Lapas attēli

of his calculations, founded on official documents, which are arranged in Sweden with great care by a distinct department of Government, that in the year 1835, one person in every 140 of the whole population, and in 1836, one in every 134, was convicted of offences,' involving moral delinquency greater than the simple • breach of a regulation or conventional law of the state. He adds, that in Norway, in the year 1835, one only in 1402 of the total population was convicted of criminal offence ; in Denmark, one in 943; in Scotland, in 1836, one in 1099; in England and Wales, in 1831, one in 1005. In Ireland, in 1834, the committals were one in 371; of the population, and the convictions one in 557; being less than the convictions in Sweden, in the proportion of one to four, in a population nearly three times more numerous than the Swedish.

It may reasonably be thought that this exhibition of the moral state of a country, given by a traveller from inspection of statistical tables, may require to be confirmed by the authority of some one who has been longer conversant with the subject. This confirmation is afforded to a great extent by M. Forsell, in his excellent work on the statistics of Sweden.*. He quotes the criminal tables for the year 1831, and admits and deplores the great amount of crime they exhibit. The convictions in that year were 21,020, or one in 137 of the population, stated to have then been 2,886,654. But of these, he says, that a large portion was for offences against laws merely conventional, and punishable chiefly by fine ;--for neglect to furnish horses for the post-duties, for offences against the forest and customs laws, and others of that nature. Deducting 9569, the amount of those punishable by fine, as shown by the tables, and 2660, the amount of separate convictions under the forest laws, there will still remain 8791 convictions for the other classes of offences, or one in 328 of the population. Even granting that none of those punished by fine, or for transgressions of forest laws, had been guilty of moral offence, still, the result displays a very large proportion of crime, and far beyond that existing in the countries above enumerated. It falls, however, much below the amount arrived at by Mr Laing; and we are inclined to hope, that in this part of his calculations he has inadvertently fallen into some error. But, wherr crimes against the person alone are taken, we find him fully borne out by the corresponding statements of M. Forsell. In 1836, the total population of Sweden was about 3,000,000;

Statistik von Schweden. Lubeck, 1835:


of these, the rural population amounted to 2,735,000. Among the crimes of this rural population for that year, were twentyeight cases of murder, ten of child-inurder, and four of poisoning. We should be not a little startled by the occurrence of forty-two cases equivalent to murder in one year, in any three millions of the population of this country. If we descend to particular districts in Sweden, we find similar results. In the same year, in the isle of Gothland, with its isolated rural population, situated so favourably for its moral condition, one in every 484 was condemned of crime; and of those, one-half for crimes of great moral magnitude, and five for crimes equivalent to murder. Into the detailed statement of the more serious crimes in 1831, as given by M. Forsell, we need not enter. It is sufficient to say, that the amount of those distinctly specified, is greater in proportion than that given by Mr Laing for the year 1836.

This large amount of crime may well excite surprise, when it is remembered that the people of Sweden are engaged almost entirely in agricultural occupations—supposed to be the most favourable to the morality of a nation; that they have no great stand‘ing army or navy; no extended commerce; no afflux of stran“gers; no. considerable city except one;' that there is a generally diffused refinement of manners and state ; that domestic educa• tion has outstripped the schoolmaster;' that every one can give an account of the principles of his religion; that there are schools • and universities in fair proportion, and a powerful and complete • church establishment, undisturbed in its labours by sector • schism.' Here is the absence of most of the usual exciting causes of crime, and the presence and full and habitual working of most of those causes which are regarded as among the most effectual to sustain and diffuse morality. What, then, are the arrangements of society which co-exist with, if they do not cause, this contrast between the actual state of morals in Sweden, and that which we might have expected à priori to find there ? And, if the existing social arrangements do in fact tend to produce these results, what other causes are also visibly operating in the same direction? Although Mr Laing has not perhaps placed the subject quite in its proper light, he has, nevertheless, collected much interesting matter which may contribute to its illustration.

The construction of society in Sweden is entirely feudal; retaining some of its worst anomalies, and, in its form of government, modified only in name by the admission, into the governing body, of other orders besides that of the nobility. The latter class is numerous beyond all proportion to the rest of the community. “It consists of about 13,500 individuals, wbich is about one in every 222 of the whole population. They are, • with few exceptions, extremely poor, living from civil or mili' tary employment with small pay, or on their farms in obscurity • and poverty. They are represented as being, for the most part, imperfectly educated, and, in all but the most superficial accomplishments, behind the age. “All the high functions of the state, and even the offices in which uneducated men are • unqualified to act, are filled as a matter of right by this

