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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, July 24, 1841   By:

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VOL. 1.




[Illustration: P] Poor Mr. Dyer! And so this gentleman has been dismissed from the commission of the peace for humanely endeavouring to obtain the release of Medhurst from confinement. Two or three thousand pounds, he thought, given to some public charity, might persuade the Home Secretary to remit the remainder of his sentence, and dispose the public to look upon the prisoner with an indulgent eye.

Now, Mr. Punch, incline thy head, and let me whisper a secret into thine ear. If the Whig ministry had not gone downright mad with the result of the elections, instead of dismissing delectable Dyer, they would have had him down upon the Pension List to such a tune as you wot not of, although of tunes you are most curiously excellent. For, oh! what a project did he unwittingly shadow forth of recruiting the exhausted budget! Such a one as a sane Chancellor of the Exchequer would have seized upon, and shaken in the face of "Robert the Devil," and his crew of "odious monopolists." Peel must still have pined in hopeless opposition, when Baring opened his plan.

Listen! Mandeville wrote a book, entitled "Private Vices Public Benefits." Why cannot public crimes, let me ask, be made so? you, perhaps, are not on the instant prepared with an answer but I am.

Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer forthwith prepare to discharge all the criminals in Great Britain, of whatever description, from her respective prisons, on the payment of a certain sum, to be regulated on the principle of a graduated or "sliding scale."

A vast sum will be thus instantaneously raised, not enough, however, you will say, to supply the deficiency. I know it. But a moment's further attention. Mr. Goulburn, many years since, being then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, like brother Baring, in a financial hobble, proposed that on the payment, three years in advance, of the dog and hair powder tax, all parties so handsomely coming down with the "tin," should henceforth and for ever rejoice in duty free dog, and enjoy untaxed cranium. Now, why not a proposition to this effect that on the payment of a good round sum (let it be pretty large, for the ready is required), a man shall be exempt from the present legal consequences of any crime or crimes he may hereafter commit; or, if this be thought an extravagant scheme, and not likely to take with the public, at least let a list of prices be drawn up, that a man may know, at a glance, at what cost he may gratify a pet crime or favourite little foible. Thus:

For cutting one's own child's head off so much. (I really think I would fix this at a high price, although I am well aware it has been done for nothing.)

For murdering a father or a mother a good sum.

For ditto, a grand ditto, or a great grand ditto not so much: their leases, it is presumed, being about to fall in.

Uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, companions, and the community in general in proportion.

The cost of assaults and batteries, and other diversions, might be easily arranged; only I must remark, that for assaulting policemen I would charge high; that being, like the Italian Opera, for the most part, the entertainment of the nobility.

You may object that the propounding such a scheme would be discreditable, and that the thing is unprecedented. Reflect, my dear PUNCH, for an instant. Surely, nothing can be deemed to be discreditable by a Whig government, after the cheap sugar, cheap timber, cheap bread rigs. Why, this is just what might have been expected from them. I wonder they had not hit upon it. How it would have "agitated the masses!"

As to the want of a precedent, that is easily supplied. Pardons for all sorts and sizes of crimes were commonly bought and sold in the reign of James I.; nay, pardon granted in anticipation of crimes to be at a future time committed... Continue reading book >>

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