23 DECEMBER 1843, Page 1


THE incendiary still maintains his reign of terror in the agricultural districts; and, fortunately, under the pressure of the evil men be- gin to take broader views of the causes than merely party assunip- tious. A correspondent of the Morning Chronicle, writing from Bedford on Tuesday last, and drawing his conclusions from local knowledge of the facts, furnishes a remarkable echo of our obser- vations on Saturday ; for such his letter may be truly called. Speaking by the card, he assigns extreme poverty and extreme ignorance as the causes of incendiarism ; the- poverty producing sullen hopeless discontent ; the ignorance not preventing a low cunning, which enables the criminal to keep his secret. A confe- deracy is even suspected, for no inducements can procure informa- tion to- detect the felons— "-Large rewards have been offered, accompanied with indemnity from penal consequences: they have been offered guarantee of permanent employment, with fix-ed w ,aqes and full protection from personal violence. But these allure- ments have been,found insufficient to produce the slightest cooperation on the part o the peasantry; who regard these nightly fires, whereventhey occur, With a feeling of sullen indifference, if not with emotions of malicious gran& a- tion. *. • • It is quite clear that poverty has much more to do with this incendiary mania than polities. Operative mechanics may be influenced by schemes of political economy, however ignorant of the practical tendency of such schemes; but the farm-servants of England have not yet attained to the distinction of 'philosophical reasoners.' They are for the most part in a state of lamentable ignorance. • * • So long as the peasantry feel want, the fear of punishment will not deter them from the commission of crime; and that of arson being effected with the greatest impunity, it is to that they most generally resort, plunder being less their object than revenge for assumed Injury." • The same writer says that a public meeting will probably be held to consider the best means of stopping incendiarism ; and he hopes that there will be " some inquiry into the cause which has brought about such a vast mass of crime." If we were to judge by the past, we should despair of any such philosophical curiosity. Men usually go to meetings of the kind prepared with foregone conclusions: they speak of " crime" as if it were some incarna- tion, to be driven out by force and terror; and they have their nostrum of "rural police" or "rigour of the law." Perhaps, as They must be very hard pressed by danger, and as the nation at large really has made some progress in the march of intellect, they may have sufficient intelligence to think of looking into the root of the disease. A cure does not seem hopeless. " Agricultural im- provement'' is the order of the day ; that must lead to increased employment for labour ; -and if a good beginning of education pro- ceeded simultaneously, incendiai y fires w.)uld go out of themselves, for want of the rude motive which is fuel to them.