Item of the Day: Police of the Metropolis (1797)

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A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis; Containing a Detail of the Various Crimes and Misdemeanors By Which Public and Private Property and Security Are, at Present, Injured and Endangered: And Suggesting Remedies for Their Prevention. The Fourth Edition, Revised and Enlarged. By a Magistrate, Acting for the Counties of Middlesex, Surry, Kent, and Essex. — For the City and Liberty of Westminster — and for the Liberty of the Tower of London. Meminerint legum conditores, illas ad proximum hunc finem accommodare; Scelera videlicet arcenta, refraenandaque vitia ac morum pravitatem. Judices pariter leges illas cum vigore, aequitate, integritae, publicaeque utilitatis amore curent exequi; ut justitia et virtus omnes societatis ordines pervadant. Industriaque simul et Temperantia inertiae locum assumant et prodigalitatis.

Written anonymously by Patrick Colqhuoun. Containing a fold-out chart, “A Summary View of the Prisoners committed, tried, punished, disposed of, and discharged in the Metropolis, in One Year, ending in October 1795″ listing statistics for Newgate, Poultry Compter, Giltspur Compter, Bridewell Hospital, New Prison at Clerkenwell, House of Correction in Cold Bath Fields, Tothil Fields Bridewell, and New Gaol, Southwark. Printed in London by H. Fry, Finsbury-Place, for C. Dilly, Poultry, 1797. From “To the Reader”:

In contemplating this shocking catalogue of Human Depravity, (which however still does not include every description of Fraud or Dishonesty which is practised) before the mind shall imbibe unfavourable impressions, it may be necessary to remind the Reader, that in order justly to appreciate the moral turpitude which attaches to such a host of individuals, in many respects deluded and misled by the numerous temptations which assail them, it must be measured by a scale proportioned to the unparalleled extent and opulence of the Metropolis, and to the vast amount of moving property there. London is not only the grand Magazine of the British Empire, but also the general receptacle for the idle and depraved of almost every Country, and certainly from every quarter of the dominions of the Crown; –where the temptations and resources for Criminal Pleasures–Gambling–Fraud and Depredation, as well as for Pursuits of honest industry, almost exceed imagination; since besides being the seat of Government, and the centre of Fashion, Amusements, Dissipation, Extravagance, and Folly, it is not only the greatest commercial City in the Universe, but perhaps of the first manufacturing Towns that is known to exist.

Under these circumstances, while immorality, licentiousness, and Crimes, are known to advance in proportion to riches, it is much to be lamented that in the rapid and progressive increase of the latter, sufficient attention has not been bestowed on the means of checking the enormous strides made by the former.

This is to be attributed principally to those deficiencies and imperfections in the System of Police, which are explained and pointed out in the Treatise, now offered to the attention of the Reader.

It opens a wide field for doing good, to men of opulence, talents, and virtue; to Patriots and Philanthropists who love their Country and glory in its prosperity.

Such men will speedily discover through this medium, that, like the Roman Government when enveloped in riches and luxury, the National prosperity may be of short duration; that the same calamities are to be dreaded wherever public morals are neglected, and no effectual measures adopted for the purpose either of checking the alarming growth of Depravity and Crimes, or of guarding the rising generation against evil examples; which are exhibited in the Metropolis, perhaps in a greater degree than was ever before experienced, particularly among the lower ranks of Society.

It is therefore earnestly to be wished, that the subject of this Treatise may excite in the public mind an ardent desire for the adoption of such Remedies as shall apply to the improvement of the morals of the People, as well as to remove the danger and insecurity, which at present exist; and which unquestionably must be greatly augmented at the conclusion of the war, by the return of a multitude of Delinquents to their associates in iniquity.

The sole intention of the Author, in pointing out these accumulated wrongs, is to secure the inhabitants of the Metropolis against the alarming consequences to be dreaded from the existence of such an atrocious and criminal Confederacy. –That this may be the more easily effected, in all instances where Evils are represented to exist, Remedies are uniformly proposed: And these are such as have forced themselves upon the mind, more from practical observation, than by indulging in speculative theories. –They are suggested under a conviction that they perfectly accord with the spirit of the Laws; and that their adoption will be practicable; without disturbing, in any material degree, the System of Criminal Jurisprudence which at present exists.

The object is to extend to that System a greater portion of energy and effect, by establishing agencies, regulations and restraints, rendered necessary by the great magnitude and extent of the enormities committed.

It is by the operation of legal and proper restraints, that the possession of all things valuable in Society is secured.

It is by the general influence of good Laws and regulations, that the blessings of true Liberty and the undisturbed enjoyment of property is preserved; as far as Legislative Authority, aided by a well-regulated and energetic Police, can prove a security against iniquity and depredation.

The restraints, however, proposed in this Work as the means of preventing Crimes, are such as must produce this salutary effect, without abridging the privileges of innocence; since they apply to those classes only, the nature of whose dealings, from being in many instance both unlawful and immoral, immediately affect not only the useful and innocent inhabitants of their Metropolis, but in the remoter consequences, the Country at large.

If the pressure experienced, joined to a more extensive information relative to the Evils and the Remedies, shall operate as a spur to men of influence, property, and consequence, to employ means for improving the Police of the Capital — the purpose of the Author will be attained. — The morals of the People will experience a favourable change; and that species of security will be extended to the inhabitants of this great Metropolis, which has not heretofore been experienced, while many evils will be prevented, which, in their consequences, threaten to be productive of the most serious mischiefs to the Liberty of the People, and the happiness and security of the whole Nation.


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Filed under 1790's, Legal, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

One response to “Item of the Day: Police of the Metropolis (1797)

  1. Pingback: Item of the Day: Police of the Metropolis (1797) « Eighteenth-Century Reading Room

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