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writers; but when we find that divers accounts, equally extraordinary, are related by others as happening under similar circumstances, we then begin to suppose that we may have judged erroneously. Captain Riley's Narrative of his Captivity in Africa was rejected by many as half-fictitious : his sufferings were greater than human nature could bear, and the Arabs of the desert could never lead the life described. But since it has been found that the sufferings undergone by the crew of the French frigate, the Medusa, were no less horrible, and of the same kind,
and that Clapperton and others who have subsequently crossed the Sahara, confirmed his statements respecting the Arabs,-he has been regarded very differently. And it may be supposed, that if Sir Walter Scott had known of the remarkable confirmation given by Benyouski, to Drury's account of Madagascar, he would not have expressed his doubts of the latter's veracity.* When writers, unacquainted with each other's productions, are found, by incidental allusions, to agree in minute particulars, the evidence is almost irrefutable. Paley has made an admirable use of this species of proof in his Horæ Paulina.
Another mode of judging of an author's credibility is sometimes furnished, by learning whether any of his alleged facts have been contradicted by persons acquainted with them, especially if they are such as these persons would be glad to contradict. If a person is charged with being an accomplice in a crime, and he fails to rebut the accusation, we may infer that he is unable to do so. Or, if the narrator give place and date to certain memorable transactions, which, if false, might easily be shown to be so, a similar inference may be deduced, when it can be shown that others are interested in such exposure.
Now, on bringing the works under notice to these different tests, we shall have tolerably strong presumptive evidence of their being, in the main, worthy of credence. Vaux's Memoirs contain nothing that may not be credited on the score of probability, while the circumstances detailed are remarkably coherent; they seem to arise naturally from each other. Vidocq's, on the contrary, contain so many marvellous escapes from prisons, so many perils from contests with ruffians and bravoes, and such varied turns of fortune, that the reader is necessitated to ask,can this be true ? Here, however, both Vaux and Ward offer him some assistance; the similarity of their accounts, though destitute of so many wonders, corroborating the probability of his. The three narratives are quite in keeping. We find in each the same restlessness, the same blind passion impelling to deeds of vice and desperation, and the same
See the second series of Tales of a Grandfather,
Auto-biography of Thieves.
proofs of treachery amongst their companions. Each, too, has furnished so many means of detection, by names of
persons, dates, and places, that,—no attempt at refutation having been made by persons implicated, -we are to believe that they must, at any rate, contain much that is true. Neither Ward's nor Vidocq's Memoirs are so connected as Vaux's; but in Ward's case, this may be attributed to a want of scholarship, as he is evidently an ignorant man; and in Vidocq's, to a fondness for the marvellous, in consequence of which he has introduced many episodes. These episodes, accordingly, detract from the merit of the work, considered as a veritable narrative, they being garnished with more of the romantic than the regular account of his own performances.
After all, a degree of suspicion will attach to each of them, from the consideration that they are all avowed liars: If, indeed, there was proof, either external or internal, that they had become reformed characters, and, of course, abhorrers of deceit, we might value their self-condemnation as evidence of truth; for what man of moral feeling would proclaim that he had been an habitual liar, except conscious that the avowal was incumbent on him to substantiate the truth? This was done by Bunyan, the author of the Pilgrim's Progress, and by Cowper, the truly Christian poet :-they are respected accordingly. But in these narratives, except a little cant in Ward's, we find nothing approaching to a sense of shame or remorse. Vidocq, like Homer's Ulysses, has a lie ready for every occasion, and appears, like that hero, to regard himself as “the man for wisdom's various arts renowned." Vaux is almost equal to him in this respect, and exults in the success of his deceptions. If cunning were wisdom, Ulysses, Vidocq, and Vaux, would form a trio of eminently wise men. But this sort of wisdom, how much soever valued by pagans, must be regarded by Christians, enlightened by the Gospel, as utterly unjustifiable, even when employed as a means for the attainment of some good ; since they are never to do evil that good may come. Accordingly, those persons who make lies their refuge, must be liable to be doubted, even when they speak the truth. Still, it is possible, that a man's conscience may be so obdurate, as not to perceive the pravity of mendacity, when exercised for his supposed benefit, while he yet retains a regard for truth when engaged in relating his exploits to others. This, we think, is partly the case with
then, could believe a practised villain, if he professed himself untainted by mendacity? But if, after a plain avowal of his constant resort to it, we find nothing contradictory in his relation, we may reasonably yield a qualified assent to it; since, as Lord Bacon remarks in his Essays, which “come home to men's business and bosoms," a liar had need possess a good memory to prevent his contradicting himself. Where he is consistent throughout a long narrative, the natural deduction is, that he has mainly depended on his memory, rejecting, for the occasion, his temptation to beguile.*
After these preliminary considerations, the relevancy of which is obvious, we proceed to furnish our readers with a few extracts; not doubting, that to such of them as lead domestic, retired lives, it will afford gratification to learn something of the ways of others, who are entirely opposite in their habits,as opposite as the two electric poles, and, like them, “repelling and repelled.” One of the most observable points in these volumes, is the contamination of jails. When men are thrown together in a place where reputation is valueless, they have no inducement to conceal their vices. What is the consequence ? They delight in recounting to each other their nefarious exploits: thus conscience is more and more corrupted, and the young and inexperienced are initiated into the skilful manœuvres of adepts. Whoever has read the first edition of Ellwood's Life, (for the subsequent editions do not contain the passage,) may remember the amusing account he has given of the state of the common side of Newgate in the reign of Charles II. Ellwood was imprisoned in that persecuting reign, for adherence to his religious convictions as a Quaker, and had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the ordinary behaviour and conversation of thieves in jail. He saw and lamented the evils incident to a
promiscuous assemblage of old and young, of hardened villains and juvenile delinquents; but the remedy was reserved for the present age. That the remedy ought not to have been so long deferred, will be evident to every one who attends to Vaux's account of his first incarceration.
“On entering the gates of the gloomy receptacle to which I was now consigned, and which, on many accounts, has not been unaptly named the Bastile, the sensations I felt may be more easily felt than described. Besides that this was the first prison I had ever entered, every thing around me had an air of unspeakable horror. After being viewed and reviewed by the surly Cerberuses of this earthly Hell, I was conducted up some stairs to a long gallery, or passage,
Since the above was written, we have met with an old schoolfellow of Vaux's, and who also knew bim in after life ; and from him we have learnt that Vaux's Memoirs have strong claim to credence, from the circumstance that the account of his early life appears to be correctly given, as also that part of bis subsequent career which is known to our informant. He added, that his manners were quite fascinating.
Auto-biography of Thieves. [March, part of the United States, to rouse themselves from apathy on this momentous subject. It is due to their country and to posterity, to strive to remove an evil, which, like the Upas, extends its pestiferous influence in every direction. Let them reflect that the object of punishing criminals is to protect society. This object may be promoted by the reformation of the transgressor; but if he is placed in a situation where contagion is inevitable, the punishment, however severe, is not conducive to that result. A severe punishment may, indeed, be influential in deterring others from pursuing similar courses ; but if he, on obtaining his release, instead of being disposed to conform to regularity of conduct, is only determined to practise more skilfully the very crime that was the cause of his commitment; or if, from his moral sense being deadened, in consequence of having heard others boast of their villainous exploits, he is ready to engage in new and more desperate attempts, the influence which his punishment may have had on others, is in danger of being overbalanced. What, in such a case, does society gain by the severity of the law ? Is it not clear, that all the expense, trouble, and loss of time attendant on the prosecution, are almost fruitlessly bestowed? And here, it is impossible not to lament the accumulated evils arising from the slow operation of law. A man is charged, perhaps innocently, with petty larceny. The tribunal before which he is to be arraigned is not in session ; accordingly, unable to procure bail, he is committed to jail, there to lie for three, or perhaps six months, and all the time uncertain whether he is to be acquitted or condemned. In the mean time, his character has deteriorated while his enjoyment has been abridged. Can such a method be consistent with civilization? Would it not be preferable, at the hazard of some injustice, to revert to the summary process of barbarism ? Can it be right, that a magistrate shall be empowered to incarcerate a man for months, while he is debarred from pronouncing definitively on his guilt or innocence ? There is an incongruity in all this, of which savages might be ashamed. We trust that the time is approaching when a better system will be established. Consolatory is it to consider, that in various countries of Europe, as well as in America, the subject of prison discipline, and of criminal jurisprudence, occupies the attention of philanthropists and . statesmen to a degree never before witnessed, as from their simultaneous exertions much good may be anticipated. One of the causes assigned by Dr. Robertson and other historians, for
ciety, since it is obvious that a much higher degree of civilization is attainable by man, than any country has yet exhibited ?
To those who wish for information on the subject of prison discipline, we recommend a perusal of the correspondence between Mr. R. Vaux of Philadelphia, and Mr. Roscoe of Liverpool; also of the account of the Auburn prison contained in Captain Hall's travels in the United States. In reference to the latter work, it gives us satisfaction to say, that the chapter referred to is unexceptionable. We wish we could say as much for the rest.
We now proceed to furnish some specimens of the modes of life which thieves and swindlers fall into, that our honest readers may have an opportunity of contrasting them with their own. In so doing, they will doubtless congratulate themselves on the possession of moral principle, satisfied that predatory propensities would have disturbed that calm which belongs only to virtue. The following is Ward's account of his first act of dishonesty.
“Finding it impossible, as I thought, to withstand the impetuosity of my inclinations and desires for freedom and pleasure, I resolved, even against my better judgment, to leave Mr. Pusey and seek my fortune. My hopes were raised to the highest and most pleasing prospects of independence, ease, and affluence;
and having in my earliest life cultivated the principle, that in all cases which require secrecy, we should never divulge to a friend what we wish to conceal from an enemy, I concealed my intentions from every body, determining to embrace the first opportunity favourable for prosecuting my first, longcogitated, and, as I thought, exceedingly cunning plan. Accordingly, during the autumn of 1806, on a Sabbath afternoon, I determined to execute my scheme. Near home, there was a store kept by Mr. Kinsey, in copartnership with Mr. Pusey. I was on terms of the greatest harmony and friendship with Mr. Kinsey; and, taking advantage of this confidence, I had ascertained where his cash was kept. I entered the store, and found no difficulty in obtaining every cent. All the family being from home, I concluded to let the house take care of itself, as, having done thus much, I must inevitably make my departure. Having saddled Mr. Pusey's best horse, I mounted, and, with saddle-bags and clothing, started from the house. Being certain I should be pursued as soon as the robbery was discovered, I thought it would be proper to take a course, on which I could most advantageously travel by night as well as by day. I accordingly took my way towards Lancaster ; but about four miles from home, I was seen by some person who knew me. Now I was likely to be defeated in all my calculations. At dark, I arrived at Witmer's Bridge, within two miles of Lancaster, having ridden sixteen miles in two hours. I stopt there only a few mi. nutes to water and feed my horse, and, remounting, I rode to near daylight next morning, when I arrived at Anderson's Ferry on the Susquehanna. There I was detained some time by the negligence of the boatmen ; and I had not proceeded more than half way across the river, when I heard the horn blow as a signal for them to hurry back. Although I trembled at the dread sound and alarm of the approach of my pursuers, I vainly hoped it was impossible for them to be so close after me. However, I determined now that I would give them every trouble, let them take me or not. I did not stop for breakfast
, and as I had ridden the whole night, my horse became fatigued and slow, so that about noon I was overtaken by another horseman, whom I found to be my own cousin. He desired me to stop immediately and return, he himself having been suspected of the very act i had committed. As my horse was tired down, I sprang with all my might, to secure myself by taking to the woods. Here again my hopes were frustrated ; for my foot caught in the stirrup, and I was forced to yield to