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Title: Some Conditions of Child Life in England
Author: Waugh, Benjamin
Language: English
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  _NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF
  CRUELTY TO CHILDREN._


  SOME CONDITIONS
  OF
  CHILD LIFE IN ENGLAND.


  BY
  REV. BENJAMIN WAUGH,

  HONORARY DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF
  CRUELTY TO CHILDREN.


  Head Office and Shelter:
  7 HARPUR STREET, THEOBALD'S ROAD, LONDON.
  1889.



[Illustration: THE STEP-CHILD.]



SOME CONDITIONS OF CHILD LIFE IN ENGLAND.

[_A Paper read by_ REV. BENJAMIN WAUGH _at the Meeting of the Baptist
Union, Thursday, October 10, 1889, at Birmingham._]


My subject is Some Conditions of Child Life in England. And ought we not
to expect some of these to be sad? No one who reflects can fail to see the
fact that in this country to-day many conditions contribute to make
ill-living people; and to make them regard children as nuisances. Vagrant
habits; gambling; extravagant self-indulgence; idleness; unmarried
parentage, and unfaithfulness in married parents; habitual
drunkenness--all these disturb, and some destroy, the natural parental
instinct. There is, too, a growing anti-population theory of which we have
not heard much, but which is a kind of open secret, which regards that man
as a fool who said of children, "Blessed is the man that hath his quiver
full of them," and the statement of the Prayer Book Marriage Service as to
the divine objects of marriage as shameful and degrading. Because the
results of all wrong and sinful life in man fall heaviest upon his God and
his children, we ought to be prepared to find calamities which follow
conditions like these, and to deal with them. They all tend to hurt
children, chiefly the youngest.

Side by side with these conditions there is an increasing tendency to
regard human beings as protoplasm; to shake off the idea of Jesus as to a
living God, the Father of us all, and to account for human life by
molecules; to count His judgment day and a supreme judge of robust and
wholesome righteousness as superstitions. And this is all full of danger
to child life. Child life and happiness are bound up with the Kingship of
God. There is but one Supreme to whom they are "the greatest;" but one
hand which has a millstone for the necks of those who offend them, and the
depths of the sea. Church-goers and chapel-goers may sin against
childhood, and men who disclaim churches and chapels may love it. But,
though no hard-and-fast line can be drawn between men on this ground, it
remains certain that Jesus is the world's most august protector of a
child. The man who leaves its limbs naked, its sickness untended, He sends
down to hell.


I.

What, then, should His followers think of such deeds as these, taken more
or less at random, from the list of offences for which, through the action
of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, by its
London Committee alone, two hundred men and women have been tried and
convicted?

Making an ill and dying step-child live in a damp, dark back-kitchen,
while the "own" children in the front kitchen sit round a bright winter's
fire; shutting up another step-child to sleep in the coal-cellar, three
others to sleep next the unceiled roof with one quilt, in their
night-gowns, wind and sleet and rain finding them; sending a child at ten
o'clock on a February night, recovering from diphtheria, a mile to an inn
for beer; sending two starved, almost naked, little girls for half a
hundredweight of coals in rain and sleet twice the same December night;
laying a baby close to the fire to get rid of it through thirst; putting
another in a thorough draft to get rid of it through cold; leaving a girl
in bed covered with sores, infested with lice, under one scab a maggot,
never washed or tended, lying in her own excrements; strapping a deaf and
dumb boy because it was so extremely difficult to make him understand;
drawing a red-hot poker before the eyes of a blind girl, and touching her
hands with it (this was done by her brutal brother, but in the presence of
the parents, and for fun); after beating, locking-up for the night in a
coal-cellar with rats; immersing a dying boy in a tub of cold water, "to
get his dying done;" making another dying boy get out of bed to help to
wash, and knocking him down because he washed so little; breaking a girl's
arm while beating her with a broomstick, then setting her to scrub the
floor with the broken arm folded to her breast, and whipping her for being
so long about it; hanging a naked boy by tied hands from a hook at the
ceiling, there flogging him; savagely beating a girl on her breasts,
felling her with fist, then kicking in the groin, on the abdomen, and the
face with working boots; lashing a three-year-old face and neck with
drayman's whip; a three-year-old back with whalebone riding-whip;
throttling one boy, producing partial strangulation; thrusting the knob of
a poker into the throat of another, and holding it there to stop his
screams of pain?

