Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the fact, (which, however, any one rare and aggravated cases. From may learn for himself, by referring to these it appears that the whole numMr Phillipps' tables,) that the average ber of game cases tried, or reported to of the game convictions during the the authorities, in these five counties, five years these tables include, was, during the years 1846 and 1847, was for all England, not 36, but a frac- one hundred and forty-four, being tion over 6 per cent of the whole. about 2.5 per cent of the whole. FifeNow, let us see how the case stands shire (which was selected to be shown in Scotland. We have observed that up before Mr Bright's committee as our northern orators always draw their an abyss of game-law abuses) had, in illustrations from the south of the 1848, out of eight hundred and thirty Tweed; and we have, therefore, look- offences, only three under the game ed with some curiosity into the re- acts. As to the alleged progressive cords of our Scotch county courts, increase of such cases, the subjoined as affording some test of the real table of the numbers for the five years extent of the grievance in this part of preceding 1848 + proves that, whether the empire. Unfortunately these re- it be true or not as respects isolated cords are not preserved in a tabular districts of England, that the numform by all the counties; but we ber of game-law trials is every year have been favoured with returns from becoming a heavier burden on the five of the most important on the east public, it certainly is not true in four coast, which we selected as being those of the largest and most game-keeping in which the preservation of game is counties of Scotland. notoriously carried to the greatest We have now to make a remark or extent. An abstract of these returns two on the plea set up on behalf of will be found below,* and will suffice the poacher against the present game to show how false, in regard to Scot- laws. What is it that makes a man land, is the assertion that game pro- become a poacher? “ Temptation," secutions are alarmingly numerous; says Mr Bright, "and temptation only. while every one knows that the ex. How can you expect that the poor but pense is borne, not by the public, but honest labourer, who, on his way home by the private party, except in very from his daily toil, sees hares and

[blocks in formation]

Compare these facts with the preposterous statements which the latest orator of the league, Mr M. Crichton, has been repeating to listening zanies at Greenock, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, that “the commitments arising from game laws amount to ONEFOURTH of the whole crime of the country.”

+ Return of game-law offences during the years 1843-7

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

pheasants swarming round his path, denounce the danger of the game laws, should abstain from eking out his are sincere in their search after the scanty meal with one of those wild sources of crime, and in their efforts animals, which, though on your land, to repress them, we can help their inare no more yours than his? The idea quiries—we can show them at their would never have occurred to him if own doors, and swarming in every he had not seen the pheasants; and if street, temptations to debauchery, there had been no game laws, he would which have made a hundred crimes have remained an upright and useful for every one that can be traced to member of society." Such, we believe, game laws,—and yet we cannot is the beau-ideal of the poacher, as we perceive that the zeal of our civic find it in abolitionist speeches, and in reformers has been very strenupopular afterpieces at the theatre. ously directed to discourage or to He is, of course, always poor, but diminish the numbers of these dens of virtuous,

dissipation. We can refer them to * A friendless man, at whose dejected eye

the reports of our gaol chaplains for Th’unfeeling proud one looks, and passes by."

bv. proof that three out of every four

prisoners are ignorant of the simplest We shall not quarrel, however, with rudiments of education; and yet a the fidelity of this fancy sketch; but praiseworthy attempt lately made in we may be allowed to doubt whether our metropolis to promote instruction any large proportion of those who by means of apprentice schools, was incor penalties for game trespass have not favoured with the countenance of been led into temptation by the mere our chief magistrate, because he hapabundance of game in large preserves. pened to be engaged in the more phiMen of plain sense will think it just lanthropic duty of presiding at a meetas fair to ascribe the frequency of ing for condemning the game laws! larceny to the abundance of bandanas If we are called upon to assign a which old gentlemen will keep dangling reason for the frequency of poaching, from their pockets while pursuing their we should attribute it neither to the studies at print-shop windows. The mere superabundance of game by evidence taken by the committee seems itself, nor yet to the pressure of porather to show that the poacher's trade verty, but very much to the same sort thrives best where there is what is of temptation that encourages the called "a fair sprinkling" of ill- common thief to filch a watch or a watched game, than where he has to handkerchief-namely, the facility of encounter a staff of vigilant and well- disposing of his spoil. Well-stocked trained keepers. But what though covers may present opportunities to the case were otherwise ? Suppose the poacher for turning his craft to the existence of the temptation to be account, but it is plain the practice admitted, is it to be seriously argued would be comparatively rare if he did that the province of legislation is not not know that at the bar of the next to prohibit offence, but to remove all alehouse he can barter his sackful of temptation from the offenders? not to booty either for beer or ready coin, and protect men in the enjoyment of their no questions asked. Every village of rights, but to abridge or annibilate 1000 or 1500 inhabitants offers a those rights, that they may not be market for his wares, and any surplus invaded by others? This, we affirm, in the hands of the country dealer can is the principle when reduced to simple be transferred in eighteen hours to the terms; and startling enough it is to London poulterer's window. There those who have been accustomed to cannot be a doubt that the consumpthink that the proper tendency of laws tion of game has increased enormously and civilisation is in precisely the since the beginning of this century. opposite direction. What although a It was formerly unknown at the tables breach of these laws may sometimes of men of moderate means, except be the commencement of a course of when haply it came as an occasional crime, are there no other temptations remembrance from some country rewhich open the road to the hulks or lation, or grateful M.P. Now-a-days the penitentiary? If the magistrates the spouse of any third-rate attorney of our towns, who so vehemently or thriving tradesman would consider her housekeeping disgraced for ever, any of the game species); but, whether if she failed to present the expected true or not, it is useless to prevent the pheasant or brace of moorfowl " when rearing of game by any sort of sumpthe goodman feasts his friends.” And tuary enactment, direct or indirect. even if we descend to the artisans and The proper course of legislation is very operatives of our large towns, it will plain. While compensation should be be found that hares and rabbits form made exigible for all damage from a wholesome and by no means unusual excess of game, and new statutory variation of their daily fare. We have provision made for this purpose, if the the evidence of one of the great Lead present law is insufficient-fair enenhall game dealers, that in the month couragement should at the same time of November hares are sent up to be given for the production, in a legiLondon in such quantities, that they timate way, of what is required for the are often enabled to sell them at 9d., use of the public. Facilities should be and even at 6d. each. The average afforded to the honest dealer for conweight of a hare may be taken at ducting his trade without risk or about 8 lb.; and if we deduct one disguise, and the useless remnant of half for the skin, &c., there will re- the qualification law in Scotland main 4 lb. of nutritious food, which should be abolished. Measures of this even at 2s., is cheaper than beef or nature, by turning the constant demutton; while the occasional change mand for game into proper channels, cannot but be both agrecable and will prove the most effectual disbeneficial to those who have so limited couragement to the occupation of the a choice of food within reach of their poacher, and to the reckless and irremeans. Some idea may be formed of gular habits of life which it generally the vast quantity of game brought induces. into London, from the statements of A very opposite result, we are perMr Brooke, who buys £10,000 worth suaded, would follow from the adopof game during the course of the win- tion of Mr Bright's quack recipe for ter; and there are ten other great putting an end to the practice of salesmen in Leadenhall market alone. poaching. By what indirect influence If we make allowance for the supplies is the abolition of the game laws exsent directly to the smaller poulterers, pected to produce this effect? If, for the consumption in the other great indeed, along with the game laws, towns throughout the kingdom, and you sweep away also the law of comfor the probably still larger quan- mon trespass-if you proclaim, in the tity that never comes into market at nineteenth century, a return to the all, it is impossible to deny that game habits of the golden age, when, as has now become an important part of Tibullus tells usthe food of the people, and that, as an article of commerce, it deserves the

“ Nullus erat custos, nulla exclusura volentes

Janua;" attention of the legislature. Any attempt to check the production and and if you authorise the populace at sale of a commodity for which there large to traverse every park and enis so general a demand, must prove closure, at all hours and seasons, and both useless and mischievous. It is in any numbers and any manner they in vain to proscribe it as an expensive please, then we can understand that a luxury, and insist on the substitution few months probably of rustic riot and of less costly fare. It may be true, license may settle the question by the for anything we know, that the grain extermination of the whole game or provender consumed by the 164,000 species. But we have not yet met head of game, which Mr Brooke dis- any game-law reformer so rabid as to posed of in six months, might have propose putting an end to the penalproduced a greater weight of bullocks ties on ordinary trespass ; on the conor Leicester wedders, (though this is trary, we find most of them, (Sir extremely unlikely, for the simple Harry Verney and Mr Pusey among reason that grain, grass, and green the number,)* anticipating the necescrops form only a part of the food of sity of arming the law with much

* Evidence, Part i. 1414; ii. 7647, 7651.

stronger powers for preventing com- laws has been abused. It has been mon trespasses. And even without such almost universally abused." Is this additional powers, will not the tres- true as regards either England or pass law as it stands be employed by Scotland ? or is it merely one of those proprietors to prevent interference with vague and reckless affirmations which their sports? Is it supposed that the a man writing for a purpose, and not abolition of the game statutes will at for truth, is so apt to hazard, in disonce prevent the owners of great regard or defiance of the facts before manors from rearing pheasants in their him? One thing we do find to be own covers? It may indeed drive notorious—that the committee's evithem to do so at a greater expense, dence of game abuses in Scotland was and to enlist additional watchers; but limited to one solitary case, that of it is not likely that keen game pre- the estate of Wemyss. And although servers will not avail themselves of we may very readily conceive that, such defences as the common law may with more time and exertion, the still leave them. Game then, we con- agents of the league might have fertend, may be thinned by this plan, reted out other instances, we may, but it will not be exterminated. The nevertheless, be allowed to express consequence will be that its price our astonishment that, on the slender will be enhanced; but as the de- foundation of this single case, Mr mand will still continue, the trade of Bright should have ventured to ask the poachers will remain as thriving his committee to find the general as ever. He may have to work fact proved, that the prosperity of harder and to trudge farther before agriculture " in many parts of Scothe can fill his wallet; but this will be land as well as England, is greatly compensated by the additional price; impaired by the preservation of and if the present quantity of game is game." We learn at least to estidininished by one-half, the conse- mate the value of the honourable quence will be that his agents will be gentleman's judgment, and the amount able to pay him five shillings a-head of proof which an abolitionist regards for his pheasants instead of five shil- as demonstration. But the truth is, lings a-brace. In short, we should that the case of Scotland was not anticipate, as the effects of abolishing examined at all; and the rejected the present statutes, that, while many report of Mr Bright and his associates of the less wealthy Owners of land bears on its face the most satisfactory would be deterred by the expense evidence of their utter ignorance that from protecting game, and wbile the the law on this side the Tweed is a amusement (such as it is) would be- perfectly different system from that come greatly more exclusive than it of England. is now, such a measure would not Will any believe that if our Scotch only fail to remove any of the induce- farmers, " in a great majority of inments which tempt the idle peasant stances," found their property sacrito take to the predatory life of a ficed, they would not have universally poacher, but would, in the outset at joined in demanding the interference least, induce many to try it who never of the legislature? But what is the thought of it before.

fact? An examination of the reports We must now pass on to the con- on petitions during the last two sessiderations we have to offer on the sions shows that there certainly have situation of the tenant-farmer as to been petitions against the game laws, game; and the first question that but that for every one emanating from snggests itself as to his case is this,- an agricultural body there have been Whether the injury suffered by ten- ten from town-councils. We have ants be really so serious and extensive better evidence, however, than mere as is represented ?

inference, for the general distrust with " There is no denying," says Mr which the farmers have regarded this Shepherd, in his Essay, (p. 12,) " the agitation; for we find the Leaguers notoriety of the fact that, in a great themselves, one and all of them, lamajority of instances, this excessive menting that their disinterested exerpower of infringement on the pro- tions on behalf of the tenantry have perty of the tenant through these been viewed by that body with the most callous and ungrateful indiffer- mind the district with which he is ence. It is impossible to read without best acquainted, and estimate on how a smile Mr Bright's Address to the much of it the tenants would give Tenant-farmers (prefixed to Mr Wel. this additional rent, on condition of ford's Summary of the Evidence); and the game laws being abolished. An to mark the patient earnestness with average-sized farm, in our best cultiwhich he entreats them to believe that vated counties, may be taken at two they are groaning under manifold op- hundred acres-how many of his bropressions and insists on “ rousing ther farmers can he reckon up, who them to a sense of what is due to them- would consent to pay £10 a-year adselves.” But your tiller of the soil is ditional on these terms? A similar ever hard to move. It is surprising test, it may be mentioned, was offered that the obstinate fellow cannot be to one of Mr Bright's witnesses, (Evimade to comprehend that he is the dence, i. 4938,) who had set down victim of a malady he has never felt his annual damages from game at from —that he will persist in believing that £180 to £200, and who, after sucif game were all he had to complain cessively declining to give £200, £100, of, he might snap his fingers at Doctor and £75 a-year additional rent for Bright and his whole fraternity. The leave to extirpate the game, thought, essayist of the Association can find no at last, he might give £50 a-year for better reason to assign for what he that bargain. calls “ the wondrous and apparently But the question immediately bepatient silence of the tenantry under fore us is this: what remedy does the so exasperating an evil,"—than, for- existing law of Scotland give a tenant sooth, that they are too servile to speak in cases of real hardship from the preout their true opinions. Such an ex- servation of game? In regard to this planation, at the expense of the body question, it is impossible to overlook whom he pretends to represent, can the broad distinction between the only insure for him the merited scorn cases of those who have expressly unof all who have opportunities of know. dertaken the burden of the game, and ing the general character of the those whose leases contain no such spirited, educated, and upright men covenant. The quasi-right of prowhom he ventures thus to calumniate. perty in game recognised by the EngThe most obvious way of accounting lish law is, by Lord Althorpe's stafor their wondrous silence under op- tute of 1832, vested in the occupier of pression is also the true one-namely, land, when there is no express stiputhat, as a general fact, the oppression lation to the contrary. The reverse is unknown. When an intelligent is virtually the case in Scotland-the farmer looks round among his neigh- landlord retains his right to kill game, bours, and finds that for every acre unless he shall have agreed to surrendamaged by game there are thou- der it to his tenant. In most cases, sands untouched by it,-when he however, the landlord's right does not knows that there are not only whole rest merely on the common law, but parishes, but almost whole counties, is expressly reserved to him in the in which he could not detect in the crops lease. Now, when a tenant has delithe slightest indication of game,- and berately become a party to such an further, that, in ninety-nine cases out express stipulation, and when the of a hundred in which a tenant really quantity of game (whether it be small suffers injury, he is sure of prompt or great) does not exceed, during the and ample compensation-it is not sur- currency of the lease, what it was at prising that he looks upon the Associa- his entry, on what conceivable plea of tion with suspicion, and refuses to sup- reason or justice can he ask the interport, by his name or his money, their ference either of a court of law or of system of stupendous exaggeration. the legislature? To say, with Mr If any one wishes to convince himself of Bright and his coadjutors, that he selthe actual truth, we venture to suggest dom attends much to such minor articles to him a simple test. Damage from in a lease-that he does not undergame, to be appreciable at all, cannot stand their effect—that in the compewell be less than a shilling an acre. tition for land he is glad to secure a Now, let any farmer survey in his farm on any conditions-all this is the

« AnteriorContinuar »