Population, Crime, and Pauperism
London, August 23, 1859
A Blue Book, headed "Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom in each of the last fifteen years from 1844 to 1858," was presented to both Houses of Parliament during the last session. Dry as the figures, arrayed in the close columns of the official print, may look, they contain, in fact, more valuable contributions to the history of the national movement than volumes of rhetorical claptrap and political gossip. The first item that calls for our attention, is the population tables, but, strange to say, the figures relating to the movement of the population of Ireland during the fifteen years are altogether omitted. The Scotch table shows but feeble oscillations which we shall not dwell upon. The following is an account of the population movement in England and Wales:
Face to face with this population table we place the statements respecting crime and pauperism of England and Wales:
COMMITTED FOR TRIAL.
The tabular statement relating to the number of paupers (exclusive of vagrants) in receipt of relief in the several unions and parishes under Boards of Guardians in England and Wales, begins with the year 1849:
|Years.||Total of Paupers.|| ||Years.||Total of Paupers.|
By comparing these three tables of population, crime and pauperism, it will be found that from 1844 to 1854 crime grew faster than population, while pauperism from 1849 to 1858 remained almost stationary, despite the enormous changes worked during that interval in the state of British society. Three great facts mark the decennial period of 1849-1858—facts which would almost justify us in comparing that period to the most illustrious epochs of the 16th century. The corn laws had been repealed, the gold fields discovered, and an immense emigration had taken place. There were, besides, other circumstances which gave a new start to industry and commerce. From revolutionary convulsions, Europe had turned to an industrial mania. The conquest of the Punjaub, and then the Russian war and the Asiatic wars, had made accessible markets till then almost unknown. Finally, the United States' import of British produce had developed itself in dimensions not even suspected ten years before. The whole market of the world had expanded and seemed to have doubled or trebled ,its powers of absorption. And with all this, during this memorable decennial epoch, the stationary million of English paupers is diminished only by 26,233 individuals. If we compare the years 1853 and 1858, it has even increased by 109,364.
There must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases its wealth without diminishing its misery, and increases in crimes even more rapidly than in numbers. It is true enough that, if we compare the year 1855 with the preceding years, there seems to have occurred a sensible decrease of crime from 1855 to 1858. The total number of people committed for trial, which in 1854 amounted to 29,359, had sunk down to 17,855 in 1858; and the number of convicted had also greatly fallen off, if not quite in the same ratio. This apparent decrease of crime, however, since 1854, is to be exclusively attributed to some technical changes in British jurisdiction; to the Juvenile Offenders' act in the first instance, and, in the second instance, to the operation of the Criminal Justice act of 1855, which authorizes the Police Magistrates to pass sentences for short periods, with the consent of the prisoners. Violations of the law are generally the offspring of economical agencies beyond the control of the legislator, but, as the working of the Juvenile Offenders' act testifies, it depends to some degree on official society to stamp certain violations of its rules as crimes or as transgressions only. This difference of nomenclature, so far from being indifferent, decides on the fate of thousands of men, and the moral tone of society. Law itself may not only punish crime, but improvise it, and the law of professional lawyers is very apt to work in. this direction. Thus, it has been justly remarked by an eminent historian, that the Catholic clergy of the medieval times, with its dark views of human nature, introduced by its influence into criminal legislation, has created more crimes than forgiven sins.
Strange to say, the only part of the United Kingdom in which crime has seriously decreased, say by 50, and even by 75 per cent, is Ireland. How can we harmonize this fact with the public-opinion slang of England, according to which Irish nature, instead of British misrule, is responsible for Irish shortcomings? It is, again, no act on the part of the British ruler, but simply the consequence of a famine, an exodus, and a general combination of circumstances favorable to the demand for Irish labor, that has worked this happy change in Irish nature. However that may be, the significance of the following tabular statements cannot be misunderstood:
I.—CRIMES IN IRELAND.
COMMITTED FOR TRIAL.
II.—PAUPERS IN IRELAND.[a]
|Years.||Total of Paupers.|| ||Years.||Total of Paupers.|
It is to be regretted that the emigration table does not specify the different parts of the United Kingdom, from which the movement started, and the ratio in which each part has contributed to the general result. From the table, such as it is, it will be inferred, that from 1844 to 1847, the emigration to the British North American Colonies bade fair to approximate, if not to outstrip the emigration to the United States. From 1848, however, the emigration to British North America settles down into a mere appendage of the emigration to the United States. On the other hand, British emigration to Australia and New Zealand is developing itself during the 15 years from 1844 to 1858 in rapid strides. While the emigration to the North American Colonies reaches its climax in 1847, and that to the United States in 1851, the emigration to Australia and New Zealand stands on its apogee in 1852. From that time down to 1858, there is a continuous fall in the number of emigrants, the total number of which in 1852 had ascended to 368,764, being brought down, in 1858 to 113,972, or by more than 75 per cent. The following is the table alluded to:
NUMBER OF EMIGRANTS FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM
TO VARIOUS DESTINATIONS.
| ||To the N.A.|
|To the U.S.||Australia and|
Written on August 23, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5741, September 16, 1859
The figures that follow were taken by the editors of the present edition from the "Statistical Abstract" used by Marx. In the New-York Daily Tribune the following table, referring to Scotland, was published under the heading "Paupers in Ireland":—Ed.
|Paupers.|| ||Years.||No. of|
The reference is to the repeal of the Corn Laws in June 1846 by the Peel Government in the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie.
The Corn Laws (first introduced in the fifteenth century) imposed high import duties on agricultural produce in the interests of the landowners in order to maintain high prices for these products on the home market. The struggle between the industrial bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy over the Corn Laws ended in their repeal.
The discovery of rich gold deposits in California in 1848 and in Australia in 1851 greatly influenced the economic development of Europe and America.
The Punjab (North-Western India) was conquered by the British East India Company as a result of the Anglo-Sikh wars of 1845-46 and 1848-49. The conquest of the Punjab completed the British colonisation of India.
This refers to the Reformatory School Act of 1854 which instituted reformatory schools in England for delinquents from 12 to 16 years old.
Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16
(pp.487-491), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980