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Title: A History of Police in England
Author: Lee, W. L. Melville
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of Police in England" ***

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        A HISTORY OF

         M.A. Oxon.

"Qu'on examine la cause de tous les reláchemens, on verra
qu'elle vient de l'impunité des crimes et non pas de la modération
des peines."--"L'Esprit des Lois-Bk. VI.," cap. xxii.

       METHUEN & CO.


           BY PERMISSION



             OF ENGLAND


  CHAP.                                               PAGE

     I. Anglo-Saxon and Norman Police                    1

    II. Watch and Ward                                  21

   III. Justice and Constable                           43

    IV. Forest Police and Police in the
        Fifteenth Century                               60

     V. Commercial Police and Police under
        the Tudors                                      82

    VI. Ecclesiastical Police and Police under
        James I.                                        99

   VII. Military Police and Police under
        Charles II.                                    124

  VIII. Bow Street Police and Magisterial
        Reform                                         155

    IX. Parochial Police of the Eighteenth
        Century                                        176

     X. Police at the Dawn of the Nineteenth
        Century                                        196

    XI. Pioneer Reformers                              217

   XII. "The New Police"                               228

  XIII. Public Opposition to the "New Police"          245

   XIV. Police Reform in Boroughs                      262

    XV. Police Reform in Counties                      279

   XVI. Co-operative Police and the Suppression
        of Riots                                       309

  XVII. Police Statistics and Penology                 335

 XVIII. Detective Police and the Right of
        Public Meeting                                 366

   XIX. Conclusion                                     390


A title of convenient length, but one which shall exactly fit the
subject-matter in hand, is a desideratum that seldom lies within
an author's reach. The title selected for this book is open to the
objection that, though consisting of as many as six words, it is,
however, not quite explicit. The sense in which the word "police" is
used is explained in the Introductory Chapter, but it here remains to
be said that "England" must be taken to include the Principality of
Wales, and, incidentally, that by the employment of the indefinite
article an indication of the non-pretentious character of the work is

References have been but sparingly given throughout, and, in answer to
those critics who may possibly object that the array of authorities
quoted is too meagre, the author can only plead in extenuation that
opportunities for taking full advantage of good reference libraries
are often denied to dwellers in camps and barracks. In general the
plan adopted, or at least aimed at, has been to refer to all Acts
of Parliament mentioned in the text, to acknowledge the source of
_verbatim_ quotations, and to give the authority relied on in support
of any statement that may reasonably be held to verge on contentious,
or even on debatable, ground.

In amplification of the Criminal Statistics tabulated on page 337,
and in confirmation of the deductions there drawn, an encouraging
fact may be mentioned. Although the Census Returns for 1901 shew that
the population of England and Wales now exceeds thirty-two and a half
millions, the Judicial Statistics recently published by the Home Office
state that the number of persons brought to trial before the superior
criminal courts during 1899 (the last year for which such statistics
are available) was under eleven thousand, which is the lowest figure
yet recorded.

Before concluding these prefatory remarks I must express my thanks
to Lord Alverstone, who has been kind enough to find time to look
through my proof-sheets and to allow me to dedicate the book to him;
to H. W. Carless Davis, Esq., of All Souls' College, Oxford, who has
so generously brought an expert knowledge of Anglo-Saxon history to
bear upon my earlier chapters, and to those Chief Constables and other
officials who have helped me with information and advice. In particular
must I acknowledge my indebtedness to D. W. Rannie, Esq., of Oriel
College, Oxford, for it is not too much to say that without his
invaluable assistance and encouragement the following pages would never
have appeared.

  Inner Temple Library
  _August 1901_


Introducing himself to his readers at the close of the eighteenth
century, Dr Colquhoun wrote: "Police in this country may be considered
as a new science." A full generation later, or to be more precise,
in the year of Queen Victoria's accession, one of the leading
magazines of the day found occasion to remark as follows: "The art of
preventing offences is unbeaten ground--has hardly had a scientific
teacher. On laws and general legislation, on the theory of crimes and
punishments, on prison discipline, on the execution of offenders,
and all the ulterior proceedings of delinquency, we have treatises
without number; but on the institutions of police we have not a single
work, except perhaps the matter-of-fact publication of the late Dr
Colquhoun."[1] Since this paragraph was first printed a period of
unparalleled literary activity has been witnessed, a period so prolific
of book-making that the thirty-nine miles of shelves with which the
main building of the British Museum is furnished have not sufficed
to contain the ever-increasing accumulation of volumes that must be
housed. It is true that in modern melodrama the detective has been
found an almost indispensable property, nor has he been altogether
neglected by the modern novelist; there are scores of blue-books
containing evidence collected by Parliamentary Committees on the
subject of police, and there is no lack of excellent manuals wherein
the constable's duty is defined and explained; but at the dawn of the
twentieth century, and in spite of the over-crowded state of our public
libraries, we are still waiting for the advent of the teacher who will
investigate and expound for us the police sciences.

In the following pages some attempt will be made to approach this
strangely neglected subject, not indeed by the avenue that a scientist
would use, but simply to trace in outline the story of English police,
keeping in view the underlying principles that have directed, as well
as those political and other considerations that have controlled, its
evolution. Previous neglect is not however the only reason why the
institution of police calls for historical treatment. On three other
grounds in particular can the subject claim recognition; it deserves
notice on account of its interest, on account of its antiquity, and on
account of its importance.

The history of any national institution should not be totally devoid
of interest; and amongst all our institutions it would be hard to find
one so eminently characteristic of our race, both in its origin and in
its development, or one so little modified by foreign influences, as
the combination of arrangements for maintaining the peace, which we
call "police." Police questions touch each one of us so intimately in
our daily life, in our personal liberty and in our self-respect; the
character of a nation is so profoundly influenced by the nature of the
control to which it is subjected, that a due appreciation of the scope
of police functions, a proper knowledge of the origin and extent of the
powers and duties delegated to our constabulary forces, must possess a
more than academic interest. Continental gendarmeries, framed for the
most part on the Latin model, have been imposed--often ready-made--on
various nationalities, without heed to their racial peculiarities,
and careless of local tradition or circumstance. Our English police
system, on the other hand, rests on foundations designed with the full
approval of the people, we know not how many hundreds of years before
the Norman conquest, and has been slowly moulded by the careful hand of
experience, developing as a rule along the line of least resistance,
now in advance of the general intelligence of the country, now lagging
far behind, but always in the long run adjusting itself to the popular
temper, always consistent with local self-government, and even at its
worst, always English.

When a people emerges from the savage state its first care is the
institution of some form of civil government. To this there is no
exception, it is, in the words of Macaulay, "as universal as the
practice of cookery." Martial law may co-exist with, and at times
obscure, the civil machinery; but depending essentially, as it does, on
local and temporary causes, must in the end inevitably be superseded,
and whenever there arises a conflict between the two, the civil
administration will invariably outstay the other by virtue of the
inertia of its everlasting necessity. The penal department of any form
of civil government must principally consist of two closely allied
branches, the judiciary that interprets the law and exacts penalties
for its infraction, and the police whose duty it is to enforce the
legal code as laid down by the judges, it being in the nature of things
that judicial functions cannot exist independently of police functions.
Webster defines "police" as "the organized body of civil officers in a
city, town or district, whose particular duties are the preservation of
good order, the prevention and detection of crime, and the enforcement
of the laws." Blackstone goes further when he says that "the public
police and economy" must be considered as "the due regulation and
domestic order of the kingdom, whereby the individuals of the State,
like members of a well-governed family, are bound to conform to the
rules of propriety, good neighbourhood and good manners, to be decent,
industrious and inoffensive in their respective stations." As used in
this book, the term "police" approximates to the definitions of both
these authorities; in general merely a synonym for "constabulary," it
also embraces all the various expedients employed by society to induce
its members to acquiesce in the arrangements that tend to promote
public security, including such measures as the compulsory education
of children, the reformation of criminals, the observance of sanitary
and hygienic conditions, the control of the liquor traffic, and the
prevention of cruelty to children and animals. In this latter sense the
object of police is not only to enforce compliance with the definite
law of the land, but also to encourage a general recognition of the
unwritten code of manners which makes for social progress and good

Police, therefore, occupies a position of vital importance in the
commonwealth; it is not too much to assert that the restraining
influence exerted by a good police system is as necessary to the
welfare of society as are self-imposed moral and physical restraints to
the health of the individual. To the superior judges fall the duties
of solving abstruse legal problems, and of determining the weightiest
legal issues, but it is the police magistrate who is in daily contact
with the criminal and with the aggrieved person, it is he who applies
the law in the first instance, and to him the large majority of the
people look for decisions upon which their liberty or their property
may depend. "There is scarcely a conceivable case," said a London
magistrate in 1834,[2] "arising particularly among the lower orders,
which may not immediately or indirectly come under the notice of the
Police Offices. It is most important, therefore, that every means
should be adopted for upholding their reputation, and so extending and
increasing their moral influence." Only second in importance to the
magistracy comes the constabulary, "the primary constitutional force
for the protection of individuals in the enjoyment of their legal
rights,"[3] designed to stand between the powerful and the weak, to
prevent oppression, disaster and crime, and to represent the cause of
law and order at all times and in all places. In every court and alley
the policeman stands for good citizenship, he is a reality that the
most ignorant can comprehend, and upon his impartiality, efficiency,
and intelligence depends the estimation in which the law is held by the

There is no doubt that this country is well policed, and fortunately
for us, there is equally no doubt that we are not over-policed. However
numerous and outrageous may be the theoretical imperfections of our
method for maintaining the peace, its practical superior has yet to
be discovered. A police system does not only need to be efficient, it
must be popular; that is to say, it must conduct its operations with so
scrupulous a regard to the susceptibilities of the people that public
sympathy and approval are not alienated. The problem of devising an
engine of sufficient power and mechanical ability to compel subjection
to a rigid standard of uniformity is not a matter of great difficulty,
but there is little credit and no comfort in the indiscriminate tyranny
of a Juggernaut that mangles its suicidal votaries. Government cannot
be exercised without coercion, but the coercion employed ought to be
reduced to the lowest possible limit consistent with safety, the ideal
police force being the one which affords a maximum of protection at
the cost of a minimum of interference with the lawful liberty of the
subject. The real difficulty of the police problem is therefore to
fix the limits where non-interference should end, and where coercion
should begin. Mill enunciated the maxim that "all restraint qua
restraint is an evil," and Bentham taught that only those preventive
measures are sound the application of which involves no injury to the
innocent; but there is one limit which cannot be disregarded if police
is to be a blessing rather than a curse, and that is, that the plan
adopted for the prevention of crime must never become more intolerable
than the effect of the crime itself.

English police, however, is not the creation of any theorist nor the
product of any speculative school, it is the child of centuries of
conflict and experiment. Simple pecuniary compensation to the injured,
sumptuary laws for the removal of temptation, torture in lieu of legal
process, the payment of blood-money to informers, martial law enforced
by puritan zealots, an amateur constabulary spasmodically supported by
soldiery, the wholesale execution or banishment of offenders, these
and many other expedients have all in their turn been grafted on the
parent stock, tried, and found wanting. Are our present methods for the
maintenance of the peace, for the suppression of crime, and for the
encouragement of social virtue, perfect or nearly so? We can hardly
suppose that posterity will answer these questions in the affirmative,
but we can at least congratulate ourselves that the people of England,
no longer living under a barbarous criminal code, enjoy to-day no
small measure of security for their property and persons, without
having to submit to a host of meddlesome restrictions and unreasonable



In the days before the attainment of English unity, the maintenance
of the peace was the care of certain local institutions and bodies,
the nature of which need not here be specified. The Anglo-Saxon period
of our history being one of continual change and gradual development,
the maintenance of the peace cannot be treated as a homogeneous whole
before the various arrangements which secured it had been consolidated,
and, for the first time reduced to a system, by Edgar. From this time
onwards, however, the whole of the now united England may be said to
have enjoyed a general guarantee for public order under the name of
the "King's Peace," so called because the king guaranteed, or at least
promised, to his subjects, a state of peace and security in return for
the allegiance which he demanded from them.[4]

As "the highest maintainer of the peace," the king claimed an actual
police supremacy, and was not content with a mere title. Moreover,
by virtue of his position as Commander-in-Chief, he had the power of
enforcing compliance with the rules of the peace, of which he was
the chief guardian and exponent. An English king was not only the
hereditary ruler of his people, he was their chosen chief magistrate
also. The idea that the peace and orderliness of the kingdom intimately
depended upon the personality of its ruler was so deeply rooted that,
at his death, the "King's Peace" was held to have lapsed, and, on their
accession, English sovereigns were wont to make proclamation afresh
of "general peace orders," an example which was followed by William
the Conqueror and his successors.[5] Referring to the death of Henry
I., a chronicler writes: "The king died on the following day after St
Andrew's mass day, in Normandy, then there was tribulation in the land,
for every man that could, forthwith robbed another ... a good man he
was, and there was great awe of him. No man durst misdo against another
in his time. He made peace for man and beast."[6]

The King's Peace was of two kinds: there was the public peace of the
realm, common to all men; and there was the private peace proper to the
king himself, designed to safeguard his person, to uphold his dignity,
and to secure his interests in every way. This royal peace, as it may
be called, was especially concerned with certain places, seasons, and
individuals; a special measure of protection was accordingly extended
to the king and his nobles, to nuns, widows and clergy; whilst breaches
of the peace which occurred on Coronation days, on Fast days, and the
like, or which were committed in the vicinity of the royal palaces or
upon the "King's Highway," received exemplary punishment from the royal
judges. The public peace, on the other hand, afforded protection to all
alike, to the exclusion only of the "unfrith," as those men were called
whose crimes placed them without the pale of society, or who, holding
no land, yet failed to enrol themselves in a "tything."

The police system which, under the king, maintained the peace was
partly organised on the basis of land tenure. As in the Sudan to-day
the Omdah is held responsible for the robberies committed in his
district, and as in China the head of a family may legally be called
upon to answer for the transgressions of his kinsfolk, so King Alfred
looked to the thane[7] to produce the culprit or satisfy the claim.
The plan adopted counted on the assistance of self-interest for its
complete success; the thane being a landed proprietor and consequently
unable to dispose of his property secretly, was security to the king
for all the members of his household--if any of them broke the law,
his over-lord the thane was careful to bring him to justice. Yet
poverty brought no exemption to the landless freeman. He too had to
find a guarantee for his good behaviour; if he was unable to attach
himself to some thane, he was compelled to combine with others in the
same position as himself, in order that their joint goods or aggregate
credit should provide sufficient bail for the shortcomings of any
member of the society: the penalty incurred by those who could not,
or would not, thus find the required security was that they were
forbidden to possess cattle, and were no longer under the protection
of the law. Freemen, therefore, who had no freehold, banded themselves
together into "tythings": a tything consisted of the inhabitants of
ten homesteads, and the members elected one of their number to be
their "headborough,"[8] who thus became their representative, and was
responsible for the community.

The police organisation which we are considering is generally spoken of
as the "Frankpledge system," frankpledge signifying the guarantee for
peace maintenance demanded by the king from all free Englishmen, the
essential properties of this responsibility being, that it should be
local, and that it should be mutual. As we trace the history of police
in England we shall see that these two qualities have survived through
the successive stages of its evolution, and seem to be inseparable from
our national conception of police functions.

The development of this system led to the institution of the
Hundred,[9] which, as its name implies, was a group of ten tythings,
under a responsible head. Hundreds as well as tythings had definite
police functions to perform: when a crime was committed, information
had to be at once given to the hundred-men and tythingmen of the
district, and it was their duty to pursue, arrest, and bring to justice
all peace-breakers. In the event of the non-appearance of a culprit at
the court of justice to which he was summoned, his nine fellow-pledges
were allowed one month in which to produce him, when, if he was not
forthcoming, a fine was exacted, the liability falling, in the first
place, on any property of the fugitive that might be available, in the
second place, on the tything, and,--should both these sources prove
insufficient to satisfy the claim,--on the Hundred.[10] Furthermore the
headboroughs were required to purge themselves on oath, that they were
not privy to the flight of the offender, and to swear that they would
bring him to justice if possible. On the other hand, if any member of a
tything was imprisoned for an offence, it was not customary to release
him without the consent of his fellow-pledges, even though the fine had
been paid.[11]

The practice of levying police fines from hundreds and tythings was
an old one, and the limits of its application were clearly defined by
Edgar: "and let every man so order that he have a surety, and let the
surety then bring and hold him to every justice: and if anyone do wrong
and run away, let the surety bear that which he ought to bear. But if
it be a thief, and if he can get hold of him within twelve months, let
him deliver him up to justice, and let be rendered unto him what he
before has paid."[12]

The fines[13] that were exacted, called respectively fightwitt,
grithbryce, and frithbrec, differed in character, and varied in amount.
When several persons had participated in a common crime the fine was
payable by all who had a hand in it; an infraction of the peace by
seven associates constituted a riot, and if thirty-five persons were
concerned, the breach amounted to a rebellion.

Distinct from the official police societies, created by the central
government for the general security, there also existed certain private
and voluntary associations called peace-guilds, entered into by the
inhabitants of London and other towns for their own protection. Each
guild consisted of members arranged in ten groups under ten headmen,
one of whom acted as chief of the guild and treasurer, the remainder
forming a kind of consulting committee to discuss and advise upon the
various interests of the associations at their monthly gatherings.
The object of these guilds was simply mutual assurance, and each
member had to pay fourpence to a common fund, out of which subscribers
were compensated for any loss they might sustain through theft, the
treasurer being authorised further to contribute a sum not exceeding
one shilling towards the apprehension of delinquents.

The military and police systems were closely allied: the national
militia was organised in tythings and hundreds, and had a place to fill
in the complete design of peace maintenance; its embodiment was not
only resorted to in time of war, it was also liable to be called out
by "summons of the array" if disturbances were feared, or even for the
pursuit of a single fugitive from justice, but its members could not
be called upon to serve beyond the limits of their respective shires
except to repel invasion. Every free Englishman between the ages of
fifteen and sixty (the clergy and infirm only excepted) was liable to
be called upon to perform three public services[14] for the peace of
the commonwealth; he was bound to assist in repelling invasions, in
crushing rebellions, and in suppressing riots. The Sheriffs therefore
who were responsible for the conservancy of the peace in the hundreds
were enabled to muster the _posse comitatus_, or whole available
police force of the shire, in case of emergency. All men went armed
in those days, and since the members of a tything were obliged on the
summons of a headborough to join in the pursuit, the cry of "Stop
thief" was a formidable weapon in the hands of the local executive.

The Anglo-Saxon conception of police functions is thus clearly
intelligible: the internal peace of the country was held by them to be
of the first importance, and every free man had to bear his part in
maintaining it; theoretically all men were policemen, and it was only
for the sake of convenience that the headborough (or tythingman as he
came to be more generally called) answered for those of his neighbours,
on whom he had to rely in case of necessity. The word "peace" was
used in its widest possible meaning, and a breach of the peace was
understood to include all crimes, disorders, and even public nuisances.
The principle on which the police system was based was primarily
preventive. "The conservancy of the peace," says Lambard, "standeth
in three things: that is to say, first, in foreseeing that nothing be
done that tendeth either directly or by means to the breach of the
peace; secondly, in quieting and pacifying those that are occupied in
the breach of the peace; and thirdly, in punishing such as have already
broken the peace." Our Saxon ancestors did not spend much time in
"quieting" or "pacifying"--a lawbreaker was at war with the community
and received no quarter--but in other respects Lambard's definition

It was assumed that all but a small minority of the king's subjects
were, to use a modern phrase--good citizens--and personally interested
in keeping the king's peace inviolate; and that they might therefore
safely be trusted to do everything in their power to preserve it,
without any necessity arising for the use of coercion. Had all men
been equally trustworthy in this respect no police measures would have
been required and none devised; but there existed on the fringe of
Anglo-Saxon society, as will occur with all societies, a certain number
of delinquents perpetually on the look-out for opportunities of preying
on their fellows, and the decennary system of police, as it may be
called, was an attempt to hold in check this lawless minority without
having to raise and permanently support an expensive or elaborate force
for its suppression.

The design was to group all honest men into convenient companies,
excluding therefrom and from the benefits that civil government could
then confer, not only those men who were living in open defiance of
the rules laid down by society for its protection, but those men also,
whose reputation for honesty and fair dealing did not stand high enough
in the estimation of their neighbours to induce a sufficient number
to accept a share of responsibility for their defaults. By this means
a fence was set up which divided with a fair degree of accuracy the
law-breaking section of society from the law-abiding, the problem
of peace-maintenance being much simplified thereby; it was not the
declared enemy nor the recognised outcast that was feared; the former
might be met with superior force, and the latter could be kept down
like vermin, it was the danger of the wolf within the fold that alarmed
our ancestors. The dread of secret crime is a deeply-seated national
characteristic, and accounts for the savage treatment served out to
witches and Egyptians (as gypsies used to be called) through the middle
ages and almost up to our own times. Alfred the Great reflected this
feeling when he drew a distinction between cutting down a neighbour's
tree with an axe and burning it with fire, the latter offence being
declared the more heinous of the two, not as one might suppose, because
of the danger of the fire spreading to other trees, but because of the
clandestine character of the deed, it being open to the offender if
detected to declare the burning to be accidental, a plea that he could
not advance if the axe was used.

A detected criminal was either fined, mutilated, or killed, but
punishment, as we now understand the term, was seldom inflicted; that
is to say, the dominant idea was neither to reform the culprit nor to
deter others from following in his footsteps. If a man was killed it
was either to satisfy the blood-feud or to remove him out of the way
as a wild beast would be destroyed; if a man was mutilated by having
his forefinger cut off, or branded with a red-hot iron on the brow, it
was done, not so much to give him pain, as to make him less expert in
his trade of thieving, and to put upon him an indelible mark by which
all men should know that he was no longer a man to be trusted; if
fines were levied, it was more with a view to the satisfaction of the
recipients of the money or cattle or what not, than with the intention
of causing discomfort or loss to the offender.

The distinction that we now make between remedial and legal justice was
theoretically held by the Anglo-Saxons, that is to say, repayment in
money or kind for a civil offence, and death or some less punishment
for an offence against the criminal code was recognised in their penal
administration; but at the same time fines to expiate criminal injuries
were also allowed, both in the shape of amercements to the Crown and of
compensation to the injured. Homicides rendered themselves liable to a
triple penalty, which, it appears, was the same whether the killing was
wilful or whether it was accidental--one third part, called "Maegbote,"
being assigned to the next-of-kin to compensate him for the death of
a relative; a second portion, or "Manbote," reconciling the thane to
the loss of his vassal; and the remaining share, known as "Wite,"
passing to the king on account of the violence done to his peace.[15]
Only offences of a particularly heinous description were "bootless"
(bote-less), as those crimes for which no compensation was permitted
were called--of such a nature were murder when committed in a church,
and the slaying of a man asleep.

The fines payable by the aggressor in cases where minor personal
injuries had been inflicted were carefully graduated; thus, for a cut
one inch long on the face, the sum of two shillings had to be paid; if
the wound was underneath the hair only half that sum was exacted; but
should the victim have suffered the loss of an ear, he was compensated
to the extent of thirty shillings, and so on.[16]

It would offend our modern ideas of justice if a murderer were allowed
to go free on payment of a sum of money to the relatives of his
victim, still more so if a portion of the fine went to the Sovereign;
but the practice is common amongst semi-civilised communities, to
whom the complex and costly methods we now employ would be at once
unintelligible and impracticable.

When it came to a question of proof, reliance was placed, in the
absence of any surer method of discovering the truth, upon the oath of
the interested party or parties; and just as the security of a thane
was sufficient, where that of a landless freeman had to be supplemented
by the contributions of his neighbours, so would the oath of a man of
fortune and position prevail in cases where that of a common man had to
be fortified by the corroborating oaths of his fellows.[17]

No matter what his station in life might be a man could always
strengthen his case in this way: the more numerous the oath-helpers
the greater the value of their evidence, and this held good even if
it was clear that none of them were acquainted with the circumstances
under consideration, because it was commonly believed that divine
interference would prevent any considerable number of persons from
perjuring themselves _en bloc_. The various ordeals, by combat, by
fire, by water and many others, were conceived in the same spirit.

The principle of making every man responsible for his own actions,
and to some extent answerable for the doings of his neighbour, has
much to commend it, and its application would produce an almost ideal
state of social security if its practical employment was not marred
by two inherent weaknesses; in the first place it can only be applied
with success to an agricultural community that is content to live
always in the same spot, or whose migratory instincts the authorities
are prepared to suppress; and, in the second place, such a system puts
a premium both on the concealment of crime, and on the commission of
perjury, since a tything had every inducement to forswear itself in
order to escape the infliction of a fine or to save one of its members
from punishment.

That the system above described was effectual in dealing with any crime
that may have existed in England at the time cannot be doubted, and
Gneist,[18] in his review of the period, says, "The insular position
of the country, and the pre-eminently peaceable character of the later
Anglo-Saxon times, developed the maintenance of the peace to such a
perfection, that the chroniclers give an almost Arcadian picture of the
peacefulness and security of the land in the time of Alfred the Great,
and at some subsequent periods." Lord Coke[19] too declares that before
the Conquest, whilst this ancient constitution remained entire, a man
might ride through England with much money about him and run no risk of
molestation, though armed with no other weapon than a white wand.[20]

If it is allowable to estimate the efficiency of a police system by
the measure of the security enjoyed by those under its protection (nor
is it easy to conceive of a fairer or more comprehensive test), it may
then be asserted with confidence that the Anglo-Saxon model, crude as
it undoubtedly was in many respects, compares not unfavourably with the
various preventive agencies which the wisdom of succeeding generations
has been able to produce. This comparative superiority survived, as we
shall see, until the advent of the admirable system of police, not yet
a century old, under which we have the good fortune to live to-day.

After the Conquest, the national police organisation was retained by
the Normans, the headborough becoming the "præpositus," and the joint
guarantee being known as "mutual security"; but the old forms which had
weighed lightly on the people hitherto, were now harshly administered
by the conquerors, whose officials, unaccustomed to the system,
and indifferent to the susceptibilities of the native population,
arbitrarily exacted the police fines, and did so in a manner that
whilst proper investigation was rare, violence was common.

Of these officials the worst offender was the "vicecomes," the
successor to the shire-reeve (_i.e._ sheriff), who under the
Anglo-Saxon régime had controlled the police administration of the
county.[21] The Vicecomes went on circuit each Michaelmas, to hold
an ambulatory police court, called the Court of the Tourn, to deal
with petty offences in the provinces, to bring capital crimes to the
cognisance of the superior courts, and to make an annual revision of
the frankpledge, _i.e._ an inspection of the police societies, with the
object of ensuring that all the tythings were full. The visit of the
Norman sheriff generally resolved itself into a demand for the payment
of heavy fines, that might, or might not, be legally due, and which too
often were heavier than the people could bear, for whereas the English
shilling had been worth about fivepence, the Norman shilling was
equivalent to twelve pence, and yet amercements were still calculated
on the old scale without any allowance being made for the change in
the value of the coin. Even in the rare cases where extortion was not
practised the local character of the police administration, which had
always been one of its most prominent features, was to a certain extent
destroyed by the interference of the alien Tourn.

The object of the Vicecomes being to collect as many fines as possible,
and to return to the king with some substantial evidence of his zeal,
he was not over particular as to details, but fined a whole township or
borough, and left the community to settle the incidence of the burden
amongst the individuals composing it.

A representative and well-known example of the harsh control that then
obtained, may be instanced; an enactment of William the Conqueror
ordained that any hundred within whose boundaries a Norman was found
murdered, should pay forty-six marks[22] unless the murderer was
delivered up within five days; and the sheriffs threw the burden of
proof of the victim's nationality on the hundred; in other words, the
corpse was assumed to be Norman and had to be paid as such, unless the
contrary was proved to their satisfaction; it is almost unnecessary
to add that in nine cases out of ten, acceptable proof could not be
produced in the specified period of time.

Another unpopular institution was that of Curfew Bell, introduced by
the Conqueror ostensibly as a protection against fire, but in reality
intended as a check upon the Saxons, to prevent them from meeting after
dark, and discussing the shortcomings of their oppressors, or for
other political purposes. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives a pathetic
account of the severity and injustice meted out by the Normans. "A.D.
1124. This same year after St Andrew's Mass, and before Christmas, held
Ralph Basset and the King's thanes a 'géwitenemote' in Leicestershire,
at Huncothoe, and there hanged more thieves than ever were known
before, that is, in a little while, four and forty men altogether:
and despoiled six men of their eyes and mutilated them. Many true men
said that there were several who suffered very unjustly; but our Lord
God Almighty, who seeth and knoweth every secret, seeth also that the
wretched people are oppressed with all unrighteousness. First they are
bereaved of their property and then they are slain. Full heavy year
was this." And again, "then was corn dear, and cheese, and butter,
for there was none in the land: wretched men starved with hunger: some
lived on alms who had been erewhile rich: some fled the country, never
was there more misery, and never heathen acted worse than these. The
earth bare no corn, you might as well have tilled the sea, for the land
was all ruined by such deeds."

If we may accept this as a true version of the condition of England
and the English, it is abundantly clear that the system of police
by decennary societies was inevitably doomed to failure after the
Conquest. The two nations, who had little in common, who were in fact
animated by bitter racial animosity, could not combine for any common
purpose; and it is obvious that the "mutual security" plan can only be
successful amongst a community bound together by the ties of family or

The sheriff's court never won the confidence of the people, and
gradually certain neighbourhoods, or, more correctly speaking, certain
lords more favoured than the rest, obtained the royal consent to the
substitution of local police courts, under a steward nominated by the
Lord of the Manor. These "courts of the leet" not only had the power to
"inquire of and punish all things that may hurt or grieve the people in
general, in their health, quiet, and welfare," but were authorised to
abate or remove public nuisances.[23]

Courts Leet became so popular, and proved so successful, that we soon
find them established, not merely in a few privileged places, but all
over the country; before long the Sheriff's Tourn became the exception
and the Court Leet the rule, the struggle for survival only coming
to an end when the sheriff altogether ceased to trouble the village
communities with his annual visit of inspection.

The rise of the Court Leet marks an important stage in the development
of English police. The decennary system could only be of value as long
as its strictly local character could be preserved, and the power of
interference possessed by the Vicecomes was foreign to the national
idea of police administration. Although the creation of the sheriff's
court must only be considered as an ill-advised and novel attempt at
centralisation, and its discontinuance a return to first principles, it
was not to be expected that the Tourn, when once established, would be
allowed to disappear until there was an alternative institution ready
and able to take its place. On this account the appearance of the Court
Leet was well timed, for the moment and indispensable for the future,
to act as a link between ancient principles and modern practice.

When Henry II. returned from the Continent in 1170 he found it
necessary to investigate the complaints that were persistently made
against the sheriffs, who were said to have been guilty of oppression
and extortion. The charges were well founded, and the result of his
inquiry was that several were dismissed from their office, whilst a
few years later the Assize of Northampton considerably reduced the
authority of the remainder. In the years that follow we find evidence,
over and over again, of the abuse of their power by the sheriffs, whose
importance steadily declined in consequence; the decay of their office
was gradual at first, but proceeded more rapidly, as we shall see,
after the institution of "Conservators of the Peace" by Richard I. At
the Council of Northampton provision was also made for holding assizes
in the different counties of England. For this purpose the kingdom was
divided into six circuits, and three judges, subsequently known under
the title of "justices itinerant," were assigned to each circuit.

Notwithstanding the recent friction between the two nationalities (now
happily on the wane), and all the evils which had accompanied it,
hundreds and tythings continued to perform their executive functions as
best they could, and not altogether without success; but the levying of
amercements, which was essential to the system, was so liable to abuse
at the hands of royal officers, and the fines grew so out of proportion
to the offences for which they were exacted, that advantage was very
properly taken of King John's humiliation in 1215 to insist that they
should only be enforced in future "on oath being made by the worthy
men of the district," and steps were taken to confine amercements to
their proper limits. By Magna Carta police fines were henceforward
to correspond in amount to the magnitude of the crime for which they
were incurred, and might not be enforced except with _beneficium
competentiæ_ _i.e._ every man had a right to his bare living, the
merchant to his merchandise, and the villein to his agricultural

In the following reign an attempt was made to put fresh life into the
police administration that for more than a hundred years had been
deteriorating; it was therefore ordained[25] that a view of frankpledge
should be made every Michaelmas, and tything be kept as in the old
days; the effort, however, was not a success, and before long the
prestige of the institution was irrevocably damaged by the relief
granted to the Baronage and Clergy by the Statute of Marlborough, which
excused them from attendance at the Court, unless they received special
orders to be present. In any case a return to the past was impossible,
the country had outgrown the method of control that had once been
efficacious, and altered conditions had completed the wreck of the
decennary system that racial differences had commenced. From this time
onwards, when frankpledge is spoken of, it must be understood to mean
only the general principle that was the basis of the indigenous system;
that is to say, a recognition of the bounden responsibility of every
citizen to take his part in the duty of maintaining peace in the state;
or, in other words, the liability that all men share to render police
services when called upon to do so.



The intimate bond which linked together the Kingly Office and the
general police organisation invested the latter with a certain concrete
dignity that was beneficial. The people were impressed by the fact
that police was the special province of the highest personage in the
land, at a time when they were incapable of appreciating the abstract
importance of the subject. The responsibility for peace-maintenance
was in this way definitely fixed on the one individual, who besides
being best able to enforce compliance with his commands, had also the
greatest stake in the continued preservation of the public peace; a
kingdom without order being a kingdom in name only. This was so well
recognised that, overbearing or indifferent as too many of our English
sovereigns proved themselves, not one of them ever repudiated this
responsibility, or failed to lay claim to be considered as the champion
of order.

The benefits that resulted from this royal pre-eminence were, it must
be confessed, often counter-balanced and sometimes outweighed by
corresponding disadvantages--good kings were rare--the hand of a king
who was inclined to oppress his people became the more grievous by
reason of his police supremacy--whilst under a weak king the burden
of oppression grew intolerable on account of the numberless oppressors
who immediately arose to take advantage of his supineness. The reign
of Henry III., externally brilliant, internally miserable, is a case
in point; for fifty-six long years peace gave place to chaos--the
king robbed, and the barons plundered, whenever and whomsoever
they could--shoals of needy foreigners invaded England--the clergy
swindled their congregations first on one pretext then on another, and
remitted the bulk of their spoil to the pope's nominees in far-off
Italy--"crimes," we are told, "escaped with impunity because the
ministers themselves were in confederacy with the robbers." Men had
cause to be dissatisfied and an excuse for taking the law into their
own hands, with the result that violence from above was answered by
violence from below. The lawlessness which followed took several forms
and infected all classes of the community--the half-starved peasantry,
hitherto patient, now scoured the country, and regained by force a
portion of the spoil amassed at their expense by foreigners and others
who had traded on the ignorant superstitions of the native English. The
outbreak which at first was directed against the Italian clergy soon
degenerated into a general campaign of license, until, as we learn,
"men were never secure in their houses, and whole villages were often
plundered by bands of robbers."[26] The king adopted a capricious
policy of repression, but his action, never vigorous, came too late to
be effectual, and failed to pacify the disturbed districts.

The obvious, if still unconfessed, inability of Henry III. to cope
with the disorders which infested the realm served as a pretext to the
barons to usurp the royal functions of peace-maintenance, and keeping
the king a virtual prisoner in their hands, they caused the so-called
Mad Parliament holden at Oxford in 1258 to create a Committee of Reform
armed with authority to formulate new regulations for the preservation
of the peace. This committee appointed that four knights should be
chosen by the freeholders of each county with power to inquire into
and present to Parliament the police shortcomings of their respective
shires, enacting as a further safeguard that the freeholders concerned
should annually elect a new sheriff, and that the sheriff should be
called upon to render to Parliament an account of his stewardship on
relinquishing office.

These regulations, which formed part of the "Provisions of Oxford,"
were well conceived, and for the moment proved extremely popular. But
they left little permanent impress on the future life of the nation
because they were fraudulently put forth by the barons, who, as it
soon appeared, were only scheming to win the populace over to their
side in the struggle for power, and who were far more anxious for
their own aggrandisement than they were for any object connected with
the mitigation of the troubles that afflicted the people. The whole
attitude of the nobles was so lawless, supporting, as they did, bands
of adherents to prey on each other's lands and on the chattels of
the defenceless commonalty, that no lasting good could be expected
to follow upon their most specious actions, their very gifts were
presumptive evidence of premeditated guilt, and their evil disposition
was a matter of common knowledge. "Knights and Esquires," says the
Dictum of Kenilworth,[27] "who were robbers, if they have no land,
shall pay the half of their goods, and find sufficient security to keep
henceforth the peace of the kingdom." Well might Hume exclaim, "Such
were the manners of the times!"

The practical disappearance of the decennary societies, followed
by the failure of the Provisions of Oxford to restore peace to the
State, necessitated the creation of some more effectual agency for
the re-establishment of good order. Such a substitute was fortunately
provided by the famous Statute of Winchester, which was passed in the
thirteenth year of Edward I., of whom it has been said that he did more
for the preservation of the peace in the first thirteen years of his
reign than was collectively accomplished by the thirteen monarchs next

This Winchester statute is especially important to our inquiry,
because it sums up and gives permanency to those expedients introduced
in former reigns, which were considered worthy of retention for the
protection of society; and because it presents to us a complete picture
of that police system of the middle ages which continued with but
little alteration for more than five hundred years, and which even
now, though greatly changed in its outward appearance, is still the
foundation upon which our present police structure is built.

The Statute of Winchester is not here presented as a brand-new
system of police extemporised in the year 1285, but rather as the
definite product of a long series of experiments all tending in the
same direction. Legislation hastily conceived seldom survives; and
however the case may stand in other lands, or in other departments
of government, every police measure which has won a permanent place
in English history has had a gradual growth, now retarded, now
accelerated--here something removed as old fallacies were exposed,
there something added as new knowledge was acquired. A few well-known
and representative examples of the process at this stage of its
development may be enumerated.

First in importance comes the "Assize of Clarendon," issued in 1166,
which describes how notorious and reputed felons are to be 'presented'
to the Courts of the Justices or to the sheriffs, which commands one
sheriff to assist another in the pursuit and capture of fugitives,
and which deals with the restrictions to be enforced against the
entertainers of strangers and the harbourers of vagabonds. The Assize
of Northampton, which was issued three years after the rebellion of
1173, prescribes severer punishments, provides for the registration
of outlaws, and reduces the powers of sheriffs. A writ for the
conservation of the peace issued in 1233 is referred to by Dr Stubbs in
these words: "This is a valuable illustration of the permanence of the
old English regulations for the security of peace in the country....
The principle thus expanded is here developed into a separate system
of Watch and Ward, which a few years later is brought into conjunction
with the Assize of Arms, and completed by Edward I. in the Statute of
Winchester, and by the assignment of Justices of the Peace under Edward
III." Finally, Writs for enforcing Watch and Ward and the Assize of
Arms, issued in 1252 and in 1253, may be instanced as the immediate
precursors of the Statute of Winchester.

Few legislative measures have stood so long or so prominently as this
Act of 1285. Its vitality has been remarkable; we find it periodically
referred to, and its provisions re-enforced whenever an increase of
lawlessness afflicted the State, as the universal and proper remedy to
apply to all distempers of the sort; we find it cited as the standard
authority on Watch and Ward, even in the eighteenth century, when
two Acts of Parliament[28] quote it to prove that the protection of
a district is a constitutional duty compulsorily incumbent on its
inhabitants; nor was it until 1793, in which year a Committee of the
House of Commons appointed to inquire into the state of the nightly
watch of the city of Westminster stated that "the Statute of Winchester
being very obsolete is a very improper regulation," that people began
to talk of it as old-fashioned.

After stating that, "robberies, murders, burnings and thefts, be
more often used than heretofore," the statute confirms the ancient
responsibility of the hundred for offences committed within its
boundaries, "so that the whole hundred, where the robbery shall be
done, with the franchises being within the precinct of the same
hundred, shall be answerable for the robberies," and ordains that
"cries shall be made in all counties, markets, hundreds, fairs and
all other places, where great resort of people is, so that none shall
excuse himself by ignorance."

Another paragraph defines the law with regard to "Watch and Ward"--the
gates of walled towns are to be shut between sunset and daybreak, men
are forbidden to live in the suburbs, except under the guarantee of a
responsible householder, and it is enacted that in every city "from
the day of the Ascension until the day of St Michael," a watch of six
men is to be stationed at each gate: every borough has to provide a
watch of twelve persons, whilst the number of watchmen insisted upon
by law for the protection of the smaller towns, varies from four to
six, according to the number of inhabitants in each. Strangers must
not pass the gates during the hours of darkness, any attempting to do
so are to be arrested by the Watch, and detained until morning, when,
"if they find cause of suspicion, they shall forthwith deliver him to
the sheriff," but if no such cause is found, "he shall go quit." The
affiliated institutions "Hue and Cry" and the "Assize of Arms" are next
considered. Both had previously existed in some form or other, but had
been allowed to fall into disuse, so it is now laid down afresh that
in case strangers do not obey the arrest of the Watch, "hue and cry
shall be levied upon them, and such as keep the watch shall follow
with hue and cry, with all the towns near." Sheriffs are reminded that
it is their duty to follow the cry with the country-side, in pursuit of
law-breakers: and that if they are neglectful, a report will be made by
the constables to the judges, who will inform the king of the default.

The clauses relating to the Assize of Arms command every male between
the ages of fifteen and sixty to have harness in his house, "for to
keep the peace"; the nature of the arms to be provided depends upon
the man's rank, and on the value of his property, and varies from "an
hauberke, an helme of iron, a sword, a knife and a horse" for a knight,
down to bows and arrows, which were the only weapons that the poorest
class had to furnish. In each hundred two constables were appointed to
make a half-yearly inspection of arms, and "such defaults as they may
find" shall be notified through the judges to the king, and the king
"shall find remedy therein."

The Assize of Arms was something more than a mere police regulation.
Sheriffs and constables were royal officers, and the powers entrusted
to them, which included the liberty to make domiciliary visits for the
purpose of viewing the armour, together with the general supervision
they exercised over an armed population, placed at the king's disposal
a force that could on occasion be employed for political ends
unconnected with the professed motive of the Assize, that of peace

The only other part of the statute that need now be noticed deals
with the regulating of highways: it is directed that roads leading
from one market town to another "shall be enlarged so that there be
neither dyke, tree nor bush whereby a man may lurk to do hurt, within
two hundred foot on the one side and two hundred foot on the other side
of the way": this, however, is not to apply to oaks or great trees, but
if a park march with the roadway, the lord must "minish his park the
space of two hundred foot from the highways, as before is said, or that
he make such a wall, dyke or hedge, that offenders may not pass, nor
return to do evil."

The declared object of the Statute of Winchester, was, in the words
of the preamble, "for to abate the power of felons," and the highway
clause is said to have been designed against the depredations of
bands of robbers called Drawlatches and Roberdsmen, who, concealing
themselves in the thick undergrowth by the roadside, had been a terror
to travellers for the last hundred years or more.

If the law could have been enforced in this particular, so as to leave
a clear two hundred feet both sides of the road, the result would have
been admirable, but the regulation was framed on too ambitious a scale,
with the result that it was generally disregarded, or at the best only
partially carried out, and it is extremely unlikely that many lords
minished their parks as they were ordered.

It was, of course, extremely difficult to give effect to the new police
system throughout England; conditions and customs varied in different
districts; before the introduction of newspapers ideas spread but
slowly; and people did not readily comprehend strange institutions,
nor accept them, when understood, without protest. This was especially
the case in the north-westerly provinces; the men of Cheshire, amongst
others, were dissatisfied with the new arrangements, and petitioned
the king to relieve them of the burden of maintaining so many peace
officers; but Edward was not to be influenced against his judgment,
by these entreaties, and answered in an abrupt manner that he would
not change the law, nor revoke his statutes. The men of Shropshire and
Westmoreland also, who, as it appears, had successfully evaded their
obligations under the decennary system, now took it upon themselves to
ignore the provisions of the Statute of Winchester; with the result
that some fifteen years later, on it being brought to his notice that
the regulations which he had laid down were not being properly carried
out, the king ordained that "the same statute be sent again into every
county to be read and proclaimed four times a year, and kept in every
particular as strictly as the great charters, upon pain of incurring
the penalties therein limited."

It is worthy of notice, that as early as the thirteenth century, the
police of the capital city was placed on a different footing from
that of the rest of the kingdom, a distinction which, to some extent,
has been retained until the present day. The Statute of Winchester
did not apply to London, but in its stead a local Act[29] was passed
in the same year, having special reference to the government of
the metropolis. From this and from other sources, a comprehensive
reconstruction might be made of the police arrangements that controlled
London at the time of Edward I., the principal features of which may
here be briefly indicated.

The city was divided into twenty-four wards, and in each ward there
were six watchmen supervised by an alderman, who was expected to
acquaint himself with the personal characters of the residents of his
ward, and was ordered to secure any malefactors that he might find;
the aldermen, therefore, were executive as well as judicial officers,
and might have to adjudicate in the morning upon the evidence they
themselves had collected overnight.

In addition to the ward-watchmen there was a separate force called the
"marching watch" (the germ of the patrols of later days), whose duty
it was to exercise a general vigilance for the maintenance of peace in
the city, and to give their assistance to the stationary watchmen as
occasion demanded. Foreigners, who were not freemen of the city, might
not be innkeepers, and lepers were forbidden to leave their houses
under the severest penalties; regulations were made against the rearing
of oxen or swine within the city walls, and against the establishment
of schools of arms where fencing with the buckler was taught. By
day the gates were open, but even then care was taken to exclude
undesirable visitors, for two sergeants "skillful men and fluent of
speech" were placed at each gate to scrutinise all those who passed in
or out.

One hour after sunset, curfew was rung simultaneously from the Church
of St Martin's Le Grand and in the other parishes, the gates were then
shut, taverns were closed, and men might not go about the streets armed
till the morning, "unless he be a great man, or other lawful person of
good repute, or their certain messengers, having their warrants to go
from one to another with lanthorn in hand."

The peace officers were authorised to arrest anyone who broke these
regulations, and to bring him the following day before the Warden,
Mayor, or Aldermen of the city, for punishment; officers were secured
against all penalties for acts done in the execution of their office,
and no complaints were permitted to be made against them with regard
to the imprisonment or punishment of offenders, "unless it be that an
officer should do so of open malice, and for his own revenge, or for
the revenge of another that maliciously procureth the same, and not for
the keeping of the peace."

It will be observed that the intention both of the Statute of
Winchester and of these regulations for the government of London is
in the main a preventive one, that whilst every care is taken to
place obstructions in the way of transgressors, and every caution
exercised to render a criminal career difficult, we hear but little of
the penalties that follow upon detection. This tendency is in marked
contrast to the custom of subsequent legislation, which increasingly
insisted on the infliction of punishment as the only effectual means
of diminishing crime. The earliest English police known to us, relied
almost entirely, as has already been pointed out, on the efficacy of
the preventive principle. The system inaugurated by the Statute of
Winchester which took the place of the ancient institutions, may be
considered as the connecting link between the two extreme conceptions
of police functions, between the policy of prevention and the policy
of repression. Watch and Ward was the civil equivalent of the sentry
who, in time of war is posted outside the camp, and whose functions are
purely preventive, whilst Hue and Cry was partly preventive and partly
repressive. Although the main object of the latter institution was the
apprehension of offenders, quite half its value depended on the effect
produced on the minds of intending criminals by the fear that any
illegal act on their part might raise the whole county in arms against
them, and by the knowledge that escape was well-nigh impossible.

The law against vagrancy was conceived in the same spirit, the Statute
in question requiring Bailiffs of towns to make enquiry every week of
all persons lodging in the suburbs, in order that neither vagrants, nor
"people against the peace" might find shelter, a regulation designed on
the lines of the universal police maxim "Allow the thief no rest." The
custom was to make the householder responsible for the deeds of those
whom he harboured, and to punish the indiscriminate giver of alms.[30]

This method was not only more humane, but it also proved more effectual
than the everlasting imprisonment, whipping, and branding of vagrants,
that Tudor legislation enjoined.

Neglect of the Hue and Cry, failure to make "fresh and quick pursuit,"
and sometimes want of success when pursuit was duly made, were
visited by the imposition of fines upon the neglectful or unfortunate
inhabitants as the case might be: many examples of this are on record,
_e.g._ (Exchequer Rolls, vol. i. sect. 14).

 "Item. The citizens of Lincoln fined fifty marks for suffering a
 robber to escape, etc.: and the men of Colchester for the like.

 Item. (Sussex: 16 Edward I.) Homicide committed in a fray: the
 offender who had stabbed his adversary, a butcher, takes refuge in
 the Church of Crawley and abjures the realm: townships of Crawley and
 Hurst amerced because they did not make suit.

 Item. A quarrel in an alehouse at Hodley, in which a man is struck
 on the head and dies four days afterwards. The offender escapes, and
 all the persons present in the alehouse amerced, because they did not
 secure him."[31]

When Hue and Cry had been raised against a fugitive, every man had to
lay aside his work and join in the pursuit to the best of his ability,
anyone failing to do so, or withdrawing himself without permission,
was considered to have taken the part of the person who was fleeing
from justice, and the two might be hunted down together, and when
apprehended, delivered to the Sheriffs, "not to be set at liberty, but
by the King, or by his chief justice."[32] Once levied, Hue and Cry
recognised no boundaries, the pursuit spread from hundred to hundred,
and from county to county, "till they come to the seaside," or until
the man surrendered himself. "The life of Hue and Cry," says Coke, "is
fresh suit," and in order that valuable time should not be lost in
preliminary enquiries, no liability for malfeasance attached to those
who followed the chase; if therefore an innocent man was hunted down,
he had no remedy against his pursuers, but, to obtain satisfaction,
had first to discover the author of the false report. If the fugitive
sought refuge in a house, and refused to open the door, the peace
officer might break it open, and in the event of a man grievously
wounding another, it was held that killing was no murder, provided that
Hue and Cry had been duly levied, and provided also, that the offender
could not otherwise be taken.[33]

The best, and as a rule, the only practicable chance of escape open
to the pursued, lay in the possibility of his reaching a sanctuary
before the hunters came up with him. If a man took sanctuary, his life
was safe, but he remained a close prisoner within the precincts of
the asylum in which he had found refuge until he received the King's
pardon, or until he purchased his freedom by "abjuring the realm," an
undertaking which entailed upon him perpetual banishment, besides the
forfeiture of all his belongings.

These sacred asylums, within whose precincts the law was powerless,
were often made use of in a manner never contemplated when the
privilege of affording protection to fugitives was first extended to
them. If an offender was unpopular his chance of reaching sanctuary
was very remote, it was easy enough to head him off, or to surround
the place in such a manner that approach meant certain capture; on the
other hand, if the country folk were disposed to favour the escape of
the hunted man, there was little difficulty in managing the pursuit
in such a way that he should reach his goal in safety. Hue and Cry
was therefore not as effectual as it ought to have been, especially
against men who for one reason or another enjoyed the goodwill of their
neighbours, and its efficacy was still further reduced by the freedom
with which Charters of Pardon were granted by the King to powerful
nobles and others, who were prepared to pay for the concession.[34]

In addition to the Statute of Winchester upon which his reputation
as a police reformer mainly rests, Edward I. was the author of other
valuable measures designed to produce and conserve a state of public
tranquillity. Under former rulers Sheriffs had been allowed a dangerous
amount of freedom, which they had abused for their own advantage,
both by improperly admitting to bail offenders who ought not to have
been permitted to remain at large, and by exacting bail from others
on trivial or trumped-up charges. This practice Edward combated, and
forbade sheriffs, under severe penalties, to hold to bail any who
were not strictly bailable. Mindful also of the disturbances wrought
by idle rumour, he set himself to put a stop to the dissemination of
scandal by irresponsible tale-bearers, and decreed that henceforth
those "who be so hardy as to tell or publish any false news or tales
whereby discord may arise" should be "taken and kept in prison until he
is brought into the Court which was the first author of the tale."[35]

Of greater practical value, however, were his enactments dealing with
Coroners[36] (so-called because they were principally concerned with
pleas of the Crown). With the intention that these most important
officers should stand high in the estimation of all men, Edward,
in 1275, ordained that no one under the degree of knight should be
chosen to the office, and in the year following he defined the powers
of Coroners, setting forth what steps they were called upon to take
for the better preservation of the peace, and in what manner their
functions ought to be carried out. It was enacted[37] that, in the
event of any person meeting with an unnatural or violent death, the
township concerned had to immediately give notice to the nearest
Coroner, who was thereupon bound to issue a precept to the constables
of the neighbouring vills, requiring them to cause to appear before
him a competent number of good and lawful men in order that the matter
might forthwith be investigated at the place where the corpse had been
found. If, upon inquiry, and upon the oath of the jurymen, it should
appear that foul play had been the cause of death, the Coroner was,
by the same statute, further instructed to use his best endeavour to
discover the guilty party, and if the murderer was known, the Coroner
was authorised to deliver him to the Sheriff and to proceed to his
house, and there to cause a valuation of all his belongings to be
made, the amount thereof being notified and secured to the township or
hundred, which was then answerable to the judges for any amercement
that might subsequently be imposed. Nor was the business of holding
inquisitions in cases of sudden death the only duty of the Coroner; he
was also expected to make enquiry, in like manner, of every reported
case of housebreaking, and was required to keep a watchful eye on
any of the King's subjects who seemed to live riotously, haunting
taverns and the like, and to attach them by four or more pledges on
the not unreasonable suspicion that the funds which supported such
extravagances proceeded either from some illegal practice, or from a
secret store of treasure trove. Though answerable to the King, Coroners
were chosen by the county, and sworn by the sheriff; any holder of the
office concealing felonies, or failing in his duty through favour to
the misdoers, was liable to be fined at the King's pleasure and to be
imprisoned for a year.

Much of the good work done for the internal peace of the kingdom by
Edward I. was undone by his successor, whose predilection for evil
counsellors led to much Baronial resistance, and threw the country
back into that state of lawlessness from which it had been delivered by
the wise police regulations of the Statute of Winchester.

Organised bands of robbers harried the country, setting at defiance
sheriffs, judges, and even the King himself, who was stopped near
Norwich by a freebooting knight called Sir Gosseline Denville, and
stripped of his money and other valuables. With such an example of
reckless disregard of the King's peace before them, it is not wonderful
that the lower orders of the people ignored the restrictions that the
law imposed; the weak had no protectors, so the hand that was strong
enough to take and to hold fast was seldom empty. These predatory
rovers waxed so powerful, and grew so numerous as the result of the
impunity they enjoyed, that nothing short of a regular military
campaign sufficed to free the land from their ravages. The end of this
same Denville illustrates the extensive nature of these operations.
After years spent in successful plundering, and after an unprecedented
reward had been put on his head, he was at length brought to bay by the
sheriff of Yorkshire, who, with five hundred men surrounded the inn
where the robber slept, and in the course of the desperate fight which
followed between the _posse comitatus_ of the peace officer and the
banditti, it is said that two hundred men were killed before the knight
and his brother were captured.[38]

Indolent and incapable as Edward II. proved, his police administration
was not altogether without merit, and an important Statute passed in
the eighteenth year of his reign is worthy of more than passing notice.
In order that the value of this Act may be fully appreciated a few
words of preliminary explanation are necessary. One of the principal
functions of the Norman Sheriff at his annual visit of inspection
or Tourn, was to inform himself (by making inquiry from the chief
frankpledges) as to the nature and extent of the crime existing in his
district, and to make a report thereof to the King, if, in his opinion,
any particular offence or class of offences was unduly prevalent. The
exercise of this function, which was known as "presentment," to some
extent secured the trial and punishment of criminals, by bringing their
offences to the knowledge of the central authority, and the officer
who made the report may, in a sense, be considered to have acted the
part of a public prosecutor. When the Court Leet took the place of
the Sheriff's Tourn this function was partially lost, and the object
of the Statute in question was to increase the value of the Court
Leet as a preventive agency, by reaffirming and clearly defining its
responsibility with regard to the important duty of presentment, which
it had inherited along with the other functions of the Sheriff's Tourn.
To this end Courts Leet were now (1325) ordered to certify that all the
chief-pledges were present at the sitting of the Court to which they
were summoned, and that they duly brought to the notice of the same
Court all offences committed within their knowledge. For their guidance
a list of the matters which concerned them, arranged under thirty-four
headings, was added, of which the most important were the following:--

  (_a_) Of damages done to walls, houses, ditches and
  hedges set up or beaten down to annoyance.

  (_b_) Of Bounds withdrawn or taken away.

  (_c_) Of breakers of houses.

  (_d_) Of petty larrons, and their receivers (_i.e._

  (_e_) Of such as go messages for thieves.

  (_f_) Of cries levied and not pursued.

  (_g_) Of bloodshed and of frays made.

  (_h_) Of escape of thieves and felons.

  (_i_) Of clippers and forgers of money.

  (_j_) Of persons outlawed returned, not having the
  King's warrant.

  (_k_) Of women ravished not presented before the

  (_l_) Of false balances, measures, and weights.

  (_m_) Of such as continually haunt taverns, and no
  man knoweth whereon they do live.

  (_n_) Of such as sleep by day, and watch by night,
  and eat and drink well, and have nothing.

  (_o_) Of persons imprisoned and let go without

  (_p_) Of the Assize of Ale and Bread broken.

A glance at the subjects enumerated in this schedule is sufficient to
illustrate the comprehensive nature of the part assigned to Courts
Leet in the general scheme of peace maintenance, and to show how in
addition to their primary duty of bringing to light all breaches of
the peace, these local police courts were furthermore charged with
the supervision of everything that tends to promote good order and
good citizenship, such as, for example, the regulating of weights and
measures and the abatement of public nuisances.

This Statute is entitled "A Statute for View of Frankpledge," but it
was not put forward with any intention of reverting to the old system
of police by decennary societies, nor with any idea of superseding or
even modifying the Statute of Winchester, but rather as an auxiliary
measure to enlarge the sphere of usefulness of that Statute, and
to render its administration more effectual, by ensuring that no
violations of its provisions should go undetected and unpunished.



The accession of Edward III. marked the beginning of a new police era,
that of the petty constable acting under the direction of the Justice
of the Peace. The Statute of Winchester continued to be the guide in
matters of police, but the executive which carried out its provisions
underwent a change.

Any attempt to follow in detail the history of the Justices of the
Peace, and the powers resident in them, is beyond the scope of the
present work; this task has already been often and ably performed.[39]
It is impossible, however, to divorce the functions of the Justice from
those of the Constable; the story of the evolution of the latter is
so dovetailed into the history of the former, the two are so closely
allied in their mutual relationship of master and servant, that some
reference must here and elsewhere be made to the office of the Justice,
a functionary who claims a considerable share of attention in any
enquiry that deals with police in the full interpretation of the word,
because the executive power vested in a Justice as Peace Officer is
antecedent to, and on the whole more important than, the judicial
authority attaching to him as Magistrate: in other words, he must be
considered as a policeman first, and as a judge afterwards.

The origin of the Justice's office is by no means obscure. Towards
the close of the twelfth century (1195), by a proclamation of Richard
I.,[40] Knights were appointed to see that all males over the age
of fifteen years were "sworn to the King" by taking a solemn oath
to maintain the peace: after fifty years or so had elapsed (1253)
these Knights had become Peace Wardens or Conservators, who again,
continually undergoing a process of development as the importance of
the Sheriffs dwindled, were eventually invested with judicial powers,
and were then known as Justices of the Peace.

When the office of Justice was first created, it was not intended
that the Sheriff should be altogether superseded, but rather that the
new officer should become an auxiliary agent for the preservation
of the peace, to co-operate, as the Conservator had formerly done,
with the Sheriff, who still retained the primary responsibility for
the policing of his shire. It would appear that the supremacy of the
royal officer in matters of police was generally recognised throughout
the thirteenth century; for when, in 1285, Edward I. had occasion to
rebuke the men of Kent for the prevalence of crime in their county,
he made no mention of the Conservator, but ordered the inhabitants to
afford in future every assistance in their power to the Sheriff, whose
especial province it was (so the King declared) to keep the peace, not
only by his own power, but also by means of the "posse comitatus,"
or power of the county.[41] On the other hand, even at this time,
the Sheriff was not always given a free hand. In Warwickshire, for
example, all arrangements for the preservation of the peace had first
to be submitted to the Conservator for his approval;[42] it cannot,
however, be supposed that the supervision exercised by the Conservators
over the police administration was more than nominal, because, as a
rule, they were great noblemen, holding a plurality of offices, and
because the districts within their wardenship were usually too large
to be effectively controlled by any one man. We learn, for instance,
that in 1281 the Earl of Cornwall was Peace Warden for the counties of
Middlesex, Essex, Herts, Cambs, Hunts, Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, Surrey,
Oxon, Beds, Bucks, Berks, Northants, Lincoln, and Rutland.

When both population and trade increased, and when offenders and
offences grew more varied and numerous, it became necessary to augment
to a proportionate degree the staff of officers answerable to the
King for the internal peace of the kingdom: it was no good making
more Sheriffs, who had seldom proved a success in the past (whose
misconduct, in fact, had led to the restricting of their power to do
harm on more than one occasion), and so it came about that the Justice
gradually superseded the Conservator, and in the end not only deprived
the Sheriff of his judicial powers, but to a large extent took his
place as director of the police also.

The Sheriff did not submit to this curtailment of his authority without
a struggle. After he was no longer allowed to act in his old capacity,
he sometimes managed to get made a Justice, and to hold both offices in
the same county at one time, to the great oppression of the people, who
bitterly complained of the heavy fines that were inflicted, and of the
outrageous bail that was exacted by these pluralists, until in 1378, at
the request of Parliament, Richard II. put an end to such practices.
Nevertheless, the Sheriff still remained the responsible person for the
levying of Hue and Cry, for the pursuit and apprehension of felons,
for the due execution of the sentences pronounced by the law-courts,
and was answerable for the persons of prisoners handed over to him
for punishment. He also had to perform various duties connected with
elections, and until the reign of Edward VI. retained certain military

Before 1328, the so-called justices were executive officers only,
"they were little more than constables on a large scale";[43]
but in this year, Edward the Third, who had recently come to the
throne, considerably extended their powers by entrusting to them the
examination and punishment of law-breakers.

The King reserved to himself the right of nominating those who should
hold the office, and, throughout his long reign, continued to take the
liveliest interest in his Justices of the Peace. He ordered that they
should be connected with the county for which they were appointed, by
holding therein a certain amount of landed property, a qualification
which has been retained for many centuries. He made it a condition that
they should be _bons gentz et loiaulx_; and for fear lest the granting
of judicial powers to local officials should open the door to extortion
on the one hand, and to ignorant maladministration on the other, was
very careful as to the class of man he selected. For this reason, the
pleadings of Parliament notwithstanding, he could not be induced to
give up the privilege of appointing his own nominees, and even the
democratic tendencies of modern times have left the appointment of
Justices of the Peace in the hands of the Crown. Another Statute[44]
(also passed in 1328) ordained that no man should "go offensively" or
"ride armed" before the new magistrates--a wise enactment designed to
protect them from being brow-beaten and intimidated by those great
nobles who sought to obtain their own ends through the awe inspired by
the display of a large armed retinue.

In 1333[45] Edward informed the Commons that one of his principal
reasons for calling them together was to take counsel with them
concerning the means that should be adopted for preserving the
peace, and to this end charged them to assist him to the best of
their ability. The Commons readily accepted the invitation, and
subsequently lost no opportunity of expressing the interest they took
in the Justices of the Peace, whose office was the constant theme of
suggestions and petitions, which, however, the King, who preferred to
take his own line, usually disregarded.

Of the several Statutes that were successively passed dealing with the
office in question, the most important became law in 1360.[46] "In
every county in England, there shall be assigned for the keeping of
the peace, one lord, and with him three or four of the most worthy men
in the county, together with some learned in the law, and they shall
have power to restrain offenders, rioters, and other barretors, and to
pursue, arrest, take, and chastise them, according to their trespass or
offence; and to cause them to be arrested and duly punished according
to the law and custom of the realm, and according to that which to
them shall seem best to do by their discretions and good advisement;
... and to take of all them that be not of good fame, where they shall
be found, sufficient surety and mainprise of their good behaviour
toward the King and his people ... and also to hear and determine at
the King's suit all manner of felonies and trespasses done in the same
county according to the laws and customs aforesaid."

Two years after the Statute above quoted had been enacted, the Justices
were empowered to sit quarterly for the transaction of business,[47]
and before long Quarter Sessions absorbed the major portion of the
executive and administrative government of the county.[48]

When Richard II. ascended the throne, the Justice of the Peace was
thus firmly established as one of the permanent institutions of
the kingdom. Since that time, the office has passed through many
vicissitudes, experiencing many a rise and many a fall; but through
all these changes, the Statute quoted above, which first defined his
position, has always been referred to when any doubt arose as to the
powers a Justice may exercise by virtue of his commission, and its
meaning has been stretched and extended by degrees until, as Burn
says, "there is scarcely any other Statute which hath received such a
largeness of interpretation."[49]

It will be observed that in addition to the powers given to Justices
for the punishment of offences against the peace, express authority
was also conferred upon them by the same instrument for the prevention
of such offences, for they were specially ordered to "take sufficient
surety and mainprise of all them that be not of good fame." We have
seen how under the decennary or tything system, all freemen were
bound to find sureties for the preservation of the peace, and we have
watched the decay of that system after the Norman invasion; in the
provisions of this Act of Parliament, however, we may discover at least
a partial revival of the ancient plan of demanding guarantees against
any contingent infraction of the public peace, and of associating in
a joint pecuniary responsibility the actual or potential peacebreaker
with his immediate neighbours.[50] The "sufficient security" which
Justices were authorised to take might be of two kinds--"Surety of
the Good Behaviour" and "Surety of the Peace," and the security might
be by Bail or by Mainprise, the difference between the two being "that
mainpernors are only surety, but bail is a custody; and therefore the
bail may retake the prisoner, if they doubt he may fly, and detain
him."[51] ... Sureties of the Good Behaviour and Sureties of the Peace
were granted on suspicion or on the flimsiest sort of evidence; for
instance, "any suspected person who lives idly, and yet fares well,
or is well apparelled, having nothing whereon to live," any common
gamester, or the reputed father of a bastard child, or an eaves-dropper
even, might be called upon to find mainpernors or bail; and so great
discretion was required on the part of the Justices, who had to decide
such knotty points; it was consequently of the highest importance
that these officers should be familiar with the districts in which
their duties were performed, and legal erudition was a consideration
subordinate to personal character and local knowledge. When the Law
was young evidence was received for what it was held to be worth,
without distinction as to whether it might be hearsay, circumstantial,
or direct; the word of a thane would prevail against the evidence of
six ceorls; in fact the credibility of every witness was appraised in
proportion to his social position, just as a man's life had formerly
been estimated at a distinct valuation, and scheduled according to a
recognised scale.[52]

The feudal system had taught the retainer to look to the Lord of the
Manor for the redress of any grievance that he might have against his
neighbour. To the tribunal of the Manor, also, he was wont to bring
family differences for settlement; here the father would recount the
follies of his son, and the wife complain of the habits of her husband:
for, just as the priest was the spiritual adviser to his congregation,
so, in many instances, was the Lord of the Manor the lay-counsellor
to the dwellers on his estate. It was essential, therefore, that the
Justice, who had to perform many of the duties formerly attaching to
the feudal lord, should be a local man and a man of position; people
would have nothing to do with a stranger, or with one who, in their
opinion, was a man of no account, however great a lawyer he might be.

The status of the Justice of the Peace at the time of Edward IV. was
not very different from that held by the same functionary at the
present day. His powers and duties are not now quite the same as they
once were, but the history of the office has been remarkable for its
steady persistence in one groove: the Justices of five hundred years
ago might be defined as a select number of country gentlemen deriving
their authority from the Crown, primarily responsible to the Crown
for the preservation of the peace, and exercising judicial functions
of a simple kind within the limits of the county for which they were
appointed--and such a definition would still apply.

The rise of the Justice of the Peace at the expense of his rivals was
due to some extent to political causes. Sovereigns were favourable
to the growing importance of an estate that promised to act as a
counterpoise to the arrogant claims of the nobles, and although
Parliament had nothing to do with the appointment of the new
magistrates it was generally in sympathy with them, because they did
not abuse their powers as the sheriffs had done, nor neglect their
duties like the conservators; and also because the House of Commons,
which was almost entirely composed of country gentlemen, recognised in
the Justices, members of the same social class to which they themselves
belonged. The mass of the people, too, were inclined to view them with
favour, choosing to place themselves and their fortunes in the hands
of men they knew something about, who were on the spot and likely to
execute justice speedily, rather than in the hands of strange judges
whose visits were few and far between, and who, when they came, were
likely to be deficient in local knowledge.

The first Justices therefore were in the enviable position of enjoying
at one and the same time the hearty support of King, Commons, and
People; but unfortunately such a healthy state was not destined to be
permanent, and before long the symptoms of internal disease presented

As the attractions of town life increased it became more and more
difficult to obtain the services of the best kind of country gentlemen
for a post that was often arduous, that brought no emolument to the
holder, and that was incompatible with absenteeism. An inferior type
of man was glad enough to take the place for the sake of the patronage
and the social position he thereby acquired, and a corresponding
depreciation in the police administration was at once apparent. Richard
II. endeavoured to counteract this tendency by ordaining that Justices
should be possessed of property in their own county of a minimum annual
value of twenty pounds, and at the same time relieved them of some of
their routine duties by appointing Clerks of the Peace to assist them.
He fixed the number of Justices for each county at eight, two of whom
only had to be in attendance at each Sessions.

These remedial measures served their purpose for the time, but in after
years we find the danger resulting from the admission of inferior men
into the ranks of the Justices constantly recurring, necessitating a
more rigid enforcement of the property qualification.

In the city of London the duties that in the country would have fallen
to the Justices of the Peace were performed instead by the Mayor and
Aldermen, a custom that has been continued ever since, and with good

All that remains to be said on the subject of Justices of the Peace
in this place must be compressed into a few lines. Various Statutes,
passed between 1389 and 1399, multiplied their powers exceedingly by
giving them authority to settle the wages of labourers and servants,
to punish unlawful huntings, false weights in the staple, and the
unlawful wearing of liveries. In the reign of Henry IV. they were
directed by statute to suppress riots with the help of the Sheriff and
his "posse," and Henry V. ordained that, in future, Justices should
only be appointed from "the most sufficient men of the counties,
resident respectively therein," and that they should thenceforward be
nominated by the King's Council.[54]

The Yorkist period saw Justices of the Peace at the zenith of their
power; for, although the importance of the office tended to increase
rather than to diminish, Tudor sovereigns, always masters in their own
house, refused to allow them the same measure of independence that they
had before enjoyed--in fact, one of the first acts of Henry VII.[55]
was to rate them soundly for their past negligence, and to threaten
unpleasant consequences if an improvement was not quickly manifest.

Subordinate to the Justices were the petty constables; "the lowe and
lay ministers of the peace" as Lambard calls them; these officers were
appointed annually by the jury of the Court Leet, but their control was
vested almost entirely in the hands of the magistrates who swore them
in, and who afterwards directed their actions.

Careful investigation into the origin and precise nature of the
petty constable's office has failed to set finally at rest the many
discussions that have arisen from time to time, and has left some minor
points still obscure; the essentials, however, are sufficiently clear
for the purposes of the present inquiry.

The word "constable" was imported by the Normans, but its etymology is
not quite certain; formerly it was said to be derived from "Conning,"
a king,[56] and "Stapel," a stay or prop, and to signify "the king's
right-hand man," but this is an unlikely solution, because the
invaders despised the Anglo-Saxon language, and would not use a word
which was partly derived from that tongue. Latterly the derivation
"Comes-stabuli," meaning an Equerry or Master of the Horse, has been
generally accepted as correct. In England the title has been applied to
a variety of functionaries, some high and some low, who had little in
common beyond the fact that they all owed their authority to the Crown.

The first mention of petty constables occurs in 1252, in a writ of
Henry III. for enforcing watch and ward. This writ provides for the
employment of these officers in parish and township, but it is more
than likely that the office was not then a new one, because the word
"constable" is there used without any explanation being added, and
it may therefore be assumed that its meaning was a matter of common

The Statute of Winchester, it will be remembered, ordained that there
should be two constables in each hundred, to carry out the inspection
of arms; these officers were probably connected with the Militia, and
were closely allied to, if not identical with, the High Constables
of later date; in any case they must not be confused with the petty
constables, who, according to Blackstone, were so called when they
added the duties of assistants to the High Constable, to their ancient
business of keeping the peace, and who, as Lambard explains, were
modified tythingmen; "when there be many tythingmen in one parish,
there only one of them is a constable for the king, and the rest do
serve but as the ancient tythingmen did."

The transition from the Anglo-Saxon tythingman to the petty constable,
that is to say, from the chief frankpledge to the Justice's assistant
was very gradual, and it is impossible to determine a rigid boundary
line between the two. All we can say is that the term "constable" was
introduced as early as the year 1252, and that the term "tything man"
continued to be occasionally made use of down to the beginning of the
nineteenth century: that first and last the offices were in effect
the same does not admit of doubt, both were primarily _ex officio_
guardians of the peace, and when the tything man came to be commonly
called "constable," it does not follow that the change marked the
creation of a new office.

The Normans naturally substituted French or Latin names for Anglo-Saxon
ones; headborough became præpositus, and shire-reeve or sheriff became
vicecomes. Of these foreign titles, the former is now never used, and
the latter[57] has acquired a new meaning totally distinct from its
original sense. "Constable," on the other hand, survived, although at
first it was used only by the Normans, and in official documents,
the people continuing to employ the native words according to the
custom of the different parts of the country; thus in Middlesex there
were Headboroughs, in Kent Borsholders, and in the West of England

It is not necessary to pursue the matter further except to say, that
when the Justices of the Peace, owing to the increased amount of work
thrown upon them, were in want of subordinate officers, advantage was
taken of the staff of tythingmen already existing, some of whom were
given new functions, _e.g._ the execution of the Justices' warrants
and the service of summonses, but without prejudice to their duties in
connection with peace-maintenance; in short, the titles of tythingman,
petty-constable, parish-constable, and finally police-constable, are
the various names applied to the same office from the time of Alfred
the Great to that of King Edward the Seventh.

We do not know enough about the social distinctions of the period to
say what the precise status of the early constable was. His position
was without doubt an honourable one, superior in every way to that of
the parish constable of later years, who only served because he could
not help it, or because he was poor enough to bear another man's burden
for a paltry pecuniary consideration.

The local competence of the officer has always been insisted upon, and
his incapacity to exercise any powers outside a particular area was
one of the causes that contributed to make him the useless nonentity
that he at one time became. So close was the connection between
constable and parish that the Court of King's Bench decided, in 1734,
that a place that did not employ one constable at least must be
considered merely as a hamlet, and was not entitled to the privileges
that belonged to an independent township; and whenever similar
questions arose, the decision invariably turned on the existence or the
non-existence of a parish constable.

The qualifications that a constable ought to possess are thus tabulated
by Coke:--

    i. Honesty: to execute his office truly without
       malice, affection, or partiality.

   ii. Knowledge: to understand his duty, what he
       ought to do.

  iii. Ability: as well in estate as in body, that so
       he may attend and execute his office diligently,
       and not neglect the same through
       want or impotency.[58]

It would be tedious to recount the multifarious duties that from
time to time have fallen to the constable, especially as many of the
most important are noticed in subsequent chapters; it will here be
sufficient to state, in a general way, a few of the main directions
by which he was expected to act: these may shortly be summarized as

  i. His duties with regard to watch and ward were,
  to keep a roster of the watchmen, to see that
  they were vigilant and alert during the hours
  of watching, to receive into custody any
  guilty or reasonably suspected person handed
  over to him by the watch, and to keep such
  person in safety, until he should give bail or
  be brought before a Justice of the Peace.

  ii. With regard to Hue and Cry, and generally
  with regard to the pursuit and arrest of
  felons, peacebreakers and suspected persons,
  his duty was to obey the sheriff, to follow
  with the Hue and Cry, and to keep in safe
  custody any prisoner delivered to him, until
  relieved of further responsibility by the orders
  of Justice or Sheriff.

  iii. With regard to inquiring into, and prosecuting
  offences: he was bound to make presentment
  at the assizes, sessions of the peace or leet,
  and in some cases before the coroner, "of all
  bloodsheddings, affrays, outcries, rescues, and
  other offences committed or done against the
  King's Majesty's Peace."

  iv. Finally he had to serve precepts, warrants and
  summonses, and obey all the lawful commands
  of the High Constable and Justice of
  the Peace.

The subordination of petty constables to Justices was from the first
generally understood and acted upon, but the custom did not receive
definite official sanction until the seventeenth century, when it was
tardily recognised by statute.[59] The true relationship between the
two has found apt expression in an old simile which likens constables
to the eyes and hands of the Justices, "eyes to see through the medium
of presentments, and hands to act by virtue of warrants or process."



Just as the state of public tranquillity brought about by the wise
government of Edward I. had been disturbed by the irresponsible and
childish behaviour of his pleasure-loving successor, so was the
admirable domestic policy of Edward III. robbed of its due reward by
the lack of judgment and the want of administrative capacity exhibited
by Richard II., whose unhappy reign is thus described by Froissart.
"The State generally of all men in England began to murmur and to rise
one against another, and ministering of justice was clear stopped up
in all courts of England, whereof the valiant men and prelates, who
loved rest and peace, and were glad to pay their duties, were greatly
abashed; for there rose in the realm companies in divers routs, keeping
the fields and highways, so that merchants durst not ride abroad to
exercise their merchandise for doubt of robbing; and no man knew to
whom to complain to do them right, reason, and justice; which things
were right prejudicial and displeasant to the good people of England,
for it was contrary to their accustomable usage."

It would be unjust, however, to attribute the state of affairs as above
portrayed solely to Richard's incapacity: he was still a minor when
his grandfather died, and many circumstances conspired to render his
task an extremely difficult one. A latent discontent had smouldered
amongst the peasantry ever since the oppressive Statute of Labourers
had been passed some thirty years before, and the universal poll-tax
of one shilling a head, imposed in 1379 to meet the expenses incurred
in the interminable wars with France and Scotland, suddenly caused
the flame of rebellion to blaze forth with unexampled violence. It
has been said that if anything like an adequate police force had been
available in 1381, Wat Tyler's movement might have been arrested before
the riots in the Southern Counties had attained the dimensions of a
general insurrection. Such may, or may not, be true of this particular
rising; but happily for English liberty there has never existed in this
country any police force at the disposal of the central government,
powerful enough to coerce the nation at large. Our national police has
always been of the people and for the people, and obviously at no time
could long be used to oppress those from whom its strength was derived,
provided only that one and the same sentiment pervaded a majority of
the oppressed.

The attack on villenage was too reasonable to be fruitless, and
resistance to the popular demands could be but temporary. The death of
Tyler, and the consequent suppression of the insurrectionary movement
which he led, caused the concessions wrung from the King to be
revoked, and so delayed the cause of agrarian freedom; but the ultimate
triumph of free tenure and labour was already assured from the moment
that unanimity was achieved.

The constitution of the general police of the country being of such
a nature that it was powerless to enforce any universally unpopular
measure, a distinct and separate organisation was required to
administer the well-hated code of law which had to do with the royal
prerogative of hunting. The whole subject of forest law and forest
police is of sufficient interest and importance to warrant an account
of its main characteristics in some detail.

The King's Peace, as we have already seen, was of two kinds--there
was the public peace of the realm, and there was the royal or private
peace, enjoyed by the Sovereign, and by those closely connected with
him. If we examine further these main divisions, we shall find that
each is composed of certain sub-divisions, with their own particular
laws and customs: thus under the general heading of public peace must
be included--(1) the peace and privacy to which every man is entitled
at his own fireside, securing him against all intrusion as long as he
commits no felonious action--(2) the "peace of the church" as kept by
the Ecclesiastical Courts--and (3) the "peace of the sea" with its
court (afterwards known as the Court of Admiralty) "to maintain peace
and justice amongst the people of every nation passing through the sea
of England."[60]

The private peace of the King, besides protecting his person and the
precincts of his palaces, extended also over all the Royal Forest land,
that is to say, over about a third part of the whole area of England:
Canute's law was "I will that every man be entitled to his hunting
in wood and field, on his own possession. And let everyone forego my
hunting";[61] but there is no evidence to prove that the Danish King
enforced his forest law otherwise than by the ordinary law of the
land. The system of game preservation that grew up under the Normans,
however, was so rigid that it necessitated the creation of special
laws, special courts of law, and a special police for the prevention
and punishment of illegal hunting. The Norman code was modified
somewhat by Magna Carta,[62] and again in 1217; but it continued to
oppress the nation through many generations, for wherever the peace
of the forest was well maintained, there did the peace of the people

The amount of afforested land varied considerably from time to time.
Henry II. possessed 68 forests, 13 chaces and 781 parks,[63] but it
was not necessarily those monarchs who were particularly devoted to
sport that were the most exacting, a strict enforcement of the forest
laws brought much money to the royal exchequer in the shape of fines
levied on trespassers and others who were tempted to offend against the
arbitrary restrictions imposed.

"A Forest," says Manwood,[64] "is a certain territory of woody grounds
and fruitful pastures, privileged for wild beasts and fowls of forest,
chase and warren to rest, and abide there in the safe protection of
the King, for his delight and pleasure: which territory of ground so
privileged is mered and bounded with irremovable marks, meres and
boundaries, either known by matter of record or by prescription: and
also replenished with wild beasts of venery and chase, and with great
coverts of vert, for the succour of the said beasts (to have their
abode in): for the continuance and preservation of the said place,
together with the vert and venison,[65] there are particular officers,
laws and privileges belonging to the same, requisite for the purpose,
and proper only to a Forest and no other place."

In connection with every forest there were four Courts, called
respectively the Woodmote Court, the Court of Regard, the Court of
Swanimote, and the Court of the Justice Seat. Of these the first was
only competent to inquire of offences, and could not proceed to
conviction. The Verderers, as the judicial officers of this Court
were called, met once in every forty days, and could acquit accused
persons, or hold them to bail--in the latter case the attachment had
to be by the goods of the offender, unless he was "taken with the
Mayneer," _i.e._ _in flagrante delicto_,[66] when the attachment might
be by his body. "If any Forester shall find any man attachable for
Vert in the Forest, first he shall attach him by two pledges, if they
be to be found: and if he be afterwards found, he shall attach him by
four pledges: and if the third time, he shall be presented before the
Verderers, and be put by eight pledges: after the third attachment, his
body shall be attached and retained, that he may remember what thing
Vert is."[67]

Coke tells us that there were four degrees of "Mayneer," viz.:--

  (i.) Dog-draw, or tracking a wounded deer.

  (ii.) Stable-Stand, that is, standing ready to shoot
  or course, with weapon in hand, or greyhounds
  in leash.

  (iii.) Back-bear, or carrying away the venison; and

  (iv.) Bloody-Hand, or being found in the forest
  stained with blood.[68]

The second Court, that of "Regard," was held once in three years, and
had for its object the prevention of unlawful hunting. For this purpose
all dogs belonging to dwellers near the forest were registered and
divided into three classes; that is to say (1) greyhounds, including
spaniels and lurchers; (2) mastiffs, including the various kinds of
large dogs; and (3) dogs of the smaller breeds. No restriction was
placed on the possession of the last-mentioned class, but whilst
greyhounds were not allowed on any pretence, mastiffs might be kept
by a man for his own protection, provided that he had them mutilated
in such a way that they could not pursue and pull down the game. This
operation, called "lawing" or "expeditation," consisted in removing the
claws of the fore-feet, and was performed in the following manner--One
of the dog's fore-feet was placed upon a piece of wood eight inches
thick and twelve inches square, and then the three claws were struck
off at one blow with a two-inch chisel; if a mastiff was found
"unlawed" near a forest, a fine of five shillings was imposed on its
reputed master.

The "Court of Swanimote" met three times a year, and had the power not
only of inquiring into all alleged offences against the forest laws,
but, unlike the Woodmote, might also convict. Finally, judgment was
given and sentences passed by the chief Justice of the Forest, at the
triennial meeting of the Court of the Justice Seat.[69]

Each forest was surrounded by its "purlieu," or belt of pasturage, for
the deer to graze in. The jurisdiction of the Courts above enumerated
extended over both forest and purlieu, and since the two together
covered a third part of the kingdom, it will be seen that the police
regulations that secured the peace of the forest profoundly affected
the daily life of the nation. Many of these regulations pressed very
hardly on the people, especially on folk who had the misfortune to
live in the purlieu: for instance, a man found trespassing by night
could be imprisoned, even if he was only in search of strayed cattle,
and his beasts might be confiscated. In times of drought, or when
grazing was scarce, foresters might lop trees and cut fodder for their
charges on the land of any man, whilst tanners and dealers in horn were
not permitted to live anywhere in the neighbourhood of a forest, for
fear lest their trade should tempt them to become receivers of stolen

When an offence had been committed Hue and Cry might be made by any of
the King's ministers of the forest, but the pursuit had to be "fresh";
that is to say, the offender had to be detected in the act, and the
fugitive kept always in sight. Pursuit, on suspicion, was illegal, and
Hue and Cry was applicable to Trespass in Venison only, not to Trespass
in Vert. If any township or village failed to follow the Hue and Cry
they were liable to be amerced at the Justice Seat for the default.[70]

From the "Carta de foresta"[71] we learn that the officers originally
appointed to each forest were fifty-two in number, and consisted of
four Primarii or Chiefs of the forest, sixteen Mediocres homines, or
Yoongmen, and thirty-two Minuti homines, or Tine-men. This organization
did not long continue, however, and was quite extinct at the accession
of Henry II. The four Primarii were superseded by four Verderers;
the sixteen Yoongmen gave place to twelve Regarders; and instead
of thirty-two Tine-men we find a staff of Foresters, with their
underlings, called Walkers or Rangers.[72] The number of Foresters and
Rangers employed was not arbitrarily fixed, but varied with the size of
the forest, and in accordance with the exigencies of time and place.
The ministers of the forest appear to have been very numerous in the
days of the Plantagenets, and the functions of the different grades
were clearly defined: thus, the Verderers were judicial officers,
roughly corresponding to Justices of the Peace; the Agisters were
officers whose business it was to look after the pasturage of the
purlieu; the Regarders were responsible for the lawing of dogs; whilst
the Foresters and Rangers were sworn to preserve the wild beasts and
timber respectively in their several bailiwicks. The precautions taken
to preserve the peace of the forest were doubled during the Month of
Fence, or breeding season, at which time the officers were ordered
to be more than usually vigilant, and offences were punished with
increased severity.

In the last chapter reference was made to the oath which every male
over fifteen years of age had to take in furtherance of the general
scheme of peace-maintenance. Similarly, under forest law, an oath was
required from all the inhabitants of the forest, that they would not
disturb the peace of the wild beasts therein. Manwood says that this
oath was anciently administered in doggerel verse, in some such words
as these:

    "You shall true Liege-man be,
    Unto the King's Majestie:
    Unto the beasts of the Forest you shall no hurt do,
    Nor anything that doth belong thereunto:
    The offences of others you shall not conceal,
    But to the utmost of your power you shall them reveal,
    Unto the officers of the Forest,
    Or to them who may see them redrest:
    All these things you shall see done,
    So help you GOD at his Holy Doom."[73]

Such then in brief were the salient features of the police arrangements
by which the prerogative of hunting was secured to the Sovereign,
arrangements which, it will be seen, were closely allied to the general
scheme of peace maintenance then in vogue throughout the realm. A
fuller description of Forest Law, together with an interesting map of
the Forest lands, may be found in Mr Inderwick's "The King's Peace":
the present enquiry, however, must not extend beyond this slight survey
of the machinery by which the laws in question were enforced, and may
conclude with a glance at the influence that such legislation exerted
over the country at large. The severity of the law coupled with the
inadequacy of the executive government produced their natural result.
The people resented the harsh treatment they were subjected to, and
broke the unpopular regulations or evaded the irksome restrictions
whenever they could, which was not seldom. Many who under a wiser
régime would have remained good citizens became outlaws merely out of a
spirit of opposition, and in consequence, these huge tracts of forest,
whose recesses were hardly ever visited even by the forest officers,
and whose boundaries were hardly known to anyone else, became the
stronghold of the lawless and disaffected, as well as the refuge of the

In the opinion of many, our existing game laws, are harsh and
tyrannical: it is often said that all men have an inalienable right
to chase or snare any animal that is not domesticated, because, in
the nature of things, a wild beast cannot have an owner. All this may
be perfectly true, but if such a common right existed, it has not
been enjoyed for a very long time, not since the days, perhaps, when
our forefathers performed their Druidical rites at the monoliths of
Stonehenge, apparelled only in woad and mistletoe. It is unprofitable
to argue about the rights of prehistoric man: what was best for him is
not always applicable to a twentieth century community, and we may be
thankful that whilst a few beasts of warren and chase still remain to
us, we are no longer oppressed, as men used to be, by a relentless "lex
foresta" for their protection.

To return, however, from the digression into which the consideration
of forest law has led, to the more general theme of the police system
of the Statute of Winchester, it is to be observed that the terms
"Watch" and "Ward," though commonly used in conjunction to express a
single idea, are not really synonymous. Blackstone says that the ward
was set by day, and the watch by night, and that the one begins only
when the other ends. Without making too much of the distinction between
the two, we must remember that the population was almost entirely
an agricultural one, and was occupied throughout the day in the
fields; consequently every man could protect his own property and, if
necessary, raise the hue and cry against any who came to despoil him.
Household belongings were few, and apparently of such little account
that not only were they always left unprotected in the daytime, but it
was even thought unnecessary to employ a nightly police except during
the summer and autumn months, when the crops were ripening in the
fields, the Statute only requiring the watch to be set "from the day of
the Ascension until the day of St Michael."

The method of setting the watch was by house-row, that is to say, a
list of the dwellings in every parish and township was prepared, and
as his turn came round each householder or some one lodging under his
roof was required to keep a watch: if any such "contemptuously refused"
to obey the summons of the constable, that officer might set him in
the stocks for his contempt. The liability to watch by roster attached
equally to all the male inhabitants; when, however, it happened that it
came to a woman's turn, she was allowed to find a substitute, but there
is no evidence to show whether the substituted service was rendered
gratuitously or whether she had to pay for the accommodation. Watchmen
were expected to be able-bodied and sufficiently armed, a pitchfork was
not held to be an adequate weapon,[75] but within reasonable limits a
man might arm and accoutre himself as he pleased, and it was not until
comparatively recent times that the watch were provided with arms at
the parish expense.

Generally speaking, the house-row arrangement worked smoothly enough,
but that friction occasionally arose, when the constables came to call
upon unwilling citizens to perform the police duties incumbent on them,
the following extract from "Town Life in the Fifteenth Century" bears
witness: "In Aylesbury" according to the constables' report, "one Reygg
kept a house all the year until the watch time came, and when he was
summoned to the watch there came Edward Chalkyll 'fasesying' and said
he would not watch for no man and thus bare him up, and that caused
the other to be bolder for to bar the King's watch.... He said and
threatened us with his master," add the constables, "and thus we be
over crakyd' that we dare not go, for when they be 'mayten' they be the
bolder. John Bossey said the same wise that he would not watch for us,
and three others lacked each of them a night."[76]

The police regulations for the government of London, as introduced in
1285, had become very minute and exacting by the latter half of the
fifteenth century, many restrictions being placed on the enjoyment of
personal liberty. The use of coal was prohibited, Sunday trading was
forbidden, and, amongst other rules for the control of the wheeled
traffic, a maximum width between wheels for vehicles was laid down
which might on no account be exceeded. Ordinances also were promulgated
against tradesmen who should attempt to advertise their callings in
an objectionable manner, such as, for instance, the display of a
basin of blood by barbers anxious to let people know that phlebotomy
was included in the list of their accomplishments. The provisions of
the before-quoted Statuta Civitatis (London), touching the control
of leprous persons continued in force, and about this time special
officers were appointed to prevent such as were infected with the
plague from associating with those who were whole.

The employment of a "police des moeurs" was a novel feature of
the administration. A register containing the names of all women of
ill-fame was kept by the police, and such women were not allowed to
reside within the city walls; a certain promenade, known as the "Stews
of Southwark," was assigned to them, where they were kept under the
vigilant eyes of the City Sergeants, who, in consideration of the extra
work thus thrown upon them, might confiscate and retain as a perquisite
any "minever fur or cendale silk" that a courtesan might presume to
wear. The inhabitants of the Surrey suburb were probably not consulted
as to the desirability or otherwise of this arrangement, Edward III.
having granted the town and borough of Southwark _in perpetuo_ to the
citizens of London. This he did in answer to their complaint that the
peace of the city was continually being placed in jeopardy by the
facility with which thieves and felons could make good their escape
over the river and take refuge in Southwark, a place with no recognised
privilege of sheltering runaways. The official sanctuaries were of
course on a different footing, and in the fifteenth century were
rendered less dangerous to society, than had formerly been the case,
by an ordinance which required those who lived hard by the sanctuary
to watch all avenues of escape by day and night until the refugee
surrendered himself, a fine of five pounds being levied against the
responsible ward if he succeeded in getting away.

The general scope of the responsibilities and powers proper to these
old-time city constables is clearly defined in the oath that they were
required to take before entering upon the duties of their office.
"You shall swear, that you shall keep the Peace of our Lord the King
well and lawfully according to your power, and shall arrest all those
who shall make any contest, riot, debate or affray, in breaking of
the said peace, and shall bring them unto the house or Compter of one
of the Sheriffs. And if you shall be withstood by strength of such
misdoers, you shall raise upon them hue and cry (and) shall follow them
from street to street, and from ward to ward until they are arrested.
And also you shall search at all times when you shall be required by
Scavenger or Bedel, for the common nuisances of the ward; until they
are arrested. And also if there be anything done within your bailiwick
contrary to the Ordinances of the City. And the faults you shall find,
you shall present them unto the Mayor and to the Officers of the said
City. And if you should be withstood by any person, or persons, that
you cannot duly do your office, you shall certify unto the Mayor and
Council of the said City the name and names of such person or persons
who trouble you. And this you shall not fail to do. So God you help and
the Saints."[77]

When the decennary societies ceased to exist, the connection between
the peace officer and the particular group which he represented
underwent a change, but the alteration was one of degree rather than
one of kind. The fifteenth century constable was taught to look for the
support of his fellow-citizens in case of need, though not to the same
extent, perhaps, as the headborough was wont to rely on the members of
his tything. The great principle of mutual responsibility remained, and
was kept alive by insisting that all freemen should enter into a solemn
obligation to keep the peace, a compact which, modified to suit more
modern requirements, had its origin in the ancient oath of allegiance.
The form of oath varied in different places; in London it was as
follows--"You shall swear that you shall be good and true unto the
King of England and to his heirs, Kings and the King's Peace you shall
keep; and unto the Officers of the city you shall be obedient, and at
all times that shall be needful, you shall be ready to aid the officers
in arresting misdoers, and those disobedient to the King's Peace, as
well denizens as strangers. And you shall be ready, at the warning of
the Constables and Bedels, to make the watches and (to bear) the other
charges for the safeguard of the peace, and all the points in this
wardmote shown, according to your power you shall well and lawfully
keep--and if you know any evil covin within the ward or the city, you
shall withstand the same, or to your alderman make it known. So help
you God and the Saints."[78]

An examination of the oaths administered to constables and freemen
respectively reveals to us in a concise form the motives which
directed the mediæval machinery for maintaining the peace. We see how
a compromise was arrived at between the ancient system of frankpledge
and the more modern plan of employing a professional class of peace
officers, and how, by means of the combined action of police and
public, domestic tranquillity was assured. Had it been possible to
have made this co-operation complete and thorough, the resulting
security would have left little to be desired; but, as was only to
be expected, discord not infrequently took the place of harmony, and
freemen sometimes forgot what was due to the oath they had taken. Let
the events of a certain night in Canterbury serve as an illustration.
Some watchmen, it appears, challenged a man whom they found abroad "out
of due time" and inquired his business, but (to continue the story
verbatim) "the suspect person gave none answer, but ran from thence
into St Austin's liberty, and before the door of one John Short they
took him. And the same John Short came out of his house with other
misknown persons and took from the said watchmen their weapons, and
there menaced them for to beat, contrary to the oath of a true and
faithful freeman."[79]

According to the strict letter of the law it was a constable's duty,
immediately after making an arrest, to deliver his prisoner to the
sheriff; but, as a matter of fact, this was seldom done, and the
sheriff had little or nothing to do with accused persons until after
their conviction. In the absence of proper lock-ups the village stocks
were commonly used by the parish constable to secure his man until he
could conveniently bring him before a magistrate but, as time went
on, confinement in the stocks became the normal mode of punishment for
minor offences, and it was no rare thing for a constable to keep a
troublesome parishioner in this uncomfortable custody for a space, on
his own initiative and responsibility.

Prisons had existed in some form or other from the earliest times.
The first dungeon was doubtless coeval with the first fortress, and
London's great jail at Newgate dated back to the twelfth century. But
it was not then a penal establishment in our sense of the term, in
so far that imprisonment was hardly as yet the recognised punishment
for the ordinary run of criminals; such places were rather convenient
strongholds in which to confine debtors till they paid their dues,
suspected persons till they confessed their crimes, Jews till they
disgorged their wealth, and generally for the safe-guarding of
political opponents or private enemies whom it was desirable to keep
under lock and key. It was not until the fifteenth century that we find
a regularly graduated connection between punishment by imprisonment
and punishment by fine; the penalty for drawing a sword in the City
of London, for example, was then half a mark or fifteen days, for
inflicting a wound with the same, twenty shillings or forty days, and
so on.

The pillory was a more serious affair, and its pains were beyond the
power of a constable to inflict; it was generally resorted to in
cases where the offender had been guilty of practices which rendered
him particularly obnoxious to the people, so that the punishment
he received at their hands was nicely proportioned to the degree of
unpopularity he had earned for himself. The baker who gave short
weight, or the dairyman who watered his milk, received such a lesson
at the hands of his customers that he was little likely to repeat
his offence. It was customary, moreover, in sentencing a man to the
pillory, to make the punishment fit the crime as much as possible,
and to compel the culprit to advertise his guilt in some personally
unpleasant fashion; thus, the man who had stolen a cart was forced
to pull it through the streets to the place of punishment, and an
offending vintner had to drink a full draught of the sour wine that had
disagreed with the frequenters of his shop.

Englishmen are proverbially interested in what they eat and drink,
and this public concern for good victualling explains why, when life
and property were as yet but moderately secure, safeguards against
the adulteration of human food were notably complete. The chief
legislative authority upon which police action, directed against
dishonest purveyors, rested, was the "Judicium Pillorie," or, as it is
commonly called, "The Statute of the Pillory and Tumbrel."[80] This Act
belonged to the same period as the Statute of Winchester (both dating
from the latter half of the thirteenth century), and like its more
famous contemporary had a long career of practical usefulness in the
public service. From 1266, the year of its enactment, until 1710, the
date of its repeal, the Judicium Pillorie did much for English food,
by maintaining a high standard in the quality of our meat and bread,
and in the soundness of our ale. The Statute requires that "they have
in the town a pillory of convenient strength as appertaineth to the
liberty of their market, which they may use (if need be) without bodily
peril either of man or woman." Provision is made for the sending of six
"lawful men" to collect all the measures of the town, care being taken
that the owner's name is legibly inscribed on each measure, "after
which thing done" a jury of twelve lawful men have to make oath that
they will truly answer concerning such things as may be demanded of
them on the King's behalf, "and such things as be secret, they shall
utter secretly and answer privately," also, "if any butcher do sell
contagious flesh, or that died of the murren, or flesh that hath been
kept so long that it loseth its natural wholesomeness, or meat bought
from Jews and then sold to Christians"--for these and similar offences
the penalty is the same, viz.: "If a baker or a brewer be convict ...
then he shall suffer punishment of the body--that is to wit--a baker to
the pillory and a brewer to the tumbrel."

From "Liber Albus" we get a more detailed account of the fashion in
which these exemplary punishments were carried out in London, we learn
that "if any default be found in the bread of a baker in the city,
the first time, let him be drawn upon a hurdle from the Guildhall to
his own house through the great street where there be most people
assembled, and through the great streets which are most dirty, with
the faulty loaf hanging from his neck: if a second time he shall be
found committing the same offence, let him be drawn from the Guildhall
through the great street of Cheepe, in the manner aforesaid, to the
pillory, and let him be put upon the pillory, and remain there at least
one hour in the day; and the third time that such default shall be
found, he shall be drawn, and the oven shall be pulled down, and the
baker made to forswear the trade in the city for ever."

Before leaving this part of the subject, it may be worth mentioning,
that as long ago as the year 1318[81] all public officers in city and
borough were debarred from selling wine or victual during their term of
office, a prohibition which some people think might with advantage be
applied at the present day to such modern officials as the members of
Borough Watch Committees.[82]



The growth of the royal power that was so well defined a characteristic
of the sixteenth century was accompanied by a general re-establishment
of good order throughout the kingdom. As long as the reins of
government were slackly held by feeble monarchs, the king's peace was
reckoned of but little account, and in the words of the Anglo-Saxon
writer already quoted, "every man that could, forthwith robbed
another." Nobles surrounded by their retainers, broke the peace
whenever they chose, and laid their hands on any property that they
felt strong enough to hold. As long as punishment overtook the man
who had offended against a great noble with more precision and with
greater celerity than it did the offender who had broken the law of the
land, guardians of the peace were despised, whilst peace-breakers were
admired by the multitude, if not respected.

When Henry VII. came to the throne he resolutely set himself to put an
end to this state of affairs, and to re-assert the personal ascendancy
of the sovereign, especially with regard to the maintenance of the
peace. He was obviously unable to achieve this object single-handed,
for he had no army with which to enforce his commands, and the mass of
the people were not yet thoroughly emancipated. Something of course
might be done by dividing the nobles into separate factions, and then
pitting one faction against another, and these tactics he pursued with
some success; the class however to which in the end the king had to
look for assistance was the middle-class, which was chiefly occupied
with money-making, which was inclined to resent any interference with
a pursuit at once so novel and so absorbing, and which, at the same
time, was beginning to cry out for increased protection for its newly
acquired wealth. As it seemed worth while to purchase the goodwill of
the spokesmen of this powerful class, at the cost of complying with
their not unreasonable requirements, the king was ready to meet them
halfway, and the police administration was modified accordingly.

The compulsory duty of serving as a constable, argued the middle-class,
was not only unprofitable but a wicked waste of good time that might
be devoted to objects that paid better; and so the system of deputy
constable crept in. Hue and cry was all very well, they said, for the
agriculturist or the villein; he could lay down his spade to join in
the pursuit with little detriment to himself; but it was different in
the case of the weaver or the merchant, the former could not afford to
leave his loom nor the latter to lose a bargain; and so hue and cry
fell into desuetude. When property cansisted only of timber, cattle,
and land, difficult things for a thief to remove, little protection
was demanded, but when valuable articles, all more or less portable,
became common, and when many kinds of fraud, all more or less subtle,
menaced both consumer and producer, a better guarantee for security was
asked: and so the old-established trade-guilds adapted themselves to
the changed conditions, and introduced new protective measures. These
modifications must now be examined in more detail.

It is doubtful at what date the custom first arose of discharging
the office of constable by proxy, but certain it is that, in the
Tudor period, instead of one headborough responsible to the Crown for
the maintenance of the peace in Tything and Hundred, which, as we
have seen, was anciently the system, we find two or more constables
answerable to the Justices, nominally employed by the year, but
practically as permanent deputies, performing duties delegated to them
in parish and township, and their services paid for, not by the public
at large, but by the individuals whose deputies they were.

In some respects the change, which in all probability was a gradual
one, contributed to the deterioration of the police administration,
because unfortunately a very indifferent sort of man was almost
invariably selected as deputy. Speaking of constables, Bacon says they
are "of inferior, yea, of base condition, which is a mere abuse or
degenerating from the first institution, for the petty constables in
towns ought to be the better sort of residents in the same, save that
they be not aged or sickly, but of able bodies in respect of their
keeping watch and toil of their place"; and Blackstone says that
considering the class of man that commonly acts as constable, it is
just as well that he should remain in ignorance of the powers that are
entrusted to him by law.

Despite the fact that the employment of deputies was mischievous in its
immediate consequences, the rise of the custom marked a distinct stage
in the development that resulted in the freedom from personal liability
which, without prejudice to the police administration, we now enjoy; it
began to be felt that the onerous and thankless position of constable
deserved remuneration, and that it was more economical to delegate
constabulary duties to experts, than that every man should be compelled
to serve his turn in an office that interfered with his normal
activity, and for which, perhaps, he had no special aptitude. England,
as we have seen, was rapidly becoming a commercial country, and all
were eager to take advantage of every chance of money-making that
offered itself, and finding that the duties of citizenship absorbed
more of their time than they were willing to spare, peace-officers were
no sooner elected than they hastened to hire any proxies whom they
could persuade to undertake the burden of office. This reluctance of
busy men to devote their valuable time to an unpaid public service was
reasonable enough, and the practice of employing substitutes was winked
at by the authorities; yet centuries passed before a way was found to
organize with intelligence, and officially recognize a system, that
whilst freeing the mass of the people from an unnecessary conscription,
should yet retain the essential principle that every man shares
in, and cannot divest himself of, a definite responsibility for the
maintenance of good order in the commonwealth.

The decay of the feudal system and the gradual abolition of villenage
went hand in hand, as we have seen, with the rise of the merchant and
the artisan; as trade increased and as the skilled workman became
a recognized power in the state, the police horizon widened, new
interests needed protection, new laws and regulations had to be made
and enforced. The supreme direction of commercial police rested with
the Crown; and, as long as the sovereign's prerogative was confined
to the control of fairs and ports, to the granting or withholding of
monopolies, and to the regulating of weights and measures, the services
of the Justices of the Peace, assisted by their constables, had been
found sufficient for all practical purposes. But when questions arose,
touching our trade with foreign merchants or demanding a technical
knowledge of native manufactures, it became necessary to submit these
difficult problems to some more expert authority than the ordinary
executive officer. This want was supplied, to a great extent, by the
above-mentioned police development of the Trade-Guilds or Livery
Companies, which, recently deprived of much of their former political
influence, now for the first time seriously began to devote themselves
to the special interests of their several trades, by properly confining
their energies to channels more legitimate than state-craft, such as
the protection and control of the various markets, manufactures, and

In the early stages of its development in this country, commerce stood
on a very different footing from that upon which it rests to-day:
skilled artizans came and settled in England from all parts of the
continent, bringing their laws and customs with them; arrived here,
they not only competed with the native manufacturer, but beat him at
all points of the game. In the absence of any preventive police worth
mentioning, the position of these aliens would have been an impossible
one, except for two considerations; in the first place they thoroughly
recognised the value of combination and acted upon it, and in the
second place the very considerable revenue that their activities
brought to the royal coffers, secured for them the king's protection
and support.[83]

This incursion of foreigners was not without its effect on our
craftsmen, who saw, that to command success, they too must combine,
organize, and regulate. The result was that nearly every trade and
industry soon had its guild organized on the continental model, the
object of which (unlike the modern trades-unions that exist mainly to
prevent the power of the capitalist over his employées from becoming
absolute), was to create a monopoly, and hedge it round so that no
outsider could enter the exclusive circle without being properly
initiated and regularly admitted to craft-membership.

The Livery Company punished the fraudulent workman, corrected the idle
apprentice, and also prosecuted the would-be interloper who attempted
to infringe upon its rights and privileges.

We are indebted to these trade-guilds for introducing to our shores
in the first instance, many mechanical arts which, greatly to our
advantage, subsequently became naturalized, and afterwards for keeping
them alive through times of difficulty and danger, when the central
government was not strong enough to afford much protection; the high
character that English goods have earned throughout the world's markets
is, to a great extent, owing to this system of commercial police, which
compelled every workman to serve a long apprenticeship in a technical
school, and which punished the producer of fraudulent and worthless
articles. On the other hand whole fields of industry were arbitrarily
closed to honest and capable folk by the absurd restrictions imposed
for the sole benefit of corporations, which, when full allowance has
been made for the good they did, and when full credit has been given
for the service they rendered by standing in the breach at the critical
moment, were, after all, thoroughly reactionary in their tendency,
bent, as they were, upon stifling healthy competition whenever
possible, and inclined to look upon any new invention as a crime
against their craft mysteries.

A serious defect in the constitution of our mediæval police consisted
in the numerous privileges enjoyed by favoured communities. No
police regulation was of universal application; we have seen how in
Anglo-Saxon times the king's peace afforded especial protection to
certain classes, and how various limitations were imposed according to
locality and according to season; subsequently charters were freely
given to monasteries, guilds, boroughs and cities, carrying rights
and conferring favours that were not shared by the nation at large.
The consequence was that every rule bristled with exceptions, and
legislation grew proportionally more complicated and difficult of
application than would have been the case had all men been equal in the
eye of the law. Many a useful measure was rendered largely inoperative
by reason of the numbers of persons who could plead privilege against
its enforcement in their particular case. Hue and Cry could avail
nothing against the baron who had bought a charter of pardon for
felonies committed in the past or contemplated in the future, and
the pursuit of the sheriff was stayed when the fugitive took refuge
in sanctuary. First the clergy, and afterwards persons not in orders
who could prove their ability to read a word or two in the Gothic
character,[84] were entitled to plead "benefit of clergy," and thereby
escape perhaps well-merited punishment. In the reign of Henry VII.
this privilege was wisely restricted, by ordaining that those who had
pleaded "clergy" once, should be branded on the brawn of the thumb with
a hot iron (M for a Murderer, T for a Thief), so as to prevent their
cheating justice a second time by means of the same plea. Gradually
benefit of clergy was taken away from one offence after another, until
at last[85] no serious crime was left to which this exemption from
punishment attached. Again, the scholars of Oxford and Cambridge were
not subject to many regulations that applied elsewhere, the members of
these universities being allowed to beg, under certain restrictions,
without incurring the penalties that ordinary "vagabonds and sturdy
beggars" were liable to; on the other hand Jews and gypsies were
subject to pains that did not attach to the native population.

The confusion of the illiterate constable, called upon to act when
confronted with a medley of contradictory charters, passports and
privileges, can well be imagined, and, needless to say, personation
and forged certificates were largely resorted to both by the habitual
criminal and by the professional beggar.

A very necessary reform introduced in this reign was that which, in
cases of homicide, made the trial of the accused follow immediately
upon the discovery of the offence. By long-established usage,
originating from the time when the blood-feud was the recognised
agency for avenging murder, the custom had arisen of postponing royal
interference until the relatives or friends of the deceased had been
allowed ample time in which to bring the criminal to justice, and, by
ancient consent, those parties who were interested acted the rôle that
our police detectives are now charged with, and, so to speak, had to
"get up" the case against the alleged offender. An "Appeal," as it was
called, was then made before the Coroner and by him publicly declared
at five consecutive county-courts. It had been laid down in 1277,[86]
that homicides should not be proceeded against at the King's suit until
a year and a day had elapsed since the commission of the murder, and
in 1482,[87] twelve months was declared to be the privileged period
in which appellors alone might formulate an accusation. The natural
result (to quote the Statute,[88] which did away with these out-of-date
restrictions) was, that "the party is oftentimes slow, and also agreed
with, and by the end of the year all is forgotten, which is another
occasion of murder."

The anxiety to make money that pervaded all classes, but which was
especially observable in the middle class, besides influencing
the status of the constable and making the guild such a prominent
feature of the time, was to a large extent responsible for the
increasing rigour of the criminal law. The claims of property were
urged to the uttermost, and people who had anything to lose pressed
for the infliction of exemplary punishment in all cases where the
rights of ownership were threatened. The result of this attitude
was, that the war of extermination against those who had no visible
means of subsistence was waged more relentlessly than ever before.
The dissolution of the religious houses, following upon the civil
commotions of the previous century, had multiplied the number of
vagrants until the country was full of homeless and starving wanderers,
many of whom, needless to say, maintained themselves by robbery. Bad
government first created this dangerous class, and then attempted to
exterminate it by wholesale hanging: it is said that more than 70,000
persons were put to death during the thirty-eight years of Henry the
Eighth's reign; from this number a considerable reduction may be made
for exaggeration, and of the remainder a large proportion suffered
on religious and political grounds. But the general government was
rigorous in the extreme, and, the value of human life being but
little accounted of, a penal system grew up which exacted the death
penalty for offences of a comparatively trivial nature, thus laying
the foundations of the barbarous code which continued to disgrace our
Statute book for centuries, vainly endeavouring to supply the place of
preventive police by repressive measures that were expected to deter by
virtue of their extreme severity. Sir Thomas More saw the uselessness
of such a policy, and pointed out in his "Utopia," that as robbers
often killed their victims on the principle that dead men tell no
tales, it would be desirable, therefore, to reduce the punishment for
theft in order to check the frequency with which murders were committed.

Wales and the Welsh borderland had long been the refuge of the outlaw,
and the fastness of the robber; for whilst the natural features of the
country favoured the escape of the fugitive from justice, the division
of the principality into independent lordships, from which the king's
writ was excluded, still further increased the difficulty of arrest.
At one time there were 141 of these lordships, under as many petty
chieftains known as Lords-Marchers, who indiscriminately sold charters,
and harboured any lawbreaker who would pay for his footing. This kind
of home-rule in Wales was incompatible with the maintenance of order in
the West of England, and the counties near the border suffered severely
for their proximity to this Alsatia. Accordingly in 1536 it was decided
to extinguish the separate jurisdiction of the Lords-Marchers, and the
whole of Wales was incorporated into England by an Act passed in the
27th year of Henry the Eighth, which provided Justices-of-the-Peace,
Justices-of-the-Quorum, and Justices-of-Gaol-delivery for the
Welsh counties, armed with the same power and authority that the
corresponding Justices in England were possessed of; shortly afterwards
(1543)[89] these newly-appointed Justices of the Peace were authorised
to select two "substantiall gentlemen, or yeomen, to be chiefe
constables of the hundred wherein they inhabite, which two constables
in every hundred shall haue a speciall regard to the conseruation of
the King's Peace."

A somewhat similar state of unrest existed in the neighbourhood of the
Scottish border. Here the simple expedient of incorporation by Act of
Parliament was of course impossible, so in the following year Henry
instituted a Court, called the President and the Council of the North,
and empowered it to preserve the peace, in that part of the realm, in
the king's name; so that "his true subjects ... have undelayed justice
daily administered."

Nearer home, Thomas Cromwell, acting for the king, overhauled the
administration of police, and amongst other improvements established
parochial registers of births, marriages and deaths,[90] but he was
too fond of thrusting petty and vexatious regulations down the throats
of a people, who, recently freed from their old bondage, were now for
the first time beginning to think for themselves; his whole system
moreover was vitiated by the frequency with which he employed spies and
informers, a method of police control always peculiarly abhorrent to
the English.

The law against vagrancy, which, as we have seen, was extremely
severe during the preceding reigns, reached its most barbarous stage
soon after the accession of Edward the Sixth. It is the irony of
circumstance which associates the name of so mild a prince with one
of the most atrocious measures ever imposed upon Englishmen, for
Edward was but a child when the Statute in question was passed, and
can have had no hand either in the inception or application of its
provisions.[91] The responsibility belongs to the Protector, Somerset,
yet it will always remain a mystery how he could sanction such a
measure, for he is well known to have felt much sympathy for the masses
of his countrymen, and was ever anxious to please. After remarking
in the preamble that "idle and vagabond persons are worthy of death,
whipping, imprisonment, and other corporal pain," the Statute proceeds
to enact that "the offender there described to be an idle person shall
be taken before a Justice of the Peace, who shall cause him to be
marked with a hot iron in the breast, the mark "V," and adjudge him to
be a slave to the person presenting him for two years, to be fed with
bread and water, and be put to work (how vile soever it be) by beating,
chaining, etc.: and if he runs away, the Justice, on conviction, shall
cause such slave to be marked on the forehead or ball of the cheek with
the sign of an "S," and shall further adjudge him to be his master's
slave for ever:[92] and if he again run away, he shall suffer death as
a felon."[93] No record tells how many unfortunates suffered the pains
above recited, but the number is not likely to have been considerable,
because vagabondage was by no means stamped out: the conclusion is
forced upon one, however, that whilst law-making of such a type was in
vogue, the infirmity of the police, whose business it was to enforce
its enactments, cannot be considered as an unmitigated evil.

The grandmotherly domestic policy of the time, which told people what
they were to eat, how they were to dress, and the number of hours they
must labour, resulted, as all such attempts to interfere with the
natural laws of supply and demand must result, in serious conflict
between the authorities and the people, who sooner or later are sure
to resent coercion, and have recourse to violent resistance to obtain
economic freedom for themselves and their descendants. Dissatisfaction
had long been dormant, but matters came to a head early in the reign
of Edward VI.; popular risings took place simultaneously all over the
country, the most serious outbreaks occurring in counties as far remote
from each other as Cornwall in the West, and Norfolk in the East. There
was no machinery in existence for the suppression of riots, no standing
army, and no civil power in any way adequate to meet force with force:
the executive was well-nigh powerless. Under these circumstances a
penal statute[94] against unlawful assemblies was passed, much of which
survives in our present Riot Act now in force. It became high treason
for twelve or more persons, being assembled together, to attempt to
alter any laws, etc., or to continue together for the space of an
hour after being commanded by a Justice of the Peace to depart. It
was made felony for twelve or more persons to "practice to destroy a
park, conduit, or dovehouse," to pull down houses, barns, or mills, to
burn any stack of corn, or to abate the price of victuals; or being
assembled, to continue together an hour, after being ordered in like
manner to depart.

To make this statute effectual, it was necessary to devise some
new executive to enforce its provisions; accordingly in each county
a high official called the Lord-Lieutenant was appointed, who was
authorized to levy men and lead them against the enemies of the
king, to which category rioters, as being guilty of High Treason,
were now specifically declared to belong. With the appointment of
Lords-Lieutenant, the last of the military functions exercised by the
Sheriff passed out of his hands into those of the new official, who to
this day retains a remnant of authority over the regiments of Yeomanry
and Militia of his county.[95]

Until the middle of the sixteenth century any person so inclined[96]
could keep an alehouse--there were no licensing laws and no excise-duty
leviable on alcoholic beverages, which indeed, remained untaxed until
1643. Police control was therefore both difficult and unpopular.
A first attempt to grapple seriously with this rapidly increasing
mischief was made in 1552,[97] when Justices of the Peace and
Constables were given powers, which, it was hoped, would do something
to "remedy the intolerable hurt and trouble to the Commonwealth of the
Realm" by "common alehouses and other houses called Tipling-houses."
To this end Justices were authorized "to remove and put away ... the
common selling of Ale and Beer" as they might see fit. Henceforward
only houses "admitted and allowed in the open Sessions of the Peace"
were to be used for the sale of liquor, and Justices were furthermore
instructed to take bond and surety of the occupiers; "for which
recognizance, the party so bound shall pay but 12 pence." Alehouse
keepers who should fail to comply with these conditions might be
committed to gaol by the Justices of the Peace.



The accession of Queen Elizabeth inaugurated a period of great activity
for the police departments. Her rule was masterful and her control
maternal. Magistrates and constables were kept busy in administering
the statutes dealing with apprentices, wages, disputes in service,
hours of labour, the regulation of industrial trades, laws for the
suppression of rogues and vagabonds, and other enactments too numerous
to mention, which followed each other in quick succession. Of the
many statutes, public and private, passed in this reign, having for
their object the enforcement of government by police, amongst the
most important were those which referred to the City and Borough
of Westminster, "for the suppressing and rooting out of vice there
used." The police administration of the city had from time immemorial
rested with the ecclesiastical authorities, and in 1559 the Queen
gave a charter to the Dean and Chapter, carrying the same privileges,
immunities and powers, that the Abbot and Convent used to enjoy. The
Dean and Chapter delegated their authority to a functionary called
the High Steward, and made him responsible for the preservation of the
peace, but they conferred upon him no power of levying money on the
inhabitants for that purpose, and made no provision for the appointing
of assistants to help him in his duties. The result of this policy was
continued disorder, and after twenty-five years of failure, a change
of system was decided upon. In 1584[98] Westminster was divided into
twelve wards, each under a Burgess, who was nominated by the Dean or
High Steward, and these twelve Burgesses, as well as the superior
officers, were authorized to punish "incontinences, common scolds,
inmates, and common annoyances" in accordance with the laws and the
customs of London. They had the power, also, to commit to prison
peace-breakers, but they were bound to give notice of such committals
to a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex within twenty-four hours. It
was hereby further enacted that "if any person or persons, after he or
they shall happen to be punished and banished from this city for any
incontinency of life or such like, and shall return again to the city
or borough, to the intent there to inhabit and dwell, that then every
such person and persons shall be whipped naked at the cart's tayle
throughout the said city, for every time so offending, contrary to this

Lord Burleigh was the first High Steward appointed under this Act, and
on his initiative certain ordinances[99] for the better government
of the people of Westminster were added in the course of the same
year. These regulations were as minute as they were varied. Not more
than one hundred ale-houses were allowed, which taverns were bound to
display a lantern with candle complete at their street-doors "every
night, nightly (except those nights as the moon shall then and at that
time shine and give light) upon paine to forfeit and pay for every
time offending herein fourpence." Fourpence was in like manner the
fine imposed on those burgesses and their assistants who failed to
attend Divine Service at the Abbey on Sunday, but the owner of any hogs
found wandering in Tuthill were mulcted in the sum of twelve pence.
It would be interesting to learn the basis of these computations, and
why a wandering hog cost the owner as much as three absences from
morning prayer. More valuable, however, were the regulations introduced
with the object of preventing the sale of bad and unwholesome food.
Special officers, called Searchers, "discreet men having a knowledge
of the trade," were appointed to look after the butchers, poulterers,
and provision purveyors, with power to seize and burn bad meat,
and to commit the owners (or their agents exposing food unfit for
consumption), to prison, for a period of twenty-four hours. The
licensing of ale-houses still rested with Justices of the Peace, and
constables who neglected to apprehend "sturdy beggars" were liable to a
fine of six shillings and eightpence.

In addition to the extra work thrown on their shoulders in connection
with the Acts above mentioned, the jurisdiction of the Justice of the
Peace was extended so as to encroach upon territory that had hitherto
been the province of the Justice of Assize. Courts Leet, moreover,
having by this time become quite unimportant, the appointment and
control of the constabulary was centred almost entirely in the hands of
the county magistrates. They held office under the Crown direct, and on
their Commission took an oath to do equal right between rich and poor,
to accept nothing beyond the customary fees for the performance of
their duties, and to pay all fines inflicted by them into the Queen's
Exchequer without embezzlement or delay. "The Justices of the Peace,"
writes Sir Thomas Smith, "be those in whom, at this time, for the
repressing of robbers, thieves, and vagabonds, of privy complots and
conspiracies, of riots and violences and all other misdemeanours in the
commonwealth, the prince putteth his special trust ... and generally,
as I have said, for the good government of the shire, the prince
putteth his confidence in them."[100]

Amongst the duties laid upon the rural police for the control of
agriculture, we find that before a labourer "retained in husbandry"
could leave his parish or township, he had to obtain a testimonial
from the constable, and to get two householders to declare his lawful
departure.[101] This system of passports for the suppression of
vagrancy never worked smoothly, and its development in later times as
enforced against beggars by parish constables, led to serious abuses
that will demand our attention further on.[102] The 15th section of
the same Act empowered Justices and constables, upon request being made
during harvest time, to compel labourers to work on farms where labour
was scarce, and to put those who obstinately refused in the stocks for
two days and one night.

The treatment served out to rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars was
more severe. Persons taken begging or "misordering themselves" were
to be committed to the common gaol, and if convicted of the offence
at the next sessions of the peace or gaol-delivery--"grievously
whipped, and burnt through the gristle of the right ear with a hot
iron of the compass of an inch about."[103] The burning was repealed,
and open whipping "until his or her body be bloody" was afterwards
substituted.[104] Although the severity of the punishment was thus
mitigated, it was now apparently inflicted in a more summary fashion,
for offenders were no longer to be committed to gaol, but were to be
whipped on apprehension, probably by the constables at the instance of
a Justice.

Up to this point the history of the constable is one long record of
new duties undertaken, and fresh responsibilities incurred (though
perhaps unwillingly), by that officer. This tendency, as we shall see,
becomes more pronounced as time goes on, though in one particular, the
contrary may be noticed. In 1601, the famous Poor Law of Elizabeth[105]
sensibly relieved the parish officer of much irksome responsibility by
associating with him churchwardens to help in assessing the poor-rate,
and to assist in the general duty of supervising the needy. From this
date until 1849 (when the Essex Rural Constabulary were first employed
as assistant relieving officers for casuals) the care of the impotent
poor was entrusted to overseers specially appointed for the purpose,
with the result that constables had more leisure to make things
unpleasant for the vagrant man and the sturdy beggar.

Hue and Cry remained the only practical agency for the pursuit and
capture of delinquents. The method of its application, by whom it was
to be made, and the penalties that followed upon its neglect, are fully
dealt with in an Act passed during the 27th year of this reign,[106]
which declares that Hue and Cry is to be deemed lawful only when
made by Horsemen and Footmen, "any usage or custom to the contrary
notwithstanding." It is not clear what is meant by this restriction,
but it is probable that the prohibition of man-hunting with the aid of
dogs was intended. In cases where the fugitive was not apprehended, and
where the inhabitants responsible for the capture refused to pay the
amercement, the constables and headboroughs were authorised to distrain
upon the goods and chattels of the obstinate parishioners, and to hand
over the money realized by the sale thereof to the Justices.[106]

The system pressed hardly on certain Hundreds, which owing to their
situation and local circumstances, were unable to apprehend all the
peace-breakers of the neighbourhood, and which were often so poor that
a heavy fine meant ruin to one or more families in the group. We find
in consequence that petitions against amercements were not uncommon:
in 1597, for instance, the poor inhabitants of Benhurst in Berkshire
had to appeal to the clemency of the Queen on account of the constant
penalties imposed on them, some at least of which they thought should
be borne by the neighbouring town of Maidenhead. The language in
which this appeal is couched is so quaint and pitiful that their own
words are given. "That whereas the said Hundred doth consist only of
five small villages and three small Quillets or Hamlets, and hath
lying through it two great highways: the one leading from London to
Henley-on-Thames and the other from London to Reading: and either of
them at the least three miles in length within the Great Woody Ground
called the 'Thicket'--and no-one of the same villages standeth upon
or adjoining to either of the said ways, but lie dispersedly far from
the same: neither have the inhabitants of the same Hundred any open or
common fields, either arable or other, adjoining or lying near to such
parts of the same ways (within the said Thicket) as are most apt for
robberies to be done, whereby they may have their servants or workmen
labouring within the view of the said ways, to take notice of the
robberies done: and therefore the said inhabitants cannot well have
any speedy notice or intelligence of any robbery which shall be there
committed unless the Party or Parties robbed should give the same
unto them."[107] It is to the Queen's credit that the inhabitants of
Benhurst in Berkshire did not appeal in vain to the royal clemency.

When in 1595 the civil arm was found insufficient to put down the
riotous proceedings that disturbed the peace of the Home Counties,
its shortcomings were made good by the supplemental employment of the
military power. Elizabeth has been accused of proclaiming Martial
Law when its application was not warranted by the exigencies of the
case.[108] It is difficult for us at the present day to determine how
grave were the disturbances that induced the Proclamation in question,
or how far the ordinary methods of control had been tried and found
wanting; but it is certain that no adequate police existed to quell
anything in the nature of a serious riot. It was no doubt discreditable
to the Government that such should be the case, but it was a discredit
that it shared with all preceding Governments, and one that attached
with a greater degree of culpableness to all subsequent Governments
down to the year 1829. Given an unlawful and violent assembly of
riotous persons, and the lack of any civil force strong enough to
disperse them, it is difficult to see the practicability of any
alternative measure to that of calling out the troops. The Commission
given to Sir Thomas Willford in 1595 did not amount to Martial Law
in the usual acceptation of the term, that is to say, the ordinary
Law was not to be entirely superseded, the Provost Marshal was only
to "speedily execute" those offenders whom the Justices of the Peace
signified as deserving of death, and such sentence was to be carried
out in the presence of the Justices who had had judicial cognisance of
the offence. The only additional powers granted to Sir Thomas Willford
were those by which he was authorized to "repair with a convenient
company," and "calling to your assistance some convenient number of our
justices and constables abiding about the said places, to apprehend
all such vagrant and suspected persons, and them to deliver to the
said justices, by them to be committed,"[109] etc., etc. The powers,
in fact, given to the soldiers on this occasion were solely executive;
no one was to be tried by Court-Martial; the verdict lay with the
civil power; and only the carrying out of the sentence rested with the
military authorities.

At no time of our history have the duties of the Justice and the
tasks of the constable been more varied and onerous than they were at
the period we are considering. The jurisdiction and control of these
officers reached to the furthest corners of the social edifice; they
had to see that the labourers rose betimes and did not take too long
over their meals, nor might the country parson marry without "the
advice and allowance"[110] of two Justices of the shire. All these
multifarious duties they performed for the most part without pecuniary
reward, the only fee to which they were entitled being the sum of
five shillings for each day they sat in the execution of the Statute
of Labourers. On the whole it must be allowed that they carried out
the duties entrusted to them both with credit to themselves, and
to the public advantage; for whilst Sheriffs, Under-Sheriffs, and
Bailiffs were for ever giving cause for complaint on account of their
"misdemeanour and evil behaviour," it was a rare occurrence for a
Justice to be accused of extortion or injustice, and crime was far less
common at this time than it afterwards became. Contemporary writers,
however, criticise the county magistracy with some severity. Freak, the
Bishop of Worcester, for example, writes to the Lord Treasurer in 1587,
giving his opinion of the Justices of the Peace: "I do observe some
weakness in that number: divers of them being but superficial, either
for advice or for execution of any weighty affaires of the county,"
whilst Shakespeare is very hard upon all police functionaries as he
knew them. Mr Justice Shallow, representing the Bench, Dogberry and
Verges of the Watch, as well as Elbow and Dull of the Constabulary, are
all treated with good-humoured contempt. The dramatist's account of the
interview between Escalus and Elbow is of particular interest because
it illustrates the evils of the system of deputy which clung to the
office of parish-constable until forty or fifty years ago.[111]

The sort of difficulties that magistrates had to contend with, owing
to the slackness of the constabulary, are graphically described in
a letter dated 1596 in the course of which, Mr Hext, then a Justice
of the Peace for Somersetshire, complains officially to the Lord
Treasurer that thieves and robbers had grown so cunning, through
having often been in gaol, that these old hands could seldom be laid
hold of. "Others," he writes, "are delivered to simple constables and
tything-men, that sometimes wilfully, and other times negligently
suffer them to escape." After suggesting that steps should be taken
to punish all keepers of ale-houses who harbour suspicious persons,
and all constables and tything-men who suffer them to be at large,
he goes on to explain how difficult it is to get the country people
to prosecute in cases of theft, "for most commonly the most simple
country man and woman, looking no further than to the loss of their
own goods, are of opinion, that they would not procure any man's death
for all the goods in the world." This same reluctance to prosecute,
as we shall see, hindered the administration of justice for many
generations, and the question of how best to remove it, is to this
day a police problem, that has only been partially solved by the
comparatively recent institution of the office of Public Prosecutor.
Mr Hext was either very credulous, or thieves' appetites must have
been prodigious in the sixteenth century, for in the same letter he
describes how "within this three months I took a thief, that was
executed this last assizes, that confessed unto me, that he and two
more lay in an ale-house three weeks: in which time they eat twenty fat
sheep: whereof they stole every night one." Finally he gives a woeful
account of the Egyptians (_i.e._ Gypsies) that infested his county.
"The inhabitants," declares the magistrate, "being wonderfully grieved
by their rapines, made complaint at our Easter Sessions, after my Lord
Chief Justice's departure: precepts were made to the tythings adjoining
for the apprehending of them. They made answer, but (the Gypsies) were
so strong that they durst not adventure of them: whereupon precepts
were made to the constables of the shire: but not apprehended, for they
have intelligence of all things intended against them.... And they
grow the more dangerous in that they find they have bred that fear in
Justices, and other inferior officers, that no man dares call them in

From all this it is clear that the police organization left much to
be desired. The country, in fact, was not yet ripe for a good police.
With the central government corrupt, the superior courts venal, the
upper classes of society prone to violence, and the masses for the most
part unacquainted with justice, the sixteenth century would have found
a good police force according to our standard, about as useful and as
easy of comprehension as they would an Edison's phonograph or a modern
treatise on the Spectrum Analysis.

The police administration of the seventeenth century differed but
little from that which had gone before, no real advance being
discoverable either in the theory or practice of peace-maintenance.
Certain changes were indeed taking place from year to year, as old
customs fell into disuse and as ancient words acquired new meanings;
but, on the whole, growth and decay were almost evenly balanced. If it
is admitted that the duties of a constable, and the matters that fell
within his province, were now more clearly defined than heretofore, it
must also be confessed that he was permitted to shirk his work more
than ever. This slackness of performance may be clearly demonstrated
by a comparison between the oaths taken by High and Petty Constables
respectively, on their appointment, and the copious evidences of
neglect that are everywhere apparent. Before his admission to office an
oath was administered to the High-Constable-elect in these words:--"You
shall swear, That you shall well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the
King in the Office of Constable. You shall see and cause His Majestie's
Peace to be well and truly kept and preserved according to your power.
You shall arrest all such persons as in your sight and presence shall
ride or go armed offensively, or shall commit or make any Riot,
Affray, or other Breach of His Majestie's Peace. You shall do your
best endeavour (upon complaint to you made) to apprehend all Felons,
Barretors, and Rioters, or persons riotously assembled: and if any such
offenders shall make resistance (with force) you shall levy Hue and
Cry, and shall pursue them until they be taken. You shall do your best
endeavour that the watch in and about your Hundred be duly kept, for
the Apprehending of Rogues, Vagabonds, night-walkers, Evesdroppers,
Scouts, and other suspected persons, and of such as go armed, and the
like: and that Hue and Cry be duly raised and pursued according to the
Statute of Winchester, against Murderers, Thieves, and other felons:
and that the Statutes made for the punishment of Rogues and Vagabonds,
and such other idle persons as come within your bounds and limits be
duly put in execution. You shall have a watchful eye to such persons as
shall maintain or keep any common house or place, where any unlawful
game is or shall be used: as also to such as shall frequent or use such
places, or shall use or exercise any unlawful games there or elsewhere,
contrary to the Statutes.

"At your Assizes, Sessions of the Peace, or Leet, you shall present all
and every the offences done contrary to the Statutes made 1 Jacobi,
4 Jacobi, and 21 Jacobi Regis, to restrain the inordinate haunting
and tippling in Inns, Alehouses, and other Victually Houses, and for
repressing of drunkeness: you shall there likewise true presentment
make of all Bloudsheddings, affrays, outcries, Rescous, and other
offences committed or done against the King's Majestie's Peace within
your limits: You shall once every year during your office present at
the Quarter Sessions all Popish Recusants within your liberty, and
their Children above 9, and their servants, (_scil_ their monthly
absence from the Church).[113] You shall well and duly execute all
precepts and Warrants to you directed, from the Justices of the
Peace of the County or higher Officers: you shall be aiding to your
neighbours against unlawful purveyances: in time of Hay or Corn
Harvest, upon request, you shall cause all persons meet to serve by
the day for the mowing, reaping, or getting in of Corn or Hay: You
shall in Easter week cause your Parishioners to chuse Surveyors for
the mending of the Highways in your parish or Liberty; and you shall
well and duly, according to your Knowledge, Power, and Ability, do and
execute all other things belonging to the Office of Constable, so long
as you continue in the said Office. So help you God."

If the obligations here enumerated had been effectually carried out,
the King's Peace might have been a reality instead of the meaningless
formula it had become; but High Constables were not professional
police-officers like our Chief Constables, nor were they county
magnates like the High Constables who once had superintended the
police of the shire. The status of the office had steadily declined:
instead of the great noblemen who, as we have seen, occupied similar
posts under the Plantagenet Kings, and instead of the "Yeomen of the
better class" spoken of by Lord Bacon, we find ale-house keepers and
petty tradesmen, hardly less ignorant than the petty constables they
were supposed to instruct, undertaking the office for the sake of
profit, without any special aptitude, knowledge, or experience of their
important duties, and without any serious intention of learning their
work; for as no inducement or encouragement was held out to tempt
or stimulate them to exertion, they were as inefficient when they
relinquished their task as they were when they undertook it.

The form of oath required of petty constables, or Tything men, as they
were still called, was as follows--"You shall swear that you shall
well and truly execute the office of a Tythingman of the Tything of H.
(or headborough, etc.). His Majestie's Peace in your own person you
shall keep, and see it kept in all others, as much as in you lieth. In
the presence of the High Constable you shall be aiding and assisting
unto him: and in his absence you shall execute his office, and do all
other things belonging to your office, according to your knowledge and
Power, untill another be chosen in your room, or you shall be legally
discharged thereof.--So help you God."

It is immaterial whether these police officers deliberately took the
required oath, meaning not to be bound by it, or whether they were
so ignorant as not to understand the nature of a solemn affirmation;
but be this as it may, High Constables neglected their oath and their
office, and petty constables followed suit, rarely acting at all except
under compulsion, or unless an opportunity offered for some petty
tyranny or extortion, whilst anything like professional activity was
quite unknown. Nor was the prevailing stagnation the worst feature
of the times. The moral character, as well as the social position
of peace officers, Justice and constable alike, deteriorated under
Stuart misgovernment. The King of course remained _ex officio_ the
"highest maintainer of the peace," and his weaknesses, illegalities,
and extortions were not only repeated but multiplied in the descending
links of the chain of responsibility.

It was in the reign of James I. that corrupt magistrates first earned
for themselves the nickname of "Basket Justices," as the predecessors
of the "Trading Justices" of later days were called; and even the
higher judges were not altogether above suspicion. With such a
degenerate personnel to carry out its provisions, small wonder that
the law frequently became a dead letter. Let one instance suffice.
During this reign the right of sanctuary was abolished by law; but
custom, which was far more powerful than the police, having decided
that sanctuaries should continue, not only was no attempt made to
deprive these asylums of their ancient privileges, but certain of them,
notably Whitefriars, secured for themselves additional immunities. The
country, in fact, too often had to witness the ridiculous spectacle
of a Legislature solemnly filling the Statute Book with elaborate
enactments, whilst the constables whose duty it was to see the law
enforced, were quietly going about their own business, following the
plough, or minding the shop. English police was in truth at a low ebb,
and the inevitable consequences of such a feeble executive quickly
followed; bullies and blackguards of every kind overran the realm, and
the weak had no rights except such as the strong chose to leave them.
"Private quarrels were nourished" (writes the historian of the period)
" ... and duels in every street maintained: divers sects and peculiar
titles passed unpunished and unregarded, as the sect of the Roaring
Boys, Bonaventors, Bravadors, Quarterors, and such like, being persons
prodigal, and of great expense, who, having run themselves into debt,
were constrained to run next into factions, to defend themselves from
danger of the law. These received countenance from divers of nobility:
and the citizens, through lasciviousness consuming their estates, it
was like that the number (of these desperadoes) would rather increase
than diminish: and under these pretences, they entered into many
desperate enterprises, and scarce any durst walk in the Street after
nine at night.... Alehouses, dicing houses, taverns and places of
iniquity, beyond manner abounding in most places."[114]

Slack as the police were in other directions, the campaign against
vagrants continued to be conducted with vigour. All men, whatever
their station, were ordered to apprehend such rogues or vagabonds as
they might see begging, and to convey them to the nearest constable
or tythingman, at whose hands they were liable to be branded with the
letter "R," should they be found incorrigible.[115] Nor was this all.
Justices of the Peace were instructed to summon the constables together
some four or five days before the half-yearly sessions, and to command
them "to make a general privy search one night for the finding out of
such rogues and idle persons, and such as they find they shall bring
to the Justices, and if for punishment (cause them to be) conveyed
to the house of correction, there to be set to labour."[116] In
order, moreover, that this privy search might be the more effectual,
constables were empowered to claim the assistance of as many neighbours
as they might find sufficient for their purpose.

Such persistent persecution of the vagrant class does not argue that
the police were efficient, for if the vagrants had been organized or
able to stand up for themselves, there is little doubt that they would
have been left alone just as the Roaring Boys and the Bonaventors were.
This is also true, to some extent, of those unfortunate persons who
were suspected of being afflicted with the plague, and who were, in
consequence, treated with as little consideration as are pariah dogs in
an Indian cantonment. Fear of the plague aroused an unwonted display
of energy amongst police officers, and caused extraordinary powers to
be given to the Justices, who were authorised to appoint Searchers,
Watchmen, Examiners, and others to see that no person suspected of
being infected left their houses. If any such person, having been
duly warned, "contemptuously went abroad," the Watchmen might, with
violence, enforce him to keep his house, but if he was caught in the
public streets having any infectious sore upon him uncured, he was
adjudged "_ipso facto_" guilty of felony, and might be sentenced to
death. Furthermore, if any man was discovered abroad "conversing with
company" after being cautioned to keep house, even if there was no
sore found about him, it was ordained that he should be punished as a
vagabond, and be subject to all penalties for vagabondage (including
whipping) besides being bound to his good behaviour for the space
of one year.[117] In remote country districts similar powers were
conferred, not only on Justices of the Peace, but also on constables
and headboroughs.[118]

The following police regulations, which were in force during an
outbreak of the plague in the City of Oxford, are from a Proclamation
by Charles I. in the year 1644, and are far milder and more reasonable
than those considered necessary in the previous reign, as a few
extracts will shew. It is ordained--"That a Watchman (be) set at the
Fore door of the house, to keep in the persons within the house, and
also to fetch them such necessaries as they want, to be delivered to
them so discretely and warily as may not endanger themselves, or those
to whom they may resort.

"That when a house shall be known to be infected with the plague,
forthwith a Red Crosse be set on the outward doore of the house, with
an inscription in Capital Letters, with these words LORD HAVE MERCY

"That every such Watchman, when he sitteth or goeth in the streets,
carry a white stick in his hand, so that others may be admonished not
to presse too neare into his company.

"That all burialls of persons dying of the plague be in the night-time,
after tenne of the clock at the soonest, and without concourse of
people, and that the Corpse be laid at least foure foot deep under the

"That all Dogs and Cats in the Towne be forthwith sent away out of the
Towne, or such as are found in the Streets, or Courts of the Colledges,
to be knockt on the head, and their carcasses carryed away and buried
without the Works at a convenient distance."[119]

It is not to be wondered at if during the troubles which befell the
nation in King Charles' reign, police suffered in common with all other
institutions. Internal peace was not likely to thrive during those
eleven years whilst no Parliament was summoned, whilst Wentworth was
devoting his energies towards the creation of a standing army that was
to make the Crown absolute, whilst soldiers were billeted broadcast on
unwilling inhabitants, and as long as in many districts martial law
continued to supersede the ancient judicial system.

The keynote of Charles' policy was, from the first, a determination to
raise money by hook or by crook, wherever the cost might fall, and to
this end, one field of trickery after another was exploited. One device
(1626) was to make Sheriffs of those of his opponents whom the King
feared, so as to secure their detention in their own counties; another
was an attempt (1640) to reintroduce the forest laws, by determining
afresh the boundaries of the royal forests,[120] and re-insisting
on their old-time privileges for the sake of the revenues accruing
therefrom. Amercements were collected with an energy that was not
content until the uttermost farthing had been gleaned: offences against
the licensing laws were usually punished by fines, and the income
arising from this source was not small, so it was enacted,[121] that
if offenders did not pay up within six days, they were to be delivered
to the constable to be whipped, and if the constable failed to execute
his warrant, he was to be committed to prison by the Justice until he
should induce someone else to do it for him.

Before approaching the subject of the Civil War and its
after-consequences, it will, perhaps, not be out of place to pause for
a moment, and looking back on the history of the past, to enquire,
how much of the ancient police system of England survived at this
period, how much of it was dormant, and what portions had altogether

The Tything could no longer be said to exist: the increase of
population, the growth of trade, and the improved facilities for moving
from one part of the country to another, having rendered the retention
of such a small sub-division impracticable. The parish took the place
of the tything, and the parish-constable filled, to some extent, the
position once held by the tythingman. We have seen how the office of
constable, which theoretically ought to fall to all the inhabitants
in rotation ("Religious Persons, Knights, Clerkes and Women" only
excepted) came to be generally executed by paid, and practically
permanent substitutes; but it must not be forgotten that the liability
of the principal was not at an end, nor the appointment of the
substitute valid, unless the transfer was approved by the inhabitants,
and until it was duly confirmed by the proper authority.

The decay of frank-pledge, as a practical system, had long been
complete, but the general principle remained, and now and again we come
across attempts at revival and other indications, which prove that the
Saxon régime was not entirely forgotten. In his "Customs of the City
of London," published in 1642, Sir Henry Colthrop quotes from Liber
Albus: "A large Charter is granted for the liberties of Southwark, and
for correction of offences there, with a view of Franck-pledge with
arrests, and to bring the offenders to Newgate."[122]

Writing in the first half of the seventeenth century, Minsheu says that
"Inlaugh signifieth him that is in some Franke-pledge," and goes on to
remark that "Decennier is not now used for the Chiefe man of a Dozen,
but for him that is sworn to the King's Peace ... and that no man
ordinarily giveth other securities for the keeping of the King's Peace,
but his owne oath, and that therefore none answereth for another's
transgression, but every man for himself--and for the generall ground
this may suffice."[123] The exceptions here implied, refer no doubt to
the custom of binding over an offender to keep the peace. "Inlaugh" is
obviously the antithesis of the more familiar "Outlaw," whilst "Dozen"
is used in its original sense of "Ten," and has nothing to do with the
number "Twelve."

The liability of the Hundred to compensate the sufferers for the
damages done therein still held good,[124] and constables had never
been relieved, by Statute or otherwise, of their constitutional duty
of presenting offences at the court of the Hundred or Leet. The High
Constable was the chief executive officer of the Hundred, but as the
scope of his office has been fully set forth in the form of oath
already quoted, his exact position need not be further enlarged on,
except to say that his disciplinary powers over the petty-constables
seem to have been very limited. The Justices decided what the
petty-constables were to do, and how they were to do it, despite the
fact that the High Constable was the man who was responsible for the
due conservation of the peace in his district: he had, in short, most
of the responsibilities of a modern Chief Constable, with no power of
appointing, dismissing, or controlling his assistants.

The obligation of all to bear arms had been re-enforced by Statute as
recently as the year 1557,[125] and this liability remained the law of
the land, at least nominally so, until the eighteenth century.

The Statute of Winchester defined the law as to Watch and Ward as
heretofore, and although of course its precise regulations were no
longer adhered to in detail, but modified continually with the changing
circumstances of the times, no fresh authoritative declaration was
issued on the subject.

Hue and Cry, also, had undergone little change and in 1626 is thus
defined by Minsheu: "Hue and Cry--This signifieth a pursuit of one
having committed felonie by the highway, for if the partie robbed, or
any in the companie of one murdered or robbed, come to the Constable of
the Next Towne, and will him to raise Hiew & Crie, or to make pursuit
after the offendour, describing the partie, and shewing, as neere as he
can, which way hee is gone: the Constable ought forthwith to call upon
the Parish, for aid in seeking the felon: and if he be not found there,
then to giue the next constable warning, and he the next, untill the
offender be apprehended, or at the least untill he be thus pursued to
the sea-side."

This brief survey of the police system of the early Stuart period
not only shews how little progress had been made during the last
five hundred years, but partly explains the rash haste with which
all classes decided to appeal to the sword for the settlement of the
differences that divided Crown and Commons. For some time back, in the
absence of that restraining influence which an efficient police force
might have afforded, people had readily run into factions; and, with
arms in their hands, had supported their particular opinions by force,
in defiance of all authority, and with a degree of violence that would
never have been tolerated for a moment in any community where the value
of peace-maintenance was duly appraised and properly insisted upon.



If the feebleness of the police was in some degree responsible
for the ready appeal to arms in 1642, the lawlessness that was so
widespread at the close of the century, was largely the outcome of the
disorganization of the national police system, which was the natural
accompaniment of the Revolution. Civil War is invariably attended by
an outbreak of crime that has no connection with the main quarrel, but
which arises in the day of trouble because the powerlessness of the
executive is the opportunity of the criminal. No longer is any one
power supreme (crimes committed in one camp being generally condoned
in the other), and a mania of insubordination drives ordinarily
well-disposed persons to throw off the old restraints to which they
instinctively submit in times of peace. When Civil War begins, the
"King's Peace" is at an end, the Law is forgotten or despised, the
whole body politic is in a state of fever, and the usual functions of
orderly government are suspended.

If the Revolution in England produced less serious consequences than
might have been expected, this result was due to the puritan zeal
of the Parliamentary Army, which had no sympathy with any acts of
violence that were not directed against those whom it held to be the
enemies of liberty and religion, and which at least permitted no
riotous licence amongst its adherents. Yet in spite of this desire of
the popular party to maintain order, the whole civil machinery of the
country was dislocated and out of gear as long as the war lasted; even
the circuit of the Justice of Assize was discontinued; and marriages,
no longer solemnised with the customary religious ceremony, were
performed by Justices of the Peace, and in such a casual manner that
few records were kept.

As soon as Cromwell's victory was complete he at once set to work to
establish an orderly government, only to find that the old implements
that had served his predecessors were now broken and well-nigh
useless. In London, the Parliamentary stronghold, the re-establishment
of order presented no insuperable difficulties, but in the rural
districts the case was different. There the gentry, to which class
both Justices of the Peace and grand jury-men belonged, were in the
main royalists--whilst constables, tythingmen and petty jurymen were
usually Roundheads. The resulting friction hampered the Protector's
administration from the first; so that, much as he would have preferred
to have made use of the constitutional machinery for peace-maintenance,
he was often compelled to resort to novel expedients to police the
new commonwealth. If it was denied to Oliver Cromwell to govern on
constitutional lines, he held, nevertheless, the supreme command of a
large and powerful army, such as no sovereign in England had previously
had the control of, and inevitably therefore, he fell back upon the
military forces that had served him so well in the past, hoping by
their aid to restore, if not to improve upon, the state of security
that had been wrecked by the war.

An attempt to reform the county magistracy by the creation of a new
commission of the peace in the year 1651 having ended in failure, the
Protector had no choice but to hand over to the Army those police
functions which no alternative organization was competent to undertake,
and so for the first time in English history, the civil power was
subordinated to a military dictatorship, and for a while the sword
supplanted the baton.

In the course of the year 1655 the whole of England and Wales was
divided for administrative purposes into twelve police districts,

  i. Kent and Surrey.

  ii. Sussex, Hants, and Berks.

  iii. Gloucester, Wilts, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

  iv. Oxford, Bucks, Herts, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambs.

  v. London.

  vi. Westminster and Middlesex.

  vii. Lincoln, Notts, Derby, Warwick and Leicester.

  viii. Northants, Beds, Rutland and Hunts.

  ix. Herefordshire, Salop and N. Wales.

  x. Cheshire, Lancashire and Staffordshire.

  xi. Yorkshire, Durham, Cumberland, Westmoreland
  and Northumberland.

  xii. Monmouth and S. Wales.

To each of these districts a military officer was assigned, and largely
endowed with inquisitorial and penal powers. Though holding for the
most part no higher army rank than that of colonel or major, these
functionaries (who were appointed by Cromwell himself, and who remained
under his personal supervision) were styled Major-Generals,[126] and
under this title exercised an office which for the moment overawed
the constitutional ministers of the peace. At first it was not
intended that the ordinary magistrates should be superseded, for the
Major-Generals were instructed to co-operate with "the other Justices
of the Peace," and if in practice this co-operation degenerated into
flat coercion, such a result must be attributed to the exigencies
of the occasion, or to the misinterpretation of their orders by the
Protector's agents, rather than to the deliberate design of Cromwell

The programme in front of the military reformers was a sufficiently
extensive one, comprising, as it did, measures "for the security of the
peace of the nation, the suppressing of vice, and the encouragement of
virtue."[127] To enable them to grapple with their herculean task, they
were assisted by a special force of militia, 6420 strong, all but two
hundred of whom were mounted, and the expense of the new administration
was met by the imposition of a tax of ten per cent. on the estates
of Royalists, on the old English principle that those responsible
for disturbances should pay for the re-establishment of order. As
was only to be expected, political considerations suggested many of
the police regulations now enforced--travellers from foreign parts
were not free to remain on English soil till they had communicated to
the Major-General of the district, their names, their destination,
and their business, nor were they allowed to move from shire to
shire without previously advising the Justices; whilst ex-cavaliers
and other persons of known royalist sympathies were bound to notify
every change of address to the soldier-magistrates, who were also
empowered to disarm rebels and to distribute the confiscated weapons
amongst supporters of the parliamentary cause. For the guidance of
the Major-Generals a document was circulated, containing twenty-one
headings, under which was set out a scheme for the better government
of the people--horse-racing, cock-fighting, and bear-baiting were
forbidden, drunkenness, blasphemy and sabbath-breaking were to be
severely punished, and alehouses, not absolutely necessary for the
refreshment of travellers, were to be suppressed.[128] The vigour
with which this crusade against popular sports was pushed is well
illustrated by the activity displayed by Colonel Barkstead, who with
his own hand killed all the bears in Westminster, and ordered his men
to wring the neck of every game-cock that they could find.

Under the military régime espionage was encouraged, and the new
functionaries received special instructions to watch carefully such
persons as appeared to live beyond their means. At the same time
better protection for the public highways was provided, sheriffs being
ordered to apprehend vagrants, robbers and highwaymen throughout
their respective districts, with the assistance, if necessary, of the
military police; in this way the vagrant nuisance was considerably
abated, if not for long, and in one neighbourhood at least complete
success would seem to have been attained, for Whalley was able to
boast, "This I may truly say, you may ride all over Nottinghamshire,
and not see a beggar or a wandering rogue."

Although the meshes of what the Protector called his "little poor
invention" were calculated to entangle petty sinners amongst his
opponents whilst admitting of the escape of more dangerous offenders
amongst his adherents, it would be unjust to suppose that Cromwell's
police system was only a pretext for the exercise of political tyranny.
Many of the pains suffered by royalists were directly attributable
to their own faults, and, without deserting their cause, they might
with ordinary care have avoided many of the penalties they incurred.
Generally speaking, the code was especially severe against moral as
contrasted with criminal offences; gambling and profane swearing being
punishable by heavy fines and imprisonment, whilst dissolute living
rendered the offender liable "to be sent out of the Commonwealth,"
as transportation to Barbadoes was euphemistically termed. In
addition to their already too numerous duties, the Major-Generals
were expected to exercise a general supervision over the religious
habits of the people, the regulations of weights and measures and the
control of certain trades also falling to their lot. In London and
Westminster, where the Puritans had a preponderating majority, and
where Major-General Skippon and Colonel Barkstead respectively held
command, the police control grew particularly irksome and irritating,
puritan zeal being carried to such a pitch that fiddlers found
themselves in the stocks for no worse offence than playing a jig, and
even the ordinary Christmas festivities were sternly repressed. Search
was frequently made in the taverns and alehouses, and any servant
or apprentice found there after 8 P.M. was seized and taken before
a Justice of the Peace for punishment. The Commissioners of Customs
also were instructed to cause their officers to make similar visits in
order to prevent tippling amongst watermen,[129] whilst stage-plays and
places of public amusement were vigorously proceeded against.[130]

The régime associated with the Major-Generals was short; these
functionaries were practically extinct before the end of 1657, and all
traces of their rule were quickly obliterated after the restoration of
the Monarchy. But the episode is none the less interesting as being
the only example in England of an almost unqualified military police
ascendancy, such as has been common elsewhere.

In estimating the results produced by this system, it must be borne in
mind that the circumstances under which it was instituted were quite
exceptional. The army which undertook the policing of the country was
composed neither of foreigners nor of mercenaries; on the contrary,
its members were the pick of the middle classes of England, and their
object was the maintenance of liberty and religion, as they understood
those terms, not conquest, nor oppression for oppression's sake.

Cromwell's lieutenants did their work with honesty and diligence,
and, according to their lights, they held the balance of justice
level between man and man. If their discretion had equalled their
impartiality, posterity would be able to look upon their administration
with unqualified approval, but the admonishing, meddling, and
eavesdropping tactics that they saw fit to pursue only invited the
reaction that so quickly followed on the heels of their employment.

As long as a strict military discipline remained in force, disorders
were kept in check, but as soon as it was relaxed, the havoc caused by
the war soon became apparent, and at no time in our history has there
been such a need of a strong and capable police force as there was
at the time of the Restoration. The country was overrun by vagrants
and disbanded soldiery, numbers of people had suddenly been reduced
to poverty, and numbers had as suddenly been raised to affluence; the
revulsion of feeling that followed upon the downfall of the puritan
party led to excesses of every kind, and licence and violence thrived
in the general confusion; nor was it till Charles II. had been king for
several years that any attempt was made to grapple with the state of
chaos to which the internal security of the kingdom had been reduced,
and even then the matter was not faced with any resolution.

London was in a disgraceful condition. Few towns in Europe were at once
so inadequately policed, so badly lighted, and in such an insanitary
state as the capital city of England; proof of the lack of proper
sanitation, and its unfailing result, was brought home to people in
convincing form at the time when the nightly procession of dead-carts,
filled with victims of the plague, was the only traffic to be seen
in the streets; but although the great fire of 1666 improved out of
existence some of the most pestilential quarters, London remained a
city of squalor and darkness. Most of the thoroughfares were without
pavements of any kind, and such as existed were so sunken and broken
that they were a source of danger to those who stumbled along them;
rubbish was shot out of upper windows into the street beneath, and
the public squares were used as receptacles for all the filth of the
neighbourhood. After nightfall the certainty of having to encounter
drunken bullies and highway robbers confined to their houses those
citizens whom urgent business did not compel to walk abroad; even
in daylight there were districts where the peace officers dared not
venture, and Macaulay tells us that within the sanctuary of Whitefriars
"even the warrant of the Chief Justice of England could not be executed
without the help of a company of musketeers."[131]

All this time the legislature was mute: throughout the reign of
Charles II. hardly a single Act of Parliament was passed dealing with
the policing of the twin cities that make up the metropolis. The
municipal authorities did what they could, and by an Act of Common
Council provided a force of about one thousand Bellmen, afterwards
called Charlies, in memory of the monarch in whose reign they were
first instituted. Unfortunately these watchmen were allowed to shirk
their duties and were well known to be altogether inefficient, so
much so, that when rowdy apprentices and other unruly assemblages
gave trouble, as they too often did, no one thought of looking
to such weak-kneed officials for the safety of the town. On such
occasions companies of soldiers were requisitioned to protect the main
thoroughfares, and, as a further precaution, chains were stretched from
one side of the street to the other to prevent the free movement of the
riotous bands.

Before the end of the reign, however, some advance was made towards
rendering London a fit place to live in. Several squares were
enclosed and planted; new and wider streets were built; but the
greatest improvements of the time were due, not to the efforts of
municipal authorities, but to the recently-formed Royal Society,
which investigated the question of sanitary police, and offered
suggestions that to some extent were acted upon, with the result that
England has since been free from the plague, so fatal in former years.
Commissioners of Sewers were appointed, and the duties of scavengers
and rakers, with regard to the cleansing of the metropolis, were

In other departments also, progress was manifest, especially in the
lighting arrangements. By an act passed in 1672[132] it had been
ordered that a certain number of candles should be displayed every
night between Michaelmas and Lady Day; but in 1685 private enterprise
was responsible for placing a light before every tenth door from dusk
till midnight. The effect cannot have been dazzling, but even this
moderate amount of illumination was more effectual in preventing crime
than any number of the watchmen of the period were likely to be. About
the same time regulations for the control of hackney carriages plying
for hire were first published.[133]

In the rural districts peace-maintenance was, if possible, at a lower
ebb than in London--the roads were almost impassable throughout the
winter months, and highwaymen were as frequent as mile-stones. Peace
officers were practically non-existent: Justices were careless and
apathetic, and Lords of the Manor had neglected to hold Courts-Leet for
the annual election of Constables. A statute of 1673[134] complains of
the lack of constables, and authorises two Justices of the Peace in
each district to fill up the vacancies immediately. This was the first
occasion on which the power of appointing petty constables had been by
Act of Parliament conferred on the magistrates, and official sanction
extended to what had for years been the almost invariable custom. For
the better policing of highways, turnpikes were established,[135]
and those who used the roads made to subscribe towards the necessary
repairs, instead of the whole burden being thrown on the rural
population, which, partly by forced labour exacted by law (the _Corvée_
of Feudal times), and partly by a parochial rate, had been compelled to
mend the roads that traversed their neighbourhood. It is to be feared
that this long-delayed act of justice was attributable rather to the
vile condition of the highways than to any tender consideration for the
rural population.

The system of passports, which had been introduced some centuries
before for the purpose of checking vagrancy, continued to find favour,
and was believed in as a panacea for the prevention of all kinds of
crime. It was thought, not without reason, that a thief could not
long pursue his vocation undetected amongst neighbours, who were
acquainted with his circumstances, and who saw how he occupied his
time and how he spent his money, whilst a stranger who came to-day
and was gone to-morrow, might rob from one end of England to the
other with impunity. The police were therefore instructed to enforce
the regulations against vagrants with increased vigour, and in the
following manner. After a vagrant beggar had been whipped he was
entitled to a testimonial signed by the minister of the parish and
countersigned by the constable or tythingman, setting forth the
date and place of his punishment, something after this form. "W. W.,
a sturdy vagrant beggar (aged about forty years) tall of stature,
red-haired, and long lean-visaged, and squint-eyed, was this 24th day
of A in the 22nd year of the reign of Our Gracious Sovereign Lord
King Charles the Second, etc., openly whipped at T in the County of
G; according to the law, for a wandering rogue; and is assigned to
pass forthwith from parish to parish by the officers thereof the next
streight way to W in the county of B, where he confesseth he was
born: and he is limited to be at W aforesaid within twelve days now
next ensuing at his peril. Given under the hands and seals of C. W.
minister of T. aforesaid, and of J. G. constable there, the day and
year aforesaid."[136] Any vagrant found by a constable, and unable
to produce such a testimonial, was straightway to be arrested, and
became liable to more whipping, or if found incorrigible[137] to
transportation "to any of the English plantations beyond the sea" by
the order of a majority of Justices at Quarter Sessions. Although we no
longer look upon vagrancy as "The Mother and Root of all Evil" as our
forefathers did, and have relaxed the stringency of the laws against
vagabondage, the tramp is still an object of legitimate suspicion,
and a watchful eye is kept by the Convict Supervision Office over all
convicts at large, who are bound to produce their licenses when called
upon by a police officer to do so, and are only allowed to travel from
district to district under certain restrictions.

Among the many difficulties that those responsible for the preservation
of the peace had to contend with, one of the most complicated was how
best to deal with the lawless aggression of the Lowland Scots without
involving the two nationalities in actual war. Henry VIII. endeavoured
to solve the problem by the creation of a special local authority
called "The Council of the North," but this was only a temporary
measure, and not very successful, nor were the expedients adopted by
Elizabeth any more effectual. Throughout the whole of the seventeenth
century, the northern counties were continually overrun by predatory
bands, called Moss-troopers, who taking advantage of the almost
perennial hostility existing between the English and the Scots, harried
the country-side, murdering, marauding, and lifting cattle: in case of
pursuit, or after an unusually successful expedition, they had only
to cross the border to avoid capture. According to Fuller,[138] their
numbers amounted at one time to some thousands of men, who scoured the
country in troops and exacted an annual tribute from the inhabitants of
the valleys between the Solent and the North Sea. Although Fuller's was
assuredly an exaggerated estimate, these enterprising freebooters were
without question a most formidable fraternity. The Union of the Crowns
of England and Scotland deprived them, it is true, of the international
pretext they had traded upon in the past, but their depredations
continued just the same as before. With the hope of putting an end to
these raids, a local police force was established in 1672,[139] and
afterwards kept alive by successive Acts of Parliament. The Justices
of the Peace for the northern counties were empowered by virtue of
this Statute to make a charge of £500 against Northumberland, and of
£200 against Cumberland, for the payment and support of a body of men,
forty-two strong (viz., thirty Northumbrians and twelve Cumbrians),
whose duty it was to "search out, discover, pursue, apprehend, and
bring to trial by law,"--the raiders. In strict justice, the task of
suppressing the Moss-troopers should not have been left to a local
force, but the political relations between the two countries were
already strained almost to breaking point, and the employment of troops
on the borderland might, and probably would, have induced a rupture.
Under the circumstances, therefore, the government of the day was
probably justified in the course pursued, but on no account should the
whole expense have been borne by the very counties which had already
principally suffered through the inroads of the raiders.

Contemporary literature shews how lamentably insecure life and property
had become in the days of the later Stuarts, and during the early
Georgian period. Luttrell's diary is one long catalogue of crimes of
violence, and he remarks, from his own experience, that "footpads are
very troublesome in the evening on all the roads leading to the city,
which renders them very unsafe." In his history of England, Smollet
declares that "thieves and robbers are now become more desperate and
savage than they had ever appeared since mankind was civilized."

No thoroughfare was free from the tyranny of the fraternity of
highwaymen, who were allowed to terrorize whole districts, and who
enjoyed an almost unlimited freedom from interference. As their
depredations grew more extensive, their insolence increased. Evelyn
describes how a gang of robbers succeeded in appropriating the
taxes that had been collected in the northern counties, as the bags
containing the money were being escorted through Hertfordshire, on
their way to London: the highwaymen first stopped and secured all
travellers in the immediate neighbourhood, placed them under guard in
a field, and after killing the horses of their captives to prevent
pursuit, attacked the escort, put them to flight, and captured the
treasure. The authors of this outrage were never caught.

Troops were sometimes made use of in a half-hearted sort of way
to patrol the most infested localities, but the simple remedy of
maintaining a properly paid and equipped police was never tried:
the only expedient that the wisdom of the age could suggest was the
offering of rewards to all and sundry to encourage the apprehending
of highwaymen. This disastrous policy was inaugurated in 1692.[140]
"Whereas the highways and roads," runs the preamble of the statute
in question, "within the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales
have been of late times more infested with thieves and robbers than
formerly, for want of due and sufficient encouragement given, and means
used, for the discovery of such offenders," provision is accordingly
made, that in the event of any person being killed in the act of taking
a highwayman, his executors shall have the reward, and a free pardon
is promised to accomplices and other criminals who shall cause such
offenders to be brought to justice. The conditions under which this
pardon was granted were as follows: "If any person or persons, being
out of prison from and after the said five-and-twentieth day of March,
commit any robbery and afterwards discover two or more persons, who
already hath or hereafter shall commit any robbery, so as two or more
of the persons discovered shall be convicted of such robbery--any such
discoverer shall himself have, and be entitled to, the gracious pardon
of their Majesties."

The provisions of this Act were afterwards extended to robberies in
London,[141] and first and last were responsible for an appalling sum
of wickedness. The bait of blood-money and the lack of a salaried or
professional class of detectives were answerable for the appearance of
amateur thief-takers; these men were mostly ex-thieves, who had given
up their old vocation for the safer, more lucrative, but infinitely
baser role of fattening on the conviction of the innocent, and on the
execution of those whom they had themselves corrupted. The best known
and most energetic member of this horde of vampires was the notorious
Jonathan Wild, who flourished at the beginning of the eighteenth
century, and whose _modus operandi_ is fully set forth for us by Henry
Fielding in his satirical history of "Jonathan Wild the Great."

This arch-ruffian had a most complete knowledge of all the thieves in
England, and at one time practically monopolised in his own person the
trades of receiver of stolen property and trafficker in blood money. He
established warehouses all over the country, and even bought himself a
ship to export what he could not dispose of at home. To those thieves
who submitted to his authority, and who brought him the proceeds of
their robberies, he extended a protection that must have been dependent
to a certain degree on the connivance of some person or persons in
authority. Grandmaster of espionage, and holding in his talons the
threads of all villainy, Wild could manufacture whatever evidence he
chose, could ruthlessly destroy any who opposed him, and deliver up
to justice those thieves who were bold enough to take their spoils
elsewhere for disposal. When this supply of victims ran short, or
when it suited his purpose to shield the real culprit, he was content
to take the reward offered for the conviction of the innocent. It is
comforting to know that his carcass, the foulest fruit the fatal tree
ever bore, eventually swung at Tyburn, at the same spot where so many
of his victims had preceded him.

The iniquitous system of paying blood-money for the conviction of
certain classes of offenders continued for generations, but is now
happily extinct. At the present day rewards are not offered by
Government except under very exceptional circumstances, and then
only in cases where the identity of the criminal is clear, whilst
rewards offered by private persons are placed under restrictions that
prevent any revival of the abominable traffic that continued even
into the nineteenth century. As late as 1816 George Vaughan, and
others associated with him, were convicted at the Middlesex Sessions
of conspiring to induce three brothers named Hurley, and a lad named
Wood, only thirteen years of age, to commit a burglary at Hoxton, and
by having them convicted of the fact, to procure for themselves the
rewards given by Parliament for the conviction of housebreakers.

One of the chief embarrassments, after the inefficiency of the
constabulary, which hampered the action of the authorities, and made
the suppression of crime more difficult, was the popularity that the
more notorious thieves enjoyed amongst a large section of the people;
the sympathy, felt and expressed, for highwaymen of the Claude Duval
type was widespread, and arose from a variety of sentiments. The mass
of the people, who never suffered in their own pockets, were not
altogether averse to seeing the rich plundered occasionally, especially
as it was the policy of the robbers to be free and open-handed with a
part of their booty. Another class of people who were well-disposed
towards the highwaymen, gave their sympathy as a misdirected kind of
protest against the severity of the law; and the "gentlemen of the
road," as they were called, quick to perceive the advantage that this
popularity, from whatever source arising, gave them--sometimes, but not
often--performed quite gentlemanly actions, in order to enhance and to
advertise their reputation for good deeds.

The Abbé le Blanc, who spent some years in England early in the
eighteenth century, declared that he frequently met Englishmen who
were as proud of the exploits of their highwaymen as they were of the
bravery of their soldiers, and in a letter to de Buffon he writes: "It
is usual, in travelling, to put ten or a dozen guineas in a separate
pocket, as a tribute to the first that comes to demand them," and adds
that, "... about fifteen years ago, these robbers, with a view to
maintaining their rights, fixed up papers at the doors of rich people
about London, expressly forbidding all persons, of whatever quality
or condition, from going out of town without ten guineas and a watch
about them, under pain of death. In bad times, when there is little
or nothing to be got on the roads, these fellows assemble in gangs,
to raise contributions even in London itself; and the watchmen seldom
trouble themselves to interfere with them in their vocation."[142]
Without attaching too much importance to the statements of this foreign
critic, it must be confessed that at no time in our history have the
arrangements for maintaining the peace sunk to so low an ebb as when
thief-takers like Jonathan Wild were officially recognised and allowed
to co-operate with the constitutional police forces, and at no time
has the flood of lawlessness reached such a height as when highwaymen
and footpads dictated their own terms to all who made bold to use the
King's Highway. Yet the Government took no steps towards organizing an
adequate defence, and utterly failed to provide any counterpoise to
the criminal tendencies of the age; it was left to private enterprise
to carry out the duties, or some of them, that Parliament neglected
to perform. In 1696 a "Society for the reformation of manners in
the cities of London and Westminster" was formed, and in 1702 was
instrumental in securing the conviction of 858 "Leud and Scandalous
persons." Two years later, the Governors of the London poor issued
a proclamation, promising the sum of twelve pence to any person who
should apprehend "any rogue, vagabond, or sturdy beggar," and, having
brought him before a Justice of the Peace, cause him to be committed to
the workhouse.

The particular kind of lawlessness, however, that chiefly exercised
men's minds in the days of Queen Anne was the work of young men of the
town, commonly known as "Mohocks," who established a reign of terror
in London, and whose excesses the peace-officers were powerless to
prevent. The worst outbreak occurred in 1712, and the doings of these
young blackguards are minutely described in a pamphlet published
in that year.[143] "The watch in most of the out-parts of the town
stand in awe of them, because they always come in a body, and are too
strong for them, and when any watchman presumes to demand where they
are going, they generally misuse them. Last night they had a general
rendezvous and were bent on mischief; their way is to meet people in
the streets and stop them, and begin to banter them, and if they make
any answer, they lay on them with sticks, and toss them from one to
another in a very rude manner. They attacked the watch in Devereux
Court and Essex Street, made them scower: they also slit two persons'
noses, and cut a woman in the arm with a penknife that she is lam'd.
They likewise rowled a woman in a tub down Snow Hill, that was going to
market, set other women on their heads, misusing them in a barbarous

In spite of the public indignation that such brutalities aroused, the
feeble and timid watchmen were not superseded, nor was any inquiry
instituted to discover the reasons for their inability to cope with
these scandalous proceedings. It was thought rather a good joke that
watchmen should be knocked down, and constables overturned, whilst
the fact that London was left in complete darkness during the greater
part of the night seems to have occasioned but little concern. There
is a saying to the effect that a good lamp is a good policeman; but
the subjects of Queen Anne, as it seems, expected the peace to be
maintained without the assistance of either the one or the other,--the
lamps were only lighted at six o'clock in the evening, and those that
had not gone out before were extinguished at midnight, and when the
moon was full they were not lighted at all.

The outrages committed by the Mohocks were so serious and persistent
that something had to be done towards putting a stop to them, and
so recourse was had to the objectionable expedient of offering a
government reward for the conviction of the members of the gang. On
the 17th of March 1712, the Queen issued a Royal Proclamation in the
following words--"Anne R. The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty being
watchful for the Public Good of her loving Subjects, and taking notice
of the great and unusual Riots and Barbarities which have lately been
committed in the Night Time, in the open Streets, in several parts of
the Cities of London and Westminster, and Parts adjacent, by numbers
of Evil dispos'd Persons, who have combined together to disturb the
Public Peace, and in an inhuman manner, without any Provocation have
Assaulted and Wounded many of her Majesty's good Subjects, and have had
the Boldness to insult the Constables and Watchmen, in the Execution of
their Office, to the great Terror of her Majesty's said Subjects, and
in Contempt and Defiance of the Laws of this Realm, to the Dishonour
of her Majesty's Government, and the Displeasure of Almighty God, &c.,
&c.... Her Majesty doth hereby promise and declare, That Whosoever
shall before the First Day of May now next ensuing, discover to any of
Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace, any Person who, since the First
Day of February, last past, hath, without any Provocation, Wounded,
Stabb'd, or Maim'd, or who shall before the said First Day of May,
without any Provocation, Wound, Stab, or Maim, any of her Majesty's
Subjects, within the said Cities of London and Westminster, and Parts
Adjacent, so as such Offenders be brought to Justice, shall have and
receive the Reward of One Hundred Pounds, &c., &c."

The continuance of disorders, which Rewards and Royal Proclamations
were unable to check, and the prospect that the Jacobites would not
tamely accept the rule of the House of Hanover, combined to make the
question of peace-maintenance a very difficult problem for Queen Anne's
successor. It is not surprising, therefore, that one of the first
legislative enactments of George the First had for its object the
suppressing of public tumults. The Act referred to is commonly called
"The Riot Act,"[144] and became law in 1715. This Statute introduced
no new principle--similar enactments, or at any rate measures which
had the same object in view, had been frequently brought forward by
Tudor sovereigns and by their predecessors, but in 1715 the offence
of rioting (together with the penalties attaching thereto) was more
clearly defined than had formerly been the case, and extended powers
were conferred on a single Justice of the Peace or other authorized
officer, acting alone, for "preventing tumults and riotous assemblies,
and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters."

After reciting that "the punishments provided by the laws now in being
are not adequate to such heinous offences" the Statute enacts, that
if any persons to the number of twelve or more, being unlawfully,
riotously, and tumultuously assembled together, to the disturbance of
the public peace, at any time after the last day of July 1715, and
after being commanded by any one or more Justice or Justices of the
Peace, or by the sheriff, etc., by proclamation in the Kings name, to
disperse themselves, shall unlawfully continue together for the space
of one hour after such command, then such continuing together to the
number of twelve or more, shall be adjudged felony without benefit of
clergy, "and the offenders therein shall suffer death as in the case of
felony without benefit of clergy."

The method of making the proclamation is as follows:--The Justice of
the Peace or other authorised person "being among the said rioters,
or as near to them as he can safely come" shall command silence, and
after that shall openly and with loud voice make proclamation in
these words:--"Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth
all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and
peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business,
upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King
George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the
King." To constitute a riot it is essential that alarm should be
caused amongst the King's subjects, and if the four last words of the
proclamation are omitted the reading of the Riot Act has no virtue. If
after proclamation has been made the rioters do not disperse within an
hour, any or all of them may be apprehended by force, and if they make
resistance, the persons killing or injuring them are indemnified and
discharged of all liability with respect to any death or lesser injury
they may happen to inflict.

The general tone of public opinion was constantly being lowered by
the degrading spectacles that were everywhere displayed. Government
itself set the example of brutality and violence by countenancing the
procession to Tyburn, the use of the pillory, and the setting up of
whipping-posts in the public streets; with the result that imitators
sprung up in abundance to practice the lessons so sedulously taught
by the authorities. The punishment of the pillory was in itself
sufficiently severe, but the method of its infliction practically
amounted to the official legalising of Lynch Law, because the
populace were permitted to torture the sufferer almost to any extent;
stone-throwing was nominally forbidden, but the prohibition was not
enforced, and, if a victim died of the ill-usage to which he was
subjected, no one was punished.

The police, who were feeble and timid when danger threatened, and who
could never be trusted to quell the most insignificant riot, grew bold
on occasions, when, without risk to themselves, they could pounce upon
some weak or unpopular individual. Although whipping could be legally
inflicted only by order of the magistrate, it was no unusual occurrence
for a constable to take a man to the nearest whipping post, and there
have him thrashed without reference to any superior authority whatever.

For the safeguarding of prisons, banks, and other important places,
military guards were often used to reinforce the ordinary watchmen,
and, when so employed, the soldiers were accompanied by constables,
whose duty it was to question passers-by, to hand suspicious characters
over to the guard, and to bring them before a Justice of the Peace
on the following morning. These duties, simple as they were, seem to
have been negligently performed by the peace-officers, for complaints
of neglect of duty were frequent; when Brigadier Mackintosh and his
companions escaped from Newgate, they were lucky enough to pass the
guard without examination, because the constable was absent from his
post, and, in his absence, the military sergeant in charge had no
authority to detain fugitives.

Further evidence, were any required, of the unsatisfactory condition
of the parochial constabulary in London is abundant--not only was
delinquency on the increase, but internal squabbles were everywhere
rife amongst the local bodies intrusted with the preservation of
the peace. In 1727 the Vestry of St George's, Hanover Square, for
example, established a force of thirty-two watchmen and four bedels
for that parish; several of the inhabitants, however, refused to pay
the Watch-rate, and set up an opposition establishment which they
called "The Inhabitant Watch" consisting of some sixteen persons,
who repudiated the authority of the existing constables, and, on one
occasion, flatly refused to arrest certain offenders even when required
to do so by the High Constable.

An ineffectual attempt to reform the police of London was made in
1736, in which year an Act of Parliament[145] was passed, giving
powers to the Common Council of the City to raise a sum of money
sufficient for all police purposes, to appoint as many peace officers
as they thought proper, and to issue new and improved orders for the
guidance of the nightly watch. By the same statute, Aldermen were made
responsible for their respective wards, constables were empowered to
arrest night-walkers, malefactors, and other suspected persons, and
watchmen, in the absence of the Constable, might perform the duties
of that functionary. Liability to watch and ward extended to all the
inhabitants of London who were not "rated and assessed," by virtue of
the Statute of Winchester.

At about the same time, the police administration of the rural
districts was the subject of legislation, it being enacted[146] that
any constable neglecting to make Hue and Cry shall be fined five
pounds, and the liability of the hundred, in which a felony has been
committed, for the escape of the felon is again insisted upon. By
another Statute,[147] passed four years later, High Constables were
ordered to levy a County Rate in the provinces and to pay the proceeds
over to a treasurer appointed by Quarter Sessions, to be applied by him
to the general police purposes of the County.

It is obvious that the Civil Power ought to be prepared for any
possible emergency, but before 1829 this was far from being the case,
and we find that when any exceptional conditions arose, temporary
expedients had to be hurriedly devised to meet the crisis, affairs
being allowed to slip back into their normal state of unpreparedness
immediately the pressure was relieved. Such was the nature of the
arrangements improvised during the rebellion in favour of the Young
Pretender in 1745, when London prepared to defend itself against the
enemy that marched southwards from Perth as far as Derby, almost
without a check. The trained bands, who a hundred years before had
barred the advance of Charles I. at Turnham Green, were called out,
and, for a period of five months, the City Militia superseded the
normal police establishments.

At this time the trained bands consisted of six regiments, viz., The
Yellow, The White, The Orange, The Blue, The Red, and The Green. Their
numbers amounted to close on ten thousand men, who at the crisis
undertook to protect London, not only against a possible attack of an
enemy from without, but also against the depredations of thieves and
rioters within. The different regiments were told off to come on duty
in rotation, for twenty-four hours at a time, and were disposed for
police purposes in the following manner. Near the Mansion House was
placed the main guard, and here the Commanding Officer was to be found
during his tour of duty; other guards, under subordinate officers,
being stationed at various points in the city.

During the day, only "home-sentinels," as they were called, were
posted, but after sunset both "out-sentinels" and patrols were added;
these patrols, called "petty-rounds," periodically visited the
neighbouring sentries; in the event of any rioting or other disturbance
taking place, they had to return immediately, and inform the officer
in charge. He was then instructed to march out his party to suppress
it, at the same time notifying his commanding officer of the extent
of the disorder, in order that the latter might send the necessary
reinforcements, not only from the Main Guard, but from the other guards
also, in sufficient numbers until peace was restored. Moreover, a
general supervision was maintained by means of "grand rounds," which
starting from the Main Guard patrolled the whole circuit to see that
sentries were alert, that patrols were acquainted with their duties,
that the countersign was correctly given, and to conduct prisoners
to head-quarters for subsequent disposal by the magistrates. At
daybreak reveille was sounded, and all out-sentinels relieved; but the
home-sentinels were continued at their posts throughout the day.

The retreat of the invaders, and their final rout at Culloden, rendered
the further embodiment of the citizen soldiers unnecessary, but during
the period of their employment they performed their police duties with
so much success, that robberies in the streets of London were for the
time almost entirely suppressed, and the King's Peace was maintained in
unexampled tranquillity. It does not appear that the Militia abused the
power placed in their hands in any way, whilst the superiority of their
rule over that of the watchmen was so pronounced, that there was some
talk in after years of permanently handing over the policing of London
to the trained bands; but the national distrust of a too powerful
gendarmerie prevailed, and the old régime was allowed to continue.
If the suggestion had come to anything, it would of course have been
necessary to modify their organization which was of a strictly military
character; but when the proposal was rejected an excellent opportunity
was lost of obtaining the services of a really efficient body of men,
at an expense to the ratepayers far below that of the existing watch,
which then cost about £23 per night for the City proper, besides what
was paid by banks and private individuals for special services.



It was not until the middle of the century that any intelligence was
brought to bear on the problem of police, or that any promise appeared
of a better state of things in that department of government. For an
awakened interest and the resulting improvement we are mainly indebted
to the famous novelist, Henry Fielding, who spent the closing years of
his short life in a vigorous campaign against the growing domination
of society by the criminal classes. Appointed to the Westminster
bench at the age of forty-three, he exhibited in his new capacity an
acquaintance with law and a knowledge of human nature, that were but
rarely found in the ranks of the magistracy of the day: his charge
to the Grand Jury, delivered in 1749, reads more like the deliberate
composition of a justice of assize of large experience than the work of
a junior magistrate just appointed to the office.

In the hope of rousing the civil power from its somnolent state,
Fielding published a treatise called "An Enquiry into the Cause of the
late Increase of Robbers," in which he gave an interesting account
of the habits and customs of the people, with observations on the
poor law, and on the apprehension, trial, and execution of felons. He
attributed the prevalence of crime principally to the luxurious habits
indulged in by the populace, especially gambling and drunkenness. With
gin at a penny the quartern, and high play the absorbing passion of
all classes, it was small wonder that crime was on the increase. In
his attempts to improve the police, Fielding was ably seconded by his
half-brother Sir John Fielding, who succeeded him as magistrate at Bow
Street, and there inaugurated some valuable and far-reaching reforms.

By the employment of regularly-paid detectives he did more to render
the streets of London safe than the whole body of watchmen, beadles and
constables, to the number of about two thousand, had previously been
able to effect, and soon afterwards obtained permission to establish,
by way of experiment, a small police force organised on novel lines.
This force, called the Bow Street Foot Patrol, was divided into
eighteen parties, thirteen of which (called Country parties) patrolled
the principal highways outside the metropolis, whilst the remaining
five (known as Town parties) watched the streets of the central
district. The remuneration of the patrols was high in comparison
with the wages then customary, no patrolman receiving less than two
shillings and sixpence a night. The system proved a great success,
and a few years later its sphere of usefulness was enlarged by the
formation of a horse patrol, which was posted for the protection of
travellers on one or other of the main roads leading into the country.
Though consisting only of eight men, who, however, were well mounted
and well armed, it afforded a better state of security to the suburbs
than they had previously enjoyed.[148]

The success that attended Sir John Fielding's innovations was prompt
and abiding. Bow Street quickly became pre-eminent as the only court
where justice was dispensed in a business-like manner, and its
officers, under the name of Bow Street Runners, became famous for their
skill and sagacity. Sir John Fielding was blind, but his infirmity did
not prevent him from constantly attending to his magisterial work. When
seated in court he used to wear a white silk bandage over his eyes,
and the striking figure of the tall blindfolded knight was a dramatic
picture long remembered at Bow Street. His knowledge of everything
that concerned the criminal classes was remarkable. It was said of him
that he never failed to recognise an old offender, though the only
indication he had to go by was the sound of the prisoner's voice. He
was the author of several pamphlets on police questions, the most
important being that published in 1755 under the title of "A plan for
preventing robberies within twenty miles of London"; the details of
which may be briefly stated as follows:

He suggested that the landowners and occupiers of high-class
residential property near London should combine to form societies
for the apprehension of burglars and other depredators. Each society
was to select a treasurer to collect an annual subscription of two
guineas a-piece from the members. When a robbery was committed, the
injured party was to immediately despatch a mounted messenger to the
magistrate at Bow Street, warning on his way all the turnpike keepers,
advising them as to the property stolen, and of any other particulars
of importance. The magistrate was then to be empowered to draw on the
funds of the society in the hands of the treasurer, for any expenses
that might be incurred in the course of the pursuit and subsequent
prosecution of the criminal.

This pamphlet was followed by a second called "An account of the origin
and effects of a Police, set on foot in 1753 by the Duke of Newcastle,
on a plan suggested by the late Henry Fielding."[149]

The publications of the brothers Fielding were to some extent
instrumental in directing the public conscience towards a consideration
of the state of the criminal law, which, year by year, had tended to
increase in severity, without thereby effecting any diminution in the
tale of offenders. "Extreme justice is an extreme injury," wrote Sir
Thomas More, but abstract ideas of justice were little entertained
in the days of the Georges; Tyburn and transportation were the only
recognised remedies for the more serious breaches of the law, and men
were slow to realise that it is better to make the commission of crime
difficult than to punish it with indiscriminate severity. But from this
time onwards arose a genuine wish for some change, a desire to repress
crime as humanely as possible; a half-formed idea found partial
expression that perhaps, after all, the pain suffered by the culprit
ought not to exceed the benefit conferred on the community by the
punishment exacted; henceforward the Statute Book was not disgraced by
fresh barbarities, and in course of years the old ones were gradually
eliminated. In 1783 the procession to Tyburn was discontinued, and
the use of the drop to accelerate death by hanging, introduced; the
pillory was abolished in 1816 for all offences except perjury; whipping
in public was done away with the following year, and transportation
finally ceased in 1867.

Instead of legislating on the lines suggested by Fielding, whose
scheme of police was proving practical and successful, the government
preferred to revert to the methods of Queen Elizabeth,[150] and in 1755
was responsible for an Act[151] that was nothing but an attempt to
revivify the Westminster Statute of 1584, the only new feature being
the appointment of a committee called "The Jury of Annoyances," a body
designed to see that the pavements were kept in repair, and to prevent
obstructions and encroachments thereon; this addition, it was supposed,
brought the Act up to modern requirements. The number of constables to
be yearly appointed for the City and Liberty of Westminster was fixed
at eighty, furnished proportionally by the different parishes; any man
who had already served, personally or by deputy, was not to be again
chosen until seven years had elapsed since he last held office.

Two years later another Act,[152] to explain and amend the foregoing,
followed, by which a regular chain of responsibility was created; the
petty constable had to obey the High Constable; and he, again, had to
observe the lawful commands of the Dean or High Steward, who still
remained the paramount police authority in the district.

In 1772, the House of Commons appointed a Committee to inquire into
the burglaries that had recently become so frequent in London and
Westminster, one hundred and four houses having been broken into
between Michaelmas 1769 and March 1770. This committee was the first
of a long series authorised by Parliament with the idea of improving
the police; every few years a new committee was appointed, and each
in turn recorded a wearisome tale of resolutions without finding a
remedy or indeed arriving at any satisfactory solution. One and all
reported that the existing watch was deficient, a fact long patent to
everybody without the assistance of select committee-men; they deplored
the want of uniformity and co-operation in wards and parishes, and
recorded the shortcomings of beadles, constables, and watchmen; but
whilst suggesting various minor reforms, they failed to see that no
real progress was possible until a clean sweep had been made of the old
system and its abuses.

The principal witnesses examined before this first committee were Sir
John Fielding of Bow Street and Mr F. Rainsforth, the High Constable
of Westminster; the former spoke as to the position of the magistracy
and the state of the liquor traffic; the latter confined his remarks
to the inefficiency of the peace-officers. The following extracts from
Mr Rainsforth's diary for the 23rd of March 1770, which he read to the
committee, shew us the kind of thing that used to go on.

"Saint Margaret's--Three quarters past eleven: constable came after I
was there: Houseman and Beadle on duty: 41 watchmen, with St John's
United, at 8-1/2d. per night, with one guinea at Christmas, and one
guinea at Lady Day, and great coats as a present: their beats large:
was obliged to take a soldier into custody for being out of his
quarters, and very insolent, with several more soldiers in the street
at 12 o'clock: called out 'Watch,' but could get no assistance from

"St Clements' Danes--Past 3: no constable on duty: found a watchman
there at a great distance from his beat: from thence went to the
night-cellar facing Arundel Street in the Strand, which is in the
Duchy, and there found 4 of St Clements' watchmen drinking. St
Mary-le-Strand no attendance, having only two constables, which only
attend every other night, 3 watchmen, Duchy included, at one shilling
each. A very disorderly cellar near the new church for selling saloop,
etc., to very loose and suspected persons: St Clements' watchmen 32 at
one shilling."

After hearing much evidence of this description, the committee passed
thirteen resolutions, none of which, however, were of a very vigorous
character. They recommended an increase in the number of watchmen,
higher pay and a better method of appointing them; they suggested that
the name "beadle" should no longer be used, that ballad-singers should
be suppressed, and that steps should be taken to put a stop to the
custom of granting wine and spirit licences indiscriminately to all who
applied for them, adding by way of a conclusion to the whole matter,
that the Roundhouses, as the constables' lockups were called, should
not be used for the sale of intoxicants, and should be large enough to
accommodate the prisoners arrested by the watch; it having frequently
been found necessary to release disturbers of the peace and other minor
offenders to make room for more serious cases!

In consequence of the report of the Parliamentary Committee, a bill
was introduced into the House of Commons to provide an improved watch
system for the "City of Westminster and parts adjacent ... uniformly
ordered and regulated throughout the whole district." This Act,[153]
passed in 1773, directs that trustees shall meet annually to appoint
"what number of watchmen they shall judge necessary to be kept
and employed" for the ensuing year, specifying how many are to be
apportioned to "beats" and "stands" respectively, and how many are to
be told off for patrols. The local authorities are not, however, given
a free hand in the administration of the interior economy of their
trust: the minimum establishment that must be kept up by each parish is
fixed by law, and varies from sixty watchmen on the beats and stands,
and eight on patrol for St George's Hanover Square, down to the single
watchman required for the "purlieus of the Savoy." Watch-houses must
be substantially built, and watchmen are to be armed with staff and
rattle, provided at parish expense, as well as with lanterns paid for
out of their own pockets; the minimum wage must not fall below one
shilling and threepence per night unless a man is employed by the year,
in which case his nightly remuneration need not exceed one shilling:
the hours are from 10 P.M. until 5, 6, or 7 A.M. according to the
season of the year.

The duties of the watch comprise the apprehending of disorderly and
suspected persons and handing them over to the constable; testing the
fastenings of houses, shops and warehouses, and warning the occupier
when necessary; twice every hour the watchmen must patrol his beat,
and "as loudly and audibly as he can, proclaim the time of the night
or morning." On coming off duty, the watchman has to submit his staff,
rattle and lantern for the inspection of the constable; neglect of
duty entails a fine of ten shillings, and any person who assaults a
watchman in the execution of his office renders himself liable to a £5
penalty; watchmen are forbidden to frequent alehouses during their tour
of duty, and provision is made for the punishment of those publicans
who harbour them.

There is much that is good in this Act, but it applied only to
Westminster, and half of its provisions were never carried out. Instead
of the uniform order that was to be established, the old confusion
continued, the fine of five pounds was insufficient to protect the
watchmen from assault, and the peace officers still tippled in
alehouses, whilst thieves were comfortably carrying home the booty they
had so easily secured.

The utter inadequacy of the whole system of defence against civil
tumults, and the complete helplessness of London to protect itself
against mob violence, was brought home to its inhabitants in a
startlingly convincing manner in the course of those six terrible days
during which their city was within an ace of being destroyed at the
hands of the rabble let loose upon her streets by the crackbrained
fanatic, Lord George Gordon.

The events that took place in the first week of June 1780, and which
are to some extent familiar to us through the pages of "Barnaby Rudge,"
would never have happened if, in the earlier stages of the outbreak,
the rioters had had opposed to them even a couple of hundred resolute
constables, accustomed to deal with mobs, and working under the
direction of officers experienced in the tactics of street-fighting.
At no time is an efficient civil force of such inestimable value as it
is at the first appearance of great popular ferment; for in accordance
with the strength or weakness of the police at that moment, is the
course of after events decided. A crowd is like a great volume of
water, harmless as long as its embankments are kept in repair and, if
necessary, strengthened, but capable of an infinite amount of mischief
if once allowed to break its barriers.

Anything like a full description of the Gordon riots lies outside the
scope of this book; but a brief account of the principal features
of the outbreak will very properly find a place here, in order to
illustrate the degree of violence that an English mob is capable of,
when allowed to get out of hand, and for the purpose of comparing these
riots with others that took place on subsequent occasions after our
modern police had been established. London is the mother-city of the
English-speaking races, all of which have modelled their police forces
on the metropolitan pattern; and the Gordon riots, which were the most
violent ever experienced in this country, have therefore served as a
lesson to cities as distant from us and from each other as Sydney and
New York, forewarning those responsible for the maintenance of the
peace in those places of the extent of the danger that threatens when
proper precautions are neglected.

The disturbances in question arose out of an agitation directed
against the Roman Catholics, whose position had been much improved
by a recent Act of Parliament, the agitation culminating in a demand
for the repeal of the unpopular concessions. A monster petition was
prepared, and it was decided to present it to Parliament, with such a
display of force that a refusal would be unlikely. Accordingly, at 10
o'clock on the morning of the 2nd of June, as many as 60,000 people
assembled in St George's Fields to accompany Lord George Gordon in
his attempt to intimidate the legislature. Marching to Westminster by
different routes, the crowd closed all the avenues to both Houses,
stopped peers and commoners on their way thither, and treated those
who fell into their hands with insult and personal violence, smashing
their carriages, tearing their clothes and in some cases removing their
wigs; many members of Parliament were forced to put blue cockades in
their hats and shout "No Popery" before they were released, others
only regained their freedom on promising to vote for the repeal of the
obnoxious act.

Whilst these proceedings were taking place, a squadron of horse
arrived; but on being hooted and threatened, the troopers declared that
their sympathies were altogether with the people, and then trotted off
amidst the cheers of the crowd, who soon afterwards began to disperse,
to riot in other parts of the town. That evening the Roman Catholic
chapels attached to the Sardinian and Bavarian embassies were looted
and burned.

Rioting continued during the three days that followed, the paralysed
executive submitting in helpless impotence, and it was not until the
fifth day that the climax was reached. The mob now suddenly broke out
into an almost inconceivable state of fury, and overran the whole of
London, pillaging and burning as they went, and spreading terror in
every direction: all business was suspended and most of the houses were
barricaded; many persons, hoping to pacify the destroying furies, hung
blue flags out of their windows and chalked the words "No Popery" on
their shutters. An organized attack was made on Newgate, and when the
old prison walls successfully withstood all the efforts of the mob to
injure them, the furniture from the governor's house was thrown out
of the windows and piled up for a bonfire, with the idea of consuming
the great wooden gates; when these at length gave way, the rabble
poured into the gaol through the smoking gateway, shortly to return
bringing with them three hundred liberated prisoners, many of whom
were under sentence of death already, and over-ripe for any atrocity.
Matters now grew worse than ever, distilleries were broken open, and
the raw spirits poured down the gutters to be lapped up by a crowd
that was already mad. An attempt to break into the Bank of England was
prevented by the guard stationed there, but many houses, including Lord
Mansfield's and Sir John Fielding's, were burnt to the ground, and all
books and documents destroyed.

When thirty-six incendiary fires were raging simultaneously, and when
the King's Bench and Fleet prisons had shared the fate of Newgate, the
troops and militia, who were employed with vigour only at the eleventh
hour, began to get the upper hand of the rioters, and then only by dint
of firing volleys into the mass. Gradually through the next two days
some semblance of order was restored, and by the third morning the
riots were at an end. The official return handed in to the Secretary
of State showed that 210 people had been killed by the troops and
248 wounded, several of whom subsequently died; but the bill was not
complete: the public hangman claimed 21 more victims, and a much larger
number were transported for life. The Lord Mayor of London was tried
for his faulty arrangements and for his alleged supineness, but was let
off with a fine of a thousand pounds. Lord George Gordon's insanity
saved him from the consequences of his misdeeds.

These fatal riots should have taught the lesson that soldiers are
ill-suited to the task of putting down civil tumult, and that their
use entails an unnecessary amount of bloodshed, especially when their
action is so long delayed that an increased severity becomes necessary.
Unfortunately the lesson, if learnt, was not taken to heart: at any
rate no adequate remedy was proposed at the time. On one point only
was any light immediately thrown. Hitherto some doubt had existed as
to the legality of employing the military to put down riots, but on
this occasion the King sought the advice of the Attorney-General,[154]
who gave it as his opinion, that, as soldiers were also citizens, they
could constitutionally be used to prevent felony, even without the Riot
Act being read. It was well that this point was cleared up, because
circumstances will occasionally arise when troops must be sent for as
a last resource; but it is remarkable that, after the failure of the
soldier to keep the peace had just been demonstrated in so signal a
manner, no one should have supplied the obvious rider, and suggested
the substitution of a more satisfactory agent. Half a century slipped
by before the necessary change began in England; but on the principle
of applying the remedy to any limb except the diseased one, Dublin
was quickly provided with what London lacked, and in 1786 was passed
the "Dublin Police[155] Act,"[156] under which three Commissioners
were appointed, and given the command of a paid and well-organised
constabulary. In the course of the following year the whole of Ireland
came under the protection of the new guardians of the peace, who,
developing as time went on, eventually reached that state of efficiency
that is now invariably associated with the name of the Royal Irish

The magistrates of the period set the worst possible example to their
subordinate officers, and there were but few of them who did not
deserve the name of "Trading Justices," that was so commonly applied.
Those who did not actually accept bribes were usually ready to make a
little extra money by the improper and wholesale bailing, not only of
offenders who ought to have been kept in confinement, but of innocent
persons also, who ought to have been immediately and unconditionally
set at liberty. The system was to issue warrants against helpless
people for imaginary crimes, and then to let them out on bail, the
magistrate netting the sum of two shillings and fourpence every time
he repeated the trick. James Townsend, a Bow Street runner, who gave
evidence on this subject before a parliamentary commission in 1816,
explained how lucrative this practice used to be, "and taking up a
hundred girls, that would make at two shillings and fourpence, £11,
13s. 4d. They sent none to gaol, for the bailing them was so much

There is much to be said for the plan of employing country gentlemen
to administer justice, without stipend, in the neighbourhood of their
own estates; but in London, where all the criminal talent of the three
kingdoms was collected, and where the duties of magistrates became
both difficult and onerous in consequence, only inferior men could be
induced to undertake the office, and then only for the sake of the
patronage they could control, and for the perquisites they were able
to pick up. They were distinguished neither for social position, nor
for legal knowledge, and readily succumbed to every temptation that
offered. As long as the magistracy was corrupt, Acts of Parliament
were powerless to purify the police: the duty of the Government was
plain if not easy; the Commission of the Peace for Middlesex had to
be immediately purged of the Trading Justices, and a scheme had to be
introduced under which capable and upright men would be secured to
take their place: the hands of the new magistrates, when appointed,
had to be strengthened and sufficiently enlarged to enable them to
grapple with the problem of keeping order in London, a city which
besides being the most populous in Europe, had the reputation of being
the most difficult to manage, its inhabitants quickly resenting any
action of the executive that threatened to interfere, in the smallest
particular, with their liberties or their customs. At the same time it
was necessary to devise a check upon the magistrates, powerful enough
to prevent a recurrence of the old abuses.

The Middlesex Justices Bill, which was laid before the House of
Commons in March 1792, was an attempt to satisfy the above-mentioned
conditions, and was framed on the model of the stipendiary
establishment already existing at Bow Street, where satisfactory
results had been obtained. It was proposed to create five new police
offices (shortly afterwards increased to seven), and to appoint three
Justices to each, at a remuneration of £300 a year apiece. This salary
was only to be paid on the explicit understanding that they were
neither directly nor indirectly to apply to their own benefit any of
the fees received by them, from whatever source arising, all such
fees to be devoted in future to reducing the expenses of the office.
The courts were to be open daily for the transaction of business, one
magistrate always to be in attendance, empowered to dispose summarily
of the cases brought before him without the assistance of a jury.
Provision was also made for the appointment of six constables to each
office, at a wage not exceeding twelve shillings a week, invested
with authority to apprehend any person suspected of malpractices who
was unable to give a satisfactory account of himself. Finally, the
constables were to be under the control of the magistrates, and the
magistrates were to be answerable to the Secretary of State, in whom
was to be vested the power of dismissal, as well as that of appointment.

When introduced, the Bill was severely criticised, Fox and Sheridan,
who were two of its strongest opponents, both declaring that the
principle of a magistrate punishing without the intervention of a
jury was barbarous and unconstitutional, and that the proposal to set
up constables with increased powers was an unwarrantable attempt to
oppress the poor, already ground down under the heels of the rich. It
was advanced that the influence exerted by the Ministry of the day over
the magistracy was already excessive, and that the real object of the
bill was to still further increase this influence, by adding the power
of conferring salaries to that of making appointments.

The framers of the Bill, whilst denying the truth of these statements,
and confident of the ultimate triumph of the principles they advocated,
were willing that the measure should at first become law for a
limited period only, and were content that Parliament should have the
opportunity of amending, or even annulling its provisions, if on trial
they should prove unsatisfactory.

The Middlesex Justices Act first came into operation, therefore, as
an experiment. The seven public offices were established in different
parts of the Metropolis at convenient distances from each other, the
twenty-one Justices were appointed, and the forty-two constables were
sworn in, an insignificant force indeed with which to contend against
the whole criminal array of London, but of great historical interest as
a development of the Bow Street system, the two together forming the
first regularly organized and paid force ever established in England.
The acknowledgement of the desirability of employing stipendiary
magistrates in crowded centres was no less important, and gradually
led up to the system that is found so valuable to-day, not only at the
metropolitan police courts, but also in those great towns where the
principle has, in recent years, been adopted.

The reform of the magistracy that was taken in hand in 1792 was not
so thorough as it might have been, and the opportunity that then
offered of removing once and for all every unworthy taint from the
administration of justice in the metropolis was only partly taken
advantage of.

The Middlesex Justices Bill was conceived in too parsimonious a spirit,
and the right sort of men did not come forward to fill the important
posts of police justices, many of the new magistrates, in fact, being
recruited from the ranks of the old discredited class, which it was
one of the principal objects of the Bill to displace. Neither the
justices nor the constables received a salary large enough to make them
independent of improper sources of income, the latter being openly
permitted to engage in various lucrative transactions that had nothing
to do with their office. It is said that constables attached to the
public offices would not infrequently fill the role of counsel for the
prisoner, as well as holding a brief for the prosecution.

The small force called into being by the Act of 1792, and which,
including the Bow Street officers, amounted to about fifty men, was
designed only against individual criminals; the idea of preventing or
repressing riots by means of a civil police force was hardly considered
to fall within the range of practical politics. At the moment when the
success of the revolutionary leaders had achieved the overthrow of
the French Monarchy, and had culminated in the execution of Louis the
Sixteenth, established authority all the world over was in danger of
subversion. The violent utterances of certain Radical Societies shewed
that there were many in England who violently sympathised with the
Revolution, and the riots that took place in many of our towns proved
that the excesses which had turned the streets of Paris into shambles,
were finding an echo amongst the discontented and disorderly on this
side of the Channel.

Considering the urgency of the matter, the attitude assumed by the
Government then in office seems altogether incomprehensible. The
political horizon was assuredly dark enough to warn the most heedless;
and the signal manner in which the military had failed to keep order
during the Gordon Riots conclusively demonstrated how unreliable was
that arm for the purposes of peace maintenance. Yet the only steps
taken by the responsible authorities were to embody the Militia,
and to pass an ill-considered measure called "The Alien Act,"[157]
which required that all foreigners resident in England (unless duly
naturalized), should provide themselves with passports, or forthwith
leave the country.

That we survived the crisis without having to face a similar
conflagration was hardly due to the foresight of our rulers, who,
though well aware that our preventive appliances were rusty and
out-of-date, neglected to replace them by others, or even to modernize



Before proceeding to a narration of the successive steps that
culminated in the radical reorganization authorized in 1829, it is
necessary to describe the nature and extent of the various police
establishments as they existed at the close of the eighteenth century.

Exclusive of Special Constables, who, though legally available, were
but rarely if ever employed, there were, at this time, five distinct
classes of Peace Officers:

  (i.) Parochial Constables, elected annually in
  Parish or Township and serving gratuitously.

  (ii.) Their Substitutes or Deputies serving for a
  wage voluntarily paid by the Principals.

  (iii.) Salaried Bow Street Officers, and Patrols
  expressly charged with the suppression of
  highwaymen and footpads.

  (iv.) Stipendiary Police Constables attached to
  the Public Offices established under "The
  Middlesex Justices Act."

  (v.) Stipendiary Water-Police attached to the
  Thames Office, as established by Act of
  Parliament in 1798.

It will be noticed that of these five classes, numbers i. and ii. were
common to the whole of England, whilst numbers iii. iv. and v. were
peculiar to London and its immediate neighbourhood, but, for our
present purpose, it will be more convenient to consider the provincial
constabulary as altogether distinct from the various Metropolitan
Police bodies. Theoretically and constitutionally, there should have
been little or no difference between the policing of London and that
of any rural district, but the stage of development reached in the
Metropolis already foreshadowed the impending changes, whilst in the
country the standard of police had as yet deviated hardly at all from
the mediæval pattern.

Leaving the London police establishments, therefore, for future
consideration, we find that in rural districts, and in provincial
towns, High Constables and Parish Constables, acting under the
direction of the Justices of the Peace, continued to exercise the
time-honoured powers which had been handed down to them from forgotten
generations. To get a clear idea of how the old-time system adapted
itself, more or less, to the changed conditions that prevailed in
the nineteenth century, the best way is to turn to what we may call
the police text-books of the period such as the "Treatise on the
Functions and Duties of the Constable," by Colquhoun (1803), or "The
Churchwardens' and Overseers' Guide," by Ashdowne, published at
about the same time. "The High Constable," says Colquhoun, "has the
superintendence and direction of the petty constables, headboroughs,
and other peace officers in his hundred or division. It is his duty to
take cognisance of, and to present, all offences within his hundred or
division which lead to the corruption of morals, breaches of the Lord's
Day, Drunkenness, Cursing and Swearing. To bring forward sufficient
number of constables to maintain decency and good order during the
execution of malefactors or the punishment of offenders, and to attend
in person to see that the peace officers do their duty. To summon petty
constables to keep order in the Courts of Justice &c...." With regard
to tumults and riots, "to do all in his power to arrest offenders,
and so to dispose of his constables as to suppress the disorders in
question, also to give assistance to neighbouring divisions ... to
present all persons exposing for sale unwholesome meat ... and to take
cognisance of false or deficient weights and measures." In another
place he declares that petty constables should regularly perambulate
their districts once at least in every twenty-four hours, and visit all
alehouses once a week "to see that no unlawful games are permitted,
and that labouring people are not suffered to lounge and tipple until
they are intoxicated." The duty of petty constables when riots are
threatened is thus described. "The instant a constable hears of any
unlawful assembly, mob, or concourse of people likely to produce danger
or mischief within or near his constablewick or district (he must) give
notice to the nearest Justice, and repair instantly to the spot with
his long or short stave, and there put himself under the direction of
such magistrate or magistrates as may be in attendance."

"The Churchwardens' and Overseers' Guide and Director" is arranged in
the form of a vocabulary, and in alphabetical order gives explanations
of the principal matters with which Parish Officers are chiefly
concerned. "Constables," we learn, "are to make a Hue and Cry after
the offenders where a robbery or felony is committed, to call upon the
parishioners to assist in the pursuit: and if the criminal be not found
in the liberty of the first constable, he is to give notice to the
next, and thus continue the pursuit from town to town, and from county
to county; and where offenders are not taken, constables are to levy
the Tax to satisfy an execution on recovery against a Hundred, and pay
the same to the Sheriff &c...."

"Hundreds or Wapentakes," according to Ashdowne, "are generally
governed by a High Constable, under whom a Tythingman or Borsholder is
generally appointed for each Borough or District within the Hundred.
Hundreds are liable to penalties on exportation of wool, liable also
for damages sustained by violently pulling down buildings; by killing
cattle; cutting down trees, ... by destroying turnpikes, or works on
navigable rivers; by cutting hopbines; by destroying corn to prevent
exportation; by wounding officers of the Customs; by destroying woods
&c.... Hundreds are also bound to raise Hue and Cry when any robbery
is committed within the Hundred; and if the offender is not taken, an
action may be maintained against the Hundred to recover damages."[158]
Under the heading of "Swearing" is arranged the following
information:--"Persons guilty of profane swearing, and convicted
thereof, to forfeit to the Poor of the Parish. Day-Labourers, common
soldiers, or common seamen, 1/-. Persons under the degree of gentlemen,
2/-. Gentlemen or persons above the degree of gentlemen, 5/-. The above
penalties to be doubled for a second offence, and trebled after a
second conviction."

Of Tythingmen the same author writes:--"There is frequently a
Tythingman in the same town with a constable, who is, as it were, a
deputy to exercise the office in the constable's absence; but there are
some things which the constable has power to do that tythingmen cannot
intermeddle with. When there happens to be no constable of a parish,
the office and authority of a Tythingman seems to be the same under
another name."

If anyone should be inclined to doubt the remarkable stability of
the Constable's office, and all that pertains to it, he may find it
instructive to look back a few hundred years, and refer to what Lambard
and others have to say about Tythingmen and Constables, part of which
is quoted in the third chapter of this book.

To the scope and intention of the functions exercised by parish
officers as stated by Colquhoun and Ashdowne, if somewhat
old-fashioned, no exception need be taken. The trouble was, however,
that the office-holders did not live up to the standard inculcated by
their teachers. The commonsense and reasonableness of the whole system
fell to the ground whenever ignorant and unworthy agents were entrusted
with its administration, and such, unfortunately, was the character
of the large majority of the police personnel. The parish constable
was incompetent, and the duties imposed on him were either evaded, or
performed in a purely perfunctory manner. Under the circumstances such
a tendency was perhaps inevitable, for it is not to be expected that
unpaid services will be well performed by the poorer classes without
constant supervision. Struggling men, who have to work hard to provide
for themselves, and for their families, are not likely to overtax
their energies in the service of the State without reward, and those
substitutes who received a few shillings a year from their principals
were only careful not to exceed the minimum amount of labour which
could be exacted from them compulsorily.

Further consideration of the Rural Constabulary must be postponed
until we come to deal with the reorganization which was set on foot
in 1839. For the present we must return to the Metropolis, where the
doomed parochial system was now tottering to its fall, and where the
need for reform was more pressing than elsewhere. At the time we are
considering, London boasted a variety of police establishments, all
more or less disconnected. The City had one organization, Westminster
another, the public offices distributed justice after a fashion
in their respective districts, and Bow Street prided itself upon
holding a position of complete isolation and independence. Nor was
this all--the whole of the metropolis was split up into parishes,
and each parish made its own arrangements for keeping the peace, or
dispensed with police altogether, as it saw fit. Twelve London parishes
were thus entirely unprotected: St James' and Marylebone employed
Chelsea pensioners, the City supported 765 watchmen, Edgeware had no
policeman and no patrol, Camberwell armed its night watchmen with
blunderbusses, whilst St Pancras had no less than eighteen distinct
Watch Trusts, a source of weakness rather than of strength, because
they never co-operated with each other. In Kensington the police
force consisted only of three headboroughs, excellent men perhaps;
but as Peel remarked, "if they had been angels, it would have been
utterly impossible for them to fulfil the duties required from their
situation." Deptford, being without a single professional watchman, was
at one time patrolled by the inhabitants, who enrolled themselves into
companies twenty strong for that purpose, quickly disbanding, however,
as soon as the robbers moved into another district. In some parishes,
again, there were patrols and no beats, and in others there were beats
and stands but no patrols, despite the recommendations of Special
Commissions and the provisions of Acts of Parliament.

The degree of security extended to the ratepayers by the local
authorities was thus a very variable quantity; but it is not too much
to say that without exception the constitution of all the parochial
police bodies was antiquated and radically unsound, and that Watch and
Ward was at this time more indifferently kept than had previously been
the case throughout the whole history of the Metropolis.

In the year 1800 Parish Constables were generally permanent deputies
and of inferior origin; nor was any trouble taken to secure officers of
the right stamp. The wages paid to Parish Watchmen were miserable, and
the men usually engaged were those whose antecedents and qualifications
precluded them from obtaining more lucrative or reputable employment.
These "Charlies" (as they were popularly called, after their
predecessors the Bell-men, instituted in the reign of Charles the
Second) were for the most part infirm from age and starvation, drunken,
the creatures of street-walkers and publicans rather than servants
of the public, and altogether contemptible. Dressed in heavy capes,
muffled up to the ears, provided with long staves and dim lanterns,
they issued from their watchboxes twice an hour for a minute or two to
call the time and the state of the weather. As clocks and barometers
they may have been of some service; or, as somebody once put it, to
wake a man up after his house has been robbed to tell him the bad news;
but for the prevention of crime, they were worse than useless. Striking
their staves on the pavement, and shewing their lanterns, they gave
timely warning of their approach; and if the thieves thought it worth
while to take any notice at all of such a trivial interruption, they
had only to remove themselves temporarily into the next parish to be
secure from pursuit.

As an object for practical joking, and as a theme for ridicule, the
Charlies provided some amusement to the Jerry Hawthorns and Corinthian
Toms of the period, but this was the extent of their usefulness. Quite
a considerable literature hinged on their grotesque incompetency, but
in their praise not a syllable was uttered; everyone made fun of them.
They were humorously described as "persons hired by the parish to
sleep in the open air," and another topical saying was to the effect
that "Shiver and Shake" ought to be substituted for "Watch and Ward,"
because they spent half the night shivering with cold and the other
half shaking with fright. It was a popular amusement amongst young men
of the town to imprison watchmen by upsetting their watchboxes on top
of them as they dozed within; and the young blood who could exhibit
to his friends a collection of trophies such as lanterns, staves,
and rattles, was much accounted of in smart society. The newspapers
were never tired of skits at the expense of the parochial watch: the
following extract from _The Morning Herald_ of October 30th, 1802, will
serve as an example:--

 "It is said that a man who presented himself for the office of
 watchman to a parish at the West End of the Town very much infected
 by depredators, was lately turned away from the Vestry with this
 reprimand--I am astonished at the impudence of such a great sturdy
 strong fellow as you are, being so idle as to apply for a watchman's
 situation, when you are capable of labour." Another publication
 calling itself "The Microcosm of London" gives its readers a satirical
 account of the nightly watch in these words. "The Watch is a Parochial
 establishment supported by the Parochial rate, and subject to the
 jurisdiction of the magistrates: it is necessary to the peace and
 security of the metropolis, and is of considerable utility: but that
 it might be rendered much more useful cannot be denied. That the Watch
 should consist of able-bodied men, is, we presume, essential to the
 complete design of its institution, as it forms a part of its legal
 description: but that the watchmen are persons of this character,
 experience will not vouch: and why they are chosen from among the aged
 and incapable must be answered by those who make the choice. In the
 early part of the last century, an halbert was their weapon: it was
 then changed to a long staff: but the great coat and lantern are now
 accompanied with more advantageous implements of duty--a bludgeon and
 a rattle. It is almost superfluous to add, that the watchhouse is a
 place where the appointed watchmen assemble to be accoutred for their
 nocturnal rounds, under the direction of a constable, whose duty being
 taken by rotation, enjoys the title of Constable of the Night. It is
 also the receptacle for such unfortunate persons as are apprehended
 by the watch, and where they remain in custody till they can be
 conducted to the tribunal of the police office, for the examination of
 a magistrate."

The watchhouses here referred to were dirty and insecure hovels, with
an underground cellar secured by a grating, behind which prisoners
were confined, sometimes for forty-eight hours, but in the case of
minor offences a tip of half-a-crown to the constable was generally
sufficient to secure release.

In 1804 there were 2044 parochial constables and watchmen in the
Metropolis, including the 765 employed by the City, that is to say,
about one watchman to every seventy or eighty houses.

The City of London was much better policed than the rest of the
Metropolis. It was said that so superior were the arrangements
eastward of Temple Bar to those of the more westerly districts, that
a pickpocket was easily recognised when he came to the City boundary,
because he always walked so fast, and so often looked over his
shoulder, as if he suspected that someone was after him. The watchmen
appointed by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen were selected from a better
class of men than were those who held office in Westminster and other
parishes; they were also better paid and more carefully superintended.
In 1815 the Lord Mayor himself, on more than one occasion, visited the
watch by night and had the men mustered, discharging on the spot those
whom he considered unfit. Briefly the organisation was as follows--the
City was divided into four divisions with three day patrols to each
division, in all twelve patrolmen at one and a half guineas a week
each. By night, whilst the constables and watchmen were on duty, the
patrols were reduced to eight, two to a division; their duties were, to
visit the watchhouses at least twice a night, to see that the constable
of the night was not absent from his post, signing their names at every
visit in a book kept for the purpose at the several watchhouses. The
Constables of the Night were paid no salary, but were generally in
receipt of fees from the elected householders whose deputies they were.
They were bound to be present with the watch all night long, and were
held responsible that the watchmen did their duty. In time of riot,
or when disturbances were apprehended, the Lord Mayor had power to
summon them, together with the watch, at any hour--by day as well as by
night, for the maintenance of the peace. The task of supervising the
City police was entrusted, not to a High Constable, but to the two City
Marshals, whose duty it was to pay surprise visits to the watchhouses
at uncertain hours, to certify that the patrolmen's books were duly
signed up, and to report every morning to the Lord Mayor concerning
the "internal quiet of the City of London." They also bound themselves
on oath to proceed against no man through malice, and to screen no man
through favour or affection.

Both in the city and in other parts of London, the management of the
traffic was in the hands of special officials called Street-keepers;
but beyond the regulation of vehicular traffic within the limits of the
parishes where they were employed, they had no general police duties to
perform, and were not under the control of the magistrates, nor subject
to the police authorities.

The Burgesses of Westminster still suffered their police administration
to be bound by the ecclesiastical traditions of bygone centuries;
and if we make an exception in favour of the "Jury of Annoyances,"
established in 1755, we may say that little evidence of progress was
discoverable within the Liberties of the Western City. The Act creating
the Annoyance Jury was passed in the twenty-ninth year of George II.,
and two years later was amended and enlarged. The Court of Burgesses
was now empowered to maintain forty-eight inhabitants of Westminster
for the suppression of public nuisances: members of this jury had
authority to enter any shop or house, and if they found any unlawful or
defective weight or measure therein, to destroy the same, and to amerce
the offender a sum not exceeding forty shillings for each offence. In
1764 the Jury was divided into three divisions, called St Margaret's
Division, the St James' Division, and the St Martin's Division, each
containing sixteen members; at the same time it was ordained, that
all presentments had to be in writing under the hands and seals of at
least twelve jurymen. In 1800 the Annoyance Jury was still nominally
responsible for the cleanliness, sightliness, and sanitary condition
of Westminster, but, as a matter of experience, the removal and
prevention of nuisances was left almost entirely to the discretion and
taste of the more fastidious householders.

As has already been said, the Middlesex Justices Act was at first
an experimental measure; in 1801 it was repealed, but most of its
provisions were at once re-enacted by a statute[159] which placed the
public offices on a more permanent basis, and raised the salary of the
magistrates and the wages of the police officers. There were now ten of
these offices, viz., Mansion House, Guildhall, Hatton Garden, Worship
Street, Whitechapel, Shadwell, Southwark, Queen Street Westminster;
Great Marlborough Street, and Wapping. Mansion House and Guildhall
belonged to the City proper, and Wapping was the headquarters of the
River Police. To each office were apportioned three magistrates, eight
constables, and a clerk or two. The magistrates sat in rotation,
and, within the limited areas of their respective jurisdictions,
acted independently of their colleagues. There was little uniformity
or co-operation. Each office had a general duty of apprehending and
punishing any criminals found within its boundaries, but had no
connection with the Nightly Watch. The different parishes concerned
had transferred to the public offices the duties connected with Hue
and Cry, whilst retaining in their own hands the responsibilities
of Watch and Ward. The relations existing between the parochial and
stipendiary authorities were not cordial, in fact there was frequently
a pronounced enmity between the parish constable and the police
constable, whilst the amateur peace officer not infrequently set at
defiance the professional magistrate. The impossibility of controlling
the local watchmen conduced to a very unsatisfactory state of affairs,
as is seen by the following evidence given before the 1816 Committee
by Mr Robert Raynsford, the magistrate of Hatton Garden. "At present,
as the law now stands," he said, "we have no power at all over the
parish watchmen: but when this question was agitated on a former
occasion, the parishes had so rooted an aversion to the interference of
the magistracy, that I believe there were petitions from most of the
parishes: at the same time there are offences committed in the streets,
close by a watch-box, and we are told that the watchman was fast
asleep, or would give no assistance: we have no power of sending for
the watchman, or if we did, we have no power of punishing him. I think
it would be an improvement if they were put under the direction of the

It will be remembered that the Middlesex Justices Act had placed the
police offices under the control of the Home Office, which had the
power of appointing and dismissing the magistrates: this was right and
proper, but it would have been far better if any further supervision
exercised by the Secretary of State had been confined to the larger and
more general issues connected with the police establishments, and had
stopped short of the injudicious meddling that went on. The magistrates
might surely have been trusted with the selection of their own
constables, but, for some occult reason, successive ministers seem to
have thought it their duty to diminish the authority of the magistrates
by actively interfering with the nomination and election of the rank
and file. Under these circumstances it is strange that the magistrates
were as well served by their subordinate officers as they seem to have
been, yet, everything considered, the stipendiary policeman proved so
superior to the amateur constable that Maurice Swabey, the magistrate
at Union Street, declared, that he would rather have six additional
officers than fifty parish constables.

From the list of the Public Offices above enumerated, the most
interesting has intentionally been omitted, because its unique
position calls for separate and more detailed notice. Besides being
of earlier date than the other offices, Bow Street exceeded them also
in importance, and was distinguished as the centre of the police
activities of the time. From Henry Fielding, who presided in 1753, to
Sir Franklin Lushington, who recently succeeded Sir John Bridge, the
Chief Magistrate at Bow Street has nearly always been a man of mark
amongst his brother stipendiaries, and in their day the Bow Street
Runners (as the officers attached to this Court used to be called) were
of quite a different type from their comrades employed in the junior

Though only eight in number (afterwards increased to twelve) these
runners exerted a preponderating influence, which largely altered
the aspect of the contest between the professional thieves and the
helpless public on whom they preyed. The Bow Street policemen were the
first peace officers to make a serious study of the art of detecting
and running down criminals: they were experts whereas all their
predecessors had been amateurs; no longer dull officials performing
routine duties in perfunctory fashion when "not otherwise engaged";
but keen hunters with all their faculties stimulated by the prospect
of the blood money and other rewards they hoped to earn. When they
appeared on the scene the professional depredator no longer had things
all his own way; instead of the parish constable who could be outwitted
and bamboozled at every turn, the cracksman or forger found himself
confronted by a wary adversary, well armed, and up to every move on
the board. That the Bow Street Runners achieved much good in breaking
up predatory gangs, and in bringing notorious offenders to trial, is
not to be denied, but it is no less certain that they were the source
of much evil. Actuated by the hope of gain rather than by any sense of
duty, their motives were as ignoble as their methods were shady. They
played only for their own hand, and all their best endeavours were
bent towards the arrest of the particular criminal whose conviction
would bring the greatest profit to themselves, and not to the pursuit
of the fugitive from justice whose capture was chiefly desirable on
public grounds. Prevention did not enter at all into their conception
of police duty, and their services were of course only at the disposal
of those who were rich enough to pay handsomely for the privilege. The
extent to which this system of feeing was carried may be guessed from
the fact that Townsend left £20,000 behind him, and that Sayer's heirs
divided no less than £30,000 at the death of their benefactor.

In order to obtain information, the runners made it a rule to frequent
low "flash-houses," as the resorts of thieves were called, and to
associate with the vicious and desperate characters to be found there.
When examined before a Parliamentary Commission, several of these
officers freely admitted that it was by the employment of such tactics
that they expected to obtain the most valuable information, and gave it
as their opinion that flash-houses ought to be encouraged rather than
suppressed, on account of the facilities they afforded the runner in
his search for a man who was "wanted."

There were, no doubt, many honest men amongst the Bow Street Officers
doing their duty to the best of their ability after their lights, and
although their methods would not be tolerated for a moment at the
present day, they were much in advance of their predecessors. Certain
of them attained a wide celebrity. Such men as Lavender, Nelson and
others--unique characters in their way--made it their business to go
everywhere and know everybody: they carried a small baton surmounted
by a gilt crown, and this badge of office admitted them not only to
such unsavoury dens as "The Dog and Duck" and "The Temple of Flora,"
but even into the Royal Palaces, where two officers, we learn, were
constantly stationed "on account of the King being frequently teased
of lunatics." Runners were often specialists, occupying themselves
in one line of business to the neglect of others: thus, whilst that
well-known gossip Townsend chiefly confined himself to safeguarding the
property of his wealthy clients, and to capturing noble duellists, Keys
devoted himself to circumventing coiners and forgers of bank notes, and
a third was principally engaged in the detection and apprehension of

There is no doubt that more than one of the Bow Street policemen were
actually in league with the depredators they were paid to catch, though
they were generally too alert to be found out; but the confidence of
the public in their thief-takers received a rude shock when Vaughan,
of the Horse Patrol, was proved to have arranged a burglary for the
sake of the reward that would have come to him on the conviction of the
felons. "Set a thief to catch a thief" may sometimes be good policy,
but it is nearly always bad police.

The Patrols, Horse and Foot, which were attached to the Bow Street
Office, had been in existence some fifty years or so, but had only
consisted of a handful of men quite insufficient for the amount of
work that was expected of them. In 1805 Sir Richard Ford, the Chief
Magistrate, obtained permission to extend the system of mounted police
so as to provide patrols for all the main roads to a distance of about
twenty miles from Bow Street. The strength of this new force was
fifty-two patrols, two inspectors, and a clerk: they were recruited
almost exclusively from retired cavalrymen, and were familiarly
known as Robin Redbreasts on account of the red waistcoat that was a
conspicuous part of their uniform. They were better paid than their
predecessors, the wages of a "patrol" being twenty-eight shillings a
week, with allowance for horse keep, and the salary of a "conductor"
standing at £100 a-year and a guinea a-week for forage and shoeing.
Their energies were principally directed against highwaymen, and they
quickly cleared Hounslow Heath and other infested localities from this
class of plunderer. The Horse Patrol cost the Government £8000 a year,
not a high price to pay for the suppression of those impudent robbers
"the gentlemen of the road." The foot patrol policed the inner circle
within a radius of about four miles.

The legal powers of Bow Street were never very strictly defined, but
it was generally understood that the jurisdiction of the Office was
confined to the County of Middlesex (the City of London excepted),
and to the main roads in the neighbourhood of the metropolis which
were patrolled by Bow Street Officers. Under the direction of the Home
Secretary, the Chief Magistrate had, in fact, the control of a small
and independent force applicable to the general police requirements of
the capital and its environment.



In the year 1801, the population of London and Middlesex hardly
exceeded a million, but how many of the individual units that went to
make up this total were engaged in criminal pursuits, it is of course
impossible to estimate with any degree of accuracy, because the bulk of
the crime was undetected and consequently unrecorded. From such data
as we possess, however, it is certain that the proportion of thieves
and other delinquents to honest men must have been alarmingly high.
Between 1801 and 1811 the population increased some sixteen per cent.,
and during the same period the number of commitments rose nearly fifty
per cent.[160] This increase in the number of rogues whose careers were
cut short by capture, speaks well for the Bow Street Runners from one
point of view; but it also indicates no less surely that these officers
were making no progress at all in the art of preventing crime, which
instead of diminishing as time went on, continued to grow in volume
year by year. Indeed the state of the metropolis was such, that social
reformers might well have despaired of ever seeing an improvement;
every corrupting influence, and every criminal tendency seemed to
flourish unchecked and unrebuked in the congenial atmosphere of the
London slums: children, neglected by their parents and uncared for by
the State, got their only schooling in the gutter, where they educated
themselves, and each other, in all the tricks of vice and dishonesty.
Night after night, undisturbed by watchmen or other peace-officers,
hundreds of urchins of both sexes huddled together for shelter and
company under the fruit-stalls and barrows of Covent Garden Market. Day
after day, these homeless and unhealthy vagabonds quartered the town,
street by street, and alley by alley, in search of any prey that they
might be able to lay their hands on. Their pickings and stealings were
turned into money with fatal ease at the shop of any one of the eight
thousand receivers of stolen property, who were supposed to ply their
trade in London; and however meagre might be the income realised by the
juvenile criminal, drink in plenty, with gin at tenpence a pint, was
within the reach of all. Such licensing laws as existed, were seldom
enforced, and even after the scandalous public lotteries had been
suppressed, public-houses continued to hold minor lotteries, called
"little-goes," for all comers, men, women and children.

Mondays and Fridays were the great days for bullock-hunting, an inhuman
and brutal sport that throve in the neighbourhoods of Hackney and
Bethnal Green, with the sanction, if not with the connivance, of the
peace officers of those parishes. The procedure of the bullock-hunters
was as follows. A fee having been paid to a cattle drover, an animal
was selected from his herd, peas were put into its ears, sticks pointed
with iron were driven into its body, and the poor beast, when mad
with rage and pain, was hunted through the streets with a yelling mob
of men, women, and dogs behind it; the weavers left their looms to
join in the pursuit, and passers-by continually augmented the crowd,
until the exhausted victim could no longer be goaded into any shew of
resistance or movement, when it was left to die where it fell, or when
sufficiently recovered, to be removed to some butcher's slaughter-house.

On Sundays the favourite resort was a field adjoining Bethnal Green
Church, and here some hundreds of men and boys assembled during the
hours of divine service, to indulge in less exciting games, such
as dog-fighting and duck-hunting. On holidays and fair-days these
Saturnalian proceedings grew more outrageous than ever. In a letter
descriptive of the occurrences that used to take place at an annual
fair held in the West-end of London, which the Receiver of the
Metropolitan Police wrote to Lord Rosslyn in 1831, occurs the following
passage: "It will hardly be credited that within five or seven years
... people were robbed in open day ... and women, stripped of their
clothes, were tied to gates by the roadside; the existing police being
set at defiance."

John Sayer, the Bow Street officer, stated before a Parliamentary
Committee, that there were streets in Westminster, especially Duck
Lane, Gravel Lane, and Cock Lane, infested by a gang of desperate
men, and so dangerous that no policeman dared venture there, unless
accompanied by five or six of his comrades, for fear of being cut to
pieces. These are not highly coloured fairy-tales, but actual facts
as recounted in the Blue-books of the period, recounted moreover
without exciting any particular notice at the time. In 1812, the
crime of murder was so common, and so much on the increase, that a
Parliamentary Committee was appointed to hold an inquiry as to the
best means of combating the savage tendencies of the people. Offences
against property were even more prevalent than crimes of violence.
Spurious coin and counterfeit banknotes deluged the country.[161] In
the parish of Kensington alone there were sixteen successful, and three
unsuccessful, attempts at burglary in six weeks, and John Vickery, an
experienced Bow Street officer, calculated that in one month property
to the value of £15,000 was stolen in the City of London, without one
of the guilty parties being either known or apprehended.

Thieves and receivers, drivers of hackney coaches, and sometimes
toll-gate keepers, conspired together to rob the travelling public.
Their favourite _modus operandi_ was as follows--the thief climbed
on the back of the conveyance, unfastened the ropes that secured the
luggage, and with the assistance of an accomplice, removed the trunk
or other booty when close to the house of the confederate receiver. As
soon as the loss was discovered, the coachman repudiated all knowledge
of the affair, and having at the first opportunity put away the false
and resumed his registered number, became to all appearance an honest
cabman, against whom the police could prove nothing. The transformation
was not difficult, because numbers were not then painted on the coach
as on hackney carriages they now have to be, but were displayed on a
removable iron label.

Still more serious were the conspiracies in which solicitors and police
officers were concerned, which had for their object the levying of
blackmail from bankers and others. In this organized system of fraud
the following method was usually adopted--a man of education, with
money behind him, would plan a bank robbery, purchase the necessary
information, and hire expert thieves to do the actual work. The robbery
having been duly effected, some time would be allowed to elapse, and
then the prime mover in the affair, through his agent the police
officer, would notify to the manager of the bank that the stolen notes
or securities had been traced, and might be recovered, if a large
enough reward was forthcoming. This offer was invariably coupled
with the _proviso_ that, in the event of the proposed restitution
being carried out, no further questions should be asked, nor further
proceedings taken.

The trick seldom failed, because the parties who had been robbed knew,
that in the absence of any detective police agency worthy of the name,
acceptance of the terms offered them was the only chance they had of
recovering their property. Under the circumstances, they could hardly
be expected to be public-spirited enough to incur the heavier loss,
and at the same time, through advertising the affair, suffer some
diminution of credit, for the sake of the principles involved.

The Committee which sat in 1828, and which investigated the whole
question, considered it advisable not to publish the evidence brought
before them, but stated that they had abundant proof that frauds of
this description had for years been carried through with almost uniform
success, and to an extent altogether unsuspected by the public. They
were satisfied "that more than sixteen banks had been forced to pay
blackmail, and that more than £200,000 worth of property had, in a
short space of time, been the subject of negotiation or compromise,"
and stated that about £1200 had been paid to blackmailers by bankers
alone, "accompanied by a clearance from every risk, and perfect
impunity for their crimes."

Between 1805 and 1818 there were more than two hundred executions
for forgery alone, that is to say at the rate of one execution in
every three weeks. When one considers that only a few of the forgers
were caught, that of these not all were convicted, and that of the
convicted but a moderate percentage were hanged, we get some idea of
the prevalence of this particular offence. The alarming frequency with
which mobs began to appeal to violence to compel attention to their
grievances, real or supposed, by force of arms, was one of the most
dangerous symptoms of the age. The Food Riots of 1800, the Luddite
disturbances of 1811-1816, Spafield (1816), Manchester (1817),
Peterloo (1819),[162] and the riots throughout the manufacturing
districts in 1828-9, were all cases in point which convinced the
thoughtful that, unless something better than the shoddy defence,
which was all that the civil power could then muster, was quickly
forthcoming, the mob would soon obtain a complete mastery, to the
destruction of all law and order, just as had recently happened in

The mania for duelling, again, which was now at its height, was an
indication that the prevailing spirit of lawlessness was not confined
to the masses. When hereditary lawgivers, and even Cabinet ministers,
could find no better way of settling their differences than by calling
each other out, little wonder that the rank and file followed suit, and
took the law into their own hands. It is no valid argument to say that
duelling was merely a passing fashion; by the Law of England any duel
is a gross breach of the peace; and that such deliberate infractions
should have become fashionable only proves that the law was held in
contempt, and that the police system which failed to compel people
to keep the peace was totally inadequate to the requirements of the
times. There was a period when the vendetta was the natural defence
adopted by semi-civilised communities to diminish the frequency of
murder, and to protect the honour of their women: in time blood feuds
gradually died out, not because any great change had overtaken human
nature, but because there was no longer any need for the individual
or the family to perform duties which could be executed with greater
discrimination, impartiality, and thoroughness by judges and policemen.
After the disappearance of the vendetta the custom of duelling
remained. It was felt that personal honour was too delicate a matter
to be delegated to any outsiders, and that questions in which honour
was concerned must continue to be settled by the principals themselves.
Eventually however, the same influences that rendered blood feuds
unnecessary removed the excuse for the practice of duelling; under
modern conditions, a man can usually vindicate his honour by an appeal
to public opinion, or, in the last resort, by an action for slander,
without having to submit his cause to the uncertain arbitrament of the
rapier or the pistol.

On the whole, there is no exaggeration in saying that, at the dawn
of the nineteenth century, England was passing through an epoch of
criminality darker than any other in her annals; the resurrectionist
atrocities of Burke and Hare, the more inhuman villanies of Williams
and Bishop the cold-blooded depravity of Vaughan and his accomplices,
and the other lurid crimes which belong to this age, surpass in
enormity anything before or since.

Such then was the desperate state of society at the dawn of the
century. What arrangements did the country make to protect itself
against the consequences of this accumulation of crime? What
organization was provided for the enforcement of order, and for the
protection of life and property? For its first line of defence England
trusted to the supposed deterrent effect of a rigorous penal code;
the more humane and effectual method, prevention, being lost sight of
in the mistaken belief that it was possible to extirpate crime by the
severity with which it was punished, a belief that survived in face of
the fact, that as punishment increased in bitterness, so did offences
grow in frequency and in violence.

The penal laws were written in blood. Colquhoun estimated that there
were 160 different offences which were punishable by death, without
benefit of clergy: a man could be hanged for larceny from the person if
the value of the article stolen was more than one shilling: Townsend
stated before the parliamentary commission of 1816, that he had known
as many as forty people hanged in one day: on another occasion seven
persons, four men and three women, were convicted at Kingston of being
concerned in robbing a pedlar, "they were all hanged in Kent Street,
opposite the door." Such indiscriminate infliction of the extreme
penalty of the law could serve no useful purpose,[163] on the contrary
it undoubtedly aggravated the very offences it was intended to check.
The punishment for a trivial theft being identical with that meted out
for the most heinous crime, all sense of proportion in the different
degrees of moral guilt was lost. "As well be hanged for a sheep as
for a lamb" represented a point of view not unnatural under the
circumstances, and expressed the actual mental attitude of the average

It can easily be demonstrated that an inverse ratio exists between
the efficiency of police and the severity of sentences.[164] The
more difficult the commission of crime is made, the less necessity
will there be for deterrent measures that savour of vindictiveness.
The intimate knowledge that an effective police have of the habitual
criminal class is not only a safeguard against the conviction of the
innocent, but renders it possible to deal leniently with the juvenile,
and with the casual, offender. Within reasonable limits, the fear of
almost certain detection is a far stronger deterrent than the distant
prospect of severe punishment. Sir Samuel Romilly speaking in the House
of Commons in 1810 said, "if it were possible that punishment, as a
consequence of guilt, could be reduced to an absolute certainty, a very
slight penalty would be sufficient to prevent almost every species
of crime, except those which arise from sudden gusts of ungovernable
passion. If the restoration of the property stolen, and only a few
weeks, or even but a few days imprisonment, were the unavoidable
consequence of theft, no theft would ever be committed. No man would
steal what he was sure he could not keep."

Romilly made strenuous efforts to persuade the government to reduce the
number of offences punishable by death, but without immediate success.
Sir James Mackintosh followed in his footsteps, and in 1822 proposed
to the House that measures should be adopted "for increasing the
efficiency of the Criminal Law by mitigating its vigour." It is worthy
of remark that, at this time, Peel opposed the principles advocated by
Mackintosh and Romilly, though seven years afterwards he was the author
of the Act that gave effect to a part of Romilly's ideal, "a vigilant
and enlightened police, and punishments proportioned to the offender's

The savage rigour of the penal code defeated its own ends in many
ways. People would not give evidence that might condemn a man to such
barbarous treatment; juries would not always convict, even when the
evidence was perfectly clear.

Consequently the law often became a dead letter, and the prospective
criminal had many inducements to tempt him to break it; for, in the
first place, he probably would never be caught; and in the second
place, the chances were, that the jury would evade the responsibility
of giving a verdict, that might lead to a sentence, that would be an
outrage to their humanity.

With crime so increasingly prevalent, there might have been some
justification for great severity of punishment, if it had been found
by experience that strong repressive measures had invariably been
followed by a permanent reduction in the number of criminals; but this
is not the lesson that history has taught. It is true that exceptional
cases have arisen from time to time in which signal severity meted out
to a prominent offender has proved the safest and best course. Prompt
and exemplary punishment, even in excess of his deserts, inflicted on
a ringleader, has often been the only way to enforce discipline or to
prevent the spread of dangerous mutiny; but such cases are rare, and
owe their success as deterrents to their rarity, and to the attention
that they excite at the time; whereas a consistent course of excessive
severity has never been a lasting success, unless combined with
powerful preventive measures,[165] and then such a course is no longer
necessary. Highway robbery and sheep-stealing were common when they
were capital offences, now they are seldom heard of, and the thieving
that invariably went on at the foot of the gallows was sufficient proof
that the popular belief in the deterrent value of public executions was
a popular fallacy.[166]

The futile cruelty of the frequency with which capital punishment
was inflicted was equalled if not exceeded by the manner in which
the secondary punishments were administered. Transportation was
introduced[167] in the reign of Charles II., but at first was not,
strictly speaking, a legal punishment, but rather an exercise of the
royal clemency towards those in "the King's Mercy"; and it may be said
to have taken the place in the social scheme of the old system of
outlawry which, in former times, enabled a capital felon to save his
life by abjuring the realm.

Labourers were required to develop the resources of America and the
West Indies, and to this end criminals under sentence of death were
often pardoned on the understanding that they transported themselves
to those colonies. Several convicts, however, were clever enough to
secure the pardon and yet avoid fulfilment of the condition on which
it was granted. By 1717 so many of these persons were at large, that
arrangements were made[168] by which felons were to be kept in prison
until they could be handed over to agents, who were required to give
security that the undesirables in question were really deported. Fifty
years later the practice of transportation was common, and had come to
be esteemed as an easy and profitable means of getting rid, once and
for all, of offenders caught transgressing the laws made by society for
its protection. Though called transportation the system really amounted
to perpetual slavery; it could nominally be inflicted for fourteen
years, but was almost invariably for life. The convicts were handed
over to contractors at so much a head, and shipped off to America to
work on the plantations: many died on the voyage, thus reducing the
profits of the traffic; in fact a Bristol contractor complained that
if another plague broke out on his ship he would have to give up the
business. To prevent this waste, an Act was passed in 1767[169] which
provided that, for the future, contractors should take the convicts
immediately they were sentenced, for fear that they should deteriorate
during their sojourn in prison, and consequently fetch less money.

After the American Revolution we lost this source of revenue, and
penal establishments at Bermuda, Gibraltar, and in New South Wales
took the place of the plantation in the social scheme. At the same
time a change took place in the method of conveying convicts to their
destination; they were no longer bought for the sake of the work that
could be got out of them, but contractors were paid for carrying them
to the penal establishments. The frightful mortality on board the ships
continued, however, until the terms of the contract were altered; as
soon as the practice of paying a fixed price for every man embarked
was discontinued, and the payment of a larger sum for every man landed
alive substituted, the convicts were treated more like human beings,
and the death-rate on these voyages was no longer excessive.

Transportation signally failed as a deterrent, partly because the
punishment was carried out so far from home, and partly on account
of the unequal manner in which the penal system was administered. In
the Crown Colonies, such as Bermuda, the servitude was of the hardest
description, but in Australia the custom arose of assigning convicts as
servants to colonists. This gave facilities for all kinds of abuses.
A glaring and often-quoted instance of the kind of thing that went on
may be cited. A certain bank clerk who had robbed his employers was
convicted and sentenced to be transported to Australia, but the stolen
property was not recovered. The convict was duly conveyed to New South
Wales; soon afterwards his wife arrived in the same colony, and having
selected her husband as a servant, the two lived together in security
and wealth on the proceeds of the robbery.

Deterrents must be advertised in order to be effectual; the county gaol
by the roadside is an ocular reminder of the reality of punishment, but
a vague knowledge that felons were serving their time in the Antipodes
was a far less potent preventive: indeed transportation came to be
regarded as desirable by many, who gladly submitted to expatriation for
the sake of getting a fresh start in life in a new land at the public
expense. Escott remarks that whilst Australia was at once a penal
settlement and a thriving colony, "the strange spectacle was seen of
honest artisans emigrating of their own accord to spots where felons
also were relegated for their offences."[170]

The second line of defence upon which the country relied for the
diminution of crime was an unpaid parochial police, sometimes assisted,
and sometimes thwarted, by the various stipendiary establishments
already described, and this combination, as we have seen, was almost as
untrustworthy as the penal system had proved itself to be.

The constables or headboroughs, and the thief-takers, or as we should
now call them, detectives, were more vigorous than the watchmen, but
in some respects they were also more dangerous to society; the former
lived largely by blackmail and the latter on blood-money. The salary of
the headborough for Shoreditch was only ninety shillings a year, the
post was not one of honour, and the stipend surely too insignificant
to be an attraction; yet there was no lack of applicants, who by the
diligent gleaning of perquisites and by the industrious collection of
blackmail, saw their way to make a good living out of the office. As
much as thirty-six shillings a day could be earned by a headborough
by appearing in a prosecution at the Old Baily, and bribes from those
employed in the liquor traffic were a still more profitable source of

In 1815 alone, eighty thousand pounds was given in blood-money, an
expenditure that might almost be considered as a Government subsidy
for the encouragement of felony. Forty pounds was the reward offered
for the conviction of certain offenders, and it was obviously to
the advantage of the thief-taker not to interfere with a promising
young criminal until he should commit a forty pounds crime; premature
detection was tantamount to killing the goose that should lay the
golden egg, and the common cant phrase of the day, when referring to
a juvenile offender, was, "he doesn't weigh forty pounds yet." The
mischievous tendency of this system of rewards cannot be exaggerated,
it vitiated the whole police constitution; nor was there any chance
of recovering property until a sufficient reward was advertised to
stimulate those who alone were familiar with the haunts and methods of
thieves and receivers.

"Officers are dangerous creatures," said Townsend, after more than
thirty years' experience as a Bow Street Runner; "they have it
frequently in their power (no question about it) to turn the scale,
when the beam is level, on the other side: I mean against the poor
wretched man at the bar; Why? this thing called nature, says profit
is in the scale: and melancholy to relate, but I cannot help being
perfectly satisfied that frequently that has been the means of
convicting many and many a man.... I am convinced that whenever A is
giving evidence against B he should stand perfectly uninterested....
Nothing can be so dangerous as a public officer, where he is liable to
be tempted."

The following is a list of the rewards, that could be earned by police
and others:--

     1. Highway robbery--
  From the Sheriff              £40  0  0} £50  0  0
  From the Hundred               10  0  0}

     2. Burglary--
  From the Sheriff               40  0  0}
  A Tyburn Ticket worth          10  0  0}  50  0  0

     3. Housebreaking in
           the daytime              do.     50  0  0

     4. Counterfeiting gold or silver coin  40  0  0

     5.     Do.        copper  coin         10  0  0

     6. Stealing from any shop, warehouse
           or stable, to the value
           of more than five shillings      10  0  0

     7. Horse stealing                      20  0  0

     8. Stealing cattle or sheep            10  0  0

     9. Compounding a felony                40  0  0

    10. Wounding and killing a Revenue
           Officer                          50  0  0

    11. Certain Offences under the Black
           Act                              50  0  0

    12. Persons returning from
           transportation                   20  0  0

    13. Embezzling the King's Stores        20  0  0

    14. Apprehending deserters from the
           Army                              1  0  0

    15. Apprehending rogues and vagabonds    0 10  0

    16. Apprehending idle and disorderly
           persons                           0  5  0

A Tyburn Ticket was a certificate granted by a judge or Justice to the
person who captured and prosecuted a felon to conviction; it freed
the holder from all liability to serve as a Constable, and exempted
him also from many other Ward and Parish obligations. The Ticket was
transferable, and so had a pecuniary value which varied in different
parishes, generally ten pounds or more. A Tyburn Ticket had been known
to fetch as much as forty pounds.

The law being powerless to prevent crime, and the police being unable
to give protection, people exerted themselves to safeguard their own
interests in their own way; shopkeepers combined to provide patrols
to watch the fronts of their shops, householders armed themselves for
the defence of their houses, whilst steel man-traps and spring-guns
were set up in gardens and coverts. In consequence of the number of
innocent persons maimed and killed by these not very discriminating
agencies, Lord Suffield, in 1825, introduced a Bill with the object of
making their use illegal, but it was not until May 1827 that an Act was
passed, prohibiting the setting of spring-guns, man-traps, and other
engines calculated to destroy human life, or inflict grievous bodily

It is not too much to say, that a survey of all the institutions of
England, as they existed at the beginning of the nineteenth century,
would reveal the fact, that whereas many departments of government were
feeble and many corrupt, in no department were ignorance, corruption,
and inefficiency so pronounced as in that of police. If, however, any
should wish to find a rival institution to share this unenviable
position of discredit, he would not have far to look, but could
discover the object of his search in the disgraceful mismanagement
that pervaded every corner of our gaols, from prison-gate to condemned
cell. If the criminal, whilst at large, could count on a minimum of
interference with his career of depredation, he had at the same time
to reckon with a maximum of ill-treatment if ever he was deprived of
his liberty. It almost seemed as if the authorities, piqued at their
ill-success in the departments of prevention and detection, were
determined to wreak their vengeance on the unfortunate few who fell
into their hands. Neglect was the keynote in every part of the penal
administration, the public suffered through the neglect that failed to
provide a modicum of protection, and the prisoners suffered through
the neglect of the governors and warders to provide them with the
necessaries and decencies of life.

A description of the extortions, inhumanities, and crimes against the
most elementary laws of sanitation, that were rife in prison-houses
and convict establishments, would here be out of place. A full account
is to be found in the interesting volumes in the pages of which, Major
Arthur Griffiths has exhaustively dealt with the subject; but to shew
with what reckless disregard for consequences prisoners were treated,
and how little attention was paid to the reclamation of juvenile
offenders, it is sufficient to mention the fact that in Newgate, a
felon, who had been sentenced to transportation, was retained in
England, to act as a schoolmaster to the boy prisoners. Under the
unreformed prison system, gaols were little better than universities of
crime, that conferred the diploma of "habitual" on the criminals who
graduated there, and it was said that half the burglaries that were
committed in London were planned in Newgate.



Just when the immediate outlook was the most gloomy, and at an hour
when the future seemed most barren of any hopeful sign, unseen and
unsuspected influences were already at work; influences which were
destined first to arrest, and eventually to repel, the increasing flood
of criminality, as well as to alleviate the hard lot of the unhappy
convict. Up to this point the annual total of crime had ever been
mounting higher and higher whilst the tale of abuses had continued to
increase. But the malady had now come to a head, and intelligent public
attention was at length focussed on a difficult and unpopular subject,
which hitherto had been deliberately avoided by all but the very few
who had been familiarized with its magnitude by routine, and who had
mostly grown callous to its evils by use. When John Howard began to
minister to prisoners, and when Jeremy Bentham began to propound his
doctrine of utilitarianism, no one foresaw that the devotion of the one
would achieve a transformation of the whole prison system, nor that the
profound common-sense of the other would triumph over the irrationality
which for centuries had vitiated the penal administration of England.

Foremost amongst the many objects for which Bentham worked were the
amendment of the criminal code, the improvement of the Poor Laws, the
abolition of transportation, sanitary and prison reform, systematic
registration, and the instituting of public prosecutors, in short
better police all round and in the widest sense of the term. Though
most of Bentham's best work was done in the eighteenth, his doctrines
received but little attention in this country before the nineteenth
century, and the practical reforms which he advocated, though for
the most part inaugurated in his own lifetime, were the immediate
achievements of his disciples and friends. His own special hobbies were
not altogether successful, the panopticon idea did not repay him for
the labour and the money which he lavished upon it, and his philosophy
did not prove the complete panacea for human ills that he anticipated;
but through the medium of his friend Romilly he slew the Draconian
monster, and he pointed out the path which Colquhoun followed and which
ultimately led to the genesis of modern police.

The pamphlets of the two Fieldings, and the exertions of other minor
reformers who succeeded them, had no doubt done something to stir up
public opinion and to pave the way for a better system, but their
combined influence was only effectual up to a certain point, and the
virtue of the remedies they proposed was not sufficiently potent to
get to the root of the all-pervading mischief. The credit of being the
first to perceive the true functions of a rational police force, as
it should be, belongs to Bentham,[172] and the credit of formulating
the details and presenting them in a tangible and practical shape to
his contemporaries is due to Dr Colquhoun, who, in 1796, published his
famous treatise "On the Police of the Metropolis."

If we think of Colquhoun as the architect who designed our modern
police, and of Peel as the builder who constructed its framework, we
must remember that there were others who had a hand in the good work,
and that a long time elapsed between the drawing of the plans and the
erection of the edifice. If it is allowable to carry the simile a stage
further, we may say that the Government pigeon-holed the draughtsman's
plans for many years before the order was given for the foundation
stone to be laid. This delay must not be attributed to indifference,
but rather to necessity. It is, perhaps, a truism to say so, but in
order to carry any valuable reform to a successful issue, thought must
precede action. Law is the public opinion of yesterday put in force
to-day, and as Professor Dicey has somewhere pointed out, legislation
has almost always been the outcome of the opinion of thirty years
before. No better example of the truth of this general formula could
be instanced than the case of the police reforms of the nineteenth
century: Bentham, Colquhoun, Romilly and others did the necessary
thinking and sowed the seed in the public conscience; a period of
thirty years elapsed whilst the seed was coming to maturity; meanwhile
Peel and the Duke of Wellington watched the gradual ripening of public
opinion and provided the necessary legislation as soon as the people
were ready for it.

Colquhoun, who, like Fielding, was a Middlesex magistrate, saw that
the essential need was method. He recognized that before any material
improvement could be looked for, or any real security obtained, the
miserable jumble of wards, parishes, hundreds and boroughs, each
with its private establishment of watchmen and constables, who were
debarred from acting one yard outside their own boundaries, would
have to be swept away, and a centralized agency substituted under the
superintendence of "able, indefatigable and intelligent men."

The criminal classes, at this time, had an organization far superior
to any that Society could oppose to it; in fact, if a committee
of pickpockets and burglars had been entrusted with the task of
creating and arranging a system of police, they could hardly have
devised any scheme under which they would have secured to themselves
greater freedom from molestation. Colquhoun pointed out how all this
might be changed: he would have a register prepared of all the known
offenders, containing a complete history of their connexions and
haunts, together with a list of all property stolen; he would establish
such a correspondence between the town and country magistrates that
the movements of suspected persons might be effectually watched,
and finally would "interpose those embarrassments which a vigilant
and active police may place in the way of every class of offenders,
so as to diminish crimes by increasing the risk of detection." He
also collected a mass of evidence bearing on the causes that were
responsible for the prevalence of crime, and proposed that a scientific
campaign against the enemies of Society should be inaugurated, under
the direction of experts, who should be free to devote the whole of
their time and energies to the task. His proposition, in fact, amounted
to the creation, if possible, of a centralized police, related to
the general government through the Home Office, and officered both
in the superior and subordinate grades, by men specially trained for
the purpose. It was on these lines, of course, that Peel set to work
twenty years later, but there is little doubt that he would have failed
to carry his measure, in the face of the opposition which it aroused,
if men's minds had not been to some extent prepared beforehand by the
convincing arguments brought forward in "The Police of the Metropolis."

It must not be imagined that the period immediately preceding the
formation of the new police was a time of expectant idleness, or that
nothing was being done beyond the publication of treatises. Experiment
and legislation were both at work; Parliamentary Committees, which
sat in the years 1812, 1826, 1818, 1822 and 1828, to investigate the
subject of police, collected a mass of evidence, much of which was
useful; and the Select Committee on Vagrancy, appointed in 1821,
performed a necessary and valuable task. Distinct progress was also
made towards the correction of prison abuses and in the direction of
the reform of the penal code, whilst several statutes which were out of
sympathy with the new standard of humanity were very properly repealed.
The pillory was virtually abolished in 1816, public flogging of women
was made illegal in 1817,[173] that anomalous institution "benefit
of clergy" disappeared in 1826, and the death penalty could not be
inflicted on persons convicted of forgery after 1830. Of new enactments
belonging to this period, the most important was the "Alehouse Act"
of 1828,[174] which reduced to one statute all the licensing laws
passed in former years, and which to this day remains the foundation
of our present system. Broadly speaking the object of the Act was
decentralization, and its effect to place the whole licensing
jurisdiction in the hands of the Justices of the Peace in their several
districts.[175] The laws relating to remedies against the Hundred
were amended and consolidated in 1826,[176] and shortly afterwards
regulations affecting the jurisdiction of Courts of Quarter Sessions
came into force.[177]

Colquhoun's activity did not stop short at the production of his
first book, a work which roused the Government from its lethargy,
and which even awakened the interest of the King, he issued a police
gazette containing a full description of all known offenders, which
circulated in all parts of the kingdom, and was the means of bringing
many miscreants to justice; he strongly endorsed Bentham's suggestion
that a public prosecutor should be appointed, in order that private
persons should be relieved of the odium and expense of coming forward
to prosecute offenders, who might enjoy a measure of popularity, or
whose conviction might be desirable on public grounds, even if no
individual had suffered specific injury; and in the year 1798 he
was induced to turn his attention to the question of river-police.
The rich cargoes of West India merchantmen lying in the Thames had
long offered temptations, and the absence of police gave frequent
opportunities which London thieves could not resist. Robberies were of
daily occurrence, and the value of the property annually stolen from
ships and wharves has been computed at half a million sterling.[178]
Under these circumstances, the principal ship-owners, despairing of
ever obtaining protection from Government in return for the heavy
taxes they paid, applied to Colquhoun to help them to defend their
goods. He assented, and produced a work called "A Treatise on the
Commerce and Police of the River Thames," which was soon followed by
the establishment by Government[179] of an efficient water-police, with
headquarters at Wapping, and composed, for the most part, of sailors
who had served their time in his Majesty's Navy.

In 1821 the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, who had given much attention
to police questions, determined if possible to put an end to the
discreditable state of the London streets, where of recent years
robberies had increased to an alarming extent. With this object in
view, he decided to confine the services of the Bow Street patrols
to the Metropolis, and gave orders that, in future, the wide circuit
they had previously guarded was to be reduced, and their energies
concentrated within the circumference of the central region. Dividing
this limited area into sixteen districts, he attached to each a party
of four men under a Conductor, and retained at Bow Street a reserve of
one Conductor and fourteen men at the disposal of the Inspector there,
for use in any sudden emergency. The suburbs and outlying districts
were momentarily left unprotected by this withdrawal of the Bow Street
Officers; so to repair this defect, the Horse Patrol, which in 1805
had been reorganized by Sir Richard Ford, was further improved and its
numbers increased. The force was now divided into two branches, the
mounted and dismounted, each of which was again split up into four
divisions: the strength of the establishment was fixed at 161 of all
ranks, apportioned as follows--

  Mounted--2 Inspectors, 4 deputy inspectors, 54 patrols.

  Dismounted--4 Inspectors, 8 sub-inspectors, 89 patrols.

As was formerly the case, the horse patrol consisted of ex-cavalry
men, and they were dressed and accoutred in the following manner--

 Blue double-breasted coat with gilt buttons, scarlet waistcoat,
 leather stock, white leather gloves, black leather hat, Wellington
 boots and steel spurs, whilst each man, when on duty, was furnished
 with a pistol, sabre, truncheon and pair of handcuffs.

Only married men were employed, and cottages were provided for them at
convenient spots close to the roads they had to patrol, their wives
were forbidden to keep pigs or poultry, a wise prohibition designed to
secure to the government-horses their full allowance of forage.

The mounted and dismounted patrols worked in connection with each
other; the latter were responsible for the immediate neighbourhood of
London to a distance of five miles from its centre, and the former
looked after the remoter districts included in a circle with an average
radius of twenty miles; their principal routes were--to Enfield by
Hampstead and Highgate in the North, to Epsom by Croydon and Richmond
in the South, to Windsor by Uxbridge in the West, and Eastwards to
Romford on the left bank of the Thames, and towards Maidstone on the
right bank. Their orders were to proceed along the specified road
at such a pace as would bring them to the end of their beat at the
appointed time--halt ten minutes and then return meeting the other
patrolmen half-way; when passing travellers they were ordered to make
themselves known by calling out in an audible tone "Bow Street Patrol";
and on arriving at the home-end of their beat they were timed to
meet the dismounted patrol, and had to communicate to them any news
of importance. Every patrol, when on duty, was expected to be fully
equipped, with his pistol loaded, and his sword-belt outside his coat;
if his horse should go lame he had to dismount, and on foot patrol
half his usual distance; in the event of a robbery or other breach of
the peace coming to his notice, his duty was to join his companion,
if possible, and that of the two together to pursue and endeavour to
apprehend the offender or offenders, summoning outside assistance if
necessary. If they effected a capture their prisoner was to be safely
secured till morning, when they had to bring him to Bow Street.

The orders issued to the dismounted patrol, _mutatis mutandis_, were
practically identical with those already detailed: the men were warned
never to go out on their rounds without truncheon, cutlass and warrant;
and they had to meet the mounted patrol at the extremity of their beat,
or report the circumstances under which they failed to carry out their

The Bow Street patrols were efficacious to a certain extent. Their
presence gave confidence to travellers, and highway robberies on the
main roads were put a stop to; but they were of little use against
burglars, and altogether failed to suppress the footpads who took to
the lanes and by-ways when the high-roads were protected, nor could the
removal of stolen property be prevented as long as the patrolmen were
only kept on duty for half the night. The small force at the disposal
of the Chief Magistrate at Bow Street, for the purpose of safe-guarding
the outlying districts, had to patrol such a large area, and their
movements were in consequence so regular, that it was easy for thieves
to calculate the hour at which the peace officer was due at any given
point, and equally easy to avoid him by concealment in a cross-road or
behind a hedge until he had passed: a thief named Wilson long avoided
capture in this manner, and when he eventually fell into the hands of
the police, it was discovered that he had in his possession a regular
time-table on which was marked at what o'clock the patrols might be
expected at various points on all the main roads.

Twelve months after Lord Sidmouth's improvements had been initiated, a
further advance was made, this time at the instance of Robert Peel, by
the establishment of a Day-Patrol to supplement the Bow Street force.
The new police body was very small, and only of an experimental nature;
but it served the purpose of its institution, and the success achieved
by the three Inspectors and twenty-four men who composed this little
force was a strong argument for a subsequent extension on similar lines.

These reforms, following close upon each other, showed that at last
Government was disposed to make a sustained effort to put the police
on a better footing, and to give effect to the recommendations of the
Parliamentary Committees, which it had summoned year after year, but
whose advice it had hitherto as regularly neglected.



The depth of lawlessness under which London lay submerged, and the
deplorable condition of the feeble bulwarks that the richest city in
the world had so long been content to rely on, have been considered
at some length, because it is only by contrasting the security of
recent years with the lawless confusion previously existing, that an
intelligent appreciation of the debt we owe to Sir Robert Peel is made

The evidence given before the various Parliamentary Committees reveals
to us an impartial contemporary view of things as they then were, and
it requires but little acumen to see for ourselves how well we are
served by our police to-day. The improvement that has taken place
has been something more than a well-defined instance of the general
amelioration in our institutions, which was the feature of the
nineteenth century: the year 1830 saw an almost instantaneous change
in the police of London, a transformation from an inconceivably rotten
and antiquated system into one which immediately became an example to
the world, and one which still remains a credit to our civilization.
Simultaneously with the police revival there suddenly dawned an
unwonted era of security out of the dark and dangerous shadows of
the past: that this was due to Peel's Act, and to no other cause, is
conclusively proved by the fact that the rural parts of England, to
which the Act did not apply, had no share in the improvement which was
at once manifest in the metropolis. The sharp contrast between the
state of London under the old _régime_ and its condition under the new
administration is well illustrated by a comparison of two critical
articles taken from the leading reviews of the day. A year before the
introduction of Peel's bill the _Quarterly Review_ said--"There can be
no doubt that the whole of the existing watch system of London and its
vicinity ought to be mercilessly struck to the ground. No human being
has the smallest confidence in it.... Their existence is a nuisance and
a curse"; and some years afterwards, when people had begun to realise
how indispensable their police had become, the _Edinburgh Review_
refers to the Metropolitan force in these words: "The arrangements
are so good, the security so general, and the complex machinery works
so quietly, that the real danger which must always exist where the
wealth and luxury of a nation are brought into juxtaposition with its
poverty and crime, is too much forgotten: and the people begin to think
it quite a matter of course, or one of the operations of providence,
that they sleep and wake in safety in the midst of hordes of starving

The change was the more sudden because it had been so long deferred.
When the transition stage was over there could be no sustained conflict
between the new champions of order and the old allies of disorder,
because the latter had been allowed to hold the boards until their
charlatanism and worthlessness were thoroughly exposed. People might,
and actually did, say that the new system was bad and would lead to
all kinds of disaster, but no one was bold enough to assert that the
old system was good. Population had increased enormously, people
were richer, more civilized and more humane than they had ever been
before, and yet they put up with the same old apology for police that
their grandfathers had been dissatisfied with and ashamed of. In
some respects it is fortunate for us that this was so; for when the
inevitable change was brought about, we got a better article than we
should have done if an earlier model had been adopted, or if the abuses
had not been allowed to flourish until they had become sufficiently
glaring to demand radical measures for their removal.

Of the many Parliamentary Commissions, which since the year 1770 had
investigated the police problem, the only one which did its work
in a satisfactory manner was that convened on Peel's initiative in
1828. This Commission went into the question very thoroughly, and
came to the conclusion that "it was absolutely necessary to devise
some means to give greater security to persons and property." As soon
as the Commissioners' report was issued, Peel decided to act upon
it immediately, and on the 15th April 1829, introduced his bill in
the House of Commons. After briefly reviewing the prevailing state
of insecurity, and commenting upon the notoriously defective police
arrangements in vogue, he declared that no longer must petty parochial
jealousies be allowed to outweigh higher and more extended principles.
He then unfolded to the House his general plan. Recognizing the
impossibility of simultaneously providing the entire metropolis with
trained policemen, he proposed, in the first instance, to start on a
modest scale, hoping that by the gradual absorption of parishes, the
central agency would become exercised in the management and control
of the police, until in course of time it should be competent to take
charge of the whole constabulary of London:[180] the first experiment
would begin with Westminster; Kensington and Hammersmith would come
next; and eventually every parish, any part of which was within fifteen
miles of Charing Cross, would be taken over.

Most recent attempts to reform the police had been entered into under
the influence of panic, and when some patched-up defence could be
extemporised against the danger that threatened, those responsible for
the public quiet had been content. Peel's aims were more comprehensive:
he set himself to design a framework sufficiently rigid to withstand
the stress of the moment, and elastic enough to admit of expansion
along the lines of future development.

A nice judgment was required to determine how far the old materials
could be made available for the reconstruction, to decide how much
to retain and how much to discard. Certain sound and well-proved
principles, admirably suited to the national temper, underlay the
structure which he was bent on modernizing, and these, he saw, could
not be dispensed with. No mania for novelty blinded him to the value of
much of the groundwork of the old system; and his reforms, therefore,
were in the best sense conservative, for whilst there was no break in
the continuity of whatever was good, neither was there any deliberate
retention of anything that was bad. It is largely due to Peel's
moderation that, the more one studies the anatomy of modern English
police, the more one discovers birthmarks of its Anglo-Saxon parentage.

Two months after its introduction, Peel's measure became law. The
famous Act of Parliament[181] creating the Metropolitan Police
Force was entitled "An Act for improving the Police in and near
the Metropolis." The preamble declared that, it having been found
expedient to substitute a more efficient system of police for the local
establishments of nightly watch and nightly police which had proved
inadequate for the prevention and detection of crime, a new office of
police was to be constituted, under the immediate authority of the Home
Secretary. The Act is a long one, but its main provisions are simple
and concise. His Majesty appoints two Justices of the Peace to conduct
the business of the Police Office, and to frame regulations for the
management of the force, subject to the approval of the Secretary of
State. The financial department is placed under an official called
the Receiver, and the Police Rate (which must not exceed eightpence
in the pound) is to be collected by Overseers like the Poor Rate. The
existing watch shall continue to discharge its duties in the various
parishes until notification is made that the new police is appointed,
and then all watch-boxes, arms, etc., shall be handed over, and the
present watch rates shall cease. The limits of the "metropolitan police
district" are defined to comprise Westminster, and such parishes in
Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent, as are enumerated in the Schedule of the
Act. The Metropolitan police district is partitioned off into various
"divisions" according to counties, those of Middlesex being as follows,
Westminster, Holborn, Finsbury, Tower, Kensington, Brentford, and a
division comprising certain extra-parochial places such as Grays Inn,
Furnivals Inn and Ely Place. A short supplementary Act[182] relieves
the chief magistrate at Bow Street of the direction of the Horse and
Foot Patrols, and places them under the new police office.

This Office, as created by the Act of Parliament, the chief provisions
of which are above detailed, was situated in Westminster and was called
Scotland Yard. It differed from the older Offices in many respects, for
whilst it was given no judicial functions to perform, it was charged
with the duty of supervising the police machinery of the metropolis.
It thus became a centre from which to amalgamate the heterogeneous
elements that went to make up London's police, and from which to
administer the reclaimed territory in an ever-widening circle, until
the whole metropolitan area, amounting to nearly seven hundred square
miles, was freed from the trammels of Bumbledom, and brought under the
control of a bureau directed by "able, indefatigable, and intelligent

The intimate connection that had always existed between Justice of the
Peace and constable was not severed at the birth of the metropolitan
force, and the first officers of the new establishment, appointed under
the provisions of the Act, were two Justices. Colonel Rowan, a soldier
of distinction who had already gained some experience with the Royal
Irish Constabulary, and Richard Mayne, an eminent lawyer, were the men
selected. The task could not have fallen into better hands, and to
the energy and tact displayed by the first Commissioners[183] must be
attributed, in great measure, the success achieved by the new force
from its inception. In the course of an appreciative report, dealing
with the results obtained by the New Police, a Parliamentary Committee,
which sat in 1833 and 1834, paid a high compliment to these gentlemen.
"Much, in the opinion of your committee, is due to the judgment
and discrimination which was exercised in the selection of the
individuals, Colonel Rowan and Mr Mayne, who were originally appointed,
and still continue to fill the arduous office of Commissioners of
police. On many critical occasions and in very difficult circumstances,
the sound discretion they have exercised, the straightforward, open
and honourable course they have pursued--whenever their conduct has
been questioned by the public--calls for the strongest expression of
approbation on the part of your committee."

The task in front of the Commissioners was far from being an easy
one: they had to raise a new force, but more important still was the
business of restoring to the discredited office of Constable some of
its native dignity and prestige. To this end it was necessary to get
rid, as quickly as they dared, of all the unworthy ministers whose
shortcomings had emboldened the lawbreakers and whose backslidings
had disheartened the law-abiding; in so doing they had to incur the
odium of causing the wholesale dismissal of public servants, who,
worthless as they were, had no other trade to fall back upon. Nor was
this the end of their difficulties. They had to organize and train a
very considerable army of recruits, they had to drill this force and
educate it to discharge duties requiring tact and forbearance, they
were assisted by no expert opinion, and had little previous experience
to guide them. The novelty of the problem increased the difficulty of
its solution. They had to encounter a popular prejudice that was almost
unanimously opposed to them, and although a false step might have
produced the most disastrous consequences, no delay was allowed them
for consideration or experiment.

Having undertaken the task, however, they were not the men to turn
back, and in an incredibly short space of time they had the whole
machine in working order; the metropolitan area was mapped out into
police divisions, the divisions divided into sections, and sections
subdivided into beats: the various grades of Superintendent, Inspector,
Sergeant, and Constable were created, and to each grade was assigned
its proper duties. By June 1830, the Metropolitan Police consisted of
17 Superintendents, 68 Inspectors, 323 Sergeants, and 2,906 Constables,
or 3,314 of all ranks, distributed in the following manner:

Return of Metropolitan Police, 1st June 1830.

  Col A: Letter.
  Col B: Name of Division.
  Col C: Superintendents.
  Col D: Inspectors.
  Col E: Sergeants.
  Col F: Constables.
  Col G: Total.
  Col H: Estimated Population.

  | A |       B       |  C |  D |  E  |   F  |   G  |     H     |
  | A | Whitehall     |  1 |  2 |  14 |   96 |  113 |     5,893 |
  | B | Westminster   |  1 |  4 |  18 |  145 |  168 |    51,618 |
  | C | St James      |  1 |  4 |  16 |  167 |  188 |    94,418 |
  | D | Marylebone    |  1 |  4 |  18 |  147 |  170 |    85,040 |
  | E | Holborn       |  1 |  4 |  16 |  147 |  168 |    73,208 |
  | F | Covent Garden |  1 |  4 |  16 |  145 |  166 |    61,618 |
  | G | Finsbury      |  1 |  4 |  20 |  210 |  235 |   102,561 |
  | H | Whitechapel   |  1 |  4 |  18 |  168 |  191 |   111,382 |
  | K | Stepney       |  1 |  6 |  28 |  262 |  297 |   113,516 |
  | L | Lambeth       |  1 |  4 |  18 |  168 |  191 |    45,646 |
  | M | Southwark     |  1 |  4 |  16 |  168 |  189 |    78,169 |
  | N | Islington     |  1 |  4 |  24 |  222 |  251 |    74,455 |
  | P | Camberwell    |  1 |  4 |  19 |  195 |  219 |    64,967 |
  | R | Greenwich     |  1 |  4 |  20 |  182 |  207 |    72,540 |
  | S | Hampstead     |  1 |  4 |  22 |  190 |  217 |    70,260 |
  | T | Kensington    |  1 |  4 |  20 |  148 |  173 |    49,668 |
  | V | Wandsworth    |  1 |  4 |  20 |  146 |  171 |    57,532 |
  |   +---------------+----+----+-----+------+------+-----------+
  |   |  Totals       | 17 | 68 | 323 | 2906 | 3314 | 1,212,491 |

This table shows at a glance how rapidly the parochial police was giving
ground before the advancing battalions from Scotland Yard. In less than
twelve months, in place of the five districts originally taken over,
we find practically the whole of London and its suburbs policed by the
new constabulary. The skeleton of this force's organization is also
indicated in the above table, the details only require to be filled
in. The Metropolitan Police District, it will be seen, was divided
into seventeen Police Divisions, each designated by an appropriate
local name, and by a letter of the alphabet. These Divisions were
then divided into Sub-divisions, Sections, and Beats. There were
eight Sections in a Division, and eight Beats in a Section. In every
Division a Police-Station was provided, in as central and convenient
position as possible, where the business of the Division was conducted
on a plan approved by Scotland Yard, and common to all alike. The
Constabulary force was organized in police companies, one company to a
Division, under the command and direct supervision of its officer, the
Superintendent. Furthermore, each company was split up into sixteen
parties, each party consisting of one Sergeant and nine men, four
Sergeants' parties being equal to one Inspectors' party. To put it in
tabular form--

  Constables   in charge of Beats, wages    19s. a week.
  Sergeants        "        Sections, "     22s. 6d. a week.
  Inspectors       "       Sub-divisions, £100 per ann.
  Superintendents  "       Divisions,     £200 per ann.

Nine men, it will be observed, were apportioned to only eight beats;
the sixteen odd men, _i.e._, one from each party, constituted a
Divisional Reserve. Every Constable and Sergeant was distinguished by
an embroidered number and the letter of his Division, in order that he
might readily be identified; the earlier numbers (from 1 to 16) denoted
Sergeants, the higher numbers Constables. Each Constable was provided
with a Beat-Card, giving the names of the Streets, etc., in his Beat.

At first the twenty-four hours were divided into two day reliefs and
two night reliefs, half of the entire force being on duty by day and
half by night. This arrangement was not a success, and was subsequently
altered, when the day duty was performed in two reliefs and the night
duty in one relief: under this system two-thirds of the force were
employed by night, one-third by day, individual men doing eight months'
night work and four months' day work during the year. By this means a
greater degree of security was attained when it was chiefly required,
and the health of the men suffered less than under the former plan.

Such in outline was the organization of the Metropolitan Police;
absolute and arbitrary uniformity, however, was not insisted upon, but
when necessary the system was modified to suit local requirements;
thus, there were not exactly 144 Constables in each Company, but the
number varied from 262 in the Stepney (K) Division down to 96 in the
Whitehall (A) Division. The first mentioned of these two Divisions was
densely populated, whilst the other contained but few people, and the
Whitehall Company, therefore, which was mainly composed of picked men,
was generally available should any sudden emergency arise in other
quarters of the town.

Prominent amongst the earlier constitutional functions conferred upon
the English constabulary for the prevention of crime were those of
Presentment and Inquiry. We have seen how, with the decay of the police
system which once effectually maintained the peace, these primary
duties had fallen into disuse, and how in consequence, the principle of
"quick and fresh pursuit" had been neglected--partly by reason of the
defective information possessed by the executive, and partly on account
of the inefficiency of the inferior officers. Under the new _régime_,
however, these most essential constituents of successful police action
were reintroduced, a conspicuous feature of the new police being the
excellence of the arrangements arrived at for the supply of information
as to the persons and habits of delinquents. To this end, a report or
"presentment," containing the results of all inquiries made during the
last twenty-four hours was daily rendered to the Commissioners, who
were thus enabled to take steps for the prevention of any threatened
breach of the peace. When a serious crime had been committed, not
only were the known facts of the case immediately circulated amongst
all the members of the London force, but necessary particulars were
periodically notified to a wider circle through the columns of the
"Police Gazette," a new official organ which superseded the old Bow
Street publication known as "The Hue and Cry."

The police constable who made his appearance in 1829 was a very
different kind of man from any of his predecessors in the same office.
The new force was recruited from the best procurable material, and
those who sought admission to its ranks were expected to possess
good physique, intelligence above the average, and an irreproachable
character. Hitherto a variety of officers had been employed in their
separate capacities of constable, watchman, street-keeper, and
thief-taker: now, all these duties had to be performed by the same
individual. The new policeman, also, was required to have sufficient
acquaintance with ordinary legal procedure to enable him to collect and
arrange the available evidence in such a manner that, when his case
came into court, the magistrate could dispose of the matter without
vexatious delays induced, either by blunders committed, or by necessary
formalities omitted. The difficulty of securing a sufficient number
of men with the necessary qualifications at the rate of remuneration
offered was immense; and although great care was exercised in the
choice of candidates, but a small proportion of those selected were
retained for any length of time. The extent to which this weeding-out
process was carried may be estimated from the fact that between 1830
and 1838 there were nearly five thousand dismissals, and more than
six thousand resignations, most of the latter not being altogether
voluntary. This was in marked contrast to the happy-go-lucky method
of the old parochial bodies, who readily accepted infirm old men,
ex-thieves, and sometimes thieves without the "ex," provided only that
they were cheap.

For the guidance of all ranks, a set of rules and regulations were
drawn up embodying principles and maxims upon which our modern police
codes rest. "At the commencement of the new establishment," say the
Commissioners, "it is the more necessary to take particular care that
the constables of the police do not form false notions of their duties
and powers. The powers of a constable, as will appear hereafter, are,
when properly understood and duly executed, amply sufficient for
their purpose. He is regarded as the legitimate peace officer of his
district; and both by the Common Law and by many acts of parliament,
he is invested with considerable powers, and has imposed upon him the
execution of many important duties.... It should be understood at the
outset that the principal object to be attained is the prevention of
crime. To this great end every effort of the police is to be directed.
The security of person and property, the preservation of the public
tranquillity, and all other objects of a police establishment will thus
be better effected than by the detection and punishment of the offender
after he has succeeded in committing the crime. This should constantly
be kept in mind by every member of the police force, as a guide for
his own conduct. Officers and police-constables should endeavour to
distinguish themselves by such vigilance and activity as may render it
extremely difficult for anyone to commit a crime within that portion
of the town under their charge.

When in any division, offences are frequently committed, there must
be reason to expect that the police in that division is not properly

The absence of crime will be considered the best proof of the complete
efficiency of the police. In divisions where this security and good
order have been effected, the officers and men belonging to it may
feel assured that such good conduct will be noticed by rewards and

Touching the duties of the individual constables, Mr Mayne, who drew
up the regulations, went on to say "He (_i.e._ the constable) must
remember that there is no qualification more indispensable to a police
officer than a perfect command of temper, never suffering himself to be
moved in the slightest degree by any language or threats that may be
used: if he do his duty in a quiet and determined manner, such conduct
will probably induce well-disposed bystanders to assist him should he
require it."

These regulations require no comment, they speak for themselves: but in
view of the intense and unreasoning hostility direct against the police
both by press and public, not only in 1830, but also on more recent
occasions, it is fortunate that this evidence of the conciliatory
spirit in which the reforms were introduced, should be on record. It
is hardly necessary to add that the high standard set up by the first
Justices of the Metropolitan Force has never been departed from by the
successive Commissioners of Police, from that day until now.

The immediate result of the institution of an effective police force,
whose main object was prevention, was precisely that which was to
be expected: convictions for crimes of violence decreased, because
evil-disposed persons knew that they could no longer commit them with
impunity, and convictions for minor offences increased, because the
vigilance of the new policemen brought to their proper punishment many
a petty depredator who had easily hoodwinked his familiar friend, the
old parish officer.

Under the date of November 3rd, 1829, or little more than four months
after the passing of the Act, the Duke of Wellington was able to write
to Peel--"I congratulate you on the entire success of the Police in
London, it is impossible to see anything more respectable than they
are"--and Peel to answer "I am very glad indeed to hear that you think
well of the Police. It has given me from first to last more trouble
than anything I ever undertook. But the men are gaining a knowledge
of their duties so rapidly, that I am very sanguine of the ultimate
result. I want to teach people that liberty does not consist in having
your house robbed by organised gangs of thieves, and in leaving the
principal streets of London in the nightly possession of drunken women
and vagabonds."[184]

Nothing has yet been said about the expense of the new establishment.
At what cost to the ratepayers was this increased security obtained?

Such a question is not easy to answer with any degree of certainty.
Before 1829 many parishes were practically without police of any kind,
and if they spent little in Watch-rates they paid dearly in the heavy
tolls exacted by "the organised gangs of thieves" referred to by Peel.
Other parishes kept their accounts so carelessly that their records are
useless for purposes of comparison, and it is therefore impossible to
tell how much money they wasted. The 1834 Committee, which investigated
this question of comparative expense, had all the available material
before them, and they gave it as their opinion that strict economy
pervaded the new system. In support of this opinion, they quoted the
case of the parish of Hackney, which was moderately well policed as
things went then. Prior to the introduction of the reformed police,
the ratepayers of Hackney contributed £3,380 per annum, whereas at the
maximum police rate that could be levied under the new system (viz.
eightpence in the pound) the bill was only £3,164.



The formation of the new police force in the metropolis aroused the
fiercest opposition and remonstrance. Invective and ridicule were
heaped upon the measure from all sides. The hopeless incompetence and
the discredited character of the blackguardly Charlies were at once
forgotten, nor were the prevalence of crime and the insecurity of life
and property at all considered by those who made it their business to
foment the popular antagonism.

Week by week certain newspapers continued to publish the most
preposterous attacks: no story was too improbable to gain credence. A
_coup d'etat_ was contemplated--it was Sir Robert Peel's intention to
place the Duke of Wellington on the throne--English liberty was to give
place to military tyranny--under the pretence of providing protection
for the people the government aimed at the creation of a secret
political inquisition,--in fact anything that was at once inconsistent
and absurd was listened to with avidity and partly believed.

At first sight it seems almost incredible that any part of the nation,
except the criminal class, should have felt and exhibited such bitter
hostility to legislation that we now see had been too long delayed;
but the reluctance of the people to welcome the innovation was not
so unreasonable as it now appears. It is easy for us to be wise
after seventy years' experience of the admirable results that have
followed upon the Act of 1829; but in that year the only example of
modern militarily organized police before the eyes of the people,
was that under which Paris had groaned since the time of La Reynie.
Chateaubriand's philippics directed against the French system were
eagerly read and quoted, and it was felt that London could not avoid
the condition of interference with individual liberty that obtained
across the Channel. People could not associate in their minds a proper
police organization and the maintenance of justice, and remembered that
"injustice is always most formidable when armed."

The events of the French Revolution were still in the public mind;
and many Englishmen, who had looked on with horror at the spectacle
of a neighbouring country writhing in the grip of anarchy, narrowly
watched the course of events at home, in fearful anticipation lest any
of the causes which had brought about the debâcle in France should be
reproduced in this island. Nothing under the ancient régime had pressed
the French people so hard nor bitten so deep as the police tyranny of
the eighteenth century; and when the day of reckoning came, the one
rallying cry which never failed to stir the Parisians to an extremity
of fury, was that for the abolition of the "lettre de cachet"[185]
and for the overthrow of the lieutenant of police and his gang. And
no wonder! Liberty was impossible under a system which arrogated to
itself the right "de tout voir, de tout connaître, et de tout juger;"
when no man could call his conscience his own, and when no fireside was
secure against the paid informer. "If three men meet together, I can
rely on it that at least two of them are on my side" boasted Sartines,
a famous Chief of police. What plan could be more demoralizing than
the one which sets the servant to spy on the master, the son to watch
his father? What system so base as that under which the same hand that
presses yours in friendship is the first to arrest you, what instrument
so fatal to liberty or justice as the "lettre de cachet" which
proclaims the innocence of the man who was legally convicted yesterday,
and sends to the Bastille to-morrow the man who was honourably
acquitted to-day?

People in England who knew these things, not unnaturally asked
themselves the question, Why, with our eyes open, should we forge
against ourselves a weapon similar to that, whose sharp point has
goaded our neighbours till they were driven to set alight the torch of
revolution and to destroy the whole fabric of government?

The fear that the continental system[186] of police might be
introduced into England was not the only ground upon which this
strenuous opposition rested. Another factor was the deeply rooted
antipathy that the English have always displayed to any armed force
that they feared might deprive them of their liberty. The inherent
national suspicion of standing armies is well known: James II. tried
to govern by the aid of one, but his attempt ended in failure owing
to the opposition of the people; William III. wished to maintain a
large permanent force, but so hateful was the mere name of a standing
army in English ears, that Lord Somers, the king's minister, was
constrained to talk of it as a temporary measure, to allay the popular
irritation. Even to the present day, our comparatively small army, half
of which is permanently on foreign service, only exists at the will
of Parliament, and from year to year; whilst the fact that only two
regiments, the lineal descendants of the trained-bands, are allowed
to march through the streets of London with fixed bayonets, is an
interesting survival, as shewing the distaste that the display of armed
force in their midst has always produced amongst our countrymen. If
this was the feeling with regard to the army, which was to a certain
extent indispensable and which was only maintained, ostensibly at all
events, for use against foreign enemies, it was not to be wondered at,
if the hostility to a strange body of men uniformed and drilled like
soldiers, who were admittedly employed to keep their fellow-countrymen
in order, was more pronounced.

The mildest form of police supervision was believed by many to
necessitate the use of domiciliary visits, universal espionage, and
official interference with the concerns of daily life. Men could not
foresee the possibility of an armed constabulary keeping their hands
off law-abiding citizens, and directing their energies solely against
law-breakers. It has been said, that had the original police constables
been first seen in their present head-dress, the result would have
been dubious, but the glazed hat was just homely enough to save the

In their fears, the opponents of the police bill underrated the
efficacy of the two safeguards that have proved amply sufficient
to defend society against the employment of any objectionable or
tyrannical methods by the members of the force. The first safeguard
was, that the new police was placed under the immediate control of
the Home Secretary, who was directly responsible to the Cabinet, and
through the Cabinet to the country, for the actions of the metropolitan
force. The second safeguard lay in the power of the public press. The
routine duties of a constable were, and are necessarily, performed
in the eye of the public, and every bystander is free, through the
columns of the newspapers, to tell the rest of London what he has seen.
This facility he is seldom slow to avail himself of, and so any act
of oppression, any dereliction of duty, on the part of the police is
discussed by thousands of people by the following morning.

The Turks have a proverb "The dog barks, but the caravan passes on";
and in this case the necessity for ending the existing state of affairs
was so overwhelming, that the appeals, threats, and forebodings of
the opponents of reform were powerless to prevent, or even retard,
its progress. From its first commencement the new force learnt how
to combine authority with moderation, and the storms of clamour that
attended its birth were disguised blessings that conduced to its
subsequent efficiency.

The opposition of the less reputable part of the press, and the very
lukewarm support that was all it received from the remainder, were
not without their effect on the force, though the result produced was
far from being that hoped for by the agitators. The Commissioners,
instead of being discouraged, were stimulated. With rare wisdom,
assuming that the complaints which were continually being published
against the constables were made in good faith, they carefully
investigated each fresh indictment, with the result that, not only was
the constabulary purged of its unworthy members, but the better sense
of the country, appreciating the devotion to its interests practised
by the Commissioners, was the sooner convinced of the advantages that
follow from the establishment of a permanent and properly organized
"standing army against crime." Some of the malcontents, however, who,
from the first, had been so bitter in their opposition to Sir Robert
Peel's design, by no means relaxed their hostility after a reformed
police was an accomplished fact, but on the occasion of a projected
Royal Procession through London in 1830 again attempted to inflame the
ignorant, and to provoke them to violence against the new guardians
of the peace, by the distribution of anonymous placards. One of these
placards read as follows:--"Liberty or Death! Englishmen! Britons!!
and Honest Men!!! The time has at length arrived. All London meets
on Tuesday. Come Armed. We assure you from ocular demonstration
that 6000 cutlasses have been removed from the Tower, for the use
of Peel's Bloody Gang. Remember the cursed Speech from the Throne!!
These damned Police are now to be armed. Englishmen, will you put up
with this?"[187] The authors of this precious appeal must have had a
pathetic belief in the efficacy of strong language, if they thought
that the prospect of a collision with six thousand policemen armed
with cutlasses would be a sufficient inducement to bring together an
armed mob to oppose them; but popular feeling ran so high that it was
decided to abandon the Royal Procession, and elaborate precautions
were taken to prevent a riot. The day passed, however, without serious

At the time of the accession of William IV., the whole country was
restless and ripe for mischief. The irritation caused by the rejection
of the Reform Bill by the House of Lords stirred up a feeling of
violent opposition amongst the masses of the people, directed, not
only against the Upper House, but against the whole executive machinery
of the Constitution. The worst outbreak occurred at Bristol, where
the gaols, public buildings, and many private houses were burnt, and
the whole town sacked as ruthlessly as if it had been an enemy's
stronghold. Birmingham was the headquarters of an association said
to consist of 200,000 members, enrolled with the avowed intention
of coercing the government by the use of armed force, if they were
unable to achieve their objects by legitimate means. In London, an
organization, calling itself "The National Political Union" had been
established with affiliated branches all over the metropolis: these
branches, or "classes," as they were called, each consisting of from 80
to 130 members, held secret meetings at which the most violent language
was often indulged in: the Union leaders were wont to insist on the
necessity of the associates arming themselves, in order that the police
might be successfully resisted, and a certain Mr Hetherington went so
far as to publicly advertise that he would give a reward of £5 to the
best marksman in the ranks of the Union. The most formidable "class"
was the 73rd, popularly known as the "fighting class," recruited
chiefly from the Camberwell district, which, for some reason or other,
seemed to be peculiarly hostile to the police: other centres were less
openly violent, and, for the most part, contented themselves with the
publication of political manifestoes and proclamations. The wording of
these latter were, as a rule, more curious than edifying. Members of
Parliament were called "mock representatives" and "borough-mongers'
creatures," the House of Lords was referred to as "the hereditary
hospital of incurable national nuisances," whilst the King was
described in these words: "Alas, poor William Guelph! he is merely the
puppet of a base scoundrelocracy."

Fortunately for the peace of London, the National Political Union
lacked influential leadership; and this want, coupled with the fact
that, by the institution of the Metropolitan Police, a powerful weapon
had just been placed in the hands of the government, prevented the
occurrence of disasters, similar to those which had devastated Bristol.
But amongst the many difficulties that surrounded Colonel Rowan and
Mr Mayne, the most exasperating originated in the hostile attitude of
these Unions.

It was, therefore, much to be regretted that any just cause for
complaint should have been given to that discontented section of
the populace, which was anxiously looking out for an opportunity
to discredit the new establishment. Unfortunately the hoped-for
opportunity was soon afforded by the improper and unauthorised conduct
of a policeman, Popay by name, who took it upon himself to act as
a spy, and by pretending to be an advanced radical, to gain the
friendship and confidence of the members of one of the classes of the
union, in order to betray them to his superiors.

It appears that when it came to the knowledge of the police
authorities, that speeches of a threatening nature were delivered at
the meetings of the various centres, the district superintendents
were instructed to send a man in plain clothes to make reports, not
with any intention of entrapping the speakers, but in order that any
projected breach of the peace might be prevented. Popay was accordingly
sent to the Camberwell neighbourhood, and either misunderstanding
his instructions, or, as is more likely, purposely exceeding them in
the hope of earning the approbation of his officers, entered upon an
elaborate career of deceit and double-dealing. Disguised under an
assumed name, and pretending to be a struggling artist, he professed
revolutionary principles of an advanced character; and having enrolled
himself in the local class, quickly became one of its ruling spirits,
inciting the other members to proceed to extreme lengths, railing
against the government, abusing the police, and even subscribing to the
funds of the society. This sort of thing continued for some months,
until it happened one day that a Camberwell reformer, whilst passing
a police office, saw Popay sitting at the window with a ledger before
him. When questioned as to the business that took him there, Popay
said that he had only casually been called in, because the police had
got their accounts into a muddle, and had asked him to set them right.
Suspicion having been aroused, however, further enquiries were made,
and it soon came to light that the _soi-disant_ ardent politician was
actually one of Peel's hated myrmidons, with the result that the outcry
about police tyranny began all over again.

The new agitation did not materially differ from the old one: the
same exaggerations and the identical falsehoods, threadbare already,
were again made use of. One new feature, however, was introduced in
the shape of a petition, which was presented to the House of Commons,
signed by one Frederick Young and nine other inhabitants of Camberwell
and Walworth, setting forth their grievances with a great parade of
humility. "Some of your petitioners," they wrote, "have frequently seen
those whom they know to be policemen disguised in clothing of various
descriptions, sometimes in the garb of gentlemen, sometimes in that of
tradesmen and artizans, sometimes in sailor jackets, and sometimes in
ploughmen's frocks: that thus feeling themselves living among spies,
seeking their lives, and sorely feeling the taxes heaped upon them
for the maintenance of those spies, they make this appeal to your
honourable house," etc., etc.

Although the mis-statements and exaggerations contained in this
petition were patent to all, the House of Commons very properly
considered the matter to be a serious accusation against the entire
police force, and at once appointed a Committee to enquire into the
truth or falsity of the system of espionage, which was alleged to be
universal. After the most careful investigation the Committee gave
it as their opinion, that the authorities should be exonerated from
the charge of connivance, but that Popay's conduct had been highly
reprehensible, adding by way of comment that "with respect to the
occasional employment of policemen in plain clothes, the system as
laid down by the heads of the police department affords no just matter
of complaint, whilst strictly confined to detecting breaches of the
law and to preventing breaches of the peace, should these ends appear
otherwise unobtainable: at the same time, the Committee would strongly
urge the most cautious maintenance of those limits, and solemnly
deprecate any approach to the employment of spies, in the ordinary
acceptation of the term, as a practice most abhorrent to the feelings
of the people, and most alien to the spirit of the Constitution."

The Popay incident would not in itself have been of more than passing
interest, had it occurred at some later period when results had
justified the creation of the metropolitan police, but happening as
it did, whilst everything was still in the experimental stage, and at
a time when the new constables were, so to speak, on probation, the
certainty that even a single policeman had been guilty of such conduct
was a severe blow to the well-wishers of the force.

The culminating point of the tide of unpopularity which threatened
to overwhelm Sir Robert Peel's police was reached soon afterwards.
In the month of May 1833, it was advertised that a public meeting,
under the auspices of the National Political Union, would be held in
Coldbath Fields. Lord Melbourne, the Home Secretary, fearing disorder
would result, informed the organizers that the gathering would not be
permitted to take place, and instructed the Police Commissioners to
have the ring-leaders arrested if they should attempt to disregard his

The steps taken by Colonel Rowan to carry out these orders were as
follows: 70 men of the "A" division were selected for the duty and
despatched under a superintendent to Coldbath Fields, with instructions
to seize the leaders the moment they began to address the crowd, and,
if the attempt was persevered in, to disperse the meeting. It was not
considered advisable to occupy the ground in force before the agitators
assembled, because, strictly speaking, the police had no authority to
prevent peaceable citizens from walking across this particular piece
of ground if they were minded to, and because it was foreseen that,
should the mob find their rendezvous already strongly held, they would
attempt to carry out their programme at some other spot, where there
was no police force strong enough to interfere with them. Colonel Rowan
attended in person to direct the operations of the police, and to read
the Riot Act, if either of these steps should appear necessary; as a
further precaution, a considerable body of constables were kept in
reserve close by, in order that there should be no danger of the police
being worsted in any encounter that might take place. This reserve,
which consisted of about 400 men, was kept out of sight, it being
thought that, in the excited state of public feeling then prevailing,
the display of an overpowering force would be calculated to irritate
the mob, and to attract in consequence a still larger crowd than might
otherwise be expected to assemble.

At the time appointed numbers of people began to congregate on the
waste ground at Coldbath Fields, and soon afterwards the speeches
commenced. As soon as it became clear that the meeting was identical
with that proscribed by the Home Secretary, the men of "A" division,
after having been warned by Colonel Rowan to be cool and temperate in
their demeanour, were ordered to carry out the instructions previously
given them. At the same time a portion of the reserve was moved from
the stables (where the men had been waiting) to support the first
party, and it was during this advance that a collision took place
at a street corner with a mob of people, who immediately began to
throw stones, by which several constables were injured. Thereupon the
superintendent gave the word to charge, and in the melée which followed
truncheons were made use of, and three policemen were stabbed, one
of them being killed on the spot. Meanwhile the crowd was incited to
further resistance by the action of a man called Stallwood, who falsely
representing himself to be a magistrate, harangued the police from the
balcony of his house, and told them that they were acting illegally in
making use of force before the Riot Act had been read. The struggle
was of short duration. The people began to disperse in all directions,
and numerous arrests were made by the police, who committed the error
of following up their victory with too much vigour, carrying pursuit
in some instances to a considerable distance from the scene of the
original conflict.

This first collision between the Metropolitan force and the people
gave rise to a series of charges against the police, which, if they
could have been substantiated, might have ended in the undoing of all
the good achieved after so many years, and brought about with so much
labour and difficulty. It was said that the police were intoxicated
and, in that condition, had made an unprovoked assault on inoffending
citizens, knocking down women and children with brutal impartiality,
and then stunning them with their truncheons as they lay on the ground.
Fortunately an exhaustive enquiry was held, with the result that the
action of the police was satisfactorily vindicated. An unanswerable
argument against the accusers was that, whereas several constables
were badly knocked about, and one killed, not a single case of serious
injury was to be found on the other side.

Public animosity, however, did not pause to reason; and at the inquest
which was held on the body of the murdered policeman Culley, the jury,
sympathizing with, or intimidated by, the popular feeling, brought in a
verdict of "justifiable homicide." A verdict so flagrantly in the teeth
of the evidence could not be allowed to stand: the Crown applied to the
Court of King's Bench, and the inquisition was very properly quashed.

A Committee of the House of Commons was then appointed to enquire
into the conduct of the police, who came out of the ordeal with more
credit than the Government did, for it was proved that the Police
Commissioners only carried out the instructions of the Home Secretary,
who, when trouble arose, sought to escape all responsibility, and to
throw the blame on Colonel Rowan. Whatever may be thought of Lord
Melbourne's action, it is certain that he did not err on the side of
over-generosity, and the slender support which he somewhat grudgingly
gave to the police authorities was hardly of a nature to encourage
them in their uphill task. It may be that this cold-shouldering of
its youngest child by a government department was not altogether a
misfortune, for a popular reaction in favour of the police quickly
followed, and friendship was expressed in quarters where nothing but
hostility had been looked for: vestries which had recently petitioned
against the formation of the force now passed resolutions in its
praise, and nearly all those parishes situated just outside the
boundary applied to be admitted into the Metropolitan police area.
Before long provincial towns and outlying districts began to solicit
the loan of police officers trained in the London school; and in eight
years some two hundred places, including Birmingham, Bristol, Hull,
Liverpool and Manchester were supplied with experts, who carried with
them to their new sphere of action the methods they had learnt in the
metropolis, and whose excellent work in the provinces did much to
disprove the ridiculous fables, which had once gained credence, as to
the overbearing incompetence of the new constabulary.

Public opinion is notoriously unstable; and in recent years the police
have probably suffered to a greater extent than any other institution
from the alternating favour and disfavour of the populace.[188] The
comparative popularity enjoyed by the Metropolitan police force in
1834 was only a precarious possession, gratifying enough at the
moment, but of little permanent value. No such disadvantage, however,
attaches to a testimonial deliberately given by a representative
tribunal, especially when such testimony is in direct contradiction to
anticipations recently expressed by an equally competent and similarly
constituted body. The 1822 Committee were of opinion that it would
be difficult "to reconcile an effective system of police with that
perfect freedom of action and exemption from interference which are the
great privileges and blessings of society in this country." The 1834
Committee, on the other hand, having satisfied themselves that these
gloomy forebodings were groundless, reported to the House of Commons as
follows: "Looking at the establishment as a whole, it appears to your
Committee that the Metropolitan police has imposed no restraint, either
upon public bodies or individuals, which is not entirely consistent
with the fullest practical exercise of every civil privilege, and with
the most unrestrained intercourse of private society."



It is sometimes assumed that the Metropolitan Police Act solved, once
and for all, the question as to the manner in which London was to be
policed for the future. Such, however, was far from being the case.
The old prejudice was not lived down in a day; and the jealousy of
those who saw what they were pleased to consider their vested rights
slipping out of their grasp into the hands of the newcomers, caused
the remnant of the old office-holders to make frantic efforts to
recover what they had lost, and to hold fast what they were in danger
of losing. There were still many irreconcilables, who looked upon
the new force as a gang of usurpers and treated it with distrust and
suspicion accordingly, hoping that some false move on the part of the
police authorities, or some unlooked-for happy chance, might change
the fortunes of the day. Luckily no such set-back occurred, and by
slow degrees the ultimate success of the principles enunciated by
Peel became more and more assured, and Scotland Yard triumphed to the
discomfiture of all possible rivals.

From the very commencement Sir Robert Peel had declared that unity of
design was essential to success; but when the reorganization took
place, Parliament shrank from the bold course marked out for it,
and instead of making a clean sweep of all that was useless, whilst
transferring to the new police anything in the old system that was
of value, preferred to retain some of the existing unsatisfactory
agencies, and to allow them to continue to manage or mismanage their
own affairs as before.

The establishments within the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police
area that survived the reorganization of 1829 were[189]--

  i. The Bow Street Horse-Patrol, under the control
  of the Chief Magistrate at Bow Street.

  ii. The police constables under the separate control
  of the Magistrates of the Police Offices,
  to which they respectively belonged, being
  the following offices--Bow Street, Hatton
  Garden, Union Hall, Worship Street, Lambeth
  Street, Queen Square, Marlborough
  Street, High Street Marylebone, and the
  Town Hall Southwark.

  iii. The River Police, under the control of the
  Magistrates of the Thames Police Office.

  iv. The City of London Police, under the control
  of the Municipal authorities.

Each of these independent establishments carried out its police
functions according to its own peculiar ideas and local traditions. One
and all were jealous of their powerful neighbour at Scotland Yard; and
when they dared to do so, were not ashamed to countenance the petty and
spiteful tactics that their subordinate officers lost no opportunity
of indulging in.

It will be remembered that a short supplementary Act[190] had
contemplated the transference of the powers possessed by the Chief
Magistrate at Bow Street over the Horse Patrol, to the Metropolitan
Police Commissioners. This intention was not given effect to at the
time, the Patrol being left under the command of its old chief, Mr Day;
and the Act was repealed in 1833.[191] It was not until October 1836,
or more than seven years after the passing of Peel's measure, that the
Horse Patrol became an integral part of the Metropolitan Consolidated
Police, an amalgamation which, besides increasing the actual efficiency
of both forces, effected an annual saving of more than a thousand
pounds.[192] The horse-patrolmen became mounted constables, being
attached as such to the exterior divisions, where the beats were long;
and this arrangement has been continued to the present day.

It took longer to arrive at a satisfactory settlement with regard to
the small detached bodies of police belonging to the nine stipendiary
offices enumerated above. No one wished to interfere with the judicial
functions of these police-courts; but it was highly desirable to effect
a separation between the judicial and executive branches, and to bring
under proper supervision and control the undisciplined plain-clothes
policemen who thought more of picking up a good living for themselves,
and of "scoring off" their uniformed rivals, than they did of the
preservation of the peace. The manner in which the general business of
these police offices was conducted left much to be desired, whilst the
arrangements for the conveyance of prisoners, and for their detention
when awaiting disposal and under remand, were about as bad as they
could be. As many as thirty prisoners of all conditions, of various
ages, and of both sexes, were often crowded together in a prison van,
in which there was only accommodation for twenty, and left there for
hours in the dark whilst the van was making the tour of the police
offices. When no conveyance was available, prisoners were sometimes
conducted from the place of detention to the police-court handcuffed
and fastened together by a long chain. It was alleged, probably with
truth, that the officer in charge would allow his prisoners to be
supplied with drink by sympathetic onlookers as, in Indian file, the
procession passed through the public streets.

Such abuses were put an end to when the inevitable consolidation
took place and the separate jurisdiction of the stipendiary offices
ceased. The necessary duties about the courts were for the future
ably performed by sergeants and constables of the new police, and the
old staff, including the Bow Street Runners, were pensioned off or
absorbed into the Metropolitan force. This centralization not only
materially conduced to increased efficiency and diminished expense,
but by severing the too intimate connection that had previously
existed between magistrates and policemen, was calculated to reassure
the public, in so far that a magistracy untrammelled by police
responsibility would be less prone to be over-indulgent towards any
excesses of which the Constabulary might at any time be guilty.

The case of the third independent body was altogether different. The
duties that fell to the River Police were special duties, and specially
trained men were required to perform them adequately. The Thames
police establishment, which was recruited chiefly from ex-sailors and
watermen, consisted of sixty constables under the direction of twenty
"surveyors"--each surveyor being in charge of a boat manned by three
men; their powers comprised the right to board vessels in search of
contraband or stolen articles, and generally to discharge the duties
of excisemen and policemen combined. Since the year 1798, when the
River Police was remodelled on the lines suggested by Colquhoun, it
had proved an efficient body, and there were no obvious abuses or
shortcomings that necessitated a radical change; the arguments for and
against amalgamation were therefore more evenly balanced than was the
case with the stipendiary offices, but it was felt that as both banks
of the Thames were patrolled by the Metropolitan Police, it was rather
absurd that the river between should be under a separate organization
and control. It was accordingly decided to continue the work of
consolidation, and many of the powers previously exercised by the
magistrates of the Thames Office were transferred to the Commissioners
at Scotland Yard, the personnel of the river force being left as

The police arrangements in the City of London have already been
described; certain modifications and improvements had been recently
introduced, but the general scheme remained virtually the same as it
had been any time during the last quarter of a century. It is true that
a better class of man was employed than was formerly the case; but the
system was not good, marred as it was by a lack of uniformity within,
and a failure to co-operate with the kindred agencies without, the
city boundaries. The expense too was excessive, and there was a period
between the relief of the day patrols and the mounting of the night
watch when no police at all were on duty. There can be little doubt
that if the civic authorities had permitted this unsatisfactory state
of affairs to continue much longer, government would have insisted
upon consolidation, thus putting an end to the separate and exclusive
jurisdiction in matters of police which, for five hundred years, had
been the privilege of the City of London. Such a step, however, was
rendered unnecessary by the timely precautions adopted by the Lord
Mayor and Aldermen, who, taking the Metropolitan police as a pattern,
entirely reorganized the city force, bringing it up to date both in
respect to numbers and efficiency, and so ordering it that there should
be no cause for friction between the city constables and metropolitan
policemen, and no cause for jealousy other than that which proceeds
from a healthy sentiment of _esprit de corps_. The legislature was
all the more ready to acquiesce in this compromise, because the
City, asking for no assistance from the Treasury, bore the whole
expense connected with the improved constabulary out of its private

By the end of 1839 the consolidation was complete, and within a
circumference distant fifteen miles from Charing Cross there remained
but two police forces, both organized on similar lines and each
designed on intelligent principles, in the place of the heterogeneous
medley of samples formerly existing. In this same year, the efficiency
of the Metropolitan Police was increased, and its sphere of usefulness
enlarged, by an Act[194] which enables additions to be made to the
police district by an Order in Council, and which empowers its officers
to act as constables in and for certain specified districts outside the
Metropolitan Police Area, such as, for example, the City of London, all
navigable parts of the River Thames, and any place within ten miles
of a Royal Palace. Authority was also given to police-constables to
suppress gaming houses, disorderly houses, and illegal games (such
as cock-fighting, prize-fighting, bull-baiting, and the like), to
supervise licensed premises and pawnbrokers, and to regulate fairs and

The success that had attended the reorganization of the police of the
metropolis, and the gratifying results that, on the whole, had followed
the experiment, encouraged the hope that the benefits conferred by an
efficient constabulary would soon be shared by the boroughs throughout
the country. It would be an endless task to attempt a description of
all the various police systems which found favour in the provincial
towns, especially as in no two places was exactly the same pattern
adopted; and it will be quite sufficient for our purpose if we briefly
notice the arrangements come to for the prevention of crime and the
maintenance of order in the case of a few selected boroughs.

In 1833 Bath had a population of about 20,000, or if we include the
suburbs, 55,000; there was no permanent body of professional peace
officers, only tythingmen or constables to the number of 110. This
small force was split up into three parts, each part independent of,
and antagonistic to, the others: on the occasion of a parliamentary
election, when party feeling ran high and serious disturbances took
place all over the town, the Walcot and Bathwick divisions gave their
assistance, but the city police refused to act, even when they were
appealed to by the Mayor in person. If a felony was committed in the
city, the guilty party could only be apprehended on the warrant of
a city magistrate, and, if the felon should succeed in reaching the
suburbs, the city constables could not execute the warrant until it was
backed by a justice of the county of Somersetshire.

In Gloucester no watchmen were employed before 1822, and the whole
available constabulary force consisted of the Sergeant-at-Mace, and
the other officers of the Corporation, assisted by twelve constables
appointed by the magistrates. The ancient Court of Pie-poudre
flourished until 1770 or thereabouts, after which it gradually fell
into disuse. In 1831 two day policemen were appointed in imitation of
the London system.

Coventry, with a population of 28,000, supported 60 peace-officers
under the command of a chief-constable, and from 8 to 10 watchmen under
the orders of an official called "the Inspector of the Watch." In case
of emergency the town looked for protection to the services of special
constables who had been enrolled in times of tumult to the number of
four or five hundred. Generally speaking the police were unpaid, but
when employed in quelling a riot, the constables were sometimes given a
shilling or eighteenpence for refreshments.

Dover had two distinct forces, one under the control of the
magistrates, and the other (established under the "Pavement Act"),
wholly independent. The total number of constables was from 25 to 30,
but they had nothing to do with watching the town.

At this time Hull contained 36,000 inhabitants, and was policed on
a very economical plan. The chief constable supervised thirty-nine
officers who were only paid for work done; that is to say, the
constables were allowed so much an hour for time actually spent in
apprehending felons or vagrants, on the principle: no prisoner, no pay.

The dock companies employed a percentage of their day-labourers to act
as night watchmen, and, under a local act, 72 watchmen were appointed
for the town and outlying districts. In Portsmouth 22 peace officers
pretended to protect nearly 50,000 people, and in Liverpool, where the
prevalence of crime was so pronounced that the town was often spoken
of as the "black spot on the Mersey," the only police force existing
in 1834 was a body of 50 watchmen (of the usual type), to keep order
amongst 240,000 inhabitants.

These brief but representative examples will give some idea of the
diversity of police systems and police expedients to be found in
the larger towns. If each borough had been left to work out its own
salvation according to its own predilections, constabulary forces
more or less efficient would eventually, no doubt, have sprung up
here and there; but the absence of uniformity and co-operation, which
necessarily must accompany such a spasmodic process, would have
seriously retarded the ultimate triumph of good government throughout

There were three principal reasons why the immediate provision of a
general scheme of police reform in the Boroughs was urgently required
at this particular moment. Criminals of all kinds are ever on the
alert to find an Alsatia where they can ply their trades without the
unwelcome interference of their hereditary enemy, the policeman, and
the formation of the Metropolitan force was the signal for a wholesale
exodus of depredators from London towards other and more secluded
centres of activity. The smaller country towns and rural districts
offered few attractions to enterprising thieves, and so boroughs like
Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol, where considerable plunder was to
be had at little risk, were the chosen retreats of many who no longer
dared to brave it out in London.

If any reliance may be placed on contemporary statistics, this
migration entirely altered the distribution of the criminal classes:
it was estimated, incredible as it may seem, that in 1797 nearly ten
per cent. of the population of London supported themselves "by pursuits
either criminally illegal or immoral":[196] in 1837, the proportion
of known bad characters to the population was calculated at only 1 to
89 in the Metropolitan Police District, but at 1 to 45 in the Borough
of Liverpool, 1 to 31 in the City of Bristol, and 1 to 27 in the Town
of Newcastle-on-Tyne.[197] One cannot believe that these calculations
were based on perfectly accurate information, but on the other hand
it is unlikely that the results are so wide of the mark as to be
altogether without value, and after allowing a large margin for error,
proof enough remains that the enhanced security of London had, to some
extent, been purchased at the expense of the inhabitants of other towns.

The desire to acquire wealth without working for it--to "live idly
yet to fare well"--is the main incentive that makes men criminal, and
experience proves that if those who live by their wits are sufficiently
harassed, they soon show their wit by returning to the humdrum path of
honesty till such time as the vigilance of their enemies is relaxed.
"Allow the thief no rest" is a sound maxim of preventive police; and if
in 1829 it had been possible simultaneously to provide efficient police
for all the towns of England, many and many a thief would have been
driven to exchange his old occupation for some less precarious trade.

The second reason why delay was dangerous was because of the enormous
increase of population in the manufacturing towns. Trade was brisk,
money plentiful, and the rapid development of the railway system
caused an increasing stream of workers to flow from the country into
the industrial centres. The population of Birmingham, for instance,
increased in this way from 90,000 in 1815 to 150,000 in 1832.

The last of the three reasons which contributed to make this particular
moment especially opportune for insisting that the provincial towns
should provide themselves with an improved and adequate police, was
because Municipal reform was the question of the hour, and it was
therefore extremely important that the new-fashioned Boroughs should
neither perpetuate faulty tradition nor originate impracticable

The history of English Boroughs cannot here be discussed; it will be
sufficient to remark that, early in English history, charters, giving
powers of self-government, had been granted to many towns and by many
successive sovereigns. The creation of Corporate Towns was esteemed
one of the highest prerogatives of the Crown, but the powers so
conferred were seldom employed to the best advantage; and the fact that
failure was especially pronounced in the matter of peace-maintenance
is sufficiently illustrated by the examples already given of borough
police forces, as at this time constituted.

Legislative reform was set on foot in 1833 by the "Lighting and
Watching Act" of William IV.,[198] which provided that inspectors
should be appointed and given a large measure of control over the
local police establishments of all English towns with the exceptions
of London, Oxford, and Cambridge; this Act was, however, of little
permanent value,[199] and is only worthy of notice as the first attempt
to provide a day police outside the metropolis. In the following year
the whole question of charters, etc., was investigated by Special
Commissioners, who issued a report embodying recommendations, which,
for the most part, were given effect to by the "Municipal Corporations
Act" of 1835.[200] After repealing all Acts, charters, and customs
inconsistent with itself, this statute proceeds to create municipal
corporations for the larger towns; such corporations to be styled
"The Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses." The Mayor is declared to be a
Justice of the Peace for the borough, and no property qualification is
now required of him. The Common Law method of appointing constables
is placed on a new basis, for the Act entrusts the making of Head and
other constables to a body composed of the mayor and councilmen, called
"The Watch Committee," the members of which are empowered, at their
discretion, to make regulations for the management of the police, and
to discharge or otherwise punish any constable found remiss in his
duties, provided that three members at least are present when the award
is made.

Borough constables are given powers to act in the county as well as in
the town, and are authorized, not only to apprehend disorderly persons
at any time, but during the night may take bail by recognizance from
persons brought before them for petty misdemeanours, such recognizance
to be conditioned for the appearance of the parties before the

Watch Committees are required to provide station-houses, and every
quarter must transmit to the Home Secretary a return shewing the number
of men employed, the nature of their arms and accoutrements, together
with an account of all salaries, clothing, and standing regulations
for the forces; provision is made for the appointment, under certain
conditions, of stipendiary magistrates at the request of the Council;
the office of Borough Coroner is instituted; and finally, the Act
requires two or more Justices to nominate and appoint by precept in
writing, in October of each year, as many as they see fit of the
inhabitants of the Borough to act as Special Constables there, whenever
they shall be required by the warrant of a J.P.

The institution of special constables was a natural accompaniment to
the general drift of circumstances which, for a long time, had been
modifying English police. Originally, as we have seen, every free
Englishman was compelled to take an active part in maintaining the
peace: subsequently, by common consent and merely for the sake of
convenience, the performance of police functions passed into the hands
of individuals, either chosen or hired for the purpose, it mattered not
which. As long as the principle of an inherent liability to universal
service was generally well understood and acted upon, or, in other
words, as long as the Sheriff's _posse_ was available in emergencies,
no legislation was required on the subject, because at Common Law a
sufficient force of special constables already existed; but when this
common responsibility for action was in danger of being forgotten, or,
what amounts to much the same thing, when the existing machinery was
incapable of giving effect to it, some new expedient had to be devised
to take its place.

The first Act of Parliament authorizing the appointment of special
constables was passed in 1673,[201] and was a tardy attempt to repair
the havoc caused by the Civil War, but like many laws that found their
way into the Statute Book during the seventeenth century, it might
just as well have remained unprinted, for all the use that was made of
it. It was not employed to restrain the Mohocks, nor to suppress the
Gordon rioters, nor to save Bristol from the incendiaries. In 1831,
however, began a sustained effort to systematize the overwhelming
reserve of force at the disposal of the government of the country;
this was the combined work of "The Special Constables' Act"[202] of
1831, of the "Municipal Corporations Act"[203] of 1835, and lastly
of an Act[204] which became law shortly after the accession of Queen
Victoria. These three Statutes dealt with the subject in detail, by
defining what constitutes a special constable, by specifying his
powers, and by stating when and by whom he is to be appointed. Between
them they authorize "two or more justices, upon information on oath of
any credible witness, that tumult, riot, or felony has taken place,
or may be reasonably apprehended, such justices being of opinion that
the ordinary officers are not sufficient for the preservation of the
peace and protection of the inhabitants and property," to "nominate
and appoint by precept under their hand so many as they shall think
fit of the householders or other persons (not legally exempt from
serving the office of Constable) residing in the parish or place or
in the neighbourhood, for such time and in such manner as to the same
justices shall seem fit," and ordain that they "shall send notice of
such appointment to the Secretary of State and the Lieutenant of
the county. Specials may act, not only in the parish or place for
which appointed, but throughout the jurisdiction of the Justices
appointing, and on the order of Justices of their own county, may act
in an adjoining county."[205] Generally speaking, special constables
have all the powers, and are subject to all the responsibilities, that
ordinarily attach to police constables within their constablewicks.

The years 1829 and 1839 mark the limits of the most important decade
in our police history. During this period of time the English boroughs
acquired the means of securing themselves against the rising tide of
crime which had threatened to overwhelm them; and an adequate defence
against mob violence was made available by the legislation which
restored, and reduced to a system, the power of the executive to enlist
as many special constables as might be necessary for the maintenance of
law and order. Whilst the former year will always be considered, and
rightly so, as the most prominent landmark of the great revival from
which dates an almost constant growth of police efficiency, the latter
is hardly less noteworthy. 1839 not only saw the metropolitan forces
for the first time firmly established on a permanent and satisfactory
basis, it witnessed also the earlier stages of that movement in the
rural districts which eventually provided the whole of England with a
trustworthy constabulary.



Before describing the successive steps by which the County Constabulary
progressed towards its long-delayed reorganization, it will be
convenient to follow the method before adopted, when dealing with the
somewhat similar march of events in the Metropolis, and to preface
such description by a short account of the unreformed county police,
thereby shewing how disastrous were the consequences of the faulty
system in vogue, as revealed by the deplorable condition of rural
England under its influence. The great source of information on this
subject is the exhaustive report of the Royal Commission, appointed
in 1839, to inquire as to the best means of establishing an efficient
constabulary force in the counties of England and Wales. In the
course of their enquiry (which was the most complete investigation of
crime, its causes, and the means of its prevention, ever undertaken
in this country), the Commissioners not only interrogated heads of
business-houses, their commercial travellers and foremen, country
magistrates, policemen, and coastguards, but examined thieves,
receivers, and all kinds of gaol-birds.

The immediate result of the activity of the new metropolitan and
municipal police forces was found to be, that habitual criminals had
migrated in large numbers from London, and from those towns where
an improved constabulary had superseded the old parish watch, and
had begun to ply their trade in the unprotected districts. Country
magistrates unanimously reported that the bulk of the more serious
offences recently committed in their respective neighbourhoods was
the work of strangers from the great towns. The superintendent of
the Liverpool dock police stated that about a thousand well-known
thieves, who had been evicted from the city, were now continuing
their depredations in the suburbs and small towns near. Questioned on
this subject, a prisoner confessed--"I considered that in London and
Liverpool, or such places as have got the new police, there is little
to be done, unless it be picking pockets; people there think that
they are safe under the eye of the new police, and will take large
sums of money in their pockets." Another prisoner, in corroboration,
said "The most important obstructions that could be placed in the way
of depredations is a more efficient police similar to that in London
and Liverpool--very few robberies in the centre of Liverpool,--all
in the outskirts, out of the police districts." A second cause that
contributed to the migration of both thieves and receivers to the
provinces was the extension of the railway and canal systems, which,
besides facilitating the rapid movement of plunderers from place to
place, exposed quantities of valuable merchandise on truck and canal
boat without protection. Merchants were indifferent to the fate of
their goods when once a receipt had been obtained from the carriers;
and they again, in common with the shipping agents, found it extremely
difficult to put a stop to the petty thieving that went on, partly
because the loss was generally undiscovered until the goods reached
their destination (which as often as not was in a foreign country), and
partly because the number of people through whose hands the property
passed was so great, that the attempt to fix the responsibility on any
individual would have been to incur a laborious and expensive system of
checking and counter-checking that the value of the articles stolen did
not seem to justify. Of all these petty thieves, the bargemen were the
worst offenders, and the opportunities they met with, combined with the
impunity they enjoyed, attracted many thieves to the calling; all over
the country receivers of stolen property set up shop near the canals;
burglars would bring their spoil by night to a pre-arranged rendezvous,
and hand it over to the bargees, who took it aboard, concealed it under
the cargo, and disposed of it at the fence's shop as occasion offered.

Much ingenuity was displayed in this traffic. For instance, an
ex-bargeman convicted of theft explained to the Commissioners how
he and his mates used to extract valuables from bales, casks, and
boxes without risk of discovery, every trip they made. Silk could
be withdrawn from the centre of a bale by means of a hook specially
designed for the purpose; chests of tea were carefully opened, a few
pounds extracted, and the remainder made to occupy the original space
by means of judicious damping. In the case of casks of wine or spirits,
the following ingenious method was resorted to; first one of the hoops
was removed, and two holes were bored on opposite sides of the cask,
one for drawing off the liquid, the other for letting in air; when
a considerable portion of the liquor had been taken, the cask was
filled up with water, the holes were pegged up, and all traces covered
up by replacing the hoop. Nor did canal-thieves confine themselves
to pilfering from boats, but as they travelled the country, they
slaughtered sheep, snared game, and milked farmers' cows.

The next matter investigated by the Commissioners was the lack of
proper protection to travellers on the public highways. By this time
highwaymen, the terror of the last century, had been practically
suppressed, but footpads were more common than ever; countrymen
returning from market used to make up parties, and wait for hours for
company rather than go home alone, whilst after dark many a commercial
traveller would go armed with a pistol, and accompanied by a dog, for
fear of being robbed. More serious still were the revelations brought
to light with regard to wrecking. It was proved that almost all the
inhabitants of the coast were wreckers; children were brought up to
consider the practice legitimate, and women prayed that the winter
would bring a rich harvest. When the weather was stormy, hundreds of
people would crowd to the beach, not with any thought of rescuing the
drowning, but only eager for plunder; as wreckage neared the shore
men might be seen swimming out to be the first to touch any article
that appeared to be of value, for by local tradition undisputed
ownership was in this way acquired. Witnesses testified to all kinds of
atrocities. A ship called "The Grecian" went to pieces off the Cheshire
coast--the captain was drowned, and his body was found stripped naked
by the wreckers, who, not content with his clothes, cut off one of his
fingers to obtain possession of the ring. Even this act of savagery was
surpassed at a village called Moreton, where it was proved that a woman
had bitten off the ear-lobes from a female corpse for the sake of the

Mr Dowling, the Commissioner of the Liverpool police, stated that
in Cheshire parish constables never interfered with wreckers, and
on occasions when the borough police were employed on salvage duty
they had to go armed to protect themselves against the hostility
of the neighbouring villagers. In Cornwall, public opinion was so
well disposed towards wreckers, and so superstitiously hostile to
shipwrecked sailors, that the coastguard were frequently intimidated
and forced to desist from their efforts to save life. It is related
how, on one occasion, after communication had with much difficulty been
established with a stranded ship by means of the rocket apparatus, the
onlookers rushed down and cut the hawser when only one man had been
saved, because they believed that if the crew was rescued, ill-luck
would befall the district.

The Commissioners' summing-up on this part of the subject was couched
in the following words: "It is our duty to report, as the result of the
extensive inquiries we have made, as to the mode in which the primary
duties of a civilized community, in the protection of the persons and
property of wayfarers and strangers, are performed, that the barbarous
practices above described are not confined to particular districts, but
prevail among the population of our coasts wherever wrecks occur...."

Another matter which occupied the attention of the Commission had
reference to the lawlessness prevailing in the manufacturing districts.
As is well known, the introduction of machinery, or, more correctly
speaking, the quarrels and consequent cessation of work to which the
innovation gave rise, brought much suffering to the wage earning
classes. In 1826 the hand-weavers of Lancashire rose in rebellion, and
the combinations entered into by the operatives in mines and factories
were at first remarkable for the extreme violence of the methods
employed, being signalised by an epidemic of machine-breaking in some
counties, and by the crime of vitriol-throwing in others. The right
of every man to sell his labour at his own price, or to cease work
altogether if it pleased him to do so, was at this time recognised, and
the legality of combination was no longer denied; but the organizers of
labour were not willing to grant to the independent artisan the same
measure of liberty that they demanded for themselves and for those whom
they claimed to represent. The result of this attitude on the part of
the leaders of trades-unionism was that cases of coercion, accompanied
by violence, were of common occurrence, and the need of an efficient
police force to protect life and property, as well as to prevent
intimidation, was very urgent. In this connection the Commissioners
remark "some of the strongest corroborative evidence in favour of the
efficiency of a well-organized constabulary or police force, might
perhaps be found in the extreme bitterness of invective with which the
parties implicated in illegal practices in these districts treat any
proposition for its introduction, whilst they view with complacency
any actual increase of the military force." The "illegal practices"
above referred to had their origin, not only in differences between
employers and employées, such as the rate of wages and hours of labour,
but certain organizations, confident that they were stronger than the
representatives of the law, presumed to take the law into their own
hands, and to dictate terms right and left. At Sevenoaks, in Kent, a
colony of journeymen paper-makers determined to pay no poor-rate, and
terrorised the local constables when they came to levy distress. The
authorities having sought the assistance of the Metropolitan police,
a small party was dispatched from London, which, though savagely
attacked, succeeded in arresting some of the rioters. On their return
they proposed to take one of the local constables with them to identify
the prisoners, but he was so alarmed at the consequences of incurring
the vengeance of the paper-makers, that he tried to escape, and could
only be induced to accompany the victorious policemen by counter
threats of personal violence.

Scanty as was the protection afforded to the well-to-do, the chief
sufferers under the parochial system were the very poor. Inability
to pay for a substitute compelled a poor man, whatever his trade or
employment, to serve in person, if chosen as constable; and it was
seldom that the fees he could honestly earn in his office recouped
him for the losses he was certain to sustain in his business. Again,
if a labourer had anything stolen from his cottage, he had to put his
hand in his pocket for half-a-crown, or more, before he could employ
a parish-constable, and should there be no committal, all the expense
of the investigation and subsequent proceedings fell on the man whose
only offence had been that he had lost his property; and even when the
offender was convicted it sometimes happened that the circumstances
made it impossible for the magistrate to allow full expenses. The
injustice of such a state of affairs is well illustrated by a case
heard at Devizes in 1853, the details of which were as follows: a
poor man had a pair of boots stolen from his barge, he followed the
thief into Somersetshire, and after a long chase, caught him and
handed him over to the nearest constable, who conducted the culprit
back to Wiltshire, where at the ensuing Sessions he was convicted and
sentenced. The constable's bill amounted to £4, 16s. 7d., made up as

  To apprehending prisoner              £0  2 6
  Maintaining do. two days               0  3 0
  Guard-watching do. one night           0  2 6
                       Carry forward,   £0  8 0

                       Brought forward, £0  8 0

  Conveyance of prisoner at 9d. a mile,
    and allowance to Constable 8d. a
    mile (37 miles)                      2 12 5

  Three days' loss of time               0 15 0

  Hire of conveyance, coach, and other
    fares                                1  1 2
            Total                       £4 16 7

but because the offender, a boy, was convicted under the Juvenile
Offenders Act, which only authorized an allowance of forty shillings
for expenses, there was a deficit of £2, 16s. 7d. to be made good by
the man who had lost his boots.

The reluctance of the public to prosecute, which, as we have seen,
was one of the many avenues of escape open to the criminal, was only
to be expected, and was due rather to a defective system than to any
lack of what is called public spirit. At a time when punishments
were vindictive, men sympathized with the prisoner, and could with
difficulty be induced to appear against him; this was especially the
case when the community at large, and not any particular individual,
had suffered injury. When the severity of the penal code was mitigated,
it still remained unfashionable to prosecute, partly from force of
habit, partly because the public which had no confidence in the
police, would not willingly incur the trouble and danger of taking an
active part in the administration of justice, but chiefly because the
expense of putting the law in motion was prohibitive for all but the
comparatively wealthy. Well aware of their impunity, tramps would
enter cottages at an hour when the owners were at work in the fields,
steal the supper from the cupboard, and perhaps take a coat from behind
the door, confident that poor people could do nothing to further the
ends of justice as long as the first question asked by the parish
constable was sure to be "Who is going to pay me?"

Even when thieves were caught red-handed, and delivered over to the
constable, the informant was frequently tempted to think better of it,
and either let the matter go by default or compound with the prisoner.
In 1837, within a space of seven months, 201 persons, taken into
custody for felony, were discharged without trial, simply because the
parties concerned refused to prosecute, and out of this total as many
as 53 were well-known thieves.

Under these circumstances it is not to be wondered at that from all
parts of England suggestions poured in, urging the necessity of
provision being made for the appointment of a public prosecutor,
suggestions which were emphatically echoed in the report of the 1839
Commission. In Scotland, it may be mentioned, such an official, called
the Procurator Fiscal, had existed for some time, with the most
beneficial results, whilst in London, the Metropolitan police undertook
similar work in the public interest.

Amongst many contributing causes which were answerable for the
breakdown of the parochial system of police, the chief was undoubtedly
the incompetency of its agents. Frequently a pauper would be chosen
constable, either with the idea of saving expense to the parish
by keeping down the poor-rate, or from a misdirected impulse of
charity, which prompted people to give the appointment to an old
man who could earn his livelihood in no other way. Sometimes the
parish constable would add the business of master of the village
alehouse to that of policeman, a comfortable arrangement which, if not
otherwise advantageous, at least produced perfect harmony between the
representative of the law and the representative of the trade.

Justice, so called, was administered in a haphazard, and often in a
ludicrous, manner. In one country town constables were instructed to
arrest all vagrants, and after having their heads shaved at the local
gaol, set them at liberty; in another district the magistrates ordered
parish constables to tap with their staves the pockets of all labourers
they might meet after dark, in order to break any pheasants' or
partridges' eggs that might be concealed there; a Bedfordshire farmer
who had given offence to a gang of poachers was shot in broad daylight
on the public road, and in the view of several persons, but the
assailant was not arrested, the constable excusing himself from acting
on the plea that he did not think himself justified in apprehending
anybody without a warrant. A return from the City of Lincoln, on
the other hand, described how an over-officious parochial constable
"brought two men in handcuffs to the police station at Lincoln for a
trifling squabble and assault, which he did not witness, and without
any previous information or warrant."

Complaints against constables, on the score of their neglect to
pursue criminals, came from all parts of the country. A return from
a Monmouthshire village reported the escape of a murderer which was
solely due to the refusal of the constable of the tything of Colgive
to get out of bed at midnight, though "repeatedly and urgently called
upon" to do so; and in another country parish, the constable, when
summoned to quell a disturbance, sent word to say that he regretted
that he was unable to come himself "but that he sent his staff by
bearer." At Welchpool the wife of a shopkeeper poisoned her husband,
and the same night eloped with the shop-assistant. The Coroner's
inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder against the guilty couple,
but no pursuit was made for several days, and then only after the
magistrates and others, scandalised at such a miscarriage of justice,
had got up a public subscription to defray the expenses of the
constable's journey.

The apathy of those who were responsible for the policing of rural
England produced its natural result; and, in the absence of adequate
Government protection, people who were not content to submit quietly to
be robbed by any scoundrel who preferred plunder to labour, made their
own arrangements for self-protection. In 1839, there were upwards of
five hundred voluntary associations for the apprehension of felons; of
these associations some only concerned themselves with the financial
side of the question, and by a system of mutual assurance guaranteed
compensation, in part at least, to any member of the society who had
suffered loss by theft or arson; others took a more active part against
depredators, and revived the ancient institution of Hue and Cry in a
practical manner by binding themselves to make quick and fresh pursuit
on horseback after any aggressor. During a parliamentary election at
Maldon, one party was compelled to employ a bodyguard of professional
boxers to protect its candidate from the attacks of political
opponents, who, in their turn, retained the services of a band of
gypsies, as a measure of retaliation. But perhaps the most irregular
of all these associations was that established in the Isle of Ely,
where the parishioners of Whittlesea kept a pack of blood-hounds for
the purpose of hunting down sheep-stealers. After carefully considering
the operations of these societies for self-protection, the Special
Commissioners unanimously condemned such expedients, and stated, that
in their opinion, "the fact that they had been found necessary was as
serious an indictment as could be preferred against the rural police,"
and remarked, that the existence of such associations might, in after
years, be cited as a proof that the community which employed them was
relapsing into a state of barbarism.

The prostrate condition of English police under the parochial system
should be sufficiently clear without the production of further
evidence. What, however, is perhaps the most convincing proof, that
could be found, of the utter futility and unseemliness of the police
arrangements in rural districts, is contained in the following plain
statement from the magistrates of the Trant division of Sussex, on the
subject of the lack of proper lock-ups for the temporary detention
of prisoners. "In case," they complain, "a prisoner is remanded for
further examination, there is no efficient place nearer than Lewes
(23 miles) ... there are cages in several parishes but never used
being unsafe ... for twenty years we have been compelled to hire a
man, and handcuff him to the prisoner, and they are obliged to live
at a public house.... Two incendiaries were each locked to men hired
for the purpose, and kept at a serious expense ten days, separately
in different houses." Some sixty years ago a comic engraving was
published, which portrayed a prisoner handcuffed to his gaoler,
undergoing a mock trial in the taproom of an alehouse for the amusement
of the village tipplers. Such an incident may well have happened, at a
time when it was no uncommon occurrence for a constable to confine his
prisoner in a stable, or to chain him to a bedpost, until it might be
convenient to remove him to a distant lock-up.

In concluding their comprehensive and interesting report, the
Commissioners (Colonel Rowan, Mr Shaw Lefevre, and Mr Edwin Chadwick)
strongly recommended the immediate establishment of a paid rural
constabulary throughout England and Wales, with an organization similar
to that of the Metropolitan police, and pointed out, that in order to
lessen the expense of the proposed establishment, the new constables
might conveniently perform various civil and administrative services,
in addition to their normal duties connected with the maintenance of
the peace.

Shortly after the presentation of the report, an Act of Parliament,
commonly called "The Permissive Act,"[206] was passed, enabling a
majority of the Justices in Quarter Sessions, to raise and equip, at
their discretion, a paid police for the protection of their county.
Justices who decided to take advantage of the Act were empowered to
appoint a chief-constable, and delegate to him the power of appointing,
directing and disciplining a sufficient number of police constables,
the expense of the force to be charged against the general county
rate.[207] Adjoining shires were permitted to unite for the common
purpose of policing the larger area; and if any county refused, as a
whole, to avail itself of the facilities now afforded, any division of
that county might maintain a separate police force; provision was also
made for the voluntary amalgamation of existing borough forces with
any country constabulary, that might thereafter be appointed in the
immediate neighbourhood.

The permissive character of the "Rural Police Act" has often been
adversely criticised, sometimes, perhaps, without due allowance being
made for the difficulty of the problem which confronted the government.
It cannot be denied that, judged by its immediate results, the Act
was largely a failure, and it is equally certain that its ill-success
was consequent upon the free choice between adoption and rejection
allowed to local magistrates; but it must be remembered that the power
of the government in this matter was far from being unrestricted, the
only possible alternatives before the authorities being, the policy of
making a small beginning, and the policy of doing nothing at all.

Reference has already been made to the difficulty of securing
satisfactory recruits for the metropolitan police, and the available
supply had been still further reduced by the demands made upon
it to satisfy the necessities of the boroughs. An endeavour to
provide simultaneously the whole of England and Wales with efficient
police-officers would have been to attempt the impracticable, whilst
knowingly to admit inferior men into the ranks of the new constabulary
would have been to condemn it irretrievably. Nor was the lack of
suitable material the only reason why a cautious plan of campaign was
necessary and inevitable; the same spirit of obstinate opposition which
had been encountered and nearly overcome in London was, to some extent,
apparent in the counties; country gentlemen, besides being indisposed
to favour any innovation that threatened their personal supremacy
so near home, were strongly opposed to any additional burden being
thrown on the county rate. The press, without repeating the bitterness
displayed in 1829, added its influence to that of the county magnates,
and the idea that any reform of the rural police was at all necessary
was scouted by people who ought to have known better; the very men
who a year before had testified to the increase of rural crime, now
declaring that any interference with the existing machinery for its
suppression would be disastrous. Amongst the many objections put
forward, some were not very complimentary to the "great unpaid;" it
was argued, for example, that the county justices were comparatively
harmless so long as they wielded that blunt instrument, the parish
constable, but should they be armed with a sharp weapon, such as the
police-constable was admitted to be, no man could foresee the damage
that would result.[208]

Whilst public opinion remained in ferment the Government was surely
well advised to act with caution, by making the adoption of the Act
dependent upon the consent of those whom it was designed to benefit.
In this way much opposition was disarmed, and the care of the infant
institution was entrusted only to those who voluntarily undertook it.

Between 1840 and 1856 the history of rural police divides into two
branches: in the counties which adopted the Permissive Act, the
record is one of almost constant progress towards efficiency; in
the counties which preferred to prolong the defective régime of the
parish-constable, the story is largely one of stagnation, unnecessary
friction, and weak-kneed experiment. Although these tendencies are
so diverse, the migratory habit of criminals makes it impossible
to follow the history of either to the exclusion of the other. No
police system can rightly be considered without constant reference
to neighbouring systems, because every improvement in the police of
one district immediately increases the difficulties of every adjacent
district. The result of the Permissive Act was precisely what might
have been expected, and the situation may be summed up in the single
phrase--crime follows impunity. The influences of pride and local
jealousies proved powerful enough to prevent a complete recantation by
those counties which had pinned their faith to the _status quo ante_,
but they were not sufficiently potent to produce insensibility or
indifference when the day of reckoning came. County magistrates, who in
1840 had refused to set their houses in order, were ready to embrace
almost any expedient by the end of 1842. By this time they were only
too glad to accept the services of police officers, trained in London
or elsewhere, and to entrust them with the task of supervising the
local constables. One of the chief reasons why parochial constables had
become so useless, was because there was no one to keep them up to
their work. The office of High-Constable (finally abolished in 1869)
had long been purely nominal, and Justices of the Peace could hardly
be expected to devote much time or trouble to the unpleasant task of
extracting service out of unwilling agents. In country towns where
watchmen were employed, it was usually the constable's duty to oversee
the watchman, but it was found by experience that the business was so
indifferently performed that a plan, known as the "clock system" had,
in many places, been introduced. This method of supervision consisted
of a mechanical contrivance, in the shape of a clock with a revolving
face: the watchmen were instructed to pull the chain attached to the
clock every time they passed any of the machines during the night.
In the morning, the constable would visit the clocks, and note the
hours at which the chains had been pulled; but as a matter of fact the
check on the watchmen was valueless, because subsequent inquiry showed
that one man could easily attend to three or four clocks. In the more
remote country districts watchmen were seldom or never employed, and
no responsible person conceived it to be his particular business to
supervise the comings or goings of the parish-constables.

Under these circumstances, an attempt was made in 1842 to infuse new
life into the decrepit parochial system by an Act[209] of Parliament,
which ordered Justices of the Peace to hold special sessions for
appointing proper persons to act as parish constables, and which
authorized the employment of new functionaries called Superintending
Constables to have the management of Lock-up Houses, and also the
supervision of all the parish-constables within the Petty Sessional
Division of the county for which they might be appointed--such
superintending constables to receive a fixed salary out of the County

The Superintending Constable system was given a fair trial; most
of the counties in England and Wales which refused to adopt the
Permissive Act employing trained stipendiaries to look after their
unpaid and amateurish parochial constables. That the compromise proved
a comparative failure must be attributed not to the shortcomings of
the officers selected, but to the impossibility of the task they were
required to perform. Individually, superintending constables were often
meritorious officers, and they proved so far useful that a substantial
improvement was soon apparent in the police of nearly every county
which employed them; but their exertions, however great, were doomed to
failure because the very unpromising material they had to manipulate
was proof in the long run against the limited powers they were allowed
to exercise.

Without asserting that parish constables were altogether hopeless,
it may be said without fear of contradiction that only the strictest
discipline could have sufficed to render them efficient; but the sole
punishment a superintending constable could inflict on a refractory
subordinate was the very mild one of reporting him to the Justices,
who, in their turn, were powerless to administer anything like adequate
correction. To expect a parochial constabulary to learn efficiency
voluntarily from a superintending constable living in their midst, was
as unreasonable as it would be to look for knowledge in a schoolroom
where a scholar without authority is the teacher.

Whilst this want of control was the chief element of weakness, it was
not the only fault of the system under consideration. For effectual
action, responsibility should be centred if possible in the hands of
one individual, or at all events not equally divided between a dozen or
more participants; yet in counties where the system of superintending
constables obtained, there was no uniformity or general plan, but the
officer of each petty sessional division took his own line, and as long
as he put in an appearance at the Sessions, and visited the various
parishes of his district once a fortnight, no one interfered with him,
or directed his method. It was the custom for the county to provide
each superintending constable with a horse and cart, but, even with
this convenience, the districts were frequently too large for any one
man to supervise; in Kent, for example, a certain division contained
as many as fifty-six different parishes, whilst in Northumberland the
normal area of a single police district was about three hundred square

Despite its obvious defects, the system was popular: not on account
of any hidden virtue which it may perhaps have possessed, but simply
because the small initial outlay required to start it made it look
cheap: opposition to the alternative system, on the other hand, though
it assumed many garbs, had its root and origin in the false economy
which hopes to avoid paying for the measure of security which it knows
to be indispensable.

The pioneer county, as far as stipendiary police is concerned, was
Cheshire, where a paid constabulary was already ten years old when the
Permissive Act was passed.

At the time of the formation of the metropolitan police, Sir Robert
Peel was anxious to make trial of a similar organization in the
country. His efforts were successful in so far that he obtained the
necessary parliamentary sanction[210] and induced the County Palatine
of Chester to appoint an experimental force; once established, however,
he was unable to exercise any control over its destinies, and the first
rural police developed along lines never intended by its author.

The only point of similarity between the Metropolitan and the Cheshire
Constabularies was that they were both stipendiary bodies; the county
was divided into nine police districts, six of which were identical
with existing Hundreds; each district was under the supervision of a
High-Constable, assisted by from six to eight petty constables. The
whole scheme, therefore, was conceived on a paltry scale; the petty
constables were not selected with sufficient care, they were not
graded, and they wore no uniform; responsibility was not vested in
the hands of any one man, and internal jealousies rendered impossible
that co-operation, which is so necessary to the efficiency of the
whole.[211] One of the reasons why Cheshire was selected as a trial
ground, was because rural crime was more prevalent in that county than
elsewhere; but although some lessons of value were acquired for future
application, as a result of this experiment, it must be confessed that
the Cheshire Constabulary were hardly more successful in preventing
crime than the parish constables had been.

Among those counties which were wise enough to take immediate advantage
of the Permissive Act, the lead was quickly taken by Essex, which
had the good fortune to entrust the control of its rural police to a
really brilliant chief-constable in the person of Captain M'Hardy,
a retired naval officer, who had already done good work for the
Coast-guard service. Taking "efficiency with economy" for his motto,
Captain M'Hardy was able to achieve results which proved that a really
well-managed force could be made self-supporting, or in other words
that an efficient constabulary saves and earns as much as it costs. The
strength of the rural police in Essex averaged about one constable to
every fifteen hundred of the population, and the gross expenses, which
included the erection and maintenance of suitable station-houses, were
from the first considerable; yet the chief-constable claimed that the
net annual cost of the whole establishment was only £80, 6s. 3d. This
sum is surprisingly small, but not so incredible as, at first sight, it
may appear. The figures (which are printed at length in an Appendix to
the 2nd Report of the Select Committee appointed in 1853) were arrived
at by placing on the debit side of the account the gross amount
expended for all police services, and on the credit side, the total
savings and earnings effected by their agency. The largest credit taken
was an item of five thousand pounds odd on account of the decrease of
vagrancy, and the second largest, one of nearly four thousand pounds on
account of the estimated increase in the value of land, calculated at
the rate of only one penny per acre.[212]

The practical difference between the working of the parochial system
and that of the rural police could find no better illustration than
that afforded by a comparison of the extent of vagrancy respectively
existing under the two systems. Formerly parish-constables served at
a loss unless crime was plentiful, and their interest therefore lay
towards the encouragement rather than in the prevention of offences. It
is not suggested that parish constables, as a class, were in the habit
of deliberately manufacturing crime, but instances not infrequently
came to light which proved that such practices were not so exceptional
as they ought to have been. We have it on the authority of the Vagrancy
Commission, that a regular system of fraudulent collusion between
constables and tramps was common as recently as the year 1820.[213]
It appears that at this time parish constables were entitled to ten
shillings for apprehending a vagrant, upon proof being shown that the
latter had either solicited or received money, and the fraud consisted
in a compact between the two by which the constable first gave the
vagrant a penny, and having arrested him as a beggar, claimed the
reward, which was ultimately divided between the conspirators.

Under the rural police system such a state of affairs was impossible.
Constables were paid a regular salary, and had no interest in crime
except to prevent it by every means in their power: prevalence of crime
in any district meant extra work and less chance of promotion for every
policeman concerned.

Of the many excellent arrangements introduced by Captain M'Hardy,
with a view to reducing the expense of the Essex constabulary, none
was so successful as the plan of employing constables as assistant
relieving officers for casuals. The resulting advantage was twofold.
The prospect of having to interview a policeman acted as a moral check
upon vagrancy, and the constable acquired in this way an extensive and
first-hand acquaintance with the members of a fraternity professionally
interesting to him. The success of this experiment, with which was
associated the supervision of low lodging-houses, astonished even
its strongest adherents; a comparison of the vagrancy returns for
1848 and 1849 (the year of the initiation of this policy) shewing a
decrease amounting to ninety per cent. in the number of indoor, and to
seventy-seven per cent. in the number of outdoor vagrants, the gross
figures being 24,882 for 1848, and 2977 for the following year--this
result was achieved, moreover, without relief being refused, as far as
could be discovered, to a single pauper who was really destitute.[214]

The Essex constabulary was also the first to undertake the supervision
of Weights and Measures, thus saving the salaries previously paid to
the old inspectors who were inefficient, and saving the pockets of
labouring men who were the chief sufferers by short weight. The extent
to which false measures used to be employed can only be conjectured;
but it is a fact that, when in 1845 the rural police of Wiltshire
took charge of this department, in no less than 14,942 instances
were defective weights and measures discovered. Further savings were
effected in Essex under the headings of, conveyance of prisoners,
prevention of fire, excise duties, etc., etc., whilst private
associations for the apprehension of felons died a natural death
wherever the maintenance of the peace was entrusted to the new police.

The effect of the admirable force established in Essex was to compel
the adjoining counties of Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire
reluctantly to follow suit, and in other parts of England and Wales
rural police were gradually appointed. By May 1853, twenty-two counties
had adopted the Permissive Act, seven counties had partly adopted it,
and twenty-two counties (including two Ridings of Yorkshire) continued
the parochial system, with or without Superintending Constables.

A return dated 1853 shews the progress that had been made--

  _For the whole County_--Bedford, Cambridge, Durham,
  Essex, Gloster, Hertford, Lancaster, Leicester,
  Norfolk, Northampton, Nottingham, Salop, Southampton,
  Stafford, Suffolk, Surrey, Wilts, Worcester,
  Cardigan, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Montgomery.

  _In parts only_--Cumberland, Dorset, Rutland,
  Sussex, Warwick, Westmoreland, York.

  _Counties not adopting the provisions of the Permissive
  Act_--Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cornwall, Derby,
  Devon, Hereford, Huntingdon, Kent, Lincoln, Monmouth,
  Northumberland, Oxford, Somerset, Anglesey,
  Brecon, Carnarvon, Glamorgan, Merioneth, Radnor,
  Flint, Pembroke.

Three years later the distribution was still much the same, only two
counties having remodelled their police in the interval. Unfortunately
there was little uniformity of system throughout the twenty-four police
forces now established: some counties framed their regulations on
those of the Royal Irish Constabulary; others adopted an independent
attitude; Lancashire was unlucky; Cheshire was unique; and only
Hampshire and Cambridgeshire were humble enough to take full advantage
of the excellent model designed by Captain M'Hardy.

The confusion resulting from this patchwork arrangement was put an end
to by the second great Rural Police Act, passed in 1856, "to render
more effectual the police in Counties and Boroughs in England and
Wales." This measure, commonly called the "Obligatory Act," enacted
that where a Constabulary had not already been appointed for the whole
of a County, the magistrates were forthwith to cause such a force to
be appointed for the whole or residue of that County, as the case might
be; and further, that the police forces of all Boroughs containing
five thousand inhabitants or less were to be consolidated with the
police of the County wherein such Boroughs might be situated. An annual
statement respecting crime in Counties was required to be transmitted
by the magistrates (a similar statement for Boroughs to be rendered
by the Watch Committees), to the Secretary of State for the Home
Department, in order that an abstract of the same might be presented to
Parliament. Provision was also made for the appointment of Inspectors
of Constabulary, with authority to visit and enquire into the state and
general efficiency of the police in the several Counties and Boroughs,
and to report thereon to the Secretary of State. On a certificate from
the Home Secretary that the police force of any County or Borough was
efficient, a sum not exceeding one-fourth part of the total cost of pay
and clothing for such police force was to be paid by the Treasury.[215]

The effect of this Statute was, for the first time, to provide every
part of England and Wales with stipendiary police, thus completing the
process which had been initiated at Bow Street more than a hundred
years before. The Metropolitan Police Act, the Municipal Corporations
Act, and the Permissive Act, valuable and indeed indispensable as
they undoubtedly were, had been effective only in certain districts:
delinquents, whom the activity of the metropolitan police had driven
out of London, found a home in other large towns; a second migration
followed when the Boroughs got their police; and yet a third took
place, as we have seen, after the partial introduction of rural
constabularies. If it is true that the degree of impunity looked for
has more to do with the amount of delinquency prevailing than the want
of life's necessaries, or any other factor, it is not a matter for
surprise that a large army of vagrant thieves continued to ply their
trade as long as there remained twenty counties and scores of small
towns where no interference with their illegal pursuits was to be
anticipated, and to which they might return after a successful raid to
safely dispose of their plunder.

The Obligatory Act tended to reduce crime in many ways, for not only
did a criminal career become much less attractive after the last
Alsatia had been closed, but the efficiency of all existing police
bodies was enormously increased by the uniformity and co-operation
between different units which naturally followed upon the compulsory
adoption of one general system through the whole country. Local
control was not interfered with by this Act, but a certain standard
of excellence was set up and maintained by means of the government
grant--the withholding of which as a punishment for inefficiency,
took the place to some extent of the amercements once levied against
districts whose police had been found wanting. And finally, the
vexatious restrictions which prevented constables from acting outside
the narrow limits of their constablewicks, were removed by the clause
which gave County constables the same powers in Boroughs as Borough
Constables enjoyed in Counties, thus restoring (in a form improved by
modern aids, such as the postal service and the electric telegraph) a
power similar to that which our English police long ago possessed, of
carrying the Hue and Cry from township to township, and from shire to
shire "untill the offender be apprehended, or at the least untill he be
thus pursued to the seaside."



When the new police was first introduced, the promoters of the
scheme did not look beyond the creation of a local force, sufficient
to protect life and property in the metropolis and its immediate
neighbourhood. No doubt Peel intended that his police should serve as
a model to other forces which he hoped to see established throughout
the kingdom; but it was no part of his plan that the Metropolitan
Police should be extended until the whole of England was policed by a
homogeneous organization administered from a central bureau in London.
Such a result, however, was at one time imminent, and would have become
inevitable if the process had not been arrested by the timely reforms
in County and Borough, described in the last chapter; reforms which,
besides helping towards the general reduction of crime, prevented also
the threatened centralization, by securing to provincial districts the
control of their own police.

As the Metropolitan Police increased in numbers and efficiency, it
began to lose its strictly local character, and to become a national
police. Up to a certain point this was to the public advantage, but
it would have been calamitous if the tendency had been allowed to
continue beyond that point. It is obvious, however, that after the
failure of the Permissive Act in 1839, the retention of local control,
so desirable on many grounds, was only rendered possible by making the
abolition of the parochial system universally compulsory.

As a matter of fact, the powers of making additions to the Metropolitan
District, acquired in 1839,[216] were only taken advantage of to a
very small extent, and the growth of the Metropolitan Police was
almost entirely confined within the limits originally assigned to
it. In 1840 the Houses of Parliament and the London Docks were taken
over; next came the Woolwich and Deptford Yards; Woolwich Arsenal,
and Greenwich were incorporated in 1843; then the Tower of London,
and finally the Royal Dockyards (Portsmouth, Devonport, Chatham, and
Pembroke Dock) were policed by the Metropolitan force in 1860. The
entire establishment, which in June 1830 was 3314 of all ranks, had
risen to 5625 in 1852, and ten years afterwards a new division (X) was
created to deal with the crowds which were expected to visit the second
International Exhibition. In 1864 the total strength was 7113. Colonel
Rowan resigned in 1850, and in 1856 the two Commissioners were replaced
by one Commissioner (Sir R. Mayne) and two Assistant Commissioners.

At first no steps were taken to fill the gap caused by the
disappearance of the Bow Street Runner, and the Popay incident
discouraged the Commissioners from venturing on what was felt to be
dangerous ground. The lack of a detective service was a great source
of weakness, and so in 1842 a new department, especially devoted to
this very necessary branch of police work, was instituted by Sir James
Graham, and attached to Scotland Yard.

A small staff was selected out of the uniform branch to form a nucleus.
At first the department only consisted of three inspectors and nine
sergeants; soon afterwards six constables were added, and gradually the
numbers were increased until in 1878 the whole detective service was
reorganized, and the Criminal Investigation Department created.

At the time when the Metropolitan force was the only efficient police
in the kingdom, individual officers, it may be remembered, were often
sent to the provinces, on loan or permanently, to assist in the
formation of similar organizations in other parts of England; this of
course was right and proper, and was attended by the best results.
Subsequently, the practice arose of temporarily drafting large bodies
of London policemen to keep the peace in distant districts wherever
disturbances were feared, a course of action sound enough in theory
perhaps, but seldom found effectual when put to the test of experience.
An English mob quickly resents high-handed interference, and will not
tolerate at the hands of strangers the same degree of repression it
would quietly submit to from local peace officers.

Several examples might be given of the ill-success which has almost
invariably attended the employment of London police in the provinces;
but the following is selected as a particularly well-defined instance.
In the summer of 1839 a force of Metropolitan policemen, about ninety
strong, were dispatched to Birmingham, to over-awe the turbulent crowds
which, it was feared, might proceed to extremities if their demands
were not complied with. When the police arrived in the town, a noisy
public meeting was in progress at the Bull Ring, but no overt act
of violence had as yet been committed. The Superintendent in charge
of the constables peremptorily ordered the crowd to disperse; his
summons was as positively disregarded, and within five minutes blows
were exchanged. In the melée which followed, the police were worsted,
and the situation was barely saved by the opportune appearance of
the military. On the ensuing Monday evening, a second conflict took
place, in which the policemen were victorious, though at the expense
of an increase of bitterness on both sides. A spurious semblance of
peace having thus been restored, fifty constables returned to London,
and only forty were left to deal with any recrudescence of disorder;
for this they had not long to wait, as an attempt to break up a
public meeting, a few days later, was followed by the most serious
consequences. After destroying some iron palisading which surrounded
the Nelson Monument, the crowd, now animated by a worse temper than
before, made weapons of part of the débris, and drove the small force
of constables to take refuge in the police-yard. For the next hour
and a half the town was at the mercy of the rioters, who, having
begun by smashing lamps and windows, ended by pillaging shops and
warehouses.[217] Eventually the police charged the mob with drawn
cutlasses, and, assisted by dragoons, got the upper hand; shortly
afterwards the police were withdrawn, and the task of keeping order
was entrusted to a strong levy of special constables locally enrolled,
who succeeded in maintaining the peace where their more professional
_confrères_ had failed. There is little doubt but that these riots
might have been avoided, or at least mitigated, had no strangers been
introduced to quell them.[218]

An isolated fact seldom proves anything; but it will be allowed,
without the production of additional evidence, that the Birmingham
fiasco affords sufficient proof that the Metropolitan Police had not
yet learnt the art of managing an angry crowd. There are, no doubt,
many occasions on which it is desirable to transfer bodies of police
from one place to another in order to concentrate the forces of law and
order at some threatened or strategic point, but in so doing the danger
to be apprehended from the resulting increase of local animus, ought to
be taken into account, and adequately provided for.

The valuable, if not indispensable, nature of the services which may be
rendered by Special Constables when directed towards the suppression
of riots, already indicated at Birmingham in 1839, was more fully
exemplified in 1848, when the Chartists assembled at Kennington Common,
threatened to descend upon London. The fear that the Metropolis might
be subjected to an access of anarchy similar to that which bestowed
an evil notoriety on the Gordon Riots, gave rise to preparations for
defence on an unprecedented scale. At this crisis not less than two
hundred thousand citizens enrolled themselves as Special Constables;
the Metropolitan Police were told off to guard the bridges; and
all available troops were held in reserve, mostly in houses on the
Middlesex side of the river. The Duke of Wellington took command of
this huge police army, and so perfect were his arrangements that,
without the display of a single redcoat, the rioters outside dared not
advance to the attack, and their sympathisers within dared not make any
diversion in their favour.

The whole subject of the policing of riotous and riotously disposed
crowds is of the highest importance; but being a science in itself,
its many aspects cannot be discussed in a book which only professes
to tell briefly the story of police development in this country. At
the same time, if we are to appreciate correctly the bearing of one
fact upon another, if we hope to draw intelligent conclusions, it is
impossible to avoid altogether what may be called the semi-scientific
side of the question. In order to estimate the efficiency of any police
force, to decide, for example, whether its failures are due to faulty
organization or to bad generalship,--it is not sufficient to have an
acquaintance with a mass of facts, dates and figures, but a key is
required to read the cipher, some guide is necessary to assist in
arranging the known factors in the order of their relative importance.

An indifferently directed force may be capable of dealing in detail
with isolated offenders; but the problem of pacifying a combination of
peace breakers may induce a strain which will find out the faulty link
in all but the most highly tempered organizations. Just as a concerted
breach of the peace by a number of persons is disproportionately more
serious than an independent breach by any individual, so also do
police duties take a higher range as soon as it becomes necessary to
concentrate the energies of a number of constables for the attainment
of a common object. If he is to employ his constables to the best
advantage, a superior officer of police must have some knowledge of the
general laws that sway men when they are assembled together in great
numbers, those "volcanic forces" which, in the words of an American
writer, "lie smouldering in all ignorant masses."

Men have a gregarious instinct which, under the influence of
excitement, induces them to herd together without any definite object
and often at great inconvenience to themselves; the progress of the
resulting congestion is normal until a certain point is reached, the
point at which entirely new forces begin to act. When this moment
arrives, all self-control is repudiated, decent and orderly men become
desperadoes, cowards are inspired by a senseless bravado, the calm
reason of common-sense gives place to the insanity of licence, and
unless the demoralising tendency is checked, a crowd rapidly reaches
the level of its most degraded constituent. The explanation of these
phenomena is probably to be found in an excessive spirit of emulation
aroused under conditions of excitement, which makes a man feel that the
responsibility for his actions is no longer to be borne by himself, but
will be shared by the multitude in which he has merged his identity.
It is the business of the police to exhaust every art in a sustained
effort to prevent the ferment from reaching the critical stage, and
to watch the crowd so narrowly that the first symptom of violence
may instantly be suppressed. This can best be accomplished by local
constables who are acquainted with the persons and names of individual
members of the crowd, while it is of even greater moment that the
constabulary should not be the first to give offence, or contribute to
a breach of the peace by the use of exasperating language or aggressive

The problem before the policeman operating against a riotously disposed
crowd is somewhat similar to that which confronts the soldier in the
face of the enemy, and it was on this account that the Metropolitan
force was given a semi-military organization. In some respects,
however, the policeman's task is the more difficult of the two,
chiefly because he has to strive for peace whilst actually engaged in
conflict; the soldier at least enjoys the advantage of knowing his
own comrades, whereas the constable is often unable to distinguish
friends from foes, and continually runs the risk of converting the
former into the latter. Whilst the greatest possible latitude must
be allowed to individual constables, the secret of success lies in
mutual, not in independent action, and for mutual action to exist,
there must be discipline and intelligent direction. When the use of
force can no longer be delayed, the plan adopted by the officer in
command should be easy of accomplishment, simple of comprehension, and
its success should leave the law-breakers at a strategical disadvantage
sufficiently obvious to convince them of the futility of further
resistance. Nothing is so fatal as vacillation: partial success leads
on a mob to the commission of fresh excesses, partial repression only
aggravates it. It is far better to leave a crowd altogether alone,
than to sustain even an apparent defeat. Force is no remedy unless it
is unswervingly and unhesitatingly applied; and as it is comparatively
immaterial in what direction repression is exercised so long as it is
consistent and irresistible, it is usually good policy to divert the
energies of the mob towards the line of least resistance. It is more
efficacious, for example, to keep a crowd moving in some definite
direction, than to dissipate the strength of the police in attempts
to arrest ring-leaders, to seize banners or the like, which may
degenerate into a series of disconnected single combats not uniformly
favourable to authority. Any apparently uncalled-for attack may convey
the impression of wanton outrage, and so tend to defeat the object in
view, by increasing that state of irritation and excitement which it
is the principal duty of the police to allay. Many branches of police
science which to-day are in the common knowledge were unheard of and
unsuspected during the first half of the nineteenth century. This is
particularly the case with regard to that part of the constable's duty
which has to do with the management of crowds: before 1830 there were
only two methods of dealing with a riotous mob, the first was to leave
it severely alone, and the second was to allow a regiment of cavalry
to trample it into submission. No government worthy of the name is
justified in adopting a policy of non-interference at a time when the
lives and property of law-abiding citizens are in preventible jeopardy,
and the disastrous consequences that may follow upon the employment of
the second method were sufficiently advertised (to cite two instances
only) by the Bristol Riots and the so-called Peterloo Massacre.

London police and London crowds are now renowned all over the world,
the former for the general excellence of their arrangements, and the
latter for their almost invariable good humour. Perhaps the credit
is not always fairly apportioned, for it is not too much to say that
the good humour of the crowd is more often due to the admirable tact
of the police than to any inherent virtue that exclusively resides
in Londoners. At first the police were hardly more successful in
suppressing riots than the soldiers had been: in Birmingham as at
Coldbath Fields, events shewed that the unpopularity of the new
constabulary went far to neutralize the undoubted superiority naturally
possessed by a civil, over a military, force for the purposes of
peace maintenance. As time went on, and as police and public came to
understand each other, riots became less frequent, and conflicts less
bitter, until the harmony which now so happily exists was arrived
at. If it is allowable to talk of a turning-point in a process which
is gradual, this point was reached soon after the disturbances which
commonly go by the name of the Sunday-Trading-Bill Riots. Though not
accompanied by any loss of life, nor followed by those unsparing
attacks on the conduct of the police that had embittered the Coldbath
Fields controversy, the collision which took place in July 1855,
between the Metropolitan Police and a mixed London crowd, were serious
enough to stir up much of the old animosity, and to prove that,
if the policeman was no longer an object of active dislike to his
fellow-citizens, neither could he as yet lay claim to any great measure
of popularity.

The disturbances in question arose out of the following circumstances.
Lord Robert Grosvenor had introduced a bill, the object of which
was to prevent all buying and selling within the City of London and
metropolitan police district on Sundays. Popular feeling, which ran
high against the measure, found expression in a variety of ways, some
serious and some serio-comic. The point of view of the masses was not
badly summed up in these lines:

    "Sublime decree, by which our souls to save
    No Sunday tankards foam, no barbers shave,
    And chins unmown, and throats unslaked display,
    His Lordship's reverence for the Sabbath day."

Unfortunately the opponents of the obnoxious bill did not confine
themselves to versification, but caused handbills to be circulated,
announcing that on the 24th of June, an open-air meeting would be
held in Hyde Park "to see how religiously the aristocracy observe the
Sabbath, and how careful they are not to work their servants or their
cattle on that day." The result of this manifesto was that, at the time
mentioned, a mob assembled near the Serpentine, but the demonstration
did not assume serious proportions, the crowd contenting themselves
with hooting and jeering at those who were taking their afternoon ride
or drive in the Park.

Throughout the following week, certain persons continued the agitation,
and, by means of placards, summoned their sympathisers to meet them on
the next Sunday in Hyde Park, where it was announced that "the open air
concert and monster fête, under the patronage of the Leave-us-alone
Club will be repeated." Another appeal was of a more personal nature
and ran as follows, "Let us go to Church with Lord Robert Grosvenor
next Sunday morning. We can attend his lordship in Park Lane at half
past ten, go to Church with him, then go home to dinner, and be back in
time to see our friends in Hyde Park. Come in your best clothes, as
his lordship is very particular."

These handbills and placards having been brought to his notice,
Sir Richard Mayne replied by publishing a proclamation requesting
well-disposed persons not to attend the proposed meeting, at the same
time warning all concerned that steps would be taken by the police to
prevent the meeting being held, and that, if necessary, force would be
employed to maintain the peace.

Undeterred by this notice, thousands of people entered the Park on the
afternoon of Sunday the 1st of July, drawn thither, some by curiosity,
some for purposes of recreation, some with the fixed determination of
resisting the police. Certain precautionary arrangements were made by
the Chief Commissioner, and orders were issued to the effect that any
persons shouting or frightening horses, or attempting to address the
crowd, were to be cautioned as to the consequences of their action
and required to desist, the police being instructed to remove, and if
necessary take into custody, any who persistently refused to obey their

As on the previous Sunday, the disturbances commenced with hooting and
shouting, but the police who, in obedience to orders, were lying down
on the grass, did not interfere; at about half past three, the crowd
began to assume a more threatening attitude, and things began to look
serious. A dense mob was gathered along the railings and across the
carriage way, stones were thrown at carriages, some wooden hurdles
were broken up, and the fragments used as missiles, whilst the crowd
continued to hoot, whistle and make discordant noises, with the object
of frightening the horses.

The Superintendent in charge, thinking that the time for vigorous
action had arrived, ordered the police to draw their truncheons
and clear the roadway. Whilst this order was being carried out, a
considerable number of people who did not give way with sufficient
promptitude were struck and some knocked down. The mob now turned upon
the police, making insulting remarks, throwing stones, and repeatedly
attempting to break the line of constables, who retaliated by making
short rushes and taking into custody all who offered resistance.
Victory eventually rested with the police, but desultory fighting
continued throughout the afternoon, and it was not until six o'clock
in the evening that the commotion in the neighbourhood of the Drive

Whilst the main crowd was being dispersed, a mob some 400 strong, with
cries of "Now to Lord Robert Grosvenor's," left the park, and proceeded
to Park Street, and at the same moment another body made their way to
the Magazine Barracks, where they amused themselves by throwing stones
at a small party of Grenadiers stationed there. The sergeant in command
sent to the police for assistance which was promptly rendered, and
quiet was soon restored.

Meanwhile the constables in Park Street were endeavouring to persuade
the crowd, who had gathered in force in front of Lord Robert's house,
to disperse quietly, but when their efforts proved of no avail, and
when cries of "Chuck him out" and threats of violence were raised, the
reserves previously stationed at Stanhope Gate were moved up, and the
street cleared by force. In this encounter truncheons were again used,
and numerous minor injuries inflicted, but only one arrest was made.

By nine o'clock the police were withdrawn, all disturbance being at
an end. In the course of the day forty-nine policemen were reported
hurt, and on the other side seventy-two persons were taken into custody
and removed to Vine Street Police Station, ten of them being charged
with felony, and the remaining sixty-two with riotous conduct or with
assaults on the police. Unfortunately the accommodation at Vine Street
was altogether insufficient for such a large number of prisoners, the
cells ordinarily in use were soon filled, and then recourse was had
to an underground room, formerly the place of confinement attached
to the old parish watch-house. Into this prison, which was dark and
badly ventilated, were crowded forty-three persons, ten of whom were
subsequently removed, but the remaining thirty-three had to spend the
night (which happened to be unusually sultry), standing up, or lying
on the damp floor as best they could. Many of the prisoners were
respectable people, unused to dirt and discomfort, and their sufferings
must have been considerable.

The Inspector in charge of the Vine Street Station, somewhat tardily
communicating with Sir Richard Mayne, informed him of the overcrowded
state of the cells, with the result that thirty-one prisoners out of
the original seventy-two were removed to neighbouring stations by order
of the Chief Commissioner. In the course of the next two days, all
the accused were brought before the magistrates, when twenty-nine, or
nearly half the number, were discharged, the remainder being fined or
sentenced to short terms of imprisonment.

The conduct of the police in Hyde Park, and the treatment of the
prisoners at Vine Street, having given rise to serious allegations and
to much adverse comment in the public press, the Government decided to
hold an inquiry into the matter. Three Commissioners were appointed,
and given full powers to investigate and report upon the occurrences of
the 1st of July and the following days. In the course of the inquiry,
several attempts were made to discredit Sir Richard Mayne; some accused
him of slackness for not personally directing the police in the park,
whilst others held that he was over-officious in not leaving the crowd
alone altogether. The responsibility for the overcrowding at Vine
Street was laid to his charge, and it was suggested that he failed in
his duty, in that he did not go to the police station, and, by virtue
of the powers vested in him as a Justice of the Peace, admit to bail
those prisoners who were not charged with felony, and who might be able
to find sufficient guarantee for their future appearance.

Of these charges, which were made by people who seemed to think that
any stone was good enough to throw at the chief officer of police, the
two first, when taken together, were mutually destructive, besides
being silly when considered separately; whilst the suggestion that Sir
Richard Mayne ought to have admitted certain of the accused to bail,
was not to the point, because it had been clearly laid down by Statute
when the office was first created, that any exercise of the powers of a
Justice by the Chief Commissioner of Police was to be strictly confined
to his duties connected with the preservation of the peace.

The net result of the labours of Her Majesty's Commissioners was to
establish, beyond a doubt, that certain constables had been guilty of
unnecessary violence; that the Superintendent in charge, losing his
head, or his temper, or both, had authorized stronger measures than
the circumstances of the case warranted; and that blame attached to
the authorities at Vine Street for the mismanagement which caused
the detention of a far larger number of prisoners than there was
accommodation for at that station. On the other hand, it was proved
that the large majority of the police had acted with moderation
and good temper throughout a long and trying day in spite of the
continued attempts of the crowd to harass and annoy them; and that the
measures adopted for the preservation of the peace had on the whole
been successful, in so far that a mob many thousands strong, bent on
mischief, had been effectually controlled and prevented from doing any
material damage worth mentioning.

From the evidence as a whole, it is clear that the accusing witnesses
(and they were very numerous,), must have been guilty of much
exaggeration when describing the violence with which they said the
police had acted; since in a conflict lasting several hours, in which
it was alleged the constabulary used their truncheons unmercifully,
sparing neither age nor sex, no life was lost, no limb was broken, nor
was any permanent injury inflicted. On the other hand, many witnesses
voluntarily came forward to testify to the good behaviour of the
police, not only on this particular occasion, but generally in all
their dealings with the public.

The promptitude with which the inquiry was granted, and the thorough
and impartial manner in which it was carried out, was attended by
the happiest results, and did much to foster friendly relations in
the future between police and public; the latter were reassured that
Government would not tolerate, much less countenance, any excesses
committed by the police, upon whom again it was impressed that even a
disorderly mob must be treated with a certain amount of consideration,
and that high-handed interference would lead to the punishment of the
offending constables.

A minor improvement which originated from this inquiry may, in passing,
be noticed. Hitherto a constable's number had been surrounded by a
scroll of embroidery that made it difficult to decipher except at very
close quarters, so that identification was often rendered impossible:
to rectify this, the plain metal figures now worn by constables on
collar and helmet were introduced.

The Sunday-Trading Bill riots were quite unimportant as riots, and
yet their influence upon the future of the police was very great,
because the inquiry which followed illuminated a question that had
been obscured by ignorance and prejudice, causing misconceptions
to be removed on both sides, and a better understanding and mutual
appreciation to be substituted, with the result that the metropolitan
force soon began to be popular in quarters where it had previously been
hated. The best proof of its efficiency, so far as the management of
crowds is concerned, may be found in the fact that, during the first
forty years of its existence, the peace was so well maintained, that
the damage done to property by rioters was quite insignificant, and
this without the intervention of the military; whilst in witness of
the moderation of the methods employed by the police in the attainment
of this result, it need only be stated, that in every conflict which
occurred during the same period, the personal injuries sustained by
the aggressors were invariably less severe than those suffered by
the constables, though the latter were all men of exceptionally fine
physique, and were armed with truncheons. In the course of the Reform
riot which took place in Hyde Park in the year 1868, two hundred and
sixty-five policemen were wounded out of a total of 1613 actually on
duty, "and one Superintendent, two Inspectors, nine sergeants, and
thirty-three constables were so severely injured as to be rendered
unfit for duty, many for life," yet "the police behaved with the most
admirable moderation and not a single case of unnecessary violence was
proved against them."[219]

There is a saying that the strength of the Man in Blue lies in
the fact that he has the Man in Red behind him. This of course is
superficially true, in so far that in the event of a riot or other
disturbance, with which the local police is for any reason unable to
cope, a sufficient number of troops will be called out to assist the
civil arm. But the saying is not true if any suggestion of an offensive
alliance between constabulary and soldiery is intended; nor is it true
if it is meant to give the impression that there is a potentiality of
physical force behind the policeman, which, under any circumstances
whatever, could be exerted to coerce the nation at large.

The members of the English police are public servants in the fullest
sense of the term; not servants of any individual, of any particular
class or sect, but servants of the whole community--excepting only that
part of it which in setting the law at defiance, has thereby become a
public enemy. The strength of the Man in Blue, properly understood,
lies in the fact that he has behind him the whole weight of public
opinion; for he only wages war against the law-breaker, and in this
contest can claim the goodwill of every loyal citizen. If a police
constable is in need of assistance, he can call upon any bystander, and
in the King's name demand his active co-operation; should the bystander
refuse without being able to prove physical impossibility or lawful
excuse, he can no longer be considered as a loyal citizen, but is
guilty of an indictable offence and becomes liable to punishment.

The basis upon which our theory of police ultimately rests, is the
assumption that every lawful act performed by a police officer in
the execution of his duty, has the sanction and approval of the great
majority of his fellow-citizens; and under our constitution it would be
impossible for any constabulary force to continue in existence, if its
actions persistently ran counter to the expressed wishes of the people.

The actual continuance of the English police is therefore dependent
upon the consent of the people; but this mere acquiescence is not
enough. If the police are to be efficient, they must earn for
themselves the respect and sympathy of all classes, they must be
popular. It is only on the rarest occasions that a policeman is
actually the eye-witness of a crime, nor in the nature of things
is he likely to be in the confidence of the criminal. As a rule he
must rely on information, and generally speaking the public is the
only source from which the necessary knowledge can be obtained. If
the public are hostile, the one source of information is closed, and
the police are rendered powerless. This difficulty has often been
experienced in Ireland, where, on several occasions, it has proved a
practical impossibility to discover the authors of agrarian crime,
even when all the facts were well known to dozens of people, simply
because the whole neighbourhood had entered into a conspiracy of
silence. Such a manoeuvre instantly paralyzes the civil executive.
In the olden days, when an offence had been committed and there was no
culprit forthcoming, a fine was levied against the hundred or hundreds
implicated, and justice was satisfied; in mediæval times, the "peine
forte et dure" was employed to elicit information; but since the
abolition of torture no effectual method has been invented by means
of which an unwilling witness can be forced to tell what he knows; in
Ireland, especially, the inducements held out by Government, to tempt a
man to speak, are of little avail against the terrorism that the other
side can invoke by the mere whisper of the word "informer."

But there are other reasons, besides this important question of
obtaining information, why a measure of popularity is of such extreme
value to every police force. There are a thousand ways in which the
members of an unpopular service can be embarrassed and thwarted. No
matter how capable and painstaking a man may be, he cannot do himself
justice, nor can the best results attend his labours, if his every
act is questioned, and if at every turn he has to surmount some
obstacle set up to annoy and discourage him. The constabulary has been
described as "The great army of order that is always in the field";
the protracted campaign in which this army is engaged is under all
circumstances extremely arduous, but it becomes doubly so when its
operations have to be conducted in an enemy's country.

We demand intelligence, good personal character and great physical
strength from those to whom we entrust the duties of peace maintenance;
and if we are to obtain men of the right stamp, men, that is, who
possess these qualifications, it is essential that the police service
should be held in popular esteem, and that the position of a constable
should be sufficiently well thought of, and sought after, to create a
keen competition for the vacancies as they occur. It would never do to
have to beat up recruits for the constabulary forces, and to fall back
on the expedients that the military authorities have to resort to to
fill the ranks, nor to enlist immature lads in the hope that some day
they will grow into well-developed men.

From every point of view, then, popularity is of the utmost value
to the police; and yet, from the very nature of their duties it is
extremely difficult for them to win it. A policeman who will lend
himself to the screening of crime, or who is conveniently blind on
occasions, may quickly become the object of a worthless and fleeting
popularity; but it is not the friendship of the publican nor the
applause of the rabble that is desirable; what is wanted is the respect
and approval of all good citizens.

Year by year, in spite of occasional set-backs, the English police have
risen in the estimation of their fellow-countrymen until they have won
for themselves a position in the minds of the people which for respect
and regard combined is without a parallel in Europe. "Weak in numbers
as the force is," wrote Mr Munro, the late Commissioner of Police for
the Metropolis, "it would be found in practice altogether inadequate
were it not strengthened, to an extent unknown, I believe, elsewhere,
by the relations that exist between the police and public, and by the
thorough recognition on the part of the citizens at large of the police
as their friends and protectors. The police touch all classes of the
public at many points beyond the performance of their sterner duties as
representatives of the law, and they touch them in a friendly way....
The police in short, are not the representatives of an arbitrary and
despotic power, directed against the rights or obtrusively interfering
with the pleasures of law-abiding citizens: they are simply a
disciplined body of men, specially engaged in protecting 'masses' as
well as 'classes,' from any infringement of their rights on the part of
those who are not law-abiding."

The wisdom of fostering cordial relations between the people and the
civil defenders of their lives and properties seems so obvious, that
it is a source of wonder that so little attention has been given to
the study of how best to promote this desirable _entente cordiale_.
Before the new police was instituted constables were merely despised;
after the re-organization was completed they were generally feared and
often hated; the fact that they won their way to popularity is to be
attributed almost entirely to their own merits. At the beginning of the
century Colquhoun, who was a long way in advance of his contemporaries
in his conceptions of what a police force should be, wrote: "Everything
that can heighten in any degree the respectability of the office of
constable, adds to the security of the State, and to the safety of the
life and property of every individual," but at the time only a very
few people heeded what he said; and parish authorities persisted in
the idea that it did not matter who or what a constable was so long as
he was cheap, whilst in more recent years, politicians of a certain
stamp, who ought to be alive to the fatal consequences of their action,
have not scrupled to try and stir up bad blood between the constabulary
and the uneducated section of the public, whenever it has suited their
purposes to do so, though happily without much success.

If the co-operation of which we have been speaking is to be complete,
it should rest on a more substantial basis than goodwill: it is not
sufficient that private citizens should be well-disposed towards
their allies, it is necessary also that they should be acquainted
with the conditions that govern the mutual relationship. The sphere
of police utility is seriously limited by reason of the ignorance
which commonly prevails, both as to the executive powers that private
persons can assume as citizens, and with respect to the functions that
officials may exercise by virtue of their office. In his "History of
the Criminal Law," Sir James Stephen thus explains the position. "The
police in their different grades are no doubt officers appointed by
law for the purpose of arresting criminals, but they possess for this
purpose no powers that are not also possessed by private persons....
A policeman has no other right as to asking questions or compelling
the attendance of witnesses than a private person has; in a word, with
a few exceptions, he may be described as a person paid to perform
as a matter of duty acts, which if he so minded, he might have done
voluntarily."[220] The law on the subject is further defined by
another authority in these words. "If a constable be assaulted in the
execution of his office, he need not go back to the wall, as private
persons ought to do; and if, in the striving together, the constable
kill the assailant, it is no felony; but if the constable be killed
it shall be construed premeditated murder."[221] For all practical
purposes, however, the only real difference that exists between the
powers that are actively made use of by the police, and the latent
powers that are vested in every British citizen, is this:--A police
officer may arrest (without warrant) if he has a reasonable suspicion
that a felony has taken place; a private person cannot arrest unless he
has certain knowledge that a felony has actually been committed.

Within these limits, and according to our opportunities, the duty of
each one of us is clear and inalienable, remaining the same to-day as
it was in the time of Queen Elizabeth, when it was written "So that
every English man is a sergeant to take the thiefe, and who sheweth
negligence therein do not only incurre Evil opinion therefore, but
hardly shall escape punishment."[222]



Attention has already been directed to the excessive zeal of the
opponents of the "New Police"; but no mention has been made of those
enthusiasts who looked for an instant millennium to follow upon the
adoption of the measures they advocated. Yet there were many such who
formed extravagant hopes too high for realization. It is seldom easy
for the observer to arrive at a just estimate of the value of a new
institution until his standpoint is far enough removed from the stress
of the moment to secure him from the current partisanship which every
novelty arouses. We, however, who have crossed the threshold of the
twentieth century, can disregard the extreme views of both parties, and
heedless of the outpourings of admirers and detractors alike, can gauge
the issue by the light of ascertained results, supported by facts and
figures. Judged by this standard, and viewed from the standpoint of
to-day, the police reforms inaugurated between 1829 and 1856 will be
found to justify all reasonably conceived expectations, disappointing
as they no doubt appeared to over-sanguine extremists at the time.

Since the ideal standard of excellence aimed at by every properly
constituted police force is the complete prevention of crime, and
as there can be no record of offences prevented, it is obviously
impossible to arrive at an entirely satisfactory conclusion as to the
efficiency of police by means of any arithmetical process. At the same
time it will be allowed that if, whilst population increases, recorded
offences are a stationary, or better still if they are a diminishing
quantity, there is at least strong presumptive evidence that the
result is largely due to the efficiency of the established police.
Unfortunately there is no infallible method of discovering the amount
of criminality existing in the country at any given time; but, of all
available statistics, the best for our purpose are certainly those,
which give the annual total of commitments for indictable offences
from 1834 until the present day. Before 1834 the records are not
altogether trustworthy; but the Parliamentary Committee which sat in
1828, stated that in the ten years between 1811 and 1821, during which
the average increase of population was about nineteen per cent., the
average increase of commitments for the same period was no less than
forty-eight per cent. There can therefore be no doubt that prior to the
establishment of the new police the increase of crime was outstripping
the increase of population; but taking only those figures which are
generally acknowledged to be correct, we get the following interesting

  | Census Years. | Population. |  Number of   |   Proportion.     |
  |               |             | Commitments. |                   |
  |     1841      | 15,914,148  |    27,760    | 174·6 per 100,000 |
  |     1851      | 17,927,609  |    27,960    | 156·2  "     "    |
  |     1861      | 20,066,224  |    18,326    |  91·3  "     "    |
  |     1871      | 22,712,266  |    16,269    |  71·6  "     "    |
  |     1881      | 25,974,239  |    14,704    |  56·6  "     "    |
  |     1891      | 29,002,525  |    11,605    |  40·0  "     "    |

Such is the remarkable result obtained by taking the whole number of
indictable offences sent for trial at Assizes and Quarter Sessions in
each Census-year since 1834, nor is there any reason to suppose that
the process of amelioration has slackened to any appreciable extent
during the last decade. When the Census returns for 1901 are published
it will probably be found that the population of England and Wales now
totals to about thirty-two millions; and assuming that the amount of
crime committed during the current year is not abnormal, the number
of commitments will work out at a little more than thirty for every
hundred thousand inhabitants. That is to say, during the last sixty
years, serious offences have decreased nearly sixty per cent. in
actual volume, and some eighty per cent. if considered relatively to
population--or in other words, between two-thirds and five-sixths of
the type of crime, which sixty years ago brought men to trial, is now
prevented. These figures, of course, deal with detected crime only: if
it were possible to include all grave offences, irrespective of whether
their authors were discovered or not, the results would be even more
striking, because owing to the increased activity on the part of the
police, and to the greater readiness to prosecute on the part of the
public, comparatively few serious crimes now remain mysteries for any
length of time. Calculations based on the number of offences disposed
of by Courts of Summary Jurisdiction are valueless if the object in
view is to estimate the prevalence of crime, because not only are new
minor offences continually being created (thus rendering such returns
too intricate for purposes of ready comparison) but the inclusion of
trivial breaches of the Licensing Acts, Education Acts, Vaccination
Acts &c. reduces the plane of the enquiry from one which deals only
with crimes to one which is mainly concerned with misdemeanours.

If we confine our attention, therefore, to the Commitment Returns, the
most noteworthy feature which strikes us, is the drop between 1851 and
1861--the decade in which the Obligatory Act gave the _coup-de-grâce_
to the parochial system, and for the first time covered the whole of
England and Wales with a network of stipendiary police. At first sight
it would appear that here was cause and effect, that is, that the
signal improvement indicated by these statistics was primarily due to
the Act of 1856; it is more likely, however, that the result must, in
the main, be placed to the credit of the police reforms of the previous
decade, for reasons which will presently appear.

In view of these eminently satisfactory figures, it may well be
asked how it came about that those persons, who most firmly believed
that security was only to be attained through police instrumentality,
were so grievously disappointed at the imaginary failure of their
pet scheme. In order to find the answer to this question it will be
necessary to probe a little deeper into the statistics, and to do so
by the light of contemporary events. In the first place it is to be
remarked that a closer inspection of the Commitment Returns reveals the
fact that a reaction took place between 1860 and 1863, the figures for
those years reading as follows:

    1860  15,999
    1861  18,326
    1862  20,001
    1863  20,818

This result was due, no doubt, to the combined effects of two distinct
causes, one of which produced an actual growth of crime, whilst the
other accounted for what was but an apparent increase of delinquency.
If it is true that crime was more common than before, it is no less
true that offences were more commonly detected, the apparent increase
being the necessary result of the efficient action of the newly
organized Constabularies, which, naturally enough, did not take full
effect until the whole machine was in proper working order. Before
preventive police can develop its maximum deterrent energy, it has
to prove its title to respect by its success in the detection of
crime; criminals do not search the Statutes at Large, nor judge of
the efficiency of a policeman from government statistics.[223] They
take him as they find him, and learn to fear him only after they have
acquired a practical familiarity with his activity, either by personal
contact, or vicariously, through the misfortunes of acquaintances. The
significance of the heavy Calendars in the early sixties, therefore,
is largely discounted by the fact, that the accumulations of former
years had to be dispersed, before entire responsibility for the amount
of crime prevailing could be laid at the door of the new régime. With
regard to the second reason for the despondency above referred to, it
must be remembered that offences against property so outnumber other
offences, that they entirely dominate all criminal statistics; whilst
the public alarm occasioned by a single case of robbery involving
personal injury to an individual, is infinitely greater than that
caused by a whole series of depredations on property if unaccompanied
by violence. In the quinquennial period (1857-1861), the number of
persons for trial at Assizes and Quarter Sessions, charged with murder,
attempted murder, manslaughter, felonious wounding, malicious wounding
and assault, amounted to 1451; whilst in the next quinquennial period
(1862-1867), the number of commitments for these offences had risen
to 1712; and herein lay the _raison d'etre_ for the widespread alarm
which, in 1862 and 1863 especially, may be said to have amounted to
panic. Not only were such crimes more frequent than had formerly been
the case, but they began to be marked by a degree of violence[224]
which argued that a peculiarly desperate class of criminal was abroad;
and such indeed was the actual state of affairs, occasioned by the
temporary breakdown of the penal system and consequent upon the
discontinuance of the practice of shipping the most dangerous criminals
across the seas.

Before the abolition of transportation, the career of the criminal was
generally brief unless he confined his attention to petty depredations,
or unless he was particularly skilful in avoiding capture; a felon
once caught was given little chance of repeating his offence. If he
escaped the gallows he was as a rule removed from the scene of his
temptations, never to return; and the labours of the police were
far less arduous as long as distant colonies were content to absorb
the dregs of our population, and as long as the press-gang claimed
a large proportion of our vagabonds and neer-do-weels. Impressment,
however, practically ceased in 1835; and Australasia soon grew weary
of the refuse which we were yearly depositing on her shores. Between
1840 and 1845 as many as seventeen thousand convicts were sent to Van
Diemen's Land alone, and in one year more than four thousand felons
were transported to Australia: the result was that the supply exceeded
the demand, and the colonists, though not blind to the advantages of
a moderate supply of free labour, began to protest warmly against the
wholesale importation of such eminently undesirable neighbours. A large
public meeting was held at Sydney in 1850, at which it was unanimously
decided to petition Her Majesty to procure the immediate discontinuance
of transportation; the British Government at once consented, and after
1852 no more convicts were sent to New South Wales, Tasmania, or South
Australia.[225] Morally bound, as it was, to comply with the request
of the Colonists, the government found itself impaled on the horns
of a dilemma: about nine thousand persons actually under sentence of
transportation lay awaiting disposal in the Hulks, and the number
was steadily increasing. It was impossible to set them at liberty;
there was no room in the English prisons; and there was nowhere to
send them to except Western Australia, which, though still willing to
annually receive a certain proportion, was unable to digest such an
accumulation. The demoralization which infected the ordinary gaols was
as nothing compared to that which pervaded the Hulks,--filthy derelict
vessels crowded with unclean and abandoned mortals who were allowed
absolutely free intercourse with each other, and who were subjected
to no supervision beyond that exercised by a sentry or two with loaded

In this emergency extra prison accommodation was hurriedly provided.
Portsmouth prison was opened in 1852; Dartmoor (originally designed
for the detention of French prisoners-of-war, but long disused) was
converted into a convict establishment in 1855, and a new prison at
Chatham was made ready in the year following. In this way the immediate
necessity was partially relieved; but for the complete solution of
the difficulty, a radical reform of the whole penal system had to
be devised. Convicts who had been sentenced to transportation could
not in common fairness be detained in English prisons for the whole
period of their sentences, and there was no law which authorized any
remission. Prisoners felt that they had a grievance, and mutinous
outbreaks occurred at Dartmoor, Portland and Chatham.[226] Under these
circumstances a "Penal Servitude Act"[227] was introduced, which
provided that henceforward penal servitude was to be substituted for
transportation as the punishment for all offences too serious to be met
by simple imprisonment, yet not of sufficient enormity to deserve a
sentence of fourteen years; at the same time it was notified that those
persons, then in confinement, who had been condemned to transportation
were to be released with a free pardon after the expiration of from
half to two-thirds of their original sentence. In 1857 another act was
passed, authorizing the Secretary of State conditionally to discharge
convicts undergoing penal servitude in England, before they had served
their full term. This system, popularly known as the Ticket-of-leave
system, was sound in theory, and whenever properly administered has
proved both beneficial to prisoners and harmless to society. But when
first inaugurated it produced the most disastrous consequences. Under
present conditions a convict can only earn remission by good behaviour
and constant industry, generally leaving the prison a better man than
when he entered it, even if he is not entirely reformed; whilst under
the old conditions, incarceration corrupted the novice in crime, and
still further hardened the habitual offender. The last hulk was closed
in 1857, and a few years afterwards the effect of the unavoidable
policy of turning loose unreformed gaol-birds was fully experienced,
and the sequel made apparent in the criminal statistics of the period.

According to the intention of its authors, adequate police supervision
over those who had been conditionally liberated on license was an
essential feature of the Ticket-of leave system, but this was not
the interpretation adopted by the Home Office, for on behalf of that
Department, evidence was given before the Select Committee of 1856
to the effect that "it was thought far better to give no directions
whatever to the police on the subject, but to leave them (_i.e._ the
license-holders) precisely in the situation of men who had served out
the whole period of their sentence." On every ticket-of-leave issued,
the following conditions were endorsed:--"Notice--(1)--The power of
revoking or altering the license of a convict will most certainly be
exercised in case of his misconduct. (2)--If, therefore, he wishes
to retain the privilege, which by his good behaviour under penal
discipline he has obtained, he must prove by his subsequent conduct
that he is really worthy of Her Majesty's clemency. (3)--To produce
a forfeiture of the license, it is by no means necessary that the
holder should be convicted of any new offence. If he associates with
notoriously bad characters, leads an idle or dissolute life, or has
no visible means of obtaining an honest livelihood, &c.--it will be
assumed that he is about to relapse into crime, and he will be at once
apprehended, and recommitted to prison under his original sentence."

These conditions, admirable in themselves, were not enforced and
so were practically useless. Ticket-of-leave men almost invariably
destroyed their licenses (which they were not compelled to keep), and
if apprehended for a fresh offence, or on suspicion, stoutly denied
that they had previously been convicted; nor was it easy for the
authorities to prove the contrary in the absence of any proper system
for the registration of convicts. The helplessness of the police in
the matter may be measured by the fact that constables were instructed
on no account to interfere with ticket-of-leave men, "nor when seen
in public houses are they to be pointed out to the landlord, and
required to leave, as in other cases of convicted thieves and suspected
characters." It was of course only just that convicts released on
license should not have their comings and goings continually dogged
by constables; but to elevate them into a privileged class, and to
place them on a higher plane than "suspected characters" who had never
been convicted, was, in the words of Sir Richard Mayne, "to give them
opportunities to commit crime which they might not otherwise have."
The police were not to blame for this state of things, for they only
carried out the instructions of the Home Office, which, again, did
not feel justified in interfering with liberated convicts unless
authorized to do so by Act of Parliament. To shew how entirely the
police authorities dissociated themselves from any responsibility for
the supervision of licensees, it may be mentioned that, in his evidence
before the Select Committee of 1856, the Chief Commissioner of Police
for the Metropolis made the following confession. "It may appear
strange for me to say so, but until a few months ago I never saw a
ticket-of-leave, and did not know what was endorsed upon it:--it was no
business of mine."[228]

Fortunately this state of affairs was not allowed to continue
indefinitely. Various reforms, extending over a series of years, were
successively taken in hand with the object of making penal servitude
reformatory as well as retributive, of ensuring that convicts released
on ticket-of-leave should remain under police supervision until the
expiration of their sentences, of arresting the criminal career
of juvenile law-breakers by means of reformatories and industrial
schools; and of protecting society, as far as possible, from the
repeated ravages of incorrigible offenders, by instituting a system for
the thorough identification and registration of criminals. The history
of these reforms must be briefly sketched.

Of all the abuses which used to disgrace our penal establishments,
the most disastrous in its results, was the promiscuous herding
together of male with female, adult with juvenile, habitual with casual
offenders, under conditions calculated to lower the tone of the whole
prison community to the level of the most degraded inmate. The evils
inseparable from unchecked association of felons in confinement were
recognised even in the eighteenth century; and Bentham, Howard, and
other reformers persistently urged the adoption of the "separate"
system for all English prisons. Ultimately the Government was induced
to make the experiment, and in 1821 Millbank Penitentiary was opened
for the reception of prisoners. A long delay followed, and not until
1840 was the first stone of the next model prison laid at Pentonville.
Both Millbank and Pentonville were constructed on the "radiating"
principle which admits of the constant exercise of perfect supervision
over all the prisoners, who are, however, confined in separate
compartments. The expense of the new establishments, as well as a
popular prejudice against solitary confinement due to its too rigorous
enforcement in Pennsylvania, retarded progress, and although a few
gaols of a modern type were here and there constructed, the large
majority of those convicts who were not transported, were allowed to
corrupt each other in the old-fashioned local prisons. This policy of
inaction continued until 1865, when the "Prison Act" was passed, which
requires that every male prisoner shall be accommodated with a separate
cell, and which insists on uniformity of treatment for all persons
(except first-class misdemeanants and debtors) undergoing a sentence of
two years' imprisonment or less.

We have already seen how the gradual discontinuance of transportation
(1838-1867) and the abolition of the hulks (1857) caused "Public Works
Prisons" to be established at Dartmoor, Chatham, etc. At these places,
(where prisoners undergoing penal servitude are incarcerated) the plan
of silent associated labour by day, with separate confinement by night,
was adopted; and although no relaxation of discipline was allowed,
the reform of the criminal, rather than his punishment, was aimed at.
Under the modern system the convict spends the first nine months of
his penal servitude at Pentonville, or in some other local prison,
and during this period is kept to solitary hard labour of an irksome
and unproductive description; he is then moved to one or other of the
"Public Works Prisons," where his life at once becomes less monotonous.
As long as his conduct merits advancement, he is passed through various
stages, each more tolerable than the last; most of his work is now done
in the open air and in the company of his fellows; and hope lightens
his labour, for by constant industry and by an exact observance of
the prison rules, he is allowed to earn a partial remission of his
sentence, amounting to about a quarter[229] of the whole term. Our
penal system may not yet be perfect; but during the late reign prison
life underwent a marvellous metamorphosis. Pest-houses have been
transformed into sanatoriums where the patients have to submit to a
healthy discipline beneficial to the mind as well as to the body;
formerly gaol-fever, dirt, and bad food ruined the constitution, whilst
evil communications corrupted the mind; now convicts leave their prison
physically robust and often morally convalescent. This amelioration of
the conditions to which prisoners are subjected has been accompanied,
_pari passu_, by a steady decrease in the number of convicts in
confinement. When Queen Victoria came to the throne, 43,000[230] of
her subjects were convicts, at the present time they number less than
6000,[231] and this in spite of the fact that during the interval the
population of these islands has just about doubled itself.

Whilst the reform of the adult and hardened convict is of very high
import, the welfare of society is even more profoundly influenced by
the result of its efforts directed towards the prevention of crime
in the first instance; and the value of prevention (which by common
consent is at all times higher than that of the best possible cure)
may be said to bear an inverse ratio to the age of the individuals
who are saved from committing themselves to a career of crime. The
surest method of permanently reducing the number of criminals lies
in the comprehensive employment of agencies especially devoted to
the prevention of juvenile delinquency. Anti-social habits formed
in childhood are in after years only eradicated with the greatest
difficulty, the criminal child too often being the father of the
criminal man. During the latter half of the eighteenth, and early in
the nineteenth century, the manufacture of juvenile criminals went on
apace. Bow Street Runners on the look-out for blood-money were careful
not to interfere with a promising youngster until he had actually
committed a felony; parish constables would not trouble to pursue a
culprit upon whose conviction only half expenses were allowed; and
the reluctance of the general public to prosecute was especially
pronounced when the offender was of tender years. Meanwhile scoundrels
of the Fagin type, trading on the impunity enjoyed by child-thieves,
grew rich on the plunder collected by their pupils, who, sooner or
later, received the finishing touches to their criminal education in
the public gaols at the public expense. The extent of the evils which
resulted are incalculable; but competent experts were of opinion that
nearly sixty per cent. of habitual offenders had been initiated into
their dishonest career before they were fifteen years of age.[232]

Private philanthropy interested itself on behalf of the children long
before the Government made any move in the matter. In the eighteenth
century a Marine Society for sending lads to sea, and an agricultural
school for teaching farming, had been formed at Portsmouth and Redhill
respectively, with the object of befriending boys who otherwise were in
danger of lapsing into crime; but for many years these were the only
agencies of the sort. The Ragged School movement, so warmly espoused
by Lord Shaftesbury, took practical shape soon after the Queen's
accession, in schools in Westminster, at Old Pye Street, and at Field
Lane. The first industrial feeding-school was opened at Aberdeen in
1841; and it proved so successful that the idea was taken up throughout
Scotland. Before long Manchester and other English towns followed the
example set by the granite city. Excellent as were many of the schools
established by private benevolence, they all laboured under two very
formidable disadvantages:--they could not compel unwilling parents to
send their children to be reformed, or to contribute anything towards
their maintenance, and they could not legally detain their pupils any
longer than they cared to stay.

The first public institution for the detention of juvenile criminals
was opened at Parkhurst in 1838. Though called a reformatory, it
was in effect a gaol, and hardly differed at all from other prisons
except with regard to the age of its inmates. The exertions of Lord
Shaftesbury and of Mr Adderley (Lord Norton) who strove to convince
the nation of the fatal consequences of its apathy, were soon to be
rewarded. A Select Committee of the House of Lords which sat in 1847,
was followed by the Juvenile Offenders Act of the same year; in 1851
and following years conferences, largely attended by people interested
in the reformatory question, were held at Birmingham, with the object
of discovering some better method of dealing with youthful criminals
than that in vogue, and the whole subject was investigated at some
length by Parliamentary Committees appointed in 1853 and 1854. The
result of these deliberations took shape in the latter year when the
"Reformatory School Act"[233] was passed, giving magistrates the option
of committing offenders under sixteen years of age to reformatories,
for a term not exceeding five years, in lieu of sentencing them to
imprisonment, penal servitude, or transportation. The expense of
the new reformatories was met, partly by Treasury contributions,
partly by grants from the local authorities, and partly by compulsory
subscriptions of not more than five shillings a week exacted from
the parents or guardians of the offending children. The Act of 1854
was amended and improved by subsequent Acts passed in 1855 and 1856,
but these early enactments[234] were open to the objection that they
only applied to juveniles who had already been convicted of a serious
offence, and left untouched a large class of children which, for one
cause or another, always stands on the brink of criminality;--for no
juvenile was eligible for admission into a reformatory unless he had
previously been committed to prison for fourteen days.

This omission was repaired by the "Certified Industrial School Act"
passed in 1857,[235] and amended in 1861,[236] which provided that
certain young persons, who had not been in gaol, might be sent to
industrial schools under a magistrate's warrant, to be detained therein
until they should attain the age of sixteen. The class of children to
whom this Act applied were described as follows:--"Any child apparently
under the age of fourteen years, found begging or receiving alms ...
any child ... found wandering, and not having any home or settled place
of abode, or any visible means of subsistence ... or being an orphan,
or whose only surviving parent is in prison ... or who frequents the
company of reputed thieves ... or whose mother has twice been convicted
of crime ... or whose parents represent that they are unable to control
him, ... or any child apparently under the age of twelve years who,
having committed an offence punishable by imprisonment or some less
punishment, ought nevertheless, in the opinion of the Justices, regard
being had to his age, and to the circumstances of the case, to be sent
to an Industrial School, &c."

In 1854 only twenty-nine children were sent to reformatories. Since
that date, the numbers so committed gradually increased until 1881,
in which year the maximum (6738) was reached. The decrease which
has recently taken place may be chiefly attributed to the fact that
magistrates now generally prefer the industrial to the reformatory
school whenever possible, a method of dealing with youthful offenders
the wisdom of which has been vindicated by an accompanying diminution
in the tale of juvenile crime.

The essential differences between Reformatories and Industrial Schools
are, that no stigma attaches to any boy on account of his having been
educated at the latter, and that whilst the discipline enforced at the
former institutions is sufficiently severe for them to be considered
as places of punishment, Industrial Schools are intended only to take
the place of that parental control and training which the child cannot
obtain at home. The principle of giving another chance to unfortunates
who are rather sinned against than sinning lies at the root of the
Industrial School movement; and there is no development of preventive
police more in sympathy with the wisdom of the age than this. In recent
years the same principle has, with excellent effect, been extended to
embrace adult as well as juvenile offenders. The Summary Jurisdiction
Act of 1879[237] (_i.e._ so much of it as permits the infliction of
a fine instead of imprisonment) and the Probation of First Offenders
Act of 1887,[238] are both, it may be noted, conceived in the same
wise and merciful spirit. The latter measure especially, which was
introduced by Sir Howard Vincent, has been instrumental in reclaiming
to an honest life hundreds of prisoners "guilty of a first offence not
the product of a criminal mind."[239] The latest Home Office returns
go to prove that, in the large majority of instances in which this
humane policy has been applied, confidence has not been misplaced; for
of the whole number of first offenders conditionally released upon
recognizances,[240] to come up for judgment when called upon, only
about ten per cent. have shown themselves unworthy of the leniency
extended to them by relapsing into crime.

The tendency of recent penal legislation has been to discriminate as
closely as possible between the casual and the habitual offender,
reducing to the lowest limit, consistent with safety, the penalties
exacted against the former, whilst placing every legitimate obstruction
in the path of the latter, by making his punishments cumulative as long
as he continues to offend, and by maintaining a vigilant supervision
over his conduct whilst he is at large. This is one of the most
important duties that modern police have to perform, and it is one
which demands great tact combined with persistence from individual
peace officers, as well as complete co-operation between all the allied
police organizations throughout the country. Under the parochial
system both these necessary qualifications were conspicuously absent,
and if transportation had suddenly come to an end before the police
reforms described in previous chapters had been taken in hand, the
unchecked excesses of habitual criminals might have endangered the very
foundations of English society.

It will be remembered that when the ticket-of-leave system was first
introduced, considerable alarm was occasioned on account of the
increase of crime; which, not altogether without reason, was generally
attributed to the license-holders, who, unreformed by penal discipline,
and consequently unfitted for unqualified liberty, were suddenly
released in large numbers, without any adequate precautions being taken
to control them. We have seen how the reorganization of the entire
prison system gradually eliminated the causes which tended to make the
ex-prisoner even more dangerous to society on the day of his discharge
than he had been before conviction, and we have seen how by the
introduction of an improved plan of giving marks for industry (which,
however, were subject to forfeiture for ill-conduct), only those
convicts were released before the expiration of their full sentence who
had earned partial remission by virtue of consistent good behaviour. We
now come to a consideration of the measures subsequently adopted for
the proper supervision of these ticket-of-leave men.

The conditions endorsed on every license have already been given, but
as the police were expressly ordered to take no notice of liberated
convicts, unless they were actually engaged in criminal pursuits, but
little practical value attached to the wording of the ticket. In 1864
some important changes were introduced by the 4th Section of the Penal
Servitude Act of that year, which requires that:--

  I.--The holder shall preserve his license, and
  produce it when called upon to do so by a Magistrate
  or police officer.

  II.--He shall abstain from any violation of the

  III.--He shall not habitually associate with
  notoriously bad characters, such as reputed thieves
  and prostitutes.

  IV.--He shall not lead an idle and dissolute life,
  nor be without visible means of obtaining an honest

The penalties for the non-observance of these requirements were as
follows--(_a_) Any ticket-of-leave man, convicted of an indictable
offence, _ipso-facto_ forfeited his license, and this in addition to
any punishment to which he might be sentenced upon indictment; (_b_)
Any ticket-of-leave man proved to have transgressed the conditions of
his license by an act not of itself punishable either upon indictment
or upon summary conviction, nevertheless rendered himself liable to be
summarily punished by imprisonment not exceeding three months. In 1871
the "Prevention of Crimes Act,"[242] amending "The Habitual Criminals
Act" of 1869, extended the principle of keeping notoriously bad
characters under observation, by enacting that persons twice convicted
of certain crimes may be subjected to police supervision for not more
than seven years after the expiration of the sentence imposed, provided
that a previous conviction for an offence in the same category is
proved at the time of the second conviction. Such persons are commonly
called 'supervisees,' and they come under the same conditions as
license-holders. These conditions have since been modified by Acts of
Parliament passed in 1869 and 1891, and they may now be summarized
as follows. Both ticket-of-leave men and supervisees are required to
report themselves within forty-eight hours after their arrival in
any police district to the Chief-Officer of Police in that district,
to report themselves once a month afterwards,[243] and to notify any
change of address to the same authority; they are also expected to
satisfy the police that they are earning their living by honest means.

A constable is justified in arresting without warrant any
license-holder or supervisee whom he reasonably suspects of having
committed an offence, or of having failed to comply with the
above-mentioned conditions; and if it be found, after investigation
by a competent magistrate, that such an offence has been committed
or default made, the license-holder thereupon becomes liable to the
forfeiture of his license, and the supervisee to imprisonment with or
without hard labour for a period not exceeding one year, unless he can
prove to the satisfaction of the proper authority "that being on a
journey he tarried no longer ... than was reasonably necessary, or that
he did his best to act in conformity with the law."[244]

In order that police supervision may be safe and effectual, it is
of course necessary that the identification of habitual criminals
should be certain and the registration of convicts complete. The
present system would have been fraught with the gravest dangers to
public liberty had it been attempted at the time when there was no
possibility of any more reliable record than that founded upon the
memories of policemen and prison-warders; but since the introduction
of photography, and especially since the recent adoption of the system
of anthropometry which is associated with the names of M. Alphonse
Bertillon and Mr Francis Galton, the chance of any miscarriage of
justice, due to mistakes in identification, has been reduced to a
minimum. Photography was first adapted to police purposes in 1854,
when the governor of Bristol Gaol began to make daguerreotype pictures
of the prisoners who passed through his hands; and gradually what was
at first but the experimental hobby of an amateur developed into the
officially recognised system. The "Prevention of Crimes" Act (1871) had
directed that registers of all persons convicted of crime in England
should be kept at Scotland Yard, but it was soon found by experience
that a less voluminous record would be of greater practical value.
Accordingly it was decided in 1877 that, in future, the registers (the
compilation of which was at this time transferred from Scotland Yard
to the Home Office) should contain only the descriptions of habitual
criminals, officially so called. In 1880 a new department was opened
at the Head-Quarters of the Metropolitan Police, called the Convict
Supervision Office, which was largely occupied with the classification
of offenders by means of books containing the photographs of habituals.
These albums, together with a register of distinctive marks, including
a record of tattooed symbols and initials so universal amongst
criminals, formed a regular rogues' gallery, and were instrumental in
proving the identity of many inveterate delinquents who might otherwise
have improperly participated in the leniency intended only for first

Some of the more energetic police forces in the provinces, also,
prepared local registers; and something like a general scheme for
tracing the antecedents of criminals was evolved by means of circular
"Route Forms" (as descriptions of offenders whose identity was
uncertain were technically called) which were forwarded in rotation
from one police district to another, wherever the required information
was likely to be forthcoming. The results obtained, however, hardly
justified the expenditure of time and energy incurred in the process;
accordingly in 1893 a Parliamentary Committee was appointed "to enquire
into the best means available for identifying habitual criminals," and
it was on the recommendation of this expert committee that the perfect
anthropometric system of identification now employed was based.

Very briefly stated, the system is as follows. All persons convicted of
crime against whom a previous criminal conviction has been proved, or
who are subject to police supervision, are carefully measured before
they are liberated, and the results tabulated on what are called
card-registers. The parts of the body selected for measurement are
those which in an adult are the least liable to alteration; the length
and breadth of the head, and the length of the foot, for instance,
being reliable indicia by means of which thousands of individuals may
readily be classified.

Whilst M. Bertillon's system of anthropometry is especially well
adapted for purposes of classification, Mr Galton's finger-print method
is preferable for purposes of identification. The minute lines which
may be noticed on the skin covering the under side of the top joint of
the human finger or thumb invariably display a well defined series of
curved ridges, which, though never quite alike in different subjects,
always approximate to one of four types, that is to say, they assume
the form of an arch, a whorl, a right loop, or a left loop. The sum
of the combinations which can be formed of these types and their
modifications on the ten digits being a practically inexhaustible
quantity, every human being carries on his finger-tips an infallible
record of his personal identity. Accordingly the criminal is required
to make signature by pressing with his thumb, fore, and middle fingers
of both hands (previously smeared with printer's ink) on the reverse
side of the card-register; whilst to make assurance trebly sure, the
exact location and measurement of any distinctive marks that may be
found are noted, and his photograph, both full-face and in profile,
is added. When completed, the card-registers are filed in cabinets on
an ingenious plan which enables the searcher to lay his hand on any
particular "dossier" in the space of a very few minutes.[245]

The immense importance of having a comprehensive and accessible
record of this nature can hardly be over-rated, for without its help
it would be impossible to combat (with any chance of success) what
is unquestionably the most dangerous development of contemporary
criminality. It has recently been pointed out by Dr Anderson, of the
Criminal Investigation Department, that despite the marked decrease
of crime which we congratulate ourselves has been one of the most
noteworthy features of the Victorian era, "the professional criminal
is developing and becoming a serious public danger."[246] Since the
abolition of transportation the company of criminals who are criminal
by deliberate choice has been steadily increasing, and every mitigation
of the penal code, every alleviation of prison existence, has helped to
bring recruits to the profession. Frequent sentences of imprisonment
will never deter the delinquent who is well acquainted with the inside
of a gaol, as long as he can count on brief spells of exciting and
luxurious liberty between whiles; moreover the tax on the police is
excessive, for the habitual criminal may be trapped again and again,
only to be released time after time to devise new and more elaborate
attacks on a long-suffering society.[247]

A way will have to be discovered to eliminate this unexpected product
of our penal system, and to this end various suggestions have been
made. Some advocate life sentences for persistent offenders; others
would make the restitution of the plunder, or at any rate a confession
implicating the receiver of the stolen property, the only condition of
release in cases of theft; but although authorities differ as to the
exact course which ought to be pursued, all agree that the character
of the criminal rather than the enormity of his offence should chiefly
determine the question of the punishment administered. Whatever may
be the nature of the plan of campaign eventually decided upon for the
suppression of professional delinquency, the preliminary stage of the
operations is necessarily the same, and consists in the preparation of
a record containing an accurate and concise account of the antecedents
and previous convictions of all habitual criminals.

There was a time when "abjuration of the realm" was considered a
complete expiation for crime however heinous; but as the outer world
became more civilised, and foreign parts more accessible, voluntary
expatriation ceased to be the recognised alternative to punishment.
The first result of the introduction of railways in this country (as
far as the relation of crime to police is concerned) was to benefit
the fraternity of thieves whose trade is essentially one that thrives
best under nomadic conditions; subsequently, with the development
of modern conveniences for travel, the police were again placed at
a disadvantage, this time by the facility with which criminals, who
are generally able to obtain at least a few hours' start, could find
a safe refuge from their pursuers in some haven oversea--the modern
equivalent for the mediæval sanctuary. There has ever been, and always
will be, a ding-dong contest between the lawbreaker and the policeman,
wherein the fortunes of the day favour first one side and then the
other; for if the advantage that attaches to the opening gambit
belongs to the criminal, his adversary is soon ready with an answer.
The telegraph[248] beats the steamship, and the international system
of police which now mutually provides for the surrender of fugitive
offenders has restored the balance. The first extradition treaty in
which Great Britain was interested was concluded with the United
States of America in 1842, and the Extradition Acts of 1870 and 1873
now regulate the conduct of the English Government in its dealings
with foreign powers in all that concerns this important department of

In 1879, a reform long agitated for was inaugurated by the tardy
appointment of a Public Prosecutor, who became responsible that
the cause of justice is not injured through the non-prosecution of
persons guilty of serious offences. The intervention of the Director
of Public Prosecutions is seldom deemed necessary, but circumstances
occasionally arise in which lack of funds, local sympathy with the
criminal, or an attempt to compound a felony, may demand his active
interference.[250] The "Prosecution of Offences Act"[251] directs
that Chief Officers of Police shall notify to the Director, that is
to say to the Solicitor for the Treasury, such particulars of certain
specified crimes committed within their districts as are described in
the regulations[252] issued for the guidance of all concerned.



It is popularly believed that the least efficient department of English
police is that which is concerned with the detection of crime, and
our detective service is often compared with corresponding agencies
abroad in order to point the moral that we should do well to imitate
the methods of our neighbours. It is certainly true that our detectives
are proportionally less numerous than their continental confrères, true
also, that extraordinary facilities for successful police action such
as are granted in foreign countries are here denied; but the familiar
accusation that we maintain a clumsy gang of amateurs who are deficient
in the finesse necessary to cope with the skilful forger or the
accomplished cracksman, is either spitefully or ignorantly advanced.
The self-constituted censors who are so ready to lament the alleged
incompetence of our detectives would be the foremost to complain should
a measure of State protection, equal to that enjoyed by foreign police
functionaries, be conferred on any such agent at home. The traditional
love of liberty which, in this country, has always opposed espionage
with so much resolution, is altogether admirable; but like everything
else that is precious, it has to be purchased at a price, and in this
case the price is the dangerous latitude conceded to "the powers that

Before attempting to estimate the efficiency of the detective service,
two considerations in particular ought to be weighed. One is that any
institution which perforce must shun recognition and advertisement is
little likely to be appraised at its true worth by the public. The
other is that whilst the wealth of London attracts the best criminal
talent of both hemispheres, its expanse renders the detection and
pursuit of crime more than ordinarily difficult. In spite of this, and
in spite also of the limitations imposed by national sentiment, the
success achieved by the sleuth-hounds of the English police need not
fear comparison, if fairly made, with that attained by any who are
engaged in the same work elsewhere: it may be that tenacity of purpose
and honesty of motive go a long way to compensate for any genius for
artifice or power of disguise that the English detective lacks.

It must be confessed, however, that honesty has not invariably
distinguished our thief-takers. The Bow Street Runners were often
arrant humbugs besides being self-seeking knaves, nor were their
successors always free from reproach. The small detective force
established in 1842 was at first exclusively recruited from the uniform
branch of the police, and generally speaking the custom then introduced
has since been adhered to; for although theoretically any suitable
person is eligible for employment as a detective, the few outsiders who
have been given a trial have almost without exception proved failures.
It cannot be held that the ordinary point and beat duty is the best
possible training for a career which demands an exceptional astuteness
of intellect, nor that the routine discipline of a constabulary force
is calculated to develop the reasoning faculties to any great extent.
But although the system which finds favour to-day is in all probability
far from being the best that could be devised, it has nevertheless
much to commend it; the responsibilities that belong to the detective,
and the temptations which surround him, are so exceptional that it
would be extremely dangerous to entrust an unknown man with the former
or to expose an untried man to the latter. A second reason why the
existing method of selection is desirable is because anything that
tends to promote a good understanding and complete co-operation between
the uniform and the plain-clothes branches of the police makes for

The perils to which society is exposed when clever criminals and
dishonest police officers conspire together had been forcibly
exemplified when the celebrated bank-frauds came to light early in the
nineteenth century. But the point of elaboration to which so obvious
a criminal manoeuvre could be carried was not fully realised until
1877, when the details of what is commonly called the De Goncourt case
were published to the world. Harry Benson and his confederate Kurr were
a brace of criminals with a real genius for high-class swindling, such
as, fortunately for gullible human nature, is rarely met with. After
netting immense sums of money by means of bogus betting agencies and
other nefarious schemes, Benson conceived the idea of insuring his
ill-gotten gains by approaching the very police-officers (Meiklejohn
and Druscovitch) who were charged with the duty of tracking him down,
and of corrupting them with subsidies until they became his creatures
and confederates. Once the proffered premium had been accepted, there
was no limit to the audacity of the subsequent proceedings. Telegrams
from Paris addressed to Scotland Yard were intercepted and handed to
Benson, who was forewarned by his pursuers of every move intended
against him. When the partners were eventually arrested in Holland, a
forged telegram, purporting to come from the English headquarters of
police, was addressed to the Dutch authorities ordering the release
of the prisoners; but the artifice failed and the culprits were
escorted home, in the custody, strangely enough, of Druscovitch, whose
dishonesty was still unsuspected. Convicted and committed to Millbank,
Benson at once proceeded to "give away" the policemen he had suborned,
with the result that four inspectors were arraigned on charges of
conspiring to defeat the ends of justice, and of complicity with the
frauds of their late employer: three out of the four were found guilty
and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, but the matter was
not allowed to end there. In order to guard against any recurrence
of such a scandalous breach of trust, the organization of the whole
detective department was overhauled, and its administration placed in
other hands. The task of reorganization was entrusted to Mr Howard
Vincent,[253] who devoted his energies towards raising the tone of the
then discredited detective service. In 1878 what was practically a new
department was formed at Scotland Yard under the title of "The Criminal
Investigation Department," consisting of a chief superintendent and
about thirty superior officers at headquarters, besides a local
inspector assisted by from six to fifteen detectives in each of the
town divisions--the whole under the control of the Director of Criminal
Investigations,[254] who takes charge of all the criminal business of
the Metropolis, and whose assistance, sometimes indispensable, is often
solicited by the chiefs of rural and urban constabularies throughout
the country.

The numerical strength of the detective force has been considerably
augmented since its reorganization in 1878 (in 1895 it consisted of
472 officers), and its rôle increasingly tends to grow in importance.
In 1880 the newly established Convict Supervision Office was brought
into close association with the Criminal Investigation Department,
and the constant vigilance that has to be maintained over foreign
anarchists domiciled in England, as well as the necessity for frequent
correspondence with the American and Continental police, preliminary to
the extraditing of fugitive offenders, causes the department to wear
the aspect of an international bureau for the unravelment of crime. The
detective branch of the City of London police, on the other hand, makes
a speciality of the investigation of commercial frauds, a vast field of
possible enterprise, not the less extensive for the fact that the area
policed by the City force is but a single square mile.

It would have been worse than useless to have increased the detective
staff unless at the same time care had been taken to safeguard the
public from the risk of a repetition of abuses similar to those
revealed in the course of the de Goncourt case, and this made the
problem of reform a difficult one. It is impossible to devise a method
of selection by means of which every black sheep who may seek admission
is infallibly recognised and excluded, nor is it easy adequately to
supervise confidential agents without interfering with their work; but
it may safely be said that since the reorganization of the department,
a high standard of honesty has been found to be not incompatible with
professional zeal and proficiency. No policeman who is thorough in his
work can please all parties, and some thirteen or fourteen years ago
a series of ill-natured attacks were directed against both branches
of the Metropolitan Police. Constables and detectives were accused
of exceeding their authority and of levying black-mail, but the
allegations, which were somewhat recklessly supported by prominent
illwishers and busybodies, could not be substantiated when the charges
came to be investigated by the proper authority.[255]

The intense hostility with which Peel's reforms were at first greeted,
besides being the cause of much inconvenience at the time, was also the
parent of many posthumous difficulties, that continued to embarrass
the police authorities long after the original quarrel was dead and
buried. It will be remembered that the two main contentions, often
repeated by the hostile party in 1829 and after, were to the effect
that the liberty of the subject was in grave danger at the hands of
an unconstitutional "gendarmerie," armed with mysterious powers of
domiciliary espionage, and that the expense to the ratepayers of
maintaining these tyrants would be ruinous. Rather than give a handle
to his adversaries, who were sure to acclaim every plain-clothes
policeman as a Government spy intriguing against innocent citizens,
the author of modern police was forced to dispense with the invaluable
assistance of a detective staff; and in order to disprove the forecasts
of opponents who prophesied financial disaster, he was compelled to
fix the constable's wage at a very low figure. Enough has been said as
to the manner in which the original lack of a detective department has
gradually been remedied, and although space does not admit of anything
like a full account being given of the various phases through which the
financial problem has passed, a subject so vital to the well-being of
police cannot be altogether ignored.

Police expenditure is of two kinds: there is the weekly wage-bill, and
there are the working (including administrative) expenses. Under the
old system, although little was spent in actual pay, large sums were
scandalously muddled away in rewards, fees and allowances; when the
new constabularies superseded the old parochial bodies, much public
money had to be sunk in the acquisition of sites, and in the erection
of suitable station-houses, cells and offices; and the upkeep of these
establishments, as well as the incidental working expenses connected
with them, were on a generous scale. As, therefore, only a very limited
income was available for the whole service, and as interest had to
be paid on the original outlay, the balance that remained was only
sufficient to permit of a low rate of remuneration for the rank and
file. Watchmen had been so miserably underpaid in the past that the
increased wage offered to the first policemen appeared, when compared
with the old tariff, to be considerable, if hardly dazzling. As a
matter of fact, regard being had to the type of man required and to the
responsibilities thrust upon him, the salary was far too small, and
furthermore there was so little margin in hand after distribution that
it was financially impossible to set aside any portion of the general
income to form a pension fund for long and meritorious service. All
available cash had to be devoted to the provision of a weekly wage to
attract a sufficiency of recruits.

The risks that a constable has to face, the long night work and
the constant exposure to all weathers that are his lot, and which
eventually impair even the strongest constitutions, make it especially
incumbent on his employers to provide adequately for him when he is
worn out. Quite apart, however, from this moral obligation (which
cannot honourably be evaded) the existence of a well-conceived and
well-administered superannuation scheme has a most important bearing
on the stability of any police force--deferred salary contingently due
to his employées being a most valuable hostage, for the satisfactory
completion of the contract undertaken by them, in the hands of the
paymaster. Moreover if a man has in prospect a respectable pension
on retirement, he is not tempted improperly to devote himself to the
acquisition of a sum of money for his future maintenance, nor, of
course, has he any inducement to stay on in the service, blocking the
promotion of those below him, after he is past his work.

At first the percentage of resignations amongst young constables was
extremely high: men of some few years' service, wearying of a life of
discipline, or finding the duties they had to perform more irksome than
they had anticipated, resigned without hesitation a position which
they had no particular inducement to retain. This constant leakage
was considerably reduced by the creation of a superannuation fund
by Act of Parliament[256] in 1839, and since that year, policemen,
whatever their grade, have contributed some two and a half per cent.
of their salaries[257] towards their retiring pensions. The money
raised for this purpose was so lavishly spent that by 1849 the fund was
insolvent, and seven years later it was bankrupt. This necessitated
further legislation, and by a Statute passed in 1856[258] authority was
obtained to make good the deficiency out of the rates. Thenceforward
the administration of the fund was the reverse of generous; and in 1862
it was promulgated that pensions on the higher scale, for service of
more than fifteen and less than twenty years, were not to be granted
under any circumstances whatever, and that in order to qualify for the
maximum pension policemen had to serve a full term of twenty-eight
years, notwithstanding the fact that expert opinion had unanimously
declared that twenty-five years spent in outdoor police work
incapacitates the ordinary man. Irritation at the financial legerdemain
which obscured the true position of the superannuation fund, and
dissatisfaction with the current rates of pay, caused widespread
discontent that culminated in 1872 in an outbreak of insubordination
amongst the Metropolitan police, many of whom refused to go on duty
until their grievances were redressed. The ringleaders of what was very
nearly a mutiny were prosecuted, and others less guilty were dismissed
the force; but investigation shewed that the hardships complained of
were none the less real because certain ill-advised malcontents had
adopted a suicidal policy in order to gain an immediate hearing. After
the excitement caused by this unfortunate occurrence had subsided,
a compromise was arrived at, removing some of the more pressing
grievances; but it was only a compromise, and beneath the surface an
undercurrent of justifiable discontent still remained. In 1881 the Home
Secretary (Sir W. Harcourt), addressing a representative gathering
of the Metropolitan police, said he hoped that at an early period it
would be his grateful office to add to their comfort and content "by
supplying a defect which has long been felt, in placing on a fixed and
satisfactory footing, not only in London, but throughout the country,
the superannuation and pension of those who have spent the best days of
their lives in the service of their countrymen."[259]

The hopes of the Home Secretary, like those of the constabulary,
were however not yet to be realised; and it was not until 1890 that
anything like a satisfactory solution of the vexed question of police
superannuation was arrived at. By the "Police Act,"[260] passed on the
14th of August of that year, policemen who have completed twenty-five
years approved (_i.e._ diligent and faithful) service become entitled,
without a medical certificate, to retire and receive a pension for
life, whilst fair provision is made for those who at any time are
certified as incapacitated for further service. The Act also defines
the conditions under which pensions or gratuities may be granted to the
widows and children of deceased officers, deals with the forfeiture
and suspension of pensions, directs how the fund is to be invested,
and, in short, fully propounds the law which governs the whole field of
police superannuation.

Although the police forces of England are now in possession of a
charter which has enormously improved their prospects, and in spite of
the further concessions recently granted, it cannot yet be said that
they are well-content with their financial position; nor is their point
of view unreasonable. They only ask that their work should be estimated
on a present-day valuation, and paid for accordingly; they naturally
object to be underpaid because their predecessors were half-starved.
Moreover, enforced residence in respectable quarters in some particular
locality where rents may be high, regulations which debar policemen
from earning extra money in their spare time, and other conditions
peculiar to their calling, unite to form a strong case in favour of a
more generous scale of remuneration being granted in the future than
that considered necessary in the past.

This is not the place to discuss the precise rate of wages that a
constable should receive, nor to suggest any scheme by which funds
might be raised to meet increased expenditure under this heading. But
it may be remarked without impropriety, that the more the public take
their share of the police duties which as good citizens they ought not
to shirk, and the stronger the support, be it moral or physical, that
they extend to their deputies, the less need will there be for the
maintenance of an ever increasing army of constables, until the time
arrives when, with a falling police rate, it becomes possible to forget
precedent, and to remunerate our peace officers in accordance with
their deserts.

In 1889 one thousand men were added to the metropolitan force. There
is little doubt that the expense entailed by this increase might have
been saved if, after the West-End Riots, the public had been politic
enough to back its own side instead of playing into the hands of its
enemies by adding to the difficulties that the police had to contend
with already. The difficulties referred to arose out of the following

Early in 1886 London was the scene of a sudden riotous outbreak as
serious as it was unexpected. Remarkable from many points of view, it
is especially to be remembered on account of the utter failure of the
police authorities to cope with it, and especially to be regretted
because it was the first of a series of incidents which for many months
disturbed the cordial good-will and co-operation between police and
public that had been so carefully built up and encouraged through many
a year.

A meeting having been advertised to take place in Trafalgar Square on
the 8th of February under the auspices of the London United Workmen's
Committee, the organizers (who were a respectable body of men desirous
only of ventilating their grievances in a legitimate and orderly
manner), having reason to fear that certain of the Social Democrats
were bent on creating a disturbance, approached the Chief Commissioner
with a request that the police might assist them in their efforts to
prevent a breach of the peace. Under these circumstances Sir Edmund
Henderson decided to have a much larger force in reserve than was
usual, and gave orders that whilst only sixty-six constables were to be
detailed for duty in Trafalgar Square itself, a force of five hundred
and sixty-three police of all ranks was to be held in reserve in the
immediate neighbourhood. As soon as the crowd began to assemble it
was remarked by some of the most experienced police officers present
that a rougher element than usual predominated, but, on the whole,
the proceedings in the Square were not of an alarming character, and
nothing worse than inflammatory speeches, accompanied by the usual
horse-play, took place. Shortly before four o'clock the meeting began
to break up, and on this occasion, contrary to all police experience,
which was to the effect that crowds invariably return by the same
routes that they come by, a compact body some three thousand strong
poured out of the Square, and started off in a westerly direction.
Rapidly traversing Pall Mall, where several windows were broken,
the mob proceeded up St James' Street and down Piccadilly, doing
considerable damage by the way. On arriving at Hyde Park, the bulk
of the crowd called a halt and speeches were made, but the smaller
and more lawless section, finding that no police force offered any
resistance to their disorderly career, continued along S. Audley Street
into Oxford Street, smashing windows, looting shops, and insulting
all whom they met. Eventually, at about five o'clock, a small body
of police (only sixteen in number) confronted the mob at the end of
Marlborough Lane, and after several vigorous charges, succeeded in
dispersing the rioters.

It may well be asked how it came about that for the space of an
hour a gang of roughs, which in the end was so easily disposed of,
was permitted to riot with impunity through some of the richest
thoroughfares of London, in defiance of the considerable force of
constables on duty, and in spite of the fact that two regiments of
cavalry were within ten minutes ride of the scene. The only possible
explanation is to be found in the lamentable want of foresight
exhibited on this occasion by the authorities responsible for the
police arrangements, combined with the singular lack of initiative
and resource shewn by the subordinate officers throughout the day. A
cursory glance at the conditions prevailing in Trafalgar Square reveals
in a moment the reasons for the defeat of the police; it is at once
apparent that their failure must not be attributed to any physical
cause whatever. The police force on duty was quite large enough, and
the units of which it was composed were sufficiently well endowed
with muscle, nerve and morale, to have kept in order a crowd twice as
violent and many times more numerous than the one actually opposed to
it; the collapse of authority was due to defects of organization, to
bad strategy, and to tactical blundering. If a small body of mounted
police had been present--if scouts had been instructed to watch the
outskirts of the crowd to ascertain and report upon the routes of
dispersal--if the officer in command had taken up a prominent position
known beforehand to his subordinates--if a system of circulating
information rapidly and with accuracy had been adopted--if a single one
of these obvious precautions had been taken, the West End Riots would
not have occurred, and the crop of difficulties which blocked the path
of the Metropolitan Police during the next two years would have been

On the 9th February another assemblage of roughs took place in
Trafalgar Square, and fears that further riots would ensue took
possession of the West End; but the police were equal to the emergency,
and the meeting was dispersed without difficulty. Wednesday the 10th,
however, was a day of serious apprehension; London was wrapped in a
dense black fog, and the rumour gained credence that 50,000 desperate
men from the riverside suburbs were concentrating prior to an organized
attempt to loot the capital. The Bank of England retained its military
guard; the Bond Street jewellers and other shopkeepers suspended
business and barricaded their windows. Half London waited in hourly
expectancy of hearing the shouts of the attacking columns through the

It was clearly the business of the police authorities to satisfy
themselves as to the truth or falsity of these rumours, and in the
latter case to do all in their power to restore confidence. The course
they actually pursued was to send out notices broadcast advising
householders to take all precautions necessary for their own safety.
This action of the authorities only served to heighten the general
alarm, people naturally assuming that it amounted to an official
confirmation of the sensational stories that were everywhere current.
The state of uncertainty and alarm continued through the night, but
when, on the following morning, it became known that the whole story
had had no foundation in fact, all the various emotions of the past
three days gave place to a unanimous feeling of indignation against the

The value of the property destroyed and stolen by the mob, whilst the
machinery for keeping the peace was thus temporarily out of gear, was
comparatively trivial, and probably fell short of the £7000 paid as
compensation; a far more serious factor was the loss of prestige that
befell the police. The importance of the Trafalgar Square riots of
'86 depends, not so much upon the damage done to Club-house windows
and tradesmen's shop-fronts, as upon the fact that this was the first
occasion since the institution of the modern police that the mob
had succeeded in getting the upper hand of any considerable body of
constables. Regrettable incidents had occurred in many of the tussles
that had taken place since the first conflict at Coldbath Fields in
'33; but on every occasion victory had in the end decisively rested
with the peace officers, so that it came to be generally believed
that it was useless to resist them. This was the very lesson that
the chiefs of the police had been at such pains to impress upon the
disorderly section of the public ever since the commencement of the new
establishment; and the success they had achieved in this direction
had proved greatly to the advantage of the rate-payers, who had to
support, in consequence, a much smaller force than would otherwise have
been necessary. The policeman managing a hostile crowd, or keeping
order in a slum peopled by thieves, is in much the same position as a
solitary European holding his own amongst a swarm of Asiatics. Take
away his prestige, and that same moment he ceases to be an object of
respect, and becomes an object of contempt. The rough and the criminal
do not fear the prowess of the individual policeman, they fear the
organization behind him--take that away, and the constable becomes
merely a big man armed with nothing more formidable than a wooden

The result of this temporary and partial breakdown of the organization
was that the whole force suffered a double loss; the general public, no
longer feeling the old confidence in the power of the police to protect
them, withheld to some extent their moral support; whilst the criminal
public, assuring themselves that their old belief in the invincibility
of the police was groundless, began to threaten where they used to

It was providential that the enemies of order and good government
failed to take full advantage of a moment so auspicious for their
designs. The weak places of the defence were exposed for an instant,
but the breaches were rapidly repaired and strengthened: in allowing
this opportunity to pass, the anarchists and revolutionists, who as a
rule are not slow to advertise their existence, missed a chance that
is not likely to be offered a second time.

A good deal of inflammatory language was indulged in, but the attacks
were ill-timed and unimportant. A large meeting of Socialists, followed
by riotous proceedings, took place at Birmingham; but any serious
consequences that might have resulted, were averted by a timely display
of strength. London was allowed time to recover itself, and it was not
until the 21st of February that a mass meeting held in Hyde Park, and
attended by some 50,000 people, gave cause for alarm. Fortunately the
dangerous classes were not conspicuously represented, and the violently
disposed minority was effectually controlled by the police, who,
smarting perhaps, under their recent reverse, handled the crowd with
some roughness. A week later, rioting of a more serious character broke
out in Manchester, to be repeated on a larger scale on March 18th; the
local police, however, supported by soldiers, were successful in their
efforts to restore order on both occasions.

At the time of the West End riots Parliament was not sitting, and the
public indignation found expression in the columns of the newspapers,
where a vigorous campaign was commenced, directed partly against the
Home Office, and partly against the police authorities. This chorus
of irresponsible criticism was to some extent silenced by the prompt
action of the Home Secretary (Mr Childers), who immediately appointed
a committee, on which he himself sat as chairman, to investigate the
conduct of the police. The report, which was issued on the 22nd of
Feb. '86, impartially reviewed all the circumstances of the case, and
pointed out the mistakes that had been made in the police arrangements.
The committee found, amongst other defects, that the chain of
responsibility in the force was very imperfect, and called attention to
the remarkable fact that, although Standing Police Orders to regulate
the conduct of constables at peaceable public meetings had long been
issued, no regulations for the management of unruly mobs had ever been
published. The report, (upon the authority of which the foregoing
remarks on the Trafalgar Square arrangements are based) concluded with
a strong expression of opinion as to the desirability of investigating
without delay the administration and organization of the Metropolitan
Police Force, and the Home Secretary promised to give immediate effect
to the recommendations of the Committee by instituting an exhaustive
inquiry into the question, with a view to making the necessary changes.

The resignation of Sir Edmund Henderson, which took place on the 20th
of February, was perhaps inevitable under the circumstances; but much
regret was felt and expressed throughout the force when it became known
that the Chief, who for seventeen years had watched over the security
of London, and under whose rule the police had earned a high reputation
for efficiency, was about to leave Scotland Yard.

During his tenure of office the peace had been so well maintained, and
the police mechanism had worked so smoothly, that his experience had
taught him to under-estimate the dangers that lurk below the surface
in all large crowds, and to over-estimate the preparedness of the men
under his command to deal with any possible outbreak. As he knew them,
London crowds were well behaved, and London police were equal to any

The place vacated by the resignation of Sir Edmund Henderson was
offered to Sir Charles Warren, a well-known officer of Engineers,
whose talent for administration had been proved in Bechuanaland and
elsewhere, and who now relinquished the Governorship of the Red Sea
Littoral to take up the Chief Commissionership of the Metropolitan
Police. The task entrusted to the new chief was definite if not easy.
Before all things he had to restore the prestige which had suffered so
severely on the day when the mob gained the upper hand, and he had to
demonstrate, cost what it might, that the police could not again be
defied with impunity.

After the occurrences of February 1886, there was a truce lasting some
eighteen months during which the peace was successfully maintained
in spite of the persistent hostility evinced by a large section of
the public. But in the autumn of 1887, disorderly assemblages of
the unemployed, led by demagogues, encouraged by foolish agitators,
and reinforced with the scum of London, became so frequent and
intolerable,[261] that Sir Charles Warren had to make a bold move in
the interests of order, by altogether forbidding the use of Trafalgar
Square as a place of public meeting. His action was endorsed by the
Secretary of State, but only in such a half-hearted fashion that
the forces of disorder, confident that they were the masters of the
situation, determined to fight it out. Accordingly both parties
prepared for battle. On the one side some six or seven thousand
special constables were sworn in, and a large military force was held
in reserve; on the other, defiance was openly preached, and adherents
were canvassed. When on Sunday the 13th of November the mob began to
assemble, they found that the Square and its approaches were already
held; but, undeterred by the force opposed to them, and in no mood
to return quietly to their homes, the ring-leaders, after a short
parley, tried to break through the police cordon. In the course of the
protracted struggle which ensued, several minor casualties occurred
on either side, and although the crowd resolutely returned to the
attack time after time, in the end the police were successful all along
the line; the square was cleared without loss of life or injury to
property, and the ability of the police to carry out the orders of the
Government was satisfactorily demonstrated. Subsequently other attempts
were made to reopen the question; but the result was the same. The
next phase was the repetition of the familiar and easily disproved
charges as to the alleged violence of the constables, many persons, who
had attacked the police for their failure in 1886, now joining in the
chorus anathematising their successes of the following year.

The entire responsibility for the instructions upon which the police
had acted, belonged, of course, to the Government; and on the
reopening of Parliament the focus of the agitation was transferred
to Westminster, where the whole question as to the legal power of
constabulary forces to prevent open-air meetings was debated at some
length. In demanding an enquiry into the right of public meeting,
Sir Charles Russell insisted that such a right existed by virtue of
long-sanctioned custom, and contended that the Executive was not
justified in vetoing any assembly that was not of itself illegal.
The Home Secretary replied regretting the events of "Bloody Sunday,"
which he described as lamentable and distressing, but he denied that
any right of public meeting, as such, was recognised by English law,
and concluded by saying that "this series of meetings had exhausted
the police, terrified the public, and made the veto necessary." Sir
Henry James held that, whilst the purely legal side of the question
was comparatively immaterial, the maintenance of the peace and
considerations of the public safety were all-important; and urged that
it was the duty of Government to employ such police measures as might
be found necessary to prevent the undoubted liberties of the many
from being interfered with by the intolerable whims of the few, even
if the latter happened to be legally within their rights.[262] The
common-sense point of view enunciated by Sir Henry James found general
acceptance, both in the House of Commons and throughout the country;
Sir Charles Russell's motion was rejected, and the public began to
rally to the support of the police.



From the time when Rural Constabulary forces were instituted in 1839,
until the date of the creation of County Councils fifty years later,
the police authority throughout rural England had been the County
Justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions, to which body alone, in the
several counties, was each Chief-Constable answerable, provided that
he conformed to the general regulations laid down by the Secretary
of State. During this period various changes, in addition to those
of a more important nature already mentioned, were brought about,
having for their object the better management of the police, or the
more convenient administration of justice. In 1846 County Courts for
the hearing of civil suits involving minor issues were established
in the different shires; and, by the gradual enlargement of the
jurisdiction exercised by these tribunals, the higher courts have, to
a corresponding extent, been relieved of much petty business to the
advantage of larger interests. In 1869 the office of High-Constable
was formally abolished, any powers that he had anciently exercised
having long since dwindled almost to the vanishing point. At first the
Treasury contribution towards the expenses of the rural police had been
strictly limited and quite inadequate in amount; but in 1875 the old
limitation was suspended, first for one year, then for another, and
finally indefinitely, until it became the rule for the public Treasury
to provide half the cost for pay and clothing of all provincial police
forces that, at the end of each year, are returned as efficient by
the Home Office on the recommendation of the Government Inspector of

Following upon the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835,[263] some fifty
Acts of Parliament, relating wholly or in part to municipal government,
received the royal assent, and this at the rate of more than one a
year; in August 1882 the mass of legislative amendments that resulted
was consolidated and reduced to one Statute.[264] Amongst other police
enactments, the formation of a separate constabulary, distinct from
the county force, in any borough containing less than twenty thousand
inhabitants, was hereby prohibited; but the control of local police
forces already established was for the present confirmed to the
existing Watch Committees, whatever might be the population of the
borough concerned, and at the same time authority to enforce certain
sanitary laws (_e.g._ The Public Health Acts of 1873 and 1875) was
conferred on the Town Councils.

Six years later more important changes, affecting the police of
counties as well as that of boroughs, were introduced by the Local
Government Act of 1888,[265] which transferred the control of the
rural police from the Justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions to
an annually appointed committee (called the Standing Joint Committee)
composed of a certain number of County Councillors, selected by and
from the members of the new councils, and of an equal number of
Justices chosen by Quarter Sessions. The effect of this Statute was
not simply to substitute one consultative body for another, for to the
Standing Joint Committee was also conveyed all that authority over
the county police which had hitherto been enjoyed by Justices out of
Session, the important proviso being added, however, that "nothing
in this Act shall affect the powers, duties, and liabilities of
Justices as Conservators of the Peace, or the obligation of the Chief
Constable or other Constables to obey their lawful orders given in that

Although local government in township, hundred and shire is as old as
the Constitution itself, the birthday of the modern county councils
in 1888 is from the historian's point of view an event of the first
importance, for it deprived the county magistracy of a prerogative
which for more than five hundred years had been steadily growing in
completeness, by suddenly transferring the destinies of the rural
police to a body that owed the half of its authority to the popular
vote of the shire. From the standpoint of the practical politician,
on the other hand, the change has so far proved but an incident; and,
for all the effect it has produced on the actual efficiency and on the
daily routine of the police forces concerned, it has passed almost
unnoticed. Standing Joint Committees have accepted and carried on the
traditions which they inherited; and the administration of the county
police remains much the same to-day as it was when the entire control
was vested in the county magistrates, who, no longer overweighted by
a mass of general--as distinguished from judicial--business, are now
free to devote themselves to their proper duties as conservators of the

By the first Municipal Corporations Act, any borough so disposed was
allowed a separate police force on the understanding that, in the case
of towns containing less than five thousand inhabitants, all expense
connected with the maintenance of such forces should be borne by the
borough availing itself of the privilege. In 1888, this power of choice
was restricted, and all boroughs, which at the last census failed to
show a population of 10,000, were amalgamated for police purposes with
the county to which they belonged; if, however, any borough entitled to
have its own police prefers amalgamation, it is permitted to contract
with the Standing Joint Committee of the county in which it is situated
for the establishment of a consolidated constabulary under the general
disposition and government of the Chief Constable of that county, the
powers of the Watch Committee remaining in abeyance as long as the
contract lasts. A larger measure of autonomy was secured by the Local
Government Act to certain boroughs, called County-Boroughs, being those
which were either counties in themselves before the passing of the Act,
or had an estimated population of at least 50,000 on the 1st of June
1888. As, however, the police of a County-Borough is for all practical
purposes on the same basis as one maintained by any other town, that
controls a separate constabulary, it is unnecessary further to enlarge
upon this part of the subject. It is sufficient to state that in 1899
one hundred and twenty-four English and Welsh boroughs possessed
independent police forces, and that out of this number sixty-one were

At the present time there are only two portions of the United Kingdom
that do not manage their own police. Ireland is one and London is the
other. Ireland is not allowed the privilege for reasons with which
we are not here concerned, but which have been succinctly put by a
politician who is not ill-disposed towards that country, "If Kerry
was treated as Northumberland," said he, "Kerry must control her
police, and if Kerry controlled her police, there was an end of law
and order."[267] The case of London is altogether different: when the
Local Government Act readjusted the command exercised by the various
local authorities over their county and borough police forces, the
Metropolitan area was especially exempted from provisions that applied
elsewhere. A County of London, carved out of the counties of Middlesex,
Surrey and Kent, was called into being on the 1st of January 1889, but
its area did not coincide with the Metropolitan Police District, nor
was the London County Council given any voice in the management of
London's constabulary.

This anomalous position of the Metropolitan Police, governed as it is
by a Chief Commissioner appointed by the Home Office and independent
of municipal control, has ever since been a subject for controversy
amongst local politicians. Members of the progressive party have
held that the control of the police ought to be transferred from the
Government to the London County Council; and, in support of the desired
change, argue that as the ratepayers find the money they should have a
voice in its expenditure; they contend that it is an insult to London
that she alone amongst the great towns of England is debarred from the
management of her own constabulary. At first sight it would appear
reasonable to extend to London the same measure of self-government in
police matters that provincial towns enjoy; but the answer of those
who are content with the present arrangement is that the Metropolitan
Police is an Imperial rather than a local force--provincial towns
and districts have only provincial interests to guard, London has
responsibilities as wide as the Empire; and however public-spirited
local authorities may be, the danger will always remain that they
may be induced to prefer local to national interests. The Houses of
Parliament, the British Museum, public offices and foreign embassies
happen to be in London, but they are not local institutions: the
head-quarters of the Criminal Investigation Department is no more
inseparable from Scotland Yard than is parliament from Westminster:
London is the focus of crime and it is convenient that it should also
be the head-quarters of the machinery for its prevention, but that
is no reason why the principal detective agency of England should
be subordinated to Spring Gardens influences. The inhabitants of
Canterbury might as well aspire to the control of the National Church
on the strength of their pride of See, as Londoners insist that the
Metropolis must bear the responsibilities of the National Police. It is
repeated that the ratepayers of London pay for the Metropolitan force;
but this is only partly true. It would be more correct to say that they
pay half the bill, and, in return, they obtain the protection they pay
for, the Imperial Treasury providing the balance.[268]

It has been suggested that a fair compromise might be found in a
division of the responsibility, by giving the London County Council
control over a moiety of the force for local purposes, and transferring
to that body the authority to license hackney-carriages, pedlars and
lodging houses together with the management of street traffic, &c.,
&c., whilst retaining a separate police establishment for imperial
purposes; but there is little doubt that such a change would only lead
to friction, and might conceivably bring about a recrudescence of that
jealousy which was the bane of the old parochial system.

The whole question is complicated by the independent position that
the City of London has been allowed to retain. From many points of
view it would be advantageous to concentrate the entire police of
the metropolis under one and the same administration, and to some
amalgamation seems desirable for the sake of uniformity, if for no
better reason; but regularity in our institutions is not in itself a
great end to strive for, and it would be prodigal of labour to tinker
with our going concerns merely to eliminate deviations from the normal.
Against amalgamation much can be urged. The city wishes to retain its
ancient privilege of policing itself, and as long as it maintains an
efficient force entirely at its own expense, the government is not
likely to interfere. The matter is largely one of finance. Under the
existing arrangements, three-quarters of the total cost of the City
police is raised in the city by a local police rate, and the remaining
quarter is subscribed by the Corporation out of its revenue; if,
however, the control was transferred to the Chief Commissioner of the
Metropolitan Police, the city would only have to pay five-ninths of
the total cost instead of the whole amount as at present--or putting
it in another light, amalgamation would cost the Imperial Treasury
more than fifty thousand pounds a year, which sum is the price that
the city now pays for the privilege of managing its own police. A
second objection to amalgamation is that the Justice Rooms at Mansion
House and Guildhall are presided over by magistrates who are experts
in commercial jurisdiction, and consequently the usefulness of these
courts would be to some extent impaired if they became ordinary
metropolitan police courts.

Modern police in the City of London dates from 1839, in which year,
it will be remembered, the Corporation awoke to the necessity of
reorganization, and so escaped the consolidating process that had
already absorbed all the other independent and semi-independent police
establishments within the 688 square miles that surround Charing Cross.
Since then the advisability of fusing together the two London police
forces has often been debated, and after the death of Sir Richard Mayne
in 1869 the threatened amalgamation would have become a _fait accompli_
had the Government been ready to acquiesce in the suggestion made by
the Corporation that the City Commissioner should be promoted to the
command of the proposed combination. In 1894 the Royal Commission on
the Unification of London reported in favour of bringing the whole of
the police of the metropolis under one administration; but its advice
has not yet been acted upon, nor is there any immediate prospect of
its recommendations being carried into effect. If, however, the City
authorities should at any time fail to keep up the high standard of
police that they have hitherto maintained they would certainly lose
their historic privilege of police independence, and the knowledge of
this fact contributes to the undoubted efficiency of the force they
control. At the present day both the metropolitan and city forces
rightly consider themselves _corps d'elite_, and a proper rivalry
exists between them, which is at once creditable in itself and
advantageous to the public interest. We have said that the ultimate
authority over the city police rests with the Corporation. It may
however be remarked that the appointment of any person has to be
ratified by the Crown before he is confirmed in the Commissionership,
and that practically speaking the powers possessed by the Corporation
are exercised by proxy. To a Police Committee consisting of some eighty
members selected by the Common Council is delegated everything that
concerns the pay, allowances, and financial business of the force;
whilst all questions touching the discipline and disposal of the men
under his command are referred to the Commissioner, who is thus supreme
in his own department.

One of the clauses in Peel's Act had disfranchised the new police by
denying to constables the right to vote for the election of a Member of
Parliament for the district comprised in the metropolitan police area:
with the growth of other forces this disability was correspondingly
extended, and all over the country policemen were debarred from taking
their part in parliamentary elections. For the moment the prohibition
was in all probability a wise one; elections were then very turbulent
affairs, public opinion was already aflame with excitement over the
impending parliamentary reforms, and men could only speculate upon the
future behaviour of the as-yet-untried constabulary. Even if it had
been possible to guarantee that the police would maintain a perfectly
correct attitude, prudence would still have counselled the advisability
of dissociating the guardians of the peace from the factious interests
of electioneering. The public were so suspicious, and Peel's scheme had
so many opponents, that in every political contest the losers would
to a certainty have attributed the result to the sinister influence
of the bogey-man in blue. When, however, both popular prejudice and
popular excitement had subsided, there was no longer sufficient cause
for the disfranchisement of a numerous and important class of public
servants who had proved themselves worthy of all trust; but the
original prohibition still held good, to the great disadvantage of the
police service. This continued for nearly half a century, that is until
1887, when the "Police Disabilities Removal Act" of that year for the
first time gave the parliamentary suffrage to all properly qualified
police officers who comply with certain regulations made for the joint
convenience of police and public.[269] Six years later constables
became entitled to vote, if qualified, at School Board, Municipal
and other elections; but in no case are they allowed to canvass, any
attempt to influence an elector rendering the offender liable to a
penalty of £10.

The wisdom of enfranchising the police has been amply proved by the
result, for on no occasion since their admission to the suffrage has
it been as much as suggested that they make an improper use of the
privilege. Although English police of the twentieth century is a very
different thing from Anglo-Saxon police of the tenth century, there is
a potent characteristic which is common to both; that is to say, the
modern system rests, as the ancient one did, on the sure foundation of
mutual reliance. We may rely upon it that the law-abiding character of
the British nation is largely due to the rarity with which espionage
as a method of control has been employed in these islands, just as the
trustworthiness of our English Constabularies is largely the outcome
of the confidence that we repose in the wisdom and integrity of our
peace-officers. We are well served by our police because we have wisely
made them personally responsible for their actions. The constable
suffers equally with the non-official citizen for any illegal action
he may commit; the law protects him only in the performance of acts
authorized by the law; nor can he divest himself of responsibility by
pleading the orders of his superior officer, if those orders should
chance to be illegal. This personal responsibility is not only a curb
to excessive zeal, it is also a spur to legitimate activity. "When,"
says Sir Arthur Helps, "a man can do anything well, and is entrusted
to do it, he has generally an impulse to action which is as strong and
abiding as can be found amongst human motives, and which will even
surpass the love of gain."

To teach the value of self-reliance is one of the most important
duties that a Chief-Constable has to perform, and the efficiency of
the force under his command will largely depend upon the manner in
which he has imbued individual constables with the lesson. To this
end the military model of organization and discipline must not be too
closely followed; soldiers generally act in masses and but rarely on
their own responsibility, whilst policemen do nine-tenths of their
work as individuals. The main object of discipline in the army is
to make a man obey orders from force of habit on occasions when his
natural instinct would impel him to think only of his personal safety,
advantage, or honour; the principal end to be attained in the education
of the constable is that he should know his duty, and do it with
circumspection and self-control, generally on his own initiative and
frequently in opposition to the sympathies of the crowd.

Police discipline has been described by Sir Howard Vincent as "the
obedience and respect to lawful authority which distinguishes an
organized body from a rabble"[270] and Sir Henry Hawkins (Lord
Brampton) has insisted upon the necessity of absolute obedience being
rendered by constables to all in authority over them, "Such obedience
and observance," he said, "I regard as essential to the existence of
a police force."[271] All who have had any experience of dealing with
large bodies of men will endorse every word of these pronouncements.
First obey orders and, if necessary, complain afterwards, is a rule
upon the application of which depends the life and well-being of every
properly-disciplined body; at the same time it should not be forgotten
that the too-strict enforcement of a rigid type of discipline neither
conduces to the value of a police force nor to the advantage of the
public. Periodically since 1829 alarmists have repeated the formula
that "the era of dragooning has dawned"; on every occasion hitherto the
cry has proved as groundless as that of the proverbial shepherd-boy,
but, in order to make quite sure that the fable shall for us have no
actual counterpart, it is politic to remember that a watchdog which is
not kept under proper control may become as dangerous as any wolf. In
Continental Europe this danger has not, as we think, been sufficiently
guarded against: the police functionary is there entrusted with powers
that render him to some extent independent of the ordinary law of
the land, for he cannot be prosecuted for malfeasance unless special
permission has first been obtained from the Government, and this
permission is only granted under very exceptional circumstances.

Occasion has already been taken to remark that the freedom enjoyed by
the Press of this country is an invaluable safeguard against police
tyranny, that the public Press in fact polices the constabulary.
This, however, is only one of the many police functions that modern
journalism performs. When a serious crime is committed the newspapers
raise a Hue and Cry so far-reaching and persistent that soon every
tavern discusses the news, every village harbours a potential
detective. Whenever a criminal is caught and convicted the deterrent
value of the punishment served out to him is increased a thousand-fold
by the publicity given by the Press to the award of the judge. In
former days capital punishment was publicly inflicted with the mistaken
idea that in this way was the maximum deterrent effect of the death
penalty assured[272]; now, not only is what was a brutalizing spectacle
decently veiled from the public gaze, but in place of the depraved
thousands who formerly used to witness the "turning off" of each poor
wretch, normal millions read, and it is to be hoped inwardly digest,
the lesson that these tragedies are meant to convey. The Press also
acts most effectually as a modern substitute for the pillory. The
knowledge that an account of his offence will figure in the morning's
police intelligence for all his friends to read, is far more likely
to prevent a man (who lays claim to even a shred of respectability)
from committing himself, than is any fine that the police magistrate
might impose. Nor is the efficacy of the Press as an auxiliary agent
of police confined to its success as a deterrent--newspapers advertise
the bankrupt's loss of credit, expose the tricks of the swindler,
ruin the trade of the impostor, and chastise many an offender whom
the law cannot reach. Finally, a free Press, being a guarantee for
public liberty, acts as a seton for the escape of evil humours which,
if confined, might become a source of danger to the Commonwealth; for
as Bentham has said, "a people sure of its rights, enjoys them with
moderation and tranquillity."[273]

In his introduction to the "Criminal Statistics for 1898," recently
published by the Home Office, Mr C. E. Troup, of that Department,
says that the general conclusions to be drawn from a study of the
comparative tables which form part of the statistical returns, may be
summed up as follows--"That the actual number of crimes brought into
the courts has diminished appreciably during the last thirty years;
that, if the increase of population is taken into account, the decrease
in crime becomes very marked; that, if we also take into account the
increase of the police forces and the greater efficiency in the means
of investigating and punishing crime, we may conclude that the decrease
in crime is even greater than the figures shew; and finally, if we take
into account the fact that habitual criminals are now for the most
part imprisoned only for short periods and have much more frequent
opportunities than formerly of committing offences, we must hold that
the number of criminals has diminished in an even greater ratio than
the number of crimes."[274]

It is of course impossible to estimate with any degree of accuracy to
what extent this diminution of crime and this increased security of
recent years are due to the exertions of our modern constabularies;
enough has been said to make it abundantly clear that the amelioration
is real, and that it is progressive in its tendency, but the difficulty
is to apportion the credit justly between the various agencies that
have contributed to the result. There is no doubt that the spread of
education and the labours of religious and philanthropic bodies have
done much to civilise the masses; it is certain also that an improved
prison system and a reformed penal code have reacted beneficially on
the criminal classes; but if we believe in the teachings of history we
shall put our trust in no combination of influences directed towards
the maintenance of the peace that does not at least include a good
preventive police-force. If Lombroso's theories are correct, even
if some men are born criminal beyond all hope of human redemption,
these are only reasons for redoubling our police precautions: the
delinquent who is a delinquent from his cradle is the more dangerous
on that account, and to the congenital criminal must be denied the
opportunity for mischief. But such freaks are rare and the normal
criminal is anything but a creature of impulse; his calculations may
not be shrewd but they are undoubtedly deliberate. "Abandon fait
larron!" When poverty or the want of life's necessaries lead to theft,
or where native cruelty and love of bloodshed give rise to deeds of
violence, police, however efficient, can effect but little in the way
of prevention; but it is the almost unanimous opinion of those best
qualified to judge that the bulk of the offences committed in this
country are perpetrated by those who enter upon a criminal career
because it appears to them that it is easy and profitable, and because
they think that it will enable them to obtain luxuries that lie beyond
the reach of their industrious and honest companions. It is obvious,
therefore, that an effective police, by making the profession of
dishonesty difficult and precarious, can remove the principal incentive
that makes men criminal.

The circle of police employment is constantly widening, and many of
the functions delegated to the Constabulary by Parliament and by local
authorities have not been so much as touched upon in this book, which,
in a small compass, has endeavoured to trace the main features of
police development in England through a great number of years. It is
to be hoped, however, that the tendency to load police officers with
duties heavier and more diverse than they have to perform already
will not go on increasing. It is difficult to fix the precise limits
within which it is proper that they should act; but it is certain that
by indefinitely multiplying their duties we run a twofold risk, viz.,
that of rendering the work of police constables so complex and varied
that men of average talent and education will be unable to perform it
thoroughly, and further of undermining the popularity of the force by
exhibiting its members before the eyes of the people as universally
interfering and censorious. It is, of course, right and proper that
the policeman should endeavour to prevent the commission of any act
that he knows to be illegal, at all times and in all places; but it is
generally advisable to employ functionaries who do not belong to the
police for purposes not closely connected with the maintenance of the
peace, whenever the employment of outsiders is equally effectual: it
is more convenient, for instance, that game-keepers should protect the
rights of owners on sporting estates, and that custom-house officials
should examine portmanteaux, than that such duties should be performed
by constables. His Majesty's Coastguard, the Inspectors of Mines and
Factories, and other persons appointed by Societies for the prevention
of cruelty to animals, and for the suppression of mendicity, etc.,
relieve the police of much work by carrying out the various parts
assigned to them by Government or by private enterprise; it is worth
considering whether it would not be more profitable to delegate to
functionaries, other than constables; all duties connected with the
inspection of weights and measures, the enforcement of sanitary laws,
the protection of arsenals and dockyards, and with the maintenance of
order on racecourses. A force specially devoted to the last mentioned
object is desirable on many grounds. In the first place the knowledge
that such a body would possess of the welshers, cardsharpers, and
pickpockets who travel about from one race-meeting to another, and with
whom the different local police forces are unable to cope, would put
an end to a great deal of the crime which is at present unchecked and
undetected; and in the second place, it would no longer be necessary
to withdraw large bodies of police from their proper duties for the
protection of race-goers. On the occasion of the riot at Featherstone
in 1893, the calling out of the Military, and the loss of life which
followed, was largely attributable to the concentration at Doncaster
of all the available Yorkshire constables, an unfortunate arrangement
which bared the rest of the county of its regular protectors, and
encouraged the rioters to proceed to lengths they would not otherwise
have attempted.

Although it will hardly be denied that our police discharge their
office conscientiously, courteously and courageously, the general
public has shewn itself somewhat slow to acknowledge the debt which it
owes to the men who undertake what is by common consent a thankless
task; who armed with no extraordinary powers, and protected by no
elaborate exemptions, perform arduous duties on behalf of their
fellow-countrymen, for little reward, and at considerable personal
risk. Perhaps it may not be presumptuous to hope that the foregoing
pages, by adding their quota to the scanty sources of information on
the subject, may cause a corresponding increase in the tribute of
public goodwill, that has been so well earned, and so long awaited, by
the police forces of England.



[1] _Fraser's Magazine_, No. xvi. p. 169.

[2] Evidence of Mr Murray, a magistrate at Union Hall, before the
Parliamentary Committee of 1834.

[3] Report of Police Commissioners, 1839.

[4] See Stubb's "Constitutional History," end of para. 60.

[5] In the reign of Edward VI. the well-known legal maxim, "The King
never dies," was first enunciated; since which time it has been held
that there can be no break in the continuity of kingship; that is to
say, that the accession of each succeeding monarch and the decease of
his predecessor are simultaneous.

[6] Chron. Ang. S., _ad ann._, 1135.

[7] "Thane" is here used in the loose and popular sense to signify the
resident owner of considerable territorial possessions.

[8] Headborough, Borsholder, and Chief-Frankpledge are three words
which describe the same functionary. The latter of Norman, and the
two former of Saxon origin. Borsholder = Borhes-ealder--Borhes (often
written Borough as in "Headborough"), meaning Pledge or Surety. It is
probable that the connection between Borough signifying "Town" and
Borough the correlative of Plegium, is merely an accidental coincidence.

[9] It is difficult to avoid the confusion which arises from the use of
the word "Hundred." Here the police-hundreds (probably introduced for
the first time into England by Edgar) are referred to. The statement
does not necessarily imply that the grouping of families into Tythings,
and of Tythings into Hundreds took place before county areas were
subdivided into smaller areas called Hundreds. It may be remarked,
however, that an uninhabited Hundred (and there must have been many
such if the whole kingdom was divided in this way) can have had no
police significance.

[10] See Note on the Liability of the Hundred, p. 180, chap. ix. post.

[11] Burn I. p. 671.

[12] Edgar, Secular Ordinance, c. 6.

[13] Writing at the end of the eighteenth century Jeremy Bentham
declared: "This is the great problem of penal legislation--(i.) To
reduce all the _evil_ of offences, as far as possible, to that kind
which can be cured by a pecuniary compensation. (ii.) To throw the
expense of this cure upon the authors of the evil, or in their default,
upon the public."

[14] In addition to the "Trinoda necessitas" which besides compelling a
man to serve in the Militia, also claimed his services for the repair
of bridges, and for the up-keep of the national fortifications.

[15] See "Spelman's Glossary," _sub verbo_ "Fredus."

[16] _Ll. Aelf._ 40; _Ll. Ethelb._ 34.

[17] The germ of trial by jury.

[18] Gneist. "History of the English Constitution."

[19] Coke. 2 Instit. 73.

[20] Bede H. E., II. xvi.

[21] It is probable that the _scir-gerefa_ was originally elected by
the freeholders in the folkmoot: the Norman Sheriff, on the other hand,
was invariably appointed by the Crown direct.

[22] This fine was called the "Murdrum."

[23] Bacon's "Office of Constables."

[24] (Magna Carta, Section 20). King John also promised as follows:
"We will not make men justiciaries, constables, sheriffs or bailiffs,
unless they understand the law of the land, and are well disposed to
observe it."

[25] Second Great Charter of Henry III.

[26] "Chronicle of Dunstable," vol. i. p. 155.

[27] _Dictum de Kenilworth_, sect. 14, Stubb's "Select Charters."

[28] 10 Geo. II. c. 22, and 14 Geo. III. c. 90.

[29] 13 Edw. I., _Statuta civitatis_ London.

[30] 23 Edw. III., sect. i. c. 7.

[31] "Commissioners' Report," 1839.

[32] From form of oath administered by Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury
("History of Vagrants," by Ribton Turner).

[33] See Chitty's "Office and Duties of Constables": Coke 3 Inst. 116,
117; and 2 Hale P. C. 102.

[34] See "Statute of Northampton."

[35] 3 Edw. I. cap. 34.

[36] Coroners are first heard of in the directions given to the
itinerant Justices by Richard I. in 1194, when four of these officers
were assigned to each county.

[37] 4 Edw. I. Stat. 2.

[38] "History of Vagrants."

[39] Fitzherbert, Dalton, Burn, etc.

[40] The edict of Hubert Walter.

[41] Rot. Pat. 14 Edw. I. m. 25.

[42] Rot. Pat. 10 Edw. I. m. 8.

[43] Stephens' "Hist. of the Crim. Law," i. 112.

[44] 2 Edw. III., c. 3.

[45] Rot. Parl. 6 Edw. III.

[46] 34 Edw. III., c. i.

[47] 36 Edw. III., c. 12.

[48] 1 Edw. IV., c. 2. See Reeves' "Hist." vol. iii. p. 9.

[49] Burn's "Justice," v. 302, 25th edition.

[50] See also in this connection Carter's "English Legal History," p.

[51] I. Hale's Sum. 96.

[52] Hist. Ram. Gale. vol. iii. 416, 417.

[53] Extended to other towns in 1427. By 6 Henry VI. c. 3 Justices are
to discharge in counties the same duties as are performed in towns by
Mayors and Bailiffs.

[54] 2 Hen. V. c. 1.

[55] 4 Hen. VII. c. 13.

[56] _Cf._ Koenig.

[57] Viscount--"an arbitrary title of honour, without a shadow of
office pertaining to it" (Blackstone).

[58] Coke viii. 43.

[59] 13 & 14 Car. ii. c. 12.

[60] Selden Society, vol. vi. p. 35.

[61] Secular Dooms, Cap. 81.

[62] All evil customs of forests and warrens, and of foresters and
warreners, sheriffs and their officers, waterbanks and their keepers,
shall immediately be inquired into by twelve knights of the same
county, upon oath, who shall be chosen by the good men of the same
county; and within forty days after the inquisition is made, they shall
be quite destroyed by them, never to be restored.--_Magna Carta._

[63] Spelman's Glossary _in verbo_ "foresta."

[64] Manwood, "Treatise of the Forest Laws," 4th ed., p. 143.

[65] Vert included trees, underwood and turf; venison comprised the
hart, the hind, the hare, the boar and the wolf, which were beasts of
forest--the buck, the doe, the fox and the marten, which were beasts of
chase--the rabbit, pheasant, partridge, quail, mallard, heron, etc.,
which were beasts or fowls of warren. So sacred was the stag that
should one be found dead an inquest had to be held, and a verdict as to
the cause of death taken. (See Low and Pulling's "Dictionary of English
History," under Forests.)

[66] It was a universal principle of Early English Law that no defence
was valid if the culprit was caught red-handed, he was _ipso facto_
convicted. (See Carter's "English Legal History," p. 175.)

[67] Assisa et Consuetudines Forestae, anno 6, Edward I.

[68] Coke Inst., iii., p. 294. This is according to Coke, who derives
"Mayneer" from the Latin _Manus_. Manwood, on the other hand, has the
phrase "taken in the manner," using manner in the sense of "_maniére_."

[69] Coke Inst., iii. 289 _seq._

[70] Coke Inst., iii. 294.

[71] Although the authenticity of this document is denied, there is
good reason to suppose that, as far as the following enumeration of
forest officers is concerned, its accuracy may be trusted.

[72] Manwood, p. 163.

[73] Manwood, p. 78.

[74] Forest Law, as once administered, was perhaps the worst example
of class legislation ever known to the English Constitution--it was a
deliberate violation of the rights of the many for the gratification
of the few--the same act which was venial in the gentleman became
unpardonable when committed by the villein. For example, a common man
who slew a deer was guilty of felony and might be capitally convicted,
whereas a nobleman riding through the King's Forest was allowed to kill
a stag or two for his refreshment, on the understanding that he did so
in the sight of a ranger, or if no ranger was present, provided that
someone blew a horn for him, "that he seem not to steal the deer" (9
Henry III.).

[75] Dalton, cap. 60, fol. 141.

[76] "Town Life in the Fifteenth Century," Mrs J. R. Green, vol. i.
chapter iv.

[77] "Liber Albus," p. 312.

[78] "Liber Albus," p. 315.

[79] Hist. MSS. Com., ix. 174.

[80] 51 Hen. III., stat. 6.

[81] 12 Edw. ii. c. 6.

[82] See Final Report of H. M. Commissioners appointed to enquire into
the operation and administration of the Laws relating to the sale of
intoxicating liquors, chap. xvi. p. 21.

[83] The King could tax foreign merchants resident in England without
having to obtain the consent of Parliament.

[84] The test was usually a verse out of the 51st Psalm--commonly
called the "neck verse."

[85] 7 & 8 Geo. iv. c. 28; and see Carter's Eng. Leg. Hist., pp. 202,

[86] 6 Edw. I., c. 9.

[87] 22 Edw. IV.

[88] 3 Henry VII., c. 1.

[89] 34 & 35 Hen. VIII., c. 26 (Wales).

[90] "Tables of population," says Bentham, "in which are described
the dwelling-place, the age, the sex, the profession, etc.... of
individuals, are the first materials of a good police" (Bentham's
"Principles of Penal Law," chap. xii.).

[91] The story of young Edward amongst the vagabonds has recently been
told with great charm and pathos by one of the most popular writers of
the day. Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper" may not be history,
but that it presents a truthful picture of the sufferings of vagrants
in the sixteenth century cannot be doubted.

[92] Slaves might be bought, sold, or bequeathed by will, like any
other chattel.

[93] 1 Edw. VI.

[94] 3 & 4 Edw. VI., c. 5.

[95] The command of the Militia was transferred from the
Lords-Lieutenant of counties to the Crown in the year 1871 ("The Army
Book for the British Empire," p. 373).

[96] To this there was one exception, viz., that foreigners were not
allowed to keep inns "unless they have report from the parts whence
they come, or find safe pledges" (Statute).

[97] 5 & 6 Edw. VI., c. 25.

[98] 27 Elizabeth, Private Acts.

[99] Ordinance, 27 Eliz.

[100] "The Commonwealth of England," Sir Thomas Smith, Ed., 1598, bk.
ii. chap. 21.

[101] 5 Eliz., c. iv. sect. 7.

[102] See p. 302, chap. xv., post.

[103] 14 Eliz., c. v. sect. 2.

[104] 39 and 40 Eliz., c. iv.

[105] 43 Eliz. c. 2.

[106] 27 Eliz. c. 13.

[107] 39 Elizabeth, c. 25.

[108] See the Introduction to "Prothero's Select Charters," sect. v.

[109] Rymer's "Foedera," xvi. p. 279.

[110] Prothero's "Select Charters," p. 187.

[111] "Measure for Measure," act ii. scene 1.

[112] Strype's "Annals," 1824, Edn., vol. iv. p. 405.

[113] iii James 4.

[114] See Somers' "Tracts," edited by Scott, vol. ii. p. 266.

[115] 1 Jac. I., cap. vii. sects. 3 and 4.

[116] 7 & 8 Jac. I., cap. iv.

[117] I. Jac. i. cap. 31.

[118] This statute, which gave such extraordinary powers to constables,
only remained in force for twelve months. (See article "The office of
Constable," by H. B. Simpson, "English Historical Review," vol. x.)

[119] See Proclamations, etc., of Charles I. Bodleian, z. i. 17 Jur.

[120] I. Car. i. cap. 16.

[121] 3 Car. i. cap. 4.

[122] Lib. Albo, fol. 41, b, c, d, e; 23 Henry vi.

[123] "Minshæi Emendatio," ad ann. 1626.

[124] See Note on Liability of the Hundred, chap. ix. post.

[125] 4 & 5 Phil. Mary, cap. 2 and 3.

[126] For a full and interesting account of _Cromwell's
Major-Generals_, see an article under that title by D. W. Rannie in the
"English Historical Review," No. 10.

[127] See Professor Gardiner's "History of the Commonwealth and
Protectorate, 1649-1660," vol. iii.

[128] An Excise duty on liquor had recently (1643) been introduced by
the Long Parliament.

[129] Scobell, part i. p. 129; part ii. p. 320.

[130] D'Argenson, lieutenant of police, declared that "there were more
irregularities and debaucheries committed in Paris during the Easter
fortnight, when the theatres were shut, than during the four months of
the season during which they were open" ("Memoirs de Pollnitz," vol.

[131] Macaulay's "History of England," 1889 Edn., p. 178.

[132] 13 and 14 Car. ii. c. 2.

[133] The number of such vehicles was strictly limited. In London no
more than 400 were allowed.

[134] 14 Car. ii. c. 12, sect. 15. The statute also provides for the
appointment of special constables in times of emergency.

[135] 15 Car. ii. c. 1.

[136] From "The duty and Office of High Constable, &c." by W. Brown, a
clerk of the Court of Common Pleas. Lond. 1677, pp. 26 and 27.

[137] 13 and 14 Car. ii. c. 12 § 22.

[138] Worthies of England, p. 216.

[139] 13 Car. ii. c. 22.

[140] 4 William and Mary, c. viii.

[141] 6 Geo. i., cap. 25, sect. 8.

[142] "Le Blanc's Letters," vol. ii., 1737.

[143] "The Town Rakes," Brit. Mus., (816--m--19)/74.

[144] 1 Geo. i., stat. 2, § 5.

[145] 10 Geo. ii. c. 22.

[146] 8 Geo. ii. c. 16.

[147] 12 Geo. ii. c. 16.

[148] Ann Reg., 1763.

[149] See Gent. Mag., 1761, p. 475; 1780, p. 1446, and Laurence's "Life
of Fielding."

[150] Of the several Statutes dealing with police passed during the
reign of George II., the most valuable and important is the 24 Geo.
ii., c. 44, which enacts that action cannot be brought against a
constable for anything done by him in obedience to a Justice's warrant,
unless the Justice who signed the warrant is made a joint-defendant
with the constable; and which directs that if action is brought
jointly against the Justice and the constable, then the jury shall
find for the latter, provided that they are satisfied that he acted
strictly in accordance with the terms of the warrant that he pleads in
justification. When making an arrest a constable should, if required,
shew the warrant which is his authority, but he need not allow it to
leave his hand.

[151] 29 Geo. ii., c. 25.

[152] 31 Geo. ii., c. 17.

[153] 14 Geo. iii. c. 90.

[154] Wedderburn.

[155] This was the first occasion on which the word "police" was
officially made use of in the British Isles.

[156] Irish Statutes, 26 Geo. iii., c. 24.

[157] 33 Geo. iii., c. 4.

[158] By 29 Car. ii. c. 7, § 7 it was enacted that no liability
attached to the Hundred if a man be robbed whilst travelling on a
Sunday--"for he should not travel on the Lord's Day, nor ought the
Hundred to watch on that day of rest." Nevertheless it was ordained
that Hue and Cry should be raised against a known offender, despite the
non-liability of the Hundred, in order that depredators should not take
advantage of the omission.

Actions against the Hundred had to be brought within three months from
the date of the damage, and there was no liability for deeds done in
the night-time--if, however, there was just sufficient light to see a
man's face, liability might be proved, whatever the hour. No charge
against the Hundred held good for any robbery done in a man's house,
"because every man's house is his castle, which he ought to defend; and
if any one be robbed in his house it shall be esteemed his own fault"
(Dalton, c. 84); and with regard to liability on account of murder and
robbery committed in the daytime, see "Year Book of the Exchequer," (16
Edward I.)

[159] 42 Geo. iii., c. 76.

[160] Between 1822 and 1828, the increase was about 38 per cent.

[161] It has been calculated that at this time there were as many as
fifty fraudulent mints in the metropolis alone.

[162] In the hope of suppressing the seditious spirit so rife at this
period, six coercive measures generally known as the "Six Acts" were
rushed through both Houses of Parliament in a special autumn session of
1819. These Acts sought to preserve the peace by placing restrictions
on the press, by forbidding the training of unauthorized persons in
the use of arms, by empowering Justices of the Peace to search for
and confiscate weapons, and by other repressive measures of a similar

[163] "The policy of a legislator who punishes every offence with
death, is like the pusillanimous terror of a child who crushes the
insect he dares not look at."--Bentham, "Principles of the Penal Code,"
Part iv. Cap. xxii.

[164] "The more the certainty of punishment can be augmented, the more
it may be diminished in amount."--Bentham, "Principles of the Penal
Code." Rule viii.

[165] The ethical point of view is well put by Henry Fielding, who
said, "Nor in plain truth will the utmost severity to offenders be
justifiable, unless we take every possible means of preventing the

[166] In a letter addressed to _The Times_ of November 14th,
1849--Charles Dickens, himself an eye-witness of one of these
brutalising exhibitions, wrote--"I am solemnly convinced that nothing
that ingenuity could devise to be done in this city, in the same
compass of time, could work such ruin as one public execution, and I
stand astounded and appalled by the wickedness it exhibits."

[167] As early as 1597, by an act passed in the 39th year of Queen
Elizabeth's reign--Quarter Sessions were empowered to inflict
transportation, but at first the law could not be enforced because
there was no place to which convicts could be shipped. A number of
royalists were transported to Barbadoes after its capitulation in 1651,
but this was only a temporary measure.

[168] 4 Geo. i. c. 2.

[169] 8 Geo. iii. c. 15.

[170] Escott's "England," 1885 Edn., p. 240.

[171] 7 & 8 Geo. IV., c. 18.

[172] It is impossible to say how far Bentham was influenced by
Beccaria; the two men arrived at similar conclusions, but their methods
were essentially different. Beccaria's great work, "Dei Delitti e
delle Pene," was first published (anonymously) in 1764, and Bentham's
"Rationale of Punishments and Rewards" was written eleven years later.

[173] In 1800 six women were publicly flogged till the blood ran down
their backs for hedge-pulling.

[174] 9 Geo. iv. c. 61.

[175] See "Encyclopædia of the Laws of England" under Licensing Acts.

[176] 7 and 8 Geo. iv. c. 31.

[177] 2 Geo. iv. and 1 Will. iv. c. 70.

[178] "Mysteries of Police and Crime," Griffiths, p. 66.

[179] A River Police Office, with three Justices assigned to it, was
authorised by 39 and 40 Geo. iii. c. 88.

[180] None of this applies to the "City of London" proper, which still
retains its independent position, as far as its police is concerned.

[181] 10 Geo. iv. c. 44.

[182] 10 Geo. iv. c. 45.

[183] The official designation of the Chiefs of the Metropolitan Police
was changed from "Justice" to "Commissioner" in the year 1839. The
change was one of title only, and the Police commissioners were still
Justices of the Peace by virtue of their office. To prevent confusion
the word "Commissioner" is henceforward employed in this book.

[184] "Sir Robert Peel," by C. S. Parker.

[185] Bentham defines the "Lettre de Cachet" as "an order to
punish, without any proof, for a fact against which there is no
law."--(Principles of Penal Law, chap. xxi. part 3).

[186] In the year 1820 the Spanish government suppressed some of the
leading newspapers for daring to adversely criticise the police of
Madrid, and at the same time it was currently believed in England that
Italian police officials employed the torture to procure evidence
against persons suspected of political offences.

[187] Hansard, vol. i. p. 271; and see Ann. Reg. 1830 Chron., p. 185.

[188] See article by Sir C. Warren, _Murray's Magazine_, Nov. 1888.

[189] See Report of Parliamentary Committee, 1838.

[190] 10 Geo. iv. c. 45.

[191] 3 Will. iv. c. 19.

[192] 6 & 7 Will. iv. c. 50.

[193] Peel wished to include the City of London in the Metropolitan
Police Area, but in a private letter to a friend frankly confessed that
he dared not meddle with it.--("Life of Sir Robert Peel," C. S. Parker).

[194] 2 & 3 Vict. c. 47.

[195] See 2 & 3 Vict. 47-71 & 93.

[196] See "The Police of the Metropolis," by Sir C. Warren--_Murray's
Magazine_, Nov. 1888. On the 15th April 1829, Peel informed the House
of Commons that crime was then far more prevalent in the metropolis
than in the country--one person out of every 383 persons having, on
the average, been committed in London, whilst in the provinces the
proportion was only one in 822.

[197] 1st Report Constabulary Commissioners, 1839, page 13.

[198] 3 & 4 Will. iv. c. 90.

[199] This "Lighting and Watching Act" still remains the authority for
the appointment of firemen, who may be "additional constables," and
who, "shall, during the time they shall be on duty, use their utmost
endeavours to prevent any mischief by fire." (3 & 4 Will. iv. c. 90, s.

[200] 5 & 6 Will. iv. c. 76.

[201] 13 and 14 Car. ii. c. 12.

[202] 1 and 2 Will. iv. c. 41.

[203] 5 and 6 Will. iv. c. 76.

[204] 1 and 2 Vic. c. 41.

[205] Bicknell's "Police Manual," p. 58.

[206] 2 & 3 Vict., c. 93.

[207] In 1840 the Act was amended, and a separate Police rate levied,
by 3 & 4 Vict., c. 38.

[208] In the year 1842, the Criminal Jurisdiction of Courts of Quarter
Sessions, which hitherto had been competent to deal with all offences
except treason, was limited by 5 & 6 Vict. c. 38, which removes murder,
capital felony and some other offences from the cognizance of the
Justices. In the metropolis, at the same time, much criminal business
was transferred from Justices of the Peace to Stipendiary Magistrates.
This was due rather to the increase of commitments consequent upon an
improved police, than to any implied incompetence of the Courts. In
1896 Quarter Sessions were again empowered to try Burglary cases (59 &
60 Vict. c. 57), and a further extension, or rather restoration, of the
powers exercised by Justices in Quarter Sessions is understood to be
now (1901) under consideration.

[209] 5 & 6 Vic. c. 109--amended by 13 & 14 Vic. c. 20.

[210] 10 Geo. iv. c. 97.

[211] See 1st Report 1853 Select Committee, p. 137.

[212] Those landowners who gave evidence before the Select Committee
in 1853 were almost unanimous in their testimony that the value of
property had increased in counties where rural police forces had been
established.--See second Report, 1853 Committee, §§ 2770, 2792, and

[213] See ante p. 102, Chapter VI.

[214] See Second Report 1853 Committee, pp. 151, 152.

[215] 19 & 20 Vic., c. 69.

[216] 2 & 3 Vict., c. 47.

[217] In the course of these riots £50,000 worth of damage was done.

[218] After these riots the General Convention of Chartists issued a
proclamation declaring "that a flagrant, wanton, and unjust outrage
has been made upon the people of Birmingham, by a bloodthirsty and
unconstitutional force from London, acting under the authority of men
who wished to keep the people in degradation."--"Annals of Our Times,
1839." See also "Chronicles of Crime," Camden Pelham.

[219] _Quarterly Review_, No. 257, 1870.

[220] Sir James Fitzjames Stephen's "A History of the Criminal Law of
England," vol. i. chap. xiv.

[221] Hale, Sum. 36, 37--I Hale, 457.

[222] From "The Commonwealth of England," by Sir Thomas Smith, 1589

[223] The County and Borough Police Act of 1856 required Rural Police
Forces to furnish annual returns of all crimes committed, persons
apprehended, and subsequent criminal proceedings in their respective
districts, on forms of return supplied by Sir George Gray. From the
materials thus supplied were the Criminal Statistics prepared until
1892, when an improved method of compilation was introduced by the
"Police Returns Act" of that year--(55 and 56 Vict. c. 38).

[224] There were eighty-two cases of garrotting in London between June
and December 1862; nor was the increased prevalence of crime confined
to the Metropolis--most of the larger towns (especially Liverpool)
suffered in the same way.

[225] Transportation to New South Wales and S. Australia ceased in
1850, to Van Diemen's Land in 1852; the last batch of convicts was sent
to Western Australia in 1867.

[226] The Chatham mutiny occurred in 1861, some years after the "Penal
Servitude Act" had become law, but it was due to very similar causes to
those which had occasioned the earlier outbreaks.

[227] 16 and 17 Vict. c. 99.

[228] Select Committee on Transportation 1856, Para. 1824.

[229] In the case of women convicts remission to the extent of
one-third or thereabouts can be earned.

[230] 50,000 is nearer the mark. There were 43,000 in Australasia alone.

[231] Speech by Sir H. Fowler, _The Times_, Jan. 15, 1901.

[232] See the article on Reformatories by Sir E. Du Cane in "Chambers'

[233] 17 & 18 Vict. c. 86.

[234] 18 & 19 Vict. c. 87, and 19 & 20 Vict. c. 109.

[235] 20 & 21 Vict. c. 48.

[236] 24 & 25 Vict. c. 113.

[237] 42 & 43 Vict. c. 49.

[238] 50 & 51 Vict. c. 25.

[239] "Police Code," pp. 80 and 81.

[240] These recognizances may be with, or without, sureties; and the
obligation "to keep the peace" and "to be of good behaviour" continues
during such period as the Court may direct. _Cf._ p. 49, chapter iii.
ante, with reference to the powers conferred on Justices of the Peace
by 34 Edw. iii. c. 1.

[241] Bicknell's Police Manual, p. 244.

[242] 34 and 35 Vict. c. 112.

[243] Female holders of licenses are not required to report themselves
once a month.

[244] See Bicknell's Police Manual, p. 245.

[245] A complete description of the system as employed in England
may be found in a pamphlet entitled "The Identification of Habitual
Criminals," published by _The Police Review_.

[246] See "Our absurd system of punishing crime," by Dr Robert
Anderson, in _The Nineteenth Century and After_ for February 1901.

[247] See also a letter of Mr Justice Wills on the same subject, in
_The Times_, 21st Feb. 1901.

[248] The electric telegraph was first adapted to police purposes in

[249] See Kirchner's "Law and practice relative to Fugitive Offenders."

[250] 42 & 43 Vict. c. 22.

[251] 47 & 48 Vict. cap. 58.

[252] These Regulations were revised by Sir Richard Webster (Lord
Alverstone), Lord Herschell, and the Right Hon. Hugh Childers in 1886,
and may be found on page 250 of Bicknell's Police Manual.

[253] Now Colonel Sir Howard Vincent, M.P., the compiler of "The Police
Code," and a well-known authority on police questions.

[254] In 1884 the office of Director of Criminal Investigation was
abolished, and the duties formerly appertaining to the office have
since then been performed by an additional Assistant-Commissioner,
appointed for the purpose; but the system remains practically the same
as when it was first introduced in 1878.

[255] See _The Times_, 6th Feb. 1888.

[256] 2 & 3 Vict. c. 47, s. 22.

[257] In addition to the authorized deductions made from the pay of
constables, all monies arising from fines imposed on constables, or
for assaults on constables, from the sale of old police clothing, from
pedlars and chimney sweeps' certificates, from fines imposed by a Court
of Summary Jurisdiction, for offences under the Licensing Acts 1872-74,
and from certain other sources, are now carried to the Pension Fund
(see Police Act, 53 & 54 Vict. c. 45).

[258] 20 & 21 Vict. c. 64, s. 15.

[259] See "The Story of Police Pensions," by J. Munro.--_New Review_,
vol. iii.

[260] 53 and 54 Vict. c. 45 (a).

[261] Disorderly meetings took place on the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 23rd
Oct. '87; on the last of these occasions some two thousand rioters were
guilty of brawling in Westminster Abbey.

[262] There is an interesting article on the "Right of Public Meeting,"
by Professor Dicey, in _The Contemporary Review_, April 1889. See
"Annual Register," 1888.

[263] 5 & 6 Will. iv. c. 76.

[264] 45 & 46 Vict. c. 50.

[265] 51 & 52 Vict. c. 41, &c.

[266] See L.G.A., Section 9, para. 3.

[267] Speech by Mr Morley at Newcastle, 21st of June 1886.

[268] See article in the _Contemporary Review_, vol. lv. (Year 1889),
by H. Evans, who therein pointed out that "the Treasury Grant to the
Metropolitan Police Fund bears a higher proportion to the rateable
value, than is the case with the contributions to the County and
Borough Police."

[269] See section 2, 50 Vict. c. 9.

[270] Police Code, under "Discipline."

[271] From "An Address to Police Constables on their Duties," by Sir
Henry Hawkins, printed in "The Police Code."

[272] Contrasting public with private executions, Henry Fielding
remarked in favour of the latter, that, "the criminal dies only in the
presence of his enemies, without the cordial of public approval to
flatter his ambition."

[273] J. Bentham, "Principles of the Penal Law," chapter xxi.

[274] "Judicial Statistics England and Wales." Part I.--Introduction,
page 25.



  Aberdeen, 351

  Abjuration of the Realm, 35, 363

  Admiralty, Court of, 62

  Agisters, 68

  Alehouse Act, The, 222

  Alien Act, The, 175

  Alfred the Great, 3, 10, 13

  Alverstone, Lord, 365

  Amercements, 19

  America, 208, 209, 364, 371

  Anderson, Dr Robert, 362

  Anglesey, 305

  Anglo-Saxon Police, 8, 14, 232, 401

  Anthropometry, 359, 361

  Appeal, 91

  Assize of Arms, the, 26, 27, 28

  Australia, 210, 341, 342

  Aylesbury, 72


  Bacon, Lord, 17, 84, 113

  Bail, 50, 324

  Barbadoes, 129, 208

  Barkstead, Colonel, 128, 130

  Bath, 269

  Basket Justices, 115

  Beccaria, 219

  Bedel, 75

  Bedfordshire, 45, 126, 304

  Benefit of Clergy, 89, 222

  Bentham, J., xiii., 6, 94, 204, 205, 217, 218, 219, 223, 247, 347, 404

  Berkshire, 45, 105, 126, 305

  Bermuda, 209

  Bertillon, M. Alphonse, 359

  Birmingham, 252, 260, 273, 312, 313, 352, 384

  Blackstone, 56, 71, 85

  Blood-money, 140, 211

  Bonaventors, 115

  Bootless crimes, 11

  Borsholder, 4

  Bow Street, 156, 157, 191, 227, 263

  Bow Street Runners, 157, 191, 196, 265, 350, 367

  Brampton, Lord, 402

  Bravadors, 115

  Brecon, 305

  Bristol Riots, 272, 277, 318

  Buckinghamshire, 45, 126, 305

  Bullock-hunting, 197

  Burleigh, Lord, 100

  Burn, 5, 49


  Camberwell, 253, 254

  Cambridge, 90, 274

  Cambridgeshire, 45, 126, 304

  Canterbury, 77, 396

  Canute, 63

  Capital Punishment, 204, 207, 404

  Card registers, 360

  Cardiganshire, 305

  Carmarthenshire, 305

  Carnarvonshire, 305

  Carta de foresta, 67

  Census Returns, 337

  Charles I., 119

  ---- II., 131, 133, 136, 180, 208

  "Charlies," 133, 183, 184, 245

  Chartists, 313, 314

  Chateaubriand, 246

  Chatham, 343

  Cheshire, 30, 126, 283, 300, 305

  Chief Constable, 113, 122, 390, 392, 400

  Childers, Mr, 384

  Churchwardens, 104, 179

  City Marshalls, 187

  City of London Police, 6, 30, 32, 53, 186, 231, 263, 267, 397, 398

  Civil War, 124, 276

  Clarendon, Assize of, 25

  Clerks of the Peace, 53

  Coastguard, 283, 408

  Coke, Lord, 13, 35, 58

  Colchester, 34

  Coldbath Fields, 256, 319, 382

  Colquhoun, Dr, vii., 177, 181, 204, 218, 219, 220, 223, 332

  Colthrop, Sir H., 121

  Commissioners of Police, 234, 235, 242, 250, 256, 263, 285

  Commissioners of Sewers, 133

  Commitment Returns, 338, 339

  Commons, House of, 47, 52

  Constable, the, 43, 55, 56, &c.

  Conservators of the Peace, 19, 44, 392

  Convicts, 349

  Convict Supervision office, 136, 359, 370

  Cornwall, Earl of, 45

  Cornwall, 96, 126, 305

  Coroners, 37, 38, 91, 275

  Council of the North, 94, 137

  County Boroughs, 393

  County Councils, 390, 392

  County Courts, 390

  County, Power of the, 8, 45

  Courts, Ecclesiastical, 62

  Courts Leet, 17, 18, 40, 41, 54, 102, 122, 134

  Coventry, 270

  Criminal Investigation Department, 311, 370, 395

  Criminal Statistics, 340, 405

  Cromwell, Oliver, 125, 127, 131

  Cromwell, Thomas, 94

  Cumberland, 126, 138, 305

  Curfew Bell, 16, 31


  Dartmoor, 343

  Decennary Police, 9, 18, 24, 75

  Decennier, 121

  De Goncourt Case, 368, 371

  Denbigh, 305

  Denville, Sir Gosselin, 39

  Derbyshire, 126, 305

  Detective Police, 311, 366

  Devonshire, 126, 305

  Dickens, Charles, 207

  Dictum de Kenilworth, 24

  Director of Public Prosecutions, 364

  ---- Criminal Investigation, 370

  Dorsetshire, 126, 305

  Drawlatches, 29

  Dublin Police Act, 169

  Duelling, 202

  Durham, 126, 304


  Edgar, 1, 6

  Edward I., 24, 30, 31, 36, 44, 60

  ---- II., 39

  ---- III., 26, 43, 46, 47, 60, 74

  ---- IV., 51

  ---- VI., 2, 46, 94, 96

  ---- VII., 57

  Essex, 45, 104, 126, 301, 303, 304

  Expeditation, 66

  Extradition Acts, 364


  Fielding, Henry, 141, 155, 158, 191, 207, 218, 220, 404

  Fielding, Sir John, 156, 157, 161, 167, 218

  Fightwitt, 6

  Flash-houses, 193

  Flintshire, 305

  Ford, Sir Richard, 194, 224

  Foresters, 68

  Forest Law, 62, 63, 69, 70, 119

  Frankpledge, 4, 15, 20, 42, 77, 121

  French Revolution, The, 246

  Frithbrec, 6


  Galton, Mr Francis, 359

  Garrotting, 341

  George I., 147

  ---- II., 151

  Glamorganshire, 305

  Gloucester, 304

  Gloucestershire, 126

  Gneist, 13

  Gordon Riots, 165, 167, 174, 314, 277

  Graham, Sir J., 311

  Gray, Sir G., 340

  Griffiths, Major, 215

  Grithbryce, 6

  Grosvenor, Lord R., 319, 322

  Gypsies, 10, 90, 109


  Habitual Criminals Act, 357

  Habitual offenders, 355, 359, 405

  Hampshire, 126, 304

  Harcourt, Sir W., 376

  Headboroughs, 4, 8, 57, 178, 211

  Helps, Sir A., 401

  Henderson, Sir E., 379, 385, 386

  Henry I., 2

  ---- II., 18, 63, 68

  ---- III., 20, 23, 55

  ---- IV., 54

  ---- V., 54

  ---- VII., 54, 82, 89

  ---- VIII., 93, 137

  Herefordshire, 45, 126, 305

  Hertfordshire, 126, 139, 304

  Hext, Mr, 108

  High Constable, 55, 110, 113, 114, 122, 150, 151, 177, 390

  High Steward, 100, 160

  Highwaymen, 139, 143, 195, 282

  Home Office, 190, 221, 232, 275, 344, 346

  Howard, John, 217, 347

  Hue and Cry, 5, 27, 33, 34, 35, 36, 46, 59, 67, 83, 89, 104, 111, 123,
    151, 179, 180, 189, 240, 291, 308, 403

  Hulks, the, 342

  Hull, 270

  Hundred, the, 4, 5, 105, 179

  ---- liability of, 5, 122, 180

  Huntingdonshire, 45, 126, 305

  Hyde Park, 320, 324, 327, 384


  Identification of Criminals, 347, 358, 359

  Industrial Schools, 353

  Inhabitant Watch, the, 150

  Inlaugh, 121

  Inspectors of Constabulary, 306, 391

  Ireland, 169, 329, 330, 394

  Irish Constabulary, Royal, 169, 305


  James I., 115

  ---- II., 248

  James, Sir H., 388

  John, King, 19, 20

  Judicium Pillorie, 79

  Jury of Annoyances, 159

  Justice of Assize, 125

  Justices Itinerant, 19

  Justices of the Peace, 43, 44, 51, 59, 93, 97, 101, 107, 116, 125, 144,
    147, 232, 234, 275, 392

  Justices of the Quorum, 93

  ---- Gaol Delivery, 93

  Justice Seat, Court of the, 64, 66

  Juvenile Offenders Act, 287, 351


  Kent, 44, 45, 57, 126, 233, 285, 299, 305, 394

  Kerry, 394

  King's Bench, Court of, 58

  King's Highway, the, 3

  King's Peace, the, 1, 2, 62, 124


  Labourers, Statute of, 60, 108

  Lambard, 8, 54, 56, 181

  Lancashire, 126, 284, 304, 305

  La Reynie, 246

  Leet. _See_ Courts

  Leicestershire, 16, 126, 304

  Lepers, 31, 73

  Lettre de Cachet, 247

  Lewes, 292

  Liber albus, 80

  Licensing Acts, 97, 101, 338, 375

  Lighting and Watching Act, 274

  Lincoln, 34, 289

  Lincolnshire, 45, 126, 289, 305

  Little-goes, 197

  Liverpool, 271, 272, 280, 283, 341

  Livery Companies, 88

  Local Government Act, 391, 393, 394

  Lombroso, 406

  London, 6, 30, 32, 53, 73, 76, 78, 80, 125, 126, 132, 140, 144, 150,
    165, 171, 182, 229, 243, 248, 252, 274, 280, 309, 318, 378, 384,
    386, 395

  London County Council, 394, 395, 396

  London Docks, 310

  Lords-Lieutenant, 97, 278

  Lords-Marchers, 93

  Lords of the Manor, 17, 51, 134

  Lushington, Sir F., 191

  Lynch Law, 149


  Mad Parliament, the, 23

  Maegbote, 10

  Magna Carta, 19, 63

  Mainprise, 50

  Major-Generals, 127, 129, 130

  Manbote, 10

  Manchester, 272, 351, 384

  Mansion-House, 152, 189, 397

  Manwood, 64, 69

  Marching Watch, the, 31

  Marine Society, the, 350

  Marlborough, Statute of, 20

  Martial Law, ix., 106, 107

  Mayne, Sir R., 234, 242, 253, 310, 321, 324, 325, 346, 398

  Mayneer, 65

  M'Hardy, Captain, 301, 303, 305

  Melbourne, Lord, 256, 259

  Merioneth, 305

  Metropolitan Police, 229, 232, 236, 238, 258, 260, 267, 288, 309, 312,
    385, 395

  Metropolitan Police area, 260, 263, 268, 394

  Metropolitan Police District, 237, 394

  Middlesex, 45, 57, 100, 126, 170, 195, 196, 233, 394

  Middlesex Justices Act, 171, 172, 173, 176, 189, 190

  Militia, the, 7, 55, 97, 127, 152, 153, 167, 174

  Millbank, 347, 369

  Minsheu, 121, 123

  Mohocks, 144, 146, 277

  Monmouthshire, 126, 290, 305

  Montgomery, 305

  More, Sir Thomas, 92, 158

  Moss-troopers, 137, 138

  Municipal Corporations Act, 274, 277, 306, 391, 393

  Munro, Mr, 331, 376

  Murdrum, The, 16

  Mutual Security, 15, 17


  "New Police," the, 335

  Newcastle, Duke of, 158

  Newgate, 78, 121, 150, 167, 215, 216

  New South Wales, 209, 210

  Norfolk, 45, 96, 126, 304

  Norman police, 14

  Northampton, Assize of, 18, 25

  Northamptonshire, 45, 126, 304

  Northumberland, 126, 138, 299, 305, 394

  Norton, Lord, 351

  Nottinghamshire, 126, 129, 304

  Norwich, 39


  Obligatory Act, The, 305, 307, 338

  Ordeals, 12

  Oxford plague regulations, 118

  Oxford, Provisions of, 23, 24

  Oxford University, 90, 274

  Oxfordshire, 45, 126, 305


  Parkhurst, 351

  Parliamentary Commissions, viii., 26, 160, 162, 199, 201, 221, 227,
    228, 230, 234, 244, 255, 259, 261, 336, 344, 352, 360

  Parochial System of Police, 176, 182, 211, 237, 291, 355, 396

  Passports, 102, 135

  Patrol, Foot, 156, 194, 226, 233

  ---- Horse, 156, 194, 224, 233, 263, 264

  Peace Guilds, 6

  Peace of the Church, 62

  ---- of the Sea, 62

  Peace Wardens, 44

  Peel, Sir R., 227, 228, 230, 243, 245, 251, 256, 262, 309, 372, 399

  "Peine forte et dure," 330

  Pembrokeshire, 305

  Penal Code, the, 204

  Penal Servitude Act, 343, 356

  Pennsylvania, 347

  Pentonville, 347, 348

  Permissive Act, the, 293, 296, 298, 301, 396, 310

  "Peterloo Massacre," 314

  Petty Constable, Oath of, 114

  Photography, 359

  Pie-poudre, Court of, 270

  Pillory, the, 78, 79, 222

  Plague, The, 117, 118, 132, 133

  Police Act, the, 376

  ---- franchise, 399

  ---- Disabilities Removal Act, 400

  ---- Pensions, 376

  ---- Returns Act, 340

  ---- Supervision, 357

  Poor Laws, 103

  Popay, 253, 256, 310

  Portland, 343

  Portsmouth, 271, 343, 351

  Posse Comitatus, the, 8, 39, 45, 54, 276

  Præpositus, the, 14, 56

  Press, the, 250, 403

  Press gang, the, 341

  Presentment, 40, 59, 239

  Prevention of Crimes Act, 357, 359

  Primarii, 68

  Prison Act, the, 348

  Prisons, 78, 149, 215

  Probation of First Offenders Act, 354

  Procurator Fiscal, 288

  Prosecution of Offences Act, 365

  Public Health Acts, 391

  ---- Meeting, Right of, 388

  ---- offices, 191, 264

  ---- prosecutor, 109, 223

  ---- works prisons, 348

  Purlieu, 66


  Quarter Sessions, 48, 112, 136, 151, 222, 293, 295, 337, 340, 390, 392

  Quarterors, 115

  Queen Anne, 144, 145, 146

  Queen Elizabeth, 99, 103, 105, 137, 159, 334

  Queen Victoria, vii., 277, 349


  Radnorshire, 305

  Ragged Schools, 351

  Rainsforth, Mr F., 161

  Rangers, 68

  Recognizances, 355

  Reformatories, 350, 353, 354

  Reformatory School Act, 352

  Regard, Court of, 64, 66

  Regarders, 68

  Richard I., 19, 44

  ---- II., 46, 48, 50, 53

  Riot Act, the, 96, 147, 258

  Riotous Assemblies, 314

  Riots, 202

  ---- _see_ Bristol

  ---- _see_ Gordon

  ---- Featherstone, 408

  ---- Hyde Park, 320

  ---- Reform, 327

  ---- Chartist, 314

  ---- Sunday Trading Bill, 319

  ---- West End, 317, 381

  Roaring Boys, 115

  Roberdsmen, 29

  Robin Redbreasts, 194

  Romilly, Sir S., 205, 206, 218, 219

  "Route forms," 360

  "Round-houses," 162

  Rowan, Colonel, 234, 253, 257, 258, 259, 292, 310

  Royal Society, the, 133

  Rural Police, 102, 182, 279, 295

  Rural Police Act, 293, 305

  Russell, Sir C., 388

  Rutland, 45, 126, 305


  Sanctuary, 35, 115

  Sartines, 247

  Sayer, John, 193, 198

  Scavengers, 75

  Scotland, 93, 288

  Scotland Yard, 233, 237, 262, 263, 266, 311, 359, 395

  Searchers, 101, 117

  Shaftesbury, Lord, 351

  Shakespeare, 108

  Sheriffs, 7, 14, 16, 36, 40, 44, 45, 97, 119, 276

  Shropshire, 30, 126, 304

  Sidmouth, Lord, 224, 227

  Six Acts, the, 202

  Smith, Sir T., 102, 334

  Somersetshire, 108, 126, 286, 305

  Southwark, 74, 121

  Special Constables, 134, 176, 276, 314, 377, 387

  Staffordshire, 126, 304

  Standing Joint Committees, 392, 393

  Statistics, Police, 337, 339

  Stephen, Sir J., 333

  Stipendiary Magistrates, 173

  ---- Police, 306, 338

  Stocks, the, 72, 77

  Street-keepers, 188, 240

  Stubbs, Dr, 1, 24, 25

  Suffield, Lord, 214

  Suffolk, 45, 126, 304

  Summary Jurisdiction Act, 354

  ---- Courts of, 338

  Summons of the Array, 7

  Superannuation, 374

  Superintending Constables, 297

  Supervisees, 357

  Surety of the Peace, 50

  ---- the Good Behaviour, 50

  Surrey, 45, 126, 233, 304, 394

  Sussex, 34, 126, 305

  Swanimote, Court of, 64, 66

  Sydney, 342


  Tasmania, 342

  Thames Police, 176, 189, 223, 263, 266

  Thane, 3, 50

  Ticket-of-leave, 344, 345, 356

  Tine-men, 68

  Tourn, Court of the, 15, 18, 40

  Townsend, James, 170, 193, 194, 204, 212

  Trade Guilds, 84, 86

  "Trading Justices," 115, 169, 170

  Trafalgar Square, 378, 381, 387

  Trained Bands, the, 152, 248

  Transportation, 158, 208, 210, 341, 343

  Trinoda necessitas, 7

  Troup, Mr C. E., 405

  Tumbril (_see_ Pillory)

  Tyburn, 141, 149, 158, 159

  Tyburn-ticket, 213, 214

  Tyler, Wat, 61

  Tything, the, 3, 4, 5, 120

  Tythingmen, 56, 57, 114, 125, 179, 180


  Unification of London, 398


  Vaccination Acts, 338

  Vagrancy, 33, 92, 102, 116, 221, 302

  Verderers, 65, 68

  Vert, 65

  Vicecomes, 14, 15, 18, 56

  Vincent, Sir Howard, 354, 370, 402

  Vine Street Station, 323, 324, 325


  Wales, 92, 126

  Wapentakes, 179

  Warren, Sir C., 260, 272, 386, 387

  Warwickshire, 45, 126, 305

  Watch Committees, 81, 275, 306, 391, 393

  Watch and Ward, 21, 26, 27, 33, 71, 122, 183, 189

  Weights and Measures, 86, 304, 408

  Wellington, Duke of, 220, 243, 245, 314

  Westminster, 99, 100, 126, 128, 144, 160, 162, 163, 188, 198

  Westminster, Statute of, 159

  Westmoreland, 30, 126, 305

  Whitefriars, 115, 132

  Wild, Jonathan, 141, 143

  Willford, Sir T., 107

  William I., 2, 15

  ---- III., 248

  ---- IV., 251, 274

  Wiltshire, 126, 286, 304, 305

  Winchester, Statute of, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 39, 42, 55, 71,
    79, 112, 122, 151

  Wite, 11

  Woodmote Court, 64, 66

  Worcestershire, 305

  Wrecking, 283


  Yeomanry, 97

  "Yoongmen," 68

  Yorkshire, 39, 126, 305, 408


       *       *       *       *       *


Minor punctuation errors repaired.

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_

 p. 83 When property cansisted only of timber, replaced with
       When property consisted only of timber,

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