, and would endeavour to crowd as closely into the adjacent houses, it is one of the unhappy contingencies of so vast a capital, the local jurisdiction of which is divided among numerous incomplete if not incompetent bodies, that private or corporate interests should be found to have become so concreted as to take a very long time to demolish, even by the application of special laws and under the stimulus of repeated outcries for reasonable supplies of light and air and water, and the means of preserving ordinary decency.

sufficient evidence of the accumulating evils of the drainage of London into the river to reach the Houses of Parliament in a very practical form. The stench from the stream as it flowed past the palace of the legislature at Westminster was so abominable and alarming that it told the story in terms not to be lightly disregarded, and the result was the more prompt acceptance of Mr. Disraeli's proposal to bring in a bill for the main drainage of London. The work would cost at least £3,000,000, and it was to be provided for by the imposition of a special rate on the metropolis for the purpose of purifying the river and completing the system of main drainage, the money to be borrowed on the guarantee of the government, and repaid in forty years by annual instalments by means of a special rate of threepence in the pound, to be called the sewage rate. The work was to be completed in five years and a half, and the whole expenditure of the money and the completion of the scheme was intrusted to the Metropolitan Board of Works, which had been constituted under the Metropolis Management Act of 1855.

In the following year, though comparatively little was done with regard to cleansing the foul places of the metropolis, where vice and misery assorted with pestilence and famine, another great work was undertaken. The Thames was no longer to be an open sewer. The almost tro

An act ordering that the vaccination of children should be compulsory had passed in 1853 for England, though its provisions were not extended to Scotland till 1863; and doubtless it had been effectual in diminishing the dangers to be apprehended from epidemics of small-pox, which in former times had often been so fatal in their consequences. Unfortunately no adequate provision for enabling public vaccinators or private practitioners to obtain a proper supply of pure vaccine or lymph, accompanied the act, which has, therefore, continued to be less valuable than it might otherwise have become, especially as the assertion that the virus of diseases of a loathsome and dangerous type may be communicated by the use of vaccine matter taken from an impure source, has never been refuted.

The Society for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrial Classes, in which Lord Radstock, Lord Robert Grosvenor, Lord Ebrington, and other noblemen and gentlemen took an active part, and in relation to which Dr.


Southwood Smith had successfully investigated the condition of the poorer neighbourhoods, had already achieved much good work by the erection of dwellings with a good water supply and efficient drainage, and by promoting the enforcement of the Common Lodginghouses Act, which forbade overcrowding in lodging-houses, and directed the police to enforce the law; but nothing seemed effectual against the constant letting and sub-letting of dilapidated tenements, the owners of which kept in the background. The gin-shops in such neighbourhoods flourish, for they drive a roaring trade amidst a people who are glad to escape from the horrors of the places in which they live, that they may seek temporary forgetfulness amidst the brilliant lights and showy attractions of the tavern or the "palace" bar, where their scanty and ill-prepared food may be supplemented by ardent spirits or heavy beer. But at that time the food and drink consumed by them and their neighbours was found to be often grossly adulterated. This was generally understood, but people were not quite prepared for the revelations made by the Lancet, the leading medical and surgical paper, of which the well known Thomas Wakley, surgeon, member of parliament for Finsbury, and coroner for Middlesex, was editor. Both as member and as coroner Mr. Wakley had became famous for his bluntly outspoken opinions, and though he was a good deal disliked in some quarters, and often ridiculed in others, he was strong and determined enough to hold his own, and to make his voice heard on the subject of several abuses which he set himself to correct. The institution of an "Analytic Sanitary Commission" by the Lancet was one of the methods by which he attacked the system of adulteration, and the results of the investigation of this commission, which was under the superintendence of Dr. Arthur Hill Hassall, were rather startling. Week by week the public learned that almost every article of food and drink consumed at ordinary meals was probably subjected to adulteration before it reached them; and that the substances used were frequently in large proportions, and of a kind exceedingly injurious to health.


Not since 1820, when the famous book entitled There's Death in the Pot, by Frederick Accum, gave a shock to the public, had such disclosures been made, and the Lancet commission took a ready way to call the attention both of the sufferers and of the culprits themselves to the results of its inquiries. Dr. Hassall not only went out and about, purchasing samples of all kinds of produce in different neighbourhoods, and afterwards subjecting them to analyses and to searching investigation by the microscope, but the details of his discoveries were published week by week along with the names and addresses of the dealers from whom the articles had been obtained.

There can be little doubt that many of the requisites of our daily consumption are still frequently adulterated, although we are now protected by the operation of an act of parliament specially directed to the detection and punishment of dealers who fraudulently mix foreign ingredients with substances sold under the name of pure commodities, but the extent and unscrupulousness of the system of adulteration laid bare by this commission were alarming. The mere admixture of inferior with superior qualities of the same commodity, or the substitution of substances with similar properties for the genuine article, were comparatively unimportant frauds, in face of the fact that actively poisonous ingredients were introduced in large quantities into food and drink for daily consumption, for the purpose either of increasing weight, improving appearance, or enhancing profits by the substitution of a cheaper material.

Coffee was mixed with mahogany sawdust, mustard with flour and turmeric, vinegar with sulphuric acid, pepper with dust, ground rice, or linseed-meal; cayenne pepper and curry powder with white mustard seed, ground rice, deal sawdust, salt, and brick dust, while red lead (often in poisonous quantities) gave it colour. Bread bought in cheap neighbourhoods contained alum and salt for the purpose of correcting the sourness and dark colour of the dough made from inferior or damaged wheat. The largely adulterated bread was found in the low-priced loaves of poor neigh

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »