THE SIN OF STREET TRAFFIC.
IF the Morning Papers do nothing else, they often make us ashamed of ourselves, of our institutions, and the country alto- gether. There is a scene described in the Police reports of this week (Friday's Herald) which will hardly let a decent man sit still in his chair; and if he be furiously humane, may even cause him 'to dishevel the propriety of his paper, nay, utter an oath, and may be curse the Times themselves, who are neither more nor less than the ancient Fates in disguise.
Before the Magistrates of Worship Street, on Thursdaylast, oc- curred cases which the Pennyalinian most justly denominates Distressing Seizures. We lately spoke of the descent of the parish blue-bottle—the Beetle Beadle--upon the fish and apple- 'women; and duly, we trust, regretted the sad catastrophe of her- rings swimming in the mud and apples fioating in the kennel. But that matter ended in the capture of a coste7monger's cargo, vessel perhaps and all : while here—alack ! that we should see the day—crew and all is seized, and sent to prison ;—for what ?— for obstructing the greasy path of Shoreditch High Street; or rather, for conveniently making a crowd to lean against, lest the passenger should slip down in the parish mud. Obstructing Shoreditch!—However, Shoreditch is or ought to be a thorough- fare, and people should be able to get through it : but who ever found a difficulty because of herring and apple-baskets ?—the true obstacle is and always has been parish dirt.
But look at these little selections from the report, and then think how dearly the clearance of dirty Shoreditch is purchased— The first person charged as having offended, was a fisbman, named Smith; 'who in his defence pleaded having no other mode of getting his living to sup- port a family of six helpless children: he considered it better to earn or them a crust of bread by industry than by thieving, which he must do, if compelled to -remove his stall. He had been in his Majesty's service thirty-four years, and had been home now only three years, and was not allowed to get an honest living. If I ask (said witness) any one to assist or relieve me, the answer I get is, 44 Go into the street and get your living ;" and this is the consequence— brought up here to be punished for it.
Mr. Twyford said, he was sorry to be obliged to put the law into force, but he had no alternative ; and therefore unwillingly fined him in the sum of 40s. and costs; which, unless immediately paid, would be levied hydistress upon his
Smith—" I have not 40s. worth of goods in the world."
So much for SMITH: let him troop to prison in default of pay- ment—who cares? Mr. TWYFORD, to be sure, is sorry for ordain- ing the execution of the law; but if the law is good, why sorry? Next we have a .rate-payer—.-a contributor to the poor he is fined what he cannot pay, and the parish are to support his family; that is to say, poor CLARKE and his children are to be divided ac- cording to their sexes—the girls are to become prostitutes, and the boys thieves.
Clarke, another man, was next called upon for his defence, and pleaded guilty. He said he had a family of eight children to support, and paid to the parish, poor-rates. - Mr. Twyford—" You pay poor-rates ?" Clarke—" Yes ! I pay every rate." Fined 40s. and costs.
If he cannot pay his fine, let him go to prison, with what appe. tite he may.
Next comes LINTON; and the other choristers of Shoreditch free trade market chime in and end the scene— Linton, a third man, was next called, and also pleaded guilty. He said he had a family of six children.
Mr. Twyford—" I am sorry for it, but the parish will take care of them." Linton—‘ Oh! they'll give them a shilling, once, or at most twice a week." Mr. Twyford—" What is the age of your eldest ?" Linton— Seventeen years. He has always assisted me, and by that means obtained a crust ! I can't get him employment any where, therefore he must starve ! There is pretty near 15Q. of us en the same situation, getting our living in the street."
Mr. Twyford—" Then you must spend some money there, among you?" Linton—" Yes, we do. I pay a baker there myself 8s. a week. '
Mr. Twyford—" Are there any fishmongers in High Street who keep shops ?"
Linton--" Not one! Besides, if there was, we could not injure them, as our fish is such as we sell only to poor people, such as plaice and other cheap fish."
Beadle of Norton Folgate—" Half of which often stink ! your Worship." Mr. Twyford—" The object of the Commissioners is to. put down the nui- sance. They have no wish to enforce the fine. Nor have I: on the contrary, I wish you would promise me to leave the street altogether, and there would be an end of it."
Several voices—" 'What are we to do ? Are we to starve?"
Mr. Twyford—" I must say again, that I am sorry for you ; but every time you offend, you will be fined 40s. ; and you can't pay 40s. a day." Defendants—" Nor 40s. to-day, if we are fined."
Mr. Twyford—" Then you must all go to prison." One of them, a poor woman, said she had no husband ; a large family to support, and a bed and a chair was all she possessed, which would not fetch 10s.
Mr. Twyford—" I can't help it. You must also be fined."
The poor woman here burst into tears, on finding her little all would be in- stantly levied by distress! Smith, the first defendant who was examined, pulling up his trousers—" So, then, we are all to go to prison for industry. My feeling is we lad better go a thieving ! Hard work for a man who has been near thirty-four years living within the walls of a ship, ,fighting for his country ! Yet, rather than thieve, I'll violate this law as lung as Ilive. '
Mr. Twyford—" I had better send you to prison for six months." Smith—" So you may ; but only take care of my family. Mind, your Wor- ship, we don't find fault with you, because we know you can't help yourself. You must put the law in force; and a d—d bad law it is !"
" I'll violate this law as long as I live," said SMITH; "for a: d—d bad law it is." And all chimed in with him—perhaps not even with the exception of the Magistrate himself. Are such. laws to be much respected? TWYFORD compounded with his con- science, and only sent the miscreants to gaol for a week. Foolish people ! why do they not manage their transactions by bills ; and sell their herrings, apples, and cabbages, under the head of Om- nium—hire some alley in Bishopsgate, call themselves House- Stock-brokers, and maintain the dignity of their profession in spite of law and parish-officers? Alas ! the poor are not merely poor, they are ignorant—when they once learn the secret of combination and cooperation, they will hold their exchange where they please; and they will please to hold it where it is not inconvenient to the rest of the world.
These people all went to gaol the night after the tomfoolery at Hatfield. If the law were strictly put in force against both rich and poor, there is not one of the. " tabbyloo" people less liable to be committed under the Vagrant Act than the poor street-mer- chants of Shoreditch. Oh WILKIE, WILKIE! you were wrongly placed: you should have been painting the Rape of the Coster- mongers, instead of regulating how far or how short Rebecca LYNDHURST'S head should turn upon her ruffian ravisher.