"Once I saw her put the poker in the fire," said a neighbour (speaking of
an own mother and her child of four and a half), "to get it red-hot. The
child had vexed her. She held him down to the bed, and tied a cloth round
his mouth; when the poker was hot she lifted his little petticoats up, and
held the poker on the bottom of his back." One baby cooed in the cradle,
and was startled with a loud thunderous curse; one cried of teething, and
was beaten savagely with its father's big hand; two did the same, and were
strapped, hanging by the heels from the strapper's hand. Besides canes,
straps, whips, and boots, belts, and thongs of rope, the instruments of
torture have been hammers; pokers, cold, and red-hot; wire
toasting-forks--in one case the prongs of the fork hammered out, the stem
untwisted a little up, making a sort of a birch of frayed wire; a file,
with which the skin on projecting bones had been rasped raw; a hot stove,
on which the child's bare thighs were put; hot fire-grates, against which
little fat hands were held.

Never were even churches put to such Christian purposes as were Her
Majesty's prisons, when they held the doers of such deeds as these, and
were making their backs to well ache with hard labour.

You are shocked at that horrible catalogue. But is it not strange that in
not one of all these cases did anybody, who was troubled about them, ever
think of going to tell a minister of the gospel--you people who claim to
be the successors of the man of Nazareth? Nor did they go to a City
missionary! Of the 1400 cases sent into the office of the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children in London during its five years'
existence, not one has come from a City missionary. When speaking of the
starvation of children to one of them, he said to me, "Yes, I knew two
cases last winter, one after another; they were just starved to death. It
was a shocking affair." To which I replied, in surprised indignation, "Why
did you not tell us?" "Oh," he replied with a perfectly satisfied air, "if
I were to meddle in things like that, I could not do my more spiritual
work."

"I know several children marked for death," said a London vicar's
daughter, and his district visitor, the other day, "but I cannot give
their parents' names. We should be subject to such persecution if we were
to interfere." The fact that

  There's a friend of little children,
  Above the bright blue sky,

ought to fall like a warning thunderbolt out of heaven on such people's
ears! I have repeated these two sayings, because they speak volumes on the
"religious" surroundings of tortured child life in England. Both of them
referred to children being deliberately starved to death.

I will give you a sample of the condition in which some of these starved
children, unseen, and quietly, die.

It was in winter, in a bare room. The child, a girl of seven, lay on a
mattress, had but two garments on: a chemise and a print frock. There was
no blanket, no coverlet, no sheet. The window was curtainless; the nights
were frosty. There was no fire in the grate, nor had there ever been
through all the long illness. There was no food, no physic, not even a cup
of water to drink. Her bones almost protruded through the bed-sores, which
added misery to her misery. She lay with her eyes shut all day,
occasionally moistening with her dry tongue her still drier lips.
Downstairs sat the pair with whom she had lived from her birth--her father
and mother. They brought her no share of their tea nor crumb of their
bread. They had blankets for _their_ beds, and fire for _their_ meals.
Their house was still. You pass a door like theirs; all is clean. The
curate nods as he goes by; and the district visitor calls; and the child
hears the church bell on Sundays, till she can hear it no more. For she is
starving to death in a Christian country.

It is little children who are made most to suffer.

The ages of the victims of the most atrocious cases is almost always low.
Nor are small families exempt. The size of families in which the most
horrible outrages take place is never large, being mostly two, or even
one. Poverty is never great. Dwellings are often miserable enough, though
not always that. Two pounds ten a week and three pounds a week are
received by artisans whose one room for the family costs four and sixpence
per week, and even this a toiling wife has in some cases to pay. But some
live in "Model Dwellings." Neither is it ignorance, in the common meaning
of ignorance, which tends to produce cruelties to children. Skilled
artisans, with a smattering of knowledge beyond their class, considering
the proportion they bear to the common run of labourers, are in excess in
number and obstinacy of cases. Nor does higher social position exempt from
this evil. Some of the cruel are industrious, and some are idle. Some
drink, some do not. Some can talk of protoplasm; and some cannot spell
their own names.

