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   Chapter 2 CLIMATE AND CRIME.

Crime and Its Causes By William Douglas Morrison Characters: 52703

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Man's existence depends upon physical surroundings; these surroundings have exercised an immense influence in modifying his organism, in shaping his social development, in moulding his character. To enumerate all the external factors operating upon individual and social life is outside our present purpose, but they may be briefly summed up as climate, moisture, soil, the configuration of the earth's surface, and the nature of its products. These natural phenomena, either singly or in varying degrees of combination, have unquestionably played a most prominent part in making the different races of mankind what they at present are. We have only to look at the low type of life exhibited by the primitive inhabitants of certain inhospitable regions of the globe to see how profoundly the physical structure of man is affected by his natural surroundings. Even a comparatively slight difference of environment is not without effect upon the population subjected to its influence. According to M. de Quatrefages, the bodily structure of the English race has been distinctly modified by residence in the United States of America. It is not more than two and a half centuries since Englishmen began to emigrate in any considerable numbers to the American Continent, but in that comparatively short period the Anglo-American has ceased to resemble his ancestors in physical appearance. Alterations have taken place in the skin, the hair, the neck, and the head; the lower jaw has become bigger; the bones of the arms and legs have lengthened, and the American of to-day requires a different kind of glove from the Englishman. Structural changes of a similar character have taken place in the negroes transplanted to America. M. Elisée Reclus considers that in a century and a half they have traversed a good quarter of the distance which separates them from the whites. Another important point, as showing the influence of habitat upon race, is the fact that the modifications of human structure resulting from residence in America are in the direction of assimilating the European type to that of the red man.[11] In short, it may be taken as a well-established principle that external nature destroys all organisms that cannot adapt themselves to its action, and physiologically modifies all organisms that can.

The social condition of mankind is also profoundly affected by climatic and other external circumstances. The intense cold of the Arctic and Antarctic regions is fatal to anything approaching a developed form of civilisation. Intense heat, on the other hand, although not incompatible with a certain degree of progress, is unfavourable to its permanence;[12] the extinct societies of the tropics, such as Cambodia, Mexico and Peru, affording instances of the operation of this law. It is impossible for man to get beyond the nomad state in the vast deserts of Northern Africa; and the extreme moisture of the atmosphere in other portions of the same continent puts an effectual check on anything like social advance. In some parts of the world social development has been hindered by external circumstances of another character, such as the want of wood, the scarcity of animals, the absence of edible fruits. In fact, it is only within a comparatively temperate zone that human society has been able permanently to assume highly complex forms and to build itself up on an extensive scale. In this zone, climate, while favouring man up to a certain point, has at the same time compelled him to eat bread in the sweat of his brow. It has compelled him to enter into conflict with natural obstacles, the result of which has been to call forth his powers of industry, of energy, of self-reliance, and to sharpen his intellectual faculties generally. In addition to exercising and strengthening these personal attributes, the climatic influences of what has been called the zone of civilisation have brought man's social characteristics more fully and elaborately into play. The nature of these influences has forced him to cooperate more or less closely with his fellows; while each step in the path of cooperation has involved him in another of a more complex kind. The growth of social cooperation is not necessarily accompanied by a corresponding development of the moral sentiments; increased cooperation in some cases involving a distinct ethical loss. In many directions, however, highly organised societies tend to evolve loftier types of morality; and it is in harmony with the facts to say that the highest moral types are not to be found where nature does most or where it does least in the way of providing food and shelter for man.

It is also interesting to observe the effect which climate, through the agency of religion, has had upon human conduct. One of the main factors in the origin of religion is the feeling of dependence upon nature so strongly manifested in all primitive forms of faith. The outcome of this feeling of dependence was to exalt the forces of nature into divinities, and man's conception of these divinities, shaped as it was by the attitude of nature around him, had an incalculable influence on his life and actions. The remains of this influence are still visible in the aesthetic effects which the forces and operations of nature produce on civilised man; in all other respects it has to a large extent passed away.[13]

We have now touched upon most of the ways in which external surroundings have had a hand in shaping the course of human life in the past; it will be our next business to inquire whether these surroundings have any effect upon human conduct at the present day, and especially upon those manifestations of conduct which are known as crimes. That they still have an effect is an opinion which has long been entertained.

Going back to the ancient Greeks, we find Hippocrates holding that all regions liable to violent changes of climate produced men of fierce, impetuous and stubborn disposition. "In approaching southern countries," says Montesquieu, "one would believe that morality was being left behind; more ardent passions multiply crimes; each tries to gain from others all the advantages which can minister to these passions." Buckle believes that the interruption of work caused by instability of climate leads to instability of character. In analysing the contents of French statistics, Quetelet,[14] while admitting that other causes may neutralise the action of climate, proceeds to say that the "number of crimes against property relatively to the number of crimes against the person increases considerably as we advance towards the north." Another eminent student of French criminal statistics, M. Tarde, comes to very much the same conclusions as Quetelet; he admits that a high temperature does exercise an indirect influence on the criminal passions. But the most exhaustive investigations in this problem have been undertaken in Italy, by Signor Enrico Ferri. After a thorough examination of French judicial statistics for a series of years, Ferri arrives at the conclusion that a maximum of crimes against the person is reached in the hot months, while, on the other hand, crimes against property come to a climax in the winter.[15]

In testing these opinions respecting the influence of climate upon crime, we are obliged, to some extent, to have recourse to international statistics. But these statistics, as has already been pointed out, owing to the diversity of customs, laws, criminal procedure, and so on, do not easily admit of comparison. So much is this the case that we shall not make the attempt as far as these statistics have reference to crimes against property. In this field no satisfactory result can, at present be obtained. The same remark holds good in relation to all offences against the person, with the exception of homicide. This, undoubtedly, in an important exception; and it arises from the fact that there is a greater consensus of opinion among civilised communities respecting the gravity of homicide than exists with regard to any other form of crime. Murder in all its degrees is a crime which immediately causes a profound commotion; it is easy to recognise; it is more likely than any other offence to come to the ears of the authorities. For these reasons this crime lends itself most readily to international comparison; nevertheless, differences of judicial procedure, legal nomenclature, and different methods of classification stand in the way of making the comparison absolutely accurate. These differences, however, are not so great as to render comparison impossible or worthless; on the contrary, the results of such a comparison are of exceptional value, and go a long way to determine the question of the effect of climate upon crimes of blood.

Assuming, then, with these reservations, that such a comparison can be instituted, let us see to what extent murder, in the widest sense of the word, including wilful murder, manslaughter, and infanticide, prevails in the various countries of Europe. In ordinary circumstances this task would be a laborious one, entailing a minute and careful examination of the criminal statistics and procedure of many nations. Fortunately, it has recently been accomplished by Dr. Bosco in an admirable monograph communicated in the first instance to the Journal of the International Statistical Institute, but now published in a separate form. Bosco's figures have all been taken from official sources, and may, therefore, be accepted as accurate; but, before tabulating-them, it may be useful to make an extract from the explanatory note by which they are accompanied. "As the composition of the population, with respect to age, varies in different countries, and as it has to be remembered that all the population under ten years of age has no share, at least under normal conditions, in the crime of murder, it has seemed to me a more exact method to calculate the proportion of murders to the inhabitants who are over ten years of age, than to include the total population. For those States where a census has been recently taken, such, for instance, as France and Germany, the results of that census have been used; that is to say, the French census of May, 1886, and the German census of December, 1885. For the other States the population has been calculated (adding the excess of births over deaths to the results of the last census) to the end of the intermediate year for each period of years to which the information relates; that is to say, to the end of 1883 for Belgium, and to the end of 1884 for Austria, Hungary, Spain, England, Scotland and Ireland. As the information respecting Italy refers to 1887 only, the population has been estimated up to the end of that year. The division of the population according to age (above and below ten) has been obtained by means of proportional calculations based on the results of the census for each State. In the case of France and Germany, however, it has been taken directly from the census returns."[16]

Homicides of all kinds in the following European States:-

Tried. Convicted.

Countries. Population over ten. Years. Annual average Per 100,000 inhabitants. Annual average Per 100,000 inhabitants.

Italy 23,408,277 1887 3,606 15.40 2,805 11.98

Austria 17,199,237 1883-6 689 4.01 499 2.90

France 31,044,370 1882-6 847 2.73 580 1.87

Belgium 4,377,813 1881-5 132 3.02 101 2.31

England 19,898,053 1882-6 318 1.60 151 0.76

Ireland 3,854,588 1882-6 129 3.35 54 1.40

Scotland 2,841,941 1882-6 60 2.11 21 0.74

Spain 13,300,839 1883-6 1,584 11.91 1,085 8.18

Hungary 10,821,558 1882-6 625 5.78

Holland 3,172,464 1882-6 35 1.10 28 0.88

Germany 35,278,742 1882-6 567 1.61 476 1.35

What is the import of these statistics? We perceive at once that Italy, Spain and Hungary head the list in the proportion of murders to the population. In Italy, out of every 100,000 persons over ten years of age, eleven in round numbers are annually convicted of murder in one or other of its forms; in Spain eight are convicted of the same offence, and in Hungary five are convicted. These three countries are conspicuously ahead of all the others to which our table refers. Austria and Belgium follow at a long distance with two convictions in round numbers to every 100,000 inhabitants over ten. France, Ireland and Germany come next with one conviction and a considerable fraction to every 100,000 persons over ten; England, Scotland and Holland stand at the bottom of the list with between seven and eight persons convicted of murder to every one million of inhabitants over ten.

In order to understand the full meaning of these figures we must take one more stop and compare the numbers convicted with the numbers tried. In some countries very few convictions may take place in proportion to the number accused, while in other countries the proportion may be very considerable. In other words, in order to arrive at an approximate estimate of the amount of murders perpetrated in a country, we must consider how many cases of murder have been tried in the course of the year. It very seldom happens that a person is tried for this offence when no murder has been committed; and it may, therefore, be assumed that the crime has taken place when a man haw to stand his trial for it. Estimating then the prevalence of murder in the various countries by trials, rather than convictions, it will be found that Germany, with a much larger percentage of convictions than England, has just as few cases of murder for trial. And the reason the number of convictions, as between the two nations, differs, arises from the fact that a prisoner's chance of acquittal in England is a hundred per cent. greater than it is in Germany. It is not, therefore, accurate to assume that a greater number of murders are committed in Germany than in England because a greater number of persons are annually convicted of this crime; all that these convictions absolutely prove is, that the machinery of the criminal law is more effective in the one country than in the other. To take another instance, more persons are annually tried for murder in Ireland than in France; but more cases of conviction are recorded in France than in Ireland. These contrasts show that, while the French are less addicted to this grave offence than the Irish, they are more anxious to secure its detection, and that a greater body of public opinion is on the side of law in France than in Ireland. All these instances (and more could easily be added to them) are intended to call attention to the importance of looking at the number of persons tried, as well as the percentage of persons convicted, if we desire to form an accurate estimate of the comparative prevalence of crime.

While thus showing that the number of trials for murder is the best test of the prevalence of this offence, it is not meant that the test is in all respects indisputable. At most it is merely approximate. One obstacle in the way of its entire accuracy consists in the circumstance that the proportion of persons tried, as compared with the amount of crime committed, is in no two countries precisely the same. In France, for instance, more murders are perpetrated, for which no one is ultimately tried, than in Italy or in England; that is to say, a murderer runs more risk of being placed in the dock in this country than in France. But the difference between the two countries is again to a great extent adjusted by the fact that once a man is placed in the dock in France he has far less chance of being acquitted than if he were tried according to English law. On the whole, therefore, it may be assumed that the international statistics of trials, corrected when necessary by the international statistics of convictions, present a tolerably accurate idea of the extent to which the crime of murder prevails among the nationalities of Europe. In any case these figures will go some way towards helping us to see whether climatic conditions have any influence upon the amount of crime. This we shall now inquire into.

On looking at the isotherms for the year it will be observed that the average temperature of Italy and Spain is ten degrees higher than the average temperature of England. On the other hand, the average temperature of Hungary is very much the same as the average temperature of this country; but Hungary is at the same time exposed to much greater extremes of climate than England. In winter it is nearly ten degrees colder than England, while in summer it is as hot as Spain. The advocates of the direct effect of climate upon crime contend that account must be taken not merely of the degree of temperature, but also of the variations of temperature to which a region is exposed. According to this theory one of the principal reasons the crime of murder is, at least, fourfold higher in Hungary than in England, is to be found in the violent oscillations of temperature in Hungary as compared with England. In Italy murders are, at least, ten times as numerous as in England; in Spain they are seven times as numerous; the chief cause of this condition of things is said to be the serious difference of temperature. In the United States of America there are more crimes of blood in the South than in the North; the main explanation of this difference is said to be that the climate of the South is much hotter than the climate of the North.

In opposition to this theory of the intimate relation between temperature and crime, it may be urged that the greater prevalence of crimes of blood in hot latitudes is a mere coincidence and not a causal connection. This is the view taken by Dr. Mischler in Baron von Holtzendorff's "Handbuch des Gef?ngnisswesens." He says the real reason crimes of blood are more common in the South of Europe than in the North is to be attributed to the more backward state of civilisation in the South, and to the wild and mountainous character of the country. To the latter part of this argument it is easy to reply that Scotland is quite as mountainous as Italy, and yet its inhabitants are far less addicted to crimes against the person. But it is more civilised, for, as M. Tarde ingeniously contends, the bent of civilisation at present is to travel northward. Admitting for a moment that Scotland is more civilised than Spain or Italy, all savage tribes, on the other hand, are confessedly less advanced in the arts of life than these two peninsulas. But, for all that, many of these savage peoples are much less criminal. "I have lived," says Mr. Russell Wallace, "with communities of savages in South America and in the East who have no laws or law courts, but the public opinion of the village freely expressed. Each man scrupulously respects the rights of his fellows, and any infraction of these rights rarely or never takes place." Mr. Herbert Spencer also quotes innumerable instances of the kindness, mildness, honesty, and respect for person and property of uncivilised peoples. M. de Quatrefages, in summing up the ethical characteristics of the various races of mankind, comes to the conclusion that from a moral point of view the white man is hardly any better than the black. Civilisation so far has unfortunately generated almost as many vices as it has virtues, and he is a bold man who will say that its growth has diminished the amount of crime. It is very difficult then to accept the view that the frequency of murder in Spain and Italy is entirely due to a lack of civilisation.

Nor can it be said to be entirely due to economic distress. A condition of social misery has undoubtedly something to do with the production of crime. In countries where there is much wealth side by side with much misery, as in France and England, adverse social circumstances drive a certain portion of the community into criminal courses. But where this great inequality of social conditions does not exist-where all are poor as in Ireland or Italy-poverty alone is not a weighty factor in ordinary crime. In Ireland, for example, there in almost as much poverty as exists in Italy, and if the amount of crime were determined by economic circumstances alone, Ireland ought to have as black a record as her southern sister. Instead of that she is on the whole as free from crime as the most prosperous countries of Europe. In the face of these facts it is impossible to say that the high rate of crime in Italy and Spain is to be wholly accounted for by the pressure of economic adversity.

Will not difference of race suffice to account for it? Is it not the case that some races are inherently more prone to crime than others? In India, for instance, where the great mass of the population is singularly law-abiding, a portion of the aboriginal inhabitants have from time immemorial lived by plunder and crime. "When a man tells you," says an official report, quoted by Sir John Strachey, "that he is a Badhak, or a Kanjar, or a Sonoria, he tells you what few Europeans ever thoroughly realise, that he, an offender against the law, has been so from the beginning and will be so to the end; that reform is impossible, for it is his trade, his caste-I may almost say his religion-to commit crime." It is not poverty which makes many of these predatory races criminals. Speaking of the Mina tribe inhabiting one of the frontier districts of the Punjab, Sir John Strachey says: "Their sole occupation is, and always has been, plunder in the native States and in distant parts of British India; they give no trouble at home, and, judging from criminal statistics, it would be supposed that they were an honest community. They live amid abundance, in substantial houses with numerous cattle, fine clothes and jewels, and fleet camels to carry off their plunder." Special laws have been made for dealing with these tribes; a register of their numbers is kept; they can be compelled to live within certain local limits, but in spite of these coercive measures crime is not suppressed, and "a long time must elapse before we see the end of the criminal tribes of India."

Coming back to European peoples, it is worthy of note that both Hungary and Finland are inhabited by the same race. These two countries are separated by about fifteen degrees of latitude, but in the matter of murder the people of Finland are much more nearly allied to the Hungarians than to their immediate neighbours, the Swedes and Norwegians. The Finns commit about twice as many murders in proportion to the population as the Teutons of Scandinavia, but only about half as many as the Hungarians; and it is not improbable to suppose that while the effect of race makes them more murderous than the Scandinavians, the effect of climate makes them less murderous than the inhabitants of Hungary.

Before bringing forward any additional material on one side or the other, let us pause for a moment to consider the results which have just been obtained as to the effect of race as compared with climate upon crime. In India we have found an Aryan and a non-Aryan population living together under the same climatic influences, and very much the same social conditions, and we have seen that the Aborigines are more criminally disposed than the Aryan invaders. Again we have a Mongolian race living in the far North of Europe, and we find that they show a larger percentage of homicidal crime than the Teutonic inhabitants who live in the same latitudes. In Hungary, where the Mongoloid type is once more met with, the same facts are substantially reproduced; this type is more homicidal than the Austrian Teutons living under a similar climate. While these facts point to the conclusion that race has apparently some influence on the amount of crime, they fail to show that race characteristics alone are sufficient to explain the differences in criminality between the same peoples when settled in different quarters of the globe. The Mongoloid type in Finland is less criminal than the same type in Hungary, and the Teutonic type in Scandinavia is less murderously disposed than the same type in the empire of Austria. It has also been pointed out that the Anglo-American of the Northern States is more law abiding than his brother by race in the South, while both are more murderous than the inhabitants of the United Kingdom; where extremes of climate are not so great.

With these facts before us we shall now institute another comparison between two widely separated branches of the Anglo-Saxon race, namely, the colonists of Australia and the people of the motherland. Of the Australian colonists it is not incorrect to say that they are, on the whole, the pick of the home population. It is perfectly true that a certain proportion of the ne'er-do-wells have emigrated to Australia, and some of them, no doubt, help to swell the normal criminal population of the colonies. But, on the other hand, Australia has this advantage, that the average colonist who seeks a home beyond our shores is generally a superior man to the average citizen who remains at home; he is more steady, more enterprising, more industrious. In this way the balance is adjusted in favour of the colonies. It is a great deal more than redressed if the superior, social, and economic conditions, under which the colonists live, are also placed in the scale. In his "Problems of Greater Britain," Sir Charles Dilke has shown, with admirable clearness, what immense advantages are enjoyed by the working population of Australia as compared with the same class at home; so much is this the case that the Australian colonies have been not inaptly called the paradise of the working man. Here then is an excellent opportunity for comparing the effects of climate upon crime. In Australia we have a people of the same race as ourselves, better off economically, living under essentially the same laws and governed in practically the same spirit. Almost the only difference between the inhabitants of the United Kingdom and the communities of Australia is a difference of climate. Does this difference manifest itself in the statistics of crime? In order to test the matter we shall exclude the colony of New South Wales from our calculations. For its size New South Wales is the richest community in the world, and its riches are

well distributed among all classes of the population. But it was at one time a penal settlement, and it is possible that the criminal statistics of the colony are still inflated by that remote cause. The sister colony of Victoria stands upon a different footing and is free from that disturbing factor; we shall therefore select that colony as a normal type of the Australian group. In Part V.I.I. of the Statistical Register of the colony of Victoria for 1887, there is an excellent summary of the position of the colony with respect to crime. The admirable manner in which these judicial statistics are arranged, reflects the highest credit on the colonial authorities; for fulness of information and clearness of arrangement they are not surpassed by any similar statistics in the world. As homicide is the crime on which we have hitherto based our international comparisons, we shall, for the present, confine our attention to the Victorian statistics of this offence.

Tried. Convicted.

Countries. Population over ten. Years. Annual average. Per 100,000 inhabitants. Annual average. Per 100,000 inhabitants.

Victoria 581,838 1882-6 22 3.2 14 2.5

United Kingdom 26,594,582 1882-6| 505 2.35 226 .96

Before proceeding to analysis the contents of this table, it will be as well to explain the method on which it has been constructed, and the sources from which it is derived. The population of Victoria, over ten years of age, has been calculated according to the Victorian census for 1881, as contained in Part II. of the Victorian Statistical Register. In order to make the Victorian table harmonise in all particulars with Dr. Bosco's table for England, Scotland, and Ireland, the excess of births over deaths has been calculated up to the end of 1884. The United Kingdom, it will be seen, has been selected as the measure of comparison with the colony of Victoria. This selection has been made on the ground that the colony of Victoria is not composed of the inhabitants of any one of the three kingdoms, but contains a mixture of them all. It will also be observed that the homicidal crime of each of the three kingdoms differs from the other, but this is a consideration which we shall not further comment upon at present.

After these preliminary explanations we are now in a position to examine the contents of our statistical table in its bearing upon crimes of blood. It will now be possible to see what light the criminal statistics of Victoria, as compared with the criminal statistics of the United Kingdom, throw upon these crimes; and the disturbing factor of race being eliminated, what is the influence of climate pure and simple upon them. According to the isotherms for the year the Victorians live in an atmosphere between eight and ten degrees hotter than our own. Side by side with this additional heat, there is, as compared with the United Kingdom, an additional amount of crime. In the colony of Victoria, in proportion to every 100,000 inhabitants over ten years of age, there are nearly one-third more murders annually than in the United Kingdom. On what ground is this considerable increase of homicide to be accounted for, except on the ground of climate? The higher percentage is not caused by difference of race; it is not caused by worse economic conditions-these conditions are much superior to our own-the meaning of the figures is not obscured by any material differences of legal procedure or legal nomenclature. It cannot be urged that the Victorian population are the dregs of the home population; the very opposite is the fact. The bad characters who emigrate are the only disturbing element; but, after all, these men are not so numerous, and the evil effects of their presence is counterbalanced by the superiority of the average colonist to the average citizen who remains at home. It may be said that there is greater difficulty in detecting crime in a new colony than in an old and settled country. As applied to some colonies it is possible this objection may be sound, but, as applied to Victoria, it will not hold good. In Victoria the police are much more effective than they are at home, and a criminal has much less chance of going unpunished there than he has in England. In Victoria in the year 1887, out of a total of 40,693 cases reported to the police, 34,473 were brought up for trial. In England, on the other hand, out of a total of 42,391 indictable offences reported to the police in 1886-7, only 19,045 persons were apprehended. The Victorian figures include offences of all kinds, petty as well as indictable, whereas the English figures deal with indictable offences only. But admitting this, and admitting that it is more difficult to arrest indictable offenders, this difficulty is not so great as to explain away the vast difference in the numbers apprehended in Victoria as compared with the numbers apprehended in England. Only one conclusion can be drawn from these figures, and it is that the Victorian constabulary are more efficient than our own, and that it is a more dangerous thing for a person to break the law in the young colony of Victoria than in the old community at home.

It seems to me that the points of comparison between the United Kingdom and Victoria, in so far as they have any bearing upon crime, have now been exhausted; on almost every one of these points Victoria stands in a more favourable position than ourselves. The colony has, on the whole, a better kind of citizen; it has superior social and economic conditions; it has a far more effective system of police. On what possible ground, then, is it, except the ground of climate, that the Victorians are more addicted to homicide than the people of the United Kingdom? I admit it would be rash to assert that climate is the cause if our own and the Victorian statistics were the only documents to which we could appeal; it would be rash to draw such a sweeping conclusion from so isolated a basis. But when we know that the Victorian statistics are only one set of documents among many, and that all these sets of documents point to the operation of the same law, the case assumes an entirely different complexion. The results of the Victorian statistics harmonise with the conclusions already reached from a comparison of the criminal statistics of Europe and America. These conclusions in turn are powerfully reinforced by the experience of Australia. In fact, the whole body of evidence, from whatever quarter it is collected, points with remarkable unanimity to the conviction that, as far as European peoples and their offshoots are concerned, climate alone is no inconsiderable factor in determining the course of human conduct.

Yet the evil influence of climate, mischievous as it is at present, is not to be looked upon and acquiesced in as an irrevocable fatality. At first sight it would seem as if the human race could not possibly escape the malevolent action of cosmical influences over which it has little or no control. The rise and fall of temperature, its rage and intensity, is one of these influences, and yet its pernicious offsets are capable of being held to a large extent in check. As far as bodily comfort is concerned, it is marvellous to consider the innumerable methods and devices the progressive races of mankind have invented to protect themselves against the hostility of the elements by which they are surrounded. In fact, an important part of the history of the race consists in the ceaseless efforts it has been making to improve upon and perfect these methods and devices. We have only to compare the rude hut of the savage with the modern dwelling of the civilised man in order to see to what extent we can shield ourselves from the elemental forces in the midst of which we have to live. We have only to mark the difference between the miserable and scanty garments of the natives of Terra del Fuego and the attire of the Englishman of to-day to see what can be done by man in the way of rescuing himself from the inclemencies of Nature. If these conquests can be achieved where our physical existence is in peril, there can be little reason to doubt that advances of a similar nature can be made in the moral order as soon as man comes to feel equally conscious of their necessity. As a matter of fact, in some quarters of the world these advances have already in some measure been made. In the vast peninsula of India the structure of society is so constituted that the evil effect of climate in producing crimes of blood has been marvellously neutralised. It hardly admits of dispute that the caste system on which Indian society is based is, on the whole, one of the most wonderful instruments for the prevention of crimes of violence the world has ever seen. The average temperature of the Indian peninsula is about thirty degrees higher than the average temperature of the British Isles, and if there were no counteracting forces at work, crimes of violence in India should be much more numerous than they are with us. But the counteracting forces acting upon Indian society are of such immense potency that the malign influences of climate are very nearly annihilated as far as the crimes we are now discussing are concerned; and India stands to-day in the proud position of being more free from crimes against the person than the most highly civilised countries of Europe. In proof of this fact we have only to look at the official documents annually issued respecting the condition of British India. According to the returns contained in the Statistical Abstract relating to British India and the Parliamentary paper exhibiting its moral and material progress, the number of murders reported to the police of India is smaller than the number reported in any European State. The Indian Government issue no statistics, so far as I am aware, of the numbers tried; it is, therefore, impossible to institute any comparison between Europe and India upon this important point. But when we come to the number convicted it is again found that India presents a lower percentage of convictions for murder than is to be met with among any other people. It may, however, be urged that the statistical records respecting Indian crime are not so carefully kept as the statistics of a like character relating to England and the Continent. Sir John Strachey assures us that this is not the case; he says that these statistics are as carefully collected and tabulated in India as they are at home, and we may accept them as worthy of the utmost confidence. The following table, which I have prepared from the official documents already mentioned, may, therefore, be taken as giving an accurate account of the condition of India between 1882-6, as far as the most serious of all crimes is concerned. In order to facilitate comparison I have drawn it up as far as possible on the same lines as the other tables in this chapter.

Tried. Convicted.

Population over ten. Years. Annual average. Per 100,000 inhabitants. Annual average. Per 100,000 inhabitants.

India 148,543,223 1882-6 1,930 1.31 690 .46

According to this table, the remarkable fact is established that the number of cases of homicide in India committed by persons over ten years of age and reported to the police is smaller per 100,000 inhabitants than the number of cases of the same nature brought up for trial in England. In order to appreciate the full importance of this difference it has to be remembered that in England a great number of cases of homicide are reported to the police, for which no one is apprehended or brought to trial. In the case of the notorious Whitechapel murders which horrified the country a year or two ago no one was ever brought to trial, hardly any one was arrested or seriously suspected. These crimes and many others like them materially augment the number of homicides reported to the police, but they never figure among the cases annually brought for trial before assizes. As a matter of fact, no one is ever tried in more than one half of the cases of homicide reported to the police in the course of the year. In the year 1888, for instance, 403 cases of homicide were reported to the police in England and Wales; but in connection with all these cases only 196 persons were committed for trial. In short, double the number of homicides are committed as compared with the number of persons tried; and if a comparison is established between India and England on the basis of homicides reported to the police, the outcome of such a comparison will be to show that there are annually more than twice as many murders committed per one hundred thousand inhabitants over the age of ten in England than there are in India.

An objection may be taken to these figures on the ground that the crime of infanticide is much more prevalent to India than it is in England, and that the perpetrators of this crime are much less frequently brought to justice in the former country than with us. That objection is to some extent valid; at the same time it is well to remember that infanticide in India is an offence of a very special and peculiar character; the motives from which it springs are not what is usually understood as criminal; these motives arise from religious usage and immemorial custom; in short, it is English law and not the Indian conscience which makes infanticide a crime. Of course, the practice of infanticide is a proof that the Hindu mind has not the same high conception of the value of infant life as one finds in the western world, and in that respect India stands on an inferior moral level to ourselves. But with the exception of infanticide (and it is necessary to except it for the reasons I have just alleged) India has not half as many homicides annually as England.[17]

To what cause is this vast difference in favour of India to be attributed? It is hardly probable that the difference is produced to any appreciable extent, if at all, by the nature of the food used by the people of India. If it were correct that a vegetable diet, such as is almost exclusively used by the inhabitants of India, had a salutary effect on the conduct of the population, we should witness the results of it, not only in the Indian peninsula, but also in other quarters of the world. The nature of the food consumed by the Italians bears a very close resemblance in its essential constituents to the dietary of the inhabitants of India; in both cases it is almost entirely composed of vegetable products. If vegetable, as contrasted with animal food, exercised a beneficial influence on human conduct; if it tended, for example, to restrain the passions, to minimise the brute instincts, some indisputable proof of this would be certain to show itself in the criminal statistics of Italy. As a matter of fact, no such proof exists. On the contrary, Italy is, of all countries within the pale of civilisation, the one most notorious for crimes of blood. In the face of this truth, it is impossible to believe that a vegetable diet has anything to do either with producing or preventing crime, and the contention that the wonderful immunity of India from offences against the person is owing to the food used by the inhabitants must be looked upon as without foundation.

The peculiar structure of society is unquestionably the most satisfactory explanation of the high position occupied by the inhabitants of India with respect to crime. The social edifice which a people builds for itself is among all civilised communities a highly complex product, and consists of a great agglomeration of diverse materials. These materials are partly drawn from the primitive characteristics of the race; they are partly borrowings from other and contiguous races; they are to a considerable extent derived from natural surroundings of all kinds; and in all circumstances they are supplemented by the genius of individuals. In short, all social structures, when looked at minutely, are found to be composed of two main ingredients-race and environment; but these two ingredients are so indissolubly interfused that it is impossible to say how much is to be attributed to the one, and how much to the other, in the building up of a society. But if, it is impossible to estimate the value of the several elements composing the fabric of society, it is easy to ascertain the dominating idea on which all forms of society are based. That dominating idea, if it may for the moment be called such, is the instinct of self-preservation, and it exercises just as great a power in determining the formation and play of the social organism as it exercises in determining the attitude of the individual to the world around him. In working out the idea of self-preservation into practical forms, the social system of most peoples has hitherto been built up with a view to protection against external enemies in the shape of hostile tribes and nations; the internal enemies of the commonwealth-the thieves, the housebreakers, the disturbers of public order, the shedders of blood, the perpetrators of violence-have been treated as only worthy of secondary consideration. Such are the lines on which social structure has, in most cases, proceeded, with the result that while external security was for long periods assured, internal security remained as imperfect and defective as ever.

The structure of society in India is, however, an exception to the general rule. External security, or, in other words, the desire for political freedom has, to a great extent, become extinct wherever the principles of Brahmanism have succeeded in taking root.

These principles have been operating upon the Indian mind for thousands of years; their effect in the sphere of politics excited the wonder of the ancient Greeks, who tell us that the Indian peasant might be seen tilling his field in peace between hostile armies preparing for battle. A similar spectacle has been seen on the plains of India in modern times. But Brahmanism, while extinguishing the principle of liberty in all its branches, and exposing its adherents to the mercy of every conqueror, has succeeded, through the caste system, in bringing internal order, security, and peace to a high pitch of excellence. This end, the caste system, like most other religious institutions, did not and does not have directly in view; but the human race often takes circuitous routes to attain its ends, and while apparently aiming at one object, is in reality securing another. The permanent forces operating in society often possess a very different character from those on the surface, and when the complicated network in which they are always wrapped up is stripped from off them, we find that they are some fundamental human instincts at work in disguise.

These observations are applicable to the caste system. This system, when divested of its externals, besides being an attempt to satisfy the mystic and emotional elements in the Indian heart, also represents the genius of the race engaged in the task of self-preservation. The manner in which caste exercises this function in thus described by Sir William Hunter in His volume on the Indian Empire. "Caste or guild," he says, "exercises a surveillance over each of its members from the close of childhood until death. If a man behaves well, he will rise to an honoured place in his caste; and the desire for such local distinctions exercises an important influence in the life of a Hindu. But the caste has its punishments as well as its rewards. Those punishments consist of fine and excommunication. The fine usually takes the form of a compulsory feast to the male members of the caste. This is the ordinary means of purification, or of making amends for breaches of the caste code. Excommunication inflicts three penalties: First, an interdict against eating with the fellow members of the caste; second, an interdict against marriage within the caste. This practically amounts to debarring the delinquent and his family from respectable marriages of any sort; third, cutting off the delinquent from the general community by forbidding him the use of the village barber and washerman, and of the priestly adviser. Except in very serious cases, excommunication is withdrawn upon the submission of the offender, and his payment of a fine. Anglo-Indian law does not enforce caste decrees. But caste punishments exercise an efficacious restraint upon unworthy members of the community, precisely as caste rewards supply a powerful motive of action to good ones. A member who cannot be controlled by this mixed discipline of punishment and reward is eventually expelled; and, as a rule, 'an out-caste' is really a bad man. Imprisonment in jail carries with it that penalty, but may be condoned after release by heavy expiations."

Those remarks of Sir William Hunter afford an insight into the coercive power exercised by the caste system on the Indian population. Without that system it is probable that the criminal statistics of India would present as high a proportion of crimes of violence and blood as now exists among the peoples of Southern Europe. But with that system in active operation, the evil influence of climate is completely neutralised and India at the present moment enjoys a remarkable immunity from violent crime. With the example of India before us we are justified in coming to the conclusion that homicide and crimes of a kindred nature need not necessarily be the malign products of climate. Whatever climate has to do with fostering these offences may be obviated by a better form of social organisation. It would be ridiculous to dream of basing western society upon Indian models; but at the same time India teaches us a lesson on the construction of the social fabric which it would be well to learn. The tendency of western civilisation at the present time is to herd vast masses of men into huge industrial centres. It is useless discussing the abstract question whether this is a good thing or a bad; we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that it is a process forced upon communities by the necessities of modern industrialism; and we must accordingly make the best of it. In our efforts to make the best of present tendencies, and to render them as innocuous as possible to social welfare, there is one point at least where India is able to teach us an instructive lesson. In India a man seldom becomes, what he too often is, in all our large cities, a mere lonely, isolated unit, left entirely to the mercy of his own impulses, constrained by no social circle of any description, and unsustained by the pressure of any public opinion for which he has the least regard. In India he is always a member of some fraternity within the community; in that fraternity or caste he feels at home; he is never isolated; he belongs to a circle which is not too big for his individuality to be lost; he is known; he has a reputation and a status to maintain; his life within the caste is shaped for him by caste usages and traditions, and for these he is taught to entertain the deepest reverence. Caste is in many of its aspects a state in miniature within the state; in this capacity it performs a variety of admirable functions of which the state itself is and must always remain incapable.

Before the era of great cities the township in the West used to exorcise some of the functions at present discharged in India by the system of caste. But the township in the old sense of the word, with its settled population and the common eye upon all its members, has to a large extent disappeared. The influence of the family is at the same time being constantly weakened by the migratory habits modern industrialism entails on the population; in a word, the old constraining force, which used to hold society together, are almost gone, and nothing effective has sprung up to replace them.

In these circumstances what is to be done? It is useless attempting to restore the past. That never has been accomplished successfully; all attempts in that direction look as if they were opposed to the nature of things. It is among the living and vigorous forces of the present that we must look for help. I shall content myself by mentioning one of these forces, namely Trade Societies. It seems a pity that these societies should confine their operations merely to the limited object of forcing up wages. That object is, of course, a perfectly laudable and legitimate one, but it is surely not the supreme and only end for which a Trade Society should exist. A Trade Society would do well to teach its members how to spend as well as how to earn. What, indeed, is the use of higher wages to a certain section of the members of Trades-Unions? The increased pay, instead of being a blessing, becomes a curse; it leads to drunkenness, to wife-beating, to disorder in the public streets, to assaults on the police, to crimes of violence and blood. It is a melancholy fact that the moment wages begin to rise, the statistics of crime almost immediately follow suit, and at no period are there more offences of all kinds against the person than when material prosperity is at its height.

It lies well within the functions of such Trades-Unions as possess an enlightened regard for the welfare of their members, to introduce a code of regulations which would tend to minimise some of the evils which have just been mentioned. It would immeasurably raise the status of the Union, if certain disciplinary measures could be adopted against members convicted of offences against the law. In the professions of law and medicine it is the custom at the present time to expel members who are proved guilty of serious offences of this description, and unquestionably the dread of expulsion exercises a most salutary influence on the conduct of all persons belonging to these professions. It would be possible for Trade organisations to accomplish much without resorting to this rigorous treatment; and the real object for which such societies exist-the well-being of the members-would be attained much more effectively than is the case at present. Wages are but the means to an end; the end is individual, domestic and social welfare, and it is only a half measure to supply the means unless something is also done to secure the end.

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