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 disorganisation 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 organisation 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 I655 the whole of England and Wales was divided for administrative purposes into twelve police districts, viz. :
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.
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 Northum berland.
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,’ 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 cooperate 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 himself. 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.” 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.
Under the military regime espionage was encouraged and 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 Barbados 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, whilst stage-plays and places of public amusement were vigorously proceeded against.
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 such as has been common elsewhere. of an almost unqualified military police ascendancy,
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 admonish ing, 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. 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.
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 formulated.
In other departments also, progress was manifest, especially in the lighting arrangements. By an act passed in 1672 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.
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 milestones. 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 complains of the lack of constables, and authorises two Justices of the Peace in each district .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, 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.” 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 to transportation “to any of the English plantations beyond the sea ” by the order of a majority of Justices at Quarter Sessions.
Contemporary literature shows 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 terrorise 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 This to encourage the apprehending of highwaymen. this disastrous policy was inaugurated in 1692. “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, 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. The iniquitous system of paying blood-money for the conviction of certain classes of offenders continued for generations, but is now happily extinct.
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 aț 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. ” Without attaching too much importance to the statements, 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 cooperate 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 organising 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 a 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. “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 manner.”
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 Sub- jects, within the said Cities of London and West- minster, 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,” 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 authorised 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 King’s 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, ce 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 practise 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 in- dividual. 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 entrusted 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 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, Alder- men 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 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, 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
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 rein- forcements, not only from the Main Guard, but from the other guards also, in sufficient num bers 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 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 organisation 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.