The truth of the matter is, that cruelty is wholly independent of
surroundings and wages. It is the work of haters of children; of sullen,
pitiless, intolerant, dispositions; of men whom there is no pleasing, who
resent tiny baby's little blunderings, or even pretty ways with all the
physical power of a grown man, in manners which, if shown by an officer of
justice to a convict, would excite the indignation of the whole country.

It is impossible, within my limits, to do justice to the work the new
Society has had to do for drunkard's children, tramp children, stolen
children; acrobats and performing children; step-children, little hawkers,
and friendless apprentices; children insured and in baby farms.

As regards our "baby farms," many of them would be a scandal to a savage
land: they are mere baby shambles. And as regards infantile insurance,
that is worse. While in the baby farm, where a child is killed for profit,
it is a stranger who kills, in the bad family, where it is killed for
insurance money, it is the parent who kills. Neither here in this matter,
nor in the statements I have already made, do I make charges against
English parents. Most of them would die rather than injure, or even
neglect, their child. But there are un-English parents, tens of thousands
of them, who, for "a drink," pawn their baby's only garment and leave it
foodless in a fireless room. To these, insurance money can be nothing else
than a motive for more or less passive child murder. And other types, it
familiarises with the idea of baby's death and of getting old scores paid
off when it happens; which in the insured child's ailments acts as an
incitive to the reverse of whole hearted care for its life. The system
itself is a kind of gambling: a parent bets a penny a week against the
insurer's thirty shillings that his child won't live. The insurer's
chances are, the general good character of the English parent, and the
known penalties of the law for murder.

I regret that I cannot inform you that all these wronged children are
black, and their wrong-doers, heathen inhabitants of heathen lands; that
we have founded a missionary Society to send missionaries to these demons
of wickedness, in Africa or New Guinea. I regret it chiefly because it is
such a shame to us all that these things exist in our own beloved land;
but I regret it, still more, because you will, I fear, care the less to
remedy it.


II.

The remedy lies in numerous directions. Many laws and customs and
doctrines have been (many of them are still) on the side of the torture of
a child.

1. Unhappily, Courts of Law, by their rules of procedure, have not been on
the side of the child. They have rather lent security to the inflictor of
its sufferings. A mother who has to screen her children from the madness
of their drunken father at midnight, since such midnight orgies were
introduced into England, has never been allowed--that is, if she were a
married mother--to give evidence of the fact in an English Court. Boys and
girls under ten who witnessed atrocities committed on a brother or sister,
they, too, were excluded from Courts. And who can estimate the number of
families in which wrongs to children were thus made, legally, absolutely
safe!

Here is a sample of such excluded cases:--Before the baby was many days
old its father soused it on its mother's knee with the contents of a pail
of cold water. On another occasion he seized it while suckling at her
breast, and flung it violently against the wall at the other end of the
room. When its mother was out, he took it into the yard and put it
overhead in a tank of cold water, holding it under till it was with
difficulty recovered. "What do you feed the little devil for?" he would
ask his wife. He was for ever assaulting her for her care of it. As it
got older he pitched it on the floor, and struck it with the legs of a
chair. It grew to dread the sound of his footsteps on the stairs, and
would hide under the bed and lie breathless till he had gone. Such a
brute's wife always, and his family generally (often the only witnesses of
a crime against a child), were, till recently, all excluded from Court.

2. And everybody else was excluded from the scene of his wickedness. His
house was "his castle," not to be entered even by a warrant, save if he
had stolen a watch.

3. Even when the facts were got at, and legal proceedings taken, every
injustice was done to the little sufferer on whose behalf they were taken.
It could never be removed from its torturer's custody. Even when after the
hearing of the case, it was committed for trial, still for a period
possibly of three months the child had to be left in the custody of the
culprit to pamper, to coax, to warn and threaten into the denial of
everything on which a conviction could be obtained.

Is it wonderful that, under these conditions of the law, one-half of the
brutes towards English children were unpunishable brutes, and practised
their damnable deeds in safety?

Happily, every one of these conditions is changed.

4. One practice of Courts--an almost universal one--I must mention in
passing, as most unjust to a child--viz., the custom of accepting
testimony against it without any confirmation; and that, too, from the
person who has ill-treated it. Men who are cruel to a child easily add to
their cruelty a damaging false witness, which, being only against a child,
nobody ever prosecutes. In consideration of lies, the sentence is often
admittedly reduced. After 400 wronged children have spent two, three,
four, and six months in our Society's Shelter whilst their maligners were
in prison, speaking generally, I may say that charges pleaded in excuse,
and accepted in extenuation of outrages, have proved to be mere inventions
of cowardly malice. When the grave, frightened little looks with which
they came had passed away, they were full of the ways of sunny childhood.
More pleasant docile children, or children more ready to twine their arms
around your neck, you seldom find, than have been some little people who
had been called liars, thieves, vixens (even infants in arms have been
called vixens), and the like--by savages before magistrates as pleas for
their mercy. And from every quarter to which children have been sent, the
same testimony comes as to the untruthfulness of the charges their parents
made in Court, against the children and for themselves.


III.

There are many other things yet to be changed, both in the laws and in the
customs of this country, before child life in it will be what it ought to
be.

1. The shops of England abound with poisons specially prepared for
children. "Syrups" and "foods" as unsuitable for a baby's stomach, and as
fatal, as a bullet would be to its brain or a knife to its throat, are
sold to all comers. In some cities, coroners and medical men have a
hundred times denounced things in common use as poison to babies; and the
Press a hundred times has carried their denunciations into every street,
with absolutely no effect on the extent of their use. Boiled bread,
corn-flour, sago, "tops and bottoms," these soon make a strong, week-old
baby a sight to see.

2. Still further. Where inhuman parents by such death-dealing agents have
done their work, coroner's juries join hands against the child with the
infants' food and syrup shops, and make fatal suffering quite safe to
inflict. Almost the only persons who commit infant slaughter whom these
tribunals send to trial are those who in their tender mercies commit it
hastily and sharply. For long drawn weeks of agony in dying, inflicted by
sham foods, their custom is to request the coroner to pronounce a censure.
The coroner then congratulates the parents on the "mercifulness" of the
jury. So the grand prerogative of mercy, even, is made to serve against
wronged children.

3. But it plays its hypocritical part not at inquests alone. After a
disclosure as to conduct to a child which would have made true men
indignant, too many magistrates mildly say, "We have taken a merciful
view, and shall let you off this time." "Mercy," is this! Mercy! to whom?
To the man's suffering child? To the suffering child of other like-minded
men in the locality? The magistrate who cures a brute of his brutality,
that is the merciful magistrate--merciful to the culprit, to the country,
and to the child! Parliament has passed, and the Queen has sanctioned, a
new law, which has well been called the Children's Charter. Yet a canting
woman before the bench, with the corner of her white apron and a tear, can
wipe it all out. Even a little cant on an idle man's lips--"no work to
do"--will make some J.P.'s disloyal to both Parliament and Crown.

If I happen to be speaking to a magistrate, let me say that no man can
show "mercy" to an offender save where he is himself the person offended.
That a magistrate should forgive a parent for making a baby's back bleed
is impossible. He may lack justice towards him; he may do that, and then
slander the "twice blessed" name, by calling it Mercy. But mercy is
impossible to a magistrate to whom an appeal is made on behalf of a
suffering child, save as he is the indignant champion of the child.

4. Medical men, too, but with far more cause than all the rest, have made
child slaughter safe. Dispensaries give death certificates, knowing
nothing of the case save from the possible criminal's own mouth. And
before coroners, they certify the final not the real cause of the child's
not being alive.

5. Even charity (so called) has lent its patronage against little
children. In no country as in England do children so directly appeal to
human sensibilities; and in no other country are pitiful charities so
readily shown to them. And so it comes about, that for persons using puny
and ill children for the purposes of gain in the streets, England is
perhaps the most scandalous country in the world. A child's bad cough, two
sore eyes, or emaciation through wasting disease, is a living to its
owner. To move charity, children are made to tramp and stand about on cold
stone pavements, weary and hungry, all day long. Parents, who ought to be
flogged for such ways with children, are, because of them, kept in comfort
and idleness. For them to cure their child of its ailments, even to nurse
it, or to give it reasonable food and rest, would be to lose bread and
cheese, and pipe and beer; a sacrifice they do not think of making. And
why should they think of making it, while "lovely charity" gives its
patronage!

Take one illustrative case:--A baby nine months old, dying of starvation,
was the other day taken from the arms of a woman who was exposing its
ghastly face and thin limbs to the passers-by in Whitechapel, pleading
that she was a widow, and her child was starving. Under the new law, the
child was taken from her. It was found not to be her child. She had the
loan of it, and night after night, till eleven o'clock, she moved the
compassion of the passers-by, and out of baby's shivers, dying, she made
her living. She knew how blind and lazy "charity" patronises a wrong-doer
to a child. The wickedest, it patronises the most.

Charity has still further been against the suffering child. By its
institutions for the ill-used and destitute, in not a few cases it has
been an inducement to their ill-usage and destitution. Whilst the kind and
honest poor may do as best they can for their children, the vicious have
had theirs maintained, taught trades, and the drum and fife; and fairly
started in life. The soundest charity is not that which provides food and
homes for the destitute, but treadmills for those who make them destitute.
Not that the one ought not to be done, but that the other ought not to be
left undone.

6. Even the Gospel has been pleaded as a reason for letting the savage
have his way with his child. "Get men converted; you cannot change hearts
by laws," it is said. This is wholly true. But what is needed is not to
change hearts, but to change conduct; to make men keep blows and boots off
babies' limbs, and to put bread into sadly empty little stomachs. And a
free use of the treadmill, though it cannot do more, can do that; and does
it gloriously. And where it fails, I would use the cat. God has put a
cuticle under the skin as the final resort of argument. Where every other
part of the man is "past feeling," it is a divine duty to get at that. The
first object of a Christian nation is to protect a baby's skin, not a
man's. People speak of flogging as degrading. Degrade! can you, a man who
will batter into a shapeless thing a baby face with his fist?

It will be impossible to even mention the hosts of those especial
defilements and injuries done to girl children. They are vast in number
and incredible in kind, and include large numbers of own fathers as the
fearful criminals. Degrade _these_ men! _Degrade_ them!


IV.

Besides these changes already mentioned, there needs to be a great change
in the national sentiment on the subject.

All these wrongs of a child are the result of the low estimate which
prevails as to the rights of a child. There seems to be little or no
interest in a child as a subject of the Queen and an object of the law. I
must except Her Majesty's judges, and the best legal magistrates. To hear
cases for children, I would always rather have a lawyer on the bench than
a Sunday-school teacher. The religion of pious J.P.'s seems to be to let
people off--adults I mean. It is not always so when it is a child who is
charged. What is wanted in the interests of every form of unhappy English
child life in this country to-day is righteousness, the robust
righteousness of God; and His indignations at neglect of the hunger, or
the sickness of a child. The shameful sufferings of English children
to-day are jointly the work of the English bench and the English brute: of
mawkishness on the bench, of cruelty in the brute.

On this subject of children hurt and killed the Church too has acted in
grievously strange ways. It has taught what happened in the worship of the
Syrian Moloch: it has not even known what is done in the worship of the
English Bacchus. Much horror has it felt at the destruction of baby life
on the Ganges; and little, if any at all, at the destruction of it on the
flabby bosoms of English women whom men have made mothers, and to whom
they have given no bread. As an argument for Christianity, it has pointed
to the children abandoned in Pagan Rome, oblivious of the 20,000 a year
abandoned in our own cities and villages, to death, or the parish. Of the
five-and-twenty or thirty little boys once massacred at Bethlehem, it
holds annual mournful commemorations. Of the hundred times that number of
little boys and girls annually smothered within sound of its church bells
it says nothing. When I think of the Church and of child-suffering and
slaughter in England, I cannot help remembering the Biblical saying, as to
whose eyes it is that "are in the ends of the earth." For the "soul" of
children, whatever that may mean, the professional religionist eyes are at
home; but for their suffering and slaughtered bodies, they are away in
far times and far lands. And its purse, and its heart has gone there too.

A grand opportunity is now afforded to stamp cruelty to children out of
the land. The law has come to be grandly right. Will the men who wear the
name of that greatest friend of children the world ever contained meet the
opportunity, find the money to discover the crimes and to enforce the law
against them?

I hear you murmur, "The police! It is the work of the police to do that."
That is not true. It is not the work of the police to discover anything,
nor to initiate proceedings for anybody. They are a brave good body of
men; but they have their set work to do, and their strict rules for doing
it. But, were it so, when you stand before the judgment throne of Him
whose will, Jesus says, is that not one little one should either suffer
from hunger, or nakedness, or be sick and perish, will you dare to tell
Him that you knew that that was His will, but that you left it to the
police?

The new law has been created by Christian labour. It is the expression of
Christian sentiment. It must be enforced by Christian money.



To enforce the splendid new law, the Society is seeking to raise its
income to £15,000 a year. In the enforcement of the Factory Acts £30,000 a
year is spent. In the enforcement of the Act for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals £29,000 is annually spent. Is it too much to ask for half these
sums for the enforcement of the law for Children, when, without it, their
sufferings must continue? Contributions may be sent to JOHN FAULKNER
(_Secretary_), 7 Harpur Street, Bloomsbury, London, W.C.


SUBSCRIPTIONS AND DONATIONS.

The Society consists of Annual Members, subscribing £1 and upwards yearly;
of Associates, subscribing less than £1, but 5_s._ and upwards yearly; of
Life Members, subscribing not less than £10 in one payment; and of
Patrons, subscribing not less than £50 in one payment.



National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


FOUNDED 1884.

_Royal Patroness_--H.R.H. PRINCESS CHRISTIAN.

_Patron_--The Right Hon. the Lord Mayor of London.

_Trustees_--The Baroness Burdett-Coutts; Cardinal Manning;
Colonel Sir Francis Burdett, Bart.; R. Ruthven Pym, Esq.

_President_--His Grace the Duke of Abercorn.


CENTRAL COMMITTEE.

_Chairman_--R. Ruthven Pym, Esq.

_Vice-Chairman_--W. H. Collingridge, Esq.


  Countess of Aberdeen.
  H. C. Barker, Esq.
  Rev. Prebendary Barnes.
  Bishop of Bedford.
  Mrs. Benson.
  Baroness Burdett-Coutts.
  F. A. Channing, Esq., M.P.
  J. Colam, Esq.
  Lady Ellis.
  Dudley C. Falcke, Esq.
  Sir Thomas Farrer.
  Lady Farrer.
  Hon. Lady Fitzgerald.
  Lady George Hamilton.
  Lady Henderson.
  Miss Henderson.
  Rev. J. W. Horsley.
  Countess of Iddesleigh, C.I.
  Countess of Iddesleigh.
  Countess of Mar.
  Mrs. F. W. Maude.
  A. Meysey-Thompson, Esq.
  Mrs. Meysey-Thompson.
  Viscountess Midleton.
  J. Louis Mitchell, Esq.
  J. Montefiore, Esq.
  Lady Nottage.
  C. C. Osborne, Esq.
  C. Kegan Paul, Esq.
  Hon. Mrs. Pereira.
  E. de M. Rudolf, Esq.
  Lady Margaret Shelley.
  Rev. B. Stephenson, LL.D.
  Miss Hesba Stretton.
  Miss H. L. Synnot.
  Lady Tryon.
  Rev. T. Turner.
  Lady Catherine Vane.
  Ashton Warner, Esq.
  Rev. Benjamin Waugh.
  Lady Willoughby de Eresby.

_Treasurer_--R. Ruthven Pym, Esq.

_Honorary Director_--Rev. BENJAMIN WAUGH.

_Counsel_--Robert Frederick Colam, Esq.

_Solicitor_--Henry C. Barker, Esq.

_Hon. Surgeon_--Howard Marsh, Esq., F.R.C.S.

_Visiting Surgeon_--J. Rees Gabe, Esq., M.D.

_Bankers_--Messrs. Coutts and Co., Strand, W.C.

_Secretary_--Mr. JOHN FAULKNER.


_Head Office and Shelter_--

7 Harpur Street, Bloomsbury, W.C.

_Telegraphic Address_--"CHILDHOOD, LONDON."





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