uneducated class.' The necessary effect of this must be, that the standard of morals will not be very high among a class of men thus placed on a factitious eminence, without the ordinary means of sustaining themselves there with dignity ;-excluded by pride of caste from most of the usual paths of honourable exertion; and obtaining, at the cost of no intellectual or moral superiority, but as a matter of right, and at the expense of the arts of court intrigue alone, the objects of a sordid and circumscribed ambition. But darker scenes than those that take their colour from the common vices of a court streak the annals of this northern oligarchy. The murder of Gustavus at a court fête ; the Duke of Sudermania, his brother, involved in the suspicion of a criminal connivanoe; Count Fersen assassinated, and suspicion again clouding the name of that same duke, then become King'; the notorious and abandoned treachery of so many of the higher orders, in the contest to save Finland from Russia—fortresses sold, important posts deserted; the no less shameful forgetfulness of what was due to their country, and to the memory of the Vasas, in the negociations which terminated in placing the present dynasty on the throne;—passages like these in the history of a nation, within the last fifty-nay, the last thirty-years, call up before the mind a train of repulsive and unnatural pictures of blood and treachery, that seem to belong rather to an Asiatic state of society, than io · an European community of the present day.' According to Mr Laing, the morals, as well as the manners and tastes, of the age of Louis XIV., are still predominant in this class, throughout Sweden, to the great prejudice of all classes. The very worst consequence of their number and preponderance in the social state seems to be, that it has begotten among the middle classes a passion for title, which may well be described as a moral plague. . In reading the little political brochures and speculations of the periodical press, the stranger must be struck with the inordinate importance they give to personal distinctions. The title of Excellence, or the Order of the Seraphim, are stated in their political views as serious objects and motives of action for public men in public affairs.' Mr Laing adds,—The public mind 'must be in a state to accept of this as reasonable, or it would 'not be presented to it.' Accordingly, we find that an ex


travagant taste for adventitious distinctions has pervaded all classes.

• You would be grievously out in your manners if you were to go into a shop and address the mistress as Madame. It is an equal chance she is My Lady. There are a great many offices merely nominal, which give ihe rank entitling the man's wife to be called her ladyship. In the military line, it goes as low as the rank of a lieutenant's wife; in the clerical, to that of a priest. In civil sunction, the landwaiter in the customs, the clerks in public offices, and even the accredited deputies of the clerks, have the felicity of hearing their wives called My Lady; and a whole host of nominal assessors, councillors, and such dignitaries, confer the same rank.'P. 64.



This ridiculous vanity bas given birth to a serious evil. The craving after paltry personal distinctions has become a principle • of action in the middle classes, at the expense of moral principle.' From these they seek that social distinction, pre-eminence, and advantage, which industry, integrity, ability, and moral worth, should alone be the means of attaining in their station in society. The consequence is, a disregard for the • real distinctions of moral worth and conduct.'

Mr Laing points, with apparent reason, to another element in their social system, tending to increase this habit of measuring things by the wrong standard. The old monopoly system, vesting in particular individuals or classes the privilege of exercising particular trades, is in strict and rigorous operation in every branch of industry. No one can embark in any trade unless he has been first admitted by the incorporation of the trade, and has also obtained a license from the government. The system is still common on the continent-not, as Mr Laing-states, universal-and seems to be the mixed result of ancient combinations against the power of the feudal lords-of the desire of improvement in the mechanical arts—and of instincts seeking to check the increase of skilled labour beyond the visible means of adequate support. It appears to retain its hold most tenaciously in those countries in Europe, where climate and a scanty population make the remuneration of labour most precarious. It was finally abolished in England in 1623, by the Act 21, James I., c. 3, which declares that all monopolies, and all licenses for the • sole buying, selling, making, working, or using of any thing ' within this realm, are altogether contrary to law. This Act set labour free, and has been among the leading causes of the prodigious development of industry which has taken place in this country. We cannot follow Mr Laing in his speculations on the probable results of these two opposite systems. The subject is, nevertheless, one of particular interest at the present time, when the frequent movements among the labouring classes give unequivocal proof that they are ill at ease. The problems which the open system has brought with it, arising out of the vast increase in the numbers of those who live by trade and manufactures, and the consequent changes in so many social relations, must long continue to engage the anxious thoughts of those who, in the words of Lord Bacon, “with the two clear eyes of religion and philosophy, are striving to look deeply into these shadows;' - who are convinced that there can be no permanent prosperity or contentment for this country, until the condition of the labouring classes, intellectually, morally, and socially, is more satisfactory than it is at present. We cannot agree with the doubt expressed (p. 94) as to the ultimate results of this system of unrestricted freedom. What it has already done for the advancement of civilisation, and the multiplication of the sources of human good, is undeniably great. That it has its evils is manifest, but none which do not seem to be within the power of the increasing attention now given to all that affects the condition of the working-classes considerably to mitigate. The fair side of the restrictive system is, that it operates as a check to prevent a greater number of human

beings from being brought into existence, or, at least, from * being bred 10 any particular trade, than can find a subsistence .. without encroaching on the means of living of those already

existing;' and that it tends to relieve these classes from the • unceasing care, anxiety, and over-exertion, in which our work*ing population pass their lives,' (p. 84.) Mr Laing seems to think it is effectual in both these cases. it is possible that it may prevent an undue increase in the number of retail dealers. But The great increase of pauperism in the Swedish towns, during late years, shows that it is inadequate to keep down the numbers of the working population. To them, the system cannot be otherwise than injurious. By prosessing to regulate all that affects their welfare, it prevents their taking due thought about it themselves, and keeps them in a state of degrading pupilage. It wants the animating principle of social progress--competition. It tends, at best, to fix them in a low degree of comfort, without encouraging them to participate in the movement of advancing civilisation. It is productive, moreover, of great national loss, by perpetuating a rude and clumsy execution in all departments of manual labour. Its evils arise from its vicious principle; while the evils of the open system flow partly from its imperfect adoption, partly from its abuse; in the first case, from the retention of the greatest and worst of monopo

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Advancement of Learning.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »